by Kayla Sargent
“I was raised in a time when ag was king and ag was revered. I was raised to praise the farmers and ranchers who provided my food.”
Even growing up in California, Mindy Patterson, founder of the Cavalry Group, said her family always supported agriculture. But times have changed and she is noticing a strong force against the industry that feeds the world.
“Agriculture is the backbone of our nation but today those who raise and work with animals are in a fight for our very existence. The more pressure that is placed on our farmers, the more we have to rely on foreign food. We are blessed to live here. We have an abundance of safe, affordable food but you guys are getting thrown under the bus,” Patterson boldy told a Billings, Montana audience.
There’s a distinct difference in animal rights and animal welfare. The keen difference, and one the public needs to be taught, is that animal “welfare” puts the animal’s health and wellbeing first while animal “rights” is merely a political agenda, Patterson explained. Extremists like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its many affiliates claim to be the experts on animal “rights”. Livestock producers are the real experts on animal “welfare”.
“Animal rights are an ideology based on emotion, not science,” Patterson said while speaking at a Montana AgriWomen public education event. “It is a political agenda and it’s eroding cultural views of those who raise and use animals.”
She said animal rights advocates believe animals are equal to humans. Organizations that push animal rights, including HSUS, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals, and Animal Welfare Institute, have an agenda to eliminate all animals from human care and use.
To further illustrate the Cavalry Group’s slogan that “just because these radical groups claim to ‘care’ about animals does not mean they know about animal care,” Patterson pointed to the fact that animal rights organizations have created a $400 billion global industry. Yet, of HSUS’ annual $180 million, less than one percent goes to shelters, she said.
“They’re all about raising money,” Patterson said. “They are doing everything in their power to destroy you, and ultimately our country.”
Patterson explained that animal rights extremists have a three step agenda to eliminate animal use and ownership across the nation. By raising the cost of animal byproducts and reducing total production, the groups can weaken the economic structure of animal agribusinesses.
These groups are attempting to do so through legislation on multiple levels. Ballot initiatives are often introduced in the 24 states that allow them, lobby groups are carrying forward legislation on both state and national levels at a high rate, and local ordinances are being used to expand their rules.
Ballot Initiatives and the Founding of Cavalry Group…
In sharing examples of ballot initiatives, Patterson demonstrated how animal rights activists work in incremental stages to achieve a larger goal. For example, California’s Proposition 2, passed in 2008, initially called for larger cages for egg-laying hens, larger gestation pens for sows, and larger crates for veal calves.
The initiative passed on the ballot by 63 percent of the vote after HSUS spent $10.5 million on campaign ads, Patterson said. She said uneducated voters read the initiative summary in the voting booth and thought ‘I sure don’t want cruelty in farm animals’, so they vote yes. Eighteen months later an amendment to Prop 2 made it mandatory that all egg producers in California and those importing eggs into the state follow the new cage standards.
“Ten years later in 2018, they came back again and this time it wasn’t about bigger cages. Remember we talked about incrementalism? It was about empty cages,” Patterson said. “They set a precedent and they knew California was the stage to pass this.”
Proposition 12 declares that all eggs sold in the state of California must come from cage-free hens by 2022. The law also bans the sale of pork and veal from animals raised in crates that don’t meet the new size standards.
“This is crazy. Why are we listening to people who don’t eat meat?” Patterson questioned. “They have a vegan agenda. They throw all this emotion out there and they lie.”
During the same time period Proposition B, or the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, was introduced in Patterson’s new home state of Missouri. Language in the initiative was particularly concerning to her because it defined pets as “any domesticated animal living near or around the house.”
“I thought, ‘wow, they’re coming after agriculture’,” she said.
Seeing the potential for incremental expansion of law through the new initiative, Patterson, along with her husband, started a grassroots campaign to fight its passage. HSUS and affiliates raised $4.85 million campaigning for the passage of Proposition B. Patterson and her team raised $500,000 and they only lost by a mere two percent of the votes. But the animal rights groups campaigned with emotional images “that tug at the heart strings,” she said.
Patterson then witnessed law-abiding, honest, and licensed dog breeders become wrongfully threatened. Patterson said many family dog breeders came to her saying, ‘if this goes through, we’re done.’
“That’s our emotional picture,” she said.
This is when the Cavalry Group got its start. Now, nine years later, the Cavalry Group is a national organization that works to “protect and advance the Constitutional and private property rights of law abiding animal owners, animal-related businesses, sportsmen, and agricultural concerns legally, legislatively, and culturally.”
State, Federal and Local Battles…
Although the Cavalry group is monitoring numerous animal rights’ bills that have been introduced in the 116th Congress, Patterson said there are currently 12 that they are lobbying against. These specific bills would negatively impact the horse, agriculture, captive wildlife, and agricultural research. She said the pattern continues on the state level as well.
“They are chipping away incrementally to potentially destroy rodeos, the cattle industry… It’s coming and this is how they set the stage.” She shared an example of a law that put elephant owners out of business in California by outlawing bullhooks which directly resemble cattle show sticks. “They are coming after the exhibition of cattle or any livestock for that matter. They’re already banning the exhibition of exotic animals. Right now they are exempting farm livestock, but you know it’s coming and these bills can be easily amended once they’re passed.”
Local ordinances are another tool animal rights groups are implementing and she said these often only lead to more rules. For example, not allowing the use of “tethers” in certain neighborhoods could easily be amended and applied to dog leashes or horse halters. She shared an example of the country of Mexico banning circuses and replacing them with fake elephants.
“Are we going to have fake meat, fake animals, fake circuses, fake dogs? Is that what’s happening here? Are we going to let this happen?” she challenged the crowd.
You Are the Expert on Animal Welfare… Stand Up.
While the Cavalry Group spends countless hours lobbying against detrimental legislation, they have also worked to proactively address the issue via the Working Animal Protection Act that has been introduced in eight states. The act would prohibit the outright ban on any legal animal enterprise utilizing working animals in ranching, service, entertainment, transportation, exhibition and education. It was introduced in the Montana legislature this year but did not pass.
Patterson said Cavalry Group membership is a good tool as well. Beyond legislative representation, she said the biggest benefit of membership is access to legal representation and protection from illegal searches and seizures of your farm, animals, or property.
“We have successfully stopped unwarranted searches and seizures,” she said.
Individually, it is important to be educated, aware, and vocal about animal rights issues that may affect animal ownership or agriculture production. She said people need to “keep an eye on legislation and get to know all your representatives.” Another key tool is being involved in education for young people.
“Ground zero for a lot these problems is the young people. Get to know your school and know what they are teaching your children,” Patterson said. “Support the vo-ag program. Kids need to know where their food comes from.”
The most important step for defending animal agriculture is “making sure you get the truth out.” Livestock producers need to be a part of the conversation as often as possible. This can be done through op-ed submissions to local and state news outlets, talking with the public when the opportunity arises and even commenting on social media posts that need clarification from the livestock industry.
“We must take back that conversation. You are the expert on animal welfare,” she said adamantly.
For current legislative progress, bill tracking, and educational materials visit thecavalrygroup.com.
Patterson also suggested the following list of websites for more news and promotional materials including pamphlets, press releases, social media graphics, videos and more:
- Animal Ag Alliance.org