Whether it is the grocery store aisle or a sorority function, you can ‘bet the farm’ that I will be ready to explain, discuss and sadly, in some cases, defend animal agriculture. I have a true passion for the animal industry. I can’t help it, animal agriculture has surrounded me my entire life, I mean I was the girl who brought the water buffalo calf to show-and-tell in the third grade.
Tracing back to the early 1700s, my ancestors came to the Piedmont of North Carolina to farm the same land where two siblings live today. Both raised on dairy farms, my parents milked cows themselves early in their marriage. My father has raised, owned and supplied exotic and domestic animals to parks and zoo across the nation for the past 40 years and today, my parents own two drive-thru animal parks. My siblings and their spouses range from farrier to veterinarian to a past animal waste management engineer.
I can recall so many examples of people who visited our ranch and did not know the simple basics about animals; meaning they had not the slightest clue where their food comes from. Most of these people lacked the knowledge that milk only comes from female cows and some cannot decipher between a cow and a llama. These interactions truly ignited my understanding of the need for agricultural education and advocacy.
Those who have no experience, education nor understanding of animals constantly ridicule my family’s business and the industry I proudly advocate for. Our two-agritourism businesses have been the target of multiple PETA campaigns. A few years ago, PETA alleged my father was guilty of animal cruelty. Long story short, PETA’s own witness testimony did more to ensure we won the case than support its poorly-based argument.
Fast forward through a state FFA officer year, years of showing livestock and three years of college experience and I find myself applying for an internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance and somewhere else I never thought I would be: attending the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Taking Action for Animals Conference (TAFA) in Washington, D.C. and the Farm Animal Rights Movement’s (FARM) National Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles. I registered as myself—a student from North Carolina, not using an alias or forged identity. Though I had two extremely different experiences, I came to the same solid conclusion: All this time, I have given these ‘activist’ groups too much credit.
Both conferences clearly wanted to embed into their attendees that the animal rights movement was ‘winning’. Almost every speaker began with “we are winning” yet, lacked solid supportive evidence to back up this claim. Speakers at both conferences depicted farmers as big, beefed up, money hungry, evil destroyers of planet Earth who walked around punting kittens and biting the heads off bumble bees. I mean everyone in our industry can agree on that, right? Wrong.
Undercover investigators were defined as the “special forces” of the ‘movement’ because they had to do ““heartbreaking, stomach wrenching work” that included “backbreaking labor” and many times had to get up at 4 in morning. Oh, those, poor undercover investigators. Never mind that farmers who raise livestock and/or crops get up early every morning, go to bed late every night and constantly do backbreaking labor to provide the world with food.
These undercover investigators are “truly necessary” because they prove that ALL animal agriculture is full of abuse.
Here in Washington D.C. I attended HSUS’ TAFA. Going into the conference I expected the top notch political ‘animal advocates’. This is the nation’s capitol, after all. However, what I was expecting and what I experienced were quite different. The TAFA attendees seemed to consist mainly of middle age to older individuals with very few millennials. The older generation attendees labeled their ‘service’ to HSUS as their “retirement job.” Others seemed to openly question the tactics and workings of HSUS. During session Q and A time some attendees demanded that HSUS “needed more boots on the ground” and more finical support on the local level to carry out the wishes of the organization. Shockingly, some attendees actually told the truth including a college junior who stated she “noticed they [agriculturists] are not all evil and they want the best for animals”.
All questions and comments made were responded to in a cult-like fashion beginning with “that was a great question” or “thanks for asking that question” but the responses lacked substance. I heard over and over again: “we are working on that,”“trust me” or “we don’t have enough money.” Apparently almost 113 million dollars isn’t enough money for HSUS.
Speakers at the TAFA included representatives from Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing. The conference even included an hour session on praising HSUS’ CEO, Wayne Pacelle, where when asked “where he saw the animal rights movement in 50 years?” he responded with: “We will run through dog fighting, grey hound abuse and wild life issues.” This was contrary to other HSUS speakers who noted that farm animals were HSUS’ #1 concern.
Unique to this conference in comparison to the National Animal Rights Conference was the focus on Meatless Mondays, which originated as a way to conserve animal protein for the troops during World War I, and was not a vegan marketing scheme as advertised at the conference. At every opportunity, speakers boasted how Meatless Mondays were key to convincing future vegans by convincing schools, hospitals and governments to adopt the campaign. According to many speakers at TAFA, Meatless Mondays are easy for beginners and help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and to save 1.4 billion animals from ‘factory farms.’
Want to know “how many animal activists it takes to change a light bulb?” Check back next week as I discuss my time at the 2014 National Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles.
All posts are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily represent the view of the Animal Ag Alliance.