...SDSU Extension and Press Help!

Senate Bill 171—the bill upping the penalty for cruelty to dogs, cats, and horses—comes before the Senate Agriculture and Natural Resources committee in Pierre tomorrow (assuming today's snow day for legislators doesn't throw the schedule off track). The bill faces an uphill climb, given the fallacious flak from Big Ag and the complicitous press.

Consider these two articles on SB 171, one from WNAX (which, unhelpfully, does not put date stamps on its stories), one from last Wednesday's Mitchell Daily Republic.

Covering a powwow of Big Ag lobbyists in Pierre January 28, WNAX quotes Ag United board member Paul Brandt from Clear Lake, who says that the folks backing SB 171 are under the influence of the Humane Society of the United States and other out-of-state groups trying to end animal agriculture. MDR's Tom Lawrence gets a similar line from SDSU Extension's Jim Krantz, who says we should have a felony penalty for animal cruelty (exactly what SB 171 proposes) but that (Lawrence's words) "such changes should come from South Dakotans, not from the HSUS."

Talk about red herrings. The bill's most prominent supporter, Shari Kosel from Lead, and other South Dakota supporters have stated publicly that they are not part of the HSUS, that they are South Dakotans just like the rest of us doing grassroots activism, not the bidding of some nefarious out-of-state organization determined to make us all eat grass. The Big Ag lobby is so obsessed with trumpeting its rage against the HSUS that it ignores the facts about its South Dakotan proponents as well as the merits of SB 171, which focuses on dogs, cats, and horses and explicitly exempts normal agricultural practices from its penalties. Extension agent Krantz is perpetuating that willful ignorance on the state's dime.

And worst of all, WNAX and MDR don't challenge that lie. WNAX just talks to Ag United and offers no response from Kosel or supporters of SB 171. Lawrence at least seeks an opposing opinion... but strangely, instead of going to Kosel and the South Dakota backers of SB 171, he goes to the Humane Society's South Dakota director Darci Adams for the opposing view. Adams avers that she had nothing to do with creating SB 171 but that she does, as one would expect, support the bill. Lawrence at least provides that balance, but his article bolsters the myth that Krantz and the Big Ag lobby needs to sell, that SB 171 is a battle between honest South Dakota farmers and the evil HSUS.

Senate Ag, when you get in from the snow, don't be fooled. Senate Bill 171 is not about outsiders foisting some long-reaching agenda to destroy pious Dodge-loving farmers. Senate Bill 171 is about applying a proper penalty to dangerous sociopaths doing violence to dogs, cats, and horses. Focus on the issues, and pass SB 171.

Update 2013.02.12 07:13 MST: Mitchell's own Amandke Radke, an otherwise perfectly lovely woman, stirs the Big Ag hysteria with this deceptive essay in Beef Magazine.