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Advocacy-Industry Collaboration

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Rise of the Animal Welfare Industrial Complex

2005 17 Animal Organizations endorse Whole Foods' Animal Compassionate Standards

2005 Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur and PETA Director of Vegan Campaigns Bruce Friedrich participate in development of Whole Foods' "Animal Compassionate Standards" for the use and killing of animals

2005 Whole Foods receives PETA "Proggy" award as "best animal-friendly retailer"

2005 Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) CEO Wayne Pacelle and HSUS Farm Animal Program Director Paul Shapiro (also co-founder of Compassion Over Killing) privately meet with egg industry operators to collaborate on launch of "cage-free" egg initiative

2005 Whole Foods CEO John Mackey featured as keynote speaker at animal conference and introduced as a vegan by Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur

2005 VegNews magazine names John Mackey Corporate Executive of the Year

2006 Major media coverage, including article in New York Times, cements Whole Foods' reputation as an "animal compassionate" meat retailer with a "vegan" CEO, and the role of animal advocacy organizations in promoting "humane" labeling schemes.

2006 HSUS's affiliate, Humane Society International, announces "Humane Choice"program, offering products from animals who "basically live their lives as they would have done on Old MacDonald's farm"

2007 Taking Action for Animals Conference features three animal farmers as speakers, including rancher Nicolette Hahn Niman. Major sponsors of conference include HSUS, Farm Sanctuary and Whole Foods.

2007 HSUS and Farm Sanctuary lead formation of advocacy-industry Prop. 2 legislative coalition "Californians for Humane Farms" with Niman Ranch amongst industry partners

2007 HSUS and Farm Sanctuary partner with restaurateur Wolfgang Puck to promote new standards for the use and killing of animals

2007 Farm Forward is founded, with board members including Whole Foods CEO John Mackey and PETA Vice President Bruce Friedrich

2008 Eggology announces HSUS endorsement of their egg products, HSUS denies endorsement despite numerous confirming documents

2008 Restaurateur Wolfgang Puck named guest of honor at HSUS Genesis Awards

2009 Whole Foods CEO John Mackey appointed to HSUS  Board of Directors

2009 Wayne Pacelle joins the board of Whole Foods' Global Animal Partnership

2009 Former HSUS Vice President (and co-founder of Compassion Over Killing) Miyun Park assumes leadership of Whole Foods' Global Animal Partnership

2010 HSUS and Farm Sanctuary lead legislative coalition Ohioans for Humane Farms, which includes animal-exploiting corporations such as the Great American Lamb company

2010 HSUS promotes fundraising event at which meat is served from the very animals the organization claims to be advocating for

2011 Bruce Friedrich leaves PETA to join the staff of Farm Sanctuary as Senior Director for Strategic Initiatives

2011 Whole Foods' Global Animal Partnership announces 5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards for the use and killing of animals, and releases promotional video featuring Miyun Park as a spokesperson. At the time of the announcement, HSUS, PETA, Compassion in World Farming and the World Society for the Protection of Animals are represented on the GAP board.

2011 HSUS appoints pig farmer Joe Maxwell to staff position of "Director of Rural Development and Outreach", with goal of expanding market for "humane" meat

2011 Whole Foods CEO John Mackey featured as speaker at Farm Sanctuary conference on eliminating "factory farming"


Animal advocacy
Animal husbandry
Animal protection
Animal rights
Animal welfare
Animal welfare industrial complex
Animal-using industries
Conflict of Interest
Conscientious objection
Critical thinking
Doctrine of necessary evil
Happy Meat
Humane myth
Humane slaughter
Non-participation and Non-cooperation
Non-violent social change
Open Rescue
Path of Conscience
Plant-based diet
Privilege of domination
Values-based activism

Deconstructing the Myth

Animal advocates developing and promoting animal products? Large-scale animal exploiters claiming to "advocate" for the very animals whose lives they take by the hundreds or thousands each week? Not science fiction. Not satire. Business as usual in the realm of US animal advocacy, which today is dominated by large corporate charities making backroom deals with those who profit from the use and killing of animals. The resulting conflicts of interest lead to ever more confusion for members of the public, who are having increasing difficulty distinguishing between animal advocates and animal exploiters.

As documented at right in the Omaha World-Herald, and also in press conference audio recordings, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has created a staff position titled "Director of Rural Development and Outreach" for a man named Joe Maxwell, who also happens to make money from selling pigs "raised like children" to slaughter. According to the World-Herald article, Mr. Maxwell is involved in the creation of a new alliance in Nebraska between a group of animal users and the HSUS, an alliance that will "develop standards and joint marketing efforts for humanely raised meat and other animal products."

As demonstrated in this audio excerpt from a 10-18-11 press conference, HSUS staffer Maxwell speaks of "moving 900 to 1100 fat hogs each week," for which he is paid $1.04 a pound, and tells how he sees his job as expanding the market for "humane" meat. He also indicates that a shortage of facilities for "processing" (killing and dismembering) these animals poses a challenge. This raises the question of whether his role with HSUS will include efforts to increase slaughter options for farmers such as himself.

Many would find it odd that the most well-funded animal advocacy organization in the country would put a person who profits from the killing of animals in a key public position. But consider the fact that HSUS has on its own board of directors John Mackey, CEO of Whole Foods, one of the largest meat retailers in America. Can a person responsible for annually sending millions of animals to their deaths credibly guide the course of an organization charged with advocating for those very same animals? And won’t Mr. Maxwell's work to expand the market for "humane" meat potentially benefit the bottom line of Whole Foods? After all, Mr. Maxwell mentions that his farm's "products" are raised according the standards of the Global Animal Partnership, a Whole Foods program which incidentally is run by former HSUS Vice President Miyun Park. Is this not a case of blatant conflict of interest?

Now that the affairs of HSUS and Whole Foods are so intertwined, how likely is it that HSUS would ever investigate or publicly take to task the huge meat-selling corporation run by one of its own board members? Mr. Mackey appears to have found a way to directly apply the resources of the largest US animal advocacy organization to the work of expanding the market for Whole Foods' animal products, while at the same time insuring that this advocacy organization can never discredit him without discrediting itself.

The formal association of those actively involved in using and killing animals with a major advocacy organization at both the staff and board level, and the continuing validation of John Mackey as an "animal advocate" and even a "vegan" by leadership figures such as Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur, are significant milestones in the development of an "animal-welfare industrial complex."

This was first described in the 2006 essay Invasion of the Movement Snatchers: A Social Justice Cause Falls Prey to the Doctrine of "Necessary Evil"

As animal organizations and the meat industry co-mingle their affairs in an increasingly bewildering tangle, their language, values, interests and goals are becoming indistinguishable, creating a kind of "animal welfare industrial complex" in which the "players" -- dominant figures of the industry and the corporate animal movement -- will regularly meet in private to negotiate the price of public concern for animal suffering. To the industry will go animal organization endorsements of an ever more bizarre array of "humane" products and "compassionate" practices. To the animal groups will go a pocketful of "partial victories" as well as a few gratuities like conference sponsorships and high profile publicity opportunities. By making the process so orderly and rational, by whittling it down to a few key players with an unspoken understanding of the arrangement, all parties involved will receive a regular supply of what they need to keep growing at a rapid clip. More money. More customers/members. More political connections. More ability to dictate the terms of public discourse.

Several of the architects of the animal welfare industrial complex and its consequent co-option of grassroots animal advocacy in the US were themselves former animal rights activists. There is an instructive parallel here with the neoconservative political movement that gave rise to the "neocons" of Bush-era fame. Some of the architects of that movement were former liberals whose insider knowledge gave them a unique ability to undermine progressive political structures.

In a 2007 essay titled "Project for the New American Carnivore: From Lyman to Niman in 10 Short Years," the term Neocarnism was coined to describe a belief system characteristic of former animal rights advocates who collaborate with various segments of the animal-using industry and participate in development, certification, endorsement, or promotion of alternative "humane" animal products, sometimes called "happy meat." Practitioners of neocarnism claim that these activities do not create a conflict of interest, even for those who believe using and killing animals is morally wrong.

The "happy meat" and humane myth phenomena echo a pattern found in justice movements throughout history. As public concern grows for those being exploited on a mass scale, those profiting from that exploitation implement strategies aimed at redirecting public concern away from questions of justice (Do we have the right to use and kill others?), and toward questions of regulation (What is the right way to use and kill others?). The animal users want to avoid at all costs a public examination of the basic morality of their activities, and instead want to channel public concern for farm animals into the purchase of products created through the "right" forms of exploitation and killing.

When a person who currently profits from the use and killing of animals is put in a prominent outreach position at HSUS, isn't the message being sent loud and clear to the public that even animal advocates believe the killing of "fat hogs" by the thousand each week is just fine, as long as it is done "the right way?"

Doesn't this kind of message, repeated over and over, convey an aura of moral legitimacy to the meat, dairy and egg industries -- and at a time when more people are just starting to wake up to the fact that these industries are destroying the lives of billions of animals, ravaging our planetary ecosystem, wasting vast quantities of water, topsoil and fuel, and directly contributing to an epidemic of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease and diabetes?

How will this advocacy-industry collaboration be viewed by future generations? Will the philosophy of neocarnism and its proponents be seen as visionary, as morally bankrupt, or merely as out of touch with ethical and environmental reality?

In the words of John F. Kennedy, "The great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie -- deliberate, contrived and dishonest -- but the myth -- persistent, persuasive and unrealistic."

For an alternative perspective on the true meaning of the word "humane" see the statement from former farmer Harold Brown on this web site.

For further information on the issues explored in this Humane Myth entry, see Advanced Advocacy.


HSUS outreach director sends pigs "raised like children" to slaughter

HSUS staffer Maxwell speaks of "moving 900 to 1100 fat hogs each week," for which he is paid $1.04 a pound, and tells how he sees his job as expanding the market for "humane" meat.

Source: Omaha World Herald   Oct 2011   10/19/2011
Click here for direct link to source

...The Nebraska Farmers Union said Tuesday it has reached an agreement with the Humane Society of the United States to develop standards and joint marketing efforts for humanely raised meat and other animal products.

...But Farmers Union President John Hansen said he views joining forces with the Humane Society as a way to boost family farms in Nebraska.

...Hansen said the Humane Society — with a reported 51,000 members, donors and volunteers in Nebraska — could help open the door to potentially lucrative markets for Nebraska farm products.

"They have marketing expertise, membership and financial resources," Hansen said of the Humane Society of the United States. "I'd rather see (their) members' money spent to create value-added ag production than financing damaging and expensive state ballot issues."

The idea is to leverage consumer demand to improve livestock handling practices, a Humane Society official said.

Joe Maxwell, a Missouri hog farmer whose operation markets about 1,000 humanely raised animals each week, said large-scale livestock operations are not diametrically opposed to animal welfare. Maxwell is the director of rural development and outreach for the Humane Society of the United States.

Maxwell and Hansen said the marketing alliance between the farm group and the animal welfare organization would be the first of its kind in the country.

...In recent years, the Humane Society of the United States and its vegan president, Wayne Pacelle, have made farm animal welfare one of the group's missions, but Pacelle has repeatedly denied that the group's aim is to eliminate meat consumption. He also has said the group plans no ballot initiative in Nebraska.

The group led petition drives in California and Arizona that resulted in restrictions on battery cages for laying hens, gestation crates for sows and crates for veal calves. It also has negotiated agreements with producers in five states to phase out the use of such confinement methods.

At issue are cages so small that they prevent animals from being able to stretch their limbs or turn around. Poultry cages, which are stacked in battery fashion, are used to house more birds in a barn and reduce labor costs.

Gestation crates are used to prevent pregnant sows from attacking one another. Veal crates, which are being voluntarily phased out in favor of group pens, allowed animals to be individually fed with milk replacer.

McClymont said his group defends producers' options to use tight confinement.

"Absolutely," he said. "Those are practices that producers use in consultation with their veterinarians. They're not inherently cruel. They have pluses and minuses, depending upon how you use them."

McClymont and Phil Young, a political consultant working with the group, said consumers should resist regarding farm animals as having the same needs and qualities as humans. Producers cage animals to protect them from predators, from the elements and from each other.

At a Tuesday press conference outside Open Harvest, a Lincoln co-op organic grocery store, members of the Farmers Union and the Humane Society said they would develop voluntary criteria for humanely raised animal products to be marketed, at a premium price, at stores like Open Harvest.

The Farmers Union also would help establish a Nebraska Agricultural Council to advise the Humane Society on livestock welfare issues.

Audio Transcript Excerpts from 10-18-11 Press Conference

Source: Brownfield Ag News for America, 10/18/2011
Click here for direct link to source, including audio clips

Joe Maxwell, HSUS Director of Rural Development and Outreach

Audio Clip #3, 0:10
I've been here [with HSUS] since April of this year... My duties are to escalate the work that the Humane Society of the United States has been doing in regard to supporting farmers who are good stewards of the land and the animals. The Humane Society has been working very hard at educating retailers and then working with producers, but now they'd like to connect the two. There's market opportunity for these producers and how can the Humane Society of the United States step in, help facilitate that opening those markets and connecting those producers to a premium market.

Audio Clip #3, 5:00
We are hopeful that we can go into other states. My job is to help producers, help family farmers, find markets...

Audio Clip #3, 5:51
Right now a group of family farmers in Missouri from which my family farm is a part of, we move 900 to 1100 fat hogs a week, and I'm being paid $1.04 a pound for those animals for the next year. So is there a market? You bet. Is that profitable? You bet. So we're hoping to do the same thing right here.

John Hansen, President of the Nebraska Farmers Union

Audio Clip #1, 6:38
First, our two organizations have agreed that the focus of HSUS' efforts in Nebraska relative to livestock production will be to work with Nebraska Farmers Union to utilize the marketing expertise in both organizations to develop new value-added and premium-based marketing opportunities for livestock produced using mutually developed and certified animal husbandry practices. In the months ahead, we will be focusing on the nuts-and-bolts details of standards, certification, new marketing opportunities, and premiums.

Audio Clip #1, 7:29
Second, as a result of our joint discussions, HSUS has agreed to not pursue state initiatives and ballot issues in our state. This alternative approach allows both our organizations to use our financial and time resources to focus on working together in a positive manner to the benefit of the families that grow our livestock and consume our livestock.

Audio Clip #1, 11:20
So far, the fact that our negotiations have averted a state-wide ballot initiative represents we think a good faith beginning to what we hope to be a long-term partnership that works to the mutual advantage of Nebraska livestock producers and Nebraskans in general.

Audio Clip #1, 18:18
[Audience member asks whether farmers would be signed on to "no gestation crates" for pregnant sows. Hansen responds:]

No, what we think this means is that we're going to look at those kinds of things -- standards that apply to humanely-produced -- to see whether or not those folks who want to voluntarily participate in that kind of program, just like all other differentiated marketing programs -- to see whether or not there is enough pull-through demand on the other side with consumers who care about those things to create a premium in the market to make it economically beneficial for folks to participate.

Audio Clip #1, 19:18
We're not intending to set standards that everyone has to follow. We're going to work together on a marketing effort to see whether or not we can create a premium in the market that rewards that particular kind of activity. From our perspective, we're going to be focusing on the nuts-and-bolts of market development.

Kevin Fulton of Fulton Farms (beef producer)

Audio Clip #1, 1:22
I'm simply a farmer providing a voice for millions of farm animals in this state that cannot speak for themselves but yet they have an important message that needs to be heard.

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