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HSUS Speaking Out of Both Sides of Its Mouth PDF Print E-mail
Written by Steve Dittmer   
Thursday, 10 July 2008
AFF Sentinel Vol.5#31

The Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) has been telling one story on its website implying wrong-doing by a U.S. meatpacker and then telling a different story, - - and issuing cautionary statements on its lack of evidence -- when speaking in person or in correspondence. The story involved an HSUS investigation of a New Mexico auction market.

The story posted on the HSUS website and the extensive video on the site was carefully constructed to leave the clear implication that the meat packer - specifically named in the story and the video -- had used downer cattle in its school lunch production. HSUS was evidently itself concerned the implication was damning and over-the-top, because HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle now claims he issued a disclaimer not contained in the story or the video at his live news conference in Washington.

But the news release and video ran for days on the HSUS website before Pacelle ordered them taken down. AFF did not attend the live news conference in D.C. - we lack Pacelle's $130 million dollar budget -- so we used HSUS' published statements & video. Only on the sixth day after the conference did Pacelle withdraw his website material, after having admitted in writing to industry leaders for nearly a week that he could not link the cattle in the video or any others to the Texas packer named in his story and video.

Now, in a story published on, Pacelle said, "I specifically and unambiguously said that our investigation did not track the cows once they left Portales, and that we had no knowledge of what happened to the downer cows that had been sold at auction," apparently referring to his news conference. Funny no such language appeared in his website story or video. Funny that HSUS members who checked the site to see what their dues were accomplishing didn't read or hear Pacelle's admission. Funny, he must think stretching his story is okay because, after all, HSUS is trying to help animals.

There is no doubt that the HSUS video showed cattle being mistreated and that should not have happened. But HSUS footage of a handful of animals over months deserves perspective -- the nation's cattle producers, auctions and packers care for and handle millions of animals every week without any abuse. While regrettable, the situations in the video are in not typical of animal care in the nation's cattle and market operations.

Attacking someone's business reputation without proof is not the kind of tactics HSUS should be using on a company. Pacelle pulled the classic TV courtroom stunt, where the trial attorney gets something stated in the courtroom that is not true or unproven and the judge instructs the jury to disregard the statement. But the statement sticks with the jury. Pacelle told one story on his website and another to the national media. Only at the news conference does he claim a cautionary aside to disregard his lack of evidence - but asks the media to help him anyway to convince USDA, Congress and the public that SOMETHING needs to be done.

In his rebuttal story, while claiming that he admitted he had no evidence on the Texas packer and he had, therefore, agreed not to mention the packer's name, he did give a town and state, making it easy for any reporter to figure out. Arrogantly, in the rebuttal story, he managed to give the packer's name seven different times. Responsible bit, that.

One of Pacelle's parting shots is rich.

"It's time for the industry to stop micro- analyzing HSUS's actions and start holding outliars within the industry accountable," he wrote.

Well, we are going to hold HSUS accountable to the truth. Their actions in this case have been inexcusable, especially given their resources in personnel and budget and their self-righteous attitude. It's not "micro-analyzing" or "sniping" to demand proof before allowing the construction of serious and elaborate implications against a company to go unchallenged. HSUS credibility should be important to their members and the media. The end does not justify any means. And, "whether or not we mention a packer," does matter. If it doesn't, why is Pacelle bothering to try to clarify his actions and defend his credibility? Why has the footage naming the packer been removed from the video on the website now?

Knowing HSUS constantly uses emotions and psychology to motivate people, we have to wonder if Pacelle really doesn't know how to spell "outlier" or if he intentionally misspelled it "outliar" to further sully the reputations of the nation's animal agriculture people.

Yet by using the term outlier - "an extreme deviation from the mean" by one reference -- he has contradicted himself. In the original story, he said, "No longer can anyone ... claim that the abuses we documented at Hallmark were an aberration or isolated case." Yet he himself has labeled as outliers the handful of abuses uncovered at a few auctions and one packer, out of the thousands of auctions and packers and tens of millions of cattle handled every year.

If Pacelle wants to "correct the record," as he said in this latest story, we suggest he explain the discrepancies and contradictions.

The industry does need to continue improving its animal handling. It needs to do it on its own. And the constant call for more legislation Pacelle espouses is overblown overreaction.

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Last Updated ( Friday, 12 September 2008 )
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