Would the Guest Choice Network defend dog-and-cat-eating?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2002:
WASHINGTON D.C.–Is Rick Berman preparing to become the U.S.
voice of dog-and-cat-meat restauranteurs?
Berman did not answer ANIMAL PEOPLE when on March 1 we asked
him, but his political history and recent activities seem to lean in
“A Washington lawyer and lobbyist who has represented the
hospitality industry for more than 25 years,” Berman, 58, “is
executive director of the Guest Choice Network, a D.C.-based
coalition of 30,000 restaurateurs, tavern operators and restaurant
suppliers who want to preserve guilt-free enjoyment,” profiled
Washington Post staff writer Carole Sugarman in November 1999.
His clients, Sugarman reported, “include about 50 major
mid-priced chain restaurants. Suppliers who sell products under
attack, such as alcohol, cigarettes, meat, coffee and caffeinated
soft drinks, have also contributed money to the network.”
The Guest Choice Network argues, essentially, that
restaurateurs should be free to sell anything that clients want to
order; the clients should be uninhibited in ordering and spending;
and that big spenders should be allowed to fumigate the premises with
tobacco smoke at will, health nuts such as vegetarians and “iced tea
drinkers” be damned.
The Guest Choice Network evolved out of Berman’s work in
representing the American Beverage Association and the Employment
Policies Institute. Under the ABC banner Berman seems to have been
most prominent in opposing legislation that holds hotel and
restaurant owners liable if they knowingly or negligently allow
guests to drive drunk. The Employment Policies Institute campaigns
against paying the minimum wage to waiters and waitresses, arguing
that they should work for tips alone.
The Guest Choice Network lists as a board member Washington
Legal Foundation chair and general counsel Daniel J. Popeo, who
argues that, “Most of the problems we have in America today, from
cost-prohibitive government regulation to unchecked violent crime,
can be traced back to activist lawyering by well-entrenched
organizations committed to promoting an agenda through court action,
new regulatory and enforcement activity, and advocacy/educational
Founded in 1977, WLF has engaged in more than 1,000
instances of “activist lawyering” itself to try to roll back legal
protections of consumers, endangered species, and civil rights. In
one recent case (see page one) WLF argued that birdwatchers should
favor Navy bombardment of seabird nesting habitat because it makes
sightings of rare birds more exciting.
The main Guest Choice Network activity seems to be
maintaining two anti-activist web sites, <www.ActivistCash.com> and
Mad cows & cowboys
Berman and his director of research David Martosko came to
the attention of ANIMAL PEOPLE when SHARK executive director Donna
Hertel faxed a copy of a January 18 letter from Martosko demanding
every SHARK filing of IRS Form 990 since 1998, plus much other
information about SHARK, going well beyond the extent of
documentation usually requested by charity watchdogs, grant-making
foundations, and lawyers drafting bequests.
Hertel wondered if Martosko might be representing rodeo
cowboys who were upset about SHARK following the Winter Olympics
torch procession across the western U.S. to protest the inclusion of
a rodeo in the Cultural Olympiad.
A search of newspaper archives around the U.S. found that
Martosko has written many letters-to-the-letter decrying concern
about “mad cow disease” as a false alarm, and has also distributed
letters complaining about FARM use of letters as a campaign device.
Martosko and his boss Berman clearly don’t like animal rights
The <www.ActivistCash.com> web site offers unflattering
capsule descriptions of pro-animal and pro-vegetarian organizations
including EarthSave, the Farm Animal Reform Movement, PETA, the
Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, and United Poultry
The site also unflatteringly spotlights animal advocates
including PCRM founder Neal Barnard, UPC founder Karen Davis,
American Humane Association “Free Farmed Food” program director Adele
Douglass, PETA vegetarian campaigns coordinator Bruce Friedrich,
FARM founder Alex Hershaft, In Defense of Animals founder Elliot
Katz, anti-biotechnology crusader Andrew Kimbrell, anti-meat
campaigner Howard Lyman, PETA cofounders Ingrid Newkirk and Alex
Pacheco, Diet For A New America author John Robbins, and many
others, some of whom are virtual unknowns.
In addition, <www.Activist-Cash.com> rips celebrities who
have endorsed animal causes, including Bob Barker, Cindy Crawford,
Woody Harrelson, Casey Kasem, Ann Landers, Robert Redford, and
Links to allied sites establish that Barnard, Katz, and
Paul McCartney were “honored” in 1999 as recipients of Guest Choice
Network “nanny awards,” along with Agriculture Secretary Dan
Glickman, who got the “public disservice nanny” for warning
Americans against overconsumption of fat. (Katz turned the tables
with a press release accepting his “nanny.”)
But no other organization or person named has ever had much
to do with protesting against rodeos or bullfights.
And <www.ActivistCash.com> also assails Mothers Against Drunk
Driving, Action on Smoking & Health, the Center for Food Safety,
the Natural Resources Defense Council, Greenpeace, the Water Keeper
Alliance, and Sea Web.
The only evident commonality, Douglass pointed out, is food
and drink. Every individual and group listed is campaigning on a
food or alcohol-related issue.
PETA and NRDC are in direct opposition over animal testing,
but to Berman they are in the same camp because they both urge people
to refrain from eating or drinking something. The Water Keeper
Alliance apparently makes the list for suing hog farmers over
pollution, and Sea Web has asked restaurant-goers to refrain from
SHARK may be of interest to Berman and researcher Martosko
for having boycotted Pepsi-Cola until in early 2000 Pepsi quit
advertising in Mexican bullrings, and for promoting an ongoing
boycott of Coca-Cola, because Coke allows local distributors to
sponsor rodeos. SHARK has also called a boycott of Corona beer
because of bullring advertising.
But the Pepsi campaign ended two years ago. The Coke and
Corona boycotts have been on hold since late 2001 while SHARK focused
on the Olympic rodeo.
The food issue SHARK has most often addressed in the past two
years is South Korean cnsumption of dogs and cats. Working with
International Aid for Korean Animals founder Kyenan Kum, the SHARK
“Tiger” video truck has displayed from coast to coast big-as-life
footage of Korean dog-slaughter.
The dog-and-cat meat trade does not yet have a public voice
in the U.S., but Berman tends to represent vices most associated
with men of the same generation as the majority of Korean dog-eaters,
and uses rhetoric similar to that of South Korean dog meat defenders
in denouncing his opponents for allegedly attacking his rights and
Whether Berman might represent dog meat sellers, if they
ask, would appear to depend on money. He does not work cheap.
The Employment Policies Institute paid Berman $163,026 for 28
hours a week in 1999, according to the most recent available EPI
filing of IRS Form 990, and paid Berman & Company $508,173 total,
out of a total budget of just over $1 million.
The Guest Choice Network did not pay Berman a salary in 2000,
according to IRS Form 990, but paid Berman & Company $256,077, out
of a total budget of $501,320.