JoAnn Alumbaugh
JoAnn Alumbaugh

Want a little more information on how the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is pushing its agenda against livestock producers? Watch The War on Bacon, in which the organization's tactics are exposed.

HumaneWatch is a blog that reveals facts related to HSUS, with content provided by the Center for Consumer Freedom. Founded in 1996, the Center is a nonprofit organization devoted to pomoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choices. The video was published on July 31 and has had more than 49,000 views. It explains that individual maternity pens provide for animal welfare. In fact, one of the primary purposes of individual pens is to protect sows from other animals.

It goes on to tell how HSUS vigorously introduces legislation in states with little to no pork production, then uses these states as “evidence” that maternity pens are on their way out. The narrator likens the method to “Maine telling Florida that it can no longer produce oranges.”

The video states HSUS has threatened companies with bad publicity if they don’t publicly agree that they will eliminate maternity pens. In addition, HSUS claims consumers care about this issue and want to see an end to gestation crates, but polling has found that 87 percent of consumers disagree with HSUS’s position when they find out that producers and veterinarians support the use of individual housing.

The video reveals that HSUS gives less than one percent of its budget to pet shelters, even though HSUS ads lead viewers to believe their money is going directly to their local shelter. If you go to the HSUS website, the organization vehemently defends itself, and makes a supreme effort to discredit Rick Berman, CEO of the Center for Consumer Freedom. In fact, HSUS hired an independent freelance writer to follow Berman and report on his activities and his organization. The article states, “…this is no ordinary PR operation. This is where white-knuckle lobbying and media buys merge with a handful of public charities Berman has created to spin and cajole public perception on a variety of issues. But for the most part, he attacks and intimidates those with contrary views…”

I find this supremely ironic, since HSUS could win an Academy Award for “spinning and cajoling” public perception. And when it comes to “attacking and intimidating those with contrary views,” you should see what HSUS has on its website about Berman: “Richard Berman…wants The HSUS to stop helping animals. He'd like to see us halt our campaigns against puppy mills; stop our intervention programs against urban dogfighting; stop working with law enforcement on animal fighting raids or in cases of abandonment and hoarding. He'd like us to stop working to end the extreme confinement of farm animals on factory farms.”

I’ll bet Rick Berman doesn’t have a problem with any of those activities except the last one, and that’s because HSUS has distorted the facts and manipulated the media regarding individual maternity pens. These pens are an accepted and proven production practice. U.S. producers adopted indoor housing years ago to protect animals from the elements and from each other. Veterinarians in Europe also see the benefits of individual maternity pens.

New pens have been developed that allow animals to either go in an individual stall or move about in a larger social group, and these are being used on some farms. However, the National Pork Producers Council, the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians continue to recognize gestation stalls as safe and humane for animals.

Having seen many of the news releases written by HSUS, the group consistently takes statements out of context and distorts the facts. Wayne Pacelle was quoted as saying Berman “false frames” issues. Pacelle should know – he and HSUS have perfected the strategy.

For my money, I’m going with the facts. I’ll base my opinions on peer-reviewed research from people who understand agriculture and have studied best-management practices. And that’s not HSUS.