I'm so grateful to House of Cards actress Kate Mara for her continuing work with The HSUS, including her recent video to promote Meatless Monday for animals and for our health. Mara is a big deal in Washington, D.C. because of her starring role during the first two seasons of the hugely popular Netflix dramatic series, which focuses on politics and the artful and sometimes ruthless use of power. She, Kevin Spacey, Robin Wright, and their co-stars have given the American public quite a view of the political machinations of Washington, D.C.
I must say, while House of Cards is a fictional portrayal of national politics, and it's appropriately described as unrealistic and overreaching at times, there is plenty of intrigue and a considerable abuse of power in the real drama that plays out in Congress and in the executive agencies.
You can start first with the influence of industrial agriculture, which Mara takes aim at in her video with The HSUS. Our excessive consumption of meat comes with enormous costs to animals, family farmers, the environment, and public health. What her video short does not cover, however, is the meat industry's incredible influence at the national level, and its harvesting of a massive and diverse array of subsidies and its strongly anti-competitive behavior. The federal government provides price supports, crop subsidies, and crop insurance; conducts lethal predator control programs for agriculture with traps, poisons, and aerial gunning; buys up surplus meat products and feeds them to school kids and prisoners; and, with our tax dollars, supports a network of 40 research centers (including the U.S. Meat Animal Research Center in Clay Center, Neb.) designed to make factory farming even more ruthless and efficient. During the last few decades, with these policies in place, we've seen a dramatic decline in the number of family farmers, and a huge surge in the number of highly industrialized, vertically integrated factory farming operations that treat animals like they are little more than meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines.
No one here at The HSUS is against efficiency. But we are against efficiency when our other values – such as caring for animals or protecting the environment and rural communities – are subordinated to such a dramatic degree. And we don't much like crony capitalism, where the government consorts with special interests to deliver all sorts of federal payouts and programs that come at the expense of animals and the people who actually practice animal husbandry and good stewardship.