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Editorials, Dec. 6

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The Christmas season is supposed to be a time for more kindness and less selfishness, but you don't hear that from Steve Kopperud. Kindness is not a quality valued by high-powered Washington lobbyists. Selfishness is.

Kopperud was in Little Rock last week telling members of the Arkansas Farm Bureau exactly what they don't need to hear. The Farm Bureau has already helped defeat proposed legislation to strengthen Arkansas's flimsy animal-cruelty laws, and presumably it will oppose the legislation again in the 2008 session. The organization sinks in public esteem — and in the eyes of its own more compassionate members — each time it aligns itself with those who skin dogs, burn cats, and drag horses behind pickups, to name a few of the atrocities that have occurred in Arkansas.

The Farm Bureau should be repenting its mean and misguided policies of the past. Instead, it's encouraged to continue in error, by those who profit from lobbying against animal-welfare groups. Farmers and ranchers must fight even harder against anti-cruelty laws, Kopperud told the Bureau. (Kopperud is affiliated with the agribusiness groups Animal Agriculture Alliance and the quaintly named Farm Animal Welfare Coalition. This coalition does not exist to protect the welfare of farm animals, as one might think, but to protect the earnings of those who raise and sell farm animals, often under deplorable conditions.)

Despite what professional alarmists say, the fact is that good-hearted but impractical animal lovers will never match the money and political muscle of the agribusiness forces, as the Arkansas legislature has shown repeatedly. The most that will ever be imposed on livestock and poultry producers is some modest requirements for larger cages and pens and more humane treatment of doomed animals generally. This might require the producers to spend a few pennies more; the increase will be quickly recovered from consumers, who will not stop eating bacon and eggs, or turkey and dressing on the holidays.

The increased protection for dogs and cats and other non-farm animals that would be provided by new animal-cruelty laws wouldn't cost the farmers and ranchers a dime. A little pity would be their only expenditure.

A study of academics at big-time football universities has found both LSU and Texas among the bottom six in academic performance by football players. Indeed, Texas was next to last. Only the University of Hawaii's athletes rank below Texas' academically. The Arkansas Times has previously noted the over-emphasis on football in neighboring states. Let's hope these new findings will prompt legislators and educators in Texas and Louisiana to strive for improvement. Arkansas stands ready to help.

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