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President's Ponderings: Who is really on your side?

By Edward Luttrell - President's Ponderings Blog (3/7/11)

  MARCH 9, 2011 --

I saw in the paper that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), not the folks running your local humane society, has begun efforts to put a ballot measure before the people of Washington to ensure the humane treatment of laying hens. You may wonder if this is good or bad news or is this just one of those things we hear about but don’t need to worry ourselves over?

I live in Oregon so this doesn’t impact me directly, but I am familiar with the ballot initiative process and believe that it is a great process that holds our legislatures feet to the fire occasionally. Once in a while it also gives well organized groups the chance to bring outside-the-mainstream ideas to the front of public debate.

The subject of humane treatment of laying hens does give me pause. I don’t know anyone who is opposed to treating hens, farm animals, pets, or wildlife in anything less than a humane way. However, I went on the HSUS website to see how they view this issue.

They mention factory farms, all the successful legislation they’ve supported, and how they are out to protect animals. Now from what I’ve picked up it would appear that their idea of protecting animals includes being a vegan since in several places they promote that lifestyle. Now I have no problem with anyone who wants to live a vegan lifestyle, but most folks I know want a more traditional diet which includes meat, dairy, and eggs.

HSUS offends me with their mention of factory farms. I grew up on a small cow calf operation where we feed out about 10 steers annually for our customers. Since that time, I’ve seen a wide variety of operations and I can’t recall every seeing a factory farm. I have seen concerned and caring people taking care of animals. That’s right, farmers taking care of livestock, not factory workers assembling widgets.

HSUS does seem to know how to raise immense amounts of money from their TV commercials and other fund-raising efforts. But from what I understand, they only spend a tiny fraction of their income on actually helping animals directly; the rest is spent on employees and efforts and causes such as the Washington ballot measure.

The HSUS representative is quoted in the Capital Press as wanting “to move to a cage-free system”. Eggs are one of the cheapest nutrient dense foods available to people in this country. What is the goal I wonder? Do we desire to reduce the amount of eggs available for purchase, thereby driving the price up? Do some want to end portions of production agriculture so that each person needs to provide for themselves or do without? 

Like many small farms, the one I grew up on had a chicken house and caring for chickens for eggs and meat was part of our daily chores. Daily, I saw how many wild animals viewed those chickens as an easy meal. Would HSUS support hindering or harming the multitude of hungry predators in order to save the chickens? After viewing their website, I’d have to guess they would encourage us not to eat chicken while the coyotes were feasting on poultry.

We haven’t even seen the end result of California’s ballot measure 2 passed in 2008, due for implementation in 2015, and its impact on the farmers caring for the chickens laying the eggs and now HSUS wants to try it in the State of Washington? 

The Grange is about giving people the facts and letting them make informed decisions. We don’t hide who we are. We support agriculture, from the smallest farmer with a few acres to the largest production farmer. We also represent the consumer who benefits from the fruits of the labor of the farmer. Maybe HSUS should consider following our example. Educate yourself on who HSUS is and do your own research on the Grange. Then decide who you want to trust more.

I don’t believe that HSUS is on our side. Definitely they are not on the side of those caring for chickens, and not on the side of the consumers of all those eggs. Our Washington friends should think twice before signing an initiative petition.

-Ed Luttrell 
National Grange President


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