Stop HumaneWatcher responds to ag industry hatchet piece

Kevin Fulton runs a 2,800-acre grassfed cattle ranch in Litchfield, Neb., where he chairs the first HSUS Agriculture Council.  Photo credit: All Animals / HSUS

Kevin Fulton runs a 2,800-acre grassfed cattle ranch in Litchfield, Neb., where he chairs the first HSUS Agriculture Council.
Photo credit: All Animals / HSUS

Recently an agriculture industry trade journal called Beef Producer, which supplies content to 18 state publications for Farm Progress agriculture information service, ran an opinion piece that drew all its talking points from one source: Rick Berman. Under the headline “HSUS Shows Continued Pattern Of Dishonest Behavior,” editor Alan Newport quoted misinformation from HumaneWatch and compared the Humane Society of the United States to thieves and rapists.

We aren’t going to repeat this travesty of journalism here, but we will repost the response from Stop HumaneWatcher Kevin Fulton, who knows Newport personally and rightly took him to task for the hatchet job he published without bothering to talk to anyone at HSUS or even check their website. Fulton runs a 2800-acre grassfed cattle ranch in Litchfield, Neb., where he chairs the first HSUS Agriculture Council.


I must say I was disappointed in your December 13th piece attacking HSUS. It’s one thing to oppose something and substantiate it with facts but when you perpetuate lies to make your position, it suggests that you yourself are untrustworthy based on your very own reasoning! Your rant shows a true lack of integrity and professionalism. Analogies using liars, thieves, and rapists and implying that animal advocates somehow belong in the same category is a delusional thought. It would behoove you to understand that the HSUS is not a group of bureaucrats sitting in an office somewhere but rather millions of supporters at the grassroots level, including farmers like myself. You have unfairly attacked all of us with your absurd implications and we take great offense to that.

You’ve been to my home and toured my farm, and you know that I am a real farmer. I’ve heard all the anti-ag and other rhetoric about HSUS for years, and I’ve thoroughly done my research and investigated the sources. I’ve been to HSUS headquarters and traveled with their leadership on numerous occasions. Do you think I would align with an organization that is against animal agriculture since my sole livelihood depends on that? Ninety five percent of their membership eats animal products! Most of their members and staff own animals yet you claim they are opposed to animal agriculture and animal ownership. How do you possibly reach such idiotic conclusions?

Like you, Wayne Pacelle has also been to my home and toured my farm. I’ve worked with him on numerous projects. My experiences with HSUS leadership are first hand. I was always taught to think for myself instead of blindly following the status quo. Your info comes right from the talking points of Rick Berman, who is a highly discredited lobbying and public relations hack in Washington, D.C. He’s no farmer, and the only connect he has to farming is that he takes money from certain farming interests to try to discredit HSUS. And they are naive enough to fund his smear campaigns instead of standing up and taking ownership in their own problems and addressing the issues. HSUS has a number of farmers working on their staff in leadership positions. Ask Rick Berman how many farmers his bogus organization has on staff.

HSUS makes it plain that it is about protecting all animals, and that it has never served, and never claimed to serve as a pass-through organization for animal shelters. HSUS does do a lot for shelters, but it’s always been more than that. Any 5th grader could find their website and substantiate this.

I’ve been an HSUS member for a number of years now. I get their publications and have seen livestock farmers profiled in their magazine, annual reports, daily blogs, on their website and in brochures and other promotional material. In fact we are promoting several ag related events right here in Nebraska in just the month of February alone where farmers and their products will be showcased. We have Agricultural Councils in six states now with others waiting to be announced in the near future. This is an idea that I brought to the organization in 2010 and they embraced my suggestion. I now proudly serve as chairperson of the first Ag Council which was formed here in Nebraska. These councils are made up of prominent farmers and leaders in the sustainable ag community that you are likely familiar with. Have you bothered to reach out to any of these farmers like any competent journalist would?

You did to HSUS supporters what the most zealous animal advocates do to farmers like me – you misrepresented the situation, either because you’ll say anything to denigrate them, or because you just didn’t take the time to research it yourself. I hope it was the latter case, and I hope you’ll be more rigorous about this in the future. You’ve always struck me as a serious advocate for sustainable agriculture but maybe I have mis-judged you. I’m not fearful of anyone who advocates that animals should be allowed to move and not be imprisoned in a tiny crate. This is basic animal husbandry. Extreme confinement systems represent a fanatical mindset and most farmers like myself do not want to be associated with these operations at all.

Lastly, I will invite you to the upcoming Nebraska Sustainable Ag Conference here in Nebraska on February 13-14th where Wayne Pacelle will be giving the keynote presentation and talking about the importance of farmers and animals in our sustainable farming systems. It will also serve as a gathering for HSUS Ag Council members from various states to kickoff this event. Of course you would have to be open to the truth to benefit from this invitation. That would likely challenge you and push you out of your comfort zone. But any reputable journalist would welcome the opportunity to get the truth.


Kevin Fulton
Fulton Farms
Litchfield, NE

Maternity Pens: Lipstick on a Tortured Pig

Who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around?Imagine spending your life crammed into a space about as big as an airline seat. Imagine not being able to turn around, to roll over, or to stretch your limbs comfortably. Imagine being so frustrated and stressed by being forced to live like this that you bite the bars of your cage (because that’s the only thing you can get to) until your mouth bleeds. Imagine the suffering… For millions of pigs in gestation crates, this is not make-believe. It’s how they are forced to spend most of their lives, day in, and day out, for months at a time. As you may already know, gestation crates are intensive confinement systems used in hog farming. They’re used to restrain a pregnant sow until she gives birth. Gestation crates typically measure 2 x 6.6 feet, barely larger than the sow. Since the purpose of a factory farm sow is to produce litter after litter, as often as possible, this is where she will spend most of her life — until the final few months when she is fattened for the walk to the slaughterhouse floor. Agricultural industry groups attempt to defend the cruelty of gestation crates by claiming that they are superior to group housing. But the research does not support their point of view. In fact, agricultural expert Temple Grandin unambiguously rejects gestation crates:
We’ve got to treat animals right, and gestation stalls have got to go… Confining an animal for most of its life in a box in which it is not able to turn around does not provide a decent life.
In industrial agriculture, profit is paramount. Factory farmers prefer gestation crates because they are cheaper and easier to work with than alternative methods, such as group housing. The well-being of the sow is only a concern insofar as keeping the animal alive, and the psychological and physical trauma is irrelevant, as long as the meat is marketable. Yet consumer sentiment is firmly against gestation crates. Two thirds of California voters chose to ban intensive confinement systems. And voters have gotten their representatives to ban gestation crates in Florida, Arizona, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, Rhode Island, Oregon, and Ohio. And, more and more, retailers and wholesalers are listening. Hundreds of food product producers and food buyers are eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains, including ConAgra, Aramark, Costco, Sysco, Sodexo, Safeway, Kroger, Target, Applebee’s, IHOP, General Mills, Kraft Foods, Campbell Soup Co., Hillshire Farms, Jack in the Box, McDonald’s, Denny’s, and many more. In April of 2013, every leading Canadian retailer signed onto an agreement to eliminate gestation crates. Even companies that once paid Richard Berman to shill for them are paying attention. Former Berman financer, Wendy’s, is abandoning gestation crates and moving to more humane production methods. But Big Ag is not listening. Big Ag, stubbornly resistant to the winds of change, wants to cling to outmoded, inhumane methods of production in the face of impending reforms. They refuse to even try to change. Instead, they plan to change the way we think about the suffering of sows in gestation crates. How? By reframing the issue. By putting lipstick on a tortured pig. Richard Berman has been spending a great deal of time with pork producers, urging them to rally the troops and defend against animal welfare. The first phase of Berman’s strategy is a campaign to whitewash the cruelty of gestation crates, starting with the name. He suggests “maternity pens,” a warm and fuzzy name for a decidedly cold, harsh practice. The goal is to frame gestation crates as loving, nurturing environments, and to downplay the reality of pressure sores and bloody concrete. It is, in a word, hogwash. You can stop him. When you see the misleading term “maternity pens”, make sure everyone reading understands who is behind the propaganda, and what it defends: the cruel, lifelong confinement of sensitive and intelligent animals in a claustrophobic cage. Berman’s campaigns rely on ignorance to spread. Counter them with the facts. For more on gestation crates:

Protecting piglets

I am befuddled! In the past few months, I have engaged in numerous interactions with people purported to be involved in the animal agriculture industry regarding efforts by animal protection groups to eliminate the extreme confinement of pigs on farms. Most of these “farmers” claim that the elimination of gestation crates would be catastrophic to the little piglets. You see, sometimes sows aren’t the greatest or most attentive of mothers and their piglets need to be protected from them – as sows may accidentally roll over on their piglets or even possibly intentionally injure or kill them. Well, I thought, that seems logical — so naturally we wouldn’t want to eliminate gestation crates. And then I did a little research. This topic came to my attention recently as Ohioans for Humane Farms was collecting signatures to get a measure on the ballot to, among other things, eliminate gestation crates for sows. When I did my research, I found out that millions of sows are housed in gestation crates during their four-month pregnancies. The average sow has 2 to 2.5 litters per year and as a result, assuming she is free from the crate when she is not pregnant, which is doubtful, she ultimately spends about 70 – 85% of her life in a crate so small that she is unable to turn around, extend her limbs, or lie down comfortably. I also found out, simply by reading the language of the ballot measure, that an exception was made for the use of farrowing crates. Farrowing crates are housing units into which sows are moved shortly before the birth of their piglets. Farrowing crates allow the mother to lie down so that her piglets can nurse, but the piglets are actually housed in a separate adjoining crate so as to protect them from being injured by the sow. Several studies have shown that farrowing crates typically do not improve mortality rates over outdoor systems, but that point is not relevant to this discussion as the animal welfare measure in Ohio specifically allows for the use of farrowing crates. In fact, of the seven states that have already passed measures to eliminate gestation crates, not one has eliminated the use of farrowing crates. Which leads me to my point of befuddlement. How is it that I, as a city girl, with no professional or practical experience in farming, understand the difference between gestation and farrowing crates and the average farmer doesn’t appear to? Perhaps it’s not that they don’t understand the difference — could it be that they assume that I, as a city girl, with no professional or practical experience in farming, wouldn’t care enough to learn about the issue? By falsely promoting gestation crates as the great protector of piglets, does the industry think the tide of public opinion on extreme confinement will turn? Most people are against the extreme confinement of animals in agriculture, and the industry knows that. So I suppose they choose to simply misinform people and hope they don’t do their homework. Yes, that is a cynical view of the animal agriculture industry, but frankly I’d be less shocked by that than the possibility that farmers really do not know the difference between these types of housing systems.