I'm not generally one who feels strongly compelled to come to the defence of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). With an annual revenue of over $100 million, I'm sure that they already earmark a bit of pocket change for public relations. However, I simply could not resist the urge to clarify a few misrepresentations about them that I noticed being smeared across the internet this week. They seemed so unfair.
Take this rant in the Zanesville Time Recorder by Troy Balderson, for instance. The State Representative for Ohio's 94th district had a few nasty words to share about HSUS. A few of his wildest accusations include that HSUS is a "vegan organization" and that it "aims to promote vegan lifestyles". It troubles me to see HSUS misrepresented so, when it's worked so hard to establish that it honestly and earnestly does not seek the elimination of animal agriculture and does not concern itself with whether animals should be eaten--that's a non-issue for them. Just this past July, Wayne Pacelle, HSUS' dapper President and CEO, spent a fair amount of time spelling this out to AgriTalk radio host Mike Adams. When describing HSUS' initiatives, Pacelle insisted
[t]hey relate not whether animals should be used for food, but how they are treated during production, transport and slaughter. [...] We’ll have some disagreements depending on what your orientation is, but I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim that our work is moving in the direction of eliminating animal agriculture as some of the folks in the industry keep repeating. In the rest of the interview, Pacelle insists that most HSUS staff and volunteers aren't even vegetarian, never mind being (gasp!) vegan. You can read my previous blog post about the Pacelle interview here or you can read the actual transcript here to hear Pacelle tell it like it is. Pacelle, although a supposed vegan himself, has even been known to publicly mock vegan education.
Heck, HSUS even condones the consumption of animal products at its own fundraising events. How is this promoting "vegan lifestyles"? How does this make HSUS a "vegan organization"? HSUS may recommend reducing your consumption of animals or comforting yourself that you're making a significant ethical improvement in your diet by choosing one animal product over another, but flat-out promoting veganism as the only truly humane option? Troy Balderson, how dare you accuse them of such a thing? Shame on you!
And then there's an unforgivably badly-written piece on The Examiner website by Lennis Waggoner, a supposed journalism program graduate, writer and conservative policy advisor, who decided to believe everything he reads (in this case, the propaganda on ActivistCash.com, which is run by the big industry funded Center for Consumer Freedom) and to spread even more nonsensical lies about HSUS. Waggoner writes that
HSUS and Farm Sanctuary masquerade as animal “welfare organizations”, which work for the humane treatment of animals, when they are really animal “rights” organizations, instead. There is a major difference between the philosophy of “humane treatment” and giving animals “equal rights” with people.The thing is that on one point, Waggoner is correct: There is a major difference between animal "welfare" and animal "rights". Unfortunately, he proceeds to conflate the two in a very clumsy manner, providing no actual evidence of HSUS' actual promotion of animal rights, but plenty of their promotion of welfarism. And HSUS is indeed all about welfarism, generally spending the millions it receives from well-intentioned donors to wage one ineffective campaign after another to "pressure" companies into making ethically insignificant changes to where they source their exploited nonhuman animals. Take this recent campaign, for example, in which HSUS seeks to pressure IHOP to "begin moving away from" using eggs produced by hens in battery cages. The rest of the time, they heap praise upon one business after another that continues to exploit nonhuman animals. Where do rights figure in all of this?
So Waggoner is correct that a welfarist approach to the use of animals differs significantly from an animal rights approach; it's just unfortunate that he obviously has no understanding of what those differences--and their significance--actually are. He obviously hasn't read this latest essay by We Other Animals blogger Vincent Guihan, which explores the reasoning behind focusing on the use versus the treatment of nonhuman animals. Maybe then Waggoner wouldn't be wasting his time disparaging HSUS by accusing them of being an animal rights organization, and maybe then I wouldn't have had to use up an entire lunch break to defend HSUS against all of these unfair and wrongful allegations.
(Oh, and Mr. Pacelle, in lieu of payment for my work, could you purchase a dozen or so copies of Rain Without Thunder and ship them to me so that I can hand them out as educational material to some of these awful people who are mischaracterizing your organization as being vegan or animal rights oriented? I'm sure that you could write it off as a business expense. Thanks kindly!)