OALP Class Hears from HSUS in D.C.; Class Member Chris Hitch Speaks His MindThu, 07 Mar 2013 13:09:42 CST
Class 16 of the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program is visiting Washington, D.C. this week. Radio Oklahoma Farm Director Ron Hays spoke with class member Chris Hitch, a beef and pork producer from Guymon, after the group heard from Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection with the Humane Society of the United States. Hays asked Hitch about his reaction to Shapiro's presentation given HSUS's dislike for animal agriculture.
"Well, Mr. Shapiro is a pretty polished guy. He shows up in a nice suit and everything and talks very professionally. He's very astute and the way he words everything is very, very specific. He doesn't lie, but I don't think he really tells the truth," Hitch said.
"To give you an idea, Paul is a vegan and formed a radical group back in high school which is still active today. Their one and only goal is the complete abolition of all animal agriculture and promoting a vegan lifestyle. So, that's just background. That's where he comes from.
"I call him a liar. Basically, they claim, they being HSUS, that they don't really want to abolish animal agriculture. They just want it- 'We take everything from these animals so we might as well give them the best life they can have while they're alive.' But, when you get right down to what they're asking us to do a lot of times it is, basically, cost prohibitive, production prohibitive to do what they're asking.
"And we asked him, 'Is there anything we can do to get you off our back?' And he say, 'Well, society's values change over time, so our values are going to change over time.' So, the answer is 'No.' It's a moving target.
"If you do this, then in six months they're going to say, 'It's time to do this next step, because society is now claiming that that is what we need to do.'
"Like I said, he's very polished, very slick. He makes it all sound very reasonable. 'Oh, why don't you just come to the table and negotiate with us, talk with us? We want to work with you.' All the while he's throwing the National Pork Producers Council, the corn growers association, the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, all livestock associations, essentially, and many of the grain associations under the bus saying, 'They refuse to work with us and all we want to do is be reasonable and make the life of these animals a little bit better.'"
Hitch said he addressed the issue of gestation stalls directly with Shapiro and made no progress. He said the HSUS is demanding an end to the use of gestation stalls in favor of group housing, but the HSUS refuses to provide any guidance on the square footage they would find acceptable. Hitch said it would appear that once the pork industry had spent millions of dollars to retrofit their barns with group pens, the HSUS would not be appeased and up the ante.
"Their opinion is that cost is not relevant. The animal's welfare is relevant. 'Whatever it costs, that is what you need to do because it's the right thing to do.' And that's really frustrating to me. The gestation pens will cost a little something in performance on the hogs and they will definitely cost something to actually do, but on the other side, even if you do it, you don't even know that you've done it right, because there's no standard to meet."
Hitch said that the studied ambiguity, imprecision and prevarication only reinforced his resolve not to work with groups like the HSUS.
"I can live with somebody who's made a choice to not eat meat. I can respect that. But don't lie to me and try to do something different. That's really what upsets me about HSUS. They have the same agenda that PETA and the Animal Liberation Front and many of these other really radical organizations have. They just have positioned themselves: one, to look like a dog shelter as the Human Society of the United States. The Humane Society of the United States certainly looks like a dog shelter. The majority of the people in the country think that it's just like the national organization of animal shelters, which they have nothing to do with that- They have a $120 million budget and they put approximately one percent of their budget into helping the animals. The rest of it is spent on salaries, lobbying efforts, lawsuits, basically attacking the animal agriculture industry.
"This meeting reinforced everything I already knew: They're polished. They're slick. They're smart. They know what they're doing. They're working on children as opposed to adults because you get them young and you can train them to think differently, to be an activist at a young age as opposed to someone 30 or 40 years old who already has their habits set. They'll come into second grade and third grade and promote meatless Mondays and things of that nature.
"I kind of was prepared. I got pretty mad at him because he just wasn't being honest about anything and that really bothers me. But, none of it was really all that shocking."
If you'd like to know more about the Oklahoma Agricultural Leadership Program, please click here.
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