Cyndi's Two Cents

Animal rights policy absent in recent election


While the 2020 election brought about what could mean significant change for ag interests in Washington, D.C., there is something else we have not been talking much about in farm country.  The 2020 election was the first time in more than three decades that an animal welfare issue was not on a ballot somewhere in the United States.

During the recent Michigan Agri-Business Association Winter Conference, Peter Ruddell with Detroit law firm Honigman LLP told attendees the division amongst the animal rights community is growing following Wayne Pacelle’s removal from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This by no means suggests that animal rights groups are no longer active.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) remains busy. This mostly-non-violent group combs through USDA meat inspection reports looking for those rare instances when the first shot doesn’t render an animal unconscious at harvest, then files criminal cruelty-to-animal charges against the facility, the employee and the facility manager. They place anti-meat billboards in areas where there are numerous restaurants with meat on the menu, in hopes, they say, that people will see animals as individuals, not as meat.  Taking advantage of the fear many American have of COVID-19, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said, “In addition to saving nearly 200 animals every year, each person who goes vegan reduces their risk of suffering from heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and cancer and helps prevent future pandemics. SARS, swine flu, bird flu, the 1918 pandemic, and COVID-19 all stemmed from confining and killing animals for food.”

Newkirk also conducted a virtual “March on Washington” in 2020.  She called it a 12-mile walk down memory lane, visiting animal rights landmarks in Washington, D.C., and reliving pivotal moments in PETA’s journey.”

Wayne Pacelle has not completely fallen off our radar. His newest venture Animal Wellness Action, “has a mission of helping animals by promoting legal standards forbidding cruelty. We champion causes that alleviate the suffering of companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife.” The website states that donations to the group, which are NOT tax-deductible, “enable us to influence the legislative and policy framework shaping animal welfare laws and regulation to ensure a better life for wild and captive animals. To prevent cruelty to animals, we promote enacting and enforcing good public policies. To enact good laws, we must elect lawmakers and that’s why we remind voters which candidates care about our issues and which ones don’t.”

Other animal extremist organizations held protests and rallies. Some used hidden cameras, long-range lens, drones and even night-vision cameras to spy on farms with animals. Others continue to target lawmakers, school children and consumers with misinformation about animal agriculture.  Peter Ruddell with Honigman LLP said he is not expecting any significant animal welfare issues to appear on the 2022 ballot, at least not in Michigan which has seen the greatest animal welfare success in the Midwest through the ballot process. I hope he is right, but I am not holding my breath.

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