FoodPolitik: Farmers shouldn’t own animals, but Michael Vick can. Excuse me?

When the CEO of a “Humane Society” says convicted dog-fighting kingpin Michael Vick “would do a good job as pet owner,” it should raise more red flags than a Chinese parade. That’s just what happened two weeks ago as Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), endorsed Vick’s future as a dog owner.

If that seems out of the mainstream, or sounds like something your local humane society would never say, you’re on to something.

HSUS isn’t a pet shelter organization. It’s an animal rights group that has grand designs on reshaping Americans’ relationship with animals—especially the animals we eat.

With the words “Humane Society” in its name, it’s easy to be confused about what HSUS does. A poll this year from Opinion Research Corporation (CNN’s political prognosticators) found that 71 percent of Americans think the organization is an “umbrella group” for pet shelters.

It isn’t. HSUS doesn’t run a single pet shelter, and it’s not affiliated with any.

The same poll found that 59 percent of Americans think HSUS gives “most of its money” to pet shelters. But real humane societies and other local hands-on pet shelters only share in about 1 percent of its $120 million budget — at least if you believe HSUS’s own tax returns. (To learn more, visit www.HumaneWatch.org.)

It turns out that HSUS — despite the puppies, kitties, and animal welfare messages in its fundraising materials — is actually an animal rights group. That’s a horse of a very different color.

Think about the notorious wackos at PETA. HSUS is just PETA in a suit and tie. The two groups share the same goals, but HSUS goes about its work without naked interns or red-paint bombs.

Fundamental to animal rights activists is the idea that animals have a “right” not to be eaten (by people, at least). And forget zoos. Seeing eye dogs are slaves. Your home aquarium is a little fish prison. And cancer research can’t use mice unless they sign tiny consent forms.

Since 2004, when Wayne Pacelle became the first strict vegan to hold HSUS’s top job, he’s increased its number of lawyers ten-fold. He steered millions in public donations to his staff (and himself), diverting money from pets to pension plans and big-business-level salaries. Pacelle recruited top PETA staffers to run “shareholder activism” against food companies, and to produce the kind of anti-farmer schlock-u-mentary films that made their PETA mentors famous.

HSUS’s lawyers sue. Its PR flacks create media frenzies. And its propagandists publish guides to eating “more humanely” (i.e., dropping that cheeseburger).

The Humane Society of the United States is also tied into the fringe environmental movement. At this month’s Cancun “climate change” junket, HSUS’s international arm showed up to try and tie meat-eating to planetary destruction. There’s no truth to it, of course — livestock agriculture in the U.S. accounts for less than 3 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions — but why let facts get in the way?

  • Pingback: Pacelle, Vick, and the Quote of the Year « The Pulse- of Colorado Farm Bureau

  • shadow41

    Attacking the author, but not a word about the truths in the article? When is HSUS’ employees going to change their tactics? This is getting so predictable and so boring! I guess you are too embarrassed trying to explain the actions of your boss. Wayne’s defense of his favorite dog-killer is just too over-the-top, even for the staunchest animal rights advocates.

  • shadow41

    You say: Anyone who works in animal advocacy understands that the general public knows nothing about animal issues.
    So why then did HSUS ramrod a voter initiative to add idiotic regulations to an already regulated business (dog-breeding in Missouri)? Why would you want the general public (who knows nothing about animal issues) making (approving) rules they know nothing about? Seems it is just about furthering the HSUS agenda, not about animal welfare.

  • cyne

    So what if Berman is paid for his work. HSUS lies to get people to donate. Many people were aware of it for years before CCF existed. I don’t care who is doing the good work of publicizing HSUS’s dishonesty. Everyone needs to know what HSUS is doing before they decide whether or not to donate. Do your own research. Why did HSUS ask for money “to help us care for Michael Vick’s dogs” when they weren’t caring for them? What happened to the money they collected for victims of hurricane Katrina? A tiny fraction of it built an animal shelter, but where is the rest? Whenever there is some disaster HSUS is there for the photo ops, asks for money, then disappears while the real humane societies do the work and pay the bills. If CCF is drawing attention to these issues and others, I say they’re doing good work.

  • Anne2010

    You’re right, the 990’s do speak for themselves. In the 2009 990 you can see a full 35 pages of grants to local shelters, despite the fact that the HSUS is not a shelter funding organization. You can view the full 990 at http://www.humanesociety.org/assets/pdfs/financials/2009-form-990.pdf

    As to attacking CCF, it is important for people to understand where their information is coming from, especially when it is coming from an industry front group like CCF.