Update: HSUS is totally going to win that National Pork Producers Council lawsuit »
Remember in September, when we talked about that lawsuit that HSUS co-filed with a pig farmer against the National Pork Producers Council? It focused on a “creative” use of fees paid by pig farmers to ostensibly pay for the licensing rights to “The Other White Meat,” but which actually disappeared in a back-room deal. HSUS alleged that “NPPC charged pork producers twice: once to make The Other White Meat successful, and again to pay for the value of that success.”
Park Wilde of U.S. Food Policy updated us on the lawsuit this week, and it is not looking good for those sneaky NPPC jerks. Per some newly unredacted documents pertaining to the sale of the slogan—which, remember, has been funded by mandatory fees paid by pig farmers through the pork checkoff program—there was never any other buyer for “The Other White Meat” but the NPCC, and moreover, they knew that no one else would ever want it. It wasn’t worth the $36 million that with interest over 20 years amounts to $60 million paid by the pig farmers (who, again, didn’t agree to this deal, didn’t want this deal, didn’t have any involvement in this deal besides funding it), and now everyone knows it.
It appears that pork checkoff program monies have been used for almost entirely shady purposes. What got HSUS interested in them was their suspected illegal use for lobbying against animal welfare initiatives that HSUS has been pushing for years. This revelation about “The Other White Meat” is only one gotcha, but it’s a big, obvious one. The dirtiest corporate secrets are always in the accounting, right? Tsk tsk, NPPC.
Take a look at the unredacted document at U.S. Food Policy. I can’t wait to see how those 100 percent anti-animal-welfare jerks at NPPC are going to respond. I hope it’s more whining and accusations of bullying!
[Photo by Giang Hồ Thị Hoàng via Flickr]
U.S. military must stop medical animal tests! »
In its medical training courses, the United States military uses (read: kills) over 7,500 animals every year. This is unnecessary and pretty gross. Of course, the military industrial complex is terrifying (hi, FISA extension!), the official and covert wars conducted in our name are horrific (hey Afghanistan! what’s up, CIA drones?), and the way we treat our veterans is shameful (sorry, dogs; at least there’s IAVA?). But at least we won’t be paying for people to torture pigs and goats, right? Per PCRM:
The massive National Defense Authorization Act, approved last month by the Senate and House of Representatives, contains a provision that calls on the Secretary of Defense to report to Congress by March 1, 2013, on a strategy, including a detailed timeline, for replacing the use of animals with human-based methods. Last night, the president signed the bill into law.
So they’re not going to immediately stop so much as make a plan for stopping, eventually. Still, better than letting it go on indefinitely, funded by our tax dollars. Isn’t it nice when the government helps ease the burden of complex, tacit social hypocrisy involved in trying live a cruelty-free life?
[Photo by thechoserebel via Flickr]
Pork lawsuit extravaganza! HSUS and a pig farmer sue pork lobbyists and the government! »
Big Pork is having a hell of a week.
On Monday, the Humane Society, along with pig farmer (“pork producer”) Harvey Dillenburg, filed a lawsuit against the NPCC because “the National Pork Board ‘struck an unlawful backroom deal’ with the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in purchasing the marketing message “Pork: The Other White Meat” from NPPC” in 2001.
Essentially, a case of massive, deliberate money mismanagement and lack of government oversight. All pig farmers have to give some of their profits to the NPPC, which has been, this lawsuit alleges, illegally taking money from the NPB and double-charging its funders/creators of the product it’s selling. U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack is named as a co-defendant because the government is supposed to monitor how the NPB spends its money.
Why is HSUS involved? According to a press release, because of
… glaring legal violations, conflicts of interest, and an exorbitantly over-inflated $60 million price tag associated with the deal. Much of the extraordinarily inflated value of the slogan resulted from 20 years of promotional campaigns funded entirely with pork producers’ own checkoff funds: roughly half a billion dollars. In essence, NPPC charged pork producers twice: once to make The Other White Meat successful, and again to pay for the value of that success.
Park Wilde of U.S. Food Policy blog explains further: HSUS is trying to protect its recent agreement with egg producers over “ethically acceptable” cage sizes for layer hens.
Although the leading trade association for egg producers is now working with HSUS to get this balanced policy approved by Congress, the agreement faces implacable opposition from the NPPC. The egg agreement causes no harm to pork producers, but the NPPC is worried that the precedent of a successful egg agreement will generate unrealistic hopes for similar good-faith negotiations about gestation crates for pork. It is not surprising that HSUS has been looking into how the federal government’s pork board—which is not supposed to support lobbying—helps fund the NPPC’s efforts to spoil the egg agreement.
See why you, animal-rights enthusiast, should care about this? The NPPC is a bunch of money-grubbing, anti-agriculture-reform jerks who are trying to scuttle HSUS’s effort to make life less shitty for farm animals, outside of their own species jurisdiction. The NPPC is fighting egg production reforms because it sees similar reforms in its future, and it fears them. HSUS alleges that NPPC can’t legally use its funds to fight this battle, pig farmers agree that this is a terrible use of their money, and so we have this lawsuit.
Wilde calls the suit “well written, with astonishing details,” so maybe you want to take a look [pdf]. We’re not surprised that lobbying entities are misusing funds, but it’s especially gross when they misuse funds to fight animal welfare reform.
Adorably, NPPC CEO Neil Dierks responded to the lawsuit by calling HSUS a bully. It’s cute when the people in power feel threatened and immediately appropriate the language of the oppressed. Meat industry supporters are such crybabies.
[Photo by Valerie via Flickr]
How the ag industry’s hate brings positive attention to HSUS, and more! »
It’s Paul Shapiro's Animal News You Can Use! Yay!
NPR had a recent important look at the vigorous efforts of the pork and beef lobbies to kill federal hen protection legislation. Amusingly, in the piece, the president of the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls HSUS “the devil.”
Speaking of what the agribusiness groups think, the always-insightful Counting Animals blog did a fascinating write-up and graphical illustration on the increasing attention the ag industry trade press is giving to our movement.
My colleague Matt Prescott’s got some sage advice on the CNN site about how folks can help reduce cruelty to farm animals. Check him out.
Expect a big fight in the Congress over Rep. Steve King's (seriously, click through) crazy amendment that’s been added to the House ag committee version of the farm bill that would undo numerous animal protection laws.
And last but certainly far from least, since last week’s installment, even more major pork buyers have come out saying they’ll rid their supply chains of gestation crates: Sodexo, Kmart, and Heinz. And speaking of the pork industry, as if its leadership couldn’t sink to a new low, it’s now lobbying to keep pigs at greater risk of perishing in factory farm fires. Seriously.
P.S. Video of the week: Speaking of the devil, here’s some death metal for Maru the cat while he enjoys his boxes.
If the government thinks we should eat more vegetables, why don’t they put cash money behind it? »
Veganism is more accepted than ever, and vegetarianism is downright mainstream, but I’m a realist: Herbivores are still in the minority. Further, we North Americans aren’t ingesting as many veggies as we ought to, and major health bodies have made statements to the effect that we should all give up processed meats and cut our red meat consumption considerably, at least for the sake of our health. So why is that so difficult? Money.
I’m sure you all saw the Myplate food diagram that was released by the USDA earlier this year as an update to the food pyramid. On the plus side, it recommended that people fill fully half of their plate with veggies, which is an impressive goal for anyone—vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore. The problem is that though the government tells people to choose vegetables often—definitely more often than now, since Americans eat about 50 percent more dairy products a year than veggies—they aren’t backing that suggestion up with money. Particularly in regard to agriculture subsidies, which play a huge role in what gets grown—and therefore eaten—around the country.
As the Washington Post explained recently, agriculture subsidies began in the 1930s to help farmers weather the Great Depression. It was an incredibly hard time for a lot of people, and food production was not globalized in the way it is today. What American farmers grew was, by and large, what American people ate.
Today the subsidies seem less useful, especially when you consider what they’re supporting—$200 billion was spent to subsidize commodity crops in the U.S. from 1995 to 2010, and about two-thirds of that went to cotton, tobacco, and crops used to feed animals. I think we can all agree that tobacco is not a crop that people need to live. Cotton is not a food crop either. Growing crops to feed livestock raised for food is far less efficient than growing crops to feed directly to humans. Farmers growing fruits, vegetables, and tree nuts don’t get direct subsidies at all. And a not-insignificant portion of the crops that are subsidized go towards uses like corn and other things grown to make sweeteners—again, directly opposite to the goal of getting people to eat more vegetables.
And yet, last week leading researchers, published in Nature, advised people to eat less meat if the world is going to have enough to eat. The researchers pointed out that even eating just one or two meatless meals a week will have an impact. I can see why people are confused: scientists say we need to eat less meat, the government says we need to eat more vegetables, but the dollars support meat and dairy, and give fruit, vegetables, beans, nuts, and whole grains the shaft. The best way around this is to exercise your consumer-power: Spend your money on vegetables, fruits, grains, legumes, and whole foods.
If you’re looking to add more vegetables to your diet—an excellent goal!—check out this vegan food pyramid for guidance.
Contrary to popular belief, a parachuting dog is not adorable! »
Osama bin Laden’s dead, ding dong, la la la, everything is suddenly peaceful forever and ever. Or is it? Sadly, U.S. Navy Seals didn’t think they could accomplish this mission without "an elite dog team that can parachute or rappel into action at a moment’s notice."
Wait, what? Dogs are smart, affectionate, and totally rad, and they hold all kinds of awesome jobs that are safe and still help humanity at large: guide dogs for the blind, seizure-alert dogs, even therapy dogs to visit the sick, elderly, and learning disabled! But just because a dog likes to hang out with people, chase a ball, and sniff the butts of other dogs doesn’t mean he or she wants to strap on a canine tactical assault vest and jump out of a plane to fight “turrists.”
Unlike helper dogs, these dogs are in huge danger all the time (bullets, bombs, shrapnel, the natural conclusions of a failed parachute) and don’t know what they’ve involuntarily signed up for! With $553 billion in spending projected this year for the Department of Defense, surely they could come up with alternative anti-bomb and enemy-seeking technology. Oh wait, they have? So this is just for fun, apparently.
My first thought upon reading this article was, “Parachuting dogs? How adorable!” But really, making them suffer from nightmares and stress for years after their tours of duty is exploitation. It’s a DOG DRAFT, except they can’t picket the White House, chant “hell no, we won’t go,” or burn their draft cards! Hey, military, do something useful with our tax dollars for a change.
Perez Hilton speaks out against Factory Farming! He says, “Whether you are a meat-eater or VEGAN you can stand behind animals in the meat trade.” That’s cool, but just go vegan. Then we won’t have an issue like factory farms, where animals are tortured and sexually abused (humans are the worst).
Florida and Iowa are trying to make undercover investigations of factory farms ILLEGAL! To which Perez, a Florida native responds “A citizen’s right to document cruelty to animals—wherever it occurs—is crucial to helping local, state, and federal officials enforce anti-cruelty laws. What we need are more cameras on factory farms, not fewer.”
I love celebrities who stand up for animals. I love them even more when they are VEGAN. I’m a pop culture whore. I don’t want to discuss how upset I am about boycotting Water for Elephants. The book is incredible! Robert Pattinson is the vamp of my dreams! Don’t try to tell me he’s not a vampire in real life, the conversation won’t go very well.
Agriculture subsidies are FUCKED »
Here’s some shit to get super-pissed about. Unfortunately it has to do with the government and so we can’t do jack shit because we have no real power. Yay 21st-century livin’! Who knew freedom cost so much?? Seriously, if you guys want to take to the streets over this, I’m with you. I’ve got a flak jacket and a breast pump (don’t ask, the answer is too sexy for you), there ain’t nothing I can’t do. Let’s unite! And rebel! For realz. But first, here’s why.
Did you know that 63 percent of agricultural subsidies go to meat and dairy? BULLSHIT! If news of even more bullshit, less than 1 percent of agricultural subsidies go to fruits and vegetables. Check out the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s new report on agriculture policies, and be shocked and depressed. AND READY FOR ACTION!
Seriously, if we don’t take to the streets of the capital to protest this, the least we can do is send that chart to everyone and their mother and your mother and like, Gawker, because everyone’s mother reads that. What is going on with our moms? Anyway, spread the word, because maybe if enough of us get really crazy about it, we might actually get some attention. We can’t let this shit slide! We’re so concerned about our children’s future that we’re singing songs about it (i.e., very concerned) but we’re not really doing shit! RISE UP! But first, I need a donut.
Part of the Problem
You know that idiot, Iowa state Rep. Annette Sweeney? She’s trying to outlaw the filming of animal undercover investigations and it’s the wack attack. And, oh look, she’s the former executive director of the Iowa Angus Association. Quelle surprise! If I could throw up on one person today (and it’s looking like it might happen, too much party-hardy for Laura), it would be that woman.
The video above is pretty amazing. In it, she talks about how undercover animal investigations are staged, right before pulling apart a display from opposing activists. OH THE IRONY. Even trying to backtrack she sounds like the idiot she is.
Unfortunately, the bill passed the Republican-dominated Iowa House, but its passage remains uncertain in the state’s Democrat-controlled Senate. It could possibly be discussed in the Senate as early as today. If you’re in Iowa (or can pass this on to people who live in Iowa! Along with this message: GET OUT. I joke! Looks like a great place.), please contact your state senator, and let them know that you strongly oppose the passage of S.J. 727.
Hello, Friends! It’s WTF Wednesday! »
You guys, today is the first day of my last semester of grad school [Ed.: Congrats, Mark!]. I’ve been so nervous about finishing my master’s paper before May, I probably gave myself another ulcer during winter break (which is no break at all because internships do not take a month off! How happy I was as an undergrad!). This is not to say I worked on the paper at all, I just worried about it. Because that’s what I do. I worry. And I don’t just worry about my paper. I worry about everything. Like what if there’s a giant earthquake while I’m sleeping and I have to jump out a window (I don’t know why I’d have to jump out a window, I just would)? Or what if I accidentally (or not accidentally, people are assholes) get run over by a car when I’m crossing the street? And then I worry about the bad shit that happens to animals, because a lot of bad shit happens to animals.
Sometimes, though, animals get the upper hand. For instance, in Belarus, known for its delicious potato recipes (potato pancakes, even better without eggs), as well as its plentitude of beautiful outdoor places to kill animals, a fox shot a hunter. Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending on your perspective), the fox did not kill the hunter (because animals are hella cool like that), and so now he can spend the rest of his life talking about how awesome foxes are. Or, uh, apologizing for trying to beat this particular fox to death with the butt of his weapon after the fox didn’t die from the bullets the hunter shot at him/her. Th glorious and very smart fox escaped and is hopefully doing well, although I’m worried that the bullet wounds may prove fatal (as bullet wounds so often are). Let’s hope the hunter holds up his half of the bargain I just created for him. If he doesn’t take being shot by his prey as a wake-up call that he’s doing some heinous shit, perhaps it’s better if he exits the gene pool as quickly and gracefully as possible.
Tim (who is quickly becoming my favorite reader ever because A. he’s sent me two links already and B. my affection is won easily) sent me this delightful story about the U.S. Government poisoning birds. You would think the US government would have better things to do (LGBT rights, women’s rights, prison reform, make sure we’re all now owned by China tomorrow) but NO, they’re far too busy to deal with any major issues because they’re creating poison bait to murder birds who poop too much and too indiscriminately. 200 Starlings are dead as a result of the USDA’s decision that killing these birds would be the best way to stop them from defecating in a feedlot. Fortunately, the USDA also released a statement proclaiming that the now dead birds do not pose a threat to humans or animals. Because they can no longer expel excrement. This is a real thing. Also: I don’t know where you guys come from, but I come from Moldova*, and in Moldova when a bird pooped on you, we called it a present and took it as a good omen. To my knowledge, we did not poison the bird. Moldova was, at one time, named the world’s unhappiest country. If the world’s unhappiest country can welcome bird poop, we should at least be able to tolerate it without resorting to murder in America. Meave wrote more on this issue and I implore you to read it immediately and then get really, really pissed and hope all the birds go Hitchcock** on our asses. And I’m not talking about his signature lighting techniques!
I wonder what the USDA thinks about people eating fungus-encrusted silk worms in order to get their groove back? This delicious/disGARsting treat is referred to as “The Himalayan Viagra” and while it does not have an immediate effect (to which I say, what’s the point?), if you put it on your waffles or grate it into your bottle of Parma (OMG PARMA! I ATE A WHOLE BOTTLE OF IT IN ONE SITTING LAST WEEK!) and eat it for a couple of days, it is going to (allegedly) make you hornier than an, I don’t know, Horny Goat Weed (warning: vegan??). Allegedly, this is a trend in New York and people are paying hundreds of dollars for an ounce of these worms. The worms have also caused controversy because it’s not possible to tell if they work (duh) and because the people who collect them have been bludgeoning each other to death over control of the worms. This is not only disgusting and sad, but probably incredibly unsanitary. These are dead worms covered in fungus. Also: we have Viagra now and I hear it’s cheaper. Even if you don’t have insurance. Why not try some of that? No shame! Or, some shame, but it’s cool.
Please send me, your friend Mark, links for next week and have a safe and happy Wednesday. If you’re starting school today, I wish you godspeed and good luck!
*Moldova is basically like Kazakhstan but less charming. Laura wrote that.
**Or perhaps, Birdemic!