National Animal Interest Alliance Annual Conference, Part 1
Posted on 01/09/2010 in Your Dog, Your Rights.
This month I am making a departure from the monthly legislative update to share some other legal aspects of animals, outside of dog ownership, that I learned of at a recent conference I attended. While many dog-related issues were covered, I would like to highlight some other non-dog issues that have come to the forefront as a result of the insidiousness of the entire animal rights movement. It’s important for us all to know what other issues are on the animal rights agenda—strength is in numbers and we need to work together.
On November 1-3, I attended the annual National Animal Interest Alliance conference, “Dispelling Animal Myths in an Age of Images and Sound Bites” in Washington, DC. I was very much looking forward to the conference after attending last year’s, which primarily focused on the dog industry and fighting the animal rights agenda against dog ownership, breeding, etc. However, this year’s conference expanded beyond dogs to many other animal issues that have been brought to the forefront because of animal rights activists taking action and unfortunately having their voices heard. My eyes were opened to how truly invasive the animal rights movement has become. It also became apparent to me that many different groups are coming together, under NAIA, to fight the extremists and protect our interests in animals---from egg farmers to animal research scientists to rodeo representatives to dog owners. It’s a wonderful thing that’s happening, and I sincerely hope the momentum continues, and spills over into the dog world to also bring all different groups of dog owners together.
Dr. Dale E Bauman, a Professor in the Department of Animal Science and the Division of Nutritional Sciences at Cornell University gave a presentation entitled “Perceptions About Global Warming and Livestock Production.” Animal rights activists have lately been trying to teach the belief that animal agriculture puts out a significant carbon footprint, which plays on the major environmental ‘green’ movement while pushing ultimately for vegetarianism. PETA went so far as to put an ad out that claims the carbon footprint from animal agriculture is greater than the footprint from all of transportation. In reality, the correct calculation is: 48% comes from deforestation, and only 6% from all of agriculture—only less than 3% from animal agriculture. Many people try to romanticize the ‘good old days’ of the family farm; however they were not nearly so good as today. The industry is producing 50% more milk today, and milk production per cow has been greatly increased as well, as has food safety. Efforts have now been focused on reducing animal and farm emissions. The fixed cost of dairy production today is the nutrient requirement, which is the biggest contributor of the whole process to the carbon footprint. Besides constantly improving milk production per cow, the industry is also looking at the use of by-products from human food and the fiber industry—many of these can be used as animal feed. This will further reduce the carbon footprint, because the by-products would otherwise be sent to a landfill and completely wasted.
William Horn, an attorney active with the US Sportsman’s Alliance and an expert in natural resources law with an extensive resume gave a talk on “charismatic megafauna.” His definition of charismatic megafauna is the exploitation of soft brown eyes, instead of using a science based analysis. It’s become a problem that the modern view of imbuing human attributes to wild animals has been particularly applied to predators as of late. Animal rights activists have used the soft brown eyes to push for protection of predators such as wolves. Many adverse side effects have resulted in areas where wolf populations have been restored and yet continue to be protected, such as hunting dogs being attacked in the upper Great Lakes states and elk populations in the western states being reduced by 50%. The animal rights activists are not fighting to protect elk and deer as they have lost their charismatic status. Ironically enough, many of the people fighting to protect the predators do not even live in the same area where the predators exist.
Some recent court decisions have illustrated a trend in favor of the animal rights activists. In Yellowstone, there has been a restoration of the grizzly bear population, so much so that the population in the park is saturated and the grizzlies are migrating out of the park. The DNR sought to de-list the bears, however a US District Court decision reversed the delisting. In New Mexico a deer poacher was charged with various violations of the animal welfare statute (traditionally welfare statutes have always only been applied to domestic animals). Two lower courts scarily applied the cruelty provision to wild animals. The New Mexico Supreme Court fortunately showed some sense and overturned the decision, thereby resurrecting the traditional barrier that animal cruelty laws do not apply to wild animals. However, it is still frightening to hear of ANY court entertaining the idea of applying animal cruelty laws to wildlife, much less actually doing it! The most ludicrous protection has been proposed legislation in the Washington, DC area that would prohibit lethal control of household pests(rats and mice excluded) by homeowners, and requires keeping pest family units preserved!! All of these go to show that the threat of the animal rights movement is very real, and progress on their part is being made. We cannot ignore the signs, and need to fight their cute, sanitized images with facts.
Supervisory Special Agent Tony Cangolosi of the Federal Bureau of Investigations talked about animal rights extremism. He’s found fighting these domestic terrorists has been the most challenging area in law enforcement he’s encountered. One of the problems is that the groups must be engaged in some sort of suspicious activity before the FBI can even collect information on them---if they engage in legal protests only the FBI cannot investigate them. The participants can be hard to trace and find, as they work in a leaderless resistance and under secrecy in small cells. They target all different aspects of animal use, from fur farms to researcher’s residences to zoos and parks to egg farms. They also use many different techniques including arson, property destruction, credit card theft, death threats, and home invasions. These extremists spin the truth and use the media to their advantage. What’s funny is they use celebrities to support their movement but will also attack celebrities for wearing fur. While there has been an overall decrease in activity by the extremists, there has been an increase in the level of violence used. As a result, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act was signed into law at the end of 2006, and has been the basis for forming special task forces and taking more aggressive enforcement action.
Cindy Shonholtz, Director of Industry Outreach for the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association and Scot Dutcher, Chief of the Bureau of Animal Protection within the Department of Agriculture in Colorado both spoke about the unintended consequences of prohibiting the processing of horses for human consumption. While I am an avid horse person myself, and have in the past been opposed to processing horses for human consumption, I am now convinced that a place for it exists. The animal rights extremists succeeded in closing the remaining plants in the US through laws being passed in Texas and Illinois prohibiting processing horse meat for human consumption. The closing of these plants combined with the downturn of the economy has resulted in an abundance of unwanted horses. Horses are being dumped in fields, dropped at animal shelters, and being sent out of the country for slaughter at plants in Mexico and Canada, where it is not regulated as it would be in the US. Current horse rescue facilities are not able to house the high numbers of unwanted horses, and the numbers of cases of abuse and neglect are on the rise. In Colorado horses have been dumped in wild horse herds where they cannot survive. There have even been cases of illegal slaughter in Florida. There exists a need for better horse owner education, particularly pre-owner education so people are aware of the cost of keeping a horse. Meanwhile, animal rights extremists, ignoring the consequences, continue their agenda of vegetarianism by pushing for federal legislation that would make horse processing for human consumption illegal across the US. If they succeed, the problem will explode.
Another avenue the AR extremists have been using towards their path of ultimate vegetarianism is vilifying the egg farms. Dr. Jeff Armstrong, Dean of the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources, Michigan State University and Gene Gregory, President and CEO of United Egg Producers spoke about the science, the emotional play by the AR’s, and the plain facts of egg farming. I will admit, I thought the whole idea of cage-free hens sounded wonderful and humane—and I had no idea it was all an animal rights coup; I thought of it more as an animal welfare issue. The facts show that there is a significantly higher rate of mortality in cage-free hens, more feather pecking, more cannibalism amongst the birds, and susceptibility of the birds to predators. Further, there is more of an issue with food safety as the eggs are not separated from feces as they are in cage systems. Dr. Armstrong is studying the possibility of enriched cages—where birds can perch, have a nest cage, and are able to express more bird behavior. 95% of the eggs produced in the US are from cage-based systems. The AR’s have used emotions to sway an uninformed public. Before you are aware of the facts, the cage-free system sounds lovely, but after the facts are revealed cages are actually much safer and healthier. HSUS is currently pushing for banning cages for hens, crates for veal, and gestation crates for sows. Long term they want a total elimination of farming and have a 100% vegetarian society. So far, they have succeeded in California. HSUS ran a major campaign of emotional videos and managed to get t legislation onto the voters ballot that was vague and emotional enough to draw uninformed California voters right in. As a result, the law was passed, and will effectively eliminate all egg production in California once it’s enforced. If the trend continues across the country, egg producers will have to outsource to other countries, and our egg prices will go through the roof and food safety down the toilet.
While much more was discussed at the conference than can ever be covered in one article, I hope I have exposed some other major issues on the animal rights agenda. While you might be scratching your head and saying ‘What does this have to do with me?’, you need to know IT HAS EVERYTHING TO DO WITH DOG OWNERS. Any win on the side of animal rights is a foot in the door, and they are slowly chipping away at our rights to use and enjoy animals responsibly. It will have direct impacts as well, such as food and meat prices increasing, predators becoming more prevalent, and the cost of dealing with unwanted horses falling to taxpayers. All of these reasons combined prove that all groups from all aspects of animal industries must present a united front!