Centennial, Colo. — Over the past few weeks, I have seen news articles and social media posts lying about our industry, attacking our association, and endangering the programs that generations of farmers and ranchers worked hard to establish—and I am fed up.
This week, a group of animal rights activists and those who do their bidding sent a letter to Congress in support of the deceptively named “Opportunities for Fairness in Farming” or OFF Act. Well let’s call it what it really is: the Obliterating Family Farms Act. The bill is nothing but an attack on cattle producers who have worked hard to build a program that promotes our wholesome American beef while also strengthening our family farms and ranches.
The unholy alliance that supported this letter is stunning: Animals Are Sentient Beings, Inc., a group that says because of animals’ feelings we should no longer eat meat; Attorneys for Animals, a law firm that sues to treat animals as individuals; Four Paws, a group trying to end livestock hauling in Europe; Mercy for Animals, whose mission is ending “the exploitation of animals for food.” Also included are groups that claim to support producers but have turned their backs on our industry by hiring animal rights activists like former Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) staffers Joe Maxwell and Angela Huffman. R-CALF has even joined this dubious group, hoping again to use an alliance with animal rights activists to tear down the Checkoff. How can anyone who raises livestock or eats meat put their name on the same letter as groups that dream about seeing our farms and ranches shut down for good?
At the same time, we have seen animal rights activists infiltrating conservative organizations like FreedomWorks. The new Chief Operating Officer of FreedomWorks is Marty Irby and before he took up his latest post, he worked for the disgraced leader of the Human Society of the United States, the animal rights activist group Animal Wellness Action, and the Center for a Humane Economy. Irby is no friend of animal agriculture, and he has turned FreedomWorks into a lobbying machine for the OFF Act and for ending our way of life.
Proponents of the OFF Act say it’s about reform, oversight and saving family farms and ranches, but make no mistake, that’s completely false. One part of the OFF Act being about reform and oversight that really irritates me is that we’ve already been down this road. In 2021, cattle producers overwhelmingly denied a referendum to end the Checkoff, and the legality and implementation of this vital program has been upheld by multiple courts. The agenda behind passing the OFF Act is about undermining the producers who direct the Beef Checkoff program, stopping critical research, education and promotion, and anti-meat animal rights activists using government regulation to kill our industry with a thousand cuts.
I want all cattle producers to know about this latest attempt at extremists trying to hijack our industry and livelihoods. Don’t align yourself with groups that say they have your future in mind but back politicians and activists who think our way of life is morally wrong.
We need to reject the activist groups pushing for the OFF Act and I hope you give your member of Congress an earful about why they should say no to activists and say NO to the OFF Act.
Todd Wilkinson is a cattle producer from South Dakota and the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association.
— Todd Wilkinson, NCBA President