HSUS takes out after Beef Checkoff

By Gene Hall

What’s an animal rights organization like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) doing in a legal battle over the Beef Checkoff?

HSUS has decided to involve itself in a lawsuit that includes an officer of the Organization for Competitive Markets (OCM), USDA, the Cattlemen’s Beef Board and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA). HSUS has inserted itself into what could be interpreted as an internal beef business squabble.

Many experts argue that the suit is aimed at taking down the Beef Checkoff itself. Businesses invest in a wide array of activities to develop products, markets and services. These include research, marketing and advertising. Ranching is not a monolithic business, but is composed of thousands of individual ranchers who cannot afford these investments. Ranchers voted more than two decades ago to fund a beef research and marketing program to do it for them. One dollar from the sale of every animal is “checked off” to fund those activities. No business can survive or thrive without investing in its own infrastructure. Do you think HSUS knows this? Oh yeah.

Strangely, one of the activities funded by the Beef Checkoff is BQA—the Beef Quality Assurance program. A key element of that, funded by Checkoff dollars, is low-stress handling of beef animals. In other words, ranchers themselves have funded the study for “kinder and gentler” treatment of livestock. As we’ve written here before, this is not only better for the animals but is just good business. HSUS is, in effect, attacking the system that devotes considerable resources to low-stress environments for livestock.

Why? HSUS chief Wayne Pacelle says NCBA has misused Checkoff funds to lobby, which is against the law. NCBA is required to separate those funds from their activities representing ranchers. They routinely have to satisfy federal auditors who look into this. It’s not my job to defend NCBA, and I won’t, but it’s not like they’ve been allowed to operate as a loose cannon.

What Wayne is really mad about is this. He says NCBA should “stay in its lane.” NCBA has lobbied against HSUS’s egg bill in Congress. Reduced to the lowest common denominator, this is just naked intimidation. What NCBA knows and what Pacelle will not say is this: Once he’s done with the egg, broiler and pork industries, beef is next.

Attacking the funding mechanism that results in better handling of livestock would seem to be counterproductive for HSUS—unless you understand the goal is not really “kinder and gentler” meat production. It’s no meat production at all. An organization very good at sleight of hand should own up to that.

Gene Hall

Public Relations Director
Texas Farm Bureau
I believe that the only hope for a food secure world is capitalism and reasonable profits for America’s farm and ranch families–that the first element of sustainability is economic survival.
Follow Gene on Twitter and Facebook.

9 Responses to “HSUS takes out after Beef Checkoff”

  1. Speaking of “staying in its lane”, I think that many of HSUS’s donors would be interested to know that 37% ($47M) of its 2010 budget was attributed to fundraising costs while another $3.6M was used directed towards its own lobbying efforts. This, when ONLY 0.418% (500K) of HSUS’s budget was set aside for pet shelter grants/support (Pacelle’s salary for 2010 was 290K). I expect that most of the HSUS’s members support it/donate to it because it presents itself as an animal protection organization and not the ‘fundraising/lobby’ machine that it really is.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Cami – we need to call attention to this one. Why put HSUS dollars behind an effort to destroy what is essentially good for beef cattle – certainly lower stress – unless you just want to tear down the whole thing. This may not be THE smoking gun, but there’s more than a little smoke here. OCM is make a big mistake.

  2. As always, interesting points, Gene!

    • Gene Hall says:

      Thanks Anthony and Gig em – will by in Kyle on Sept 8 for Florida. We’d love to hear from the Farmers Fight Team on this one.

  3. james adams says:

    Good going, Gene. Thank you for speaking up. If we remain silent, the other people will start running our lives for us.

  4. Michele Haynes says:

    Gene, I absolutely agree that animals right activists’ main goal is to stop the entire world from eating meat. When we understand this goal all of their activities become so transparent.

    Although I cannot afford much meat anymore, especially beef, I have no problem ethically raising and eating meat. I am actually considering a small rabbit raising setup in my own backyard to offset the cost of store-bought meat.

    Now if we can just stop silly biofuel production (talk about non-sustainable) completely and encourage more grass-fed beef raising enterprises, I think the world would be a better place.

    • Gene Hall says:

      Hey there Michele – All beef is grass fed for most of it’s life, but I like mine finished on grain. There’s some interesting work on the respective carbon footprints of grass fed and grain fed having to do with the length of time in the process. No dissing of grass fed. Some folks like it on taste test alone. And reasonable portions of lean beef are good for us!

  5. Gene Hall says:

    Here’s one of the several links on the subject, Michele.

  6. Don smith says:

    Keep up the good work. We must all get involved in continuing to promote the best source of protein Huss wants us all gone

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