Follow up to HSUS and Yellowtail Wine

Earlier this month I posted about getting a few facts straight regarding the Human Society of the United States (HSUS) and Yellowtail wine. Now it’s time I get my own facts straight. After talking with a few passionate people about who really saves the needy animals in America, I learned a few things.

I am a communications and agriculture double major, so this topic is right up my alley. The number one thing Yellowtail should have done is checked its facts before launching its “Tails for Tails” campaign to celebrate animals with HSUS. I believe this is truly a case where someone did not do his or her homework. Had Yellowtail’s homework been done, the company would know that the true heroes in the animal saving business are the local Humane Societies, not HSUS. Some local humane societies around the country have even started to change their name to disassociate from the HSUS. In the communication industry, this is done when a brand has a bad reputation.

In the farming community, as I quickly learned, HSUS is considered a “bad brand”.  Brands are designed to invoke emotions for people. Yellowtail probably thought HSUS would bring out a sensitive, caring emotion in people. Instead of these mushy feelings, anger and rebellion against Yellowtail ensued. The farming community’s distaste for HSUS stems from HSUS’s problem with the U.S. Department of Agriculture and overall attempt to prevent farmers from doing their job. This campaign was created in good intention, but poor consideration for research and backlash.

An example of why I would believe the farming community has a problem with HSUS is because of the undercover California slaughterhouse scandal (yes, scandal). Fresh out of an ethics class talking about communication codes of ethics, everything about this situation was unethical, whether you are pro ag or not. I opted for the Public Relations Society of America (PRSA) Code of Ethics versus other communications code of ethics handbooks since this seems most closely related to a bad public relations campaign.

Violation #1 “Reveal the sponsors for causes and interests represented and avoid deceptive practices,” says the PRSA Code of Ethics. Maybe it’s just me, but I feel as if going undercover, failing to report the results immediately, (even though going undercover in it of itself is against the Communication Code of Ethics) then finally reporting the result at a peak time for elections seems slightly unethical. (More the on the election cycle and other unethical practices by HSUS at

Violation #2 “To build respect and credibility with the public for the profession of public relations,” is again quoted from the PRSA Code of Ethics. I hardly need to expand on this code of ethics. Is anyone credible after all the codes they violated in my Violation #1 section?

Violation #3 “Keep informed and educated about practices in the profession to ensure ethical conduct,” according to the PRSA Code of Ethics. I am not sure how much more clear the code of ethics can make this.

The moral of the story is that I would like to revoke my previous statement encouraging people not to complain about this donation before they realize what HSUS is all about. Complain all you want; holler and shot as loud as you can about this unethical, falsely advertised company. Yellowtail wine—do your research next time. A few hundred surveys would have saved you more than the $100,000 you spent donating to HSUS.

Keep Growing,



Yellowtail + HSUS does not equal ag support, but why?

The agriculture fanatic that I am, I thought it was high-time I commented on Yellowtail donating $100,000 to the Human Society of the United States. There are many accusations about both Yellowtail and HSUS, and I wanted to know the source of the backlash against Yellowtail. First of all, I need to get something off my chest. I LOVE YELLOWTAIL. It’s difficult enough to find a wine one likes, and even harder to find a brand that is so affordable. Before I bash Yellowtail, I needed to make my love for the wine clear and did some research to make a judgment call on the negative feedback from this donation.

My love for the Yellowtail is starting to crumble due to recent events. For those of you who have lived under a rock, Ag fans involved with social media have been in an uproar about the Yellowtail donation to HSUS. I have not seen such an uproar against a company since it was discovered that tobacco causes cancer.

(Photo courtesy of

The Center for Consumer Freedom posted about the issues associated with the donation and was kind enough to summarize the 2008 tax filing by HSUS. The tax filing was used by the Center for Consumer Freedom and others to prove how HSUS has been misusing its donations. I feel focusing on how HSUS spends its money is irrelevant of the main cause of uproar. The focus of anger should be on what the HSUS has done to halt certain farming practices, not how the company is run. On the HSUS Web site, one of the main “problems” it aims to correct is factory farming. The term “factory farming” alone could be another blog post, but I will have to save that for another day. HSUS’s campaign  against animal farming should be the heart of the issue in this donation, but many people seem to stray from this idea.

The main argument to be made is that HSUS does not support factory farming, as ugly of a word as it is; therefore Yellowtail’s support of HSUS is cause for soreness. To argue on grounds of how HSUS spends their money I feel makes the Ag community look foolish. Again, I did a little investigative work around the HSUS’s Web site, and found its mission statement:

“The mission of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is to create a humane and sustainable world for all animals. . . . We seek to forge a lasting and comprehensive change in human consciousness of and behavior toward all animals in order to prevent animal cruelty, exploitation, and neglect and to protect wild habitats and the entire community of life.

The HSUS seeks to achieve our goals through education, advocacy, public policy reform, and the empowerment of our supporters and partners.”

A large portion of HSUS’s money being dedicated to legislation and advocacy seems on par with the mission statement. Why is so much time and energy being wasted on criticizing a company for following what it clearly has set out to do? For that matter, the argument that the CEO of HSUS is overpaid is an illogical argument. The CEO of a national organization earning $250,000 is comparatively low. According to The American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) the average CEO earns $364,041 per year. This means the CEO of HSUS is earning $100,000 less than average.

The moral of this money story is a. focus on the root of the problem and b. make sure the problems you complain about are legitimate within the context of where you take the facts.

Admittedly, the .05% of the total money brought in by HSUS is an extremely low amount of money to give to animal shelters, (this amount again according to Center for Consumer Freedom) but animal shelters are not HSUS’s main focus. Shame on whoever donates money to the organization thinking HSUS has shelters as a main focus.

Many of the Tweets and blogs I have read recently focus on the wrong issues. If you are going to make a logical argument, do not digress from the original problem. Yellowtail’s public relations people should have thought about the backlash this donation would have throughout the agriculture community. HSUS’s acts against farming should be the main argument used not how HSUS runs its organization.

All you farming supporters out there, please please please focus your argument against Yellowtail and HSUS on what HSUS has done against the agriculture community, not how HSUS runs its business. As always, please comment. I feel as if this topic is touchy and is in need of some feed back.

Keep Growing,