Monday, September 28, 2009

Another Fundraising Fail from the Humane Something or Other

It feels like it was just yesterday that HSUS was embarrassing itself by holding a fundraiser to raise money for its "Save the Seals" campaign by handing out animal-based appetizers to event attendees gathered to pressure the Canadian government to end its annual seal hunt. Oh, yeah... The event was held in a hip non-vegan restaurant in Washington, DC that featured--and still features--PEI mussels on its menu. It should not be much of a surprise that its "separate lobbying affiiliate", the Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF), should end up following suit with its own fundraising fail.

What's it all about? Apparently it's about having a
party. A whole bunch of them, really. The friendly folks behind HSLF (including its president Mike Markarian, who is also HSUS' Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer) are asking those who "care" about animals to register to host what they're calling a "Let's Pass a Law" party on October 25. Not only do party attendees get to help HSLF by raising funds, BUT they get to participate in a conference call in which the winner of the "There Oughta Be a Law" contest will be announced. The idea, I guess, is that you submit ideas for a new federal animal protection bill and a panel of judges will pick a winner. (Parties and contests, oh my! How much more feel-good could it get, really?)

I was curious about guidelines HSLF is offering for these parties, particularly in terms of what food / drinks should be served. In the
Party FAQ section concerning how to set one up, HSLF reminds hosts:

If you want to make sure your event stays under budget try to have a pot-luck or solicit food donations from local restaurants or stores. If you would like to make your event an upscale fundraiser, serve wine and delicious food to your guests. Remember, this is your party; you can design it to fit your needs and budget.
So, no mention is made of serving animal-product free (i.e. vegan) food, which HSUS staff and supporters often tout as being a supposed rule of thumb for ordinary fundraisers thrown by HSUS, itself.

I got a little (hopeful?) excited when I found a link they provided to "tips and advice" from someone they called a "seasoned host" for their Party Animals events, a woman called Debra Berger who is described as a Georgia animal advocate. Then I read this:
HSLF: What tips do you have for hosting a great party to help animals?
The best way for hosts to ensure happy guests is by serving lots of delicious vegetarian (my emphasis) and/or vegan food, and making sure you have enough.
Basically, HSLF is organizing a big fundraising campaign to get people on board to raise money for them and to participate in a fun contest to come up with suggestions for animal protection laws. And it couldn't even bring itself to take the opportunity for the slightest little bit of vegan education? Did it think that it would be too off-putting to suggest to people throwing these parties for them to purportedly "help" animals to actually not serve animal products as food?

Considering that
there is as much (and often more) suffering in the lives of egg-laying hens and dairy cows than in the lives of animals raised for their flesh, and given its affiliate HSUS' focus on the treatment versus the use of nonhuman animals, you'd think that someone--anyone--over there might have thought it a good idea to promote the serving of vegan food at these oh-so-fun parties. The fact that they're not merely drives home that these fundraising events are more about making humans feel good about themselves than they are about helping nonhuman animals (see Prof. Gary L. Francione's essay "A Revolution of the Heart" to learn more about welfarist organizations and their selling of indulgences). The truth is that these events really have little to do with taking the interests of animals seriously or with moving towards ending the exploitation of nonhuman animals. These events are about raising money. Period.

Do you really want to help nonhuman animals? Go vegan. If you already are vegan, then talk to others about veganism. Please don't throw your money at an organization that promotes the continued exploitation of nonhuman animals.

(If you're on Twitter, please sign this Twitition started by Prof. Francione, asking HSUS to have one--just a wee single one--"Go Vegan!" campaign.)

ETA: I fixed the first link in my post. It was meant to connect to this story on the Abolitionist Approach website.


Daniel Wilson said...

I mentioned this on a couple of weeks ago and was told by several commenters that Gary couldn't confirm that there were animal products served at this party (because the party media contact didn't know one way or the other).

But the way I see it, if the HSUS isn't advertising vegan food, then 1) how do you know it IS vegan food, 2) how do the chefs and cooks know to make vegan food, and 3) as an organization dedicated to protecting animals from unnecessary suffering and death, isn't it their DUTY to advertise and insist that all the food at their fundraisers be VEGAN?

I think you're right Mylene, it's all about the parties and feeling good about yourself.

Lucas said...

There are literally 2 (ostensibly) vegan items on the Policy menu.
It's really irritating that "Love and passion drives the food" is beautifully written in cursive to the side of "Roasted Lamb Chops", "Grilled Short Ribs", "Roasted Veal Short Breads", and many other animal parts and secretions.
Were the words "Love" and "Passion" redefined recently?
I live in DC and all vegan restaurants are hard to find (I think there are 3 fully vegan establishments in all the DC, VA, and MD metro area). It's a shame HSUS (and other organizations) hasn't promoted and supported veganism and all vegan establishments because pretty much every "veg" friendly place has mainly some "happy" "organic" "sustainably" raised animal products, or just plain old animal products, and a few vegan options. It's quite annoying.

M said...

Daniel, I ended up fixing the first link in my post, which had been supposed to lead to a piece on Prof. Francione's website where he'd discussed the whole "Save the Seals" fundraising blunder. He quotes an attendee who raved about one of the non-vegan appetizers.

Considering how often HSUS insists that they only serve vegan food at their fundraisers, I think that the fact that their media contact couldn't confirm anything is particularly telling.

Lucas, I agree wholeheartedly.

x said...

We have similar situations here. Our RSPCA have barbecues but their slogan is "all creatures great and small"... this obviously doesn't include cattle/pigs.

And we supported WSPA earlier this year but their list of fundraising ideas include bbqs as well. It's crazy and ignorant.

Achim Stößer said...

We just ha a press realease re/ World Vegetarian Day / World Animal Day titled "Vegatarians, Welfarists and Butchers Sit All in a Boat" (German, sorry)