Editorial: Who got the March money?
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, August/September 1996:
Observers of the June 23 March for the Animals in Washington D.C. and the preceding
World Animal Awareness Week may be reminded of The Producers, the 1968 Zero
Mostel/Gene Wilder film about two schemers who persuade an outlandish number of
investors to fund a deliberate Broadway flop. The idea is to fail so miserably that all
investors assume their money is lost, and don’t ask embarrassing questions. Mostel and
Wilder stage the most tasteless musical script they can find, called Springtime for
Hitler––only to have it succeed as a farce, sending them to Sing-Sing when the investors
ask for their promised cuts of the gate, adding up to far more than 100%.
But the March was no surprise success. And it might embarrass the cause of animal
protection less if it was in fact a fraud instead of just a public failure.
Organizer Peter Gerard, known before his marriage as Peter Linck, should have
been an experienced hand, having also produced the 1990 March. Gerard projected a
crowd of 100,000, more than four times the 1990 crowd of 24,000 as estimated by the
National Park Service, and a third more than Gerard’s own claim of 75,000 Marchers in
1990, which he inexplicably lowered to 50,000 in his fundraising solicitations for this
year’s March. The NPS counted just 3,000 at the March this year. Gerard claimed 20,000,
but even some of his most vocal defenders agreed that was four or five times too high.
Of the many questions to be asked, the biggest concern motivations and financing.
In April, Gerard presented a projected March budget to the Summit for the Animals,
an annual convocation of animal rights organization heads. Gerard expected to spend
$218,500, he said, plus an “open” amount for commercial advertising.
Apparently little or no commercial advertising was purchased. This undoubtedly
contributed to the low turnout, which left organizations and vendors prepared for a big
crowd stuck with truckloads of extra materials and stacks of unpaid bills.
But according to the sponsorship acknowledgements distributed with the March
program, Gerard and his organization, the National Alliance for Animals, took in at least
$322 per participant who actually showed up, more than enough to have advertised in any
media and to have tossed in free transportation from nearby cities plus a vegan lunch, if
necessary to fulfill sponsors’ expectations.
Gerard acknowledged funding from:
Diamond Circle of Compassion International Sponsors, 4 @ $35,000 each, total of $140,000;
Diamond Circle of Compassion individual sponsors, 29 @ unknown amount;
Platinum Circle of Compassion Presidential Sponsors, 2 @ $25,000 each, total of $50,000;
Gold Circle of Compassion Executive Sponsors, 16 @ $15,000 each, total of $240,000;
Silver Circle of Compassion Key Sponsors, 15 @ $10,000 each, total of $150,000;
Bronze Circle of Compassion Contributing Sponsors, 29 @ $5,000 each, total of $145,000;
Donor Honor Roll, 1,197 @ $25 each, total of $29,925;
World Animal Congress attendees, circa 2,400 @ $89 each, total of $213,600;
Compassion Club donors, 200 @ unknown amount each, unknown total;
T-shirt, cash bar, and other miscellaneous revenue: unknown.
Minimum total receipts: $968,525.
Note the discrepancy of at least $750,000. Spot-checking with donors, ANIMAL
PEOPLE found that many were credited with giving more than they did––but some did
give more than was acknowledged. Misreporting receipts would appear to account for no
more than a third of the total. At that, and even if serving only 3% of the projected crowd
somehow doubled costs, the disposition of approximately a quarter of a million dollars
We asked for an explaination. So did Friends of Animals. We didn’t get an
answer, but FoA attorney Herman Kaufman got a response after hinting at legal action.
Gerard on July 3 promised that a financial report would be prepared and distributed to sponsors
“once we have determined all of our receipts and bills for the event.”
Gerard added, “Your estimate that total receipts generated for the event are ‘in
excess of $950,000’ is grossly exaggerated and has no foundation in fact.”
Replied Kaufman, citing the numbers above, “The ‘baseless’ figure came from
you. If this figure is incorrect, please correct it. Of course, one can only wonder why you
would assert false information.”
Kaufman added, “If our client does not receive an adequate answer to this letter
by Friday, July 12, we shall resort to other lawful means to obtain the requested answers.”
July 12 came and went. FoA is still waiting, as are we. Other sponsors have
begun to ask the obvious questions. But we’re also still waiting for an accounting of
receipts and expenditures for the 1990 March, which Gerard promised us in July 1990.
(Among the expenditures that interested us, the 1990 March employed then-Doris Day
Animal League attorney Bill Wewer as a contract attorney, even as Wewer’s wife Kathleen
Marquardt was founding the anti-animal rights group Putting People First––to which Wewer
Neither, apparently, did Gerard ever adequately account for $40,000 of a $50,000
grant he received from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society in December 1990,
according to NEAVS correspondence we have on file. The grant application appears to
have represented a retired schoolteacher in Pennsylvania as “the head of the Virginia
Department of Education.” The grant underwrote the production of an antivivisection skit,
that was presented, the correspondence indicates, just three times.
What it accomplished
Before June 23, the 1990 March may have been the most misguided waste of
funds in the history of the animal rights movement. Counting participants’ travel and lodging,
it sapped $7.2 million, more than the total budget of PETA for the previous fiscal year,
to win 82.5 column inches of news coverage in national print media, of which 40% was
essentially negative, and just a few seconds of TV time. Fundraising by animal rights
groups was depressed for months afterward, as appeals came back with notes saying, “We
spent all our money on the march”; half a dozen then-influential national animal rights
groups collapsed, including Gerard’s 1990 umbrella, the National Alliance for Animal
Legislation, which he apparently dissolved and reincorporated without the word “legislation”
in the title, an implication of purpose.
The 1996 March cost less, if only because fewer people came: about $2.5 million.
It drew 88 column inches of news coverage and slightly more TV time than the 1990 March,
too. But 65% of the coverage was negative, featuring the pro-vivisection hijinks of the
AIDS activist group ACT UP, orchestrated by Americans for Medical Progress, a front
almost entirely funded by the U.S. Surgical Corporation. Attracting second-most media
note was a press conference held by the Foundation for Biomedical Research.
As Brad Miller of the Humane Farming Association noted in a rueful post-mortem,
“If you don’t adequately frame the issue, the opposition will.”
The March could have addressed the animal issues where public opinion and political
action are most out of synchronicity, particularly in connection with hunting and trapping.
Popular focal points could have included the federally funded Animal Damage
Control program, whose main purpose for 66 years has been needlessly killing coyotes;
hunter-and-trapper control of wildlife programs; the recent expansion of hunting in
National Parks and National Wildlife Refuges; use of tax money to recruit young hunters;
and hunters’ and trappers’ violations of property rights with impunity because under current
law, land is presumed open to recreational wildlife-killing unless posted otherwise.
The March could have offered a specific and timely counterpoint to the Alliance
for America’s pro-hunting, pro-trapping, pro-grazing, anti-Endangered Species Act “FlyIn
for Freedom,” held the same week. It didn’t try. While a mere 250 wise-use wiseguys
hustled Congress, the Marchers partied, miles away, at the U.S. Air Arena.
As sociologist Bill Moyer warned animal rights leadership at the September 1989
Movement Action Planning workshop co-hosted by ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher Kim
Bartlett and FoA president Priscilla Feral, public protests tend to lose participants and
become bad strategy just as movements gain their initial objectives, including a place in
public policy-making. The animal rights movement did help gain the reduction by half of
population control killing in animal shelters, retail fur sales, and use of animals in biomedical
research; the $45 million commitment of Procter & Gamble and lesser but still significant
commitments by other major manufacturers to developing and using alternatives to animal
testing; major reforms within the zoo and aquarium community; and a 33% drop in
hunting participation. Opinion polls––see page 19––show that support for the essential concepts
of animal rights has never been stronger, and promises to continue changing society.
But support for treating animals decently is not to be confused with blind support
of wasteful tactics, or of organizations and individuals who take liberties with public trust,
from using exaggerated and inaccurate statistics in direct mailings to hyping a make-work
project for organizers as a landmark political event.
As Bartlett warned in March 1990, marching was never a good idea. “Some can’t
afford the expense of a trip to Washington D.C.,” she wrote. “Others can’t take the time
off; and still others, some of them the most committed, are overburdened by the responsibilities
of providing direct care to needy animals. Shelter workers, for example, cannot
close down operations for even a day. Many others may believe they can accomplish more
for animals by spending the weekend working on community projects or spending the
money on something that may have a more lasting effect.”
Successful marches draw upon an aggrieved constituency for participation––not
just activists. But animals in cages and feedlots can’t march. Neither can they demand
accountability of those who protest in their name, which makes it all the more important
that the rest of us make certain that whatever we purport to do for animals has purpose, efficiently
uses time and resources, and most of all, gets results.