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As Long as We Remember...

May 19, 2010

Animal loversí food fight

Kevin E. Dayhoff

Recent events and a recent article in The New York Times focused my attention once again to the Humane Society of the United States.


If you will recall, it was on May 14, 2008, that I penned a column for about a series of unusual circumstances involving the Humane Society of the United States and the Westminster Livestock Auction.


My working title for my investigation was “Cows, Lies, and Videotape.” When it appeared on The Tentacle, it was titled, “Investigating a Downer.” It may be found here:


To refresh your memory, my column began, “On May 7, the Humane Society of the United States held a press conference in which it showed the results of an ‘undercover investigation’ of stockyards and livestock auctions in Texas, New Mexico, Pennsylvania, and at the Westminster Livestock Auction in Carroll County.”


The “undercover investigation” involved the treatment of a “downed cow” at the stockyard… on April 22, 2008.


Concurrently, “Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society said: “This torture is right out of the water boarding manual… In the carefully choreographed press conference, Mr. Pacelle played the “undercover” video at the WLA and exclaimed: “This is just pitiful… This poor creature, too weak to move, just left there to languish and to die.”


My investigation into the “undercover investigation” found a number of inconsistencies. Nevertheless, the local and national media smelled blood and went into a feeding frenzy in its universal condemnation of our nation’s stockyards and beef industry in general and the Westminster Livestock Auction locally.


That is, with the exception of The Tentacle and concurrently Fox 5 TV in Washington. The television station “reported that it discovered that HSUS knew the cow was not sick or diseased and – in fact – knew the cow had just had an operation for a twisted stomach and was in a post-surgical weakened state.


“Not only was that information not revealed by HSUS at the press conference, but one has to wonder just how the HSUS knew that information in the first place?”


Recently my wife, who works in agriculture finance, called to my attention an article in a trade newsletter entitled “Charity Watchdog Groups Downgrade Ratings For Humane Society of U.S,” published on April 9, 2010.


The article states: “The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) this week pointed to a newly downgraded rating from Charity Navigator as evidence that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not adequately fulfilling its stated charitable purpose.


“HSUS raises tens of millions of dollars a year from Americans who believe their money is trickling down to local pet shelters. Instead, their contributions fund a bloated staff of well-paid lawyers and lobbyists, PETA-style propaganda campaigns, and a hefty executive pension plan,’ said David Martosko, CCF’s Director of Research and the editor of


“CCF believes that HSUS donors will be surprised to learn that in 2008, less than one-half of one percent of HSUS’s budget consisted of grants to the hands-on ‘humane societies’ that deal with the thankless task of sheltering unwanted pets.


“A national poll conducted in February by Opinion Research Corporation found that 59 percent of Americans falsely believe HSUS ‘contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats’…”


It must be pointed out that the Center for Consumer Freedom is a persistent antagonist of the HSUS; and HumaneWatch’s main purpose to exist is “Keeping a watchful eye on the Humane Society of the United States.”


The Humane Society disparages its critics: “These groups represent industries such as factory farming, fur, trophy hunting, puppy mills and others who want to pursue their own interests without the spotlight that The HSUS shines on their cruel conduct. These groups can't defend their cruel treatment of animals, so instead they try to change the subject.”


On Monday, the Center for Consumer Freedom ran full-page ads in The New York Times and the Washington, DC edition of The Wall Street Journal, highlighting, “SURPRISED to hear the Humane Society of the United States shares less than 1 percent of your donations with local pet shelters? The Humane Society of the United States is NOT your local animal shelter…” Find the ad here:


Meanwhile, the latest food fight between the Humane Society and its detractors has not been lost on The New York Times, which weighed-in on May 16.


The New York Times wrote, “It reads much like a newspaper article. For 3,500 words, the report details the workings of Richard Berman, a lobbyist in Washington and a regular foe of the Humane Society of the United States.


“But in fact, the report was commissioned by the Humane Society and published on its Web site last week. The author, Ian T. Shearn, 56, is a longtime newspaperman who spent 10 years at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, where he was part of a team that won a Pulitzer Prize. He left the paper in 2008.


“The dearth of available journalism jobs has since left him, like many underemployed journalists, chasing freelance jobs and doing some consulting.”


The New York Times’ article observed: “‘It’s a paid hit job,’ said Sarah Longwell, a spokeswoman for the firm, Berman & Company. ‘His Pulitzer Prize is for sale.’ ”


I have noticed that frequently obituaries of animal-lovers will entreat the reader to donate to the national Humane Society, all the while our local “humane societies” go begging.


Perhaps, there is no better time to remind everyone that while questions persist and these national organizations play tennis with hand grenades, charity begins at home.


It very well may be better to donate to the many local animal rescues and shelters that employ our friends, neighbors, and members of our local community. At least they do not want to put our local farmers out of business.


Kevin Dayhoff writes from Westminster. E-mail him at


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