Topic: Circuses

  • Animal Rights Groups Owe Attorneys’ Fees in Three-Ring Legal Circus

    Remember the legal odyssey involving Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. circus, and a cabal of animal rights groups? If you don’t, here’s the summary: Animal rights groups sued the circus alleging elephant abuse and lost. The court concluded that their key witness was a essentially a “paid plaintiff and fact witness” who was “not credible.” Feld countersued under federal RICO statutes, alleging racketeering, fraud and witness bribery.

    The second case is ongoing, but it is in the first lawsuit that there is news. The suit was dismissed in late 2009 after a trial, but the sides have since fought over appeals (which failed) and now attorneys’ fees. Last week, the judge ruled that the animal rights plaintiffs owe attorneys’ fees. The court hasn’t ruled how much yet, but Feld claims that its defense has cost more than $20 million, so it could be a hefty amount. The judge also had strong words, writing that the case brought by animal rights groups “was groundless and unreasonable from its inception” and that the key witness “lied about the payments” and that the “organizational plaintiffs also concealed the payments from FEI [Feld], in whole or in part, by providing misleading or incomplete information to FEI until after the Court granted FEI’s motion to compel complete information.” Read the full opinion for all the details.

    The ruling does affect a Humane Society of the United States affiliate, the Fund for Animals. However, the ruling does not assign liability to the Humane Society of the United States, which was not a party in the litigation. (As a side note, according to this court exhibit, it appears HSUS sent four payments to a group identified by the court as a vehicle for paying the witness.)

    The door is still open for HSUS to be held liable for attorneys’ fees, however.

    According to the ruling, Feld’s Motion for Feesincluded an argument in a footnote that HSUS should be held liable for fees. But the judge found that this is not a proper method of argument and concluded, “FEI’s request to hold HSUS jointly and severally liable is DENIED WITHOUT PREJUDICE to refile at an appropriate time and in an appropriate procedural posture.”

    There seems to be a good case to make, based on our reading of the merger between the Fund for Animals and HSUS. (Click here to view it.) We’re not lawyers, but section 1.3 states, “Subject to the conditions specified in this Agreement HSUS shall assume, defend, discharge, and perform as and when due, all lawful liabilities and obligations of Fund (the “Assumed Liabilities”) of whatever type or kind, including without limitation contingent liabilities whether known or unknown and whether asserted or unasserted.” The following section enumerates “excluded liabilities” and it only deals with the Fund’s real property in three states.

    Whether Feld will do so is up to it, and we’ll be checking PACER with some regularity. But if you’re Wayne Pacelle, you have to feel the walls are closing in.

    Posted on 04/03/2013 at 4:23 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom Drama


  • The One-Ring RICO Circus [IMAGE]

    The Humane Society of the United States could be in legal hot water. HSUS and two of its in-house attorneys are defendants in a federal lawsuit alleging tortious activity under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. That’s the same law that has been used to target mobsters, and it’s now being used by Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. circus, to go after HSUS and other animal-rights activists. In fact, the ASPCA just agreed to pay $9.3 million to settle this litigation.

    So what is HSUS accused of being a part of? The complaint itself is 129 pages, and stems from separate litigation that animal rights activists brought against Feld, which itself took years to litigate.

    You’re welcome to read the litigation and the filings by all parties yourself by searching for case number 1:07-cv-01532 at PACER. You can also read the judge's outline of the payment scheme by animal rights groups here.

    But if you don't want to wade through hundreds of pages of legalese and prefer the abridged version of what the alleged scheme was, check out our new graphic below (and be sure to share it with your friends).

    Posted on 01/19/2013 at 3:30 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom DramaVisual HSUS


  • Do Wayne Pacelle's Initials Also Stand for Witness Payoff?

    Big news came out over the holidays when the ASPCA announced that it would pay Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. circus, almost $10 million to settle a federal lawsuit accusing the ASPCA and others of violating the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. It’s a crack in the defense, and we’re sure that leaders of the Humane Society of the United States—which is still a defendant in the litigation—didn’t sleep well that night. Feld’s lawyers also publicly released evidence implying HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s involvement, which should add to their concern.

    Some background: The Fund for Animals (FFA, which merged with HSUS in 2005), the ASPCA, and others sued Feld about 10 years ago under the Endangered Species Act. Their litigation depended on a former Feld “barn helper” who says that he was aesthetically injured by Feld’s alleged elephant abuse.

    The litigation dragged through the court for years until a judge dismissed it in 2009. In his dismissal, the judge outlined a scheme by which animal rights groups—including the ASPCA—had paid the former Feld employee almost $200,000. Some of the money was paid directly to the witness, some of it went through the plaintiffs’ law firm (MGC), and some of it went through a nonprofit group controlled by the plaintiffs’ lawyers called the “Wildlife Advocacy Project” (WAP). (Is that enough acronyms for you?)

    Here’s how some of that payout got disbursed to the witness, according to court documents:

    ASPCA: $6,000 (through WAP), $14,000 (directly), $5,700 (through MGC). Total: $25,700.

    FFA: $11,500 (through WAP), $1,000 (directly), $4,400 (through MGC). Total: $16,900.

    More importantly, the judge found that the payments “were not disclosed initially in discovery, by both omissions and affirmatively false statements.” The witness himself, the judge concluded, was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible.”

    That’s pretty damning.

    Now, Feld has released evidence showing that the Humane Society of the United States itself paid money to WAP. The check is signed by HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle and treasurer Tom Waite:

    The check was sent to WAP with a cover letter from HSUS vice president Jonathan Lovvorn, who is individually named as a defendant in the racketeering lawsuit. Before Lovvorn moved to HSUS in 2005, he was a partner at MGC and according to court documents was involved in the animal-rights litigation against Feld.

    Back to the present. HSUS’s statement in response to ASPCA’s $9.3 million settlement has been weak. HSUS points out that it wasn’t a party in the initial litigation against Feld. So what? As this bit of evidence shows, HSUS gave money to a front group that paid a witness, and the HSUS bagman delivering the payola was a former partner at the plaintiffs’ law firm, which itself had directly paid the witness as well.

    In all, HSUS’s response is about as effective as a sixth-grade playground comeback.

    Wayne Pacelle’s leadership could already be under question after HSUS finds itself in federal court. Again. But with Pacelle signing at least one check, there could be more to his involvement.

    Let’s ask the old Watergate question: What did Wayne Pacelle know and when did he know it?

    We’ll let you know if we get an answer. Hopefully, the HSUS board is interested in finding out, too.

    Posted on 01/12/2013 at 3:26 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom DramaFundraising & MoneyThe Best of HumaneWatch


  • HSUS's Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

    Two developments emerged today that could be body-blows to the Humane Society of the United States and its deceptive practices of raising money from pet loving Americans who are deceived into giving to the group.

    First, news broke this morning that the ASPCA has agreed to pay Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Bros. Circus, nearly $10 million as part of a settlement in a federal racketeering lawsuit. Feld will continue its litigation against other defendants, including HSUS and two of its attorneys. HSUS could be on the hook for millions upon millions in damages. And for anyone who may have been thinking this lawsuit didn’t have merit, the fact that ASPCA was worried enough to shell out almost $10 million just to make it go away should make them think again.

    Meanwhile, whenever HSUS is exposed for getting a “D” grade from the respected American Institute of Philanthropy, HSUS hides behind its “accreditation” from the Better Business Bureau. But as USA Today reports this morning, the BBB’s charity rating arm is under fire for taking money from some of the charities it rates (including HSUS). In fact, HSUS had to pay BBB $15,000 in order to use the BBB seal on their marketing materials. U.S. Senator and former Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal says this practice “unquestionably” has implications for the BBB’s “credibility and possible conflicts of interest.”

    One issue is that the BBB excuses accounting practices that allow charities to classify fundraising costs as “educational” costs. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle musters up a lame excuse for USA Today that HSUS has nebulous “influence,” as if that should excuse or take precedence over the organization’s practices.

    Fortunately, others aren’t buying what Pacelle’s shoveling:

    "If you like getting those mailings and want to pay for more of them, support the Humane Society," says [American Institute of Philanthropy head David] Borochoff. "It you want to give more for programs or services that benefit animals and advocate better rules and protections for animals, they are not a good target because the portion of their budget they give to these programs is too small."

    Nathan Winograd, an author and prominent advocate of "no-kill" animal shelters, says the disagreement is emblematic of a larger problem with HSUS.

    "Only the leadership of HSUS could contrive fundraising letters as program expenses," Winograd says. "If they actually spent as much time, energy and money on saving animals as they now only pretend to, not only would they not have to cover up their failures to do so with these kind of mental gymnastics, they could truly be the heroes they now only pretend to be."

    Wayne Pacelle can’t talk his way out of every problem. Today’s double-whammy could take a good chunk out of Wayne’s façade of running a legitimate, worthy charity.

    Posted on 12/29/2012 at 3:33 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom DramaFundraising & Money


  • RICO Update: Lawsuit Against HSUS Moves Forward

    We have another update in the decade-plus-long litigation drama involving several animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, involving their alleged racketeering scheme against Feld Entertainment, owner of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

    You may recall that in late 2009, animal rights groups saw their legal offensive against the circus tossed out of federal court by United States District Judge Emmet Sullivan of the District of Columbia. Meanwhile, Feld filed a suit against the animal rights groups alleging injuries under the Racketeer Influence and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO), the same law that’s been used to bust mobsters. Very saucy. On July 9, Sullivan denied most of the requests for a motion to dismiss brought by the defendants. Feld’s RICO suit will move forward.

    Feld first took on the animal rights bullies when they found a plaintiff to sue Feld back in 2000. Tom Rider, a former Feld trainer, alleged elephant abuse by Feld in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

    The basis of Feld’s RICO suit is that the plaintiffs in the ESA lawsuit, the animal rights groups that are now defendants, were aware that Rider wasn’t telling the truth. Feld also alleges that improper payments were made to Rider, the star witness and named plaintiff in the ESA action. The payments of $1,000 every two weeks added up to $190,000 in Rider’s pocket, which was, as the court later found, Rider’s “sole source of income.”

    Feld’s other RICO allegations involve violations of the federal mail and wire fraud statutes and false testimony by Rider. 

    In 2009, almost a decade after the initial filing, Judge Sullivan threw out the ESA lawsuit, finding that the animal rights plaintiffs lacked legal standing to sue, and further finding that that Rider was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible” whose testimony was given no weight by the court. Again, Rider received a whopping $190,000 from the animal rights groups. All the while, Rider made claims that he had a “personal attachment” to the elephants and that he suffered “aesthetic injury” from the way they were abused—claims that a judge found to be totally lacking credibility. The Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal. (The full opinion is here.)

    What’s been alleged here is an incredibly elaborate scheme, one that constitutes racketeering under federal law.

    So where does HSUS stand in this legal mess?

    First, you need to know that the Fund for Animals (FFA) was one of the original plaintiffs in the suit against Feld back in 2000.  FFA has been accused of concealing payments to Rider and working with the other activist organizations to do so.

    So why do FFA’s actions matter? Feld alleges that HSUS and FFA acted as the same group after HSUS obtained most of FFA’s assets in 2005, which, as the judge found here, could make HSUS liable for FFA’s actions under a theory of de facto merger that gives the successor company liability. On top of that, Feld also alleges that the FFA/HSUS merged entity still participated in the improper payments to Rider. Because of this, Judge Sullivan denied the HSUS motion to dismiss the RICO lawsuit.

    But let’s not forget about two other defendants in this lawsuit: Jonathan Lovvorn and Kimberly Ockene. At the time of the original suit against Feld, Lovvorn and Ockene were partners at Meyer Glitzenstein and Crystal, the law firm that helped funnel money to Rider, according to Feld’s suit. Today, Lovvorn and Ockene are attorneys for HSUS. The court found that both might be held jointly and severally liable for the actions of the partners and the firm.

    Feld also claims that Lovvorn is directly liable for his alleged knowledge and discussion of payments to Rider and that he participated in at least some of the payments that FFA/HSUS made to Rider. Feld also claims that as a partner leading the ESA litigation, he may be liable as a controlling member of the RICO scheme. As for Ockene, Feld alleges that she might be indirectly liable for racketeering based on her “provid[ing] misleading and/or false interrogatory answers in order to cover up the payments to Rider, and defend[ing] a deposition in which the deponent gave false testimony about the Rider payments.”  On all of these allegations, the court refused to dismiss these charges against them.

    Legally speaking, this ruling merely clears the way for the case to move forward. A motion to dismiss is a typical action of any defendant. The standard of review for this motion is to assume that everything that the plaintiff alleges is correct, so there is a high bar that defendants must meet in order to stop the suit. Feld only missed that mark in a few instances, so the majority of the suit can still go forward.

    As for the original suit that we updated you about in April: A quick look at PACER shows that Feld is still hoping to recover $20 million in attorney’s fees, while the attorneys from both sides snipe at each other over their claims.

    The RICO defendants now have until August 7 to respond to Feld’s complaint, and so, barring an extension, we’ll be able to give you an update next month.

    When you really consider the assault on circuses, whether it’s from Congress or from animal rights lawyers, it’s a wonder that any group can survive. Thanks to Feld, others can now see that it is worthwhile to fight back and defend yourself. Unfortunately, it may be donors to HSUS—who probably thought their money was going to help dogs and cats—who end up paying Feld’s legal bills or treble damages under RICO.

    Posted on 07/11/2012 at 1:17 am by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom Drama


  • The Bottom Line: HSUS = PETA

    While this isn’t a website about PETA (if you want one, try this), it’s helpful to remember the bigger picture. HSUS is not about animal welfare, it’s about animal rights.

    Your local humane society is about animal welfare—ensuring animals are treated well. The Humane Society of the United States is different than (and unaffiliated with) local humane societies. It’s about ending most uses of animals under the premise that use equals abuse. Given that the vast majority of Americans eat meat, for example, HSUS isn’t going to win influence by claiming, as PETA does, that giving a kid a hamburger is child abuse. HSUS is smart enough to know this.

    Writing in The New Yorker a few years back, Michael Specter put it well:

    It has been argued many times that in any social movement there has to be somebody radical enough to alienate the mainstream–and to permit more moderate influences to prevail. For every Malcolm X there is a Martin Luther King, Jr., and for every Andrea Dworkin there is a Gloria Steinem. Newkirk and PETA provide a similar dynamic for groups like the Humane Society of the United States…

    When you do a little digging, you discover that PETA’s practically a revolving door for HSUS employees, a radical training ground before these activists don a more respectable brand (to say nothing of clothing…). Here’s a list of just some of the links we’ve dug up:

    • Matt Prescott, HSUS food policy director—former corporate campaigner with PETA
    • Ann Chynoweth, senior director of the End Animal Fighting and Cruelty Campaign at HSUS—former researcher and the director of grassroots campaigns at PETA
    • Mary Beth Sweetland, HSUS director of investigation—former director of research and rescue at PETA
    • Paul Shapiro, “factory farm” campaign director—former PETA volunteer
    • Alexis Fox, Mass. state director—former legal fellow at The PETA Foundation (aka Foundation to Support Animal Protection)
    • Jill Fritz, HSUS Mich. Director— former PETA student coordinator
    • Peter Petersan, Deputy Director of Animal Protection Litigation—former PETA activist
    • Leana Stormont, HSUS attorney—former PETA counsel
    • Miyun Park, former HSUS VP—former PETA employee
    • Patrick Kwan, New York state director—former media assistant for PETA-linked Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

    Keep in mind that this is just PETA and its quasi-medical front group the “Physicians Committee” for “Responsible Medicine.” (Click the link to see why the scare quotes are appropriate.) There’s a whole web of animal rights groups with essentially the same agenda: to eliminate the use of animals for food, research, clothing, and entertainment. Many HSUS leaders come from these groups—PETA-esque in worldview, but without the same budget or notoriety as PETA. Wayne Pacelle, Michael Markarian, and several HSUS board members hail from the Fund for Animals, an anti-hunting group, for one example.

    Here’s HSUS and PETA in their own words. On the major goals, we can’t see any difference:

    PETA Says…                                                       

    "Animals Are Not Ours to Eat"

    "Animals Are Not Ours to Wear"

    "Animals Are Not Ours to Experiment On"

    "Animals Are Not Ours to Use for Entertainment"

    HSUS Says…

    “We don't want any of these animals to be raised and killed.”

    “HSUS is committed to ending…killing for fur.”

    “HSUS advocates an end to the use of animals in research…”

    HSUS “opposes the use of wild animals in circuses”

    Posted on 05/01/2012 at 1:16 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureCircusesFur & FashionMedical Research


  • Will HSUS Be Bullhooked for Millions in Legal Fees?

    The ongoing legal drama between a set of animal rights groups and Feld Entertainment, which owns the Ringling Bros. circus, has taken a saucy new turn. And it looks like the animal rights activists and their lawyers could soon be neck-deep in elephant dung.

    First, a quick review. Animal rights activists brought a lawsuit against Feld in 2000 alleging elephant abuse in violation of the Endangered Species Act, with former Feld trainer Tom Rider as a key witness and plaintiff. After years of legal wrangling, D.C. federal judge Emmet Sullivan threw out the lawsuit in late 2009, finding that the plaintiffs lacked standing and—more importantly—that Rider was “essentially a paid plaintiff and fact witness who is not credible” after receiving at least $190,000 from the animal rights cabal, his sole source of income as the case made its way through the courts. A US Court of Appeals recently upheld the dismissal. (Read the full opinion here.)

    Feld returned fire, filing a racketeering lawsuit that hinges on the court’s findings. How the alleged scheme worked, according to Sullivan’s 2009 ruling, was essentially that counsel for plaintiffs' law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein, and Crystal ran a nonprofit called the “Wildlife Advocacy Project” (WAP) and other groups funneled money through it to Rider. (Rider also allegedly received payments directly from animal rights group plaintiffs and through MGC.)

    HSUS fits in because the Fund for Animals was a plaintiff in the suit against Feld, and merged with HSUS in 2004/2005. Fund chief—now an HSUS executive—Michael Markarian also apparently fits into the equation, according to Sullivan’s ruling:

    Beginning in December 2001 and continuing until at least the beginning of 2008, the organizational plaintiffs made payments to WAP for the purpose of funding Mr. Rider. While FFA/HSUS (Mr. Markarian) testified that it was not certain whether WAP used its “donations” for other purposes as well, this testimony is undermined by the documents underlying FFA/HSUS’s “donations,” which indicate that the money was specifically for use in connection with this litigation. FFA/HSUS’s testimony also is questionable given that in 2003, plaintiffs’ counsel, Ms. Meyer, specifically sent an email to the representatives of the organizational plaintiffs, including Mr. Markarian, requesting funds to support Mr. Rider’s advocacy efforts regarding the elephants and the lawsuit, and expressly suggesting that the funds for Mr. Rider could be contributed to WAP so that they would be tax deductible.

    Also named in the racketeering lawsuit are HSUS attorney Kimberly Ockene and HSUS Senior Vice President Jonathan Lovvorn, both of whom used to work at Meyer, Glitzenstein, and Crystal and were plaintiff attorneys during the Endangered Species Act complaint. In fact, Feld’s attorneys allege that money was taken out of an HSUS bank account and earmarked for Rider.

    So what’s new?

    Last week Feld’s attorneys filed a motion in the original case—not the racketeering case—demanding that the plaintiffs pay for legal fees that Feld accrued, totaling an estimated $20 million. Defending a lawsuit for a decade tends to be an expensive endeavor, after all.

    This could be a double-whammy for HSUS. It could be on the hook for a good chunk of the $20 million in legal fees. Additionally, Feld is seeking treble damages under RICO against HSUS and the other defendants in the separate racketeering lawsuit—so add another $60 million to the potential pot.

    And that’s not all.

    Feld’s attorneys are also asking the court to officially sanction the attorneys for their conduct. They allege that “Not only did counsel bring fraudulent (Rider) and frivolous (API) claims, they doggedly pursued them for more than eleven years.” Feld alleges that the plaintiffs knew that their key witness was unreliable and “each and every step of the way counsel had an opportunity to drop either Rider or API or both (and put an end to FEI’s mounting legal expenses). Yet they did not. Instead, they embraced Rider’s lies and API’s meritless and hollow allegations…”

    And since the court is apparently allowed to hold the attorneys jointly and severally liable for the estimated $20 million in legal fees (if the court rules the plaintiffs should pay it), that means HSUS, Lovvorn, and Ockene, among others, could have quite the bill, along with a bench-slap to go with it.

    We encourage you to read the whole motion for all the intricacies and details. When there’s a ruling, we’ll be sure you’re among the first to know.

    Posted on 04/19/2012 at 9:30 pm by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom Drama


  • RICO Update: Was HSUS Involved in a Pay-to-Play Racket?

    When we formally launched HumaneWatch in February 2010, one of the first things we reported on was that the Humane Society of the United States and two of its lawyers were defendants in a federal racketeering lawsuit. There are some key updates that you should be aware of.

    First, some background: A decade ago, animal-rights groups sued Feld Entertainment (parent company of the Ringling Brothers circus) alleging elephant abuse in violation of the Endangered Species Act. That lawsuit was dismissed by a US District Court, and a US Court of Appeals upheld the dismissal the other week.

    The key witness in that case was a former circus employee named Tom Rider. The case dragged through the court system for years before a federal judge ruled in December 2009 that the animal-rights plaintiffs, which included the Fund for Animals (which merged with HSUS in 2004/2005), had engaged in essentially a pay-to-play scheme with Rider, who received at least $190,000 as the lawsuit made its way through the courts (his “sole source of income,” according to the ruling). Here’s part of the ruling (Markarian is an HSUS executive who used to run the Fund for Animals):

    Beginning in December 2001 and continuing until at least the beginning of 2008, the organizational plaintiffs made payments to [the Wildlife Advocacy Project] for the purpose of funding Mr. Rider. While FFA/HSUS (Mr. Markarian) testified that it was not certain whether WAP used its “donations” for other purposes as well, this testimony is undermined by the documents underlying FFA/HSUS’s “donations,” which indicate that the money was specifically for use in connection with this litigation. FFA/HSUS’s testimony also is questionable given that in 2003, plaintiffs’ counsel, Ms. Meyer, specifically sent an email to the representatives of the organizational plaintiffs, including Mr. Markarian, requesting funds to support Mr. Rider’s advocacy efforts regarding the elephants and the lawsuit, and expressly suggesting that the funds for Mr. Rider could be contributed to WAP so that they would be tax deductible.

    Meanwhile, in 2007, Feld filed a countersuit under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, better known as RICO, using this scheme as the key allegation. That case is still in pre-discovery wrangling (a good lawyer is paid to delay, after all), but named among the defendants are HSUS and two of its lawyers, Kimberly Ockene and Senior VP Jonathan Lovvorn (both of whom came to HSUS a few years ago after being employed at a DC law firm named as a separate defendant).

    A key question in the case is whether HSUS is liable—after all, it wasn’t a party in the original suit and didn’t merge with the Fund until 2004.

    In a June hearing on various motions from the animal-rights defendants in the RICO case, we saw that Feld’s counsel made some interesting allegations on this point (accessible through PACER):

    HSUS is in it as an independent racketeer.…They sent six payments to WAP that were earmarked for Tom Rider, and those payments were made, as we showed, out of a HSUS bank account, on HSUS stationary, a HSUS check sent by a HSUS employee, Jonathan Lovvorn, who had been a partner in that firm before he came over there [to HSUS]. So the idea that they didn’t know about this, that they were innocent, that they were duped, it’s ridiculous. They were in the middle of this.

    They are also clearly a conspirator, as is Lovvorn and Ockene. In United States v. Salinas…you just have to further the object of the endeavor, intend to further the object of the endeavor. How is that not satisfied by HSUS making six of the payments? How is that not satisfied by Lovvorn and Ockene being counsel of record in a fraudulent case, and proceeding in a fraudulent case, which is what we’ve alleged; but in addition to what we already know, participating in the obstructions themselves, and also participating in any payments.

    The other interesting part of Feld’s allegations is that the animal-rights plaintiffs used the lawsuit to promote a legislative agenda across the US, and that they were able to use the case to raise money in the years during which it was in the courts. We can explore that at a later time.

    In the end, Feld claims that the animal-rights lawsuit it defended cost $20 million in legal defenses, and they can be awarded treble damages–$60 million–under RICO. (Defending a frivolous case for so many years tends to rack up the billable hours.) It certainly appears that HSUS could be on the hook for a good chunk of that.

    However the case turns out, it’s one more reason to keep your money local. Pet shelters—the ones primarily doing hands-on work—can’t engage in legal shenanigans. They’re too busy spending their money to care for animals. But when you’re a $200-million behemoth with 30 lawyers on staff that donates very little to help these shelters, that’s a different situation.

    Posted on 11/10/2011 at 10:09 pm by The Team.

    Topics: CircusesCourtroom Drama


  • “Change Agenda” Report Card: HSUS's Ambitions Flounder

    Our national mood was quite different after the 2008 elections—different enough, in fact, that HSUS confidently issued a 100-point “Change Agenda for Animals” to challenge the incoming White House and Congress to do its bidding.

    One year later, HSUS issued the Obama Administration a "B-minus" grade; (which is far better than the "D" grade HSUS itself was recently awarded by a respected charity watchdog). The B-minus was widely seen as a practical nod to the difficulties of getting anything approved by the proverbial sausage factory (sorry, Wayne) that is the U.S. Congress. 

    Two years in, the sun is setting on the 111th Congress, and on the first half of President Obama's first term. HSUS has spent millions of dollars lobbying for its agenda. How did it do?

    We went through HSUS’s 100 lobbying priorities, awarding 1 point for each HSUS success, 1/2-point for partial credit, and 0 points for failure.

    Total score? Six and one-half. Out of a hundred. (No wonder HSUS hasn't issued itself a scorecard.) 

    Here’s a sampling of the "change" that  HSUS's brought about:

    • The Truth in Fur Labeling Act (#56) requires that all fur garments (even lower-priced items with a little bit of fur trim) have labels indicating if real fur was used. It's hard to see how this would be controversial.
    • A re-worked federal law has once again banned animal "crush" videos (#46), twisted pornography in which animals are killed for the sexual gratification of the viewer. Yes, such things exist. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down HSUS's original law on free speech grounds. Assuming this new law passes constitutional muster, it's just as much a no-brainer as the flawed law it replaced.
    • There are new efforts to enforce a ban (#99) on using the U.S. Postal Service to distribute publications about dog fighting and cockfighting. Was anyone (other than HSUS front-man Michael Vick) really against this?

    If there's a pattern here, it's one of HSUS settling for low-hanging fruit. With a friendly Congress and White House, you'd think the richest animal rights group in history could get more done. Not that we're complaining, mind you. Some of HSUS's "Change Agenda" was pretty loony:

    • Do we really need the U.S. Census Bureau (#54) and the CDC (#86) to count everyone's pets?
    • Does the White House really need a permanent "Animal Liaison" (HSUS's top agenda item), a job for which Wayne Pacelle reportedly nominated himself?
    • If a disabled person finds a trained monkey makes a better service animal than a dog, who are we to say he or she can't have one (#48)?
    • What the heck is so awful about "swim with the dolphins" programs that requires "new regulations" (#13)?
    • And don't get us started about the idiotic proposed ban on "nontherapeutic" antibiotics for farm animals (#78). If HSUS wants to leave cows, pigs, and chickens far more vulnerable to disease, it should stop calling itself a "humane society."

    HSUS, obviously, has much grander ambitions than just taking on animal fighting, which is a good use of resources(when it's not busy coddling the offenders). The group wants to change federal policies to attack livestock farms, gradually take lab rats out of cancer research centers, and tighten restrictions on zoos and circuses until they are all forced to do without, well … animals. And HSUS has hoped for at least 30 years to win animals their legal "rights," an endgame which (practically speaking) includes giving animals the right to sue people. One of HSUS's 30+ in-house lawyers, of course, will "speak for the voiceless" in court.

    Much of HSUS's long-term vision is explicitly left out of its 100-point wish list. There has to be a reason for HSUS (or any pushy lobby group) to keep raising money, even if all its wishes were magically granted.

    At its current success rate, HSUS will need another 14 years or so to get its 100-point agenda passed. But that assumes, of course, that both the legislative and executive branches of the federal government remain as animal-rights-friendly as they have been in the past two years. We think Wayne Pacelle and Michael Markarian are pacing themselves, like any good politician would.

    If you deliver on all your promises, after all, what's left to fundraise on? 

    Posted on 12/31/2010 at 12:07 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureAnimal FightingCircusesFundraising & MoneyFur & FashionGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsWildlifeZoos & Aquariums


  • Green Is the New (Old?) Pacelle

    Let’s take a walk back to the ’80s. No, mullets and M.C. Hammer parachute pants aren't coming back into style. We're going to take a look at Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle’s entry into animal-rights politics 23 years ago.

    In 1987, Pacelle was fresh out of college and quite the busy bee in the animal rights world. In September of that year he joined the aggressive Animals’ Agenda magazine as an Associate Editor. Two months later, he ran for Alderman in New Haven, Connecticut. (He lost.)

    What’s interesting, though is that Pacelle ran as a member of the Green Party. (We’ve written before—see here, here, here, and here—about the longstanding alliance between the environmental and animal rights movements, so that’s no surprise.)

    And what the Greens stood for in the late ’80s provides a unique window into what Pacelle hoped to gain—and still does—by becoming a political animal.

    In July 1987 when Green Party activists met in Amherst, Masachussets to discuss a national party platform, a group of animal “liberationists” offered a 12-point plan called “Ethical Treatment of Animals.” 

    Here’s the more interesting half of what they wanted (emphasis added):

    1. We are firmly committed to the eventual abolition by law of animal research
    3. We encourage vegetarianism for ethical, ecological, and health reasons …
    4. Steps should be taken to begin phasing out intensive confinement systems of livestock production …
    8. Hunting, trapping, and fishing for sport should be prohibited …
    10. We strongly discourage any further breeding of companion animals
    11. We call for an end to the use of animals in entertainment and sports such as … rodeos, circuses …  [and] quasi-educational institutions such as zoos and aquariums

    Ultimately, most of these policies made it into the Green Party platform in one form or another. The official latest version, approved in April 2010, reads like the combined Christmas wish-lists of HSUS and PETA.

    The 1987 proposals were just what you’d expect from animal liberationists writing a platform for a third-party organization. They wanted to abolish large-scale animal agriculture, spread vegetarianism, shut down zoos, end life-saving medical research that used animals, and even discourage more animals from being born (which sounds eerily familiar).

    We don’t know if Wayne Pacelle was at the 1987 Green Party meeting, but Amherst isn’t far from New Haven. And the 12-point plank was printed in Animals’ Agenda in November 1987—two months after Pacelle joined the magazine’s editorial staff, and the same month he ran (as a Green) for New Haven Alderman.

    It seems fair to conclude that Wayne Pacelle, already a hardened animal rights activist whose star was on the rise in “the movement,” subscribed to these 12 points. And behind the PR mask, the careful wordsmithing, and the issue-dodging in Pacelle’s repertoire, we think he still does.

    Hat tip: National Animal Interest Alliance, for archiving the Green Party’s 1987 animal liberation platform

    Posted on 12/24/2010 at 12:56 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureCircusesGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHunting & FishingMedical ResearchRodeosZoos & Aquariums