In its latest attack on pork industry practices, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and a single pork producer filed suit against Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in an attempt to cut off a major source of funding for the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC).
In the lawsuit, HSUS takes issue with the intellectual property payments the National Pork Board (NPB) makes each year to the NPPC for the rights to "Pork, The Other White Meat" and related intellectual property valued at $60 million.
According to the lawsuit, the $3 million per year the NPB pays NPPC for those rights is illegal, because those funds are used for NPPC lobbying efforts. The lawsuit estimated those payments account for as much as 32 percent of NPPC's annual budget revenue. The suit claims the payments violate provisions of the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act of 1985 and the USDA guidelines for checkoff program operations and "allow the Board and the NPPC to evade federal restrictions against the use of pork checkoff dollars for the purposes of influencing legislation and government policy."
HSUS claims it has the right to bring suit on its own behalf because, "NPPC has consistently expended significant funds to fight HSUS policy and legislative reforms related to humane practices in the care of farm animals."
The suit names Vilsack as the defendant because as secretary of agriculture he is responsible for implementing the Pork Act, including approving the Pork Board's annual budget and expenditures and enforcing the prohibition against unreasonable checkoff funds expenditures.
"NPPC is reviewing the HSUS complaint, but it appears there is no legal merit to this claim, and it is another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer food choices," said Neil Dierks, NPPC chief executive officer. "This also is the latest bullying tactic by HSUS in its efforts to force NPPC to abandon its position on allowing farmers to choose production practices that are best for the welfare of their animals. Over the past few months, HSUS has threatened NPPC with a Federal Trade Commission complaint; filed notice of its intent to sue a number of hog operations over alleged emissions reporting violations; and charged that NPPC was responsible for the deaths of hogs in barn fires because the organization asked to give input on national fire standards for agricultural facilities. All of the allegations lack merit."