In case you needed an example of how not to win friends and influence people, consider this column as Exhibit A.
That’s because what I’m about to articulate will likely anger quite a few folks who are members of one of the noblest professions on Earth: Animal husbandry.
But what follows here needs to be said, and if I’m to retain even a modest reservoir of integrity, I need to say it. Here it is.
One man whose views I mostly reject has earned my admiration.
Another man whose issues I consider to be legitimate is someone I despise.
The former is Wayne Pacelle, the president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States and animal agriculture’s single most formidable foe.
The latter is Cliven Bundy, the patriarch of the collection of losers who’ve given cattle ranching a gigantic biggest black eye among a huge majority of Americans.
Let me explain.
Welcome to Fantasyland
Many of our loyal followers on Drovers Cattlenetwork.com and PorkNetwork.com.com probably noticed the recent interview with Mr. Pacelle (read parts I and II), avowed vegan, a diehard activist and a highly successful politician who’s managed to leverage a whole roster of Fortune 500 companies to embrace the animal welfare agenda that demands an end to the use of cages, crates and confinement.
His worldview embraces a future scenario in which people eat only plants, livestock are phased out of existence and somehow, some way, the multi-millions of people living in climates wholly unsuited to raising crops — or farming of any kind — manage to subsist on the soybeans-and-salad fare that veggies always insist it humanity’s “natural” diet.
Yet despite that pipe dream, Pacelle is a thoughtful, reasonable, highly intelligent person who’s gracious, tolerant and motivated by a vision of a world in which people’s better natures are expressed in terms of compassion, understanding and empathy.
Such a stance is to be admired.
I don’t buy his philosophy for one second, but I have to admit that I respect his approach and his commitment to a cause in which he earnestly believes.
I won’t be writing any checks to HSUS anytime soon — or ever — but again, I’d be a liar if I tried to pretend that I don’t admire Pacelle’s approach and appreciate the fact that he genuinely respects the opinions of those with whom he most certainly disagrees.
A study in stupidity
Contrast all that with the rolling travesty that is the Bundy Clan.
Over the last two decades, the patriarch of this extended family, along with his two sons Ammon and Ryan, has locked horns with officials of the Bureau of Land Management over his claim that the federal government has no jurisdiction over the public lands in Nevada where he runs his cattle.
In between spurts of rambling nonsense about “Negroes” (wondering whether they’d be “better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life”) and illogical rants about his (alleged) claims of primacy on the federal range adjacent to his ranch, old Cliven actually raised a valid point about the overall management of the vast tracts of public lands across the West.
Indeed, his Wikipedia entry states that, “Some view him as a hero for leading a movement of ranchers and other disaffected populations to avoid paying for use of public land.”
Only the Bundys’ position wasn’t merely an objection to paying grazing fees, but a larger questioning of the balance between utilizing federal lands for ranching, mining and timber harvesting, versus closing off thousands of square miles of territory as wilderness tracts and wildlife sanctuaries.
That’s a discussion worth having.
Even more to the point, the Bundys and their supporters argued that a “bunch of bureaucrats” in Washington, D.C., shouldn’t be making land-use decisions that affect the livelihoods and economic opportunities of local populations dependent on the rangeland, waterways and other resources that, at least theoretically, belong to the people.
Having worked as an employee for both BLM and the U.S. Forest Service in my younger days, I can testify that both agencies are as bureaucratic as the day is long.
And as a federal employee, believe me, your day isn’t one minute longer than your assigned shift.
Yet the Bundys and their moronic supporters are the worst possible role models for how one effects change in 21st century America. They’re loud, obnoxious, ill-informed, wrong-headed and ultimately, criminals with zero respect for the country they claim to love.
As Americans, we lay claim to our role as the world’s most prominent democracy, yet the so-called “patriots” who took over the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year behaved as lawless, clueless boors — outlaws, quite honestly — who made a mockery of the rule of law to which we all swear allegiance every time we face the flag with hands over hearts.
I don’t want to live in a world where vegans like Wayne Pacelle get to impose their lifestyle choices on the rest of us.
But that would qualify as paradise compared with a society where outlaws like the Bundys get to use threats of violence to squash anyone who objects to their priorities, their values, or their activities on any territory they consider to be their property.
Pacelle and his organization need to be countered with every means at industry’s disposal: public opinion, regulatory action and best of all, the ballot box.
The Bundy Clan needs to be confronted with another of our democratic institutions.
It’s called prison.
The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Murphy, a veteran food-industry journalist and commentator.