It’s no secret that daytime talk show host, Ellen DeGeneres, is a vegetarian and outspoken animal lover. I have a hard time swallowing her messages sometimes, because she often equates abstaining from meat as the only logical way to care for animals. As a rancher, I understand the clear difference between animal welfare and animal rights; unfortunately, many folks, like Ellen, feel they have to team up with animal rights extremist groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) in order to make a difference.
Last week, I wrote about how Carrie Underwood is speaking out against a Tennessee bill, the Livestock Cruelty Prevention Act, which would protect family farmers from being victimized on their personal property by undercover activists. The bill would require any abuse caught on film to be turned into the authorities within 48 hours.
If abuse is occurring, this measure would help expedite the charges and stop any abuse from continuing. Currently, many activists spend months editing the footage, manipulating the scenarios, and leaking it to the media, instead of just simply reporting the incident. To me, it makes sense that both animals and farmers should be protected against such actions.
DeGeneres recently hosted HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle on her television show, allowing him a few minutes to talk about this bill in Tennessee and urging folks to lobby against it because it prohibits his minions from capturing footage needed to lock up these abusive farmers. He spoke as if such abuse is common practice, and DeGeneres responded by saying how important this message was to get out, and asked, “How will we know if these farmers are abusing their animals then?”
Well, Ellen, how do I know if parents are abusing their children if I’m not allowed to peek in their windows and tape what they’re doing? Surely, if I can videotape a mother having a bad day and spanking her children, I should be able to keep that video until I see fit to release it to whomever can give it the most play. I should be able to take that video home and manipulate it, so that video doesn’t just look like a spanking anymore -- instead I could darken the video, so it makes the room like forbidding and dangerous. I could crank up the noise, so the child’s wails sound much more pained and dramatic. I could zoom in on the “love pat” and put it on repeat, so you couldn’t tell whether it was a quick swat on the butt or a repeated beating. I can do that, right? That’s okay isn’t it?
Obviously, I would never do such a thing, nor do I think a spanking is child abuse. I should clarify for those who might take me literally that the above paragraph is tongue-in-cheek. Obviously, a real child abuse case should be taken seriously, just as the abuse of animals should be prosecuted.
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However, in America, we can either trust in the laws we already have in place and honor citizens’ privacy, or we can start playing Big Brother. And, if we’re going to play Big Brother, how far do we go?
Do we allow drones to fly over our homes to peek in our backyards, or take photographs of our feedlots? Do we send undercover investigators to apply for nanny jobs, so they can spy on parents, as activists have done to ranchers for so many years? Put yourself in that situation, and suddenly it gets pretty uncomfortable.
Perhaps I’m taking the comparison too far, or perhaps this is a foreshadowing of what’s to come. All I know is that when DeGeneres hosted Pacelle on her show and promised to donate $25,000 to HSUS to halt this bill in its tracks, she didn’t allow the other side to give its perspective. May I suggest someone like Temple Grandin or, better yet, one of the individuals who introduced the bill to come in and talk about their rationale.
The video of Pacelle on “Ellen” has exceeded 210,000 views on YouTube, and those viewers are only hearing one side of the story -- that “factory farmers” can’t be trusted, and they need to be monitored. Is that the only story we want our consumers to hear? It’s time to engage, folks. Check out the video and add your two cents in the comments section on this blog post, as well as on YouTube.
What do you think about Ellen’s $25,000 pledge? What are your thoughts on the bill? Share your opinions with us today.
By the way, today is the final day to nominate your beef industry heroes for the BEEF 50! To commemorate the start of BEEF magazine’s 50th year of publication in September, we are honoring the best of the best -- the top 50 individuals who have helped to shape our industry and make it great. Whether it’s a seedstock breeder, a professor, a speaker you heard at a conference, a mentor, or yourself, your nominations are welcome! Don’t wait! Nominate that special individual today before the deadline closes.