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August 31, 2007

CCF Ads Are Kitty Litter

I must offer a thanks again to the contract shillers at the Center for Consumer Freedom. They've done us a favor. I am not kidding.

CCF is best known as a front group for tobacco, alcohol, restaurant and agribusiness special interests. It has become tiresome with its attacks on The Humane Society of the United States, other animal welfare groups, environmental organizations, public health groups, anti-obesity advocates, and even Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Recently, the outfit placed a $10,000 ad in The New York Times' daily email of headlines, complaining about The HSUS. The response was quite extraordinary—if a bit counterintuitive to the flaks at CCF. 

We did not receive a single critical email here. Not a one—and I should know, since CCF had listed my personal email address on one of the web articles it linked to. Instead, most of those who wrote me were curious enough to follow up on the ad with a visit to our website, humanesociety.org. They said they had no idea The HSUS was fighting animal abuse on so many fronts. New members rolled in.

I became a believer in web advertising after the experience. People really do click on the ads sometimes.

CCF has apparently not discerned that most Americans dislike animal abuse, and that they fancy HSUS campaigns against factory farms, dogfighting and cockfighting, canned hunts, puppy mills, the exotic animal trade, the Canadian seal hunt, and other unfair and inhumane misuses of power. In a head-to-head match up of the organizations, the readers took the side of the one defending the helpless, rather than the one peddling cruelty.

This month, CCF took a similar-looking, full-page ad in The New Yorker, with an adorable picture of a kitten to draw readers in. This one again cost tens of thousands. 

"Think you know about the Humane Society of the United States?" dully blared the ad headline. "Think again."

"Most supporters of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) don't understand that their donations don't support hands-on care of cats and dogs," the ad continued. "HSUS is a $150 million animal rights lobbying group that doesn't run a single pet shelter anywhere."

Yes, the ad is inaccurate, ignoring the work of our Rural Area Veterinary Services program (which offered nearly 40,000 treatments last year to dogs and cats), omitting mention of the millions we put into other spay and neuter work for pets, neglecting to say a word about our Animal Services Consultation work for local shelters, and disregarding our other hands-on work, including our Disaster Services activities. Of course, it did not mention our hands-on care of orphaned wildlife, horses, captive exotics—with no mention of our two top-flight wildlife rehabilitation centers or our world-famous Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch, one of the world's largest sanctuaries for large mammals.  But we can excuse those errors and omissions.

CCF, to its credit, did generally get one thing kind of right: it pretty plainly intimates that The HSUS is big and powerful and is lobbying to change the laws to protect animals. Thanks for the compliment, CCF. Yes, that's true. At my last glance in fact, The HSUS has helped to pass 73 animal protection laws in the states this year. But who's counting.

If CCF wants to clean up its glaring inaccuracies and run another kitten ad like this one, we'll put up the first $500 for it. Note to CCF: call us. We'll talk.

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