by: Wes Ishmael
Fate and justice have a sense of humor. How else do you explain the recent RICO lawsuit brought against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and some of the its peers by Ringling Brothers Circus?
That would be RICO as in: Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act. The one established in 1970 as part of the Organized Crime Control Act to go after the Mafia; hence used to prosecute all sorts of organizations and individuals engaged in such pursuits as conspiracy, fraud, racketeering and other criminal activity.
Actually, it's Feld Entertainment—parent company of Ringling—that brought the suit, which was uncovered in federal records by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CFF) in February. You can view the lawsuit online at www.humanewatch.org. That's a site the non-profit CFF developed specifically to monitor HSUS activities and share their observations with the public.
The Feld suit charges HSUS with bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering. The suit also names two HSUS corporate attorneys; three other animal rights groups; the Washington, DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal; and all three of that firm's named partners.
This follows the December 30, 2009 decision of a federal judge to dismiss a suit brought by HSUS and others back in 2000, charging Ringling Brothers—owned by Feld Entertainment—with animal abuse.
Specifically, according to Feld lawyers, the complaint alleged that Ringling Brothers violated the Endangered Species Act by harming the elephants through the use of guides and tethers. The animal groups claimed this was an illegal “taking” of the elephants under the law. Another of the plaintiffs suing was Tom Rider, a former Feld employee who worked in the elephant barn.
In a pre-trial statement in October of 2008, Michelle Pardo of Fulbright & Jaworski L.L.P.—which is representing Feld Entertainment in the case—said, “Animal special interest groups are distorting the facts by making false allegations about the treatment of Ringling Brothers elephants as part of a long-running crusade to eliminate animals from circuses, zoos and wildlife parks. Feld Entertainment will show during the trial that its elephants are healthy, alert, and thriving, and it intends to debunk the misinformation that has been spread by those who do not own or know how to care for an elephant.”
In his December dismissal of the case, Federal Judge, Emmitt Sullivan, ruled those who brought the complaint against Feld collaborated to pay more than $190,000 to Rider in exchange for his impeached testimony against Feld. Judge Sullivan declared Rider's testimony “not credible” and disregarded it in its entirety.
Feld is also suing Mr. Rider, and a nonprofit Wildlife Advocacy Project charity, claiming that Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal used it to funnel money from their plaintiff clients to Rider. These clients included the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.
“America's farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket,” says CCF Director of Research, David Martosko. “But it's still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.”
Interestingly, for an organization that has mastered the art of spinning information any way they want, there's no news release about the suit on the HSUS site. In other words, information may be buried there for members and whatnot, but apparently the organization has found no positive spin to share with the public.
There's no telling where the suit will lead, but the livestock industry owes Feld Entertainment plenty of thanks for their willingness to refuse bullying, to stand, fight and defend the truth.
Of course, the road runs both ways. Livestock producers have always taken seriously the responsibility of providing compassionate care of the livestock in their charge.
As Dan Thompson, DVM noted recently, “The beef industry has nothing to hide from the American public. Nobody cares more for the well-being of cattle than the 700,000 beef producers who spend their lives raising them.” Thompson is associate professor and director of the Beef Cattle Institute at Kansas State University (KSU). He made those remarks regarding the aim of another proactive industry effort to improve animal welfare. KSU will host the International Animal Welfare Symposium May 19-21.
“This symposium will provide everyone who is involved in the beef cattle industry—from producer to veterinarian to feed yard manager and transport specialist to processor—the opportunity to have constructive discussion on well-being issues facing our industry,” Thomson says. “The speakers we have lined up for this are the leading experts in the field. Their depth, range and unique focus will provide all attendees with networking and problem solving opportunities.”
Incidentally, you can register to attend (http://www.isbcw. beefcattleinstitute.org/) in person or via live webcast.
Answering Truth with Fact
It used to be figuring out ways to improve already stellar care was enough. Surely, livestock producers reasoned, you didn't have to beat your chest to the public over what was a given. Sadly, folks engaged in raising livestock now understand that's not the case, when HSUS and other organizations like them—professional money-raising organizations—are willing to bend truth to their purposes.
That's why it's so refreshing to see those in the livestock industry turning the tables in recent weeks, making companies re-think their involvement with HSUS, or recognize the involvement implied by HSUS.
As for the former, you're probably aware by now of the PR debacle Yellow Tail wines created for itself when it announced it was donating $100,000 to HSUS. The outcry from livestock producers and sportsmen groups was swift and cohesive: “If you support HSUS, then we don't support you or your products.” Perhaps the pinnacle of response was the You Tube video of South Dakota rancher, Troy Hadrick pouring out a bottle of the wine into the snow as his cattle watched. Incidentally, Hadrick and his wife have a website—www.advocatesforag.com.
By all accounts, Yellow Tail seems a stand-up organization that simply intended and thought is was lending a helping hand to animals—exactly what lots of HSUS donors think, not understanding the agenda or tactics of the organization and others like it.
In March, the folks at Yellow Tail announced they would not make the donation.
As to the latter, Mary Kay representatives who have ties to animal agriculture got downright vocal when they heard that the cosmetics company was the sponsor for a Dallas HSUS event. Quick as a wink, Mary Kay put the notion to rest while putting HSUS in its place, explaining on that company's Facebook page: “Some fans of Mary Kay® products and independent beauty consultants have expressed concerns over a recent sponsorship of a Dallas-area event. Thank you for bringing your concerns to our attention. We have heard you and want to clarify any confusion.
“First and foremost, Mary Kay is not a sponsor of this event. Mary Kay's owner's wife was approached to make a personal contribution towards a local event here in Dallas sponsored by the Dallas chapter of the Humane Society. This event specifically supports efforts to stop puppy mills and the organization's stop puppy mills campaign. Out of caring and compassion for addressing puppy mills, our owner's wife agreed to make a personal contribution. Mary Kay has contacted the Humane Society to clarify that we are not sponsors of this event and the company logo is being removed from the website. As a company, we sincerely apologize for any confusion or causing any offense to members of the Mary Kay community.”
May those pink Caddies continue to roll.
All of these examples bring to mind the famous quote of legendary Texas Ranger, William Jess McDonald who said, “No man in the wrong can stand up against a fellow that's in the right and keeps on a-comin'.”
Keep on a-comin'.
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