Whenever the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) does anything related to the industry, producers ought to evaluate their actions with a heapin’ helping of skepticism.
That caveat applies to the activist group’s most recent initiative, the formation of an advisory group in Colorado ostensibly aimed at “promoting more humane practices on farms and ranches and to promote food producers who share that goal,” to quote the HSUS news release.
The Colorado Agriculture Council of The Humane Society of the United States, as the group is named (way to create an aura of independence by including your own name, HSUS), is supposed to pursue market opportunities for farmers and ranchers whose agricultural practices adhere to animal welfare standards, as well as “facilitate a dialogue with individual farmers, ranchers and the organizations that represent them.”
The members of the Colorado agriculture council include Mike Callicrate, livestock producer and owner of Ranch Foods Direct retail center in Colorado Springs; Matt Kautz, a Colorado poultry and egg producer; Carrie Balkcom, director of American Grassfed Association; and Brad Buchanan, a Colorado cattleman.
“As a Colorado cattle rancher, I believe family farmers and ranchers have much common ground with the [Humane Society of the United States] when it comes to the treatment of farm animals,” said Tom Parks, DVM, a veterinarian who chairs the new council. “It’s a positive step to work together to address the future of animal agriculture and find solutions to animal welfare challenges.”
Of course, there’s been a whole lot of “dialogue” going on between livestock producers and HSUS, given the group’s relentless media attacks against standard industry practices, its continual use of phony employees to capture potentially damaging video footage at production sites, feedlots and packing plants and well-funded state-by-state referenda aimed at forcing restrictions on egg, poultry and pork producers.
Whether the new agriculture council can serve act as a sounding board on policy is thus highly suspect.
What it can do is promote alternative production methods and producers who offer niche products to consumers. On its face, there is nothing wrong with that. Diversity in any sector of food production is critically important to larger issues, such as keeping land in production and providing entry opportunities for the next generation of producers, ranchers and growers.