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By Staff | Mar 23, 2012

I think that the Humane Society of the U.S. is a deceptive organization that takes advantage of people’s concern for dogs and cats to elicit financial contributions from them that they use to promote an anti-commercial livestock production agenda.

Animal rights organizations are certainly not above using deception in order to further their aims. They have few scruples over the means justifying their end objective.

They have placed undercover representatives into livestock operations who misrepresent themselves to be valid employees and have embellished some of the videos gained from this subterfuge to purport mistreatment.

They will distort management practices and the actual treatment of animals by the livestock operations to portray them in the worst possible light to take advantage of the public novice.

There is a public relations war going on to define commercial livestock production to the populace and animal rights groups are skilled in this type of conflict, given substantive resources from gullible dog and cat lovers who don’t really know what their donations are being used for.

Animal rights organizations have effectively used video evidence of animal cruelty acquired clandestinely at livestock operations to motivate McDonald’s, Target, Wal-Mart and other food purveyors to reject eggs or pork from offending livestock companies and demand strict standards of livestock husbandry from the producers in their supply chains.

Commercial egg and livestock producers have found that their balance sheets are at risk to the professional conduct of their lowest paid employees.

The Iowa legislature and governor have responded with a new law that makes acquiring employment for the deceptive purpose of taping undercover videos illegal. The Farm Bureau Spokesman said, “A person who commits an offense would be charged with a serious misdemeanor on the first conviction and an aggravated misdemeanor on the second. It also penalizes organizations or persons who aid or abet someone who misrepresented facts to gain access to a crop or livestock farm. A serious misdemeanor carries a fine of up to $1,500 and imprisonment up to one year.”

The Farm Bureau and livestock producers are generally in strong support of the new law and the legislature had to support this so as not to look like they oppose Iowa’s great livestock industry. I will let the cat out of the bag here in that I do not think this bill was a good idea and do not support what was done.

It was a knee-jerk gut reaction to the threats animal rights organizations pose to the industry.

This is a public relations battle, and I think they just handed animal activists another hammer to use against us in the media. Do they really think that a $1,500 fine or threat of spending a little time in jail as a martyr to the cause will bother these zealots?

They can get $1,500 from deceiving dog and cat lovers during a slow moment any afternoon. They would love to have the press cover the trial as they manifest it into a media event. These groups will get a lot of mileage out of this so-called gag law that will help them in the public relations war against us.

Whoever dreamt up this law had the interests of the livestock industries at heart, but is totally inept at sparing with these skilled public manipulation practitioners coming at them.

This law may bring superficial comfort to those anguished by the misrepresentation of their industry, but it will be used against them to make things worse. I think that there should be more video cameras posted in livestock operations that record and stream the video directly to the Internet so that the public can see with great transparency the skill with which animals are managed and the conditions that they live in.

You will not build public confidence that livestock industry practices are humane until you show it to them. I have an investment in a family cattle feeding CAFO that practices modern husbandry in which livestock are kept comfortable under conditions that I believe exceed any reasonable standards.

I do not believe that livestock operations should be protected by a law as was enacted that would allow undesirable livestock production to be practiced.

Several years ago a friend of mine, after retiring as a hog producer, out of curiosity over how large commercial hog operations manage their livestock, took a job as a production worker in a sow unit. He did the work and was not there for any reason other than to satisfy himself as to the question whether large scale production efficiencies made traditional operations uncompetitive.

In the course of his employment he viewed practices that he described to me that we both considered unacceptable as longtime producers.

Therefore, we accept the premise that the threat of animal rights activists posing undercover has caused livestock organizations to more strictly police production practices. While the officers of these companies enact strict protocols for animal husbandry, the barns are located a long way from the corporate offices and violations still do occur.

I believe that they are rare and are anomalies, but what happens if there is immunity? Did this new law provide the proper incentives to improve anything? Will it help the livestock industry in its public relations effort to define itself to consumers? I don’t think so. I think that it was a strategic mistake and a tactical blunder.

David Kruse is president of CommStock Investments Inc., author and producer of The CommStock Report, an ag commentary and market analysis available daily by radio and by subscription on DTN/FarmDayta and the Internet.

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