Thursday, February 25, 2010

Most of our work is about giving communications advice to non-profit advocacy groups.  Some of that disappears into the bowels of organizations never to be seen again.  So it is satisfying to catch it when it actually emerges out into the world.  Our work on the "ripple effect" that the arts have has been getting a good deal of circulation.

Last year we did research for the Union of Concerned Scientists to help with their efforts to move the US away from its reliance on factory farms.  (Actually, one of our recommendations was to not use the term "factory farms" at all, but instead to use the technical term, CAFO.)  A letter to the editor in today's New York Times is a perfect encapsulation of the kind of message that we helped them craft -- to reach the audience that they need to persuade.

The letter was in response to an appalling editorial about how we should deal with the cruelty of CAFO's by engineering animals that feel less pain.

To the Editor:
Given that our current system for producing meat inflicts pain on animals, the sensible response is to change the system, not the animals.  Adapting food animals to an admittedly cruel system is a poor use of advanced scientific knowledge, especially since we are not “stuck” with the confined animal feed operations, or CAFOs, that dominate our current system.  Smart pasture operations raise cows on pasture, which is what they are built to eat. The same pasture operations that make for contented cows also protect air and water quality, sequester heat-trapping carbon and don’t undercut the efficacy of valuable human antibiotics. Eventually the price differential between CAFO and grass-fed cows will decrease as pasture-intensive operations scale up.  Instead of engineering animals to adapt to pain, we should focus on moving now toward food production systems that are good for people, food animals and the environment.

Mardi Mellon
Director, Food and Environment Program,
Union of Concerned Scientists
Washington, Feb. 19, 2010