It seemed like a fairly innocuous move. Australian winery Yellow Tail decided to make a $100,000 donation to the Humane Society of the United States, a mainstream animal welfare organization. To some, this might seem like just an example of corporate charitable giving. But to others, it was cause for outrage and indignation.
Agribusinesses hate the HSUS. Why? The HSUS has actually had a bit of success in making the pathetic, brutal lives of some farm animals a little less harsh. These victories are somewhat small, such as laws to prohibit gestation crates, battery cages for egg laying hens, and tail docking. Yet even these tiny steps forward have Big Ag frothing with fury.
Mike Deering, director of communications for the U.S. Grains Board, claims the HSUS “threatens the fabric of the entire agricultural industry, U.S. economy and global food security.” (No hyperbole there!) Don Battle, president of the Dawson County Farm Bureau, fears the organization will be “forcing everyone into a vegan diet.” (How exactly?) In what might be a Freudian slip, Gary Truitt, of Hoosier Ag Today, referred to HSUS as part of the “anti-animal forces that are bent on destroying the American livestock industry.” (Italics mine.)
Inspired by paranoid rantings like the ones above and armed with talking points from well-known astroturf group the Center for Consumer Freedom, enraged anti-HSUS forces soon took to the Yellow Tail’s Facebook page, ranting about the donation. Gary Truitt was pleased to note that the “dislike and disgust for HSUS was overwhelming. Those few who expressed sympathy for HSUS were quickly shouted down by a chorus of cynical barbs and insults.” Isn’t Facebook anti-animal welfare thuggery grand?
Sadly, the Big Ag types won this battle. Yellow Tail will not be donating money to the HSUS in the future. According to a public statement, “Yellow Tail is committed to the plight of animals in need and as a result, we can confirm that through any future activity, we will be looking to other non-profit organizations without lobbying interests that best deliver on our intended outcome of saving animals.” Except, obviously, farm animals, since that would require “lobbying.”
While I hope Yellow Tail does continue to donate money to animal welfare organizations, it’s very hard to refrain from making snide comments about the “yellow” in their name being quite apt after this debacle, or saying something about “turning tail.” However, there are a couple of positive things to take away from all this.
For one, Big Ag wouldn’t go into such conniptions about the Humane Society of the United States unless they were afraid. And they are afraid. Afraid that more laws to help protect farm animals are not only possible, but probable, thus cutting into their bottom line.
The other positive? It’s strictly personal. When I first heard of Yellow Tail’s donation the HSUS, I started pondering supporting the company by buying their wine. Now I don’t have to. You see, to be honest, I don’t really care for Yellow Tail wine.
Photo Source: Public Domain