The Academy Awards always comes with some interesting commercials, but if you were watching the Oscars on Sunday in the D.C. area, you may have seen a rather startling one. The ad attacked the Humane Society of the United States, saying it spends less than one penny out of every donated dollar on animal shelters. It tells viewers instead to support their own local shelter instead.
The ad opens with a blaring siren and an emphatic voice announcing “Consumer Protection Alert!,” which alone is a bit startling. It’s only 30 seconds, so you can watch it for yourself here.
Wow, well that sure might make some donors question why they’re spending $19 per month to save shelter animals, as the heartbreaking HSUS commercials like this one request viewers to do:
Who would attack the HSUS on these grounds, and why? According to Mother Jones:
The group behind the ad is the Center for Consumer Freedom, a creation of the Washington PR guru Rick Berman, who runs an array of corporate-funded front groups targeting public-interest outfits, unions, and other organizations that pose a threat to the bottom line of Berman’s clients…
According to the Center for Consumer Freedom’s 2010 tax filing, the group set aside about $1 million to set up its anti-Humane Society website, Humane Watch. Berman has created a separate group with the oddly similar-sounding name, the Humane Society for Shelter Pets. Its website snarks at the Humane Society for failing to provide more money for animal shelters.
Berman’s group openly acknowledges that it is supported by restaurants and other food companies … So why would a group funded by the food industry group go after the Humane Society? Both the Humane Society and the Center for Consumer Freedom seem to agree this is not about lost puppies. Rather, it’s about the Humane Society’s success in altering laws and regulations dealing with animal cruelty, which can sometimes increase the cost of doing business.
The HSUS fought back fast. According to Humane Watch:
We knew our ad during Sundays Academy Awards would ruffle some feathers, but HSUS replied yesterday with an especially vicious attack. Though our ad ran in only the D.C. area, HSUS put out a national alert that it was launching a new fundraising campaign to stop our so-called campaign for cruelty.
So lets get this straight: Our ad asked people who want to help shelter pets to donate to their local pet shelter. And, somehow, thats a campaign for cruelty? If that doesnt sum up how paranoid and demagogic HSUS is, we dont know what does.
“…nowhere in HSUSs fevered response does it mention supporting local shelters! Wethinks HSUS doth protest too muchand in fact, its a bit funny that HSUS unwittingly revealed its true motive: factory fundraising. Unfortunately, were outgunned here. Our annual budget is less than what HSUS puts into its pension plan. We havent mastered the art of deception and inflammatory Orwellian rhetoric like its CEO Wayne Pacelle, and we dont have untold millions to pump into misleading marketing.
So we need your help. Heres what you can do:
1. Donate supplies or money to your local pet shelter.
2. Write to the editor of your local newspaper or magazine, asking readers to give locally, and telling them how HSUS gives only 1 percent of its money to local shelters. (If you want more talking points, read this.)
3. If you run a blog, write about how inhumane HSUS is to shelter advocates.
4. Spread the word to your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
Were not intimidated by HSUSs smear tactics and attempts to stifle the truth. Sunshine is the best disinfectant. Together, we can expose HSUS and help groups that truly walk the walk.
And here’s what HSUS’s CEO and president Wayne Pacelle says about the campaign in his blog:
Your HSUS is under attack because of our work to prevent cruelty to all animals, and we need your help. Thats why today I am launching the HSUS Fund to Stop Rick Bermans Campaign for Cruelty,” and I hope you will join me. Whenever he does his worst, we need to do our best in response. So will you join me today and donate $25, $50, or even $100 to help animals in the name of Rick Berman? Well put the money to good use. Well take the fight straight to his shadowy paymasters and show them that attacking the cause of animal protection will backfire big-time as a business strategy. Im making the first donation of $500.
Well dedicate half the donations for our work against puppy mills, and the other half will boost our efforts to combat factory farming abuses. Your contributions will fund the undercover investigations, litigation, corporate campaigns, and the other work that Berman and his paymasters so desperately hope to stop.
CBS 60 Minutes investigated him years ago and dubbed him Dr. Evil. Hes like a bad penny he turns up opportunistically as a corporate hireling to take on any number of common-sense ideas, whether its attempts to rein in drunken driving, to place limits on smoking, or to combat animal cruelty …
Its high time to send these animal abusers a message and to make the name Rick Berman do something to help animals, something real. By donating to The HSUS for this new fund, you can help us expose those who make money from mistreatment of animals.
Donate here to our HSUS Fund to Stop Rick Bermans Campaign for Cruelty, and well keep you posted on how your donations in Ricks name are helping animals. As I said, Im kicking things off with a $500 donation, and other members of our executive team at HSUS are chipping in another $2,500. I know with your help we will reach our goal of $250,000 thats $125,000 to help pets, and another $125,000 to take on factory farming abuses, all thanks to Rick Berman.
Well it does sound like HSUS acted pretty fast to find a way to make lemonade out of lemons, but I wonder if this tactic of raising money in this way will sour some people who think they’re taking advantage of the situation just a little too much?
Okay, readers — I don’t know about you, but I’m a bit confused. I need to do a lot more research to know just what’s going on here. I’ve heard for some time about the HSUS donations to shelters being abysmal despite its sometimes very frequent TV pleas for money for shelter animals, but I didn’t check it out for myself.
So I ask you: Is the HSUS being attacked unfairly, or do you smell a scam? Or does it even matter if 99 percent of its donations doesn’t go to shelters? Does Humane Watch have a valid point, or is it just trying to keep life for farm animals from getting too cozy and thereby increasing restaurant prices? I’ll bet some of you can shed some light on this situation. Let’s talk! (I’ll mostly listen.)