The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has been a focus of mine for some time. While I strongly support animal welfare, I am opposed to animal rights and, more specifically, to groups such as HSUS that try to cloud the distinction between animal welfare and animal rights.
HSUS is known for releasing “reports” that have a tendency to foreshadow its lobbying and ballot initiative efforts. Some examples of these reports would include: “The Welfare of Animals in the Egg Industry,” “Welfare Issues with Gestation Crates for Pregnant Sows,” and “The Welfare of Sows Used for Breeding in the Pig Industry.” Even though this magazine’s focus is beef cattle, most of us are surely aware of the ballot initiatives HSUS has pushed that pertain to swine, chicken and egg production.
I mention these reports and the ballot initiatives that followed because HSUS released a report this summer entitled “The Welfare of Calves in the Beef Industry.” You can access the report at www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/farm/welfare_calves.pdf.
So, it’s now official – the vegan-promoting, anti-animal agriculture group has set its sights on the beef industry. Obviously, this comes as no surprise.
This latest HSUS document is 23 pages long – nine pages constitute the text of the report, while the other 14 pages are bibliography. The bibliography contains 275 references, which is misleading, because most of the references are used multiple times. For instance, a single paper written by Lay, et al, is listed 13 different times in the bibliography.
In the report, “Abrupt Weaning,” “Painful Mutilations” and “Calf Transport” are the main topics discussed.
In the “Abrupt Weaning” section, HSUS quotes a reference that states that calves will “wean naturally” at 7-14 months of age. HSUS also references studies on fence-line weaning and “two-step” weaning. When the subject of early weaning (1½-5 months of age) is discussed, HSUS states this “may be economically desirable to producers since cows can be re-impregnated earlier.” Since when is weaning required before a cow can be re-bred?
The section on “Painful Mutilations” refers to castration, dehorning and branding of calves. While these practices are discussed with reasonable accuracy, “mutilate” or some form of the word is used 12 times in the discussion. This is obviously an attempt to sway the reader’s emotions, especially when these practices are compared to common human neonate practices (such as circumcision), the terminology suddenly changes to “surgery.”
This change in terminology is probably due to the fact that many HSUS donors may have had a son circumcised. Thus, accusing their donors of “mutilating” their children would most likely have a negative effect on HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s pension fund. Incidentally, HSUS puts five times more money in its pension fund than it does in pet shelters.
The “Calf Transport” section references many industry-generated scientific papers that detail calf stress during transport, the immune competence of calves when transported, and the effects that preconditioning has on post-transport health of calves. HSUS also believes the 28-hour transport law, which limits the length of time animals can be hauled before they must be unloaded and offered feed, water and rest, is under-enforced.
The conclusion HSUS draws from this body of work is that the beef industry should “address the welfare issues in beef production.” I consider this conclusion to be an amazing grasp of the obvious.
HSUS references many scientific papers generated by scientists within our industry, thereby proving that the industry is working to address these issues. Then it states that the beef industry needs to address these issues? Hmmm. They surely wouldn’t use the scientific work our industry has generated to raise money for themselves, would they?
Dave Sjeklocha, DVM, is director of animal health for Cattle Empire, LLC, of Satanta, KS. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.