A Problematic Nomination for Secretary of Agriculture

Photo by svklimkin at Morguefile.com

By Risa M. Mandell

Two-term governor of Georgia and a veterinarian by training, Sonny Perdue has been nominated for the position of Secretary of Agriculture.

As Michael Markarian writes for the Humane Society’s Legislative Fund, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture has a major role not only on agricultural policy, but also in the enforcement and implementation of key animal protection laws, including the Animal Welfare Act, which provides oversight for millions of animals at more than 10,000 sites (including puppy mills and other commercial breeding facilities, laboratories, roadside zoos, and circuses); the Horse Protection Act . . . ; the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act; and the federal animal fighting law.”

Although Perdue worked cooperatively with HSUS and HSLS to make dog fighting a felony and banned the use of gas chambers as well as raised awareness of cat and dog population, according to Kari Hamerschlag, a deputy director with Washington-based Friends of the Earth, his nomination may be far from exemplary: “Given Perdue’s position with a global agribusiness trading company and his actions as governor, we are concerned that Perdue will use his position at the USDA to prioritize the profits of big agribusiness and trade over the interests of American farmers, workers and consumers.”

Just as problematic in Perdue’s trajectory is the role of Land Grant Universities such as the University of North Georgia and Fort Valley State University.  As described in the National Academies Press, “The history of land grant colleges of agriculture is intertwined with the history of higher education for U.S. citizens of average means.  The land grant system began in 1862 with a piece of legislation known as the Morrill Act . . . .  This law gave states public lands provided the lands be sold or used for profit and the proceeds used to establish at least one college—hence, land grant colleges—that would teach agriculture and the mechanical arts.”

David Cantor examines the so-called “animal science” courses taught in Land Grant Universities: “Our LGUs call their meat-industry courses ‘animal science.’ But science means knowledge, not industry promotion.  ‘Animal science’ promotes our most destructive industries by teaching slaughter, breeding, fattening, and eating of animals—at horrendous cost to all of us.”

Thus, Sonny Perdue may well view sentient beings as commodities to be used and exploited regardless of the pain and suffering they experience.  This flies in the face of the Humane Party’s ethical and practical values and platform resolutions, such as the following:

  • fostering humane education; and,
  • until the Abolition Amendment has rendered such measures moot, denying public funding and privileged tax status to any institution that engages in vivisection or any other form of killing, exploitation, or abuse of animals . . .
  • end inhumane, scientifically indefensible, and economically unsound exploitation of other species by humans . . .
  • abolish the property status of (“emancipate”) other animals . . .
  • grant legal standing and personhood to all other animals, such that an animal’s liberty can be procured by way of a habeas corpus proceeding and his or her rights can be enforced through a duly authorized legal guardian.

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