Gov. Paul LePage criticized tactics used by the Humane Society of the United States in its pursuit of animal cruelty accusations against a Turner egg farm, suggesting the animal rights group was more concerned about raising money than protecting animals.

“I am writing to express my disappointment with your recent media event regarding your ‘Request for Investigation of Shell Egg Production Facility in Turner, Maine.’ Because of the manner in which this was brought to our attention, I can only conclude you are more concerned with fundraising than you are about the animals involved; in this case, chickens,” LePage said in a letter to HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, according to a news release Friday from the governor’s office.

The Humane Society released a video Tuesday from an undercover sting operation the animal rights group conducted for a month at the Hillandale Farm egg farm. In accompanying complaints to the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry and to the Food and Drug Administration, the Humane Society asked for investigations into the egg operation, alleging unclean and unsafe conditions. The next day, the state said it intended to investigate.

The news release from the governor’s office said the Humane Society released the undercover video “prior to any official communication” with the state.

The governor’s letter was met with a swift rebuttal Friday from the animal rights group. Pacelle chastised the governor for not getting his facts straight, and said the group sent its complaint to the state five days before releasing its video.

“We did go to his Department of Agriculture, but we wanted to stay clear of him,” Pacelle said in an email. “He’s a menace on animal welfare.”

“This is just the latest example of LePage being on the wrong side of animal welfare,” he said. “He allowed the state government to improperly spend state dollars and staff time influencing an election and lobbying against a bear protection ballot measure. He tried to kill off the most important revenue stream for low-income spaying and neutering in the state and vetoed bills to crack down on the sale of puppy mill dogs at pet stores and to restrict ownership of animals for a short period after a person was convicted of malicious cruelty.”

LePage said Maine has significant animal protection laws, and took political aim at the Humane Society for its part in the failed 2014 referendum to ban bear baiting.

“Your tactics to try to uncover wrongdoing are deplorable in this case, but then again this isn’t the first time you have wasted money on futile efforts,” he said in the release. “Imagine the good you could have done if you used all the money (over $2.5 million) you spent unsuccessfully on the bear-hunting referendum to support animal rescues and shelters. It really makes people wonder about your real priorities.”

Hillandale Farm, one of the largest egg producers and distributors in the country, said it runs a clean facility in Turner and also requested a state inspection to verify its assertion that the farm is in compliance with state and federal regulations.


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