Friday, February 26, 2010

My Thoughts On HSUS

As a participant in SM, specifically with Twitter & Facebook, I am encountering more questions from folks asking “Why is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) so bad?” and “What do you have against HSUS?”

This has especially come to the forefront following the successful grassroots effort that resulted in Yellow Tail Wines withdrawing their support of HSUS, re-evaluating their donation policy and the current effort directed towards Pilot Travel Centers and their corporate sponsorship of HSUS. It is my opinion that many of these companies and the public have been mislead by the HSUS and do not fully understand the intent and motivation of this organization.

I fully support companies supporting animal shelters, we all know they are in need of financial assistance, but let’s make sure those dollars are really going to help animals and not working against caring, hard working farmers and ranchers.

In an attempt to make clear my concerns, I have put together a few key issues that I have with HSUS.

1. HSUS considers livestock to be companion animals & often places animals as equals to humans.

The vast majority of farmers and ranchers take extremely good care of their livestock. Note, I said livestock, not companion animal or human equivalent, which is how they are viewed by HSUS & other animal rights groups. Farmers and ranchers understand the important relationship between stress & health and strive to keep their livestock under low stress & healthy. It is this attention to making sure livestock are happy & healthy that leads to feelings from spouses, at times, that the critters are getting more attention than they are. I care deeply for all of the livestock our family raises. My dog is definitely a dependable (most of the time) helper on the ranch. However, if my son were in danger at the same time as my dog and a calf, my son gets my attention first and foremost EVERY time. There is NO hesitation!

2. HSUS strategy is to implement laws and regulations that incrementally work towards the abolishment of animal agriculture and promote a vegan lifestyle for both humans & canines.

Farmers and ranchers live and breathe animal care, day in and day out. They have learned best management practices, and are constantly adapting those practices through firsthand experience and new scientifically supported methods so that livestock are handled in as stress free an environment as possible. On the other hand, the HSUS is constantly trying to implement laws and regulations on farms and ranches that are not based on science or practical experience, serving only to hinder the efforts of caring farmers and ranchers and place the producer and animal in jeopardy, both in terms of safety and health. It is and has been the HSUS practice to “dictate” management practices on animal agriculture without basis, instead of trying to understand current practices and working with industry to make improvements where necessary. The bottom line, from personal observation and experience, is that the HSUS wants to regulate farms & ranches out of business.

3. HSUS goes undercover to expose bad apples.

For the record, I do not have a problem with “bad apples” being exposed and held accountable for their actions. Anyone who intentionally abuses animals should not be allowed to own animals. It is wrong. Having said that, here are the issues I have with HSUS tactics. First, undercover reporting for political gain, in my opinion, is deceptive and wrong on several levels. HSUS’s practice is to record violations & then hold the video for opportune periods of time in which to air the videos so that they can gain financially & politically. If someone is undercover, and they truly care about welfare of the animals, they should address questionable actions immediately, not wait a month or several months to “reveal” the practices at a politically advantageous moment. As a rancher, when I see someone mistreating an animal I don’t wait; I address the issue at the time it happens so it doesn’t continue. Why? Simple, I truly care about the welfare of animals, want to help teach and share better methods with fellow livestock producers and don’t have an agenda to make money, gain political points or get prime time exposure.

4. HSUS advertisements are misleading.

We have all seen the commercials that play on people’s emotions, requesting money to help these “poor animals.” In fact, based upon the HSUS’s own tax returns, they spend less than 1% of their annual budget of over $100 million on direct ground level animal care and assistance. The remaining 99.5% of their budget is spent on lobbying, implementing ballot initiatives, publicity campaigns and lining the pockets of HSUS employees. Unfortunately, by association of name similarity, many people believe that the HSUS is related to the hard working, underfunded local Humane Societies and animal shelters, which is NOT the case. If you want to see your money go directly to helping care for pets that have been abandoned, mis-treated or need medical attention, and not into someone’s pocket, keep your donation local.

In conclusion, I applaud folks like Temple Grandin, who see opportunities to improve management practices and work with industry to make positive changes. I am grateful to the university system which is constantly testing and evaluating industry practices and equipment, looking for new and better ways to raise livestock in safer, healthier and less stressful ways and then sharing that information with students & industry through outreach. I appreciate the underfunded local humane societies and animal shelters and promote their efforts in order to bring them more financial support. And, I encourage fellow farmers and ranchers to evaluate each other’s practices and call into question those that are not appropriate, so that changes can be made for the benefit of the animals.


  1. Very accurate in my opinion also and well said!!!

  2. Jeff -- I am appreciative of AGvocates like you who make us proud of the civility, persuasiveness and integrity of our young people in agriculture.

    Joane Pappas White
    Lady J Land & Livestock

  3. well said, and sent on for others to read

  4. Excellent points!!

  5. News flash! Does anyone not see the hsus logo? It includes wolves, dolphins, bears, cows, pigs, cats and dogs... Personally I do not rally under the hsus banner... They are a welfarist organization. I don't believe in bigger cages, but empty ones. Still, I find it repulsive that so called "enlightened people" would deny a creature THEY INTEND TO EAT the ability to lie down, turn around or stretch their limbs. And the idea of breeding yet more "designer" dogs while so many are killed in shelters is simply insane!

    Greed and speciesism is the motive behind all animal agriculture. These are not "commodities" they are living beings whose lives matter to them EQUALLY as much as our lives matter to us.

    It might be an entirely different matter if we could not survive (well) without "livestock"... But clearly - We can - And millions of us do - With these numbers increasing daily.

    The idea of raising animals to eat when we can thrive on a plant based diet is the issue at hand. It is killing for "pleasure", and fortunately becoming less acceptable as we progress.

    Lastly, regarding Grandin:
    Nothing "humane" happens in the bowels of a kill floor.

    "Humane" means to be concerned with the alleviation of suffering. These beings are not ill, maimed or otherwise "unhealthy". They are not in an aging pain. They are delivered "fit for living", so there is no "suffering to alleviate".

    "Humane slaughter" is what you wish to call it so you can maintain your moral dissonance...

    Want a better world? Eat like you mean it...
    Go Vegan

  6. Bea,

    I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts. I am extremely grateful to be able to live in a country that allows the freedom of speech. From reading your second paragraph, I can see that you and I will have to agree to disagree.

    Fundamentally, I respectfully disagree with you that animals and humans are “equal.” I believe that the good Lord gave us dominion over the earth to care for, manage and use for nourishment the plants, birds, fish and beasts, with due diligence and respect.

    Today’s farmers and ranchers are good stewards of the land and the livestock. Certainly, there are a few who take advantage of the gifts bestowed upon them, and they must called on to answer for their negligence.

    Once again, thank you for sharing, and have an enjoyable weekend.

  7. Hey Jeff!

    Interesting read! I myself have no problem separating ranchers who look after their animals. I am concerned what happens to them when they leave the care of a decent rancher. There are huge problems from processing on...and number one being the safety of the people working in the industrial mechnized slaughter factories. Abbatoirs of old were just as or more dangerous.

    What is the likelihood of getting that system corrected. I don't know.

    I love animals but I am not a huge fan of their ads which I find terribly manipulative.

    I am a huge Temple Grandin fan - I assume you got to see her recent TED talk? She's just wonderful.

    I am curious about those budget numbers though. Where are you getting them? Charity Navigator says:

    Overall Rating
    Organizational Efficiency
    Program Expenses 82.7%
    Administrative Expenses 4.4%
    Fundraising Expenses 12.7%
    Fundraising Efficiency $0.13

    I have worked in non profits, and find that number pretty impressive.

    We may agree or disagree with their goals...I am not convinced they want to shut all ranchers down. Though they may argue quit passionately for adoption of a vegetarian diet...Isn't that their right?

    And ours to disagree if we do....

    Take care - and thanks again so much for the #FF love.

  8. Liz,

    Thank you for your post. It is always a pleasure.

    I have worked in feedlots in CO, am very familiar with the Harris Ranch operation and have personally seen that quality operations do exist. At the risk of using a cliché, the cowboys I rode with and worked with were more than content to sit on a horse, ride pens and care for cattle. I think it is paramount that owners & managers of any livestock operation hire quality employees that share the same commitment to the health and welfare of the animals that they do.

    I think you are aware that I am a major proponent of creating a system that allows for more local rendering facilities and packing houses to be built to add value and marketability for locally grown cattle. Until states and the Federal government streamline the permitting process and enact legislation that provides economic and regulatory relief this will be continue an uphill battle.

    Implementing new strategies in the existing system is ongoing. Outreach and communication is extremely important. Believe it or not, Temple Grandin’s philosophy on handling cattle has been spreading across the country and is now being readily accepted. I think that is a major positive change.

    As for the numbers I used, they come from the HSUS own reported tax forms.

    Thank you again Liz for commenting. Have a great weekend.

  9. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  10. Barb D's post was not removed for innappropriate content. She had information to share with me and did not have my email.

  11. Jeff, I think it is great that you have created a dialogue here between those that are involved in the industry and those wishing to understand agriculture better. I too have many of the same problems with HSUS. I feel that they in no way want farmers to succeed, because in the end they want all animal agriculture to fail. Keep up the great work.


About Me

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Jeff Fowle is a fourth generation family farmer and rancher from Etna, California. He and his wife Erin and son Kyle raise registered Angus cattle, Percheron draft horses, warmbloods, alfalfa and alfalfa-grass hay. They also start and train horses for riding, jumping, and driving. Their family run ranch has incorporated many environmentally beneficial and water efficient technologies and management strategies. Jeff attended college at Colorado State University for two years and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo for four and earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Animal Science. Following college, he worked in Washington State for a year as a herdsman for BB Cattle Company and then returned to Etna, California in 1995 to own and operate KK Bar Ranch and Siskiyou Percherons. The latter was started by his grandfather, Clarence Dudley, who devoted much of his time to the Percheron Horse Association of America, specifically to developing their youth education program.