‘Humane’ Hypocrisy On Veal

It’s a challenge to keep track of the assorted misinformation that emanates from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). A group that takes regular advantage of the confusion caused by its very name, after all — as an actual hands-on humane society in Pittsburgh is discovering this week — can’t be expected to shoot straight most of the time. Witness HSUS’s continued obsession with promoting a “boycott” of Canadian seafood that we’ve already meticulously documented as phony (also see here, here, here, and here). And the group’s questionable fundraising tactics in the wake of the Michael Vick scandal. HSUS’s latest trek into the surreal is its reaction to a coming sea change in veal farming.
In May the American Veal Association recommended that U.S. veal farmers “convert to the group housing methodology by December 31, 2017” — setting a ten-year goal for changing a whole industry that mostly houses veal calves in crates. The larger beef industry says that its goal is to see it done “by 2014,” but “it will take time, because farmers have to invest resources into remodeling or rebuilding.”

One big player in the veal industry has indicated that it hopes to make its transition “within the next two or three years.” Another articulates its plan in terms of “the next several years.” It’s clear to most honest observers that nobody really knows how long an industry-wide shift will take. But HSUS, being opposed to the very idea of veal, isn’t exactly an honest observer.
Yesterday HSUS released a statement claiming that a ten-year timetable is too long, “considering that the nation’s largest veal producers have already committed to a two-year phaseout.” Oops. Not true. Plans and goals aren’t commitments. 
And if HSUS were really interested in helping veal farmers move this expensive transition along, we’re left to wonder why it lobbied last month against a federal Farm Bill subsidy for them — and publicly rejoiced when it was killed. 
But it gets stranger still. HSUS, knowing that the veal industry is already making the very incremental change it has publicly whined for, is planning a 2008 ballot initiative that would immediately outlaw veal crates in California. (The organizer tasked with collecting signatures describes it as an HSUS-supported enterprise.) HSUS has poured big money into similar campaigns in Florida and Arizona
So here’s the real deal on veal: To our ears, HSUS is sounding more and more like PETA — a wealthy meat abolitionist group that pays lip service to the notion of animal welfare (and stretches the truth) when it’s good for fundraising.

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