PR operative Rick Berman now includes Chipotle among his dozens of targets. He and one of his many front groups, the Center for Consumer Freedom — operating from his office in Washington, D.C. — have placed a couple of ads in the New York Post attacking the restaurant chain for silly reasons. The effort is only drawing more attention to Chipotle’s popular policies against confining animals in crates and loading them up with antibiotics.
Factory farming interests are undoubtedly paying Berman to conduct this flaccid, not-very-clever campaign because they don’t like that a fast-serve company like Chipotle, which embraces animal welfare and public health in its business model, is so successful. On behalf of his financiers, whose identity and interests he won’t disclose, Berman is hoping to slow down Chipotle’s momentum. As with his campaign against The HSUS, it’s likely to have the opposite effect by highlighting the popularity of the company’s policies, which in turn will be a magnet for consumers. If anybody notices his very predictable little campaign, it will likely spur sales at Chipotle rather than suppress them.
Berman has been attacking The HSUS for a long time because we are convincing consumers, corporations, and political leaders that there’s no future in confining pigs and hens in cages and crates, denying breeding dogs improved conditions in puppy mills, clubbing baby seals for their pelts, slaughtering horses for their meat, or tormenting chimpanzees in laboratories. In every case, in spite of Berman’s efforts, we are driving transformational change that is chronicled on our website and in all of our other media work. We are in a moment of extraordinary awakening and change in our culture when it comes to our treatment of animals, and you can see the evidence wherever you turn.
Nevertheless, Berman persists with his attack-the-messenger strategy, claiming he objects to our fundraising. But The HSUS’s fundraising is as transparent as can be, and from our founding in 1954, we’ve always been about helping all animals – from shelter pets to dogs in puppy mills, or in fighting pits; from animals in factory farms to those in testing laboratories; to horses at risk of soring or slaughter for human consumption, to wildlife killed for their trophies or confined in captive hunting operations. Berman’s real concern is the impact The HSUS is having. We’re the worst threat there is to animal abuse in this country, and on behalf of unnamed animal abusers, Berman is trying to slow us down. He is, after all, in their pay.
He’s failing miserably, however, just as he did when he tried to prevent smoking bans in restaurants when he started his self-enrichment scheme several decades ago. This week, we announced that McDonald’s is going completely cage-free for its egg purchases. Last week, I heralded the end of the era of invasive experiments on chimps. We got a bill to California Governor Jerry Brown’s desk to end the use of bullhooks in circuses last week, too, along with a separate bill to end the ivory trade. That was just one week, and we’ve been securing and announcing big outcomes like these all year.
For the hallmarks of a true revenue-generating scandal, one need look no further than the abuse of check-off programs by several sectors of animal agriculture, which I wrote about in yesterday’s blog. Big Pork and others have worked to lobby Congress to set up mandatory payment schemes from every farmer. They’re supposed to use the tens of millions generated for advertising to promote their commodity. The reality is, they divert millions of dollars to their own trade associations – money that these farmers or consumers never intended to give to them. Is Berman working with some of these folks and himself pocketing the check-off money? It would be just like him.
The HSUS raises money from supporters by doing its best to help animals – all animals – and shouting from the rooftops about this work on A Humane Nation, our website, social media pages, and so many other platforms. People give us money because they want to support the highest-impact campaigns for animals. On the other hand, the National Pork Producers Council and the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association get their finances from a government-mandated tithing system. They work to get their allies in place to control the money, and then these industry leaders direct the money to the trade associations. It’s all so circular and such a revolving door.
The evidence is plain that the old model of factory farming has fallen into enormous disfavor, company by company, state by state, and farm by farm. We’re exposing the get-rich-quick schemes of the trade groups that want to protect and profit from the status quo. And Rick Berman and other opponents of social progress for animals aren’t going to stop us or Chipotle or any other entity that is working on the right side of history.