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 The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) through Berman's Humane Watch division.
The animal rights movement subscribes to the principle that humans can't do anything to an animal that, if the animal could speak, it would object to, he said. "Since an animal would say it doesn’t want to be eaten, therefore, we can't raise livestock for food," he said.
Some who subscribe to this subscription "are so wired" that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn't even support seeing-eye dogs for the blind, he said.
Berman spoke to a luncheon that was hosted by the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) at the World Pork Expo in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6.
HSUS has "hijacked" local animal shelters, Berman said, 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 production so much that producers are driven out of business in line with its objective to advocate vegetarianism.
For instance, he said, HSUS is pushing for pork producers to abandon gestation stalls -- which he said should be referred to as "individual maternity pens" -- not for the animal's benefit but to make production for costly and pork more expensive to turn consumers away from eating pork.
If all producers "switched out" to group pens, HSUS would come back and say the pens still do not provide enough space, urging producers to build bigger barns, which would increase production costs and pork prices, he said.
HSUS is conducting a corporate campaign to get pork "off the menu and out of the store" -- an effort "to pressure the brands 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 supporting pork 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 go to local animal shelters and that the organization use those donations to finance $38 million in salaries and pensions.
People are increasingly repeating that message, Berman said, creating "common knowledge" -- knowledge that they don't know where it came from but that they believe 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."