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Iowa farmers are taking an uncomfortable turn in the spotlight.
Activists and artists are drawing attention to agricultural practices
they say harm animals and the environment. Farmers worry that the
notoriety will lead to new regulations and costs.
Two examples this week illustrated the conflict:
- A film that will be screened Thursday night in Des Moines shows how
the runoff of chemicals from Iowa cornfields creates a dead zone in
the Gulf of Mexico.
- The Iowa Cattlemen's Association's annual meeting Tuesday in Ames
turned into a pep rally against what the group says is an effort by
animal rights activists to run livestock agriculture out of business.
"Don't confuse animal welfare with animal abuse," said Dan Thomson, a
professor of veterinary medicine at Kansas State University and an
"These people aren't interested in animal abuse," said Thomson.
"They're interested in ending animal agriculture."
Thomson said activist groups, notably the Humane Society of the United
States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, "play
emotionally on the bond between humans and animals."
The Humane Society has worked to restrict the ways farmers treat hogs
and poultry. Its impact in Congress has been limited, but it has had
some success in passing initiatives in California and other states
where farm interests have less political influence than they do in the
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