Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Vanishing Members of the HSUS

I work in an office around the corner from Wayne Pacelle, the President and CEO of the Humane Society of the U.S.  We have never met, but any time he wants to bring over his direct mail accounting records I am more than happy to buy him lunch.  Fair warning, however: I am a black belt in direct mail accounting practices, and I do not salute nonsense.   And there is a lot of nonsense in HSUS's direct mail accounting.

Take their membership numbers, for example.

A while back, I was quoted in a cover story in HSUS's All Animals magazine about the "The Purebred Paradox."  Supposedly this magazine went to all of HSUS's 11 million members.

Eleven million members?!  Really?  That's a jaw-dropping number.  The NRA has only 2 million members.   

And so, I waited to get an email or a phone call from someone, somewhere who had actually read the article.  Nothing.  

OK, I have a common name.  A lot of people who know me don't even know I have dogs -- I have a larger life than that found at the end of a leash.  There is no reason for most people to associate me with dogs.  No matter.

But surely a cover story in the flag ship publication of the Humane Society of the U.S. about painful health defects intentionally being bred for in pedigree dogs would generate a little secondary reporting in newspapers and magazines around the country?

Nope.  Nothing.  It was like the article was never written.  Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot.

Which got me to wondering.  Did anyone, anywhere, actually really read this story at all?  What were the Humane Society's real membership numbers?  Could HSUS political power be a lie and a complete fabrication?

Hard to imagine, but guess what?    It's true!

HSUS's membership is not eleven million.  It's not ten million.  It's not five million, two million or even one million.  

The true membership of HSUS is less than 450,000 people.  That's the total print run of All Animals magazine, which is mailed to every HSUS member that gives $25 or more, and I assure you that this entire print run is not actually mailed to dues-paying HSUS members.   My best guess is that no more than one in ten people read the magazine's cover story -- 45,000 people or so.  No wonder that article made less noise than a penny thrown down a well!

But don't just take my word about HSUS's membership numbers.  You see, if you are willing to wade through a 115-page document, you can find those numbers yourself, buried on page 89 of the report they file every year with the Internal Revenue Service.  This is the same federal agency that nailed Al Capone.

So where does that 11 million number come from which the HSUS features so prominently on its web site?  

It's a complete untruth. A magical fabrication.  A fantastic fraud. 

It's a LIE.  Eleven million is not even in the same time zone as the truth.

So why lie?  What's that all about?

Simple:  Lying is how the Humane Society of the U.S. claims unearned political power.

HSUS figures they can lie to their members, the press, Congress, and state legislatures and no one will ever bother to check because no one will ever bother to wade through that 115-page IRS form.

But I did.  And you can too, by simply going to this link.

Now to be clear, a lot of organizations lie about their membership numbers.  The most common gambit is to assume that every dues-paying member also represents a spouse or an adult child who might also support the core mission of the organization. 

Fair enough, I suppose. 

But what HSUS has done is truly unprecedented.   You see, they have not inflated their true dues-paying membership number by a factor of two or three.... but by more than 24.

Divide by twenty-four.  

That's what the board of HSUS and all their supporters should do. 

Divide by twenty-four.

Take the salary of Wayne Pacelle -- more than $240,000 a year -- and divide by 24 to see if that "mathematical adjustment" might clarify the extent of the lie that HSUS continues to perpetrate on the American people

Divide by twenty-four. 

That's the scope of the lie, and that's why I do not expect to get a call or an email from Mr. Pacelle this week taking me up on my offer to buy him a free lunch if he only will bring along HSUS's direct mail accounting records.  Some free lunches are simply too expensive to accept!



Dr Dan Holdsworth said...

Back in the 1930s in Germany, a political party composed of loons, oxygen thieves, loudmouths and assorted smallminded buffoons hit upon a wizard idea: start the membership numbers of their party off at 500 to exaggerate their initial membership. This had the desired effect, this and the mainstream parties of the time failing to deal with the hyperinflation of the time. Even six months before their rise to power, the German Nazi party was accounted as of no consequence whatsoever.

I reckon that HSUS is a beast of a similar ilk, a political variant of an Australian frilled lizard. If confronted, this beast stands up on its back legs, spreads a frill and hisses loudly to appear large and threatening. Most Australian native predators are dumb as a box of rocks, so the lizard gets away with it with them. Mammalian predators are a different ballgame; they remember what the lizard looked like when it ran away last time, and it wasn't impressive at all. Frilled lizards often don't survive run-ins with mammalian predators.

HSUS badly needs a proper run-in with something big, nasty and courageous. Relabelling one of their "shelters" as a slaughterhouse was a trick worthy of note (did it come off?); working out how much of their income goes on featherbedding the HSUS management would also be useful if widely published. I reckon that HSUS isn't much more than Wayne Pacelle and a couple of cronies sucking up the cash, and a small armies of paid beggars busily trying to keep the organisation in clover.

Anton said...

Although perhaps Dr Dan Holdsworth makes great arguments after the first paragraph. However any comparison to nazi germany like this leads me to be unable to take it seriously, so why bother reading it.

And perhaps before defending this completly out of perspective comparison. Check out this educational clip of Jon Stewarts Genius on the subject matter.

PBurns said...

I think Dan's point was that the small and stupid often exaggerate their power and influence in order to attract more of it, especially at the beginning.

And, of course, on that point he is absolutely right -- hard to disagree.

I actually loved the line "oxygen thieves" and "the wizard idea."

Very humorous writing!

As for all references to Hilter, do we also walk on eggs when talking about how Stalin, Idi Amin, Mao Zedong, Pol Pot, and Enver Pasa (look him up) came to power? I hope not, because if we do, then we guarantee we will have more people like them!

I always like to note that the Nazis were elected to a significant minority of the Reichstag in 1932, but never won more than 37% of the vote. Yet the Nazi party then demanded to control ALL of the government even though 63 percent of the country had voted against them!

How often do we see similar examples of political hubris today? All the time!

Here in the U.S., the National Rifle Association represents two million people, but we have about 50 million gun-owning households, which is to say that 96% of all gun owners have chosen to NOT join the NRA. But who do we let speak on guns because they claim to represent everyone?

And is it not the same with dogs?

There are about 50 million dog-owning households in the U.S., but less than 450,000 people are members of HSUS -- less than half a percent. Who decided to let HSUS speak for dogs or for dogs owners?

Do I think Wayne Pacelle is Hitler? Of course not! Neither does Dan, I am quite sure. HSUS is not the Nazi Party. That said, it's worth remembering that in 1932 Hitler was not Hitler, and the Nazis were not yet the Nazis we came to know... that came later, after these minor actors claimed to represent and speak for all.

That was Dan's point -- and his warning.

Do I think Wayne Pacelle or HSUS is a real threat to dogs, cats, or a even a decent steak and egg sandwich now or in the future?


These folks are not demons, nor are they that powerful. Remember, I drive by their ratty little building every day going to work ;-) I actually KNOW how little power they have on Capitol Hill.

That said, a huge amount of money that should be going to dogs and cats is spinning down the drain at this direct mail factory, and not much clear thinking on dogs, cats, horses, wildlife, or wild lands is coming out of HSUS.

And finally, there is this to think about: You have smart people with GOOD ideas always pulling in their sails and trimming their boats in order "to get HSUS on board," always thinking that doing that would be "an 11-million-person win" rather than a 96% percent loss.

More on that later, maybe. We shall see....


grapfhics said...

The magazine may be required by Federal law to list in at least one issue the actual print run each month published, the number of copies sold, mailed and given away.

Karen said...

Speaking of HSUS exaggerations, I found a pretty good one! With the seal hunt on in Canada right now, the HSUS is banging the drum about boycotting Canadian seafood. They claim that there are over 5 000 restaurants, grocery stores and seafood distrubutors on board.

I browsed their list and discovered that Leagal Seafood and the Oceanaire Seafood Room, who both pledged NOT to serve Canadian seafood, offer PEI oysters on their menus!

One of their "on board" celebrity chefs, Nora Pouillon, offers PEI mussels on her menu.

I found around 20 other "offenders" on their restaurant locator that serve various forms of Canadian seafood on the menu, which is just a sampling. I'm sure that there are a lot more restaurants that are not keeping their promise.You can see my post, with the list of non-compliant restaurants here;

Bjarne´s aquarium blogg said...

Good work ,Patrik!

Karen said...

While the HSUS didn't stop by to make a comment on your blog, they came by to comment on MY blog. I wrote a post a few days back & quoted your estimated numbers about their direct mail & fund raising costs.

"Anne" seemed upset with your estimated numbers. But I guess that she wasn't upset enough to actually go an comment on YOUR blog, which was the source of my information.

I wrote a post in reply to her comment and reminded the HSUS about your lunch invitation.

PBurns said...

No, if this poor lady came over here, she left again saying nothing. And no wonder: I have footnotes, I work a block from her office, and I will take her to lunch for FREE if she will give me more data. The downside is that I know a great deal about direct mail. When you couple that with fundraising reports from New York, Illinois and California, it's pretty thin ice for HSUS's claims. To be clear, I have no interest in demonizing HSUS --some of what they do is fine, and if you want to look at money wasted in the world of dogs, I would point to the world of dog shows before I pointed to HSUS. That said, money sent to this organization is NOT an efficient way to help animals and in fact almost none of it goes to help shelter dogs and cats at all -- less than 1 percent.