Help the Watchdog bark!
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2003:
We are still alive and barking after a 10-month fight for our lives.
As explained in the article beginning on
page one, the fundraiser Bruce Eberle and his
company Fund Raising Strategies sued ANIMAL
PEOPLE in July 2002 for “libel” and “interfering
with a business relationship.”
Eberle’s “libel” claims were so unclear
that for months we could not even figure out what
he claimed we got wrong. We have always promptly
corrected errors, when informed what they are,
and the corrections we have now published could
have been made at any time, for the asking, if
the evidence of error had been presented to us.
Indeed, of the three items enumerated in
the page one correction statement, ANIMAL PEOPLE
had already corrected the first, to the extent
of our ability to do so at the time, upon
learning through our own research that an error
might have been made. We had also published
Eberle’s response to the second item, involving
an error made in a statement by one of his own
clients. The third item pertains to the
possibility that three ambiguous sentences might
have been read out of context, only one of which
appeared in an ANIMAL PEOPLE regular edition.
But the case was not actually about
correcting errors. It was an attempt to muzzle
the ANIMAL PEOPLE Watchdog so that Eberle and FRS
could go on filling animal charity donors’
mailboxes with an endless stream of fundraising
solicitations while using the lion’s share of the
receipts to pay for printing and mailing even
When animal charities get involved with
direct mail mills, it is like taking the bite of
the vampire: fundraising expense sucks the
lifeblood of the charity, and turns it into a
kind of zombie who from then on mainly exists to
do more fundraising.
We have survived a legal battle we
couldn’t afford–but it was a battle we could not
afford to lose: not for the suffering animals
who go unaided because too much of the money sent
to help them goes to fuel the fundraising
machine, not for the generous people who think
their donations are helping animals, and not for
the struggling but responsible animal charities
who use most of the money sent to them for their
stated charitable purpose.
The fight took all we had, against a
well-connected foe with the advantage of wealth.
In the end, however, despite 10 months of legal
fees and major stress, ANIMAL PEOPLE did not
retreat in any way from exposing the truth.
We believe ANIMAL PEOPLE readers have a
right to know about the findings of the 1992 U.S.
Senate Select Committee on MIA/POW about Eberle’s
role in mailing approximately 40 direct mail
appeals on behalf of a “charity” that raised
money around bogus sightings of U.S. prisoners of
We believe ANIMAL PEOPLE readers have a
right to know that Eberle raised funds for former
U.S. Senator Jesse Helms in at least three
election campaigns–the Senator whose amendment
to the Animal Welfare Act excluded from
protection more than 90% of the animals used in
We believe ANIMAL PEOPLE readers have a
right to know of the financial patterns among the
animal charities Eberle represents, whose
fundraising and administrative expenses often run
twice as high as the ceiling of 35% set by the
Wise Giving Alliance.
What that means, in effect, is that if
you send money to the charities represented by
Eberle and FRS, your donations are likely to get
less than half as much benefit for the animals
and more than twice as many more fundraising
appeals per penny spent on animals as when you
donate to the overwhelming majority of other
animal charities who do not use hired-gun
What the Eberle charge of “interfering
with a business relationship” meant, we gather,
is that since we began putting the background
about Eberle and the animal charities he
represents into print in September 2000, readers
have become more cautious about where they send
their money, and the more than 9,500 animal
charities that get free subscriptions to ANIMAL
PEOPLE have become more careful about who they
allow to rent their mailing lists.
To animal protection donors–and ANIMAL
PEOPLE–charity on behalf of animals is not just
about having a “business relationship.” We
believe that if someone asks for money on behalf
of a lion at the Kabul Zoo, for example, the
lion should get the lion’s share: most of the
money, not just most of the money after
fundraising expense. We believe that ethical
animal charities do not ask for money on behalf
of a lion who is in the care of other charities,
with whom they have no partnership, and most
certainly do not ask for money on behalf of a
lion who is already dead.
ANIMAL PEOPLE published our enumerated
and detailed standards for ethical animal
charities and fundraisers as the editorial in our
May 2003 edition. It amounts, as well, to a
“Bill of Rights” for donors.
Among the most important rights of donors
that are implied in the ANIMAL PEOPLE standards:
You have a right to be truthfully,
accurately, and currently informed about the
charities you support.
You have a right to expect that the
money you send will be used to help the animals
you donate to assist.
You have a right to demand accountability.
You have a right to demand high-quality
animal care–not just whatever meets the often
minimal legal requirements.
You have a right to know the policies
that the groups you support are advocating and
You have a right to know if a charity
is directed by people of questionable integrity
or with conflicts of interest.
You have a right to expect that animal
charities and any outside fundraisers they hire
should operate with the same concern for animals
that you have–that they should exemplify
themselves the qualities of compassion and
decency to which they appeal when they ask for
Bills of rights are often won at a
fearsome price–which is why so many humans and
nonhuman animals have suffered without rights for
so long–and why it was morally incumbent upon us
to stand up and insist upon our rights and the
rights of animals in a case that combined the
To extend the necessary right of freedom
from abuse and exploitation to animals, we had
to defend our own constitutional right to freedom
of speech and press, against an opponent whose
chief legal strategy appeared to be attempting to
raise the cost of exposing him as high as
possible, seemingly regardless of the cost to
We will probably never know how much
Eberle spent, but at a guess it might have been
three to five times the $100,000 or more it will
have cost us–in defense of our right to publish;
your right to know; the many honest,
hardworking, mostly volunteer and low-overhead
animal charities that you prefer to support; and
most important, in defense of neglected and
abused animals everywhere, who depend upon your
The fortune that Eberle invested in
attempting to silence ANIMAL PEOPLE is a hint at
how lucrative fundraising on behalf of animals
may be, if no one barks an alarm when the lions
and other animals do not get the lion’s share of
each donated dollar.
Who is suffering because of this?
Let us explain very briefly what this case cost the animals.
Who is really suffering because Bruce Eberle wanted to shut us up?
To pay our attorneys, we had to suspend
translating ANIMAL PEOPLE articles into French
and Spanish for posting at our web site to
assist Third World animal charities.
In April we were unable to mail some of
the complimentary overseas subscriptions that we
normally send to every animal charity, and we
are facing greater cuts now.
How much does this hurt?
Fenua Animalia president Eric Loève
stressed the value of our translations recently
in this e-mail from Motu Uta, Tahiti, in French
“The French version of Animal People on
the Internet is a wonderful idea and I want to
thank you. As a webmaster myself, I know the
huge work of maintaining a multi-lingual site.
Your French version is timely because French is
widely spoken in many countries where the
conditions for animals are awful. ANIMAL PEOPLE
cannot be rewarded enough.”
Eric Loève is using how-to information
obtained from the French translations of ANIMAL
PEOPLE to organize an island-by-island campaign
to sterilize the estimated 100,000 homeless cats
and dogs in French Polynesia.
How necessary was our battle?
Kalahari Raptor Centre director Chris
Mercer has had much experience fighting
comparably costly court cases against the
pro-hunting wildlife management establishment in
South Africa–one of the nations whose animal
charities did not receive our April edition.
“I believe it would be a mistake to total
up the costs and regard any of the money spent as
‘wasted,'” Mercer recently volunteered. “Your
mission as I understand it is to advance the
cause of animal welfare, and if that means
taking on exploitative fundraisers like Bruce
Eberle, discrediting them and increasing the
difficulty of carrying on their activities, then
you are being true to your mission.”
Angels stepped forward to help us. We
were wondering how we would pay the legal bills
for March, for example, when we received an
unexpected bequest from Florida activist Andrea
Konci, who felt very strongly about animal
charity accountability and, unknown to us,
amended her will in the last days of her life to
help us fight the good fight.
But if angels alone could win and defend
a Bill of Rights, there would have been no need
for an American Revolution — and as Independence
Day approaches, we are depending on you to help
us rebuild and recover. Though still holding our
banner high and banging the drums, we are
limping. If we could have just one more angel,
we would choose Paul Revere’s dog, who drove
back the redcoats when they tried to seize
Revere, then raced ahead to awaken Lexington and
Concord to hear the alarm.
Eleven years ago, in 1992, we founded
ANIMAL PEOPLE for the same reasons we fought
Bruce Eberle: far too often, the lions do not
get the lions’ share of your generosity. When
donated dollars go mostly into fundraising and
administration, instead of into actual work on
behalf of animals, animals go hungry,
unvaccinated, unsterilized, exposed to
poisoning, shooting, cooking, vivisection,
and all the many other abuses that have continued
while millions of dollars have been raised–and
paid to fundraisers and overpaid executives–in
the name of saving those animals.
We exposed that truth originally as
employees at another publication, now defunct.
Merritt was fired, Kim resigned. We maxed out
our personal credit to start ANIMAL PEOPLE and
worked for years with little or no pay to make it
succeed, against the concerted opposition of
big-group leaders (some of them no longer in the
cause) who sought to suppress our disclosures
about their salaries and perks.
ANIMAL PEOPLE survived because hundreds
of cat-ladies, dog-rescuers, and protesters
against every sort of cruelty realized the
importance of effectively directing donations,
and pitched in when the chips were down, to help
us to continue our accountability reporting and
extend our outreach
to the animal rescuers and activists in the
poorest and most miserable parts of the world.
We need you to contribute again–whatever
you can–to keep the ANIMAL PEOPLE “Watchdog”
Thank you in advance for helping generously.