While animal rights activists prepare to march Sunday in Washington, D.C., and at the Utah State Capitol in protest of what they say is animal exploitation, Utah farmers and ranchers branded the planned demonstrations "extremism" and said farm livestock are better off today than they have ever been.
Delta farmer Ken Ashby, president of the Utah Farm Bureau, said Friday, "Animal rights groups are trying to portray farm animals as suffering and diseased when, in truth, farmers and ranchers have cared for the Earth and much of its animal and plant population since time began."We'd be cutting our own throats if we acted irresponsibly with our livestock," Ashby said.
"Animal agriculture contributes jobs, nutrition, culture, community assistance and dollars to our economy and cannot operate efficiently without the humane care and treatment farmers give their livestock.
"Farm animals now have their every need - food, water, medical attention, shelter and comfort - provided for them. We almost treat these animals better than we do people, in some cases," he said.
Meanwhile, Lynn Braddock of Wasatch Humane, said more than 80 are expected to attend the Washington, D.C., rally and a large turnout is expected at the the local noon rally.
"We want to show our support for legislation that would control use of animals in cosmetics testing and other research and promote animal welfare rights in general," she said.
Federal health officials Friday called those planning to participate in the March for Animals at the nation's capital - sponsored by the National Alliance for Animals - "terrorists" who storm research laboratories.
The Associated Press quoted Health and Human Services Secretary Louis Sullivan Friday saying he refuses to be intimidated by the violent tactics of some animal advocates. Sullivan predicted, "they will not succeed because they are on the wrong side of morality."
Sullivan said animal research has saved millions of lives and holds promise for new therapies to treat devastating illnesses like Alzheimer's disease.
"It would be evil to forsake animal research when lives hang in the balance," AP stories quoted him as saying.
Animal rights activists say their march Sunday will focus on all kinds of animal exploitation - from use in medical experiments to zoos and circuses - and embrace varying ideologies - from those who would protect all animals all the time to those with more moderate views.
Ingrid Newkirk, national director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said she is "morally opposed to exploitation of any individual or group of individuals who cannot fight for themselves.
"So I believe there is always a way, if you look to get information, without using animals." She said Sullivan is wrong in claiming that inhumane treatment of research animals is rare.
"We can't even get them to stop cutting off the toes of rabbits to identify them," she said.
Ashby said, "the agenda of the radical animal rights movement has little to do with animal welfare but, in reality, focuses on a quest for power over the decision making capabilities of the world's citizens.
"Humane care is not the issue. These activists are threatening your right to choose what you wear and what you eat, the quality and accuracy of the medical attention you receive, the cure of diseases you might get, even your constitutional right to pursue happiness in the occupation of your choice."