Protect the Harvest
Protect the Harvest is an American 501(c)(4) nonprofit advocacy organization founded by oil executive Forrest Lucas which opposes "the radical animal rights movement” and particularly the Humane Society of the United States, which it calls "a wealthy and successful attack group". The organization has an allied political action committee, the Protect the Harvest PAC, which funds campaigns to assist or defeat candidates for political office.
Mission and members
Protect the Harvest's stated goals include educating the public about animal agriculture and preventing the passing of legislative or consumer-driven bans on particular production practices. The organization's founder and executive director is millionaire Lucas Oil owner Forrest Lucas, who has invested over $600,000 in the organization. Brian Klippenstein was the executive director of the organization and treasurer of the associated PAC before joining the U.S. Department of Agriculture as an advisor to Secretary Sonny Perdue. Other members of the organization include Iowa State Representative Erik Helland and Missouri State Senator Mike Parsons.
Protect the Harvest is a supporter of "right-to-farm laws" as proposed or supported by the American Legislative Exchange Council. Lucas put money into the losing campaign to defeat Proposition B, designed to prevent cruelty to dogs in puppy mills, in Missouri in 2010. He also invested in the winning campaign to pass Measure 1 in Missouri, which amended the state Constitution to protect "the right of Missouri citizens to engage in agricultural production and ranching practices" in 2014. Lucas contributed over $200,000 to oppose the Massachusetts Conditions for Farm Animals Initiative banning products from animals raised in "extreme" confinement, which passed with strong support in 2016; Protect the Harvest also underwrote a failed legal challenge to the measure.
Protect the Harvest is considered a corporate front organization for the food industry by the nonprofit Center for Food Safety. HSUS vice president Joe Maxwell called Protect the Harvest "a front group in bed with industrialized agriculture”, and rejected its allegations about the HSUS's aims. Protect the Harvest claims that the HSUS opposes all ownership of animals; HSUS vice president Paul Shapiro responded, "That would certainly be news to the vast numbers of our staff who bring their dogs to work here."
Protect the Harvest favors the federal government slaughtering wild horses to control their populations, which can grow unsustainably in the absence of population-control programs and compete with cattle ranching for grazing land. Protests were held in 2018 against the possibility of turning over control of a state-managed herd of wild horses in the Virginia Range of Nevada to Protect the Harvest, although the group denied seeking such a management position.
Protect the Harvest sponsored the 2016 Equine Film Festival, at which a film it financed, Running Wild, won the Equus People's Choice (Full Length) award. Protect the Harvest's sponsorship was controversial; its representative at the festival, Dave Duquette, aggressively removed the microphone from a reporter's hand in response to a question about horse slaughter, leading to assault charges, and the winners of the festival's Best Documentary award declined to accept it due to Protect the Harvest's sponsorship.
Between October 2011 and December 2012, Protect the Harvest raised approximately $927,000. In 2012, according to FEC records, Lucas Oil contributed $200,000 to Protect the Harvest to fund advertisements against Christie Vilsack, who challenged and lost to incumbent Iowa congressman Steve King. Protect the Harvest also received funds from American Action Network, a group led by former senator Norm Coleman, and a group called Missouri Farmers Care. The Protect the Harvest PAC spent $256,018 in the 2014 election cycle, and $116,300 in the 2016 cycle.
The Dog Lover
Protect the Harvest collaborated with ESX Entertainment to produce the 2016 movie The Dog Lover. The film depicts an idealistic college student sent undercover by an animal welfare organization to investigate a puppy mill, and eventually becoming disillusioned with the welfare organization, which is presented as unethical. The film presents itself as "based on a true story", although there are major differences between its portrayal and the South Dakota court case which inspired it.
The film received an overall rating of "rotten" from review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, with seven out of nine negative reviews. Michael Rechtshaffen, writing for the Los Angeles Times, called the film's execution "spottier than a kennel full of caged Dalmatians," and Glenn Kenny of Rogerebert.com labeled it "shamelessly manipulative", while Owen Gleiberman of Variety wrote that "it’s a prosaic piece of muckraking, but it grazes a nerve", calling its pro–breeding industry strategy "cunning". The film's premiere in Springfield, Missouri, which included a live auction of an Australian shepherd, inspired a small protest.
Pray for Rain
In 2017, Protect the Harvest and ESX entertainment produced Pray for Rain, directed by Alex Ranarivelo, which follows a young reporter (Annabelle Stephenson) as she investigates the murder of her farming father amid the 2011–17 California drought. The film advances a form of the California drought manipulation conspiracy theory, incorrectly blaming environmentalists and bureaucrats for creating a "man-made" water shortage. The film received negative reviews, with Roger Moore of Movie Nation calling it a "ludicrous Lucas Oil-man financed propaganda picture" and Brian Orndorf of Blu-ray.com writing, "As much as I enjoy the image of Jane Seymour blasting away with a shotgun that’s probably bigger than she is, the melodrama of the effort only manages to cripple the production."
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