The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) announced Monday  that it  had joined an independent hog farmer in filing a lawsuit in federal district court, charging that the National Pork Board struck an unlawful backroom deal with a Washington, D.C. lobbying organization for the purchase of the “Pork. The Other White Meat” slogan.

The HSUS press release says “the deal” allows $60 million in pork producers’ money collected for marketing and promotion purposes to be diverted into industry lobbying efforts aimed at harming animal welfare and small farmers.

HSUS claims  to have uncovered, “glaring legal violations, conflicts of interest, and an exorbitantly over-inflated $60 million price tag associated with the deal.” HSUS contends that the value of the “Other White Meat” slogan resulted from 20 years of promotional campaigns funded  with pork producers’ own checkoff funds, and states, In essence, NPPC charged pork producers twice: once to make The Other White Meat successful, and again to pay for the value of that success.”

The plaintiffs are asking the court to cancel the unlawful purchase and ensure that the remaining balance will benefit the producers who fund the checkoff instead of NPPC’s lobbying agenda. The complaint does not challenge the constitutionality of the checkoff program but alleges a gross misuse of a massive amount of federally-compelled check-off payments funneled into lobbying purposes.

NPPC responded to the lawsuit by issuing a statement Monday from CEO Neil Dierks. “NPPC is reviewing the HSUS complaint, but it appears there is no legal merit to this claim, and it is another desperate attempt by the radical activist group to severely curtail animal agriculture and take away consumer food choices. What does merit concern, however, is the fact that HSUS preys on the emotions of domestic pet owners with deceptive advertising and fundraising. It raises money on images of abused puppies without homes, yet virtually none of those funds go to local shelters. Instead, those dollars go toward multimillion dollar campaigns to attack family farmers and American meat production.

“This also is the latest bullying tactic by HSUS in its efforts to force NPPC to abandon its position on allowing farmers to choose production practices that are best for the welfare of their animals. 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 organization asked to give input on national fire standards for agricultural facilities. All of the allegations lack merit.”

Read the HSUS release online here. Follow the NPPC response to the situation here.