If you watched the Oscars on TV last night, you may have seen an ad from a group that calls themselves Humane Watch, urging you to not donate to the Humane Society of the United States. There are several things about this ad which need clarification.
First, the HSUS has not ever been secretive that they do not oversee local Humane Societies, so there’s nothing nefarious whatsoever about the ad’s statement that they do not give funds to local humane organizations.
That being said, however, what the HSUS does do for local humane groups is vast, including providing much-needed education for shelter employees through their Humane University program. Additionally, their role as a national figurehead for companion animal welfare is vitally important, and all that they do in that role is accessible to all locally-based shelters, including privately-funded no-kill shelters.
The HSUS also has the muscle, being a national non-profit organization, to advertise widely in an effort to educate the public on what can be done to improve animal welfare. And while the money you donate to them may not go to your local shelter directly, their programs are extremely important to local shelters in helping to educate the local population, as well as their own employees and volunteers on the most humane methods of dealing with pets.
Animal welfare depends upon a tiered approach, requiring local, state-wide, and national angles varying from taking in pets in need to education in order to lessen the problem of unwanted pets. Each of these organizations, from your local shelter to the HSUS, plays an extremely important role in this multi-pronged approach to creating better welfare for all companion animals. In addition to their educational programs, the HSUS plays an important role in national, state, and local legislation, and in alerting residents to important upcoming legislation of interest in promoting good animal welfare. They also deploy volunteers for assistance in disaster areas, helping to reunite pets and their humans who have been impacted by natural disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.
Further, and here is a key local component, your donations to HSUS (and ASPCA, by the way) are frequently turned into grants which are awarded to animal rescue groups all over the country. And unlike you and me, they are able to award large dollar amounts to those groups in need, after ensuring the group is worthy of your money.
So why would Humane Watch run such an ad? Because Humane Watch, despite their appealing name, is not an organization devoted to animal welfare. They are funded by extremists and others who are negatively impacted by the growth of awareness about cruelty towards animals that is exposed by national welfare organizations like the HSUS. They are not the only group to have come about recently, using names that sound like they promote the opposite of what they truly are pursuing.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s really good to give to your local shelters. They need your help. But so do the national organizations. So if you are inclined to help promote animal welfare, please do not let attack ads like this one prevent you from supporting the groups that are helping to provide much-needed work promoting positive human-animal relationships. Bear in mind that the HSUS is not an extremist organization. Yes, they have some problems and have made mistakes. Who hasn’t? But ultimately they are a solid, animal welfare minded organization with a good track record of positive change, without using extreme tactics like other well-known animal “rights” groups (who have also been targeted by the organization behind Humane Watch). They have proven themselves to be more than worthy of your donations.
If you are still unsure, I urge you to visit the HSUS website and spend some time exploring the variety of ways that they help animals all over this country. Their IRS reports are freely available to read on their site, they are clear about who is behind them, and they make all that information easy to find.
Then, if you have some time to waste, visit the Humane Watch site. It took me quite a bit of time today to figure out who is actually behind this group.When you go to the “About Us” section of their site, all you get is more information attacking the HSUS. Nothing about who they are. I noticed that the copyright on their site is held by the Center for Consumer Freedom. So I visited that site, and found that they are, as many have reported, funded largely by the food production industry.
There’s nothing wrong with that. I have nothing against food, nor against meat, being a good Texan who loves my steak. But what’s wrong with this is first, the many layers and digging I had to do in order to find that out, which smacks of secrecy in order to confuse people; and secondly, we can eat meat and have animals raised for food without depriving them of a positive life up to the moment of slaughter. Many of the people behind the Center for Consumer Freedom (another misleading name) are “factory farmers” who are responsible for not just much animal suffering, but also for dangerous conditions for human health in the products they sell. Animals raised and slaughtered in sub-par conditions surely harbor the effects of an unhealthy life in the meat that we eat. I’d prefer meat from a healthy (and happy) animal.
I’ve ranched, and I know ranchers, and believe me when I say that most ranchers raising animals for food are not part of the group behind CCF. The producers behind them, however, are the large corporations, with the most money available, which they then use to try to confuse you into believing that supporting good animal welfare in the production of food means you are against the farmer or rancher down the road from you.
That is, to put it simply, a lie.
As with pretty much everything in this new world of competition for our ever-decreasing attention, it’s important when you watch or read an ad to consider the source. And the source called Humane Watch stinks.