SPEAKING to pork producers at the World Pork Expo earlier this month, Brian Klippenstein said, "You guys are the best caretakers (of swine) and producers of abundant, affordable, safe food."
This was how he opened his discussion about attacks on animal agriculture, especially from groups like The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
Klippenstein said the antics of groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), with its "McCruelty" campaigns and shirtless or otherwise unclothed women, represent the "old movement," whereas HSUS chief executive officer Wayne Pacelle represents the "new movement."
"He knows where he is going and how to get there," Klippenstein, executive director of Protect The Harvest, said of Pacelle.
Klippenstein emphasized that the anti-animal agriculture movement is more than a political movement, pointing to how seven of the 10 richest counties in the U.S. are in the suburbs surrounding Washington, D.C.
"Nonprofits are extremely lucrative," he said, and Washington-based groups like HSUS "want to exist into perpetuity" and know that, in order to do that, they need "a check" from people in those suburbs.
Their accusations that farmers are interested only in money applies to the activist groups, too, Klippenstein said.
The activists' technology is "remarkable and viable," he said, and they are extremely adept at fund-raising.
Klippenstein said it's important for farmers and livestock producers to resist animal activists.
"If you don't fight back, you lose," he said.
The activists have had too many "easy victories," he said, because, for one reason, "it's hard (for producers) to react to their fabrications about how livestock are produced."
He said animal agriculture needs to go on the offensive and put the activists on the defensive.
Klippenstein said 20,000 people die from hunger every day.
The offensive strategy should be founded on the fact that farmers have the technology to address hunger and to produce 70% more food in 40 years using fewer natural resources than can the vegetarian movement, which includes advocates like HSUS, he said.
Klippenstein spoke to pork producers June 6 at a luncheon hosted by the National Pork Producers Council during the pork expo in Des Moines, Iowa.
Protect The Harvest is supported by Lucas Oil Products Inc. and citizen contributions and was established to defend families, farmers, hunters and animal owners, including pet owners, from increasing attacks by animal rights activism.
More information on the Davenport, Iowa-based organization can be found at www.protecttheharvest.com.
'Turned and wired'
In many situations, good-intentioned interests "get turned around," which is what happened to the animal welfare movement that turned into an animal rights crusade, according to Rick Berman, head of Berman & Co., which monitors HSUS through its Humane Watch division.
The animal rights movement subscribes to the principle that humans shouldn't do anything to an animal to which the animal, if it could speak, would object, he said. So, "since an animal would say it doesn't want to be eaten, therefore, we can't raise livestock for food," he explained
Some who subscribe to this notion "are so wired" that, as an example, PETA doesn't even support seeing-eye dogs for the blind, said Berman, who followed Klippenstein in speaking to the pork producer luncheon.
HSUS has "hijacked" local animal shelters, Berman said, by soliciting donations and membership from people to save cats and dogs and using those funds to attack farmers.
For HSUS, it's not about animal welfare; it's about increasing the costs of food animal production so much that it drives producers out of business in line with the group's objective to advocate vegetarianism.
For instance, he said, HSUS is pushing for pork producers to stop using gestation stalls — which he said should be referred to as "individual maternity pens" — not for the animal's benefit but to make hog production more costly and pork more expensive so that, as a result, consumers will turn away from eating pork.
If all producers "switched out" to group pens, HSUS would just come back and say the pens still do not provide enough space, Berman said; if producers were to respond to that accusation, they would need to build bigger barns, which would increase production costs and pork prices even more.
HSUS is conducting a corporate campaign to get pork "off the menu and out of the store" — an effort "to pressure (customers) into pressuring producers," Berman said.
He outlined a number of Humane Watch ads, brochures and other activities "to flip public perception" away from supporting HSUS to instead support local animal shelters and livestock producers, explaining that "if we can do that, we can get legislators on our side, ... because legislators won't buck public opinion."
This is an effort to "rebrand" HSUS by pointing out that only 1% of donations to HSUS actually go to local animal shelters and that the organization, instead, uses members' contributions to finance $38 million in salaries and pensions.
People are increasingly repeating that message, Berman said, creating "common knowledge" in that they don't know where the information came from, but they believe it to be true.
Rebranding costs money, he said, but it puts groups like pork producers on the offensive, and while "people on the defensive don't want to lose, people on the offensive want to win."
Berman & Co. is an advertising, communications and government affairs firm based in Washington, D.C., that's largely supported by the restaurant and tavern industries. More information is available at www.bermanco.com.
Information about the Humane Watch division is available at www.humanewatch.org.