Americans are hearing a variety of anti-turkey messages this Thanksgiving, mostly from in-your-face animal rights groups like PETA and Farm Sanctuary. These radical activists make no bones about their position — no meat of any kind, and no room for compromise.

In this context, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) tends to slip through the cracks, passing itself off as a more moderate voice. HSUS vice president Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press this morning that his organization is only trying to convince Americans to forgo supermarket turkeys in favor of “free-range” birds. “We’re not trying to rain on anyone’s holiday.” Pacelle insisted.

Funny — just last night on CNN, Crossfire co-host Bob Novak cornered Pacelle with a simple question: “Are you against killing chickens for food?” After the requisite hemming and hawing, Pacelle finally conceded “Well, I’m against it,” acknowledging that the HSUS is just as extreme as PETA.

HSUS is the single richest animal rights group in the world, with over $100 million in the bank,. And it has absolutely no connection to your local “humane society” or ASPCA animal shelters.

The current issue of Worth magazine rates HSUS among the worst-managed U.S. charities. “We’re not saying they’re crooked,” offers Worth writer Reshma Memom Yaqub, “but we do take issue with some business practices of these charities, especially when they spend too much money on fundraising.” Worth notes that HSUS took in over $65 million in 2000, yet spent more than half of it to raise more money.