When is a boycott not a boycott? When animal rights zealots at the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) organize it. Last night Canada’s Global National television network broadcast a nationwide report based on the Center for Consumer Freedom’s investigation of HSUS’s Canadian seafood “boycott.” HSUS has claimed that over 200 American restaurants and fish companies are no longer buying Canadian seafood in protest of that nation’s unrelated seal hunt. But among the 87 supposed “boycotters” we contacted, a whopping 78 percent said either that they were selling Canadian seafood, or that they never served it in the first place.

Reporting on the phony boycott, Global National Washington bureau chief Troy Reeb talked to several seafood businesses in our nation’s capital. The Willard Intercontinental Hotel, a Washington landmark mentioned prominently as a Canadian seafood boycotter in an HSUS press release this week, told Reeb flatly: “We don’t do boycotts.” HSUS has since quietly altered its own press release.

Still listed in that press release as boycotters, however, are Washington’s Ardeo Restaurant and Legal Sea Foods, both of which (as Global National reported) had Canadian seafood on the menu just yesterday. When confronted with the fact that at least one restaurant on his “boycott” list was a vegetarian establishment that never served fish to begin with, HSUS president Wayne Pacelle conceded: “Well, I’m not sure … there are certain restaurants that signed up because of their enthusiasm for the campaign.” (Click here for the video.)

If enthusiasm — not actual participation — is the measure of an animal-rights boycott, HSUS may actually have something here. But just 13 percent of the restaurants and seafood companies that we contacted (from HSUS’s list) are putting their menu where Pacelle’s mouth is. The next time HSUS weighs in, be it about food, clothing, entertainment, medical research, or conservation, it will be helpful to remember that our experience suggests the group can be trusted about 13 percent of the time.