Editorial: Their True Colors

8/24/2013 7:00 AM
By Dennis Larison Editor

Just when you think animal-rights activists couldn’t stoop any lower, along comes an attack on the butter sculpture at the Iowa State Fair.

Many of these activist groups — such as the Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and Mercy for Animals — make little pretense that their aims go beyond seeking more humane treatment for animals to an overall quest to eliminate animal products from everyone’s diet.

Although some of this activism, perhaps most conspicuous in undercover videos, has led to reforms in the treatment of animals, there is little evidence it will succeed in changing the public’s eating preferences.

Fast-food restaurants competing against each other across intersections all over America provide ample evidence of the public’s continuing appetite for meat.

That must be frustrating for many of these activists and is a possible explanation why some of them appear to overreach in their efforts to discredit animal agriculture.

Just think of the dubious editing done on some of the undercover videos in an effort to dramatize what activists view as abusive treatment of farm animals.

The attack on the butter sculpture fits into that pattern. In this case, the perpetrators belonged to a group calling itself Iowans for Animal Liberation.

According to The Associated Press, members of the “liberation” group hid in the fair’s Agriculture Building until after closing Saturday night, Aug. 10, then broke into a refrigerated room where a cow and other butter sculptures were displayed, pouring red paint over the cow and scrawling “Freedom for all” in red splashes on the room’s display window.

Other than photos that appeared in media reports, the gesture was unseen by the public because fair officials discovered it early enough to repair the damage before the fair reopened the next morning.

But the “animal liberators” got their message out anyway.

“The paint represents the blood of 11 billion animals murdered each year in slaughterhouses, egg farms and dairies,” they said in a statement. “We intend this action to serve as a wake-up call to all who continue to consume meat, dairy, eggs, leather and all animal products: You are directly supporting suffering and misery on the largest scale the world has ever known.”

Fair officials appeared to view the vandalism as a mere inconvenience, electing not to step up security after the incident.

Instead, the fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation, a nonprofit support organization, turned to visitors to help out by becoming volunteer body guards.

Any “liberator” looking to repeat the vandalism would have encountered numerous people wearing T-shirts with an official-looking “serve and protect” emblem that labeled them as “Butter Cow Security.”

All proceeds from sales of the 1,000 or so butter-colored T-shirts will go toward upgrading the fairgrounds.

“You know what?” Robin Taylor, the foundation’s assistant director, told WOI-TV from Des Moines. “We’re going to, in a sense, make lemonade out of lemons and just really show how much people love their Iowa State Fair and the butter cow.”

Such a sane reaction will likely play much better to public sensibilities than the “liberators’ ” vandalism.

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