by Mike Ferguson
(St. Charles, MO) – There’s no question that Missouri is, among other things, an agriculture state. Farming of some kind happens in every county in the state and agriculture impacts many other industries as well.
At the same time, Missouri is known as one of the more infamous states when it comes to so-called “puppy mills”. Animal welfare advocates were successful in 2010 in passing a statewide referendum (Proposition B) that cracked down on what they call unethical and abusive dog breeders.
Because of concerns about language in that law that farming groups say would carry over into animal agriculture, they leaned hard on lawmakers immediately and had parts of the law changed right after voters approved it.
Now, a coalition of agriculture groups is taking the debate one step higher – to the state constitutional level.
Missouri Farmers Care is the coalition promoting the so-called “Farming Rights Amendment” that would, if passed by voters, codify the right to farm into the state constitution. Doing that would make it more difficult to restrict animal agriculture through new laws in the future.
Last year, the Missouri Legislature voted to put the measure on the November, 2014 ballot.
Dan Kleinsorge is the Executive Director of Missouri Farmers Care. While he says the passage of Prop B was a wakeup call to farmers, this amendment is designed to be proactive to protect agriculture, including animal farming, as an industry and way of life in the state.
“It’s not just the farmer, it’s also the truck driver bringing that product from the farm to the market. It’s from the market to an international market. This is the number one industry in our state so it’s a huge part of our state economy.
“The second thing is they [Missourians] really see it in their grocery bill. We’ve seen grocery prices rise in recent years…we don’t need to add extremist groups attacking agriculture. We don’t need to add that margin into our food prices because it’s already a problem and we want to ensure that grocery prices remain low and remain stable.”
The “extremist groups” Kleinsorge refers to are animal rights organizations including PETA (People For The Ethical Treatment of Animals) and the Humane Society of the United States which, often, has no connection to local humane society shelters.
He accuses these groups of wanting to put animal agriculture out of business in favor of an animal rights/vegan agenda.
There’s no specific vegan agenda listed on the websites of Missouri-based animal rights organizations.
On the Humane Society of the United States’ website, the organization states: “The HSUS promotes eating with conscience and embracing the Three Rs—reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by avoiding products from the worst production systems (e.g., switching to cage-free eggs); and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is direct in its opposition to animal-based foods. On its website, a banner at the top of the page states “Animals are not ours to eat, wear, experiment on, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way.” (bold print is in the original text)
Missouri agriculture groups point out that the national animal advocacy organizations supported Proposition B in 2010.
While eating meat or going vegan may be a lifestyle choice, Missouri Farmers Care and its supporting members worry that animal rights’ groups are working to use referendums, legislation and the courts to take that choice away from consumers. The way to do that, agriculture advocates believe, is to attack animal farming and put livestock producers out of business.
That’s why Kleinsorge says there’s a need to single out agriculture for protection in the Missouri constitution. To him, there’s no need to amend the constitution in order to protect manufacturing or specific white-collar businesses.
“The difference between insurance and agriculture, the difference between manufacturing and agriculture is there isn’t a concerted effort to put those folks out of business.
“That sounds a little extreme but the truth is these animal rights groups really want to put animal agriculture out of business.”
Because of the severe weather at the time, a representative from the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, which is against the proposed amendment, was unable to be at the studio to provide the opposing viewpoint.
That interview has been rescheduled.
On the web:
Missouri Farmers Care: www.MoFarmersCare.com