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December 11, 2008

Pay No Attention to the Man Behind the Curtain

In the pages of The New York Times today, you'll see two items that may at first glance not seem to relate, but closely linked they are. An ad in the A section of The Times comes from the Center for Consumer Freedom—a corporate front group whose stock in trade is attacking animal welfare, environmental, food safety, and public health reforms and the groups that advance them. I've written about this corrosive outfit on multiple occasions. It has no independence, no science, no credibility—just lots of cash and an interest in tearing down the work of nonprofit groups like The HSUS and Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and even government agencies like the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, that try to enhance the health and well-being of people or animals or both. CCF does not disclose the contributions it receives, so we can't be quite sure who funded this latest attack on The HSUS. But we can say with certainty that it is a group threatened by The HSUS's effectiveness in combating animal abuse.

Also in the A section is a column from Nicholas Kristof, who writes about the urgent need for reform at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Kristof says the agency should be renamed the Department of Food, and his general line of thought is spot on. USDA has become too closely associated with agricultural producer groups and the factory farming corporations that benefit from the CCF attacks.

Herd of cattle
© SXC/bebb59

Indeed, there is nothing wrong with government promoting American enterprise. The problem is that it is not properly balanced with other important concerns, like food safety, animal welfare, and environmental protection. Here is an agency in desperate need of reform, and a new orientation. Good management cannot cure its problems. It needs a revamping of its mission and purpose.

Those who have held the most sway with USDA are worried about a reform selection for Agriculture Secretary. And they are worried about the influence of The HSUS and other groups in this process and in all of our other work. They've decided to attack the messenger. Today, they're trotting out the Bill Ayers strategy—or what might be called the "six degrees of separation" test of who is a terrorist. If The HSUS and its staff ever talk to or interact, even unwittingly, with someone involved in bad behavior—behavior we have repeatedly and publicly condemned—then that supposedly makes us terrorist sympathizers.

It's an appalling line of argument, and a particularly ill fit for The HSUS, which is resolute and outspoken in its condemnation of anyone who advocates going outside the bounds of the law to advance the cause of animal protection. CCF does not really think we have any sympathy for lawless folks. This is just a ruse for its attacks on us motivated by the concern that we are effective at working through the system. They would love it if we spent our time talking to radicals. But we don't. We talk to average Americans and people of influence, and they are listening. And they are changing.

CCF and its allies can't win the battle of ideas, and increasingly they can't win ballot initiative battles like Prop 2 or other battles in Congress or the state legislatures. So they attack the messenger.

We are ready for you CCF, and your attacks only embolden us, steel our resolve, and bring us more support.  That is something else you can count on.

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