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May 7, 2007 - Listening to the Ladies

I do listen to my wife because of her wisdom and common sense, but I don’t spend much time listening to ladies in show business when they share their wisdom, or lack of, on world events, including agricultural issues. But, because of their celebrity status, they do get face time in media and people who haven’t really studied the issues take what the ladies say at face value.

Some examples....several years ago, Meryl Streep testified on animal rights issues on Capitol Hill. Members of the Congressional Committee listened intently and then scrambled to have pictures taken with her. More recently, Darryl Hannah discussed renewable fuels in Singapore, stating she drove a vehicle that operated on cooking fat from restaurants, but made sure it was vegetable, not animal. She received world-wide coverage.

And then there is the recent visit of Bo Derek to the State Capitol in Springfield, Illinois to testify in favor of a bill that would ban commercial slaughter of old horses in the state. The background...there were three slaughter houses in the nation, one of them in Illinois, that slaughtered horses for meat for human consumption. Horse meat is not consumed in this country, but it is part of the culture and diet in other countries and these three plants had developed a strong export market in those countries.

I understand the thought of your favorite horse being ultimately slaughtered for meat is repulsive to many of you, but then the question is what happens to those horses when they come to the end of their useful lives as pleasure or working animals. That question came to me recently from a stable owner who pointed out that old dairy cows go to slaughter and ground meat, so why shouldn’t horses become food for those countries that import from us and other countries. He also wondered if it is our responsibility to change the diets of people in other parts of the world because we don‘t like the idea of horse meat on the dinner plate. He said the alternative is to let the horse live in poor health to its end and then what do you do with the body.

Bo Derek’s testimony, of course, was delivered with extreme emotion; followed by photos with the legislators and for some, dinner with the movie star. Those on the other side of the issue did not get that audience or treatment or media coverage; so once again an emotional argument trumped factual economic and scientific testimony. The Illinois House voted 74-41 in favor of the ban; the processing plant is closed, the 55 workers are unemployed and the foreign buyers are going to other countries to buy what we need. Anytime celebrities testify on any issue, the playing field is not level and that’s not fair.

My thoughts on Samuelson Sez.