HumaneWatch blames the whistleblowers

Crush videos are so abhorrent that even members of Congress agree they need to be stopped. Nancy Perry, HSUS VP of Governmental Affairs was called before a Senate Judiciary hearing this morning to testify about the problem. The recent HSUS undercover investigation helped spotlight a resurgence of crush video activity following the SCOTUS decision invalidating the Depictions of Animal Cruelty Act. HumaneWatch celebrated the SCOTUS ruling. In a veritable massacre of common sense, David Martosko complained that if HSUS is permitted to expose animal abusers through undercover video investigations, then crush video producers should be allowed to torture and kill pets for the sexual gratification of the viewers:
If a movie of a furry animal being crushed under some pervert’s high-heeled shoe is detrimental to society, then so is the sort of purposely lurid and scandalous footage that continues to make HSUS the richest animal rights group in history.
HumaneWatch has built a multi-million dollar enterprise around “shooting the messenger”, so it shouldn’t be surprising that in the echoing caverns of Martosko’s brain, exposing animal cruelty is somehow equivalent to committing it. And perhaps that’s why HumaneWatch continually finds fault with HSUS for exposing cruel and unhealthy practices in slaughterhouses: to a HumaneWatcher, it’s the whistleblower that’s guilty, not the criminal. You can read a transcript of the HSUS Senate testimony on Wayne Pacelle’s blog.

Who’s really overcompensating?

The Humane Society of the US takes a lot of heat from critics about how it manages its money. But do those complaints have any validity?

Let’s examine some of the claims.

On April Fools’ Day, 2010, David Martosko of HumaneWatch published a blog post critical of HSUS pensions, claiming it’s a “scandal lurking beneath the surface”. (Martosko carefully weeds out comments critical of HumaneWatch on the grounds that they are “being rude”; apparently, this rule doesn’t apply to HumaneWatch supporters who insinuate that female directors of HSUS are prostitutes. But that’s a topic for another day.)

HumaneWatch is correct that in 2008, HSUS contributed over $2-million to its employees’ retirement accounts. HSUS had 555 paid employees in 2008. If we divide $2,532,167.00 by 555, we get an average pension contribution of $4,562.46 that year.

We compared six other non-profit organizations to see if HSUS contributions are excessive.

Two of the organizations are prominent, nationwide, animal-related charities: the ASPCA, and the American Kennel Club. Three are prominent, nationwide, agricultural advocates: the American Meat Institute, the American Farm Bureau Federation, and the National Milk Producers Federation. And we rounded out the collection with the American Red Cross.

Here are the results.

EmployeesTotal PensionAverage
American Kennel Club532$522,077.00$981.35
American Red Cross36,287$71,732,611.00$1,976.81
American Farm Bureau Federation90$282,420.00$3,138.00
American Meat Institute41$260,071.00$6,343.20
National Milk Producers Federation17$512,990.00$30,175.88

As you can see, HSUS ranked slightly above the middle. The lowest was the American Kennel Club with a paltry $981, and the worst was the National Milk Producers Federation at a staggering $30,175.88 per employee.

However, this isn’t a precise measure. For example, the American Farm Bureau ranked better than HSUS, but on closer inspection we found that over $96,000 of their total pension contributions went into the accounts of their CEO. Because charities and for-profit corporations are reluctant to reveal the intimate details of their retirement benefits, we can’t know for certain how many employees actually receive those benefits, so this is a rough guideline only.

Let’s look at another claim. On May 14, 2009, WSB-TV aired a badly flawed investigation into HSUS finances, a report which relied heavily on misinformation provided by David Martosko and CCF. (We covered that deception, and WSB-TV’s retraction of the story in a previous article on HWI, if you’re interested in how HumaneWatch takes advantage of those who don’t double-check their sources.) The broadcast contained typical misstatements by David Martosko, such as the claim that HSUS funds “go to pay huge staff salaries and benefits”.

So, let’s look at salaries.

Average Salary
American Red Cross$47,856.33
American Kennel Club$60,762.89
American Meat Institute$108,988.37
American Farm Bureau Federation$131,277.91
National Milk Producers Federation$183,627.35

With an average employee compensation of $68k, HSUS falls in the middle of the scale. It weighs in slightly higher than the American Kennel Club, and far below the exceptionally generous dairy farmer’s lobbyist group. Despite the high number of veterinary, legal, and other professionals HSUS employs, its average pay is less than all three agricultural advocates on the list.

But what about Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of HSUS whose salary has been described as “lavish”, “excessive”, and “egregious”?

CEO Compensation
American Farm Bureau Federation$420,415.00
American Red Cross$455,690.00
National Milk Producers Federation$647,632.00
American Kennel Club$737,067.00
American Meat Institute$738,987.00

That’s right, critics: Wayne Pacelle’s “egregious”, “lavish”, “excessive” compensation is the lowest of any of the non-profits in the list, and less than 35% of the bloated salaries of the American Kennel Club and American Meat Institute CEOs.

What constitutes excessive compensation for a non-profit? That’s a matter of opinion. However, it’s clear from these comparisons that if HSUS compensation is too high, it’s a problem shared by many national charities, and to a far greater degree than the Humane Society of the US.

We close this article with some thoughts from the outstanding CEO Compensation Study at CharityNavigator, and an illustration from our webmaster, John Doppler Schiff:

…[A]s the size, and thus the complexities of running a nonprofit increase, so does the salary of the institution’s top executive so much so that if we probe deeper into the top tier of charities (by size), we see even larger salaries. A look at organizations with total expenses between $50 and $100 million pay their CEOs on average $378,026 and organizations with total expenses of $100 million or more pay their CEOs on average $462,037. In illuminating this information, it is not our intention to give donors, who often bemoan this level of pay, an excuse to not support a great charity.

Rather, we want donors to understand and appreciate that the top nonprofit leaders, those who are sought after for their ability to manage multi-million dollar institutions and who are tasked with the mammoth goal of making the world a better place, command significant salaries.

…[W]e recognize that many donors will be hesitant to agree that the CEO of their favorite charity deserves a six figure salary. To the skeptics, we ask that you keep in mind that the charities included in this study are multi-million dollar operations. Leading one of them requires an individual that possesses both an understanding of the issues that are unique to the charity’s mission as well as business and management expertise similar to that required of for-profit CEOs… For comparative purposes, the average salary of CEOs at S&P 250 companies is $1 million, excluding bonus packages and stock options that drive the average compensation up to $7.6 million.

Update: August 6th, 2010
The term “charity” was replaced with “non-profit organization”: the two terms are not always interchangeable. Thanks to reader Tracy H. for catching the error!

Update: January 15th, 2011
An updated look at compensation among national nonprofits and for-profits is available here.

The truth is not HumaneWatch’s friend

Last night, our webmaster repeated his invitation to David Martosko to explain his side of the story in the “Sock Puppet Shenanigans”. The post made on the Facebook “HumaneWatch” group read as follows:
Dear Mr. Martosko: I recently contacted you regarding your claim that HSUS was involved in an incident of “sock puppetry” on the blog of a respected veterinarian, Dr. Patty Khuly. Have you received my letter? I know that mail servers were experiencing technical difficulties during that time, but fortunately, there’s a copy of it available at if you have not read it. I am concerned that you have made intentionally false and defamatory claims about HSUS involvement in this matter, despite Dr. Khuly’s having informed you prior to 7/12 that she had no evidence that HSUS was responsible in any way. I respectfully invite you to correct any erroneous statements you have made on your June 30th blog post, and if you are so inclined, to provide your perspective on the matter. I will be happy to publish your statement verbatim on the website, completely unedited. At the very least, I would appreciate the courtesy of a response, even if that response is simply “No comment”. I look forward to your reply, and thank you for your time. Sincerely, John Doppler Schiff Webmaster,
The post was immediately deleted without comment, as most dissenting opinions on HumaneWatch’s Facebook group are. So much for courtesy! Or courage. Or integrity. This was not unexpected, however. HumaneWatch has a history of ignoring any facts that run counter to their “we hate HSUS” message, and Martosko is quick to delete any post that doesn’t wave the pom-poms with sufficient enthusiasm. It doesn’t matter how respectfully phrased or truthful that post is: HumaneWatch fears any information that might allow its readers to think for themselves. Consider the case of Atlanta’s WSB-TV. The station ran a segment covering HSUS’ handling of the funds raised for Hurricane Katrina rescue operations, and it relied heavily on misinformation provided by CCF. When the station discovered it had been duped, it immediately pulled the footage of the broadcast and issued a correction. CCF continued to willfully promote copies of the broadcast as “proof” of HSUS wrongdoing, without bothering to mention the correction. This prompted WSB-TV to send an angry cease-and-desist letter demanding that CCF stop referencing the broadcast without referencing the correction. CCF’s response? They fired off a lame, baseless accusation that the Humane Society forged the letter. When WSB-TV demanded that YouTube pull all copies of the broadcast from its servers, CCF resorted to linking to an illegal copy hosted on a video sharing site in Iran. To this very day, HumaneWatch continues to hold up that invalidated report as “proof” of their arguments — without the correction that tells the rest of the story. So, CCF fed false information to a reporter, and then used the resulting story to claim that the false information they fed the station was correct. That’s just one example among many of CCF/HumaneWatch deception. If the facts are on HumaneWatch’s side, why do they resort to misinformation, sleazy tactics, and desperate attempts to stifle honest discussion? They do it because the conclusions HumaneWatch presents do not stand up to scrutiny. They do it because the truth is not a friend to HumaneWatch, and any facts that run counter to HumaneWatch propaganda must be suppressed or ignored. Unfortunately for David Martosko, no matter how deeply he buries his head in the sand, the truth will not go away. Neither will we.

An open letter to David Martosko

Dear Mr. Martosko:

Last week, you posted an article claiming that HSUS was responsible for a series of posts with phony names. [ URL: ]

On July 3rd, on the blog, we publicly challenged you and Dr. Khuly to back up your allegations with whatever evidence you possess. [ URL: ]

Thus far, neither you nor Dr. Khuly have presented any evidence verifying your claims. Nothing. In fact, you have not responded to our inquiries, you have suppressed comments inquiring about the issue, and seem to be desperately avoiding the subject.

In light of your actions and in the absence of any proof substantiating your claims, we are forced to conclude that you have made intentionally false statements defaming the Humane Society of the United States.

However, our offer stands: if you would like to present your evidence or a statement defending your claims, we will gladly publish it verbatim. (Unlike, we do not suppress the truth or dissenting opinions. We have great confidence in our readers’ intelligence. Why don’t you?)

On behalf of the staff of, I look forward to your reply.

John Doppler Schiff

Update, 7/8/2010:’s mail servers are currently rejecting email. We will have to wait to deliver this email. In the meantime, we will send this message by postal mail.

Sockpuppets and slander

The Liars for Hire are really showing their desperation today. David Martosko of CCF has posted a new article accusing the HSUS of posting comments under a phony identity. Leaving aside the irony of a corporate front group accusing anyone of being a sock puppet, CCF has once again abandoned facts in favor of unsubstantiated accusations. Martosko writes:
“By trying to hide your identity when you leave a comment, you’re trying to influence everyone else’s perception of how credible the article is by pretending to be a disinterested third party who’s just offering a fair critique… And at least one Humane Society of the United States employee has been busy doing just that, on a popular blog written by a prominent veterinarian.”
Martosko points to a blog by veterinarian Patty Khuly, who didn’t bother verifying the CCF propaganda she quoted in her article questioning HSUS. Khuly later admitted that giving any credence to was a mistake, but in the same breath, accused the HSUS of masquerading under a phony identity:
“You’re all right on HumaneWatch, but to write against me (and it) unverified names only to have me trace your real email addys back to the HSUS is a serious breach of ethics.”
That’s a serious accusation, a potentially libelous claim that any prudent person would be reluctant to level publicly without substantial evidence. So, attention, Dr. Khuly and we’re calling you out. Let’s see the proof.
  • Show us the email address you have allegedly traced to the Humane Society of the US.
  • Show us the log entries with the IP address originating from HSUS networks.
  • Show us proof that the email address was not fabricated or spoofed.
  • Show us proof that the post was the act of an official HSUS employee.
And if you can’t come up with at least one bit of evidence, perhaps you should consult your lawyers about how to phrase your apology and retraction. Dr. Khuly, Mr. Martosko, we’re waiting for your response. Contact us and we’ll be happy to publish your responses verbatim.
Update, Monday 7/12: We had a frank and very enlightening discussion with Dr. Khuly today! Dr. Khuly is preparing a response for both her Fully Vetted blog and for, and we’ll publish it here as soon as we receive it. We were impressed with Dr. Khuly’s intelligence and integrity on the phone today, and look forward to her clarification. We have sent several emails to David Martosko, but the mail server has been rejecting all email. (CCF’s “Director of Research” is a former opera major. I wonder what experience their “Director of IT” has? Shoe salesman?) Although today’s email appears to have gone through, we have sent a copy of our open letter to CCF via postal mail just in case.