August 1, 2011

Threats from Nervous Hog Farmers

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Mark Bittman, whose regular food systems columns in the New York Times are an excellent source of thoughtful commentary on the ills of industrialized agriculture, commented last month on the odd-couple arrangement brokered by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the United Egg Producers (UEP). It’s worth noting that on the same day that the UEP and HSUS announced their partnership, the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) issued a nervous response rife with scare tactics.

Here is an excerpt from their July 7 statement: “NPPC is gravely concerned that such a one-size-fits-all approach will take away producers’ freedom to operate in a way that’s best for their animals, make it difficult to respond to consumer demands, raise retail meat prices and take away consumer choice, devastate niche producers and, at a time of constrained budgets for agriculture, redirect valuable resources from enhancing food safety and maintaining the competitiveness of U.S. agriculture to regulating on-farm production practices for reasons other than public health and welfare.”

In effect, the pork industry has made a threat—if the government legislates humane treatment of their livestock, Americans may suffer higher prices, fewer choices, and less safe food. If the pork industry had demonstrated that they are indeed committed to operate “in a way that’s best for their animals,” we wouldn’t have gestation crates, tail docking, pigs deprived of many of their normal and natural behaviors, and diets laced with misused antibiotics to promote growth and counter the filthy and unhealthy environment of the typical CAFO. The fact that the NPPC resorted to trying to intimidate consumers is evidence that the specter of legislation of national standards in the treatment of animals on farms is something they’re taking very seriously.

Bravo to UEP and HSUS.

One Comment

  1. You shouldn’t label “Hog Farmers” and the “pork industry” in this way. Nationwide, hog farmers voted against NPPC in the pork checkoff vote, not with it. In Iowa, 60.2% of hog farmers voted against NPPC’s support for agribusiness against farmers, via the pork tax (check off). This is part of the overall bashing of farmers by the food movement and related sources, such as in their misunderstandings of farm subsidies and of the history of the family farm (farm justice) movement in fighting against agribusiness for many decades prior to any food movement.

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