Commentary: Stand Against Activist Organizations

Stand Against Activist Organizations

By Peter Orwick

Three of the top issues confronting the sheep business today have a common source:  each is promoted by an activist organization opposed to the production of sheep. These extreme activists groups clearly state they want to stop sheep feeding on federal land or oppose sheep for feeding Americans. 

Western Watersheds Project (WWP) is behind the U.S. Forest Service’s framework for bighorn sheep, and in fact we have memorandums from Forest Service officials stating the framework was done with WWP to avoid additional litigation. The framework will decide the fate of many sheep ranching families in Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Nevada.  

WWP is also taking credit for another U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) proposal that would shut down the only dedicated sheep research unit in the Department. The U.S. Sheep Experiment Station is the only facility among the billion dollar research department that has to do environmental assessments. This is due to constant litigation by WWP that raises costs of operating the station. The amount of harassment of research officials also makes it easier to walk away from the sheep producers. Agriculture officials stated publicly it was lack of funding. However, Congress appropriates the billion plus to the agency every year.
 
It is also telling that officials wouldn’t even switch the station to cattle and keep jobs in that station, likely again because the activists would sue over livestock regardless of species. 

ASI leaders and state sheep associations are all over both of these issues and working to find resolution that considers sheep producers needs and treats them fairly. Neither USDA proposal is acceptable.  

Another activist-driven issue was the video sponsored by PETA. It is a sad and biased effort by extremists that want to end all raising of animals. Both organizations have absolutely no thought whatsoever about the impact on sheep producing families, nor the businesses and communities they support. 

There is no reasoning with these groups, no answer acceptable for their ultimatum. 

Business-wise, the lesson of this animal rights organization is that everyone must be diligent about who is around your animals, who is working on our operation and keeping a watchful eye on all workers.
 
I can relay that your national office and the state associations directly involved were active and prepared to work with the producers, wool industry and the media.   

Politically, it is unfortunate the extremists can sway government decisions. It is terrible public policy to allow extremist views decide government regulations and proposals, as appears to be the case with sheep grazing. 
That said, we encourage everyone in the sheep industry to offer a “thanks” to the 37 members of Congress who signed a pro-sheep industry letter to the USDA and the DOI regarding the bighorn sheep issue.

At a time when we are under constant attack, it’s nice to know we have their support on these critical issues. 
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