With our 2011 Conference preparations in full swing, we've fallen a little behind in the news. Which is a shame given the undercover farm-filming "ag-gag" drama continuing in Iowa. With both sides ratcheting up the rhetoric we're really missing out on some top-notch entertainment. And what's most amazing is that they're both right!
From a recent article:
The farmers say it’s an invasion of privacy made intentionally to damage the industry.
“They want to hurt an important part of our economy,” said Sen. Tom Rielly, D-Oskaloosa. “These people don’t want us to have eggs; they don’t want people to eat meat.”
This is a fair enough statement, given the type of people and organizations who are most interested in making undercover farm videos. In most cases, we're not talking Karen Silkwood -- regular employees who discover and attempt to expose wrongdoings -- but people who seek employment in the hopes of discovering wrongdoings, in order to further their own goals.
And boy do they want to hurt animal agriculture. Rielly isn't exaggerating.
That said, the animal rightist response is actually a valid one:
Dan Mathews, senior vice president for PETA, said, “With lawmakers in other ag states wanting these bills to die, the ongoing debate in Iowa makes it appear like the farmers there have more to hide.
“That doesn’t seem like a sensible promotion of Iowa agriculture,” he said.
Now, we can't speak for what is and what is not the "sensible promotion of Iowa agriculture," but there is no doubt that the passage of such a bill will at least create the perception that farmers have something to hide. Probably not the best image to be fostering.
This is a tough issue. The naive optimist in me believes that if farms simply open their doors, install their own cameras, and show the world that they are doing the best possible job they can, everything will work out peachy keen in the end. The more worldly pessimist, however, knows that this would do nothing long-term to deter the activists.
More questions than answers. What is the most humane, efficient, and healthy way for animal agriculture to go forward? How do you create an environment in animal agriculture that fosters transparency, safety, and informed consumer choices without also providing an open door and seat at the table for people who want to see you out of business yesterday? (Farmers are keenly aware of the carnage that can ensue when wolves show up to cast a vote on supper.)
Sheesh. There really is a lot to ponder here. Maybe it's time we get our 2012 Conference preparations underway...