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Published March 24, 2014, 09:42 AM

Alan Guebert's Wonderland

Syndicated columnist Alan Guebert has a very curious proposition for agriculture in his recent column. He thinks farmers and ranchers should dismiss the “disreputable” campaigns my organization runs, namely HumaneWatch.org and PETAKillsAnimals.com. And instead, they should do something —what, exactly, it is hard to say.

By: Rick Berman, Agweek

Syndicated columnist Alan Guebert has a very curious proposition for agriculture in his recent column. He thinks farmers and ranchers should dismiss the “disreputable” campaigns my organization runs, namely HumaneWatch.org and PETAKillsAnimals.com. And instead, they should do something —what, exactly, it is hard to say.

Guebert says that news such as a recent meat recall is bad for the industry. No doubt. But fortunately, it’s not an either-or situation. Producers should indeed do their best to abide by federal regulations regarding meat. (And they largely do.) One recall in California is bad news, though not devastating.

But it’s strange that Guebert would downplay the threats of the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In Alan Guebert’s world, it seems there wouldn’t be aggressive campaigns pushing back at the hypocrisy and radical agendas of HSUS and PETA. There are plenty of people like him throughout history; Neville Chamberlain is a famous example. They ignore a large, existential threat under some convoluted logic of, “Our opponent is reasonable.”

Ask yourselves: If no one challenged PETA and HSUS, where would the industry be today? Ten years ago, PETA had a favorable rating in public polling of 72 percent. That’s quite high. Then we launched PETAKillsAnimals.com, and within a few years PETA’s favorability dropped into the 40s.

Similarly, four years ago we launched HumaneWatch, HSUS had a favorable rating in the 80s; that has softened significantly, and its unfavorable rating has doubled, according to a recent poll. It will take a lot more effort to diminish HSUS in the public’s eye because HSUS is smarter than PETA in how it conducts itself. But knocking HSUS down a few pegs is certainly attainable. In turn, HSUS has a long-term strategy to knock down animal agriculture, and then get rid of animal agriculture entirely.

What’s missing from the equation is that Guebert doesn’t present a long-term strategy for agriculture to counter HSUS.

Perhaps that means agriculture is just supposed to get beaten up and dragged around by HSUS, PETA, and others; that agriculture should surrender. That it should seek “peace in our time” from groups that want to eliminate it.

Do you want future agriculture dictated on your terms, or HSUS’s terms? It’s really quite simple, even if gadflies like Guebert try to muddle the issue with lame whining about HumaneWatch’s management structure.

The other problem with folks like Guebert is that they smear without telling the nuance. For example, Guebert criticizes our organization for attacking the “uncontroversial” Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. What he doesn’t tell you is that we criticized the CDC because its researchers published a flawed study in JAMA, something the CDC itself later corrected.

Guebert is by no means the first writer to take this cheap shot at our work. We always prefer that we draw fire than producers. And we’ll still call a spade a spade.

From our many conversations across agriculture, he’s fortunately an outlier. But just as HSUS has recruited a few farmers to its state “agriculture councils,” there will continue to be naysayers like Guebert who want to put ag on the wrong course.

The right course is to hold an aggressive attitude. Define the future as you see fit. Don’t let your opponents take the reins.

Editor’s note: Berman is the executive director of the Center for Consumer Freedom.

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