Our take: The undoing of HSUS

Buckeye Farm News

HSUS has long employed a weary tactic of painting anyone who criticizes its policies as a kowtowing politician or a profiteer of animal suffering. But those cynical and simplistic explanations are no longer enough to deflect questions about the group’s brand of underhanded activism.

A recent example of this was when farmers and sportsmen spontaneously rallied through Facebook and Twitter to convince a major winery to sever its financial ties to HSUS. In a statement, HSUS chided its detractors saying “either you are on the side of justice and mercy or you aren’t.”

But the continuing wave of frustrated American farmers, hunters and others, who have organized online by the thousands, later led HSUS President Wayne Pacelle to take stock of his organization’s efforts.

On his blog, he equated HSUS’s farm animal campaign to women’s suffrage and the civil rights movement, saying “Change on this level is never easy, and it is never self-executing. That’s certainly true when speaking about a fundamental realignment in our treatment of animals.”

It is hard to imagine how the images of lynch mobs, attack dogs, fire hoses and police brutality could fall into the same category as farmers who pen their pigs and chickens.

Pacelle even seemed to allude that public criticism of him is akin to the tribulations faced by civil rights activists, writing “Along the way, the leaders of these efforts were belittled, and sometimes literally beaten down.”

If Pacelle now sees himself as modern day freedom rider, perhaps it’s because his image has taken a trouncing in recent weeks.

Much of this was due to the launch of the Web site, www.humanewatch.org.

The site is a project of Washington D.C. commentator David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom. It is providing ammunition in the form of documents, analysis, news articles and photos to farmers, hunters, pet owners and anyone else who is fed up with HSUS’s reckless policies.

Shortly after the site was launched, Pacelle called Martosko, among other things, a “pro-cockfighting, pro-sealing, pro-puppy mill, pro-factory farming, pro-captive shooting hack” who works to “clear a pathway for animal abusers.”

The manic act of mudslinging only confirmed that Martosko had struck a nerve. Or as one commenter noted, Mr. Pacelle doth protest too much.

Pacelle’s primary complaint is that Martosko heads a “front group” and that his paycheck is essentially signed by special interests. But even if www.humanewatch.org was bankrolled by Bernie Madoff, it wouldn’t change the uncomfortable facts that it is surfacing about HSUS.

So our advice is this: HSUS should recognize that farmers are rightly angered that they may be forced to “fundamentally realign” their treatment of animals based solely on the best ideas of vegan minds in a Washington D.C. board room. If HSUS has suggestions for improving livestock production, it should engage in a meaningful discussion with the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board once it is up and running.

This growing backlash could be a wakeup call. But if HSUS continues on this path, the fight that it brings to Ohio this year might be its most costly yet.

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