Farm Girl’s Perspective on New Face for HSUS

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There are very few issues that I publicly take a stance on.  I am in a position that makes it hard to voice my own personal opinions on different political topics, as I represent a diverse group of individuals.  However, sometimes the right thing to do is VOICE your opinion and educate others.

Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has finally pushed me to that point.  You might think that HSUS is your local animal shelter, but please know that this animal rights group is the furthest thing from the truth!  $148 Million – That’s how much revenue the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) generated in 2009 according to its 2010 IRS 990 disclosure form.  If you thought your $19.99 went to saving the poor kittens and puppies seen on most all HSUS propaganda, you were wrong.  HSUS only gives less than 1 percent of their budget on operations involving local humane societies and shelters, according to Humane Watch and many other reputable sources.

I am a cattle girl and a farmers daughter and I support the agricultural industry to the fullest degree.  Does the industry do everything right, not always, but what industry do you know that does?  I want the very best for my farm families, rural America and for my children’s children.  I have been lucky enough to work in various jobs that have given me a broad spectrum of REAL American Agriculture.  And let me tell you- what HSUS tried to present as REAL agriculture is not always the truth.  You know that place where the truth lies and then the outskirts between a lie and the truth?  HSUS hangs out there, markets the HELL out of it and pulls at your heart strings with scare tactics and photos that show YOU the worst possible situation of a large farm and tells you this is American Agriculture.

I have watched what HSUS has done in other states over the past 10 years to the ag industry, not to mention stripping rights away from Americans.  Yes, that’s correct if you are a game hunter you better watch out- HSUS already banned Dove hunting in Michigan and their leadership has openly stated they wish to “end all sports hunting in this country.”  You better say good-bye to those delicious venison steaks or duck breasts at your family’s table.

Here are some quotes from HSUS leadership that made me cringe a little.

“Eating meat causes animal cruelty.” – HSUS senior campaigner Paul Shapiro, in a 2003 speech

“If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.”— CEO Wayne Pacelle, quoted by the Associated Press, December 1991

“Nothing is more important than promoting veganism.” HSUS senior campaigner Paul Shapiro, at the 2004 National Student Animal Rights Conference

“My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture.” –HSUS Director of Animal Cruelty Policy John “J.P.” Goodwin

You wouldn’t think that these quotes would come from an organization that now says they want to SUPPORT farm families and give farmers the skills to raise animals in a humane manner would you?

I can sum up HSUS in four words: Fundraising, Advertising, Lobbying and Salaries. According to their 2011 tax records, 41% of their funds were dedicated to marketing & advertising.  In 2010, Wayne Pacelle stated that HSUS had about 50 lawyers of HSUS’s 636 total employees. The White House only had 454 employees in 2011!  HSUS has $32.7 million invested in Wall Street hedge funds.  Where is their money going?  To federal court with all their lawyers and lobbyists, not saving animals or saving family farms.

If you want to read other alarming figures on where HSUS spends its money, check out Humane Watch for a great breakdown of HSUS’s spending habits.  And, these are some other figures that stood out to me after much research. $24.3 Million and $36.2 Million – That is how much this organization spends on fundraising and on the salaries and benefits of their own.  But wait, I have one number that really hits home.  “Thought Leaders,” ever heard of them?  These are HSUS’s newest ways to alter public policy and influence others and apparently it costs $48 million to form public policy, because that is how much HSUS spent to buy new laws and regulations in our country and work to restrict the rights of animal owners, hunters and farmers.  I can tell you this- they sure didn’t spend any of that $48 million to help the family farms they are now promoting.

Why am I writing educating you about HSUS? Why should you care where and how they spend their money?  There is a new face to the HSUS and it comes from our own. HSUS has been forming Agricultural Councils in a number of states recently to be the voice of HSUS’s Farming for the 21st Century focus, a focus on humane farming.  Humane farming….I get that.  I also see our family farms all doing this already.

Sometimes its better to agree to disagree in manners like this one, and I have with a few in the industry.  I don’t support every agricultural practice in this country, nor do I support every technological method available for any industry.  But I know this, I will never support groups like HSUS that are working to make decisions for me, my family and my farming community. HSUS is making legislation to harm 98% of our family farms in Missouri because they do not like the other 2% of the industries practices.

HSUS use scare tactics to make consumers scared of their food and think that all farms in the US are like the ones in the HSUS’s marketing.  I have worked in public relations and marketing my entire life and I can tell you it’s very easy to make a mountain out of a molehill with the correct marketing.

I know Missouri’s farming community, I know family farms, I know their practices, I know their beliefs in land and environmental stewardships and I trust my farmers!  I hear the new HSUS Missouri Ag Council touting “we want to help Missouri farmers create more humane measures on their farms,” maybe they haven’t toured or met the majority of Missouri farmers- they are ALREADY doing this!

What I find frightening is that HSUS thinks they should be a 3rd source verifier for farms.  I can tell you what that means- higher priced food for everyone! HSUS thinks that by placing more legislation and regulations on farmers (big or small) because both will see these regulations, that they will force the large CAFOs out of business.  But, what they don’t understand is more regulations mean that the large organizations will just pay to change their operations and fit into the new regs, whereas the small family farms will yet again suffer.   And, the more it takes a farmer to produce a farm product (whether that is a family farm that is a grower for Pilgrims Pride, Cargill or for grocery stores or a farmers market), the more the consumer will pay.  But, hey…that’s HSUS’s goal- to reduce the amount of meat consumption and to get folks to eat a more vegan diet – so I guess they are winning in the long run.  They are controlling what you and I will eat, because they are trying to ensure there will not be a choice with your pocketbooks.

Recently, I posed many questions on one HSUS Missouri Ag Council’s Facebook page asking for definitions on what a factory farm was, what is big ag, small ag and various other topics in which he was spouting the gospel.  He would respond, but never with definitions.  He did call a CAFO a “Confined Animal Farm Operation” however, which I kindly corrected him.  A CAFO is a Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation, which confines animals for a specific amount of days during a growing season, the confinements are a certain size and the area is traditionally inside a structure.  I think a person serving on this new HSUS council would know the correct terminology he was touting, wouldn’t you? But, if you don’t come from a farm or farm yourself…sometimes those things get lost in translation.

Recently, I attended a HSUS meeting: How We Eat, How We Farm, which was put on by the newly formed HSUS Missouri Agricultural Council.  I went to learn, listen and hopefully come away with some answers.  Unfortunately, the opposite happened.  I learned about the council members and their beliefs on humane treatment of animals (which I share), support of local food (which I also support), but I heard a lot of political jargon and bashing of the Right to Farm Amendment, how so many of our diseases today are because of Large Ag farms (confinement, antibiotics), how I should only buy food that doesn’t have a label because it’s MUCH more safer for my family than Certified Organic, Certified Humane to name a few, and even how we shouldn’t eat as much meat as we do for our health (this was in reference to HSUS supporting “Meatless Monday” (however, all the council members did say they were  NOT vegans).

The last hour of the 2-hour presentation consisted of questions that were supposedly submitted BEFORE the meeting, but sounded more like scripted questions from the organization themselves.  Finally, I raised my hand to ask a simple question: What plans does HSUS have to help family farms?  I mean they tout how they support family farmers (and always have), the group says they support local foods and want to help make it easier for consumers to choose local, healthy products.  But, when asked what their plans where – I had no facts or plan of action presented by any panelist.  Hmmm…

But, they said they planned to use their HUGE group of lobbyists to rally to change public policy to support sustainable agriculture, connect consumers with producers, show family farmers how they can go from industrial ag to sustainable farms, and get more farmers farming land.

This all sounds wonderful, I mean I support all of this and I am sure all the farmers I know would say, “YES” to all of this as well.  But it also sounds like a lot of political “fluff” to me.  Folks can say whatever they want, but it’s ACTION that I want or at least a plan to get there.  I saw none of this at the meeting.

I came away with a very uncomfortable feeling after the meeting as well.  I might be going out on a limb here, but I saw HSUS using “our own” to speak their message.  I am a marketing gal and I know that HSUS has lost footing in Missouri after Proposition B last year. This organization is finding a way to get back in the good graces of Missourians…or better yet, our family farmers.  So, what better way to do that than gets locals within the communities to support their cause and preach it to their neighbors, their friends?  It’s a great way to garner support in our communities by using our own folks.  Brilliant!  But, I for one will not be fooled.  I have watched, seen first-hand and talked with leadership of HSUS in the past and their actions have shown me their true colors.

Take Joe Maxwell for instance.  He is the HSUS Vice President and claims “humane” farming, but his pork co-op Heritage Acres was suspended by the USDA for violations of humane slaughter/treatment regulations in 2009.  There were 150 violations to be exact. The violations ranged from humane handling issues to meat contamination to unhygienic conditions. More specifically, it was found to excessively use hotshot and stunners on its livestock, have meat contaminated with fecal matter and tainted carcasses, and display animal waste and condensation in the slaughter room.  You can read the full report here.

It’s time we as an industry stood together.  It’s time that we as family farmers, of all sizes, shapes and scopes stand as one industry.  Forget the rock throwing of  Big Ag vs Small Ag, the Traditional vs. Alternative – we are one industry and must stand united.

I tell my own farmers to advocate for their products, tell their story to their customers and neighbors, BE THE VOICE that is not heard in our industry.  Consumers want to hear your stories, they want to buy your local products, they want to understand corn and soybean farming practices, but if we as an industry do not let our voices be heard, then our country will not hear our stories…they will only hear the voices and stories of groups that have NO farm background and NO rich farm history.  Be the VOICE!  Speak out to your friends, family, consumers and neighbors.

Learn about Right to Farm and really educate yourself on the facts- the TRUE facts.  If you are a consumer of local products and up in the air about Right to Farm or the HSUS’s new “farm focus”- talk with REAL farmers in your community.  I have done this and I can tell you where they lie…and it’s not with a professional fundraising non-profit organization.

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