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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Wayne Pacelle: An Open Letter to the Missouri Farm Bureau


Last week, Missouri voters approved Proposition B, requiring that large-scale commercial breeders provide in a year’s time sufficient space for dogs, an annual veterinary examination, humane methods of euthanasia, and a limit on the number of reproductively intact animals used for breeding, among a limited number of other humane care standards for dogs. In campaigning against the measure, the Missouri Farm Bureau leveled an array of false charges against Prop B and also against The Humane Society of the United States, which worked to pass Prop B. I write to address these charges and to set the record straight.

False Claim: The Missouri Farm Bureau argued that Prop B was not just about dogs, but about ending animal agriculture.
Fact: The Missouri Secretary of State concluded, in fact, that the measure deals only with one species: canis lupus familiaris, or the domesticated dog. There is no reasonable interpretation that it would apply to cattle, pigs, chickens, or any other domesticated or wild species. If there were an attempt by some organization to promote humane treatment of other species, that type of reform would have to go to the Legislature or to the people in the form of a separate ballot measure. Missouri voters would probably reject any measure that went too far. We are not aware of any such effort, and Prop B has no bearing on any future reform efforts.

Dogs in cage at puppy mill

False claim: The Missouri Farm Bureau argued that existing regulations governing dog breeding are sufficient and that they simply need to be enforced.
Fact: Under Prop B, Missouri’s enormous puppy mill problem will be scaled down to a level that is easier for the state to oversee, manage and enforce. It is the backers of Prop B, not the Farm Bureau or the commercial dog breeding industry, that have advocated for robust enforcement through the years; this is the first we’ve heard of the Farm Bureau calling for more rigorous enforcement, but we welcome the encouragement. The puppy mill problem has gotten worse year by year, and the Farm Bureau has stood by as more reckless breeders have flocked to Missouri and humane organizations have had to deal with thousands of dogs relinquished by mills or seized after terrible problems came to light. It costs humane groups millions of dollars to clean up the mess made by these large-scale puppy mills.

Under current rules, it is legal to keep a breeding dog in a wire cage six inches longer than her body, to keep her confined in that cage for her entire life, to allow her to be outside during the extremes of winter, to allow animals in cages stacked above to defecate on the animals below, to never call on a veterinarian to examine an animal, and to abandon or kill dogs once they are no longer wanted. I am amazed that the Farm Bureau somehow thinks such standards for dogs are adequate.

False claim: The HSUS wants to eliminate pet ownership.
Fact: The HSUS celebrates pet ownership, and has done so for all 56 years of its existence. While we certainly urge would-be dog owners to look to the pool of homeless dogs kept by shelters and rescue groups, we have instructions on our website and in our publications that encourage would-be dog owners to follow simple guidelines when they shop for a dog from a breeder. Your invoking of fabricated quotes or quotes taken out of context to misrepresent our positions is dishonest and defamatory. Every day at The HSUS, our staff bring their dogs to work — the action of committed and caring pet owners who celebrate their relationship with their animals. Indeed, The HSUS published the 2008 book, “Dogs at Work,” to guide companies in instituting this valuable opportunity to more employees. Our daily work is to celebrate the bond we have with pets, to help people find pets appropriate for their household, to help people keep their pets, or to find ways to reunite people with their pets.

False claim: The HSUS isn’t interested in improving farm animal welfare, but only in ending animal agriculture.
Fact: We work with animal producers throughout the country, and included among our members are ranchers and others involved in the business of agriculture. We have been a financial supporter of Humane Farm Animal Care, which certifies high welfare production, and The HSUS also provides major support to the Global Animal Partnership, which also promotes high welfare standards in agriculture. In developing countries, our work has ensured that farm animals are stunned before being slaughtered, and we have a raft of other programs working with farmers. We have long supported more humane treatment of animals in agriculture, and in terms of political activity, we have promoted improvements to slaughter and transport systems, and, on the farm, giving the animals enough room to “stand up, lie down, turn around, and freely extend their limbs.” If the Missouri Farm Bureau believes that allowing farm animals to turn around equates to an end to all animal use, then that is an unfortunate statement about its own lack of ethical standards in the conduct of its business.

False claim: The HSUS has destroyed the egg industry in California.
Fact: The HSUS did work to pass Proposition 2 in 2008, but that measure simply stipulates that egg production be cage-free — a modest animal welfare and food safety policy that enjoys the support of numerous retailers and two-thirds of Calilfornia voters. Already companies like Burger King, Hellmann’s, and scores of others are using cage-free eggs. It does not prevent the raising of chickens for egg production. What’s more, it does not go into effect until 2015, so it’s hard to imagine that a measure that has not gone into effect has resulted in the destruction of the industry. One study even found that the Prop 2 campaign in California increased demand for cage-free eggs while reducing demand for eggs from caged hens, sending a strong signal to the industry about what consumers expect of it.

False claim: The HSUS “spends less than one percent of its funds on the actual care of pets.”
Fact: The HSUS spends millions of dollars on companion animal care, and spends more than $20 million a year on our programs that support local animal shelters and provide direct care for domestic animals and wildlife. The HSUS actually provides direct care to more animals than any other group in the nation, and maintains five animal care centers, a national veterinary services program, and a national emergency response unit that rescues animals from all over the nation. We also spend millions preventing cruelty, and it’s that work that the Missouri Farm Bureau and other animal-use groups apparently do not like.

It was 12 years ago that The HSUS helped to qualify and pass an anti-cockfighting ballot initiative in Missouri — the only other initiative petition on animal welfare in Missouri history. The Missouri Farm Bureau opposed that ballot measure, too, arguing that a ban on that barbaric practice would lead to an end to all hunting, fishing, rodeo and animal agriculture. As with Prop B, voters approved that measure, and there’s been no attempt to outlaw hunting or animal agriculture in any way in the 12 years since. The Farm Bureau deceived some voters then with that argument, just as it did this year with Prop B, but it was the right decision for Missouri. Staged fights between animals are morally wrong, just as lifelong confinement of dogs in small cages at puppy mills is wrong, too.

The Missouri Constitution allows for citizen lawmaking, and the principle underlying it is majority rule. The will of the people should be respected — even if the Farm Bureau and some lawmakers disagree with the decision. Both the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Kansas City Star have within the last few days urged elected officials to honor the vote of the people. The fact is, a majority of the people of Missouri voted in favor of Prop B. The measure was approved by a majority of voters in a majority of state House and Senate districts. That counts in a democracy.

If you care about animal welfare, leave the dogs alone. If you care about democracy, let the law take effect and do not work to subvert it.

This post originally appeared on Pacelle’s blog, A Humane Nation.From The Huffington Post

1 thought on “Wayne Pacelle: An Open Letter to the Missouri Farm Bureau”

  1. To understand Prop B, published with permission from author.

    Animal Rights and other Theological Trivia
    David E. Fritsche Th. D.
    I am a theologian. I am also an animal lover. My father was a gentleman farmer and our yard was always filled with animals of every kind. I love them. No, I do not just like them or admire them or find them useful. I love them. I have passionate feelings for my dogs and spend far more time than most people would find reasonable, playing with them, training them, showing them and bragging about them.
    Those two passions – animals and theology – bring me to the point of this writing. Our culture has shifted drastically in the past two generations from one based on strong religious sentiment to one that is both suspicious, even antagonistic to those beliefs and values that formerly underpinned us. All of that is to both catalogue the shift in how we view animals and to acknowledge that the majority of the people in our culture will not be interested at all in anything I have to say on this matter. Yet, for those who still share with me a belief in God and ascribe to one of the major historic religions, here goes.
    There are many philosophical views of reality in our world and few of them are new. Even those who seem to be new are usually rehashes of antiquated philosophies, religions or views of the past. The new systems of thought may seem to press forward into advanced thought, are often simply reversions to positions of the past. Such is the case with the green movement of our day. The passion to be part of nature and to protect nature as we partner with it, is quite parallel to the Pantheistic philosophies of the past. Pantheism, at its core, is more of a religion than it is just a philosophy. It does not hold deity as a separate intelligent being or God as in Christianity or Judaism; it holds that the natural world around us is one unit, one mind and one being and that we are simply part of it.
    That view of reality is not uncommon in human history. It is the primary understanding of reality of the gathering cultures of prehistory. It is characterized by those who saw the earth as controlling the yield that humans depended upon as we roamed, gathered and fought for survival. Somewhere in history the mind of mankind shifted and we began to think of the cause and effect relationship of humanity to the earth and the agricultural age was born. It was in this shift that the mastery of plants, animals and the land was born and productivity took on a whole new frame of reference. No longer did the tribe move from place to place revering the gods in nature that provided for their sustenance, but humankind took mastery of the land, staying in one place, planting, harvesting, raising and benefiting from a new paradigm of reality
    The agricultural age gave us private ownership of land, the possession of animals and the responsibility to tend specific plots. This is the primary conflict seen in the European discovery of the Americas. It was a cultural conflict of realities. The Native American’s view of the world was pantheistic. They were one with the world and held no concept of private property. The fencing off of land, surveying and staying on a personally owned plot was foreign to their reality. There was no way for either belief to communicate its reality to the other at this philosophical level. They were, unfortunately, left with the conflict of worldviews that we look back on, still seldom understanding the dynamic. Unless we understand that basic philosophical difference, we are bound to view the Native American as a ‘savage,’ or Columbus as the evil person who ruined this land. Neither is an adequate assessment or that conflict. It has to do with different realities and contrasting worldviews.
    That same contrast exists today. The agricultural view of personal responsibility, property rights and control of nature is finding conflict with a resurrected pantheistic view of reality that underpins much of the green movement, animal rights movements and other seemingly well-intentioned movements. There is a growing message of unity with nature, of going back to nature and of being one with nature, contrasting the more traditional views of the agricultural age in which nature was not allowed free sway, but was managed to obtain the desired end result.
    So, how does all this relate to theology? It very much relates to the time honored beliefs and worldview of the major religions of the world. If we are to believe the Bible and the Torah, then we have to acknowledge the relationship of God with His creation at the outset of time. Having created man and placing him in the garden, God instructed him to take a handful, or put his hands to the creation of God, as his agent of mastery, oversight and control. Man was, in effect, God’s appointed agent for the management of the planet. That whole posture flies in the face of the ‘new’ thought that dominates the ‘rights’ movements that emphasize being one with our world and allowing nature to do whatever it will.
    The view of nature that is held by the extreme environmentalist and the animal rights activist are in stark contrast to that which is understood by the farmer, hunter or rancher. In one case the view of nature is of a pristine state of bliss in which the natural forces of the planet reach out an embrace each part of its inter-related systems in love and harmony. The agricultural mind sees things quite differently. Its view is shaped by flood, drought, wind and lightening strikes. It sees the cruelty of nature and the destructiveness of the planet. It sees the nature of things as wayward, random and in need of management. In one case, nature is the answer to the future of the planet, while the other testifies that Mother Nature is a serial killer.
    And so, the animal rights activists presume that the animals will somehow be better off if they are partners with mankind rather than being owned by humanity. They presume that human management is inherently evil and not in the best interest of the animals. After all, the farmer does not understand the higher purpose of animal existence, preferring to take a utilitarian view of nature and is willing to kill the animals to sustain him and to eat. That profile of the agricultural mind is unthinkable to the pantheistic religion and to the causes it supports. But for anyone who believes in a creator God and the existence of God as a rational being above creation, the agricultural mind set is not only understandable, it is demanded.
    The contrasts then, between those who choose to own animals and those who think that posture to be evil, is, in its last analysis, not just a clash of personalities, but the clash of religious philosophies. History does not bode well the philosophies of pantheism. It has been here, has been tried and has passed from history after each try. So also will be the epitaph of our current resurrection of this thinking. Lacking any practical solutions to the needs of humanity and of productivity, it has historically fallen of its own accord. It’s tendency to move to illegitimate extremes and to contrast against the work ethic of free enterprise and the management of the planet leaves it vulnerable to self-destruction.
    Interestingly, well-meaning people of passionate souls have gravitated into the grasp of extremist organizations without looking at the base line philosophies that are implied. Some have never thought about the difference between animal rights (the elevation of the animal to human status) and animal welfare (the concern for the life and comfort of the animal without elevating its status). Assuming that to NOT join forces with an animal rights group is a vote for animal cruelty, some march in lockstep to the hidden philosophical agenda without understanding the course they take.
    In any event, what we believe is important to our lives and to our world. This however seems to be less and less important to many as they strike out to be politically correct without searching for the integrity of being philosophically true to their own religion, heritage and history. So, I have painted my picture and still wonder – who cares. In this day of antagonism and suspicion of religion and the religious, I may stand alone, and yet I am concerned that so many who espouse fidelity to the major religions of our world still find it possible to embrace the causes of pantheism and the wild eyed causes and new ways it is posturing itself in our day.
    My point is simple: pantheistic religions and causes, as well meaning as they might seem are incompatible with the historic faiths of the major religions. One has to know their foundation and understand the fallacies of that which seems kind and compassionate, yet at its very core leaves our planet without leadership and direction. Nature is nice to visit in controlled doses, but it is also an angry taskmaster when we give over to its control. Long live the concepts of God. They really do last through the test of time.
    Dave Fritsche

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