Topic: Document Analysis

  • Responding to HSUS Dodges and Disinformation

    [UPDATE 7/16/12: Click here to read our new report on HSUS's deceptive fundraising]

    [Note: Click here to download a PDF of this post]

    The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has come under criticism for its failure to support local pet shelters and local humane societies. A recent report by HumaneWatch, a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom, determined that HSUS gives less than one percent of its annual budget to local groups—totaling $527,000 over the last three years—despite raising more than $120 million annually.

    In response, HSUS argues that it is unfair to hold it accountable for not supporting pet shelters, because that is not part of its mission. HSUS President Wayne Pacelle writes that HSUS’s mission is to tackle “the large-scale cruelties beyond the reach of local humane societies.” 

    That is an artful dodge. HSUS is fully aware that most Americans believe it is an umbrella organization representing the nation’s local hands-on pet shelters. Furthermore, HSUS openly exploits this misperception with advertisements and fundraising materials clearly intended to give the deceptive impression that a significant portion of HSUS’s activities support the direct care of homeless pets.

    Consider the following:

    1. Polling Proof of Misperception

    A recent national poll conducted by the Opinion Research Corporation determined that 71 percent of Americans believe that the “Humane Society of the United States is an umbrella group that represents thousands of local humane societies all across America.” The same poll determined that 59 percent of Americans believe that HSUS “contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats.” The HSUS refuses to clearly indicate to donors that use of their contributions will not be aligned with donor intent. 

    2. Failure to Disclose

    While HSUS never explicitly says that it financially supports local animal shelters, it also does not obviously disclose the fact that it does not fund local shelters. Instead, HSUS largely allows the clear and proven misperception to stand unaddressed.

    At the same time, nowhere on HSUS’s website donation page or its fundraising material does it explicitly say that HSUS is not associated with local animal shelters. Even the page titled “Donations F.A.Q.” fails to disclose the fact that HSUS has no formal affiliation with local pet shelters. On HSUS’s “About Us: Direct Care” webpage, it writes: “The HSUS has stood as the nation's most important advocate for local humane societies.”

    Astonishingly, on a webpage titledHave a question?” HSUS dodges its own question:

    How is The HSUS affiliated with my local humane society?

    For more than a half century, The HSUS has stood as the nation's most important advocate for local humane societies.  Additionally, The HSUS operates its own network of sanctuaries, providing care and homes to more animals than any other national animal protection organization in the United States.

    For example, the Nevada Humane Society (an animal sheltering organization not affiliated with HSUS) attempted to rent HSUS’s mailing list for fundraising purposes. As a condition of that use, HSUS required the Nevada Humane Society remove a statement pointing out that it does not receive funding from “national groups” from their materials and any future mailings.

    3. Many Local Shelters are Frustrated with HSUS

    Recent news stories have quoted a variety of animal shelter professionals responding to HSUS’s failure to support local shelters. In a recent interview with News 12 New Jersey, Roseann Trezza, Executive Director of New Jersey’s Associated Humane Societies, commented: “We receive nothing from them. And the amount of money they get nationally and don’t share with needy shelters like ours is a shame.” Amanda Welby from the Seattle Humane Society told Fox Spokane that the misunderstanding between HSUS and local shelters is “a good source of confusion for a lot of our donors. […] We have had issues with people who would intend to name us in their will, but actually name the Humane Society of the United States.”

    4. Citing Shelter Euthanasia Rates as a Reason to Support HSUS

    In its fundraising materials and elsewhere, HSUS references the number of animals euthanized in local animal shelters each year as an important reason to support HSUS.

    For instance, a fundraising video featuring actress Jenna Elfman explicitly cites the number of animals euthanized in local animal shelters each year as a primary reason to support HSUS. And in a recent fundraising letter, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle wrote:

    Over 4,000,000 loving pets are put to death each year … local shelters try their best to save lives, but they are simply overwhelmed and need our help—YOURS AND MINE—TO HELP INCREASE ADOPTIONS.

    But, of course, HSUS does very little to actually help save animals from being euthanized. As any shelter veteran will acknowledge, preventing animals from being euthanized takes money to pay for food and boarding costs. No amount of “support” in the form of magazine subscriptions, training programs, or expensive shelter evaluations (offered by the HSUS for a fee) will keep animals from being put down.

    5. Support HSUS to Support Local Shelters

    In a recent fundraising mailing, HSUS provided a list of the top ten reasons to support HSUS. The top reason read:

    Accompanying the list was a picture of a sullen-looking cat. 

    6. Deceptive Imagery of Puppies and Kittens

    A recent review of HSUS’s fundraising videos determined that more than 85 percent of all of the animals used in them were either dogs or cats. The same holds true for much of its direct mail and email fundraising documents, which often feature photos of dog or cats inside cages or in animal shelters. In truth, the HSUS spends far more time on meat and egg issues. 

    7. HSUS Gives Shelters “Assistance”…For a Price

    In its defense, HSUS provides a laundry list of things they do to assist local shelters. For instance, HSUS publishes Animal Sheltering magazine.  They also provide training through Humane Society University, conduct shelter evaluations, and host conferences for shelter professionals.

    They make no mention that all of these services come at a cost to shelters.  They charge a subscription fee for Animal Sheltering magazine. A shelter evaluation reportedly costs up to $25,000—and that doesn’t cover the cost of implementing the evaluation’s suggested reforms.  Humane Society University charges $1,050 for an undergraduate class and $1,350 for a graduate-level class. Even HSUS’s Animal Care Expo costs $250 for registration.

    8. Rewriting its Founding Mission

    HSUS defends its failure to substantially support local animal shelters, writing on its website that complaints amount to a willful disregard for HSUS’s “founding mission and long history … This has never been our purpose and never been our claim. Our founders instead sought to attack all kinds of cruelty at its roots, wherever it was occurring.”

    HSUS Special Policy Advisor and Assistant Treasurer Bernard Unti recently wrote in Protecting All Animals: A Fifty-year History of the Humane Society of the United States:

    The original bylaws of The HSUS provided for its ownership and operation of shelter facilities through established branches conceived as integral units of the parent organization. Such ownership proved to be impractical on several grounds, but it did not prevent The HSUS from becoming deeply involved with local animal shelters and their problems. Ultimately, it did so by establishing an affiliates program to forge closer ties to local societies for the prevention of cruelty to animals.”

    Unti also noted in Protecting All Animals that until the early 1970s when John Hoyt became HSUS’s president, HSUS’s policy was to share most of its revenue with the state-level HSUS affiliates that worked on direct animal care. Unti wrote:

    “Under long-standing arrangements, The HSUS designated 60 percent of all funds raised from members within the branch states for use by the chapters, with the national organization taking the rest.”


    Wayne Pacelle recently challenged “gullible or sloppy” reporters to “do their homework.”  We couldn’t agree more.

    Posted on 11/10/2011 at 12:31 am by The Team.

    Topics: AnnouncementsDocument Analysis


  • Wayne Pacelle, Humane Bully?

    A firestorm erupted in the animal welfare community several weeks ago when the State Humane Association of California (SHAC, which represents over 140 humane societies, SPCAs and animal control agencies) filed a complaint with the state Attorney General against the ASPCA. With a bombshell letter from HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, the firestorm just got a lot hotter.

    SHAC’s problem is the name confusion between the ASPCA and individual SPCAs located in California (which are not affiliated with the ASPCA). SHAC says many California donors give to the ASPCA thinking—in part based on ASPCA’s fundraising messages—that their contributions will trickle down to California SPCAs. (The money largely doesn’t.)

    The same argument can be applied to HSUS, of course, which isn’t affiliated with any “humane society” pet shelters anywhere in California. Surely HSUS feels threatened by the action against the ASPCA, since it could find itself on the hot seat next.

    This is where Pacelle’s letter comes in. He sent it to Steve McNall, a member of SHAC’s board of directors. (McNall is also president of the Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA.)  We received a copy of the letter in the HumaneWatch post office box this week.

    (Note: It’s important to distinguish this “SHAC” from a violent animal rights group with the same initials, whose leaders were convicted in 2006 on federal terrorism charges. We’re not talking about that “SHAC.” More after the jump.)

    In his April 29 letter, Pacelle complains about handouts that SHAC board member Madeline Bernstein and SHAC executive director Erica Hughes circulated recently in the California legislature. (Both SHAC and HSUS have active lobbyists in place there.)

    What’s dogging him is that the SHAC handout dares to point out the plain truth about HSUS. Here’s a quote from the pamphlet (which we’ve added to the HumaneWatch document library):

    How is SHAC different from HSUS and the ASPCA?…

    ASPCA and HSUS are not umbrella, parent or sister organizations to local humane societies and SPCAs, contrary to the conclusion many reach based on the inclusion of “United States” in HSUS’s name and “American” in ASPCA’s name.

    While ASPCA and HSUS may give individual shelters funding from time to time for particular projects, ASPCA and HSUS do not regularly fund California’s shelters and are not involved in their management or operations. [Emphasis in original.]

    The truth certainly seems to hurt Pacelle. He lashes out against Bernstein and Hughes in his letter:

    I have instructed every one of our state directors to maintain a focus on establishing, growing, and nurturing collaborative relationships with other humane leaders. This is in fact the natural predilection of our California state director, so keeping focused on this goal has not been terribly difficult—in spite of the challenges associated with dealing with the confrontational posture manifested by Erica and Madeline.

    It’s not helpful for our broader cause to have a few individuals acting on the Association’s behalf conducting themselves in this way. We don’t believe these actions reflect well on the Association, and where HSUS is concerned, they seem incongruous with our sense of the broader views held of the Association. I do think it’s time for corrective action, because the absence of it sends a signal to us that this behavior is not of concern to you. And if there are concerns that the Association board has with regard to HSUS activities in California, we would like to hear, discuss, and sort through them. [Emphasis added.]

    Reading between the lines, here’s what Pacelle seems to be saying: Throw these two troublemakers under the bus. Or else.

    Apparently Pacelle is asserting some self-important moral authority as the head of a group with a $121-million budget, to badger a smaller organization (which brings in just $80,000 a year) for daring to speak truth to power.

    This is politics at its lowest. More and more pet shelter directors are fed up with the name confusion stemming from the words “Humane Society” on HSUS’s letterhead. And when someone stands up and tries to educate lawmakers, HSUS wants to slap them down.

    In Pacelle’s mind, telling the truth is “confrontational.” (We can only imagine what he thinks of HumaneWatch.)

    Here’s hoping the good guys stand up to the schoolyard bully. Take it from us: It’s well worth the effort.

    Posted on 06/09/2011 at 12:11 am by The Team.

    Topics: Document AnalysisGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsThe Best of HumaneWatch


  • Peck-Peck-Pecking Away at Washington Egg Farmers

    It’s been a little over two years since the Humane Society of the United States and its activist ally Farm Sanctuary convinced a majority of California voters to deliver a crippling electoral blow to the state's farmers. This year the animal rights groups are targeting the state of Washington with the same outcome in mind: an eggless America.

    Animal rights lobbyists from the other Washington—Washington, DC—are managing a campaign committee called “Washingtonians for Humane Farms,” and if you live in the Evergreen State they might be canvassing your neighborhood already. Their short-term goal is to secure at least 241,000 signatures so their “important measure” will appear on the November ballot.

    If Washington voters were to approve it, this measure would make it illegal for Washington farmers to raise egg-laying hens in cages. Additionally, regular eggs would be banned from grocery stores. (Unlike in California’s “Proposition 2,” there’s no ambiguity about whether farmers can use “enriched” cages of the type that Temple Grandin and the American Humane Association endorse. They would also be banned.)

    Signature-gathering animal rights activists will likely tell voters that the only way to ensure hens lead happy and healthy lives is to force every farmer to go cage-free. Science, however, is anything but clear on the topic.

    HSUS's minions may ultimately be doing more harm than good. And yes, they are HSUS's minions: With records current through February 10, Washington's Public Disclosure Commission reports [ 1 | 2 ] that HSUS is the only cash contributor to the campaign so far—putting $150,000 of its donors' money into the campaign in January.

    Here are three animal-welfare reasons why voters should squawk when HSUS’s wing-flappers solicit their support to criminalize the sale of "regular" eggs:

    1. Hen mortality rate: Dr. Joy Mench, a leading Animal Science professor at UC-Davis, tells the Sacramento Bee that cage-free hens die at more than twice the rate of caged hens, likely the result of increased exposure to one another (and to their own manure).
    2. Broken bones: Dr. Mench adds that cage-free hens, left to jump around the barn, suffer high rates of broken bones, as high as 67 percent in one study.
    3. Stress: Scientists at Australia’s Sydney University found that free-range and “open-barn” chickens experience just as much stress as caged birds, since they have to deal with extra pressures like extreme temperatures, parasites, and predators.

    Why would anyone interested in the welfare of chickens want to recommend a wholesale switch to a system that will end up making conditions worse for more of them? It’s a mystery.

    But more than 40 animal rights and environmental groups have already endorsed HSUS’s ballot measure. Not surprisingly, a large majority of them are from out of state, and few have any practical experience working with poultry.

    Here are a few of the more notable ones:

    • Farm Sanctuary: HSUS’s campaign ally in California has a history of pushing for farm animals’ legal “rights” in Florida, California, New York, New Jersey, and Arizona. After successfully adding pregnant pigs to Florida’s Constitution in 2002, Farm Sanctuary paid a $50,000 fine for violating Florida election law at least 210 times. HSUS has funneled more than $111,000 to Farm Sanctuary—money that supports its manipulation of donors and voters alike.
    • Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM): Although this group’s name may sound mainstream and lab-coated, PCRM got its start as an affiliate of PETA and its founding leader was also president of the PETA Foundation for several years. PCRM’s principle goal is to make Americans leery about eating meat, milk, seafood, and (you guessed it) eggs. The doctors’ paraphernalia is largely just window-dressing, however, since the vast majority of PCRM’s members never went to medical school.
    • United Poultry Concerns: Best known for the antics of its wacky leader whose pet chickens roam her Virginia home, this group has engaged in letter writing campaigns, grocery-store protests, and Thanksgiving-day vigils for dead turkeys. UPC’s affinity for fowl is so strong that it even protests rubber-chicken manufacturers. We're not kidding.
    • Albert Schweitzer Foundation: Not to be confused with the public-service charity bearing the great humanitarian’s name, this German organization exists to “strengthen the ideas of vegetarianism and veganism.” It has a zero-tolerance policy towards “commercial animal husbandry.”
    • Center for Science in the Public Interest: CSPI fancies itself a “watchdog” group but behaves more like an attack dog, savaging restaurants, disparaging adults’ food choices, and (now) branching out to harass egg farmers. If you take a moment to imagine your favorite food, chances are CSPI has attacked it.

    All but the last of these groups are abolitionist in nature. They’re less interested in cage-free eggs than in liberating chickens from their farm-bound existences. So their endorsements only make sense within the context of HSUS seeing “cage-free” campaigns as a stepping stone to eliminating egg farming entirely.

    Washington-based animal rights activists understand this intuitively, which is why they’re all endorsing HSUS’s measure. Here are a few of the most notable ones:

    The endorsement list will undoubtedly grow, of course, as HSUS’s canvassers persuade restaurateurs and other businesses to lend their names to the cause. We’re left to wonder, though, if these endorsers will get the benefit of the whole story before signing on. Somehow we doubt it.

    Posted on 02/24/2011 at 7:42 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureDocument AnalysisEggsFundraising & MoneyGov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • HSUS Plays Chicken with Whole Foods

    Meet Miyun Park. She’s a former Vice President for Farm Animal Welfare at the Humane Society of the United States. In 2009, Park’s résumé landed her a job as Executive Director of the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), the organization administering a new 5-tier animal-welfare rating system recently unveiled by Whole Foods Market. (To see GAP’s tax returns, click here.)

    To judge from glowing media reports of the new meat, dairy, and egg labeling scheme, Miyun Park sits at the nexus of the animal-welfare mainstream and America’s foodie elites. But Park and GAP aren’t exactly what they seem.

    GAP is beginning to show signs of a legitimate vegan takeover, led by Park—who, as the farm-animal VP at HSUS, was crystal clear about her desire to eliminate as much livestock farming as she could.

    More on that after the jump.

    The Global Animal Project was originally founded as the “Animal Compassion Foundation” in early 2005. Whole Foods unveiled the program with chairman John Mackey on its board. For the organization’s first four years of operation, the organic grocery chain was its only funder, putting more than $1.32 million into what amounted to an in-house animal welfare certification program.

    In 2008 the Foundation’s name was changed to the Global Animal Partnership (GAP), and Miyun Park joined the Foundation’s board. So did former PETA “corporate affairs” consultant Steven Gross and Organic Valley CEO George Siemon. By late 2009 Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle was added to GAP’s board, and Miyun Park became Executive Director.

    Today GAP’s Board is chaired by former Compassion In World Farming CEO Joyce D’Silva, a vegan who told England’s Ecologist magazine in 2010 that “Meat should carry a health warning.”

    In 2009 Whole Foods added another $100,000 to its support for GAP, bringing the total to $1.42 million. GAP also received an anonymous gift of nearly $380,000 (passed through a donor-advised trust). An additional $6,241 came from Stefan Muth, an enigmatic organizer of Hawaiian vegan communes and medical self-diagnosis software engineer. Organic Valley provided another $5,000. So did Miyun Park herself.

    Park is the only known animal activist to have worked for HSUS, PETA, and the quasi-medical “Physicians Committee” for Responsible Medicine—all three branches of the American animal-rights triumvirate. Before Park arrived at HSUS in 2005, she spent ten years as President of “Compassion Over Killing” (COK), the rag-tag Washington, DC animal liberation group where current HSUS farm-animal leaders Paul Shapiro and Josh Balk got their start.

    Park and Shapiro started COK together in high school. They also co-edited COK’s newsletter The Abolitionist, which sold videotapes glorifying a FBI-designated terrorist group called the Animal Liberation Front.

    Knowing Miyun Park’s history as an animal rights (not animal welfare) agitator, it’s hard to take GAP seriously in its claim to be focused merely on “continuous improvement in the welfare of animals raised for food.” It’s clear, instead, that Park is interested—as she has always been—in the abolition of animal agriculture.

    In October 2006, nearly two years after Wayne Pacelle hired her as an HSUS Vice President, Park delivered some remarks as part of an “Expert Panel on Poultry” at “The Strength of Many,” a “Compassionate Living Festival” organized by the Animals and Society Institute.

    You have to hear this for yourself.

    Transcript (emphasis added):

    For all of us, our goal is to reduce the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest number of animals. We don't want any of these animals to be raised and killed. But when we're talking about numbers like “one million slaughtered in the U.S. in a single hour,” or “48 billion killed every year around the world,” unfortunately we don't have the luxury of waiting until we have the opportunity to get rid of the entire industry.

    And so because of that, a number of organizations including the Humane Society of the United States, we work on promoting veganism, and encouraging people to make daily choices that will positively impact the welfare of animals, and at the same time to reduce the greatest amount of suffering for these animals.

    We have a very active cage-free campaign. Are we saying that cage-free eggs are the way to go? No, that’s not what we’re saying. But we’re saying it’s a step in the right direction, getting these birds out of cages so that maybe they can actually spread their wings.

    This is the activist in charge of the Whole Foods “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating™” certification program. Park doesn’t want animals to become food, period. As the HSUS Vice President in charge of farm-animal issues, she set the organization’s “promoting veganism” agenda. For her (as with her Compassion Over Killing colleague Josh Balk), “cage free” eggs are a means to an end—the “end” being the death of the chicken farm.

    Does Whole Foods know there’s a vegan in the henhouse? Will the grocery chain’s new 5-tier meat rating system wind up crowding meat out of its marketplace?

    Are we the only ones who see where this is headed?

    Photo: Global Animal Partnership website

    Posted on 02/23/2011 at 7:37 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureAudio & VideoDairyDocument AnalysisEggsMeatThe Best of HumaneWatch


  • The Harold D. Guither HSUS Archive

    In the HumaneWatch Document Library you can already see two significant archives of documents originally collected by others. One is a set of papers from the late Amy Freeman Lee, a 30-year veteran of HSUS’s Board of Directors. The other is an extensive set of controversial, internal HSUS Board documents from former Board member Susan Pepperdine.

    Today, through the courtesy of the University of Illinois Archives, we’re releasing a third such "special collection": The Harold D. Guither HSUS Archive.

    Harold Guither was an agricultural economics professor at the University of Illinois until he retired in 1995. In his 1998 book, Animal Rights: History and Scope of a Radical Social Movement, Guither profiled HSUS, PETA, the “Physicians Committee” for Responsible Medicine, and other liberate-the-lab-rats groups. (We reviewed that book last month.)

    This archive largely includes items from the early 1990s, with a few from the 1980s. It includes gems like a speech from then-CEO John Hoyt to the California Farm Bureau Federation about HSUS and vegetarianism; HSUS catalogs full of endless tchotchkes; and some comparatively radical writings of former HSUS vice president Michael W. Fox.

    Click here for a full list of these documents and direct links to download them all.

    Posted on 02/23/2011 at 12:12 am by The Team.

    Topics: Document AnalysisHistory


  • A Little Pleasure Reading for February

    The HumaneWatch Document Library has become home to a wide variety of material since we launched it nearly a year ago.

    We’ve collected everything from tax returns to “insider” documents to support our claims about the Humane Society of the United States. It’s up to us to provide enough evidence to convince the most skeptical animal lovers, and the library is one way we approach that challenge.

    If you haven’t browsed it recently, there’s lots to see. Here are a few memorable items that we’ve published during the past year. 

    1. “The Abolitionist,” Spring/Summer 1997. This was the official publication of the small vegan agitation group Compassion over Killing, founded by Paul Shaprio (now HSUS’s farm-animal campaign director). “The Abolitionist” pushed extreme views—including the glorification of ALF activities. (The ALF is an FBI-designed domestic terrorist group.)
    2. 1997 Editorial by Michael Markarian, published in “The Abolitionist.” Markarian, now Chief Operating Officer at HSUS and President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund, waxed philosophical: “A perfect example of effective rebellion is an Animal Liberation Front raid on a laboratory…”
    3. HSUS Real Estate Development Proposal for Gaithersburg, MD, October 2007. If you thought HSUS’s sprawling “factory fundraising” headquarters in Maryland was big enough, the organization has clear ambitions to expand.
    4. New Mexico Livestock Board Investigative Review, 2008. HSUS has become the master of video deception, splicing footage together to support its claims of animal abuse. But when professional—and less ideological—heads look at un-cut HSUS footage, sometimes the truth emerges.
    5. 1977 excerpt, National Association for Sound Wildlife Practices newsletter. In the 1970s HSUS signed onto a set of radical principles regarding humanity’s relationship with the wild, including one that declared people “guilty until proven innocent.”
    6. HSUS Fundraising Pitch Related to Michael Vick, 18 July 2007. After Michael Vick’s arrest for leading a vicious dogfighting ring, HSUS raised money on the promise that it would care for the dogs seized from his Virginia home. Not long afterwards, however, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle told The New York Times that his organization didn’t have the dogs, didn’t know where they were, and believed they all should be “put down.”
    7. Articles of Incorporation, National Humane Society, 22 November 1954 and Articles of Incorporation Amendment, National Humane Society, 10 January 1957. These are the original founding documents for the group that would later change its name to HSUS. Among other things, they prohibit HSUS from spending significant sums of money lobbying, and from running a “private school.”This latter requirement is difficult to reconcile with HSUS’s new “Humane Society University.”

    From time to time we’ll be issuing more lists like this, of “our favorite things.” As always, feel free to e-mail with questions.

    Posted on 02/21/2011 at 8:54 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Document Analysis


  • 2004: The Year the Tide Turned

    In case you’re wondering, the Humane Society of the United States wasn’t always PETA’s suit-wearing older brother. More and more, it’s looking like HSUS married into the activist family right around 2004.

    To see the difference, compare what HSUS’s annual reports have chosen to emphasize in recent years. In 2000, the big news included an expansion of HSUS’s "Pets for Life" animal-adoption campaign, the "Kindred Spirits" memorial program for people who have lost their pets, and a section titled, "We Don't Run Shelters, We Help Shelters Run Better." This kind of literature is what you might expect from a group with “Humane Society” in its name.

    Now look at 2009 (the most recent annual report available), when the focus had little to do with pets at all. It’s all about regulating animal treatment, banning the commercial sale of animal products, “investigating” cattle ranches in a quasi-legal undercover fashion, and running programs to keep hunters away from wildlife.

    So what was the turning point? If you guessed Wayne Pacelle becoming CEO in 2004, you win a vegan cookie.

    And Pacelle’s ascendancy is just what’s visible from the outside. For an internal perspective, see the November/December 2004 issue of Satya, a now-defunct magazine for environmentalism and animal-rights activism. Satya interviewed activist Kim Sturla, who runs a nonprofit group that advocates the abolition of livestock agriculture. Sturla discussed the changes inside HSUS just 9 months after Pacelle became CEO:

    The good news, and what is really going to help immensely, is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) just passed their vegan policy. They are seen as the mothering organization for the SPCAs, shelters and animal control agencies. And the fact that they have adopted a vegan policy may just be the major breakthrough to bring others along. All HSUS expos, trainings, conferences will be vegan. It is huge. 

    Sturla’s contemporary account lends crucial context to the sea change that began when Pacelle came to the helm. It also reveals that the animal-rights community knows exactlywhat HSUS’s public image is (“they are seen as the mothering organization for the SPCAs, shelters and animal-control agencies”) and how its influence can be used to further a vegan agenda.

    This is just an early indicator of what HSUS had already started to become, and it’s not your granny’s pet-protection group.Because animal welfare charities shouldn’t see it as their place to advocate vegetarianism or veganism. Not even for dogs, unlike the view of – you probably guessed it — HSUS.

    Posted on 02/19/2011 at 1:44 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureDocument AnalysisHistoryPets


  • The Curious Case of HSI’s Disappearing Debt

    We recently added some new Humane Society of the United States tax returns to the HumaneWatch Document Library, including those of its affiliates the Fund For Animals, Humane Society International, and Humane Society “University.”

    We read Humane Society International’s 2009 tax filing with particular interest. You might remember that last year Charity Navigator described HSUS’s global arm as “insolvent,” since it was carrying a 11.7 million debt on its books.  The respected charity watchdog service gave HSI an abysmal “one-star” overall rating.

    Like most crushing debts, Humane Society International’s gradually accumulated over many years. Through 2008, the group had a consistent revenue stream of between $2 million and $3 million per year. But in 2009, HSI suddenly catapulted itself into a new earning category, reporting nearly $20 million in income. (See page 1, line 8.)

    And its Grand Canyon of debt vanished.

    How can that happen? Is Humane Society International getting some sort of government bailout? Were they just “too big to fail”?

    It’s worth a closer look.

    Tax returns from the HSUS family of organizations tell a fascinating story if you know how to read them. In 2008, when HSI was still deep in the red, the group declared on its tax return that it owed $13,031,270 “due to/general fund.” And on HSUS’s 2008 form, HSUS lists the same exact dollar amount as a “reimbursement paid by other organization [HSI] for expenses.”

    So this appears to be a “liability” from HSI to HSUS—money the international arm owes the mother ship. By the end of 2009, this figure had been reduced to just $500,000.

    Now let’s look at HSUS’s 2009 Consolidated Financial Statements—an audited, combined statement of the financial position held by HSUS and its affiliates. That reports shows a curious $16.2 million increase in HSI’s “International Program Support” revenue, which is offset by a category called “eliminations.” For you non-accountants, an “elimination” is basically a write-off that covers up the impact of back-and-forth transactions among related parties. (See page 27.)

    We showed all our paperwork to two Virginia CPAs and asked for their opinions. Here’s what they think is going on:

    It definitely seems that the majority of the debt from HSUS and its related entities to HSI has been forgiven, and HSI is recognizing the relief of that debt as “income.” The bigger question is this: Did the contributors to HSUS and its related entities know their money was going to be used on foreign projects, and to forgive an affiliate’s debts?

    In other words, HSUS and its related entities have been fronting costs for Humane Society International for years. This arrangement allowed HSI to keep operating even though it was, technically, broke. HSI kept accruing more and more debt, of course. And in 2009, HSUS (speaking for itself and all the HSUS-related organizations) wiped the slate clean.

    It helps, of course, to remember that HSI and HSUS are controlled by essentially the same handful of people. So transactions like this would be a simple matter of the left hand paying the right. It’s perfectly legal.

    But here’s where it gets sticky: If we’re on the right track, and HSUS gave Humane Society International a massive get-out-of-debt-free card, then HSUS’s American donors are paying for international programs. These would include a junket to Cancun for a global warming conference and a campaign that pushes cage-free eggs in India.

    Somehow, that didn’t make it into HSUS’s “$19 a month” commercials.

    As time goes on, we’re learning about more and more programs that HSUS’s contributors are unknowingly paying for. Do they mind? Would they feel baited-and-switched? Who knows? But we doubt HSUS is about to ask them.

    Posted on 02/11/2011 at 9:49 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Document AnalysisFundraising & Money


  • Four-Fifths of One Percent

    One of the first things we did when HumaneWatch was launched last February was figure out what the Humane Society of the United States was doing with the nine-figure collection plate it passes every year. We were surprised to learn that according to HSUS's publicly available tax return for 2008 (the most recent year for which data was available at the time), HSUS devoted less than one-half of one percent of its budget to directly funding hands-on pet shelters.

    Now, however, HSUS’s 2009 tax return is also a matter of public record. HSUS ponied up a little bit more that year for local pet rescues and shelters, but it's hardly worth shouting about. In all, HSUS shared less than 0.8 percent of its money with pet shelters in 2009. Some of those shelters share the “humane society” name with their richer (distant) cousin, but the vast majority of pet shelters in the United States received nothing.

    We examined every outgoing grant HSUS reported making in 2009, and made a determination about whether or not the recipient was a hands-on pet shelter. Here are the numbers:

    HSUS 2009 budget: $121,725,153
    All HSUS outgoing grants: 6,744,923
    HSUS grants to hands-on pet shelters: 977,296

    So only four-fifths of one percent (0.80%) of the money HSUS collected in 2009—much of it in response to TV ads that begged for money to “save” dogs and cats—actually went to the community-based organizations doing that work. (HSUS runs a handful of “animal care centers,” but no dog or cat shelters and no pet adoption programs.)

    It’s also interesting to note that HSUS did give away over five percent of its budget in 2009. But less than 15 percent of what the group distributed made it to a hands-on shelter organization. Much of the rest went to subsidize the previously “insolvent” Humane Society International ($2.75 million), and to run political ballot initiative campaigns, including those in Missouri ($450,000) and Ohio ($1.5 million).

    HSUS does deserve credit for a single grant of $284,625 for the construction of a new pet shelter in Louisiana's St. Bernard Parish. But that grant accounts for 30 percent of all its shelter giving for the year, and sadly, this sort of giving is the exception, not the rule.

    We’ve posted HSUS’s accounting of its 2009 outgoing grants—with the shelter grants highlighted—so everyone can see our math. Feel free to quibble in the comments section below.

    One final word about our criteria: We gave HSUS credit for subsidizing a few horse and rabbit rescues in addition to the dog and cat shelters. But we left out grants to “spay/neuter” organizations and private veterinary practices that fund pet sterilizations without running their own pet shelters. (Had we included them, the proportion of HSUS's money going where it should still wouldn't have topped 1 percent.)

    It will surprise many of you to learn that the Humane Society of the United States isn’t primarily in the business of funding humane societies. HSUS has historically considered these “societies” to be part of its “constituency,” but it’s not funding them with any sense of urgency. And in the meantime, HSUS’s $191 million endowment (part of which is invested in the stock market) continues to earn money hand over fist.

    For what, you ask?

    That’s an excellent question. The 6 to 8 million dogs and cats entering shelters this year (according to HSUS’s own estimate), and the people who care for them—and sometimes have to euthanize them for lack of space and funding—are entitled to an answer.

    Note: The table above reflects updated numbers.

    Posted on 02/11/2011 at 12:00 am by The Team.

    Topics: Document AnalysisFundraising & MoneyPets


  • A Constituency Ain’t Nothin’ But a Mailing List

    The Humane Society of the United States, which spends millions of dollars a year on lobbying, claims it represents “11 million members and constituents—one out of every 28 Americans.”

    If you’re a legislator on the fence about a bill, HSUS can sway your vote if you believe it speaks for so many people. But does it really?

    HumaneWatch readers will remember that we've tried to figure out the answers to a few nagging questions: How many people are actually bona fide HSUS "members"? And what is an HSUS “constituent,” anyway? (See here for a little background.)

    With help from an insider document, we can answer the “constituent” question with some certainty now. The short answer is that an HSUS “constituent” is anyone who has given the group money in the past three years—plus everyone on its mailing list.

    Buried among the hundreds of pages of the Pepperdine Papers, we found a ten-year accounting of HSUS’s membership and income, parsed out in detail through 1987. (See pp. 270 and 340 in the “Audit Documents” file, or click on the thumbnail at right.)

    HSUS helpfully broke down its overall “constituency” figure into several components. Here are those actual internal membership numbers from 1987:

    Members 178,969
    Family 11,965
    Subtotal – Membership 190,934
    Contributors 233,789
    Societies 2,833
    Foundations 145
    Others 1,762
    Subtotal – Donors/Misc. 238,529
    Prospects 224,992
    Total Constituency 654,455

    It was (and is) perfectly sensible for HSUS to count dues-paying members and contributors as its “constituents.” But prospects? That’s fundraising shorthand for “people on our mailing list who haven’t given us money yet.”

    And we have a sneaky feeling that those “societies” are humane societies—the pet shelters that HSUS has a nasty habit of taking for granted (and not supporting financially).

    We wonder: What would HSUS’s “constituency” chart look like today?

    According to HSUS’s most recent tax return, its All Animals membership magazine has a total print-run of 450,000 copies, every other month. (Everyone who gives $25 gets a subscription, and the magazine is the only place members can get voting ballots for elections.) This number is HSUS’s true membership base.

    And as we have reported before, HSUS says it has a separate category of “supporters,” defined as people who have contributed less than $25 at any time during the past three years. HSUS’s development VP Geoff Handy says there are 1.3 million of these. So in any one year (with some overlap), this could be another 700,000 people at most. That number would include people who donate through workplace giving programs or the Combined Federal Campaign. It would also include one-off contributors who give a few dollars on impulse, like the people who donated $253,000 to HSUS’s “Spay Day” last year, five dollars at a time.

    In 1987, 34.3 percent of HSUS’s tallied constituency consisted of “prospects.” If that proportion held true today, we’d be talking about 3.77 million “constituents” whose only real connection to HSUS is that they’re on a list but aren’t donating. Chances are that number has ballooned considerably in the last quarter-century.

    Counting “members” and “contributors,” and adding in smaller categories like “societies” and “foundations,” it’s unreasonable to think HSUS actually collects money from more than 1.2 million people in a given year. (That’s the number HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle cited in a 2010 fundraising letter.)

    That leaves a whole lot of room for “prospects” in HSUS’s “11 million” boast.

    Think about it: In 1987 there was no e-mail (to say nothing of Twitter or Facebook). Today, however, it would be easy for HSUS to see every person who’s ever used its e-mail-your-legislator web portal as a fundraising “prospect.” The same goes for each of its 542,000 Facebook “likes” and 40,000 Twitter followers. (Why do you $uppo$e H$U$ even ha$ a $ocial media platform, anyway?)

    And HSUS has merged with several other organizations in the past decade, assimilating their donors and mailing lists along the way. Presto! Instant constituents.

    Here’s a thinker: If HSUS buys or rents an animal-related mailing list, does every “prospect” on it immediately become an HSUS “constituent”? Could HSUS construct a self-defined “constituency” the size of China’s population just by buying up lists? With $191.3 million in assets, HSUS could probably afford to try.

    Armed with all this information and our good-faith guesswork, here’s what we think HSUS’s “constituency” probably looked like in 2010. (This is only our best estimate: Feel free to quibble.)

    Members 400,000
    Family 50,000
    Subtotal – Membership 450,000
    Contributors 700,000
    Societies 3,500
    Foundations 250
    Others 5,000
    Subtotal – Donors/Misc. 708,750
    Mailing lists 9,250,000
    Social media contacts 550,000
    e-lobby enrollees 100,000
    Subtotal – Prospects 9,900,000
    Media, Bloggers, & Reporters 500,000
    Total Constituency 11,558,750

    HSUS bean-counters: Are we in the ballpark? We’d love to know.

    Posted on 02/09/2011 at 9:30 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Document AnalysisFundraising & MoneyGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHistoryThe Best of HumaneWatch