Courthouse News Service: “Pork Board Must Answer for Spending Millions on Dead Slogan”

Pork Board Must Answer for Spending Millions on Dead Slogan


(CN) – With millions still being spent on rights to the dead advertising slogan, "Pork, the Other White Meat," the D.C. Circuit found that a lawsuit over such funding has teeth.

The Humane Society brought the lawsuit at issue in 2012, taking issue with a $60 million deal that lobbyists with the National Pork Producers Council engineered with the National Pork Board, "a quasi-governmental entity," five years earlier over the use of the "other white meat" slogan.

Though the pork industry stopped using "other white meat" in 2011, when it began telling consumers to "get inspired," the Humane Society says that the pork board continues to pay the lobbyists $3 million a year for the rights to "the other white meat" slogan.

That "payment from the board constitutes a major source of NPPC’s annual revenue, which furthers its lobbying and other efforts to fight HSUS’ advocacy for humane care for farm animals," the Humane Society claimed. "NPPC has reported as much as 32 percent of its annual budgeted revenue is from the sale. HSUS must expend additional resources to counter the improper actions of the board and NPPC arising from the unlawful checkoff expenditures at issue."

Since U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack approves the pork board’s annual budget, the Humane Society named him as the defendant to its lawsuit.

The Humane Society says pork lobby money also worked to block the passage of the Egg Products Inspection Act, a bill that would provide humane improvements in the living conditions for the nation’s egg-laying hens.

Pork farmer Harvey Dillenburg joined the Humane Society as a plaintiff in the case, arguing his checkoff assessments are being misused. The Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement is the other plaintiff in the case.

Though a federal judge dismissed the complaint in 2013 for lack of standing, the D.C. Circuirt revived the case Monday, finding that Dillenburg has standing to sue, so it need not decide whether the Humane Society also has standing.

"The board’s replacement of the mark with Pork: Be Inspired justifies the inference that the mark is no longer worth $3 million annually," Judge Nina Pillard said, writing for the three-judge panel.

“Now that it is no longer the board’s primary brand identity, the slogan is likely worth substantially less than the $3 million per year the board pays for it," Pillard continued.

Dillenburg says he could sell his hogs at a higher price if the board put redirected its overpayments to NPPC on legitimate advertising that would increase the demand for pork.

Pillard said such harm is "thus ‘fairly traceable’ to the challenged action."