Out to Pasture

March 22, 2009 07:00 PM
 

Steve Cornett
Quiznos has rolled over for PETA. Don't panic. There's nothing about beef in this deal. The sandwich chain, with about 5,000 outlets, has agreed, in an effort it describes as trying to "be better corporate citizens,” to begin buying more cage-free eggs, crate-free pork and "humanely”—PETA's call on that, of course—euthanized turkeys.

Good luck on that. Animal rights groups are eating animal agriculture one bite at a time, and they'll hardly be sated by one bite out of Quiznos. Lest cattlemen rest content, remember how PETA describes ranching:

"In the U.S., more than 41 million [cattle] suffer and die for the meat and dairy industries every year. When they are still very young, cows are burned with hot irons [branding], their testicles are ripped out of their scrotums [castration], and their horns are cut or burned off—all without painkillers. Once they have grown big enough, they are sent to massive, muddy feedlots to be fattened for slaughter or to dairy farms, where they will be repeatedly impregnated and separated from their calves until their bodies give out and they are sent to die.”

The cattle industry is next. The cattle industry may be one of their last hurdles, but don't fool yourself into thinking that once they get their way with chickens they won't be after ranchers.

The Quiznos case is but one example. One animal rights Web site heralds the company's decision with the headline "Quiznos Kicks Subway to the Ethical Curb.” Subway is the next target.

And when it gives in, the goal will move. Just days after the Quiznos announcement, PETA said it was going to resume its "McCruelty” campaign against McDonald's. That company tried to please PETA in 2000 by imposing restrictions on suppliers. It got a few years of peace while PETA moved its attention to others. But now they're back, asking members: "Please write to McDonald's today and demand that it phase in the exclusive use of controlled-atmosphere killing of chickens by requiring that its suppliers switch to this method over time.”

What I know about chicken killin' is limited to neck wringing. I presume McDonald's suppliers know the best way to get it done, but that's not the point.

The point is that animal rights groups are pressuring companies to sacrifice efficiency in the name of what they decide is current morality. After that, they'll move on to their next step. Their goal is to eliminate all forms of "animal exploitation.”

Animal agriculture is losing the war one corporate concession at a time. And there's no downside, nobody complaining to Quiznos or McDonald's for buckling. But what if there was just as much pressure from the other side?

An united force. What if there was an umbrella organization that realized how vast the stakes are for so many people? There are millions of us—not just ag magazine writers and cow ranchers. There are also pig, sheep, chicken and turkey producers, the farmers who supply them and the chambers of commerce whose members rely on their success.

That's a huge piece of Middle America, but it's just the start. Horse breeders, pet owners, breed associations, medical researchers, fur producers, fishermen and hunters: No one has organized them into an "Organization to Protect the American Ethic” regarding animals, and I wonder why.

It seems to me the picture could be made much clearer to the public. Allowing Congress to control the way I dispose of my horses will eventually endanger your kid's right to have a puppy.

That seems a leap, but it is not. PETA has made it clear that it wants equal rights for animals. It's the kid=dog=pigeon=rat mentality. In a secular world, morality and ethics are often decided by public relations programs. I've talked to a lot of cattle people and most, I think, underestimate the extent to which clever PR can transform a society's ethic. But I'm afraid we're going to find out in the years ahead.

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