PETA Campaigns on Pigs’ Behalf at Ohio Statehouse

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is again utilizing its constitutional rights to publicly demonstrate: This time, to advocate its beliefs about industrial livestock operations in the nation’s third-largest hog-farming state – Ohio (USDA).

PETA, the largest animal-rights organization in the world, has approval from Ohio’s Capitol Square Review and Advisory Board to bring three pigs to the Statehouse steps and to emit the recorded squeals of piglets using a sound system. The group is appealing a declined request to also display 3,500 one-gallon buckets of hog manure and urine, along with an industrial fan, to distribute accompanying odors.

The organization is pronouncing its belief that large-scale hog operations partake in animal brutality and contribute to the spread of the H1N1 virus, and hopes to mirror the presentation on the U.S. Capital grounds in Washington, D.C. on the same date and at the same time. Initially scheduled July 9, a new demonstration date is being determined.

"The best way to protect animals and our own health is to go vegetarian," said PETA Executive Vice President Tracy Reiman.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has repeatedly stated that the HIN1 virus cannot be contracted from eating pork or pork products.

The National Pork Board includes an animal welfare committee with a mission “to maintain and promote the pork industry tradition of responsible animal care with the application of scientifically sound animal care practices.” An industry initiative titled, “We Care,” ensures that producers are held accountable to established ethical principles and animal well-being practices.

“Some outside groups don’t want our customers to hear about everything we do to care for our animals and ensure they’re raised responsibly. They generalize the terrible behavior of a few individuals and apply it to the vast majority of us who do things the right way,” said Phil Borgic, an Illinois pork producer.

Whether one is for or against livestock farms, the pork industry’s influence nationally and in Ohio cannot be denied.

Pork Industry Statistics
(USDA and Ohio Pork Producers)
• The U.S. pork industry generates more than $72 billion in total domestic economic activity.
• The pork industry supports more than 800,000 jobs and adds more than $27 billion of value to inputs such as corn and soybeans.
• Pork production contributes to 10,000 Ohio jobs.
• Pork production brought in nearly $405 million to Ohio’s economy in 2007.

PETA has demonstrated at legislative offices before. In May, at New Hampshire’s Statehouse, activists simultaneously advocated for gay rights and vegetarianism by appearing nude with a banner that read, “Vegetarians Make Better Lovers," and distributed information about cruelty occurring at factory farms.

Anti-demonstrations occurred during a campaign at Maine’s Statehouse, which boycotted Canadian-made syrup to protest Canadian seal harvesting. One protestor wore a seal costume while another punctured an oversized imitation of a syrup bottle that “bled corrupted” syrup.

PETA’s activities are outrageous and over-the-top by design, using eye-catching and controversial tactics to make statements and achieve listening ears.

Unfortunately, these tactics receive press coverage and the attention of the uninformed. Perhaps there is more that needs to be done to mitigate the attention – particularly in the media.

What actions, if any, should industry affiliates take? Do you consider PETA’s actions effective? What are the implications for Ohio’s hog farmers?

The Internet’s Influence on Agriculture

Technology improves and heavily influences most industries, including the once simplistic agricultural industry. Farmers today are utilizing the Internet to obtain information about weather forecasts, market reports, industry news and trends and to communicate with other agriculturalists among other uses.

“Broadband Internet access is becoming essential for both businesses and households; many compare its evolution to other technologies now considered common necessities such as cars, electricity, televisions, microwave ovens and cell phones,” said Rural Broadband At A Glance authors Peter Stenberg and Sarah Low.

According to Sternberg and Low, 13 percent of farmers were using the Internet for farm business in 1997 and use increased to 55 percent in 2007.

However, a geographic discrepancy still exists among Internet users. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cites a 9.3-percent gap between urban and rural Internet usage because of high costs and limited availability. Many rural Internet users resort to accessing the Internet at public places where broadband is available, limiting their ability to quickly and conveniently obtain information.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) developed a plan to extend Internet access to rural- American communities as required by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA). The act provided $2.5 billion to the USDA for loans and grants to increase broadband provision in primarily rural areas by Feb. 17, 2010.

American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) supports the FCC in its efforts to extend broadband access to the rural populace, which, consequently, will significantly help rural farmers. AFBF Executive Director of Public Policy Mark Maslyn stated, “Many farmers and ranchers conduct their business operations from their homes and need access to government resources and market information available on the Internet. Therefore, affordable home-broadband access is especially important to keep American agriculture competitive in a world marketplace.”

AFBF compiled a list of recommendations for ARRA developers:
• The FCC should consider location when determining broadband availability.
• The FCC should consider price or marketplace competition in determining access to broadband services.
• Broadband should be designated a “supported service” eligible to receive support directly from the Universal Service Fund (USF), an extension of the FCC, which administers programs for high-cost companies serving rural areas, low-income consumers, rural health-care providers and schools and libraries. The USF should be used to help with long-term deployment of broadband in rural areas.
• Broadband access in rural areas should be increased using any technology including wireless.

To ensure an affordable, accessible Internet resource, Maslyn urges the FCC to consider AFBF’s suggestions while devising a national broadband strategy.

“America’s farmers and ranchers need viable rural communities for the goods and services required for their agricultural operations,” Maslyn said. The plan “…will have long-lasting impact on the lives of America’s farm and ranch families, their rural neighbors and future generations of rural Americans.”

What else should the FCC consider while developing this plan? How can other industry groups become involved to voice opinions about the plan? Will equal access to the Internet change market statistics?