What does a group do when the use of intimidation doesn’t work? The group takes its opponent to court, of course.
That has been Humane Society of the United States’ chosen tactic in its feud with certain groups, one of the more recent of those being the National Pork Producers Council. In 2012, HSUS brought a joint lawsuit against the National Pork Board, alleging that it provided the NPPC with almost $60 million funded by pork checkoff funds.
The pork checkoff, for those unfamiliar, is a system in which pork producers pay a small percentage of the value when pigs are sold and when pigs or pork products are brought into the U.S. In return, the funds collected through the pork checkoff benefit all pork producers by supporting them through research, promotion, and public education.
HSUS claimed that checkoff funds were indirectly used to benefit NPPC’s lobbying efforts, as the group is the primary trade association of the entire U.S. pork industry. Fortunately, common sense prevailed as the district court that heard the case dismissed it for lack of standing.
What is not fortunate, however, is a recent development in this case against the Pork Board. On Friday, the U.S. Court of Appeals reversed the earlier district court ruling, allowing the initial lawsuit to be reconsidered. We question the grounds on which the Court of Appeals made this seemingly bizarre decision. An even bigger question is why HSUS is so fervently pursuing legal action against the National Pork Board and the National Pork Producers Council.
We’d have to go back to early 2012 for that answer. In January of that year, congressional legislation (HR 3798) was introduced that would set a federal standard for cage-size requirements. HSUS, in an agreement to work together with a group called the United Egg Producers, pushed heavily for this legislation.
It would’ve modeled the Proposition 2 passage in California, which increased cage requirements for egg-laying hens from 67 square inches to 116. The arguments against this are plentiful: it puts a huge economic strain on egg farmers to meet these requirements; those costs are then passed on to consumers, and the results have been clear as egg prices nearly doubled and have been exacerbated even more due to the recent bird flu epidemic; the larger space for the chickens exposes them to a greater risk of disease, bone breakage, parasites, cannibalism, and predatory attacks; and, the increase in land, feed, energy, and transportation requirements result in greater resource usage, lower air quality, and a significant increase in the carbon footprint of the chicken industry.
After AB 1437, which put those same requirements on any state doing business with California, agriculture professionals across the country were enraged, and rightly so. The proposed federal standards would essentially make California’s legislation nationally recognized. This is what NPPC President Doug Wolf had to say about HR 3798, which had been described as a federal “Farm Takeover Bill”:
“This HSUS-backed legislation would set a dangerous precedent that could let Washington bureaucrats dictate how livestock and poultry producers raise and care for their animals.”
The great worry among all agriculture groups was that national standards would creep into other segments of the industry, especially pork. These groups, as well as millions of Americans, know that these standards are ridiculous, unnecessary, and an intrusion on family farms across the country. Doug Wolf:
“If enacted, it would open Pandora’s Box for special interest groups to pursue similar federal laws on pig farmers, dairy farmers and other family farming operations.”
You can see why then that NPPC would be such a strong opponent of HSUS’s 2012 pursuit of federal farm legislation, something they typically go for on more state and local levels.
HSUS’s timing with its lawsuit against the National Pork Board is rather curious given these circumstances. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle even had the gall to state the U.S. Court of Appeals’ decision was “a potentially enormous win for small farmers . . . (who’ve) felt the wrath of the NPPC’s intense lobbying efforts.” The insinuation that any Ag group is working against small farmers is preposterous, and a blatant attempt to fracture small farmers against their larger contemporaries. All farmers, at any size, are working towards the same goal of feeding our nation’s families. HSUS’s bold strategy of going after any group working towards this goal would be laughable if it weren’t such a horrible violation of American trust and our overall well-being.
That being said, HSUS is rarely associated with concern for human welfare when its radical ideology focuses only on providing animals with “rights”, regardless of the effect that would have on human lives.