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Farmers sway companies to end HSUS sponsorship

Published Mar. 26, 2010 | Discuss this article on Facebook
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South Dakota rancher Troy Hadrick's YouTube protest helped fuel outcry against Yellow Tail for its donation to HSUS.

Buckeye Farm News

In February, fifth-generation South Dakota rancher Troy Hadrick discovered Yellow Tail Wine was donating $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

Deciding to do something about his displeasure, Hadrick set up a video camera in his pasture, stood surrounded by his cows, and with a bottle of Yellow Tail wine from his home, he told his story.

“I recently found out Yellow Tail wine is going to be donating $100,000 to the wealthiest animal rights organization in the world – the Humane Society of the United States – a group who is actively trying to put farmers and ranchers out of business in this country,” he said. “I cannot and will not support a company that is doing such a thing.” Hadrick dumped the bottle of wine, urged others to do the same and closed with, “Thank you for supporting American agriculture and the family farmers and ranchers in this country.” He posted the video on YouTube.

He also went directly to Yellow Tail’s official Facebook page, where he posted his thoughts, suggesting the company do a bit more research into HSUS’s lobbying interests before donating. He then posted a Facebook status and tweet urging his friends and followers to do the same.

The news spread rapidly online, as farm families, joined by sportsmen and pet groups, all posted what was happening through social media updates that immediately alerted friends and followers to join in.

Within 24 hours, Yellow Tail’s Facebook page was flooded with hundreds of disgruntled comments. Most vowed to never again purchase Yellow Tail wine. Others posted photos of bottles of Yellow Tail being dumped down toilets.

In a matter of days, “Yellow Fail”, a Facebook page dedicated to the protest, gained 3,000 fans, and more than 8,000 people watched Hadrick’s video. Bloggers picked up on the commotion, and then it made its way into newspapers and even a Nebraska TV station covered the controversy.

Yellow Tail eventually pledged to allocate the $100,000 to HSUS’s animal rescue efforts — a move that didn’t go over well. Facebook comments, tweets, e-mails and phone calls continued, reaching into the thousands.

Three weeks after farmers started protesting, word made its way to Australian farmers, where the winery has its headquarters. Acknowledging its mistake, the company said it would continue the donation but “will be continuing to look to other nonprofit organizations without lobbying interests that best deliver on our intended outcome of saving animals.”

The Lesson of 'Yellow Fail'

A recent public opinion poll reports that nearly seven out of 10 Americans wrongly believe HSUS is an umbrella group for local humane societies. Nearly six out of 10 wrongly believe the HSUS gives most of its money to organizations that care for dogs and cats. According to an analysis of HSUS’s 2008 tax returns, the group gave less than one-half of 1 percent of its $100 million budget to organizations that care for dogs and cats.

As many are learning, their individual voices, when unified in one cause, can make the difference. Ohio Farm Bureau encourages members to get involved in these online communities and help educate the masses about agriculture and the issues it faces.

HSUS Response

As pressure mounted, HSUS pulled its sponsor list from its Web site and replaced it with a message claiming "spammers” were attacking companies that support the organization. However, it was clear that it was thousands of individual farmers, hunters and pet owners who had initiated the protest. A recent attempt to find a list of corporate sponsors on the HSUS Web site resulted in an error message: "Page Not Found."

Others withdraw support

The success story of the Yellow Fail campaign has charged an online grassroots educational effort surrounding the activities of HSUS, and those who misguidedly support the organization. In its wake, other corporations have gradually withdrawn their association with HSUS:

Pilot Travel Stations — After learning of HSUS’s agenda through social media, Pilot Travel Centers immediately ceased employee- and consumer-driven donations and had itself removed from HSUS’s list of corporate sponsors. “We sincerely regret any actions that led to the misperception of our support of this organization. Pilot Travel Centers is "a strong supporter of agriculture,” the company said. The company’s owner even gave radio interviews admitting the mistake and about not knowing the controversy surrounding HSUS.

Mary Kay cosmetics — The company recently proclaimed in a statement on its Facebook page that it is not a sponsor of HSUS after it received questions about being listed as a corporate sponsor at a Dallas-areas HSUS fund-raiser. The company has since had its logo removed from HSUS’s list of sponsors. “We sincerely apologize for any confusion or causing any offense to members of the Mary Kay community,” the company said.

Precious Cat, Inc. — With little, if any pressure, Precious Cat Kitty Litters recently announced it was withdrawing its corporate sponsorship of the HSUS Shelter Partner Program.

Hill's Pet Nutrition — After receiving calls and e-mails regarding an Internet promotion that raised funds for HSUS, Hill's Pet Nutrition has said it discontinued the program.



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