Humane Society of the United States: ‘Green’ Rhetoric Masks Animal Rights Radicalism
By Neil Maghami (Foundation Watch, April 2010 PDF here)
Summary: The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not what you think it is. Instead of opposing cruelty to animals it wants to endow animals with rights. It is building a powerful coalition with environmental groups around the global warming issue. And it is promoting vegetarianism as a solution to environmental pollution problems. When your children start explaining why you should save the planet by eating ‘Tofurkey’ this Thanksgiving, check their backpacks for HSUS pamphlets.
When you think of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), what likely springs to mind are the celebrity endorsements: The TV commercials in which actress Wendie Malick urges you to give generously to help fight animal abuse. Or maybe you recall the public service radio announcements Rush Limbaugh recorded for HSUS.
But you’re in for a surprise if what you know about HSUS comes only from the media. HSUS does much more than raise money to raise awareness of cruelty to animals. The group has a much wider agenda. It is bent on changing the American economy and reforming how Americans live in ways that the organization’s leaders believe are fit—for animals.
The authoritative survey Animal Rights: The Inhumane Crusade (Capital Research Center, 1999) documents how the Humane Society has changed its mission from preventing animal cruelty to protesting medical research, seeking to curtail hunting and fishing, and attacking modern animal agriculture. (Contact CRC to purchase copies of Animal Rights.)
In the 1950s, HSUS flourished as post-war Americans became more aware of instances of animal neglect, abusive owners, and cruel practices. By the 1960s the media was publicizing “investigations” of animal mistreatment in laboratories and circuses. HSUS learned how to harness the power of the visual media to spread its message.
And today? HSUS still participates in animal rescues. Its Animal Rescue Team claims to have saved “more than 10,000 animals” in 2009 by participating in more than 40 “rescue missions.” HSUS cameras have recorded animal control officers entering a Tennessee house filled with rubbish and feces to rescue 50 almost-wild cats living in filth. Or they show diseased farm animals as they are removed from a dilapidated North Carolina farm.
However, that is the least part of HSUS activities. The organization today is far more involved in political advocacy and its mission is no longer focused on animals in distress. The group has become an advocate of vegetarianism. These days HSUS actively urges Americans to reject their old habits and embrace such practices as “reducing your consumption of meat and other animal-based foods, refining your diet by avoiding animal products derived from [modern farming methods], and replacing meat and other animal-based foods with vegetarian foods.”
HSUS also wants to be part of the environmental movement. It is joining forces with the international environmentalist groups to market fear of “climate change” and it endorses the kinds of green policies that would impose a heavy cost on the U.S. economy and the American people.
That HSUS has erected a “green” façade should come as no surprise. Many advocacy groups have adopted each other’s positions in order to build political coalitions. For instance, in “Greener Than Thou: The American Left Takes Up Christian Environmentalism” (CRC’s Organization Trends, June 2009) author Patrick Reilly shows how environmentalists distort theology to attract Christians to a Big Government agenda. Similarly, the radical animal rights movement is using environmentalist scare tactics to alarm the public and win support for “animal rights” and “animal liberation,” a hidden and not-so-green agenda.
From Animal Welfare to Animal “Rights”
HSUS calls itself America’s “largest and most effective animal protection organization—backed by 11 million Americans, or one in every 28.” It describes itself as a “mainstream force against cruelty, exploitation and neglect.” But HSUS has come a long way from its founding in 1954, when it was an upstart breakaway faction of the American Humane Association, a 130 year-old group concerned about the welfare of animals and dedicated to ending cruelty to animals.
It’s not clear where HSUS gets that 11 million figure. We know that only 453,000 people subscribe to its All Animals bimonthly magazine, according to the media kit sent to potential advertisers. And at the HSUS October 2009 annual general meeting in Washington, D.C. an announcement was made that HSUS had received ballots from 13,133 of its members to select the organization’s board members. Of these, 171 were discarded as invalid. That leaves 12,962 ballots. The meeting was called to order at 8:30 a.m., and closed by 8:44 a.m., a scant 14 minutes later.
The leader of HSUS is Wayne Pacelle, a vegan purist, (i.e. a person who does not eat meat, eggs or dairy products and forswears clothing made from animals). Pacelle has been the group’s president and CEO since 2004. Early in his career he worked for the Fund for Animals, founded by the writer Cleveland Amory and now an HSUS affiliate. Pacelle has greatly expanded HSUS involvement in politics at all levels of government and has helped put dozens of voter initiatives on state- and local-level election ballots. In 2008 voters in California approved an initiative improving housing for calves, pigs and chickens, and voters in Massachusetts voted to end greyhound racing. In a 2002 Florida election voters established constitutional rights for pregnant pigs. Animal protections were written into the Florida state constitution, a document heretofore reserved for protecting human rights.
Following the Florida ballot victory, Pork Magazine noted that “the state’s two major pork producers closed their doors.” And the St. Petersburg Times carried a story about farmers who had to shutter their operations because the cost of complying with the new law “far outweighs the benefit.” As a result, Florida now imports pork from out-of-state.
HSUS Fundraising: A Golden Calf
HSUS is probably the largest and richest of the animal rights groups. The recession has hurt HSUS but not too much. According to its 2008 filings with the IRS, HSUS reported $85 million in total revenue, $99.6 million in expenses, and it had $162 million in net assets. HSUS ended 2008 with a $14 million deficit.
By comparison, in 2007 HSUS reported $101 million in total revenue and $205 million in net assets. In 2006, HSUS net revenue was $100 million and its assets were $226 million. Contrast that to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. PETA has far fewer resources. Its 2007 tax filing—the most recent available—showed its revenue was $33.2 million and assets of $21 million.
What explains HSUS’s impressive fundraising success? A clue can be gleaned from its 2008 filing. The tax form reports that HSUS paid $2 million to a direct mail consulting firm called National Outdoor Sports Advertising. The firm raised $50 million for HSUS. Not bad.
But not all HSUS fundraising is so productive. The 2008 tax forms reveal that a firm called The Share Group ran telemarketing campaigns that raised $3 million. The Share Group certainly shared in the results of its phone calls, receiving $1.8 million for its services.
The HSUS “Family”
Where does the money go? Besides paying for program expenses and salaries (Pacelle’s total salary and benefits are reported as $252,000), HSUS reports that it made $4.7 million in “grants and other assistance” to organizations inside and outside the U.S. One might suppose that it provides money to various local humane societies to support hands-on animal care in shelters.
However, some of this funding goes to support radical activists who want to end human ownership of animals. And some goes to vegan groups that oppose the consumption of animals and the use of animal byproducts for human benefit. In 2008, for example, HSUS donated $10,000 to PETA, the notorious People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. (See “Cruel and Unusual: People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals,” Organization Trends, January 2006.)
HSUS also supports a network of direct affiliates, which are essentially its corporate subsidiaries in the U.S. and overseas. Within the U.S., the following tax-exempt groups are part of the HSUS family: Humane Society Legislative Fund; Fund for Animals; The Humane Society International; Doris Day Animal League; Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust and Earthvoice International. Outside the U.S., HSUS’s direct affiliates include The Humane Society International (Canada, Britain, France, and Latin America all have dedicated chapters) and The Humane Society of Hong Kong.
The relationship between HSUS and its like-minded foreign groups is sometimes chilly. In a May 2008 story, the New York Times noted that a judge once ordered HSUS to “pay $1 million to the Humane Society of Canada for soliciting donations in Canada and then transferring funds to the United States.”
What HSUS Wants From Politicians
One consequence of its considerable financial clout is that HSUS can fund an ambitious legislative agenda. A January 2009 “change agenda for animals” jointly issued by HSUS and the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) lists no fewer than 100 action items. HSLF, a 501(c)(4) lobbying organization, is an affiliate of HSUS. It was created in 2005 after HSUS entered a partnership with the Fund for Animals.
The 100-point agenda covers matters falling under the purview of the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Interior, Commerce, Education, the Treasury, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State, Defense, Transportation – as well as the EPA, the U.S. Post Postal Service (USPS), the FDA, Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Product Safety Commission and U.S. Trade Representative.
What’s interesting is that only a tiny part of this agenda concerns measures to fight animal cruelty, such as upholding a federal ban on the U.S. Postal Service distribution of dog fighting and cockfighting magazines, or working to maintain strong penalties against sadistic sellers of recordings of animals being tortured to death.
More surprising is the agenda’s numerous references to “climate change.” The HSUS legislative agenda demands more EPA scrutiny of large farms to uncover what food and fiber production contributes to “climate change.” The agenda also calls for greater monitoring of “greenhouse” gas emissions by large farms. As noted, HSUS has proclaimed itself deeply committed to the current crusade to halt climate change.
HSUS is obsessed with the environmental impact of farming, and it has gone so far as to partner with the alarmist Worldwatch Institute to attack American farmers as producers of harmful environmental pollution. The two groups put their names to a 2008 report that equates “meat-eating” from domesticated herds and flocks with “driving and flying” cars and planes. All are environmentally-destructive consumer habits that demand legal action to prevent carbon emissions. (See: “Global Farm Animal Production and Global Warming: Impacting and Mitigating Climate Change,” by Gowri Koneswaran and Danielle Nierenberg in the May 2008 issue of Environmental Health Perspectives.)
In April 2009, HSUS formally commended the Environmental Protection Agenda (EPA) and President Obama for taking action in line with the global green agenda “to address the enormous threats posed by climate change.” For HSUS, regulating America’s farmers has to be a top priority for EPA bureaucrats.
To that end, in September 2009 HSUS joined Friends of the Earth, the Environmental Integrity Project, the Waterkeeper Alliance and other tax-exempts in formally petitioning the EPA to “regulate air pollution” emitted by large farms using modern agricultural techniques. The petition said America’s farming sector is producing too much “unregulated air pollution, resulting in “a devastating impact on human health and the environment,” including speeding the process of “climate change.”
Record on Domestic Terrorism
As the donation to the PETA extremists illustrates, HSUS has a close relationship with the “animal rights” movement. It also has resisted efforts to combat terrorist acts by the so-called “animal liberation” movement.
The upsurge in acts of domestic terrorism by animal rights/animal liberation activists is a growing concern for law enforcement and the academic community. There are more and more reports of attacks on medical and scientific research facilities and scientists. Cars and trucks have been firebombed, laboratories torched and farms vandalized. But when state legislators try to combat violence by drafting laws against these crimes HSUS has often been an opponent of the legislation. For instance, the Associated Press reported that an HSUS lobbyist condemned a 2005 Ohio bill claiming that “at the root [the sponsors] are trying to prohibit investigations into animal cruelty.”
HSUS could have used the debate surrounding the bill to denounce violence by animal rights terrorists and position itself as a responsible voice of moderation. Instead, it raised specious legal concerns and worked to undermine the bill’s passage, a practice it has repeated elsewhere. It should be noted that a HSUS board member, Persia White, also serves on the board of the eco-terrorist Sea Shepherd Conservation Society, a group known for its violent confrontations. (See: “Direct Action — The Tactics of Radical Activism,” Organization Trends, February 2004) In 2005, PETA named White, an actress and singer, as its “Humanitarian of the Year.”
Animal Rights, Environmentalism, Vegetarianism
HSUS has a great ambition. It wants to build a politically conscious mass movement based on animal rights, environmentalism and vegetarianism with climate change policy as its centerpiece.
Recently HSUS issued an urgent appeal to voters to lobby their senators “to cosponsor the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733)” introduced by Senators. John Kerry (D-MA) and Barbara Boxer (D-CA) in October 2009. The HSUS appeal linked the Kerry-Boxer climate change bill to the United Nations’ climate talks in Copenhagen, implying that strong public support for the bill would show that the US was prepared to “help lead the way forward to resolve this [climate] crisis.” Weak support, it suggested, would “provide other nations with an excuse for inaction.” The Copenhagen summit is widely considered a failure and the prospects for the Kerry-Boxer bill are fading.
Myron Ebell, Director of Energy & Global Warming Policy at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, attended the Copenhagen summit and he is very familiar with the tactics of environmental nonprofits. Ebell isn’t surprised by HSUS’s pro-Copenhagen stance.
“HSUS portrays itself to its members and its funders, and the public in general, as a ‘good cause’ group concerned with preventing mistreatment of animals. At the same time, it is pursuing a political agenda that wouldn’t be out of place in an extremist environmental group.
“HSUS is like the National Wildlife Federation in that respect – the Federation once represented outdoorsman, hunters, and anglers who wanted to protect wildlife and landscapes. During the 1970s, it became a radical environmental group while continuing to represent itself as a mainstream conservation group through its magazine to its members,” he said.
“I believe this is very similar to what HSUS has done. Many of its members would be very surprised by its radicalism on global warming, for example. I have more respect for those environmental groups, such as the Sierra Club, that are open and honest about their real agenda,” he concluded.
How did an animal rights group like HSUS latch on to global warming as an issue? The official history of HSUS, “Protecting All Animals: A Fifty-Year History of The Humane Society of the United States” (2004), provides the background. It says the purpose of HSUS’s green activities “was to get the environmental movement to be more animal protection conscious.” To that end, in 1986 HSUS created a Center for the Respect of Life and the Environment (CRLE) “to promote the philosophical and practical foundations of a humane and sustainable society,” which aimed to lead “organized religious institutions to embrace ecocentric, as opposed to anthropocentric, thinking.” (The Center may be defunct. On its 2006 IRS tax form, the Center reported a $4.7 million deficit with $4.6 million owed to “other affiliates,” a reference to other tax-exempt members of the HSUS “family.”)
In 1991, “one year after playing a major role in the celebration of the thirtieth annual Earth Day,” HSUS announced “EarthVoice,” its new “global environmental arm.” (EarthVoice also may be defunct. Its 2005 tax form discloses a $10.7 million deficit in “other liabilities” to “affiliates.”) The HSUS history states “under EarthVoice’s auspices, HSUS tried to promote an ethic of the earth to decision makers and institutions in the United States and elsewhere, to position the organization as a global environmental leader, and to ensure its participation in environmental diplomacy.”
Jan Hartke, former EarthVoice executive director, later joined the Clinton Climate Change Initiative in August 2006. Teresa Platt, a researcher who has followed HSUS for many years, wrote in a December 2009 that during Hartke’s tenure EarthVoice “committed $10.5 million and secretariat services to Clinton’s Climate Change and Environment Coalition (CCEC)” – funding that originated from HSUS.
This pattern of creating HSUS-affiliated tax-exempt groups that run up large deficits and then fade away is intriguing. It warrants further analysis and investigation.
CRC writer Patrick Reilly has observed that environmentalism has taken on the mantle of a religion. There are sins and sacraments, guilt and redemption, apocalypse and salvation. He notes, “The apocalyptic message of global warming is one example of a highly religious prophesy. By relying on pseudo-science and faith-based interpretations of both scientific research and political arguments, many environmentalist manifestos sound more like the Bible’s Book of Revelations than a policy report.”
That’s true for HSUS. Its formal policy statement dated May 2009 declares “climate change [to be] one of the most pressing issues of our time, posing potentially huge impacts on both the natural world and human society.”
The statement oozes green alarmism concerning the fate of animals:
“The impacts of climate change will be profound, but most people will be better equipped to adapt to temperature changes and altered weather patterns than plants and wild animals, many of whom are likely to go extinct.” [Emphasis added]
[Note the use of “whom” signifying personhood, as opposed to “which” or “that.” PETA also uses this rhetorical trick known as anthropomorphism. Animals become “who” and “whom,” — never “it.”]
“In this respect, the world’s natural systems are facing a crisis of immense proportions. The HSUS and HSI are committed to encouraging the adoption of policies that will mitigate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions and better equip animals to adapt to the changes ahead—and to survive them.”
HSUS alleges that climate change is “already…killing unprecedented numbers of farm animals, companion animals, and wildlife.” (“Companion animals” is HSUS’s term for pets.)
Pets dying in the streets, and farm animals dying in the fields from climate change—this an apocalyptic vision out of the (Green) Book of Revelation.
The Vegetarian Solution
Vegetarianism is a big part of the HSUS policy prescription for fighting climate change. The policy statement criticizes the U.S. agriculture for its “annual production of more than 11 billion animals,” a record that is “simply not sustainable.” HSUS asserts that “if every U.S. citizen simply reduced his or her meat consumption by 10 percent, it would not only reduce domestic [“greenhouse gas”] emissions, but would also save the lives of approximately 1 billion animals per year.” Of course, one billion cattle, pigs and chicken would not be raised at all if Americans ate less meat.
It should be noted that vegetarianism is not an eccentric political position peculiar to animal rights advocates. HSUS reports that three of the most powerful and wealthy green environmental groups – Greenpeace, the Natural Resources Defense Council and Environmental Defense Fund – endorse vegetarian diets.
HSUS promises to work to ensure “that consumers are aware of the climate change mitigation benefits of reducing meat, egg, and dairy consumption and/or replacing animal-based products with plant-based foods, as well as other changes they can make in their consumption habits to reduce their contribution to climate change.”
The document is unintentionally funny in places because HSUS uses strange euphemisms to avoid mentioning vegetarianism directly. This includes phrases like “animal-free foods.” In fact, in February HSUS announced that it was in the pet food business and would market vegetarian dog food to be called “Humane Choice.” Available at PETCO and Whole Foods, the meat-free food for carnivores contains soybeans, flaxseed and brown rice.
The HSUS policy statement argues that putting limits on the production and transportation of animals would reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and it seeks to punish companies that try to profit from the efficient use of animal byproducts by calling for limits on the “use of animal manure, litter, and fat in the production of bio-energy in order to prevent industries from profiting from the massive waste and toxic pollution they create.”
HSUS also promotes fake furs and synthetics for cold weather clothing over natural, animal-based clothing. Synthetics, it should be pointed out, come from petroleum (i.e., “fossil fuels”), which creates greenhouse gases during the production process and is not biodegradable.
Since the release of the May 2009 statement, HSUS has repeatedly referred to a vegetarian diet as a good source of “climate-friendly food choices,” to quote the October 2009 report on the subject. The constant invocation of animal-free foods suggests that HSUS regards vegetarianism as a kind of sacrament.
For instance, in 2008 HSUS urged Americans to “protect the planet and animals” by eating a substitute meat product, soybean-based “Tofurky” each Tuesday. A July 2008 news release announced HSUS’s endorsement of “Tofurky Tuesdays,” asserting that “HSUS is encouraging its members and supporters to forego meat in favor of meat alternatives such as Tofurky products on Tuesdays as a way to help animals, the environment and their health.” (“Tofurky Tuesday” is a marketing ploy started by Turtle Island, the company that sells “Tofurky.”)
Each bite of Tofurky presumably gives the faithful an opportunity to remind themselves of their personal responsibility for climate change.
What’s the Alternative?
As previously mentioned, HSUS broke with the American Humane Association (AHA), a group headquartered in Denver and founded in 1877 (2008 revenue: $12.8 million; assets: $23.3 million). AHA calls itself the “only national organization dedicated to protecting both children and animals.”
AHA does not oppose sports hunting. It does not endorse vegetarianism. Search AHA’s website and you won’t find demands for members to support the Copenhagen climate change treaty or embrace synthetic clothing.
A February 5, 2009 blog post by AHA president Marie Belew Wheatley explains why:
AHA “…has always taken a mainstream, moderate approach in conducting our work. For example, we recognize that the overwhelming majority of Americans — including many of our employees — choose to eat meat, and therefore we do not advocate for vegetarianism or pass judgment on dietary choices. Instead, we focus…on ensuring that farm animals are raised and treated humanely…
“You’ll find this type of progressive yet realistic thinking behind all of [AHA’s] positions. It has fueled our success protecting children and animals for more than 130 years, a sure sign that common sense and moderation can go a long way — for a long time.”
Regrettably, neither common sense nor moderation are qualities promoted by animal rights and environmentalist groups. Nor is direct service.
In a June 2009 exchange (which you can read or listen to on the Internet at http://www.bovinevetonline.com/directories.asp?pgID=678&ed_id=5203), interviewer Mike Adams asked HSUS president Wayne Pacelle “What percentage of [the HSUS] budget would you say goes to animal shelters?”
Pacelle’s answer is worth reproducing in full:
“It depends on how you define animal shelters. We run the largest trade show in the nation that services animal shelters. We publish the magazine of the field called Animal Sheltering, we do shelter evaluations, we give millions of dollars in grants, but when there is a puppy mill in Washington State or a dog fighting operation in Colorado, and the shelters can’t handle that, we typically do the investigations, find out where the problem is and then send our emergency services unit in that helps shelters. The Shelter Pet Project alone – which is a national advertising campaign to drive adoptions to shelters – is expected to be $40-80 million a year worth of advertising value. You can’t quantify the work that we do, but again if people want us to spend all of our hard dollars on animal shelters, they can support their local humane society. We think that is fabulous and we support the shelters and we hope all of your listeners support their local animal shelter, but we have other issues we want to work on.” [Emphasis added]
Pacelle’s remarks highlight the difference between national political advocacy groups and local direct service charities. Ten years ago the author of CRC’s book Animal Rights: The Inhumane Crusade urged donors to contribute to traditional humane organizations in their own communities. Daniel T. Oliver noted that local animal shelters focus their efforts on helping animals in distress. They are not pressure groups promoting an agenda of debatable public policies.
Despite what HSUS would have you believe, it is possible to treat animals with kindness without swallowing the green agenda.
A freelance writer, Neil Maghami’s most recent article for CRC looked at the Woods Hole Research Center (Organization Trends, October 2009).