Who made HSUS the Jell-O sheriff?

When I was growing up, we had several comedy albums we listened to over and over. One of our favorites was the Bill Cosby album, To Russell, My Brother, Whom I Slept With.

In several routines, Cosby mimics arguing with his brother while growing up, including one sketch where his brother accused him of eating all the Jell-O in the refrigerator. “Who made you the big Jell-O Sheriff of the house?” boomed Cosby.

For a long time, that phrase became my go-to line when someone got too bossy: Who died and made you Jell-O sheriff of the house? And that’s what I want to know about the Humane Society of the United States?

Who died and made them the farm animal care Jell-O sheriffs in the house? Who anointed them as the consumers’ spokesman? They don’t even eat meat.

Last summer, we reported the HSUS and the United Egg Producers had brokered an agreement that they hoped would become federal law dictating a national standard on cage sizes and “enriched housing” for egg-laying hens.

Well, they’ve found a legislator to introduce the agreement as legislation. A veterinarian, no less, albeit one that focused on dogs and cats in his practice.

On Monday, Jan. 23, U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., introduced H.R.. 3798, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012.

Reps. Elton Gallegly, Sam Farr and Jeff Denham are co-sponsors. Gallegly and Denham are Republicans from California and Farr is a California Democrat.

The bill would require egg producers to ultimately double their hens’ housing space, replacing cages with “enriched colony housing systems.”

During a 15- to 18-year phase-in period, egg producers must also add perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas. The legislation includes carton labeling language, and addresses euthanasia standards, and ammonia levels in barns, among other specifics.

A news release issued by Schrader lists bill supporters that include the Ohio Egg Processors Association. If approved, the federal law would supersede standards set by Ohio’s new Livestock Care Standards Board, and other state laws (link opens .pdf of the board’s poultry standards).

It also would ban the transport and sale of eggs that don’t meet the requirements.

Since 1990, 25 HSUS-backed statewide ballot issues or referendums have been successful. Ohio’s ag community beat them to the punch to pass Issue 2 in 2009 to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board.

Now, HSUS — an organization that dedicated to “reducing, refining and replacing” meat, dairy and eggs from diets — is taking it to the Big Leagues, and trying to get animal production practices dictated by the federal government.

Last month, eight national farm groups — Egg Farmers of America, National Cattlemen’s Beef Association, National Pork Producers Council, American Farm Bureau Federation, American Sheep Industry Association, National Farmers Union, National Turkey Federation, and the National Milk Producers Federation — wrote to Congress to urge legislators to reject “unwarranted animal rights mandates.”

The letter to House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Rep. Frank Lucas and ranking member, Rep. Collin Peterson, blasted the HSUS/UEP-backed proposal, and claimed it would require replacement of 90 percent of the egg housing currently used. Of greater concern, however, is the creation of specific standards that can’t be adapted for different farming options — and the slippery slope of federal legislation that may seem well-intentioned, but could drive animal agriculture out of the United States.

But I guess that’s the HSUS’ goal, after all, isn’t it.


By Susan Crowell

About the Author

Farm and Dairy Editor Susan Crowell has been with the paper since 1985, serving as its editor since 1989. Raised on a farm in Holmes County, she is a graduate of Kent State University. You can follow her on Twitter at http://twitter.com/scrowell and follow Farm and Dairy at http://twitter.com/farmanddairy. You can also find her on Google+ and Facebook. More Stories by Susan Crowell

16 Comments

  1. Terry Ward says:

    ” drive animal agriculture out of the United States”!

    Wha????

    This is a joke, right?

  2. FFA 73 says:

    How did Ohio egg producers get such a sweet deal with HSUS in June 2010?
    Why was it existing layer barns did not have to make a costly conversion like hog and veal farmers?
    How was it Egg producers got all of the other farm commodity groups (Corn, Soy,Dairy, Beef, OFB) to concede to the “Agreement”?
    Could it be that Ohio is #2 in egg production?
    Could it be, that this HSUS-UEP deal was in the works back then?

    Find the answers to these questions Susan, and I believe you will find that there has been a ‘fox in the hen house’ all along.

  3. okiestorm1 says:

    Need to get HSUS out of Ohio.

  4. okiestorm1 says:

    ‎”We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. . One generation and out. We have no problem with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.” Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP of Humane Society of the US, formerly of Friends of Animals and Fund for Animals, Animal People, May, 1993
    PLEASE DO NOT DONATE TO THESES GROUPS!!!

  5. AmyK says:

    Susan, no one “appointed” HSUS the Jello sheriff. I am a member of the HSUS, and I have news for you — I eat eggs every single day. And I do NOT think the hens who lay my eggs should be kept in cages so small they can’t even turn around.

    If I’m going to ask an animal to produce food for me, the least I can do is make sure that animal has a decent life. Hens in battery cages do not have decent lives. Have you not read the stories about Jack DeCoster and his ilk? Eggs from places like this are not only horrible for hen welfare — they sickened 500,000 people with salmonella!! And don’t forget DeCoster had a huge share in Ohio Fresh Eggs, whose eggs also sickened consumers.

    Really, who appointed YOU the reporter of what HSUS members eat? 95% of HSUS members eat meat and eggs. That is exactly why we have a say!!

    We are the consumers. Surveys repeatedly show that consumers want humane conditions for the animals on farms. That includes being able to engage in natural behaviors and being able to at least turn around.
    Chickens in battery cages cannot do any of this.

    The agreement between the HSUS and the egg industry would transition hens — over a period of 17 years, which is *plenty* of time for any producer to adapt — to cages with over twice the space, and would allow them to engage in behaviors they were evolved over millions of years to do such as nesting and perching.

    What I have to ask myself is, who could be against this?? Why do people in other areas of agriculture even have a say?? You are not affected. I am affected. I am the consumer. And I fully support the agreement between UEP and HSUS. Unlike other ag commodity groups, the egg growers have stepped up to the plate to improve animal welfare.

    My question is, why will YOU not join them? Because I will not eat your products again until you do. And millions of others won’t either.

  6. Restauranteur says:

    Oh for freak’s sake AmyK. No one is forcing you to eat anything you don’t want. We leave that role to HSUS, who at the very top are a vegan organization with dreams of a vegan America. Or should we discount Miyun Park, an HSUS vice president who said that HSUS IS working toward NO animal agriculture and will settle for destroying the egg industry for right now. Google Miyun Park and chicken and the audio recording is easily available. She is blunt in her assertion that the goal of the HSUS is to shut down all animal agriculture.

    Survey’s may show that consumers want “humane” conditions when they are filling out surveys, but they tend to vote with their pocketbooks. If no one bought battery cage eggs, and they sat on the shelf until they rotted, that would be something. Instead our restaurant has had to stop buying cage free eggs because they are generally stale – unlike mass-produced eggs which are far, far, fresher as a rule. I’ve not yet been in a store where you can not find a small stack of overpriced, generally stale, cage-free eggs. I stopped buying them even for my personal use. No one is stopping you or anyone else from buying “cage-free” eggs AmyK.

    Several large egg producers in California showed Wayne Pacelle an enriched caging system currently used in Europe and Mr. Pacelle dismissed them saying that only “cage-free” would satisfy HSUS – even though the legislation that HSUS got passed in California (by lying to voters) didn’t require “cage-free”. A lot of us, concerned about animal welfare (not animal rights) ARE concerned that the animals that produce the food we eat be treated humanely and the vast majority already are. Unfortunately, there is no money in that humane care for HSUS. HSUS would rather mislead it’s members and the public and rake in the donations.

    I am also a consumer, and I’m more than happy with the quality, taste and price of battery cage eggs. If you want something else AmyK, no one is stopping you. No one.

    • On the contrary, Big Ag has spent millions and gone to wild extremes to make it impossible for me to purchase and eat the foods I want. Specifically, I want food that hasn’t been raised with cruel intensive confinement systems or animal abuse.

      But the ag industry has fought against my ability to eat with conscience. They have pushed ag-gag laws to criminalize whistleblowers who expose false animal welfare claims made by factory farming corporations like Smithfield. They have opposed honest labeling like the “cage-free” designation codified in the HSUS/UEP agreement. They have engaged in illegal and corrupt acts to protect their abuse of animals, as in the leaked announcement of the Butterball raid. They have lied to consumers about unsafe and inhumane conditions, again, and again, and again.

      The ag industry cannot be trusted to police itself, any more than the finance industry could. As we’ve seen, most farmers can’t or won’t speak up.

      So I’m grateful to groups like HSUS with the courage and resources to confront the bad actors within the ag industry. They represent consumers like me, the mainstream, the majority.

  7. TruthMonger says:

    It’s sad that price is more important than the well being of the animal. But not surprising, considering that other parts of our industrialized food system exploit immigrant labor, and most Americans buy all kinds of products that are made with exploited third world labor.

    I believe in paying farmers a fair price for their product, but I also believe farmers should be open to working towards a system where animals, workers and consumers are all treated fairly.

  8. Brenda says:

    I don’t think the general public really knows the conditions of battery cage hens when they buy eggs. Restauranteur, you say people are voting for caged eggs with their pocketbooks, but do you think they really know the cruelty behind them? I like that this new legislation will require eggs to be labeled. Hopefully that will make people wonder what the difference is, and find out more for themselves.

    I am horrified at this article and the idea that farmers are so resistant to animal welfare improvements… and I am from a family of farmers myself.

  9. Brenda says:

    Also, Farm and Dairy has a habit of printing statements that are flat-out false. HSUS doesn’t eat meat? What a ridiculous thing to say. And by an editor, nonetheless!

    • As a newspaper, we welcome the opportunity to correct false statements. If you can provide specific examples, I would be more than happy to research and clarify or correct, as needed.

      This column is in print and online as “commentary,” but I also stand by my statements. The face of the Humane Society of the United States is its CEO, Wayne Pacelle, who is a vegan (one who abstains from the use of animal products); Paul Shapiro, HSUS senior director, farm animal protection, is a vegan; Josh Balk, director of corporate policy for The HSUS’ farm animal protection division, is a vegan; Miyun Park, former HSUS vice president for farm animal welfare (now executive director of the Global Animal Partnership), is a vegan; and Dr. Michael Greger, HSUS director of public health and animal agriculture,is a vegan/vegetarian. No, not all HSUS members are vegan, but the powers that be are, and their stated goal is reducing the consumption of meat, refining the diet, and replacing meat in your diet with plant-based foods. Your membership dollars are going toward that primary vegan agenda.

      • AmyK says:

        Apparently you don’t know about Joe Maxwell, the HSUS’s director of rural outreach, who is – gasp! – a pig farmer. HSUS is working with family farmers in Nebraska to help open markets for their products because they cannot compete against large corporate agribusiness. HSUS is helping to keep farm families in business, which is more than the agribusiness corporations that Farm and Dairy appears to shill for have ever done.

      • AmyK says:

        Also, for both Susan Crowell and Restauranteur — Miyun Park is head of the Global GAP humane labeling system, which is used to sell *meat* through grocery outlets with humane standards such as Whole Foods. I do most of my shopping at Whole Foods precisely because they have welfare standards.

        What you people have against animal welfare standards, I will never understand. And so what if they are encouraging people to eat more vegetables? The standard American diet is WAY too much meat and almost no fruits and vegetables. If people actually listened to that advice, we could prevent diabetes, stroke, cancer and heart disease for hundreds of millions of people!

        Does the name Paula Deen ring a bell? Her diet is exactly what is wrong with how most people eat. The United States spends over $300 billion a year in obesity related health care costs — that is $300 *billion* with a B. We don’t need to keep spending money on drugs and pills. It would be more cost effective and better for people’s health to prevent these diseases in the first place.

        There is nothing wrong with encouraging people to eat more healthy fruits and vegetables. Unless I am mistaken, those are grown by farm families too.

  10. AmyK says:

    Restauranteur -

    I do in fact buy cage free eggs. I buy Vital Farms pasture raised, and feel good that the hens had a good life. But what about when I go out to eat? Welfare standards are few and far between. One would think that people such as yourself would listen to what customers want. Your “you’ll take what I gave and like it or shove it” comment leads me to believe you do not care a whit what consumers think. I would like to know what restaurant you run so I can avoid it. Cruel barren battery cages may be okay with you, but they are not with consumers. You just dont get it. This is not about you. It is about consumers and what kind of conditions they want for the food they eat.

    As for buying with their pocket book, that would mean something if this were a free market. It is not. Large industrial operations are subsidized because the feed they buy for their animals costs less due to government subsidies. Pasture raised operations do not enjoy this advantage. Tyson Foods has benefitted from government subsidies lowering the cost of feed to the tune of $2.5 billion over the past two decades. Of course their food is cheaper!! When the government starts subsidizing pasture raised operations the same amount, then we can do a fair comparison of what consumers buy.

  11. AmyK says:

    Brenda, I totally agree with your comments. This “my way or the highway” attitude from the food industry is arrogant and stupid. What other industry misrepresents its customers and tells them their preferences are worthless?? None that I know of. Can you imagine if consumers asked a car company for better gas mileage and more safety features, and the car company essentially told them, “you are an extremist who can go to hell?” Because that’s what the food industry is telling its customers. The car company would go out of business, and so should any farmer or restaurant who behaves that way too.

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