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In Bad Times for Ag, Temple Grandin Speaks Out

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"There is a point there economics alone must not be the sole justification for an animal production practice. When the egg producers asked me if I wanted cheap eggs I replied, 'Would you want to buy a shirt if it was $5 cheaper and made by child slaves?'" animal behavior expert Temple Grandin told ag professionals in 2001.

Unfortunately, since then, things are worse in the ag world.

This month the public saw videos of baby chicks ground up alive at Hy-Line hatchery and laying hens pancaked and mummified at a Dunkin Donut's supplier. http://www.dunkincruelty.com/ And how was your omelet?

The one-two punch inspired the egg industry to launch a damage control campaign called The Good Egg which toadies to kids by sponsoring a whole season of Sesame Street and an egg testimonial from the Cookie Monster. The egg is given a halo over its "head" and the campaign is leavened with charity appeals and Facebook and Twitter gambits.

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And earlier this year HBO's" Death on a Family Farm brought "euthanasia" of sows by hanging them from forklifts on the Wiles Hog Farm in Creston, Ohio into America's living rooms.

And that's just the activists.

The Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, pending in both the House and the Senate, threatens the very heart of factory farming and animal pharma-not just because animals eat less and grow faster on daily antibiotic regimens but because without them disease from filth and crowding might kill the animals. US hatcheries even inject antibiotics directly into eggs the FDA reports from its inspections, rather than "by the approved method of administering the drug to day-old chicks."

Big Meat is so afraid of antibiotic-free farming it got its lapdog, the American Veterinary Medical Association, to dispute the Pew commission report the bill is based on, saying it romanticized small farmers while "vilifying" large operations and scared the public about antibiotics which could "compromise" affordability. Not human or animal health, but affordability.

Meanwhile the poultry industry is sweating a suit brought by Oklahoma Attorney General Drew Edmondson that charges Tyson and Cargill and nine other companies with polluting the Illinois River watershed, hoping it won't become well, a watershed case. (If the government stops you from dumping tons of manure in the river and killing fish what will it do next?)

Animal welfare propositions are popping up on state ballots like California Prop 2 which bans confining of farm animals and received more votes than Obama in November.

Nor are ag lobbyists doing cartwheels over Cass Sunstein, Obama's new Administrator of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs who is married to the outspoken foreign policy adviser Samantha Power, given his previous animal welfare statements.

In fact 2009 makes 2003 look good when countries were only boycotting American beef over mad cow and employees packed illegal IDs not cameras.

Grandin, of course is the author of Animals Make Us Human and Animals in Translation and professor of animal science at Colorado State University. She is known for interpreting how the world looks to animals because of the alt perspective from her autism and considered the Ralph Nader of the packing house.

Still, no one in the ag community wanted to hear Grandin's opinion, given in an interview in the August 10 agribusiness weekly Feedstuffs, that the PR problem is them.

Your operations need to be clean enough to show "to your wedding guests" Grandin says. You have done a "lousy, lousy, lousy job" at fixing the "bad stuff" and making sure the public knows it, she told industry executives.

Hog producers need to address the "growth promotants" and "leg conformation" problems which cause the immobility that has led to forklift euthanasia.

The industry's most "uncaring producers"-you know who you are-need to vacate their seats on "committees that establish welfare guidelines"-yesterday.

And all of you need to start streaming videos from hen and hog houses, said Grandin to show the public what really goes on.

Like our critics who've caused us all the trouble, many gulped? Yes.

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist and cartoonist, who writes about public health

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