Yellow Tail wine donation to HSUS incurs farmers’ wrath

An amazing thing happened last week while you were busy milking, feeding, repairing, resting or doing whatever other chores keep farmers busy in bleak midwinter.

An army of “agvocates” — farm advocates — were on their computers creating a ruckus on your behalf. And it was an online vocal maelstrom that spread like wildlife, finding allies, and it triggered a major company to rethink a recent decision.

It all started with a bottle of wine.

The U.S. arm of a Australian wine company that bottles Yellow Tail wine — whose bottle label and company logo features a wallaby — created a catchy “Tails for Tails” campaign in mid-January. Through the campaign, the wine company plans to donate $100,000 to the Humane Society of the United States. Special Yellow Tail displays bearing the HSUS name and logo in stores nationwide are promoting the campaign.

In late January, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance expressed its dismay about the donation in a letter to the wine’s American distributor, alerting the company to the real focus of the HSUS — “reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods” (in their own words). The HSUS is not about pet shelters, unwanted animal rescues or adopting a cat. It is not affiliated with local humane societies.

At some point on Feb. 3, the Alliance “tweeted” about it (Twitter is an online instant message kind of network), and ag folks also picked up on the news of the Yellow Tail donation, sent the news racing through the Twitterverse, and started complaining on the wine company’s Facebook page.

It was kind of like the old commercial for Faberge shampoo: “I told two friends, and they told two friends, and so on and so on …”

By late afternoon Feb. 3, agvocates had created a “Yellow Fail” Facebook page, which now has 1,686 fans as of Tuesday morning (Feb. 9). Pictures were posted of the wine being poured into a toilet, and fifth generation rancher in South Dakota, Troy Hadrick, videotaped himself in front of his cattle, expressing his disgust at the donation and poured a bottle of Yellow Tail wine onto the snow. So far, the 53-second video has been watched 3,095 times on YouTube. (Scroll down to watch this video)

Then Yellow Tail USA posted this Tweet: “Lots of conversation here today; we’re listening. Check back soon, we’ll be announcing news shortly on our [tails] for Tails program.”

And by 4:08 p .m. Feb. 4, the wine company offered this update: “We’ve decided to use our $100K gift to aid animal rescue.”

In direct comments to individuals who e-mailed the company, Yellow Tail Wines USA said the recent feedback “was very helpful to us — in fact, it prompted us to specifically choose the areas where we’d most like to celebrate animals. …We hope that you will understand that this allocation of money is a direct result of hearing your concerns.”

Reading between the lines, you get the feeling that Yellow Tail felt it had to honor its stated donation commitment or face the legal wrath of HSUS. “We may not always agree 100 percent of what an organization represents, but rescuing animals displaced from natural disasters is a cause we support.”

So the money still goes to HSUS, only now it’s earmarked for its Animal Rescue Team.

The Yellow Tail/Yellow Fail information has spread across the Internet faster than last Friday’s snow piled up. In the computer world, citizen activism gets kicked up a notch, and this viral blitz goes to show you that the farm world is part of the loop.

Think social media is a fad, or the Internet isn’t worth exploring? Think again, as you consider the ag folks who swept the nation with their messages on your behalf last week.

Now it’s your turn to tell two friends.

S.Dakota rancher Troy Hadrick takes his anti-Yellow Tail wine message to the airwaves

Become a fan of Farm and Dairy on Facebook to stay on top of ag issues like this. (You must register for a free Facebook account first.)

(Note, if you’re on Twitter, you can follow the hashtag #yellowfail to monitor the conversation.)

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

18 Comments

  1. Kyle says:

    Now [yellow tail] are specifying that its a one time donation.

  2. mary gibson says:

    wHt is the difference between an insurance company, Nationwide, and industrial pork farms from out of state doing this very thing? I don’t get it!

  3. Not sure what you’re referring to, Mary. I doubt that Nationwide is donating any money to HSUS.

  4. Linda L. says:

    Let me make a respectful marketing suggestion. I like yellowtail wines, and feel quite confident that their gesture was well intentioned. I also strongly support the work of the HSUS. BUT I also know how hard our farmers work: long hours, and for small farmers, small margin of profit. It ain’t easy. My question is: might there be some merit for farmers to both improve treatment of animals in their care, AND to let the public know about it? There are many factors to consider when farming, and good PR is most definitely ONE of them. Just a thought.

  5. starkfarm says:

    most farms practice good treatment of animals if a farmer doesn’t have healthy, well fed, and happy animals then those animals don’t produce as much nor quality. Its in the best interest of the farmer to raise their animals right. The HSUS finds the needle in a haystack and proclaims that all farmers raise their animals as such for the emotional plea to people’s emotions. Also many of the farms the HSUS calls “megafarms” are actually family farms that have many generations and relatives working together to support that many people the farm needs to grow, the small farms are not the only family farms.

    Linda- have you tried local wines?

    Ohio has many, support our local farms including those producing wine.
    Maize Valley Farm & Winery
    Breitenbach Wine Cellars
    Swiss Heritage Winery

    Drink milk and support our hard working dairy farmrs too

  6. starkfarm says:

    Also WAY TO GO SUSAN on your editorial reaching all the way to Idaho’s Farm bureau’s blog!!!

  7. Linda L. says:

    Starkfarm. Thanks for your thoughts. As a consumer, I appreciate hearing the word from the trenches! If what you say is true, then why not spend a marketing dollar to “invite” the public in to view some of these small family farms in which animals are treated with respect and kindness? It just seems to me that stressing the humane treatment of the farms animals, and raising the bar on the that treatment, is a far more effective marketing tool than bashing the HSUS. Or even Yellow Tail. And I’d love to visit some of these Ohio wineries! Good trip suggestion. Thanks again.

  8. Linda L. says:

    P.S. I do not mean “invite them in” in any literal sense….I mean more “sharing your story”!

  9. Mike says:

    I have actually drank at least several cases of Yellow Tail in the past. Never again. By the way, Rush Limbaugh made two pro-HSUS commercials this last year. Join the USSA.

  10. Rick M says:

    Linda L.

    HSUS is not the Humane society that most people think of. They are not your local pet shelter or rescue group. They are a multi-million dollar Lobby group that believes all uses of animals is wrong, whether it be farming, hunting, fishing or even owning pets. They donate 1/2 of 1 percent of their income to animal rescue or animal shelters. They do not own any shelters and only gave money to New Orleans to build one after a threat of a law suit from the people that donated their Katrina pet rescue campaign. The remainder ot their money is spent on advertising, lobbying and living well off of the heartstrings of people that believe they are an umbrella group overseeing all of the local Humane Society’s. The only thing they have in common is they choose the name when forming to dupe the general public, and Yellow Tail fell for the SCAM!

    You may not believe me but these facts are available online by searching for the issues surrounding HSUS. I encourage everyone to Boycott Yellow Tail and if you are on Facebook please become a fan of “Yellow Fail” and “Boycott Yellow Tail”. Help send a message to Yellow Tail and the rest of Corporate America, “be careful of your alliances. There are consequences to your affiliations.”

  11. Linda,

    There are several spots you can go to see actual farms in action, unfortunately the news media does not take the time to report on all the good things people and farmers do to take care of their animals. Its a sad fact that sensationalism sells, as StarkFarm said, they seek the needle in the haystack to make their story.

    I encourage you to visit these places online to learn more about how peoples food is grown today

    http://www.ohioporktour.com/
    http://www.farmersfeedus.org/oh/
    http://www.usaeggfarming.com/

    These are some great videos that I encourage everyone to take the time to go through these sites to learn more about how farmers care for their flocks and herds.

  12. And another good blast at the folks at Yellow Tail in this video:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pic6G_bOiRY

  13. Steve says:

    When will Americans realize that when you live by the sword, you die by the sword. Time to grow up!

  14. P Ferguson says:

    “”So the money still goes to HSUS, only now it’s earmarked for its Animal Rescue Team.”"

    I admire Yellowtail for its generosity, and who cares which branch of animal welfare the money goes to?
    I have no idea what the farmer’s symbolic act of pouring a bottle of wine into the snow means. It’s his loss. He paid for it!

    As for the 3,000 red necks who jumped on the bandwagon to harrass and intimadate a company compassionate and generous enough to support animal welfare, the less said the better.

    There’S MILLIONS of us out here who admire and congratulate them on their generosity.

    Why do US farmers hate animals? After all, animals in many cases are their livelihood and shuld be given the best of care.

  15. MT Rancher says:

    The reason many of us are Ranchers or Farmers is becasue we have love for Animals, the land and a way of life. It is way too hard of work for too little money to do it other wise.

  16. suzan says:

    HSUS is a bunch of vegans that want meat eating to stop. Fools like Yellowtail will bow to the pressure the vegan fanatics put on them. Just a bunch of generated emails from bunch of terrorist minded vegans. No more Yellowtail for me. Its more like Yellowstreak!

  17. Vince says:

    Don’t eat yellow snow!!!!!

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