Inside D.C.

HSUS doth protest too much — way too much

I received an email this week, along with several forwarded copies, containing an “open letter” from Humane Society of the U.S. (HSUS) President Wayne Pacelle. The Pacelle missive was sent to “agricultural journalists and leaders” and takes recipients to task for the “tone of coverage” given to HSUS “by more than a few members of the agricultural press,” and “the unquestioning reliance upon false claims” made about Pacelle’s kingdom.

The letter goes on for nearly three printed pages, a bizarre combination of journalistic principles – the “foundation of civil and democratic society” – an ad hominem attack on one particularly irksome critic, a generous acknowledgement a whole lot of people don’t agree with HSUS, and then a page-plus listing of all HSUS does on behalf of animals. What it doesn’t ask outright is certainly implied throughout the “letter,” namely: “Why are all these people saying all these bad things about us?

I intended to go through the Pacelle manifesto point by point. Maybe it’s the polar vortex or just congressional recess lethargy, but I just cannot work up the energy to pick apart an HSUS propaganda piece one more time. However, I do have a question: If HSUS is as noble, “transparent,” wise and generous of spirit and budget as portrayed in the letter, then why write it in the first place?

The letter reads as an obvious manifestation of HSUS frustration with all of those unenlightened in the ag community who, despite the beset tactics, actions and the body of evidence HSUS propounds, still haven’t seen the philosophical light. The letter drips with condescension – citing opportunities for “any discerning person to learn about our work,” or implying the sophistication and professional affiliations of its board of directors is superior and represents the cosmic connection to all creatures great and small, what they want or what HSUS deigns they want. The implication stops just short of accusing the ag press and leaders in our industry of having IQs just south of 110.

An aspect I find confusing about Pacelle’s letter – which reads to this former journalist as having suffered from at least two authors – is the seemingly unending description of the wonderful and generous projects HSUS runs. Did you know there are “countless ways to help animal shelters and rescues” without spending a cent? HSUS has apparently perfected such frugality, and we’re glad it figured that out, but what does it have to do with us trying to maintain food production and keep folks on the land in the face of HSUS’s well-funded and obsessive campaign against animal agriculture?

Pacelle seems ignorant again of our reality, that we in ag live with activist antipathy, exaggerations, misstatements, fabrications and ignorance of science and fact – either through choice or exaggeration – day in day out. But still he asks – I assume seriously – how we’d react if “some animal advocate” wrote about the American Farm Bureau Federation or the National Pork Producers Council demanding these groups give all of their money to individual farmers?

Let me paraphrase Pacelle’s “letter:” Such a statement “would be laughable…one would think that person extraordinarily naïve for making such an unsophisticated, unknowing claim about these organizations, right? It is no different when such a disingenuous charge is made about HSUS or other national welfare groups.”

All I can say is welcome to our world, Pacelle. One rule: No whining allowed.


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  • Pacelle know that the American Farm Bureau Federation and National Pork Producers Council are not 501(c)(3) tax-exempt charities so the comparison is beyond apples and oranges. HSUS donors are allowed to deduct their contributions from their taxes. Members of the 501(c)4 and 501(c)5 groups Pacelle has been citing for many years (to justify HSUS’s warped priorities and greed) cannot take a tax write-off. Charities are granted tax-exempt status because they are expected to provide services that the private sector and the government cannot, thus saving public dollars. Instead, Pacelle and his cohorts lobby excessively and obsessively for poorly crafted legislation that rarely addresses the underlying issues. Pacelle knows that HSUS is in violation of it’s IRS tax-exempt status and does not care because he thinks he is above the law. I think he’s a pathology case.

    No one is demanding that HSUS give “all it’s money” to shelters and/or unaffiliated animal organizations. And very few people are criticizing “other national welfare groups.” The ASPCA needs to reform some of it’s fundraising and priorities, but no other organization comes close to the HSUS in terms of scandals, fraud, waste, and deceptive fundraising and financial practices. Pacelle is well aware that his most eloquent critics are honest animal charities and advocates, not animal use industries.

    No one is demanding that HSUS spend “all of it’s money” on shelters and grants to unaffiliated organizations. We are, however, spreading the word that HSUS spends next to nothing on what the vast majority of HSUS donors think they are supporting. A recent example: HSUS raised over $2 million ostensibly for Hurricane Sandy relief, but spent less than a third of it on the disaster. No other “national welfare group” did that.

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