The “Humane” Movement on the Farm

Background: Environmental and animal rights activists attack farmers and the meat industry in order to make meat, eggs, and dairy foods more expensive to buy, in the hope that consumption will decline.

  • The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) funded “Proposition 2,” a California ballot initiative that will soon force egg farmers to comply with unreasonable and costly animal-housing rules—rules that may actually be worse for the welfare of egg-laying hens. And legislation passed in 2010 extends this requirement to all eggs sold in California, regardless of where they were produced.
  • PETA claims meat production is the “leading cause of greenhouse gas emissions.”  PETA is dead wrong: The EPA calculates that livestock production accounts for less than 3 percent of such emissions in the United States.
  • During an animal-welfare hearing in a U.S. House Agriculture subcommittee, Salvadoran duck farmer Guillermo Gonzales told Congress that animal activists “trespass, damage our property, steal our animals, and sometimes do much worse.” HSUS and other groups, he said, are trying “to drive us off our land and out of business … Acting in the name of ‘animal welfare,’ some seem to have forgotten the welfare of human farmers.”
  • One activist, United Poultry Concerns president Karen Davis, even wrote that the 9/11 terrorist attacks “reduced the amount of pain and suffering in the world” because “the majority, if not every single one, of the people who suffered and/or died as a result of the September 11 attack ate, and if they are now alive continue to eat, chickens.”

How will this affect meat prices?: Because they are inspired more by ending meat consumption than any legitimate scientific or animal-welfare concerns, activists’ claims have fallen flat under honest examination.

  • A University of California-Davis study on California’s “Proposition 2” spelled out the economic realities that emotion-driven activists tend to ignore: “[T]he regulations implied by a successful initiative would raise costs of California producers by at least 20 percent relative to its out-of-state competitors.”
  • The United Nations claim that livestock production is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions is misleading. “Buried in the report,” writes Marlborough Express reporter Jon Morgan, “is the information that deforestation—mainly in the Amazonian rainforest—is included in that figure. Without it, livestock’s contribution falls to less than 12 per cent.” (And greenhouse-gas emissions directly related to livestock production in the United States only account for 2.58 percent of the total.)
  • Farmers who keep pregnant pigs in gestation crates can provide their animals with uniform temperature, give them individualized nutrition and protect them from the weather. They also prevent more aggressive sows from attacking weaker animals. Farrowing crates, used after piglets are born, save piglets from being crushed to death by the weight of their mothers.
  • A Food and Drug Administration report answered the question of whether animals born of cloned parents are dangerous to eat and said the realistic “safety issue” is basically nil.

Bottom Line: It doesn’t matter to animal rights activists how farm animals are raised. They do not believe they should be eaten—no matter what.

  • When the topic of discussion is how to make livestock farming better, the complaints of radical vegans should be seen for what they are: an attempt to dismantle animal agriculture, not improve it. There can be no half-way compromise: Radical animal rights activists believe animals have the same moral status as people, including the “right” not to be eaten.
  • When animal rights activists insist that there are ‘‘humane alternatives’’ to modern livestock practices, their ‘‘reforms’’ always result in more expensive grocery bills, and are just a way of shifting  livestock farmers to more expensive practices.
  • Regulation seeking more humane treatment of animals won’t change how our animal products are produced. By exporting demand, it will merely change where they’re produced. Instead of increasing “humanely” raised animal production in the U.S., farmers will look to countries with looser animal welfare laws, like Mexico.