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Republican farmers: Caught this latest political schizophrenia?

For nearly 60 years The National Review has served as the bible of American conservatism advancing the gospel of limited government, private property, capitalism, individual responsibility, the right to bear arms, lower taxes, a strong national defense, traditional marriage, religious freedom, pro-life and now—pro-animal?

Or so that's what Matthew Scully, the conservative speechwriter for George W. Bush and Sarah Palin would like to see. Scully advances this newly proposed tenet in an approximate 13,000 word harangue titled Pro-Life, Pro-Animal published in National Review Online last October.

In it, Scully equates the abortion industry to large-scale farming, "fetal slaughterhouses" to animal slaughterhouses, abortionist Dr. Gosnell to large animal veterinarians, The Silent Scream documentary to animal rights under-cover farm videos, and, I suppose, following his logic, the National Pork Producers Council, National Cattlemen's Beef Association, National Chicken Council, National Turkey Federation, et al the equivalent of today's Planned Parenthood.

The average Christian who undoubtedly comprises much of the conservative movement might be scandalized to read that knowingly participating in today's food system with its rampant cruelty, according to Scully, makes them a sharer in its sinful misconduct; a co-conspirator either through casual consumption or willful ignorance of the unhappiness packed into every meal. And, if you happen to reside at the crossroads of Christianity and large scale farming, Scully suggests placing a sign in front of your farm, perhaps a tombstone would be appropriate, one that reads; Herein Abides the Culture of Death!

Scully's incendiary language is purposeful, seeking converts to the cause of freeing animals from their enslavement to man and replacing their use with a more merciful diet. This is what I have been warning agriculture about since the summer of 2010 when we conducted the first ever Ethics of Food Animal Production Roundtable, a roundtable Scully himself was repeatedly invited to attend.
The roundtable brought together animal welfarists, ethicists, animal cognition experts, farmers, philosophers, activists, professors and pastors. The five-hour event was videotaped and the discussion was lively. Ever since we have been sharing the results:

The prism of food morality

All food, farming and especially animal production issues need to be viewed through the prism of food morality. If you can't provide an answer as to what you are doing from a moral perspective then prepare to lose your "freedom to operate."

Reclaim the moral farmer

The farmer has always been respected for his hard work and place within the community, not simply because he cultivated the land and produced a yield but because he ultimately knew God's design was to cultivate man's heart. Therefore the farmer not only provided for the nation's prosperity and strength materially but morally. Today that position of being the upright moral farmer is being challenged by those who wish to remake our food system into their own image and likeness.

New training is needed

There are a myriad of training programs designed to prepare farmers for media attention yet none train them to defend modern food production beyond mere economics and science. Aristotle posited there were three parts to an effective argument and without the "ethos" component (character and morality) no amount of training, cliché videos, awareness advertising or grocery giveaways can quell consumer concern.

The mission is to divide

The definition of the word "system" is the group of units so combined as to form a whole and work in unison. To tear down a system you turn one part against another. Activists know this and have begun their decomposition of the food system by turning multiple food-chain stakeholders against the farmer (grocers, chefs, media, restaurateurs, politicians and even other farmers).Therefore, seek to shore up the gap that exists between you and other members of the food chain because if you don't position yourself and your product, activists will.

Beware the double standard

Our society loves cats and dogs. We have doggy day cares, pet frequent flier programs, pet cemeteries, pet parks and we sign oaths swearing to be responsible pet parents when adopting animals. Research shows many consider their pet as much a part of the family as children! Undoubtedly you saw this on display this past holiday season as Christmas cards featuring a family photo included the family pet. In addition, leading animal health companies publish fancifully worded mission statements praising the human-animal bond while simultaneously producing products used in food animal production. So is it a double standard to coddle cats and dogs yet eat pigs, chickens and cows? To those in the animal equalization movement it is.They view all animals as equal including the human animal. Therefore, to summarize the theory, "a rat is a pig, is a dog, is a boy." What is your response?

Shed lingering guilt

Of all the points made above this one is the most troubling. Amidst the ranks of agricultural leaders, food system CEO's, government officials, association representatives, academia and the many other strata that inhabit our food system, there are those who believe agriculture is guilty. Perhaps they're uncomfortable with certain management practices or perhaps they've succumbed to the public relations crescendo activists have successfully built. Either way, agriculture communicators need to remember in their rush to get to the consumer they're catapulting over many audiences within the food industry infrastructure crying out for information whom if properly equipped, would be your base and greatest ally.

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