*Andy Vance is an agricultural journalist, commentator and entrepreneur who most recently led the broadcast team at Agri Broadcast Network and is an active member of the National Association of Farm Broadcasting. Vance grew up on a farm in Hillsboro, Ohio, and raises registered Shorthorn cattle and breeding stock. Vance's web site, "The Angle," is andyvance.com. He can be contacted at [email protected]
LEGENDARY military strategist Sun-Tsu, so often co-opted into '80s business reading material, built his strategy around the basic premise that you must know your enemy to truly defeat him.
For that reason -- and to keep my blood pressure from ever dipping into the "normal" range -- I read a blog by Wayne Pacelle, the chief executive officer/chief lobbyist/spokesmodel for The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
This $200 million humane (in name only) activist lobbying group raises funds by working the long con that it is somehow engaged in helping animals. In so doing, it raises hundreds of millions of dollars annually that it, in turn, spends on lobbying and political activities to force Americans into a radical vegan lifestyle devoid of any animal-derived proteins or products.
While it typically denies this fanatical end goal, if you read Pacelle's blog regularly, he frequently slips up and says what he actually means.
HSUS first ventured into the arena of ballot initiative political campaigns in Florida in 2002. The effort -- to end the use of gestation stalls on hog farms -- was, for this "sophisticated political organization" (Pacelle's own description of HSUS), equivalent to sticking its toe in the shallow end of the pool.
In a multi-state, multi-year strategy, the organization has worked step by step and state by state to drive modern agriculture and farm families out of business and to drive up the cost of meat, milk and eggs in the hopes of lowering (or, perhaps, eliminating) demand for those products.
Don't just take my word for it, though.
Pacelle himself said of the Florida initiative, "When voters approved it, it was the first restriction on a severe confinement practice in the U.S. Now, eight years later, it has achieved its principal purpose: It kept giant hog factory farms from colonizing Florida, as they did three decades ago in North Carolina."
So, in Pacelle's own words, the purpose wasn't to save the pigs; the "principle purpose" of HSUS was to keep hog farms out of Florida in the first place.
Some will jump to Pacelle's defense and point out that he specifically said "giant factory farms." The problem with that faulty logic is twofold. First, there is no plausible or meaningful definition of giant factory farm, and second, it assumes that factories are bad in the first place.
To understand what I mean, you have to first reject the premise of Pacelle's statement: that factories are bad. After all, Pacelle is telling you that factory farms are bad, but let's consider this: If a major manufacturer like Honda, General Motors or Proctor & Gamble wanted to build a plant near your town, what would happen?
Community leaders would roll out the red carpet, local or state development officers would work on tax abatements and incentives and folks would jump up and down at the opportunity for more jobs! Factories produce goods and services that we, as consumers, need or want while generating economic activity and creating wealth for workers and shareholders.
In Pacelle's invective-filled context, however, we are supposed to believe that if a farm is large enough to earn the "factory" smear, it no longer produces food but instead produces evil filth and pollution.
The problem, of course, is that the U.S. needs all farmers to produce enough food to feed 100 million additional Americans expected to live on the planet 40 years from now.
Livestock care or environmental stewardship is size neutral. Some of the largest farmers I know are the best at both, and some of the smallest I know are among the worst. Likewise, undercover activists looking for a fight can find isolated examples of the obverse.
The problem lies in the generalization needed to smear an enemy. By branding all "factory" farms as animal abusers or polluters, Pacelle sets up a straw man to earn your disgust so he can con you into giving him your donation -- or your vote.
Make no mistake, however, about what Pacelle actually believes. HSUS works to achieve its "principle purpose": to run livestock farmers of all stripes out of business.