Make no mistake, says David Martosko of the Center for Consumer Freedom and editor of www.HumaneWatch.org, the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) are pretty much one and the same. “The more people we can get to understand that, the better off we’ll be,” he said.
“Everyone knows PETA is a bunch of lunatics with their crazy stunts,” said Martosko, speaking at the 2010 Animal Agriculture Alliance meeting last week in Arlington, Va. “It’s whole purpose is to make HSUS look reasonable by comparison.”
It’s all about tactics, he explained, giving the example of a pickpocket and con man. “The pickpocket will bump into you and rob you. The con man will befriend you, gain your trust and rob you. The strategy is the same, tactics are different, but it has the same end result.”
Martosko made famous the recent news that according to HSUS 2008 tax returns (which are posted on the Humane Watch web site), less than one-half of 1 percent of the HSUS budget goes to pet shelters. “They have about a $100 million budget; $24 million goes into fundraising, $37 million goes to salaries, with more than 30 lawyers on staff. Its pension plan gets five times more money than do the pet shelters. They are in it for the long haul. They plan to be in this business long enough to retire with benefits. They call us ‘factory farms,’ but they are ‘factory fundraisers.’”
Martosko also brought this to the attention of consumers in urban areas through billboards and full-page ads in newspapers such as USA Today. “There is no public-opinion tooth fairy,” he said. “It doesn’t happen by itself. We need to tell truth about HSUS loudly, relentlessly and often enough that the man on the street will know that they are not affiliated with local animal shelters.”
Martosko believes there must be some pushback by the food-animal industry, and that producers need to tell their story. “It’s the only way to win public-opinion battles. You can’t win a football game without a defense and an offense. The industry spends a lot of time on defense. HumaneWatch.org plays offense. We level charges against the HSUS and they get uncomfortable press calls, which puts them on the defensive.”
HumaneWatch.org is on the offensive, using tactics such as social media and more conventional means of advertising. Its Facebook page has had more than 30,000 views. Recently, it put up a billboard with the web site www.Petakillsanimals.com. Martosko says the billboard has had seven million visitors to date, and had over 80,000 visitors in one day. It also makes an impact on consumer media and had play in large metropolitan newspapers, as well as being featured on Anderson Cooper’s program on CNN.
“The message is that PETA is morally compromised, but this message didn’t happen by itself,” Martosko said. “We had to put it there.”
On its web site, consumers can buy merchandise such as t-shirts and bumper stickers with slogans like, “Animal Rights Means No Animals Left” or “H$U$ is Not a Real Humane Society.”
Fight fire with fire
Martosko says that taking the offensive in the fight between agriculture and those who would like to end it borrows tactics that have been used against us. “Begin with end in mind,” he suggests. “What do you want people to know? Then, find ways to tell them that.”
These tactics, he said, include repositioning the opposition. “HSUS equals PETA,” he reiterated. “They are just a richer a PETA. They are PETA with a nicer wristwatch and no naked interns.” Another is to diminish the “moral authority” assumed by animal-rights organizations. “Follow the money,” he said. “Start asking publicly and loudly and often why they are putting their money into pensions and not shelters, among other things.”
Reframe the issues they are trying to push, such as explaining the difference to people between animal rights and animal welfare. “Frame it as the elites doing things on the backs of the poor. I don’t want to force a single mother of three to have to choose between artisanal pork or going without as her only options.”
Martosko says the entire animal-agriculture industry needs to get involved. “Either you believe in farming or you don’t,” Martosko finished. “Either you’re willing to defend it or you’re not.”