|Guest #1 was a logger from Montana named Bruce Vincent. The factory farm industry is taking advice from him on how to fight back, since obviously the logging industry has had its fair share of trouble from environmentalists wanting to save the spotted owl, etc, over the past several decades. Here's what he had to say...
Vincent: Whether or not the industry is participating with someone else's strategy or if meeting and working out a compromise is part of their own. What we did in the timber and the logging industry... we share a lot in common because we only operate with the consent of the public. When we started to lose our social license, we didn't know whether ot not to meet them in the middle, whether to compromise, whether to fight back, and we did a lot of fighting.
It took us years to figure out there's a difference between fighting and leading. And what we participating in the conflict industry strategy, and meeting them because they demanded a meeting, working with them because they demanded they do so, caving in to their desires cuz we thought we had to our they'd take it to the public and we'd get thrashed in the initiative process, we found that we lost. Because there's no satisfying them.
They are a conflict industry. They have a business strategy. And for way too long we treated them like Rotary Clubs gone bad. They just really needed to be talked to, if we just convinced them, give them some money maybe.
We found out we were participating in their strategy and we didn't begin to regain our social license until we began working on our own strategy... and that's the difference between fighting and leading. If it makes sense in the overall strategy of the industry to sit and bang out a compromise, great. But if that's part of their desire and not the industry's then it's a bad place to be.
In other words, come up with a long term strategy (cutting down every tree in the U.S., perhaps) and then start a comprehensive PR campaign to convince the public of your rightness BEFORE the environmentalists point out the number of species going extinct because of your actions.
The host went on to ask a question:
Host: My question is how do you appease groups that want your industry totally eliminated? I mean, you can't win in that situation.
See, the thing here, is that nobody is actually trying to put an entire industry out of business. Are we trying to end factory farming? Well I am, but the current efforts of the Humane Society are actually very minimal changes in the practices of factory farms that will not fundamentally change them from being meat and egg factories. But I don't think either the Humane Society or anyone else (except perhaps PETA) wants to see an entire world go vegan. I'd like to see animal agriculture practiced in a sustainable way that is best for animals, humans, AND the environment. The only ones it won't necessarily be best for are the monopolistic meatpacking companies that currently control most of our animal agriculture.
Here's how the guest answered that question:
Vincent: No, you can't. They are an industry that is built on conflict and fear. And there's no satisfying them. And, when you think about it, they are fighting for their job. They want the fight. And we learned in the timber industry that if we weren't careful, we were the third ring of a three ring circus, and they took all the gate receipts. We're the tit for their tat, we were the front page "other" story.
Wow. I quite disagree. Fighting for their jobs? Trust me, I don't think I know any activist who wouldn't be thrilled to see their mission completed so they could be free to go do something else. I have a hunch that anyone who works for the Humane Society would be thrilled the day all animals were treated well and they were thus put out of a job. As for why industry looks like the third ring of a circus... it's because they act that way. You can't hang pigs from construction equipment with chains or prod sick and dying cows with a forklift and get caught on video and then expect to look anything other than hypocrites, if not sadists.
Vincent continued to say that the producers need to become the activists. He said that "the fight is won over the backyard fence."
So that's the first half of the show. Then the real fun started. Guest #2 was a Baptist minister named Dr. Wes Jamison. Mike began by asking him about the animal rights' groups use of religion in their arguments:
Jamison: Mike, that's very true. One of the issues we face in this debate is why do animals even matter? Often times we talk about animal welfare and animal rights and no one ever says why should we even care. If you believe in evolution, then we won.
Wait... hit the pause button. You believe in evolution? That's news. OK, keep going.
And.. why would we wring our hands about it? If dolphins don't like it, they should grow opposing thumbs and farm us maybe a million years from now. We won the evolutionary battle, but for some reason people have inside of them this desire to want to protect these animals.
So does that mean that because we won the war in Iraq, anything we did in Abu Ghraib was OK because if they didn't like it, they should have come to the U.S. and taken over us? And, on a less sarcastic note - that's ridiculous. Yes we're higher up on the food chain, but the way we are raising animals now isn't only cruel to the animals, it's unhealthy for us. I don't think the idea is to get to the top of the food chain and then purposefully make yourself sick by wrecking your food. Pasture-raised animals - animals that live the way they evolved to live, and they way we evolved alongside them as we domesticated them and ate them - are far healthier than factory farmed animals. We're polluting our environment with factory farms, making it less inhabitable for us, and we're producing inferior quality meat, milk, and eggs.
The Humane Society is going there naturally for three reasons, going to the religious side of the issue for three reasons. First of all, is the financial aspect. People of faith give more money than people who do not have faith. Not only to their denominations but to any causes that they deem fit, so it is a financial aspect. If you can recruit people of faith to your cause, they will give money.
Obviously, those animal rights nuts are totally after the religious people's money.
Number two, American politics, because of our incremental political system, requires sustained intensity over time to change things. There is nothing more effective at sustaining zeal in our political system than a religious cause. In fact if you look back through American history, the great changes in our culture have been brought by religious causes, whether it be abolition, or the civil rights movement, and some people even argue today that the environmental movement had to become somewhat religious in order to bring about its changes. And so, number two, to have those kinds of activists that will engage for decades at a time, religion provides that rationale.
And third, one of the things we're finding is that the animal welfare debate is non-partisan cuz it hinges upon pet ownership. So whether you're liberal, conservative, Democrat, or Republican, if you own pets, you are very receptive to an argument about animal welfare and a religious argument provides one more leverage point on the hinge for the Humane Society of the United States to help convince people this cause is right and just.
OK, this is my favorite part...
I kind of look at it like that bell-shaped curve, on the extreme right hand side you're gonna have people that know their Koran, that know their Bible, that know their Torah, that know their tradition and theology that clearly gives them permission and calls the use of animals good. Not only is it value neutral but all three traditions say that animal use - in fact killing animals for human benefit - is a good thing.
I specifically recall my rabbi telling us in Sunday School that we were supposed to treat animals well according to Jewish tradition. He didn't say don't eat them, but you're not supposed to abuse them during their lives. And what about Hindus, whose religion tells them to be vegetarians?
The on the other side are the hardcore atheists or people who don't believe any sort of faith tradition and they tend, from our research, that they don't really care what you say, they're gonna eat animals anyway.
I'm a "hardcore atheist" vegetarian. What do you make of that?
In that middle, that squishy middle is people who call themselves spiritual, who call themselves religious, but really don't know what that means. They are a very fertile recruiting ground for what I call meaning entrepreneurs - people who go out and begin to define for them what it is they actually think. And so what you'll have is you'll have people like... the Humane Society of the United States begin to make statements that are outlandish and absolute nonsense for a person who actually knows their denominational theology. But if you don't, and it resonates with your pre-existing values regarding the treatment of animals, you'll begin to say "Ahh yes, God is a God of compassion. Factory farming is not compassionate, therefore God hates factory farming." That's a sort of sophisticated argument the Humane Society is going to use.
Wow. Just... wow. First off - about the idea that God hates factory farming... do you have a copyright or can I use that on T-shirts and bumper stickers? Cuz I think you're onto something there.
Second, about that compassionate God thing? Yeah. I think that's what the New Testament was about, wasn't it? But also: HOW TOTALLY INSULTING! So if your values don't line up exactly with his interpretation of the Bible, you're wrong and that's that? And if your values include compassion to animals, first of all you're being religious the wrong way, but second of all, you're being used and fooled by animal welfare organizations? How absolutely arrogant.
He continues (responding to a new question about why people give their money to HSUS):
A lot of people give money to protect pets but what we're finding, in our research, is the argument goes something like this: You treat one animal - you put one animal in the center of your heart and you put another animal in the center of your plate. You're a hypocrite and should feel very bad for doing that. So we're not asking you to stop eating a pig while loving a cat. Just help us with $20 and a vote to make the life of a pig a little bit better. So what the Humane Society - and the Farm Sanctuary - have stumbled upon is the ability to exacerbate and amplify the guilt of pet owners regarding the treatment of farm animals. And the argument goes like this: We're not going to ask you to stop eating meat but at least be compassionate. We're not even asking you to treat the pig like you treat your cat. But help us make it a little bit better.
And that's wrong? Seriously, there's the animal welfare argument, but all of the issues surrounding animal agriculture are intertwined. Factory farming is cruel, but is also destructive to the environment, to food safety, to the effectiveness of human antibiotics, and to human health in general. People who contribute to animal welfare causes are working towards reform on each of those issues by making the lives of pigs better, even if they still they eat them.
Long term strategy, of course, is to increase regulation through legislation and litigation to the point where competitive advantage is removed. So we either have to offshore our production or, more or less because of competitive advantage, we go out of business.
Competitive advantage against who? Against plant-based foods and against ethically and sustainably raised animal products. Nobody's asking for the entire U.S. meat industry to go out of business. The goal is to shift competitive advantage back to the farmers we want to encourage - the ones who raise animals on pasture, humanely and sustainably, who produce healthier food.
There's one last line I want to share from the interview. If you're religious and you haven't been offended yet, enjoy!
Once you begin to believe in the religious understanding of animals and the idea that you are called by this nebulous Santa Claus god figure to treat animals well, it's amazing the sacrifices you'll make and the amount of time you'll make them to bring this cause to fruition.