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

April 18, 2011 35 comments

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
1
a : morally reprehensible : sinful, wicked
b : arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct
2
a archaic : inferior
b : causing discomfort or repulsion : offensive
c : disagreeable
3
a : causing harm : pernicious

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

April 17, 2011 33 comments

This post is the first 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 – how they spend their money, how they misrepresent themselves to the public, where the money they raise goes, 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.

A couple of years ago, I came across a friend’s Facebook post showing that they had “Liked” a group called HumaneWatch.org. I briefly checked out their Facebook page and discovered that they were a non-profit group dedicated to “Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States” (HSUS). At the time, I had been hearing a lot of negative things about HSUS – they had deceived people into thinking their money was going to shelters when it was actually going back to HSUS, they spent a majority of their money promoting themselves and raising more money for their PR campaign, etc. – so I decided to “Like” Humane Watch too. After all, they were focused on exposing HSUS and their lies, how bad could they be? This group obviously cared about animals right? Heck, they had animals in their logo.

It was only later, after I began to hear little news stories here and there, that I became concerned about HumaneWatch.org. Who was this organization? Who was behind it? What was their purpose and why were they targeting HSUS?

The truth about HumaneWatch.org is much more insidious and political than you could imagine. It takes a little explaining, but I believe that my animal-loving friends would want to know more about this group, their TRUE agenda and why knowing WHO you support is so important these days. More than ever before.

WHAT is HumaneWatch.org?

HumaneWatch.org is a non-profit group solely focused on discrediting (and likely destroying) the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). They attack HSUS using HSUS’s own data, but the way they use it is selective – designed to to distort, obfuscate and confuse people, in hopes of reducing HSUS’ power in animal welfare circles and destroy its base of supporters. Don’t get me wrong, there are many things about HSUS that I don’t like (don’t get me started on their support of Michael Vick), but learning about HumaneWatch.org has led me to believe that perhaps most of what I knew about HSUS was not based on true facts, but on the obfuscation facts provided by HumaneWatch.org via the news, the internet and other media outlets.

If there is one thing HumaneWatch.org has done extremely well it is in taking one piece of data and promoting it over and over again in order to distort what HSUS really does. For example, one of the leading statements promoted by HumaneWatch.org is this: “HSUS devoted less than one-half of one percent of its budget to directly funding hands-on pet shelters.”. True. HSUS doesn’t spend a whole heck of a lot on “hands-on” pet shelters, however they do spend money on five animal care centers they run in Texas, Florida, California, Oregon and Massachusetts. Humane Watch shares this information, but look where they put it (in bold): “So only four-fifths of one percent (0.80%) of the money HSUS collected in 2009—much of it in response to TV ads that begged for money to “save” dogs and cats—actually went to the community-based organizations doing that work. (HSUS runs a handful of “animal care centers,” but no dog or cat shelters and no pet adoption programs.)”

And let’s take a look at those TV ads that HumaneWatch.org says “begged for money to ‘save’ dogs and cats.” Here’s one from one year ago. Or this one from two years ago. Yup. They do talk about saving dogs and cats, but is HumaneWatch.org’s definition of saving dogs and cats the same as how HSUS defines it in their commercials? Or, is it possible that they are purposely confusing people so they think that HSUS’s ads are the same ones put put by the ASPCA and the SPSCA. If so, it would make sense for us to be outraged wouldn’t it?

Another one of HumaneWatch.org’s purported HSUS goals is to make everyone become a vegan. Really? In an interview with Drovers Cattle Network, Wayne Pacelle said “It is my core belief that Americans are going to continue to eat meat, milk and egg products. That is the way it is. These are long-standing cultural practices.” and “Our board of directors is a national volunteer board of directors. Very few of them are vegetarian. I have been since I’ve been a teenager. Whatever I do in my personal life does not necessarily reflect the policies of HSUS and we support certified humane programs, we support other farmers, we work with farmers, we think farming is a noble profession.” Does HSUS support a vegan lifestyle? My guess is they would say yes to that, but it doesn’t appear they have an agenda to make everyone a vegan.

So if HSUS does not support local animal shelters and they don’t have an agenda to make everyone become a vegan, what is their true purpose?

According to Wayne Pacelle, HSUS was “…founded in 1954 specifically to tackle the national problems facing animals, such as puppy mills, inhumane slaughter, animal fighting, and animal trafficking, through education, public policy, investigation, and other conventional means suited to a civil society. Local animal shelters are consumed with the responsibilities of animal care and control in their communities, and they don’t have the reach or the resources to tackle a national dogfighting ring or pet theft ring or examine the practices at research labs or slaughter plants, so that has been the purpose of HSUS for more than 50 years.” (Drover’s Cattle Network, March 5, 2010)

I don’t see “supporting local animal shelters by giving them grants or direct funding” in there do you? Is that something they should be doing? Probably. But is HSUS (as HumaneWatch.org says) really misrepresenting what it does and where its money goes? Or, is HumaneWatch.org deliberately distorting what HSUS does (based on their charter) with what they want you to believe they should be doing? I leave that for you to decide, but it certainly is worthy of exploring.

I’m not here to defend HSUS, but when one looks at the distorted facts so prevalently promoted by HumaneWatch.org on their website (and the many others they have created), one has to wonder… What is the truth?

On Tuesday, we’ll explore: Who is behind HumaneWatch.org.

Dogs: Meet You Match!

May 2, 2009 2 comments
Have you met your match?

Have you met your match?

Online dating has become all the rage. Answer a few questions online and before you know it you’ve found your perfect match (and maybe a new partner for life)!

In the world of dogs, it can be hard to find a dog that is the “perfect” match for you. The dog you adopted may have looked and acted like the dog you wanted while at the shelter, but then you get him home and suddenly you realize he has way more energy than you can handle. Or, maybe he is more of a couch potato than what you wanted.

But, what if you could find a dog that is a good match for you before you leave your local animal shelter? Well, today the Minnesota Valley Humane Society (MVHS) launched a new program designed to help you do just that.

The new adoption program is called “Meet Your Match” and it is designed to help you to pick the dog that is right for you based on your lifestyle and what you are looking for in a canine companion. The program was first developed and tested by Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist Dr. Emily Weiss, and implemented by the ASPCA with the underlying goal of increasing the likelihood that shelter dogs are adopted (and stay with their new families) based on lifestyle.

Dogs are assessed using a special assessment process, and then based on their assessment results, they are color-coded as a purple, orange, or green. Their color-code is then displayed on their kennels and on their pictures on the website. You, as the future owner, also complete a quick survey and based on your results, the MVHS staff and volunteers will give you a color-coded Guest Pass and direct you to the dogs that match your color. This helps to ensure the match is the best one for both you and your dog.

Go ahead and take the online survey NOW to see what dog bests suits you, or better yet, head on over to MVHS and take the survey in person. That way you can immediately set about finding a dog that best matches your lifestyle.

Both staff and volunteers are excited about this new program. We hope you will be too!
And, by the way, your color-coding can also be used at any shelter that has implemented the Meet Your Match program to find a dog that best suits you and your lifestyle. I encourage you to check it out!