For Immediate Release October 29, 2007
Contact: Communications Dept. (806) 358-3681 firstname.lastname@example.org
CATTLEMEN MUST JOIN THE BATTLE
AGAINST ANIMAL RIGHTS EXTREMISM
Animal rights activism is a significant and growing threat to the livelihood of cattle feeders and the livestock industry must unite to confront it, according to Kay Johnson Smith, executive vice president of the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
Speaking at the 2007 Texas Cattle Feeders Association Annual Convention, Smith said cattlemen must understand that, for animal rights activists, their work "is not a job for them. It is a life mission. And they go to sleep thinking about it. They wake up thinking about it. They live to try to find opportunities to put you out of business."
Smith said the activist organizations like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Farm Sanctuary and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) routinely work together and have ample financial resources. The combined annual income of 22 top animal rights groups amounts to more than $300 million a year, according to Smith.
Much of the money animal rights activists accumulate is being used to purchase stocks in restaurant chains, grocery store chains and other companies involved in the food and animal business. Smith said, although that may seem to be an odd investment choice for people strongly opposed to animal agriculture, "the reason (for buying stocks) is so that they can introduce shareholder resolutions. If they can make change from inside companies, they have a lot more control, and they can control that change."
Their fiscal strength is also making animal rights organizations a major player in the political arena, Smith said. For example, the $3.4 million HSUS spent on the 2006 elections exceeded the amount spent by Exxon Mobil Corporation on supporting candidates.
As an example of the political clout animal rights activists are gaining, Smith cited the animal welfare hearing conducted by the Agriculture Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives this past spring. Smith said the livestock industry performed well enough in that hearing that "agriculture won the day," but the activists' impact was nonetheless demonstrated by their ability to secure Congress's "first formal hearing" on the issue.
Smith said the activists' influence is also showing in academia as more universities take on projects that cater to the animal rights agenda and more than 90 law schools are now offering animal law programs.
Litigation is also on the rise, said Smith. "We're seeing many, many lawsuits filed against farmers and ranchers today. And some of these are sort of test cases to see how the process works and what they (activists) can get away with," Smith said. Unfortunately, even if livestock operators prevail in court, they can be stuck with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal expenses.
She also said direct attacks such as "vandalism, fire bombs and burning buildings" committed against animal agriculture or food companies increased by 75% in 2006.
To counter the mounting might of animal rights organizations, Smith said people in the livestock industry must themselves become more active and vocal.
"You have to become involved and become a spokesperson for the industry," Smith said, urging the audience to help spread the message of the cattle industry's commitment to the proper treatment of animals and the environment. She said that message must be delivered to members of Congress, state and local lawmakers and even the neighbors of livestock operators "because, if they are told the other side, and they're not hearing from you, then of course, what are they to think."
"There is strength in numbers. And, if we are all working together and committed to telling our story and working the halls of the legislatures, we can defeat this (threat)," Smith said.
- end -