Since the overwhelming passage of California’s Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act this past November, Big Agribusiness has been in a feeding frenzy, stepping up its attacks on its critics, most especially The Humane Society of the United States.
The ringleader of these attacks is an industry PR front group deceitfully named the “Center for Consumer Freedom,” led by DC lobbyist Rick Berman. Started with a $600,000 grant from Phillip Morris, CCF is also funded by alcohol, restaurant, and agribusiness interests. It campaigns against groups as varied as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the Centers for Disease Control, and the National Cancer Institute. The editorial boards of USA Today and the Washington Post have condemned CCF for misleading the public. ABC News has also exposed the organization as a front group.
When it comes to campaigning, CCF isn’t exactly known for its fidelity to the truth. So it should come as no surprise that CCF spokesperson David Martosko recently made their strategy of smearing the messenger quite explicit. As he explained it to agribusiness cheerleader Trent Loos, rather than discussing the issues at hand, just destroy the reputation of your critics. Martosko concluded to Loos: “You can either lose pretty or win ugly.”
(Note: Trent Loos criticizes HSUS so religiously that even when HSUS helped expose the notorious Michael Vick dogfighting ring, Loos wrote that Vick—who admitted to drowning, hanging, and electrocuting dogs—generated outcry because he “has not been treating his dog like a kid.”)
This scorched earth strategy is of course the tactic of an industry that must not believe it can win in the marketplace of ideas. And indeed, that’s the predicament of those who defend confining farm animals in cages so small they can’t even turn around or extend their limbs.
Poll after poll—whether conducted by animal welfare groups, independent firms, or agribusiness groups—find that Americans oppose battery cages for laying hens, along with gestation and veal crates for pigs and calves. And the science confirms what common sense already knew: these extreme confinement systems are inherently detrimental to the animals’ welfare.
With more states continuing to pass modest reforms aimed at easing the suffering of farm animals—Maine just banned gestation crates and veal crates—you can rest assured that Big Ag and its paid attack dogs like CCF will only increase both the frequency and vitriol of their smears. While you may not be able to believe much of what they say, I think we can take them at their word that such attacks will be quite ugly. For the sake of animals, consumers, and the planet, let’s make sure they’re not successful.