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April 12, 2010

Fact and Fiction: The HSUS Mission

If you were to describe the work of The HSUS, you probably wouldn’t call it subtle or indirect.

Chicken at the Wildlife Care Center, one of five HSUS animal care centers
Kathy Milani/The HSUS

The HSUS’s member magazine is called All Animals. Our mission statement is “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty.” The HSUS has program departments devoted to animal research issues, companion animals, equine protection, farm animal welfare, and wildlife and habitat protection. Our website is a compendium of information on our animal care centers, our veterinary programs, our global work on spay and neuter and the wildlife trade, our disaster response deployments in Haiti and other parts of the world as well as across the United States, our advocacy campaigns (puppy mills, factory farming, animal fighting, seal killing, wildlife abuses, and the exotic pet trade), and so much more. I write a daily blog about all of these issues. We have a national advertising campaign promoting adoption of animals from shelters. We have a separate national advertising campaign that chronicles our work and calls Americans to join us, with images of animals coming from actual HSUS rescues, field response, and undercover investigations.

Yet, there are people within animal abuse industries and their allies who keep trotting out the canard that Americans think they are giving to animal shelters when they donate to The HSUS. We’ve never said we run animal shelters—just that we help them run better with our many programs. But we’ve always been more than that. For more than a half century, it’s been the mission of The HSUS to work for all animals.

When I was in Iowa last week announcing our latest investigation into mistreatment of laying hens at factory farms, I shouted it from the rooftops. Whether you look at our work to pass Prop 2 in California (covered on "Oprah" and featured in the New York Times Magazine, among thousands of other outlets), our investigation into downed animal abuses at the Westland/Hallmark plant (which was covered by every major news outlet in America after we broke the investigation, and in the national news regularly for about three months), or all the information on farm animal welfare on our website, we proclaim unapologetically that we care about farm animals. There’s no mystery about that work—just an intense desire to see reform, and to push for more humane farming, transport, and slaughter practices.

Our teams are now up on the ice floes in Canada, bearing witness to the cruel killing of baby seals—and generating outrage in civilized countries around the globe.

Our staff are working tirelessly in Missouri to help qualify an anti-puppy mill ballot initiative. We raided 16 mills last year, rescuing more than 3,000 dogs from lives of misery, and we told our story in each and every case.

Our animal fighting team is working tirelessly with law enforcement to raid dogfighting and cockfighting operations. We had a touch with 250 raids of these operations last year.

I could go on. And on and on. Yes, we are the nation’s leading advocate for animal shelters, but where is it written anywhere that that’s all that we do? You’ll never find such language anywhere in our magazines, annual reports, direct mail, blogs, letters to the editor, opinion pieces, our founding charter, or anywhere else. It doesn’t exist.

This whole fanciful argument by our critics is a fabrication and a false framing of the issues. If there are folks within agribusiness who believe it, either they just don’t want to let facts stand in their way, or they just haven’t taken the time to look at our materials. They can find out more by going to www.humanesociety.org and getting our magazine and other materials that members receive.

Let me say again for their benefit, and everybody’s benefit: We are for all animals. We despise all cruelty. If you are involved in cruelty of any kind, you’ll find anything but an ally in The HSUS.

Our critics can find a naïve or inattentive journalist from time to time, or they can get their press releases reprinted in trade publications with a very decided point of view, or they can spread lies on Facebook or in other social media. But reprinting false claims time and again won’t make it come true. The fact is, there are people in this country not interested in the truth. Rick Berman and David Martosko of the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom are such people. When people like David Mastio of The Washington Times give them platforms to spread their lies, or simply regurgitate that material in their own opinion pieces, they do no credit to serious journalism.

It comes down to two closely related points. Animal abusers don’t like The HSUS because we threaten their bottom line. And they want an unfettered opportunity to do what they want to do with animals.

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