Rick Berman
Rick Berman

“Cheese-eating surrender monkeys” is how The Simpsons described the French. And it seems the French attitude has sunk into a corner of the restaurant industry.

The Francophiles at Bon Appétit Management Company, which supplies corporations and colleges, have not just trashed the use of individual maternity pens, which are supported by veterinarians. Bon Appétit now is arrogantly trashing egg farmers across California and demanding that they, essentially, go out of business.

Over at the liberal Huffington Post, Bon Appétit vice president Maisie Ganzler writes that California’s egg farmers need to stop protesting Proposition 2, a HSUS-backed state ballot initiative that requires California egg farmers to invest in costly infrastructure changes by 2015. It’s a strange request from Bon Appétit considering that University of California experts predicted Proposition 2’s mandates—designed by the Humane Society of the United States—would essentially put the state egg industry out of business.

The problem here—and more generally, for pork producers and across animal agriculture—is that Bon Appétit is listening to the wrong voices. Ganzler writes that Bon Appétit initially sought HSUS for advice several years back. She writes, “We began working with the experts at the HSUS to create a trustworthy program” of corporate animal welfare policies.

And what, pray tell, does HSUS know about animal welfare and behavior? What “expertise” does HSUS possess on livestock?


Polling finds that the American public trusts farmers and veterinarians over animal rights activists when it comes to animal welfare issues by a margin of 76% to 10%. It’s overwhelming. Keep this in mind.

My staff recently visited with a veterinarian who has nearly 60 years of experience with swine and was captivated by his wealth of stories about his experiences. Growing up, this veterinarian learned firsthand that sows can be nasty and aggressive toward other animals and people. He learned about the drawbacks of housing sows outdoors, and later, in indoor group pens. He was very knowledgeable, and cogent in his communications.

This isn’t knowledge of animals that many Americans are hearing.

That’s because HSUS has a loud megaphone, and it has co-opted the real experts—farmers and veterinarians—in the public debate about animal welfare. HSUS pretends to be the only side of the debate that cares about animal welfare. HSUS has launched its own “Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association,” which absorbed the radical Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and recently has even recruited a handful of small-scale farmers to take shots at other farmers who use mainstream production technology.

We all know that HSUS has no legitimacy on animal welfare. It is a group of ideological zealots who are against animal agriculture. That’s not a scientific or an animal welfare stance.

Therefore, we must generate better messaging focused on veterinarians, animal behavior scientists, and producers. We all know that professional activists who grew up in the suburbs have no credibility on animal welfare. We just have to communicate it far and wide.

That’s certainly something the Pork checkoff can do. Or, if you want to help us in this effort or recommend someone we should talk to, contact me at Berman@BermanCo.com.

HSUS and its water-carriers in the restaurant industry want you to swallow higher costs and unsustainable systems, and ignore your veterinarians and your years of experience with animals—to the point where you’ll go out of business.

If we don’t fight back, then bon appétit.

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.