|Joel Salatin, Polyface Farm
Is HSUS cage-free egg campaign really the answer?
Polyface Farm Blog by Joel salatin (Original posting pulled from web)
|How can an organization credibly claim to advocate for animals at the same time as pursuing initiatives that enrich those who use and kill those same animals?
Polyface Farm Blog May 2005 5/18/2005
Click here for direct link to source
So there I was, sitting in the posh boardroom, deep in the bowels of national headquarters, Humane Society of the US (HSUS), Gaithersburg, Maryland, sandwiched between in-house attorneys and more branded dress shirts and ties than I've been around in awhile.
Invited to the inaugural and historic meeting to launch the NO BATTERY EGGS campaign Apr. 28, I was one of half a dozen egg producers from around the nation brainstorming with the top leadership of HSUS on how to proceed.
Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of HSUS, said this was the "first [time] to bring HSUS and producers together," creating a "new level of engagement."
Paul Shapiro, HSUS manager of the Factory Farming Campaign, emphasized that the whole goal is "no cages." Period. "That's all we're asking."
The other producers were huge cage-free producers, and they were nice enough. But I felt like a total ugly duckling
The meeting began at 9 a.m. and lasted until noon, and most of the discussion revolved around integrity, accountability, and certification through an accreditation program. All the other producers were salivating over more market--one admitted he was sitting on 700 cases (that's 21,000 dozen) per week right now that he doesn't have a market for. The logistics of paying $7,500 per SKU (standardized bar codes required by supermarkets) and breaking in to the Wal-Marts of the world consumed the discussion time.
All the logistical nightmares they were dealing with were all a direct result of trying to deal with a supercenter marketing concept, which I reject as fundamentally flawed. In my opinion, these people should be steering folks to New York City's greenmarkets, not Wal-Mart. These producers were still operating under the western disconnected fragmented reductionist Wall-Streetified model. Not to mention they weren't pasture-based.
When asked if they could really supply the market if this campaign were successful, one producer leaned forward and said proudly: "I can supply the entire market of the mid-Atlantic region." What a telling statement. I would consider such an assumption actually detrimental to decentratlized, accountable production. So we replace one giant corporation with another. Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The second statement that gave me pause was right at the end. An HSUS executive asked: "Are all the players that need to be here actually here?" His good faith question sought to make sure no stone had been unturned in their quest to get the producers represented. And producers came from all around: Illinois, New England, Colorado, etc. The answer from the kingpin producer was this: "Yes, everybody is here." That's not a direct quotation, because there was an adjective I missed. I can't remember if she said everybody necessary, or meaningful, or with integrity. But be that as it may, the point was she intended that the campaign would promote only those of us at the table. She expected a business bonanza.
I quickly countered (my second statement of the day): "I disagree. I'm going to speak for the thousands of 100-500-bird pastured growers across this country who are not here today. I will confess that my biggest fear is that as a result of this meeting and the ensuing media attention that will be focused on this issue, the big players at this table will reap the benefits and you will consider it a great victory to figure out how to transport cage-free eggs form a 10,000-bird house across five states to a market within 5 minutes of a local pastured egg producer. And that would be using your fraternity to further impede a truly decentralized, local, accountable, holistic-based small farmer production system."
I have never put much faith in fundamentally changing entrenched institutions on their terms. I think history bears out that real change requires brand new institutions. Totally new models, paradigms. Wouldn't it be wonderful if HSUS would put its weight behind local pastured eggs? Now there's something that can fundamentally change things--and bring thousands of farmers into the fold. I got the distinct feeling that the parties at this table on this day were far more interested in transporting cage-free eggs across five states to a Wal-Mart than in emptying Wal-Mart as a model and filling local CSA's, farmers' markets, buying clubs, and farmgates with cheerleader customers.