In August 2005, when HSUS (hereafter think “H$U$”) Executive Vice President Mike Markarian publicly “applaud[ed]” the FBI for arresting and imprisoning six amazing activists from Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty (SHAC), my outrage over this self-serving betrayal of activists and animals alike inspired me to write “The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy,” a fierce critique of HSUS and its chief executive, Wayne Pacelle. I condemned HSUS for its divisive attacks on animal rights militants, its bureaucratic rigidity, its cowardly conformism, and its disturbingly cozy relationships with the animal exploiters they claim to oppose.
Despite a recent fluff piece in the Los Angeles Times that promotes Pacelle as a consummate animal champion and visionary leader, I am pained to report that his “humane meat” and “cage-free” egg campaigns have promoted more, not less, animal suffering and killing; that HSUS is a collaborationist with, not antagonistic of, various animal exploitation industries; and that HSUS has developed strong ties with law enforcement agencies and the FBI not only to go after animal abusers, but also animal activists, the hard-line militants prepared to do what it takes to stop the torture and murder of innocents. Specialists in political repression, the FBI has a long track record of framing innocent citizens, destroying social justice movements, and even murdering vocal opponents of the state such as Fred Hampton. They say that politics makes for strange bedfellows, but this is downright surreal.
The problems I pointed to in “The Iron Cage of Bureaucracy” have considerably worsened in the last three years, and it is now glaringly obvious that HSUS is part of the problem of, not the solution to, animal exploitation. Pacelle is a “leader” alright, one who is steering this great movement into a cul-de-sac where it is becoming increasingly coopted and ineffectual.
Ever more aggressively, HSUS promotes “humane meat” and “cage free” egg campaigns (marketing its “Certified Humane Raised & Handled” label to meat, poultry, eggs, and dairy producers), rather than advancing the cause of vegan education that Pacelle claims to champion. Symptomatic of its bureaucratic deformities, HSUS raked in tens of million dollars from the 2005 Katrina disaster, but spent only a few million to help the animal victims of that hurricane. In fact, after Katrina, there was a second storm involving the furious backlash of grassroots activists complaining that HSUS obstructed animal rescue efforts, and then commandeered the lion’s share of credit and $30 million in donations. Subsequently, many activists and the Louisiana attorney general called for a criminal investigation into HSUS fundraising and demanded an explanation why this organization – like every other bloated bureaucracy, including the “impeccable” Red Cross – disregarded the clear intent of donors and spent a puny percentage of a mountain of money on helping victims of a catastrophe.
For bureaucratic monoliths like HSUS, a transnational corporation, the financial priorities lie in paying lavish CEO salaries (Pacelle’s annual salary tops $300,000), maintaining costly branches and staff throughout the world, perpetuating fundraising efforts (often absorbing as much as 53% of HSUS’ budget), funding lobbyists, building bank accounts, and inflating investment portfolios. What HSUS did in Louisiana amidst Katrina rescue efforts is what Greenpeace does in Canada or Japan during Captain Paul Watson’s effective tactics against the slaughter of whales, dolphins, and seals. They bully their way onto the scene, exploit the drama for photo opportunities, publish glossy pictures in their newsletters and websites, exaggerate their heroism and “victories,” urge their membership to generously fund future forays, and then laugh all the way to the bank.
In fact, like many corporate environmental organizations (the so-called “Gang of Ten”), HSUS not only does not support grassroots groups (few people are aware that they have no affiliation whatsoever with local “humane societies” and “animal shelters”), they often impede and attack their work. Whether the dirty tactics Greenpeace used against Watson and the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society or the constant opprobrium HSUS has heaped upon SHAC and the Animal Liberation Front (ALF), corporate bureaucracies seek to dominate their cause, promote their own interests, and block anyone who threatens their hegemony, viewing them as competitors rather than allies fighting the same cause. While grassroots groups and shelters struggle for money, HSUS builds assets of $223 million and operates with an annual budget in excess of one million dollars.
In 2007, Nathan Winograd published a stunning expose, entitled Redemption: The Myth of Pet Overpopulation and the No Kill Revolution in America. A trenchant critique of the killing paradigm informing humane societies and shelters throughout the nation, Winograd also goes directly after the big game – the ASPCA, PETA, and HSUS — and in each case documents misuse of funds, cavalier killing of healthy and adoptable animals, and appalling failures to support the no-kill shelter movement gaining ground nationally. In contrast to The Los Angeles Times syrupy tribute piece, Winograd reviles Pacelle as a traitor to the animals and claims that he is “condemned by animal lovers from coast to coast.”
Ironically, Winograd documents, Pacelle is like a dry and detached doctor who tends to patients mechanically, has “no hand-on fondness for animals” and he himself confesses that “To this day I don’t feel bonded to any non-human animal.” Given that enormous compassion and empathy drive most animal activists, one has to ask: Why is Pacelle in the animal protection field? Why did he choose this career? What possible motivations propel him from day-to-day? If it’s not a love for animals, could it be instead a love for money, glory, fame, and power? Could it be that his robotic lack of empathy for animals explains why his organization perfunctorily kills so many animals and spends more time on constructing paltry rationalizations rather than building viable alternatives?
Like PETA, HSUS callously kills countless thousands of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs rather than dedicating their prodigious resources to advancing the emerging no-kill revolution. In 2007, for instance, PETA raised over $30 million, adopted 17 animals, and killed 1,815 cats and dogs. Unlike HSUS, however, PETA at least opposes breeding, whereas HSUS provides advice on “How to Find a Good Dog Breeder”! Like any group involved in mass killing, of humans or animals, HSUS prefers euphemisms to truthful terminology and exists in a perpetual state of denial and rationalization. Thus, just as HSUS unashamedly speaks of the by-product of violent slaughterhouse murder as “humane meat,” so they insist that they “humanely destroy” cats and dogs.
To comprehend the extent to which culpable people in bad faith resort to extreme evasions and ridiculous rationalizations, consider the Orwellian doublespeak of HSUS functionary Penny Cistaro: “We’re not, we’re not killing [cats and dogs]… in that “kill” is such a negative connotation. It’s… we’re not KILLING them. We are taking their life, we are ending their life, we are giving them a good death, we’re humanely destr[oying them] — whatever. But we’re NOT KILLING.”
Without melodrama or hyperbole, I suggest that these words could have been taken from the playbook of the German Nazis. But I might qualify the analogy because the propaganda of Dr. Paul Joseph Goebbels, Hitler’s Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda from 1933 to 1945, was eminently more sophisticated than Cistaro’s shrill, guilt-ridden rhetoric.
As true of PETA and other animal welfare organizations, the underlying assumption behind HSUS’s pro-kill instead of no-kill policy is that shelters are nasty, overcrowded, filthy hoarding hell-holes where animals suffer greatly, and so the only “compassionate” option is to “humanely destroy” countless of forlorn cats and dogs. The underlying flaw here is an either/or fallacy: either we cause animals needless suffering in shelters, or we “humanely destroy” them. Occluded here is the existence of a genuine third option – building clean, well-managed no-kill shelters where well-treated animals are adoptable and adopted. Winograd’s book, Redemption, argues that no-kill shelters are a pragmatic possibility and a moral necessity.
On this and countless other issues, Pacelle – the consummate politician — talks a good game, but his actions belie his words which seek to mollify his donation base. According to Winograd, “Pacelle says that No Kill must be our goal, than [sic] he refuses to sign the U.S. No Kill Declaration. Wayne Pacelle says that feral cats should live, than [sic] he promotes a vision of sheltering in the Asilomar Accords [an August 2004 meeting of animal welfare industry leaders to reduce companion animal euthanasia numbers] which voted down a proposal to mandate TNR [trap, neuter, and return], claims feral cats are 'unhealthy’ and 'untreatable’ and are properly put in the same category as hopelessly ill or irremediably suffering animals and often share the same fate—death.”
And don’t we all remember the HSUS heroics during the Michael Vick dogfighting scandal in the summer of 2007? How the suave and unflappable animal champion, Wayne Pacelle, starred on cable news shows night after night, tirelessly condemning Vick’s barbarity? Pacelle tugged on the heartstrings of the nation, and the public, never doubting his sincerity, sent HSUS generous donations along with praise and gratitude. But the story did not end there. For what did Pacelle thereafter argue to the courts? That “it does not make sense to keep these animals alive.” Like the feral cats he condemns as “untreatable,” Pacelle wanted to dispatch Vick’s victims without a fingersnap. Fortunately, other groups – real animal advocates — intervened on behalf of these “kennel trash” pit bulls demonized as dangerous and unfit for human company, and adopted them to loving homes, thereby saving dozens of dogs from the killing clutches of Vick and Pacelle.
The paradoxical Pacelle, the “advocate” with antipathy for animals, easily surpasses Cistaro in his blunt and icy-cold language, as he admits that HSUS has “no problem with the extinction of domestic animals.” One might say that they share the same taste for doublespeak, but in fact the word “extinction” is not a euphemism, it is a frank, brutal, malevolent discourse of a final solution policy, and as cruel and heartless as one could possibly speak – one who happens to run the most powerful and profitable animal “advocacy” organization in the world. Like PETA, HSUS rakes in millions of dollars in the name of “animal protection,” as it does nothing for millions of animals who die annually in nightmarish “shelters” except to lend a killing hand.