Animal advocates want to change the way farm animals are treated, while agribusiness tends to defend the cruel status quo. But it’s important to recognize that farm organizations’ perspectives vary, just as different animal protection groups have different approaches.
Although animal advocates are animated by diverse perspectives, we’ve been able to join forces on common purpose, to push forward with achievable goals, such as banning cruel factory farming confinement systems like veal crates, gestation crates and battery cages. With each legislative advance and with growing mainstream awareness about and opposition to these inhumane systems, farmers and agriculture groups are responding. Some are beginning to recognize that change is inevitable, but industry hardliners are digging in their heels and trying to maintain the status quo.
I recently visited Ohio and Michigan and met with agribusiness representatives to express concern about legislation they are advancing in both states to set up quasi governmental bodies to give the factory farming industry control over regulating how it should treat animals. These measures are a blatant violation of democratic principals, just as factory farming cruelties are an affront to basic humane sensibilities. On both counts, industrial farming is out of sync with mainstream societal values.
We are urging lawmakers and others in Michigan and Ohio to oppose or amend agribusiness’ extreme bills so they better reflect popular sentiments. Though factory farms have an inordinate amount of influence in Lansing and Columbus (as well as in other state capitols), and they are often unwilling to compromise, we remain hopeful.
If the legislature fails to take appropriate action, we’ll have to explore other options, and there is a good chance these matters could be addressed through direct democracy, such as the ballot initiative. Stay tuned …