The Animal Agriculture Alliance released a report containing details and observations from The Humane Society of the United States’ Taking Action for Animals conference, held June 17 – 20 in Arlington, Va.
“Part of the Alliance’s mission is to protect the industry from organizations like the HSUS that are focused on spreading misinformation about animal agriculture,” said Kay Johnson Smith, Alliance president and CEO. “Sending participants to events like this allows us to gather crucial insights into activist strategies and tactics, so we can help our members prepare and respond to threats. I encourage our members to use this valuable resource when communicating with stakeholders about the real mission of activist organizations – taking meat, poultry, eggs and dairy off of our plates.”
Recurring themes throughout the conference included impacting the food industry by pushing restaurants and retailers to adopt restrictive policies that ultimately do not improve animal well-being although they do raise the cost of animal care and in turn increase food prices for consumers, and the use of religion to promote an animal rights agenda.
Several sessions focused on HSUS’ pressure campaigns targeting the food industry. Matt Prescott, senior director, food policy with HSUS, encouraged attendees in the “Helping Big Corporations Become More Humane” panel to approach shareholders and company leaders in a positive way, but to escalate pressure to get results: “When you don’t get the right reaction, be ruthless – find a way to yes.”
Kristie Middleton, also a senior food policy director with HSUS, spoke about Meatless Mondays, calling the campaign “a tiny little trick for a holiday from meat.” Middleton – who is part of the organization’s 15-member “meatless transition team” – discussed how HSUS is getting food service companies and restaurants on board with the initiative and tasked attendees with going back to their school system and asking for Meatless Mondays, concluding “we can and we will alter the course of history for animals.”
Outreach to faith-based organizations and promoting animal rights from a religious perspective came up in several different sessions. Reasa Currier, HSUS’ strategic initiatives manager for faith outreach, spoke about HSUS’ 15-member multi-faith advisory council, stating that “many faith groups are weighing in on industrial agriculture” and telling participants that people have a duty to “let these creatures engage in natural behavior” and “put aside the differences and work to get something done.”
Suzy Welch, an author, television commentator and journalist, also discussed religion and animal rights, stating that the animal rights movement needs to share its message because it is also God’s message. Welch said that today’s food system (and eating animals) “goes against God,” and added, “I am the church out there because I’m not killing animals.”
Other notable speakers included Erica Meier, executive director, Compassion Over Killing; Nathan Runkle, president, Mercy for Animals; Paul Shapiro, vice president – farm animal protection, HSUS; and Nick Cooney, current director of education, Mercy for Animals and founder of The Humane League (formerly known as Hugs for Puppies – an extremist group affiliated with the convicted terrorist organization SHAC).