HSUS President's Visit Concerns Some Minnesota Farmers
Wayne Pacelle, HSUS president and CEO, will be at Golden Valley's Animal Humane Society today to promote his new book. His visit has some local farmers worried that consumers will view common animal agriculture practices in a negative light.
Minnesota is home to more than 80,000 farms and currently leads the nation in turkey production. The majority of farmers in animal agriculture today use cages to contain their animals—something that Humane Society of the United States President Wayne Pacelle isn't happy about.
"Animals built to move should be allowed to move," Pacelle said, referring to animals that are raised in cages. "Jamming laying hens in barren battery cages where they're shoulder to shoulder is just not right."
Today, Pacelle will visit Golden Valley's Animal Humane Society to talk about his new book and address other local animal care issues, like the treatment of animals raised for food and Minnesota's wolf hunt.
His visit to a farming state has some animal agriculture leaders concerned that he will give the wrong message to listeners and consumers.
“HSUS is creating misinformation in the consumer’s mind of how we take care of animals and it sheds a light that’s not accurate,” said Steve Olson, executive director of the Minnesota Turkey Growers Association (MTGA) and Chicken and Egg Association of Minnesota (CEAM). “In agriculture, our function in society is to provide people with food. Farmers have done a great job of increasing production through science and technology. Groups like HSUS are going against that. They are part of the problem, not part of the solution.”
Based in Buffalo, MN, MTGA and CEAM represent about 800 turkey, chicken and egg farmers, poultry companies, and affiliated members.
Pacelle and HSUS are forcing farmers and members of MTGA and CEAM to examine their production practices. Pacelle said a great local example of his effort to build a humane economy, which is a theme in his new book, comes from HSUS’s work in the egg industry.
“Traditionally, HSUS fought with a lot of conventional producers in the egg industry,” Pacelle said, referring to disagreements about keeping hens in cages. “Eventually, we decided to sit down together ... and we began to understand each other.”
At the beginning of this year, HSUS and the United Egg Producers (UEP), the trade association that represents 88 percent of the egg industry, partnered to create a bill that would force egg farmers to almost double the amount of space that they’re currently required to give their hens, among other requirements. If the law passes in Congress, it will become the first federal law that addresses animal treatment on farms.
The bill requires all egg farmers in the Untied States to phase out the use of their current cages and construct new, enriched cages throughout their barns, which would give hens more space. Olson said the barn renovations would be costly to farmers, forcing them out of the industry.
“[The legislation] is going to require twice as many resources and we’re going to have farmers go out of business,” Olson said. “A farmer’s primary concern is the health and well-being of their animals, and we can’t produce a good product if our animals are stressed or sick.”
Pacelle said the United Egg Producers are enthusiastic about the proposed law. “I’ve been to the facilities of these producers, and just about all of them say they can do it. We don’t want a patchwork of different state rules, we want one national standard for a commodity.”
Though most egg producers support the bill, other farming groups say that this kind of law will set a precedent moving forward. The National Pork Producers Council, the National Cattlemen and Beef Association, the National Turkey Federation, and the American Farm Bureau Federation have come out in opposition to the bill.
"I don't have a problem with someone that has a difference of opinion in the way that we raise animals," Olson said. "But groups like HSUS are trying to take away choices from consumers. And I don't think that's right."