Animal Ag Engage


HSUS bullies animal ag and hurts low-income families

Diane Sullivan, an anti-poverty and affordable food advocate, shares her story of standing up for agriculture while the Humane Society of the United States pushed for a ballot in Massachusetts that would hurt low-income families at the grocery store. 

Less than a year ago, I attended the 2016 Animal Agriculture Alliance Stakeholders Summit, my first real introduction to agriculture beyond labels on products in the grocery store. I had recently learned about a ballot initiative filed in my state that, despite efforts to legally challenge its certification, would become Question 3 on the Massachusetts 2016 ballot.

As I considered engaging in this food policy debate, I reflected on my own family’s experience with hunger, homelessness and poverty which drives me in my work for social justice. I recalled the times I would dig through my sofa for change just to purchase a dozen eggs to feed my children some protein for dinner. In deference to the real victims of Q3, I would later agree to become campaign manager for Citizens Against Food Tax Injustice.

In my work, I have always sought to break down the stereotypes we all know too well – that poor people are lazy and uninspired; that if we would just go to work, we can pull ourselves up by our bootstraps. Rather than focus on solutions to poverty, policies began to look more like punishments, as broad brushes of accusations of fraud, waste and abuse taint us all when one bad apple makes a new headline.

While attending last year’s summit, I quickly learned that those of you providing the gift of nutrition have your own unique, yet similar challenges. I noted to Brian Klippenstien of Protect the Harvest at the time that low income families and farmers have their respective stories to share, stories that left untold by us, would be told for us by others with self-serving interests.

My years in policy work have also shown me that when we start to solve for a problem that does not exist, there will be unintended consequences. More often than not, the poor will suffer the worst. Q3 is the very definition of social injustice, those elite with money and satisfied choices imposing burdens on those with neither.

On its surface, Q3 would appeal to the good-hearted voters in Massachusetts who want to prevent cruelty to animals. In reality, Q3 was a cruel indifference to those of us who struggle to feed our families in a state ranked 47th in housing affordability and where our food costs are already 26 percent higher than the national average. Like most everyone, I don’t want to be cruel to animals, but I refuse to be cruel to people.

The Humane Society of the United States and their supporters would ultimately spend $2.7 million on the passage of Q3, while ensuring that the good and truth of agriculture would be a story left untold in my state. HSUS would continue to ignore not only the economic impacts for some of our state’s most vulnerable citizens, but also the animal welfare trade-offs for the very livestock they claim to protect.

The politics is strange. Imagine if President Trump were to propose doubling the cost of the most affordable and accessible source of protein available to low income families. Outrage would ensue as advocates for the poor and the media would express their disdain for such a heartless and reckless act. Yet, when merchants of veganism do it, compassion for our fellow humans can simply be set aside, it seems.

Thankfully, Mr. Forrest Lucas and the National Pork Producers Council would provide enough funds for me to give voice to the voiceless in this debate. Sadly, we would ultimately be outspent 10:1 as funds directly from HSUS and their supporters in places like California, New York and DC poured into their campaign. Citizens for Farm Animal Protection rained down TV ads that portrayed animals in awful conditions, duping MA voters into thinking these conditions existed across farms in our state and were acceptable, normal agriculture practices across the country.

Walking into this debate, I had no idea how extraordinary our food producers and science partners are at providing healthy, affordable and sustainable nutrition. I am among the grateful who appreciate why your work is so critical and meaningful. I know why, going forward, the coalitions that I am accustomed to working in must be working in partnership with you all who feed us.

HSUS cleverly played on the emotions of voters in a progressive state where we, in general, know very little to nothing about agriculture. HSUS has bullied our local farmers into submission with direct threats to their livelihoods. HSUS lied about the cost, as they did in CA, selling their ‘penny-an-egg’ story to unsuspecting voters. HSUS claimed that consumers were driving their cause, not mentioning the consumers they were referring were retail executives who know about a good marketing plan, not your average shopper on a budget. HSUS called me as a pawn for big agriculture.

HSUS would soon learn that my supporters hadn’t just come to MA to randomly pick some low-income woman to be the face of this campaign. HSUS wasn’t certain how to handle me. This low income grandma, working 2 jobs to survive, with a solid record of 15 years in anti-poverty work, was on a crash course in agriculture. I found myself being the voice for not only those victimized by Q3, but also in defense of agriculture.

I created a unique challenge. HSUS couldn’t protest in front of my home: my neighbors would have had a field day with them. HSUS couldn’t threaten a boycott of my business: I don’t own one. HSUS couldn’t bully me out of this debate: though they tried. Their supporters suggested that I be locked in a cage. Some commented that my children should not exist if I ever struggled to feed them.

Despite our efforts, Q3 would pass overwhelmingly in MA, with a 2022 implementation date. As predicted, HSUS has moved along to another small, coastal state that, like my own, ranks among the very lowest in agriculture receipts in the country. HSUS is taking to state legislatures and ballots what they have been losing at the check-out counter where 90 percent of us purchase conventional eggs.

As I consider my next steps in this debate, I am reminded that HSUS did not happen overnight. Campaigns take time. Now, I know there has been an on-going food policy debate where those most impacted – and harmed – have been absent. I am here to take my seat at the table. HSUS is now pressing further, trying to bully big agriculture into producing slower growing broilers driving up the consumer price of chicken meat. That negotiation does not include the voice of those most adversely impacted. Any meaningful debate on these issues requires the presence of one of its major stakeholder groups –low income consumers.

In MA, nearly 800,000 residents rely on the federal government’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as Food Stamps). Nationwide, that number is 45.5 million. We know that these numbers only scratch the surface at what food insecurity in the United States really looks like.

We must be more united and assertive in protecting and distributing our abundance. We must have the victims of this debate join with those who produce. The voice of low-income consumers can no longer be excluded from the negotiating tables. It is critical we unite urban and rural partnerships to promote food security and protect our dinner plates from the self-appointed food police.


When a farm kid goes to an animal rights conference…

I grew up on a cattle farm in rural Missouri. I am a classic, stereotypical farm kid that was involved in the local 4-H and FFA. I raised cows, pigs, chickens, rabbits and ducks. I know how to drive a tractor and drove a truck in a field before I drove a car on the highway.I'm a farm kid, and I went to animal rights conferneces.

Bullying farmers and ranchers 

I became aware of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) from their pessimistic TV commercials trying to gain more donations by appealing to viewers’ emotions. I knew these animal rights organizations always said they were trying to help dogs and cats, but when they said they needed to “rescue” farm animals, that’s when I started to do research.

In August of 2014, Missouri residents voted on a “Right to Farm Bill”- ensuring Missouri farmers and ranchers are guaranteed the right to farm for forever in the state. I advocated heavily in favor of this bill, yet I met several people who were skeptical, and the majority of those people were misinformed on the bill by anti-agriculture groups. Therefore, I attained a dislike for these groups that felt the need to bully and pressure their way into getting what they think is best for animals – which often does not align with science.

blog picBlending in with the activists

After that, I never thought that I would attend multiple events sponsored by the organizations that are trying to annihilate the industry that possesses my livelihood.

That quickly changed when I moved halfway across the country for my summer internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. The Alliance sends representatives to national animal rights conferences each year so that it can inform the industry about what strategies and tactics activist groups may be using next. Not knowing what was going to be said or done, I sat quietly and noted what the organizations had to say about the animal agriculture community.

I did not know exactly what to expect when I walked into the first conference, the HSUS’ Taking Action for Animals Conference. My first thought was that I was not going to blend-in with the activist crowd. During the opening session, Paul Shapiro, HSUS’ vice president of farm animal protection, said something opposing the animal agriculture industry that made the whole audience stand up, clap and cheer. Since I was trying to blend in, I had to stand and clap as well. I was weak in the knees to stand and applaud somebody that doesn’t understand the importance of animal agriculture and the hard work and dedication that farmers like my family possess.

The second conference I attended was the 2016 National Animal Rights Conference hosted by FARM (Farm Animal Rights Movement) in Los Angeles, California.

The banquet entree at the 2016 Animal Rights Conference was "chicken" in a mushroom sauce.

The banquet entree at the 2016 Animal Rights Conference was “chicken” in a mushroom sauce.

While at this conference I tried vegan food, which added to the eye-opening experience of being exposed to the animal rights movement. This conference was much larger than the one hosted by HSUS and included more radical sessions that made me cringe by just reading the titles like, “The Spirituality of Veganism,” and “Getting to Know Our Adversaries.”

While sitting through hours and hours of similarly themed sessions I did learn a few things. I learned that most of the animal activists will believe the lies of “factory farming” without ever hearing the truth from farmers themselves. Several of the activists think that animal agriculture is an abomination to mankind that needs to be destroyed and the animals need to be “liberated.” I also learned of the different tactics that are being used by groups to essentially spy on farms, fairs, and other similar events. From drones, telephoto camera lenses, body cameras and the use of the Freedom of Information Act, activists are willing to stop at nothing to “free” the animals. To see what these people are willing to do to “liberate” animals is intimidating, because their tactics are ruthless and unethical.


SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness) uses drones like this one nicknamed “angel.”

Controlling my emotions 

A skill I learned while attending these conferences was to control my thoughts and expressions while listening to the lies spewed by speakers. During the HSUS conference, Nathan Runkle, president of Mercy for Animals, specifically said that “4-H is a child’s first betrayal of animals.” I retired as a 12-year 4-H member and Missouri State 4-H President in early June. It took courage for me to clap at the comment rather than speaking out to defend the organization. I learned that the activists are willing to say anything to make people believe their lies about farming.

Leading with lies and misinformation

As I unwillingly applauded several animal rights leaders, listened to speakers preach about plant-based diets, tried vegan food and talked with people about “how horrible farmers are,” I realized the key difference between myself and the activists. While claiming to care about farm animals, activist groups rely on lies and misinformation to spread their goal of ending animal agriculture while I rely on truths, farmers’ experiences and science to promote the industry I love.

If you have questions or concerns about how farm animals are cared for please ask a farmer who cares for their animals every day, not animal rights groups with a radical, unrealistic, and downright absurd agenda.

The Alliance has published one report on the HSUS conference and is currently working on a report from the 2016 National Animal Rights Conference. These reports are exclusively available to Alliance members.


Reflections from the Animal Rights National Conference: what can we learn

Attending Animal Rights Conferences blog picture

The Animal Agriculture Alliance frequently attends conferences hosted by animal rights groups. The purpose of attending – to get inside information straight from the source and generate reports for its members. I attended Taking Action for Animals, hosted by the Humane Society of the United States and the Animal Rights National Conference, hosted by the Farm Animal Rights Movement. The experience was eye-opening. I went in open-minded and intrigued by the conference themes. The themes targeted the rights and welfare of all animals. After a few phrases were repeated, the strategic position these organizations held was clear: these conferences are an attempt to undermine the animal agriculture community.

While attending each of the conferences, I did not see eye-to-eye with much of the information shared. Oftentimes the information was outdated, out of context and invalid. There was one speaker howbeit, that I did side with in one regard, Steve Hindi. Hindi is president of SHARK (Showing Animals Respect and Kindness). During his presentation Hindi said, “We’re winning? That’s absurd.” A statement which I applaud. The animal rights movement is far from a winning force. Hindi verified this truth in front of all attendees at the Animal Rights National Conference.

Why They Are Not Winning farmer-657332__180

Taking Action for Animals and the Animal Rights National Conference are the two primary conferences hosted for animal rights activists. As a result of their significance, messages conveyed were synonymous and presentations paralleled. Despite undeniable resemblance, the animal rights movement as a whole lacks synergy. There is no combination of strengths among organizations. Instead, speakers denounced other animal rights activist groups discrediting their effectiveness as an organization. Besides the lack of unity, the animal rights movement also fails to convey current and original information. Repetitive speeches at workshops with replica information and analogies was a common occurrence.

The animal agriculture community has become the primary focus of activist groups. By targeting animal agriculture, these groups claim they can “spare” the most animals. To do this they attempt to discredit scientifically-backed practices and protocols. With these tactics, activist groups draw profound attention to the animal agriculture community; but these organizations have forgotten a key business strategy –  never underestimate your opponent, but never make them bigger than you either. In attempt to discredit farmers and ranchers, these conferences do just the opposite. The conferences sing the praise of how far we as a collective, undivided industry have come and shine a light on what we are – science based.

My Take-Away 

AAA_group_con-eng-pro_4CAs a result of these conferences, the animal agriculture community must face the “marketing campaign” of the animal rights groups. Immediately, the question “how?” is raised. My answer – we don’t. Instead, we should aim to expand public knowledge about how farm animals are cared for and broaden the understanding of animal agriculture practices. At these conferences Wayne Pacelle and Nick Cooney said, “People are smart.” They are correct, the public simply has minimal exposure to agriculture. Animal welfare is a driving force that influences both the farmers and consumers. The well-being of animals’ health are valued by each, and because of this, practices reflect both values. By seeking what is understood by the public, and further developing their knowledge, there is no fight. The importance of animal care will be unquestionable. So I thank the conference speakers for drawing attention to animal agriculture – now it’s our opportunity to shine a light on the indisputable, humane methods of America’s farmers and ranchers.

The Alliance recently released its report from the 2016 Taking Action for Animals conference, available to Alliance members only.


PETA may be crazy, but other groups aren’t that different

If you had cream in your coffee this morning or had meat for dinner last night, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) wants you to seek help for your “addiction.”

PETA supports a new group called Meat and Dairy Eaters Anonymous by providing sites for their meetings. The support group follows a 12-step program like any other addiction support group, except they are providing guidance on how to be vegan. They are comparing eating meat to being a drug or alcohol addict essentially, which is insulting to people who actually struggle with addictions that negatively affect their physical and mental health.

I think we all can agree that PETA is on the extreme end of the spectrum with their insane publicity stunts, but maybe you’re thinking this is just PETA and other animal rights groups really do care about animal welfare without wanting to stop everyone from eating meat.

activst web

Activist Web

Animal rights groups have the same mission

PETA and other animal rights extremist groups like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Mercy for Animals and Compassion Over Killing  have the same end goal: total veganism. This means no more cream in your coffee, milk in your cereal, cheese in your macaroni or grilled meat on the Fourth of July (or any other day for that matter). Sure there are meat and dairy substitutes, but do you really want to eat tofu, veggie burgers, soy milk and fake cheese the rest of your life?

The Alliance has tracked animal rights activity for almost three decades and has identified connections between the groups that illustrate how similar they are despite their differing public appearances. Our activist web shows the transfer of money and/or personnel between the groups and our top profile pieces include key campaigns and quotes to show their true agendas.

John “J.P.” Goodwin, the director of animal cruelty policy at HSUS, is one example of key staff members moving between animal rights groups. Goodwin was a former spokesperson for Animal Liberation Front (ALF) – one of the most extreme animal rights groups that exists.  ALF is known for acts of violence including property damage and threats all in name of “total animal liberation.”

Another example is financial support between HSUS and PETA. Why would you send financial support if you don’t agree with and support the core beliefs of the organization? The answer is simple – it’s because HSUS does share the same core beliefs and values as PETA.

HSUS is PETA in a business suit

HSUS is on Capitol Hill (literally in business suits) lobbying against animal agriculture while PETA advocates are standing on the front steps in fake blood demanding that people go vegan. This isn’t just a coincidence. HSUS and other groups rely on PETA and ALF to be crazy and obnoxious so that they seem level-headed and rational when in fact they each have the same goal of ending animal agriculture and meat consumption.

Animal rights advocates argue that it is impossible to care for animals and also eat meat, but that couldn’t be farther from the truth. Animal rights organizations are concerned about animal rights (treating animals as equal to humans), not animal welfare (making sure animals are well cared for). They will spread misinformation and use undercover video smear campaigns in an attempt to tarnish the reputation of hardworking and dedicated farmers and ranchers and make consumers uneasy about the food supply.

You can care about animals and still eat meat, milk and eggs11731729_10152937901995636_1288857164315442414_o

Animal welfare is a top priority for the animal agriculture industry. If it weren’t, why would there be so many industry programs and organizations dedicated to ensuring livestock and poultry receive the best animal care?

Animal rights groups will never be happy until meat and dairy products are off the menu for good and all animals are “free,” so the next time you think an animal rights group sounds rational and has the best interest of the animal in mind, ask yourself who is caring for that animal 24/7, 365 days per year – the animal rights organizations and activists or the farmers and ranchers?


Why undercover videos aren’t the answer

They wear two faces, two hats, one hidden video camera and have one goal: to put all farming operations that produce meat, milk and eggs out of business. Undercover animal rights activists gain employment on farms across the United States and Canada under false pretenses to help animal rights groups produce undercover video campaigns.

Undercover video map

Undercover video map

Undercover videos

In the past two weeks I’ve watched more than 90 undercover videos from start to finish and researched past news coverage about each video, how the company responded and what actions were taken after the video surfaced. Sure I’ve seen undercover videos before, but this was the first time I actually sat down and not only watched, but analyzed about six hours worth of footage and media content.

Watching the edited videos filled with haunting background music was frustrating more often than not, but I’m glad I had the patience to analyze each video because I was able to find exactly what I was hoping for: reasons why these videos are not the answer to addressing concerns of alleged animal abuse in animal agriculture.

Before I dive into some common trends, let me first say that when actual animal mishandling or abuse occurs, the animal agriculture industry does not condone it or try to hide it. Farmers, ranchers and industry leaders are dedicated to providing the best animal care possible, but activist groups are not concerned about animal welfare and are hindering the ability of the animal agriculture industry to strive for continuous improvement.

Common trends 

As I was going through footage and reading what the activist groups claimed to have happened, I couldn’t help but notice common trends start to emerge within each video – all of which supported why activist groups aren’t concerned with stopping alleged abuse.

Here are just a few (I could write a book on this, but I’ll spare you the time):

1. Out of context

Dehorning cattle

The average length of an undercover video is about 3-4 minutes by design. Activist groups rely on the viewers’ lack of familiarity about animal agriculture to convince and mislead them into thinking that what they are viewing is without a doubt animal abuse when they could very well be watching a procedure that is for the long-term welfare benefit of the animal, approved and supported by science and for the safety of employees that work with the animal.

One example of something being taken out of context would be dehorning. This procedure may not be easy to watch for someone unfamiliar with raising cattle, but imagine how much pain another cow or an employee would be in if they had their side cut into by a sharp set of horns. People have even died from these types of injuries. Naturally polled cattle (cattle that are born without horns) are growing in popularity, but a transition to an entirely polled population wouldn’t be possible overnight. As long as there are cattle being born with horns, dehorning will be a necessary practice for everyone’s safety.

So remember… don’t believe everything you see and know that these videos only show what the animal rights groups want you to see.

2. Staged scenes

Undercover activists are paid up to $800 per week to capture footage of what they deem as inhumane. So what if they don’t find anything worth capturing? What if nothing they see is worth splicing together for an undercover video? We’ve heard that activists only get paid if they capture footage the animal rights groups can use, and this could very well explain why some activists are known to stage scenes and either encourage other employees or partake in abuse themselves.

Mercy for Animals ad

Mercy for Animals ad

One video taken at a poultry processing facility showed chickens in a room of the facility where they should have never been and was later determined that that the activist had access to the facility at night and staged the chickens and put them in danger just to shoot a video.

In another video at a dairy farm, the activist made sure cows were led through deep manure when the cows had no reason to be walking in that area. It was later found that this scene was staged and that if the cows were living in the conditions that the activist group had claimed, then they would be covered from head to tail in manure, not just their legs.

So if I am aware that undercover activists are staging scenes and even encouraging employees to break animal welfare protocols, then the animal rights groups must be aware since they supposedly expect an update from the activist each day. This begs the question that if they are aware then are they actually encouraging it too? Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say they are aware, but aren’t encouraging the activist to go to any measures possible to obtain footage of alleged abuse, then what are they doing to stop activists from encouraging or even being a part of what they claim they are trying to put an end to? From what I can see, nothing, because it continues to happen and a handful of activists have been charged as a result of their actions.

3. Refuse to cooperate with farm owners and law enforcement

Farm owners and law enforcement have requested to view the full, unedited video footage that the undercover activist obtained while working on the farm for the purpose of getting the entire story and finding out what exactly (if anything) went wrong and how to fix the situation so it doesn’t happen in the future. If activist groups were concerned about helping animals they would be willing to help management and law enforcement to take corrective action.

In all cases, the undercover activists leave employment before the video footage is released and therefore not available to answer questions regarding their concerns and what they allegedly witnessed because they are already undercover on another farm working on producing another video. If they are concerned about animal welfare, wouldn’t you think they would stick around and help in any way they possibly can?

4. Playing the innocent bystander

On many farming operations employers require their staff to sign an agreement stating that they will report any concerns about animal welfare immediately. Do the undercover activists sign this agreement? Yes. Do they adhere to the agreement and report concerns of abuse immediately? No, they just stand there and videotape. If I was witnessing something that I truly felt needed to be stopped, I wouldn’t be able to just stand there and watch from an arms-length distance. Would you?

Animal rights supporters often fire back with the argument that “we need to get as much evidence as possible” when asked why they wait to report concerns of abuse. Not only are undercover activists breaking protocols if they did sign an agreement, but all this so-called “evidence” that they are getting is not doing anyone any good. It is only prolonging this alleged abuse that they deem as their top priority. If you actually are witnessing true animal abuse it doesn’t matter if you have one instance or three weeks worth of footage.

5. Taking forever to release the video

I think I’ve said this before, but I’ll say it again – this day in age it does not take more than a day to put video footage online. One activist group claims undercover “investigations” are the “livelihood” of their organization, so they should be pros by now and be able to edit together their catchy three-minute videos in a few hours, right? But they wait for days, weeks, months and sometimes even up to a full year to release video footage! A year!

Honestly, this is the most glaring flaw of the animal rights groups in my opinion because it screams hypocrisy. The fact that they wait so long to release and report concerns of abuse just proves that they are more concerned about fundraising and perfectly timing video releases within the media cycle and their own PR campaigns than stopping the alleged abuse.

What it means for farm owners

For farm owners, the concern has shifted from if they will run into an undercover activist to when will they encounter an undercover activist which creates distrust between employees and supervisors. Now owners have to worry about hiring people that are there for the wrong reasons instead of focusing their attention on how to improve their operation and take care of their livestock. Concerns of abuse need to be reported immediately so management can know about the situation and resolve it as soon as possible. Supervisors can’t be everywhere at all times and they can’t fix what they don’t know about, so they rely on their employees do their job and to report their concerns immediately, not five months down the road after their footage is made into a video or commercial.

What can you do?

Ask yourself: if you were concerned about the welfare of animals, would you help and report your concerns immediately or just stand there and do nothing for the sake of a campaign?

If you answered the former, then don’t let the activist groups mislead you into thinking they are here to improve animal welfare. I encourage you to speak up and share why you don’t support undercover video campaigns by posting your thoughts with the hashtag #ReportNotRecord, started by Dairy Farmers of America in response to an undercover video targeting one of its member farms.


HSUS: Supporting humane shelters less than you think

Casey Whitaker, Alliance spring intern.

Casey Whitaker, Alliance spring intern.

Before I begin, let me introduce myself.  My name is Casey Whitaker and I graduated from Auburn University in December with a degree in agricultural communication before moving back home to Centreville, Virginia to intern with the Animal Agriculture Alliance. I am extremely fortunate to have landed an internship so soon after college and doing what I absolutely love – advocating for agriculture (and let’s face it, free rent for a few months is nothing to complain about).

Now, before you form any opinions about me, let me explain. I didn’t grow up on a farm, nor do I have family that farms. I open my bedroom window and can hear the cars zipping by on Route 29. You might be wondering, how did this girl end up working in the agriculture industry?

I grew up with the dream of becoming a veterinarian like a lot of children do. Then, chemistry happened and I changed my major like the majority of college students. I knew I wanted to stay within the College of Agriculture because it felt like home and I was truly interested in science and learning about agriculture and farming. I was always told I was a good writer, but it never dawned on me to seek a career where I could use my skill until someone introduced me to the agricultural communication program. It was like stepping foot on the Loveliest Village for the first time all over again (aka love at first sight, basically).

Before we get to what this blog is really about, let me tell you that I don’t like when people shove their ideas down my throat. It makes me want to tune people out no matter what they’re talking about. So, know that what I write is not meant to infuriate people, but rather to get them  to think and make informed decisions. Enjoy!

Image produced by Humane Watch.

Image produced by Humane Watch.

Do you donate to the Humane Society of the United States or know someone who does?  Then the fact that about one percent of their total budget goes to helping humane societies across the country may surprise you.

A map detailing shelter spending by state based on the Humane Society of the United State’s 2013 tax return has been swirling around on social media ever since HumaneWatch posted it to their website last week and according to the map, they don’t even help all 50 states.

If only about one percent of their budget helps humane societies, than where does the rest of their budget go? According to previous tax returns, they have invested about $25 million dollars of donor money into Caribbean hedge funds. This came as a shock to me as I hope it does to you. I mean, why invest money in the Caribbean when the animals are right here in the United States?

When faced with this hard truth, workers from the Humane Society don’t deny the fact because it is just that, fact. Their response is that they are not connected or affiliated with local animal shelters and are helping animals all over the country that are not just cats and dogs.

Then why does the Humane Society let the average donor believe that their hard-earned cash is going to support a helpless shelter animal? It’s because they need your money to support their hidden agenda. They claim they are protecting animals across the country, but their idea of protection is far-fetched. If the average citizen knew that they wanted to free all animals used for human entertainment such as zoo animals and for human consumption like farm animals, they know the donations they receive would stop.


Mona Lisa picking out her new favorite show.

I’m all about treating animals humanely and with respect, but I’m not about to become a vegan like the majority of the workers at the Humane Society. I would bet the majority of the country wouldn’t want to give up meat forever either.

If you want to help shelter animals find homes and get the care they need, don’t donate to a Caribbean hedge fund. Donate to your local animal shelter that will actually use your donation to help the animals, or better yet, volunteer your time. I have been helping my family foster dogs for the past six years and it is the most rewarding and heart-warming experience when I am able to earn the trust of a scared and betrayed dog and find them a loving “furever” home as my mom calls it. Just last night I was able to get a shy cattle dog named Mona Lisa to watch Netflix with me in bed when before she wouldn’t even come up the stairs.

So the next time you see a commercial asking for your money to help a scared and helpless animal, think about the animals in your home town that you could be helping and maybe even watching Netflix with.

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If Animal Rights Organizations had Glass Walls: Part 1

Whether it is the grocery store isle or a sorority function you can ‘bet the farm’ that I will be ready to explain, discuss and sadly, in some cases, defend animal agriculture. I have a true passion for the animal industry. I can’t help it, animal agriculture has surrounded my entire life, I mean I was the girl who brought the water buffalo calf to show-and- tell in the third grade.

Tracing back to the early 1700s my ancestors came to the piedmont of North Carolina to farm the same land where two siblings live today. Both raised on dairy farms, my parents milked cows themselves early in their marriage. My father has raised, owned and supplied exotic and domestic animals to parks and zoo across the nation for the past 40 years and today, my parents own two drive-thru animal parks. My siblings and their spouses range from farrier to veterinarian to a past animal waste management engineer.

I can recall so many examples of people who visited our ranch and did not know the simple basics about animals; meaning they had not the slightest clue where their food comes from. Most of these people lacked the knowledge that milk only comes from female cows and some cannot decipher between a cow and a llama. These interactions truly ignited my understanding of the need for agricultural education and advocacy.

Those who have no experience, education nor understanding of animals constantly ridicule my family’s business and the industry I proudly advocate for. Our two-agritourism businesses have been the target of multiple PETA ‘campaigns’ and a few years ago PETA alleged my father was guilty of animal cruelty. Long story short, PETA’s own witness testimony did more to ensure we won the case than support its poorly based argument.

Fast forward through a state FFA officer year, years of showing livestock and three years of college experience and I find myself applying for an internship with the Animal Agriculture Alliance and somewhere else I never thought I would be:

Attending the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Taking Action for Animals Conference (TAFA) in Washington, D.C. and the Farm Animal Rights Movement’s (FARM) National Animal Rights Conference in Los Angeles. I registered as myself—a student from North Carolina, not using an alias or forged identity.

Though I had two extremely different experiences, I came to the same solid conclusion. All this time, I have given these ‘activist’ groups too much credit.

Both conferences clearly wanted to embed into their attendees that the animal rights movement was ‘winning’. Almost every speaker began with “we are winning” yet, lacked solid supportive evidence to back up this claim.

Speakers at both conferences depicted farmers as big, beefed up, money hungry, evil destroyers of planet Earth who walked around punting kittens and biting the heads off bumble bees. I mean everyone in our industry can agree on that, , right? Wrong.

Undercover investigators were defined as the “special forces” of the ‘movement’ because they had to do ““heartbreaking, stomach wrenching work” that included “backbreaking labor” and many times had to get up at 4 am in morning. Oh, those, poor undercover investigators. Never mind that farmers who raise livestock and/or crops get up early every morning, go to bed late every night and constantly do “backbreaking labor” to provide the world with food.

These undercover investigators are “truly necessary” because they prove that ALL animal agriculture is full of abuse.

HSUS supported tactic to manage the Whitetail deer population

HSUS supported tactic to manage the Whitetail deer population

Here in Washington D.C. I attended HSUS’ TAFA. Going into the conference I expected the top notch political ‘animal advocates’. This is the nation’s capitol, after all. What I was expecting and what I experienced were quite different. The TAFA attendees seemed to consist mainly of middle age to older individuals with very few millennials. The older generation attendees labeled their ‘service’ to HSUS as their “retirement job.” Others seemed to openly question the tactics and workings of HSUS. During session Q and A time some attendees demanded that HSUS “needed more boots on the ground” and more finical support on the local level to carry out the wishes of the organization.  Shockingly, some attendees actually told the truth including a college junior who stated she “noticed they [agriculturists] are not all evil and they want the best for animals”.

All questions and comments made were responded to in a cult-like fashion beginning with “that was a great question” or “thanks for asking that question” but the responses lacked substance.  I heard over and over again: “we are working on that,”“trust me” or “we don’t have enough money.” Apparently almost 113 million dollars isn’t enough money for HSUS.

Speakers at the TAFA included representatives from Mercy for Animals, Farm Sanctuary and Compassion Over Killing. The conference even included a whole hour session on praising HSUS CEO, Wayne Pacelle, where when asked “where he saw the animal rights movement in 50 years?” he responded with:“We will run through dog fighting, grey hound abuse and wild life issues.” This was contrary to other HSUS speakers who noted that farm animals were HSUS’ #1 concern.

Unique to this conference in comparison to the National Animal Rights Conference was the focus on Meatless Mondays, which originated as a way to conserve animal protein for the troops during World War I, and was not a vegan marketing scheme as advertised at the conference. At every opportunity, speakers boasted how Meatless Mondays were key to convincing future vegans by convincing schools, hospitals and governments to adopt the campaign. According to many speakers at TAFA, Meatless Mondays are easy for beginners and help prevent heart disease, stroke, diabetes and to save 1.4 billion animals from ‘factory farms’. If you want to read the truth on the MM campaign, check out the Alliance’s Why Meat Guide.

Want to know “how many animal activists it takes to change a light bulb?” Check back next week as I discuss my time at the 2014 National Animal Right Conference in Los Angeles.

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Grab Your Peanuts and Run to the Circus!

It’s a familiar story, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) playing bully in the courts — but this time they met their match.  Fourteen years of back and forth ended in May between HSUS and Feld Entertainment, the parent company of Ringling Bros. Barnum & Bailey Circus.  Having been accused of going against the Endangered Species Act (ESA) with their herd of Asian Elephants, Feld Entertainment spent big and came out on top, ultimately settling with HSUS and other plaintiffs for upwards of $15.75 million.  This hefty sum no doubt caught HSUS off-guard, as they typically have a stronghold on money, allowing them to make baseless accusations and win.  Feld knew that to defend their company’s reputation was worth any cost, and that bet has certainly paid off — literally.

So, donors, aren’t you glad that this is where your money is going?  To the petty pursuits of HSUS; seems like they’re throwing money at all but animal shelters (where they claim to spend it).  It’s sad, really, because while Feld Entertainment can now rest easy, it took over a decade of having their very livelihood questioned. Farmers and animal producers alike can certainly relate, here, the money being minimal compared to the distress caused.  In a statement by Feld Entertainment, they summarize this disappointing trend: “The animal liberation movement has long been associated with extremist, bullying, and sometimes even terroristic tactics in pursuit of its radical goal to institute prohibition on how we use animals, whether for food, fiber, or entertainment.”  But it is worth questioning these motives, because it is hard to believe HSUS had animal welfare in mind during this frivolous suit; especially when Barnum & Bailey is renowned for its Center for Elephant ConservationCircus Elephants

Going one step further, take for example a case in 2003 against the San Diego Zoo for its importation of elephants from Swaziland.  In a statement for the plaintiffs, who included the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and other activist groups, a representative said:   “If the elephants are euthanized in Swaziland … that would be a better outcome than to have these elephants put in crates, put on airplanes, brought over here, trained with bull hooks, put in cages, and live the rest of their lives in captivity.”  This not only represents the delusion of animal activist groups, but also the confusion that often surrounds the circus.  It is not abuse to train an animal, and if it were, then you’re house-trained Labrador could send you to jail.  Poor animal welfare is a baseless accusation when the evidence is an elephant that can turn or tiger that can leap.

Before you donate, do your research and make sure that money is going to an organization truly in the business of representing animals.

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