More like “Green Girl, Red State.” CC image via DieselDemon on Flickr.
Perhaps the greatest downside to living in a rural area, and particularly a rural area in an already red state? Knowing that you’ve not a snowball’s chance in hell of electing a politician who even approximates your values and beliefs. “Approximates,” not “shares” – I hold enough unpopular opinions to know that I’ll never live to see a politician on the state or federal level with whom I see eye to on most issues, not even if I up and move to San Francisco. That said, I don’t expect to be outright insulted for my beliefs when contacting an elected representative, in a polite and respectful manner, about pending legislation.
What follows is an email exchange I had with my state House Representative, Glen Klippenstein (R-MO, 5th District), about Missouri House Bill 1860, our state’s answer to the increasing popularity of “ag gag” bills. (Check out Will Potter’s excellent coverage of this and other forms of activist repression at Green is the New Red.) I was responding to an action alert sent out by PETA; usually I edit form letters, both to personalize them and to scrub them of any speciesism (distressingly common in form letters from enviro groups), but at the state level I’m fairly certain that mine is the only copy my representatives will receive. (Though in retrospect, I really should have replaced the link to meat.org with a different resource. No matter how unfair and undeserved the reputation, referring to a website run by what’s widely regarded as a “radical extremist” group really isn’t the best choice. That and I’d rather not be associated with them in any way, shape, or form, thankyouverymuch.)
As a conservative Republican and cattle breeder (GlenKirk Farms “has sold cattle, semen, and embryos across America and worldwide” – so much for protecting the unborn!) who has served as chairman of the National Beef Promotion and Research Board, I wasn’t expecting a particularly sympathetic ear from Rep. Klippenstein. That said.
From: Advocate [mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org] On Behalf Of Kelly Garbato
Sent: Thursday, April 19, 2012 12:25 AM
To: Glen Klippenstein
Subject: Please Oppose H.B. 1860
Apr 19, 2012
Representative Glen Klippenstein
State Capitol, Room 410A
201 West Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101
Dear Representative Klippenstein,
I am writing as your constituent to urge you to oppose House Bill
(H.B.) 1860. This bill, which would make it a crime to photograph or record video or sound of a farm without the farm owner’s consent, is a clear attempt to prevent the public from learning about the routine cruelty that takes place on factory farms. If signed into law, it would infringe on citizens’ rights to expose cruelty to animals.
Past investigations of factory farms resulted in criminal convictions of farm managers and workers found beating, sexually abusing, stomping on, kicking, and throwing animals. To watch the video footage and see why it is so important that citizens retain their freedom to document crimes against animals on factory farms and relay the evidence to law-enforcement authorities, please visit Meat.org.
Please don’t let the farming industry hide behind closed doors: Oppose H.B. 1860.
Thank you for your attention and for all that you do for Missourians.
Ms. Kelly Garbato
To say that this legislation is a clear attempt to prevent the public from learning about the routine cruelty that takes place on factory farms, shows extraordinary contempt for the vast majority of honorable people that actually know the real story and feed you.
Thank you for your e-mail.
Rep. Glen Klippenstein
Actually, sir, I’m a vegan – so those who farm animals do not feed me. However, I appreciate your presumptive, mean-spirited, and condescending response, as it further validates my decision not to vote for you in 2010. Your lack of professionalism is shocking, as is the disrespect you show those constituents who do not share your opinions.
Whether or not you believe that abuse exists in the animal agriculture industry, I expect that you will oppose Missouri HB 1860, as it impedes investigative journalism and chills free speech. Laws against trespassing, theft, and the like are already in place; there’s no need to target undercover investigators specifically with yet more regulations. As a conservative Republican, you are for smaller government and freedom of speech, correct? Then support each by opposing HB 1860.
(At the time of this writing, I’ve yet to receive a reply – but I’ll be sure to post an update if I do.)
It’s not unusual to receive a personal vs. canned reply at the state level, at least not from my experiences in rural KS and MO. I don’t get the feeling that they receive many emails from constituents. (When I was living in KS, a state rep snail mailed a blanket response to everyone who’d contacted him about an issue – something to do with polar bears, I think? or was it prairie dogs? – and addressed all of us by name. THERE WERE THREE PEOPLE, MYSELF INCLUDED! And don’t even get me started on government workers who print out and snail mail replies to correspondence submitted via email. You have my email address; use it!) The personal replies usually result in hilariously unprofessional emails – misspellings, incomplete sentences, etc. – but this is the first time I’ve been outright insulted.
[I’m guessing that he took personal exception to the bit about sexual abuse in “factory farms.” No one likes to be called a pig fucker, let alone a pig rapist. (Or in his case a cow rapist, and a male-on-male one at that!) Not that there’s any diff, since nonhuman animals can’t give their consent, but I don’t expect him to be able to grasp the finer points of rape culture.]
And what can I do? Threaten to not vote for him in 2012, the way I didn’t vote for him in 2010? He beat the Democratic candidate 58.4 to 38.1%. Not that the Democrat is much of an improvement, mind you.
Oh, to be adrift in a sea of red. Such a lonely existence. I sense a fit of Henri the French Cat coming on.
Get out your defensive omnivore bingo cards, I received a response. Spoiler alert: it’s sans apology.
———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Glen Klippenstein
Date: Mon, Apr 23, 2012 at 1:36 PM
Subject: RE: Please Oppose H.B. 1860
To: Kelly Garbato
HB 1860 does not stop due process. If there is a legitimate complaint, then steps can be taken to confirm or deny animal abuse. This legislation prevents someone from coming on your property to embarrass or cause problems under false pretenses. This could happen in a home where animals or children are involved. Most of us that raise animals for enjoyment or a living abhor bad treatment to anything or anyone. Temple Grandin is a great animal psychologist and lover. I’ve visited her several times. She too was upset that those with ill intentions can and do cripple or destroy an industry with sometimes flagrant misrepresentations and promotions.
Yes, there are abuse exceptions like any other field of endeavor, but it is relatively rare. People that practice animal husbandry are very sincere about punishing those that try to injure our reputation and animals in the process, but we can and do follow due process of law.
Again, thank you for your e-mail.
Rep. Glen Klippenstein
I feel like I should CC PETA for the Temple Grandin reference. Congrats to THE animal “rights” org for partnering with someone even a conservative animal exploiter like Glen Klippenstein can get behind! With friends like these.