The gap between pork producers and their city cousins grows ever wider. Three recent events reinforce this great divide.
You need only look to the unsettling campaign in Florida calling for a ban on the use of sow gestation stalls. Early this year, Florida's Supreme Court approved the wording of a proposed state constitutional amendment that would ban gestation stalls or sow tethers. The anti-stall advocates need nearly 500,000 valid signatures by June in order to place the amendment on the November ballot.
Why target Florida? It's a small pork-producing state with easy prerequisites for placing amendments on the ballot. Beware if organizers are successful, because the results could be far-reaching and precedent-setting.
Then there's the Waterkeeper Alliance (WKA) mission to close down confinement pork production in this country. WKA President Robert Kennedy Jr. has plainly stated: “We're starting with hogs. After we get done with hogs, then we're going to go after the others.” He also stated: “We have attorneys now who have money and they know what they're doing. They are the best in the country and we are going to put an end to this industry.” And, in the L.A. Times, he's quoted: “We will march across this country and we will bring these kinds of lawsuits against every single pork factory in America if we have to … whatever it takes to win.”
I've heard Kennedy speak. It's apparent that he not only doesn't understand modern agriculture, he's not the least bit interested in gathering the facts.
Riverkeeper founder Robert Boyle, in a Washington Post article (June 22, 2000), describes Kennedy as “very reckless,” then adds: “He's assumed an arrogance above his intellectual stature.” Bingo!
Kennedy runs fast and loose with what he calls facts and what most folks would call conjecture. Kennedy and his cohorts have a cause, driven by the possibility of huge monetary and political gains. They hang their aspirations on the sensitive public issue of clean water. Like motherhood and apple pie, who would argue with that?
To my knowledge, no one in pork production disagrees. But Kennedy and associates put themselves above the plethora of state and national environmental rules and regulations by which pork producers must abide.
Violate the laws and you will be fined. Violate them chronically, and you could land in jail. Kennedy should become more familiar with the requirements tacked on to pork production before he lambastes it with misinformation.
Occasionally, I get a call or e-mail from a Waterkeeper disciple. I always make it a point to challenge them to ask their lawyer-leaders this question: “Should you win a big settlement, what is your plan for sharing the cache with family farmers?” Usually, the suggestion is met with silence.
The fingerprints of the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) are all over these initiatives.
If you're interested in learning more about how intertwined the anti-farming, animal rights organizations are, check out the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) web site:
www.ActivistCash.com. The list of activist groups, foundations, celebrities, key players and funding sources is mind-boggling. The CCF gathered financial information from Internal Revenue Service documents through the Freedom of Information Act.
CCF has an agenda, too. They represent a coalition of restaurant and tavern operators organized to counter “the most notorious and extreme groups that conspire to restrict the public's food and beverage choices through intimidation, taxation and misinformation.” I have no problem with that.
I had to wonder, though, if the Applebee's International restaurant chain, which boasts over 1,300 restaurants in 49 states and eight foreign countries, is a member of CCF. Unfortunately, CCF has a non-disclosure policy forbidding the disclosure of their membership roster. Still, I think it ironic that a December 19, 2001 letter from Applebee's International runs so diabolically opposite the CCF's stand.
The letter was a strong-arming tactic directed at their “vendor partners” (meat and egg suppliers) demanding that they adhere to a list of animal welfare standards. The list readily smacks of terminology and demands commonly used by animal rights groups. And, like animal rightists, Applebees' demands are not supported by sound science or a study of their viability.
This triad of pork industry challenges is real. Failure to address them will surely cast us into new ill-founded rules and regulations. Our pork-producing counterparts in the European Union can tell you stories about what similar movements have done to their industry.