Topic: Gov’t, Lobbying, Politics

  • Creeping HSUS Kudzu in California

    Camo HSUSThe Humane Society of the United States has a PETA-like agenda. But unlike PETA, HSUS is smart enough to know it can’t demand total animal liberation and expect it to just happen. It has a much more deliberate long-term approach to end most uses of animals.

    In regards to hunting, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle outlined his strategy some years ago: “We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States… We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.”

    He may not even need the ballot box.

    HSUS is pressuring the California Fish and Game Commission to enact a whole host of anti-hunting regulations, including banning the hunting of bobcats. Other restrictions on HSUS’s wish list include banning the use of calls for coyotes and other species.

    You may recall that last year HSUS succeeded in getting the California legislature to ban the use of lead ammunition, which will require hunters to use more expensive rounds. Now that that fight is over, HSUS is back with a laundry list of demands to make it harder to hunt.

    Sound familiar? HSUS has the same strategy for ending all animal agriculture. HSUS is against cheese, butter, milk, ice cream, bacon, pork chops, burgers—anything that comes from an animal. But it doesn’t say this outright, since 99% of America isn’t vegan. Instead HSUS takes an incremental strategy—moving the goalposts. Consider what HSUS VP Miyun Park said to a HSUS-friendly crowd:

    We don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed … [but] we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we have the opportunity to get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry. …

    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…

    HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle explained the long-term goals of banning hunting to the author of the book Bloodties, saying of hunting: “We’re out to minimize suffering wherever it can be done, and wherever our limited resources can be utilized most effectively—abusive forms of hunting for now, all hunting eventually.” (Pacelle was answering a question about the practicalities of banning fishing—a campaign he didn’t want to wage merely because fish aren’t cute.)

    HSUS says today that it only “actively seeks to eliminate the most inhumane and unfair sporthunting practices.” Does anyone really believe it isn’t against all hunting—even for subsistence?

    Posted on 02/10/2014 at 4:40 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsHunting & Fishing


  • HSUS Alters Tax Return Data in Light of IRS Complaint

    IRStroubleWe received a copy of HSUS’s 2012 tax return today. You may recall that we recently filed a formal complaint with the IRS over HSUS’s previous tax returns. In short, we believed that HSUS was inflating its revenue in violation of IRS instructions by counting PSA air time as “contributions.” Bloomberg News reported on the matter, and quoted a Minnesota tax attorney who specializes in nonprofit returns who backed up our position. CharityWatch, which gives HSUS a “C-minus” grade, also wrote that HSUS was violating IRS rules.

    And it seems HSUS is now admitting guilt, so to speak. On Page 1 of its latest return, HSUS lists different—much lower—figures for 2011. The “contributions and grants” received by HSUS dropped $17.7 million—the exact same amount that HSUS was counting as PSA “contributions.”

    In short, HSUS now has some vegan egg-substitute on its face. Even more laughable in retrospect is the quote one HSUS flak gave to Bloomberg, insisting that “We follow the advice of our legal and accounting experts.”

    HSUS still hasn’t (yet) filed an amended return for 2011. We also requested and received a new copy of that return, and it still has the same old incorrect numbers. We suggest that HSUS hurry up and issue an amended return—the IRS can levy a $100 fine per day for filing a return with “incorrect information.” But then again, HSUS has never shown a particular appreciation for donor dollars—this is a group that, according to Animal People Newsblows 55% of its budget on overhead.

    We’ll have more analysis shortly regarding the rest of HSUS’s financials. And we’ll be sure the IRS knows about this latest development.

    Posted on 11/18/2013 at 10:08 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • HSUS Lobbyist Walks Governor’s Dog

    FearingImagine if a lobbyist for teachers unions or for-profit colleges volunteered to tutor a governor’s kids. Or imagine if a lobbyist for the NFL was also the Pop Warner coach of the governor’s kid’s team. That would certainly give off the appearance of improper closeness between a lobbyist and an executive. And impropriety is certainly in the air following a complaint against Humane Society of the United States lobbyist Jennifer Fearing.

    Fearing runs HSUS’s lobbying in California, and she’s also got a special role as a dog-walker for Governor Jerry Brown. This year, Brown has signed all six HSUS-backed bills that passed the state legislature. Coincidence, or undue influence?

    Some hunting activists think the latter and are complaining about Fearing, alleging that her dog-walking amount to a “service” that should be declared as lobbying under state law.

    So is there any merit? It’s a complaint worth considering, according to one expert:

    Fearing is “a powerful person who wants something from the government,” said Jessica Levinson, an expert on law and governance issues and associate professor of law at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

    With her role in the dog’s life, “she has access to Gov. Brown,” Levinson said. “There are a variety of ways to exercise influence.”

    Fearing replies thusly:

    “I wouldn’t misuse that relationship,” she said.  “I deal with staff, and I go through the right channels.  I would like to believe that we live in a civilized society where you can do neighborly things like walking people’s dogs.”

    Interestingly, advice on getting close to legislators is dished out in a lobbying guide prepared by HSUS itself. In a document titled “Basics of Lobbying Animal Protection Legislation at the State Level,” HSUS has the following tips for getting to legislators:

    THROUGH THE BACK DOOR – Animal protection issues are usually not a top priority with legislators. If you can get to know an elected official because of another issue, take the opportunity. If you are affiliated with the PTA, a local business, civic group, or fighting a zoning battle, go out of your way to work with an official, Then when the time is appropriate, use that relationship to cultivate him/her on animal protection issues.

    STAFF – Get to know the staff. If the staff likes you, you are more likely to get to know the legislator directly. Also provide assistance to the staff and have them think of you as a resource for those issues that come up on animals. Offer to do research.

    So Fearing’s claim that she “wouldn’t misuse that relationship” of being merely a neighborly dog-walker seems especially weak given that HSUS itself has advised that their people use “back door” channels to attempt to gain influence over lawmakers. That appears to be just what Fearing has done here in getting close to the Governor.

    The reason that states have ethics counsels is because it’s important to keep a close eye on lobbying activities. It’s important to avoid even the appearance of a conflict of interest. We don’t know if Fearing violated any rules, but it sure does smell rotten.

    Posted on 11/08/2013 at 11:30 am by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • D.C. Metro Ads Expose HSUS

    The below ads ran in D.C. Metro’s Capitol South station, which is located next to the U.S. House office buildings, in Oct. 2013.










    Posted on 10/25/2013 at 1:32 pm by Humane Watch Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • The Egg Industry’s Stockholm Syndrome, Part 2

    Ever heard of Stockholm Syndrome? It’s the psychological occurrence whereby a hostage grows fond feelings for or understanding towards his hostage-taker. And this phenomenon is manifesting itself in the egg industry’s main trade group, the United Egg Producers.

    You may be familiar with UEP, which about a year and a half ago decided to work with the Humane Society of the United States to push for federal legislation regulating how farmers can house egg-laying hens. The legislation would ban conventional hen cages, forcing farmers to at a minimum move to colony cage systems.

    That may seem strange. UEP had spent years and millions fighting HSUS state ballot initiatives, arguing in favor of letting consumers choose (a position we still support). The answer as to “why” the switch:  UEP hasn’t really agreed to work with HSUS any more than a business agrees to pay off organized crime elements to keep its business intact. Simply put, HSUS has far more money to spend on legislation and ballot initiatives that could bankrupt egg farmers trying to protect their farming operations.  Imagine the conversation between Pacelle of HSUS and Gregory of UEP as Pacelle conveying something like "Nice egg business you’ve got here. It would be terrible for something bad to happen to it."

    But the UEP had essentially been taken hostage by HSUS. Last week, UEP head Chad Gregory spoke out against a column our executive director wrote in The Hill last month pointing out the flaws in letting HSUS sit at the bargaining table. Gregory takes issue with several of our points, but we’ll explain to you (and him, since he reads this website) why he’s wrong.

    We’ll quote Gregory in italics, followed by our reply in normal font:

    [UEP] represents farmers who produce 90 percent of the eggs in the U.S.

    True, but we’ll note that UEP never held a vote of its membership on the proposed partnership with HSUS, according to our sources.

    farmers with fewer than 3,000 hens are specifically exempted from the proposed standard.

    This line is intended to assure the reader that “small farmers” will be protected. However, 3,000 hens is actually quite small. Farmers with 300,000 hens are still considered small in the egg business.

    consumers support these enriched colony cages by a margin of 12-to-1 and consumers would continue to have their choice of eggs from cages, cage-free, and organic production systems

    Then what is the need for federal legislation? Farmers can make the change from conventional to enriched cages on their own individual timelines without the need for a forced federal timeline.

    an independent economic study released last year that indicates that egg prices would likely rise less than 2 cents per dozen over a period of 18 years.

    More than 6 billion dozen eggs are produced annually. Those pennies add up to at least a billion dollars in total. One California producer spent $3.2 million just to update one of its fifteen hen houses to enriched cages.

    the Congressional Budget Office said the proposed legislation last year would not carry any taxpayer cost.

    This may not carry a taxpayer cost in the sense of government funding, but it would drive up prices in the marketplace. That is a distinction without a difference.

    the legislation would have the exact opposite affect [sic]– avoiding a patchwork quilt of 50 differing state laws on how eggs are produced – with a single national standard that all egg farmers could follow.

    The only reason for the patchwork is the HSUS trying to pass laws they like and the UEP being outgunned in stopping them. Hence the UEP / HSUS “partnership." Which is worse: A couple of states with bad laws, or the entire U.S. with a uniform and slightly less bad law? Once you legislate hen housing on the federal level, it’s only a matter of time before animal rights activists keep making more demands to increase pressure on farmers and drive up costs for producers. In fact, HSUS spokespersons have already suggested that any cages are "inhumane."

    We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: HSUS is not an honest partner. Making a deal with an organization that scams the public in its fundraising and is in court on racketeering charges will only backfire in the long run. UEP is more of an HSUS hostage than a willing business partner.  

    Bottom line: if working with the HSUS is such a good idea for the industry, why did the UEP need to be dragged to the altar?

    Posted on 02/21/2013 at 3:14 am by The Team.

    Topics: EggsGov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • Pro-Farmer Protection on the Move in Missouri

    Twitter is a great way to get the latest news, and yesterday we saw something that caught our eye: Two proposals in Missouri for constitutional amendments to protect agriculture. HJR 11 protects the right of farmers to raise livestock in a humane manner—a slightly different spin on amendments we’ve seen in other states, such as North Dakota’s Measure 3. Meanwhile, HJR 7 protects the right to hunt, farm, and fish.

    Both Missouri proposals seem reasonable. But we really like this part of HJR 11:

    No law criminalizing the welfare of any livestock will be valid unless based upon generally accepted scientific principles and enacted by the General Assembly.

    This would cripple HSUS on two fronts. First it would require that HSUS propaganda be passed by the legislature, thus putting it up to significant scrutiny. It would rule out an HSUS ballot campaign using emotionally manipulative propaganda aimed at urban and suburban folks who don’t have experience with farm animals.

    Second, it would require that any law regulating livestock welfare to be based on generally accepted scientific principles. Take one recent example, which sees HSUS is going around claiming that maternity pens for pregnant pigs are inhumane. HSUS is wrong on the science. The American Veterinary Medical Association and the American Association of Swine Veterinarians both find maternity pens provide for animal welfare. So, based on current animal welfare science, HSUS would not be successful in Missouri in banning pens.

    Both proposals were introduced yesterday and HJR 7 has now apparently been folded into HJR 11, replacing the hunting and fishing text. So there’s now just one proposed constitutional amendment—to protect the right to raise livestock humanely—and it has already passed committee. You can read the full text here, though we'll note that the new bill does not have the language we analyzed above.

    Proposed constitutional amendments require the legislature’s approval to be put on the ballot. If approved, this amendment would go on the ballot in Nov. 2014. Then, it would only require a simple majority to pass.

    We’re always a fan of playing offense, and this is one way to do it and preempt future HSUS activism. We’ll see if this amendment inspires pushes in other states.

    Posted on 02/14/2013 at 1:46 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureGov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • Is HSUS Backstabbing the Buckeye Compromise?

    Ohio has been a battleground between farmers and the anti-farmer Humane Society of the United States. In 2009, farmers and ranchers backed a successful ballot initiative to create the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board (OLCSB), which would govern animal agriculture practices in the state. HSUS didn’t like that people who are outside the professional animal-rights industry could have a say on what “humane” means, so it threatened its own ballot campaign to overturn the measure. The Ohio Farm Bureau, then-Governor Ted Strickland, and HSUS then cut a deal, the “Buckeye Compromise.” Instead of abolishing the OLCSB, HSUS and the Ohio Farm Bureau agreed to give HSUS what it wanted in the standards — like a ban on individual maternity pens that reputable veterinarians find provide for the welfare of pregnant pigs – while keeping the board.

    The board kept up its end of the bargain, which you can read here.  (The only HSUS demand that it hasn’t gotten yet is a law increasing penalties for animal fighting.) But is that good enough for HSUS? Of course not. Now, HSUS has appointed a new state director for outreach and engagement in Ohio, John Dinon. He’s no animal fighting specialist brought in to help shepherd a tougher anti-cockfighting law. The Toledo Blade reports:

    John Dinon, who left the Maumee-based group in September, will be Ohio director of outreach and engagement, a new position for the groups. He will be based in Toledo and will focus on a variety of animal protection issues with an emphasis on supporting humane and sustainable animal agriculture in the state.

    “Humane and sustainable” agriculture is code for “attacking regular farmers” through a campaign resting on the false premise that mainstream farmers are treating their animals inhumanely or degrading the environment. Even though HSUS has already received timelines for the achievement of its stated “Buckeye Compromise” demands, HSUS will not leave Buckeye State farmers alone.

    It’s just another case of HSUS being a dishonest broker. Even as HSUS and the United Egg Producers advance a “deal” on enriched-cage hen housing, HSUS is pushing companies to a cage-free standard. Not that “cage-free” is good enough for a group of vegan zealots– HSUS really wants to get rid of eggs altogether. Of course, a then-HSUS VP vowed to “get rid of the entire [animal agriculture] industry,” and HSUS’s current farm animal VP has said that “eating meat causes animal cruelty,” so it was really only a matter of time before HSUS made a move.

    Maybe it seemed sensible in 2010 to deal with HSUS and avoid a battle. But HSUS can be beaten, as evidenced by three high-profile political flops performed by HSUS just three months ago. These guys will take a mile if you give them an inch, and sometimes the best antidote for a schoolyard bully is to just stand up to them.

    As Winston Churchill said, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” We will soon find out just how hungry a crocodile HSUS’s Ohio division is. In the meantime, it’s more evidence to anyone considering a “deal” with HSUS that these guys are as trustworthy as Benedict Arnold. 

    Posted on 02/06/2013 at 3:05 am by The Team.

    Topics: EggsGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsMeat


  • HSUS Crushed on Election Day

    While the winners of a few races from yesterday are still unclear at this point, one thing is clear: the Humane Society of the United States lost big. Let’s review.

    HSUS’s lobbying arm, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, made incumbent Iowa Rep. Steve King (R) its major target. According to FEC filings, HSLF spent more than $750,000 to oppose King, insinuating he was a dogfighting supporter. (King said he wasn’t but opposed a federal bill on states’ rights grounds–plus, dog fighting is already illegal on the state level.) That’s a hefty pile of money. At one point, HSLF had earmarked more than half its political spending on opposing King.

    HSUS piled on, too, with CEO Wayne Pacelle launching scurrilous attacks against King’s character, apparently in retaliation for the Congressman pushing pro-farmer legislation that would undo HSUS gains in increasing the cost of eggs and other food products from animals.

    The result? Steve King won re-election handily, and HSUS’s lobbying arm added to the egg on its face with a complete whiff.

    HSLF also spent $100,000 to try to defeat U.S. Senate candidate Jeff Flake (R-AZ) and failed, and also failed in its bid to unseat Tennessee Rep. Scott DesJarlais.

    What about ballot initiatives? Historically, HSUS has had success in single-issue demagoguery. Not this time.

    In North Dakota, HSUS went in heavy behind Measure 5, a ballot initiative to make certain forms of animal cruelty a felony. HSUS and HSLF poured in more than $675,000 to support the measure, which dwarfed the contributions to the opposition campaign. The measure was essentially marketed as “lighting kittens on fire should be a felony.” You’d think a campaign like this would be as easy as a 1-foot putt.

    Instead, the farming and ranching community in North Dakota didn’t like HSUS’s involvement—it knows all about HSUS’s anti-farmer agenda—and was joined by a number of local veterinarians and animal welfare advocates. They also questioned the wording of the initiative and proposed a legislative solution for next session that will pass similar laws (without HSUS at the table). And they won—by a whopping margin of 65 percent to 35 percent. Further, a pro-farming constitutional amendment passed in North Dakota by a similar two-to-one margin, dealing another blow to any future HSUS designs for the state.

    We have to imagine Measure 5 would have passed if HSUS had simply not gotten involved, which leads us to conclude: HSUS’s name in North Dakota is as good as mud. Maybe if HSUS spent the six figures of donor money on saving animals—as its deceptive ads imply—as opposed to blowing it on politics in a state where it apparently has little credibility, something positive could get accomplished. Color us skeptical that HSUS will change its bad practices, though.

    And let’s not forget the ballot measures that never came to be. HSUS dropped its planned initiative in Oregon to attack egg farmers after the main national egg trade group agreed last year to pursue federal “compromise” legislation—which has gone nowhere. And HSUS strangely abandoned its “Your Vote Counts” Missouri initiative this spring, possibly fearing another bit of bipartisan blowback in the Show Me State, after it had pumped several hundred thousand dollars into the campaign—again, money that donors likely thought was being used to help animals, not fund a political campaign to tweak legislative vote requirements.

    We also noticed that the Humane USA Political Action Committee has now apparently folded. Humane USA, whose board included HSUS board members and staff, apparently filed a termination report with the FEC in October. Humane USA PAC’s website now redirects to a donation page for HSLF.

    On a final note, HSUS state director Sarah Speed lost her bid for Pennsylvania state house. She wasn’t running on an animal rights platform, but obviously she would have been an open door for HSUS in the legislature.

    In all, HSUS and its legislative arm spent bundles of money and came up empty. And for homeless animals in need, it’s a lost opportunity.

    Posted on 11/08/2012 at 3:32 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fundraising & MoneyGov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • Sound the Alarms: The U.S. Doesn’t Prohibit Unicorn Hunting

    Let’s say a Congressman or state legislator introduces a bill to ban flying broomsticks. Or opens an inquiry into why Santa hasn’t ever filed a tax return on his present-delivery business. Or decides that flux capacitors need to be regulated.

    Pointless, right? A solution in search of a nonexistent problem? A waste of public resources? You got it. Yet that is exactly how the Humane Society of the U.S. designs a “scorecard” for states. And its lobbying record isn’t much better.

    HSUS is raising money for a North Dakota ballot initiative, Measure 5, to make some acts of animal cruelty a felony. More credible sources, including the Humane Society of Fargo-Moorehead and veterinarians, think the measure is flawed as written (oddly, it only applies to three animals) and are floating a legislative solution instead. The Bismarck Tribune has also editorialized against it.

    Whether or not you think it’s a good initiative, one of the points raised by the Measure 5 advocates is that HSUS ranks North Dakota at the bottom of its state “humane” ranking guide, released earlier this year. But how much does this actually matter?

    Consider this: HSUS rates North and South Dakota poorly. Both miss out on three points because they don’t prohibit black bear hunting, much less certain means of bear hunting (with hounds, for example).

    But…there are no black bears in the Dakotas. (We trust North American Sportsman to know where the game is.) This isn’t Lewis & Clark times where grizzlies roamed the plains. Should something that’s not going on be banned?

    Similarly, many states don’t prohibit cougar hunting. Most states don’t have cougars. And while we haven’t checked, we don’t expect shark fin soup to be big on the menu in Fargo. So is a law banning it really necessary? Would such a law better serve animals or HSUS’s propaganda?

    As for bans on Sunday hunting, another scorecard point, we’re still scratching our heads about that one.

    And in a federal system, state regulation isn’t always required. HSUS gives a point to states with humane-slaughter laws, but there’s already a federal humane slaughter law (passed in the 1950s).

    And what about lobbying? Wayne Pacelle recently blogged about the top 10 state victories for animals in 2012—except several of them don’t appear to help many animals at all. The number one “victory” banned certain bear-hunting methods in California, but few bears are hunted there.

    Arizona passed a greyhound-racing law (the #6 “victory”), but there’s only one such operation in the entire state. New Jersey banned horse slaughter (#8), but there aren’t any horses being slaughtered for human consumption anywhere in the country.

    The number-two “victory” banned a certain pig-housing method in Rhode Island, but exactly how many pork farms are even in that state? Apparently, not very many. Similarly, HSUS has spent resources trying to get certain farming practices banned in Massachusetts—even though these practices aren’t used in the state, haven’t been in over a decade, and likely won’t be in the future. It’s just an HSUS attempt to create a phony “bandwagon” by getting states with light farming populations to ban certain farming practices—with little opposition—and then claiming that this “bandwagon” represents a larger movement.

    Get the picture?

    HSUS seems more focused on spending resources on symbolic, near-meaningless political victories than in directly helping animals. And that’s a shame for all the two-legged HSUS donors and the four-legged friends they’re hoping their money will help.

    Posted on 10/19/2012 at 11:54 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, Politics


  • HSUS Lobbying Arm Faces Blowback in Hawkeye State

    It’s election season, so it seems every YouTube video we click on has to be prefaced with a 30-second ad from one candidate or another. Plenty of them are positive, but there’s the usual slew of demagogic negative ads. And the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), the lobbying arm of the Humane Society of the U.S., has easily the sleaziest spot that we’ve seen thus far. It’s so bad that eight TV stations are refusing to run it.

    The ad targets Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) for voting against legislation that would ban people from taking kids to animal fights, deeming him “King of Cruelty.” Michael Markarian, an HSUS executive who also runs HSLF, wrote that the ad is “meticulously sourced with information documenting King’s voting record and statements.” But a TV station owner points out that King is on the record opposing all forms of animal fighting—a fact that HSLF omitted from the ad entirely:

    A review of congressional records shows that King made it clear to his fellow members of Congress that he is opposed to all forms of dog fighting, but believes the issue is a state matter rather than a federal issue, [Citadel Communications President and COO Roy] Cole said. “The upshot is that this spot does not hold up to the light of day,” he added.

    Specifically, King said in Congress: “I, too, oppose any kind of animal fighting.” (Video at the link.) Cole also called the message of the ad “patently false,” while another TV station executive objected to the “sensational tone.”

    Kudos to them for insisting on truth in advertising. And while these Iowa TV stations are at it, they should make sure they’re not running HSUS fundraising ads, which are just as misleading and flimflam as this political ad.

    Politics is full of muckraking and fast-and-loose hyperbole, but HSLF’s ad is a new level of skullduggery. Whether you think animal cruelty should be dealt with on the state or federal level is up to you. But it’s ironic to see HSLF attacks given that HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle recently defended states’ rights to make their own agriculture regulations in attacking a Farm Bill amendment.

    So HSUS will apparently say anything to push its agenda. No surprise there. HSUS misleads and deceives Americans to raise money, and now its lobbying arm does so for attempted political gain. It’s hard to imagine a shadier group short of a Bernie Madoff scheme.

    We’re used to seeing PETA make ads so ridiculous that TV stations refuse to air them. Is it any surprise PETA’s wingnut allies at HSUS/HSLF have reached that level of sleaze?

    Posted on 09/26/2012 at 2:39 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal FightingGov't, Lobbying, Politics