You are here

a tale of two videos: one by activists, one by corporate shills

Two interesting "undercover" videos came my way today. The first is from activist group Mercy For Animals, and shows workers at an Ohio dairy farm abusing cows and young calves, including stabbing cows in the face, legs and stomach with pitchforks, and kicking injured "downed" cows -- abuse carried out and encouraged by the farm's owner.

Does this represent every dairy farm? Of course not. Most make at least some effort to be humane.

(Though there's a sharp limit on how humane you can be in the production of milk in industrial quantities, since you have to keep the dairy cows giving birth to keep the milk flowing; those calves mostly end up as beef and veal, and there's no retirement plan for old dairy cows once they are no longer economically viable milk producers. The natural life span of a cow is 15 to 20 years, but a typical dairy cow (conventional or organic) only lives four to six years before she's slaughtered and ends up as sausages and pet food. Still, I believe the level of cruelty seen in this video would sicken most dairy farmers.)

Not everyone likes the fact that cruelties like this get exposed. Some in the industries that profit from animal abuse would like to "shoot the messenger". Thus, the second animal-abuse related video -- or, supposed animal-abuse related video -- that came my way today: a claimed exposé of the Humane Society of the United States's (HSUS) Duchess Horse Sanctuary, by a group called the Center for Consumer Freedom.

Now, I've sent money to HSUS before, so I was anxious to see if my donations were being misused. What did I see in this exposé? Horses being beaten? Starving, diseased animals? No. I saw some horses in a muddy field, with captions that suggest that this is the entirety of the sanctuary. I've camped out in fields that were almost as bad after enough rain. (Squishwood!)

In point of fact, the Duchess Sanctuary is an 1,120-acre facillity; a video that shows that that an area of perhaps a half an acre is muddy on some day in February (a fairly rainy month in the Eugene, Oregon area, is not exactly damning.

So, I asked myself, what's up with this "Center for Consumer Freedom"? And with a little Google-fu, I had my unsurprising answer: shills. The "Center for Consumer Freedom", the group behind this video, is an front group for the restaurant, meat, alcohol, and tobacco industries, who's primary strategy is to "shoot the messenger" and attempt to discredit any groups -- such as the HSUS -- that criticize these industries.

According to SourceWatch:

The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) (formerly called the "Guest Choice Network (GCN)") is a front group for the restaurant, alcohol, tobacco and other industries. It runs media campaigns which oppose the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, environmentalists and groups like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, calling them "the Nanny Culture -- the growing fraternity of food cops, health care enforcers, anti-meat activists, and meddling bureaucrats who 'know what's best for you.'"

...[CCF's] advisory board is comprised mainly of representatives from the restaurant, meat and alcoholic beverage industries."

And from

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit corporation run by lobbyist Richard Berman through his Washington, D.C.-based for-profit public relations company, Berman & Co. The Center for Consumer Freedom, formerly known as the Guest Choice Network, was set up by Berman with a $600,000 “donation” from tobacco company Philip Morris.


Berman’s name might sound familiar. In 1995, Berman and Norm Brinker, his former boss at Steak and Ale Restaurants, were identified as the special-interest lobbyists who donated the $25,000 that disgraced then-House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who was hauled before the House Ethics Committee for influence-peddling over the money. Berman and Brinker were lobbying against raising the minimum wage.


The key to Berman’s aggressive strategy is, in his own words, “to shoot the messenger ... we’ve got to attack their credibility as spokespersons,”—an interesting remark from someone whose background and funding so severely challenge his own credibility.


This makes me want to send money to HSUS. In fact, I will. I'll give some to Mercy for Animals as well for their work in exposing that appaling conduct at the dairy farm. These 2 groups deserve support. And to hell with that fraudulant "consumer freedom" group.

Great videos for juxtaposing, aren't they? I wrote about both at my blog. The CCF is ridiculous.

Hi Tom - The Center for Consumer Freedom has recently stepped up its attacks against the HSUS as we've gained ground on important animal welfare issues like ensuring that laying hens, pregnant sows, and veal calves are provided with enough room to stand up, turn around and extend their limbs. So thank you for taking the time to research this corporate front group. Attacking the credibility of public interest groups is what they do best.
FYI, Wayne Pacelle (our president/CEO) discusses the undercover video released by Mercy for Animals on his blog post; check out It's a sad state of affairs when cruelty of this degree can only be charged as a misdemeanor, but the local authorities appear to be taking the case seriously.

Some more information on the Pure Concentrated Evil known as CCF, the liars behind -- and other sites like,,,,,,, and, where they attack a wide array of groups: the Alliance of American Insurers, the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons, the AMA, the Arthritis Foundation, the Consumer Federation of America, Rudy Giuliani (well, even a stopped clock...), the Harvard School of Public Health, the Marin Institute for the Prevention of Alcohol and Other Drug Problems, the National Association of High School Principals, the National Safety Council, the National Transportation Safety Board, Georgia's Office of Highway Safety, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Public Citizen, the CDC, and the Department of Transportation.

CCF is a "nonprofit" that Richard Berman used to channel $1.5 million to his lobbying firm in 2007 alone. He's a pioneer in using "educational nonprofits" as a vehicle for corporate propaganda and influence.

Besides Philip Morris, some other folks I know many of my friends and readers love as much as I do -- Monsanto and Cargill -- have helped fund the CCF.

CCF managed to get the bullshit allegation that HSUS doesn't spend any money on animal welfare programs into a TV news report; after HSUS debunked it, the station pulled the report from its website.

You might want to check out 60 Minutes' and The Colbert Report's and PR Watch's coverage of this guy and his organization.

Tom Swiss - proprietor,

So the horse video showed one limited portion of one acre of the facility on one day.

And the cow video showed one limited portion ... of one corner of the farm ... on ... one ... day ...

Which one is evil again? Which one is taking things out of context and blowing them out of proportion?

My money's on the one that showed the worse stuff.

Ugh. I'm a vegetarian, and I still hate these animal rights agitprop movies. No one should trust them. Any of them.

Hmm. Do you really think that much abuse happened all in one day? Mercy for Animals says the video was taken over a four-week period. And it looks like several locations to me.

But the big problem with your apology for these sadists that there is no context that justifies stabbing cows with pitchforks, punching calves, kicked downed animals, and the other actions seen in that video. It's like saying, "Yes, we saw the photos of abuse at Abu Ghraib, but c'mon, those were taken out of context!"

Tom Swiss - proprietor,

Add new comment

Plain text

  • No HTML tags allowed.
  • Web page addresses and e-mail addresses turn into links automatically.
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
Enter the characters shown in the image.

User login

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.