Perhaps now more than ever, we are living in a time where not just individuals but businesses are speaking volumes with who they choose to do business with – or to no longer do business with. The Chick-Fil-A/Jim Henson Company incident is just one example, but it’s a trend that speaks to more than just one social or political issue. This week the Animal Agriculture Alliance announced that it is ending its 25 year banking relationship with Bank of America. The catalyst: Bank of America’s relationship with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).
The Bank of America and the Humane Society currently runs a mutually beneficial program – the Humane Society promotes getting a Bank of America Affinity credit card or checking account on its site, and in return the B of A donates a portion of proceeds to the HSUS as a “thank you” for the additional business (and, it would stand to reason, because there are decision makers at Bank of America who support the HSUS’s philosophy).
One organization who does not support the Humane Society’s philosophy, however, is the livestock agriculture non-profit group Animal Agriculture Alliance. While some view the Humane Society as an advocacy group for animal welfare, and not even a particularly radical one at that – certainly they’re no PETA or PCRM, and have even worked together with groups like United Egg Producers on campaigns to improve animal agriculture practices – the Animal Agriculture Alliance perceives it as an “extreme animal rights group” working to eradicate the livestock industry entirely.
According to a release from the organization, the Alliance put pressure on Bank of America to discontinue its credit card program; Bank of America responded that their partnership with HSUS is really not that big a deal and can’t they both be friends please:
Bank of America’s Agribusiness Executive emphasized in a phone conversation with Alliance CEO Kay Johnson Smith that the affinity card program with HSUS was not new and that HSUS received no preferential treatment. He emphasized his long time connections with agriculture and his sincere commitment to supporting agriculture through numerous sponsorships, research and service.
Not content with this response, Animal Agriculture Alliance decided to put its money where its mouth is and take a stand: not only does the Alliance disagree with the Humane Society, but its opposition is strong enough that it would cut ties with partners who give them financial support:
After this conversation and careful consideration, the Alliance has decided to terminate its relationship with Bank of America. The Alliance cannot continue a business relationship with companies that are contributing financially to extreme animal rights organizations that seek to eliminate the animal agriculture industry. The Alliance appreciates the support of its members and others in the agricultural community who took action on this issue. Thanks to those who voiced their concerns to Bank of America via social media, phone conversations, and mail. We will continue to speak up for America’s farmers and ranchers who continue to provide us with a safe, healthy, and affordable food supply.
Who’s right in this agriculture ethics beef? Everyone, really. It’s well within Bank of America’s rights to support the Humane Society; it’s also well within the Alliance’s rights to end its partnership if it doesn’t agree with Bank of America’s implied ethical position. As of yet, neither Bank of America nor the Humane Society have thus far released official statements on the turn of events.