Beef Issues Quarterly Archive

Challenging the Humane Society of the United States

Challenging the Humane Society of the United States

by David Martosko, the Center for Consumer Freedom

Last summer a campaign manager for an East-coast animal rights group said the following at a convention in Washington, D.C.: "It is needed for farm animals that we get people to eat more vegetarian meals … We just have to reduce the number of animals that are raised for food, and the way to do that is to get people to eat more vegetarian meals."

His boss appeared an hour later to tell the gathered crowd of cheering activists: "These animals are counting on us to wage and win campaigns for them."

In 2003, this organization’s fundraising mailings included the boast that it had worked toward "putting an end to killing animals for nearly half a century."

Back in 1980 at its national convention, the group formally resolved to "pursue on all fronts … the clear articulation and establishment of the rights of all animals within the full range of American life and culture." ("Rights." Not "welfare.")

The published proceedings of this conference included an official declaration that "there is no rational basis for maintaining a moral distinction between the treatment of humans and other animals."


If we asked most Americans which organization has been described, 30 percent would respond with confusion. The other 70 percent would say "PETA."

The truth, of course, is the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals' older, richer sibling. HSUS has an eight-figure annual budget and a $37 million payroll. A former spokesman for the terrorist Animal Liberation Front is among its top managers.

HSUS is an awful lot like PETA, only with fewer naked interns. The tragedy is that hardly anyone understands this. The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) launched a new website in February ( as a sincere effort to reconnect Americans with reality.

In February a national poll from Opinion Research Corporation – the firm that does CNN’s political polling – determined the following:
  • Seventy-one percent of Americans believe that "the Humane Society of the United States is an umbrella group that represents thousands of local humane societies all across America."
  • Sixty-three percent of Americans agree with the statement that "my local humane society or pet shelter is affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States."
  • Fifty-nine percent of Americans think "the Humane Society of the United States contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats."

All three of those statements are completely false.

HSUS isn’t affiliated with a single pet shelter anywhere. It doesn’t run any. Not one.

The group does run five animal sanctuaries, but they handle wildlife, horses and roadkill near-misses (not dogs and cats). Still, practically everyone who sees HSUS's TV fundraising ads naturally believes HSUS is the pet-shelter mother ship. Why not? After all, more than 90 percent of the animals depicted in those ads are household pets.

And then there's the money. That widespread, incorrect belief that HSUS spends "most of its money" directly supporting pet shelters.

HSUS does put a little bit of money – very little – where its infomercial’s mouth is.

In 2008, the most recent year for which tax records are available, HSUS shared less than one-half of one percent of its budget with hands-on pet shelters. Not that $452,000 is anything to sneeze at, but HSUS put five times as much money into its executive pension plan.

Save the lobbyists. Forget the puppies and kittens. (You'll never see that slogan on an HSUS t-shirt, but at least it would be honest.)

When you visit, you'll find all this information about HSUS, and much more. And you'll be in good company. I'm writing this two months to the day since the launch of HumaneWatch, and it's already attracted more than a quarter-million unique visitors. Its Facebook "fan" page has 21,000 subscribers already.

There's clearly a public demand for this information. HumaneWatch is the only place online where the public can read a blockbuster RICO lawsuit that the Ringling Brothers circus filed against HSUS and its lawyers earlier this year. (The circus alleges that HSUS, some other animal rights organizations, and their attorneys conspired to bribe an anti-circus witness in a federal lawsuit against the Greatest Show On Earth.)
Shouldn't We Expect More?

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HumaneWatch is also the only place where you can see a complete set of HSUS's tax returns, going back decades. We've also collected the tax papers for over a dozen of HSUS's "affiliated” groups. (Isn't it funny how HSUS is affiliated with other money-making "charities,” but not with actual pet rescues?)

Talk about "factory fundraising.”

It's all adding up to a fascinating document library.

Curious about who does HSUS's telemarketing, and whether or not it's a scam? HumaneWatch has the documents. Wondering how much of the funds HSUS raises goes to pay for lawyers and lobbyists? HumaneWatch has the documents. Bank accounts? Documents. Legal scandals? Documents.

You get the picture. Like it or not, the Humane Society of the United States has become a thought leader on nearly every area of American life and culture that involves animals – including the welfare of beef cattle.

HSUS's preferred endgame (just like PETA's) features empty feedlots, bankrupt cattlemen, countless unemployed meatpacking workers and veggie-burgers as far as the eye can see.


Humane Watch will continue to tell the story about what HSUS is, and (just as important) about what it isn't. Through ads like those recently placed in The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Variety and the Washington Post, CCF will continue to highlight the failure of HSUS to donate a significant portion of the public's donations to America's underfunded dog and cat shelters. And, as sponsor of the ads, CCF has pledged to shut down if HSUS donates just 50 percent of the group's income to hands-on pet shelters in the United States.

While tells that story, it's time for you to tell yours. As the gap between consumers and agriculture widens, consumers have questions about how beef is raised, where it comes from and who raises it. It is very important for farmers and ranchers to help bridge that gap between consumers and their food by answering questions and telling the real story about raising beef.

Tags: Beef Issues Quarterly, Spring 2010, Trends Analyses

June 30, 2010