Every industry worth mentioning these days has its lobbying infrastructure cemented in place in Washington, D.C. And for virtually every such lobbying group, there is an opposition “watchdog” group—funded by a rival lobbying organization—that tries to undercut its credibility and publicize even the slightest of detours form the NGO’s stated mission.
It’s all part of the modern political edifice that has been constructed over the past several decades.
In the case of animal welfare issues, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is a well-oiled, well-funded lobbying presence with a finely tuned message machine that targets production agriculture, along with what often seem to be sideshows that occasionally surface when state laws impact dog breeders or when marginal issues like cockfighting offer HSUS the opportunity to generate millions in fund-raising.
Which they then earmark for future lobbying efforts aimed at restricting producers or passing state-by-state referenda aimed at doing the same. Meanwhile, HSUS spends a big piece of its nine-figure annual budget cranking up its lobbying efforts, while basking in the glow of public perceptions that the organization is the force behind hundreds of local pet shelters bearing the “Humane Society” branding.
Nothing could be further from the truth, as HSUS nemesis the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) gleefully likes to regularly announce. As an offshoot of the 1990s foodservice industry-funded campaign to blunt the then-emerging momentum of state and local no-smoking laws, the Center isn’t exactly clothed in righteousness itself, although its attacks on HSUS are tough to refute.
For example: The Center’s HumaneWatch.org website was quick to report that the non-partisan Charity Watch gave HSUS a “D” grade for its efforts earlier this year, noting that HSUS spends only about 50% of its budget on actual programs, while spending up to 48 cents for every dollar the group raises in contributions.
Charity Watch suggests that only 10% to 15% of a non-profit’s funds should be devoted to administrative and fund-raising costs.
Ice packs and portable fans
The latest flap in the ongoing skirmish between HSUS and CCF is a news release touting the Humane Society’s donation of $3,000 that helped a New Jersey animal shelter rent air conditioning equipment during this summer’s heat wave.
Here’s how local media covered the incident last week, as East Coast temperatures soared into the high 90s and the local shelter’s volunteers were reduced to running fans 24 hours a day and putting ice packs into the cat cages: