...The Nebraska Farmers Union said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with the Humane Society of the United States to develop standards and joint marketing efforts for humanely raised meat and other animal products.
HSUS outreach director sends pigs "raised like children" to slaughter
|HSUS staffer Maxwell speaks of "moving 900 to 1100 fat hogs each week," for which he is paid $1.04 a pound, and tells how he sees his job as expanding the market for "humane" meat.
Omaha World Herald Oct 2011 10/19/2011
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...But Farmers Union President John Hansen said he views joining forces with the Humane Society as a way to boost family farms in Nebraska.
...Hansen said the Humane Society — with a reported 51,000 members, donors and volunteers in Nebraska — could help open the door to potentially lucrative markets for Nebraska farm products.
"They have marketing expertise, membership and financial resources," Hansen said of the Humane Society of the United States. "I'd rather see (their) members' money spent to create value-added ag production than financing damaging and expensive state ballot issues."
The idea is to leverage consumer demand to improve livestock handling practices, a Humane Society official said.
Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer whose operation markets about 1,000 humanely raised animals each week, said large-scale livestock operations are not diametrically opposed to animal welfare. Maxwell is the director of rural development and outreach for the Humane Society of the United States.
Maxwell and Hansen said the marketing alliance between the farm group and the animal welfare organization would be the first of its kind in the country.
...In recent years, the Humane Society of the United States and its vegan president, Wayne Pacelle, have made farm animal welfare one of the group's missions, but Pacelle has repeatedly denied that the group's aim is to eliminate meat consumption. He also has said the group plans no ballot initiative in Nebraska.
The group led petition drives in California and Arizona that resulted in restrictions on battery cages for laying hens, gestation crates for sows and crates for veal calves. It also has negotiated agreements with producers in five states to phase out the use of such confinement methods.
At issue are cages so small that they prevent animals from being able to stretch their limbs or turn around. Poultry cages, which are stacked in battery fashion, are used to house more birds in a barn and reduce labor costs.
Gestation crates are used to prevent pregnant sows from attacking one another. Veal crates, which are being voluntarily phased out in favor of group pens, allowed animals to be individually fed with milk replacer.
McClymont said his group defends producers' options to use tight confinement.
"Absolutely," he said. "Those are practices that producers use in consultation with their veterinarians. They're not inherently cruel. They have pluses and minuses, depending upon how you use them."
McClymont and Phil Young, a political consultant working with the group, said consumers should resist regarding farm animals as having the same needs and qualities as humans. Producers cage animals to protect them from predators, from the elements and from each other.
At a Tuesday press conference outside Open Harvest, a Lincoln co-op organic grocery store, members of the Farmers Union and the Humane Society said they would develop voluntary criteria for humanely raised animal products to be marketed, at a premium price, at stores like Open Harvest.
The Farmers Union also would help establish a Nebraska Agricultural Council to advise the Humane Society on livestock welfare issues.
Audio Transcript Excerpts from 10-18-11 Press Conference
Source: Brownfield Ag News for America, 10/18/2011
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Joe Maxwell, HSUS Director of Rural Development and Outreach
Audio Clip #3, 0:10
I've been here [with HSUS] since April of this year... My duties are to escalate the work that the Humane Society of the United States has been doing in regard to supporting farmers who are good stewards of the land and the animals. The Humane Society has been working very hard at educating retailers and then working with producers, but now they'd like to connect the two. There's market opportunity for these producers and how can the Humane Society of the United States step in, help facilitate that opening those markets and connecting those producers to a premium market.
Audio Clip #3, 5:00
We are hopeful that we can go into other states. My job is to help producers, help family farmers, find markets...
Audio Clip #3, 5:51
Right now a group of family farmers in Missouri from which my family farm is a part of, we move 900 to 1100 fat hogs a week, and I'm being paid $1.04 a pound for those animals for the next year. So is there a market? You bet. Is that profitable? You bet. So we're hoping to do the same thing right here.
John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers Union
Audio Clip #1, 6:38
First, our two organizations have agreed that the focus of HSUS' efforts in Nebraska relative to livestock production will be to work with Nebraska Farmers Union to utilize the marketing expertise in both organizations to develop new value-added and premium-based marketing opportunities for livestock produced using mutually developed and certified animal husbandry practices. In the months ahead, we will be focusing on the nuts-and-bolts details of standards, certification, new marketing opportunities, and premiums.
Audio Clip #1, 7:29
Second, as a result of our joint discussions, HSUS has agreed to not pursue state initiatives and ballot issues in our state. This alternative approach allows both our organizations to use our financial and time resources to focus on working together in a positive manner to the benefit of the families that grow our livestock and consume our livestock.
Audio Clip #1, 11:20
So far, the fact that our negotiations have averted a state-wide ballot initiative represents we think a good faith beginning to what we hope to be a long-term partnership that works to the mutual advantage of Nebraska livestock producers and Nebraskans in general.
Audio Clip #1, 18:18
[Audience member asks whether farmers would be signed on to "no gestation crates" for pregnant sows. Hansen responds:]
No, what we think this means is that we're going to look at those kinds of things -- standards that apply to humanely-produced -- to see whether or not those folks who want to voluntarily participate in that kind of program, just like all other differentiated marketing programs -- to see whether or not there is enough pull-through demand on the other side with consumers who care about those things to create a premium in the market to make it economically beneficial for folks to participate.
Audio Clip #1, 19:18
We're not intending to set standards that everyone has to follow. We're going to work together on a marketing effort to see whether or not we can create a premium in the market that rewards that particular kind of activity. From our perspective, we're going to be focusing on the nuts-and-bolts of market development.
Kevin Fulton of Fulton Farms (beef producer)
Audio Clip #1, 1:22
I'm simply a farmer providing a voice for millions of farm animals in this state that cannot speak for themselves but yet they have an important message that needs to be heard.