An animal rights group whose mission is to end the use of animals for human food has planned a protest Sunday at the Cargill Meat Solutions slaughterhouse in Milwaukee.
The Farm Animal Rights Movement says it will be a peaceful demonstration that’s coordinated with hundreds of similar events to observe World Day for Farmed Animals.
But an email sent to the Journal Sentinel by a public relations firm used by the group sounded a bit more menacing.
“Here’s something that should strike fear into the heart of farmers everywhere: Beginning this weekend, animal rights activists will participate in a coordinated, targeted series of demonstrations at slaughterhouses and other agribiz facilities around the world,” the email said.
Animal rights groups have targeted Wisconsin in the past, and some have taken actions such as vandalizing mink farms and releasing those animals into the wild.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau Federation, the state’s largest farm group, has butted heads with the Humane Society of the United States and has said that organization is more radical in its animal rights agenda than most people realize.
Farm Animal Rights Movement, based in Bethesda, Md., says it has a “pragmatic abolitionist” approach to promoting veganism, which advocates a diet without any animal products including milk and eggs.
The group strongly objects to the slaughter of animals for food.
“We believe that all animals are equal, and there’s no ethical difference between eating a chicken or a pig and a dog or a cat,” said Michael Webermann, the group’s executive director.
It also doesn’t endorse the consumption of eggs, even from cage-free hens, because it perpetuates the use of animals for food.
“We especially feel that, in a modern society, anyone who has access to a grocery store and a refrigerator doesn’t have a biological need for animal products. It’s an act of pleasure to eat animals rather than a necessity,” Webermann said.
No threat to farmers
The group says no threat to farmers was implied in the email.
“But animal agriculture groups have reason to fear because the number of animals killed for food has been dropping almost every year for the past 10 years. We are seeing a decrease in the amount of meat being eaten per person. I think there are a handful of big players in the industry who should be worried that what they’re doing is going out of vogue and is not going to last much longer,” Webermann said.
A local animal rights group is running the Cargill plant protest for the Farm Animal Rights Movement.
The local group doesn’t plan to block the plant’s entrances or do anything else disruptive, said Ryan Olson, protest coordinator.
The group will try to get the attention of motorists passing the plant on 1915 W. Canal St.
“Instead of doing something like trying to shut down the slaughterhouse, we are just trying to get people to lessen or eliminate their meat, dairy and egg consumption,” Olson said.
Cargill says its slaughter facilities have been designed by cattle expert Temple Grandin, from Colorado State University, to minimize the stress and suffering of animals before they’re killed.
Grandin struggled growing up with autism and says the condition helped her create more humane ways to slaughter livestock. Her designs are used in facilities worldwide.
“It’s our belief that animals raised for food need to live a dignified life, and they need to be harvested in dignity as well,” said Cargill spokesman Mike Martin.
Protesting at noon
The protest will be from noon to about 1:30 p.m.
“We try to tailor our events to the community, and we know that Wisconsin and Milwaukee are not the rowdiest of the U.S. cities, so we don’t want to overdo it,” Webermann said.
But if vegans had their way, there wouldn’t be any farm animals or the hundreds of products made from them, said Emily Metz Meredith, communications director for the Animal Agriculture Alliance, an organization that represents farmers, ranchers and other livestock-industry interests.
“A lot of people don’t know that animals provide countless other products (besides meat) that we would have to find alternatives for, including materials used to make tires on airplanes, shoes, clothes and crayons,” Meredith said.
“If the vegan dream was realized, all these animals could run free. There would be cows all over the road and chickens running loose everywhere,” she added.
Land for feed, grazing
A lot of land is only suitable for growing animal feed or grazing animals.
Modern farming practices allow 2% of the world’s population to feed the rest of the world, according to the Animal Agriculture Alliance.
“Well-cared-for, healthy livestock and poultry is the key to this efficiency, resulting in the highest quality and most affordable food in the history of the world,” the group says.