A Scent of Change in the Air?

May 9, 2009

This week HBO is showing “Death on a Factory Farm”, a documentary that takes a hard look at the inhumane living conditions for industrial livestock.

 

Not for the feint of heart, “Death on a Factory Farm” documents a six-week investigation conducted at Wiles Hog Farm in Creston, Ohio by The Humane Farming Association. The film exposes abuses that took place and covers the subsequent trial of its owners and workers. HBO will air the film 20 times up through April 1.

 

The film is particularly significant because the pork industry is taking notice. “Death on a Factory Farm” arrives on the coattails of Proposition 2, the California ballot initiative that passed with 63.5% of the vote. Proposition 2 will outlaw chicken cages, veal crates, and swine gestation crates by 2015.

 

Backed by the Humane Society (HSUS), PETA, Farm Sanctuary, Sierra Club, and others, Proposition 2 garnered enough nationwide grassroots support to overcome the equally vociferous and well-funded industrial livestock industry.

 

An article in the March 3 issue of Pork Magazine callsfor livestock farmers to “pay attention” to the HBO documentary. The pork industry is watching what is happening in Florida, Colorado, andArizona where crates and cages are also being phased out. A lawsuit filed in Washington State addressed cruelty laws for farm animals.

 

“California is often a bellwether, so it’s likely this ban will be pushed in other states. We certainly don’t expect HSUS to stop with California,” says Bryan Black, president of the National Pork Producers Council, in the November 6 article of Pork Magazine.

 

The Humane Society is looking ahead to expand similar actions in Illinois, Ohio, and other Midwestern States. Federal legislation is also on their agenda.

 

The Iowa pork industry seems to be gearing up. Wendy Wintersteen, dean of Iowa State University’s College of Agriculture, recently testified before the Agriculture Committee in the Iowa State House. According to a February 26 RadioIowa.com story, she claimed supporters of Proposition 2 represented an “uninformed electorate” that can be convinced of anything.

 

“For us, the HSUS has effectively convinced the public that there are a set of problems when, in fact, that argument is not based on science,” the article reported her saying. She warned farmers to be wary of the potential for similar legislation in Iowa.

 

JFAN strongly disagrees with Wintersteen and commends HBO’s groundbreaking documentary as well as the efforts of all those working to protect livestock from inhumane living conditions.

 

It is ironic, though, that animal welfare, not human welfare, could be the foot in the door to begin a slow tide of change for industrial livestock production. Two recent New York Times articles (www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/opinion/12kristof.html and www.nytimes.com/2009/03/12/opinion/12krist of.html?scp=1&sq=hog%20farm&st= cse) discuss the link between the spread of MRSA, a deadly antibioticresistant staph infection, and hog confinements. JFAN advocates a moratorium on all CAFOs, similar to the North Carolina moratorium, to protect the health and quality of life for all. However, we welcome a change in any way it comes.

 

Provided as a community service by Jefferson County Farmers & Neighbors (JFAN), a tax-exempt educational organization. www.jfaniowa.org

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