THE Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced in May the formation of a National Agriculture Advisory Council, but it appears that there already has been a fallout between the animal rights group and some of the farmers on the council.
The council is comprised of family farmers and agriculturalists from 10 states and the Pacific Northwest and, until recently, included prominent member Kevin Fulton of Nebraska.
Fulton told The Weekly Standard that HSUS initially embraced the council by giving members a "seat at the table" and allowing them to influence policy. Additionally, he said he was able to speak freely at HSUS functions in order to bring balance to the organization — but this didn't last long.
Fulton said "abolitionist vegans" at HSUS opposed to animal agriculture began undermining the council's work. Additionally, the relationship was supposedly costing HSUS donors and money.
Instead of defending the advisory council, however, Fulton said HSUS president Wayne Pacelle allowed HSUS to become a "good ol' boys vegan club."
Fulton told The Weekly Standard that the last straw for him was at HSUS's recent "The Future of Food" conference, which featured a keynote by "ethicist" Peter Singer, who is at the forefront of the animal liberation movement and seeks to end moral distinctions between humans and animal species.
Fulton protested Singer's agenda, and as a result, Pacelle removed Fulton from the ag council. The Weekly Standard reported that this prompted six other ag council members from Nebraska to quit, and more are expected to follow.
Three of the council members who left said they felt like HSUS used them to enhance its credibility without following through on promises to help them.
Jim Knopik of the Nebraska ag council told The Weekly Standard that HSUS's treatment was a "stab in the back" and that the organization was using the council "as their poster child."
Missouri farmer Eric Fuchs said he was initially skeptical of the council but joined to have a voice on the issues. He praised the Missouri HSUS state director but said the national leadership was out to "get rid of all animal agriculture." He added, "They used us for window dressing."
A spokesperson for HSUS told Feedstuffs, "We are grateful for the work Kevin Fulton did with us as a volunteer, and we hope he'll continue to advocate for more humane and sustainable agriculture and raise awareness about the problems with factory farming. Even though a few members left the council, we have about 50 active farmers and ranchers with our various agriculture advisory councils representing 13 states."
When HSUS first announced that it was forming the council in May, the Animal Agriculture Alliance warned against the dangers of aligning with HSUS.
"It is not surprising to see HSUS continue to find ways to mislead consumers, restaurants and retailers and the media about its true intentions: taking milk, meat and eggs off of our plates. HSUS's efforts are nothing more than a front to appear engaged with farmers and ranchers," the group said.
The Animal Agriculture Alliance suggested that anyone considering working with HSUS or any other animal rights activist organizations should do some deeper digging beyond what these groups say in talking points or on their websites.
"While, today, HSUS may be acting like the ally of the producers on this council, the tides will no doubt turn as the organization moves on to target other production methods — a lesson some brands have learned in trying to appease it," the organization said.