Feasting From the Federal Trough: How the Meat, Egg and Dairy Industries Gorge on Taxpayer Dollars While Fighting Modest Rules

Feasting From the Federal Trough: How the Meat, Egg and Dairy Industries Gorge on Taxpayer Dollars While Fighting Modest Rules

Paul Shapiro (The Humane Society of the United States, USA)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9553-5.ch013
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The animal agribusiness industries often proclaim a libertarian mantra when asked to accept rules for their conduct in regard to animal welfare, the environment, and food safety. However, in this chapter, the author explores how when these industries suffer from lack of demand, their clamor toward socialism is stark. They consistently come to the US Congress and the United States Department of Agriculture with outstretched arms and cupped palms, seeking to defy the normal laws of economics that other businesses must navigate. In fact, the meat, egg, and dairy industries are enormous beneficiaries of generous federal subsidies, research and development, and even surplus buy-ups of unwanted product. Such a reliance on federal handouts by animal agribusiness calls into question their proclamation of libertarianism and free market principles.
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Picture this: It’s 2008. The financial crisis is at its peak. The plight of U.S. automakers can hardly be grimmer. Facing double-digit sales declines as fuel costs soar and Americans turn from (formerly popular) US-made SUVs and trucks to smaller, more efficient cars from Japan and Europe, the federal government has to make a choice: Throw the Big Three automakers—Ford, General Motors, and Chrysler—to the harsh fate of market forces and allow them to go bankrupt at a time when the economy is in free fall, or step in and provide aid from the hand of Uncle Sam to keep Detroit rolling.

We all know the outcome. When the auto industry got its federal bailout, serious strings were attached, such as improving fuel efficiency, eliminating corporate jet budgets, and more. Automakers of course had to repay the US Treasury. The move, in the end, made American taxpayers a handsome profit and helped keep the nation’s auto industry on the road.

Contrast this approach with the one the US federal government takes when the industries allegedly in need aren’t producing cars, but rather cows—or pigs, chickens, or turkeys. In these cases, the government pork seemingly flows freely and faster than a Corvette, leaving taxpayers to foot the bill for corporate welfare and aiding industries with a notoriously sordid track record on important social issues.

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