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Animal Rightists Foster Image Of Animal Cruelty In Texas And Other States

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Author: Gene Hall

Those of us interested in preventing cruelty to animals in the Texas livestock industry have watched with interest as the drama in Ohio has played out in recent days. Apparently, an agreement has been struck that may eventually hamstring the livestock industry in the Buckeye State, while giving it some breathing room for now. The effort for a restrictive animal rights ballot initiative will not come to a vote this fall, and livestock producers will make some concessions, most of which will come at a later time.

Such is the nature of ballot initiatives, which give activists all the advantages, a short time frame in which to ramp up emotional arguments with really cool sound bites, while science and reason wait to sort out something workable from the rubble.

We are told that livestock producers in Ohio can live with the agreement. I don't want to second guess that, but I worry about the tendency of the animal rights folks to reach an agreement and then begin planning their adversaries' unconditional surrender on the very next day. Animal cruelty in Texas and other states is a perception they foster. Their goals are clear.

The Humane Society of the United States, PETA and other traveling partners intend for the United States to stop eating meat. They will take what they can get for now and keep working toward that goal. For them, this is a marathon, not a sprint, and the children or grandchildren of livestock producers—if the animal rights folks get their way—will be selling their farms in a few decades.

Even without misguided ballot initiatives in Texas—where we still believe in representative government—we are not without worries. It's possible that when HSUS has forced enough state initiatives, they can hoodwink Congress into passing a national law. That's the beginning of the end for livestock production in the U.S. It would also signal the end for family livestock farms and many hundreds of thousand jobs.

To be clear, I make little distinction between the goals of HSUS and PETA. HSUS is PETA in a nicely tailored suit. The leadership of both is vegan and anthropomorphic, assigning human characteristics to animals. PETA's primary purpose is to make HSUS look moderate by comparison. Understanding that Americans will not willingly give up a diet of meat, they set out instead to make the production of it prohibitively expensive. It's a clever and effective strategy.

HSUS has enjoyed a skillfully deployed false front, using alleged cruelty to animals in Texas and other states as a weapon. Fundraising appeals are all cute puppies and kittens, sadly neglected. But the money raised for this alleged purpose is mostly spent to raise more money, lobby against animal agriculture and fund pensions. About 1 percent of the take will fund animal shelters. The watchdog group, Charity Navigator has noticed, downgrading HSUS to a point where they now rank below PETA.

HSUS will not suffer though. The budget is huge enough to support more than 30 lawyers, all of them working on ways to deal grief to livestock producers. They live in the gray area between scientifically developed agricultural practice and the senseless cruelty to animals that all agree should be aggressively punished in Texas and other states. They pretend these two things are the same. They are not.

When these questions are raised, animal rightists lash out at those who voice them. I and the family farmers I work for will be labeled "big ag," as if that alone discredits the argument.

We will continue to fight this fight in the hope that Americans who love meat—from hamburgers to steak, from bacon to pork ribs, from drumsticks to Thanksgiving turkey— realize what the animal rights movement has in store for them.

About the author: Gene Hall is the Public Relations Director for the Texas Farm Bureau, the voice for Texas ranchers and farmers. The TFB is committed to improving the lives of America's farmers through advocacy, education and awareness. Read about issues related to the fight against animal cruelty in Texas on the Texas Ag Talks blog.

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