My Generation
Churches, farming and livestock: A year later

Churches, farming and livestock: A year later

A Methodist church conference is set to vote on a new set of legislative items that include agriculture and livestock production. What will they consider?

A year ago, a friend in the Methodist Church shared that one of the Illinois conferences was considering a piece of legislation at their annual meeting that borrowed language from radical animal rights organizations. It concluded by asking each local Methodist church to challenge their members to "know the source of their meats and eggs and choose meats and dairy products kindly and humanely raised." The legislation was voted down, 3 to 1.

The idea evoked a lot of response, and nearly every farmer I heard from said they had no idea their conference was voting on something like that and they would talk to their conference delegates to share their position as agricultural producers.

Regardless of where you stand on the actual legislation, I tend to think transparency and full disclosure are good things.

And so here we are a year later, and Sorento, Ill., farmer Susan Wall shared with me a copy of the 2015 proposed legislation. The Illinois Great Rivers Conference, which meets June 10-13, will vote on two proposed items relating to agriculture again this year and while they are much more benign than what was proposed last year, in the interest of full disclosure, farmers should know what will be discussed.

Item 208 is titled, "Giving Thanks for the Gifts of Farming," and talks about "prayerfully giving thanks for those things with which we have been entrusted, from the grain we sow to the animals we raise and butcher." It concludes with, "farming traditions and family farms that have been the backbone of our blessed lifestyles have the gratitude of the rest of us."

Item 202 is a petition titled, "Respect for Meat Animals, Fish, Fowl. Unlike last year, there's no language about "but sharing the earth with animals" and there's nothing about destroying the environment with livestock production, nor anything elevating family farms over factory farms (which can, in fact, be one in the same). This item seeks to add the designation "respectful and painless life" for meat animals, fish and fowl to an existing document. It's difficult to know what they mean exactly – all sorts of natural circumstances can lead to a painful life (cow steps on calf, cow gets bad foot, cow gets twisted gut, sow lays on piglet, etc.). None of us – neither human nor animal – are guaranteed a painless life.

It's worth knowing these sorts of conversations are still happening, because it gives those of you who are members of an organized religious group the chance to ask questions of your conference delegates and clergy. Certainly, while this example is from one conference of one church, HSUS has sought to make inroads into any number of U.S. churches. And it's good for all of us to be aware of how groups like HSUS continue to press their agenda into Christian circles.

My farmer friend, Susan, may sum it up best: "I just wish they could find better things to worry about…they are so farfetched from the faithful flock of country Christians who just want to live their lives and go to church to worship the Lord."

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