Kevin Fulton, left, and Wayne Pacelle

LITCHFIELD — Geese flew in broken lines across a gray sky on a frosty Sunday morning as Kevin Fulton gave a tour of his farm north of Litchfield to the leader of one of America’s most influential and, in farm country, most controversial animal welfare organizations.

Wayne Pacelle, president and chief executive officer of the 11-million-member Humane Society of the United States, talked about the sheep, goats and poultry he’d seen on the tour. Pointing to cattle grazing south of Fulton’s hilltop home, he said, “These are animals who are allowed to be animals. They are raised for food, but they have a decent life.

“And that is the noble tradition and profession of animal agriculture.”

Pacelle and leaders of Nebraska agriculture organizations were invited by Fulton, a HSUS member, to participate in a town hall meeting Sunday evening in Lincoln. Pacelle told the Hub earlier Sunday that he regularly attends town hall meetings and didn’t come to Nebraska to make any major announcement.

Key HSUS issues include ending organized animal fighting, strengthening and enforcing general animal cruelty laws, and promoting proper pet care and better treatment of animals on industrial, or factory, farms.

“There is no rigid definition” of a factory farm, Pacelle said. “You kind of know them when you see them. In some ways it’s the separation from the actual care of animals and a focus more on production, sometimes at the expense of animals who are denied many of their basic instincts.”

Industrial farms also have contributed to rural population declines. “We do need more farmers and we hope that people continue to return to the land and engage in agriculture that is productive, sustainable and also humane,” Pacelle said.

“Rural landscapes over the decades flourished because real people were farming animals in responsible ways,” he added.

VIDEO: Click here to see the interview with Pacelle

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