HSUS tactics require careful monitoring
There's a saying in politics: "Money talks." That was the gist of a note one of our reporters received last week from Wayne Pacelle, head of the Humane Society of the United States.
He was commenting that the Humane Farming Association doesn't have the weight of HSUS when it comes to making things happen in Congress.
He was certainly correct. When it comes to assaults on animal agriculture, HSUS is the 800-pound gorilla. With net assets of more than $180 million, HSUS can -- and has -- pushed through ballot measures in places like California dictating how farmers should treat poultry and livestock.
In the meantime, the Humane Farming Association reports net assets of "only" $11.2 million, according to its 2011 tax return.
"We think of HFA as an entirely ineffectual organization (no one at HSUS can name a single thing for animals that the group has done in two decades), but my main reason for writing is that the group has nothing going on in Congress and is therefore not a reliable or credible source," Pacelle wrote in the email.
Translation: The Humane Farming Association doesn't agree with HSUS, so its position isn't worthy of reporting.
Pacelle's comments were related to California Proposition 2, which HSUS and related individuals spent $4.1 million promoting on 2008. The initiative, which passed, requires California egg farms -- and any farms that sell their eggs in California -- to provide cages large enough for a hen to spread its wings.
The Humane Farming Association has criticized HSUS for not pushing for cage-free facilities for egg-laying chickens.
Therein lies the conflict between the two anti-animal agriculture organizations.
After its success in California and threatening to push through similar initiatives in Washington state and Oregon, HSUS worked out a deal with most of the egg farms in the nation, which are represented by the United Egg Producers, to seek the first-ever federal standards for chicken cages.
The folks at the Humane Farming Association see that as a sellout. Anything short of cage-free is no good, they say. They continue to follow an all-or-nothing strategy.
What they don't recognize is the genius of the HSUS strategy. It combines the power of getting all egg producers under a single federal law with the ability to return to Congress time and again to tighten the regulations -- and, potentially, broaden them to include other livestock.
While in the short term it appears the HSUS is selling out, in the long term, it appears HSUS is on track to reach its goal of hobbling, if not ending, animal agriculture.
That is where everyone in agriculture should be concerned.