The Truth About HSUS and Pens

Rick-BermanLast August, a group of independent pork producers interviewed Rick Berman, who runs a public relations firm based in Washington, D.C., and who is also the Executive Director of the Center for Consumer Freedom. The producers were interested in learning more about an ongoing education campaign called Humane Watch run by the Center to counter the flood of negative information being generated by groups like the Humane Society of the United States and its CEO Wayne Pacelle. The HSUS (not affiliated with community humane societies or pet shelters) has decried the use of maternity pens as inhumane.

Because of this organization’s charges against individual housing of sows going largely unanswered, some food suppliers and restaurant chains have bowed to pressure and announced they will only buy pork raised on farms that don’t utilize pens.

Humane Watch is now actively spreading THE REAL TRUTH about HSUS. This organization is not as concerned about the humane treatment of animals as it is about advancing its thinly concealed animal liberation and vegan agenda.

Veterinarians agree that maternity pens are the best way to insure the welfare of sows and the safety of workers who care for them.

In February, Pipestone Veterinary Clinic hosted a Pork Outlook meeting attended by 175 producers at which Mr. Berman spoke about the campaign to expose HSUS and present the real truth about maternity pens to the public. The truth is that maternity pens have been approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians for providing for the welfare of sows and the safety of workers who care for them.

Six months later, Swine Line asked Rick Berman for an update on the campaign. Here is a portion of our conversation.

Swine Line: Do you feel you are making progress?

Berman: Yes, I feel we are making enormous progress. For the first time in many years, retailers and the public are hearing a different and more accurate message about the Humane Society of the United States. When HSUS began speaking years ago about the treatment of animals, most farmers and farm groups didn’t spend any time addressing the issue because these people were so off base. However, eventually the public began believing these horror stories and retailers began pressuring farmers to change their production practices. Today, retailers and the public are getting a different and more accurate message. They’re learning what HSUS is and what their real agenda is. It’s been just 12 months since we focused on the maternity pen issue and while it takes a while to turn first impressions around, there is no lack of evidence for the truth of our position—only a lack of resources to advertise it.

Swine Line:  What are you doing to turn public opinion?

Berman: We’ve continued to give the public, as well as state legislators, a true understanding of the animal liberation/vegan agenda of the Humane Society of the United States. We’ve continued to convince the food service community that these people have one hidden agenda—to stop people from consuming animal protein. We’ve been pretty successful. From television and radio to billboards and the Internet, we’ve used every communication vehicle you can think of. We even have ads in the Washington D.C. subway system as well as ads on busses. Every day, we’re ambushing people with information about HSUS in conventional and unconventional places.

Swine Line: Have you seen any encouraging results?

Berman: We’ve seen a shift in opinion, but more importantly we’ve seen a slowdown in retailers adopting the HSUS agenda and a slowdown in legislators passing laws consistent with this agenda. At the same time, more people in agriculture are beginning to understand the need to go on the offensive and not wait until economic pressures force them into a defensive posture. Perhaps the biggest indication of our effectiveness has been the amount of whining, complaining, and attacks by HSUS against me and my firm for putting out these messages. That’s our best metric as to whether our message is getting traction.  If we were only a nuisance, they would ignore us.

Swine Line: What can pork producers do to help?

Berman: Do whatever you can to spread the truth through your own channels. Become educated as to the real agenda of HSUS. Visit to learn more about the misinformation this organization is spreading. And write a check. We’ll use it to buy more air time and reach more of the non-farm community.