For years, the Humane Society has been PETA's more well-behaved brother, getting giant corporations to support their gentle efforts to save animals.
But now that the Society is taking on what it calls "factory farming," things are different. Food-growers are fighting back, boycotting the companies that support the group, and winning some fights.
Our sister paper the Riverfront Times examines the escalating fight between the Humane Society and Big Agriculture.
For a long time, the ag industry didn't seem to see a way to slap away the Humane Society's whip hand. But within the past year, through social media, influence peddling and, most recently, preemptive political maneuvering, farmers big and small have begun to circle the wagons to protect their livelihood.
In Ohio last year, for instance, commodity groups organized to pass a ballot measure instituting a politically appointed board with regulatory authority over all farm-animal welfare issues. The tactic was a direct response to the Humane Society's announcement that it intended to make Ohio its next battleground.
This year lawmakers in at least nine other states are considering adopting similar boards.
It won't be possible for the Humane Society to win over the entire nation via its current tactic, because 26 U.S. states don't permit ballot initiatives. As the nonprofit continues to strategize, [Society head Wayne] Pacelle is tight-lipped on details. "It's like chess," he says. "You have to see what the other guy does before you make your move."
As the battle goes on, the question remains: Who should decide what we put on our plates? Politicians? The 2 million farmers and ranchers who produce the food? Or the 307 million Americans who buy it?
Read "Down on the Farm" here.