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Behind the cute photos: Does HSUS want a meatless world?

Posted Tuesday, March 16, 2010, at 2:19 PM

They've been called a "wolf in sheep's clothing." I liken them to a "fox in the henhouse."

By the end of watching their television commercials full of adorable puppies and kittens, I'm ready to give them the requested $19.99 a month. (And that's even after others had warned me about where the money really goes.)

"They" are the "Humane Society of the United States," commonly called the HSUS. For many farmers, hunters, pet breeders, omnivores and even animal shelters their apparent agenda is frightening.

Their heart-wrenching commercials seem to infer that the viewers' donations will go to hands on care of animals or to local pet shelters. But, actually, the Washington D.C-based HSUS is not the same as your local humane society or even the Humane Society of Missouri.

Hunting and agriculture groups refer to the HSUS as an animal rights political lobbying group, and indeed, according to their own annual report more was spent on employees, lobbying and fundraising than direct animal care.

Aided no doubt by those commercials of companion animals, they received more than $83 million in donations and grants and spent $125 million, according to their 2008 annual report. (The Missouri Farm Bureau has called the HSUS "a national factory-fundraising nonprofit organization preying on the public's emotional attachment to companion animals.")

According to the HSUS report, just 70,328 animals were directly cared for by HSUS and their affiliates in 2008, including 8,700 from international partnerships and 32,909 for "Spayday USA/ International." Six to 8 million dogs and cats end up in U.S. pet shelters and of those 3 to 4 million are euthanized each year (HSUS website).

A speaker at the recent Rotary Club Farmer Appreciation luncheon stated that just one-half of one percent ($455,000) of the HSUS budget (he stated it was $100 million) went to help local animal shelters in 2008. (HumaneWatch.org).

After covering that story, I received an email from a senior director of communications at the Washington, D.C.-based HSUS. She disputed that figure, stating they actually spend $20 million dollars per year on direct animal care programs.

Of course, $20 million is 16 percent of a $125 million budget. In contrast, they paid $37.8 million to their more than 500 employees. Does it bother anybody else that by their own figures they spent almost twice as much on staffing as they spent on actual animal care?

A 2004 quote in the Washington Post by HSUS' top man, Wayne Pacelle, acknowledges that they don't fund local humane societies.

"He's happy to set the record straight for his critics. First off, they are right about HSUS not funding shelters run by local Humane Societies. "Our slogan on that is we don't run shelters, we help them run better," he says. HSUS provides material support and training, publishes two shelter magazines, evaluates the shelters for animal care standards and acts as their voice on animal protection issues. Pacelle likens HSUS to the shelters' "trade association."

However, that "trade association" has apparently never sent any magazines, provided any training, evaluations and, most importantly, any money to the two groups here in Marshall who do an excellent job protecting unwanted pets -- the Marshall Animal Shelter and the Saline Animal League.

After talking to representatives from those groups I've learned they have never received any money from HSUS -- not $1 out of each $200 donated, nor $32 out of every $200 donated- depending on which figure you believe.

But they've done great work despite that fact. Since the 1997 formation of the non-profit Saline Animal League, which helps with medical care and placement of animals, the Marshall Animal Shelter has gone from a 15 percent adoption rate to an 85 percent adoption rate, flip-flopping the number of animals euthanized.

No one can deny helping unwanted pets is noble and worthwhile work. Both these local groups deserve and could really use our support, either by donating our money or time.

So besides employees, what does HSUS do with all that money? According to their annual report, $27.5 million was spent on fundraising and over $28 million was spent on "campaigns, litigations and investigations."

One of their new legislative campaigns is here in Missouri. They have started a signature gathering campaign to get a "puppy mill" initiative on the Missouri ballot. Pacelle was recently in Missouri's state capitol trying to gain support for the initiative.

I spoke to a local veterinarian who is heavily involved in rescue work, receiving animals from "puppy mills," and taking care of them. Guess what? The vet has never gotten any money from HSUS, never gotten a magazine, training or physical help. Nothing.

Acknowledging Missouri does have a problem with unlicensed kennels, the vet opposes the HSUS initiative, stating the problem is not with current laws, they would work, if only there were enough funds to enforce them. The HSUS initiative does nothing to help that problem.

The Missouri Veterinary Medical Association (MVMS) also opposes the initiative, calling it "unfair and misguided," because the initiative would shut down many of Missouri's properly operated, inspected, licensed and reputable facilities. "The MVMS believes the answer lies in adequate funding for more inspections and better enforcement."

The Missouri Department of Agriculture has launched an aggressive effort called Operation Bark Alert to crack down on unlicensed kennels. Their view is that this is a much better approach than the HSUS initiative.

So if not animals, who would the initiative help? HSUS, of course.It would give the HSUS more publicity and more money (to not go to local animal shelters).

Recently Missourians for Animal Care was formed, banding together agriculture in the state like never before. Their stated purpose is to inform the public about the ballot initiative and what they call the ultimate goal of HSUS, "to eliminate meat from the human diet."

In a recent interview on the Cattle Network, when asked about claims they are out to abolish animal agriculture, Pacelle said (among other things) "Our policy statement makes it clear that we respect individual choice, but we do challenge consumers, citizens, and policy makers to apply some moral reckoning to the subject of how animals used for food are treated."

However, they can't deny that their website shares only "humane eating" recipes, which are actually vegan recipes that don't include meat or any animal products, including butter, eggs or cow's milk (even in cakes and breads).

Some recipe highlights are "Faux Turkey Casserole," "Eggless Egg Salad" and "chicken-friendly" products: processed food like "Chicken-style strips" (faux chicken), Soy Boy's Okara Courage Burger and Gardenburger's Flame Grilled Chik'n Grill.

They recently unveiled a new line of organic, vegetarian dog food, called Humane Choice. It does not contain "corn, dairy, artificial coloring, wheat, wheat gluten, animal-based protein, or ingredients produced by genetic engineering." (Aren't dogs natural carnivores?)

Pacelle and other HSUS leaders are unabashed vegans who don't eat, wear or use anything from animals, including leather belts or shoes.

They might deny their ultimate goal is abolishment of all animal agriculture, but the HSUS seems smart enough to know that their credibility and funding will suffer if they come right out and say they advocate the elimination of meat consumption, especially with over 97 percent of Americans exercising their right to choose an omnivorous diet.

They seem to have the patience and plan to know when building a house, or in this case a movement, you must first start at the bottom, building a foundation before moving on to the next step.

Nationally, however, the HSUS' foundation is starting to crumble. Companies such as Yellow Tail Wine, Pilot Truck Centers and Mary Kay Cosmetics have removed their names (and money) from HSUS' list of corporate sponsors after a grassroots effort from farmers, hunters and omnivores to inform the companies about the "real HSUS."

It is not just agriculture and hunting groups that are starting to push back. Some local humane societies have changed their names to keep from getting confused with the national group and their reputation.

An 18-month investigation into HSUS was launched in Louisiana after the organization could only account for $7 million out of the $34 million they raised for animal care after Hurricane Katrina.

As for those who have or might be tempted to give to the HSUS after the sympathetic commercials, please know what your money is actually funding. Look at their own reports.

The best advice I have heard recently is from a local veterinarian, who has dedicated their life to taking care of pets here in Saline County, including those abandoned and abused.

"If people are interested in helping, they need to look at local groups in their area, shelters, rescues and humane societies, ones where they can get acquainted and actually see what they are doing, rather than just sending a check somewhere," the vet said

Great advice. (Information on our local animal groups can be found below.)

As for the HSUS and their "real agenda," I guess time will tell. But you know what they say, "If it looks like a duck, walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, most likely it's a duck."

Or is that a "Faux Turkey?"

Address for the Saline Animal League (donations go towards medical care and adoption activities) is P.O. Box 74, Marshall, MO 65340 or http://salineanimalleague.org

The address for the Marshall Animal Shelter (donations there go towards facilities and upkeep) is 325 N Grant Ave, Marshall, Mo. 65340.


Showing comments in chronological order
[Show most recent comments first]

Great article Marcia!!

-- Posted by Typesetter on Tue, Mar 16, 2010, at 3:50 PM

As someone who works at the HSUS, I would encourage readers with questions about what we do to visit our website, where all of our work to help animals is available for anyone to see. As for financials, we've been given great ratings by Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau, and our organization was recently ranked among the top ten most fiscally responsible charities by Worth magazine; you can read more at http://www.humanesociety.org/news/news/2....

-- Posted by Hillary on Tue, Mar 16, 2010, at 9:35 PM

Typesetter, Thank you for the compliment. As always, thanks for reading.

Hillary, Thanks for reading.


-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Tue, Mar 16, 2010, at 9:47 PM

The HSUS should lose their non-profit statis based on their lobbying and so much money is used for salaries and benefits. GO Louisana about investigating on the missing funds.

I really hope that the HSUS will disappear and that their missguided policies will go with them.

-- Posted by movaldude on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 4:04 AM


You are not alone, there are several groups and individuals who are trying to get their non-profit status revoked. The Louisian investigation ended shortly after the HSUS agreed to build an animal shelter there. http://www.venomousreptiles.org/forums/E....

Thanks for reading.

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 8:57 AM

Ugh, I hate all of those commercials with the heart-wrenching photos of animals of any type (for this or any other organization). I change the channel.

I think their non-profit status should be revoked, too! Great piece!

-- Posted by koeller77 on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 9:24 AM

comment to Hillary who works for hsus. First she says to look on their website for all info --- HSUS obviously only puts on their website what they want people to know. They are not going to publish for all to read what the rest of us know. That would be stupid -- Yes, they are rated top ten at bbb -- well, that is because bbb only goes by financials -- not HOW or WHAT they do to get the finanacials. Same with charity Navigator tho I thought I had seen somewhere that it is actually linked to HSUS somewhere - maybe not.

-- Posted by xhsuspeta on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 11:56 AM

they don't donate to shelters, they use their money to help shelters run better?


google Dallas Humane Society and see how much H$US is CHARGING them for their 'help'

no time? here, I'll help you out- it's $25000.00. yes, I said TWENTY FIVE THOUSAND DOLLARS

to go in and tell them they are understaffed, underfunded and give them a manual on how to expedite euthanasia.

PLEASE donate locally to shelters and rescues if you want to help abandoned and neglected companion animals in need. otherwise, all you're doing is funding lobbyists working to eliminate animal agriculture

-- Posted by Idontdotrix on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 1:37 PM

Yes, we are a nonprofit that fundraises - we have to, because unlike big agribusiness, we don't receive government subsidies. They don't have to fundraise because they receive billions of tax dollars to lobby their own interests.

I worked at a shelter and yes, everyone would love a million dollars, but the fact is that is not the role of the HSUS, nor have we claimed that it is. Each animal shelter is their own entity, and are not governed by one single national organization.

My point is, that you can give a billion dollars to a shelter - and it will most likely go to help the animals. However, it's not going to end animal cruelty, and it's certainly not going to end the homeless pet problem. Nor is it going to do anything to help stop people from shooting at live animals via a webcam (internet hunting), or dog fighting, or farm animal cruelty.

That is what HSUS does. We focus on a huge range of issues, not just companion animal issues, but also egregious forms of wildlife abuse, farm animal abuse, stopping animal fighting and ending animal cruelty. There is not one way to help animals - there are many ways, raise awareness, provide hands on care, educate, etc.

-- Posted by humanesarah on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 2:33 PM

The three biggest issues the INFORMED public has with the H$U$ is that they purposely chose the name "HUMANE SOCIETY OF THE UNITED STATES" so that it would be confused and misunderstood to be an umbrella corporation for all of the "Humane Societies" IN the US. A recent survey of over 1,000 people revealed that 71% of people wrongly believe this to be the case.

The second issue at hand here is that they don't provide direct care for cats and dogs, which make up the majority of the sad little faces in their fundraising commercials.

The final issue is that if you ACTUALLY choose to believe the crap spouting out of Wayne Pacelle's mouth saying that they help local humane societies run better, you need to understand that the assistance comes at a premium. Their services are NOT cheap! They also ONLY provide financial assistance to shelters and local Humane Societies in disaster situations and also ONLY if the money is requested. To see what they actually donate, check out their IRS form 990 and see for yourself. The vast majority of the donations are in the range of $5,000-$10,000. PATHETIC.

Sooner or later the general public is going to wake up to the propaganda and lies espoused by Wayne Pacelle and his organization and when that happens, the H$U$ will GO DOWN FOR GOOD.

Right now, the IRS is beginning their investigation into the amount of lobbying done by the H$U$. Per IRS code, 501(c)(3) tax exempt orgs cannot lobby excessively. That's the number one activity of the H$U$ and their activities have been excessive. Those who see the H$U$ for who they really are hope that back taxes, penalties, and a revocation of the tax exempt status will financially cripple, bankrupt, and end the H$U$ forever.

-- Posted by Jonathan Brady on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 4:21 PM

An addendum, H$U$ does provide spay/neuter services for cats and dogs, which they consider direct care. I don't. I consider that to be them ensuring their own vision for the future - no more companion pets.

And don't be fooled, that IS their vision for the future.

They fight for mandatory spay/neuter laws. They fight against large scale breeding of cats and dogs. They fight against pet stores selling cats and dogs. (when I say fight, I mean they lobby politicians to get them to pass laws to enforce the ideals of the H$U$)

Let's see... if you HAVE to spay/neuter your pet, you obviously can't produce any more pets for others. If breeders are legislated out of business, they won't be able to produce any more pets for others and their breeding stock will have to be spayed and neutered before going to a new home. And if pet stores can't sell any that they may happen to get their hands on from some other means, no one can buy them.

This will end the practice of pet keeping across the US, should the H$U$ get their way. This would be a "one generation and out" plan, which members of the H$U$ have openly stated they are ok with. It's the end of pet keeping via attrition. How's that for scary?

-- Posted by Jonathan Brady on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 4:27 PM

This message is to Hillary from the HSUS. I notice that you comment of behalf of the HSUS on Social Networking Blogs,etc. You inform readers to go to the HSUS home page to read about the HSUS and all they are doing when anyone comments on the HSUS lack of support for Shelters in our Country or any issue for that matter. I have questions about a issue that pertains to the homeless crisis (shelters) in California. I have been attempting to get a response from the HSUS on this issue. I hope you can post your contact information if you read this so I may forward my e-mail to you for a response.

-- Posted by Harry on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 5:19 PM

It is great that an organization such as this is getting exposed for what it is.

-- Posted by litlmissme on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 5:45 PM

Pretty good article Marcia but you forgot a couple of things...

What about the RICO court case that Feld Entertainment has brought against the HSUS for laundering money through various accounts to pay a former employee of the circus to testify for the HSUS?


There is also the IRS investigation that is being demanded by animal lovers across the USA against the HSUS. This is starting to slowly move in that we are getting letters from the IRS about our letters demanding this investigation.

Hilary, honey, you will soon be out of a job. Maybe it is time that you learned how to think for yourself instead of typing for your boss? I know that in confronting you on other websites, you always stop writing when the hard questions begin to be asked. All you ever say is go to the HSUS website. Why would we go to a place that spouts lies out of every orifice that they have? But keep it up...I would miss reading your same old answers on any website that dares to confront the HSUS for what they really are - Lobbyists and Crooks.

Also, let me clarify about Charity Navigator and the Better Business Bureau - with both of these organizations you may 'buy' your rating. Besides their ways of analyzing business as charities and how they work is pretty one sided towards the charity and not towards where the money really goes. Yes, Hilary, I went there and found out how ratings are done and no longer trust either one of these companies.

One other thing - companies left and right are being educated about the HSUS and sponsorship.

Currently Drs. Foster and Smith have just admitted that they shared part of their catalog addresses with HSUS. And yes, they are being educated and we need more to get in and do more educating.

Wolfgang Puck is another company being brought into the light.

A care2 site has been closed down that had Hill's Pet food as a sponsor once we educated them.

YES, Hilary, run to your boss and let him know...grassroots movements are alive and well and we are moving because we will not let him take away our animals.

-- Posted by spcpo on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 5:59 PM

Humane Sarah's a billion dollars to a Shelter would change Animal Cruelty in a entire city and end the homeless crisis in a major city. Who are we kidding imagine how much a billion dollars could do in the hands of shelters. Shelter have programs, Sarah.. It all comes down to the lack of funds. We have solutions that cannot come to light because shelters and rescues dont's have funds. Seriously.. Can you imagine the cruelty enforcement a city could hire to fight dog fighting and the population management programs that could be enacted with a billion dollars. Yes, Sarah.. Animals lives would change and people would not be able to get away with cruelty such as dog fighting.

How could you seriously say that kind of money would not stop homeless pet problems and end animal cruelty if a shelter was given a "Billion Dollars". It would change everything for cats and dogs. It would however not help the HSUS for it's other agenda's that most donors and members do not understand they are supporting. You have a fortune to give back to homeless animals in our country, you don't. But, if your NOT going to give back to shelters as people believe you do. Then just be who you are and just market and fundraise for the agenda's that you intend to invest your funds on. Isn't that the fair way to do business.

-- Posted by Harry on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 6:01 PM

I'd like to thank the author of this article. Excellent work!

-- Posted by Harry on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 8:13 PM

Thanks for being brave enough to write the truth about the H$U$. It seems most of this info. disappears shortly after publication. Could that be because the H$U$ doens't like the truth about their organization being made public? They can't tell the truth about themselves and still take in the monies they are getting. People are too smart for that snow job. Do you think they are going to take care of all of us when they get the laws passed that put so very many out of work, lose their businesses, farms etc.? The public needs to be told the TRUTH and it is going to take the help of the media, radio and tv to get it done. Keep up the good work.

-- Posted by Foxy on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 8:34 PM

NanaDot- I have nothing to do with big Ag. As much as the HSUS wants to make people believe HSUS is NOT just being slammed by the Ag businesses. Rescues,shelters,and everyday pets lovers are tired of the HSUS deceptive fundraising tactics. A smear job is a attempt to bring forth mistruths that have no fact basis. I have much knowledge of the HSUS nothing in this article is untruthful it's very accurate information. I could have never imagined that a organization that claims to protect the innocence could be as the HSUS however I learned the HSUS is off it's rails and rolling far off the course it claims to be to raise funds. That is simply deceptive towards the trust and generousity people give to this organization. They have no remorse for these tactics.

-- Posted by Harry on Wed, Mar 17, 2010, at 10:21 PM

First, NanaDot, many lobbying groups for all sorts of things are under investigation.

Second, I don't disagree that lobbyists for anything are a huge boondoggle for lawyers and opportunists, while getting little done for the consumers and citizens they represent.

Third, nobody's going after HSUS because they advocate going meatless. They're going after them because they are playing a shell game with our dollars given in good faith. I've donated to them in the past, thinking that money would go to my local animal shelter.

Fourth, apparently they DO provide help to local shelters -- for a consulting fee. So how is that using my donation?

Fifth, how about a little common sense here when talking about diets? Too much of anything is a problem. And nobody is forcing me to buy soda, meat, fish or anything else. It's in my control.

Which is where my choice as an individual should stay.

-- Posted by talea on Thu, Mar 18, 2010, at 7:56 AM

Thanks for a great article Marcia! It is refreshing to see an accurate portrayal of HSUS. I would encourage anyone with a vested interest in HSUS (whether you contribute dollars, or oppose their views) to visit www.humanewatch.org and learn a little bit more about the organization.

I would also invite everyone to keep the experts in mind when it comes to animal care. HSUS themselves acknowledge they take immediate care of relatively few animals in the grand scheme of things. When it comes to the care of companion animals local shelters, vets and the vast majority of breeders keep the safety and health of the animal as their top priority. Farmers also know how to best care for their livestock - their own livelihood depends upon it. Why allow a group who cares for several thousand animals tell those who care for millions how to best do their job?

-- Posted by HX2 on Thu, Mar 18, 2010, at 6:57 PM


Why is it that unless someone is peddling produce on the court house square you think that they are a part of "big ag"? FYI -- the type of subsistence agriculture that you promote has a name -- it's called GARDENING!

-- Posted by Char-broil on Thu, Mar 18, 2010, at 9:29 PM

Thanks to everybody for all the great posts. I really appreciate everybody reading!

-- Posted by Marcia Gorrell on Fri, Mar 19, 2010, at 9:13 PM

Great article Marcia!

Everyone needs to understand the faultiness of the Humane Society and their underhanded fundraising tactics. As an agriculture supporter, I think it's up to us to provide people with accurate facts about where their money is going.

-- Posted by ffagal on Fri, Mar 26, 2010, at 11:44 AM

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