“Lose Pretty or Win Ugly” — Big Ag’s Attacks on Americans Concerned about Factory Farming

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.

16 thoughts on ““Lose Pretty or Win Ugly” — Big Ag’s Attacks on Americans Concerned about Factory Farming

  1. Its sad that rather than spend money on animal welfare improvements (minimal money, at that!) the factory farming industry chooses to fight inevitable reforms by spending money on funding a group like the CCF. It seems they are in denial that the public simply won’t stand for egregious abuses of animals any more, now that those abuses have been brought to light.

  2. It is really unfortunate the lengths these big ag businesses will go to to protect their bottom line. I hope that most reasonable people can see through the lies and libel to the heart of the issue: commercialized and perpetuated animal cruelty.

    Many kudos to Paul Shapiro and the HSUS for their tireless efforts in addressing the suffering of these animals and confronting the attacks of CCF and the like, head-on. It is a testament to the huge successes of the Factory Farming Campaign that these attacks are increasing. Keep on rocking on the boat!

  3. The factory farming industries are out of touch with how consumers feel farm animal ought to be treated. First, they try to defend confining animals in cages so small they can’t even turn around or extend their limbs. When that doesn’t work, they then resort to name-calling and defamation attacks on animal protection, environmental, and food safety organizations.

    Instead of fighting to keep their cruel and inhumane confinement practices, agribusiness industries should devote their time and energy on improving the lives of animals currently raised behind the closed doors of the factory farm walls. That’s what the public wants — hopefully one day that’s what we’ll get.

  4. Great post. So sad that factory farms’ shills have such a “circle the wagons” mentality to the point that they’ll defend dogfighting. With all the public support behind welfare reform, it’s amazing that they’re still clinging so tightly to stuffing animals into cages.

  5. Win or lose, the real ugliness of animal agribiz is the systematic way it abuses animals for the sake of making a buck. Fortunately for the animals, with public opinion in favor of treating animals decently, the best the CCF can hope for is to lose gracefully.

  6. this blog blew me away – it’s is a serious wake-up call for those of us who are fighting the horrors of the industrialized factory farming system. if only the industry would be half as transparent about its cruel treatment of animals as it about its dirty strategy…

  7. Can you please define Factory Farming on this website–I don’t know any farmer/ rancher who doesn’t care about his livestock. Who are all these Factory Farmers you are talking about?

  8. Follow the trail, and examine the interests. Big tobacco and fighting against MADD, or an organization that is in the news everyday saving animals on the ground and in the courts? Ask me–enough said.

  9. I don’t know — I think there’s plenty of blame to go around. It’s not like the Humane Society of the U.S. is a lily-white pure organization. I used to work there. And I’ve never met a more cynical bunch of B.S. artists. I think this battle is probably a draw. They’re all scoundrels.

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  11. What I find amusing about agri-business is that they keep whining that they aren’t getting “their story out”. When the opposite is true. It is only recently, thanks to effective advocacy, that the truth about animal agriculture is finally being exposed. It is a joke to believe for a moment that they desire transparency. The whole industry exists only because of it’s covert secrecy. And great pieces like this one help to discredit them even more… thank you.

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  14. Wow, what can I say after reading all those other great comments, especially Matt’s, Michelle’s, Michael B’s…
    I too am sad that Big Ag can’t just spend their money developing better animal housing instead of throwing in down the toilet on false advertising, character attacks and Rove-like tactics. What a bunch of sleazy slimeballs.
    I am SO glad I gave up meat long ago and don’t spend a penny to line their pockets.

    Good work, Paul– keep the pressure on! Let’s see what states we can win this year!

  15. Thanks so much for educating us all about the shady, immoral, and often illegal actions of the CCF.