Vet's Opinion

More Consumers Are Realizing The Dishonesty Of The Animal Rights Industry


People don’t like to be lied to, duped or manipulated. In the past few years, many people have learned that the animal rights organization they were supporting wasn’t what it represented itself to be.

Moral high ground: A position or point of view that is ethically superior or more reputable in comparison to others. 

Some people claim the animal rights (AR) industry has captured the moral high ground when it comes to animal agriculture and how we care for food animals. Whether or not the statement is true, the very suggestion of validity should cause concern for those of us in agriculture, though I find it hard to believe that the AR industry has a claim to any moral position at all.

Truth has the greatest moralistic value, and dishonesty is the surest way to destroy one’s reputation. At the recent American Association of Bovine Practitioners’ annual meeting, Jerry Stokka, a DVM, friend and North Dakota State University associate professor of livestock stewardship, discussed animal welfare and some of the misinformation/propaganda being spread. He stressed that the stewardship of truth is our responsibility, and we must be good stewards.

I believe that if the AR industry has the moral high ground, its lack of honesty will be its downfall. And there are plenty of instances of dishonesty within the AR industry. One of the most recent involves the Meatless Monday campaign, which the AR industry aggressively supports. As this campaign approached its 10th anniversary this fall, the Animal Agriculture Alliance (AAA) contacted participants of the Meatless Monday campaign to see if they were still participating. AAA learned that half of the institutions listed as participants were no longer participating in the campaign.

  • Of 56 kindergarten through 12th-grade schools listed as participating, 64% no longer or never participated.
  • Of the 155 colleges/universities listed as participating, more than 43% no longer or never participated.
  • Of the school districts listed as participating, more than 57% no longer do.

Furthermore, AAA also discovered that several of those listed as participants were never participants and had asked to have their names removed, but the Meatless Monday campaign had refused!

In another example, several AR industry organizations were charged with racketeering when it was discovered that a material witness against Ringling Brothers earned a substantial salary from those groups while the case was being developed. One group has already agreed to a $9.3 million settlement, and the case is still pending for the other groups.

With the extensive battery of attorneys on the payroll of many of these AR organizations, it will likely be several years before this case is fully settled. But the fact that these groups were charged with a crime most commonly associated with organized crime indicates the corruptive stumble of a movement once considered by many to be a noble cause.


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A third illustration of less-than-honest behavior is AR industry advertising. Television ads featuring sad images of dogs and cats in cages insinuate involvement in animal shelters, and are one of the most powerful fundraising techniques for these groups. Yet, many of the groups featured in those ads (The Humane Society of the United States in particular) spend very little money to help these shelters: often less than 1% of their budget.

There are many other instances of dishonesty within the AR industry, which is one of several reasons why it’s become referred to as an industry as opposed to a movement. It’s become a fundraising and lobbying industry, rather than a movement truly focused on animals. If dishonesty is necessary to garner support for a cause, is the cause truly worthwhile?

People don’t like to be lied to, duped or manipulated. In the past few years, many people have learned that the organization they were supporting wasn’t what it represented itself to be.

This is where the moral high ground is ours: We must be good stewards of the truth. We must continue to look for ways to improve animal welfare and be straightforward with our consumers. Once again, honesty is the best policy. 

Dave Sjeklocha, DVM, is director of animal health for Cattle Empire LLC of Satanta, KS. He can be reached at'


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Discuss this Blog Entry 13

Terry Ward (not verified)
on Nov 29, 2013

Speaking of dishonesty...

Meatless Monday is an initiative of
Johns Hopkins School Of Medicine, Bloomberg School
of Public Heath & Columbia and Syracuse universities.
No doubt lotsa groups would love to take credit for it but alas, the credit goes to the medical institutions.
The real doctors.
It was never designed around animal rights, alas.
But you know this.

Dave Sjeklocha, DVM (not verified)
on Dec 9, 2013

Thank you for your thoughtful response. Indeed, Meatless Monday is an initiative of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, Bloomberg School of Public Health and Columbia and Syracuse Universities. Never was it stated that any of the AR Industry initiated it, but it was stated that these groups aggressively supported it. Unfortunately, the Meatless Monday Campaign is full of falsehoods and propaganda that are also promoted by the AR Industry:
1. From the HSUS website:
“Animal agriculture generates approximately 18 percent of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, according to a 2006 report by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations, including about 37 percent of global methane emissions and 65 percent of nitrous oxide emissions, which have over 20 and 300 times the global warming power of carbon dioxide, respectively.
Practically every stage of meat, egg, and dairy production contributes to the climate crisis by releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. “
2. From the PETA website:
Did you know that going meat-free just one day a week can improve your health, protect the environment, fight world hunger, and help animals? Amazing, right? And what better way to accomplish all of this (and more!) than by implementing Meatless Monday at your workplace?

HSUS perpetuates the lie about how much greenhouse gas is produced by animal agriculture. This 18% figure has been scientifically refuted on multiple occasions, even by some of the authors of the very report they are quoting. 2-3% is a much more accurate figure. Also, if all of the United States was to adopt the Meatless Monday Campaign, greenhouse emissions would be reduced by less than one third of one percent. If you go to the PETA website from which the text has been copied and click on the “environment” hot link in that text, you will see that they claim 51% of greenhouse gases are caused by animal agriculture.

As you said, it was never designed around animal rights, alas. But the AR Industry is certainly taking full advantage of it and its falsehoods, alas.

If you don’t know this, you should.

Rebekah (not verified)
on Dec 11, 2013

Loved the article! Can you please provide me with a source on accurate estimates of livestock production contribution to "greenhouse gases"? Often in my own discussion, I need to refute the higher statistic quoted, and am always looking for some science to back me up!

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 12, 2013
Dave Sjeklocha, DVM (not verified)
on Dec 13, 2013

Here is a plethora of info from Dr. Jude Capper:

P. W. Larson, DVM (not verified)
on Nov 30, 2013

There is a lot of worrisome problems in the beef industry also. Like all the antibiotics fed to animals and some of the ear implants used to promote growth. Red meat has been implicated in causing high cholesterol and heart disease. Then there are hogs in gestation crates and hens in batteries, cruelty which the agriculture industry supports. Used to be a food animal veterinarian. I know where the skeletons are buried!

Dave Sjeklocha, DVM (not verified)
on Dec 9, 2013

Dr. Larson,
No doubt, there are problems in the beef industry. Can you please show me where I indicated that there wasn’t? If you read my prior columns, you will see that a very common theme is that the beef industry should be constantly working to improve – both in animal welfare and in antibiotic usage. And we are. As far as ear implants (hormones) are concerned, thank you for bringing this up. It gives me yet another opportunity to point out the miniscule amount of hormone that is actually contained in beef. A 3 oz serving of beef from a non-implanted steer contains 1.3 nanograms of estrogen, while a 3 oz serving of beef from an implanted steer contains 1.9 nanograms of estrogen (a 0.6 ng increase). Of course, a nanogram is one billionth of a gram – so it would take 454 billion nanograms to equal one pound. 3 oz of milk provides 11 ng of estrogen (over 5 times as much). 3 oz of potatoes provides 225 ng of estrogen. 3 oz of ice cream provides 520 ng (over 260 times as much). To put this further into perspective, if a woman wanted to ingest enough beef from an implanted steer to equal the amount of estrogen in her birth control pill, she would have to eat 2900 lbs of beef in one day.

It has been my experience that those who know where the skeletons are buried are usually responsible for putting them there. In this light, thank you for being a former food animal veterinarian.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 13, 2013

So the nanograms of estrogen have a profitable effect on cattle but no effect on people?

averageman (not verified)
on Dec 16, 2013

I would think that a baby is profitable. we seem to be very fond of them.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 3, 2013

Dpn't veterinarians learn the difference between an implication, and a cause and effect, or a verifiable result such as the above "DVM" quoted?

Surely they should know that antibiotics are costly and raising food animals is a very small margin business, precluding spending money on medications that are not needed.

kt in montana (not verified)
on Dec 12, 2013

I'm a cattle rancher who also happens to volunteer for a breed specific nationwide dog rescue. If HSUS would put their energy and money into shelters and abusive cases for cats and dogs, what a difference they could make. While we don't have a huge unwanted dog problem in Montana, other parts of the country are overwhelmed and shelters are often understaffed and dogs and cats die each year by the thousands. Then there is also the issue of dog fighting which includes dogs being used as "bait dogs". I can tell you our cattle live a much more humane life and humane death than what I see in the sad world of unwanted dogs and cats in many parts of the country. The national HSUS has made the decision to use these sad faces(and believe me they are sad!) for the gain of money but does as close to nothing as possible to help. I volunteer and I give to local shelters and rescues that I have confidence in.

Anonymous (not verified)
on Dec 12, 2013

Won't the moral high ground belong to industry that cleans up its act the most and the soonest?

Isn't it more important to actually clean up ones act than to merely convince the public the the other side has more manure on their boots than your side does?

The "animal rights" groups are relatively small compared to the meat industry and could clean up their act much faster if they choose too. For that reason the meat industry needs to stop wasting time on these "pot calling the kettle black" exercises and instead publicize the benefits it creates and progress it is making to reduce problems associated with the industry.

For example rather than do nothing except argue exactly what percent of methane comes from livestock let's spend more time figuring out how to reduce that methane, however much it happens to be. Let's spend more time pointing out to the public that grasslands actually absorb a lot of greenhouse gases. I would rather feel good about raising meat than to merely feel that I'm not as bad as the other folks.

on Dec 21, 2013

I think you got it right when you called it The Dishonesty Of The Animal Rights "Industry"

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What's Vet's Opinion?

Three top U.S. veterinarians provide tightly focused discussion of specific beef cattle disease and welfare topics.


Dave Sjeklocha

Dave Sjeklocha, DVM, is operations manager of animal health and welfare for Cattle Empire, LLC, Satanta, KS.

Mike Apley

Mike Apley, DVM, PhD, is a professor in clinical sciences at Kansas State University in Manhattan.

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