Go on the website or Facebook page of HumaneWatch or the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) and you’ll find a litany of articles and postings attacking the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) for their hypocrisy and corruption. Not only do they attack HSUS generally, they attack HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, specifically. Read Wayne Pacelle’s blog and you’ll see plenty of articles attacking CCF, Humane Watch and their founder, Rick Berman. At first glance, you would think that they are mortal enemies. You’d be wrong. Scratch beneath the superficial surface, dig a little deeper and you’ll see that in fact Wayne Pacelle “loves” and needs Rick Berman. Why? Berman provides him the political cover he needs to avoid accountability and continue to mislead supporters.
Today, the number one cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. is the local animal shelter. In spite of this, HSUS will readily admit it is the nation’s biggest cheerleader for these very shelters and it has proven that by defending them publicly even when they abuse and kill animals. They recently gave an award to a shelter which kills 9 out of ten animals and illegally and sadistically puts different species of animals in the gas chamber together to watch them fight before turning on the gas, calling it “A Shelter We Love.”
HSUS also fights reform efforts nationwide, including legislation introduced by animal lovers in several states mandating simple, common sense procedures which would protect shelter animals. HSUS successfully defeated animal protection legislation that would have banned the gas chamber, banned breed discrimination, mandated that shelters not kill animals when non-profit rescue groups are willing to save those animals, and which would have prohibited the common practice of killing animals when there are empty cages, a thoroughly reprehensible sheltering protocol which HSUS endorses unequivocally, while simultaneously disparaging the motives of anyone who questions these actions.
HSUS has a history of referring to people who want to reform deplorable sheltering practices as “divisive” and even “crazy” and asserting that such people hurt animals by creating strife and fostering discontent within the animal protection movement. They also tell their followers that people who criticize them are not animal lovers, but people with a secret agenda to destroy the animal rights movement.
When an animal lover recently wrote HSUS upset that they had betrayed the dogs abused by Michael Vick by lobbying to have them killed and then later embracing their abuser (even urging him to adopt a dog from a shelter), HSUS did not respond to the issue. Instead, they hid behind the CCF, stating,
The misinformation spread by those who oppose our animal protection work is astounding—and the same things you post are ones that our opponents at the so called center for consumer freedom spread. These are people that defend the seal hunt, don’t see puppy mills as a big issue, and while they say it’s good to support your local shelter, back in 08′ over 92% of their funds went to one man, and his PR firm – a man that is also the founder of CCF. An issue like animal protection is bound to have people who disagree, who have conflicts, and that is important as sometimes different perspectives lead to great changes being made. That should not however, mean siding on the side of people trying to defend the very cruelty we are trying to stop.
In other words, while animal lovers were angry that HSUS was given a $50,000 grant by the Philadelphia Eagles for providing political cover for their star quarterback—a sadist who enjoyed beating dogs to death, hanging dogs, drowning dogs in buckets, shooting dogs, repeatedly slamming them to the ground, burying them alive, and attaching jumper cables connected to car batteries to their ears and then throwing them in a swimming pool—HSUS responded by arguing that those who criticized HSUS for their cozy and financially beneficial relationship with Vick are not concerned animal lovers, but people who support puppy mills and seal killers.
In fact, no matter what the issue, HSUS invariably responds to criticism in the same way—by creating a diversion. First they defame those who are holding HSUS accountable for their actions, stating but never giving proof how the concerns are “misinformation” or how, exactly, being concerned that HSUS did something which harmed animals translates into supporting puppy mills or wanting baby seals to be clubbed to death, and then they simply change the subject. They sent a similar statement to someone who complained to them after HSUS sent dogs they claimed to have “rescued” to a shelter which killed them by gassing. Ignore the issue, smear the messenger, then change the subject. It’s an effective sleight of hand used by HSUS over and over again, and is a shield that comes courtesy of the Center for Consumer Freedom.
Providing Pacelle the political cover to deflect criticism is not the only way Pacelle and HSUS manipulate CCF attacks to their own advantage. Playing the wounded innocent whenever the CCF goes on the attack with newspaper or television ads exposing HSUS corruption, HSUS asks their supporters to dig a little deeper to show their support. And invariably they do, not only by donating plenty of money, but often coming to their defense publicly as well. Through blogs, twitter and Facebook, so-called animal lovers duped by HSUS troll the social media, disparaging the motives of anyone—myself included—who criticizes the large national groups such as HSUS, thereby creating unwarranted suspicion of No Kill and those working to create an authentic and uncorrupted animal protection movement.
WHO DO YOU LOVE?
Like every social justice movement that has come before it, the cause of animal protection should be—first and foremost—a movement not of organizations and personalities, but of ideals—a belief in the right of animals to be free of suffering and abuse, and most importantly, to be free to live their lives. These values are the heart of our cause, the reason we exist. Animal protection organizations and the people who work at them are means to this greater end, not the end itself. As I have written so many times before, it is not who is right, but what is right that should dictate our behavior and our allegiance. When individuals and organizations authentically represent the goals of our movement, we should stand by them. When individuals and organizations fail to do so—as HSUS has done over and over again—not only should we expose them for the frauds that they are, our duty to animals dictates that we must.
While I do not embrace or support the Center for Consumer Freedom or what it stands for, that doesn’t change the fact that when it comes to their criticism of HSUS and PETA’s support for shelter killing and in the case of PETA, their own killing of thousands of animals every year, the CCF is correct in their criticism. While the motivations may be entirely base, what they are saying is in fact true, even though on everything else they are entirely wrong: we should ban the Canadian seal slaughter, we should close down puppy mills, we should eliminate the killing of animals for food, and we should ban hunting. To borrow an old saying, even a broken clock is right twice a day.
Moreover, it is not the Center for Consumer Freedom which is thwarting our effort to achieve a No Kill nation or build a better world for companion animals; rather, it is the leaders of organizations who are supposed to protect animals but instead betray them. It is also the legions of gullible grassroots activists who mindlessly come to their defense and eagerly dismiss all criticism of these organizations as a vast conspiracy of animal exploiters, thus allowing those betrayals to continue.
Every time the Center for Consumer Freedom places an ad in a newspaper that exposes the grisly and disturbing truth about PETA’s killing or the truth about HSUS’ fraudulent fundraising, our response should be to address the hypocrisy and corruption being reported. Why? Because, tragically, they are true, and because those actions hurt animals: in the case of PETA because they literally inject thousands of animals a year with a fatal dose of poison and, in the case of HSUS, because they divert money donated with the best of intentions into their bloated coffers where it will be used to undermine, rather than further, the welfare of animals.
Ignoring the corruption within our movement will not make that corruption go away, nor will it ever stop it from causing real harm to animals. Only by refusing to tolerate that corruption and demanding change can we ever hope to do that. Moreover, it is naïve to ignore that it is already well within the power of HSUS (and, for that matter, PETA) to stop the ads that expose their hypocrisy and misdeeds if the leadership of those groups truly wanted to—by simply bringing their corruption to an end. Instead, HSUS has found a clever way to deflect all criticism for their actions so they don’t have to change, so they can continue to fraudulently fundraise, continue to undermine the effort to save the lives of dogs and cats in shelters, and even continue to get those who should be their most vocals critics—grassroots animal activists—to defend them while they do so. Pacelle knowingly serves up ammunition against himself to CCF on a silver platter then uses that same silver platter as a shield to defend himself against valid criticism by arguing that any censure of HSUS is simply part of a vast conspiracy by animal exploiters. That is why—although I am a vegan who believes in animal rights, who believes in an end to the killing of animals for any reason, and who believes in everything that the CCF exists to oppose—I believe defending HSUS (and PETA) for their hypocrisy and corruption hurts animals. The animal protection movement is hypocritical and it is inauthentic in its embrace of the killing of dogs and cats. And too many people who claim to love animals defend these groups anyway, putting their allegiance to organizations and the people who work at them before the very lives of animals.
Indeed, in promoting the corruption of our movement, the CCF has placed themselves in a Catch-22. Were the CCF to actually succeed in forcing reform, the animal protection movement as a whole would grow stronger. Should CCF succeed in reforming those practices of HSUS and PETA of which they are most critical, their success would also be their own loss and the animals’ unequivocal gain. And that is why, in reality, Berman and CCF do not want HSUS or PETA to reform. If they did, they could no longer attack them or the movement for hypocrisy and they would be forced to start fighting on the merits of the cause alone. And as the history of our country demonstrates, we are on the winning side of that debate. Those who work to eliminate the suffering and death of others—to build a kinder, gentler, and more just world—eventually triumph. But how can we get to that point if those in positions of leadership within our own movement are inauthentic, promote killing, and time and again sell out those they are supposed to be protecting? As long as there people in positions of leadership whose actions demonstrate that they do not really care about animals and who continue to sully the reputation and authenticity of the movement that they are supposed to represent, we are hobbled, and the longer animals will continue to suffer and die.
And so my plea to every animal activist who has been schooled to reject any criticism of HSUS as a vast conspiracy by the Center for Consumer Freedom, HumaneWatch, agribusiness or the pharmaceutical industry, is this: do your homework. Decide for yourself if you really want to defend HSUS once you learn about the many ways this group has truly harmed animals, undermined the efforts of those of us who want to bring killing to an end and defended those who systematically kill thousands of animals every year. Educate yourself about the tremendous success the No Kill movement is having in its efforts to protect the lives and well-being of millions of animals every year. And give yourself permission to entertain the notion that you have been misled, and that, like so many movements for social justice that have come before ours, it is in the voices of dissent—in this case, the voices of No Kill advocates—where you find truth and authenticity, and not the halls of power.
With genuine animal lovers at the helm of our nation’s large animal protection groups instead of pretenders like Wayne Pacelle, we could begin to exploit the vast, untapped potential in our society which would allow us to build a better, kinder and gentler world for all animals. Americans deeply love dogs and cats, and consider them cherished members of their families who deserve legal protection. They are ready and willing to give this group of animals their legal rights. And not only will doing so save the lives of millions of dogs, cats and other shelter animals every year, but, just as significant, it will create an important legal foundation which can be leveraged for the benefit of all animals, no matter the species, whatever the manner of exploitation. Right now, Wayne Pacelle is standing in the way of us saving those lives and creating that valuable precedent.
And every time you defend him, you are, too.
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