The donkey in our barn needed its hooves trimmed, but I had no experience in the realm of jackass foot care. I was completely unsure how to proceed until my friend Chad came over and said that he would be trimming the hooves of his (and his in-laws) donkeys the following day. He said if I helped him trim his donkey hooves, he would be glad to help me. How fortunate.
The next morning I found myself chest deep in a pasture of nettles and poison ivy trying to round up donkeys that were not too interested in being rounded up. In our system, Chad (who is a much more experienced donkey farrier than I) did the trimming and I was charged with wrestling and holding the surly beasts of burden that were quite dismayed about the entire situation. In the process, I was kicked, bitten and stepped on.
I complained enough about my various injuries from the experience that my wife was not sure who the real donkey was in the barn when we finally got to the hooves of our donkey (see my blog at www.ocj.com for a photo). It seemed that I got the worst end of this donkey-laden deal.
There were many in agriculture last month that felt that they too were on the receiving end of donkey-kick-bad-deal after the sudden announcement of the agreement with the Humane Society of the United States. Farm folks were fired up for the coming battle and a complete victory this fall for Ohio agriculture that would send a defeated HSUS back home.
Well, that didn’t quite happen and that generated great dismay with the agricultural leaders who made the decision about the agreement. The frustration is understandable, but Ohio agriculture needs to take a close look at the benefits of this deal.
First, early polling numbers were not looking so great for agriculture. If Ohio ag did everything right (including spending $15 million that had not been raised yet), and HSUS missed a couple of steps, the chances were looking like about 50-50. Are you willing to gamble $15 million, countless man-hours and the future of animal agriculture with those odds?
Voters tend to favor the strongest measure for animal care. Last fall, that was Issue 2 and it passed. This fall, we all know what voters would have seen as the strongest measure for animal care if HSUS had moved forward with their plan.
The deal also prevented the brutal visual assault on Ohio voters that would have taken place in the coming months featuring every horrifying image of animal abuse that our opponents could conjure up. Even with a win this fall at the polls, Ohio agriculture would have a long (and expensive) road ahead to counteract the resulting public relations nightmare.
What we got instead was a gentleman’s agreement and a list of recommendations that Ohio’s agricultural leaders felt that the livestock industry in the state could live with. If agriculture holds up its end, HSUS will leave Ohio voters alone (at least for awhile).
If agriculture fails to implement the recommendations of the deal, Ohio simply bought some time to raise money, prepare for the battle ahead and let the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board prove itself. In addition, it lets the Proposition 2 show its true colors as it wrecks havoc in California, giving more ammunition to an anti-HSUS argument. It is also worth noting that HSUS typically waits for major elections, which means, at the very least, Ohio bought multiple years.
This deal with the devil is certainly unsettling in principle and frustrating for those in Ohio agriculture who were ready for a fight. It is tempting to write off those who made the decision, but now is not the time for a divided agriculture.
There is no doubt that Ohio agriculture took some licks here, but we need to understand what was gained (and prevented) with this deal and make sure we never get confused about which party is the real donkey in the barn.