Baise: The people behind the Pew Report

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Last week I told you about the Pew Commission's report condemning large-scale livestock farms. The report is called, Putting Meat on the Table: Industrial Farm Animal Production in America.

I thought it might be important for you to know the credentials of the people making these reports.

There are three people on the Pew Commission with apparent agricultural experience – Bill Niman, Dr.Fred Kirschenmann, and Dan Jackson.  Mr. Niman is described as a San Francisco Bay rancher, meat processor and distributor with a focus on 'humanely raised' livestock. Today his corporate business claims to sell to 1,200 restaurants and restaurant groups.  

A summary on Wikipedia alleges that Mr. Niman, having left the company, lives on a 1,000-acre ranch with his wife who is "…environmental lawyer and animal welfare activist Nicolette Hahn Niman." The Wikipedia summary states "Because Ms. Niman is a vegetarian, Bill Niman eats almost no meat."

Dan Jackson is a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes and is a former president of the Western Montana Stockgrowers Association.

Dr. Frederick L. Kirschenmann has a Ph.D in philosophy from the University of Chicago and manages his family's 1,800-acre certified organic farm in North Dakota. He is the Leopold Center's director and has been a member of USDA's National Organic Standards Board. He farms without using fertilizers and pesticides, according to his bio.  

READ MORE: Pew Condemns Large Livestock Farms

Other members of the commission include Michael Blackwell, a former Dean of the College of Veterinary Medicine at the University of Tennessee and former Assistant surgeon General (retired) of the U.S. Public Health Service. Brother David Andrews, a lawyer and a coordinator for peace and justice of the congregation of Holy Cross and a member of the Iowa Food Policy Council. 

Fedele Bauccio, a CEO with Bon Appetit Management addresses how food is grown.  Dr. Marion Nestle a professor at New York University and author of a book Food Politics and What to Eat is a member of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.  Dr. Mary Wilson, M.D. is a leading infectious disease expert on infections in travelers and immigrants at Harvard Medical School.  

I could go on, but you get an idea as to the qualifications of the commissioners.

Growing impatient

The folks condemning large livestock farms appear to be growing impatient that no new regulations have yet to appear as a result of this report. Earlier this year the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future (CLF) said the administration and congress have exacerbated problems in the food system. Translation:

"There has been an appalling lack of progress," said the director of CLF. "The failure to act by the USDA and FDA, the lack of action or concern by Congress, and continued intransigence of the animal agriculture industry have made all of our problems worse." (Notice he did not criticize EPA.)

Former Kansas Gov. John Carlin, chair of the Pew commission, says, "The results of this analysis show that our policymakers are really not listening to their constituents."

What's all the fuss about? Here are the Pew Commission's key recommendations regarding animal agriculture:

Ban the non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials.

Define non-therapeutic use of antimicrobials.

Treat "industrial" livestock farms as an industrial operation and implement new systems to deal with farm waste and replace the "broken system" that exists today.

Phase out the most intensive and inhumane production practices such as gestation crates and battery cages.

Aggressively enforce existing anti-trust laws applicable to food animal production.

Robert P. Martin wrote in his introduction to the Pew Report that "…the formation of this commission was greeted by industrial agriculture with responses ranging from open hostility to wary cooperation."

There may be a reason for this response.

The Pew report and its commissioners claim "The disposal of manure and animal waste are among the most significant challenges for IFAP (CAFO) operators." It claims that animal waste is enormous and claims over 500 million tons of manure are produced by CAFOs and that is three times the EPA estimate of 150 million tons of human sanitary waste annually.

Five hundred million tons = 1 trillion pounds

What the Pew report doesn't tell you is that we humans create 250 trillion pounds of wastewater in the country annually. Nor does it put into context that we create 3.7 trillion pounds of construction and demolition waste annually.

You get the picture. It helps to put facts into context and tell the rest of the story. Animal agriculture needs to tell its story! 

Gary H. Baise is a principal at OFW Law (Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz P.C.). This article first appeared in Farm Futures magazine. The opinions presented here are expressly those of the author. For more information, go to

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kansas  |  December, 02, 2013 at 10:21 AM

Thanks, and this is just another example of Fake, Advocacy "Studies", where the Conclusions and Outcomes were predetermined and the scientific & statistical "evidence" was simply arranged to support them. Their list of "recommendations" could have been lifted from any of the vicious attack dog organizations circling modern Ag... GreenPeace, Sierra Club, HSUS, etc., etc., etc. Pew and these others present a very sophisticated, and cynical, and false, pretense that they're working for supported by farmers and consumers when they are nothing more than ends-justify-means zealots who wish to enforce their own beliefs (not science, beliefs) on others. It is sad and embarrassing that they can sucker otherwise decent people like Nieman, Carlin, Blackwell and others to front their "holy war" on modern agriculture and the billions of people that are fed by it.

Cathy P.    
Venice, FL  |  December, 06, 2013 at 11:30 AM

It is sad that otherwise decent people exploit animals and want to increase and grow "their" business when their business "is" premature death. Death for animals, death for people. Eating more and more meat is debilitating more and more people. If your plant to meat ratio is at or better than 90 /10, you might be okay, but that isn't your business model at all. Growing your businesses harms the Earth and the people and the animals. If it is a "holy war" to point out the truth, I hope it reaches the point of reversal of the trend you want to continue. Ever increasing meat and dairy production can really not be justified with anything but deception. Calling it fake doesn't make it so.

Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  December, 16, 2013 at 05:39 PM

Cathy P. eating meat is okay. If a person works even moderately at ensuring a balanced diet, health will be okay. Vegetarians have health problems just like other people. As far as premature death of animals, that is their destiny, to become food for people. If you can't justify eating animals, you can't justify driving a car or even harvesting grain because those activities also cause the premature death of various animals. Just so you know, the environmental impact of producing meat and dairy products has been steadily decreasing per unit of output while human life expectancy has been increasing, especially in countries where adaquate levels of high quality protein such as are found in animal products are available. It will be okay. You can calm down now.

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