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

Richard Berman President, Berman and Company
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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?

No one should deny animal activists the right to argue for their preferred worldview. If Scientologists and Raelian cultists have free-speech rights, practitioners of the animal-worship religion should too. But when you’re a PETA knock-off with a bigger bank account, some transparency is in order. Especially when your staff includes a key decision-maker who has endorsed violence and arson.

HSUS tells the public that it simply wants “more humane” standards for raising animals. But the group’s leaders don’t believe there is such a thing as humane meat.

“More humane” is a loosey-goosey term in a clever semantic game, but this “Humane Society” thinks “humane” means “meatless.” That’s far outside what the Average Joe believes.

We all want cats and dogs to find homes, and to not be abused. About 99.99 percent of us, for instance (HSUS’s president notwithstanding), understand that giving Michael Vick a pet will always be a risky proposition.

But it turns out that America doesn’t actually have a real “national” humane society. There simply is no big umbrella group that raises money for the pet shelter in your community. If you want to support your local humane society, you’re going to have to do it yourself.

Don’t expect HSUS’s leaders to send your donation back into your community. They need that money to outlaw chicken nuggets.