Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Backyard Chickens: Beware of Activist Groups

*Please note: This is a re-post from March 2009.

There is so much going on right now.Governor Granholm has proposed cutting Michigan State Extension funding (never mind that Agriculture was the only bright spot in the state's economy last year). Obama going after direct payments that were already debated on and passed in last fall's Farm Bill. Prices, too much rain to fertilize, and to top it all off we are right in the heart of Maple Syrup Season.So it took a bit of thinking about what I should blog about today. My choice was easy after one little incident yesterday.My aunt raises chickens in her backyard and is a fan of a radio show called "The Chicken Whisperer". The goal is to teach listeners how, even in urban areas, to raise Backyard Chickens. I researched the website yesterday and after going through a few different links I came across some information about how much better Backyard Chickens are than "Factory Farm" chickens. Then I found a link to Farm Sanctuary. This activist group along with the Humane Society of the United States(, PETA, and many anti-agriculture groups all promote Veganism. The mission of these groups is a clear one: abolish all animal agriculture in the United States. They don't care if it comes from the backyard or a factory. So, I took it upon myself to let the website manager know my concerns. Here is my email to him:
Hello.My aunt is a fan of the Chicken Whisperer. I consider myself an ambassador for Agriculture and love that the Chicken Whisperer is encouraging others to participate in food production.I was surprised and a little discouraged when researching your site and was linked to Farm Sanctuary (through the Battery Hens link). The agenda of this group is clear. They promote and encourage Veganism. Supporting efforts of this and other anti-agriculture activists groups will not only put and end to "Factory Farms" but eventually the entire animal agriculture industry (including Backyard Chickens). The time has come for ALL farms- big and small -to come together and promote animal agriculture in the United States.I support and encourage your efforts to help others take an active role in agriculture.
I really believe that it is great that some farmers (Organic, Natural, etc..) can benefit from niche marketing. My fear is that in doing this "my product is better than yours" marketing that we (animal agriculture and consumers) will all suffer the consequences. This Backyard Chicken movement is really exciting. Getting city people involved in agriculture is great. But the message that they are sending is wrong.Lets say that one of their customers is in a state that has an initiative on their ballot in 2010 to vote on the size of chicken cages. They will most likely vote to give the chickens more space. This sounds very reasonable. The problem with this legislation is that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and other activist groups are behind it. Their deceptive lobbying will have an effect on generations to follow. One ballot proposal at a time, they will eliminate "Factory Farming" (SwissLane Dairy included) and won't stop until we aren't even allowed to have PETS!!! No. I am not exaggerating. Check out the PETA link below.
Hopefully, you have already checked out the Farm and Dairy link above. You are probably thinking that this legislation is about chickens, pigs, and veal and has nothing to do with my dairy farm. What is happening when this kind of legislation is passed is it is giving more power to the activist groups. They passed the battery cage and gestation crate proposal (Prop. 2) in California in November. On a commercial to promote Prop 2 it shows a cartoon of a baby calf being torn away from the mother and locked in a hutch. The HSUS is already seeking to pass regulation against tail-docking (which most California producers have already fazed out).
Lets all make sure that we can see the forest for the trees when it comes time to vote.


  1. I agree that all farmers need to stick together and try not to put each other down. But when it comes to factory chicken farms (where chickens are raised in batteries and never see daylight or scratch grass) versus "backyard" chicken farms (where they're allowed to run free around the property scratching up whatever their hearts desire), I think there really IS a big difference in product quality. Consumers have a right to know how the animals they're eating were treated. I don't think the average American really wants to do away with all animal agriculture the way PETA does, but I also think that that average Joe and Jane IS interested in buying from farms who they know treat their animals humanely. The definition of humane is different for different people.

  2. Hi Zev! Thanks so much for your comments! The great part about this is that American Agriculture is so amazing that we can actually provide not just food- but actually give our consumers a choice as to how their food is raised! It is just mind bloggling to me!! (and exciting too!)
    The problem is that while we (farmers) are arguing over "factory" and "free range" these groups are soliciting millions of dollars to further their vegan-agenda and pad their pockets instead of actually trying to help and encourage farmers to improve agriculture.