TheDC’s top 2012 stories, part 2: The ‘Animal Crackers’ edition

David Martosko Executive Editor
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Every day this week The Daily Caller is inviting you to relive two of our most compelling moments from 2012. These stories might have made you angry or gleeful, or maybe they led you to poke your spouse in the ribs and say, “See, I told you so!”

But however you reacted, they met our number-one test for publication: They were interesting. (RELATED: Part 1: The ‘Obama administration off the rails’ edition)

Today we revisit two stories that sent our heads spinning, and they probably had Dr. Doolittle spinning in his grave.

Rural kids, parents angry about Labor Dept. rule banning farm chores

It only took 24 hours for the Department of Labor to walk it back. But for a full day in April, it seemed the entire agriculture world was buzzing about a Daily Caller report on a pending rule that would have banned children from doing chores on family members’ farms.

No cow-milking? No egg-gathering? No sheep-shearing?

No way.

The government’s position, while it lasted, was that child labor laws prohibited kids from stacking hay bales, mowing lawns, or doing just about anything else on farms, even if they were raised in a farming environment.

The DOL eventually proposed an exception for parents who owned 100 percent of the farms where their own children worked, but farmers found that unworkable because so many farms are cooperatively owned, or legally owned by extended family members.

One part of the rule forbade kids from operating any sort of machinery that wasn’t propelled exclusively by human power. This was so restrictive that it would have precluded a teenager from flipping the “on” switch on an electric screwdriver if he visited his uncle’s farm to help fix a broken door handle:

Under the rules, most children under 18 could no longer work “in the storing, marketing and transporting of farm product raw materials.”

“Prohibited places of employment,” a Department press release read, “would include country grain elevators, grain bins, silos, feed lots, stockyards, livestock exchanges and livestock auctions.”

The new regulations, first proposed August 31 by Labor Secretary Hilda Solis, would also revoke the government’s approval of safety training and certification taught by independent groups like 4-H and FFA, replacing them instead with a 90-hour federal government training course. …

In Kansas, Cherokee County Farm Bureau president Jeff Clark was out in the field — literally on a tractor — when TheDC reached him. He said if [DOL Secretary Hilda] Solis’s regulations are implemented, farming families’ labor losses from their children will only be part of the problem.

“What would be more of a blow,” he said, “is not teaching our kids the values of working on a farm.”

The Environmental Protection Agency reports that the average age of the American farmer is now over 50.

“Losing that work ethic — it’s so hard to pick this up later in life,” Clark said. “There’s other ways to learn how to farm, but it’s so hard. You can learn so much more working on the farm when you’re 12, 13, 14 years old.”

More than 4,800 Daily Caller readers weighed in with online comments, bringing the chickens home to roost on Hilda Solis’ doorstep.

“That’s the whole idea of family farms,” one reader said. “Families work together to get the job done and in this case its taking care of the animals/farm. Do they just want no one working or doing anything?”

Sounds to me like they are working on saying that the entire farm could be a hazardous work area,” another reader added. “The government should not have ANY say in what my kids do on my own land.”

Documents: PETA kills more than 95 percent of pets in its care

This one really speaks for itself:

Documents published online this month show that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an organization known for its uncompromising animal-rights positions, killed more than 95 percent of the pets in its care in 2011.

The documents, obtained from the Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, were published online by the Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit organization that runs online campaigns targeting groups that antagonize food producers.

Fifteen years’ worth of similar records show that since 1998 PETA has killed more than 27,000 animals at its headquarters in Norfolk, VA.

In a February 16 statement, the Center said PETA killed 1,911 cats and dogs last year, finding homes for only 24 pets.

PETA killed more than 27,000 animals? It’s true, according to documents PETA itself filed with the state government in Virginia.

Americans love their pets. We spend literally billions of dollars on them every year. So this animal story generated a kind of outrage that we rarely see in stories about people.

More than anything else, imagining PETA killing puppies and kittens is a mind-bending exercise in counterintuitive thinking — a genuine “man bites dog” story. Or maybe a “man injects dog with sodium pentabarbitol” story.

PETA, remember, is the group that puts scantily clad models on street corners to persuade consumers to save cows, pigs and chickens by going vegetarian.

“All animals are equal,” George Orwell once observed. “But some animals are more equal than others.” He had no idea, but he was writing about what goes on inside PETA’s headquarters.

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