Editor's Note: I was informed by Mercy for Animals (MFA) that Nick Cooney has never been affiliated with nor acted as a spokesperson for Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty, which I had referenced from information I received from the Animal Agriculture Alliance press release. This information has been retracted and the below blog post reflects Mr. Cooney's correct position with MFA. - AR
There are times when I feel like a broken record on this blog, particularly when I write about the threat of animal rights activists to animal agriculture.
We all know that groups like PETA and HSUS are actively promoting a vegan society and undermining production agriculture through lobbying and litigation, but on the ranch, their agendas seem far away from the practicalities of operating a cattle business. There seems to be much more pressing worries to think about on a daily basis, and frankly, I would much rather write about ways to increase a producers’ bottom line than focus on some liberal animal hater in Washington, D.C.
READ: 3 ways animal rights activists are targeting you this summer
However, I was recently given a wake-up call about the very real threat of the animal rights agenda after I read a report from the Animal Agriculture Alliance detailing their observations from the Animal Rights National Conference, which was held in early July in Los Angeles, Calif.
After reading about the tone and theme of the conference, in which 1,700 individuals attended, I was alarmed about the lengths these folks might be willing to go in order to abolish animal agriculture.
“We are alarmed by the statements animal rights movement leaders made at this conference encouraging activists to be increasingly aggressive in seeking liberation for farm animals,” said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO, in a press release. “The speakers made their end goal—ending animal agriculture and securing a vegan society—very clear. If you have a vested interest in producing, processing or selling meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, you need to understand the forces our industry is up against.”
According to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, various conference speakers offered a consistent message—the animal rights movement is pushing for an end to the consumption of animal products, and they believe they are progressing toward that goal. “We are trying to destroy animal agriculture,” said Wayne Hsiung, Direct Action Everywhere. Television personality Simone Reyes stated, “We’re preying on emotions to push our vegan agenda,” likening animal agriculture to slavery and murder. Lisa Levinson, sustainable activism campaign manager for In Defense of Animals, clearly outlined her organization’s mission: "Our vision is to liberate animals, raise human consciousness, create vegan community. Our community explores veganism as a spiritual practice via monthly spiritual gatherings, annual retreats, and online forums."
“Animal rights activist organizations have historically targeted large-scale, modern operations (calling them ‘factory farms’), but several conference speakers urged attendees to broaden their scope. Karen Davis, founder and president of United Poultry Concerns, told the audience to target the industry as a whole, suggesting they “stop saying ‘stop factory farming’ and say ‘stop all animal farming.’’’ Mike Wolf, investigations manager for Compassion Over Killing, echoed this sentiment, commenting, “Humane meat? There is no such thing.”
“A final concerning trend was a focus on engaging with youth and college students,” according to the Alliance report. “By focusing on the youth, we are able to target the age group who is trying new things,” said Jon Camp, director of outreach, Vegan Outreach. Nathan Runkle, president and founder of Mercy For Animals, said the animal rights movement is driven by the young. Vic Sjodin, Vegan Outreach, explained the reason behind making this age group a priority, stating, “People in college are questioning their values and able to make food decisions for the first time.”
Also speaking at the conference were: Alex Hershaft, president, Farm Animal Rights Movement; Michael Webermann, executive director, Farm Animal Rights Movement; Nick Cooney, vice president, Mercy For Animals and managing trustee; Steve Hindi, founder and president, Showing Animals Respect and Kindness; Erica Meier, executive director, Compassion Over Killing and Paul Shapiro, Kristie Middleton, Kenny Torrella and Ken Botts - all with The Humane Society of the United States.
Now, HSUS and groups of their ilk won’t be able to pry the steak out of my hands, but if they have their way, they will make beef and other animal products more expensive and harder to produce with increased rules, regulations, societal demands, red tape, and government bias. Just note how that bias has infiltrated the USDA, EPA and even in the development of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
It’s going to take leadership on every level to fight these animal rights extremists. Unfortunately, emotion is on their side, and in our current society, where all too often the life of an animal is valued over that of a human, I fear for what is to come. We can no longer sit on the sidelines and hope someone else will take care of things for us; we must all do our part to protect our livelihoods and our rights to consume meat.
The opinions of Amanda Radke are not necessarily those of beefmagazine.com or Penton Agriculture.
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