2100 L Street, NW, Washington, DC 20037,
Phone 202-452-1100 | Fax 202-258-3051 | Email firstname.lastname@example.org
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is a radical animal rights group that inaccurately portrays itself as a mainstream animal care organization. The words “humane society” may appear on its letterhead, but HSUS is not affiliated with your local animal shelter. Despite the omnipresent dogs and cats in its fundraising materials and television commercials, it’s not an organization that runs spay/neuter programs or takes in stray, neglected, and abused pets. And quite unlike the common image of animal protection agencies as cash-strapped organizations dedicated to animal welfare, HSUS has become the wealthiest animal rights organization on earth.
HSUS is big, rich, and powerful. While most local animal shelters are under-funded and unsung, HSUS has accumulated $162 million in assets and built a recognizable brand by capitalizing on the confusion its very name provokes. This misdirection results in an irony of which most animal lovers are unaware: HSUS raises enough money to finance animal shelters in every single state, with money to spare, yet it doesn’t operate a single one anywhere.
Instead, HSUS spends millions on programs that seek to economically cripple meat and dairy producers; eliminate the use of animals in biomedical research labs; phase out pet breeding, zoos, and circus animal acts; and demonize hunters as crazed lunatics. HSUS spends more than $5 million each year on travel expenses alone, just keeping its multi-national agenda going.
HSUS president Wayne Pacelle described some of his goals in 2004 for The Washington Post: “We will see the end of wild animals in circus acts … [and we’re] phasing out animals used in research. Hunting? I think you will see a steady decline in numbers.” But Pacelle may have more ambitious anti-hunting goals. In 1991, while he was the National Director of the Fund for Animals, Pacelle told the Associated Press: “[I]f we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would. Just like we would shut down all dog fighting, all cock fighting or all bull fighting.”
More recently, in a June 2005 interview, Pacelle told Satya magazine that HSUS is working on “a guide to vegetarian eating, to really make the case for it.” A strict vegan himself, Pacelle added: “Reducing meat consumption can be a tremendous benefit to animals.”
Shortly after Pacelle joined HSUS in 1994, he told Animal People (an inside-the-movement watchdog newspaper) that his goal was to build “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement.” And now, as the organization’s leader, he’s in a position to back up his rhetoric with action. In 2005 Pacelle announced the formation of a new “Animal Protection Litigation Section” within HSUS, dedicated to “the process of researching, preparing, and prosecuting animal protection lawsuits in state and federal court.”
HSUS’s current goals have little to do with animal shelters. The group has taken aim at the traditional morning meal of bacon and eggs with a tasteless “Breakfast of Cruelty” campaign. Its newspaper op-eds demand that consumers “help make this a more humane world [by] reducing our consumption of meat and egg products.” Since its inception, HSUS has tried to limit the choices of American consumers, opposing dog breeding, conventional livestock and poultry farming, rodeos, circuses, horse racing, marine aquariums, and fur trapping.
A True Multinational Corporation
HSUS is a multinational conglomerate with regional staff operating in 33 states and a special Hollywood Office that promotes and monitors the media’s coverage of animal-rights issues. It includes a huge web of organizations, affiliates, and subsidiaries. Some are nonprofit, tax-exempt “charities,” while others are for-profit taxable corporations, which don’t have to divulge anything about their financial dealings.
This unusually complex structure means that HSUS can hide expenses where the public would never think to look. For instance, one HSUS-affiliated organization called the HSUS Wildlife Land Trust collected $21.1 million between 1998 and 2003. During the same period, it spent $15.7 million on fundraising expenses, most of which directly benefited HSUS. This arrangement allowed HSUS to bury millions in direct-mail and other fundraising costs in its affiliate’s budget, giving the public (and charity watchdog groups) the false impression that its own fundraising costs were relatively low.
Until 1995 HSUS also controlled the Humane Society of Canada (HSC), which Paul Irwin (HSUS president from 1996 to 2004) had founded four years earlier. But Irwin, who claimed to live in Canada when he set up HSC, turned out to be ineligible to run a Canadian charity (He actually lived in Maryland). Irwin’s Canadian passport was ultimately revoked and he was replaced as HSC’s executive director.
The new leader later hauled HSUS into court to answer charges that Irwin had transferred over $1 million to HSUS from the Canadian group. HSUS claimed it was to pay for HSC’s fundraising, but didn’t provide the group with the required documentation to back up the expenses. In January 1997 a Canadian judge ordered HSUS to return the money, writing: “I cannot imagine a more glaring conflict of interest or a more egregious breach of fiduciary duty. It demonstrates an overweening arrogance of a type seldom seen.”
From Animal Welfare to Animal Rights
There is an enormous difference between animal “welfare” organizations, which work for the humane treatment of animals, and animal “rights” organizations, which aim to completely end the use and ownership of animals. The former have been around for centuries; the latter emerged in the 1980s, with the rise of the radical People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).
The Humane Society of the United States began as an animal welfare organization. Originally called the National Humane Society, it was established in 1954 as a spin-off of the American Humane Association (AHA). Its founders wanted a slightly more radical group -- the AHA did not oppose sport hunting or the use of shelter animals for biomedical research.
In 1980, HSUS officially began to change its focus from animal welfare to animal rights. After a vote was taken at the group’s San Francisco national conference, it was formally resolved that HSUS would “pursue on all fronts … the clear articulation and establishment of the rights of all animals … within the full range of American life and culture.”
In Animal Rights and Human Obligations, the published proceedings of this conference, HSUS stated unequivocally that “there is no rational basis for maintaining a moral distinction between the treatment of humans and other animals.” It’s no surprise, then, that a 2003 HSUS fundraising mailer boasted that the group has been working toward “putting an end to killing animals for nearly half a century.”
In 1986 John McArdle, then-HSUS’s Director of Laboratory Animal Welfare, told Washingtonian magazine that HSUS was “definitely shifting in the direction of animal rights faster than anyone would realize from our literature.”
The group completed its animal-rights transformation during the 1990s, changing its personnel in the process. HSUS assimilated dozens of staffers from PETA and other animal-rights groups, even employing John “J.P.” Goodwin, a former Animal Liberation Front member and spokesman with a lengthy arrest record and a history of promoting arson to accomplish animal liberation.
The change brought more money and media attention. John Hoyt, HSUS president from 1970 to 1996, explained the shift in 1991, telling National Journal, “PETA successfully stole the spotlight … Groups like ours that have plugged along with a larger staff, a larger constituency … have been ignored.” Hoyt agreed that PETA’s net effect within the animal-rights movement was to spur more moderate groups to take tougher stances in order to attract donations from the public. “Maybe,” Hoyt mused, “the time has come to say, ‘Since we haven’t been successful in getting half a loaf, let’s go for the whole thing.’”
HSUS leaders have even expressed their desire to put an end to the lifesaving biomedical research that requires the use of animals. As early as 1988 the group’s mailings demanded that the U.S. government “eliminate altogether the use of animals as research subjects.” In 1986 Washingtonian asked John McArdle about his opinion that brain-dead humans should be substituted for animals in medical research. “It may take people a while to get used to the idea,” McArdle said, “but once they do the savings in animal lives will be substantial.”
McArdle realized then what HSUS understands today -- that an uncompromising, vegetarian-only, anti-medical-progress philosophy has limited appeal. At the 1984 HSUS convention, he gave his group’s members specific instructions on how to frame the issue most effectively. “Avoid the words ‘animal rights’ and ‘antivivisection’,” McArdle said. “They are too strange for the public. Never appear to be opposed to animal research. Claim that your only concern is the source of animals.”
In a 1993 letter published by the American Society for Microbiology, Dr. Patrick Cleveland of the University of California San Diego spelled out HSUS’s place in the animal-rights pantheon. "What separates the HSUS from other animal rights groups,” Cleveland wrote, “is not their philosophy of animal rights and goal of abolishing the use of animals in research, but the tactics and timetable for that abolition.” Cleveland likened it to the difference between a mugger and a con man. “They each will rob you — they use different tactics, have different timetables, but the result is the same. The con man may even criticize the mugger for using confrontational tactics and giving all thieves a bad name, but your money is still taken.”
Targeting Meat and Dairy
In 2004 HSUS promoted long-time vice president Wayne Pacelle to the position of President. Along with Pacelle’s passionate style and his experience navigating the halls of Congress, HSUS got its first strictly vegan leader.
One of Pacelle’s first acts as HSUS’s new chief executive was to send a memo to all HSUS staffers articulating his vision for the future. HSUS’s new “campaigns section,” Pacelle wrote, “will focus on farm animals.” For Americans accustomed to eating meat, eggs, and dairy foods, the thought of an animal rights group with a budget three times the size of PETA’s targeting their food choices should be unsettling. And Pacelle has hired other high-profile, unapologetic meat and dairy “abolitionists” since taking over.
In 2005, former Compassion Over Killing (COK) president Miyun Park joined HSUS as a staffer in its new “farm animals and sustainable agriculture department.” Around the same time, HSUS hired COK's other co-founder, Paul Shapiro, as manager of its derogatorily named “Factory Farming Campaign.” COK’s former general counsel Carter Dillard joined shortly afterward, as did vegan doctor and mad-cow-disease scaremonger Michael Greger. Like Pacelle, these new HSUS hires are all self-described vegans. Their arrival in the world’s richest animal-rights group signals that HSUS is giving anti-meat campaigns a prominent place.
In October, just a few months before he became an HSUS staffer, Shapiro told the 2004 National Student Animal Rights Conference that “nothing is more important than promoting veganism.” And Shapiro noted during an August 2004 animal-rights seminar (hosted by United Poultry Concerns) that after just 10 weeks at the helm, Pacelle had “already implemented a ‘no animal products in the office’ policy ... You know, they're going to have actual farmed-animal campaigns now, where they're going to be trying to legislate against gestation crates and all this stuff.”
Americans who enjoy meat, cheese, eggs, and milk may soon come to regard HSUS as a new PETA, with an even broader reach. Shortly after taking office, Pacelle announced a merger with the $20 million Fund For Animals. The combined group estimated its 2005 budget at “over $95 million” and also announced the formation of a new “political organization,” which will “allow for a more substantial investment of resources in political and lobbying activities.”
It takes tens of millions of dollars to run campaigns against so many domestic targets, and HSUS consistently misleads Americans with its fundraising efforts by hinting that it’s a “humane society” in the more conventional sense of the term. Buried deep within HSUS’s website is a disclaimer noting that the group “is not affiliated with, nor is it a parent organization for, local humane societies, animal shelters, or animal care and control agencies. These are independent organizations … HSUS does not operate or have direct control over any animal shelter.”
For instance, a 2001 member recruitment mailing called those on the HSUS mailing list “true pet lovers,” referring to unspecified work on behalf of “dogs, puppies, cats, [and] kittens.” Another recruitment mailing from that year included “Thank You,” “Happy Birthday,” and “Get Well Soon” greeting cards featuring pets such as dogs, cats, and fish. The business reply envelope lists “7 Steps to a Happier Pet.”
A 2003 recruitment mailing also included those “Steps,” as well as free address labels with pastel pictures of dogs and cats. The fundraising letter subtly substituted the animal-rights term “companion animals” for “pets.”
“Our mission is to encourage adoption in your neighborhood and throughout the country,” reads another HSUS fundraising appeal. “Even though local shelters are trying their best to save lives, they are simply overwhelmed.” That last sentence, at least, is true. But don’t count on the multi-million-dollar conglomerate HSUS to do anything about it. HSUS doesn’t operate a single animal shelter and has no hands-on contact with stray or surplus animals.
In 1995 the Washington (DC) Humane Society almost closed its animal shelter due to a budget shortfall. HSUS, which is also based in Washington, DC, ultimately withdrew an offer to build and operate a DC shelter, at its own expense, to serve as a national model.
In exchange for running the shelter, HSUS wanted three to five acres of city land and tax-exempt status for all its real estate holdings in the District of Columbia. The DC government offered a long-term lease, but that wasn’t good enough. HSUS refused to proceed unless it would “own absolutely” the land. The district declined, and what might have become the only HSUS-funded animal shelter never materialized.
HSUS claims that it supports local animal shelters by sending in teams that conduct audits on how to improve performance. But this supposedly professional advice isn’t free. Despite its $162 million in assets and a 2008 budget of $99.7 million, HSUS charges cash-strapped shelters as much as $25,000 just to assess their operations. At the very least, shouldn’t this super-rich charity that purports to love animals make such audits a part of its own operations? After all, HSUS paid out $4.7 million in grants in 2008 to other organizations and individuals. Yet the multi-million-dollar conglomerate gave less than $450,000 in grants to provide hands-on care to dogs and cats. That is a mere 0.45 percent of what HSUS spent that year.
But even some of those grants appear dubious. For example, David Mastio of The Washington Times wrote that HSUS in Iowa gave $9,044 to a shelter in Fairfield. According to the shelter’s web site, the money was used to give HSUS animal rights propaganda to grade school teachers. This material asked the children to pressure their schools to use only cage-free eggs and write to their congressmen.
HSUS frequently runs infomercials, replete with heartrending images of abused animals, in which actress Wendy Malick or Pacelle tell you that for “just $19 a month” you can help HSUS care for these animals. But if someone took up HSUS on that offer and donated $228 over the course of a year, just $1.03 will reach a pet shelter.
Not being forthright about the puny amount of money HSUS dedicates to hands-on care is not the only problem with its ad campaigns.
Most egregious is how HSUS cynically exploits cases of animal abuse to boost its fundraising. In 2009, John Goodwin issued a fundraising appeal to raise $1 million to support animals like “Faye”, an abused fighting dog rescued in a major bust of a dog fighting ring (Actually, the dog’s name was “Fay” — HSUS couldn’t even get the name right). The fundraising letter made it sound like HSUS was responsible for saving Fay. “She was in tough shape, but we found her in the nick of time,” wrote Goodwin. “She now sleeps in a warm bed in a safe place.” But HSUS was not spending any money in caring for Fay or the vast majority of the dogs rescued from the dog fighting ring. The woman who was caring for Fay stated: “I am rather sad that HSUS has chosen to use Fay (not Faye) in their fund drive. Fay has never received a dime from HSUS.”
In March 2008, HSUS announced its home-foreclosure pet relief fund. This program was meant to help pets abandoned by their owners after losing their homes to foreclosure. But in March 2010, Pilot Travel Center, a retail operator of motorist travel centers, announced it would stop contributing money to HSUS in response to complaints about its anti-agriculture agenda. An HSUS statement made it sound like this withdrawal of support would hurt the Foreclosure Pets Fund: “We regret they are no longer being given the opportunity in stores to support our work to help animals abandoned in the foreclosure crisis.” The problem, though, is that HSUS discontinued this relief fund in May 2009 — 10 months prior to Pilot Travel Center ending its support.
Promotes Dog Killer Michael Vick
The day after NFL quarterback Michael Vick was indicted for operating a dog fighting operation on July 17, 2008, HSUS issued an online fundraising appeal asking people to “… make a special gift to help The Humane Society of the United States care for the dogs seized in the Michael Vick case … your gift will be put to use right away to care for these dogs.”
This is yet another instance of HSUS misleading donors. Two weeks later, Pacelle told The New York Times that HSUS didn’t even have custody of the Vick dogs or “know how well they are being kept.” Pacelle also recommended to federal government authorities that all of the dogs should be euthanized.
However, other animal groups didn’t agree with HSUS’s euthanasia recommendation. The Best Friends Animal Society was caring for 22 of the seized pit bulls. In a statement on its website, Best Friends said its goal was to rehabilitate them and criticized suggestions they be killed for their own good: “Other national organizations had simply called for the dogs to be killed. But what kind of message does that send about how our society treats the victims of such horrible abuse?”
HSUS wasn’t done with the Vick scandal. After his release from prison in May 2009, Vick began working with HSUS by speaking at churches, schools and community groups about the evils of dog fighting. “Michael Vick approached us and said he wanted to be part of the solution instead of the problem,” said Michael Markarian, CEO of HSUS.
Other animal rights groups weren’t as forgiving — or perhaps opportunistic — as HSUS. Hope Bohanec of the Defense of Animals led a protest in Oakland when Vick arrived with the Philadelphia Eagles for a football game. Bohanec said she had not detected any remorse in Vick’s statement since being released from prison. ”He seems sorry he was caught,” said Bohanec.
What does HSUS actually do then with the millions it raises using the furry faces of Fido an Fluffy? For one thing, HSUS believes in taking care of itself. In 2008, it spent nearly$38 million on salaries and benefits for its staff of 555 employees. Worse, HSUS employees have complained to the press that their organization wastes its resources on fundraising expenses and high salaries for its chief executives. Since Pacelle took over in 2004, HSUS has spent $8.5 million on just the executive pension fund. And according to its 2008 annual report, HSUS spent $27.5 million on fundraising and over $28 million on “campaigns, litigations and investigations.” Robert Baker, an HSUS consultant and former chief investigator, told U.S. News & World Report: “The Humane Society should be worried about protecting animals from cruelty. It’s not doing that. The place is all about power and money.”
HSUS doesn’t save flesh-and-blood animals the way local “humane societies” do, but it does lobby heavily to change the laws of communities across the country. “HSUS was the financial clout that rammed Initiative 713, the anti-trapping measure, down our throats,” reports Rich Landers of the Spokane (WA) Spokesman-Review. “I pleaded [with Wayne Pacelle, then HSUS’s government affairs VP] at least four times for examples of HSUS commitment in Washington [state] other than introducing costly anti-hunting and anti-wildlife management initiatives. He had no immediate answer but promised to send me the list of good things HSUS does in this state. That was six months ago, and I presume Pacelle is still searching.”
Like other national animal-rights groups, HSUS has learned that pouring huge sums of money into ballot initiative campaigns can give it results normal public relations and lobbying work never could. Along with other heavy hitters like the Fund for Animals and Farm Sanctuary, HSUS scored a big victory in Florida in 2002 when a ballot initiative passed that gave constitutional rights to pregnant pigs. HSUS donated at least $50,000 to the Florida PAC that managed the campaign.
Florida farmers were banned from using “gestation crates,” usually necessary to keep sows healthy during pregnancy and to prevent them from accidentally rolling over and crushing their newborn piglets. After this amendment passed, raising pigs became economically unsustainable, and farmers were forced to slaughter their animals rather than comply with the costly new constitutional requirements. Today, the Florida pork industry has largely vanished. In an August 21, 2009 St. Petersburg Times article, Frankie Hall, director of agriculture policy at the Florida Farm Bureau, said, “I think we’ve got only one hog farmer left with more than 100 sows.”
Florida represented Pacelle’s first major ballot victory to place restrictions on animal confinement methods. It also represented the HSUS philosophy of patiently accumulating small victories in moving toward its overall goal of radically restricting conventional agriculture. Florida ranked only 33rd in hog production and its population centers were largely located on the coasts away from farmland. So the relatively small pork industry and the urban demographics facilitated HSUS’s ability to sway voters with the simple but inaccurate claim that animals need a place to “stand up, lie down and turn around freely, and fully extend all limbs.”
In 2006, HSUS scored another victory in Arizona — the 28th ranked hog producer — when voters overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure restricting pork producers.
It was after Arizona when farmers began to realize the dire threat that the HSUS political machine posed to their interests and way of life. Mace Thornton, spokesman for the American Farm Bureau, noted that rather than go straight for Illinois, the largest pork-producing state that allows ballot measures, HSUS went first went after what he called the “low-hanging fruit.”
Assault on California Egg Industry
HSUS scored one of its biggest victories in California when voters approved Proposition 2 in November 2008. This HSUS-financed measure will make it illegal — starting in 2015 — for California farmers to raise egg-laying hens in cages. Proposition 2 targeted housing systems for veal calves and pregnant sows as well as hens. Because there is virtually no veal production and a relatively small pork industry in California, egg farmers will feel the brunt of its onerous provisions. Many experts believe Proposition 2 will destroy the California egg industry, the nation’s fifth largest producer, by driving up costs so high that egg farmers will be forced to flee to other states or Mexico.
A study released in July 2008 by the University of California Agricultural Issues Center estimates the increased cost at 90 cents per dozen. A dozen conventionally-produced eggs cost about 60 cents, according to Paul Sauder who is a major East Coast egg distributor. The increased labor accounts for part of the extra expense of raising cage-free chickens. Cage-free birds also eat more which leads to higher feed costs.
A Fresno Bee editorial warned just before voters went to the polls that passage of Proposition 2 would result in a situation where “we’d have humane new standards for caging farm animals that applied to no one, and we’d be buying eggs from other states and from Mexico, where the old practices would still be in place.”
Steve Adler of the California Farm Bureau Federation reported in March 2010 that “recruiter
took over its presidency in 1970, the Humane Society of the United States had 30,000 members and an annual budget of about
$500,000. By 1994, HSUS’s annual revenue had grown to $22 million. In 2003, that number jumped to $123 million, including
nearly $3 million in investment income.
When John Hoyt
took over its presidency in 1970, the Humane Society of the United States had 30,000 members and an annual budget of about
$500,000. By 1994, HSUS’s annual revenue had grown to $22 million. In 2003, that number jumped to $123 million, including
nearly $3 million in investment income.
At the end of 2008, the nonprofit HSUS declared assets totaling $162 million, including over $101 million invested in securities and $49 million in savings and temporary cash investments. It pays over $28.4 million in annual salaries, and another $4.7 million in employee benefits and pension contributions.
Raising money is Job One. HSUS will even adopt conflicting positions in order to satisfy individual patrons. According to one account, two HSUS donors once wrote to John Hoyt with very different views of the sinking of Icelandic whaling ships by Paul Watson’s violent Sea Shepherd Conservation Society in the late 1980s. In one response, Hoyt agreed with the donor that Watson’s actions were wrong, writing: “I am unequivocally opposed to any and all acts of violence in the pursuit of efforts to protect animals from abuse and suffering.” In the other, he declared that Sea Shepherd’s work was “indeed, a daring and masterful bit of James Bond on behalf of the great whales.”
HSUS is involved in the lucrative third-party certification business. Some environmental and animal-rights groups have developed “eco-labels,” offered (for a price) by sponsoring organizations to certify food and clothing as environmentally friendly. HSUS is a founding member of the Humane Farm Animal Care coalition. For the right amount of money, its “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label is available to meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy producers.
Of course, money isn’t the only thing behind HSUS’s work. Animal-rights philosophy also plays a role. Despite HSUS’s public claims that it seeks only to ensure animals are humanely treated, the group’s values appear tilted toward eliminating humans’ use of animals entirely.
HSUS wants to end, for example, lifesaving biomedical research on animals. “Absolutely horrifying” is how John Hoyt characterized such research. “We have to fight the well-financed and powerful agribusiness and research industries,” he wrote in a fundraising letter to HSUS members, referring to “the needless and repetitive experimentation on animals in the ‘research’ laboratory.”
Former HSUS board member Robert F. Welborn declared in HSUS News: “I question the moral propriety of causing animals to suffer for the purpose of testing products intended for humans or for dealing with human maladies.” HSUS mailings have called on the government “to eliminate altogether the use of animals as research subjects.”
HSUS stands with PETA in opposing xenotransplantation (the use of animal organs to replace diseased human organs), including the baboon bone marrow received by noted AIDS activist Jeff Getty. Martin Stephens, HSUS’s vice president for animal research issues, told Reuters: “The HSUS admires Mr. Getty’s will to live but we believe that his experiment is misguided. The HSUS believes that baboons … should not be killed for such highly questionable experiments.”
HSUS joined PETA in trying to block a NASA project that used animals to study weightlessness in space. And in 2005 HSUS joined Farm Sanctuary in its misguided attempts to ban the production of veal and foie gras (duck liver paté) in several states.
HSUS is not particularly friendly toward the use of animals as food, either. In 1995, it launched its “Eating with a Conscience” campaign, directed by Howard Lyman. A strict vegan, Lyman is best known for his 1996 appearance on the “Oprah” television show, where he tried to scare consumers away from beef by claiming, incorrectly and recklessly, that mad cow disease would make AIDS “look like the common cold.” In a June 2005 interview, Pacelle said that HSUS is working on “a guide to vegetarian eating” and emphasized “reducing meat consumption” as one of HSUS’s goals.
And with the vegan Wayne Pacelle as its chief executive, HSUS appears to be embracing PETA-style orthodoxy about meat and dairy foods, leather shoes, wool suits, and even silk ties with its “no animal products in the workplace” policy.
Sued for Violating RICO Act
While PETA loudly protests the use of live animals in circuses, HSUS works its lobbying magic and moves the levers of power behind the scenes. The group has filed several formal complaints with the USDA, charging circuses and their animal suppliers with a wide range of animal-welfare violations. HSUS’s Director of Captive Wildlife Protection told The Baltimore Sun in 2004 that the approach is bearing fruit: “I do think what we’re seeing with the circuses is that they’re deciding that it’s not worth taking the heat.” In 2005 HSUS endorsed a legislative attempt to bar circuses from bringing performing animals into Massachusetts.
HSUS has waged a lengthy legal campaign against Ringling Brothers Circus and its parent company Feld Entertainment, alleging various abuses of animals.
In July 2000, the Fund for Animals (which later merged with HSUS) and several other organizations including the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals sued Feld Entertainment. Tom Rider, a former circus employee, also joined the suit. They alleged that the circus tortured its Asian elephants with bull hooks and chained them for long periods. The suit charged that the mistreatment led to the deaths of several elephants and violated the Endangered Species Act.
After 9 years of litigation, U.S. District Court Judge Emmet Sullivan ruled that the allegations lacked merit and dismissed the lawsuit. In particular, Sullivan held that Rider, the plaintiffs’ star witness, was “not a credible witness.” Sullivan wrote that “Mr. Rider often gave conflicting answers and was repeatedly impeached on the witness stand.”
Especially disturbing is that Sullivan also found that the plaintiffs had paid Rider more than $190,000 “to secure [his] initial and continuing participation as a plaintiff.”
On February 16, 2010, Feld Entertainment filed a lawsuit against HSUS and its fellow plaintiffs accusing them of violating the federal Racketeering Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO). RICO actions are typically brought against members of organized crime. It is telling how HSUS operates that this ostensible animal rights group finds itself the subject of a RICO lawsuit.
In its suit, Feld leveled bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys; three other animal rights groups; the Washington, DC law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal; and all three of that firm’s named partners.
Feld is also suing Rider, and a nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity, claiming that Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal used it to funnel money from their plaintiff clients to Rider. These clients included the Fund for Animals.
Violating the Rights of Property Owners
HSUS boasts about its involvement in raids of homes or property belonging to alleged animal abusers. But in a number of cases, the victims are the property owners and the perpetrators are the HSUS employees.
On September 2, 2009, HSUS teamed up with a local group called Second Chance Rescue to storm the property of a hunting dog breeder in South Dakota. HSUS seized 172 dogs and issued a press release touting the success of the operation. Scotlund Haisley, then-Senior Director of Emergency Services, stated: “These animals were clearly lacking proper medical care and socialization, and were kept in constant confinement their entire lives.”
The breeder was charged with animal cruelty.
But in January 2010, Magistrate Court Judge Tami Bern ruled that the search warrant HSUS helped execute was illegal. Judge Bern said that the warrant was wrongfully obtained because the animal control officer requesting the warrant failed to tell the court she had already requested a warrant days earlier, resulting in the discovery of dogs on the property that were in good health.
HSUS, which had bragged about its involvement in the raid just months earlier, immediately began backpedaling. HSUS told South Dakota’s KELO TV that it did not have any involvement in the case, obtaining the warrant or making sure what they were doing was legal. But back in September, HSUS said it was playing a role in the case.
KELO TV reported that the animal control officer “admitted that the Humane Society of the United States was sitting at the Turner County Fairgrounds ready to take [the breeder’s] dogs before she even had a warrant.”
Soon after, Scotlund Haisley left HSUS under a cloud of controversy stemming from the controversial South Dakota raid.
This was hardly the first time Haisley had been involved in a controversial raid or questioned about his tactics. In a March 2010 radio interview on the Carroll Cox Show, Ronnie Graves, a former member of the HSUS Emergency Rescue Team, said he told Haisley he was concerned about the fact that the HSUS Badge he was issued looked liked a law enforcement badge. Impersonating a police officer or “acting under color of law” are illegal acts. Haisley’s response to Graves: “I want the scum to think we’re law enforcement.”
Such reckless behavior apparently didn’t bother Pacelle at the time. Graves told Pacelle about Haisley’s comment in January 2008. He just responded by saying: “I like the Cowboy Ways that Scotlund brings to the team.”
HSUS is also being sued by a 64-year-old widower for allegedly defaming him and depriving him of his rights.
In July 2009, Norman Pang took over control of the Animal Haven animal shelter in Hawaii after the death of his wife Bonnie who had operated the shelter for nearly two decades. Norman, who played only a minor role in running the shelter, realized he could not adequately care for the more than 400 dogs, cats and birds. Many of the animals were already diseased, crippled or terminally ill. His wife had a no-kill philosophy and accepted any animal regardless of its physical condition.
Norman Pang accepted an offer from the Oahu Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to take control of the animals. However, Pang specifically told the Oahu SPCA that he did not want the assistance of the Hawaiian Humane Society (HHS) because his wife disapproved of its euthanasia policy. Years earlier, HHS had taken Bonnie Pang to court for cruelty to animals, although a judge dismissed the case.
The Oahu SPCA requested the assistance of HSUS in transferring the animals from the Pang shelter. On July 19, the Oahu SPCA and a HSUS rescue team, that included Scotlund Haisley, began moving the animals from the Pang residence to another shelter. However, Pang became suspicious when a man and a woman from HSUS began videotaping the emaciated and sickly animals. Pang asked the HSUS team if they were trying to gather evidence against him. Pang told The Honolulu Advertiser that the HSUS team denied they had any such motivation, insisting they we’re “doing it for the training film.” Pang said he took them at their word.
But soon after the rescue, HSUS posted video footage of the animals on its website along with a solicitation for fundraising for the organization. HSUS described Animal Haven as a “hoarding operation” and alleged that Pang was getting away with the “murder” of animals. In addition, still photos from the HSUS web posting showed up on the HHS website.
The Honolulu prosecutor’s office launched an investigation of Pang for animal cruelty. Although Pang had not been charged or cited, HHS sought prosecution. In September 2009, the prosecutor’s office decided not to pursue the case, citing the inability to prove the case against Pang by a “reasonable doubt.”
Just before the prosecutor ended the investigation, Pang sued HSUS and other organizations seeking damages and to require them to remove all photos and videos of Animal Haven from the Web. According to a September 4 story in the The Honolulu Advertiser, Honolulu attorney Michael Ostendorp sent Pacelle a letter accusing HSUS of “unethical and deceitful conduct in telling Pang it was making a training film that is now being used as evidence against him, and in ‘working surreptitiously to carry out the Hawaiian Humane Society’s spiteful vendetta against the Pangs.’”
HSUS and its affiliates have received embarrassingly low scores from established charity watchdog groups. Charity Navigator, perhaps the best-known nonprofit watchdog, downgraded HSUS’s rating from 4 stars, the top rating, to just 3. HSUS received a score of 51.57, a 17 percent decline from its previous score of 62.61. A contributing factor to the downgrade is HSUS’s “fundraising efficiency” – or more precisely its inefficiency. While Charity Navigator shows that HSUS spent 13 cents to raise every dollar in 2007, that number more than doubled to 27 cents in 2008. In addition, Charity Navigator reported that the percentage of money HSUS spends on fundraising (as an overall percentage of its budget) nearly doubled between 2007 and 2008, from 12.7 percent to 24.2 percent. Charity Navigator also downgraded the rating of Humane Society International (HSUS’s global arm) from 3 stars to 1 star – its lowest rating.
Likewise, the American Institute of Philanthropy (AIP) gave HSUS an unimpressive C-minus rating. AIP based its grade on the percentage of money HSUS spends on actually running its programs, which can be as little as 53 percent, and the amount of money it spends on fundraising. AIP calculates that HSUS spends as much as $40 to generate every $100. It also penalized HSUS for paying exorbitant salaries to top executives (as high as $234,000).
Hiring the Animal Liberation Front
Even seasoned animal-rights veterans were surprised in April 2000 when the Humane Society of the United States sent John “J.P.” Goodwin on an anti-fur junket to China. Goodwin was not just any animal activist: he was then an avowed member of the terrorist Animal Liberation Front (ALF). Less than a year later he was formally identified as an HSUS legislative affairs staffer; Goodwin would later change his rhetoric to match HSUS’s corporate policy of not endorsing violence as a protest tactic.
Goodwin, a high-school dropout who had previously co-founded the Texas-based Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, pulled no punches when it came to his priorities. “My goal is the abolition of all animal agriculture,” he had written to one Internet activist mailing list.
Goodwin himself has been arrested and convicted for being the ringleader of a gang that vandalized fur retailers in multiple states during the 1990s. The animal-rights newspaper Animal People News profiled Goodwin in 2000, noting that he “gleefully announced a string of Animal Liberation Front mink releases and arsons against furriers and fur farms” while a “spokesman” for the underground terrorist group.
Goodwin also fielded press inquiries after a Petaluma, California, slaughterhouse arson in February 1997, and shocked the public with his comments on the March 1997 arson at a farmer’s feed co-op in Utah. Referring to a fire that caused almost $1 million in damage and could easily have killed a family sleeping on the premises, Goodwin told The Deseret News: “We’re ecstatic.”
J.P. Goodwin doesn’t represent HSUS’s only intersection with the animal rights movement’s violent underbelly. Miyun Park, a Washington, DC anti-meat activist hired by HSUS in 2005, was acknowledged in 1999 as a financial benefactor of No Compromise magazine, a publication that supports the ALF and promotes arson and other violent tactics. And in the investigation leading to the 2005 animal-enterprise terrorism trial of six SHAC (Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty) activists, Park was among those named in at least six federal wiretap warrants.
And Ariana Huemer, an HSUS government-affairs employee, may figure in the case of fugitive animal-rights bomber Daniel Andreas San Diego. An FBI evidence recovery log from the search of San Diego’s car describes a check Huemer wrote to him. San Diego, currently on the FBI’s “Most Wanted” list, is presumed responsible for 10-pound shrapnel bombs detonated in 2003 at two California biomedical research companies. One of these bombs was accompanied by a “secondary” device, timed to detonate after paramedics and firefighters arrived on the scene.
A Horrible ‘Waste’
During 1998 and 1999, the Humane Society of the United States reported to the IRS that it made small financial contributions toward the operation of WASTE.org, an Internet website that was then the main distribution point for the “communiqués” of the Animal Liberation Front.
In addition to hosting the ALF’s “Frontline” mailing list, WASTE.org hosted a list for the HSUS-coordinated “Inter Campus Animal Advocacy Network” (I-CAAN); the official mailing lists of a Minnesota group called Compassionate Action for Animals (CAA); and mailing lists for approximately a dozen other organizations. CAA, originally called the Animal Liberation League, was started by activist Freeman Wicklund -- who has spoken openly about his desire for other activists to “embrace the Animal Liberation Front.”
Questions remain about HSUS’s support of the WASTE server. In 1999 HSUS’s operating budget was over $50 million, and it already operated at least four other e-mail lists -- all operated from its own network servers. Why did the group need an outside server for its I-CAAN mailing list? And why use this particular server, one that also happened to host a terrorist group’s press operations, instead of one of hundreds of other commercially available services?
In 2002, HSUS’s website began to articulate a policy of not supporting animal-rights violence. In December of that year, the Center for Consumer Freedom reported on the past financial connection between HSUS and WASTE. Although HSUS has stated that it no longer supports the server, WASTE still listed it as a financial donor as of June 2005, as it has during every year since 1998.
Share and Share Alike
Some of HSUS’s hefty fundraising expenses have ended up in the pockets of the notorious fundraising company Share Group, Inc. The telemarketing firm made headlines during the 2000 Democratic National Convention when the DNC and the Gore 2000 Presidential Campaign both dropped Share Group after a reporter pointed out that former owner Michael Ansara was still involved in the company. Ansara had been ordered to surrender control of Share Group, after he pleaded guilty to a felony conspiracy charge related to a money-moving scheme for Ron Carey’s 1997 Teamsters Union presidential reelection campaign.
In the fundraising business, returning 30 to 35 percent of funds raised to a given charity is considered acceptable. But according to reports from the New York Attorney General, Share Group kept $2.18 million between 1999 and 2000, and passed on only $273,560 to HSUS -- a return rate of only 11 percent.
In New York, Share Group only gave HSUS $16,543 of the $1.08 million it raised during the year 2000 -- a return of only 1.53 percent. In 2004, Share Group raised over $1 million in HSUS’s name, but HSUS wound up paying over $173,000 for the privilege. This dismal record probably didn’t surprise HSUS: back in 1996, Share raised $60,045 and returned nothing.
The 2001 Letter of Agreement between the two groups shows that HSUS agreed to a minimum guarantee of only 1 percent of the gross receipts. The Illinois Attorney General’s office reports that HSUS paid Share Group over $1.87 million for 2001 fundraising that netted less than $750,000 to the animal-rights group -- a negative 150 percent return.
International Rumor Mongering
In 2000, the Humane Society of the United States was refused entrance to the 16th meeting of CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) Animals Committee for “filing false accusations about CITES member nations.”
HSUS had made wild allegations to the CITES Secretariat about illegal trade in ivory between Namibia and Taiwan, and Zimbabwe and China, supposedly in exchange for military armaments, equipment, and helicopters. When pressed for documentation, HSUS declined to supply any. The CITES Secretariat issued an official Notification (#2000/060) about the HSUS-instigated allegations, noting that absolutely no evidence existed to support HSUS’s claims.
Corporations Withdraw Financial Support
HSUS has been successful in recruiting corporate sponsors to provide funding for the organization’s operations or events. At last count, 39 companies were listed as official sponsors including Bank of America, BB& T, Xerox, and Microsoft Corporation.
However, a number of companies have withdrawn their financial support in response to customer complaints about HSUS and its radical agenda.
The Australian winery Cassella Wines, under its brand name Yellow Tail, donated $100,000 to HSUS in January 2010. The company promised to follow up with another $200,000 in grants.
But the Yellow Tail donation unleashed a storm of protest that quickly had the company reeling.
On February 5, South Dakota rancher Troy Hadrick posted a video protesting Yellow Tail’s support for HSUS. “I recently found out that Yellow Tail Wines is going to be donating $100,000 to the wealthiest animal rights organization in the world, the Humane Society of the United States – a group who is actively trying to put farmers out of business in this country,” said Hadrick on his flip video camera. “That being said, I cannot and will not support a company who is doing such a thing,”
Hadrick then poured a bottle of Yellow Tail Wine into the snow-covered ground.
Within minutes, the video was posted to YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of farmers and consumers joined Hadrick’s protest against Yellow Tail. And within two weeks, Cassella Wines announced it was rescinding the remainder of its $300,000 pledge to HSUS. In a letter to the Animal Agriculture Alliance, the company promised that “any future support for animal welfare will go to organizations specifically devoted to hands-on care, such as rescue, sterilization, feeding, or disaster assistance.”
At virtually the same time, the Tennessee-based Pilot Travel Centers, a network of motorist support centers, withdrew its support for HSUS after thanking the company for its support on the HSUS Facebook page. But the company took so much flak for the $52,000 in donations to HSUS that it quickly ended its support: “In order to avoid any further misunderstandings, employees will immediately cease collections of donations to HSUS.”
Three more companies terminated financial support for HSUS soon after these controversies. The companies included the Mary Kay cosmetics company, Precious Cat, Inc., and Hill’s Pet Nutrition, Inc in response to protests.