“I don’t think anyone can reasonably claim that our work is moving in the direction of eliminating animal agriculture,” Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) president Wayne Pacelle insisted this morning during an interview with the farm-belt AgriTalk radio program. Sure. While we’re at it, we’re happy to let you know that the government won’t raise your taxes. That stain on your tie? It’ll come out. And veggie burgers taste just like chicken.
“Humane Wayne,” as he is known on Capitol Hill, provided a masterful, if typical, on-air defense of America’s richest animal rights group, refusing to concede that… well, that it is an animal rights group.
Are you trying to get people to stop eating meat? “We have to drop the paranoia … We do think there are issues with the current state of production and the per capita consumption of animal products.”
Is promoting veganism a big part of your agenda? “The most I ever talk about veganism is when I’m talking to the ag community, or the hunting lobby, or someone who’s trying to poke a hole in our work… We support Certified Humane programs.”
Can I find meat in the HSUS cafeteria? “We don’t have a cafeteria. People bring their own lunch or they go out.”
Not surprisingly, much of the discussion centered on Ohio, a state where HSUS has threatened to sponsor a 2010 ballot initiative (similar to its California “Proposition 2” effort in 2008) that would outlaw several common livestock handling practices.
Do you have plans now for Ohio, or for a ballot initiative in any other state in the near future? “We’re committed to stopping the intensive confinement of animals: veal crates and gestation crates and battery cages. And we’ll continue to work on that on all fronts. And Ohio is still very much at top of mind for us, despite this effort.”
The Ohio “effort” that Pacelle refers to is a legislative maneuver that will ask voters to decide this year whether to create a new Livestock Care Standards Board. That idea is supported by both houses of Ohio’s legislature and the state’s Governor. It would let farmers guarantee the humane handling of their animals. Not HSUS.
Humane Wayne is having none of it. “We’re very much willing to compromise,” he insists.
To a point.
Complaining about his carpetbaggers being pre-empted by Ohioans, Pacelle sniped: “We could have sat down and, you know, negotiated that. We could have had some other terms and could have been more balanded.”
“We prefer not to resort to initiatives. They’re costly, they’re divisive, and we always prefer another route … Obviously you know about Prop 2, and it would be in our interest to achieve the same set of reforms that California voters and Arizona voters approved, but we’re willing to talk to you before we go down that road.”
Here Pacelle touches on what’s in “our interest.” Was this a slip of the tongue? We thought he was looking out for the animals’ best interests. Silly us.
A few moments of candor were bound to slip out over the course of an hour. Here are two worth noting.
But it has to go to the voters and they have to approve it. Isn’t that the same thing you did in California? “Well, that’s true. But again, it’s designed to prevent this initiative from taking effect. It’s clearly a blocking maneuver.”
Do you spend money on animal welfare research … on what is the best way to care for animals? “Yes, but we work on all issues related to human-animal relationships, whether it’s companion animals or horses or animals used in laboratories, or animals in agriculture or other settings. We’re not a research-oriented organization. We don’t fund research. We don’t fund every local humane society.”
True again. As we’ve been saying, HSUS funds comparatively very few of them. According to its own 2007 tax filings, the group contributed just 3.64 percent of its budget to organizations that operate hands-on dog and cat shelters.
A lot of people want to know why isn’t more of that money used on actual shelters, and adoption of animals. Why isn’t more of your money going to those types of programs? “There are 10 billion animals raised for food in this country, and there are 7-8 million who go into shelters. We put a lot of energy on that, and we are working aggressively to address that problem … I know some of your listeners would love for us to just give all our money to shelters so they can kind of have a free-running field to do whatever they want with animals in agriculture.”
What percent of your budget would you say goes to animal shelters? “Well, it depends on how you define animal shelters … If people want us to spend all of our hard dollars on animal shelters, they can support their local society. We think that’s fabulous… But we have other issues we want to work on.”
Before signing off, AgriTalk host Mike Adams dared to jump into one of the most embarrassing episodes in HSUS’s recent history. “If you find a problem,” Adams asked Pacelle, “some animal welfare violation or something going wrong, do you immediately put the word out about that? Or is there a lag time there? … If you know about things that are wrong, why don’t you say that right now?”
Adams was talking about the Hallmark-Westland case, where animal cruelty clearly existed. HSUS sat on its video evidence for months while it continued.
Did you go straight to them [the USDA] as soon as you found out? “No, we didn’t. We went to the local prosecutor in San Bernardino County and they wanted to investigate. And they asked us to keep the information quiet while they continued their investigation.”
Pacelle is displaying a lack of familiarity with the truth here. Or maybe his brain has shrunk from his vegan diet, and he’s just forgotten. Either way, the San Bernardino DA’s office remembered it quite differently last year. (We even called for a perjury investigation into the sworn testimony of HSUS’ Dr. Michael Greger.)
Tune in to AgriTalk radio on Wednesday at 11:00am EDT to hear farmers—real farmers—give Pacelle a piece of their minds. And call 1-888-247-4825 during the show to add your own two cents.