Gestation Crate Ads Too “Negative” for Buses in this Pork Producing State

A humdinger of a First Amendment battle is gearing up in federal court, all because the Humane Society of the United States wanted to buy ad space on some buses.

HSUS filed suit on August 15th against the Raleigh Transit Authority (RTA) in North Carolina for rejecting its advertisement depicting the cruelty experienced by pigs in gestation crates.

Care2 has obtained a copy of the HSUS complaint. It tells an interesting story.

HSUS began talking with the RTA in September 2012 about buying vinyl bus wrap advertisements to be displayed on the exterior of city buses for a six-month period. The city touts this type of ad as an effective way of reaching 14,000 riders daily and tens of thousands of members of the public.

As described in HSUS’s complaint, the e-mails back and forth with a city representative made the ad purchase sound like a done deal. That is, until HSUS forwarded the proposed art work.

The ad shows, on each side of the bus, photographs of pigs confined to gestation crates. They are not particularly graphic images, though they are rather heartbreaking. The ad’s text reads: “How would you like to spend the rest of your life in a space as small as a bus seat? It’s what Big Pork wants for pigs. But together we can change that.”

Appearing on the rear of the bus is an image of a pig lying on her side in a gestation crate. The text here reads: “She can’t even turn around. Together we can change that.”

Here’s how a bus wrapped with this ad looks:

Bus wrapped with HSUS ad about pig gestation crates

Photo Credit: Humane Society of the United States

Within a couple of hours of receiving this proposed artwork, the deal was off. The Transit Authority Marketing Committee rejected the ad. The transit marketing specialist with whom HSUS was working told them by e-mail that the “image of the pigs is too negative for us to place on the buses.”

He indicated that this advertisement was given a thumbs down by the committee because it ran afoul of the city’s prohibition on ads that “may be construed to reflect endorsement by Capital Area Transit, the Raleigh Transit Authority, or the City of Raleigh of a particular product, service, idea, etc.”

The committee, on the other hand, was willing to approve an ad “if the images were less graphic or the ad was less negative.” They even offered some suggestions — perhaps a “cartoon pig in a small bus seat looking sad” would work. Ultimately, though, they said that the city would not approve the HSUS ad as submitted.

A cartoon pig in a bus seat. Now that’s effective animal advocacy, isn’t it?

The RTA rejection was unexpected. HSUS ran this very wrap advertisement in 2012 on buses in Washington, DC and Des Moines, Iowa, quite successfully. Iowa, by the way, is the number one pork producing state in the country, but the ads appeared on Des Moines buses without opposition.

According to the Raleigh News and Observer, a spokesman for the Des Moines transit system said the ads there prompted “few, if any” complaints. The HSUS lawsuit notes that the ads continue to run on Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) buses even today, subject to monthly renewal.

The City of Raleigh’s bus advertising policy is available online. It says:

The Raleigh Transit Authority has sole and unquestioned authority to determine what constitutes appropriate advertisements. The following standards for advertising have been adopted and such advertising may not be displayed:

1. Is false, misleading or deceptive;

2. Relates to an illegal activity;

3. Advertises alcohol or tobacco products;

4. Supports or opposes a candidate, issue or cause, or which advocates or opposes religion, denomination, religious creed, tenet or belief;

5. May be construed to reflect endorsement by Capital Area Transit, the Raleigh Transit Authority, or the City of Raleigh of a particular product, service, idea, etc.

According to the Transit Authority Marketing Committee, this HSUS ad violated standard number 5.  It’s apparently problematic for the City of Raleigh, located in the second-largest pork producing state, to risk appearing to endorse the increasingly popular view that gestation crates are cruel.

No problem, said HSUS. According to its complaint, after receiving the initial rejection, HSUS offered to include the following disclaimer everywhere the HSUS logo appeared on the bus, similar to the one it placed on the ads in the District of Columbia:

This is a paid advertisement sponsored by The Humane Society. The advertising space is a designated public forum and does not imply WMATA’s endorsement of any views expressed.

Interestingly, while this adjustment would seem to clear up the issue of endorsement quite handily, as it had for WMATA, the response by the RTA was still a big fat “No.”

The transit marketing specialist responded to HSUS by e-mail, saying, “I submitted your proposal to our Transit Authority and they still rejected the ad even with the addition of the wording.”

Faced with no rational reason for such a rejection, HSUS sued. In its complaint, the group calls the RTA’s refusal to accept their ad a “content- and viewpoint-based restriction on Plaintiff’s free expression in violation of the Free Speech Clause of the First Amendment.”

“The transit authority’s policy is so vague that it basically boils down to the whim of the agency,” Peter Brandt, HSUS’s senior attorney for farm animals, told the Raleigh News and Observer. “That’s legally unacceptable. You can have standards for excluding advertisements, but the standards have to be specific.”

The RTA has not yet filed its answer to HSUS’s complaint and is not making any public statements now that litigation is pending. It will be interesting to see how they respond — and whether they include any sad cartoon pigs when they do.

Related Stories:

Stand With Ryan Gosling: No More Gestation Crates for Pigs

Cruel Gestation Crates Are On Their Way Out

3 Ways Weve Protected Animals That Congress is Trying to Upend

Photo credit: Thinkstock


Jim Ven
Jim Ven10 months ago

thanks for the article.

Mark Donner
Mark Donner2 years ago

A complete barrel of excuses for animal torture from Marianne C for the business of animal torture. "It's only on factory farms that they torture pigs", but let's step over that and claim they don't do that on private farms, and that makes it A-okay. Not to mention those are the "industry's" propaganda lies. In hellholes like China which is populated by sadists the situation is actually worse than you can imagine the hell of Christianity would be like. A usual tactic of the perpetrators is to also insult the species who of course act unnaturally when they're trapped in a human created nightmare.. that makes the practice of psychotic torture and slaughter of millions of a human unnaturally mutated species just peachy. I don't care if anyone who raises pigs for slaughter goes bankrupt and dies tomorrow No respect for life will eventually end up on the human perpetrator's lap.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing :)

GGma Sheila D.
GGmaSheila D.3 years ago

Guess seeing these ads all over would bother the factory farmers and their families Families who just might start questioning why things were done so cruelly...Hard to see the truth when it's in color all around you.

Sara Bergeron
Sara Bergeron3 years ago

I cannot believe the ignorance of so many people. abuse of an animal is never okay. if the abuse was happening to them it would be a different story. quit with the denial and excuses. wake up to reality. you cannot deny what is happening to animals every second of every day. if you do you are a liar. let the truth finally be known.

Christine Stewart

Marianne C- yes, the crates do offer safety for the human handlers and the piglets, but the sows LIVE in them for weeks at a time. And most pigs DO live on factory farms, not private farms- so most sows DO live in crates most of their lives.

Walter G.
Walter G.3 years ago

If you don't like what you see above on the bus, don't buy pork! It is that simple!

Jude Arsenault
Jude Arsenault3 years ago

humane exploitation and slaughter is an oxymoron.say no to speciesism,say yes to veganism,anything less is still cruelty.

Jude Arsenault
Jude Arsenault3 years ago

HSUS is an animal exploiters best friend.HSUS IS the animal exploitation industry.Get educated at Go Vegan Radio.Anti cruelty to animals =veganism.

Marianne C.
Marianne C.3 years ago

There is reason in the use of farrowing crates, people. Pigs can be extremely dangerous -- especially the sows. Do you think a Pit Bull is tough? Do you think a Rottweiler can be aggressive? Well, pigs would eat them for lunch -- maybe before they were even dead. Even a black bear will hesitate to take on an old brooding sow. Pigs will, without hesitation, attack people, biting and trampling. Sows also often eat their own young, and pregnant sows are often attacked by other pigs.

There used to be a rather monstrous guy who lived in the next county over from us. He'd buy ponies at the livestock sale and haul them back to his farm. Then. one at a time, he'd turn them in with the pigs, and the pigs would attack, kill, and devour the ponies. And these were not tiny little ponies; the ones he wanted were large, and many of them still young, strong, and fast. The pigs just overpowered them.

Even with pigs that are acclimated to humanity, are used to being handled, and have been treated well, a farmer is taking his life in his hands to get too close to a pregnant sow. Having her in a farrowing crate not only protects her from attacks by other pigs, but protects the farmer when he needs to examine her, which means being able to palpate her teats or uterus. Without the farrowing crate, the sow would probably have to be bound.

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