Editorial: Help the ones who really help animals
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 1995:
“I gave those people all I had,” the caller wept. “I don’t have a lot, but I thought I
was helping animals. I sent them my inheritance.”
We’d published warnings about this crooked outfit for years.
Unaware, the caller sent them money enough to neuter every dog and cat in the
county, or to equip an anti-poaching patrol to save African elephants and rhinos, or to provide
humane education to every school in the state.
But the people she trusted blew every penny. About half went for further
fundraising. The rest bought a customized motorcycle, a sports car, a boat, many nights in
Las Vegas, and evenings of snorting cocaine in their seaside condominium.
The caller, still determined to help animals, asked for one favor:
“Please,” she begged. “If I send you a list of animal groups I send donations to,
could you tell me which ones are good?”
Of the 29 charities to which the caller sent money last year, 16 flunked our rather
simple standards for financial integrity:
• We want to see evidence from sources outside the organization that it is carrying
out successful activities.
• We want to see detailed record-keeping and trustworthy financial
statements––and willingness to release them.
• We want to see salaries, if any are paid, that do not exceed the regionally
adjusted median and/or the median for the job. We don’t want to see anyone getting rich off
of misery. We prefer to see staff who have worked in the cause for free, when salaries were
not available, who would do so again come hard times.
• We want to see organizational strategy––a defined focus, not just reacting to
current events, trying to climb aboard bandwagons.
• We want to see high-quality research going into campaigns. We don’t want to
see organizations using outdating information or making erroneous claims.
Think what it means if half of the charities on your gift list flunk.
In rawest terms, it means your hard-earned money could do twice as much for animals––if
only it went where you mean it to go.
Cruel traps could be banned in half the time it’s taking. Half of the homeless animals
killed in pounds could be saved. We could have twice as many sanctuaries, in twice
as many places. Twice as much land could be reserved for wildlife.
For every legislator who votes for kindness now, we could elect a pair.
Twice as many people could be introduced to good vegetarian food. Twice as
many children could learn that the Golden Rule includes animals.
You are already giving enough money to turn the world around. But too often you
are not getting what you pay for:
• Over the six years we have monitored animal protection spending, not less than
68% and in some years up to 98% of the Doris Day Animal League’s annual budget has
gone into direct mail fundraising––called “public education”––plus executive salaries.
• The National Anti-Vivisection Society––whose payroll and paid board of directors
are dominated by members of executive director Peggy Cuniff’s family––has made no
apologies and has done nothing to improve accountability since we revealed in 1992 that it
made a stock market killing from investments in U.S. Surgical, one of the firms whose dog
experiments NAVS most vehemently protests. We also caught the Chicago-based organiza
tion holding an expense-paid board meeting in Florida, ostensibly for the convenience of a
board member who purportedly lived there but was in fact deceased. NAVS has evaded further
embarrassment by apparently failing to file an IRS Form 990 for either of the past two
fiscal years; if any was filed, the IRS hasn’t been able to find it for us.
• Until the IRS reporting rules were changed just this year, the International Fund
for Animal Welfare paid far higher salaries to the president and executive director than we
were able to report with certainty––and even now we can’t crosscheck the amounts, because
much of the money comes through foreign subsidiaries, which cannot be compelled to
report the payments in the U.S.
• The World Wildlife Fund, led by trophy hunters, and National Wildlife
Federation, a confederation of hunting clubs, are fronts for the hunting lobby.
• The so-called Humane Society of the United States has never fed, sheltered,
rescued, or neutered animals outside of a handful of high-profile disaster relief and demonstration
projects. Yet the chief executives have become multi-millionaires.
• Soliciting funds to save the whales, Greenpeace––the richest group on our
charts this year––reminds its lobbyists that, “In principle, we are not against killing marine
mammals,” allowing them to sign away the lives of whales and dolphins in deals buying
less protection than they have now––plus TV time in which to proclaim “victory.”
• The Animal Legal Defense Fund, another organization spending a disproportionately
high amount on direct mail, hustles your donations to drum up business for
lawyers––who usually charge animal protection activists and groups $100 an hour and up.
How many of these organizations are you donating to? How can you find out
which others aren’t exactly doing they you think they are?
Here’s what you can do about it
That’s where ANIMAL PEOPLE comes in. In the center of each edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE we print our “Watchdog” column, with our logo of the dog standing guard
beside an empty bowl.
Our Watchdog was drawn more than 100 years ago by an artist who hoped to
inspire the formation of a humane movement. The movement did form––but you can see
dogs like our Watchdog still on chains in every neighborhood, still beside empty bowls,
and still on duty, demonstrating faith, hope, and courage.
We are dedicated to filling their bowls.
At ANIMAL PEOPLE we expose corrupt groups, no matter how powerful and
intimidating they have become. We think the cold, hungry dogs and cats––and all the other
suffering, abused animals––deserve better than half a grudgingly thrown stale biscuit.
You’re giving them more than that, and we aim to make sure it gets there. For
that reason, we double-check every heart-rending claim made in appeals.
We use the Freedom of Information Act to obtain and scrutinize every major animal
protection group’s IRS filings––and we ask their executives the hard questions most
hate to answer: about just where the money goes, how much goes to further fundraising,
and how much goes into their pockets. Then we publish our findings, both as you see them
here, in our sixth annual abstract of leading organizations’ budgets, assets, and executive
salaries, and in frequent investigative exposes.
We take heavy flak for it. We are often accused of disrupting “movement unity,”
especially by some of the people who profit most from running direct mail mills. And a
senior executive of one questionable organization recently called us “kooks” and “crackpots”
in a memo warning staff not to talk to us.
Perhaps it does take “kooks” and “crackpots” to do what we do.
Three years ago, Kim Bartlett and I founded ANIMAL PEOPLE, putting everything
we had and all of our personal credit into the small computer that forms the nucleus of
the operation. Desktop publishing experts are amazed that we do so much with so little
equipment: just the two of us publish a newspaper that most guess might have a staff of 20.
However, giving you nearly twice as much news per issue now as in our first editions,
we are stretched to the limit––and so is that computer.
Do we hire 20 people? Or do we get newer, faster, more efficient equipment, to
keep bringing you hard-hitting news and exposes?
The people we’re up against have all the latest technology to help them get away
with institutionalized animal abuse––and to take money from the animals’ bowls.
We need the equalizer, to help us dig out and expose their dirty secrets. To get it,
we need your help.
The bare-bones technology we need to expand our mission––to extend rather than
replace our present system––will cost about $12,000.
$12,000 is a fortune to us, but it is less than the expense accounts paid to some
executives of the organizations named above.
If we can raise more, we can add even more equipment, reaching far more of the
seven million people now on the Internet––and we can expand ANIMAL PEOPLE t o
bring you even better coverage of animal issues and battles being fought around the globe.
Please help us do it.
Instead of buying that overpaid executive another $25 lunch, $50 dinner, or $100
night at a cocktail lounge, help us buy the equipment we need to fill the animals’ bowls.
Your gift of $25, $50, $100, or more translates into $25,000, $50,000,
$100,000 or more to animals who really need it––by helping to re-route thousands of gifts
from the overpaid and complacent to the groups who really save animal lives.
Every dollar you send today may be worth $1,000 in re-routed contributions.
Please, make the largest gift you can afford––$25, $50, $100 or more.
Make this the Christmas that turns the tide for the animals all over the world––
letting the truth about who’s helping and who isn’t be known.