Meanwhile, after the Humane Society told Michigan’s agriculture industry last summer that it wanted changes there, the large-scale egg and pork producers took a page out of Ohio’s playbook and attempted to put a livestock-standards board in place. But state legislators wouldn’t greenlight it.

So the industry switched strategies and took a cue from Colorado, brokering a phase-out of crates and cages.

Jim Byrum, president of the Michigan Agri-Business Association, says his members are “ecstatic, very upbeat, very happy, dead-confident they did the right thing.”

Byrum adds, “The irony is if [the anti-confinement ballot measure] passes in Ohio, those farmers will have to comply with the provisions quicker than we will here in Michigan.”

Will Ohio be the game changer?

The industry certainly hopes so. One good sign, says Joe Cornely, the state’s farm bureau spokesman, is that neither gubernatorial candidate supports the Humane Society’s campaign.

But Pacelle says he’s more confident than ever. “We are pro-farmer. And we’re pro-animal. And we don’t see any incompatibility between those two positions.”

According to ag-industry vet Wes Jamison, an associate professor of communications at Palm Beach Atlantic University, the campaign will come down not to facts, but to messaging.

“Animal agriculture has either tried to argue science, or economics, or food security. They’ve done everything but the moral argument for what they do with animals. And if they can’t make the moral case, they will lose in the long run.”

Kristen Hinman is a staff writer at Riverfront Times, Village Voice Media’s St. Louis weekly. This article appeared in that paper as "Down On the Farm: The Humane Society and big agriculture slug it out over animal rights."

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