Lisa and I are caught in the middle of a fight between two groups we really don’t like.
Fifteen years ago, we sold a conservation easement on the vast majority of our land to HSUS. It is now officially the Frank and Lisa Richards Wildlife Sanctuary. Even though we’re now trying to farm, there’s only relatively little I’d like to pull out. The rest of our land is too wet or too steep even for pasture. Also, all of the HSUS people I’ve actually dealt with have been honest, reasonable and well meaning. We do have quite a few acres of very nice red oak which I’m hoping will be a big part of my retirement fund. And Valerie’s. And her children’s. So far, everyone I’ve dealt with at HSUS has left me confident that as long as we log with that perspective, which will always leave plenty of acorns for the wild turkeys, there won’t be any issues.
However, since we sold the easement, we’ve received their journal, All Animals. Over the years, nothing in it has led me to believe that HSUS is wavering in its’ original mission of promoting animal welfare. No one can argue with rescuing pets after Katrina or donating dog houses on Indian Reservations. They have never approved of sport hunting, and I cannot find it in my heart to defend the trophy hunting industry. People of good will differ on what constitutes hunting for needed food.
However, there is another crew out there, epitomized by PETA, whose goal is to convert all of us to vegans. They are of course fine with wild animals in preserved wilderness, but I’m honestly not sure where domestic animals fit in their vision. They clearly don’t approve of food animals. I agree with their stand against wild caught tropical birds and fish. The capture is usually inhumane and many species are threatened in the wild, although hunting is usually well behind habitat destruction as a reason. I don’t understand the crusade against parrot breeders, and I’m suspicious of PETA’s eventual goals for dogs and cats.
Other tenets of this pravda are that all animal agriculture is feedlots, and caged hens, that the animals must be fed human edible grain and that in the unlikely event that some farmer does raise animals on pasture, that pasture could have raised grain for the starving Africans instead. Modulo the starving Africans this is the Tyson, Cargill, Monsanto line. It smells to high heaven that PETA parrots it, given that they normally would not believe the time of day if a Monsanto rep told it to them.
It is also a pack of lies. Our animals do not live that way. Lisa puts a dozen pictures a week on Flickr that prove it. We will be gardening both of our acres that are flat enough and dry enough to raise crops. We could squeeze in an orchard to feed ourselves, but after that the starving Africans get lamb, or they keep starving.
Over the last fivish years, I’ve watched this pravda sneak into All Animals, and it bothers me. I am not willing to give even the appearance of support to people that deny the existence of Albus Dumbleboar and Minx ‘Dogfood’ Kaytladottir or pretend that you can grow grain in the Rocky Mountains.
OTOH, I’m not fond of the crew mounting the counterattack. Feedlots are cruelty to animals and should be prosecuted as such. On routine antibiotic feeding, I can believe the CDC and the AMA, or I can believe the Farm Bureau and Big Pharma. I don’t find the choice hard. The USDA still claims that a carrot is a carrot, a hamburger a hamburger, no matter how it’s raised. Even if I had the bazillion bucks, the tests don’t really exist to determine if my food is more healthy than Monsanto’ best. But I eat every day. There is nothing at the supermarket to compare with my pork, my turkey, my eggs and for that matter my carrots, onions and beans. The farm bill is the US taxpayer giving big ag money to produce crap food in a environmentally destructive way, which can then be sold to feedlot operators around the world. Yup, your tax dollars are sending corn to Chinese pig farmers for less than the corn cost to grow. And don’t forget to ask the Farm Bureau and the USDA about the dead spot in the Gulf of Mexico.
PETA is quick to tell you how much water it takes to raise a pound of feedlot beef. They’re not so quick with the number for a pound of Imperial Valley carrots. You’ll die of old age before the Farm Bureau mentions the (falling) level of the Ogallalla aquifer. My plants and animals use water that falls from the sky. If they don’t transpire it back to the sky, it is filtered through the soil on its way to the river.
So here I am. I sell pork, turkey, lamb, eggs and milk. They will all cost you twice what the supermarket cheapo stuff does. So far, our problem is raising not selling. They all taste far better. All come from animals that have names not lot numbers.
Those two groups hate each other. And both would really like to see me out of business because my existence contradicts their party line. Aargh!