By Annie Andrews email@example.com
It's the final installment of our Big Picture series, How The Humane Society of the United States is Perceived in Nebraska, and it might just be the most politicized.
It was the threat heard around the world -- and it came with a standing ovation from cattlemen. In March, Governor Heineman said to the Humane Society of the United States "we're going to
kick your a** and send you out of the state."
"I can promise you he's not going to come out here and kick my butt," said Kevin Fulton, an HSUS member. We met Kevin Fulton, the former strongman competitor and farmer on Sunday. His comment is obviously literal, but the figure of speech can only be taken one way.
"I am going to continue to fight for our number one industry, for farmers and ranchers. I am adamantly and strongly opposed to the Humane Society of the United States," said Governor Dave Heineman.
But the problem with Heineman's statement is that Fulton is a rancher too. "We're out here promoting humanely raised live stock products, I don't know how anyone can be against that," he said.
If you ask Heineman, it's not the humane part he's against. It's the agenda he says the Humane Society of the United States ultimately has for Nebraska.
"This is an organization that's opposed to agriculture they're anti-agriculture and out to destroy the number one industry in our state," said the Governor.
"Our message to the governor is its time to put aside this type of inflammatory rhetoric and sit down and have a real dialog about animal welfare in the agriculture sector," said Paul Shapiro, the Vice President of HSUS' Farm Animal Protection.
Instead of a backyard brawl or playground scuffle, HSUS members say they want the relationship they're forging with Nebraska Farmers Union. "We may not agree on everything, but we can sit down at the table and figure out what our common goals are and see if we can work together," said Fulton.
That, however, is an offer the Governor rejects in favor of working directly with farmers and ranchers; keeping HSUS out of the mix. "They're an out of state, left leaning organization that has a political agenda," said Heineman. "We don't need their help."
The Governor says that pointing to his record. In 2010, he signed the Livestock Animal Welfare Act into law. It's summarized by AnimalLaw.com like this:
The act makes the intentional abandonment, neglect, or cruel mistreatment of livestock (bovine, equine, swine, sheep, goats, domesticated cervine animals, ratite birds, or poultry) a Class I misdemeanor (Class IV felony for subsequent offenses). Further, the act criminalizes "indecency with a livestock animal," which is a Class III misdemeanor. The act imposes a duty to report suspected criminal activity under the act upon any employee of a governmental agency dealing with livestock animal control or animal abuse; that person is then immune from liability for such reporting. A person who is convicted of a Class IV felony under 54-903 (the abandonment/cruel neglect or mistreatment provision) shall also be ordered by the sentencing court not to possess a livestock animal for at least 5 years after the date of conviction. The act also prohibits the intentional tripping of equines, and the intentional tripping/tail dragging of bovines.
Although it went beyond federal requirements, others argue applicability rules in the act make it hard to prosecute. The act is not applicable to many "commonly followed practices," that loose language, as some argue, leaves room for methods deemed inhumane, such as:
3) Research activity carried on by any research facility currently meeting the standards of the federal Animal Welfare Act, 7 U.S.C. 2131 et seq., as such act existed on January 1, 2010;
(4) Commonly accepted animal welfare practices with respect to livestock animals and commercial livestock operations, including their transport from one location to another and nonnegligent actions taken by personnel or agents of the Department of Agriculture or the United States Department of Agriculture in the performance of duties prescribed by law;
(5) Commonly followed practices occurring in conjunction with the slaughter of animals for food or byproducts;
(6) Commonly accepted animal training practices; and
(7) Commonly accepted practices occurring in conjunction with sanctioned rodeos, animal racing, and pulling contests.
"Farmers and ranchers care about animal welfare," said the Governor, and have made a point to send that message through their actions without HSUS.
But the problem with this whole debate is that ranchers like Fulton are willing to wait on the playground. "Regardless of what he says, we're going to stay and change the face of agriculture, not
only in Nebraska but across the nation," said Fulton.