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Open Letter to Animal Lovers About Richard Berman's Phony Charities

from Animal Sheltering's The Scoop! newsletter, Dec. 1, 2011



Dear friend — 

Strength in numbers. That’s an old maxim in our democracy, and a wise one.

Divide and conquer. That’s also an idea that has been with us for a long while, and not always for the better. 

A shadowy Washington, D.C., lobbying group that flies the false colors of the so-called The Center for Consumer Freedom/HumaneWatch is trying to divide animal lovers, one from another.

This is a cynical ploy, the very grubbiest kind. The corporate front group behind it was born with a grant from the tobacco companies to defend cigarette smoking. And those same ugly values motivate it today. These industries that profit from animal suffering attack us because of our successful work to stop puppy mills, animal fighting, seal clubbing, factory farming, and other abuses. The mastermind of the operation, Richard Berman, rakes in millions of dollars from the commercial interests. Which ones? Well, he won’t tell—at least not now. He is a hired hit man, and those kinds of people like to shield their clients. But his donors will be exposed. Count on it—just like his pals in the tobacco industry.

We cannot let ... corporate money start an argument over which animals deserve our help and which do not.

Until then, we cannot let him succeed. The good-hearted Americans who provide the staffing, the volunteerism, the donations, the leadership, the drive and the heart of our movement should stand proudly together. We must—and that’s all of us—from the neighbors who maintain a small animal rescue group to the largest global advocacy organization. We may have disagreements from time to time. Those are healthy. But the old saying is right: There is strength in numbers.

Today, the numbers in our family are growing: the numbers of Americans who care about animals. The number of Americans who have animals as pets. The number of groups dedicated to protecting animals. The number of politicians and regulators and religious leaders and law enforcement officers and celebrities and veterinarians and advocates and others who understand our human responsibilities to be humane.

And something else is growing too: the very scope of our concerns. Animal welfare naturally begins with the pets in our homes, and the heartbreak of pets without homes. But ensuring the welfare of other animals has always been a part of building a more humane society. Wildlife. Farm animals. Animals in research and testing. Animals confined in pens to be killed for trophies in reprehensible canned-hunts. And the no-longer hidden misery of dogs and cats who are bred, and inbred, in "mills" without love and with minimum care.

So we can take pride that we have grown as a community, a cause, a movement, and that we have spread our collective arms to recognize more kinds of animals in need.

But we must also be wary. Our success has become a threat to those who are commercially invested in the status-quo mistreatment of animals.

read an L.A. Times editorial on CCF and The HSUS »

These people cannot defend the cruelty they inflict of course. So they must find some other approach. That’s where divide-and-conquer comes in.

The latest salvo in Berman’s disinformation campaign is the formation of a misleading new organization he calls the “Humane Society for Shelter Pets”—a group whose sole program it seems is to spend money running full-page ads in newspapers across the country attacking The HSUS and urging people to donate to their local shelters. We ask everyone to donate generously this holiday—to their local shelters and to support the broad-front work of The Humane Society of the United States.

Let’s be clear about motive. Berman has no record of helping animals. That’s a sharp contrast to the decades of work by local humane societies and The Humane Society of the United States. If you are contacted by news organizations looking to cover this made up controversy, please ask that they look carefully at the source of the information. We have resources elsewhere on this website that provide the facts for news outlets and any interested parties. Please take a look, and judge for yourselves.

If you are contacted by the media about CCF and The HSUS, please ask the news outlet to contact us directly. You'd be surprised to know how many reporters fail to follow the most fundamental tenet of journalism—to get both sides of the story. Katie Jarl in our communications office is available to assist you, and she can be reached at 301-258-1483 or kjarl@humanesociety.org.

We got this far together. We need to grow together, not shrink apart. We cannot allow our strength and energy to be diluted by Berman’s efforts to separate shelters from other advocate organizations. We cannot let his dirty corporate money start an argument over which animals deserve our help and which do not. We cannot let him manipulate donors into thinking there is a right and wrong kind of animal to help.

These are hard times. Everyone feels it. The only fat cat in this story is Richard Berman, who has pocketed a fortune by causing misfortune for animals.

As always, through our efforts from Animal Care Expo to Animal Sheltering magazine, to The Shelter Pet Project and animalsheltering.org, The HSUS celebrates the life-saving work of local shelters and rescues, and we are here to help. Thank you for all that you do.

Sincerely yours,
Wayne Pacelle

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