"In this realm of opinion molding, Berman is a pioneer. He maintains one of the longest-running and most influential enterprises in the field. His attacks typically are carefully worded so that each sentence can be defended as narrowly accurate. But his critics say many are constructed in a way that distorts the overall picture”--Michael Kranish, The Boston Globe
Most of us are familiar with the concept of "trade associations," or above-board lobbying organizations that provide platforms where corporations within specific industries can interact in ways that are mutually beneficial to each groups' members. Trade associations are largely openly funded by their members, and they function to give matters of public image and legislative initiatives a unified voice. Generally speaking, trade associations are up-front about who they represent and about their financial motivations.
Industries also utilize "front groups" to protect their economic interests. Front groups function to protect corporations under the guise of consumer advocacy groups, with the goals of controlling public discourse and mitigating industry criticism. When industries create problems, front groups respond by changing the way the consumers view the problems. By down-playing an industry's problems or discrediting an industry's critics ("shooting the messenger"), front groups can sometimes successfully erase problems from the public's memory altogether.
Trade associations are up-front about their membership, and often have names that describe exactly whose economic interests they're protecting. For example, one of the organizations that protects the financial and legislative interests of American pork producers is called the "National Pork Producer's Council." Another example would be the "Cattleman's Beef Association," a trade group that represents the American beef industry in matters of legislation and public image.
While front groups are also put in place to protect the financial interests and public images of corporations and industries, they use deceptive names that confuse who it is that they're actually working for. Front groups cultivate the appearance of representing sympathetic characters like "consumers," or "farmers," rather than industries with clear-cut economic interests. Front groups allow industries to viciously attack their critics without fear of damaging the reputations they've spent millions of dollars cultivating.
This is the story of how Richard Berman, an ambitious public relations operative and corporate attorney, rallied major players within the tobacco, food, and beverage industries to target what he wanted the public to believe was “excessive government regulation” and a growing threat to “free-will,” springing up from within the private sector by way of environmental advocacy organizations, health and wellness advocates, and animal rights groups like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Back in the mid 1990’s, Berman created a template of attacks that would, according to the public relations operative, “unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists.” He then pitched the idea in a letter to tobacco giant Phillip Morris.
Founded on an initial donation of $600,000 from Phillip Morris, the Center for Consumer Freedom’s client list would eventually boast such industry heavy-hitters as Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s International, Hormel Foods Corp., Standard Meat Co., and Covance Laboratories--one of the largest animal breeding and testing facilities in the world--of which Phillip Morris is a longstanding client.
In 1996, Berman’s front group became the incorporated “charitable” entity known as the “Center for Consumer Freedom,” and began digging into its mission of “protecting the rights of consumers” as they pertained to the financial interests of the tobacco, food, and beverage industries.
And in 2005, when the Center for Consumer Freedom stumbled upon PETA’s Virginia Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services animal reporting summary numbers, in the interest of neutralizing one of the tobacco, food, and beverage industries' most outspoken critics, the front group set out to spin the dull straw of PETA’s shelter statistics into a currency that would keep their anti-animal campaign afloat, and as we might expect, they took liberties with the truth towards those interests.
The Center for Consumer Freedom's Bastard Love-Child, "PETA Kills Animals," is Born
Launching a website attacking the credibility of an animal rights organization is exactly the sort of thing we might expect a front group that protects the financial interests of the food, beverage, and tobacco industries to do. In May of 2005, the Center for Consumer Freedom launched the “petakillsanimals.com” website, a composite of PETA’s 2004 VDACS animal reporting summaries and an array of intentionally stark, red, and uncomfortable graphics claiming that the animal rights group was “killing” most of the animals it received into its shelter.
With regards to mitigating PETA’s impact on food and beverage industry bottom lines, the Center for Consumer Freedom was generating a working limb. If PETA--the world’s largest animal rights organization could kill animals, then the CCF’s tobacco, food, and beverage industry donors could certainly confine, deprive, and violently disassemble animals for their lucrative parts, and do it in good conscience.
Reeling from the CCF’s disquieting new website, PETA immediately issued a statement explaining that most of the animals entering its Norfolk facility were “broken beings,” and that the organization referred every healthy, cute, young animal it could to traditional animal shelters. But the Center for Consumer Freedom wasn't about to pass up the opportunity to exploit the apparent hypocrisy of the animal rights group ending the lives of animals, not based on the technicality that PETA might be acting in the animals’ best interests.
But Things Would Soon Get Even Worse for PETA
Just one month after the Center for Consumer Freedom’s anti-PETA website made its debut, two of PETA’s Community Animal Project volunteers were arrested in North Carolina, after they were caught putting animal remains in a private grocery store dumpster.
The public was generally unaware of PETA’s Community Animal Project’s work in North Carolina, and why they were there: in 2000, a law enforcement officer witnessed these disturbing events at the Bertie County, North Carolina animal shelter, and contacted PETA with photographs--a starving dog eating the remains of a dead kitten, a dog lying near death in his flooded enclosure, and rotting puppies lying on the floor outside the shelter’s dilapidated gas chamber. And more.
Outraged by the photos depicting the disturbing conditions at the Bertie County animal shelter, PETA galvanized and dispatched a team to North Carolina. PETA staff and volunteers went to work immediately to improve the conditions at the shelter, and PETA sent experts to talk to county officials about ending their use of gas chamber and firearm euthanasia.
Under enormous pressure from PETA and its supporters, four North Carolina pounds and shelters entered into agreements with the animal rights organization to improve pound conditions for animals, but county officials refused to budge on the gas chamber issue.
PETA began working closely with the shelters that year, pouring over $300,000 into bringing the shelters up to code--even building safe animal housing from the ground up. PETA contracted the services of local a veterinarian who would humanely euthanize animals who would otherwise be suffocated to death in a gas chamber at the Hertford County pound.
The animal rights organization tried to persuade the remaining three counties to allow local vets to humanely euthanize their animals as well--on PETA's dime--but for whatever reason the shelters’ officials refused. They would allow PETA to remove and euthanize the animals themselves and at their own expense however, and transport their remains back to Virginia for cremation.
Every week, sometimes several times a week, PETA staff and volunteers would make the hours-long trek to North Carolina to clean kennels, feed animals, save as many adoptable animals as they could, and humanely euthanize the ones they would not be able to find homes for. Sick and injured animals on stray holds, who would typically be left to languish in cages, were transported by PETA staff to local veterinarians for treatment.
In the words of Daphna Nachminovitch, the head of PETA’s cruelty investigation department, the Community Animal Project volunteers, “broke a matter of trust,” when they acted well outside of PETA’s stated protocol and disposed of the North Carolina pound animals they had euthanized that day, in a private grocery store trash dumpster.
Not surprisingly, Richard Berman would take full advantage of the confusion surrounding the incident to forward his fresh new campaign to discredit the animal rights organization, taking liberties with the truth to create a disturbing and enduring storm of disinformation that would haunt PETA for a very long time.
Nothing Richard Berman says or does should surprise anyone. Industries do battle this way every day. Companies that profit from the production of gas-guzzling luxury cars, wage wars against activists and scientists who are getting the message out there that the Earth is heating up fast, and that consumers' choices factor heavily into it. Corporations that profit from the confinement, concentration, deprivation, and violent disassembly of animals, develop strategies to mitigate threats that health advocates, environmental groups, and animal rights organizations pose to their bottom lines.
Berman's War on Animal Protection Organizations and Animal Rights Activists
The Meat Industry Kills Animals
Animals Slaughtered for Food Since You Opened This Webpage:
0 marine animals
0 cows and calves
0 pigeons and other birds
0 donkeys and mules
0 camels and other camelids
Why a Tobacco Company Might be Motivated to Purchase $2.3 Million Dollars-Worth of Interest in an Industry Front Group that Seemingly Targets “Anti-Meat” Activist Organizations on Behalf of the Food and Beverage Industry
It’s well-established that the Center for Consumer Freedom protects the interests of the factory farming industry, but the truth is, the CCF isn't doing companion animals any favors either. The Center for Consumer Freedom runs interference for a lot of different types of animal enterprises, and over the years, a lot of dogs and cats have been lost in the bargain.
In 1966, nearly a decade after the US Surgeon General declared a link between cancer and tobacco smoking, Phillip Morris began “Project 6900,” a series of physiological studies designed to privately “advise Phillip Morris as related to smoking and smoking products” in “the production and development of a new cigarette product.” Using several sets of skin painting and inhalation studies on animals of almost every stripe, Phillip Morris’ researchers set out to build the foundation for what would become the tobacco industry’s ongoing full-frontal assault on claims that smoking was causing cancer and other diseases in humans.
A decade later it was discovered that Covance Laboratories was conducting horrendous forced smoking experiments on beagles--on the tobacco industry's behalf. And later, during the 1990’s, simultaneously to the US Surgeon General reporting that exposure to secondhand smoke substantially increases the risks for lung cancer and heart disease in humans, Covance was generating tobacco-industry sponsored research claiming that even extreme amounts of secondhand cigarette smoke were safe, and they were torturing a lot of defenseless animals to accomplish it.
Which would explain why a tobacco company might be motivated to purchase $2.3 million dollars-worth of interest in an industry front group that seemingly targets “anti-meat” activist organizations on behalf of the food and beverage industry. Phillip Morris tests its tobacco products on animals, lots of animals, and over the span of several decades, the largest producer of tobacco products has cultivated a close relationship with the largest producer of dogs exploited for biomedical research--Covance Laboratories. A lot of smokers were dying from cancer, and Phillip Morris needed to produce scientific “proof” that cigarettes weren't killing them. Their exploitation of animals to forward “product development” would put the tobacco company squarely in PETA’s cross-hairs.
The Center for Consumer Freedom comes at PETA because the animal rights group threatens the financial interests of its stakeholders. In 2001, claiming ownership of 114 shares of Altria (owners of Phillip Morris) common stock, PETA filed a shareholder resolution demanding that the tobacco company cease its use of animals in its barbaric product testing.
From April 26, 2004, to March 11, 2005, an undercover investigator for PETA videotaped systematic abuse and neglect of animals at Covance Laboratories' facility in Vienna, Virginia. The resolution failed to pass, but the tactic was effective in providing a new forum in which to present the animals rights group’s research to company executives, their shareholders, and to the public.
The number fluctuates, but PETA holds stock in as many as 100 companies at any one given time, providing the animal rights group with internal access to corporations that exploit animals, many of whom are on the Center for Consumer Freedom’s donor list. Clearly Richard Berman’s clients consider PETA to be a serious problem.
What Every Activist Should Know About the Center for Consumer Freedom
"As Gregory Davis, Martosko posted about stereotypically lefty, vegan, and animal activist subjects, such as “living in a wood hut” and hanging out with his “freegan crew,” and friended progressive activists and groups such as PETA, the Humane Society of the United States, Mercy for Animals, Sea Shepherd, and Stop Humane Watch, a group that aimed to monitor and push back on Martosko’s outfit. Many of the individuals Gregory Davis friended were later profiled on a CCF website devoted to monitoring animal rights activists." Washington Post
"Martosko had a tackle box full of bait. One of his strategies was to advocate violence against certain farms and monitor how his “friends” responded. ”He was trying to rile up people,” remarked one investigator. Research by Mother Jones indicates that he was posing under false identities in order to “rile up” animal rights activists since 2001. Martosko is currently leaving the Daily Caller in order to become the US political editor for the Daily Mail in the UK." James McWilliams
David Martosko's Not the Only CCF Official Who Likes to Play Dress-Up
"Meet Richard Berman. He’s been a regular front man for big business and industry through his lobbying efforts and numerous misleading campaigns against consumer safety and environmental groups. Through his firm, Berman and Company, Berman has fought unions, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, PETA and other watchdog groups in their efforts to raise awareness about obesity, the minimum wage, the dangers of smoking, mad cow disease, drunk driving, and other causes. Berman runs at least 23 industry-funded front groups and projects, such as the Center for Union Facts and holds 24 “positions” in those organizations…"--Exposed: Anti-Worker Lobbyist Poses as Worker in Super Bowl Ad (VIDEO)
The Center for Consumer Freedom Really Doesn't Mind if Animals' Remains End Up in Trash Bags, as Long as Consumers are the Ones Putting Them There
Rachel Maddow Confronts Rick Berman About the Center for Consumer Freedom
David Martosko: Guest Speaker at the 2012 Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Party
While it may seem counter-intuitive (because "facts are facts," right?) "motivated reasoning" is precisely why we have such polarized views on certain major issues. So while we're quick thinkers, we're not especially objective thinkers. According to the science, we bring a lot of biases to the table when determining which side of the "facts" we'll land on.
The Center for Consumer Freedom's various disinformation campaigns are effective because they leave their audiences feeling informed, even though they've been given very little real information. And of course, finding the right audience is key. The Center for Consumer Freedom isn't going to sell their "global warming doesn't exist, and if it does exist it's not our fault" message to an audience of environmentalists, but they can sell it to consumers who want to drive gas-guzzling cars, and eat meat. And while David Martosko has certainly worn out his welcome with regards to animal rights activists, he was a well-received guest speaker at the 2012 Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Party gathering.
David Martosko and Alex Jones Commiserate About PETA
Oh, Yeah, and Alex Jones is "This" Guy
Learn More About the Center for Consumer Freedom Here
- The Truth About the Center for Consumer Freedom~Website
- "Activists Have No Business Promoting the Agenda of Corporate Lobbyists" AELLA Article about the Center for Consumer Freedom
- The Center for Consumer Freedom's Interview with Nathan Winograd
- Front Group King Rick Berman Gets Blasted by his Son, David Berman" Article
- Berman and Company Exposed~Website
- Richard Berman Cares about Animals: Clients Exposed~Website
- "Meet Rick Berman, AKA 'Dr. Evil'" 60 Minutes Article
- Center for Consumer Freedom...Or Deception: You Decide~Website
- Rachel Maddow Confronts Rick Berman~Video
- Humanewatch Info~Website