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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.

Veg News Cover

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 McDonald'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.

Nicolette Hahn Niman

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

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

Puck Video

2007 Farm Forward is founded, with board members including Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, turkey farmer Frank Reese, 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.

Silencing the Lambs
Fundraising for the Animals by Serving Them for Dinner

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.

Miyun Park - GAP video

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 of Directors.

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.

Joe Maxwell Video

2011 Whole Foods listed as sponsor, and its CEO John Mackey featured as speaker, at Farm Sanctuary's conference on eliminating "factory farming".

2012 HSUS partners with the United Egg Producers to promote passage of the controversial Egg Products Inspection Act, referred to by many animal advocates as the "Rotten Egg Bill."

UEP & HSUS video

2012 ASPCA gives $151,000 grant for turkey farm expansion, with funding process facilitated by Farm Forward, of which Bruce Friedrich, Farm Sanctuary VP, is a founding board member.

2012 HSUS VP Paul Shapiro, key player in orchestrating advocacy-industry collaboration, speaks at national animal rights conference (AR 2012) on "the future of animal rights." FARM, host of AR 2012, pressures conference hotel to shut down Justice for Animals, Respect for Advocates seminar, which had been organized to provide an alternative viewpoint.

2012 Whole Foods presents Meatopia with endorsement of butcher contest by Global Animal Partnership executive director Miyun Park, former VP of HSUS and co-founder of Compassion over Killing.

2012 HSUS President Wayne Pacelle announces he is running to join the board of Tyson, one of the largest producers of animal flesh in the world.



HSUS Tyson

Meatopia on the March
HSUS president seeks to join Tyson board

October 5, 2012

Happy MeatopiaLast week, Humane Myth published “Happy Meatopia: How Conflict of Interest is Damaging Animal Advocacy.”  This special report, with its accompanying video essay, exposes the disturbing behind-the-scenes reality of how the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is partnering with Whole Foods to create a new market for so-called “humane” animal products, along with promoting the farmers and retailers who offer these animal products to the public. The eight-minute video vividly captures how collaboration between animal protection groups and animal exploiters undermines efforts to achieve justice for animals.

Tyson SlaughterhouseNow, HSUS has announced that its president and CEO, Wayne Pacelle, is campaigning to join the board of Tyson Foods, one of the largest slaughterers of animals in the world. This multi-national animal-exploitation behemoth owns 54 chicken plants, 13 beef plants, and six pork plants, which slaughter 42 million chickens, 170,000 cows, and 345,000 pigs each week. According to a blog post by Mr. Pacelle, the idea seems to be that joining Tyson's board is a means of getting the company to stop using gestation crates for pigs, even though by his own admission, the bulk of the animal exploiting industry has done so already without having an animal advocacy executive join their boards.

Mr. Pacelle’s rationale does not acknowledge the downside of giving the Machiavellian PR department of a 33 billion dollar meat corporation the ability to exploit close association with the nation's largest animal protection organization. To believe that huge corporate entities whose businesses are based upon killing sentient beings by the hundreds of millions can become earnest partners in endeavors with some sort of "humane" or altruistic intent is naïve at best, and delusional at worst. Over and over we see how corporations of this scale do whatever it takes to maximize their short-term profits, and how any CEO who doesn’t submit to the dictates of the stock market is replaced. The result has been a disaster for our planet and all who dwell on her.

Organic Spies VideoFor a reality check on the behavior of billion dollar animal-exploiting corporations seeking profits and competitive advantage, consider Whole Foods. Just two days after we published "Happy Meatopia," a group called “Organic Spies” released a video accusing Whole Foods of employing misleading marketing practices with regard to genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Undercover footage included in this exposé shows numerous Los Angeles-area Whole Foods employees inaccurately telling customers that Whole Foods sells no products containing GMOs, when in fact, only select products and brands in the stores are GMO-free. The employees misinforming customers include some from the meat department, who claim that Whole Foods' meat does not come from animals fed GMO feedstuffs. Ironically, a sign at Whole Foods states, "We have been advocating for GMO labeling for two decades. We always support the right to farm, to buy non-gmo goods… We are here to protect your right to know what’s in your food and to help you make conscious choices.”
It is hard not to see this as part of a larger pattern of deception. For example, in 2007, it was widely reported in the mainstream media that Whole Foods' CEO, over a seven-year period, wrote thousands of posts on a financial forum using a pseudonym -- posts that praised Whole Foods (and Mr. Mackey himself) and bashed its then-competitor, Wild Oats, which has since then been acquired by Whole Foods. And today, Mr. Mackey sits on the board of HSUS and fashions himself a “vegan,” despite being the founder and CEO of one of the largest meat retailers in the US, Bacon Smackdowna 10 billion dollar mega-corporation that sponsors the decadent celebration of animal consumption known as Meatopia, that holds an annual Best Butcher Contest, and that now has a “Bacon Smackdown” promotion asking customers to come up with the next “big idea” for bacon.

Those who run billion dollar businesses generally get there by doing whatever it takes to compete and achieve domination over others. Coming back to Mr. Pacelle and Tyson, we must not ignore the fact that in every business transaction, there is an exchange of value, a price to be paid. In the case of HSUS's current collaboration with the United Egg Producers, making a deal has meant agreeing, among many other things, not to investigate the egg industry. At a minimum, Mr. Pacelle’s direct participation in the governance of Tyson Foods would be used to create a deceptive aura of concern for animals, adding significant value to the entire Tyson brand, and further undermining the efforts of those working to achieve justice for animals. Every attempt to merge advocacy and exploitation comes at a steep price, but Mr. Pacelle and his fellow industry collaborators habitually neglect to include full consideration of this reality from public discussion. This makes it far easier for them to declare every transaction with animal exploiters a "victory."

Even if Mr. Pacelle’s campaign to join the board is merely a technique to pressure Tyson, consider the message it sends to the vast numbers of concerned citizens and activists who take it at face value. Mr. Pacelle’s actions consistently affirm the Orwellian idea that the best way to help animals is to more directly participate in their exploitation by promoting “humane” animal products as aggressively as possible. He seems to believe that by engaging in ever more extensive collaborations with major animal exploiters, he can change them and their ways without him and his organization in turn being influenced and put in service of the meat industry's agenda. This illusion is contradicted by what long-term animal advocates are witnessing before their very eyes.

As we can see, Meatopia, with its grisly display of meat marketing paraded as a twisted form of animal advocacy, is anything but an anomaly. It is just another step in a trend being systematically engineered by HSUS board member John Mackey, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, and the leaders of other “animal protection” organizations who have embraced the promotion of “happy meat” as cutting-edge activism. Together, they are building an "animal-welfare industrial complex" that is monopolizing advocacy dollars, misleading the public, suppressing dissent, and methodically undermining animal rights and veganism to the benefit of the animal-using industry and corporatized charity collaborators.

More and more animal activists are waking up to the fact that the entanglement of advocacy with industry poses an extreme conflict of interest. It flies in the face of common sense, and only multiplies the burden carried by those advocates who are working to achieve justice for animals. However, as more of us see, share and speak this truth, and as more of us stand together, we have a chance of reversing this devastating trend. Let's focus on work that truly helps animals, without enriching those who kill them.

More essays, articles and videos on this subject can be found here.

Filmmakers James LaVeck and Jenny Stein are the founders of Tribe of Heart and creators of the award-winning documentaries The Witness and Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home. For the last 12 years, their work has focused on the emerging new ethics of the human-animal relationship and the journey of awakening conscience.


Many thanks for the talent and dedication of our editorial team: Trevor DeSane, Eric Huang, Kevin Smith, Leslie Armstrong, Susan Clay, Pam Page, Kate Sharadin and Monica Towle.

Copyright © 2012 HumaneMyth.org. All rights reserved.