Written by Heather Clemenceau
Despite experiencing a profound personal loss late last year, “Slaughterhouse Sue” Wallis tells us on her Facebook page that she’s now caught up on all her paperwork and laundry, and it also seems that she’s gotten back up on that proverbial horse, to build new alliances in her never-ending quest to market horseflesh. Apparently, one of the first orders of business was to introduce an Ag-Gag bill in her home state of Wyoming. The bills are an attempt to stem the flow of undercover videos and photos by animal activists and they represent a wholesale assault on many fundamental values. Not only would these bills perpetuate animal abuse on industrial farms, they would also threaten workers’ rights, consumer health and safety, law enforcement investigations and the freedom of journalists, employees and the public at large to share information about something as fundamental as our food supply. Exposés of illegal or inhumane treatment of animals at factory farms have led to the closure of farming facilities, nationwide recalls and, in some cases, criminal convictions.
You have to wonder whether Wallis believes there should be any food restrictions to protect the safety of consumers. She believes that
consumers have the right to eat whatever they want, whether that be any food produced by a cottage industry or roadside stand, without licensing or inspection. Yet conversely, she doesn’t appear to support the public’s right to know how that food from a factory farm is produced. Hillandale Farms isn’t inviting folks into their poultry sheds. Smithfield does not welcome people into their sow barns. And Cal-Maine Foods. isn’t holding daily tours of their egg-laying farms. And neither did Slaughterhouse Sue invite the unwashed public into her sooper-seekrit industry meeting in December 2012, a meeting that would be more difficult to gain admittance to than your local prison.
So if you think that beef burger you bought from Tesco tastes a bit strange, just shut up and eat it like a champion. If you’re a Muslim and have just recently found out you’re eating pork in your burgers, so what? It’s all about keeping the consumer uninformed about what is in the foodstuffs they purchase, or how the animals are treated. One constant with Wallis is that you can always count on her rabidly trying to find a way around food safety laws – chemical contamination of domestic horsemeat is no big deal.
In attendance at that meeting was Kay Johnson Smith, (apparently known in social circles as A-Kay-47) President of the Animal Agriculture Alliance, another of Wallis’ connections to slaughterhouse managers, policymakers, veterinarians, and restaurant owners, who all hope to glimpse how Big Agribusiness hopes to take on its biggest fear – animal activists. As a propagandist for Big Ag, it is Smith’s responsibility to present your average CAFO to the consumer as a bucolic, small pastured family farm, all while the reality is that less than 1% of animals raised for food come from family farms. At the December IEBA meeting, Smith was presenting a plan that would allow farms to thoroughly screen job applicants and implement a security plan. The plan includes stepping up security at factory farms and slaughterhouses so activists have more difficulty with undercover investigations — clearly, it’s easier to get away with cruelty when the public doesn’t know about it. As President of the AAA, Johnson Smith’s involvement with Wallis and horse slaughter is an indication that Smith’s services will be utilized in normalizing and marketing “cheval” in the US and beyond. And Johnson Smith is more than ready to do that, describing the lack of slaughter in the US as an “Undeniable National Horror,” Aside from the overblown rhetoric, I wonder if she knows the difference between vegetarians and vegans? I’m reasonably sure most horse people are neither.
”It is time for the federal government to intervene and stop these
animals, considered by many to be American icons, from being used by
vegan groups as political pawns in their quest to impose their vegetarian
agenda on our nation,” added Johnson-Smith. ”Additionally, it is time
for all governments-federal, state and local-to recognize these groups
for what they are, extremists attempting to use animal welfare as a tool
to advance their radical vegan agenda.”
The stated mission of the AAA is to keep animal agriculture in the US and defend farming practices against animal welfare groups. The AAA attacks groups whose sole mandate is advocating for and rescue of farm animals. They send letters of congratulation to companies who refuse to implement humane solutions for farm animals. They also support the Fur Commission. Thanks to groups like the Animal Agriculture Alliance and factory farming’s massive economies of scale, a lot of food today is disgusting or cruel or disgusting and cruel.
Since reasonably well informed individuals know that CAFO farms are miserable for animals, the environment,
farmers, public health, biodiversity, rural communities, and global poverty, Johnson Smith has probably indulged in propaganda that would make Leni Reifenstahl blush. The AAA hopes to create a climate whereby donating to the HSUS (or other animal welfare groups) will be nothing short of the kiss of death for businesses who rely on public support. They do this by taking issue with organizations who give donations to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) – Casella Wines (makers of Yellow Tail) and the Bank of America are two predominant examples. After asking their members and others in agriculture to harass both organizations via social media, phone calls, and mail, they managed to brow-beat Yellow Tail to get them to withdraw future support, and Johnson Smith was happy to let them off the hook with a warning, “we are happy to put this unfortunate incident behind us.” Bank of America CEO Brian Moynihan however, stood up to Johnson Smith by telling her that the HSUS does not get preferential treatment and providing the card was simply responding to consumer demand. Despite a great rending of garments and gnashing of teeth, the AAA had to admit defeat and officially mourn the end of their relationship with BOA, if indeed they actually had one.
The Animal Agricultural Alliance is so easily offended. Aside from indulging a pathological fear of vegetarians and vegans, Meatless Mondays, an initiative of the nonprofit, Monday Campaign, Inc., and the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, was perceived by the AAA and other groups as an extremist animal rights campaign to end meat consumption. Absolutely NOTHING in that newsletter article about Meatless Mondays was false information. In fact, I’d wager to guess that article is the most truth the USDA has let out in a long time. Unfortunately, the USDA capitulated very quickly when confronted by meat industry lobbyists. In future, the agency should look towards substantiated science as well as health benefits rather than giving in to public opinion and industry greed.
If you look at the infographic AAA has created (above), you can see that although they’ve missed groups such as Animals’ Angels, they’ve targeted Jonathan Safran Foer, who isn’t even a strict vegetarian (and not a domestic terrorist either). The AAA claims that claim his book contains some of the most negative stereotypes of modern agriculture. Like ever. So to that end they offer an anti-terrorism course so there will be a way to combat laws against horse slaughter and people like the Jonathan Safran Foer’s of the world. The power brokers know that their business model depends on consumers not being able to see (or hear about) horses or other animals. Additionally, the AAA has engaged the Lead attorney for Ringling/Feld Entertainment, who provides seminars for them on how to defeat animal welfare cases. Ringling in bed with Big Ag, what a shock.
According to HSUS Food Policy Director Matt Prescott, the American Agricultural Alliance has never had a grip on reality. “The Alliance is a radical, pro factory-farming organization that is either completely out-of-step with Americans’ values on how animals ought to be treated, or perhaps simply chooses to ignore those values at the request of its corporate funders,” Prescott said in an email. The fact is simple: without organizations like HSUS, the meat industry and factory farming in general would continue to strive to maximize output at animals’ expense.
The days of “it’s none of your business” farming are long gone. Bills similar to Wallis’ Ag-Gag have been proposed and many defeated – in other states between 2011 and 2012. Ag-Gag bills to penalize those who secretly record video of livestock are a sobering setback for the animals, of course, as well as for food safety. Remember the salmonella outbreak two years ago—the one in which half a billion Iowa eggs were recalled? Mercy for Animals conducted an undercover video investigation of the farm in 2009, and forwarded its findings to Maine animal welfare officials. In Wallis’ own state of Wyoming, the HSUS videoed astonishing abuse of pigs at Wyoming Premium Meats. Under an Ag-Gag bill, these undercover endeavours would be illegal, and in some cases a felony. It’s a shame that people feel their livelihoods are at stake, or feel threatened by the growing awareness of the horrors of the industry. Neither Wallis nor Johnson Smith care about the welfare of horses or any other animal – it’s in their best interest for people to continue to dump unwanted horses in the middle of empty fields, at rescues, or have them seized Dorothy Robertson-style, because those horses are how they are going to make their money selling horsemeat to Japan, Belgium, and France.
Please read HSUS response to Wallis’ Ag-Gag bill.