Putting the Fox in Charge of the Canary

Even after you have accepted the degree to which money has locked down the American political system, and hence its government; after you realize that there are really no more Democrats and Republicans in American politics, just Moneycrats and losers; it can still be astonishing what Money can do.

In Ohio this year, Big Agriculture decided it was threatened by the pesky people from the Humane Society of the United States who have persuaded several states to moderate the brutal treatment of animals in factory farms — such things as confining nursing sows in cages so small they can neither turn around nor even get up. Widely broadcast videos of the misery and brutality that is routinely involved in providing our beef, pork and poultry have aroused the disgust of enough people that the usual chant of “leave us alone our your food prices will go up,” or “leave us alone or we’ll stop creating jobs,” aren’t working so well any more.

But the industrialists have become very adept at applying many shades of greenwash to what they do, and their response to the threat to their profits in Ohio was typically masterful. They organized a ballot initiative to do what the Humane people said they wanted — to establish a board to regulate the practices of Ohio agriculture! It was almost like they had an epiphany, and had changed their ways. There were even going to be representatives of the Humane Society on the board! And of consumers! And so deeply did the state Farm Bureau (which represents Big Agriculture while pretending to care for tiny, family farms) believe in the need to be regulated by this new commissions that it spent half a million dollars (of the many millions spent) to advertise the need for the ballot initiative to pass.

Only those who took a closer look noticed that after you had the representatives of the consumers and the Humane people on the commission, you had two members, with 11 more to represent Big Ag. And then you noticed that they wrote the initiative to make the Commission a creature not of the legislature or the executive but of the state Constitution. This means that this commission would have the power to override or nullify any act of the legislature or any regulation promulgated by a state agency concerning agriculture. And its own edicts would be beyond appeal.

Of course the ballot initiative passed. How much money did you think the Humane Society was going to raise to speak out against the misery of animals? And how were they supposed to get across the even larger point, in 30-second commercials, that the mistreatment of the animals helps to make them ill, requiring the massive application of antibiotics, which creates superbugs such as MRSA, toxic E. coli and salmonella, all of which are sickening and killing us, in increasing numbers.

Recall the classic example of the canary in the coal mine, which the miners took down there to let them know when the air was running out. When the canary’;s eyes crossed, and it dropped to the bottom of its cage, the miners would swing into immediate action. And the point of what they did was not to save the canary. It was to save themselves. It’s one thing to feel empathy for the poor animals suffering in our meat factories. It is quite another to understand that the rising mortal threats are not just to them, but to ourselves.

Ohio voters also approved on Tuesday the introduction of gambling casinos into the state’s four largest cities. But the roll of the dice with the highest stakes was their agreement to put the agri-business foxes in charge of the agri-business chicken coops.

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2 Responses to Putting the Fox in Charge of the Canary

  1. Catherine says:

    You are brilliant. I am thrilled to have found you.

  2. talewis says:

    I am thrilled to have you here. And that you have such obviously good taste.