Dire results possible from welfare resolution

A recent resolution passed at the annual general meeting of the Calgary Co-op

A recent resolution passed at the annual general meeting of the Calgary Co-op, one of the largest retail co-ops in North America, showed city consumer naiveté once again.

The resolution stated that the co-op should begin to phase-out its selling pork that was produced with the use of sows in gestation stalls and eggs that were produced by hens in confined cages.

Voting members present were told of the alleged atrocious living conditions and alleged cruelty that these animals were subject to and that it was their moral duty to do something to stop these inhumane practices.

As is usually the case in these situations, gullible consumers want to believe the worse and want to show their outrage. The outcome was predictable and the resolution passed easily, even though it was unlikely that a single voter at the meeting had ever set foot in a commercial hog or egg farm.

These actions almost never happen by accident and are rarely carried out by altruistic citizens on their accord. Animal rights and green groups have strategized a long time ago that there are different and inventive ways to pursue their goals. The most effective trick has always been to dupe the innocent consumer. In this case alleged animal cruelty (real or imagined) was a surefire catalyst to getting the resolution passed. One ponders if the movers of the resolution were connected to a group like PETA and were part of the strategy.

Interestingly, co-op management responded in a very cautious manner. They noted that they already offer organic and free-range meat and egg products and that consumers have a choice. They also pointed out that such life-style products are more expensive and that it may drive-away their members on modest incomes, like senior citizens, if those were to be the only choices. That’s, of course, the real agenda for lobby groups — that being if meat products become too expensive, then consumers will stop buying them and food animal production will cease.

The pork and egg industry response was both subdued and masterful. They have learned from experience that you can’t win in this situation by telling the real story — especially after the fact. The reality is the first negative impression is the one that sticks. To derail any argument both commodity groups cited actions that, over time, would see gestation stalls eliminated and more humane cage systems being installed.

There really is no point in trying to rationalize the nuances of actual livestock production to city folks, they don’t or won’t understand. They have already humanized the raising of farm animals and that’s how they judge animal husbandry.

Unfortunately, the production consequences of these contrived causes are real. Hog production in Alberta is already under tremendous stress and they cannot afford any more costs that do not see an immediate return.

It’s different for egg production. Under supply management, they can just pass on the cost to consumers, although that may affect consumption.

One only needs to see what is happening in Europe, where onerous animal welfare and environmental regulations are reducing food production across the board.

Their response has been to import more food from non-EU countries.

As yet, the EU, except for GM commodities, has not been able to impose its restrictive regulations on other countries. That may yet come, but it could result in food shortages or very expensive food in Europe. It’s always worth watching what is happening in Europe — being it will probably happen here in about five to 10 years.

The reality is that public interference in restricting animal husbandry practices is growing rapidly. Big commodity buyers like McDonald’s and other fast food operations started making animal welfare demands years ago.

Luckily, they have an extended timeline as part of the changeover process, and they also seem to understand the cost involved. They also work at involving the producer in this situation. Lobby groups don’t like producer participation, as their real goal is to put them out of business.

Besides, producers tend to bring a common-sense reality to the issue — that’s always a threat to lobby-group propaganda.

The question always is what’s next. How many city consumer whims and political correctness campaigns by lobby groups can commercial food production stand?

I expect as long as food remains cheap and available, you can expect more such resolutions.

— AHEAD OF THE HEARD

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