Berman: HSUS loses altitude

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Recently, HSUS crowed that the Midwest supermarket chain Roundy’s had made a pledge to phase out the use of individual maternity pens from its supply chain in the next 9 years. What was notable about the pledge, in fact, was the relative silence surrounding it. This year, HSUS’s campaign against individual maternity pens has deflated significantly.

Last year HSUS made news by convincing—conning, really—a number of brands to make public pledges against maternity pens. Over the previous few years, HSUS had been able to secure state bans of maternity pens either through the ballot (in Arizona and California) or by threatening a ballot initiative.

But then pork producers started fighting back in a major way, making sure that retailers knew the full story and all the salient points that HSUS would surely leave out. Retailers were informed of the veterinary support for maternity pens and the true agenda of HSUS to end animal agriculture. 2013 has been much different.

HSUS has been beaten back in Northeastern states where it has sought a ban on maternity pens, including Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and (so far) New Jersey. And the number of restaurants and retailers making pledges has declined significantly. This year has to date seen only about one-fourth of the maternity pen phase-out pledges that we saw last year.  And in total, only about one-quarter of the top 100 restaurants have made any kind of statement—and most of those statements have been futuristic, weak and mealy-mouthed, which will be easily disavowed in later years. 

But industry can’t rest. HSUS has a combined staff of 900 people. And with the word being that their federal egg bill is almost assuredly dead, HSUS will be shifting its resources to state fights in 2014.

All of agriculture must be ready for the fight and work on being more united. HSUS is broadening its fight.

Dairy is a target. HSUS plans to run a ballot initiative in Colorado that will ban tail docking in the state after the legislature declined to pass a ban this year. (Only one farm in Colorado uses the practice.)

HSUS and its pals are also attacking poultry. The ASPCA (whose senior vice president for government affairs lives with HSUS’s senior vice president for litigation) recently launched a website called the “Truth About Chicken,” attacking poultry genetics. Not long after, HSUS took shots at the poultry industry at The Huffington Post.

As for beef, HSUS continues to push the “Meatless Monday” campaign that relies on the claim that beef production is environmentally wasteful. HSUS singles out castration, dehorning, and branding as welfare problems. And HSUS also tried to destroy the beef checkoff via litigation. There’s no reason to think HSUS isn’t thinking about how to start round two.

And HSUS isn’t going to stop its attacks on pork. The group will continue to push for bans in Northeast states with little pork production to create phony “momentum.”  Pressure on retailers and their investors will continue. 

As for eggs, the HSUS plan of passing a federal egg bill has failed. That  leaves Wayne Pacelle with yolk on his face. But if and when the peace deal between United Egg Producers and HSUS expires, then we could see more state ballot initiatives on hen housing. And when that happens, we expect the egg industry to put in place a stronger response. 

Remember that the real issue—higher cost of production, higher prices  and less demand—is being masked as an animal welfare agenda. It’s all about how to increase the cost of raising an ounce of animal protein.  

After Wayne Pacelle took over HSUS in 2004, he dictated a vegan office policy. “HSUS dollars should not contribute to any animal suffering…As such, our policy is to see that all HSUS events, functions, or gatherings where food is made available…are vegan.” Being vegan is the “highest ethical standard” to Pacelle.

It’s past time to play aggressive offense. Defense loses over time. 

Rick Berman is the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies and consumers to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. The thoughts expressed in this commentary are expressly those of the author.  Visit to learn more.

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AZ Nurse    
Arizona  |  October, 21, 2013 at 10:41 AM

Rick Berman - you can make all the disingenuous accusations you like against animal protection advocates. However, it is clear that the industrial agriculture industry you defend is either unwilling or incapable of making meaningful changes. As animal welfare groups continue to expose animal abuse in factory farms, the truth speaks much louder to consumers than your baseless rants.

Minnesota  |  October, 21, 2013 at 11:10 AM

Keep up the good work, Rick. When you get responses like AZ Nurse's, you know you're doing right.

kansas  |  October, 21, 2013 at 12:02 PM

I'm with Dee and THANKS for encouraging more aggressive strategy and tactics from producers and their representatives. We have spent entirely too much time and resources on ineffective, dry "lecturing", in an effort to educate the zealots and "converts" to the HSUS religion of Vegan - like AZ Nurse. HSUS is a cult of radicals who have demonstrated over & over that in their "belief system", Ends Justify Means. I.e., they will lie, steal and cheat to achieve their goals. Exploiting the ignorance of urbanites (especially children) with false Propaganda, Lobbying equally ignorant urban center Representatives and conducting LawFare in urbanite jurisdiction courts cannot be countered with "shocked indignation" and scientific evidence presented by stiff University Professors. Fire with Fire!

Dan Morgan    
Kan.  |  October, 21, 2013 at 03:38 PM

Perhaps the HSUS is no longer getting more companies to phase out gestation crate pork because nearly all companies have already done it...

iowa  |  October, 21, 2013 at 08:37 PM

Dan how many fast food places put on their sign out front" We phased out gestation pork", or ads on tv saying this. The last time i stood in line to eat nobody asked any thing about it. About the AZ. care taker,i have heard of many cases of abuse in her industry.I believe she has the baseless rant. Farmers have to feed billions of people WITH OUT THANKS.

Nathan Rale    
October, 22, 2013 at 05:12 AM

Are farmers the military now? We're supposed to stop you in the airport and thank you for your service? You're whining you don't get thanked enough? Be a man, like your ancestors. I couldn't see your type at Valley Forge or Khe Sanh, whiney victim-boy. Probably a chickenhawk like Berman.

Minnesota  |  October, 22, 2013 at 07:25 AM

LOL. ONLY in the factory farm business will producers try to stop listening to the consumer. Your refusal to hear whats going on AND your continuing to pay Berman millions of dollars is laughable. It's ok, you will come over eventually

kansas  |  October, 25, 2013 at 01:43 PM

AZ, Dan, Nathan, Jonathan... Troll, troll, troll, troll. Nice to see your nasty ad hominem, fact-free, spittle- laced snark & religious zealotry fully displayed here. It both displays both the ignorance and self-righteous pomposity of your Cult, and proves that Berman's group is effective in puncturing your propaganda bubble and challenging your condescending attitude of moral superiority. Rant on malicious hate- speakers, it's good to see your true faces revealed.

Thom Katt    
Midwest  |  October, 25, 2013 at 01:56 PM

Dan Morgan, perhaps you should read the article again, focusing on comprehension. 25 companies of the top 100 in not "nearly all...."

IOWA  |  October, 25, 2013 at 04:32 PM



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