The many industries that profit from animal abuse attack HSUS not because we don’t do enough, but precisely the opposite — because, especially from their perch, we do too much. The last thing they want is an organization like HSUS with a strong public reputation, the courage to confront cruelty, and the campaigning tools to match.
Some of these groups have organized to counter our efforts in an open way, as the Associated Press reports today. Others, however, hide behind shill organizations with civic-sounding names, like the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom and its website HumaneWatch. Two years ago, CCF/HumaneWatch launched a brand-attack against HSUS, and the group has been at it ever since. Their latest spending spree is a cluster of billboards in Times Square charging that HSUS doesn’t give enough grants to animal shelters.
Michelle Riley/The HSUS
A puppy mill dog before being rescued by HSUS in 2010.
Their basic strategy has been to try to smear the reputation of HSUS to see that animal abusers don’t run into any interference from us. Now two years into their little gambit, however, it’s not turned out too well for them. HSUS not only had a great year in 2010 programmatically, scoring countless successes throughout the year, but our family of organizations increased its annual revenues in 2010 by about $25 million — in order to meet the programmatic and animal-care challenges that confront us.
There are a few reasons for this. Foremost, HSUS represents mainstream values. Americans detest cruelty, and there’s too much of it in society. Our campaigns to crack down on puppy mills, end animal fighting, improve the treatment of farm animals, and all of our other anti-cruelty work resonate with fair-minded people everywhere.
Second, we’ve assembled an incredible staff of dedicated professionals, a veritable learned faculty on animal welfare issues, ready and able to address the many threats animals face. We’ve also built an extraordinary membership base, ready to spread the word, to give generously in support of our work, to use their purchasing power in the marketplace to drive better corporate conduct, and to exert impact to propel policy reform for animals.
It also helps that our supporters know there’s something important at stake here. When you are attacked by animal-use industries and their front groups, as HSUS is on a daily basis, people realize we must be doing something right. Public support increases for nonprofit organizations, just as it does for political candidates and other public figures, when they are threatened or in a righteous battle. If the waters were still and the stakes were low, people wouldn’t have much reason to care or to give.
Ironically, our opponents at CCF/Humanewatch are in many ways right out of central casting for us. They now try to masquerade as defenders of animals, but they are perhaps the first-ever self-proclaimed “animal advocates” who defend chaining of elephants in circuses, confinement of mother dogs in small cages on puppy mills, the near-immobilization of some animals on factory farms, the clubbing and shooting of baby seals, and just about every form of abuse you can imagine. Support for a group like that unravels pretty quickly once people realize where they stand.
On top of that, their leaders aren’t boy scouts. The man at the center of the scam is Rick Berman, a man who runs a network of so-called “nonprofit” organizations, but who lives in a multi-million dollar mansion and drives a Bentley to work. One year, Berman paid himself and his for-profit PR and lobbying firm more than 92 percent of all of CCF’s tax-exempt revenue. 60 Minutes labeled him “Dr. Evil,” and his own son wrote online, “[M]y father is a despicable man. My father is a sort of human molester. An exploiter. A scoundrel.”
Then there’s Berman’s blogging confrere David Martosko, who doubles as CCF’s “director of research.” PR Watch recently reported that Martosko has had numerous run-ins with the law, including convictions for driving while intoxicated, reckless endangerment, and reckless driving. Now mind you, this prince among men is one of the primary public spokesmen for Berman, whose front groups have attacked not only HSUS, anti-smoking advocates, and medical and scientific organizations fighting obesity, but also the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
And time after time, when CCF/HumaneWatch buys up advertising (as it must, since mainstream press outlets stay away from this thoroughly discredited source), some people who see the ads and don’t know us contact us and ask about the outlandish claims. We tell them that we are the nation’s leading advocate for animal shelters, and describe the litany of ways we help companion animals. And then we share that we also help farm animals, animals in laboratories, horses, wildlife and other creatures — and, generally speaking, these folks really like what they hear. We’re a lot more than they ever thought, and many of them sign them up as new members.
So in short, CCF/HumaneWatch actually draws people to our website and to our staff and our work, and once they see the real HSUS, then they get mightily interested.
So whether it is the Canadian Sealers Association, the puppy millers, the horse slaughter crew, the circus industry, the cockfighters, the factory farmers or other animal-use industries that fund CCF’s campaigns — or all of the preceding — let me point out that you’ve hitched your wagon to some real winners in Berman and Martosko. We are not deterred, and their campaign just allows us to grow stronger and faster, underscoring we are on the right track and rallying our supporters to meet the crises that animals face in society.