Friday, September 24, 2010

Importance of Looking Deeply

One of the things I have valued most about my graduate education is that my mentors insisted that I look at things deeply. Don't be satisfied with how things appear at first glance or even after just a little investigation. Dig deep and look at all the sources. Confront my own bias and interpretation. This morning I'm thinking a lot about the encouragement my mentors gave me.

At various times over the last several months I've come across a controversy between the Humane Society of the United States and HumaneWatch. I got sucked right into the kerfuffle on Twitter when the HSUS retweeted one of my postings and suddenly my screen became filled with Humane Watch proxies warning me about the "evils" of the Humane Society of the United States. They were generally two different types of messages. The first generally communicated that the Humane Society wasn't very humane because they allegedly euthanize animals and the other is that the Humane society is allegedly an ominous force because they advocate a vegan diet.

Oh no. Not a vegan diet! That's just plain evil.

This morning I got a few invitations to join a  Facebook page for the Humane Watch. My curiosity was finally piqued about this group and their propaganda. My first question was who is behind the organization.   Was it a group of concerned animal activists? Disgruntled former employees from HSUS? I figured if I knew the structure under the organization I could understand more of where they were coming from. I figured it would be difficult to find out. In the end, this was the easiest research I've ever done.

Scroll to the bottom of the Humane Watch webpage. There is a copyright noticed saying all content is copyrighted by the Center for Consumer Freedom. This center is an organization run by restaurant, tobacco, alcohol, and other similar organizations. They run a variety of media campaigns supporting the interests of the various industries they represent. Want to do some of your own deep research about the Center for Consumer Freedom? Check out Sourcewatch. That's one place to start.

What things are the Center for Consumer Freedom supporting? They provide financial surveillance on organizations and individuals that support "anti-consumer" organizations. They campaign against animal rights groups. They go after watchdogs such as the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Suggest that we ought not to worry about the levels of mercury in seafood (they must be really concerned, because they have another website too). Then of course there is the kerfuffle that started all of this with the Humane Watch that is, among other things, warning that the HSUS wants us all to be vegan.

Yes, there is more. To round up the sites that the Center for Consumer Freedom sponsors we have one about Obesity Myths in which we learn it is lifestyle, not diet, that makes us fat. PETA kills animals, according to another website they sponsor.  Another goes after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine because it has the gall to suggest that high fat fast food is bad for us and eating more vegan foods might be better. The Center for Consumer Freedom calls this one Physician Scam. Lastly, we apparently don't have to worry about too much sugar in our foods because it is all just a Sweet Scam.

What makes me sad here is that science--real meaningful science--gets obscured by propaganda that is trying to sell more fast food, support more factory farms, and manage our environment in thoughtless and destructive ways. Good people end up getting manipulated by the science that is intended to educate and improve the lives of society.

Carefully read what you encounter out their in the world. Look deeply before you click "like" on facebook. Give some thought to who is trying to get you to believe what--and why they want you to believe it.


  1. Kudos for taking the time to find out who is behind Humanewatch. Any information from The Center for Consumer Freedom is NOT unbiased as one would expect from a watchdog group. It's propaganda motivated by greed and a public relations agenda.

  2. Thanks for your post. It is great to see more people figuring out just who and what is behind HumaneWatch. If paid enough money, CCF would gladly start the website or and then pay a bunch of sham "researchers" (see opera singer) to perpetuate their misinformation. Anyone who wants to know who and why HumaneWatch is can check out this video:

  3. Thanks for both of your comments. The youtube clip the TyMaddElph show posted sums it all up. I find it so sad when large numbers of people are duped by fancy public relations campaigns. I particularly find it offense when the HumaneWatch is offering to make a donation to "save" animals when people click on their links on Facebook.

    This serves as such a good reminder at the importance of doing some background research before getting involved with an organization.

  4. Thank you so much for this well-written piece and for helping to expose the truth behind the Center for Consumer Freedom and Humane Watch.

  5. You don't think HSUS has "fancy public relations campaigns?" You're right; we should all look deeply, but you haven't looked deeply enough. I, for one, am grateful to HumaneWatch for exposing HSUS for what it is, a factory fundraiser that abuses its 501(c)(3) status for its political agenda. It's time for HSUS to stop using sad-puppy-dog-faces to raise money that does not go to to those dogs and cats, but rather goes to salaries, pensions and political action. HSUS does kill animals. PETA does kill animals. HFCS is sugar. I grew up on a sugarbeet farm, but I limit my sugar intake so I don't get fat. Don't blame farmers and agribusiness for obesity when people choose to eat too much sugar and fat. Nobody forces people to eat at McDonald's every day. Anybody has the right to a vegan diet, but I don't appreciate it that HSUS is trying to ruin animal agriculture and push their vegan agenda on everyone. Yes, I grew up on a family farm, but factory farm is not a term I would ever use. I learned in science class long ago that all plants are factories. All animals are factories. Factory farm is a made-up term to make family farms (98 percent of all farms in the U.S.) sound evil. No, I don't work for HumaneWatch or any of its funders. I am not a farmer. I'm an informed consumer who grew up on a family farm and earned two degrees in agriculture. I dig deeply before speaking or writing about an issue. If I know nothing about an issue, I have no right to spout off so I keep quiet. I'd be happy to give anybody a farm tour in Michigan. I've been on many, many farms--large and small--not a single one of which I would call a factory farm. Those who have never been on a farm have no reason to label them all as animal abusers. I care about animal welfare, and so do all the many farmers I know. We are all horrified by the idea that a farmer would abuse an animal. Animal rights activists have been caught abusing animals so they can show it on film for fundraising purposes. They have refused to turn over original footage to authorities. I could go on and on.

  6. Thanks for posting a comment, Nini. You raise some important points for everyone to keep in mind. What stands out the most in your comment is an important reminder for all of us to guard against black-and-white thinking. All farmers, for example, don't abuse animals. All people do not hold the same values about animals, either. Some view animals as agriculture that is cultivated and grown for a particular purpose. Others view animals through a different lens.

    You write that you take issue with HSUS for pushing their vegan agenda on other people. This isn't any different that the HumaneWatch pushing their agenda (funded, and supported, by businesses representing their own interests).

    My problem with HumaneWatch and assorted interests associated with the Center for Consumer Freedom is that they are foisting their agenda on people in an a hidden way: under the guise of "freedom" they misrepresent the science to support their business interests and do not provide consumers with fact based information from which a consumer can derive their own opinions.