Rick Berman
Rick Berman

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 HumaneWatch.org to learn more.