Humane Watch Is Not Your Friend…

by Mary Haight on September 15, 2011

Humane Watch poses as a friend to animal lovers using the time tested approach “the enemy of my enemy is my friend.” Stepping into the breach between animal welfare groups and HSUS, Humane Watch rants against HSUS and their fundraising practices, and harps on how HSUS doesn’t have anything to do with your local humane society as if they should.  They do mirror frustrations in the industry which keep repeating themselves as new people and groups come into this work.

To be sure, there has been a lot of bad blood between HSUS and those who care for animals. Fundraising practices have been seen as selfish, too close to unethical for comfort, and worse.  In their partnerships with locals, some glaring inequities were noted in the 8-State historic sweep of a major dog fighting ring:  the cost of caring for a flood of animals from a bust lands on a local shelter, or two, and court evidence cases can be lengthy affairs, with dogs being held over 8 months later.  The cost of law enforcement can land on private shelters.

After the dogs have long left their custody, HSUS fundraising  goes into high gear for the event. Neither money nor the spotlight is shared with those shelters who take on the financial burdens of care. Animal care is an odd duck – people look at this work in a very different way.  Business as usual is not acceptable. In the public mind, what is ethically, morally right applies.  A peculiar notion to attach to business, but this “business” holds the life or death of sentient beings in the balance.

While acknowledgement and fundraising help has been a thorn in the side of shelters who do this work, it came to a head when HSUS used a dog named Fay in a fundraising commercial that led people to believe the dog was in HSUS care and custody.  That was a case that could have landed in court for something more serious than misleading advertising.

Then there was the fight about pit bulls and how HSUS would not stop recommending to courts that they kill any dog that had been fought. It took months to get HSUS to the table with Best Friends, Bad Rap and others, and change that approach – see the results of what could be done rehabilitating instead of killing.

The last nerve was hit when HSUS enlisted Vick to speak to kids in their End Dogfighting program.

But who is Humane Watch? How many of those more than 350,000 “friends” on FaceBook bothered to check anything beyond the first page?  Did you? Some pet people are on the Humane Watch page for reasons of oversight.  Yet I suspect there are those who do not know that Rick Berman, a lobbyist/PR agent for dirty industry, got $600,000 from big tobacco to start the website and their campaign against HSUS, Greenpeace, science, the Center for Disease Control, etc.  So I’m going to say it again. Humane Watch is owned by the Center for Consumer Freedom, also run by Rick Berman. They claim they can’t divulge their contributors (agribiz, commercial puppy mills among them) for fear of reprisals. They are the twisters of truth, fabricators of falsehoods, spinners of specious arguments…but here, let someone else say something:

20 comments
veryvizsla
veryvizsla

When I was a blogging noob, it was YOU that educated me to the ways of Humane Watch :D I know that I've said it many times, but I'll say it one more time. As a Canadian, I find the US Lobbying Industry just ponderous...

rumpydog
rumpydog

The sad truth is that even though you don't believe everything Berman's group says, he has done what he set out to do, which is turn you against the HSUS. He wants you to dislike them so you won't support HSUS financially, which allows them to lobby on issues pertaining to animals. Divide and conquer- the oldest political ploy in the book.

Life With Dogs
Life With Dogs

LOL! Great comments. And good for you for calling them out Mary!

fearfuldogs
fearfuldogs

Agri business has been enlisting PR firms like Berman's for years to push their agenda, using many of the same scare tactics politicians use to shape public opinion. Tell people that a piece of legislation is the 'first step to ending pet ownership' and you'll see feathers fly. Ooops. No offense to the chickens.

Mel
Mel

Some great comments here. Pamela is right - we do fight amongst each other. Re: comments - I would expect more Mary. I got a few of what I call "the haters" on my two posts I did on Humane Watch. I loved your phrasing "Animal care is an odd duck – people look at this work in a very different way. Business as usual is not acceptable. In the public mind, what is ethically, morally right applies. A peculiar notion to attach to business, but this “business” holds the life or death of sentient beings in the balance." So very true. I believe that I am dealing with that now (as you know). A really great post.

@JohnDopp
@JohnDopp

Mary, thank you for helping to expose Richard Berman's smear campaign! It's horrifying to me how many people will join an attack group dedicated to crushing animal welfare, just because they disagree with the HSUS on one issue or another. It may interest you to know that in 2009, 86% of the "donations" to HumaneWatch/CCF were diverted to Berman's unrelated union-busting campaigns, despite HumaneWatch promises that "Ninety percent of your generous gift will go towards the cost of running these ads..." In 2008, 93% of all CCF "donations" were funneled into Richard Berman's hands through his wholly-owned, for-profit PR firm. And while CCF claims to be a nonprofit, its help wanted ads have advertised "lucrative financial incentives" and profit-sharing plans. As far as I'm concerned, that's charity fraud, pure and simple. CCF's tax returns -- as well as the returns for Berman's other astroturf groups -- can be found at http://humanewatch.info , in the Document Library. Thanks again for alerting people to this animal abuse scam!

Pamela
Pamela

Thank you, Mary, for this excellent post. I've gotten emails and comments from people using the Humane Watch line. It's right to criticize the HSUS when it gets it wrong. But there are lots of folks who will profit when people concerned with animal rights are so busy fighting each other they don't get anything done. The list includes puppy mills, pet shops, agribusinesses, the fur industry, research facilities, cosmetics companies, etc. etc. etc. Thank you for such a thoughtful post--as always.

Kristine
Kristine

I'd never heard of this group before until I read a similar post on someone else's website about a year ago. That's when I started to see them every where. Organizations like this are so misleading and clearly have an agenda of their own. While I am no giant lover of HSUS for many reasons, I don't trust any group that exists purely for the purpose of bringing down another.

Brent
Brent

You're right, of course, But I also think it's important to note that while Humane Watch isn't necessarily a friend to animals, this doesn't by definition make their information wrong -- because much of their research is spot-on.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Ha! Thanks, Karen...you mean back when we were all noobs! Agree about the lobbyists... Do you know it will be my blog\'s 3rd birthday in November? Amazing! Somehow I feel...old! Oh, sorry, stream of consciousness left running;)

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

While CCF HW and Berman have turned a lot of heads with their charges, mine was not one of them. HSUS has made it's own bed with animal groups and Berman had nothing to do with it. No one agrees all the time as you can see by my examples above. Members of the public, however, should be informed about HW and CCF so they are not taken in or relieved of their money under false pretenses. No group as large as HSUS is going to do everything everyone thinks they should. HSUS has plenty of supporters. People in the industry demand more of each other I think, hence the disappointment when someone is thought to have, or actually has, dropped the ball. Authentic aniimal groups can be divided on some things and also come together when it counts.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Thanks Mel! Yes, your experience with that incompetent group is something I look forward to reading! I know this is old hat for a few, but as we know we need to repeat important messages over and over again, and that 350K FB "friends" stunned me. Of course, the Petland USA corporate HQ message was the catalyst here - ugh.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I do like the fact that you have Humane Watch tax returns available. Reality matters. On both sides. And a cheat is a cheat. I agree it is disturbing that people would "side" with Humane Watch - unless they are from tobacco concerns, factory farmers and science haters, but not people who are angry and disgusted by some of the things HSUS has done (the killing puppies incident in Wilkes County comes immediately to mind - before the change in policy on fighting dogs). Even if some are "done" with HSUS, that's no reason to jump on Berman's bandwagon. Thanks for the information.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I'm glad you found the post useful;) You are so right, Pamela - fighting each other, getting us to take our eyes off what's important, is Humane Watch's goal. Nothing would make them happier than to break the back of support for animal welfare issues with lies, innuendo and spinning. No group is going to do all we think they should. Animal welfare and animal rights fight often amongst each other and yet when an outsider of this type comes in and tries to bully and tell lies about one of us, it's a little like siblings...we come together, sometimes reluctantly, and support the injured party as long as the bully is not telling the truth...and if they are telling the truth, well - think Lord of the Flies.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

I know I mentioned them last year in an off-handed way, making puppies a political football in PA, and I know Mel Freer of No Dog About It also wrote a couple of posts about them. I've known about Berman for a long time through politics. And your point is well taken and thank you for making it: "a group that exists purely for the purpose of bringing down another" has nothing to offer to the debate. Thanks for your comment, Kristine!

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hey Brent, I find that so many of these types offer a slice of truth and weave fabrications around it to make it seem like it's a "whole truth" - just laughed thinking about Colbert's "truthiness" - it's reminiscent of what Limbaugh does, extracting the core of a central idea and reframing the rest of whatever was said or done or legislated in a way that suits his diatribe of the day. Or the TV example of the couple at the kitchen table talking about health insurance making it sound like health insurance for all was a disaster and un-American. I've never understood how these black is white, day is night groups get people to vote against their own interests. I see Humane Watch as the same kind of tool for battery hens, hog farms, gmos, chemical companies, commercial puppy mills, oh - and let's not forget the don't tax the rich or take away tax dollar funding for oil and gas companies crowd. I don't think Humane Watch knows anything more than you or I do about HSUS - and while they can be right about salaries, and other matters of public record, why raise them up to a position they do not deserve by giving them credibility or a platform? People often do not research what they read from journalists and bloggers and when we give a group like this entry into our streams and favorable mentions on our blogs as an authority source people think they must be "okay." I understand your point. Just because they are imbo an underhanded nefarious bunch that doesn't mean that some of what they say is not true; with their roster of funders and their agenda, I think it would be a real disservice to the animals we care about to go to them for information.

John Doppler Schiff
John Doppler Schiff

Actually, much of their information is either false or grossly distorted. Even when their facts are correct, HumaneWatch/CCF only tells the negative side of the story, and they do so in a deliberately misleading way so as to present a completely false conclusion. One of their favorite myths is that HSUS conducts "illegal raids" to seize the animals of poor, persecuted breeders. They show a picture of Scotlund Haisley kicking in a door, and imply that he's on some kind of Gestapo attack on a defenseless pet owner. The truth is that the picture was taken during disaster relief operations in the wake of Hurricane Ike, and that he and his team were rescuing dogs locked inside an evacuated building. That's pretty typical of HumaneWatch's lies and innuendo. They are not a credible source by any stretch of the imagination.

veryvizsla
veryvizsla

Happy up comming 3rd. blogiversary! My 2nd. is coming up shortly, I have to check when since I have forgotten.

MaryHaight
MaryHaight

Hi John and welcome! Thanks for adding to this conversation - I had not been aware of your site and after checking out several sections, I can see you have information/facts that are helpful to people trying to sort through statements made by Humane Watch. I am reminded of the Al Franken show where he would take apart one of Rush Limbaugh's arguments for his friend, a Ditto head, to see if he could get his friend to admit that RL was lying.

Mel
Mel

Or they leave most of the pertinent facts out and only point out the ones that benefit their argument. Hi John - Nice to see you joining the discussion here. :)

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