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December 07, 2012

Farm Animal Protection Ideas Have Gone Mainstream

The Humane Society of the United States is almost single-handedly changing the way farmers feed America’s appetite for bacon, ribs, holiday hams and other pork products,” wrote reporter Philip Brasher in today’s edition of Roll Call. Indeed, this has been a remarkable year of progress on farm animal welfare issues, with so many of the top food retailers announcing plans to disassociate themselves from gestation crate production. In a separate story, also in today’s paper, Brasher reports HSUS has staked out a moderate ground, appealing to mainstream Americans and winning over so many of the country’s dominant food companies on key issues.

Gestationcrates
The HSUS

Yet while the pig industry has generally been unresponsive to dialogue and to negotiation, HSUS has opened up dialogue in recent years with many leading agricultural organizations, most notably the United Egg Producers, which represents farmers who control about 90 percent of all egg production. Together, we are collaborating with that trade association on federal legislation to improve the lives of egg-laying hens.

We’ve also been closely working with the Ohio Farm Bureau Federation on an eight-point animal welfare plan in that state. Only one issue in our agreement remains: an upgrade of the state’s archaic and anemic anti-cockfighting law. I’ve been so pleased to see that the Ohio Farm Bureau and the Ohio Poultry Association are helping to push ahead that anti-cockfighting legislation, and that they’ve stood behind the terms of the agreement we reached in 2010.

These groups, I think, have learned that HSUS is a constructive player on animal welfare issues. Still, so many within industry, like the national pork industry, don’t want to have a discussion, choosing to circle the wagons and defend worst practices, instead of best practices. It’s my hope these groups dispense with the rhetoric and the stone-walling and figure out a workable pathway for our society -- one that balances their economic ambitions with the values of consumers. We do note, though, that so many reporters and opinion writers are recognizing that, largely because of HSUS, animal welfare issues are unavoidable. Here’s a sample of just a few of those comments from industry.  

Pork Magazine:

  • “HSUS won’t go away; in fact it has gained strength. It has the formula down and will replicate its strategies within the pork sector as well as across the agriculture sector.” (Source)

Missouri Farm Bureau:

  •  “These guys are good—we don’t like them, but they are good at what they do.” (Source)

Food Chain Communications:

  • “HSUS, while by no means the only critic of modern food production who has mastered the mixing of science, emotion and morality, has certainly turned it into a fine art form.” (Source)

Feedstuffs:

  • “As HSUS…gain momentum and credibility with food distributors and retailers, the pork industry seems to be stuck in a rut communicating the same way it always has hoping to magically end up on solid ground.” (Source)

Meatingplace:

  • “The Humane Society of the United States is succeeding in its efforts to convince major U.S. pork producers to phase out the use of sow gestation stalls.” (Source)
  • “HSUS is kicking down crates left and right—not to mention doors.” (Source)
  • “Tapping into a source of influence is a move that HSUS has executed flawlessly.” (Source)
  • “In mid-February, the Humane Society of the United States had the last word in its long argument with the meat industry over the use of gestation crates…Actually, HSUS won the argument years ago.” (Source)

Agritalk:

  • “HSUS has been able to convince these companies [McDonald’s, Burger King, etc.] that they are the ‘experts’  on animal welfare.” (Source)

AgWired:

  • “The gestation stall issue was a shadow hanging over the [World Pork] expo this year, just the latest in attacks against the pork industry totally led by HSUS.” (Source)

BEEF magazine:

  • “HSUS has the motive, the money and the momentum.” (Source)
  • “All [of HSUS’] legal talent has allowed HSUS to win about three dozen cases in the past seven years – cases that are setting new standards for the way ranchers are able to manage their livestock and produce food in the future.” (Source)
  • “One thing you have to give the Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) is that the organization is consistent. HSUS has made it clear – oppose us and you will pay a price.” (Source

There’s no good outcome when animal agriculture organizations don’t sit down and try to work through the problems that are widely recognized within their industries. Ultimately, it only harms their brands, and weakens public confidence in their industries.  At the end of the day, HSUS is about problem-solving for animals and for our country, and these trade groups have the same duties.


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