Something changed on Groundhog Day
Did you ever see the film Groundhog Day, in which actor Bill Murray lived the same day over and over until he made some of the right ethical choices?
We had already seen much of the humane cause leadership endlessly repeating unethical conduct, at the expense of animals, volunteers, and donors, when Groundhog Day premiered––in 1993.
Again and again self-serving “leaders” squander activist effort, money given to help animals, and the good faith of all of us who care about animals, exploiting those who trust them most, while animal suffering goes on, and on, and on.
This Groundhog Day, though, something changed. Hit with sexual harassment allegations accumulating for more than a decade, the $380,000-a-year chief executive of the Humane Society of the U.S. won a vote of confidence from the HSUS board of directors, only to be forced into resignation when several high donors, seven board members of integrity, and a few senior staff withdrew their support.
“We believe the women”
The HSUS board majority chose to stop an ongoing investigation of the charges against the chief executive without even hearing from the attorney they themselves hired to ask the questions that had to be asked. But some of the real leaders of the humane cause stood up and said “We believe the women!”
ANIMALS 24-7 exposed the HSUS leadership crisis as it developed, days before other media. We were first to point out how bad attitudes at the top had persisted through generations of executives and board members who failed to change the culture of the organization.
First to follow up
We were also first to follow up, posting seven in-depth exposés of the fast-evolving situation in as many nights. Making sure our reportage promptly reached the decision-makers through social media, Beth tapped her cell phone until her fingers cramped, while I pounded my keyboard. Both of us worked late into the night every night for a week, keeping the humane community informed until justice was served. Even our cats and Bo the dog got less rest than they would have liked.
We pointed out––almost alone among media––how the mendacity and coercive conduct contributing to sexual harassment also corrupted program work on behalf of animals.
Cut cage sizes
Our coverage, for instance, reminded the humane community that while nominally espousing veganism, the now departed chief executive cut deals with agribusiness which again and again traded tangible progress on behalf of egg-laying hens for promises of future gains that never materialized.
We recalled that just a few months ago this executive claimed “victories” for winning a revision of Pennsylvania humane law that appears to have legalized pigeon shoots, and for passing a Vermont law that drastically cut the cage sizes for dogs at “puppy mills.”
$15.7 million to Ringling
There was also a $15.7 million payout to settle 10 years of litigation against the Ringling circus based on an untried legal theory and a discredited star witness, whom ANIMALS 24-7 had warned was unreliable before the first case was filed.
The now departed chief executive pushed policies contributing to increases of more than 500% in the numbers of animals and humans killed and disfigured by pit bulls during his tenure as HSUS president––including one woman killed and another critically injured within blocks of his own family home, and a 1700% increase in fatalities and disfigurements by pit bulls adopted from animal shelters.
Board rewarded misrepresentation
None of this could have occurred had the HSUS board held the chief executive and others at the top accountable.
Instead, the HSUS board rewarded misrepresentation and retreat from humane principle with five-figure annual raises. Discovering and reporting the truth was left to ANIMALS 24-7.
The now-departed chief executive, at least, took notice of our reportage. Six months before his exit, he emailed to us that some of the ANIMALS 24-7 focal concerns were an “obsession” and “insane,” called us an “outlier,” and contended that our “aggression” in reporting ethical malfeasance is “unwarranted.”
We are the outliers!
Just a week before his resignation, when we told him that we were not impressed that HSUS said it stopped a pigeon shoot that went on as scheduled, his response was ‘who are we to question him?’
“We” are us, Beth & Merritt, your representatives on the humane news beat.
Who is an “outlier” now? Still ANIMALS 24-7, and still proud of it! Effective humane leadership begins with taking a principled stand, even if alone or nearly so.
U.S. humane movement founder Henry Bergh said, more than 150 years ago, “I always wear a top hat, so that others can see where I stand and stand with me.” Neither of us wears a top hat, but we do stand tall for truth, accuracy, accountability, and responsible use of donated resources, against racism, sexism, exploitation and cruelty, no matter who is exploited and cruelly treated.
We need your help!
Our “vote of confidence” comes from you, when we pass the hat, asking for your support to keep working.
We need your help!
Your Valentine’s Day gift, whether of $50, $100, $1,000, or whatever else you can afford, keeps us on the job for the animals, 24-7.
P.S.––Please remember us this Valentine’s Day! We will be here working for you and the animals you care about.