Editorial: How they get your money
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 1998:
Each annual update of our December “Who gets the money?” feature brings a
blizzard of letters. Consisting mainly of statistics, with explanatory margin notes, “Who
gets the money?” could look rather dull––just a straightforward factual statement of the
budgets, assets, program versus overhead spending balance, and top salaries paid by the
100-odd most prominent animal and habitat protection charities.
Our readers, however, not only peruse the fine print, but beg for more.
“Percentages of money utilized for the stated goals is important,” wrote Delores
Hughes, of Santa Cruz, California, “but even more important is the question, ‘Are they
accomplishing anything worthwhile?’”
Elaborated Joan Winburn Hymas, of Cathedral City, California, “Is there any
way of determining how much good organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the
Humane Society of the U.S. are doing?”
Others ask us, repeatedly, to rank organizations by quality.
We always refuse, since that would require making value judgements that we’d
prefer readers make for themselves, using their own criteria. Individuals and organizations
tend to have differing priorities and tactical perceptions. One party might think the best
way to fight cruelty is to fight the meat industry first, because if eating animals is accepted,
people tend to feel animal life in general has low moral value. Someone else might argue
that fighting suffering among dogs and cats should come first, as these are the animals with
whom the most people identify. Once a certain standard of treatment of pets is established,
this theory goes, better attitudes will carry over to the treatment of other species. Others
might put the emphasis on stopping hunting, trapping, and other recreational torment of
animals, because such practices lack moral defense.
Many other priorities might be chosen, without any choice being “right” to the
exclusion of all others––and then there is the question of how best to achieve the goal.
Should one seek reform, or only abolition? Should one pursue protest, legislation, litigation,
mitigation, education, reduction, refinement, replacement, or direct action? Is the
object immediate redress of a grievance, or effecting longterm change in public attitudes?
Different approaches must be attempted, as a way of finding out what may best resolve the
issue. Further, the more diverse the voices of animal and habitat protection, the more
chance there is to involve people of widely differing background and outlook.
In short, we can’t and won’t pretend to objectively tell you “how much good
organizations such as the World Wildlife Fund and the Humane Society of the U.S. are
doing,” or how much good any other organization is doing in objective terms, because
there isn’t a uniform measure to apply.
But we can and will give you our editorial opinion that WWF and HSUS are topheavy
with overpaid administrators, obsessed with fundraising to the point of obscuring
and even misrepresenting programs, and in our view much less than ethical in claiming
credit for the deeds of others.
Such organizations do occasionally recruit people of actual accomplishment for
animals, whose presence helps maintain a good facade. In this, we perceive a parallel to
Organized Crime seeking legitimacy through co-opting church and government officials.
We’ll also explain that despite their similar operating styles, WWF and HSUS
stand for totally different policies, and if you give to both, one donation cancels the other.
Started by trophy hunters, WWF has always advocated funding conservation by killing animals,
a philosophy which it calls “sustainable use.” HSUS opposes hunting, as HSUS
president Paul Irwin explains in the current issue of HSUS News.
But is HSUS effective in opposing hunting? Answering that question requires a
value judgement. Cleveland Amory, an HSUS cofounder in 1954, resigned from the
board 20 years later to form The Fund for Animals because HSUS was insufficiently
aggressive against hunting. After some misdirection in the early 1990s under a national
director now with HSUS, we believe The Fund is again the most effective national organization
in opposing hunting. We put quite a few others well ahead of HSUS––and warn that
while National Wildlife Federation mailings and publications often don’t even mention
hunting, NWF is and always has been the national umbrella for 48 state hunting clubs.
Okay, cancel donations to WWF, NWF, and HSUS––but does that mean you
should send all your anti-hunting gifts to The Fund? Not necessarily. Smaller organizations,
such as the Chicago Animal Rights Coalition, may be more tactically creative,
doing more about the specific kinds of hunting that most trouble you, more active in your
community, and/or in more urgent need of your help.
Whatever you do, when you get an appeal in the mail, put it aside and think about
the source. Since charitable fundraising has been judicially held to be a protected form of
free speech, it is virtually impossible to convict a charity of mail fraud just for misleading
donors. It’s up to you to protect yourself.
We urge readers to use their own judgement––carefully, with ANIMAL PEOPLE
in hand. We cover the whole animal protection field, as broadly, thoroughly, and
fairly as possible. Over time, you should be able to get a reasonable perspective as to who’s
doing what. Then you can decide for yourself whether an organization is worth supporting.
Beware of organizations whose stated activities seem to mirror those of every other
organization. Often you’re reading about just one project, undertaken in some tourist mecca
by one or two representatives each from a number of affiliated organizations. We recently
received––all in one day––the magazines of HSUS, the World Society for the Protection of
Animals (which has long shared board members with HSUS and the Massachusetts SPCA),
and the Animal Protection Institute. The three publications looked similar, with significant
overlapping content. Although API has no direct link to HSUS, one API feature was an
excerpt from a book by an HSUS vice president.
Cynics that we are, we scoured each publication for evidence of actual program
accomplishment. Beneath mounds of rhetoric, we found that:
• The HSUS affiliate Humane Society International was involved in some lowbudget
mostly symbolic activities in India and mainland China.
• Instead of introducing low-cost, high-volume sterilization to solve Taiwan’s
stray dog problem, HSUS and WSPA are working to overcome the aversion of many
Taiwanese dogcatchers to killing dogs, by teaching them how to inject sodium pentobarbitol––which
is unavailable there at killing strength. (See page 10.)
• HSUS and API are both backing a California anti-trapping initiative of, so far as
we can tell, chiefly symbolic value. (See page 5.)
• HSUS, WSPA, and API object to how horses are treated in connection with
making the estrogen supplement Premarin. ANIMAL PEOPLE brought that abuse to the
attention of other news media and national animal advocacy groups back in April
1993––and many advocacy groups’ so-called special reports have added little new detail.
• HSUS, WSPA, and API are also upset by several recent deaths of circus elephants.
API addressed the matter by publishing a report from another organization. ANIMAL
PEOPLE extensively exposed the same cases in October 1997.
• HSUS has begun a national campaign to advance awareness that animal abuse,
child abuse, and spouse abuse are often all committed by the same individual––a link the
American Humane Association has publicized, with varying levels of intensity, since 1876.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has extensively publicized the same linkage, and the more politically
controversial association of hunting with child abuse, since inception.
• API laments the maternal deprivation experiments of Harry Harlow, who died in
1981, a decade after his notorious maternal deprivation laboratory at the University of
Wisconsin was dismantled. Similar work may be going on at the University of Colorado,
but since API did not furnish details, it’s hard to know.
• WSPA was involved in about as many photogenic single-animal rescues during
1997 as your local humane society, but WSPA’s were in exciting world hotspots. WSPA
special projects director John Walsh personally adopted a dog.
These were among the hot-button items that HSUS, WSPA, and API executives
think will wring the most donations out of you.
Learn to recognize recycled campaigns: the established gift-grabbing themes that
direct mail mills hit you with at every turn of the “free” calendar page, because they know
you’ll give whenever they ask. We’ve cited some examples of campaign recycling above.
Other old issues we’ve seen used in appeals lately include the hugely misdirected boycott of
Procter & Gamble, since 1984 the firm with by far the best record of abolishing animal testing;
the head-transplant experiments of Robert White, halted in 1970; the Silver Spring
monkeys, whose case surfaced in 1983; and allegations that millions of animals per year
are stolen for laboratory use, circulating at least since 1964––though no cases of this oncecommon
crime have been verified since 1993 (page 9).
If an appeal tells you things you already know, doublecheck the text. If it tells you
things you don’t know, doublecheck the accuracy. When in doubt, send us a copy of the
material and we’ll find out what’s behind it.
Finally, compare the volume of appeals you’re receiving with the value of your gifts.
Because it takes money to make money enough to carry out programs, charities often spend the
first $10 per year you send them trying to get further gifts. You’ll accordingly accomplish far
more by sending bigger gifts to fewer organizations.
Our reporting will help you find them. And once you’ve made your choices, while
you’re mailing out your checks, please send us one, too.
Your help is the only thing that makes our work possible.