The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), which filed the lawsuit, claimed that the National Pork Board (NPB) purchase of the ‘Pork: The Other White Meat’ slogan from the National Pork Producers Council (NPPC) in 2006 effectively meant that the mandatory “checkoff” payments made by pork producers to the NPB for marketing and promotional purposes were being diverted to NPPC lobbying efforts “aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers”
This, it said, contravenes federal laws, which state that checkoff payments must only be used for promotional and research purposes, and not for lobbying.
HSUS also questioned the value of the slogan, claming that research had revealed an “exorbitantly over-inflated” $60m price tag. It called on the federal court to force the USDA, which has the authority to reject expenditures that violate federal laws, to cancel the remaining payments, which are being made by the NPB to the NPPC in 20 annual instalments of $3m each.
“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,” said HSUS in a statement.
“The complaint does not challenge the constitutionality of the checkoff programme, but alleges a gross misuse of a massive amount of federally-compelled check-off payments funnelled into lobbying purposes.”
No legal merit
The NPB has denied the charges, stating that the “legitimate purchase of a valuable business asset” occurred to ensure that ownership of the slogan remained among pork producers.
“‘The Other White Meat’ is an incredibly valuable asset, which is why, in 2006, the board took steps to assure it would always be owned by pork producers. In 2000, Northwestern University conducted a study that determined that The Other White Meat was one of the five most recognisable taglines in contemporary advertising. So it was important to producers that it be protected,” said NPB chief executive officer, Chris Novak.
Novak added that sale price was $35m, rather than the $60m claimed by HSUS, and said the slogan was still being used by the NPB.
NPPC said that there appeared to be “no legal merit” to the HSUS lawsuit, which it described as “another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer food choices”.
“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 organisation asked to give input on national fire standards for agricultural facilities. All of the allegations lack merit,” said a spokesperson.