Back in 2009, voters in Ohio created the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board. This board, after careful study by a diverse group of livestock representatives and consumers, established standards for Ohio livestock care that are being followed by producers.
Now the Humane Society of the United States has come along and organized a group called the HSUS Agricultural Advisory Council for Ohio. Originally they called the group the Ohio Agricultural Council of the HSUS but, after considerable criticism because there is already an Ohio Agricultural Council that sponsors the agricultural hall of fame and other activities, they changed their name.
According to the HSUS press release, their purpose is to help farmers to transition to more humane animal management. Careful reading of the press release gives the real purpose of HSUS which is: "refining our dietary choices by switching to products that meet higher welfare standards; reducing our consumption of animal products; and replacing animal products in the diet with plant-based options."
This says clearly that the real goal of HSUS, and ultimately this new group, is to take all animal products off our dinner table. In various ways they are trying to make us all vegetarians.
There is nothing wrong with a vegetarian lifestyle if, for health or other reasons, one favors that approach. To try to force all of us to be vegetarians is contrary to our freedom of choice in this country.
The Ohio Farm Bureau, Ohio's largest farm organization, has come out with a strong statement about this new council: "We believe the best way to make connections is to be inclusive. It appears the HSUS's plan intentionally excludes the majority of farmers and consumers who have differing views on food and farming. Both producers and consumers should have multiple choices in how food is grown and raised.
"Farm Bureau's largest concern is that HSUS has chosen to ignore Ohio's leadership in protecting the well-being of farm animals. The Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board was created by Ohio voters in 2009. Through it, all Ohioans have the ability to influence the rules that define acceptable farm animal care. HSUS is positioning its judgment as being superior to that of Ohio citizens.
"Ohio Farm Bureau remains committed to a dialogue with HSUS as well as other organizations and individuals who are interested in important questions about food and farming."
In 2010, Ohio agricultural organizations and commodity groups, after much discussion with HSUS and other animal rights groups, agreed to some compromises, including phasing out gestation stalls and other animal housing practices. Now these agricultural organizations are wary of HSUS's latest efforts to promote their agenda.
Susan Crowell, editor of the Farm and Dairy, in her most recent excellent editorial, said this: "HSUS is not an organization for agriculture or farmers. It is an animal rights organization. Don't be lulled into a false sense of security by the seemingly mainstream embrace of animal welfare and humane treatment goals."
Most real Ohio livestock farmers are excellent stewards of their animals. They know that to make a living for their family, good livestock care is essential. Various livestock groups have established programs to help them follow the standards set in Ohio.
Dairy farmers, for example, have a program called FARM or Farmers Assuring Responsible Management. More than 70 percent of the nation's milk supply comes from farms that participate in this program. This helps producers more fully understand the importance of the well-being of the cows and young stock.
Livestock farmers produce foods important to our diets. They need to speak up and tell their story, loud and clear.
Parker is an independent agricultural writer.