Rick Berman, president of Berman and Company, the organization that leads Humane Watch , spends most of his time and effort in direct battle with the Humane Society of the United States. Speaking at the World Pork Expo, Berman said animal agriculture is in a long-term war with HSUS, which is a formidable opponent.
The HSUS campaign against agriculture led to the California ballot initiative banning caged egg production and the United Egg Producers partnering with HSUS to produce the current Egg Bill, which encompasses the language of the laying hen welfare agreement between the United Egg Producers and HSUS. The bill was introduced into the 113th Congress as H.R. 1731 and S. 820 on April 25.
Congressional support for the bill seems to be waning, and some in the egg industry are now questioning whether its passage would be the best outcome. Berman thinks the defeat of the Egg Bill could be the best outcome for agriculture as a whole, but he concedes it could have unfavorable consequences for the California egg producers.
"The industry shouldn't have lost the ballot initiative in California, but they mounted a stupid campaign against it and got beat," said Berman. He says California is now pushing the national legislation, "but as far as I'm concerned, that's a bad situation that could be made worse. Once you have a national standard, that can be changed. What's to keep HSUS from arguing that the national standard isn't adequate after it's in place? That is the slippery slope the industry is on."
He said that if the Egg Bill is defeated and the California industry is damaged as a result of the ballot initiative, it could hurt the HSUS reputation. That would expose HSUS as a group that's fighting animal agriculture and endangering the U.S. supply of affordable nutrition.
He says fears that other states would adopt similar regulations to California's are unfounded. "There aren't that many states where you can do ballot initiatives, and the legislative approach won't work. HSUS isn't interested in a state-by-state battle, they want the national win."
Berman doesn't see working with HSUS or defending against them as a viable long-term goal for animal agriculture. "Agriculture needs to be on the offense, not defense," he said.