Animal rights activists describe their vision with statements such as “seeking a humane world for people and animals alike.” Query: Do their actions match their message?
We have the Humane League, whose founder was convicted of making terroristic threats. We have PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — whose cofounder doubled as a spokesman for the FBI-designated terrorist group Animal Liberation Front. They hardly personify “humane” behavior. And then we have the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the country’s largest animal rights group, whose current situation is telling.
Lately it seems as though HSUS donations have gone not toward prevention of animal suffering, but to funding the political agendas of the organization’s executives — at a cost to the animals it claims to protect.
Concurrently, HSUS announced in October it would be shutting down its Cape Wildlife Center in Massachusetts, which provided care for 2,000 animals a year and has been heralded as a vital animal care center in the area. The center’s annual budget of $750,000 is much less than the millions HSUS has put into lobbying for the bacon ban (or the hundreds of thousands it has put into anti-farming ballot measures in Oregon and Oklahoma.)
This troubling shutdown was defended by HSUS as a choice between “balancing economics with strategy.” But what kind of twisted strategy includes leaving animals to suffer when funding could be diverted to save them?
These expenditures, along with a disregard of funding pet shelters (HSUS only gives 1 percent of its budget to pet shelters), may be something well-intentioned donors would want to consider next time they write a check.
In fact, it appears donors are already catching on to HSUS’s drift. The organization recently laid off 55 employees (about 10 percent of its staff) due to a $20 million drop in fundraising. Not only does HSUS spend millions on its pension plan every year, but the organization has put $150 million into “investments” in the Caribbean in recent years. And yet it can’t find spare change to keep a wildlife care center open?
Animals and humans are all apparently expendable at the “Humane” Society.
Weird expressions of morality at HSUS are not new. CEO Wayne Pacelle stood by dogfighter Michael Vick following his release from prison, as well as rubbed shoulders with the likes of John Goodwin, an HSUS staffer who was formerly a spokesperson for the terrorist group Animal Liberation Front.
This unsettling cozying up to lawbreakers should be disconcerting, as it seems to have bled into the culture of the modern-day animal rights movement. At the Animal Rights National Conference in Los Angeles of this year, several HSUS members (including Paul Shapiro) watched and applauded as speaker after speaker walked up to the stage and expressed new tactics in dealing with their political opponents. One of the speakers, David Coman-Hidy, the executive director of the Humane League, explained their campaign tactics: “The crueler it is, the quicker the fight is over.”
This encouragement of aggression and a lack of accountability has cultivated a culture of hostility that is quite alarming. It also begs a question: Will leaders of the animal rights movement ever put the “human” in “humane”?
• Richard Berman is the president of Berman and Company, a public affairs firm in Washington, D.C.