Berman’s Vermin

The Center for Consumer Freedom (which runs HumaneWatch) recently purchased a full-page ad attacking the Humane Society of the United States. Of course the ad –- published in The Washington Examiner — was filled with the usual array of half-truths, innuendo, and misleading statements that Richard Berman specializes in.

We don’t have a multi-million dollar budget paid for by disreputable corporations, but when Rick Berman throws a hand grenade, we’re happy to pick it up, pull the pin, and throw it back.

We therefore present Berman’s Vermin, a factual, seven point examination of Richard Berman and his unsavory tactics. Many people wrongly assume that HumaneWatch is a watchdog group, or that it is concerned about animal welfare. Please share this graphic on Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest to help set the record straight!

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Laws, Lobbyists, and HumaneWatch Lies

As part of their smear campaign against animal welfare, HumaneWatch publishes a series of inept attempts at infographics called “The Visual HSUS”. Their latest propaganda complains that the HSUS spends more on “lobbying” than it does on funding pet shelters. But HumaneWatch shoots itself in the foot by quoting the purpose of the HSUS from their Articles of Incorporation 56 years ago: “To protect all living things… from cruelty and neglect, with special emphasis on cruelties of national scope.” National scope. That’s an important phrase. The HSUS was never intended to fund local pet shelters; that’s simply not its purpose. The HSUS (along with other national groups like the ASPCA) confront issues that local groups don’t have the influence or resources to tackle. And these national efforts have been the greatest deterrent to animal cruelty the world has ever seen. In addition to disaster relief work, large-scale animal rescues, sanctuaries and wildlife rehabilitation centers, public awareness campaigns, shelter advocacy, and dozens of other HSUS programs and campaigns for animal welfare, they also educate legislators on the need for animal protection. That’s not the same as lobbying, but HumaneWatch — an alias of the Center for Consumer Freedom, itself run by a corporate lobbyist — would rather you didn’t know that. Let’s take a look at what HumaneWatch considers lobbying, and what came of it:
  • Thanks to the HSUS, the Humane Slaughter Act was passed in 1958. Fifty years later, HSUS undercover investigations of a slaughterhouse in Chino, CA and subsequent testimony before Congress led to a comprehensive ban on processing of sickly “downer” cattle.
  • In 1976, the Humane Transport Act prohibited the shipping of puppies in freezing or suffocating baggage compartments, shipped in lettuce crates and other unsafe containers. Thank HSUS investigations and their work with Congress for putting an end to that.
  • The Animal Welfare Act received additional enforcement funding in 2002 thanks to the efforts and testimony of the HSUS.
  • HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle teamed up with actress/activist Tippi Hedren and other animal welfare advocates to save thousands of big cats from death and suffering in the exotic animal trade. The Captive Wildlife Safety Act of 2003 banned the interstate trafficking of lions, tigers, jaguars, and other big cats. It was passed unanimously by Congress.
  • The PETS Act of 2006 requires states receiving FEMA aid to accommodate pets and service animals in their plans for disaster evacuations. It was passed thanks to HSUS’ work with legislators, and their testimony about the events of Hurricane Katrina.
  • When the Supreme Court struck down the law making the sale of crush videos illegal, HSUS led the charge to pass a new bill. HSUS investigations revealed a surge in crush video sales following the invalidation of the law, and a new bill was promptly signed into law in 2010.
These laws constitute a tiny sample of the more than 1,000 anti-cruelty laws passed through the efforts of the HSUS. Legislation is the only effective deterrent to the cruelty of animal abusing industries. When you consider that more than 70% of HSUS-backed ballot campaigns to protect animals from cruelty are successful, it’s no surprise that HSUS was voted the #1 animal protection nonprofit by Guidestar’s Philanthropedia study. Now, ask yourself why industry-funded groups like HumaneWatch would try to oppose and discredit that. Could it be… money? Companies that profit from animal cruelty know that the HSUS’ legislative efforts are the biggest threat to inhumane business practices. The PR firms they hire — front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom — know it too. And it scares them. It scares them because animal welfare advocates are winning the battle for the humane treatment of animals, one person, one company, one issue, one state, one law at a time. If you would like to support the HSUS’ efforts to protect animals from cruelty, please consider making a donation to the Humane Society of the United States or its legislative branch, the Humane Society Legislative Fund. Volunteer to help animals. And warn your friends about deceptive anti-animal groups like HumaneWatch.

CEO compensation, revisited

Several months ago, we examined the HumaneWatch myth that claims that HSUS pays its employees “lavish” salaries. That myth was thoroughly debunked, but HumaneWatch has never been an organization that let truth stand in the way of a good fiction. Recently, HumaneWatch’s primary source of hot air has begun distributing a chart of Wayne Pacelle’s salary. In an attempt to make those numbers look bigger and scarier, they’ve resorted to tallying up fifteen years of compensation into one sum. I wonder how much money HumaneWatch creator Richard Berman has made off “donations” to his “nonprofit” organizations in the past fifteen years? Considering that the three million dollars in cash he plunked down for a house outweighs the sum of all of Wayne Pacelle’s compensation at HSUS combined, I’m guessing it’s a substantial amount. Unfortunately, it’s impossible to determine that figure, because Berman passes corporate donations through his for-profit PR firm, which — unlike HSUS — does not make its financial statements available for public inspection. We presented the following table in our previous article on CEO compensation.
CEO Compensation
American Meat Institute$738,987.00
American Kennel Club$737,067.00
National Milk Producers Federation$647,632.00
American Red Cross$455,690.00
American Farm Bureau Federation$420,415.00
As you can see, Wayne Pacelle makes a fraction of what many national nonprofit CEOs are paid. But to really put things in perspective, consider what CEOs make at for-profit companies:
CEO Compensation
Merrill Lynch$83,785,021.00
American Express$50,126,585.00
Walt Disney$27,665,413.00
Tyson Foods$15,302,009.00
ConAgra Foods$13,452,747.00
Now consider that HSUS is the world’s largest animal charity, running campaigns in all 50 states. Their operations handle rescue, veterinary care, sheltering, investigation, litigation, legislation, education, outreach, and more. And the success of those operations rest squarely on Wayne Pacelle’s shoulders. The latest edition of the Charity Navigator CEO Compensation Study sums it up beautifully.
We 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 most of 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 extensive management and fundraising expertise. Even so, charities tend to pay less than private sector firms for similar competencies. For example, the charities in our study pay a median total compensation of roughly $150,000, compared to median salaries at S&P 500 companies of $1 million, excluding bonus packages and stock options that drive the median compensation up to $6.6 million.
Compared to nonprofits of a similar size and scope, Wayne Pacelle is paid peanuts. Compared to corporations in the private sector, his salary is nonexistent. The claim that his salary is “bloated” and “lavish” is an unsupportable interpretation of these facts. For more information: HSUS Financial Statements NY Times: Nonprofit Advocate Carves Out a For-Profit Niche Charity Navigator 2010 CEO Compensation Study
Update: January 20, 2011 Reader DWhite pointed out that the organizations selected for our comparison are not all 501(c)(3) nonprofits. While we have doubts that the differences between a 501(c)(3) charitable nonprofit and a 501(c)(4) social welfare organization are significant enough to invalidate the comparison, we’re willing to re-examine the numbers. Further, DWhite questions whether HSUS paying 26 employees more than $100k is excessive. For the new comparison, we’ll compare the HSUS against the American Kennel Club, the March of Dimes, the Susan G. Komen Foundation, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and the American Cancer Society. All of these are large-scale, national 501(c)(3) nonprofits with annual revenue between $40,000,000 and $350,000,000. And in addition to CEO compensation, we’ll look at the number of employees paid in excess of $100,000 per year.
CEO Compensation *
American Cancer Society$852,879.00
American Kennel Club$737,067.00
March of Dimes$627,104.00
Susan G. Komen$558,607.00
Humane Society of the US$268,386.00
Mothers Against Drunk Driving$256,380.00
* includes compensation from related organizations
Total EmployeesPaid More Than $100K
Susan G. Komen28937 (12.8%)
American Cancer Society2,199222 (10.1%)
American Kennel Club53231 (5.8%)
March of Dimes2,058102 (4.9%)
Humane Society of the US62929 (4.6%)
Mothers Against Drunk Driving591 6 (1.0%)
While there is no charity that’s a perfect analog to the HSUS, these examples do provide a representative sample of national, large-scale, 501(c)(3) nonprofits. As compared to similar organizations, HSUS compensation is not only reasonable, its compensation is well under that of many leading U.S. charities.

HumaneWatch brings out the worst

Wednesday, December 15, 2010, was a banner day for HumaneWatch, or so David Martosko thought.  For this was the day that Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said that maybe, possibly, if he continues to go above and beyond all the requirements of his probation, Michael Vick might someday be able to own a dog. Judging from the reaction, you would think Wayne had endorsed Vick going back to dog fighting.  But the fact is, Vick sought out the HSUS to assist him in speaking to groups of inner city school children to tell them that dog fighting is wrong.  And who are these kids more likely to believe — an Ivy League-educated leader of an animal welfare organization, or a famous athlete with a multimillion-dollar contract whose image they likely have on their bedroom walls? You might also think that Vick had given money to Wayne to line his pockets.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  What happened was the Philadelphia Eagles donated money for several animal advocacy programs, including $50,000 for the HSUS to start an End Dogfighting Program in Philadelphia, $50,000 for the Philadelphia Animal Welfare Society to build a spay-neuter clinic, and $50,000 for the Berks County Humane Society to fund a mobile veterinary clinic.  Those all sound like pretty good causes to me. For the record, I disagree with Wayne and believe that Michael Vick should never be able to own a dog.  But the court order preventing him from owning a pet expires in two years, and Wayne truly believes that people who abuse animals can be rehabilitated.  If they can’t, why bother having treatment programs such as AniCare, which many animal abusers are ordered to complete? However, none of this has stopped David Martosko of HumaneWatch from trying to make the most of Wayne’s unpopular opinion.  On Sunday, HumaneWatch took out a full page ad on the Vick situation in The New York Times.  Since then, Martosko has posted about Vick on the HumaneWatch Facebook page no less than 24 times, garnering almost 3,000 comments.  The posts are passionate, strongly opinionated, and almost universally blasting Vick and the HSUS. Unfortunately, many of the comments are also quite violent, something Martosko seems to revel in and encourage in order to whip up rage against Vick and the HSUS to as high a fever pitch as possible.  Let’s take a look at a sampling: From Sunday, December 19 PsychicGirl Devine Natura was quite busy making threats about Vick.  Check out these gems:

Effie Natsis wanted to run Vick over, if not one way, then another:

Other commenters wished additional bad things to befall Vick:

Most disturbing, Liz Willnow threatened Vick’s 2-, 5-, and 7-year-old children:

From Monday, December 20 Kira Baulesh spilled her venom against Vick first in regular case letters and then in all caps in case we didn’t get it the first time: From Tuesday, December 21 Ashley Nelson wanted mob-style justice: Jennifer Parmer crossed the line into blatant racism, calling for Vick to be lynched: As you can see from these posts, some sick people hang out at HumaneWatch.  But even worse is the sickness of David Martosko in encouraging comments like these.  The fact that these comments have stretched through a period of days demonstrates a pattern of conduct on the HumaneWatch Facebook page.  In addition, though some of these comments have been taken down, many are still up, and even those that were eventually taken down remained up for hours if not days. What’s even more hypocritical is the fact that many regular commenters on the HumaneWatch Facebook page are animal abusers themselves – people like Katie Dokken, Trish Bragg, Lori Barva Rogers, Barbara Hoffman, and most recently Jennifer Hobbs Butler.  Yet Martosko never bans these people, and their fellow HumaneWatchers applaud their presence and excuse their offenses. So whose side are you on, Martosko?  Either you are against animal abuse or you are not.  If you are against abuse, I challenge you to ban each and every animal abuser from your page and publicly tell us why.  The fact that you don’t speaks volumes about your true agenda.

Martosko has questions. We’ve got answers.

Cow with answersYesterday, David Martosko of HumaneWatch published five questions for his followers to ask Wayne Pacelle at the HSUS town hall meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.   The answers are readily available at the HSUS website, Wayne Pacelle’s blogs, and in related websites.

Using these materials, I have taken the liberty of putting together some answers that Wayne Pacelle or another HSUS employee might give to Mr. Martosko’s questions. Please note: I do not work at the HSUS and have not run these answers by anyone from that organization.  These are simply my answers based on reading their materials.

1. “In 1980 at HSUS’s annual meeting, the group made it official policy to – and I quote – ‘pursue on all fronts … the clear articulation and establishment of the rights of all animals … within the full range of American life and culture.’ Is this still HSUS’s goal? If you’re trying to give so-called ‘rights’ to cows, pigs, and chickens, why wouldn’t that completely destroy the entire livestock industry?”

The HSUS works to get protections for animals.  It is not so much a question of animal rights as human responsibility.  Humans have the responsibility to treat animals humanely, and this includes animals raised for food, which are by far the largest percentage of animals used by humans.  Unfortunately, we do not always treat farm animals humanely.  This happens in two ways.  First there is treatment that everyone agrees is abuse, such as what the HSUS and even a USDA inspector has uncovered at multiple slaughter plants.  People were kicking calves and ramming them with electric prods, or using forklifts to move cows.  Despite such violations of the Humane Slaughter Act, people at these plants were treating animals this way on a routine basis.  When an inspector tried to report it, his managers demoted him and kept the plant open.  In this case the laws on the books were clearly not working, and the HSUS stepped in to help bring this situation to the attention of state and federal authorities.

Second, there are standard operating procedures in industrial agriculture that are legal but which the HSUS and the general public see as inhumane.  These include the intensive confinement of veal calves, pregnant pigs, and laying hens in cages so small they can’t turn around and cannot perform any natural behaviors such as rooting, nesting or perching.  Most people understand that an animal needs to be able to move around and perform natural behaviors, but intensive agriculture denies these basic needs.  They even deny that these animals have natural behaviors, despite the fact that they have evolved over millions of years, yet it has only been in the past few decades that we have seen widespread use of intensive confinement.  This intensive confinement also leads to food safety problems such as the salmonella outbreak we saw from the DeCoster egg operations that sickened half a million people and led to the largest egg recall in our nation’s history.  When animals are that stressed, they are likely to get sick.  Antibiotics are not the answer, as this has only led to new forms of drug-resistant bacteria that threaten human health.  The HSUS sees the answer as getting the animals out of intensive confinement and into a housing system where they can move around and express natural behaviors.

The HSUS is not out to put an end to animal agriculture as many of our opponents have charged.  Their purpose is to look out for the welfare of the animals in these systems.  If the Humane Society of the United States were to ignore the welfare of over 1 billion animals killed for food each year — by far the largest sector of animal use by humans — then it would not be doing its job.

2. “Can you name a specific meat, dairy, or egg brand that you and the Humane Society of the United States have endorsed?”

Sure.  The HSUS supports humane and sustainable farmers like Kevin Fulton, who arranged this town hall meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska.  Kevin runs a pasture beef operation in which cattle are allowed to graze freely on a natural diet of grass, which cows were evolved to eat.   The HSUS is also one of 30 animal welfare groups that supports the Certified Humane label.  You can see a list of Certified Humane farmers and ranchers on their website.  The HSUS also supports the new Global GAP animal welfare standards, implemented  just last week by Whole Foods.  Again, the HSUS is not out to end animal agriculture.  Its purpose is to put an end to the worst abuses on our nation’s factory farms.

3. “If you got a federal law passed that demanded a nation-wide switch to the kind of livestock production mandated by California’s ‘Proposition 2’ law, would you and HSUS be satisfied with your achievement and completely dissolve the animal-agriculture part of your organization?”

Certainly the HSUS would be thrilled to pass a law that switches the nation to a Proposition 2 type of livestock production.  However, it would be irresponsible for the HSUS to ever dissolve the animal agriculture part of its organization.  As stated previously, farm animals make up by far the largest percentage of animals used by humans in the United States.   The HSUS would not be doing its job if it did not continue to look out for the welfare of these animals.  That might consist of continuing to work for better laws to protect these animals.  But it might also consist of working to see that current laws are being properly enforced.  As we have seen with the Humane Slaughter Act, which the HSUS was instrumental in getting passed in 1958, our nation’s laws are not always followed, and sometimes when they are not, people in charge look the other way.  So the HSUS must continue to be vigilant in making sure farm animals are treated humanely and according to the law, and that the law is being followed on farms, at auctions, in slaughterhouses, and anywhere else humans are making widespread use of these animals.

4. “Is there such a thing as meat that’s ‘humane’ enough that your ethics permit you personally to eat it? If so, where can we buy some? If not, what’s the difference between your group and PETA?”

Wayne Pacelle has not eaten meat for at least two decades, so he would likely choose not to eat meat of any sort.  However, that is his choice, and not one he asks everyone to make, including employees of the HSUS.  Nowhere is there a clause requiring HSUS employees to adhere to a certain diet.  That is one difference between the HSUS and PETA, as PETA does require certain employees to adhere to a vegan diet.  PETA also has a mission statement that precludes any use of animals by humans for any purpose.  The HSUS has no such mission statement.  Its mission is to celebrate animals and confront cruelty, which is what it does, whether cruelty occurs on a factory farm, at a puppy mill, or in an animal fighting operation, canned hunt, fur farm, or anywhere else.

5. “In HSUS’s Articles of Incorporation – its founding documents – you’ll find the following declaration: ‘No substantial part of the activities of the corporation shall consist of the carrying on of propaganda or otherwise attempting to influence legislation.’ Has that been changed since 1954? If not, what on earth have you been doing all these years? Isn’t your job to propagandize and influence legislation? Isn’t that what Prop. 2 in California and Prop. B in Missouri were all about?”

The Humane Society of the United States does not do direct lobbying or campaigning for candidates for political office.  It does have an affiliated 501(c)(4) organization, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, that works to pass animal protection laws at the state and federal level, to educate the public about animal protection issues, and to support humane candidates for office.  The HSLF tracks votes by members of Congress on animal protection issues and creates a Humane Scorecard to inform voters who care about these issues.

The HSUS has also worked with coalitions such as Californians for Humane Farms and Missourians for the Protection of Dogs to help pass ballot measures in specific states.  It is certainly not the only member of these coalitions.  For example, Missourians for the Protection of Dogs was also supported by the ASPCA, Best Friends Animal Society, Humane Society of Missouri, Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation, and Tony LaRussa Animal Welfare Foundation.  It was also endorsed by over 150 veterinarians and clinics, over 160 Missouri businesses, and over 100 other animal protection charities.  These initiatives have broad support in the states where they have been put to a vote, sometimes winning by a landslide as in the case of Proposition 2 in California, because they are reasonable, common sense reforms that most people want to see passed.

As you can see from this blog entry, which I put together in less than an hour, the answers to Mr. Martosko’s questions are not hard to find.  Unfortunately, Mr. Martosko’s purpose is not to look for fair and balanced information about the HSUS, but to destroy the HSUS by any means necessary including slander and lies so that it cannot work for welfare reforms that might threaten the profits of those who fund HumaneWatch.  My question to Mr. Martosko is:  When are you going to stop waging a smear campaign against the Humane Society of the United States and join the rest of the country in embracing actual animal welfare?