Will Groundhog Day bring HSUS a change of climate?
WASHINGTON D.C.––Groundhog Day, February 2, 2018, is likely to see the Humane Society of the U.S. striving to rid itself of the shadow left by thirteen-year president Wayne Pacelle.
Pacelle is not expected to remain in office––or at least not for long––after a February 1 board meeting called, according to Washington Post labor reporter Danielle Paquette, “to discuss the inquiry into sexual harassment complaints against Pacelle” underway since December 2017.
Law firm inquiry
The investigation has been led by attorney Grace Speights, “who leads the labor and employment practice at Morgan Lewis,” reported Marc Gunther in the January 25, 2018 Chronicle of Philanthropy article that first made the probe and the issues behind it public.
The Washington Post and ANIMALS 24-7 exposed the issues further during the next few days.
Follow-ups by the New York Daily News and Politico revealed details leaked from the Morgan Lewis findings and by sources within HSUS. USA Today, Newser, the Daily Caller, and other media helped to make the HSUS leadership crisis internationally prominent.
Donor pressure on the HSUS board to make immediate changes has intensified in recent days.
E-mailed Jim Greenbaum, founder of the Greenbaum Foundation, to HSUS board chair Eric Bernthal, “As a $100,000 donor to the Humane Society of the United States in 2017, I am dismayed to learn that the HSUS board, given the level of the charges against Mr. Pacelle, hasn’t followed the customary business practice of suspending Mr. Pacelle during the pendency of the investigation.
“Unlikely that I will continue to fund HSUS”
“With Mr. Pacelle still at the helm of the organization as the investigation continues,” Greenbaum said, “other employees who may have been aggrieved are going to be much less likely to come forward, as it would almost certainly appear to them that the alleged perpetrator will still be their boss, and that the board of directors is not taking the allegations seriously.
“Given the present manner in which the HSUS board is handling this matter,” Greenbaum finished, “it is very unlikely that I will continue to fund HSUS. I strongly suggest that the HSUS board promptly reexamine its position on this matter.”
The Greenbaum Foundation motto: “Being a bystander to suffering is not an option.”
“Might be time for someone else to take the helm”
Wrote Paquette, “Nicole Brodeur, a Portland, Oregon investor who with her husband donated $100,000 to the Humane Society’s ‘Meatless Monday’ campaign, said she first heard allegations of sexual misconduct against Pacelle from staff members in October 2017, and decided to stop funding the charity then.
“I spoke with somebody there who had seen incidents of sexual harassment,” Brodeur told Paquette. “I followed up with contacts I had and was horrified. It hadn’t occurred to me or my husband to be thinking about workplace culture in our philanthropy decisions. It might be time for someone else at the helm.”
“Don’t want to be paying to cover up sexual harassment”
Agreed Rachel Perman, director of charitable giving and engagement at the vegetarian food making company Tofurky, “I want the money that I donate to go toward helping animals. I don’t want to be paying to cover up someone’s sexual harassment.”
Perman told Paquette that Tofurky had donated $30,000 to the Humane Society in 2016 and 2017, apparently beginning shortly before allegations began circulating about alleged sexual harassment by former HSUS farmed animal campaigns manager Paul Shapiro.
Shapiro was transferred to a different position at HSUS in September 2016. New guidelines for HSUS staff about employee dating and harassment were introduced in December 2016, and were followed by training sessions about how to handle harassment, but many HSUS employees perceived that Shapiro had not only not been disciplined, but had been promoted.
Renowned anthropologist & author resigns
Pacelle, meanwhile, appeared to dig himself deeper into a hole not likely to attract any self-respected groundhogs in response to the resignation of anthropologist Barbara J. King from the editorial board of the HSUS-sponsored scholarly journal Animal Sentience.
Wrote King, a professor emerita at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, and author of books including How Animals Grieve (2013) and Personalities on the Plate: The Lives & Minds of Animals We Eat (2017):
“To my Animal Sentience colleagues:
“I wish to resign from the editorial board of Animal Sentience. I no longer wish to be associated with HSUS, given the understanding that I have reached over the last several weeks regarding issues of sexual harassment endured by women working at HSUS.
“Yesterday’s article in Politico reporting on details about the actions of Paul Shapiro and Wayne Pacelle (following on from widespread coverage about Pacelle including in the Washington Post) only confirmed what I had come to learn from multiple women and men through private conversation: harassment that was terribly harmful on its own was compounded by HSUS’s decision to protect at least one of the known harassers (Shapiro) instead of moving to help the victims and acting with transparency. This is a serious failure of ethical leadership.
“I stand with the women who are coming forward. Please remove my name from the editorial board.”
“Notice that word…CHATTER”
Several hours after sharing her resignation statement via Facebook, King shared Pacelle’s e-mailed reply:
“Barbara, There’s a lot of chatter on these issues, of course. I’d be happy to talk with you if you have a few minutes. Best, Wayne.”
Added King, who is perhaps best known for her studies of nonhuman primate behavior,
“Notice that word… CHATTER. I’ve been sitting with that word, this afternoon, thinking about its use, given that women’s complaints are multiple and on the record.
“This is now the third time I have been asked by one of the two principals under accusation to speak if I had a few minutes,” King said, “and I have declined each time. I have replied in this way:
“’Wayne, hello––I am very much not comfortable with private 1:1 conversations on this topic. I’m open to reading anything you’d want to say here that’s not meant as a private communication.’
“Should not be ignored or minimized”
“And I did get a paragraph back,” King acknowledged, “explaining that 83% of HSUS’s vice presidents are women, 66% of their top executives are women, etc., and making a case for rejection of ‘the demonstrably false allegations of a problem culture for women.’
“The fact that SOME women succeed in a given organization,” King pointed out, “does not mean that harms to OTHER women in that same organization, reported and documented, should be disbelieved or ignored or minimized.”
King, like Greenbaum, observed that, “There’s an investigation underway regarding Pacelle. Shouldn’t he be put on leave during this time? To me, though,” King said, “the primary question at this moment is this: why hasn’t the HSUS been out front about this issue, making crystal clear that at no time will sexual misconduct in the workplace be tolerated, and that women will be taken seriously when they expose abuse, and offered workplace protection from further harm?”
Meanwhile, posted Shapiro to his Facebook page on January 30, 2018, “The conversation regarding equality, fairness, and respect in the workplace is one I support and believe is long overdue.
“To that end, I feel compelled to address my own past failures and sincere efforts to do better. In years past at my previous job, I sometimes acted inappropriately, for which I’m deeply sorry. I engaged in sophomoric and unprofessional behavior. I should have known better and sincerely regret my thoughtlessness and poor decisions.
“I apologized privately then and do so publicly now to anyone I’ve hurt or offended. As a result of my embarrassing actions, in October 2016 I assumed a new role with less responsibility and no employees reporting to me. These consequences were swift, fair, and appropriate,” Shapiro acknowledged.
But Shapiro insisted that his sudden resignation on January 2, 2018 was “for unrelated reasons,” and contended that “Many of the assertions that have been publicly reported are simply false. I was rightfully held accountable for what I actually did, which was irresponsible enough.”
Welcomed by former Compassion Over Killing colleague
Shapiro’s public mea culpa was viewed with skepticism by many observers, but was welcomed by several former colleagues, including Miyun Park, with whom he cofounded the national farmed animal advocacy organization Compassion Over Killing in 1995.
Both Park and Shapiro left Compassion Over Killing in 2005 to take positions at HSUS, soon after Pacelle became HSUS president following 10 years as vice president for legislation. Park left HSUS in September 2009 to become executive director of Global Animal Partnership, established by Whole Food Markets founder and longtime HSUS board member John Mackey.
Park at GAP helped to introduce a set of standards for raising farmed animals which were and are widely seen as weaker than the current industry norms, and certainly much less stringent than the standards of the independent organization Humane Farm Animal Care and the Animal Welfare Approved program hosted by the Animal Welfare Institute.
Park left GAP in November 2013.
HSUS vice president Holly Hazard
Also welcoming Shapiro’s HSUS senior vice president of programs & innovations Holly Hazard, who headed the Doris Day Animal League from 1987 until it merged into HSUS in 2006.
Posted Hazard to Shapiro’s Facebook page, “Paul, it is clear you are struggling to do the right thing. For that we should all be cheering you on. I think one huge roadblock to moving on is that men, good, professional, solid healthy men, not even the perpetrators, don’t really understand how prevalent and for how long one half of the population has been silently accepting this behavior.”
Hazard’s statement went on at considerable length, and was ironic in view that Hazard and fellow HSUS vice president Heidi Prescott were identified as “useless” in response to complaints about sexual harassment by a self-described young female HSUS employee who sent ANIMALS 24-7 a 14-page dossier about the issues now coming to light.
Hazard, Pacelle & Wills
Hazard and Pacelle, as board members of the long defunct magazine Animals Agenda, personally intervened in January 1990 to prevent publication of an exposé of alleged embezzling and sexual harassment by former Michigan Humane Society president David Wills, authored by then- Animals Agenda news editor Merritt Clifton.
Wills went on to become vice president for investigations at HSUS.
Clifton was finally able to publish the suppressed material, along with much more, in a 1995 series of exposés for another publication. The first of those exposés appeared a month before three HSUS employees sued Wills for alleged sexual harassment and embezzling. Two more exposé installments followed before HSUS fired Wills in November 1995.
Wills countersued the HSUS employees who sued him, at least one of whom still works at HSUS. Those cases were settled out of court in mid-1998.
Convicted in 1996 of embezzling from HSUS, working thereafter in animal use industries, Wills has been facing trial in Texas since 2015, in a repeatedly delayed case, for allegedly trafficking a nine-year-old girl for purposes of sexual exploitation.
Co-defendant Maria Candalaria Losoya pleaded guilty in mid-2017 but has yet to be sentenced.