BOOKS: World Society for the Protection of Animals Members Manual
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2007:
World Society for the Protection of Animals Members Manual
Looseleaf binder & CD formats – 348 pages. Annual membership fee: $80.00.
As “Go forth and multiply!” is the first commandment of
survival for institutions and causes, as well as species, some of
the first publications of the earliest British and American humane
societies were essays encouraging sympathizers in distant places to
organize in a similar manner.
The 348-page WSPA Members Manual is probably the most
ambitious such effort yet. It draws liberally from many other humane
how-to publications, not always with acknowledgement. Each chapter
ends with an extensive list of further information sources.
The first portion of the WSPA Members Manual makes a laudable
yet perversely backward effort to inform animal advocates about the
history and philosophical antecedents of the cause.
Unfortunately, especially since the WSPA Members Manual is
meant to inspire and encourage humane work in developing nations,
the list of “Historical Milestones in the Animal Protection Movement”
begins in 1781, and includes mostly British developments. One
paragraph acknowledges the mid-19th century formation of the first
U.S. humane societies. Passing mentions are made of Germany,
Switzerland, and the European Union. Of the rest of the world,
there is just a note that “Colonial influences led to setting up many
SPCA-like organizations in Asia, South America, and Africa.”
This omits that the first humane societies in Britain were
hugely influenced and partially modeled after the pro-animal
teachings and temple animal sanctuaries that some of the founders had
encountered while doing military service in India.
The ANIMAL PEOPLE Chronology of Humane Progress by contrast
starts in 1300 B.C. and includes notice of developments in many
different parts of the world.
The WSPA Members Manual discussion of “Ethical and
Philosophical Views” and a “Summary of Philosophical Beliefs” focus
on European philosophers, with passing notice of some contemporary
Americans. Only after that does the manual acknowledge the
pro-animal teachings within major religions, giving Hinduism two
paragraphs and Buddhism just one–with about the same number of words
as a paragraph on Greek Orthodoxy.
After this intensively ethnocentric opening, the WSPA
Members Manual presents a series of glossaries of terms used in
humane work, explaining key concepts, such as the importance of
reducing the carrying capacity of urban habitat in trying to control
populations of street dogs and feral cats. Most of this material is
quite useful, and some of it does a fair job of presenting
conflicting perspectives on problematic issues.
But more oddness is ahead.
For example, there is considerable discussion of how to
choose a mission, after starting an organization. This is
completely inverse to how humane societies form. ANIMAL PEOPLE has
assisted in the formation of countless humane organizations, in all
parts of the world. Almost always, they start with the perception
of a job needing to be done, and grow from there into recognizing
that an organization must be created to do it. If a humane society
has to choose a mission, it is usually because the society is
already performing multiple missions, and realizes that it cannot do
them all well. The choice is deciding what to give up–and often
involves creating a new organization to take over the role that has
to be jettisoned.
The WSPA Members Manual also talks at length about forming
committees to do this and that, and about many other aspects of
management which simply do not occur in start-up organizations. Some
of this material may be relevant to humane societies that have
already grown to significant size, but most of it is quite
out-of-touch with the realities of small organizations, in which
very little can be delegated to anyone other than the founders.
The World Society for the Protection of Animals, as the WSPA
Members Manual explains, “was created in 1981 through the merger of
the World Federation for the Protection of Animals, founded in 1953,
and the International Society for the Protection of Animals, founded
Both WFPA and ISPA were formed specifically to encourage
humane societies to go forth and multiply, after their numbers had
been woefully depleted throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim by
fascist repression and World War II.
After initial great success in western Europe, where humane
institutions were mostly rebuilt on battered but structurally sound
foundations, the WSPA parent societies and later WSPA itself
refocused on Africa, Asia, and Latin America.
Typically they worked with institutions begun by religious
missionaries, for example Alice Manning, whose estate indirectly
enabled the Massachusetts SPCA to found ISPA as a subsidiary. Not
surprisingly, WFPA, ISPA, and eventually WSPA followed the
missionary model. For decades they sent experts abroad to try to
start humane societies organized in emulation of British and American
societies, just as missionaries go forth to found churches.
The typical outcome was that the new humane societies would
last only as long as outside funding did, and then implode, having
utterly failed to develop local support. The political and economic
instability of many developing nations further sabotaged colonization
efforts–and so did a penchant for trying to work with corrupt or
ineffective governments, seeking quick-fix “victories” that could be
touted to western donors, instead of building a broad base of local
The 1990s changed the paradigm.
First, the institutions ancestral to WSPA had been most
successful working in the technologically developed but war-blighted
nations of western Europe. The fall of Communism in eastern Europe
opened up a similar opportunity for WSPA and other outreach
organizations, helping to rebuild and restart organizations which
sometimes had existed at least in name since the 19th century.
Usually, though, the eastern European societies were
starting from scratch, with no resources or institutional
experience, even if they had old charters. Third World conditions
prevailed, from animal care to economic management–and often still
prevail, despite increasing animal advocacy.
Killing impounded dogs and cats by any cheap means, in order
to sell their fur, is no longer as openly done as in the Communist
era, but is still often reported.
Corruption in eastern European humane work is no longer as
flagrant as when the alleged human trafficker Wolfgang Ullrich raised
and stole as much as $45 million in funds donated to help animals,
mostly in Romania, before a German court sent him to prison. Yet
humane societies are still struggling with the Ullrich-era legacy.
Hangovers from it include bitterly disenchanted western donors;
rival organizations flamboyantly accusing each other of corruption;
restrictions on the export of dogs for adoption from some nations,
imposed because some dogs were allegedly covertly sold to
laboratories; and prohibitions on using veterinary drugs which might
also be used in “date rape,” and are still extensively used in human
The WSPA Members Manual does not discuss what to do about
working under such shadows. But it exists partly because some
members have found ways.
Just a few years ago a case could be made that the most
successful outcome of humane outreach to post-Communist eastern
Europe was the growth of some of the institutions begun to do it.
Among them were the Humane Society International division of the
Humane Society of the U.S., which moved out into the rest of the
world after initial outreach to Russia and Romania; the Austrian
multi-national animal charity Vier Pfoten; and the International
Companion Animal Welfare Conference.
But, scattered throughout eastern Europe, upstart groups
often begun by student activists five to 10 years ago have matured
with their leadership, developed constituencies, and–usually
beginning with little or no physical infrastructure –have become
world leaders in developing Internet-based campaigns. An
alphabetical roster would run from Animal Rights Croatia to VITA, of
Moscow, and would include at least one group in almost every former
Iron Curtain nation.
While WSPA and other multi-national animal charities focused
on eastern Europe, Internet-savvy young people also started an
unprecedented proliferation of humane organizations around the
economically booming Pacific Rim, with remarkably little outside
help. The International Fund for Animal Welfare had pursued the
missionary approach to building humane societies in several Pacific
Rim nations during the 1980s, but retrenched just before the boom
Founded by former IFAW representative Jill Robinson, the
comparatively tiny Animals Asia Foundation has been the most
influential multinational humane society involved in the emergence of
indigenous Asian animal advocacy, but as an exemplar, showing
others how to do things, rather than trying to direct the action.
Finally, the Indian animal advocacy movement has emerged
into global influence, even though there is not, as yet, even one
genuinely national animal charity in India. The closest approach is
People for Animals, a constellation of loosely linked locally
autonomous animal charities begun by Maneka Gandhi in 1984. Through
the Asia for Animals conference series, begun in 2001, the Asian
Animal Protection Network online news and discussion group, begun in
1996, and increasing involvement in international programs, Indian
animal advocacy leaders have discovered that they have a wealth of
ideas and experience to share that often translate into models more
applicable to other developing nations than the teachings of the
The organizational task ahead for WSPA, as “the world’s
largest international federation of animal protection organizations,
with over 650 societies in more than 140 counties,” as the
introduction touts, is to make the transition from being a
missionary institution to becoming a genuinely globally
This includes learning from the membership outside Britain
and the U.S.–and acknowledging that the humane movement did not
begin with the British Empire, much as British donors and
organizations have done to further it.