Transparency is Everything

Transparency is Everything
Transparency is everything. I was thinking about that as I stared into the silver-dollar-sized hole in our entryway wall. My 13-year-old daughter saw a house centipede on the wall, grabbed one of my heels and launched into ‘Ninja’ mode. I confess, house centipedes ARE kind of freaky-looking (, but I would’ve preferred she give me the ‘heads up’ about this ‘problem’ before she put a hole that went straight through to the drywall.

Because she came clean about her Ninja Bug-Smashing Incident, our family learned two ‘lessons’:

1. If you come clean about a problem, you can prevent a bigger one.
2. It’s always good to have a drywall repairman in your ‘speed dial’, just in case.

Okay, I was only partially kidding about that second one, but you see my point; keep it real; if you see a problem, ask for help with the solution. I only wish Wayne Pacelle from the Humane Society of the United States would see it as well. Case in point, a recent ‘News Conference’ in Des Moines, where the HSUS spokesman flew into town to unveil ‘hidden camera video’ of suspect maintenance and animal handling at a big chicken ranch.

No one seems to know (and Wayne sure didn’t offer) the true timeline of the blurry images captured by an undercover chicken farm employee. The scenes were edited together to paint a picture that would tug at the heartstrings of all animal lovers (farmers included).

The biggest problem I had about it has to do with ‘transparency’. When this faux chicken-factory ‘worker’ noticed problems, why didn’t he or she report it? Why didn’t they help the animals or correct the handler who was too rough with the birds? Why have a ‘hidden’ camera at all? Why not be real about what you’re doing and what you want?

I’m wondering how many reporters who actually got into that news conference wondered about the true motivations of the smooth-talking, suit-wearing, professionally-coiffed man at the podium. Are they really trying to improve conditions of food animals or get consumers to stop eating them all together? (I can’t help but notice all the vegan recipes on their website).

No matter what side of animal care you sit on, you have to agree; the man is good at what he does. He looks every bit the Yale-graduate that he is—impeccably groomed, soft-spoken, articulate, passionate and unflappable—even when surrounded by industry spokespersons, lobbyists and ag media.

But, who says you need a blow-dry hairdo and a three-piece suit to speak about animal welfare? “Dirty Jobs” host Mike Rowe makes a living rolling up his sleeves and showing sofa-surfers around the world how sweat-stained, dirt-under-the-fingernails, blue-collar workers make a living with integrity. One such job took Rowe inside a big chicken farm (one that Pacelle would clearly never set one of his Italian loafers on). What you see is the same thing responsible Iowa livestock farmers believe: size has nothing to do with integrity or the humane treatment of farm animals. (

If it truly is about ‘having a dialogue with farmers,’ then why did Pacelle ban some ag media at the news conference? (

Transparency is a good thing, only if it’s sincere. Saying you want to fix things but not being upfront with the farmer who has a problem and helping him fix it is not the spirit of the ‘transparency’ Pacelle preaches. His kind of ‘transparency’ isn’t about preventing a hole in the wall; it’s about taking down the entire house, one “Ninja kick” at a time.

Written by Laurie Johns
Laurie Johns is Public Relations Manager for the Iowa Farm Bureau.