The trend toward commercializing the social conciseness of the animal rights movement is mushrooming right before our eyes with enormous consequences to livestock industries.
No longer are livestock producers going to be allowed to use production practices that have long been approved by veterinarians as humane.
The Humane Society of the U.S. now decides what the acceptable livestock production system is, and in order to avoid being targeted as insensitive to animal welfare by the HSUS, more and more food retailers are falling into step with them.
Burger King is now going to bully all of egg producers who want to be part of their supply chain into abandoning cages. They are also only going to do business with hog producers with documented plans to eliminate gestation stalls.
HSUS has put the ring in their nose to lead them around and the herd is forming. Wal-Mart, Costco and Unilever are demanding cage-free eggs.
Safeway announced that its pork suppliers must have documented plans to transition from use of gestation stalls. This would appear to be the opening of Pandora’s Box and while we don’t know the full extent of all the uglies that will fly out of it, we do know that it will have a material impact on these industries and the cost of livestock production.
I would predict that when it is all done that livestock welfare will really not have been improved but the cost of production will be a lot higher and consumers will ultimately pay more for food for no good reason other than to satisfy some group’s illusion of social correctness.
The HSUS is not going to stop with cages and stalls. They are giddy over their success in intimidating companies to adopt their animal husbandry standards and they are just getting started. It has bought stock in 52 companies that use animal products so that it can attend shareholder meetings and be the biggest nuisance possible in order to make management receptive to them.
Any company with HSUS as a shareholder has a problem. HSUS doesn’t buy this stock to make money, it could care less about that, as most of what it forces to happen will raise company costs and damage shareholder value. I suppose the threat is that if the company doesn’t do what it says HSUS would be out there telling consumers that Burger King supports being mean to animals so don’t do business with them.
Smithfield Foods unilaterally capitulated to the intimidation making it tough on the rest of the industry to mount a coordinated response. Here was the National Pork Producers Council’s statement, “The NPPC is concerned Burger King’s stance regarding individual sow housing will boost production costs and consumer prices.
“It will force U.S hog farmers out of business and lead to more consolidation of the pork industry, all with no demonstrable health benefits to sows.
“The NPPC supports the position of the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians, recognizing gestation stalls and group housing systems as appropriate for providing for the well-being of sows during pregnancy.”
The NPPC said it respects companies’ rights to make business decisions, adding “It seems that Burger King was bullied by an animal rights group whose ultimate goal is the elimination of food-animal production.”
Every announcement from companies like Burger King and Safeway that adopts HSUS’ standards of production gets them a gush of praise from HSUS.
The HSUS seal of approval gets these companies “off the hook” . . . at least temporarily until HSUS tightens standards further, which they are sure to do. The Drovers Cattle Network pointed out that the HSUS was now into “Faith Outreach” programs morphing into religion.
They pointed out that:
- Less than 1 percent of donations to HSUS find their way to local animal shelters.
- HSUS is not the umbrella organization for your local animal shelter. Donations intended for them should be sent directly to the pet shelter.
- If you are concerned about their self-serving outreach efforts, inform your church or religious community or speak with your trained, educated religious leader. They too may be uninformed of the motives behind animal activism and this biblical approach to funding their radical movements.
I have received direct mail solicitations from HSUS and viewed TV ads using dog and cat welfare to deceive people into giving them money they use to further their real agenda, which is a threat to traditional livestock production.
It intends to see to it that it gets to clear all livestock production practices before it allows commercial interests to buy animal products.
It will then control market access to the industry for livestock producers as the literal gate keeper.
With food companies rushing to get into lockstep with the HSUS, this thing is getting out of control with huge consequences to the industry.
While the NPPC, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Cattle Congress and others were busy trying to screw the ethanol industry, the HSUS was stealing their ability to decide what livestock production practices are deemed socially acceptable right out from under their noses.
Corn producers are responding to bring feed costs down, but the livestock industry will soon have to ask the HSUS for permission to raise livestock.
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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