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Barnyard brawl a-comin': Food sector lobbyists launch website aimed at the Humane Society

February 23, 2010 |  1:26 pm

Edit chickens

Get ready for a food fight.

Animal rights groups have long kept a sharp eye (and a bounty of hidden cameras) on livestock farmers and others who raise animals for meat production. Now, the food producers are turning the tables: They’re siccing their own watchdog on the animal world’s largest guardian – the Humane Society of the United States.

Last week, the Center for Consumer Freedom launched HumaneWatch.org. Its purpose? To analyze each and every step the Humane Society of the United States takes.

So, why target HSUS? Well, for one thing, HSUS has become increasingly involved in pushing through legislation that alters how animals are treated in the food-production system. The organization was a key voice in the successful campaign last year to get California voters to pass Proposition 2, which was aimed to prevent “cruel confinement” of farm animals consisting of things like smaller cages for egg-laying chickens or gestation crates for pregnant sows.

That, of course, flagged the attention of CCF. (CCF is headed up by Rick Berman, the controversial lobbyist for the food, alcoholic beverage and tobacco industries. Critics – and there are legions of them – have reportedly dubbed him everything from “Dr. Evil” to “Conservatives' Weapon of Mass Destruction.”)

According to CCF, the public doesn’t realize that most of their donations aren’t going to help lost cats and dogs, or help out underfunded animal shelters. Instead, the majority of the money allegedly is being used to “bankroll anti-meat campaigns and PETA-style propaganda,” said David Martosko, CCF’s director of research.

The news of HumaneWatch.org’s launch has left HSUS seething.

“David Martosko saying he is a watchdog of animal protection is the equivalent of a band of professional thieves acting as a home security company,” HSUS president and chief executive Wayne Pacelle said in a statement. “He is a pro-cockfighting, pro-sealing, pro-puppy mill, pro-factory farming, pro-captive shooting hack whose organization does nothing but tear animal protection down and clear a pathway for animal abusers.”

The new website plans to include a blog written by Martosko; a library of documents regarding HSUS’s financial spending and other matters; and a database that will track the scores of non- and for-profit organizations that are connected to HSUS.

“We think there’s a huge disconnect between the financial reality and what the public thinks,” Martosko said. “We are going to lay out the evidence, little by little, showing that HSUS is PETA with a nicer wristwatch.”

The anti-HSUS campaign kicked off this week with a full-page ad in the New York Times, which accused HSUS of parceling out only $1 out of every $200 to local pet shelters.

Forget food fight. This might just turn into an all-out barnyard brawl.

--P.J. Huffstutter

Photo: Chickens kept in a backyard enclosure in South Los Angeles. Credit: Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times

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