Aargh!

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!

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4 Comments

  1. Posted March 8, 2010 at 3:31 am | Permalink

    I am a flickr friend of Lisa’s and I am in full support of farmers like yourself and my cousin in South Dakota who loves the animals she raises, including the ones that are eventually eaten. With hardliners on any subject they choose one side and defend it blindly but blogs like yours, updates like Lisa’s as well as her flickr page help to promote the philosophy of the small farmer to people who might not otherwise think of it. I wish you well.

  2. Bill Fosher
    Posted March 8, 2010 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    Hey Frank,

    HSUS is, in fact, PETA lite. Pretty much. And they are dishonest actors. In the days following the raid on Michael Vick’s dog fighting ring, HSUS was soliciting funds with a button that read “click here to make a donation to help Vick’s dogs.” In fact, the money went to a lobbying campaign aimed at proposing legislation aimed at ending animal fighting and exhibition for entertainment, which some have construed as including 4-H shows, sheepdog trials, and even dog agility events.

    Not too many years ago, there was a warrant article on the Swanzey town meeting to ban animal exhibitions within town. Swanzey, of course, is home to the Cheshire Fairgrounds, which hosts many horse shows, as well as the annual county fair where kids exhibit the animals they have raised. This failed effort had the backing of both PETA and HSUS.

    HSUS President Wayne “Shiny Suit” Pacelle has said that his ideal vision for “companion animals” is “one generation and out.” Any reasonable person upon hearing this would draw the conclusion that he is saying that animals currently on the ground should be cared for over the remainder of their natural life span and not replaced. Unless they are pit bulls. Then they should be killed post haste. (This was the HSUS recommendation for the Vick dogs, most of which are now living out their natural lives with rescue homes.)

    Pacelle, however, does not believe that’s what he meant. And he further parses things to say that he and HSUS might have different visions of an ideal world, but that both have to operate within the current reality.

    At the same time, I have to give the devil his due. It was an undercover HSUS worker who exposed the brutal and horrifying treatment of downer cattle at the Westland/Hallmark packing plant in California, leading to the largest recall in history.

    And, alas, it seems the best that the anti-HSUS forces can come up with to shill for them is the Consumer Freedom Foundation, a non-profit that also defends big tobacco and chemical interests. While CFF has found and publicized some interesting evidence that places HSUS outside the mainstream, their motives are always suspect in my mind.

    What’s an honest farmer to do? In my opinion, what we need to do is make sure that as many people as possible know that there is an alternative to feedlot agriculture and factory farming, and to also make sure that our operations would stand up to scrutiny 24/7/365. It’s not enough to talk the talk, as the organic milk industry has been doing for the past few years.

    Most people who are troubled by the ethics of meat consumption are much more concerned about the way animals live than the fact that they die. We can show them that our animals live a very good life that ends as quickly, painlessly, and with as little stress as we can possibly manage.

    For the Buddhists and others who do not believe they should take part in any activity that causes death of other creatures, I say good on you. I know you are not the ones who are trying to legislate against the sources of protein that keep so many of us alive; you are exercising your beliefs and following that path you believe is right. Namaste.

    But to those who want to make vegans of us all, I would point you to the eminent writer, philosopher, and agriculturalist Wendell Barry, who points out that God never farms without animals.

  3. Posted March 22, 2010 at 2:39 am | Permalink

    HSUS has a TV commercial now, along the lines of the ASPCA one with Sarah McLaughlin (sp?). Shows lots of heart-wrenching pictures of sad and abused dogs and cats, and asks for a monthly donation. Wayne Pacelle himself makes the plea. Makes it sound like your donation will go directly to one of those sad animals on your TV screen or another like them. Except it won’t; it will however go towards their vast political lobbying efforts to make pet ownership and farming more difficult, with the goal (I believe) of eventually ending both. HSUS maintains no shelters; very little of the money they take in goes to any animals directly. I don’t trust them, at all.

  4. Posted March 22, 2010 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    You may want to check out the Weston Price organization – more serious and less interest-conflicted than the Farm Bureau, HSUS, AMA etc. – they advocate eating naturally based on Dr Price’s research.

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