WASHINGTON – The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and an Iowa pork producer filed a federal lawsuit that alleges the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) sold an iconic marketing slogan and unlawfully used the proceeds to fund anti-animal welfare campaigns. The lawsuit is asking the court to block the purchase and stop payments related to the transaction.

The lawsuit names Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack because the US Department of Agriculture supervises the checkoff program and can reject expenditures that do not comply with federal laws or regulations.

HSUS said the NPPC sold its “Pork: The Other White Meat” slogan to the National Pork Board (NPB) for $60 million to be paid in 20 annual installments of $3 million. HSUS alleges that the payments allow the NPPC and the NPB to “evade federal restrictions against the use of pork checkoff dollars for purposes of influencing legislation and government policy.” HSUS also alleges that the deal violates the Pork Promotion, Research, and Consumer Information Act of 1985, the Pork Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Order and the USDA guidelines for checkoff program operations.

“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.”

For example, HSUS has campaigned vigorously against the use of gestation stalls for pregnant sows. A variety of food companies and restaurant chains have announced plans to phase out the use of the stalls. The group alleges that it has diverted resources to counter NPPC opposition.

The NPPC has stood firm in its support of allowing producers to choose which confinement systems to use. The council also has opposed the group’s Egg Bill. When the group announced plans to sue 51 pig confinement operations, many of which were affiliated with the leaders and spokespersons of NPPC, the council called the action a “scare tactic” aimed at forcing NPPC to back off its opposition to the activist group’s Egg Bill and its campaign against gestation crates.

NPPC was preparing a response to the lawsuit at press time.