Out to Pasture: Why They Call It a "Movement"

December 9, 2009 06:00 PM

Steve Cornett
Reading about university research on the potential of converting manure into an alternative fuel got me fretting—again—about these darned animal rights guys. Well, them and the "veganistas.”

Why don't we have more such projects? Why isn't there more outside research into alternative uses for manure? Everyone knows there's a problem. It's not like people outside the industry think that manure is none of their business. They play plenty of attention to it. Here is an example:

The Pew Charitable Trusts and its Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production apparently have more than $5 billion in assets, and they know manure is a problem. Their Web site lists water pollution as one of the problems associated with "industrial” meat production, and notes:

"The EPA [Environmental Protection Agency] says AFO [animal feeding operation] pollutants can result in fish kills and reduced biodiversity and nitrogen and phosphorus pollution can contribute to algae blooms, which can lead to a number of negative health effects in animals and humans.

"Human and animal health can also be harmed by the pathogens and nitrogen in animal waste. Nitrogen in manure is easily transformed into nitrates. The EPA found that nitrates are the most widespread agricultural contaminant in drinking water wells and estimates that 4.5 million people are exposed to elevated nitrate levels from drinking water wells. Nitrates, if they find their way into the groundwater, can potentially be fatal to infants.”

Help or hindrance. Pew's answer, from their 2008 report "Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America,” is to phase out intensive confinement of meat animals, with no thought at all about how to help manage the problem.

With Pew's billions of dollars, why are they only lobbying for more laws rather than funding manure management research or, at least, lobbying for more funding for such research?

The Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production's conclusion was in place before they chose their name. You don't need the word "industrial” in there if you are of a mind to be objective.

Their research and public hearings were not designed to find better ways to mitigate the problems of modern agriculture, because they think modern agriculture is the problem.

Animal rights and anti-meat people attack agriculture because it's the easiest part of their target to hit. If they succeed in getting rid of larger operations with accusations of polluting water and animal abuse, they'll turn their guns on natural and small farmers who've been sucked into supporting their movement.

After all, if you don't keep moving forward, you're not a "movement” at all. And these guys, make no mistake, are all about movement. As an industry, you can't work with folks like that. You just about have to work against them.

Steve Cornett, Editor Emeritus, writes from Canyon, Texas, scornett@farmjournal.com

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