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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

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.

Dear Pet Owner: Can you Handle the Truth?

May 3, 2010 6 comments

Recently, I read a book review written on Amazon.com about Randy Grimm’s book, Don’t Dump the Dog: Outrageous Stories and Simple Solutions to Your Worst Dog Behavior Problems (it’s the first review listed, written by Charlie S from Wag’N Book Review).

In case you’ve never heard of Randy Grimm, Randy is a famous animal advocate and animal rescuer from St Louis, Missouri. He runs Stray Rescue of St Louis, where he has been actively involved in saving the lost, abandoned and stray dogs that roam the streets of St Louis. Quite a man in my opinion. But, that’s not what caught my eye, it was the reviewer’s description of a section of Chapter 1 of Randy’s book,

“An owner contacts Randy wanting to relinquish his dog because of (a) hyper-activity issue. The owner comes by the shelter on a day where Randy is alone at the shelter, clearly overwhelmed by work, and (Randy) asks the pet owner to answer the phone while he brings the “abandoned pet” to its new home – (A) cage. While there, the owner takes many dramatic calls covering a few ‘real emergencies’. When the owner gets a break, he drops the phone, runs back, frees his dog, gets another dog and runs out of the facility. The owner realized that the issue he deemed terrible was nothing compared to the realities shelters have to deal with. He later sent money to the shelter to thank them of the invaluable knowledge he acquired that day.”

Pets are often surrendered for legitimate reasons, especially now, with many people losing their homes. But, just as often people surrender their pet simply because they didn’t take the time to train their dog, do their homework before getting their pet or made a hasty decision to get a pet because it was “so cute”.

It got me to thinking… would pet parents be less likely to surrender their pets for a frivolous reason, or at the very least, would they think twice before surrendering their pet if they knew the truth about what could happen to their pet?

For instance…

– A surrendered pet may go home with someone that will not treat him as well as the previous owner did. There is no way to know which adoptive pet parents will be good ones unless you do a home visit, and most shelters can barely afford to stay open so that is usually not an option. It’s a sad commentary on how we humans treat our pets when a dog or cat comes back to the shelter in worse condition than when they left.
– An overcrowded shelter means that a pet could be euthanized, especially if the pet is old, sick, has behavioral issues, or just plain runs out of time. According to the Humane Society of the United States and The Shelter Pet Project, approximately three million (3,000,000) healthy and treatable pets are euthanized every year because they don’t get adopted.
– Sometimes a sick pet (e.g., Parvo virus) is surrendered to a shelter and infects all the other pets in the shelter. Someone’s pet could die before it reaches the adoption floor, unless it’s vaccinations were kept up-to-date.
– Many shelter environments are loud. The noise level can be enough to damage human ears and it can drive a dog nuts. Literally. It’s called going “kennel crazy”.
– Just because a dog lived inside it’s last owner’s home doesn’t mean that will be the case when he is adopted. Chances are that he could be tied up outside.
– Training and socializing a pet is important. It makes them more adoptable.
– Adopting a dog or cat saves a life. Buying from a backyard breeder or puppy mill ensures that one less dog or cat will find a loving home.

I don’t want anyone to think I am disparaging animal shelters. Let’s be honest, without them and other rescue organizations, many more animals would be roaming the streets and suffering at the hands of an abuser.

The people who work in shelters are some of the most dedicated, hard-working and loving people I know. And, most of the people who adopt from an animal shelter are great people. I’ve seen and heard some really great, heart-warming stories about dogs and cats that have found their forever homes and are loved completely by their new families.

But, the reality is there is no guarantee that your pet will find a loving home. When you decided to get a pet, you took on the responsibility for that pet. Don’t you owe it to him to make sure that you’ve tried everything before you give him up?

‘Tis the Season… To Get Rid of Your Pet?

December 15, 2009 Leave a comment

Appalled by the title? Me too.

Unfortunately, this is the time of year when people find they can no longer afford their pets or don’t have the time to dedicate to caring for them, and end up bringing them to the local animal shelter. So, at one of the most family-focused times of the year, these dogs and cats (through no fault of their own) find themselves looking for a new home. A home where someone will love them and care for them and in some cases, train them.

I was walking dogs this past weekend at the shelter I volunteer at and saw so many worthy dogs that deserved a second chance at a home. I saw two Golden Retrievers under 2 years of age who look to be purebred but were given up because their owners had no time – just imagine the potential of these dogs if someone had the time!

I saw so many little dogs… Rat Terriers, a Dachshund and even a Cocker Spaniel – all looking for new homes because their owners were moving and could not take them with them. So many people want little dogs to cuddle with at home. How much better would it be to give a dog a home that needs one desperately? How awesome would it feel to know you rescued a dog who due to the economy ended up at a shelter (not because their owner didn’t love them and care for them, but because financial circumstances forced them to give up their pet)?

I don’t know about other shelters or rescue organizations, but we are full up at our shelter. And, the kicker is most of these dogs are there due to financial circumstances not because of behavior problems.
So, unfortunately… ‘Tis the Season.

Why Must You Have a Puppy?

September 4, 2009 Leave a comment
Aspen - Adopted at Age 9

Aspen – Adopted at Age 9

As the US Humane Society finishes up their work from another raid of a puppy mill (their 4th raid in four days), this one in South Dakota, I am once again saddened by the prospects for these pups and all other dogs that sit in our shelters across the country. The sad truth is that everyone wants a puppy. And as long as people continue to want a puppy, and continue to purchase puppies from disreputable breeders (i.e., puppy mills), the images captured by Scotlund Hasileywill continue.

For me, it has always been hard to understand why everyone has to have a puppy versus choosing to adopt an older dog. Other than the purchase of my very first dog from a neighbor at age 15, and my adoption of Jasper at 10 months, I have always adopted older dogs. Why wouldn’t I? In general, older dogs are housebroken (a huge plus!), they’re usually trained, eager to please, have been tested with dogs and people, are less likely to tear your house apart or chew on furniture and often become some of the most loyal companions you could ever meet. Indy was 5 when I adopted her, Aspen was 9 years old and Daisy was 4. I’ve never regretted adopting any one of my older dogs – not a one. In fact, I will probably always adopt an older dog. They are some of the best dogs I have ever had.

My question to you is Why Must You Have a Puppy? Why not an older dog? And, if you have to have a puppy, why not one from a local animal shelter or rescue organization? Why does it have to be purchased from “a breeder”, most likely one that you know nothing about (something they depend on – believe me)? Or, from a pet store that is supplied by puppy mills?

Why not an older dog? You should see how much more they have to offer. You wouldn’t be disappointed. Really.

Minnesota the Worst State for Puppy Mill Breeders

February 8, 2009 Leave a comment

Today I am going to do a bit of ranting. Why you ask?

Because I am a Minnesotan and I am embarrassed. No, more than embarassed, I’m stinkin’ mad! How is it that we could become the state with the most puppy mills? How is that the state known for being “Minnesota Nice” could create an environment where dogs are mistreated, abused, tortured and killed just so we, the consumer, can have a cute little designer dog (which is a MUTT by the way)?

Here we are, a little over a week after the pretrial hearing of a felony animal mistreatment case against a woman (who should be kept in a cage herself), and we have tabled a bill that would have required puppy mill breeders to submit to annual inspections. What the heck is wrong with us?

As someone who has worked for the past year to rehabilitate a dog rescued from a puppy mill, perhaps I am a bit too close to this issue. I mean I was the one who to had build trust with a dog that used to cower when in the presence of humans. I was also the one who had to work for months just to get her to be comfortable with coming inside the house and who worked with her so she wouldn’t crouch low to the ground and freeze in fear whenever she was introduced to something new. Too close? You bet!!

So, I am asking folks to get educated and write your state senators. I’m even including the names of two in particular. Sen. Don Betzold (DFL-Fridley), wrote a bill that requires inspections of breeding facilities (which would have been paid for through breeder registration fees), and Sen. Steve Dille (R-Dassel) who wants breeders to register, but to conduct inspections only if there is a complaint (by the way, this one is supported by puppy mill owners). There is also another bill, drafted by Mike Fry, director of the Animal Ark no-kill shelter in Hastings, that was also on the table. It requires inspections for breeders with 40 dogs or more. Definitely worth looking at.

Write these guys (Betzold and Dille) and then write your own senator and tell him/her what you think.
I did.
And, make sure to let them know that you want them to vote in support of inspections of puppy mill breeders.

Here are some links to help you out.
News story: About the puppy mill breeder facing felony charges (if you can stomach it) and the bills that could stop people like her
Find Out Who Represents You in MN