Food is not always something that you put in your mouth and eat!

Posts tagged ‘food’

Advocate or Activist, what’s the difference?

In a recent community meeting, I was asked if I’m an activist or an advocate.  My immediate answer was that I’m an advocate.  Afterwards I pondered my answer because the word activist has always been less than desirable to me.

Over the past 25 years, I’ve often been called an activist and it was a description used to dismiss my work as being “radical”.  I believe the word was used in the context as being an insult and it invoked a picture of being a radical or militant person.

I think that most of us can agree that radical or militant behavior is less than desirable and is dismissed by many, putting the actions down to someone who is fanatical.  Radical or militant is often associated with violence an extreme and undesirable direction to follow.  I certainly don’t condone it and I believe that violence begets violence.

Over the past couple of years, a huge building binge of chicken warehouses by the poultry industry on the Delmarva Peninsula has invoked division within our communities.  This is what my conversation was about when it came down to the question of advocate or activist.  My involvement in the issues, is supporting what the community interest are and their interest was decided by those affected.  This is what defines advocacy or activism.

On the other hand, there are a few activists involved in the issues.  I say activists because involvement came from an already decided campaign coming from somewhere other than the community and represented concerns other than decisions made within the community.  Forcing the will of others than those affected, never works, and is doomed from the beginning.

Representing non-profit organizations, activist have a defined campaign in mind long before they disperse into communities.  I say this because most often funding for campaigns come from private foundations or individuals.  Most of us within the non-profit world who have ever applied for funding know that goals are decided for a specified amount of time and are for specific objectives.  The funds applied for are granted before the issues are defined by communities.

Any who’ve worked on any of the issues surrounding the poultry industry know that there are several factions within the community and most often those different factions don’t agree because they have differing concerns.  Finding the common thread within the community and moving forward with agreed upon concerns are the goals of an advocate and it goes a long way toward developing common allies within the community.  An alliance, if you will!

Attempts to bring together differing factions are sorely hampered by activists because they bring a previously decided campaign to the table which is often different than anything within the individual communities.  This becomes a weapon for industry to use and its representatives can often be heard saying that these activists have a hidden agenda which brings about doubt and further divides communities.

According to the dictionary the following applies –

  • Advocate – one who supports or promotes the interests of a cause or group
  • Advocacy – the act or process of supporting a cause or proposal
  • Activist – one who campaigns to bring about political or social change
  • Activism – the policy or action of using vigorous campaigning to bring about political or social change

It’s a fine line between the two words, definition wise.  However, understanding the difference between supporting or promoting (advocate) and a decided campaign (activist) easily defines the difference between the two.  One could say that actions speak louder than words!

Providing assistance to communities in efforts to address its issues within is essential to success.  Telling communities what it’s issues are and how it will address those issues won’t result in positive outcomes.

Pondering the Word “Natural”

Natural is the opposite of artificial or synthetic, right?  It’s something that isn’t altered or created by humankind rather something that comes from nature…… I think!

As I’ve often said, folks, it’s all in the words!  Something as simple as the word “natural” is under heavy scrutiny because of slick advertising being used on food labels that confuses consumers as to what the product is.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is seeking public comment asking if it’s appropriate to define the word “natural”, if so, how FDA should define the word “natural”, and to decide how the agency should determine appropriate use of “natural” on food labels.

which way do i go 2I have to stop here for a moment and say, “ARE YOU KIDDING ME”?
FDA doesn’t know if it’s appropriate, how to define the word natural, or determine appropriate use on labels?  Reminds me of a quote from Alice In Wonderland ~~~ “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here”.

Phew…  Sorry folks, I had a moment, sarcasm kicked in!
Moving on…..

How many products in the grocery store shout out a reference in some type or form of the word “natural”? As a consumer, is your purchase influenced by a shout out such as “all natural”?  If you say yes, you aren’t alone in your thinking.  Most consumers are filled with a picture that the product came from a producer who supplied them with something that was raised or grown in its most natural state.

The Gospel according to the FDA website

  “From a food science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed and is no longer the product of the earth. That said, FDA has not developed a definition for use of the term natural or its derivatives. However, the agency has not objected to the use of the term if the food does not contain added color, artificial flavors, or synthetic substances.”

FDA shares food labeling oversight with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).  USDA is in charge of the use of “natural” on meat and poultry labeling.  According to the Gospel of USDA –

“A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed. Minimal processing means that the product was processed in a manner that does not fundamentally alter the product.  The label must include a statement explaining the meaning of the term natural (such as “no artificial ingredients; minimally processed”)”.

The ambiguous meaning of “natural” as defined by regulations leaves consumers unprotected and confused.  Is it unreasonable for consumers to depend upon food labeling and have confidence in government agency oversight that ensures a product is actually what it claims?  Using the word “natural” on food labeling only refers to processing of the food not where it came from or how it was grown.  Most consumers do not know this!

A good example to ponder can be found in poultry.  According to USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service

Poultry is not injected with water, but some water is absorbed during cooling in a chill-tank, a large vat of cold, moving water. The chill-tank lowers the temperature of the slaughtered birds and their giblets (hearts, livers, gizzards, etc.). During this water chilling process, turkeys and chickens will absorb some of the water, and this amount must be prominently declared on the label. It is not unusual for poultry to declare 8 to 12% retained water on the label.”

This so called “chill-tank” is referred to by some as the “fecal soup bath” whereby processed chickens are dumped into a large tank or vat to cool down the carcass.  Akin to ground beef derived from many different cows mixed up together for packaging and shipped out for consumption, thousands of chicken carcasses co-mingle in the chill-tank.  The most commonly used type of anti-bacterial/microbial to prevent cross contamination of the co-mingling chickens is chlorine, however there are many other products on the market approved for use.  Chlorine does not exist naturally on our plant, it is made by humankind.

Yet I see many poultry products on the market with the words “natural” or “all natural” in large bold letters on the packaging.  Here is where the pondering comes in.  If chicken carcasses retain 8-12 percent water from processing (not naturally occurring original body water) the end product is altered.  Furthermore, in that chill-tank water that is retained from processing is some type of humanly added anti-bacterial/microbial that is not a natural derivative of our planet.  That would make the end product further altered from its natural state.

I suppose USDA’s ambiguous wording referring to the use of the word “natural” on meat and poultry labels absolves poultry products from not being “natural” under the term of “minimal processing” but for the life of me I can’t figure out how poultry products get around the term of “no artificial ingredients”.

There you have it folks!  In reality the word “natural” on food labeling is worthless and cannot be depended upon to really mean something.  Most of the food you eat is processed in some manner and therefore is no longer really “natural”.

To avoid years of studies, recommendations, and argument, not to mention waste of countless taxpayer dollars, why not just prohibit the use of the words “natural” and “all natural” on all food products or labels.  If the food industry insists on a definition to continue with marketing ploys for food products, wouldn’t it be less wasted time and much less costly to simply look the word up in the dictionary?

My next question would be why do we need two different federal agencies governing food labels?

Fair Farms Maryland Launches

A network of nonprofit organizations, farmers, consumers and businesses launched a campaign earlier this month aiming to reform Maryland’s food system that lacks adequate fairness, transparency, and accountability. I’m happy to say that I participate on the group’s farmer advisory council.

Fair Farms Maryland, convened by Waterkeepers Chesapeake and supported by more than 40 endorsing partners, is working to create awareness about the relationship between our food systems, the environment and public health.

A sub title on the group’s press release says “Fair Farms campaign showcases sustainable farmers who “”farm against the grain””.  I guess it could be said that I’m one of those farmers.  Sending my brain into overdrive is the “farming against the grain” part.

For example, Nick Baily of Grand View Farm in Forest Hill, MD says “we set out to prove that wholesome food can be produced in a way that regenerates the land, respects nature and the needs of the animals and reestablishes a lost visceral connection between consumers and their food”.

I started thinking that the goals of Nick’s farm shouldn’t be considered farming against the grain it should be the norm in farming.  I mean really, shouldn’t we all want to produce wholesome food, regenerate the land that gives to us, respect nature and the needs of our farm animals and have a connection with those who consume our food?

Another example, “Taxpayers heavily subsidize the intensive farming norm, while also paying higher bills for related health care costs and to restore the damage done to our environment” says Bob Gallagher, in Annapolis, MD, a board member of Waterkeepers Chesapeake and co-chairman of the Maryland Clean Agriculture Coalition.  Bob wrote a guest column “Let’s insist on sustainable food system”, in the Capital Gazette about the Fair Farms campaign.

Bob refers to intensive farming as the norm for food production. Without going into a lengthy explanation suffice it to say that I’m talking about industrialized food production utilizing methods without regard to public and environmental health, lack of respect for the land and animals that sustain us, and where the almighty dollar outweighs the inclination to produce food that sustains farms and communities.

Comparing the two farming methods, which are on opposite ends of the spectrum, it’s hard to reconcile how food production became so jumbled.  It befuddles me when thinking about the notion that food can be, and is, produced with total disregard or care of what is good for people, animals, and the environment.  It also boggles the mind to think that the goals of Grand View Farm aren’t considered as normal!

Taking it one step farther – what about just doing the right thing?  Seriously folks, I’ve seen so much denial, blame shifting, meetings behind closed doors, ambiguity, fear mongering, strong arming, influence peddling, deal making and breaking, and sometimes outright untruths from big ag proponents that nothing surprises me anymore.

I’m sure the first serve from detractors in the volley will be that the Fair Farms campaign is against farmers.  “This campaign is not about environmentalists versus farmers,” said Betsy Nicholas, executive director of Waterkeepers Chesapeake. “Fair Farms is about working together to reform a food system that is out of balance. We shouldn’t be rewarding farm operations that produce cheap food with steep hidden costs to the environment and public health. Instead, we need to find new opportunities to support those agricultural practices that will grow food in healthy ways for generations to come.”

Working together to reform a food system that is out of balance and growing food in healthy ways – sounds like good ideas to me!

If you would like to know more about Fair Farms Maryland   take a peek.  While you are there take the pledge to be a Fair Farms Consumer.  It’s free!

“Walmarting of Organics” Sparks Thoughts

My post last week about the “Walmarting of Organics” brought me gobs of email. The pot was stirred! But, that is a good thing and what “Food for Thought” is all about.

Every subject or issue has many viewpoints and I for one like hearing them, kind of like playing devil’s advocate with myself.

One particular comment from a share on Facebook got me thinking……..

“Yeah, but when when Walmart is making more of an effort at making organic products accessible to lower income folks than the existing organic/small foods institutions that make small farms possible, I don’t think we should be pointing our fingers just at Walmart. I hate Walmart just as much as any other greeny, but let’s talk about the food system as a [w]hole, about capitalism, about someone’s hunger and nutritional needs being a market to sell your goods when we really should be collectivizing in a way that INCLUDES rather than excludes our society’s most vulnerable people.”

Well said!

Looking at our food system as a whole is a daunting task and needs to be peeled away in layers like an onion. Not wanting to go into a detailed description of economic theories or by any means think that I can conduct a lesson on those theories; it is, however, well worth looking at.

Our main-stream food system is designed by corporate entities having a responsibility to shareholders, investors, and/or private owner. The bottom line is the almighty (or not so almighty) dollar. This system supposedly operates on the “free market or free enterprise” theory better known as capitalism.

Capitalism – in short definition is an economic system in which most of the means of production are privately owned, and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets. (merriam-webster) In print this definition looks good and fairly simple.

To further insure that the free market/enterprise operates fairly on the capitalistic system, laws and regulations as well as government oversight are in place. This is where it gets sticky!

There was a time in our country’s history where the laws and regulations were enforced. Anti-trust and monopoly come to mind. I don’t know about anyone else however I was raised by the belief that if you work hard you will do well, America is the land of opportunity, and so on!

Having lived in industrial contract chicken production and having heard comments such as it’s a free market from corporate types I can say that in the chicken industry there is no such thing. The chicken industry is owned and controlled by a handful of companies and it’s an exclusive club controlling the market.

Controlling the production (placement of chicken numbers on contract farms) determines the availability of the product for sale on the market and in turn controls what the market price will be. Furthering that control through flooding the market and driving prices down, squeeze competition out, we end up with a handful. Becoming fully integrated, whereby all aspects of the operation are owned and controlled by the same handful of corporations furthers a monopoly on the market and anti-competition.

Large-scale, integrated operations that increase efficiency and reduce production costs confer a benefit on firms that adopt them and may confer a benefit on consumers if the lower costs lead to lower product prices. In many cases the barrier is a result of anticompetitive behavior on the part of the firm –. (merriam-webster – relating to monopoly)

The chicken industry has been so successful that the majority of our food production system has adopted this model leading to a highly controlled mainstream food supply.

Industrialized food production is claimed to be the best method for feeding the masses including society’s most vulnerable people and in stamping out hunger and nutritional needs. This might be true, although I beg to differ. In adopting this model we have to consider the societal consequences created to maintain this method.

Industrial food production cannot sustain itself and is highly subsidized by the taxpayer – cheap grain prices for feed (farm subsidies); tax abatements (not paying a fair share of tax liability); public health (such as antibiotic resistance); environmental degradation (cleanup of industrial waste/manure). These are only a few of the ways we subsidize industrial food production which enables the handful of corporations to control the free market and reap the profits from the system.

Other types of food production such as organic, sustainable family farms, etc. are not subsidized. Production cost is actual therefore making prices higher in the marketplace.

In theory, one method of food production is supported and apparently favored by the government while other types of food production aren’t. Thusly, a skewed market exists.

Walmart’s adoption of an organic program is the first step toward creating an industrialized organic food production system. Relaxed (bastardized) organic standards have opened the doors for corporate agriculture to step in and produce maybe not so great food. You can bet your bottom dollar the industrialized organic food production system will follow the model of the industrialized chicken industry.

In addition, the Walmart organic move is for the purpose of drawing new high end customers. Economic indicators reveal that Walmart sales are stagnant. The company’s present customer base is society’s most vulnerable people and to spur company sales growth new customers need to be sought.

As an aside, the SNAP (food stamps) program is accepted in all grocery stores and most Farmer’s Markets. The availability of nutritious farm fresh, and/or organic food is inclusive of all through the program. The crinkle is that choice of food dollars spent leans toward not so great foods. Educational programs are lacking in providing society’s most vulnerable people information about wholesome and nutritious food availability and how to spend food dollars on better choices. Quite frankly, I don’t believe that anyone in this country should go hungry. There is no excuse for it and we as a society should be ashamed for allowing it to exist!

Back to the main point – Industrialized organic food production will become something that is no better than industrialized mainstream food production. It’s impossible to survive producing above cost therefore cost efficiencies of production will demand the need to cut corners. Industrialized food production does not sustain its environment and mass production creates uniformity with lack of care. Organic will mean nothing but will demand a premium at Walmart.

Yes, availability of organic will be inclusive of all. When all is said and done, I question what it will be that sits on the shelves of Walmart.

The “Walmarting” of Organics

Grocery giant, Walmart, has set its sights on organics planning to drive the market prices down nationwide announcing an exclusive partnership with Wild Oats. Walmart claims that they will sell a line of 100 organic products at 25 percent less than 26 national brand competitors.

“We’re removing the premium associated with organic groceries” says Jack Sinclair, Walmart executive vice president of grocery. Need I say more?

I believe that most of us are familiar with the Walmart plan and how they have operated in the past. Driving competitors out of business until it’s the only game in town and then having prices creep up hasn’t been in keeping with the mantra go to Walmart and watch prices falling!

From a farmer perspective the new Wild Oats deal tells me that it’s about capturing a rapidly growing organic market, 10 – 20 percent a year by most estimates, and driving the small sustainable organic family farmers out of business. In keeping with its history, Walmart tells the producer what it will pay for your product and you can take it or leave it. Walmart buys in large volume and to acquire the volume the company will need huge organic suppliers.

By the same token, Walmart customers are traditionally either/or from poor areas, low income, rural, or food stamp recipients. I do believe in food equality meaning that everyone should have access to affordable healthy food choices.

What I don’t believe in is driving the food prices paid to the farmer down to the point of the small scale family farmer becoming listed on the endangered species list!

Open the door for industrial corporate organic food production – I’ve written in the past about the “bastardization of organics” and as I’ve said before, it is not about the real organic food producers it’s about the “posers”. With ever increasing relaxed National Organic Standards occurring, the road is being paved by government regulations for anyone to claim organic. Obviously, history is repeating itself as it did when corporate agriculture took over mainstream food production ushering in vertically integrated food systems, contract farming, and the theory of get big or get out!

It remains to be seen if the new Walmart – Wild Oats plan will be successful. If my local Walmart is any example, I don’t believe that the store will capture new higher end customers. In finding a decent grocery chain, I drive 30 miles. To find a really exceptional grocer it’s 120 miles.

My local Wamart is disgustingly filthy, rotten produce is offered for sale, the employees are rude to the point if you ask a question they behave as if you’ve bothered them, and empty spaces on shelves abound. It has all of the qualities of “if you don’t like it, tough”!

Walmart’s increased sales have remained stagnant. The company sees a rapidly increasing organic market and the sound of cha- ching! The entire deal surrounds the almighty dollar. It’s definitely not based on any warm fuzzy feeling of doing the right thing or providing access to healthy food choices for the masses. I’ve not heard or read one word related to this deal about any claims of corporate social responsibility or being a good citizen in local communities.

Speaking to the local economy, the deal will not provide a boost. Walmart won’t be buying from local farmers they will be buying from centralized mass producers. Efficiency will be the name of the game which translates to cutting corners.

What I find humorous about the deal is that corporations, such as Walmart, have in the past viewed organics as a niche market equating those farmers to left over hippies. Corporate agriculture types snidely snickered over organics as not being technologically advanced in food production. I say, hop on the bus, Gus – be a poser!

Labor Day….. what is that?

While I was delivering eggs yesterday (Friday) a person asked me if I was off on Monday, Labor Day.  I looked at this person like they had grown three heads and said “are you kidding”?  Believe it or not this person wasn’t joking.  I explained, very nicely, that no, on the farm there aren’t any days off!  They shook their head and looked like it was inconceivable to think of no days off.  The conversation was quite humorous to my way of thinking.

That conversation set my mind to whirling (oh no) and I realized that anyone not familiar with the farming world would not know how everything keeps going on holidays.  Thinking back to when I was a beginning farmer I remember getting upset with my husband on Labor Day because he was running the combine to get the corn out of the fields.  I quickly learned that we don’t take days off.

I realize that there are other industries, almost all nowadays, that continue to operate no matter what day it is, however I’m talking about farming.  There are always “chores” to do on the farm and someone has to do them.  Every day is a “Labor Day” and believe me, it’s not a holiday.

Animals still eat and need to be cared for no matter which day it is.  Vegetables and fruits in season need to be harvested the day they are ripe. Deliveries from farm to store still get delivered.  There are a million and one things to do every day!  During my mind whirling, I wondered if people realize this.  I mean no disrespect, however I do think that the food bought in stores is totally disconnected from its origins.  I further believe that our children are clueless from this and just expect it to be there.

I fantasized about taking Monday off and what it would mean to me……  First and foremost, the chickens would have to fend for their selves.  I wouldn’t go near them the entire day.  They might have something to eat and they might not.  If they are thirsty and don’t have water they will have to make do.  No eggs will be collected, washed, packed, or refrigerated no matter what including risk of contamination.  I’ll take the attitude of “yeah well today is a holiday I’ll do it tomorrow”!  I might even take a nap in the afternoon and I’m definitely not cooking any meals or doing any household chores.

Although it was nice while it lasted, my bubble soon burst and the fantasy came to an end!

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the first national governmental recognition of Labor Day was in 1894.  “Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country”.  The earliest history of Labor Day goes further back to 1882.

The tradition and real purpose of Labor Day has been lost.  While I went to the U.S. Department of Labor’s website to research its view and statement about Labor Day, I came away with cynical thoughts….. imagine that!  I won’t go there at this time except to say “practice what you are preaching”.

Most people view Labor Day as a day off coinciding with a weekend therefore having a “long weekend” off.  Does anyone nowadays even know the history or purpose of Labor Day?  Do we teach it to our children or is it viewed by them as an extra day off from school, yippee!

As everyone enjoys their Labor Day picnic, barbecue, or relaxing day at home, the park, or beach think about the food you enjoy and give a thought to the farmer who is working this day to bring it to your plate.  Happy Labor Day!

Ag Gag Laws Not for Farm Protection

Sit back and relax because this is a long one.  There are too many factors in this issue and I’ve barely scratched the surface!

Just recently my attention was brought to a lawsuit simmering in Utah challenging the constitutionality of the State’s “Agricultural Operation Interference” law.  Dubbed as the Ag Gag Law in essence it’s a measure to stop anyone from recording abuses in the food animal industry.  Some other states have passed or are considering similar laws.

Utah has become the standing ground of challenge to these types of laws because the first person ever arrested under the law, Amy Meyer, was charged for filming a Utah slaughterhouse.  She has also joined the lawsuit.  She shot footage of a front-end loader dumping a sick cow outside the slaughterhouse. Charges were later dropped because Meyer’s Feb. 8 video showed that she recorded the operation from a public street.   Other than obvious animal abusive actions revealed, the video is quite entertaining in the sense of the company and authorities attempting to remove Amy.

At the crux of the issue are questions about the necessity and legality of Ag Gag laws.  Proponents of these laws claim concerns of biosecurity and food safety presented by activists walking into ag facilities.

Emily Meredith of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, an industry group that supports farm protection laws, doesn’t buy the free-speech argument. “I don’t quite understand—and the industry doesn’t understand—how a lot of the laws now are requiring abuse to be reported, how those would be constitutionally suspect or violative of free speech when they’re mandating that you speak up,” she says, referencing the mandatory reporting of animal abuse now required in some states.

Take note that this group reportedly supports “farm protection laws” however the spokesperson goes on to say … industry doesn’t understand….. – The only farms that “industry” owns is company owned farms and that is a very small number of farms.  Companies are hiding behind the pretense of farms!

In addition to the concerns about biosecurity and food safety posed by activists walking onto ag facilities, Meredith says she repeatedly referenced the right of farm owners to protect themselves from being targeted by activists and undercover journalists. “Just like you wouldn’t let some stranger from the street to walk in your front door, our farmers and ranchers have the same constitutionally protected rights to be free from intrusion and to protect their private property,” she says, “So I think that those are issues that really come to the forefront in this type of discussion.”  What farm owners is she speaking about?

Since I wasn’t up to speed about all of the ins and outs of these laws I decided to wait a few days to watch a segment on the National Geographic channel about Ag Gag Laws before forming a conclusive opinion.  It aired, July 31, 2012, and I watched.  Most of the footage shown I had seen before or scenes similar.  I shouldn’t have been shocked but it was another one of those moments in my life where I just shook my head and wondered how anyone could defend the appalling scenes.

I came away from the show with mixed emotions and it has taken me almost 2 weeks to sort through what I saw and heard.  There are many differing views to be considered and to get to the bottom of what is driving the Ag Gag Laws.

Most importantly, I, by no stretch of the imagination, support, promote, or condone violent actions towards anyone or anything no matter which side of the issue one might be on.  Those who resort to such actions are using terroristic activities and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Period!

Passionate agendas are clear and everyone has a right to their beliefs.  However, attempting to force those beliefs on others isn’t doing anything except detracting from what one might be attempting to accomplish.  The label of activist is slapped on such actions immediately.  I, for one, was turned off by this.

Filming while trespassing is already illegal and laws are in place to enforce this.  The question is, are you trespassing if you have permission to be on the premises?  Obviously not, since no prosecution of undercover filming has occurred.  Thus Big Ag wants laws to stop undercover work which exposes abusive practices.

The real issue of cruel and inhumane animal abuse, which obviously does occur, is lost in all of the squabbling over laws.  There is no excuse for the animal cruelty exposed no matter how it is acquired.  Big Ag argues the point that American consumers are confused about animal agriculture because of the many undercover filming’s of abuse.  There’s no confusion to be had when viewing cases that have been well documented and filmed.  It can’t be said that these abuses don’t occur.

What Big Ag should be saying is that they will stop the abuses, and really do it, not talk about how undercover filming has hit them in the pocketbook.  I think that says it all and answers any questions about Ag Gag Laws!

As a farmer, I know that these abuses don’t occur on every farm.  Farmer’s that I know, care for their animals.  It’s as simple as that!

On the other hand, in the industrial setting of raising animals for a corporation, those who are raising or slaughtering are forced into becoming something other than what they would wish to be.  I’m not excusing such actions; however, I do understand the motivating factor behind those actions.  Industrial agriculture is all about mass production of animals as rapidly as possible no matter the consequences.  Those raising and slaughtering these animals are just a cog in the wheel of corporate ag and have a whip snapping over their heads to produce rapidly, so to speak.

Corporate Ag has covered their butts by writing company policies, – nod, nod, wink wink – that cover animal abuses.  In reality those who are supposed to meet company demands, farmers and workers, are continually forced to do the opposite by meeting company goals of production.  While I was in the crazy mixed up world of industrial ag, I heard many times from company people, “it’s company policy” whatever “it” was pertaining to in the conversation at the time.  At no time in 23 years did I receive the written handbook of the company’s policy. The only reason, that I could figure, was that company policy changed in the blink of an eye to suit the company needs at the time.

The Nat Geo show’s  focus was about Ag Gag Laws however many underlying issues are tied up in these laws.  As I mentioned earlier trespassing is already illegal.  As a farmer I’ve on very few occasions had to deal with trespassers.  Asking the trespasser(s) to leave the property proved most effective and on those even fewer occasions other remedies were necessary.  The bottom line is the trespassers were removed.  It’s not a secret that for anyone to simply walk onto a farm is doing so at their own risk.  The Ag Gag Laws aren’t for the purpose of protecting farmers and ranchers, they, are able to do that on their own!

I don’t know of any who’ve simply walked into a slaughter facility and if they have I’m sure that trespassing laws have taken care of removing them.  Secondly, most corporate owned facilities have security.  Industry would have us believe that there are masses out there storming the castle and some legislators believe it.  They’ve fallen for the Chicken Little theme of the sky is falling!  Or, have they?

Why would industry need more laws?  In my humble opinion, it’s really quite simple.  These laws are for the purpose of shutting people up!  If the ugly truth of corporate run agriculture can be hidden from the public, consumers won’t be confused and pocketbooks won’t be hit.  This is censorship at its best and if allowed, to protect corporate run agriculture, what will be next?  We will be legally sliding down a slippery slope!

I don’t believe that those who wrote our Constitution had it in their minds for law to decide what people could or could not say unless, of course, it was libelous or slanderous.  In fact, freedoms for people in this country were at the heart of the writing.  Unless corporate agribusiness can prove libel or slander of what is exposed, no other favoritism’s or special laws should be provided as protection.  If they are being hit in the pocketbook because of exposure – maybe they should stop what they are doing!