Friday, February 26, 2010

My Thoughts On HSUS

As a participant in SM, specifically with Twitter & Facebook, I am encountering more questions from folks asking “Why is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) so bad?” and “What do you have against HSUS?”

This has especially come to the forefront following the successful grassroots effort that resulted in Yellow Tail Wines withdrawing their support of HSUS, re-evaluating their donation policy and the current effort directed towards Pilot Travel Centers and their corporate sponsorship of HSUS. It is my opinion that many of these companies and the public have been mislead by the HSUS and do not fully understand the intent and motivation of this organization.

I fully support companies supporting animal shelters, we all know they are in need of financial assistance, but let’s make sure those dollars are really going to help animals and not working against caring, hard working farmers and ranchers.

In an attempt to make clear my concerns, I have put together a few key issues that I have with HSUS.

1. HSUS considers livestock to be companion animals & often places animals as equals to humans.

The vast majority of farmers and ranchers take extremely good care of their livestock. Note, I said livestock, not companion animal or human equivalent, which is how they are viewed by HSUS & other animal rights groups. Farmers and ranchers understand the important relationship between stress & health and strive to keep their livestock under low stress & healthy. It is this attention to making sure livestock are happy & healthy that leads to feelings from spouses, at times, that the critters are getting more attention than they are. I care deeply for all of the livestock our family raises. My dog is definitely a dependable (most of the time) helper on the ranch. However, if my son were in danger at the same time as my dog and a calf, my son gets my attention first and foremost EVERY time. There is NO hesitation!

2. HSUS strategy is to implement laws and regulations that incrementally work towards the abolishment of animal agriculture and promote a vegan lifestyle for both humans & canines.

Farmers and ranchers live and breathe animal care, day in and day out. They have learned best management practices, and are constantly adapting those practices through firsthand experience and new scientifically supported methods so that livestock are handled in as stress free an environment as possible. On the other hand, the HSUS is constantly trying to implement laws and regulations on farms and ranches that are not based on science or practical experience, serving only to hinder the efforts of caring farmers and ranchers and place the producer and animal in jeopardy, both in terms of safety and health. It is and has been the HSUS practice to “dictate” management practices on animal agriculture without basis, instead of trying to understand current practices and working with industry to make improvements where necessary. The bottom line, from personal observation and experience, is that the HSUS wants to regulate farms & ranches out of business.

3. HSUS goes undercover to expose bad apples.

For the record, I do not have a problem with “bad apples” being exposed and held accountable for their actions. Anyone who intentionally abuses animals should not be allowed to own animals. It is wrong. Having said that, here are the issues I have with HSUS tactics. First, undercover reporting for political gain, in my opinion, is deceptive and wrong on several levels. HSUS’s practice is to record violations & then hold the video for opportune periods of time in which to air the videos so that they can gain financially & politically. If someone is undercover, and they truly care about welfare of the animals, they should address questionable actions immediately, not wait a month or several months to “reveal” the practices at a politically advantageous moment. As a rancher, when I see someone mistreating an animal I don’t wait; I address the issue at the time it happens so it doesn’t continue. Why? Simple, I truly care about the welfare of animals, want to help teach and share better methods with fellow livestock producers and don’t have an agenda to make money, gain political points or get prime time exposure.

4. HSUS advertisements are misleading.

We have all seen the commercials that play on people’s emotions, requesting money to help these “poor animals.” In fact, based upon the HSUS’s own tax returns, they spend less than 1% of their annual budget of over $100 million on direct ground level animal care and assistance. The remaining 99.5% of their budget is spent on lobbying, implementing ballot initiatives, publicity campaigns and lining the pockets of HSUS employees. Unfortunately, by association of name similarity, many people believe that the HSUS is related to the hard working, underfunded local Humane Societies and animal shelters, which is NOT the case. If you want to see your money go directly to helping care for pets that have been abandoned, mis-treated or need medical attention, and not into someone’s pocket, keep your donation local.

In conclusion, I applaud folks like Temple Grandin, who see opportunities to improve management practices and work with industry to make positive changes. I am grateful to the university system which is constantly testing and evaluating industry practices and equipment, looking for new and better ways to raise livestock in safer, healthier and less stressful ways and then sharing that information with students & industry through outreach. I appreciate the underfunded local humane societies and animal shelters and promote their efforts in order to bring them more financial support. And, I encourage fellow farmers and ranchers to evaluate each other’s practices and call into question those that are not appropriate, so that changes can be made for the benefit of the animals.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Why I Support Food Check Out Week

I was reminded again today at church the importance of letting the Holy Spirit flow through us, and guiding us in our decisions and actions. One of the scriptures hit me in an "Ah Ha!" moment that was the reason behind my publicly recognizing and promoting Food Check Out Week.

Over the past several weeks, family farmers, ranchers, outdoorsmen, pet owners and people in general have voiced their displeasure with the factory fundraising machine, known as the Humane Society of the United States, which collects millions of dollars in the name of “saving pets,” when in actuality, less than 1 percent goes to actual animal care. What about the rest? It finds itself going into pockets of people and working to end animal agriculture in the United States through legislation and ballot initiatives and the conversion of carnivorous canines to vegetarians. This gross use of playing on people’s emotions and mis-representation of their true agenda brings to light the importance of making donations locally.

What, you make ask; does this have to do with Food Check Out Week? First and foremost, I care about the health and well being of the livestock I raise, but I also put people first. It saddens me to see organizations such as the HSUS raising millions of dollars in the name of animal welfare, just to take that money and use it to end the production of food, when we have so many people who are homeless, and hungry. I was raised to be compassionate, caring and loving towards humanity, and when I see those who are most unfortunate and in need, the children and our seniors, I do what I can to help them.

This is the reason I chose to promote Food Check Out Week by donating beef to our local senior meals program. A program that is short on funding, but always manages to provide one hot, healthy meal to senior citizens in our community every Thursday who are alone, unable to provide for themselves or are restricted to home care.

As a family ranching family we are not cash rich by any means, but we do have a resource readily available that can provide nourishment and sustenance to those who are hungry. I ask you to join me, and look around your homes to see what you have, that you too can donate to a local program and help those less fortunate, not just this week, but make it a personal goal to help locally, on a regular basis. If you are uncertain what you can do, ask God, he will speak to you. Perhaps it is offering your time to hold, play with and read to orphans, cook or deliver meals for programs.

It is not important what you do. What is important, is that you do something. I feel so much more satisfied when I know that donations I make, stay local, help local people, help my local community and did not get spent lining someone’s pocket or worse yet, were spent to stop what I do, providing food, care and love for people.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. 1 John 4 v7-8

About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.