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Farm animal coalition forming in county

Friday, February 25, 2011

A new organization is looking for members among farmers in Marshall County where instances of animal abuse have gone to court, but they didn't have to if the Farm Animal Care Coalition of Tennessee had been called, group leaders contend.

Furthermore, FACCT will work to help farmers continue their lifestyle against policies conducted by the Humane Society of the United States and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, according to Stan Butt, secretary-treasurer of FACCT who spoke to dairymen here Tuesday.

"Defend your right to exist," Butt said. "There are organizations that want all animal operations overseas."

PETA and HSUS are "left-wing activist organizations," Butt said. "For too long, we've allowed the vocal minority to speak up."

Livestock owners, horse enthusiasts and others are concerned about the general public's increasing lack of understanding about what really happens on most Tennessee farms, a FACCT brochure states. Meanwhile, well-funded animal activists are spreading misinformation intended to eliminate animal agriculture and threaten the nation's abundant, affordable food supply.

Butt and Marshall County dairyman Tony White, president of the Tennessee Dairy Producers Association, mentioned intervention by animal rights groups in Bedford County where starving cattle were found, and another similar event with horses in Cannon County recently.

HSUS were called in for help with an alleged puppy mill near Cornersville, but FACCT is concerned with farm animals, not companion animals.

"There's a big difference," White said. "A lot of people think farm animals should be companion animals, but they're not. They're production animals."

A Chapel Hill-area man was taken to Marshall County General Sessions Court a few years ago on animal cruelty charges because horses weren't fed sufficiently, and that case may best illustrate White's explanation on why FACCT is needed.

"If you go down the road and see an animal problem, you'd call the sheriff," he said. The sheriff's office would call the University of Tennessee Agricultural Extension Service agent.

"But now," White said, "FACCT is stepping up to do the right thing."

That may include feeding the animal or taking other steps deemed necessary, he said.

FACCT needs members to be a resource for first responders to crisis situations involving farm animals. Other membership work includes being: a voice for humane animal care and best management practices in agriculture; being an advocate for good food supply; active in educating producers, consumers and policy makers.

FACCT supporters include the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, dairy producers, cattlemen, equine associations, Farm Bureau, pork and poultry producers and other animal groups such as the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders and Exhibitors Association which is headquartered in Lewisburg.