*Andy Vance is an agricultural journalist, public speaker, 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]
IN its annual evaluation of the Administration, the leading animal rights lobbying organization handed President Barack Obama the lowest mark of his tenure, a grade of C- on "animal welfare issues."
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) reported that while it had graded Obama a B-student of the HSUS agenda in his first two years in office, his third year was a "subpar" performance.
"Despite campaign promises that he'd be strong on humane issues, the President has failed to pull together a coherent animal welfare strategy or to deliver any kind of message to our community of 20,000 animal protection organizations and millions of animal-loving Americans throughout the country," HSUS announced.
"His high-level appointees for the agencies that matter most to animal welfare -- the U.S. Department of Agriculture, U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Department of Commerce, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency -- have made positive moves on a few fronts, but more often, they have left important policy matters incomplete or, worse, taken strongly adverse actions," HSUS added.
In other words, while his political critics take the President to task for positions they deem too radical, HSUS is taking shots at Obama for not being radical enough.
Before I get into HSUS's specific allegations against the Administration, let me say this: The average American has a skewed perception of what the President actually does and does not do, and this misconception of basic civics is fueled both by candidates' campaign promises and by activist propaganda like the HSUS "report card."
Take, for example, the common campaign rhetoric (from candidates of both parties) regarding action on the budget. A candidate might proclaim that he will balance the budget or increase spending in this area or that; such grandstanding almost ignores the fact that the President does not write the federal budget.
Congress, in fact, is charged with writing the budget, and while the President does play a role, the midterm elections are typically more effective in charting the course of fiscal events in this country, e.g., the 1994 "Contract with America."
A number of the issues tackled in the HSUS report card are, in fact, legislative matters. Also, while the President must sign bills into law, as Obama did with the so-called "agriculture spending bill that cleared the way for horse slaughter plants to open on U.S. soil," legislation is written by Congress.
The basic civics lesson aside, let's look at the big issues Obama "failed" to advance on HSUS's behalf. The aforementioned spending bill was of particular note because it contained provisions dealing with processing horses for overseas meat consumption.
This is an area where the animal rights folks have consistently ignored reality. By eliminating a venue where owners could humanely dispose of horses that reached the end of their useful life, the radicals actually created severely inhumane conditions for unwanted horses and animals the owners could no longer care for.
Obama's apparent inaction on this issue perplexed HSUS's Wayne Pacelle and company, who said, "As a U.S. senator, Obama co-sponsored legislation to ban horse slaughter, but he's made no definitive pronouncements on the issue as President."
I guess he was too busy worrying about the state of the economy or ongoing military engagements in the war on terror ... you know, trivial stuff compared to the animal rights agenda.
HSUS said the federal government continues to "harm" horses through the Bureau of Land Management's handling of the wild horse and burro population in the West. Arguing, in essence, that the bureau should stop managing these "free-roaming populations," HSUS said the President's allowance of status quo is the wrong move.
The well-heeled animal rights lobby also took shots at the agriculture secretary, saying, "Secretary Tom Vilsack has been entirely silent on the July 2011 accord reached by HSUS and the United Egg Producers to jointly seek federal legislation to phase out barren battery cages, to prohibit other inhumane practices at egg farms and to set up a national egg labeling program to give consumers more information about housing practices."
There's no reason for Vilsack to stake out a position on this issue. The "accord" suggests federal legislation -- the realm of Congress, not USDA.
Further, HSUS claims that "despite record profits for agribusiness, (the federal government) gave tens of millions in handouts to the pork industry without requiring any industry reforms for animal welfare, manure management or reduction in non-therapeutic use of antibiotics."
Really? Claiming that this falls under the area of "agribusiness subsidies," the organization criticized USDA food programs for "buying up surplus pork as a direct subsidy to the industry, even though producers have been experiencing record profits."
The report card also takes shots at the Administration for its handling of predator control issues in the West, criticizing "an agency program that kills wildlife as a subsidy for private ranchers and other special interests and has failed to shift the focus of its resources to non-lethal alternatives that can be more effective."
Read the report. You may or may not support the Obama Administration, but you should at least be aware of the items on the HSUS agenda, which is the most powerful animal rights lobbying organization in the world. This report card explains a lot about its biggest target: us.