As much as I hate to respond to anything HSUS or its conspirators do, when they attack one of our own, it’s important to set the record straight.
Paul Shapiro, who is “vice president of farm animal protection” for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), attacked PorkNetwork in an editorial that the Huffington Post was foolish enough to run a few weeks ago. Of course, Shapiro and his cohorts at HSUS thrive on taking information out of context and using inflammatory language to evoke an emotional response. Thankfully, except for a handful of uninformed, naïve people, most educated consumers can see right through the rhetoric.
Plus the public is learning that HSUS isn’t everything it says it is, which is why Charity Navigator replaced its rating of HSUS with a "Donor Advisory" in June of this year, citing a $15.75 million settlement of a lawsuit, according to sources. A Donor Advisory indicates "extreme concern.”
Also, in March 2014 Oklahoma Attorney General Scott Pruitt issued a consumer alert regarding HSUS and other national animal organizations. Pruitt stated that his office had received complaints about HSUS misleading donors following a May 2013 tornado disaster.
The vast majority of the organization’s $125 million-plus yearly revenue (2012 numbers, retrieved in January 2014) is not used to help animals – it’s used to pay the salaries and retirement funds of staff members like Shapiro, produce tons of promotional propaganda to mail to unsuspecting consumers and to exert political influence.
But, I digress – let’s get back to Shapiro’s editorial.
He states “dozens of the biggest pork buyers have demanded that their suppliers cease using the ‘cruel’ confinement system, and nine state have outlawed its use.” Pork buyers haven’t “demanded” anything, and as Shapiro knows, the only reason these companies are changing their policies on sow housing is because they know HSUS’ political tactics can damage their brands. Yes, they have asked producers to gradually move away from crates to stalls, but not because crates are “cruel,” as Shapiro knows but will never admit.
The use of gestation crates is a recognized production practice, and when sows are given a choice of being in an open pen or in a stall, they will choose a stall the majority of the time. Even the industry source who Shapiro quotes as saying, "You'd have to have rocks in your head to build a new sow barn with gestating sow stalls" follows that statement with: "I don’t say that based on my view of animal welfare and a consideration of the humane pros and cons of gestating sow stalls versus open housing. Instead, I base it on concerns about market access and long-term capital risk management.” Shapiro conveniently leaves that part out, as is the standard practice of HSUS.
He talks about “the pork industry's dark practice of locking pigs in cages so small they're prevented from even turning around for essentially for their whole lives -- an abusive practice…” This is the standard company line for HSUS, with the type of tactical verbiage I mentioned earlier.
Is the industry changing? Of course it is, just as it always has. As new information and new technologies become available, pork producers are among the first adopters. That’s one of the reasons the industry has seen unprecedented profitability and consumer demand. And if Shapiro were to take the time to read something of real value about pork production, he’d know PorkNetwork has written a number of articles about electronic feeding systems, pen housing and other practices that are being used by producers. And we’ll continue to do so.
Was Jon Stewart’s bit on the pork industry humorous? Yes, but we’ll put our money on the researchers and specialists who provide the scientific information on which we base our information.
If people are unwilling to take responsibility for their words and actions, it’s easy to spout off about things like “animal cruelty” and “abusive conditions” without basing it on sound science, because there are plenty of unsuspecting folks who thrive on misinformation. We’ll continue to challenge those who play off the animal activists’ political agenda rather than presenting objective, thoughtful, science-based opinions.