Hindi learns the meaning of honor among thieves, HSUS, and Hollywood
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 1998:
BEVERLY HILLS, Calif.––Awaiting introduction
from the stage by Ark Trust founder and Genesis Awards host
Gretchen Wyler at the March 28 Genesis Awards ceremony in
the Beverly Hilton, Chicago Animal Rights Coalition founder
Steve Hindi might have thought he didn’t have to watch his
backside among the assembled celebrities and animal protection
After serving five weeks of a five-month sentence in
the McHenry County Jail, for allegedly committing contempt
of court by asking hunters to stop killing geese, Hindi had been
released on appeal bond two weeks earlier by order of the
Illinois Supreme Court.
Now Hindi was to be acknowledged, for the first
time outside of ANIMAL PEOPLE, for his extensive undercover
video documentation of the use of electroshock to make
bulls buck at rodeos. Not credited on the air, Hindi’s work
was the basis for two Genesis Award-winning September 1997
episodes of the TV news magazine show Hard Copy.
Mentioning Hindi only in passing, CHARC not at all, the
Hard Copy series included only brief video clips and no interview
material from the Humane Society of the U.S., but in
concluding seemed to credit the whole thing to HSUS,
announcing that HSUS was soon to unveil an anti-rodeo campaign
and referring viewers to their “local branch of the
Not getting credit hurt. CHARC undercover video of
pigeon, turkey, and prairie dog shoots, deer culls, and other
forms of animal abuse has been extensively used over the past
six years by major animal protection groups, as well as news
media, but few users have ever either credited CHARC or provided
funding for the ongoing work. CHARC has consequently
often operated on borrowed money, for which Hindi is personally
liable. CHARC executive director Dug Hanbicki, on the
job fulltime for almost a year, has never been paid.
Hanbicki, her husband, and Hindi all flew to Los
Angeles and bought $150 tickets to the Genesis Awards in
hopes Wyler’s promised stage introduction would enable them
to connect at last with serious financial support.
Hindi and Vermont veterinarian/attorney Peggy
Larson, interviewed on the Hard Copy segment, hadbeen wondering
just what happened to the purported HSUS campaign,
which still hasn’t begun.
“We were much looking forward to a strong campaign
from a larger organization,” Hindi wrote to HSUS president
Paul Irwin on March 13, as reported in the April edition of
ANIMAL PEOPLE. “Where is the campaign? We are scraping
bottom financially, and would like to know when the relief
promised will arrive.”
Just before Wyler was to introduce Hindi, someone
slipped him a note in her handwriting.
“Dear Steve,” it read. “Welcome! I hope you have a
great & uplifting night. I’m so glad you’re no longer a prisoner!
Wheeee! I’m afraid I’ve decided not to introduce you from
the stage. Forgive me. But I read ANIMAL PEOPLE l a s t
night and the attack against HSUS has made me change my
plans. I ask your forgiveness. But I have never, don’t, nor
will I ever attack another animal organization. HSUS has been
my friend for 30 years and they are very much here tonight. I
protect my friends + you are one––so I ask you to try to understand.
HSUS senior vice president Wayne Pacelle was in the
Genesis Awards audience. Only minutes before, Pacelle had
informed Hindi that the Hard Copy announcement of an HSUS
anti-rodeo campaign was “a mistake,” as Hindi recalled the
brief confersation, albeit a mistake that HSUS had made no
evident effort to correct, as the Hard Copy episodes were
broadcast and re-broadcast during the intervening six months.
Pacelle, whom Wyler has described as “like a son” to
her, is married to Kristen Rosenberg, a former Ark Trust
staffer now working for The Animals’ Agenda magazine. Her
father is Los Angeles Times TV critic Howard Rosenberg.
Pacelle had been embarrassed just a week earlier
when Larson, speaking at the Pace University Law School
“Animals and the Law” conference on March 21, spotted him
in the audience.
“In front of 200-250 people,” Larson told ANIMAL
P E O P L E, “I asked Pacelle what, if anything, HSUS was
doing to fulfill its commitment. He shifted in his seat several
times and finally stated that he thought there was a brochure
coming out about rodeo, but since that was not in his department,
he did not know. I told him to motivate the proper people
at HSUS to get this campaign on the road. The audience
responded by clapping loudly and long.”
Also reportedly at the HSUS table for the Genesis
Awards were John Hoyt, president of HSUS and the affiliated
Humane Society International, 1970-1996, and now an active
president emeritus; HSUS vice president for wildlife John
Grandy; and a variety of other personnel.
Hindi may have embarrassed Hoyt in November 1995
by asking him at an HSUS-sponsored anti-marine mammal captivity
conference that preceded that year’s HSUS annual conference
why both conferences were featuring a speaker who, in
between addresses for HSUS, was making a promotional
appearance at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago––which was
preparing to capture three Pacific whitesided dolphins.
Hoyt is known for ruthless response to criticism. In
October 1988, for instance, when ANIMAL PEOPLE publisher
Bartlett edited Animals’ Agenda, ANIMAL PEOPLE
editor Merritt Clifton, then Animals’ Agenda news editor,
asked Hoyt for his response to three syndicated columns by
Jack Anderson questioning the size and manner of Hoyt’s compensation.
Then paid $139,000 a year, Hoyt had sold his home
to HSUS for $310,000––but continued to live there rent-free.
Instead of answering, Hoyt called Bartlett, and when she
refused to kill the story, axed $5,000 in grant support
toAnimals’ Agenda. Hoyt also killed the release of a book by
Clifton, a 300-page investigation of the fur trade, which HSUS
had contracted to publish and was to distribute within days.
Pacelle was then an Animals’ Agenda staffer, and
was among those who encouraged Bartlett to stand up to Hoyt.
So what happened?
“No one from HSUS requested I not introduce Hindi
or isolate or muzzle him,” Wyler told ANIMAL PEOPLE.
“Neither HSUS nor any person knew my plans of introduction
of special guests in the audience. As president, I alone make
Of HSUS support for the Ark Trust, Genesis
Awards, and California anti-trapping referendum campaign, in
which Wyler and Pacelle have leading roles, Wyler said,
“HSUS bought a premium table for the Genesis Awards. For
such a purchase each premium table receives a free ad in our
souvenir journal. That’s it! And no, HSUS has not been
solicited by me, nor has it offered future support of our work.
Happily, Wayne Pacelle was a major help in getting the acceptance
of Senator Barbara Boxer to be a Guest of Honor, and I
am most grateful for that assistance.”
The minimum price for a premium table at the
Genesis Awards, according to Ark Trust literature, is Golden
Ark sponsorship, at $5,000. HSUS was listed in the souvenir
journal as a Golden Ark sponsor.
“In view of your statement ‘I have never, don’t, nor
will I ever attack another animal organization,’”
ANIMAL PEOPLE a s k e d
Wyler, “have you forgotten your own
well-publicized lawsuit against the
American SPCA in 1974? That lawsuit
was perhaps the most prominent legal
action by activists against an animal protection
group between 1949 and 1986.
Do you not recognize a clear parallel
between your demand that the ASPCA should honor its charter
and Steve Hindi’s demand that HSUS should keep a promise?”
Responded Wyler, “As regards my lawsuit against
the ASPCA in 1974, I was on its board of directors, and I sued
the board for problems that existed at that time. I was intimately
familiar with the organization’s structure and finances. I see
no parallel between that personal action and one organization
attacking another from the outside.”
Wyler declined to answer follow-up questions as to
just what she felt she had to “protect” HSUS from, besides
public recognition of Hindi and CHARC for their work and
risk-taking, and whether her position was that one must be a
member of the board of directors of an organization in order to
call that organization to account for not keeping commitments.
Wyler also declined to explain what distinction she
drew between recognizing Hindi and recognizing Sea Shepherd
Conservation Society founder Captain Paul Watson as a 1998
Genesis Awards guest of honor. Watson has extensively criticised
Greenpeace, of which he was a founding member, since
departing to start Sea Shepherd in 1977, and has also at times
prominently ripped the International Fund for Animal Welfare
and HSUS for alleged breaches of public faith, including in
guest columns for ANIMAL PEOPLE.
Watson told ANIMAL PEOPLE that if he had
known what happened, or had even known Hindi was at the
Genesis Awards, he would have introduced Hindi from the
stage himself. Having just flown to Los Angeles after a month
in the Gulf of St. Lawrence protesting against the Canadian seal
hunt, Watson said he had believed Hindi was still in jail.
At least one past Genesis Awards guest of honor,
dolphin freedom advocate Ric O’Barry, has also hit HSUS in
ANIMAL PEOPLE for allegedly not keeping commitments.
Broke, busted, disgusted
But DELTA Rescue founder Leo Grillo said the
Hindi snub wasn’t the first or worst such case. “DELTA
Rescue was for years and years a Golden Ark supporter of the
Ark Trust,” Grillo told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “After five or six
years I nominated radio commentator George Putnam for an
award. Putnam, who was 83, had helped just about everyone
in animal protection who ever came through Los Angeles to get
started, including the Ark Trust. Wyler agreed, and Putnam
got a letter saying how marvelous it was that the Ark Trust
would be honoring his work. Then a month later Putnam got a
second letter withdrawing the award, claiming it was because
the Ark Trust had changed its policies on who could be honored
for what. One of the Ark Trust board members told me,”
Grillo said, “that another board member had opposed honoring
Putnam because of his ultra-right politics. We told her this was
totally wrong. We offered our own advertising space in the
program to honor Putnam.”
When the impasse couldn’t be resolved, and an
award meanwhile went to Chris DeRose of Last Chance for
Animals for setting up an attempted on-camera sting of former
Wisconsin dog dealer Erwin Stebane that involved undercover
operatives hiring Stebane to kill a dog, DELTA Rescue broke
off participation in the Genesis Awards. [Charges against
Stebane for the dog-killing were thrown out of court on grounds
of entrapment. Stebane was put out of business on a set of
USDA charges pertaining to other transactions.] Hindi and CHARC, disappointed and broke, just got
back to work investigating and exposing animal abuse. Video
by Hanbicki of animal-killing at the Minneapolis live markets
so horrified local reporters that one ran out of a March 31 press
conference, Hindi said, and several other reporters said they
couldn’t watch any more.
In early April CHARC helped a British TV crew produce
an expose of rodeo, threatened to boycott the Marshall
Fields department store chain if it doesn’t drop rodeo sponsorship,
and asked the American Veterinary Medical Association
to reconsider its endorsement of rodeos that follow the humane
guidelines set by the Professional Rodeo Cowboys Association.
Recent CHARC videos, Hindi told AVMA, document that
“even PRCA rodeos do not follow PRCA humane guidelines,”
while the PRCA has taken no public disciplinary action against
clearly identified alleged offenders.