Topic: Wildlife

  • ‘Direct Care’ By Whom?

    HSUS recently bragged that it is “consistently at the top among hands-on services provided by any humane organization.” That was right before we discovered that HSUS’s self-calculated “direct care” for animals plummeted last year compared to 2010. As we’ve dug a little deeper, we’ve had more questions about HSUS’s claim.

    For example, most of the “direct care” HSUS counts is spay/neuter procedures. And that “direct” care may actually be provided by others—HSUS just puts on the PR to promote it.

    HSUS also brags that it operates several wildlife and horse sanctuaries. Here’s a little background on them:

    Black Beauty Ranch—a 1,300-acre Texas ranch originally operated solely by the Fund for Animals. The Fund merged with HSUS in 2005, and HSUS is now listed as a “partner.”

    South Florida Wildlife Center—this was actually founded in 1969. From what we can see, this group (known as the “Wildlife Care Center SPCA of Broward County”) is still a separate organization from HSUS.

    The Fund for Animals Wildlife Center—founded in 1984 in Southern California. Helps rehabilitate feral cats, cougars, birds, etc.

    The Cape Wildlife Center—founded in 2000 and located in Massachusetts, currently run by the Fund for Animals “in partnership” with HSUS.

    Rabbit Sanctuary, Inc.—located in South Carolina, it’s a legally separate group “supported by” the Fund for Animals.

    Duchess Sanctuary – this Oregon horse sanctuary was apparently only “made possible” (HSUS’s words) because of $3.5 million in grant money to buy and manage the property from The Roberts Foundation, the Ark Watch Foundation, and the Ark’s founder. (Given that HSUS has $200 million in assets, couldn’t it spare a few million?)

    The Doris Day Horse Rescue and Adoption Center—started in 2011, it’s a center on the Black Beauty Ranch that received a quarter of a million dollars in support from the Doris Day Animal Foundation, an independent group affiliated with HSUS, and operated by HSUS and the Fund for Animals.

    We’re not sure how many HSUS resources go towards these groups. The Fund for Animals still files a separate tax return, which indicates to us that it’s still a separate group. The Fund’s latest return indicates that it spent almost $1.5 million on the two wildlife centers. The Rabbit Sanctuary is a separate group from FFA and HSUS, as well.

    Records indicate that the Fund sent about $55,000 to the South Florida Wildlife Center and Rabbit Sanctuary in 2010. However, we don’t see HSUS giving money to either group that year. Yet Wayne Pacelle is off telling a TEDx crowd that “we run a rabbit sanctuary.” Um, not reallywe’d have to say someone named Caroline Gilbert does.

    Here’s what it seems like: Almost all of these “direct care” projects were started by groups other than HSUS and simply brought under HSUS’s umbrella through mergers/acquisitions. As far as we can tell, these sanctuaries are largely funded by HSUS affiliates.

    Consider this disclaimer on the Fund for Animals’ website:

    While The Fund and The HSUS are partners in these efforts, donations to The Fund for Animals are used specifically to support Fund programs, such as the direct animal care centers…

    So it seems like these are “Fund programs”—not HSUS programs. (The Fund is a legally separate group, so it makes sense.) HSUS “direct care” programs only make up about 8 percent of its budget—and a lot of this seems to be directed toward non-sanctuary uses.

    Is it really intellectually honest for HSUS to take credit in the manner it does? In its most recent tax return, HSUS says to reference the separate tax returns of the Fund for Animals and the SPCA Wildlife Center when it discusses the sanctuaries, writing that the Fund is “responsible for most HSUS animal care facilities.”

    Think we’re splitting hairs? The Fund raises money on its own letterhead.  There seems to be potential for double- or triple-counting. In fact, in one blog post, Wayne Pacelle claims that 60,000 animals were “cared for by The HSUS”—but in that tally he includes 27,000 animals that received care from Humane Society International, a separate group. See what we mean?

    We’re not going to knock whatever help HSUS provides for these projects. But there’s a lot of talk going on. Can’t HSUS do more?

    Posted on 04/05/2012 at 1:57 am by The Team.

    Topics: PetsWildlife


  • HSUS Lawyers: Not an Endangered Species

    Put yourself in the Humane Society of the United States’ shoes. You bring in over $100 million a year and you give only 1 percent of it to pet shelters—the real humane societies that take care of abandoned and abused dogs and cats (the animals you are all too happy to use in your ads). So what do you do with all that money?

    Along with stuffing it away in hedge funds and your pension plan and, of course, rolling it back into more fundraising, you can afford your own law firm—50 in-house attorneys, to be precise. And all those lawyers need something to do, so you can have them sue over the smallest thing.

    That’s the case in the Pacific Northwest. The Daily Astorian notes that HSUS has once again filed a federal lawsuit attempting to stop government authorizes from euthanizing a few sea lions in order to decrease pressure on the endangered salmon population.

    Just what’s at stake here? Thirty sea lions out of a population of 300,000—0.01% of the animals. There’s no chance this will harm the sea lion population, which biologists estimate can sustain 9,000 deaths a year without issue. And in this case, the government is trying to protect another species—salmon. But no matter, HSUS is suing anyway.

    Frankly, we’re not sure what difference killing 30 sea lions is going to have, but if that’s what the experts say, then so be it. HSUS, on the other hand, doesn’t have expertise on much besides the “conflict industry.”

    So what’s the driving factor?

    Is it HSUS naivety? Possibly. As the Daily Astorian astutely puts it, “wildlife management is not for the squeamish or those whose reality was formulated by Walt Disney cartoons of the 1950s.”

    Is it a “blame humans first” philosophy? Maybe. HSUS’s problem seems to be that the government is favoring people (who are responsible for 17 percent of the salmon deaths) over sea lions (which are responsible for 2 percent). How “speciesist” of us—even if the seal management is driven in part to protect salmon.

    Or is it to make hay out of a non-issue, keeping HSUS in the media and ginning up another potential fundraising pitch?

    Ah, of course. Perhaps it’s a modified form of Occam’s razor—when in doubt, the option that involves HSUS raising more money is the most likely.  HSUS raises plenty of money off of seals. Salmon, however, don’t quite have the same wallet-opening draw. Even if you call them “sea kittens.”

    They don’t call HSUS a “factory fundraising” machine for nothing. You need to perpetually manufacture controversy to keep the dollars flowing in. After all, 50 lawyers don’t just pay for themselves.

    Posted on 03/30/2012 at 11:50 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Wildlife


  • HSUS Howls Lack Grey Matter

    Last week, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle took to his blog to vent about a new Hollywood flick called “The Grey,” starring Liam Neeson. The basic plot is that a plane crashes in the frozen wilderness and Neeson and six other survivors struggle to make it back to civilization, while being molested by a pack of wolves. Pacelle warned people to “stay away.” His gripe is that “The Grey”—a fictional movie—takes liberties with how grey wolves really act.

    Pacelle’s solution is to watch “Babe”—a movie with talking animals—or “Bambi,” a Disney cartoon. Does anybody else see the irony here?

    The political correctness coming from the animal rights movement is ridiculous. (PETA too voiced its criticism of "The Grey" for making wolves look bad—unsurprising, given PETA and HSUS have the same agenda.) By asking people to watch one form of animal fiction over another, Pacelle’s doing what he rails against. Deer are not like Bambi, and pigs are not like Babe. (Ask a hog farmer.)

    Wolves are predators. Of people? Not so much. Of people’s livestock? Sure.

    But let’s not forget: It’s just entertainment. It’s Hollywood, not a real-world debate on wolf delisting. It’s…fiction, not a documentary on animals.

    Asking Hollywood not to play up the scary wolf stereotype is like asking Jackie Chan not to make martial arts movies. What next? Will HSUS tell elementary school libraries to stop stocking Little Red Riding Hood or Three Little Pigs?

    It’s hard to believe the average viewer can’t make the distinction. And the movie itself is about much more than the survivors’ struggles with the wolves, but also about their internal struggles.

    We have to wonder: Did Pacelle even see the movie? His boycott call came two days before the movie even opened. Pacelle’s post was full of vague, broad assertions but light on details. It’s doubtful he would have been invited to the premier. And it’s not like MegaVideo is still around.

    Of course, all the bluster from HSUS and PETA isn’t doing much: “The Grey” was the top-grossing movie across the country last weekend. For all his talk about HSUS being mainstream, Pacelle's cries apparently fell on deaf ears (except for a few comments he printed from readers, including one saying she would misanthropically “root for” the wolves).

    If the noble wolf is such a delicate creature, then why doesn’t Wayne Pacelle go live among them once his book tour is over? One man has already. Wayne is always playing up his “bond” with animals, so we’re confident he could fit right in.

    Posted on 02/02/2012 at 3:59 am by The Team.

    Topics: Wildlife


  • Is Modern Man a Part of Nature, or Apart from Nature?

    We’ve written before about the “humane paradox,” namely that the “protecting ‘all animals’” goal of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) ultimately falls apart when some animals naturally harm other animals. Lions eat gazelles, after all—an act that surely violates the gazelle’s “right” to live and provides it a less than humane death.

    An HSUS lawsuit filed last week against the National Marine Fisheries Service ups the ante even further: HSUS is objecting to the government agency’s chosen method of resolving the conflict between two endangered species.

    The Bonneville Dam is on the Washington-Oregon border, about 150 miles up the Columbia River from the Pacific Ocean. Sea lions congregate there and feast on the salmon population.

    The dam, naturally, has made it hard for the fish to get further upstream, despite “fish ladders” built to facilitate their travel. It’s easy pickings for the sea lions, but this puts them in competition with both four Native American tribes authorized to fish for salmon, as well as conservation efforts designed to protect them. The National Marine Fisheries Service has chosen to reconcile these competing interests by killing a few of the seals with the biggest appetites.

    It’s debatable whether it’s necessary for the government to mark some of the “troublesome” sea lions for a euphemistic “lethal taking.” Still, the feds have only killed 27 animals under this program since 2008—or about 0.01 percent of the 265,000-strong California sea lion population.

    HSUS, predictably, objects to every seal death. But one of its affiliated organizations is at least daring to ask the obvious: “[W]hen one endangered species is the main food source for yet another endangered do you protect them both?”

    We’ve built a compelling case here that HSUS’s goal is to effectively eliminate humans’ interaction with animals—to keep them “left alone,” in HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle’s words. Along those lines, a Wall Street Journal story features this nugget from HSUS’s chief attorney:

    "The National Marine Fisheries Service's decision to kill hundreds of native marine mammals to reduce salmon losses," while simultaneously authorizing large catches by people, "is both outrageous and patently illegal."

    Is he right? It’s a fair question.

    HSUS claims humans catch about 17 percent of the salmon population. Birds gobble up another 18 percent. The dam itself kills 59 percent of the adult fish population. By contrast, sea lions eat just an estimated three percent of the salmon.

    So keeping more seals alive wouldn’t change the balance of power too much. But more fish would be killed because there would be more marine-mammal mouths to feed. (What about the fish? Don’t salmon deserve a dedicated HSUS attorney?)

    If it seems like HSUS’s is picking sides between two threatened species, there may be a good reason.

    If we’ve learned anything from HSUS’s annual anti-seal-hunting media blitz in Canada, it’s that seals are cute and they make for great fundraising. Compared to a scaly, craw-mouthed salmon, seals are a near-ideal poster-animal.

    HSUS, the consummate “factory fundraising” organization, knows this full well. The same fundraising strategists who put so many dogs and cats in HSUS’s TV ads (even though little of the money HSUS raises goes to pet shelters) can figure it out faster than you can say “nineteen dollars a month.”

    So it wouldn’t surprise us if HSUS is siding with the sea lion over the salmon out of future fundraising consideration.

    It’s also curious that HSUS chooses to aim its disdain at the human use of salmon. One member of the Yakama Tribe (which is among four Native American tribes authorized to fish for the salmon) tells the Journal: "They call them [the sea lions] natural predators, but they're not. We’re the original natural predators here.”

    In other words, people are a part of nature, too. Man has always hunted and fished for food, even in competition with other species. We still rely on nature today. And as anyone who’s seen a raccoon going through his garbage knows, sometimes nature uses us.

    Instead of allowing human “animals” their place in nature’s supply-and-demand game, HSUS seems to be limiting us to the role of a referee. Is that “natural”? Will it produce better wildlife management results than a government biologist’s plans, especially for endangered species?

    Bonus question: Could HSUS save more animals than just 27 seals—physically save them—if it shifted its legal budget to rehabilitating and adopting out homeless dogs and cats? Almost certainly. But seals are so cute in fundraising letters. And a staff of more than 30 lawyers has to have something to do.

    Posted on 05/27/2011 at 1:45 am by The Team.

    Topics: Hunting & FishingWildlife


  • How Many Animals Does HSUS (Actually) Care For?

    The Humane Society of the United States hauls in $100 million per year, and has another $191 million in assets. So you might think this national “humane society” would be able to help millions of animals. After all, HSUS shares less than 1 percent of its budget with hands-on pet shelters, so the other 99 percent must be spent directly on caring for Garfield and Odie, right?

    Not so fast: It’s true that HSUS runs a few animal sanctuaries—generally for horses and wildlife, though, not pets. But HSUS helpfully, at least in two recent annual reports, put exact numbers on the animals it claims to be caring for.

    Could HSUS be doing more? We’ll let you decide.

    According to HSUS’s 2007 annual report (see below), the organization provided some form of care to just over 24,000 animals that year.

    In the following year’s annual report, however, HSUS bumped its 2008 “Animals Cared For” number up to about 70,000 animals. That figure includes 33,000 pets—nearly half of HSUS’s claimed amount—that were sterilized as part of HSUS’s “Spay Day” promotion.

    This is odd because HSUS has run “Spay Day” since it merged operations with the Doris Day Animal League in 2006. (DDAL founded the event in 1995.) Why didn’t HSUS also count Spay Day pets in 2007?

    At the very least, we can conclude that an enormous percentage of the animals “cared for” by HSUS aren’t actually long-term cases. Spaying and neutering are brief surgeries that have little to do with animal rehabilitation or adoption.

    Not that HSUS is actually doing the surgeries. In its 2009 annual report, HSUS claimed credit for “40,000+ spay/neuter surgeries performed by nearly 400 organizers in 24 countries during HSUS and HSI Spay Day events.”

    In other words, HSUS is claiming it “cared for” animals that it never saw. It may have raised pass-through funds to sterilize them, but that’s a horse of a different color. Just ask HSUS's South Dakota state director, Darci Adams:

    We have no affiliation with local shelters … our efforts focus on policy.

    And although HSUS does care for some animals on a longer-term basis (HSUS’s wildlife centers come to mind), the animals rescued by HSUS in high-profile “raids” (like this one from earlier in the week) are generally sent to local shelters for fostering and adoption. HSUS is just a temporary middle-man. And as the indispensible YesBiscuit! blog has showed us, HSUS’s “rescues” are sometimes sadly temporary, resulting in certain death for many of the animals.

    UPDATE: One irony in all of this is that some individual farmers provide direct care to far more animals in a given week than HSUS can claim to in a whole year. Yet it's these same farmers that HSUS routinely attacks for the supposed sins of running large businesses and producing an income.

    Posted on 03/02/2011 at 4:17 am by The Team.

    Topics: HorsesPetsWildlife


  • What's a Raccoon Dog, Anyway?

    Animal rights activists, including those at the Humane Society of the United States, have never had a soft spot in their hearts for fur. HSUS, PETA, and other groups have stirred endless controversy over whether it’s acceptable to wear animal skins.

    HSUS has agitated for truthful fur-garment labeling, which makes perfect sense. It has also called for the end of “killing for fur”—which, if we were talking about leather instead of fur, would sound like PETA-style crazy talk.

    Truth be told, we’re confident HSUS would like to see leather go away too. But the animal rights movement has always seen fur as a sort of low-hanging fruit. HSUS has been going after it for decades. Its leaders would also like to see the end of meat-eating, but we haven’t seen them suggest that hot wings and steaks should be forbidden by law. (Not yet, anyway.) 

    HSUS’s leaders have distinguished themselves from PETA’s in the fur-debating world by generally not going out on a limb to press for total abolition—unless they’re jumping on someone else’s bandwagon. (Example: the whole fur-labeling issue.) One HSUS senior manager cut his animal-rights teeth as the teenage founder of the Coalition to Abolish the Fur Trade, but that was long ago.

    Instead of directly targeting the fur industry, HSUS tends to fight little skirmishes around the margins. And it doesn’t always shoot straight. Consider the odd case of the “raccoon dog.”

    In the spring of 2008, HSUS put out a press release claiming that the “raccoon dog” was “the most misrepresented fur in America.” HSUS’s basic argument was that its staff were able to find “dozens” of mislabeled garments, some made from what it called “raccoon dog, an Asian canine species.”

    The headlines were predictable. Dozens of reporters emphasized the “dog” part of the name, and left “raccoon” by the wayside. (One NBC story was titled “Fido in Your Faux Fur Coat?”)

    HSUS’s leaders have long been in favor of rights for animals. So for them, whether this animal is a raccoon or a dog is a moot question since neither one should be worn to the theatre.

    But there’s actually a law covering these things, called the Fur Products Labeling Act (FPLA). And its enabling regulations include a “Fur products name guide.” (Who knew?)

    The species name Nyctereutes procyonoidos comes up under “Raccoon, Asiatic.”

    If this “Asiatic Raccoon” sounds more like a raccoon than a dog, that’s because it is. 

    We got hold of a July 2008 letter to a Texas Congressman, written by a scientist who is now Director of the National Museum of Natural History (which is part of the Smithsonian Institution). Director Cristián Samper wrote (emphasis added):

    A recent study using modern molecular analytical methods explored the question of the relationships among dog-like carnivores (Barbelden et al. 2005, Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution). That analysis found that the domestic dog, Canis familiaris, and Raccoon dog, Nyctereutes procyonoides, are both members of the Canidae; however, they are not closely related and definitely are not the same genus or species.

    Also, wildlife biologist Robert Byrne wrote a detailed fact-sheet about the Asiatic Raccoon in May 2008. (We’re reproducing this report with the permission of the copyright holder.) It says, in part:

    The Asiatic Raccoon has been purposely mis-identified by some groups as the same species as the domestic dog (Canis lupus familiaris) in order to eliminate its use in the international and domestic fur trade through restrictive legislation or regulation.  However, there is no confusion within the scientific community; the Asiatic Raccoon and domestic dog are two distinct species.  (emphasis in the original)

    The U.S. government’s categorical “Integrated Taxonomic Information System” separates the Canidae family of animals (including “coyotes, dogs, foxes, jackals, [and] wolves”) into 13 separate “genus” classifications. And canis (“dogs, foxes, jackals”) is a completely different genus from nyctereutes—of which there’s exactly one species, the Asiatic Raccoon.

    Again, this distinction will make no difference to animal rights activists. But the “raccoon dog” name is more convenient to HSUS, so the group has parlayed the confusion into plenty of outrage.

    Think about it: What could destroy the demand for fur more than the thought that Benji or Lassie was being made into a jacket?

    And another thinker: If HSUS had put out a breathless press release complaining that department stores were mislabeling “Asiatic raccoon fur” as faux, would “Inside Edition” have cared?

    For the record, we’re not trying to persuade anyone that fur is fashion-forward, or eco-friendly, or virtuous. That’s a personal decision. But the linguistic propaganda in stories like this is fascinating. And when it comes to propaganda, the Humane Society of the United States (despite its own charter’s prohibitions on engaging in propaganda) takes a back seat to no one.

    Update: We've received a few questions about whether Robert Byrne, the author quoted above, is in fact a wildlife biologist. The following is from the "about the author" blurb at the end of his report:


    Robert Byrne is a wildlife biologist with more than 30 years experience working in the field of wildlife conservation. During this time he has worked for state wildlife agencies, and domestic and international non-government conservation organizations. His duties have included wildlife research, law enforcement, program development, wildlife education, media relations, and policy development …

    Posted on 03/01/2011 at 1:45 am by The Team.

    Topics: Fur & FashionPetsWildlife


  • Nine Lives and Humane Paradoxes

    If you don’t read Wayne Pacelle’s blog, you’re not missing much. It’s good if you want a primer on PR “spin” (see: Michael Vick doing “a good job as a pet owner”) or tips on shameless self-promotion. But that’s about it.

    Every now and then, however, there’s something worth commenting on. We had to go back to December for this one, but it’s worth a discussion.

    Here’s the setup: A University of Nebraska report concluded that feral cats should largely be eradicated, and recommended how to do it— even including gunshots as one possible option. Why kill the local cluster of wild kitty-cats?

    Feral cats … cause significant losses to populations of native birds, small mammals, reptiles, and amphibians; can transmit several diseases such as rabies and toxoplasmosis; and may be a general nuisance.

    We’ll leave for another day the substantive debate about what to do with feral cat colonies, and the (fully justified) outrage at the idea of shooting cats in the head. There’s no end of opinions on that topic.

    But Pacelle’s reaction is what interests us most. He writes:

    The issues some people have with cats are nothing new. For more than a hundred years there have been periodic calls for the eradication of cats, emanating largely from those who are passionate about protecting wild birds.

    The HSUS mission includes protecting both cats and birds, and the challenges in balancing such goals are not trivial.

    Here’s our question: How can you protect both cats and birds—or both orcas and seals—or both sharks and fish?

    Is this a new kind of “humane paradox”? Is there institutional arrogance in any claim to protect (as HSUS’s membership magazine’s title promises) All Animals”? Or is Mother Nature just toying with Pacelle?

    An honest look at the world around us requires accepting that Nature can be downright brutal. It’s natural for some animals to violently kill and eat other animals. It’s also natural for the most ordinary predator/prey relationships to wipe out entire species.

    So how do you protect all animals,” anyway?

    HSUS’s lobbyists might be able to convince unsuspecting bureaucrats to make it harder for communities to protect themselves against feral cats (or coyotes and wolves), but animal activists are ultimately powerless to regulate the behavior of wild animals in their natural environments.

    How can HSUS possibly protect a seal from being devoured by a shark? Or a shark from being gobbled-up by a whale? And what about when another shark comes back to take his revenge?

    Despite the food chain’s harsh realities, HSUS apparently wants us to buy into taming the natural killer instincts of great white sharks so they’ll refrain from eating seals. Pacelle brushes this off by claiming that “the challenges in balancing such goals are not trivial.” But in fact, the word “trivial” defines man’s practically nonexistent capacity to prevent species-on-species animal attacks. We just don’t have that kind of power.

    HSUS might argue that its job is simply to protect animals from humans. But aren’t we also a part of nature? Homo erectus didn’t evolve in New Haven, after all.

    People have always played a part in animals’ lives, including domesticating them and eating them. If having a steak constitutes cruelty, as some vegan evangelists preach, what response do they have when a hungry lion feasts on a crocodile? Is it only that the lion doesn’t know any better, but that we should?

    Ironically, arguing that only wild animals—and not humans—are supposed to follow their natural eating instincts makes you, literally, a “speciesist.” (Or, more precisely in this case, a misanthrope.)

    But back to our examples of Mother Nature’s endless buffet spread. Eventually, one species in a given series of regional encounters—whether it’s the shark or the orca—has to “win.” Pretending that it’s even possible to protect “all animals” brings to mind an endless broadcast of Tom & Jerry and Road Runner cartoons, where the animals always have to come back, unharmed, for the next episode.

    After all, half of the HSUS’s motto is “celebrating animals,” and it produces plenty of imagery showing birds and squirrels frolicking in nature. Has HSUS ever celebrated an anaconda eating a hippopotamus? (Or an indigenous subsistence hunt?)

    Sometimes the polar bear eats the walrus. And sometimes the hawk dines on the baby duckling. HSUS likes to posture as the official referee for human-animal relationships, but that’s just so it can throw the flag on Farmer John who raises his cattle inside fences, and let the coyotes stalking prairie dogs off without a penalty.

    Posted on 02/25/2011 at 8:07 pm by The Team.

    Topics: PetsThe Best of HumaneWatchWildlife


  • Dharma Passes the Hat

    On December 7 of last year, “Dharma and Greg” co-star Jenna Elfman “tweeted” a photo taken after she taped a new "give $19 a month" TV ad for the Humane Society of the United States. Elfman made a radio PSA for HSUS in 2001 and lent an image of her lips to an HSUS-branded postage stamp in 2008, but this was her first on-camera work for the animal rights organization. It reportedly began airing late last week.

    Last night the video production company that shot this fundraising ad posted a press release about it, but the release was removed early this morning. (Here’s Google’s cache, and our screen-grab for posterity.) In addition to the Jenna Elfman ad, the release also linked to videos of two more spots that may or may not be running nationally: one narrated by Wayne Pacelle, and another showcasing three children. (Note: We can’t control how long these movie files will be available for viewing.)

    The Jenna Elfman fundraising ad is the most interesting of three to us. Not because it’s fronted by an actress, but because we counted 44 live animals in this ad, and all but two are dogs and cats:

    More after the jump.

    We’ve written before about how HSUS seems to go out of its way to promote the idea that it’s primarily a dog-and-cat-shelter organization, even though it doesn’t run a pet shelter anywhere (and is stingy with its shelter giving).

    To be fair, Elfman’s voice-over claims HSUS “helps all animal wherever they’re in need.” But the only non-canines-and-felines we see are a horse and a white baby seal. The ad narrated by Pacelle has 29 animals, all dogs and cats except for the same seal and horse. The “kids” ad shows 55 dogs and cats, one seal, and 5 horses.

    The pictures communicate what the words won’t.

    That seal, by the way, is a young pup known as a “whitecoat.” It has been illegal to hunt or kill whitecoat seals throughout North America since 1987. So it’s hard to imagine a donation to HSUS can help these marine mammals any further.

    And the horses? Just two months ago, HSUS continued using a horse named “Second Chance” in its December 2010 “Animal Survivors” fundraising campaign after the animal had already died. This doesn’t inspire confidence.

    Have you noticed that we haven’t mentioned cows, pigs, or chickens yet? That’s because there aren’t any in these commercials. Not a single one. Yet an astonishing amount of HSUS’s money—your money, if you donate—actually goes to campaigns targeting farmers who raise animals for food.

    We told you this week about the $1.6 million HSUS poured into Ohio last year to fight egg farmers. And that was just to get a ballot initiative through the signature-gathering stage. Plus HSUS spent $4.12 million on its 2008 California “Prop 2” farm battle.

    Is HSUS purposely hiding the ball and diverting millions to a purpose that its ads don’t address? The case is getting stronger by the month. If HSUS intends to keep funding seven-figure attacks on farmers in order to drive up the cost of non-vegan foods, it should just come out and say so.

    Here's a transcript of the Jenna Elfman ad:

    JENNA ELFMAN: Hi, I'm Jenna Elfman and this is Daisy. We all know there's no better feeling than being loved. But not everyone is lucky enough to be loved.

    The fact is, each year, over 3 million innocent animals, like Daisy, are destroyed in shelters across America because they cannot find a loving home to adopt them. That's over 8 thousand animals lost every day—350 lives every hour.

    But it's not just shelter dogs and cats who need your help. The Humane Society of the United States helps all animals wherever they're in need. That's why I'm asking you to become a monthly supporting member of the Humane Society of the United States.

    Join the Humane Society for just $19 a month and help end animal suffering and safe lives. For almost 60 years the Humane Society of the United States has been investigating cruelty, campaigning for stronger laws and promoting adoption and better treatment of animals everywhere.

    As an active member of the Humane Society, you'll be part of the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization. But your membership is critical because many more animals urgently need help. You can help save an animal's life.

    Call and join the Humane Society today.

    ANNOUNCER: Join now. As a monthly member with your first $19 monthly payment, you'll get your membership ID, this official Humane Society fleece members jacket, and this eco-friendly tote bag, plus a free subscription to All Animals magazine.

    JENNA ELFMAN: Most of all, your membership dues will be working throughout the year to give animals chance at a better life.

    ANNOUNCER: Join the Humane Society of the United States now. As a monthly member with your first $19 payment you'll get your membership ID, official fleece members jacket, this eco-friendly tote bag, plus a free subscription to All Animals magazine.

    Image: licensed under Creative Commons (Wikipedia)

    Posted on 02/19/2011 at 2:14 am by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureAudio & VideoCelebritiesFundraising & MoneyFur & FashionHorsesHunting & FishingPetsWildlife


  • A Little Sunshine

    The Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) is a vital federal law that gives citizens access to a huge number of government documents. It’s hard to imagine a true democracy functioning without open access to records.

    And thankfully, the FOIA law can also give us a window into what animal rights groups are up to. Sometimes FOIA requests are a prelude to other things—lawsuits, press releases, even whole campaigns.

    Late in 2010 we submitted our own FOIA letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Our request? We wanted to see what documents the Humane Society of the United States asked the agency for all year. (Pretty nifty, huh?)

    We got back 17 FOIA requests; 75 pages in all. And two things jumped out at us:

    1. HSUS is sniffing around for documents about wildlife predator control and “puppy mills”; and
    2. HSUS is claiming that it’s exempt from FOIA fees because it’s a “news organization.”

    Let’s take a closer look.

    Many HSUS requests last year sought information about dog breeders in Missouri and elsewhere. This isn’t surprising, considering HSUS was pushing its “Prop B” initiative.

    But we were most intrigued by two FOIA requests dealing with predator control methods. (See pages 42 through 48.) Specifically, HSUS asked for information about livestock protection “collars” that use lethal chemicals to kill coyotes, foxes, and other predators that attack privately owned livestock like sheep and goats.

    The “M-44” is a spring-loaded device used to kill predators by poisoning them with sodium cyanide. And livestock protection collars deliver a dose of sodium fluoroacetate (a rat poison) to predators when they bite a farm animal’s neck or head.

    HSUS is fishing for evidence that these collars have inadvertently harmed “non-target wildlife,” domestic animals, or people.

    Neither of these devices is perfect. Livestock wearing the collars can perish in the attack anyway, since it can take a few hours for poison to kill a predator. And it’s possible for other wildlife to be harmed as well. But the USDA does try to limit collateral damage, saying that the risk to non-target animals is “extremely low.”

    Naturally, HSUS is against using these collars anyway, claiming they indiscriminately kill wildlife and that “the poison leaking from the collar onto the dead sheep renders the carcass poisonous to scavengers, extending the chain of suffering and death.”

    The USDA essentially says this is hogwash, reporting that “in research studies that allowed dogs, skunks, magpies, and eagles to feed on contaminated carcasses, researchers found that these species were not adversely affected because they did not eat the contaminated wool or hair.”

    HSUS says livestock farmers should instead use guard animals to protect their flocks. That seems odd, since predators can simply kill or maim the guard animals (or the other way around).

    Is tearing Animal #1’s throat out more humane than giving Animal #2 a dose of poison? Who gets to decide?

    Also, the USDA writes that all of the animals killed by livestock protection collars in one studied year (2006) were coyotes—the animals they were targeting. And 97 percent of the animals killed by M-44 devices between 1996 and 2006 were also “target animals.”

    Of course, all human activity has impacts that go beyond what we can foresee. (Just ask HSUS’s “horse slaughter” brigade.) While 100,000 abandoned horses warrant a serious second look, a few unintentional critter deaths shouldn’t stand in the way of effective wildlife management. Suggesting otherwise is like saying we should ban garbage trucks because the odd squirrel gets run over.

    The other revelation in HSUS’s 2010 FOIA documents isn’t nearly as morose. In fact, it’s downright hilarious.

    Whenever you request copies of public documents under FOIA, the government is entitled to charge you a reasonable fee for photocopying, and for the cost (in salaried time) of researching and collecting the documents you’re looking for. But under certain circumstances, you can ask for a “fee waiver.” (See Section 6 of this document for details.)

    The fee-waiver process is meant to give freebies to people working “in the public interest,” and to deny them to people with “commercial” interests. And one category of FOIA requester that almost always gets documents for free is a “representative of the news media.”

    Laughably, HSUS’s 2010 FOIA requests consistently claim that the animal rights group is a news-media outlet. With the amount of spin and propaganda coming out of HSUS, it’s about as legitimate a news representative as Xinhua, Granma, or Al Jazeera.

    The USDA is just one federal agency of many. We could send FOIA requests to many more. (Perhaps we will.) Just remember that the Humane Society of the United States is always digging for facts, just like we are. And if you dare to behave in a way that HSUS’s vegan arbiters decide is not “humane,” you could be the subject of its next demand letter.

    Posted on 01/21/2011 at 7:01 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureDocument AnalysisGov't, Lobbying, PoliticsPetsWildlife


  • Rats!

    Last week the A&E Network show “Hoarders” showed Humane Society of the United States personnel rescuing 2,000 rats. Yes, rats.

    We think keeping rats in your house on purpose is weird, to say the least. But to each his own. And for the record, the real Pied Piper led troublesome rats to their death in a German river, not into a “rescue” van.

    But the show, and Wayne Pacelle's blogging about the “Rescue of 2,000 Pet Rats,” made us think.

    We asked ourselves: “Wait a second—are rats now pets? Really?” And then a few philosophical pieces fell into place.

    Lots of people (most notably pet breeders) have suggested that Pacelle and his cohorts at the Humane Society of the United States secretly want to eliminate the whole institution of pet ownership.

    Maybe—just for the sake of argument—we need to turn that idea on its head and look at it a little bit differently. Instead of getting rid of pets, perhaps HSUS wants to elevate as many species as possible to “pet” status. Could that explain what we're seeing?

    Maybe the most effective way for HSUS to realize PETA's "total animal liberation" dream is to force us all to turn our homes into menageries of every imaginable kind of fauna. When every animal is a "companion," after all, it's easy to make it socially unacceptable to slaughter, eat, exhibit, or experiment on them. 

    Americans regard different animals, … well, differently. Cats, dogs, hamsters, and (for some) ferrets are cute, fluffy, and lovable. Mules, horses, and oxen are explicitly "work" animals whose role is to be a tool for humans. Cows, pigs, and chickens are there for us to eat. Flies are for swatting. You get the idea.

    For most people, encountering a rat is not an occasion for warm-and-fuzzy feelings. It usually brings to mind thoughts of Bubonic Plague, and ends with a shopping trip for lethal traps. Just ask the custodians at the Los Angeles City Hall.

    Horses aren't usually thought of as pets either. Traditionally, horses were transportation for people and a tool on the battlefield. They work in the fields, not in the condo kitchen.

    But in effectively banning U.S. horse slaughter in 2007, HSUS made the emotional appeal that horses should be regarded as pets. As recently as last month, one HSUS state director was telling reporters, “Horses are not food animals in this country; they are companions.”

    It’s true that some people have had special relationships with their horses. Robert E. Lee’s horse has its own public gravesite. And there are some people who think rats make okay pets. But these are certainly the exception, not the rule. For every person with a pet rat, after all, there's someone else with a pet snake. For those people, rats aren't pets; they're pet food.

    Speaking of snakes, our search for intellectual consistency at HSUS hits a snag when we look at so-called “exotic” animals. On the day before the piece about “Pet Rats” appeared, Wayne Pacelle's ghost-writing blog staff gloated that Ohio's outgoing Governor had issued an Executive Order banning Ohioans from keeping those “exotics” as pets. Pacelle's blog lauded this move as a vital protection for “public health and safety.”

    Armed with this knowledge, let's review the HSUS catechism.

    Rats are pets. Horses are pets. Snakes and tigers are not pets. Neither are bears, deer, or raccoons. And they definitely shouldn’t be hunted either, even when their numbers threaten the “public health and safety” of people. Even “nuisance” wild animals should only be handled by HSUS-approved “humane” methods.

    It seems that HSUS believes all animals have their place. Some are pets, and others get to duke it out in the natural world. In a pinch, though, HSUS will shoot them with birth-control darts to make it a fair fight. 

    This is sort of like the animal version of how some people are born in America, and others are born in Bangladesh. (Tough luck, Skippy. You're a badger, not a kitty-cat.) And even people who argue that some rats (but not others) make good pets wind up looking arbitrary to everyone other than HSUS. Which is odd, considering how arbitrary HSUS's philosophy seems to be.

    Apparently, in HSUS's preferred world view we're supposed to treat every domesticated animal like a pet. Hobby breeding is a no-no. When we eat animals, it's “abuse,” of course. But other animals have a magical trump card. (Except dogs.) Wild animals, on the other hand, must be left alone, free from human “interference.” That spells the end of zoos, circuses, and aquariums. 

    The more we step back and look at all of this, the clearer it is that HSUS is really making it up as it goes along.

    The bottom line is that humans' relationships with animals are already thorny enough without self-styled “experts” telling us what's what. If you like having pet rats, so be it. If you don't want to eat pork, it's a free country. And if you want to send your horse to slaughter because it makes good economic sense, maybe HSUS shouldn't be forbidding it.

    The group's whole “All Animals” shtick applies, in an Orwellian sense, more equally to some animals than to others. And HSUS will have a coherent intelligible philosophy when all pigs can fly.

    Or when all rats are pets.

    Posted on 01/12/2011 at 11:08 pm by The Team.

    Topics: Animal AgricultureHorsesPetsWildlife