Fur and Hooves Fly at Animal Welfare Hearings

by MARTHA ROSENBERG

Animal protectionists are winning the agriculture public relations battle said former Congressman Charlie Stenholm at House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry hearings in May.

The recently defeated Texan and former Ranking Democrat on the Ag Committee should know. He was testifying as a paid lobbyist for the horse slaughter industry.

Other public relations challenged industries represented were United Egg Producers, the National Pork Producers Council, Sonoma Foie Gras and the National Association for Biomedical Research.

Also represented were the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, the National Milk Producers Federation, the American Quarter Horse Association, the American Veterinary Medical Association, Farm Sanctuary, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and public relations firm, Center for Consumer Freedom.

The hearing on animal welfare and agriculture was scheduled by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), the new House Ag Committee Chairman, at the urging of the seven million member Humane Society of the United States. Except for a meeting last year about horse slaughter, the Subcommittee hasn’t met over a farm animal issue since 1989 when it looked at veal calf treatment.

In a May 28 editorial, the New York Times accused House and Senate Agriculture committees of "cozy ties to big agriculture."

On the plate, pun intended, were discussions of gestation crates–outlawed in Florida and Arizona and dropped by pork giant Smithfield foods–veal crates, battery cages and other confinement systems and a provision to include poultry under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act instead of the Poultry Products Inspection Act which only requires the "good commercial practices in the slaughter of poultry" that KFC has popularized.

But exchanges soon devolved into veracity bowls.

Not only did pork industry representatives dispute HSUS President Wayne Pacelle’s claim that a mad cow like disease could afflict pigs, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.), ranking Republican on the Ag Committee and its former Chairman bluntly labeled Pacelle’s charge that mad cow disease has already gotten into the US beef supply, "Wrong."

But former Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman confirmed to CNN on Dec. 23, 2003 that meat from a US cow found to have mad cow disease had "gone into other processing plants from the initial slaughter plant." And on January 3 the San Francisco Chronicle reported that 11 restaurants in nine California counties had served the meat to unwitting diners. Identities of the food outlets were protected thanks to a state law.

Both horse slaughter lobbyist Charlie Stenholm and Rep. Goodlatte had blocked a ban on processing downers for human consumption earlier in 2003, assuring the public there was no health risk.

Mad cow is an animal protection issue because its spread is facilitated by processing sick and crippled downer cattle for human food, often dragged to slaughter say activists.

While some lawmakers said they saw no need for the Ag Committee hearings–"producers are vigorously addressing animal welfare issues," Subcommittee Chairman Leonard Boswell (D-Ia) assured the group; "Farmers and ranchers, not activists, should be dictating animal husbandry practices," agreed Ranking Member Robin Hayes (R-NC)–others impugned animal protectionists.

Rep. Steve King (R-Ia), known for taking pro-cockfighting and dog fighting positions, felt compelled to declare his favorite meal "a steak and a beer" and blame former NBA player Bill Walton’s knee problems on lack of meat.

And then there was David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

"Congress could require U.S. farmers to supply every pig, chicken, duck, and cow with private rooms, daily rubdowns, video iPods, and organic meals catered by Wolfgang Puck," said the Director of Research for the controversial group which defends alcohol, junk food and even cigarettes against legislative restrictions in a kind of the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend arrangement. "But even this wouldn’t satisfy activists who actually believe farm animals have the ‘right’ not to be eaten."

[Another the-enemy-of-my-enemy-is-my-friend group is the Animal Agriculture Alliance whose Executive Vice President, Kay Johnson, told North American Agricultural Journalists in April, "improvements in animal welfare should be based on reason, science and experience, not on the opinions of activists who have absolutely no vested interest in farm animals." ("Your honor, the witness has no vested interest in the property!!")]

But Dan Murphy of meatingplace hopes Martosko’s discrediting of activists doesn’t "represent the industry’s primary strategy."

"When an industry, or a company, is forced to be reactive and continually defend its business model, the chance of successfully moving the needle on public acceptance or understanding is minimal," he writes on the cattlenetwork website. Especially because food consumers "expect the companies who ask for their business to make reasonable changes."

And public sentiment, unlike the Ag Committee hearings, won’t likely die in committee.

MARTHA ROSENBERG is a Staff Cartoonist at the Evanston Roundtable. Her work has appeared in the Chicago Tribune, LA Times, San Francisco Chronicle, Boston Globe, Providence Journal. Arizona Republic, New Orleans Times-Picayune and other newspapers.  She can be reached at: mrosenberg@evmark.org


 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
September 01, 2015
Michael Schwalbe
The Moral Hazards of Capitalism
Eric Mann
Inside the Civil Rights Movement: a Conversation With Julian Bond
Pam Martens
How Wall Street Parasites Have Devoured Their Hosts, Your Retirement Plan and the U.S. Economy
Jonathan Latham
Growing Doubt: a Scientist’s Experience of GMOs
Fran Shor
Occupy Wall Street and the Sanders Campaign: a Case of Historical Amnesia?
Joe Paff
The Big Trees: Cockburn, Marx and Shostakovich
Randy Blazak
University Administrators Allow Fraternities to Turn Colleges Into Rape Factories
Robert Hunziker
The IPCC Caught in a Pressure Cooker
Robert Koehler
Sending Your Children Off to Safe Spaces in College
August 31, 2015
Michael Hudson
Whitewashing the IMF’s Destructive Role in Greece
Conn Hallinan
Europe’s New Barbarians
Lawrence Ware
George Bush (Still) Doesn’t Care About Black People
Joseph Natoli
Plutocracy, Gentrification and Racial Violence
Franklin Spinney
One Presidential Debate You Won’t Hear: Why It is Time to Adopt a Sensible Grand Strategy
Dave Lindorff
What’s Wrong with Police in America
Louis Proyect
Jacobin and “The War on Syria”
Lawrence Wittner
Militarism Run Amok: How Russians and Americans are Preparing Their Children for War
Binoy Kampmark
Tales of Darkness: Europe’s Refugee Woes
Ralph Nader
Lo, the Poor Enlightened Billionaire!
Peter Koenig
Greece: a New Beginning? A New Hope?
Dean Baker
America Needs an “Idiot-Proof” Retirement System
Vijay Prashad
Why the Iran Deal is Essential
Tom Clifford
The Marco Polo Bridge Incident: a History That Continues to Resonate
Peter Belmont
The Salaita Affair: a Scandal That Never Should Have Happened
Weekend Edition
August 28-30, 2015
Randy Blazak
Donald Trump is the New Face of White Supremacy
Jeffrey St. Clair
Long Time Coming, Long Time Gone
Mike Whitney
Looting Made Easy: the $2 Trillion Buyback Binge
Alan Nasser
The Myth of the Middle Class: Have Most Americans Always Been Poor?
Rob Urie
Wall Street and the Cycle of Crises
Andrew Levine
Viva Trump?
Ismael Hossein-Zadeh
Behind the Congressional Disagreements Over the Iran Nuclear Deal
Lawrence Ware – Marcus T. McCullough
I Won’t Say Amen: Three Black Christian Clichés That Must Go
Evan Jones
Zionism in Britain: a Neglected Chronicle
John Wight
Learning About the Migration Crisis From Ancient Rome
Andre Vltchek
Lebanon – What if it Fell?
Charles Pierson
How the US and the WTO Crushed India’s Subsidies for Solar Energy
Robert Fantina
Hillary Clinton, Palestine and the Long View
Ben Burgis
Gore Vidal Was Right: What Best of Enemies Leaves Out
Suzanne Gordon
How Vets May Suffer From McCain’s Latest Captivity
Robert Sandels - Nelson P. Valdés
The Cuban Adjustment Act: the Other Immigration Mess
Uri Avnery
The Molten Three: Israel’s Aborted Strike on Iran
John Stanton
Israel’s JINSA Earns Return on Investment: 190 Americans Admirals and Generals Oppose Iran Deal
Bill Yousman
The Fire This Time: Ta-Nehisi Coates’s “Between the World and Me”
Scott Parkin
Katrina Plus Ten: Climate Justice in Action
Michael Welton
The Conversable World: Finding a Compass in Post-9/11 Times