More than a few feathers were ruffled last week when my fellow South Dakota ranchers got wind that Joan Jett, rock star, vegetarian and PETA spokeswoman, was going to ride on the South Dakota float in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade next week.
This will be South Dakota’s third appearance in the big event; singers Neil Diamond and Don McLean, the latter one being the singer of "American Pie," rode on the float in previous years. The float highlights some of the top attractions in our great state, such as Mount Rushmore.
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The celebrities who ride on the float are chosen by the Macy’s parade committee, not by the state itself. However, the state does pay for the celebrity’s services. In fact, it costs South Dakota $175,000 to be in the parade, with $5,000 going to the celebrity.
So when South Dakota ranchers heard that their tax dollars were going to pay for Jett, a PETA supporter who wears hypocrisy literally on her sleeve with her leather jackets, boots and leggings, they dug their boots in and demanded a change. Within days of learning this information, ranchers had rallied the media, and forced a change in celebrity for the South Dakota float.
That infuriated the PETA folks, whose spokesperson called cowboys, “crybabies.” However, Jodie Anderson of the South Dakota Cattlemen's Association, told KEVN that “when we learned that about Miss Jett, we were rightly concerned about her representing South Dakota and a state that is so heavily reliant on agriculture and livestock production to drive our economy."
I doubt that the Macy’s parade folks meant any slight to ranchers in the selection of Jett, and they rather quickly acquiesced to a change in celebrity for the South Dakota float. But I hope this doesn’t strain South Dakota’s relationship with the Macy’s parade organization. Still, it’s our right as livestock producers and taxpayers to have individuals who support our industry represent us. At the same time, however, we must be careful not to come across as bullies.
I call this a win for South Dakota and for beef producers everywhere. However, while it’s good to react to negative attention, it’s even better to spread positive messages that we can control. So let’s double up our efforts this week to talk about the things that make our beef industry great.
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