Matt Dybedahl represents agriculture at South Dakota Humane Society meeting
A few weeks ago, farmers and ranchers who sent an RSVP to attend a local Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) meeting in Sioux Falls were uninvited to attend. Darci Adams, the HSUS state director for South Dakota wrote to the interested parties, “Perhaps you’ve been misinformed, but this is not a public event. This is a private gathering for members of HSUS and supporters who want to get involved in our work to alleviate animal cruelty.”
The meeting, which was to be held at Oh My Cupcakes in Sioux Falls, SD on Aug. 25, 2010, was canceled at the location and relocated to ensure that agriculture’s presence wasn’t at the meeting. Luckily, agriculture had a second chance the very next day with a meeting held in Rapid City at Seattle’s Best Cafe in Hotel Alex Johnson.
Matt Dybedahl, a senior animal science and ag business student at South Dakota State University originally from Colton, SD, happened to be in the area for his internship with Cropland Genetics the day of the meeting. His fellow classmate, Tyler Urban from Lennox, SD, urged him to attend the meeting, since his efforts to attend the Sioux Falls meeting, with the new location not announced, didn’t pan out.
After several attempts to RSVP for the event, Dybedahl was told by Adams that the meeting was full. Not easily run off, he showed up to the meeting anyway and was one of only 14 people at the meeting, hardly a large enough crowd to turn away interested college students. Politely, Dybedahl listened to three HSUS staff members discuss their goals for the future. It wasn’t until they brought up factory farming that he joined in the conversation.
“When they talked about factory farming, they basically described the conditions as horrific,” explained Dybedahl, who said they talked about cage-free eggs, free-range pork and the terrible living conditions in feedlots. “They described farmers and ranchers as extremists and terrorists, and they promised to pass legislation, saying it’s not if they can, it’s when. Adams said now might not be the right time for South Dakota, but they hope to weasel in new laws through different pieces of legislation if they can’t pass a ballot initiative. We will definitely have to pay attention to those efforts in the future.”
Dybedahl added that although it was a bit intimidating to go to the meeting alone, he had a great opportunity to add agriculture’s perspective.
“They were definitely nervous I was there, as I’m sure they didn’t know what I was going to say or do,” said Dybedahl, who admitted that he was nervous, too. “They did let me make a few points but would quickly cut me off if I spoke too long. I didn’t want to get in a big fight or cause a huge debate because I didn’t want to leave a bad taste of agriculture with them.”
He said that the HSUS staff members kept trying to create the image that they all came from agriculture backgrounds. When Adams said she grew up on a farm near Sioux Falls, Dybedahl, being from the area, asked where it was located. She quickly backtracked and said she was just a city girl from Lincoln High School. This fib didn’t sit right with Dybedahl who fears their stories will persuade more people to become members of HSUS.
“At the meeting, I was told that South Dakota has 19,000 members and one in 28 people in the U.S. are also members of the HSUS,” said Dybedahl. “The folks who are members will never change their minds about us; it’s the other 95 percent we need to work with and share the real story of modern agriculture.”
“After the meeting, Adams told me she was hoping to include anyone from the agriculture sector in future meetings to hear their viewpoints, too,” added Dybedahl. “It would be really interesting to see if she would actually meet up with agriculture representatives to have a real conversation about some of her initiatives. She acted like she was pretty open to listen to what we had to say.”
Though her actions in turning away farmers and ranchers from the meeting say differently, Dybedahl said he was glad he went to the meeting and listened to what they had to say.
“We definitely need to pay attention to what HSUS is doing in the future here in South Dakota, especially if they are going to try to sneak in legislation,” noted Dybedahl. “Down the road, they will probably try to do something here in our state; we just have to be aware.”
editor’s note: to read about the first hsus meeting and agriculture’s response, visit http://www.tsln.com and search “hsus closes doors to ranchers on public meeting.”