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December 23, 2010

Our Detractors' Wishes Aren't Granted... Again

We’ve been officially notified that The HSUS was the top vote-getter in last month’s Pepsi Refresh challenge, where more than 1,100 outstanding charities competed for cash grants in several categories to advance their good works. The HSUS developed an animal rescue proposal—to allow us to continue our dizzying range of activity to rescue starving horses, animals in hoarding situations, and dogs packed into puppy mills.

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Bradley J. Boner

Thanks so much to those of you who voted and helped us win. The HSUS took the lead just a few days into the voting and came in first in the most competitive category—winning $250,000 for our rescue efforts. The HSUS provides more hands-on care to animals than any animal welfare organization in the nation, having carried out 59 emergency deployments and rescues this year alone (not counting our continuing deployment in Haiti), operating five animal care centers (including the nation’s biggest sanctuary, the Cleveland Amory Black Beauty Ranch), and providing veterinary services all over the country to thousands of animals at no charge.

While there are so many worthy human services and environmental charities in the nation, I was pleased to see that animal causes and charities picked up a majority of cash awards—13 of 24. It shows the depth and passion that so many Americans feel for helping animals in need.

Of course, after the voting started, the typical detractors—the puppy millers, seal clubbers, cockfighters, and their pals at the so-called Center for Consumer Freedom/HumaneWatch, the front group run by millionaire public relations flack Rick Berman—reared their heads and tried to rig the outcome against us. Their efforts, as usual, failed miserably. The Pepsi Refresh challenge is yet another sign of some important trends: the growing popularity and strength of The HSUS, the fraying or nonexistent grassroots support of industry trade groups that not long ago dominated the political landscape, and the anemic work of Berman and his phony front groups for hire.

Berman goes around with his hand out to businesses invested in the status quo of cruelty and tells them he’ll mount a compelling brand attack on The HSUS, as long as they pay him enough. “The big problem today is the Humane Society [of the United States],” Berman told Meatingplace.com, a meat industry website, about a year ago.

Indeed, we are the big problem for animal abusers.  But that’s about the only thing that Berman has right.

He’s been thoroughly ineffective since he launched his campaign to defend cruel practices (along with his other corporate shilling campaigns to block reforms to curb drunk driving, teen smoking, childhood obesity, trans fats, and non-recyclable bags). Let’s look at the record.

  • The HSUS has doubled in size since CCF launched its campaign soon after I became CEO in 2004. Now, we have a legion of supporters all over the nation, with so many of them understanding that we are prepared to take on the biggest forms of animal cruelty in existence. The Pepsi Refresh win is just one more sign of that grassroots strength.
  • Despite CCF’s efforts, we have won six consecutive ballot measure campaigns since it launched its campaigns: In 2006, we banned extreme confinement of veal calves and breeding sows in small crates and kept the ban on mourning dove hunting in Michigan; in 2008, we passed Prop 2 in California to ban the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows, and laying hens, and joined our friends at Grey2K to pass a ban on greyhound racing in Massachusetts; in 2010, we passed Prop B in Missouri on puppy mills and defeated an NRA-initiated measure to block future wildlife protection initiatives. During this same period, we helped to pass more than 400 other state laws to help animals.
  • Berman and his ilk have staunchly defended Canada’s seal slaughter, but the hunt is teetering. Sealers fell 500,000 seals short of their kill quota the past two years, thanks to our efforts to close down markets for seal skins across the globe.
  • We've convinced many companies to stop selling fur or certain fur products and our published list of fur-free companies stands at more than 300 and growing. And we have convinced hundreds of universities and food retailers to require farm animal welfare improvements of their suppliers.

But while Berman’s ads, blogs, and bluster have not helped his corporate paymasters in their efforts to defend themselves against charges of cruelty, Berman has turned this into a fabulous personal enrichment scheme. He lives in a multi-million dollar home in the wealthy suburb of McLean, Va., and operates a fleet of automobiles, including a Bentley. According to the 2008 tax filings of the Center for Consumer Freedom, 92 percent of all income the group took in went to Rick Berman and his for-profit PR company. That’s about as fraudulent as it gets for a so-called nonprofit charity.

And what did the vested interests who profit from animal abuse and neglect, the ones who fund CCF and HumaneWatch, get: at best, a Sunday drive in Rick Berman’s Bentley.

So Rick and company at CCF, today, have a Pepsi on me. Very refreshing.

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