The Humane Society of the United States—along with an independent pig farmer and on behalf of its pig farmer members—filed a lawsuit in federal district court, charging that the National Pork Board struck an unlawful backroom deal with the National Pork Producers Council for the purchase of the iconic “Pork: The Other White Meat” slogan. The deal allowed $60 million in pork producers’ money collected for marketing and promotion purposes to be diverted into industry lobbying efforts aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers, alleges the Humane Society

“The National Pork Producers Council has a failed track record when it comes to representing family farmers and preventing animal cruelty,” said Joe Maxwell, director of rural development and outreach at The HSUS and a Missouri pig farmer. “While we can’t force NPPC to care about animals or family farmers, through this lawsuit we can work to stop our money from being unlawfully funneled straight to its lobbyists who work against us.”

The Pork Board purchased the slogan from the NPPC in 2006 for $60 million. The Humane Society alleges that the money used to pay for the slogan came from pork checkoff funds collected by the National Pork Board. HSUS says that the funds should have been used for promotional and research purposes and not for lobbying.

“The plaintiffs are asking the court to cancel the unlawful purchase and ensure that the remaining balance—tens of millions of dollars—will benefit the producers who fund the checkoff instead of NPPC’s anti-animal, anti-farmer lobbying agenda,” HSUS said in a statement. “The complaint does not challenge the constitutionality of the checkoff program but alleges a gross misuse of a massive amount of federally-compelled check-off payments funneled into lobbying purposes.”

The NPPC President Neil Dierks issued a statement criticizing the lawsuit. The statement reads:

“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. What does merit concern, however, is the fact that HSUS preys on the emotions of domestic pet owners with deceptive advertising and fundraising. It raises money on images of abused puppies without homes, yet virtually none of those funds go to local shelters. Instead those dollars go toward multimillion dollar campaigns to attack family farmers and American meat production.

“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.”

Source: HSUS, NPPC