Expert Voices

Butter-Cow Prank Does Nothing to Help the Cause of Animals (Op-Ed)

A cow in a field
Is this cow standing up because of an upcoming rain storm? (Image credit: Keith Weller)

Wayne Pacelle is the president and chief executive officer of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). This Op-Ed first appeared on the blog A Humane Nation, where it ran before appearing in LiveScience's Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

If you care about farm animals in Iowa, there is unfortunately no shortage of high-profile, high-impact matters that would benefit from citizen activism there.

For example, with Congress in recess and lawmakers back home in their districts, The HSUS is working to defeat the amendment from Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) to nullify important state laws — statutes that impose conditions or standards on the agriculture industry to protect animals, workers, public health and the environment. There is great value in organizing folks in King's district to defend Iowa's laws and remind King that his constituents don't support the amendment's attack on states' rights.

The HSUS has also been fighting the opening of a horse slaughter plant in Sigourney, Iowa, and we need people in the state to speak up and remind lawmakers and other decision-makers that the people of Iowa don't approve of the killing of horses for human consumption; fortunately, we learned last week that the plant owners decided to rescind their request to USDA for a grant of inspection, meaning that the immediate threat in Iowa of the plant opening is resolved.

There's also the fight over banning barren battery cages and supporting the national effort to give laying hens more space. And there's The HSUS effort to phase out gestation crates, and to amplify the views of animal advocates, rural residents and others who don't like systemic mistreatment of animals.

I could go on.

And yet, rather than take constructive and legitimate action on these enormously consequential matters — with millions of animals' lives or the quality of their lives hanging in the balance — some fool (who claims to be an animal advocate) defaced the Butter Cow at the Iowa State Fair. The fair is a cultural event that attracts hundreds of thousands of visitors and is attended by leading politicians in the state, the press and so many rank-and-file citizens. Apparently, this act was orchestrated in a clandestine way in order to demonstrate some opposition to factory farming, or perhaps to all of animal agriculture.

Can you think of any action more inane and counterproductive?

I guess this individual could have been more stupid by committing a crime that involved more than mere vandalism. But we don't want to give much, if any, credit to the person who did this.

The take-away: when the animal-rights movement is trying to conduct a serious discussion about issues, and seeking to drive major reform, we do not need tactical approaches that come out of the playbook of a fraternity.

We condemn the illegal conduct, and we hope that the good people of Iowa know that The HSUS and other serious-minded animal welfare groups think this person is as dumb as you do.

Pacelle's most recent Op-Ed was Porcupine Quills to Mange, Rural Pets Rely on Free Vet Clinics. This article was adapted from A Brain That Might As Well Be Made of Butter, which first appeared as on the HSUS blog A Humane Nation. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This article was originally published on LiveScience.