Topic: Interviews

  • HSUS Tucks Tail and Runs

    On Friday, sparks flew on Alan Warren Outdoors, a Texas-based radio show. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle went on to explain his organization’s position on hunting and fishing. Warren, a hunting advocate, pressed Pacelle hard on what kind of hunting HSUS supports. And then we called in to debate Wayne about his animal rights group’s deceptive practices on the whole.

    You’d think a slick politician like Pacelle, especially given the size of his ego, would be happy to try to talk his way around our criticism of his organization. But instead, he spouted off a few insults and then hung up.

    Listen to the exchange:

    It’s amusing that the CEO of a $100 million group, who claims to be bold activist, is afraid to even talk with us. It’s also amusing how he transitions from lecturing Alan Warren about using emotional arguments to sputtering off his own non sequiturs and ad hominem attacks. But it goes to show he’s aware of the strengths of our arguments and the fact that we push for direct answers to questions.

    We issued a challenge on-air to Pacelle, and we’ll repeat it here. HSUS claims that our poll showing its own donors are deceived is not credible. Why? HSUS can’t provide a real reason other than that they don’t like us. So let’s do this. Pacelle can hire a polling firm to poll HSUS’s donors and we’ll pay for it. HSUS gets three questions, and we get three questions.

    You know our number, Wayne. Just give us a call.

    Posted on 12/18/2012 at 9:15 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Interviews

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  • ‘Just a Handful’ of Animal Extremists?

    Over at Discovery.com, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle agreed to answer a number of questions about his views of the “humane” movement. Given that Pacelle no longer espouses his previous radical views (openly, at least), we didn’t expect to see anything other than platitudes and vagaries. But we were unpleasantly surprised.

    Stating his opinion of the difference between an activist and an extremist, Pacelle said the following:

    There are just a handful of cases, truly a handful, in the history of the animal welfare movement where people have been very menacing or threatening or actually committed violence.

    Um, really?

    Let’s see what former Deputy Assistant Director of the FBI John E. Lewis had to say on the matter of animal rights extremism in 2004:

    [S]pecial interest extremism, as characterized by the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), and related extremists, has emerged as a serious domestic terrorist threat. … The FBI estimates that the ALF/ELF and related groups have committed more than 1,100 criminal acts in the United States since 1976, resulting in damages conservatively estimated at approximately $110 million.

    Yeah. Not exactly “just a handful.”

    Now, Pacelle referenced violence in the animal welfare movement. We’d argue that this encompasses groups like the ALF, which undoubtedly view themselves as bettering animal welfare by “liberating” animals. Maybe Pacelle has a stricter definition of just, say, pet shelters, in which case he’d probably be correct. But in the context of the question, we interpret the answer in an expansive way.

    For the record, HSUS has a statement against violence. But we certainly hope that its CEO isn’t glossing over the existence of fringe, terroristic elements in the larger animal liberation movement.

    In fact, animal activists just the other week set fire to a fur store in Idaho, causing $100,000 in damage. Why isn’t HSUS speaking out more against this kind of violence? Given how many press releases that HSUS puts out (often several a day), can’t it afford to put out one against this violent act in the name of animals? If HSUS will offer a reward for the killing a single deer, as it did this summer, why won’t it offer one in this case of arson?

    We’re sure Pacelle would agree with us that it’s good to be “humane” to humans, too. And it shouldn’t be a burden for HSUS to take more initiative in speaking out against violence—even “just a handful” of times.

    Posted on 10/11/2011 at 11:25 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Interviews

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  • Pacelle Has No ‘Bond’ with American Airlines

    Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle’s new book, The Bond, has already inspired a slew of puff pieces and pat-on-the-back press. Amazon is already deep-discounting the paperweight-class tome, but fawning reporters are doing pretty much what you might expect.

    But sometimes even good press can backfire.

    American Way, the in-flight magazine of American Airlines, devoted five full pages of its February issue to gushing (read: nauseating) prose about Pacelle, claiming that he has “the confidence of a Kennedy and the type of handsome face that seems perfectly tailored to accent his tailored suit.”

    If you’re looking for that article today, however, you won’t find it on the American Way website. The browsable digital version of the February issues now contains five blank pages where the article originally appeared. (We found a scanned copy of the piece here.)

    How did this happen? It turns out HSUS’s carefully crafted media image isn’t bulletproof when both sides of the story are heard.

    The National Turkey Federation (a trade group for turkey farmers, as you probably guessed) says that after the article appeared, it asked the Animal Agriculture Alliance (another trade group) to write to American Way Executive Editor Adam Pitluk.

    The Alliance catalogued its grievances with HSUS, explaining that the animal rights group works “to prohibit the ownership and use of animals in any way—be it for companionship, entertainment, or food,” and that Wayne Pacelle “has learned to exploit the general public’s emotions in order to fund his organization’s political agenda.”

    According to the National Turkey Federation, Pitluk “admitted to the Alliance that he was ‘duped’ and should have included both sides of the story. He affirmed that American Way would never feature HSUS or other animal rights groups again.”

    It sounds like this well-meaning mile-high editor was shocked—as many Americans are—to learn the full truth about the Humane Society of the United States and its agenda.

    A little polite education can go a long way, and HumaneWatch is chock full of curriculum material for your impromptu lessons. Don’t forget to browse our Document Library for the evidence you’ll need. And if you’re not already active in our Facebook community, check it out. You’ll find kindred spirits with a passion for telling the truth about the animal rights movement.

    Posted on 04/25/2011 at 11:20 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureInterviews

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Dr. Jeff Ondrak, DVM, MS

    Dr. Jeff Ondrak is part of a disappearing breed: the beef cattle veterinarian. Demand is up for livestock docs, but the supply is short and getting shorter by the year.

    He’s also one of the more outspoken vets. Dr. Ondrak is a clearly not afraid to speak truth to—or about—power. During a February speech in his native Nebraska, he advised a group of women in agriculture: “If you get a letter from HSUS, please don’t send them money.”

    It’s no surprise that someone who depends on animal agriculture for his customer base would have a problem with the Humane Society of the United States. There’s a growing national awareness of HSUS’s affinity with the animal “rights” philosophy, and we’ve come to understand that this includes a desire for farm animals to exit the human food chain.

    But veterinarians have sworn to work for (among other things) “the protection of animal health, the relief of animal suffering … [and] the promotion of public health.” So any time a vet is willing to sit with us for an interview, we’re eager to learn what he or she thinks about the animal rights movement and the Humane Society of the United States —and about whether those institutions are working toward the same goals.

    You’ve been more frank about the Humane Society of the United States than most veterinarians—even more than most farmers and ranchers. Why are you so outspoken?

    In a 2009 address to the National Association of Farm Broadcasting, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle described his organization as a “sophisticated political operation.” He was right.

    And it appears that less than one percent of his annual budget goes to pet shelters for the direct care of dogs and cats. This is a far cry from the image HSUS portrays in its advertisements. So it appears logical to encourage people to send their donations directly to their local animal shelters, and not to support HSUS.

    While I may appear to be more outspoken than other veterinarians on this issue, I am not saying anything I have not heard repeatedly from many of my veterinary colleagues.  I just happened to be the one quoted in a newspaper while saying it.

    You recently told a “Nebraska Women in Agriculture” conference: “We [in agriculture] think we’re the good guys, and those people [animal rights activists] aren’t.” You added that the activists believe the same thing, only in reverse. Who’s winning? Is this conflict mostly a product of America’s growing urban/rural divide?

    It seems as if American society has moved toward regulating animal agriculture based on concerns about certain production practices. This makes it feel as though animal rights activists are “winning.” I do believe this regulation-friendly climate is partly due to the fact that most Americans lack an agricultural background. It’s estimated that more than half our nation’s population is at least three generations removed from a farm.

    Today, 98% of farms and ranches are family owned. Yet animal activists would probably characterize many of those family farms as factory farms, because they have adopted modern technology in an effort to keep their family operations functioning.

    People understand that certain foods come from animals, but they don’t appreciate the investment of time and resources farmers and ranchers commit to their animals. I believe most people, if they were actually exposed to modern agricultural practices, would recognize that farmers really are caring stewards of their animals.

    A former student of mine was a vegan with no animal agriculture background.  Her comment after visiting our facility was that she was surprised to learn how much effort was put into caring for the livestock—and that we did actually care about the animals.

    What kind of an impact do you think HSUS is having on the current generation of future veterinarians? Are you seeing more animal-“rights”-oriented students today than you did ten years ago?

    The students I interact with appear to have an increased awareness of animal welfare issues, compared with students in the past. I would not characterize their views as “animal rights.” But they do have a stronger background and a better understanding of the issues related to using animals for food, fiber, research, learning, and companionship. I think this is a good thing for the veterinary profession and the livestock industry.

    You’re a beef-cattle specialist, so we’re assuming you know lots of Nebraska livestock producers. We’ve heard talk of a possible “national advisory council” of farmers and ranchers who would work with HSUS. What are your feelings about ranchers who would participate?

    Any time farmers and ranchers have the opportunity to work with groups that support the continued production of safe, wholesome food to meet the demands of a rapidly growing human population, they should do so. The words and actions of HSUS, however, suggest they are not interested in assisting in this endeavor.

    HSUS clearly supports a vegan agenda that includes the “Three R’s” of humane eating—what HSUS’s website describes as “reducing the consumption of meat and other animal-based foods; refining the diet by avoiding products from the worst production systems (e.g. , switching to cage-free eggs); and replacing meat and other animal-based foods in the diet with plant-based foods.”

    It appears livestock producers and HSUS have very different goals.

    To make any “advisory council” of ranchers involving HSUS productive, I believe HSUS would have to modify its position regarding what constitutes “humane eating.”

    We’re seeing a push from the animal rights movement to ban the use of subtherapeutic antibiotics in livestock. As a veterinarian, what’s your reaction to these kinds of proposals?

    One of the five basic freedoms associated with animal well-being is the freedom from pain, injury, or disease. So I find it interesting that people and groups who claim to be interested in the well-being of livestock would support a ban on the use of “subtherapeutic” antibiotics for the prevention of disease.

    Remember, such a ban was enacted In Denmark. It resulted in an increased use of antibiotics for the treatment of sick animals. This indicates “subtherapeutic” antibiotics were preventing illnesses that would otherwise have negatively impacted the animals’ well-being.

    At the same time there is no evidence the Danish ban has reduced the risk to humans from antibiotic-resistant bacteria. This was the stated objective of the ban in the first place.

    Posted on 03/10/2011 at 3:56 am by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureInterviewsVeterinarians

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Jeff Fowle

    Jeff Fowle is a California cattle rancher who takes the Internet seriously. When he’s not looking after his animals, he’s updating his Facebook wall and writing his Common Sense Agriculture blog—or communicating with the more than 31,000 people (!) who follow him on Twitter.

    Jeff also understands—better than most, we think—the Humane Society of the United States’s agenda for food animals. HSUS’s strategy, he wrote about a year ago, “is to implement laws and regulations that incrementally work towards the abolishment of animal agriculture and promote a vegan lifestyle.”

    That’s pretty strong stuff. It’s no surprise, then, that Jeff takes his concerns about HSUS with him wherever he goes—online and off. Yesterday he was on an airplane from Chicago to Washington, seated next to two HSUS donors. Guess what happened?

    Just before noon, this “tweet” popped up on Jeff’s account:

    Jeff would later flesh the story out on his blog:

    A young couple, in their 20′s, sat next to me and inquired my occupation….lol. I shared my background, to which they replied that they were strong supporters of what I did and were doing their part by donating monthly to…..HSUS.

    I let that register in my brain for a moment, sent out a tweet and mentally laid out a plan of engagement. Surprisingly, by asking a line of questions about their understanding of what HSUS does and how they do it, the couple then began asking questions about how I and other family farmers and ranchers cared for our livestock and why I did not appreciate the “help” of the HSUS.

    We weren’t on that flight, but Jeff must have said something impressive. Here’s what he “tweeted” after his plane landed:

    Again, we’ll let him tell the story:

    By the time we landed in Washington, the couple stated that they would be changing their monetary contributions from HSUS to their local shelter and even begin donating old towels and sheets. In addition, the fellow sitting across the aisle, volunteered that he was going to start helping his local shelter as well, and would help spread the word about what HSUS was really doing.

    Jeff’s mile-high experiment with low-tech “agvocacy” has created a huge high-tech buzz among farmers and ranchers today, so we reached out and asked him a few questions:

    Do you wake up in the morning looking for Humane Society of the United States “supporters” to convert, or was this a spur-of-the-moment thing?

    I look for opportunities to simply share my story, as a family rancher and farmer, with the public. I don’t “push” any type of message per se, but I look for open doors with individuals who have genuine questions and concerns about where their food come from, and about how it is grown and produced.

    Is it your general understanding that HSUS wants to put you (and your descendants) out of the business of raising animals for food?

    It is my firm belief that the HSUS is anti-livestock-production. Their actions speak very clearly.

    What bothers you most about HSUS’s tactics?

    What I find most disingenuous about HSUS is that they play off the emotions of the public to draw in money that never makes it to the shelters that are in such dire need. Instead, they take that money and utilize it to lobby, to promote anti-livestock legislation and propositions throughout the United States, and to promote a vegan lifestyle.

    Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

    I fully support local humane shelters, especially those that also take in large animals. Ironically, they’re also being inundated with inhabitants due to HSUS-implemented laws and regulations.

    Our bottom line is this: Jeff Fowle’s person-to-person persuasion is something anyone can practice. And you don’t have to be eating airline peanuts to try it. We’ve heard similar stories about subway rides, T-ball games, doctor’s waiting rooms, and even long grocery-checkout lines.

    The cowboy hat, of course, is optional.

    Posted on 02/23/2011 at 2:39 am by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureInterviews

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Jake Geis

    The Humane Society of the United States has put many Americans in uncomfortable positions during the current decade, but few have found themselves in a box quite like veterinarians.

    Just last week the American Veterinary Medical Association (whose chief executive we interviewed back in September) made significant changes to The Veterinarian's Oath, which had only been amended once since its creation in 1969. It now refers to "animal health and welfare," along with "the prevention and relief of animal suffering." (New words are in italics.) The first reaction of many observers was that the move was taken in reaction to HSUS—and specifically to its threat to capture the hearts and minds of young vets, and of vets-to-be.

    Many vets—especially the youngest ones who are most comfortable questioning authority—recognize that they’re caught between the proverbial “rock” and the corresponding “hard place.” On one hand, many of them are visibly uncomfortable with seeing the animal rights movement gather steam. But on the other, they recognize the need to maintain the dignity of the veterinary profession by refusing to return fire when HSUS slings mud. In short, playing dirty is supposed to be beneath them. And for good reason.

    With everything going on in the veterinary world, it's fitting that we're talking with Jake Geis. He’s a second-year veterinary student at Iowa State University. (That school’s cooperative agreement with the University of Nebraska has put him in Lincoln for the first half of his training.) Geis first pinged our radar screen on November 19 when The Daily Nebraskan published his passionate essay titled “National Humane Society has Backward Priorities.”

    Shortly after the November 21 “Town Hall” meeting hosted by HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, we caught up with this articulate young vet-to-be and asked him what he thought about all the hoopla.

    During Wayne Pacelle's “town hall” meeting in Lincoln, you were one of the lucky few who got to ask a question. Since you're in veterinary school, no one was surprised when you wanted to know why HSUS disagreed with the American Veterinary Medical Association so much. What was his response, and what did that response tell you about Pacelle and his organization?

    Wayne Pacelle’s response was long-winded and confusing, just like his answer to all of the audience’s questions. One thing did stick out though: He said veterinarians who write the guidelines for animal welfare work for industry, and are “in the pockets of” industries. I find this personally insulting.

    Pacelle basically declared that because we work with farmers and ranchers, we veterinarians are mindless profit-mongers. According to his definition, the lovable English veterinarian James Herriot would be “in the pocket of industry” too. (Herriott, the famed author of All Creatures Great and Small, routinely worked with both pets and livestock.)

    It wasn’t surprising, though. It seems typical of HSUS to characterize everyone who disagrees with them as profit-oriented monsters. From the American Veterinary Medical Association to the American Quarter Horse Association to the National Pork Producers Council, according to HSUS anyone who actually lives around livestock is biased and evil.

    It would be comical to make of list of organizations that HSUS bashes and then look at who their members are. You’d see a lot of small family farms and mixed animal veterinarians.

    You’re in the middle of veterinary school right now. What do your classmates tend to think about the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association? Will your generation of vets pay them any serious attention as professionals, or do you think everyone has already seen through the animal-rights façade?

    Most of us don’t even know what the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association is. They do not come to our campus, they do not interact with us, and they make up no serious component of the veterinary profession.

    In the Heartland, we’ve pretty much called their bluff: There are no student chapters of the HSVMA at any of the Great Plains veterinary colleges, to my knowledge, with the exception of Colorado State University. I’m concerned, though, that colleges in urban areas will give this bogus organization more credit than it deserves.

    I think it’s important for veterinary students in the Great Plains states to communicate with their peers that the sole purpose of the HSVMA is to discredit the AVMA. Its success would have disastrous consequences for the profession, even beyond the animal welfare debate.

    Watching the leaders of your future profession, do you sometimes wish they would confront groups like HSUS and PETA more directly? Or do you fall in with those who want to see veterinary medicine take the high road and avoid letting animal rights activists lay claim to any credibility?

    I’d love it if we could take the high road and just dismiss HSUS as the crazies they are, like PETA. But unfortunately they’ve drawn us into battle and now we have to take a stand. HSUS has even lambasted the American Veterinary Medical Association in full page newspaper ads!

    Considering that HSUS is much more well-known than the AVMA, we need to take a very public stand to re-establish our superior credibility instead of letting HSUS define us. Veterinarians are the animal welfare experts, and AVMA is the veterinary profession.

    The public needs to know this so they can seek out the opinions of those whose lives are dedicated to animal welfare, and not activists who profit from sensationalism.

    Surely you’ve seen HSUS marching from state to state, trying to force ever-tighter livestock standards on farmers. Some observers have suggested that wherever HSUS succeeds, the need for qualified veterinarians will actually increase, since someone has to certify that the new animal welfare standards do what they claim to do. Others predict that vets will be cut out of the loop, and that government bureaucrats (or even local animal protection groups) will mostly take on the load of inspections and evaluations. Have you thought about this? Where do you think it’s all headed?

    My classmates and I have discussed this issue: Would it be profitable for a veterinarian to visit farms or ranches for extra inspections? The USDA already depends on local vets for health inspections for the interstate transport of animals, so it would be quite possible that welfare inspections would be done by local vets too.

    But given HSUS’s opinions about livestock veterinarians, it wouldn’t surprise me if they lobbied to make themselves, not vets, the official inspection body. Either way, it would cost the farmers money for a redundant (and sometimes completely unnecessary) service, which means they can’t buy more livestock.

    Now, I will earn a better living as a vet (through pregnancy checks and other vital services) if there are more livestock in my area than if I performed more services on less livestock. More importantly, I want to see family farms grow so they can continue for several more generations, not stagnate because of government intrusion.

    The Great Plains states have seen a sea change—pushed by HSUS from Washington, DC—in what happens to unwanted horses. There used to be a legitimate slaughter industry, and now the federal government (thanks to Wayne Pacelle) has told the USDA it can’t spend money for horse-slaughter inspectors. (No inspections means no slaughter.) Do you agree with the assessment of some who say this policy shift has resulted in literally tens of thousands of horses being abandoned, and still more sent to Mexico for slaughter with little or no humane standards? Many people who have never been around horses tend to think slaughtering one is horrible, like killing a pet. How would you explain this controversy to them?

    I don’t just agree this is an atrocity. I’ve seen it.

    My great-grandpa built our family’s farm through breeding horses, but now we don’t even bother with breeding horses anymore. Why should we? We can buy registered yearling foals at horse sales for $50 or less. We’ve bought them for as little as $10. I can get a horse for less than the cost of a good meal!

    People have to lock their horse trailers when they go to sales, but not because they’re afraid of theft: If they don’t lock them up, someone might dump an unwanted horse on them. I've had people beg our family to take their horses for free, just because they cannot get rid of them.

    The number of horses showing up at rescues has skyrocketed, and horse neglect cases have followed a similar trend. We had a person in our county with 80 starving horses.He couldn't afford to keep them, and he couldn’t sell them either. The county took them, but even the government didn’t know what to do with them. Nobody wants them.

    All these tragedies could be fixed with a simple solution: Allow the return of domestic horse slaughter. In America, we make horses completely and instantaneously unconscious for slaughter. The animal is unconscious faster this way than if they were given euthanasia solution. That doesn’t always happen in Mexico, which can involve stabbing the horse in the neck to paralyze it, but not render it unconscious.

    While many Americans have no desire to eat horse meat (I’ve never had it either), others will. And there’s clearly an export market for it too. If commercial slaughter is the best way to make sure unwanted horses are humanely euthanized, instead of dumped or starved, then that’s truly the most compassionate option.

    You clearly don’t pull punches. But setting aside your pride in your future profession, can you explain to our readers what’s wrong with letting HSUS put new animal welfare standards on the table for layer hens and hogs? If the far more reasonable American Humane Association had proposed the same thing, would farmers and veterinarians have objected so loudly? Put another way, are farmers and ranchers in “flyover country” fighting the issues, or are they fighting HSUS because the thought of a $100 million animal rights group in charge of their animals scares them?

    We are fighting HSUS, since its leaders have no desire to improve animal agriculture. They want it eliminated. The American Humane Association actually does humane certification, and utilizes scientific methods to develop humane handling procedures and housing. AHA also promotes changes in the layer hen and hog industries; but unlike HSUS, it offers realistic, cost-effective solutions that farmers can actually afford to convert to over the course of time.

    HSUS likes to pretend that livestock farming has been in a decades-long standstill. But farmers in every industry have always changed their operating procedures as new information and technology became available. For example, redesigned freestalls in dairies now allow for cows to get up more easily and quietly. And enclosed handling chutes for beef cattle have greatly improved the animal welfare on the ranch.

    HSUS purposely ignores this information because they have no interest in helping animals. If they did, they wouldn’t hold a gun to our head and scream, “do it our way or else!” Ironically, if we didn’t have to use our resources fighting HSUS, we could be using them to research and develop newer and better techniques to improve animal welfare.

    Like a growing number of young people, you’ve invested your own time getting the message about HSUS out to the public. How would you encourage your peers to follow suit?

    Other than being active with Humanewatch, I’d suggest a couple of things. First, when you read an article online about animal issues, comment on it. You may feel like you're just one voice out of hundreds, but your positive comment may be the difference that changes someone's mind—especially if you have a job working directly with animals.

    Also, talk to your friends and family about how animals are used in agriculture, research, hunting, and other parts of American life and culture. The vast majority of people are not opposed to these activities; they just want to know that animals are treated with decency. Your one-on-one communication is always far more effective than any HSUS ad.

    Veterinary school is harder to get into than medical school these days. We’ve seen family members go through incredibly demanding academic curricula and residency training, and they don’t exactly earn cardiologists’ salaries. What is it about working with animals that made veterinary medicine your default go-to career? And, to whatever extent HSUS has managed to marginalize the reputation of veterinarians, how can your generation of young animal doctors make things right again?

    I wouldn’t do anything else with my life. I knew I wanted to be a vet from early in high school, when I first seriously considered my future. I went into “vet med” not for the medicine, but specifically because I wanted a career where I would work hands-on with livestock every day.

    I developed my love for animals back home on the farm, and I knew I wanted to spend my life with the creatures that were so central to my identity. You can learn so much by looking into the eyes of a horse, by seeing ducks moving almost synchronized in their flock around the yard, or even by watching an old cow chewing her cud. Animals are not just a part of my life; they are essential to my existence. I know that I’m not alone; my classmates share my sentiments.

    The Humane Society of the United States has tried to marginalize veterinarians’ reputations because we threaten their monopoly on determining what is “humane” and what isn’t. But most people aren’t fooled when they meet real animal lovers. I’m positive that if young veterinarians spread their message to the public, the jokesters at HSUS will never be able to compete.

    Posted on 12/07/2010 at 7:30 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureHorsesInterviewsPetsVeterinarians

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  • The HumaneWatch interview: Dr. Ron DeHaven

    You’d think that leading a respected group of 80,000 veterinarians would earn Ron DeHaven considerable “street cred” with the animal rights movement. But judging from their behavior, groups like the Humane Society of the United States see Dr. DeHaven and his American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) as just another obstacle in the way of “liberating” animals from their human oppressors.

    Do you own or train dogs? Raise livestock? Breed horses? Sell eggs? Worse yet, are you a veterinarian who identifies more with farmers than with PETA? If so, you’re in HSUS’s crosshairs, and Ron DeHaven regularly catches flak on your behalf.

    Alert HumaneWatchers will remember that in May, Dr. DeHaven  called out HSUS on YouTube. Here’s a bit of what he said about HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle:

    Mr. Pacelle is ignoring the legitimate concerns, and the perspectives and expertise, of legitimate animal welfare scientists and veterinary experts. And he is misleading the public to further his own organization’s agenda. If Mr. Pacelle truly cared about the welfare of animals, he would not be so quick to criticize and minimize the expertise of veterinarians … A knee-jerk response based solely on emotion, and ignoring all of the relevant science, might not be in the best interest of the animals.

    Before taking the post of Executive Vice President at the AVMA, Dr. DeHaven worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, serving as Administrator of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS). By the time he accepted that role, he had already spent several years as APHIS’s chief administrator of the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act. You may remember him as the USDA’s veterinary spokesman during the mad cow disease scare.

    Ron DeHaven took some time out from his busy professional life to answer a few questions about his organization, and about what HSUS has against animal doctors.

    For the benefit of HumaneWatch readers who aren’t veterinarians, can you briefly summarize what the AVMA is, and what it does? Is it basically a trade group for animal doctors, or does it weigh in on public policy matters that affect animals’ health?

    The AVMA is the professional organization for veterinarians—much like the AMA for physicians or the American Bar Association for attorneys. Our mission is to improve animal and human health and advance the veterinary medical profession. We are actively engaged in public policy at both the state and federal levels on behalf of our members – on topics ranging from animal welfare to responsible use of pharmaceuticals, and from homeland security to small business issues.

    But government relations is only one part of what we do. We conduct educational sessions at our annual convention, we develop guidance to improve veterinary medical practice, and we facilitate access to the services and products that our members want. Our volunteers and staff are dedicated to making sure veterinarians have the tools they need to be successful in their careers, in their families, and in their communities.

    A few years ago the Humane Society of the United States merged with the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and the “Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association”(HSVMA) was born. Is this an attempt to poach members away from the AVMA and compete with the “establishment” veterinary group?

    I can’t speak to their motivations, but the existence of the HSVMA does not affect any of the things the AVMA does to serve and represent veterinarians. Our 80,000 member veterinarians care for domestic and wild animals used for companionship, food, fiber, work, research, and entertainment. The HSVMA is looking at a narrow set of issues from one perspective. We function at a more universal level for the good of everyone who is involved with and benefits from veterinary medicine.

    It’s difficult to imagine that veterinarians who have been in small-animal private practice for decades might walk out on the AVMA and latch on to a new group. It’s even a bigger stretch to think that livestock vets would gravitate toward something (anything!) connected with HSUS. So what’s going on? Is HSUS trying to attract the loyalty of younger veterinary students? Are they going after the next generation?

    Once again, I can’t speak to the HSUS’s motivations. But I think it would be fair to say that the HSVMA is making a concerted effort to have a presence on veterinary school campuses. At the same time, I’ve talked to many students (including but not limited to Student AVMA leaders. As a whole, they seem skeptical of the HSUS’s motivations. And they’re generally unimpressed by its efforts.

    One of the things that might make the HSVMA attractive to younger veterinarians (and students) is its “Rural Area Veterinary Services” volunteer program, which claims to offer more than $1 million in free veterinary services every year. Does the AVMA offer anything like that for underserved communities, or are you planning to?

    We certainly see value in broadening the experience of veterinary students beyond traditional areas of practice, and we understand that there’s a need to improve access to basic veterinary care in the U.S.

    Although it is too early to commit, we have been evaluating a proposal for the development of a program that would provide low-cost veterinary care to populations in need. It would also give veterinary students the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the field.

    In the meantime, the AVMA already provides opportunities for externs and interns in both the public and private sectors, and those opportunities aren’t limited to field work. So if a student is interested in gaining experience in private practice, industry, nonprofits, government, research, zoos/aquariums, or environmental and public health (just to name a few practice areas), I’d encourage them to visit our website or call us for information about these programs.

    It makes sense that young veterinarians wouldn’t initially trust HSUS’s fledgling veterinary group, since it hasn’t been active in their field for very long. But what do you see beyond the horizon? Once the HSVMA is 10 or 20 years old, will it be considered the AVMA’s moral equal? How will you compete in a “market” where you’ve never really had a serious competitor before?

    Right now, we’re more focused on what our members, including students, want the AVMA to be in 10 to 20 years and how we can best serve them. We’re not all that concerned about what another group might be doing.

    The HSVMA has a very specific animal rights focus; the AVMA advocates for the profession across the whole spectrum of issues affecting veterinary medicine. In that sense, we have no competition.

    It’s great that the AVMA is working toward providing more veterinary care to financially strapped populations (especially in the current economy). If HSUS were planning that sort of charitable outreach for the first time, it would be releasing ads, erecting celebrity-endorsement billboards, blitzing its e-mail lists, and (of course) using the exposure to raise money. When your effort launches, can we expect to hear all about it from top-tier media outlets? Or does the AVMA work more quietly?

    We don’t have the budget HSUS has to promote itself, so the AVMA would be unlikely to toot its own horn as loudly. We have a responsibility to our members to conscientiously spend our budget, approximately 60% of which comes from member dues.

    We use that income on projects, services, and benefits that provide veterinarians with a great return on their investment. We’d be more likely to spend money developing, supporting, and enhancing the delivery of much-needed services than to launch high-profile, expensive media campaigns that can easily cost millions of dollars.

    We get that you have to be cautious about the words you use when you talk about HSUS. But many veterinarians who “get the joke” about HSUS’s intentions would get a boost of confidence from seeing the AVMA acknowledge that HSUS has declared war on the veterinary profession as we know it. Will you keep sending the message to Wayne Pacelle that veterinarians don’t want activists to lead them around by the nose?

    It’s true that Wayne Pacelle has launched some vicious, and in my view, unfounded attacks against the AVMA. We’re not afraid to speak up and correct misinformation or rebut false allegations, but we have no interest in becoming entangled in a so-called “battle” that would waste time, effort, and money but do little to nothing to improve animal health and welfare. Rather than attacking another organization, we’re spending our resources to make the AVMA the premier organization that supports veterinarians and the animals we serve.

    Got a comment? Be sure to leave your thoughts below. From August 23 to October 29, 2010 we will be choosing the two best comments each week of 25 words or more, and awarding $100 (each) to the local pet shelters of the commenters’ choice. Click here for more information and the official rules.

    Posted on 09/10/2010 at 12:35 am by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: InterviewsVeterinarians

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Congressman Steve King

    Iowa Republican Steve King is a rare bird in U.S. politics. He's proven time and time again that it's possible to openly criticize a political behemoth like the Humane Society of the United States and still keep your job in the U.S. Congress.

    Rep. King grew up in a law enforcement family in Storm Lake, Iowa. He married his high school sweetheart. (they have three grown sons and three grandchildren.) Starting with a single bulldozer, he built a construction business from the ground up. His oldest son now runs it.

    After serving in the Iowa State Senate for six years, Steve King was elected to Congress in 2002. He serves on the House Agriculture, Judiciary, and Small Business Committees. Rep. King is also an unabashed Constitutional "originalist," and you'll never catch him anywhere without a copy of the U.S. Constitution in his coat pocket.

    Since he represents rural Iowa, it should come as no surprise that Steve King is a big supporter of agriculture (including animal ag). He's also an avid hunter.

    This week the Congressman took time out of his busy schedule to answer our questions.

    Congressman King, you have emerged as one of very few federal lawmakers who are willing to stand up to the bullies of today’s animal rights movement. Obviously, your Iowa district is engaged in a lot of animal agriculture, but we’d like to think you’d be pushing back against the deceptive Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) if you were representing central Des Moines instead. Am I right? Have HSUS’s antics officially “radicalized” you? Or are you just zealously representing the Western fifth of Iowa?

    While serving in Congress, I have learned a great deal about the Humane Society of the United States. I came to understand that HSUS is a political machine masquerading as an umbrella organization for local humane societies. This is a radical activist group committed to working against livestock production and American farmers.

    I would be opposed to the agenda of HSUS whether I was from Iowa, California, Hawaii, or any other state.  And I think all Americans need to be aware about what HSUS is really about.  While most local animal shelters perform commendable services in their local communities, the national HSUS organization is run by vegetarians with an extreme anti-meat agenda.

    As you’ve shown through terrific research on your site, HSUS markets itself as an animal care organization but spends less than 1% of its $100 million annual budget in hands-on pet shelters. This isn’t right.

    HSUS also goes after sportsmen. Hunters and anglers contribute more on a yearly basis toward habitat restoration that any other group. A certain portion of every gun sale, ammo sale, hunting equipment sale, and fishing equipment sale is returned to state wildlife agencies for wildlife restoration. You would think that HSUS would be happy about this, but they are not. Instead they seek to punish hunters.

    You recently wrote in a press release that “HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” We happen to agree with that sentiment, but not everyone is convinced of this. What do you tell Iowans who disagree, or who just can’t bring themselves to imagine that they’ve been deceived for so long?

    I would suggest that everyone examine the facts. Remember, HSUS markets itself as an animal care organization but spends less than 1% of its budget in hands-on pet shelters. Wayne Pacelle has stated publicly that he is a vegan. Other members of his staff have said “meat equals abuse.” The recipes on the HSUS website are devoid of meat or animal products. The Thanksgiving Day recipe on the HSUS website is “Thanksgiving Day Tofu.”

    If HSUS wasn’t pushing a vegetarian agenda, then why does its website state that “vegetarian eating is an effective and positive way to help farm animals?” HSUS is clearly and publicly pushing anti-meat agenda.

    In your Baltimore Sun op-ed last week, you wrote that the inclusion of HSUS in the recent national 4-H convention might be “a troubling concession to anti-meat liberals working for the Obama administration at the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” Is the animal rights issue seen as a left-vs-right topic in Washington, DC? Or are there notable conservatives who are drinking the kool-aid too?

    Generally speaking, those on the political left are the leaders of activist animal rights organizations and environmental groups. The current administration has embraced and even hired many of these types of individuals. The Department of Agriculture is quickly becoming less about farmers and more about food stamps and nutrition programs.

    However, some conservatives drank the kool-aid too. For example, if you examine recent votes Congress has taken on animal issues, you’ll find that both conservatives and liberals have cast votes that hurt animal agriculture. Some conservatives have voted with HSUS to avoid the heat. Supporting agriculture and farming should be a bi-partisan issue. Organizations like HSUS are hurting both the political left and political right.

    Anyone who watches politics “inside the beltway” understands that HSUS has done a pretty good job cozying up to Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle. What can be done to educate your peers about how HSUS’s goals aren’t in line with their constituents’ values? Are there more Congressmen and women like you? Is it just a matter of coaxing them out into the daylight?

    I’ve long believed that the best antidote to waste, fraud, and abuse—in Congress or any other legislative body—is transparency. As more and more facts about HSUS enter into the public domain, elected officials will have no choice but to respond and reassess their existing notions of what that organization stands for.

    This is why I believe the work you're doing is so important. New media outlets are today’s Woodward and Bernstein. I saw the impact that new media can have last year, as two independent journalists did remarkable investigative reporting about the corrupt organization ACORN and basically shamed Congress into responding.

    As more Members learn about HSUS’s true record, I would expect some perceptions to change. For example, Members cannot claim to be pro-animal agriculture and simultaneously support an organization that has given money to the notorious anti-meat organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

    We understand that HSUS has a contract with FEMA as its designated animal services provider for emergencies. Given the cloud of mystery surrounding how HSUS spent the $34 million it raised after Hurricane Katrina (and the fact that the group used an Internet pornography kingpin to build the fundraising website), do you think this is appropriate?

    I do not think this is appropriate at all. The record clearly shows that HSUS has a habit of “raiding” locations of alleged animal abuse; and in the process of this fear mongering, HSUS capitalizes on self-serving publicity. Meanwhile, HSUS leaves local shelters in these same areas high and dry by offering no supplemental funding for the care of the allegedly affected animals.

    HSUS falsely capitalizes on the goodwill generated by local (mostly volunteer) animal shelters to raise money for its political agenda. These are the credentials HSUS brings to the table as a “designated animal services provider.”

    And it is completely inappropriate for HSUS or any organization with the stated goal of ending cruelty to animals to partner with any party that supports pornography.

    As it stands right now, the United States doesn’t have a real “national humane society,” in the sense that there’s no national organization whose sole purpose is to raise money and put it in the hands of needy pet shelters. (Most Americans believe that’s what HSUS does, but that’s clearly not the case.) Is there anything a member of Congress (hint, hint) could do to get Congress to charter such an organization?

    Because no “clearinghouse” exists for America’s pet shelters, HSUS is able to raise money with dishonest methods.

    HSUS claims to “protect animals” during its fundraising process, but we know that very little of its budget is actually spent on animal protection, so the potential for fraud in this situation is great.

    It may warrant a look to federally charter an organization whose sole purpose is to match interested donors up with animal shelters needing resources for direct animal care.

    That press release we asked you about concerned a recent 4-H convention where HSUS managed to indoctrinate young people with its twisted view of animal agriculture. Has 4-H completely lost its way? Or is this a case where one or two brain-dead administrators at the 4-H head office made a bad decision? How much have you heard about this from your constituents?

    I do not think 4-H has lost its way. Local and state 4-H programs do a wonderful job getting children involved in their communities. 4-H members work hard and put in long hours raising and training animals for county fairs all across the country. And local 4-H programs teach young men and women how to make their own contributions to animal agriculture.

    Thankfully, many local and state 4-H organizations—including the 4-H program in Iowa—have denounced HSUS’s presence at the national 4-H conference. Local and state 4-H groups understand the negative ramifications of inviting HSUS to indoctrinate young people into an anti-animal agriculture agenda.

    National 4-H has yet to apologize for its decision to invite HSUS to present its program at its national conference. Their attempts to explain the presence of HSUS have led some of my constituents to reconsider supporting national 4-H programs.

    I think now would be a good time for the young leaders of 4-H to present and pass a resolution through national 4-H that formally refuses to grant a forum to organizations that are anathema to the organization's grand traditions. National 4-H needs to fully understand to consequences of partnering with an organization committed to ending the American livestock industry.

    Posted on 04/28/2010 at 4:16 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsInterviews

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: David White

    We got a call some weeks ago from someone at the Ohio Farm Bureau, wondering if we were available to speak at Ohio Livestock Coalition’s April 8 Annual Meeting. Ohio is in the middle of what will probably turn into a nasty ballot-initiative fight with HSUS, so we said yes.

    Since Ohio is where HSUS is playing its anti-farmer game this year, David White is a good guy to know. David is the Ohio Farm Bureau’s Senior Director of Issues Management, a job that he earned after more than 20 years on the job. He’s been actively involved in promoting animal welfare (not to be confused with animal rights) since 1997. And like us, he’s been tracking the animal-rights “conflict industry” for a long time.

    David grew up on his family’s seventh-generation, diversified livestock farm in southern Indiana, and earned a degree in agricultural education from Purdue University. 

    David White answered our questions last week about what Ohioans will see this year in the political war over farm animals.

    David, by now everyone reading this is aware that Ohio is “ground zero” for HSUS’s ballot-initiative machine in 2010. And despite the fact that Ohio voters approved the creation of an independent “Livestock Care Standards Board” just last year, HSUS wants to force the Board to approve restrictions on farmers that are identical to what California voters green-lighted in 2008. What makes this year’s Ohio campaign different from the 2008 effort in California? HSUS won big out there. Should we expect a different result in the Buckeye State?

    First of all, it’s not a done deal yet for HSUS. They will have to collect the signatures of more than 400,000 registered Ohio voters between now and June 30 to get their ballot initiative placed on the November 2 ballot. And the signatures must come from registered voters in 44 of Ohio’s 88 counties to qualify for the ballot.

    What makes their proposed campaign different from California’s Prop 2 is that they want to use the state of Ohio’s constitution to direct the work of the Livestock Care Standards Board (which was created by Issue 2 last year).

    We’re pleased that Ohio voters choose overwhelmingly to support Issue 2. The “enabling legislation” regarding this measure is currently pending in the Ohio General Assembly. We’re confident that the Board, made up of Ohio experts on animal care, food safety, biosecurity, and veterinary medicine, is the right approach to maintaining excellent farm animal care in Ohio.

    HSUS’s approach is narrow—focusing only on how some farm animals are housed in specific housing systems. The approach of the Livestock Care Standards Board will be broad and meaningful, covering all aspects of how farm animals are raised and cared for.

    If the HSUS measure gets to the ballot in November, we believe voters will continue to identify with the plans they voted to support in November 2009, that the right approach is to have the Livestock Care Standards Board study these issues and set the standards. The Board must consider overall animal health, on-farm biosecurity, animal disease prevention, food safety, the affordability of food supplies, best farm management practices, and animal morbidity & mortality data. That’s something that HSUS’s proposal fails to do.

    But for readers who aren’t familiar with Ohio, can you bring us up to speed on the degree to which Ohio is an “ag state”? Most people think of Wisconsin for dairy, Oklahoma for cattle, Iowa for pork, and so on. What is Ohio’s biggest “skin” in the game here? And how big a chunk of Ohio’s economy will be tied up in knots if HSUS wins in November?

    Agriculture is vitally important to the state of Ohio, and animal agriculture is a part of that. Overall, agriculture contributes more than $98 billion to the state’s economy.

    Ohio is also a significant livestock producing state. The Buckeye State ranks second nationally in egg production, tenth in pork, eleventh in dairy and turkeys, 12th in sheep and lambs (it’s the largest sheep-producing state east of the Mississippi), sixteenth in beef production, and in the top twenty for broiler chickens. We’re also a top veal producing state.

    Livestock and poultry production contributes more than $8 billion to Ohio’s economic engine. It accounts for one-third of the state’s farm production, it’s responsible for 47,000 jobs, and it generates more than $299 million in tax revenue. Livestock farmers consume 94 percent of Ohio’s soybean meal and nearly 30 percent of the corn. So not only would family farmers raising livestock be devastated by HSUS’s proposal, but grain farmers could lose their number one customers.

    As we write this question (March 7), HSUS and its allies in Ohio have just begun to collect signatures. Is there anything you can do to slow them down? We know farmers are busy actually producing something (unlike the animal rights industry), but what kind of assets can you mobilize to make the task more difficult for HSUS? Do you anticipate having to challenge the validity of thousands of petition signatures, or is that a waste of time?

    We’re not suggesting that people shouldn’t sign petitions. But we are asking them to understand what they’re signing and the agenda behind the effort, and to make an informed choice.

    HSUS’s approach is a thinly veiled attempt to advance its overall agenda, which is to encourage people to follow a vegetarian lifestyle. HSUS should step back and give the Livestock Care Standards Board time to work. Their actions to date show total disregard for Ohio voters, and for what they have said about farm animal care in our state.

    Ohio can’t afford a measure like California’s Proposition 2. We intend to share these messages with the citizens of Ohio throughout this process. Additionally, we are encouraged by state leaders who have, on their own, expressed concern that HSUS is back in Ohio before the Livestock Care Standards Board has had a chance to work. Hopefully, Ohioans will hear that message, too.

    It was about two years ago that HSUS released its undercover video from the Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant in Chino, California. Lots of people made a fuss about how HSUS sat on the devastating video for several months (instead of trying to immediately correct the abuse of livestock), just so it could leak the film to the media when it would help the “Proposition 2” campaign. Do you worry that another shoe could drop any day now in Ohio? Is there any indication that HSUS—or another group like Mercy For Animals—could crawl out of the woodwork with a new video that was shot some months ago? Do you have a plan in place in case this happens?

    Actually, they’ve already been here. You may recall that the Humane Farming Association (HFA) placed someone undercover on a northeastern Ohio hog farm a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, this farmer was not following approved practices for handling farm animals, including euthanasia, and it was used in the HBO program Death on a Factory Farm.

    This is probably why HSUS has specific language in its ballot petition signature drive to prevent inhumane methods of farm animal euthanasia, and to require that euthanasia methods be deemed acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association. It’s our job to ensure that Ohioans know that we do not condone, nor have we condoned these types of practices. It should be the responsibility of the Livestock Care Standards Board to establish (by rule) the types of handling and euthanasia practices that will be acceptable, and to declare that those who do not follow the Board’s rules will face civil penalties.

    Campaigns like this one often come down to an urban-vs-rural showdown. And while HSUS has to gather signatures in at least 44 counties, it can still spend the bulk of its time in Cleveland, Columbus, Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron, and Toledo. Are you and your team doing anything in particular to reach people outside your rural “bubble”? We’d imagine that kind of outreach is important to do early, before the noise of the Congressional Midterm campaign season drowns everything else out.

    All political issues are local, and we will very much be depending on a grassroots movement, just like we had on Issue 2, to defeat HSUS’s ballot initiative. We’re counting on the grassroots in every Ohio county, including urban and suburban counties.

    Please keep this in mind: Issue 2 passed in 87 of the Buckeye State’s 88 counties, which included major urban centers and suburban regions. Overall, it passed 64-36 percent.

    When considering groups like HSUS, we keep coming back to the Ayn Rand novel Atlas Shrugged. This morning we found myself musing on what would happen if Ohio’s egg, veal, and pork farmers stopped producing and just sat on their hands. We imagine the price of a dozen eggs in Mansfield would double pretty quickly. With veal farmers on the sidelines and dairy farmers scrambling to figure out what to do with every male calf born in the Buckeye State, retail milk prices could go up and down like a roller coaster. Ever given any thought to asking farmers to engage in a sit-down strike until HSUS packs up and leaves Ohio?

    In theory, that sounds good, and it might work in Europe where they’ve been known to dump farm goods right into the street.

    In reality, though, it probably wouldn’t work in Ohio. Farmers need to produce and market goods to keep the bills paid and their families fed. Some are already having a difficult time doing this because of low market prices. Many veal farmers are outright perplexed as to why HSUS continues to attack them when the American Veal Association made a 10-year commitment in 2007 to move every veal calf to group housing, and it looks to be on track to meet that goal in 2017.

    What would you tell online ag muckrakers from Missoula, bloggers from Boise, Tweeters from Tupelo, and Facebookers from Fresno? How can we best reach the people you’ll be counting on in November?

    Farmers (and their supporters and advocates) need to be engaged each and every day in positively promoting the benefits of modern animal agriculture. This can be done in a variety of ways: talking to the public, interacting directly with consumers and elected officials, creating and promoting websites about their farming operations, Facebooking, Tweeting, blogging, hosting farm tours, … and the list goes on and on.

    We were successful in Ohio with Issue 2 because farmers proactively took control of the animal welfare debate away from the animal rights activists. This needs to be done on a continual, daily basis. If you’re not speaking up and speaking out about what you’re doing and why you’re doing it, who will? And are they telling the truth?

    Farmers must be just as committed and passionate about telling their story and getting their message out as the activists are who oppose them. Consider making a commitment to devote 15 minutes each and every day, or 1-2 hours per week, in positively promoting agriculture and engaging the public in meaningful dialogue that will not only maintain their level of interest, but also result in additional support.

    Thanks for sharing your insights with all the HumaneWatchers out there. And the best of luck to you in November. You represent the only side of this debate that’s driven by science and reason instead of emotion. We’ll all be watching and rooting for you.

    Posted on 03/22/2010 at 10:16 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureEggsGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsInterviewsMeat

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  • The HumaneWatch Interview: Frank Losey

    American dog breeders are known for being a passionate, no-nonsense crowd, and very few of them are fans of HSUS. So it didn’t surprise us when we learned a few months ago that they had a professional legal advocate in their corner with an appetite for combat. His name is Frank Losey.

    Frank retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1990 after serving 25 years as a Judge Advocate, including trial work in over 100 courts-martial and a Pentagon stint as Director of Civil Law. He finished his military service with three Legion of Merit Medals, three Meritorious Service Medals, and the Air Force Commendation Medal. The Queen of England even invited him to Buckingham Palace for her Garden Party. (We're not making that up.)

    He also had a Yorkie named Chaucer for 18 years. Frank tells us that he got engaged with dog breeders in Missouri (who are doing real battle with HSUS this year) as a way to repay Chaucer for teaching him the value of loyalty. Is that cool or is that cool?

    If you’ve seen an Internet campaign called “How to Spay and Neuter the HSUS” (clever…), you’re already familiar with Frank’s work. He seems to be a really smart grassroots organizer, so we thought HumaneWatch readers would appreciate hearing from him.

    Frank Losey was kind enough to answer a half-dozen of our questions last week.

    Frank, thanks for tapping out some thoughts for all the other HumaneWatchers out there. We first came across your name in conjunction with an e-mail that at least five different people forwarded to us. The gist of it was that you were looking for an army of "dog people" to send letters to the IRS, asking for an investigation into the Humane Society of the United States. How did that effort get started, and what can you tell us about its progress?

    Over two years ago, I sent Wayne Pacelle a letter asking HSUS to acknowledge the fact that the Missouri Pet Breeders Association had publicly condemned substandard dog kennels in 2006. I also made a request that HSUS publicly condemn those who explicitly violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act.

    The idea for this campaign originated when I got non-responsive letters back from Pacelle, which confirmed in my mind that neither he nor HSUS would ever tell “the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” about the overwhelming majority of responsible dog breeders. HSUS would rather aggressively lobby under false pretenses for new laws at the federal and state level.

    So he really motivated me to begin researching and compiling documentation that would show that HSUS is not in compliance with the IRS Tax Code (and its implementing regulations) with respect to limitations on lobbying activities by public charities. I examined HSUS's tax returns for 2004-2008 and downloaded more than 400 pages of documents from the HSUS Website. Then I prepared a 14-page summary and began distributing it to breeders in different states with a request that they send letters to the IRS Tax Fraud Office in Fresno, CA and urge others to do the same.

    The letter-writing campaign spread like wildfire. It has now generated over 4,000 letters from all 50 States. These letters request that the IRS audit the lobbying activities of HSUS. Significantly, over 1,200 of those letters were sent by certified mail. This effort also generated e-mails to members of Congress, and I have received confirmation that at least four Congressmen have contacted the IRS, asking that it address the concerns of their respective constituents.

    Yep—There's nothing like the guys who approve your budget giving you a marching order. But what about all this lobbying that HSUS does? We know you have an extensive dossier of compelling information, but can you boil it down to a few sentences for readers who don’t know much about lobbying laws? What exactly is HSUS doing that’s wrong?

    IRS regulations expressly state that if a public charity engages in “too much lobbying,” its public charity status may be revoked. The regulations also explicitly prohibit a public charity from actively campaigning for or against political candidates.

    Documents from the HSUS Website, along with incriminating admissions made on HSUS's tax returns, confirm that HSUS has been involved in more than 2,000 distinctly different lobbying activities at the federal, state and local levels during the last five tax years. This includes claiming credit for the enactment of nearly 700 Federal and State Laws. [ed.: HSUS's own Articles of Incorporation also prohibit it from trying to "influence legislation."]

    Additionally, HSUS has published online biographies for its two most senior officials, claiming credit for the defeat of several members of Congress. That’s a mega-major “no-no” for a public charity.

    One other glaring misrepresentation that HSUS repeatedly made on its tax returns for 2004-2007 is that none—I repeat, none—of its "volunteers" or "paid staff or management" did any lobbying whatsoever. This despite incriminating admissions and boastful claims that contradict what those HSUS tax returns say. Such egregious misrepresentations call into question the credibility of everything else HSUS says on its official filings with the government.

    But it's not like HSUS is an island; there are several other groups in the mix. What do you make of that whole alphabet soup? There's HSUS, the HSLF, the HSVA, NAHEE, the Humane USA PAC, etc… How many of those are allowed to lobby? Can't HSUS just spread the accounting around so no single organization goes beyond what’s legally allowable?

    The master illusionist David Copperfield would marvel at how HSUS has used all of its affiliated organizations in the last five or six years in order to create the illusion that it only does minimal lobbying.

    I've researched the timing when those affiliated organizations were created. I've also considered that the Chief Operating Officer (COO) of HSUS [ed: that's Michael Markarian] is simultaneously supervising the Government Affairs Office, which is responsible for HSUS's lobbying activities of the HSUS; he's also the President of the Humane Society Legislative Fund. This is the “officially” designated lobbying arm of HSUS, and it controls the Humane USA PAC. Put this all together, and you can reach an almost irrefutable conclusion that this COO has a blatant conflict of interest. And the IRS may determine that the totality of the cumulative lobbying activities of HSUS' senior management is excessive—and under-reported.

    The IRS would also quite possibly conclude that these affiliated organizations were created as part of an effort to mask the breadth, magnitude, and pervasiveness of HSUS's lobbying activities, in order to circumvent the IRS's explicit limitations on lobbying by public charities.

    Here's the bottom line: The IRS has the authority and responsibility to enforce the tax code, and to determine if HSUS's books are being "cooked" through the use of multiple affiliated organizations that HSUS controls. If HSUS has nothing to hide, it should welcome an IRS audit to validate its total compliance with tax laws, and to explain (to the IRS's satisfaction, anyway) that HSUS has not exceeded the lobbying limitation threshold for a public charity.

    Just between us, Frank, we don't expect them to put out a press release or throw the IRS a "welcome" party. But let's get back to that grassroots army. Now that you’ve assembled thousands of peasants with pitchforks—and we mean that as a compliment—what’s next? Are you going to keep in touch with this new network and “activate” them for other issues related to the animal rights movement?

    Absolutely yes. The genie is out of the bottle, and the thousands of grassroots soldiers (so to speak) are now in a better position to tell the American public the true story about the caring breeders who are responsible for bringing so much love and joy into the homes of appreciative pet owners. This story is beginning to be told, and will continue to be told. Work is also under way to use this network to increase awareness among breeders, as well as in the FBI, about how best to document violations of the federal Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act by overzealous animal rights activists.

    What happens next with your IRS efforts? How will you know if you’ve had an impact? Are people inside the Treasury Department talking to you, or is all of this communication pretty much a one-way street?

    One IRS representative has told me that if the IRS were to investigate allegations about HSUS, such an investigation could take more than a year—and that the IRS would never discuss details of any ongoing investigation.

    Having said that, I am confident that the issue of an audit and investigation of HSUS's lobbying activities is now being internally discussed within the IRS, and the urgency for the initiation of such an audit and investigation will intensify when a senior official in the Department of Treasury asks the IRS: “When will the investigation be completed?”

    And yes, I do believe the stage is being set for such a senior Treasury official to ask that question in the next few months.

    You lawyers are always talking in code. (We guess it's one of those "need to know" things.) So what has this whole effort taught you about grassroots organizing? Did any single tactic work far better (or far worse) than you expected?

    Here are some of the lessons I've taken away from this experience:

    1. The first two words that immediately come to my mind are these: "Numbers matter." 

    2. A grassroots effort must be well thought out and planned before it's launched.

    3. Never underestimate the “power of one,” which has a greater multiplier effect than I thought possible. Once this campaign began, grassroots members began using their own networks to spread the word and recruit new members, who in turn recruited still more members. (This is why HSUS has been so successful in its own grassroots lobbying efforts.)

    4. The best way to generate a "critical mass" of grassroots members is through the Internet.

    5. Develop and polish a message that's easy to understand and follow, so others will not just think and say "Right on," but also actually send letters.

    6. Establish realistic goals.  Mine were for at least one person in every U.S. state to write the IRS, for the IRS to receive several thousand letters, and for at least 1,000 of those letters to be sent by certified mail for added impact. We met or exceeded all these goals.

    7. Perhaps most importantly, never underestimate the importance of “follow-up, follow-up, and follow-up” to sustain your momentum.

    Thanks for being a HumaneWatcher, Frank. We all wish you well.

    Posted on 03/03/2010 at 7:14 pm by The HumaneWatch.org Team.

    Topics: Gov't, Lobbying, PoliticsInterviewsPets

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