The war between animal agriculture and the animal rights movement is heating up as momentum builds against horse slaughter, the use of sow gestation crates, keeping hens in crates and other modern livestock practices.
The state bill (HB 1711) to ban horse slaughter for human consumption has passed the Illinois House and is now in Senate committee. A similar horse slaughter ban is being considered by federal lawmakers.
Farm groups are closely watching the equine bills, as producers of pigs, poultry, cows and sheep dig in to defend their livestock practices.
Burger King recently announced it will buy 10% of its pork from suppliers who don't use gestation crates and 2% of its eggs from cage-free chickens.
Sow gestation stalls have been banned in the states of Florida and Arizona, and Smithfield Foods says it plans to phase-out the use of gestation stalls.
With animal ag under attack, we asked a handful on Illinois ag leaders and producers how an equine ban might impact animal agriculture.
Here's what they had to say:
Phil Nelson, Illinois Farm Bureau president
We don't want to throw production agriculture out of the window because a few people want to shut down animal agriculture. I really believe the Humane Society is behind the Smithfield decision. I am a pork producer and remember raising pork outside. I remember the down sows, the beat up sows. That's what they want to take us back to.
We will have more downer animals than in present system. We need to talk about animal behaviors. The old boss sow syndrome is not being talked about in discussions. Granted, some crates give sows more comfort than others. But there's a difference between night and day in the comfort of animals in modern versus traditional systems.
It seems like snowball is going down the hill and gaining momentum. We're afraid it won't stop with just livestock. If the pendulum turns far enough, we'll need N management plans for fertilizer for crops.
Curt Rincker, Shelbyville beef producer and Illinois Beef Association past president
This sets up a dangerous precedent for all of our agriculture industries and particularly for livestock if the same argument can be made to oppose the slaughter of any animal. If emotions can dictate over sound science, then any livestock or grain producer is subject to the legislative consequences resulting from an activist view.
We cannot become complacent by believing that sound science and logic will prevail. Our congressmen react to public sentiment so make sure your voice is heard!
Jim Fraley, Illinois Farm Bureau commodity livestock program manager
We've already seen first-hand accounts of people who have 'turned loose' unwanted horses in the Shawnee Forest. I'm sure we will see more of these types of abandoned animal stories in the future. Simply saying that these horses will be adopted out is looking at the issue through rose-colored glasses. It simply is not viable. People who are several generations removed from farming are pushing for laws and are trying to farm from the city.
Frank Bowman, president of the Horseman's Council of Illinois
Horses are the weakest link in the chain. A ban on horse slaughter will be just the beginning. Next will be attacks on rodeo, horse racing, horse showing and on down the line.
The other side feels passionately about this issue. They make sure their voices are heard. Legislators get 100 anti-slaughter calls for every pro-slaughter call.