The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) was founded in 1954 as a breakaway faction of the American Humane Association, an apolitical organization concerned with preventing the mistreatment of animals. HSUS describes itself as America’s “most effective animal protection organization,” and claims to “provide hands-on care and services to more than 100,000 animals each year.” Its activities also include efforts to promote the passage and enforcement of local, state and federal laws protecting animals from mistreatment; the application of pressure designed to persuade corporations to “reform their animal welfare policies”; and “awareness campaigns and investigations” designed to shape public opinion on issues related to animal cruelty. HSUS’s global affiliate, the Humane Society International (HSI) is active in more than 20 countries worldwide.
Aiming to “driv[e] transformational change in the U.S. and around the world by combating large-scale cruelties” to animals, HSUS strives to eliminate such things as: the sport of animal fighting in all its forms; the existence of puppy mills where dogs are confined to tiny cages and crates; the domestic slaughter of horses for meat consumption abroad; the intentional soring of horses’ feet and legs to produce the type of exaggerated gait that typically wins prizes in horse exhibitions; the commercial slaughter of seals and other marine mammals; the “captive hunting” of wild animals that are confined within fenced-in properties; the sale of wild animals as exotic pets or as stock for game farms and zoos; the international transport of wild animals that are killed by people seeking to collect “hunting trophies”; factory farms where animals are raised for meat, eggs, and milk; animal research and testing for the manufacture of cosmetic products and the development of new medical practices; the trade in rhinoceros horn and elephant ivory; the killing of whales, dolphins, and sea turtles; the manufacture and sale of products made from animal fur; and the “exploit[ation]” of “animals for profit” in various entertainment venues. (For example, pressure from HSUS helped cause Sea World to end its “theatrical” orca shows in 2015, and Ringling Brothers to shutter its elephant shows in 2016).
The vegan purist Wayne Pacelle has been the president and chief executive officer of HSUS since 2004. During his tenure in that post, he has greatly expanded the organization’s involvement in politics at all levels of government. For instance, Pacelle has been instrumental in placing dozens of voter initiatives on state- and local-level election ballots. Under Pacelle, animal-cruelty issues have constituted only a small portion of HSUS’s agenda. By contrast, the Society has expended enormous human and financial capital to promote the battle against “climate change” by regulating the “greenhouse gas” emissions of large industrialized farms. In April 2009, for instance, HSUS praised the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and President Barack Obama for taking measures “to address the enormous threats posed by climate change.” Five months later, HSUS joined other tax-exempt environmental groups in formally petitioning the EPA to “regulate air pollution” associated with industrialized farms.
On the premise that the raising of animals for meat consumption is a long-term process that generates massive levels of greenhouse-gas emissions over a protracted time period, HSUS advocates “avoiding animal products derived from [modern farming methods], and replacing meat and other animal-based foods with vegetarian foods.” To further promote this agenda, the Society gives financial support to vegan groups that oppose the consumption of animal meat and the use of animal byproducts in manufacturing. HSUS has also given money to radical activists who wish to eliminate the concept of human ownership of animals. Among the more noteworthy beneficiaries of HSUS funding has been People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
Over the years, HSUS has opposed legislation put forth by lawmakers to combat eco-terrorist activities by groups like the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and its allies in the so-called “animal liberation” movement. Such activities include attacks against farms as well as medical and scientific research facilities that perform experiments on animals. The chief operating officer of HSUS, Mike Markarian, once declared that “a perfect example of effective rebellion is an Animal Liberation Front raid on a laboratory.” In a similar spirit, HSUS food policy director Matt Prescott has written: “I also believe in the actions of the ALF and other such groups.” And HSUS’s chief lobbyist hired ALF member and spokesperson John Goodwin in 1997, the same year that Goodwin told reporters that he was “ecstatic” about a recent ALF arson fire (which nearly killed a family) at a farmer’s feed co-op in Utah.
In 2014, HSUS reported revenues of approximately $128.9 million. Its net assets, meanwhile, totaled about $213.6 million at that time. Between 2012 and 2014, the organization placed over $100 million into Caribbean-based investments. This figure included $18.5 million invested in the Cayman Islands, a well known tax haven, in 2013 alone.
Much of HSUS’s wealth has been derived from its various fundraising initiatives. In 2008, for example, the Society paid $2 million to a direct-mail consulting firm called National Outdoor Sports Advertising, which in turn raised $50 million for HSUS.
Contrary to the misperceptions of most private donors to HSUS, the Society does not run even a single pet shelter anywhere in the United States. In fact, it gives pet shelters only 1% of the money it raises.
For additional information on HSUS, click here.