Opinion columns run in the April and May editions of Alberta Beef magazine by Roy Rutledge, a self proclaimed “broken down old cowboy who ranches about 40 miles from Dog River, Sask.”, launched scurrilous attacks on the National Farmers Union (NFU) and it’s landmark analysis of the crisis in the beef sector.
Further investigation however shows that far from being an independent rancher, Roy Rutledge is a paid employee of Nilsson Brothers Inc., now the largest packer and auction market operator in Canada. This puts a totally different perspective on Mr. Rutledge’s opinions. It explains why he was opposed to NFU work to prevent the Nilsson takeover of the Tyson Foods Lakeside plant, which further reduces competition in the fed cattle market. It would seem that Mr. Rutledge is a wolf in sheep’s clothing – his interests being diametrically opposed to those of every beef producers. Mr. Rutledge and his employers, Nilsson Brothers, interests are furthered by increased corporate concentration and captive supply practices and the resulting lower cattle prices that these bring about. No wonder he opposes the policies of the NFU who aim to increase cattle prices paid to beef producers by breaking the control of captive supply and corporate concentration.
Alberta Beef magazine initially agreed to provide adequate space for an NFU perspective on the many untruths penned by Mr. Rutledge about the organization and its Cattle Crisis analysis document. Unfortunately this offer was withdrawn and Alberta Beef refused to publish the NFU’s views. It would appear that in Canada it is not only producer’s cattle that are held captive by a few large corporate entities – their control also seems to extend to some elements of the media.
It is crucial that if beef producers are once again to earn a dignified living from their endeavors, they must have free access to information that allows them to shape their futures. It is totally unacceptable that the information they receive is apparently censored, either directly or indirectly, by the very corporations who seek to become rich by keeping producers uninformed and poor. I am shocked that media in a democratic country like Canada don’t have enough journalistic integrity to stand their ground on a fundamental freedom of speech issue like this. To quote CBS anchorman Walter Cronkite “Freedom of the press is not just important to democracy, it is democracy”
You can read the NFU response that Alberta Beef magazine lacked the courage to print by going to www. nfu.ca/rutledge-web.pdf or go to the NFU website at www.nfu.ca and follow the link to the article.