I keynoted the Humane Society of the US Faith and Farming Summit in Washington D.C. Tuesday evening and had several interesting conversations.
The one that I've really thought most about since the event is the exchange about our newly retired Congressman Bob Goodlatte. He's been replaced by a protege, Ben Cline. Both of these men have been to our farm and have helped us with bureaucratic and regulatory issues.
Of course, to the HSUS folks, Goodlatte was a pariah, in the pocket of big-ag and an industry lover who didn't want anything to do with animal welfare. I get that. But the interesting thing is that these more conservative folks are the ones who come to bat most helpfully in dealing with over-regulation and the tyranny of bureaucracy.
Therein lies the conundrum. I realized quickly in this conversation Tuesday night that the animal welfare community does not connect the dots between freedom to market and animal welfare. If one of the best things we can do for animal welfare is to reduce factory industrial farming, then the best thing we can do is open up the market opportunities for neighbor-to-neighbor food transactions.
Unfortunately, just like environmentalism, the folks most willing to create protective regulations toward animals (and the environment) have great faith in the goodness of bigger government. They see markets generally and business specifically as inherently anti-truth that must be reined in by bureaucracy, which tends to be purer. In my experience, this is not true. In fact, in my experience, the big industry colludes with regulators to carve concessions for themselves and punitive prejudicial non-scalable requirements for smaller outfits. This is simply the nature of the beast.
If animal welfare groups as powerful as HSUS would realize that the best thing they could do for their cause is to promote freer direct producer-consumer food commerce, it would break the back of the entrenched industrial factory farming model by default. If people could get our feed easier and cheaper, they would; in droves. The market for the industrial counterpart would simply dry up.
Because the animal welfare community cannot envision a world where liberty would accomplish their goals, they promote additional government regulations. The result is that the politicians I consider more friendly to democratized and decentralized smaller agriculture are the ones the animal welfare community considers their biggest rivals. The animal welfare friendlies are also the ones that promote bigger government, more marketplace intrusion, more agencies, more paperwork, higher taxes, and actually stifle the most efficacious antidote to animal abuse: smaller farms and transparent food transactions.
This is why I hate politics and why I have to get dragged into any political wrangling kicking and screaming. It is a swamp. In fact, it's a septic tank. All I want is to be left alone to serve my patrons with great stuff grown with integrity, including honoring the pigness of pigs. That climate cannot thrive when we promote a climate of more government intrusion, no matter how sincere.
What if HSUS focused all its attention on direct producer-consumer food commerce and all its members on patronizing ethical local farmers? What do you think would happen?