New York Times on the Ranchers and Farmers Alliance

The New York Times published a story today that is perhaps the year’s most essential piece of reading for serious animal advocates.

It was bound to happen: sooner or later America’s factory farmers would get tired of suffering humiliating defeats and exposés, and would go on the offensive. So now we have the U.S. Ranchers and Farmers Alliance, and what’s most worrisome about this group is how it will be funded. The USDA will be collecting $11 million worth a year of “mandatory marketing fees” from the big players in agribusiness, and sending it to the Alliance. The biggest companies in agribusiness will annually be chipping in half a million dollars apiece. As an aside, if you ever want to discern the USDA’s true interests, the fact that they’re the ones collecting money to go after the food movement should tell you everything you need to know.

I have a bad, bad feeling about this. Until now, the animal advocacy movement’s opposition was largely a bunch of poorly organized and relatively underfunded misfits like the Animal Agriculture Alliance and Rick Berman’s various shell companies. But now it feels like the third stringers have been sent off the field, and the starting squad is ready to start playing. Or, to put it another way: in terms of talent, funds, and strategic thinking what the Humane Society is to PETA, the Alliance will likely be to the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Interestingly, disingenuously, and smartly, the Alliance is casting themselves as the underdogs, shunning the “Big Ag” label and saying they’re “small potatoes” compared to the Eric Schlossers and Michael Pollans of the food world.

That’s total bullshit. The Alliance has the money to make a few key hires, and to bring people on board who have the ability to understand our tactics and strengths, and to systematically think through our movement’s many vulnerabilities. Until now, the animal protection and food politics movements have been perceived as little more than an annoyance to Big Ag, and nobody with any genuine talent has been slotted against us.

It would be counterproductive for me to speculate on what exactly the Alliance is going to do, but I know there’s all sorts of low hanging fruit they can go after, and all sorts of vulnerabilities within our movement that have so far gone unexploited. The game’s going to change, but it’s too early to tell exactly how. All I know for sure is that our days of easy wins over inept opposition are coming to an end, and at some point soon we’ll be forced to devote some of our precious energies to playing defense.

With all that said, I still have enormous hope. The momentum is on our side and our numbers are growing rapidly. Animal agribusiness is having to defend itself in a growing number of ways, and new tactics against factory farming are certain to emerge as we enter into the next stage of this struggle. (Thanks, Carrie.) Link.

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