I spent my morning writing the above editorial with the honest goal of trying to promote reconciliation within the industry. Then I got the news that R-CALF had teamed up with an avid anti-beef group; it seemingly makes my earlier comments irrelevant, or at least very hard to justify.
Many within the industry who fought so hard and successfully to maintain domestic beef demand in the aftermath of BSE have long resented comments by R-CALF at that time questioning the safety of U.S. beef. I chalked those comments up to being just poorly considered words by those who believed that mandatory COOL and the end of the global beef trade would be advanced via this tactic. I assumed their hope was that beef demand could be rebuilt eventually.
Such comments continued, however, as reported previously in BEEF Cow-Calf Weekly, when R-CALF CEO Bill Bullard trashed the safety of U.S. beef before an audience in Australia. That incident made it obvious to me that the earlier words weren’t a miscalculation but a deeply held conviction.
Then, this week, I learned that R-CALF had joined forces with Food and Water Watch (FWW) to campaign together in support of the proposed GIPSA rules. FWW is another one of those extreme activist groups that many of us in the industry wouldn’t be aware of except for its sponsorship of the animated video called “The Meatrix” and Meatless Monday campaigns.
While FWW seems largely intent on bringing animal agriculture to an end, it is also hostile toward modern ag in general. What makes this group particularly offensive is its history of capitalizing on false science or simply making up things to promote its agenda. FWW is the embodiment of the philosophy that the end justifies the means.
I understand that political fights cost money and that R-CALF has partnered with anti-meat activist and consumer groups in the past to finance its agenda. But such alliances make it even harder for R-CALF to make its case that the proposed GIPSA rules are in the best interest of the industry; after all, three of the measure’s biggest supporters are government bureaucrats, trial lawyers and anti-ag/anti-beef groups.
Politics makes strange bedfellows, one saying goes; another says that when you lay down with dogs, you’re likely to get fleas.
R-CALF contends that its work with anti-beef groups on country-of-origin labeling and BSE is good political strategy. It also contends continued criticism by the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) of these alliances is just an attempt by NCBA to deflect attention from the controversy over the beef checkoff. It’s probably too obvious to point out the irony of that statement.
It is up to producers to make their organizations accountable and keep them focused on the industry’s best interest. The cost of these games to the industry is simply becoming too high to continue to withstand them.