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November 03, 2009

One Lone Voice Against Animal Welfare

I’ve been encouraged, even heartened, by the swift and broad reaction to The HSUS’s recent undercover investigations of wanton animal abuse at a heinous facility in Vermont that specializes in slaughtering infant calves discarded by the dairy industry and processes them to make “bob veal.”

That is, with one inexcusable exception. So bear with me, because this single wrong-way group of corporate mercenaries deserves to be called out as the champions of cruelty that they really are.

HSUS undercover investigation documents shocking abuse of veal calves
The HSUS

On the positive side, government agencies took action when we showed our latest undercover video evidence of horrible animal abuse at Bushway Packing. The U.S. Department of Agriculture and Vermont Agency of Agriculture shut the facility down. They launched an investigation. Agency leaders used the strongest possible language to condemn the conduct our investigator documented on videotape.

Just as important, leading agriculture trade associations and commentators also provided no apologies for the abuse. The American Veal Association distributed a statement to the press declaring, “The treatment of calves depicted in the videos taken at Bushways Packing Plant in Vermont are unacceptable.”

The agribusiness trade journal Feedstuffs could have been reading my mind when it published a recent editorial saying, “This has got to stop.”

The editors were referring to yet another, earlier video investigation of needless suffering inflicted on farm animals. To continue the quotation, “It has to stop because it leaves the consuming public with a bad taste in its mouth for dairy, meat and poultry products. It's important to understand that companies and producers can't just say ‘bad apple’ and move on because—to consumers who have seen these videos again and again—there are no bad apples anymore. The bad apple, to consumers now, is the industry.”

And industry commentator Chuck Jolley noted on Monday, “It has happened again and our industry has sustained another we-can’t-afford-it black eye. These bad actors must be found and removed from our industry immediately through the combined efforts of governmental and trade association pressure. Corrective action must be swift and indisputable.”

Finally, industry leaders are saying exactly what we are: cruelty against farm animals is too common, inexcusable, and the public won’t tolerate it.

So how do we explain the misnamed Center for Consumer Freedom? The last word I’ve seen from this corporate front group on the subject of farm animal abuse came from its glib mouthpiece, David Martosko.

View footage from HSUS undercover investigation exposing abuse of veal calves
See footage from the latest HSUS undercover investigation.

Let’s consider the kind of misery that intrepid HSUS investigators have brought to light. Our videotape showed a calf kicking as his hoof was cut off. Our videotape showed infant animals too weak to stand subjected to powerful jolts of electricity to get them to move, with water splashed on one of the animals to amplify the power of the electric shock. Our videotape showed living animals piled on top of dead ones. An earlier investigation at the Westland/Hallmark slaughter plant in Chino, Calif. showed cows rammed with forklifts. And water from a high-power hose injected into a cow’s nose to simulate drowning. Still another recent investigation showed a cow, too weak to stand, abandoned in the dirt of an auction lot overnight without food or water. Not one of these acts has anything to do with producing food. Added together, they show a corruption of the human soul.

So what does David Martosko offer on the subject?

On Twitter awhile back, he remarked: “Cheap solution to #PETA & #HSUS? Stop animal-rights infiltrators in farms & slaughterhouses … ” He then provided a link to a website that sells a supposed gadget to detect the presence of hidden cameras.

Yes, Martosko and his misnamed CCF are virtually alone in arguing that the torture of animals can be addressed by trying to prevent anyone from seeing it. He’s a cover-up artist, with a corrupt purpose.

It won’t succeed, of course—and we’ve got our countermeasures in the works for CCF. But if you follow the saga, CCF makes a fat bundle going around to corporations, like tobacco companies and restaurant chains, by promising them anonymity as it attacks the individuals and organizations trying to build the component parts of a civil and humane society. Because CCF is a nonprofit charity—an utter laugh if I’ve ever heard one—the corporations don’t have to reveal themselves and can hide their money. Then, Martosko, who was a music major in college, and his unctuous mentor Rick Berman take their baseless potshots at groups working diligently to stop drunk driving, alert pregnant women about the dangers of consuming mercury, fight obesity, safeguard the environment, and halt animal cruelty.

For instance, what restaurant or grocery chain would dare to say the government is “overly cautious” in warning pregnant women and young children about the dangers of mercury in seafood? Not many. But CCF is happy to spread this kind of absurd propaganda—for what is surely a juicy fee.

In a recent letter criticizing us, Martosko asked people to believe that The HSUS is pursuing “fringe” goals. Oh yeah? The kind of farm animal abuse that has become public in recent years, fringe? The kind of farm animal abuse that leading agricultural trade associations and commentators condemn? Dogfighting, fringe? Puppy mills, fringe? I wonder what Martosko and CCF would charge to defend the breeder who kept a dog in an undersized cage for so long that her fur grew into the wire of the cage and had to be cut free when our rescue team arrived? Fringe?

The one agreement I have with CCF is a belief that there are two sides to every story. In this instance, it’s simple. We’re against abusing animals for any reason. And Martosko and Berman support it. The only question left unresolved is, who is paying you Dave and Rick? That’s the tune we want you to name.

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