An official with the Humane Society of the United States is responding to recent criticism that the animal rights organization is “anti-agriculture.” Joe Maxwell, the vice president for outreach with the HSUS, says they have many thousands of members in Iowa and across the region.
“The Humane Society of the United States is not trying to eliminate animal agriculture,” Maxwell says. “It does believe there are certain corporate industrialized ag policies and practices that are just inhumane.” Maxwell specifically makes reference to tight quarters for laying hens and small gestation crates for sows. A spokesman for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association calls the Humane Society of the United States an “extremist activist group” that is “against livestock producers and cattle producers.”
Other critics of the HSUS have blasted it for having an alleged goal of ending all livestock operations. “They try to take one piece of information and twist it to make it a negative and ignore the full truth and facts of who HSUS is and how we operate and what we’re for,” Maxwell says.
He insists the organization isn’t against farmers, but it is against agricultural practices which treat animals cruelly. Maxwell farms in Missouri and is a former lieutenant governor in Missouri. He says people in Iowa and elsewhere need to know there are distortions of the truth and flat-out lies being told about the Humane Society of the United States. “It’s unfortunate but we are working hard every day for them know who we are, to get out into the countryside with our ag council members and have a dialogue with the farmers and ranchers,” he says.
The Humane Society of the United States has tangled with Iowa farming operations in recent years, including in 2012, threatening to sue 28 swine operations in Iowa over what it said were inhumane conditions. The National Pork Producers Council accuses what they refer to as “radical animal rights groups” of having the “goal of ending food-animal production in the U.S.”
After negative messages were made about the Nebraska State Fair last month, that state’s Governor Dave Heineman said: “The Humane Society of the United States is anti-agriculture and they’re out to destroy thousands of job opportunities for young people in this state.” A recent Purdue University study found many consumers get their view of farming from the HSUS or People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA.