April 2010 Blog Home June 2010

20 posts from May 2010

May 28, 2010

Hugs, Hay and Better Health for 49 Rescued Horses

The HSUS provides more direct care for animals than any group in the country—including an annual spend of $20 million or so on our owned and operated animal care centers, veterinary field programs, humane wildlife services operations, international dog and cat sterilization, support services for animal shelters, and a wide array of other programs. I have always been particularly proud of our emergency response efforts. Just yesterday, our traveling team of animal rescuers and handlers and veterinarians came to the rescue of 49 emaciated horses and other equines, not long after local authorities had pulled 50 or so dogs from the same landowner just weeks before.

Nearly 50 horses rescued in West Virginia
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
See a slideshow of images from the rescue.

When rescuers arrived on the property, they found many Tennessee Walking Horses and Saddle horse crosses, mules, and donkeys who were skin and bones. They had a variety of medical ailments including overgrown, infected hooves, parasite infestation, and untreated wounds. Concerned citizens complained to the Cabell-Wayne Animal Shelter and the Wayne County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, and it was those agencies that appealed to The HSUS to come in and lead the rescue. The HSUS then called in United Animal Nations to assist in the operation.

Our rescue team is still in the process of removing the horses from the site and shuttling them to a temporary shelter. We’ll work with our partners to care for the horses until custody is settled.

Equine issues are important to us at The HSUS—not just the hands-on care, but also the public policy and public education. We are leading the fight to stop the export and slaughter of America’s horses, working to end government round-ups of healthy wild horses from public lands in the West, pushing for proper enforcement of the federal law to stop the abuse of Tennessee Walking Horses at horse shows, and educating citizens about caring for horses. As with all animal issues, we hit the subjects from many angles, and work to prevent cruelty before it occurs.

May 27, 2010

Disturbing Abuse Uncovered At Ohio Dairy Farm

I have been traveling around Ohio the past few days with a half-dozen livestock farmers, who had assembled to speak out in favor of the ballot measure to ban some of the most inhumane and reckless practices in industrialized agribusiness. But the big news on the farm animal front in Ohio during the last 24 hours was the release of graphic and sickening video of dairy cow abuse at Conklin Dairy in Plain City.

Mercy for Animals investigation of Ohio dairy farm

An investigator with Mercy For Animals was hired by Conklin Dairy and recorded hidden camera video during a four-week undercover operation. The video shows several employees, including farm owner Gary Conklin, abusing cows for no apparent reason. A well-known farmer in central Ohio, Conklin is seen on the video repeatedly kicking a downer cow in the face. The most malicious acts in the video were conducted by Conklin Dairy employee Billy Joe Gregg, 25. Gregg not only body slammed and repeatedly and forcefully punched cows, but stabbed confined animals with pitchforks and ruthlessly struck them in the face with a metal bar. Gregg was seen on the video telling the investigator how much he loved beating the animals. 

Gregg was taken into custody yesterday and arraigned this morning, facing 12 counts of animal cruelty. No charges have been brought as yet against the farm owner or the other employees, and presumably the farm is still operating. Gary Conklin issued a statement yesterday after the video came to light. "Our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously," Conklin said. "The video shows animal care that is clearly inconsistent with the high standards we set for our farm and its workers, and we find the specific mistreatment shown on the video to be reprehensible and unacceptable." Conklin did not address his own apparent misconduct in the video.

The Ohio Department of Agriculture inspected the facility three times within the last year, according to the Columbus Dispatch. Officials said they did not witness any abuse and approved it as a “Grade A” facility, meaning that the milk can be sold commercially for any purpose.

Union County Sheriff Rocky Nelson told the Dispatch that the behavior he saw on the videotape was "vile and disgusting." "If there was a way this could be a felony charge, I would push for that," Nelson said.

Unfortunately, Ohio’s anti-cruelty law does not allow for felony-level charges for farm animal abuse, no matter how malicious the act. This is due to the lobbying influence of Ohio agribusiness interests.

Those same interests are fighting the Ohio ballot initiative to halt the abuse of downer cows, the strangulation of animals on the farm, and life-long confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens in cages and crates barely larger than the animals’ bodies. Volunteers are now circulating the petition and have until June 29 to gather 402,000 signatures of registered voters in Ohio. 

The farmers on the tour with me expressed their disgust for the abuses documented at Conklin Dairy. But they also spoke out against other forms of more routine cruelty within agribusiness, and called on the good people of Ohio to support this reform and return some level of responsible care and husbandry to the practice of animal agriculture.

May 26, 2010

Federal Audit, Lawmakers Spotlight Puppy Mill Problems

There’s long overdue action on the issue of puppy mills, and the issue got some much-needed attention yesterday from the federal government. Sens. Richard Durbin (D-Ill.) and David Vitter (R-La.) took a big step in their effort to crack down on these abusive mass-breeding facilities by introducing the PUPS Act (Puppy Uniform Protection Statute, S. 3424)—legislation that would close a massive loophole in the Animal Welfare Act that currently allows large, commercial breeders who sell puppies online and directly to the public to escape licensing, regulation, and inspection. A companion bill in the House of Representatives is expected to be introduced by Reps. Sam Farr (D-Calif.), Jim Gerlach (R-Pa.), Lois Capps (D-Calif.) and Bill Young (R-Fla.) within the next day or two.

The legislation came right on the heels of the release of a damning report by the USDA’s Office of the Inspector General (OIG), the law enforcement arm of the agency, that criticized the USDA’s long history of lax oversight of commercial dog breeders (identified as dealers in the report) under the Animal Welfare Act. The report reviewed inspections and enforcement actions taken against dog dealers from 2006-2008 and found that USDA inspectors failed to cite or properly document inhumane treatment and brought little to no enforcement actions against violators. OIG observed horrible conditions at dog facilities inspected by the USDA, including dogs needing medical treatment, dogs covered in ticks, starving dogs who had resorted to eating dogs who had already died, and dogs who had swarms of cockroaches and insects crawling through their food bowls. The USDA responded to the violations by taking little or no enforcement action, according to the report, and even failed to confiscate suffering or dying animals.

Dogs in wire cage at Missouri puppy mill
Dogs at a Missouri puppy mill.

From the report: "At the re-inspection of 4,250 violators, inspectors found that 2,416 repeatedly violated AWA [the Animal Welfare Act], including some that ignored minimum care standards. Therefore, relying heavily on education for serious or repeat violators—without an appropriate level of enforcement—weakened the agency’s ability to protect the animals."

Of course, The HSUS has been saying for years that the USDA has historically allowed puppy mills to violate the law without fear of any kind of aggressive enforcement actions. Last week, I was pleased to hear the Obama administration publicly announce that the USDA would take a tougher stance on Animal Welfare Act enforcement, by conducting more inspections and imposing higher fines. We’re glad to hear it, and we're grateful to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack for stepping up the enforcement actions.

The report also highlighted how some large dog dealers are escaping USDA oversight because they sell dogs over the Internet or directly to the public, and the OIG recommended legislative change to require that all applicable breeders selling through the Internet be regulated under the Animal Welfare Act. The USDA’s own interpretation of the term “retail pet store” provided these puppy millers an exemption—something battled out in court and ultimately left to the agency’s discretion. Many of the puppy mill raids The HSUS has assisted on over the last several years have been at such facilities, so we’ve seen firsthand how much this legislation is needed. The USDA has now agreed to this recommendation and we hope Congress will soon take action by passing the PUPS Act.

In response to pressure from their constituents and in the interest of addressing animal cruelty, legislators in many states have also stepped up to pass laws and regulations to protect dogs at these facilities. Just this year, Oklahoma and Iowa, the second- and third-largest puppy mill states, respectively, behind Missouri, passed legislation to crack down on puppy mills. And our efforts are moving forward in Missouri to put the issue on the ballot there this November. Not all states have laws regulating commercial dog breeders though, so it’s essential that the USDA aggressively enforce the law.

Of course, at the heart of the puppy mill issue is consumer education, something The HSUS has worked on for decades. “We only use USDA-licensed breeders” is one of the common but hollow assurances pet store staff give when pushing puppy mill puppies on the sales floor. What The HSUS has long noted is that a puppy mill inspected by the USDA is still a puppy mill. Dogs kept for breeding still suffer for years on end in tiny cages and have almost zero hope of having a loving home of their own. This point was underscored just last week on "Animal Planet Investigates: Petland," a one-hour special about The HSUS's investigation into the nation's largest retail supporter of puppy mills.

Yesterday’s report and legislative introduction should serve as a warning to all those who protect this dubious industry—from “kennel clubs” to pet stores to lobbying front groups who claim to care about purebred dog breeding, but in fact only care about how much money they can make peddling loads of puppies. Your days of abusing dogs for profit while snubbing the laws of this country and many states are coming to an end.

May 25, 2010

Little Orphan Animals

Yesterday I mentioned our partnership with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, collaborating on public service announcements to encourage people to keep baby animals in the wild whenever possible. We're now in the peak of the wildlife birthing season and, in addition to these PSAs, The HSUS and its affiliates are helping wildlife in many other ways.

Our Urban Wildlife staff shares tips with the public about what to do if you come across a baby animal and how to coexist with wild animal neighbors, and our Humane Wildlife Services program serves the D.C. metropolitan area to humanely resolve human-wildlife conflicts. Our Humane Society Wildlife Land Trust has helped to create more than 100 permanent wildlife sanctuaries in nearly 40 states and seven foreign countries. And three of our direct care centers are wildlife rehabilitation facilities, handling more than 15,000 animals a year. The remaining two facilities—reserved as sanctuaries for horses and other domestic and exotic animals—also have protected forest areas for native wildlife.

At this time of year, the wildlife care centers will receive an influx of newborns who've become sick or been orphaned or injured—every kind of creature from opossums, rabbits, squirrels, skunks and foxes to songbirds, raptors, shorebirds, turtles and other species. Our goal is to rehabilitate the animals in a way that avoids habituation, so their chances for survival remain high once released back into the wild.

Our Fund for Animals Wildlife Center in Ramona, Calif. recently posted some photos of babies they're now working to rehab, and I couldn't help but share a few of them with you, along with some photos taken last year at our SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

From the Fund for Animals Wildlife Center, credit Christine Jensen/The HSUS:

Baby skunks at Fund for Animals Wildlife Center
Three of 12 striped skunks the Center has received so far this spring.

Coyote pup at Fund for Animals Wildlife Center
A coyote pup peeks out from behind the safety of his stuffed surrogate doll.

From the SPCA Wildlife Care Center, credit Kathy Milani/The HSUS:

Baby squirrel at SPCA Wildlife Care Center
A weeks-old squirrel must be hand-fed every few hours.

Ducklings at SPCA Wildlife Care Center
Orphaned ducklings keep warm by a heat lamp.

Baby opposum at SPCA Wildlife Care Center
A baby opposum cuddles up to a surrogate mother.

May 24, 2010

Some in Hunting Community Way Off Target

The HSUS is a broad-minded animal protection organization, and it is our mission to protect all animals. That includes wildlife, whether the wild animals are victims of oil spills, climate change, automobiles, development, leghold trappers, or poachers.

One of our most important wildlife protection efforts is to combat poaching, which may claim more animals’ lives in the United States than lawful sport hunting.

Black bear in forests of northern Minnesota
Megan Sewell/The HSUS

Here’s an issue on which both animal advocates and hunters can agree. As Pennsylvania hunting writer Tom Venesky wrote in a recent column, “Poaching is the lowest of the low when it comes to crimes against wildlife. Considering that the Humane Society touts itself as an animal protection organization and hunting is a sport steeped in ethics, neither group wants to see a trophy bear or any other animal wasted by a poacher’s gun.”

“The Humane Society is doing its part,” Venesky added. “This year, the organization has posted rewards for 25 poaching cases across the country for a total of $62,500. Those cases include bears, eagles, deer, turtles, elk, javelina, porcupines, hawks and mountain lions. Five of those cases happened right here in Pennsylvania.

“Conversely, I have yet to see a statewide or national hunting organization put up a reward for a poaching case, something that’s quite puzzling.”

Indeed, we welcome the opportunity to work with hunters on this issue, especially those sincerely interested in cracking down on wildlife crimes.

But there is a small-mindedness among too many within the hunting fraternity, and there’s no better example than the controversy playing out right now in Wisconsin.

In that state, The HSUS and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources are collaborating on a public awareness campaign urging citizens to leave juvenile wildlife in the wild, unless they are in obvious distress and would benefit from removal and treatment at a wildlife care center.

Hunting groups rarely if ever address this issue, and the Wisconsin DNR has been strapped for cash. So The HSUS stepped in to help, and the advertising campaign we’ve helped to fund doesn’t even invoke our good name.

In response, a few advocates of the hunting lobby and their allies in the state legislature and in the outdoor press have called, in the most knee-jerk way, for the DNR to terminate the joint awareness program, even though they claim to agree with the message of the campaign. “A partnership like this, even on a non-controversial issue, has the risk to be seen as an endorsement of the HSUS in general," said George Meyer, executive director of the Wisconsin Wildlife Federation and former head of the DNR. The most absurd reaction to date came from Republican State Sen. Neal Kedzie who said that The HSUS had “penetrated” and “infiltrated” the DNR.

Mr. Meyer and Sen. Kedzie protest too much. The HSUS opposes cruel traps, and we work only to combat the most inhumane forms of hunting, such as bear baiting or canned hunts. But this measure has nothing to do with hunting—it is about leaving wildlife in the wild and not picking up baby animals during the birthing season just because you don’t see their mother around.

Most hunting groups do quite little to combat poaching, or protecting newborn wildlife. My advice is these outfits just stay out of the way when other groups, including The HSUS, choose to step in to address those issues and to protect wildlife.   

The good people of Wisconsin, like the rest of us, remember only too well the era of McCarthyism and the red-baiting that occurred back then. Sen. Kedzie sounds like a chip off the old block. This is baiting of another sort, and it’s not becoming to any of the critics of an important and beneficial public awareness campaign.

May 21, 2010

Talk Back: Puppy Mills in Prime Time

The National Journal magazine has today published a cover story about the growing influence of animal protection advocates in politics. The piece, and an accompanying video, are online, and they are worth a look. The story points to our growing influence in the states and in Washington, D.C.

But today, the stage is mainly yours. Here are some of your reactions to the new investigative special "Animal Planet Investigates: Petland," which premiered Monday and featured never-before-seen footage from The HSUS's probe into the puppy mills that supply Petland stores. The show is already having an impact—since it first aired, new complaints from heartbroken puppy buyers across the country have been streaming in to our offices.

One of these days, when I hit the lottery, the first thing that I will do is become a major HSUS supporter! I’ve never bought ONE item at a Petland store and I’ve actually deferred several of my friends from doing so after I told them where they get these little babies from! Keep up the wonderful work! —Judi Turak

Dog and advocates at Petland rally

That's my four-legged baby in the picture protesting Petland, taken when we were at the Petland demonstration in Fairfax, Va. I'm so happy that he's being featured taking a stand against Petland! Thanks HSUS for all you do and Tucker is happy to be a mascot against puppy mills. —Payvand Hedayati
I am so glad you are exposing Petland for what it is! I first learned of puppy mills on the "Oprah" show and was just horrified! I cried for days after because it was so heartbreaking. Then, now seeing the dog with his adorable face sticking through the dirty wire fence just wrenched my heart. There is no reason for any of this. Wayne, HSUS and the undercover investigator, THANK YOU for helping our animals and working so hard to shut these mills down. I think when more people see this show they will be outraged but it needs to be shown. —Karen Wagner
I watched the Petland investigative report last night on Animal Planet and as usual, your gutsy investigator got behind the scenes to show us the ugly life that these poor dogs are forced to live in. One of my main concerns is that several times the narrator told us that several of the places were well known to the USDA and that violations and corrections had been filed. How in the world can the USDA spend one minute on these properties and not shut them down that moment? The green slimy water would be enough, never mind the agony that dogs are in from their paws being on the wire and the feces everywhere. Come on. I don't think we need more laws as much as we need more enforcement of the ones on the books and some people with some backbone to stand up to this. Why do we even have pet stores that sell animals in this country? With the shelters and the good breeders, there is no need for this industry to even exist. —Anne Surman
I hope this informs more people about Petland. At the animal shelter where I work we frequently get reports from members of the public about [misleading] things they have been told by Petland staff. —Anna C.
I watched the program on Petland. … I can't believe these puppies have to go through that. I vow to never buy a puppy from a pet store. —Dawn Newhart

Continue reading "Talk Back: Puppy Mills in Prime Time" »

May 20, 2010

Proposed Whaling Compromise No Deal for Whales

It’s been a challenging spring for HSUS and Humane Society International staff members working on the issue of commercial whaling, largely because of the Obama Administration’s machinations on the issue. The quarter-century-old moratorium on commercial whaling has been a highly successful international conservation measure, preventing the slaughter of tens of thousands of whales since it took effect in 1986. But this year we’ve had to face a stealth proposal from a working group of member nations of the International Whaling Commission, including the United States, to appease the whaling nations of Japan, Norway, and Iceland. The plan is to suspend the moratorium as part of a gambit seeking to ensure their compliance with internationally agreed measures to control the number of whales they kill. The whaling nations claim that if their whaling programs are given legitimacy, they will reduce their killing.

Minke whale

We’re not alone in our skepticism. Rich Lowry, editor of the National Review, wrote a compelling column about the issue last week. And from the other side of the political fence, the Los Angeles Times said this so-called compromise was unacceptable.

The United States has no business retreating on this issue, and if our government is doing so, it smells to me like the whales are a potential victim of some larger political horse trading between the nations. But with opposition to whaling even mounting in Japan, according to The New York Times, it is no time to show weakness on the issue in the United States. We should never reward Japan, Norway, and Iceland for their flagrant violations of international law, and we should instead use every diplomatic means available to push them toward a 21st century policy of protecting whales.

The New York Times story revealed the reason behind Japan’s stubborn defense of whaling: "Whaling experts say the real reason the [Agriculture, Forestry, and Fisheries] ministry wants to keep the program alive is to secure cushy retirement jobs of ministry officials, a common practice that is widely criticized." The paper cited one whaling institute in the country that reserves high-paid jobs "for at least five former ministry officials."

A few nights ago, a friend called to alert me to a PBS program, “Into the Deep: Whaling, America, and the World,” which delved into the enormous role of whaling in 18th century and 19th century America. I found the program engrossing for its focus on whaling’s significance to American economic, social, and political development. The program also dealt extensively with the deep significance of Herman Melville’s "Moby Dick" as a cultural force. But with the passage of time, and innovations in energy production, whaling faded away in the United States, and fortunately so.

Today, a nation once at the forefront of the global whaling industry has a flourishing whale watching industry that has tapped the commercial potential of people’s desire to value whales in a different way. Japan, Norway, and Iceland must move in this direction, too. They’ll only get there if they know the global community will not accept government-sanctioned slaughter of these innocents.

May 19, 2010

TV Station to CCF: Stop Misrepresenting Pulled HSUS Story

I’ve said it many times to rank-and-file supporters: the more you know about The HSUS, the more you’ll like us. When people find out about our effective action to help all animals, they are enthused and heartened. Cruelty is cruelty, and rational people want to see every bit of it stopped.

Our critics, on the other hand, don’t appreciate our aggressive work to confront cruelty. In response, they often resort to extreme and unsubstantiated claims about The HSUS. The worst among them are the professional con artists at the misnamed Center for Consumer Freedom, led by multimillionaire lobbyist Rick Berman. I’ve always felt that people who perpetrate or defend animal abuse won’t hesitate to lie about it.

WSB-TV letter to Richard Berman of the Center for Consumer FreedomThis week, Berman received a letter that must have ruined his day. William Hoffman, the general manager at WSB-TV in Atlanta, wrote to Berman and it was nothing but a stern rebuke.

A year ago, Amanda Rosseter, a careless reporter at WSB (and now no longer with the station), got hoodwinked by relying on CCF as the primary source in a story about The HSUS. It was a hatchet job, and we brought the deficiencies and glaring errors in the news piece to the station’s attention. Management did not rebroadcast it, published a correction, and permanently removed the story from its website.

Except for the WSB story, Berman and his minions haven't been able to interest mainstream media outlets in their fraudulent attack on The HSUS. Even after WSB disassociated itself from the broadcast and tried to kill it off, Berman and his people did their best to keep it alive, under the pretense that it was somehow legitimate reporting. For the past year, CCF milked the WSB story for all it could get, citing the station as a source of the misinformation about us when it was CCF that pitched and planted the falsehoods in the first place. Talk about trickery and circular, self-referential work by CCF.

In the end, the best CCF could do to extend the life of the discredited story was to find an Iranian Web platform that hosted an unauthorized and illegal bootlegged version.

WSB-TV told Berman that he was violating copyright laws by rebroadcasting the piece it had taken down from its own website. And the station scolded Berman and told him to stop misrepresenting The HSUS’s record. Station manager Hoffman wrote that “we [at WSB-TV] have had the opportunity to learn more about HSUS.” He noted, “we believe that you have misrepresented the Broadcast as supporting your contention that HSUS actively misleads the public in its advertising. WSB-TV has no evidence of that nor do we believe it to be true.” Hoffman also reminded Berman that “we immediately corrected an error in our original Broadcast regarding HSUS and Katrina relief efforts in our next news program.”

Berman and CCF have never relied entirely on the press corps to transmit their message. Credible media outlets almost never pick up his claptrap. He’s always banked on a scattering of paid advertisements to spread his misinformation. And he claims that the CCF website called HumaneWatch is some sort of charity watchdog site—but it’s actually just a gathering place for dogfighters, cockfighters, puppy millers, sealers, trophy hunters, factory farmers, furriers, keepers of exotic wildlife as pets, and zoophiles, among others.

It doesn’t say much for the integrity of our critics that they view Rick Berman as their leading light. Their faith in him, if it persists, will boomerang against them. Responsible people, including news outlets, corporate executives, and lawmakers, will always see through a scammer like Berman, just as WSB-TV did in the end.

May 18, 2010

New Book Goes Behind the Scenes of Nature Films

As someone who grew up with the first and second generations of nature programming in American television, I am a fan of documentaries on wildlife and other animals. Movies like "March of the Penguins," "Winged Migration," and the recently released "Oceans" are among my all-time favorites.

A few months ago, Ted Williams, a brilliant columnist with Audubon magazine, wrote a devastating critique of nature fakery in wildlife photography. I confess that I have long viewed certain footage or photographs and wondered to myself, “How did they get that shot?” It seems so hard to get a glimpse of these animals. It seems all but impossible to get this extraordinary, extended footage or these perfect photographs.

Shooting in the Wild by Chris PalmerStill, I see wildlife film programs as a powerful force for good, and so does Chris Palmer, author of "Shooting in the Wild: An Insider’s Account of Making Movies in the Animal Kingdom."

Palmer’s new book is a sharp and searching assessment of the contemporary wildlife media universe from someone who loves the field and wants to see it live up to its promise. It’s a passionate plea for whole-hearted conservation from someone who has produced some of the strongest pro-wildlife programming there is. And it’s chock-full of good ideas for addressing the ethical problems that arise in wildlife filmmaking.

"Shooting in the Wild" offers a great short history of the wildlife film genre, from the earliest efforts to the current IMAX blockbusters. A 30-year veteran of nature programming, Palmer presents a true insider’s view of what goes on behind the camera, and the challenges of funding, conceptualization, and working with scientists and other experts.

To his credit, though, Palmer doesn’t gloss over the difficult subjects; he takes them on, fairly and squarely. His treatment of the deaths of Steve Irwin and Timothy Treadwell, for example, are part of a broader discussion of disturbing trends within the wildlife film industry—trends that involve sensationalism, unacceptable risk-taking, staging of scenes that deceive audiences, and, on occasion, animal abuse.

One of Palmer’s most serious concerns is that the popularity of wildlife programming has resulted in the entry of less scrupulous filmmakers into the field, people who are more ready to take advantage of animals for profit. He is especially tough on the so-called “nature porn” and “fang TV” genres, and the recklessness that some filmmakers and on-camera personalities have demonstrated in their quest for “money shots.”

Palmer’s exposé of the industry’s less appealing elements reveals a darker side in which directors use and abuse captive animals to get them to do what they want, when they want it. An increasing number of filmmakers, he argues, are producing films that focus on the most sensational elements of animal behavior—hunting, killing, or being killed—because that is what sells.

Palmer is also concerned about the prevalence of game farms as sources of supply to the industry, and disturbed by the lack of standards and the lack of initiative on the part of filmmakers to reform the sector.

Given his alarming portrait of the recent adulteration of wildlife programming, I was pleased to see Palmer’s wonderful vignettes of people who are doing things right in wildlife filmmaking. Palmer singled out The HSUS’s own Kathy Milani for her work on short-format, small-budget films that have advanced our campaigns, and it’s well-deserved praise. For more than 15 years, Kathy has been a pioneer in our efforts to make visual media central to our campaigns and public education work, whether it occurs via humanesociety.org or other avenues.

"Shooting in the Wild" contains many original ideas about the future of wildlife films as a means for educating the public and shaping popular attitude and opinion, and on the challenges of contemporary technologies like computer-generated imagery. But its real strength lies in Palmer’s attempt to articulate a morality of wildlife filmmaking, his recommendations for more skillful, responsible filmmaking, and his thoughts concerning better training, guiding principles and the concept of an ethics ranking system for the industry.

Media have a tremendous influence over the way we humans view the natural world, and wildlife films are essential to the conservation and preservation of wild animals. Palmer’s book gives me hope about the future of such films, and I’m delighted with the result of his efforts to distill the lessons of a lifetime’s commitment to raising people’s awareness about animals in the wild.

May 17, 2010

Full-Page Proof of Our Impact

Rick Berman criticizing the operations of a charity is like Jack Abramoff criticizing an organization for reckless lobbying. Berman’s the worst of the worst. You can read Ian Shearn’s exposé of him and his group here.

Berman obviously conducted a recent corporate pass-through of funds because his front group, the Center for Consumer Freedom, ran advertisements attacking The HSUS in today’s New York Times and Wall Street Journal.

Berman’s ads are historical flops—they don’t generate much public interest and virtually zero serious news media interest. They are just too far off base. Indeed, The HSUS’s greatest period of success and growth has coincided with Berman’s attacks on us. So what purpose do such ads serve? They simply allow Berman to show his shadowy funders that he’s doing something.

And that’s important, because Berman’s whole aim is to keep cashing in. According to the Center for Consumer Freedom’s 2008 tax return, the multimillionaire lobbyist Berman and his for-profit PR firm get 92 percent of all of the revenue taken in by the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is a so-called nonprofit charitable organization. You’ve got to give the guy credit for the boldness of this self-enrichment scheme and the abuse of the federal tax code. In terms of raw greed, Berman makes Abramoff look like a mere amateur.

One of more than 200 dogs The HSUS rescued from a Tennessee puppy mill in April
Kathy Milani/The HSUS
One of more than 200 dogs rescued
from a Tennessee puppy mill in April.

There’s one reason that Berman and his funders are conducting this campaign: they fear The HSUS, and they know we have a track record of success.

They don’t attack us because we don’t do enough. They attack us because we do too much.

The HSUS celebrates the protection of all animals and confronts all forms of cruelty, such as dogfighting, puppy mills, and factory farming.

The HSUS attacks the root causes of problems, not just the symptoms. Our primary goal is to prevent cruelty to animals before it happens and prevent animals from ending up in distress.

Rescuing individual animals is not enough. The HSUS mitigates suffering for vast populations of domesticated and wild animals.

The HSUS changes laws and makes sure they are properly enforced, and changes corporate policies, so that wide-scale abuses can no longer occur.

The HSUS has the power to confront large-scale cruelty, and it has the experts and organizational muscle to make effective change.

The HSUS supports local shelters and provides direct care for animals—but also confronts the national and international problems facing animals, which local shelters don’t have the reach or the resources to take on.

The HSUS is the largest animal protection organization—with 11 million supporters, one in every 28 Americans. Our political opponents attack the organization precisely because we are a mainstream voice for animals and the greatest threat to animal abuse.

Every time Rick Berman runs an advertisement, it affirms that we’ve made the right decisions in taking on the biggest industries and confronting their abuse of animals, whether the abuse occurs on the factory farm, the back lot of some tawdry circus, or the ice floes of Atlantic Canada. There’s no relenting here—just resolve to keep on with the fight on every day.