It would be easy to write off these comments about the Puppy Mill proposition and the Humane Society as simply the usual rightwing irrationality:
Egg farming is now facing extinction because vegan activists and terrorists are determined to abolish animal agriculture in our country.
–Missourians for Animal Care
If the HSUS gets Prop B passed in Missouri, “they will come after livestock…’and shut agriculture down.“
–State rep. Brian Munzlinger
“HSUS has decimated the egg industry forcing chicken farmers out of business … HSUS eliminated the pork industry. (Wondering why pork prices are going sky high?) They’ve also crippled numerous other agribusinesses – dragging connected industries down with them.”
–Tea Party member Joseph Wurzelbacher
But instead of just hooting derisively at these nutjobs, you might do well to understand the economic motivation for their drivel, because money always drives right wing politics. Joe the Plumber, with his grandiose claim that HSUS is “using the referendum process to slowly, systematically eliminate food production in the United States”, is more than just a bozo with an end-of-the-world Ouija board; he’s part of agribusiness’s campaign to block any interference with its stranglehold on agriculture. Joe is referring to ballot initiatives that passed in Florida and California. A 2002 Florida vote banned pork producers from keeping pregnant sows in gestation crates–in other words, penned up so tight that they couldn’t move. The 2008 California Proposition 2 banned “the confinement of farm animals in a manner that does not allow them to turn around freely, lie down, stand up, and fully extend their limbs.”
The profits of confined animal feeding operations (CAFOs) in those states suffered, and CAFO owners became indignant that the meddling Humane Society had gotten citizens boohooing over a few ill treated pigs, for god’s sake. Big ag also resents maudlin tree huggers for whining that CAFOs pollute and then refuse to pay for the damage. The Missouri Sierra Club, for example, yammers about McDonald County having plants operated by Tyson, Simmons and MoArk, with CAFOs for all three corporations. Every water body in that county is on the impaired water bodies list. And, not content with moaning about cruelty to animals and damage to the environment, activists complain that CAFOs harm human health with the hormones and antibiotics that they pump into those animals. Ask any exec at Tyson, and he’ll tell you that those namby-pambies are always harping about the wrong stuff.
Well. Cargill, Con-Agra, Purina, Monsanto, Nabisco, Kellogg, Nestle–the whole multi-billion dollar food/feed/distribution industry–aren’t about to let a few marginal, relatively impotent sentimentalists bellyache loud enough to interfere with their hegemony. So here’s the plan: be a victim and instill fear. (Stick with traditional Republican values.) Act as if li’l ole HSUS and PETA (with its anti-fly-swatting ideology) could cripple American agriculture. Pretend they want to starve everybody.
I know, but that’s their story, and you know how tenacious Republicans are about sticking to an insane assertion until it finally takes hold.
Case in point: I sat at the state Senate hearing last spring about the proposed puppy mill reform and heard every member of the ag committee–including Democrats Wes Shoemyer and Frank Barnitz–vent about urban interference in rural matters. They bemoaned what a tough time they’re having, as farmers, making ends meet. Would that be because CAFOs are driving them out of business? It would. But they don’t seem to notice that.
By the way, there’s no indication that the Humane Society intends to target CAFOs in this state. Hell, it probably won’t even get a toehold on cruelty to puppies. The Republican legislature is laying plans to override the voters’ will. Rightwing paranoia that the puppy mills are an opening salvo against all agriculture in the state makes no more sense than their claims, in 1998, that banning cockfighting would end all hunting and fishing. But hey, who remembers that silly claim anymore? That fight is ancient history.
We’re in the now. And right now, regulating puppy mills in Missouri will starve all Americans. And don’t you forget it.