Here’s Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle, quoted in today’s Mason City (Iowa) Globe Gazette (emphasis added):
We have 11 million members because people want a strong advocacy organization that will defend all animals …
Eleven million? Oh, dear. Do we have to go through this again? There’s absolutely zero truth to the idea that 11 million Americans are members of HSUS. No chance. May God (and an HSUS lawyer) strike us down if we’re wrong.
Let’s review the evidence.
- HSUS’s 2009 Annual Report claims that the group has “11,546,803 Members and Constituents.” This is not a legal document, and no definition of “Constituent” is given.
- In HSUS's 1991 “Report of the President” HSUS president John Hoyt wrote that HSUS’s “voting membership” was 458,378—but he added that the number of people who “in one way or another are directly associated with The HSUS” was over 1.4 million.
- HSUS’s 2008 tax return (a legal document signed under penalty of perjury) says that the total number of monthly copies of All Animals (HSUS’s “membership magazine”) was 420,000.
- In a July 2010 direct-mail fundraising letter signed by Wayne Pacelle himself, he wrote: “One of my goals is to build this nationwide animal protection organization from 1,200,000 to 2,000,000 members.”
Here’s a set of reasonable conclusions (our opinion) that we can draw from all these numbers:
- It’s likely that about 400,000 Americans are actually “members” of HSUS (that is, they paid dues during the last 12 months). That would explain why HSUS prints 420,000 copies of the membership magazine each month: If another hurricane hits and they get a sudden surge in membership, they’ll have enough extra magazines to go around.
- Judging from the 1.2 million figure from Pacelle’s fundraising letter (that’s 400,000 x 3), we think HSUS is extending two years’ “grace” for current members to renew. So if you donated in 2008, HSUS will send you renewal letters in 2009 and 2010 before giving up on you and deleting you from the “current members” list.
- It’s also apparent that even if you only donate once, you’re forever counted among the millions of HSUS “constituents”—even if you have a serious case of buyer’s remorse. Since the “constituents” number has never decreased, it also probably includes people who donated decades ago, and those who are deceased.
If we’re right about this scenario, and the real number of dues-paying HSUS members is fewer than the number of member magazines the group prints each month, HSUS actually has fewer real “members” (400,000) than it did 19 years ago (458,378).
For an exploration of why this matters—and the unwarranted political power HSUS gets from inflating its membership figures—click here.
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