An article in the National Review called Animal Advocacy in the Age of Trump was clearly an opinion piece, though it wasn’t identified as such. It would have been helpful to know upfront that the author, John Connor Cleveland, had served as communications director for the Humane Society Legislative Fund – an arm of the activist group the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Prior to that position, he was HSUS “policy advisor and special assistant to the president,” according to his LinkedIn profile.
At the very bottom of the article – and nowhere else – it says “John Connor Cleveland is a writer in Washington, D.C., and a policy adviser at the Humane Society of the United States. Well, there you go. Where’s the disclaimer that this was clearly an opinion piece? The article is devoid of objectivity and plays to an unsuspecting audience.
Cleveland lumps producers together under the cop-out moniker, “Big Ag,” and goes on to call it a “bottom-feeding target,” with a “powerful presence on Capitol Hill and a well-documented dark side.”
He writes: “Despite clear legal prohibitions, D.C. lobbying leviathans including the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the National Pork Producers Council have repeatedly used ‘checkoff’ dollars unlawfully to influence government policy and action in support of their Big Ag allies. These funds consist of mandatory fees paid by farmers all over America, many of whom see little benefit from the compulsory levy.”
The pork industry would be hard-pressed to find any producers who haven’t benefited from the promotion and research efforts of the National Pork Board. It’s disappointing that an article with such a broad overreach meant to mislead readers would be allowed into print.
About half-way through the article, Cleveland admits to being an “animal advocate,” (without mentioning his HSUS underpinnings). He calls himself a fiscally conservative red-state Republican, but if that’s the case, it seems he’s wearing sheep’s clothing.
The one true statement the author makes is this: “Opposition to cruelty is a universal value.” It’s true not just for urban consumers with no immediate ties to the farm; it’s true for livestock producers too.
Those of us who have followed the animal rights movement aren’t surprised when representatives from HSUS frequently point out that “consumers” have brought about retailers’ shift to cage-free eggs and pork from operations that don’t use gestation crates. Just a little research clearly shows the influence of groups like HSUS on those same retailers caused them to cave to demands, simply because they didn’t want to be targeted with negative publicity. Those tactics, along with subtle marketing ploys and appeals to consumers’ emotions, are common threads in HSUS’ mission of extracting millions of dollars in donations from naïve consumers.
Most Americans believe that animals deserve protections. Animal welfare, in other words, is a populist concern. Businesses know this. Changing consumer patterns have long indicated a preference for animal products derived from cruelty-free means. That’s why more than 100 of the nation’s largest food companies, including McDonald’s, Walmart, and Starbucks, have begun buying eggs from cage-free operations. It’s also why some of those same companies have begun announcing shifts to slower-growing broiler chickens. Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States has written extensively on the economic case for animal welfare, and it’s an argument that Donald Trump, as a businessman, should understand. When companies embrace animal welfare, they’ll see the benefits in their bottom lines.
People are Getting Wise
There’s hope, though, that Americans are getting wise to those tactics, and are better at shoveling through the rhetoric. Several people who commented on the article saw through Cleveland’s thinly veiled attack and were overwhelmingly in favor of modern animal agriculture.
One person wrote: “Written by an H$U$ toady--so obviously animal rights oriented. Big Ag an enemy? Don't think so. H$U$ an enemy of our society? Yup.”
Another person put animal cruelty in perspective, recognizing it’s a complex issue that can’t be generalized: “Nobody supports animal cruelty. The problem is that few can agree on where animal cruelty starts. The claim that nobody wants animal cruelty, therefore everyone should agree with this piece of legislation is nothing more than the emotional blackmail that left wingers are famous for.
First you have to get me to agree that whatever it is you want to ban is actually animal cruelty before you assume that I support animal cruelty just because I don't agree with you on this issue.”
Well said. Let’s hope the trend of questioning articles of this nature will continue to the point that authors like this one can no longer find a forum.