Thursday, July 30, 2009

Public Education Is A Messy Process

(Readers should first note that I am not publicly in favor or in opposition to any animal welfare measure. I am only seeking to help consumer preferences for food be translated accurately into markets and policy)

As HSUS ventures into Ohio, seeking to carry with it remnants from their California victory, the same sorts of discussions are emerging. Recently, James Kinder, the chair of the Ohio State University Animal Science department has stated ...

James Kinder, chair of Ohio State University's Department of Animal Sciences, says that the approach taken by the Humane Society of the United States to push for animal welfare legislation in Ohio is not an effective means of change.

"They are looking at it from the wrong perspective," Kinder says. "Improvements in animal welfare have to be done through education instead of regulation. It's changing the attitudes and behaviors of the producers and the animal handlers that, at the end of the day, will have the greatest impact on animal wellbeing in agricultural production."

However, the type of controversy caused by HSUS efforts do in fact motivate education. This is not a statement supporting HSUS measures, buta statement proclaiming that the controversy helps educate. It was the controversy surrounding the California Prop 2 initiative that caused Oprah Winfrey to host a show dedicated to farm animal welfare. Who ever thought Oprah would host a show like that? This show demonstrated to many consumers for the first time what a gestation crate and battery cage look like. Players on both sides of the debate stated that the show was informative and balanced.

Public debate induces consumers to conduct their own research. Without lobbying and political fighting, the topic of farm animal welfare would never even cross the average consumers' mind.