AgriPOWER class hears from HSUS rep

Buckeye Farm News

Paul Shapiro, the director of the Humane Society of the United States’ (HSUS) Factory Farming Campaign, recently spoke to OFBF’s AgriPOWER Institute, a group of  individuals wishing to enhance their leadership skills in becoming advocates for agriculture.

HSUS has publicly put Ohio agriculture in its sights in a campaign to eliminate specific livestock and poultry farming practices. It has successfully pushed such initiatives in multiple states.

David White, OFBF senior director of issues management and the Animals for Life Foundation, said there’s a specific reason why Shapiro was invited to speak.

 “We need our members to realize that there are many voices out there and some with agendas far different than ours,” he said. “Mr. Shapiro and his colleagues are very passionate about how they define animal welfare. Even though they define it differently than those of us in animal agriculture, we need to hear what they have to say.”

When Shapiro asked what the class thought of HSUS, there was little holding back. “You have a vegetarian agenda and you want to change my life and my family’s life,” said one class member. “You’re armed with enthusiasm and ignorance,” said another.

While all agreed animals raised for food and fiber should be treated humanely, there was a difference in opinion about how to go about making sure that happens.

“Nobody thinks farmers use these practices intending to be cruel,” Shapiro said. “Farmers care about their animals, and they are hard-working people.”

But when asked if HSUS supports Issue 2 and the creation of the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, Shapiro said HSUS opposes the measure and called it an “approach to form an industry dominated council that will not recommend meaningful practices.”

Shapiro positioned HSUS as the largest animal welfare charity in the world and said it has more than 400,000 supporters in Ohio. His presentation included facts and figures from controversial organizations and publications, including a recent Time magazine article, which the author admitted was one-sided, and the 2008 Pew Commission report on Industrial Farm Animal Production, which the American Veterinary Medical Association has deemed flawed and unscientific.

 Jill Stechschulte, an AgriPOWER class member who is not a farmer, but works with 4-H youth, said children are already being taught about good animal husbandry. “Young producers already have good information,” she said. “There are worst-case scenarios in all forms of business.” She likened HSUS’s solutions to “lawyers showing teachers how to teach.”

Shapiro also hinted that HSUS would not stop at eliminating just the practices it is currently concerned with. Specifically, he mentioned how poultry is exempt from the humane slaughter act. “Animal welfare is a dynamic field,” he said. “It is not the same as it was 50 years ago, and it won’t be the same 50 years from now.”

This was the second of seven sessions in the year-long AgriPOWER Institute. This session included presentations from the Columbus Division of Police, the Ohio Environmental Council, Ohio State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, a session on using social media to advocate for agriculture, a panel of traditional media experts, an evening of etiquette instruction and a day of media and spokesperson training.

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