“Euthanize the Summit,” says Berger

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1998:

HOLLYWOOD, Calif.–– The
1998 Summit for the Animals, an assembly
of animal protection group leaders held annually
since 1983, met March 26-28 in
Hollywood, California, with expected
income of $17,905, of which only $11,455
had been collected. Unpaid dues and sponsorship
totaled $5,500, according to a balance
sheet distributed to participants. But even if
all debts were collected, expenses of $23,846
would leave a deficit of about $6,000.

Noting the absence of PETA, In
Defense of Animals, the Humane Farming
Association, and Friends of Animals in recent
years, and the growing tendency of other
organizations to send middle-ranking staff
rather than heads, Animal Protection Institute
executive director Alan Berger argued in a
position paper that, “As currently constituted,
this should be the Summit’s last year. We
will not pay dues to attend the Summit again,”
Berger warned. “This is not a productive use
of our members’ donations.”
Berger also offered a few words
about the Summit policy of excluding media.
“We are missing a great opportunity,”
he suggested. “In theory, each year the
leaders of the major animal rights organizations
meet. This should be newsworthy. We
should at the very least issue a news release at
the end of the Summit to publicize some
results. This would mean we would need
some reportable results,” he noted.
“Maybe we should have a news
conference,” Berger suggested. “The press
could be invited to a discussion of a major
issue, or even a debate.”
Covertly obtained Summit coverage
has often appeared in the newsletters of biomedical
research and agribusiness political
fronts, but the Summit participants have
always resisted open coverage by either
humane or mainstream media, on the pretext
that this might discourage frank exchange.
This policy contributed to the debut
of ANIMAL PEOPLE. At the March 1992
Summit, delegates berated then-A n i m a l s ’
A g e n d a editor Kim Bartlett for purportedly
harming “movement unity” by publishing
their salaries and by publishing an expose of
alleged nepotism at the National AntiVivisection
Society, authored by thenAnimals’
Agenda news editor Merritt Clifton
from documents leaked by NAVS staff,
including Don Barnes, then head of the
NAVS Washington D.C. office, who
remained with NAVS until 1997.
The Summit did not rebuke NAVS,
however, for practices appearing to amount to
the use of assets chiefly for the personal benefit
of president Margaret Cunniff and family,
including the purchase of a $20,000 TVequipped
van apparently used mostly by her
husband Kenneth Cunniff––who had and still
has his own separate high-profile law practice.
Clifton then reported on the failure
of the Summit to address any aspect of the
NAVS situation except that it had been made
public. The evident conflicts of interest at
NAVS grew with the discovery that NAVS
held major revenue-producing investments in
firms which were under boycott by other animal
rights groups for practicing vivisection.
The report appeared in the May
1992 edition of Animals’ Agenda, mailed in
mid-April. Summit delegates who formed the
Animals’ Agenda board majority fired Clifton
on May 1. Bartlett then resigned.
ANIMAL PEOPLE, published by
Bartlett, edited by Clifton, has attended the
Summit only once, in 1995, when Clifton––
by invitation of several then-Summit executive
committee members who no longer participate––warned
the delegates about the
increasingly corrosive effect on public opinion
of continued self-aggrandising leadership,
inaccurate campaign claims, and self-defeating
As the Summit is closed to
reporters, Clifton did not enter the room until
time to speak, and left immediately after

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