Editor's Note: Last week, PorkNetwork ran an article by Rick Berman with the Center for Consumer Freedom called Beware the HSUS Olive Branch. In that commentary, Berman said Matthew Prescott designed a campaign while with PETA that compared livestock farms to Nazi concentration camps. Prescott asked to respond, and his comments follow:
Over the course of many years working to address agricultural issues, I’ve been honored to foster positive relationships with family farmers, large-scale producers, fast food outlets, grocery chains, industry trade associations, and more. I’ve applauded farmers for switching to higher animal welfare standards, and helped connect them with major retailers seeking to improve animal welfare in their supply chains. I believe that working together, people of different backgrounds and mindsets can accomplish a lot, and am proud to put that belief into action every day on behalf of The Humane Society of the United States.
When I was starting out in animal protection in my early 20s—long before I worked at HSUS—I held some strident views that stemmed from my horror at what too many farm animals endure, leading me to make an ill-advised comment.
My views have since evolved, but the tactics used by DC lobbyist and Pork Network contributor Rick Berman—and the Center for Consumer Freedom—have not. It’s perhaps the oldest money-making scheme in the book: CCF creates controversies, drives wedges between the stakeholders to create polarizing environments, and then asks for donations to solve the very problems it’s fabricated. Haven’t we had enough of this kind of divisive, go-nowhere gamesmanship?
The fact is, Berman isn’t a fellow to be taken seriously – and serious people in the food industry know it.
As just one example: he made a recent fundraising trip to speak to pork producers in Manitoba, Canada. He was trying to rake in more money from farmers as part of CCF’s campaigns against The HSUS over our work to help the industry shift to group sow housing. Two weeks later, the eight largest Canadian supermarkets – including Walmart, Costco and Metro – announced plans to move away from producers who rely on gestation crates.
That outcome is typical. Berman has been anoutlier for years. Producers, grocers, restaurateurs by the score have publicly partnered with The HSUS to meet consumer demands for animal welfare improvements. Berman has accomplished little during this span except trying to make money from the old dodge of wedge politics.
He’s done hardly better slinging mud at his other targets – like Mothers Against Drunk Driving. He holds himself out as a paid hit-man, but, in the end, doesn’t seem to hit any targets.
No doubt Berman will do his best to try and make more money off the backs of some people who want to try and turn back the clock. But the truth stares him in the face: my track record and HSUS’ work is built on fostering positive partnerships with all stakeholders—including within agriculture. We’re moving forward cooperatively in a complex marketplace. Nothing Berman says from the sidelines can change that.
The comments presented here are expressly those of the author and do not represent the views of PorkNetwork.