Fortune has just published a pretty extraordinary round-up of our high-impact work with the world’s largest food retail corporations. The piece details the work of Josh Balk, Matt Prescott, and other members of the HSUS Farm Animal Protection team who have worked so expertly with more than 100 of the biggest names in food retail to get them to end purchasing of eggs from hens in cages and pork from facilities confining breeding sows, among other reforms. I encourage you to read about this remarkable litany of achievements, which Fortune calls a “case study in the art of advocacy and negotiation.”
The latest of our successes came Tuesday, with the announcement from Hilton Worldwide about its commitment to sourcing eggs from only cage-free operators. That move, and dozens of others we’ve influenced prior to that, shows the humane economy at work – as companies see that treating animals better is not only the right thing to do, but increasingly the superior economic move, too. I also wrote recently about how consumer and legislative pressure compelled Ringling Bros. to retire its elephants, and how SeaWorld’s revenues and share prices are falling as it stubbornly clings to a business model based on confining orcas in swimming pools too small for the biggest predators on the planet.
The Fortune article is also a stunning repudiation of the claims and work of former tobacco lobbyist Richard Berman, who has been waging an anemic, years-long campaign to rebrand these coffin-sized cages used to confine mother pigs for most of their lives as “maternity pens.”
But Berman’s failure has been almost complete in this realm, with dozens of the biggest names in food retail phasing out their buying of pork from operations that use gestation crates. Here’s a guy who, for years, said he represented “food and beverage companies and restaurants” but has showed no ability to stem or turn the tide with nearly the full roster of names in the business. In the process, he showed himself to be thoroughly ineffective and with his exaggerated claims about his work, he further frayed the threadbare credibility he had at the outset of his gun-for-hire campaign.
Berman was at it again yesterday, taking credit for severing an HSUS affinity card program with Discover. The trouble is, Discover ended this affinity program – along with affinity programs with 13 other non-profits – five weeks ago. Discover publicly announced on March 3rd that it was “discontinuing affinity programs with 14 organizations and universities to better align resources with the company’s strategic initiatives.” Despite the termination of the affinity card programs, The HSUS received $1 million from Discover to support our life-saving work. The fact that Berman only just noticed this old news, and is now trying to claim it as a victory, even as we receive $1 million from this successful program, is as brazen a mischaracterization as you’ll see in contemporary public-relations battles.
While Berman has been fighting us and squandering resources from animal-abuse industries, HSUS revenues were up $10 million in 2014 despite his claims to be hurting us financially. More importantly, in the very time frame of his activism against us, we’ve helped to make malicious cruelty and dogfighting a felony in every state, and cockfighting illegal everywhere. We’ve helped save millions of dogs and cats from puppy mills and euthanasia, and millions more pigs and chickens from cruelty on factory farms, and hundreds of thousands of seals from clubbing and shooting. We’ve spared or improved the lives of countless animals in laboratories, in the wild, and in other settings.
Of course there are still challenges, and there are other retrograde actors at work. On Tuesday, the Montana state senate rejected a measure to criminalize attending a dogfight out of a bizarre and false concern that this would somehow affect rodeos or agriculture in the state. You can rest assured, though, that in Montana and everywhere else, The HSUS will work tirelessly to turn around that vote and to put a stop to cruelty to animals wherever it flourishes. And we do so with more legislators, more businesses, and more citizens of every kind of background behind us.