Federal court dismisses HSUS lawsuit against USDA

by Meat&Poultry Staff
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WASHINGTON – A US District Court dismissed a lawsuit filed by the Humane Society of the United States which challenged Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack's approval of the National Pork Board's purchase of the "Pork: The Other White Meat" marketing slogan.

The lawsuit, which was filed in September 2012, alleged that the National Pork Producers Council sold the iconic marketing slogan to NPB and unlawfully used the $60 million to lobby against welfare campaigns. HSUS claimed that the payments associated with the sale allowed the NPPC and the NPB to “evade federal restrictions against the use of pork checkoff dollars for purposes of influencing legislation and government policy.”

Vilsack was named in the lawsuit because the UDSA supervises the checkoff program and can reject expenditures that do not comply with federal laws or regulations.

Judge Amy Berman Jackson ruled that the plaintiffs lacked standing to bring the lawsuit. Judge Berman wrote: "Put another way: lobbying is what these organizations do, so being prompted to do it can hardly qualify as an injury that confers constitutional standing. Indeed, the organizations explain that they would have directed their funds to advocacy, legislation, and education related to improving the treatment of pigs and other animals – and promoting independent and small family farming – anyway. So, the fact that they have decided to redirect some of their resources from one legislative agenda to another is insufficient to give them standing."

NPPC applauded Vilsack for defending the case, saying the lawsuit was frivolous and "a very personal attack on US pork producers."

“If I were a donor to HSUS, I would be very disturbed that my money was wasted on yet another expensive lawsuit that had nothing to do with improving the welfare of farm animals,” said Randy Spronk, NPPC president and a pork producer from Edgerton, Minn. “This is clearly a vendetta against the US pork industry by the leadership of HSUS, which has made their mission to permanently end animal agriculture very clear. It was frivolous and a waste of the taxpayers’ money and the court’s time. HSUS donors deserve better than that.”
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