Walk down any office building hallway in Washington and you will agree that there is truly an organization for everything -- peanuts, pearls and especially beef, veal and pork.
American meat-eaters finance not only the giant livestock operations that bring plastic-wrapped steaks and chops to the supermarket but also large lobbying operations that are semi-governmental in nature.
These lobbying organizations are financed by what is called the "checkoff" -- each time a hog is processed, for example, a small fee is collected to support the activities of the National Pork Board, a semi-governmental agency that, under its charter from the U.S. Agriculture Department, is charged with educating consumers about pork, which of course means promoting it and encouraging its consumption.
The Pork Board, like most governmental agencies, doesn't do much of anything itself, instead farming it out to contractors, including the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC), basically a lobbying and p.r. agency which is heavily involved in everything from immigration policy to clean water laws.
A few years ago, the NPPC came up with the advertising campaign that used the slogan "Pork: The Other White Meat."
The idea was that pork, like chicken, is lower in cholesterol than -- say -- beef. Veal used to make similar claims. The campaign never exactly went viral and was axed in 2011 when the pork council started a new campaign dubbed "Get Inspired."
But not wanting to bid farewell forever to the pork platitudes, the pork board continues to pay its merry band of lobbyists, the pork council, $3 million a year for the rights to the slogan.
It is to this that The Humane Society takes exception, saying the NPPC uses the money to fight the society's advocacy for humane care for farm animals.
"HSUS must expend additional resources to counter the improper actions of the board and NPPC arising from the unlawful checkoff expenditures at issue," the animal rights group charges in a lawsuit, Courthouse News Service reports.
Since U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approves the pork board's annual budget, the Humane Society named him as the defendant to its lawsuit.
Joining the Humane Society in the case is pork farmer Harvey Dillenburg, who argues that his checkoff assessments are being misused. The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is the other plaintiff in the case.
The Humane Society says pork lobby money also worked to block the passage of the Egg Products Inspection Act, a bill that would provide humane improvements in the living conditions for the nation's egg-laying hens.
The case was dismissed in 2013 on the grounds that the Humane Society did not have standing to sue but it was reinstated by a federal appeals court in Washington, D.C., which held that Dillenburg did have standing and the case could therefore move forward.
"The board's replacement of the mark with Pork: Be Inspired justifies the inference that the mark is no longer worth $3 million annually," Judge Nina Pillard said, writing for the three-judge panel.
Dillenburg says he could sell his hogs at a higher price if the board put redirected its overpayments to NPPC on legitimate advertising that would increase the demand for pork.