Home > Pet Adoption, Pet News, Pet Topics, Puppy Mills > Is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Or, does HumaneWatch.org just want you to think they are? Part Two.

Is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Or, does HumaneWatch.org just want you to think they are? Part Two.

Yesterday’s post: What is HumaneWatch.org?

This post is the second in a two-part series looking at HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign against the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). Many animal lovers and animal advocates have heard stories about HSUS – where they spend their money, how they misrepresent themselves to the public, how they spend their money, etc. – but not many people know about HumaneWatch.org and it’s campaign to discredit HSUS. This series aims to educate people on this organization and their purpose.

Delving into the animal welfare world has been an education to say the least. Perhaps the most educational for me has been the amount of information and number of opinions one can find on a wide variety of animal-related issues – kill vs. no kill shelters, vegan vs. meat, puppy mills and pet stores, dominance dog training vs. positive reinforcement, and love vs. hate the Humane Society of the United States. But what happens when what you think is true is really a lie? Or, when the information you seek is actually distorted in such a way as to mislead someone or to support a more hidden agenda? As I shared in yesterday’s post HumaneWatch.org is an organization focused on “Keeping an eye” on HSUS. But, who is behind Humane Watch.org? Read on to learn more more.

WHO is behind HumaneWatch.org?

For those who already know about HumaneWatch.org, Rick Berman is a familiar name. In some circles, he is known as Dr. Evil, in others, a powerful Washington lawyer and lobbyist (60 Minutes did a great piece on him if you want to learn more).

Mr. Berman is notorious for taking on unpopular causes and attacking them with a vengeance. He creates non-profit organizations with names like: Center for Consumer Freedom, the American Beverage Institute and the Employment Policies Institute which he then uses to pay his own company, Berman and Company, to fund campaigns focused on discrediting and attacking those organizations his clients deem most important to them. Some of the organizations he has gone after in the past are: Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) AND the Humane Society of the United States.

According to an article in USA Today (dated July 31, 2006), Mr Berman is “hired by businesses” to fight such efforts as “further restricting drinking and driving, mandating healthier foods and raising the minimum wage.” And, PRWatch.org described Berman’s methods this way, “Berman’s signature method of operation is to discredit the messenger rather than address the message head on.”

HumaneWatch.org is sponsored by the first of the Rick Berman non-profit organizations I listed above, the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). (You should note that HumaneWatch.org is only one among many websites/organizations sponsored by CCF.) The Center for Consumer Freedom is a non-profit lobbying group dedicated to “protecting consumer choices and promoting common sense.” It’s a pretty generalized mission statement, but it allows them to take on a wide variety of causes (i.e. attack a variety of causes), based what their donors want them to do. Against stricter laws for drinking and driving? Donate to CCF, they hire Berman and Company, and voila! Mother’s Against Drunk Drivers (MADD) is under attack. A pretty ingenious approach don’t you think?

Note: The spokesperson for the Center for Consumer Freedom is David Martosko, who according to SourceWatch is “Frequently cited as a scientific and economic expert,” and with an additional title like Director of Research for CCF you would think he has a lengthy background in these areas, again from SourceWatch – “Mr. Martosko received his graduate degree in opera from the Peabody Conservatory of Music at Johns Hopkins University in 1995.” An expert in scientific and economic matters for sure! You can read more about Mr. Martosko here.

I’ll just include a quote David Martosko taken from an interview with Drovers Cattle Network in February 23, 2010:

Q. Last week, CCF launched http://www.humanewatch.org which got some positive notice among people in animal agriculture, especially among those involved in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. What was the impetus behind developing the web site? And would you also share the financing behind it?

A. Our faces are already on a lot of dart boards over at PETA. Remember http://www.PETAkillsAnimals.com? But PETA’s more bizarre tactics make it easy to convince Americans that they’re a fringe group. HSUS is a different story.

Essentially, PETA’s role in the animal world today is to make HSUS look reasonable by comparison. HSUS is smarter, more patient, and better-dressed, except for those vinyl shoes. But their long-term goals are exactly the same as PETA’s. And since they have a much less confrontational and nutty style, proving that they’re closet radicals is a much more daunting task.

So, if the CCF sponsors HumaneWatch.org, who is funding it (via CCF) and why?

According to Wkipedia, “acknowledged corporate donors to the CCF include Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Tyson Foods, Monsanto, and Pilgrim’s Pride.” But, that’s not all. According to PRWatch.org, agribusiness is also a large contributor to CCF and HumaneWatch.org because HSUS “has had an ongoing campaign to achieve better living conditions for livestock, which, if it came to fruition, could cost agribusiness millions.” A pretty powerful motivator for one to want HSUS weakened or removed from the picture completely.

It’s hard to know exactly which food and agribusiness companies support the work of HumaneWatch.org, since a non-profit is not required to disclose its donors, but one can find many companies listed on SourceWatch (under the CCF Contributions Table) that would likely benefit from just such a campaign against HSUS. Among them are: Monsanto, Tyson Foods, Pilgrim’s Pride Corp, Perdue Farms Inc., Standard Meat, National Steak and Poultry and many others. Are these HumaneWatch.org’s donors? Only Rick Berman and his staff knows, but it certainly is possible.

HSUS’s campaign to improve the living conditions of farm animals is pretty well-known. In fact, it’s on their website. In the past, they have exposed farms and slaughter houses who have abused their livestock. Agribusiness definitely has a stake in this game. After all, what HSUS does could, and likely does, impact their profits, not to mention their bottom line. While your average small farmer or rancher understands the value of treating their livestock well, factory farms have to be concerned with the numbers (although I am sure they would say quality is of the utmost importance too).

“Factory farming is a term referring to the process of raising livestock in confinement at high stocking density, where a farm operates as a factory. Confinement at high stocking density is one part of a systematic effort to produce the highest output at the lowest cost by relying on economies of scale, modern machinery, biotechnology, and global trade.” So, if your output or cost (or both) are impacted by what HSUS is doing you just might want Rick Berman, CCF and HumaneWatch.org to take them on.

The truth is that we don’t really know who funds HumaneWatch.org and what they do, but what we can do is look at WHO HumaneWatch.org and CCF is targeting and take a guess at who might be benefitting from their campaign. I’m guessing the majority of the money is not coming from your average small farmer, but someone who has much more to lose.

So, is the Humane Society of the United States evil? Only you can answer that, but in my opinion “evil” is something best left to be defined by the dictionary. What I do know is nothing is ever as it seems. Knowing who is saying what about whom, and who benefits from what is being said, is so much more important. Now more than ever.

Definition of EVIL
a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked
b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct
a archaic : inferior
b : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive
c : disagreeable
a : causing harm : pernicious

  1. April 19, 2011 at 1:16 AM

    Congratulations! You’ve successfully described the Lobbying Industry of the United States. I still cannot wrap my head around an entire industry devoted to currying favor with politicians on behalf of big business.

    • Mel
      April 19, 2011 at 7:01 AM

      LOL! I read your comment on my BlackBerry and thought, “Leave it to Karen to sum it all up!” So true! It’s a convoluted one, but you are exactly right. This is Washington to a T. 🙂

    • Kristine
      April 19, 2011 at 1:30 PM

      I don’t get it either, Karen. How are these businesses even legal? It’s a little baffling for my brain. I mean, I assume they are monitored closesly and their financials are under strict guidelines but still… The potential here for massive corruption is enormous.

      • April 21, 2011 at 2:12 AM

        Ask the US Congress and the President. Oh wait, they’re stuffing their pockets full of money :O It’s a common fact that a lot of high ranking political officials get to sit on the executive boards of US multinationals as a “reward” for pushing bills in their favor. I think that the worst offender is Cheney.

        He was Secy of US Defense 1989-93 and then was CEO of Halliburton 1995-2000 ’till he became VP of the US. The name Halliburton sound familiar? Halliburton is an oil field services industry, with various sub-branches on the side. Halliburton was rewarded HUGE Iraq contracts for construction, troop services etc from the US Government of which he was VP.

        As a former CEO of Halliburton, Cheney’s retirement package included 400,000 common shares of Halliburton, which cannot be sold until he dies, so he still has them. Sounds legal and above board to you? NO! War profiteering? YES! Makes me want to vomit? YES!

        Other multinationals that Cheney sits on are EDS, Proctor & Gamble and Union Pacific, to name a few.

        I’m stopping now, since this is *so* not dog related :O But it’s good stuff to know, nonetheless

      • Mel
        April 21, 2011 at 7:30 AM

        Thanks Karen – Thank you for adding additional information. I knew about Cheney’s background, but it applies equally to Republicans and Democrats. Both parties and people have taken advantage of their legal and political access to make themselves more money in the private sector. It’s called the revolving door. I think a lot of our problems in America have to do with the way politicians leave to join a company (sometimes as a lobbyist) and then go back to their colleagues in the House or Senate to influence them to help their company. There is no “we the people” anymore. It’s “we the corporations”.

  2. April 19, 2011 at 5:39 AM

    Terrific post. And one with importance far outside the world of dogs. Thank you for encouraging people to look behind the rhetoric to see what the interests are behind it.

    • Mel
      April 19, 2011 at 7:02 AM

      You’re welcome. And, thanks for reading and commenting Pamela. It took a lot more work than I ever intended, but then again, I forgot how much is involved here.

  3. April 19, 2011 at 7:56 AM

    Thanks for researching this. I’m a HSUS supporter and always have been. It’s been disheartening to hear so many in the dog world disparage them. But then I’ve never been a one-species animal lover, so to me, the HSUS is doing a very valuable service for all animals, particularly those who aren’t cute and cuddly and photogenic.

  4. April 19, 2011 at 8:57 AM

    These two posts have been really educational – thank you for doing all of this research and putting this out there.

  5. Catherine Katt
    April 19, 2011 at 9:20 AM

    Wow! Wow! Monsanto…now there’s a company with a reputation.

  6. April 19, 2011 at 9:25 AM

    I agree with your assessment of Humane Watch – I’ve made a point of not using their stats in my blog – but a number of other more credible groups made more factual accusations against HSUS. Is the point of your article to expose Humane Watch or defend HSUS?

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 6:56 AM

      Thanks for your comment Robert. I am not a defender of HSUS. They can take care of themselves, but I don’t know that a lot of people know about CCF and HumaneWatch.org. My intent was to help inform my fellow animal welfare advocates about some of the games being played so they do not fall victim to their tactics. People can make up their own mind about HSUS. I just ask them to look for the real facts and not the stuff that HumaneWatch.org puts out.

  7. Kristine
    April 19, 2011 at 1:34 PM

    I want to echo the others and thank you for doing all of this work. Research like this is definitely time-consuming. Thanks for putting all this together so I didn’t have to.

    I didn’t know anything about Humane Watch before this. All they meant to me was a name under a bunch of statistics. Statistics that I am going to be careful stepping around from now on. It’s a good reminder to never take anything at face value, no matter who is presenting the information.

  8. alice in LALA land
    April 19, 2011 at 3:29 PM

    Imagine “going after” a group like PETA who this year made history by KILLING more than 97% of the animals in their “care” what a bunch of “animal lovers”…
    You can beat the messenger.. but you cannot deny the message.. the HSUS tax reruns are there for all to see.. the stats are not “their stats’ .. they are facts. so if you want to still believe the earth is flat and that PETA is sweet to doggies and kitties.. who is stopping you

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 7:06 AM

      I would love for you to share where you got your facts Alice. It’s always good to share stats, but throwing a number out there without anything to back it up is like saying “The sky is pink” – anyone can say it but it doesn’t make it true.

      Humane Watch has a right to slant their “facts” any way they want, but I notice they only included excerpts from HSUS’ tax return. Feel free to post a link to the whole tax return if you have it.

      I’ll just add this quote from David Martosko, taken from an interview with Drovers Cattle Network on February 23, 2010:

      Q. Last week, CCF launched http://www.humanewatch.org which got some positive notice among people in animal agriculture, especially among those involved in social networks like Twitter and Facebook. What was the impetus behind developing the web site? And would you also share the financing behind it?

      A. Our faces are already on a lot of dart boards over at PETA. Remember http://www.PETAkillsAnimals.com? But PETA’s more bizarre tactics make it easy to convince Americans that they’re a fringe group. HSUS is a different story.

      Essentially, PETA’s role in the animal world today is to make HSUS look reasonable by comparison. HSUS is smarter, more patient, and better-dressed, except for those vinyl shoes. But their long-term goals are exactly the same as PETA’s. And since they have a much less confrontational and nutty style, proving that they’re closet radicals is a much more daunting task.

      • April 21, 2011 at 1:44 AM

        peta kills animals from Nathan Winograd

        VA Department of Agricultural and Consumer Services Report

        Click to access peta-2010-killdata-VA-shelter.pdf

        Yup, they kill animals :O

      • Mel
        April 21, 2011 at 7:38 AM

        Thanks Karen. These PETA numbers are horrible (I see they came from HumaneWatch.org via the state of Virginia, but at least the documents are actual documents from Virginia). I would love to know the numbers of submitted by local animal shelters in the area – are they this bad in shelters? I hope not. The numbers received vs. saved is pretty dismaying.

        Thanks for also including Nathan Winograd’s post. Very helpful.

  9. April 19, 2011 at 9:44 PM

    CCF was funded heavily by Philip Morris back in 1995, and their silence about the ban on cloves and all flavoured (except mentholated) cigarettes (which was supported by Philip Morris whose only flavoured tobacco product is menthols . . . hmmm . . .) leads me to suspect that they are still collecting a check from them. While Berman’s message is the right one, his tactic is not, and Martosko is not really qualified for research. Unfortunately, most Americans would rather someone else conduct the “research” than read and decide on their own. That being stated, thanks for writing this out! More than a year ago, I had some idea of composing an “aviculturists don’t let aviculturists support HumaneWatch.org” sort of post, but it quickly turned into a tl;dr fiasco . . . good idea to split it!

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 6:50 AM

      Thanks FinchWench. The only way I could do it was to split it. I wanted to include a 3rd piece on tactics, but it just got to be overwhelming (as you can imagine if you tried to tackle this before!). I simply wanted people to understand that not all that they hear is truth and that one must be careful and do their own research.

  10. April 20, 2011 at 8:21 AM

    Great, thanks for your response!

  11. April 20, 2011 at 10:43 AM

    This is happening in so many realms now – climate, medical studies, safety…. everywhere large corporate entities stand to lose business due to regulation, taxation, or outright banning, they come up with these huge co-ordinated PR campaigns to sway voters & politicians. It’s disheartening.

    The only bright light on the horizon is the internet & people like you who expose such tactics.

    The manipulation of our minds continues only as long as we stay passive.

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 5:37 PM

      I agree Hornblower. There is so much disinformation out there it’s hard for the average person to find out what the truth is anymore.
      I LOVE your last sentence!

  12. April 20, 2011 at 3:02 PM

    I read this “tax returns don’t lie” line all over the forums, but it does not prove anything except that HSUS and PETA do not really need our money for overhead or freezers, respectively. The only references to an alleged connection between PETA and HSUS is on a CCF hosted site or one that references a CCF family site. The only actual link seems to be that HSUS employed a guy (John Goodwin) who was formerly a member of the more militant ALF (and PETA is known to support terrorist organizations such as Rodney Coronado of ELF formerly). @Alice or others, can you provide a link to a document that proves direct association or even second order financial association between HSUS and PETA?

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 5:33 PM

      Finchwench – You rock! Thanks for doing some additional research and adding to the discussion. I have found that when I follow CCF’s and HumaneWatch’s facts it usually leads me down the rabbit hole to nowhere. I welcome actual documentation as well. You should read John’s comments above. I believe he can provide the answers to your questions.

  13. April 20, 2011 at 4:49 PM

    Mel, thank you for an honest and forthright discussion on this subject.

    CCF — like all of Berman’s faux nonprofits — is a profoundly dishonest organization based on deception and misinformation. Almost everything they say is false, distorted, or misleading. The deeper you dig into CCF’s background, the more worms you turn up, and the slimier they get.

    For example, they were forced to retract a libelous statement accusing HSUS of funding terrorism.

    CCF provided false information to a TV station, WSB-TV, accusing HSUS of misappropriating funds. When the station learned that they had been misled, the reporter was fired, a correction was issued, the footage was yanked from their website, and the station sent a furious letter to Berman and Company confronting the lies and ordering them to stop misrepresenting the broadcast. Despite WSB-TV’s cease and desist, CCF continues to link to an illegal copy on an Iranian file server and conveniently omits any mention of the fact that the information has been discredited and corrected by the station. CCF clings to this report because it is one of only two instances where they have been able to trick a media outlet into repeating their misinformation.

    Click to access wsb_letter_re_berman.pdf

    CCF loves to show people a picture of the former HSUS Director of Emergency Services, Scotlund Haisley, kicking in a door. They hold this up as “proof” that HSUS conducts “illegal raids” on innocent animal owners. The truth of the matter is that the picture was taken during Hurricane Ike on an HSUS disaster relief operation. It shows Haisley kicking in the locked door of a home to rescue the dogs inside, who had to be left behind in the evacuation. And it was done at the request of the owner.

    And of course, there’s CCF’s favorite myth, the dreaded Vegan/Animal Rights Conspiracy that wants to confiscate your grandmother’s guide dog and force everyone to eat tofu. It’s unfortunately a myth that’s been picked up by the more gullible and dishonest members of the agricultural and breeder communities, despite the fact that every one of HSUS’ actions have been geared towards eliminating cruelty — not the industries that have engaged in cruel practices, but the specific practices themselves. (It’s astounding to me that someone can pull their tinfoil hat down around their ears and shriek “HSUS wants to end all pet ownership!”, expecting to be taken seriously. HSUS’ website has an extensive section devoted to selecting, finding, and caring for pets; they encourage employees to bring their pets to work; and most of their employees are fiercely devoted to their pets. Yep, that’s quite the anti-pet conspiracy they’ve got going there!)

    These are just a tiny sampling of the despicable lies that CCF specializes in. Is it any wonder that they keep a lawyer who specializes in libel suits on retainer? Or that they were forced to call on that lawyer’s services again when they were sued for libel against a prominent animal rights activist? (CCF, Berman, and Martosko settled the case for an undisclosed sum.)

    CCF isn’t just dishonest about the public interest groups it targets. It’s also dishonest about how it uses the money it receives from donors.

    In 2008, an astounding 92% of tax-exempt donations to CCF was diverted into the hands of Richard Berman and his for-profit PR firm, where it was removed from public scrutiny and regulations governing nonprofit organizations. Berman siphons funds from his faux nonprofits through a variety of methods, but one notable scheme is his use of op-eds and letters to the editor. In a 3-year period, Berman and Co. had more than 1000 op-eds and letters to the editor published in newspapers under a variety of names. Each one was billed to the “nonprofits” at an exorbitant rate, padding Berman’s pockets while his industry donors use the media as free advertising.

    In 2009, Berman entered a new realm of fraud by diverting 86% of CCF’s multi-million dollar revenue to a less popular nonprofit, the Employment Policies Institute Foundation (EPI). EPI is an organization that combats minimum wage increases, health benefits for workers, and opposes all unions. CCF’s mission is allegedly to “research and education on food, beverage, and lifestyle issues”. It’s unclear how union-busting activities legally fall under that intent.

    The rest of CCF’s revenue was used to pay $1,461,597.00 to Berman’s money-making enterprise, leaving CCF nearly $800,000.00 in the red for that year. And that’s in addition to more than $1,800,000.00 he withdrew from EPI to pad his accounts, double-dipping from the same revenue pool. Similar payments were made from Berman’s other nonprofit schemes to his for-profit company.

    Berman maintains more than 100 organizations, aliases, and websites. These frequently cite each other as if they were independent sources when they need corroborating “evidence” for their claims, but they all operate out of the same office, have the same staff, and generate profits for the same people. (A list of these organizations and aliases and their most recent tax returns can be found on my website, http://www.humanewatch.info .)

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, and if one’s opinions don’t mesh with the HSUS, that’s fine. But those opinions should at least be based on verifiable facts from reputable sources — not a paid smear campaign designed to protect industrial cruelty to animals.

    Thank you again, Mel, for shining a light on Berman’s Vermin! Watch ’em scatter…

    • Mel
      April 20, 2011 at 5:29 PM

      Wow. John – Thank you for adding to the discussion. You clearly know more than I do. I wish I had found your website sooner!

      I agree with you on opinions about HSUS. I totally respect differing opinions, I simply want people to understand that they need to dig deeper to make sure the facts they think they know are actual facts and not based on distortions and lies. Thanks for the kind compliments as well!

  14. April 26, 2011 at 12:14 PM

    Weighing in late — I knew it would take a bit of time for me to read/digest all the information in this excellent series, and I finally have a bit. Thanks for your great research and the presentation.

    I seem to recall Rachel Maddow discussing Rick Berman and his campaigns against any groups that went against the interests of his corporate clients. I particularly remember her railing against his claim that PETA kills dogs because I was thinking, well, Rachel, that one’s true!

    If there’s any organization that could make me feel kindly disposed towards HSUS it’s CCF. PETA is irredeemable, I’m afraid, even on the “my enemy’s enemy” principle!

    • Mel
      April 27, 2011 at 7:10 AM

      Edie – Thanks, as always, for your thoughtful comments. You are correct about Rachel Maddow. She actually had Rick Berman on her show. It was an interesting exchange to say the least.
      I have to agree with you on PETA. After seeing the docs that Karen provided I am appalled they consider themselves to be an animal advocate organization. HSUS definitely doesn’t have a spotless record. I simply think that people should be using accurate data and provide facts (not provided by CCF) to make their argument. I think Karen has done a good job of that.

  15. Jolanta
    May 12, 2011 at 10:13 AM

    With apologies for not providing the research — I did poke around a bit a while back on the “PETA kills animals” claim. What I found out was that they had taken on euthanasia services for some localities where animals were still being gassed. A PETA chapter euthanized the animals humanely. So, yeah, they killed the animals in their custody, but that statement distorts what happened.

    • Mel
      May 12, 2011 at 12:17 PM

      Wow! That is really helpful Jolanta! I wish I had found that!

  16. madison tracy
    October 11, 2011 at 2:26 PM

    why do people hate animals??

  17. madison tracy
    October 11, 2011 at 2:29 PM

    some people think that the animals in a pet shelter has an illness or has bad behavior-it is not true!!! think again!! they are in there because people don’t give a crap!!! please help them!!

  18. madison tracy
    October 11, 2011 at 2:30 PM

    type back if you agree! thank you very much!

  19. Deborah
    December 8, 2012 at 7:28 PM

    What you describe as “currying favor with politicians” is our right to communicate with our legislators. It is our right to free speech, protected by the first amendment.

    I notice that people only refer to lobbyists in a negative light when they connect them with a corporation or cause whose purpose differs from their own. The fact is that EVERY industry in our country is represented by lobbyists, including non-profits and charities. It is not only big business or corporations that are represented. Do you contribute to Mothers Against Drunk Drivers or the AARP? Have you ever registered an animal with the AKC or CFA? Have you donated to the American Cancer Society or Susan G. Komen? All of those organizations (and many, many more) are represented by lobbyists.

    Not all lobbyists are paid – more lobby as unpaid individuals than paid. Anyone that contacts their legislator to discuss an issue is by definition, lobbying. Lobbying is legal and very highly regulated. Most importantly, it is freedom of speech.

  1. April 25, 2011 at 8:30 AM

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