In late June, Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was interviewed on ag radio program AgriTalk (read transcript) by AgriTak host Mike Adams. I wanted to get a perspective on some of the things that were said from the Animal Agriculture Alliance. What follows are three questions for the Alliance’s Kay Johnson Smith.

Bovine Veterinarian: HSUS keeps insisting it wants to work with ag, but according to Pacelle's statements on the AgriTalk interview, they were upset the state of Ohio decided to implement  a vote on their own welfare measures -- is this a pattern of HSUS wanting states to go only their way?

Kay Johnson Smith: The motto at HSUS could be “it’s my way, or the highway.” It has become a standard response for HSUS executives to state they want to work with agriculture, but what they mean is if it’s on HSUS’ terms. Those terms call for total elimination of many ethically-based, scientifically valid practices and systems that without, many farmers and ranchers would go out of business. While HSUS’ demands would create great costs to farmers, there are no studies showing there would any improvement in animals’ overall well-being.  In some cases, HSUS’ demands could have a negative impact on farm animals, as well as on the overall quality and safety of the food that comes from those animals.

Ohio is a great example. They met with the Ohio farm leaders, and indicated they would not publicize the meeting. However, not long afterwards, a statement was released to the media about the meeting along with a threat to run a ballot initiative campaign if agriculture did not agree to “work with” HSUS. Rather than politicizing animal welfare and running campaigns costing farmers, ranchers and Ohio citizens millions of dollars, the Ohio farm groups supported the state legislature’s initiative for a ballot initiative establishing a standards setting governmental board.

One would think if HSUS’ real goal was to ensure farm animal well-being, it would support this measure as well. Instead, HSUS’ leadership has publicly threatened to run its own ballot initiative campaign next year – wasting tax dollars as well as millions of its own money to oppose this board’s authority. This is not what I’d call a desire to work with the farm community for the good of the animals. 

BV: Adamsasked Pacelle about their view on the credibility of veterinarians evaluating welfare and Pacelle indicated that he feels that much of the science on the livestock side is paid for by industry. What does AAA and other organizations say about the credibility of veterinarians and how consumers view veterinarians?

Johnson Smith: Over the years, the Animal Agriculture Alliance has conducted numerous public opinion surveys, and veterinarians have continuously ranked as the most credible individuals to address animal care. Farmers and ranchers have consistently ranked high as well. The Alliance agrees that veterinarians, along with animal scientists who study animal behavior, as well as farmers and ranchers are the most experienced in understanding farm animals’ needs and determining the best practices and systems to provide for their overall well-being. 

While critics are skeptical of research that is funded by a group or company with a vested interest in the outcome, let’s be practical. Besides those involved in animal agriculture, who else will fund research to improve farm animal care, animal health, and food safety besides those with a vested interest? While USDA provides some public funding for research, it is not enough – especially in the area of animal welfare. HSUS and other animal rights groups do not fund research to find alternatives to the systems they demand be eliminated. And only recently has any animal welfare group provided any funding for research toward determining the best production system to ensure appropriate animal care. And that group is not HSUS which has provided no funding – by its own admission – toward farm animal care. The one group which is working with agriculture to fund research on egg laying hen housing is the American Humane Association based in Denver, CO.

Though it wasn't a contest, do you think Pacelle answered AgriTalk's questions truthfully, or was there some dodging of the real issues?

Johnson Smith: HSUS has a real agenda that is seldom disclosed by its executive leadership in public, although in meetings with other activists, statements have been made that do. HSUS’ grassroots coordinator John “J.P.” Goodwin has said, “My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” Before joining HSUS, Goodwin was a spokesperson for the extremist Animal Liberation Front, which the FBI considers to be a terrorist group.[i] Miyun Park, HSUS’ Vice President of Farm Animal Welfare bluntly stated that HSUS’ objective is “to get rid of” the egg and broiler industries in the United States, at the Animals and Society Institutes' Strength of Many conference held October 6-8, 2006. Paul Shapiro, Senior Director of HSUS’ Factory Farming Campaign, stated at the 2004 National Student Animal Rights Conference that, “nothing is more important than promoting veganism.”  And HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle has indicated many times that he wants HSUS to become "the NRA of the animal rights movement.”

It’s difficult to reconcile the comments made on AgriTalk with those made by HSUS’ leaders elsewhere when discussing HSUS’ goals.