Editorial: Donor defense in a desperate cause

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2003:

Starting on page 12, ANIMAL PEOPLE for
the 14th year presents “Who gets the money?”
This popular annual feature reveals the financial
affairs of the animal-related charities whose
appeals are most likely to land in your mailbox.
It explains which organizations have money, how
they get it, and what they do with it.
Three pages of prefatory notes help
readers to interpret the numbers. As a further
aid to donors, ANIMAL PEOPLE each spring
publishes a comprensive handbook, The Watchdog
Report on Animal Charities, supplementing the
financial data with succinct descriptions of
programs and any policy or administrative matters
of special note. At $25 per copy, The Watchdog
Report costs less than 25ยข per charity evaluated,
a bargain for any frequent pro-animal donor.

As detailed on page 10, pro-animal
donors may expect to receive more direct mail
appeals in 2004 than ever before, because the
U.S. Postal Service in mid-November 2003 handed
the direct mail industry an early
multi-million-dollar Christmas present.
In addition to loaning charities the cost
of launching direct mail solicitations, often at
steep interest rates, and reserving the right to
keep mailing in the names of the charities to pay
themselves back, whether or not the charities
net a cent, direct mailing firms now can use
nonprofit rates.
More than ever, animal protection donors
need to learn to defend themselves against
aggressive high-volume mailers.
The best way, beyond making extensive
use of “Who gets the money?” and The Watchdog
Report, is to pitch straight into the trash
unopened any solicitation that comes in the name
of any charity that hits you up repeatedly with
the same mailings, and any charity about which
you have no information from an independent
If you wish to research a charity that we
have not listed and you have web access, you can
quickly run searches for independent information
about it via Google, <www.guidestar.org>,
<www.elibrary.com>, and <www.newslibrary.com>.
If the charity is new, you can search on
the names of the founders. If the founders have
a credible public history, their charity will
probably also be credible. If, on the other
hand, you find that the proprietors of a
faltering roadside zoo are trying to pass it off
as a sanctuary, or that the director of a new
humane society has been convicted of embezzling,
or that the president has been repeatedly charged
with animal hoarding, the charity is likely to
help the mailing house more than the animals.
If the founders of a new animal charity
have no public history, they probably also lack
the experience and the media skills to be
successful. Animal charities that grow into
their mission tend to be founded by people who
have previously worked in responsible capacities
for other animal charities, have been quoted by
news media, have written well-informed
letters-to-the-editor on animal-related topics,
and are already known and respected by their
peers in animal-related charity work. Very few
successful founders come seemingly out of nowhere.
If a charity sends you the same mailing
over and over, you can bet your name appears
repeatedly on the lists the charity is renting,
and that the charity is renting lots of lists
because it is doing “cold” prospecting mailings
in very high volume.
Each direct mail packet you receive
typically costs the sender between $1.00 and
$2.00 to print and mail, at current prices, so
if you get mailings from a charity ten times a
year, the charity hopes you will donate more
than $10-$20 per year. If your typical donation
is less than $20, every cent you send is likely
to be used in trying to get you to give more.
Beat the game: don’t respond to any
charity that tries to play you like a slot
machine. Narrow your list down to the handful of
charities about which you know the most,
preferably from personal contact. Generously
help them, and do nothing whatever to reward or
encourage the direct mail mills, including by
writing to ask to be dropped from their lists.
No charity can drop you from a rented list–but
your response is likely to be taken as an
indication that you are reading the appeals you
are sent, making you a hotter prospect.
If you volunteer any information about
yourself and/or the charities you prefer to
support, those details may well go into shaping
future mailings to appeal to you more.
As well as watching out for overt scams
and direct mail mills it is worthwhile to
crosscheck the “factual” claims made in mailings.
For example, a recent mailing by Last
Chance for Animals stated that, “In 1996, LCA
busted one of the most ruthless Class B dealers,
Irvin Stebani. Stebani was captured on hidden
camera taking a springer spaniel by the neck,
tethering it to a pole, shooting it in the head,
and butchering it for food for the local Hmong
and Vietnamese community. Our intense undercover
investigation and covert footage were the keys to
putting Stebani out of business,” the mailing
claimed. “He was the first to have his license
permanently revoked by the USDA due to the
tremendous pressure of LCA’s media campaigns.”
What actually happened, detailed by
ANIMAL PEOPLE at the time with extensive quotes
from Last Chance for Animals founder Chris
DeRose, is that in 1993 two undercover
operatives of LCA paid Wisconsin animal dealer
Erving Stebane $50 to kill and butcher the dog
while DeRose clandestinely videotaped the action.
Felony charges were filed, but in June 1993
Calumet County circuit judge Donald Poppy ruled
that the case constituted illegal entrapment and
ordered the return of 143 dogs who had been
seized from Stebane.
The USDA Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service had fined Stebane in 1987 for
repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act,
appealed seeking stiffer penalties when an
administrative law judge suspended Stebane’s
operating permit for only 20 days, and continued
to cite him for violations, but lacked the legal
instrument to put him out of business until the
Pet Theft Act came into effect in January 1993.
In February 1993 the USDA put four Class
B dealers out of business by cutting off their
access to dogs from undocumented Canadian
sources, based on information provided by ANIMAL
PEOPLE. Cases were opened against many other
Stebane was permanently put out of
business by the USDA as part of a February 1994
plea bargain pertaining to multiple alleged AWA
violations, mostly predating any involvement by
Last Chance for Animals.

The “conservation” scam

Donors must also learn to resist “green”
rhetoric and cute photos of baby animals used in
appeals by conservation charities which speak of
providing “sanctuary” to wildlife even as they
open their lands to sport hunting, promote
indigenous destruction of animals in the name of
“sustainable use,” and annihilate any species
deemed to be feral, non-native or “invasive,” a
buzzword sometimes used to rationalize killing
native species too.
“Conservation” itself is a suspect word,
having been popularized in the late 19th century
by National Audubon Society and Boone & Crocket
Club founder George Bird Grinnell counter to the
efforts of the American Humane Association,
beginning in 1877, to ban sport hunting in New
York state and to pass a federal law protecting
endangered animals. It was in opposition to
humane goals that “conservation” became the
campaign theme of pro-hunting organizations
including the National Wildlife Federation, the
Wilderness Society, and the Nature Conservancy,
some of which pretend to neutrality on hunting,
we suspect, chiefly because the pro-hunting
political status quo is in no current danger,
while huge shares of their revenue comes from
non-hunters who are unfamiliar with their history.
The trophy hunters who founded and still
hold significant influence over the World
Wildlife Fund added to the mantra of
“conservation” the equally misleading phrase
“sustainable use.” This term means that the
organizations endorsing it believe that animals
should be “used” (mainly “harvested”) to fund
“conservation,” unless killing the animals
jeopardizes the survival of a species.
Most conservation groups are genuinely
interested in protecting endangered species, but
primarily so they can be “sustainably used” in
the future, or because the presence of
endangered species is helpful in protecting
scenic landscapes from development.
This kind of concern for endangered
species does not extend even to individuals of
endangered species. Few conservation charities
have any hesitation about “culling” animals from
endangered species breeding programs if they are
considered poor breeding specimens or
“genetically redundant.” Many endorse
exterminating every predator or potential
competitor for many miles around the sites where
endangered species are returned to the wild,
even though learning to evade predators and
compete successfully for food and nesting sites
is essential to the survival of any wild animal.
The Nature Conservancy and allied regional
conservancies worldwide have been exceptionally
aggressive about killing non-native species on
their property, even when the non-native species
are ancient breeds of livestock which are in fact
scarcer than some of the sea birds they are being
killed to “protect.”
Some animals who are endangered in the
wild are abundant in captivity. The silence of
the mainstream conservation groups about their
fate is deafening. No major conservation
charity is prominently opposed to “canned hunts,”
even when the victims are captive-bred tigers and
leopards. The Nature Conservancy even rents
property to canned hunts, while the National
Audubon Society recently hosted a deer cull by
bowhunters on property it owns in Greenwich,
Connecticut, which amounted to a canned hunt.
Mainstream conservation groups are not
opposed to the fur trade, if the furs are not
from endangered species. Thus furriers now
proudly assure their customers that the skins
they sell are not from “endangered animals.”
Much of the cheap fur used on fur-trimmed
garments imported from China is from dogs and
cats slaughtered for meat, exempted from the
U.S. fur labeling laws because the laws do not
apply to garments costing less than $50.
No major conservation group appears to
actively oppose bear-bile farming so long as the
bears are not taken from the wild. None has
called for closure of the notoriously cruel and
filthy live markets of southern China, which are
responsible for depleting wild animals throughout
Asia. Some conservation groups have denounced
the bushmeat trade in Africa and South America,
but usually with exemptions for “indigenous
subsistence,” which provides the cover for
thinly disguised commercial bushmeat hunting. In
central Africa some representatives of mainstream
conservation groups have reportedly gone so far
as to encourage the locals to eat dogs instead of
bushmeat, and two representatives of the London
Zoological Society recently called for making the
bushmeat trade “sustainable.”
Particularly dismaying is that some
charities which portray themselves to donors as
veritable animal rights groups display entirely
different values abroad. For example, as
ANIMAL PEOPLE documented in November 2003 (with
follow-up in this edition), the British-based
Born Free Foundation has endorsed shooting
healthy homeless dogs in Bale Mountains National
Park, purportedly to stop an outbreak of rabies
among the highly endangered Ethiopian wolves who
inhabit the park. The outbreak could have been
prevented if a vaccination project sponsored by
Born Free had been extended to the homeless dogs,
as the Homeless Animal Protection Society
repeatedly recommended. Of note is that even
before the rabies outbreak started, the founder
of the Ethiopian Wolf Conservation Program was on
record as wanting to kill the homeless dogs to
prevent them from hybridizing with the wolves.
Nature eventually balances itself if
humans leave it alone long enough, but the
philosophy of “conservation” is founded on the
concept of “managing” nature like a farm.
Nature fills the niches of extirpated
predators such as wolves with other predators,
including feral species, who expand their
territories to fill the void, at least until the
previous dominant predator species recover, but
feral species are hated by many mainstream
environmentalists and conservationists as much as
the extirpated animals were loathed by livestock
farmers who wanted them all killed to protect
their sheep, goats, or cattle.
Humane advocates were the first to
promote endangered species protection, but not
at the expense of kind treatment of all animals.
Looking back, making common cause with
hunter/conservationists to save endangered
species appears to have served the interests of
abusers and exploiters more than the cause of
animals. Too often granting special
consideration to “endangered” species has only
lowered the status of other animals, increasing
their vulnerability to exploitation and cruelty.
We want to protect all animals, whether
their species is endangered or not. That
approach will protect both endangered wolves and
homeless dogs, as well as every other suffering
creature, exempting none from moral
The humane cause is about preventing
suffering. A species does not suffer;
individual animals suffer. Organizations which
favor causing individual animals to suffer in the
name of conservation should accordingly receive
no support from any humane donor.

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