full article and comments:
Animal advocates raise ire of farmers
Farm Bureau questions agenda of Humane Society
By Rick Barrett of the Journal
Posted: April 17, 2010
Wisconsin's largest farm group has plenty of issues on its plate, but few
things invoke anger more than the Humane Society of the United States - an
organization that farmers say wants to eliminate animal agriculture.
It's a war that has come to Dairyland, Bill Bruins, Wisconsin Farm Bureau
Federation president told a recent gathering of 400 farmers at the state
"Groups that subscribe to this 'animal rights' mind-set believe that animals
should not be eaten, worn, used for research, hunted or fished," Bruins said.
"Livestock farmers: How much clearer do they have to be in saying that they want
to put you out of business?"
The Humane Society of the United States raises millions of dollars a year from
Americans for a variety of causes, such as veterinary care, wildlife
rehabilitation and lobbying for changes in livestock farming practices.
With 11 million members, the Washington, D.C., organization has become one of
the most powerful players in the animal welfare movement.
It's also a political machine that masquerades as an umbrella organization for
local humane societies while pursuing a radical animal rights agenda, according
to Wisconsin Farm Bureau.
"It's a slicker version of PETA," another animal rights group, Bruins said.
Two sides meet
In its newsletter, Wisconsin Farm Bureau has blasted the organization with
headlines such as "Humane Society of the U.S. tries to infiltrate 4-H," a
farm-oriented youth group.
"They won't say this to you, or to me, but their goal is to eliminate animal
agriculture in this country," Bruins said.
Officials with the Humane Society of the U.S., which is not affiliated with the
American Humane Association or local pet shelters, met recently with Wisconsin
Farm Bureau leaders in Madison.
It was a cordial meeting, which made the Farm Bureau's subsequent attacks
puzzling, said Paul Shapiro, senior director of the HSUS "factory farming"
campaign that pursues livestock issues.
The organization does not have an "anti-meat" agenda, is not plotting the demise
of animal agriculture, and has not pursued a livestock agenda in Wisconsin,
"We are comprised of vegetarians and meat eaters alike," he said. "And the
lion's share of our funds go to programs for cats, dogs and wildlife."
Still, the organization has drawn criticism from farm groups in Kansas, Iowa,
North Carolina and other states for what farmers say are attempts to ban farming
practices such as raising veal calves in small hutches, and for the use of
undercover videos exposing animal cruelty.
"The HSUS formula is designed to horrify and disgust consumers and to vilify
livestock farmers. Then it's on to the next media event," Dirck Steimel, Iowa
Farm Bureau news services manager wrote in a blog.
Humane Society of the U.S. has campaigned against the poultry industry for
keeping millions of chickens confined in tiny cages, and it has campaigned
against the dairy industry's practice of "tail docking," where a cow's tail is
removed to promote better hygiene.
"The vast majority of animals raised for food are treated in ways that many
people would regard as cruel," Shapiro said. "There are a lot of cruel practices
that are systemic throughout the agribusiness industry, and we are seeking to
Humane Society of the U.S. has led successful efforts to implement livestock
laws in other states, including California where farmers have until 2015 to
phase out practices such as raising chickens, pigs and calves in tiny crates and
The organization sought to work with Wisconsin Farm Bureau on banning tail
docking but was opposed by Farm Bureau leadership.
"They seemed opposed to any reform no matter how modest it was," Shapiro said.
Critics say the organization's agenda is far from "modest," and that one of its
leaders was once with Animal Liberation Front, a group known for aggressive
tactics such as destroying farm property.
J.P. Goodwin, formerly with Animal Liberation Front, now coordinates Humane
Society of the U.S. efforts to stop illegal dog fighting and cock fighting.
"His job involves regularly working with law enforcement in raiding dog fighting
rings," Shapiro said. "And he has repeatedly, publicly and privately,
repudiated" Animal Liberation Front tactics and his former involvement with the
Shapiro has been criticized for a 2003 video in which he said "I really firmly
do believe that one of the most effective ways that we can get people,
especially younger people, to choose to eat more vegetarian meals or to even
better become vegetarian or vegan, is to show them that eating meat causes
The video was made when he worked for another group, Shapiro said, and does not
reflect Humane Society of the U.S. policies.
Still, Wisconsin farmers believe the group has an anti-animal agriculture agenda
that threatens their livelihood.
"I liken them to wolves in sheep's clothing," Bruins said. "They will go
undercover and wait for a worst-case-scenario on a farm, videotape it, and then
pretend that it's normal activity. That is so wrong."
Other farm groups in the state also are leery of Humane Society of the U.S. and
say they have made a lot of progress in animal welfare issues.
Dairy farmers don't want an activist group dictating farming practices, said
Shelly Mayer, executive director of Professional Dairy Producers of Wisconsin.
"We don't need to have legislative policy that determines the way animals are
raised and the type of housing they're in," said Tammy Vaassen, spokeswoman for
the Wisconsin Pork Association.
Wisconsin Farm Bureau encourages people to support local animal shelters but not
to give money to the Humane Society of the U.S.
"We know best how to take care of our animals. It's not for a food elitist group
to decide," Bruins said.
But at least one Wisconsin farm group has found common ground with the
organization on issues such as animal confinement.
"We do a lot of things that are aligned with what HSUS wants, such as not
raising our chickens in cages," said Wendy Fulwider, chief animal husbandry
specialist for Organic Valley, a farmers' cooperative in La Farge.
"I think it's important that we engage this organization in conversation whether
we agree with them or not. They are not going away," Fulwider said.