With Thanksgiving upon us, I’m grateful to so many people for supporting The HSUS and its bold vision to help all animals in society, including those caught up in major use industries throughout the world. While we face the grim reality that animals still suffer at the hands of humanity in so many ways, it is also undeniable that we are making extraordinary progress on so many fronts.
In recent weeks, I’ve written about enormous gains in the fight to end the use of battery cages, with major retailers (including Taco Bell, Jack in the Box, Panera Bread, and McDonald’s) and major producers saying that cage-free production is the only way forward. I’ve talked about how a growing number of nations (Australia, France, and soon the United States) will restrict imports of African lion trophies, how Washington voters approved a sweeping ballot initiative against wildlife trafficking, and how more than 40 airlines said they’ll not ship trophies from lions and other species in their cargo holds. I’ve given you the blow by blow on how we have now ended the era of the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments and are seeing the transfer of these long-suffering creatures to sanctuaries. I’ve told you about a series of six lawsuits we’ve won that validate the right of cities and counties to enact ordinances restricting the sale of puppy mill dogs in their communities.
We know that one important measure of our success is that we inflame those invested in these forms of exploitation. Factory farmers, puppy millers, seal clubbers, and others fear The HSUS, and they want to diminish our ability to keep making gains.
A number of these enterprises fund Rick Berman, a Washington, D.C. operative I’ve written about before. Through the years, he’s enriched himself by taking a leading role in defending smoking, drunk driving, the use of trans-fats and tanning beds, and many other practices and behaviors that are a threat to public health. But while the campaigns have been numerous, his wins have been few.
In the decade or so that I’ve been CEO, he’s spent tens of millions of dollars trying to tear The HSUS down. But it’s been a dead end for him, as we’ve driven reform across the board on animal issues and experienced dramatic growth as an organization.
Lately, he’s been writing to state charity regulators, either the attorney general or the secretary of state, and making the argument that The HSUS should direct a far larger share of its money to animal shelters. The HSUS works hard to support animal shelters, but it’s never been about that for Berman and his funders. The reality is, they don’t want us to spend any money fighting institutional abuses of dogs, farm animals, wildlife, and animals used in testing, since it’s in those domains where so many animals are at risk. And it’s where they make their money.
One only needs to take a quick look at HumaneSociety.org, A Humane Nation, our video channel, and our magazine, All Animals, to determine the broad nature of our work. And one only needs to look at the raft of tangible accomplishments to see that The HSUS turns donor support into sweeping social change.
But Berman has persisted and lawyered up to make his flim-flam case. It’s been nice to see that this route has gotten him nowhere.
He pinned his most recent hopes on his case in Colorado, where he asked to have our charitable status revoked. The secretary of state there is the most recent charity regulator to swat away his request. “All of the materials we reviewed presented the HSUS as an organization with multiple purposes and programs, including direct operation of a limited number of shelters, placement of animals in other shelters, lobbying for legislation to prevent cruelty to animals and support and training for independent pet shelters,” Abbas Montoya, an investigator with the charitable fraud and gaming division, told the Colorado Springs Gazette.
There were similar findings in Tennessee, where the secretary of state said, “no evidence of any violation of the Act by HSUS was found.” North Dakota’s attorney general made a similar finding in an exculpatory letter, indicating that The HSUS is concerned with “animal rescues, advocacy, campaigns to change animal cruelty laws, issues concerning agricultural animals, etc.”
The HSUS fights for dogs, cats, horses, farm animals, and every other kind of creature. We’ll continue to do that work, and as we celebrate Thanksgiving as a nation, we are thankful that so many Americans share our gusto for this broad vision and want to change the world for animals in fundamental ways. We look forward to stepping up the fight in the years ahead and to building a truly humane society.