Animal Ag Watch By Hannah Thompson-Weeman
Hannah Thompson-Weeman is president and CEO of the Animal Agriculture Alliance.

Foxes in the henhouse

(The views and opinions expressed in this blog are strictly those of the author.)

Like many in animal agriculture, I read with an eye-roll the news about HSUS launching a national agriculture advisory council made up of farmers. While I’m not surprised by it, I am alarmed at the continuing trend of activist groups attempting to make inroads within the animal agriculture industry. Sometimes brands may be tempted to “make nice” to try and escape the activist bulls-eye – but how can we even consider working with groups who’s end goal is the elimination of our business?

In the example of HSUS’ new ag council, it’s unfortunate to see HSUS pitting farmers against one another. I am a strong proponent of choice. Farmers should be able to select the best production methods for their individual situation and consumers should be able to make informed choices at the grocery store. There is room for farms of all types and sizes, and vilifying producers based on what practices they use — as long as they are sound and science-based — does not benefit anyone.

Tactics like this are an effort to distract from HSUS’ work to reduce and ultimately eliminate meat consumption and animal agriculture. While HSUS is promoting this council, I read with great interest a story about how its 15 “meatless transition team” staff members are working to convince restaurants and foodservice companies to sell less meat and promote meatless options. These campaigns hurt all farmers and ranchers who raise animals for meat, and according to the story, these campaigns helped urge the world’s largest food catering company to reduce beef purchases by 10 percent a year between 2015 and 2017. How can any of us be considering trying to find common ground with groups and individuals who measure their success in decreases of demand for our products?

HSUS will continue working to reduce demand for meat and moving the goalpost of what practices it finds acceptable until there are virtually no livestock and poultry farms left or animal products are no longer affordable.

Just a few years ago, the group was pushing for enriched colony housing for laying hens. That quickly changed to a demand for cage-free, as evidenced by the avalanche of cage-free sourcing announcements by restaurants and retailers pressured by the group. Today, HSUS leaders are beginning to criticize cage-free production as not doing enough for hens. It won’t be long before the very farmers on this council find their own production practices in HSUS’ crosshairs.

When the fox enters the henhouse, don’t be fooled by a friendly face and an offer for compromise – you’ll eventually find yourself on the chopping block.


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