Sagas of alleged giant predators turned animal rights stars
WASHINGTON D.C.––Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, a saga of supposedly vanished giant predators, reinvented as animal rights celebrities, debuted to bad reviews on June 22, 2018, yet proved to be a box office magnet, grossing $1.2 billion in its first month.
Animal Wellness Action, a political action committee registered in May 2018, appears to be gambling that reinventing former Humane Society of the U.S. president and alleged giant predator Wayne Pacelle will have a similar effect on donors.
In any event, Pacelle is back, reported Nonprofit Chronicles author Marc Gunther on July 19, 2018.
“Left HSUS under a cloud”
Recalled Gunther, “Pacelle left HSUS in February 2018 under a cloud, as a flurry of accusations of sexual harassment led to revolts among donors and staff––although he retained the support of a majority of the HSUS board until the very end.
“The new political action committee, registered by David Harvilicz, a lawyer and entrepreneur, is affiliated with a small nonprofit called the Animal Wellness Foundation,” Gunther wrote, “whose president is his sister,” Annie Harvilicz, DVM.
David Harvilicz calls himself an “animal rights evangelist” on Twitter.
From star in New York to star in L.A.
Annie Harvilicz, a former American SPCA veterinarian, enjoyed some early-career television exposure on the 2001-2008 Animal Planet reality show Animal Precinct.
Annie Harvilicz went on to become “the founder and chief medical officer of a veterinary clinic and pet care company called Animal Wellness Centers, based in Los Angeles,” Gunther recounted. The Animal Wellness Centers host the Animal Wellness Foundation.
Annie Harvilicz also cultivated relationships with the Best Friends Animal Society and HSUS, including as one of the first veterinarians to join the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association, an HSUS subsidiary formed in 2008 through a merger with the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights.
Web pages identify Pacelle and longtime HSUS board member John Mackey, founder of Whole Food Markets, as allies of the Animal Wellness Foundation, and include a Pacelle testimonial that “We need more veterinarians like Dr. Annie,” taken from a videotaped endorsement on Annie Harvilicz’s YouTube page.
Horse breeders & exhibitors
Continued Gunther, “Marty Irby, a former HSUS executive who oversaw its equine protection and rural outreach departments,” and previously was president of the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association, “is the Animal Wellness Action PAC executive director.”
Irby, 39, defended the use of so-called “action devices” and pads to make walking horses step higher before a USDA hearing in May 2012, but was ousted from the Tennessee Walking Horse Breeders & Exhibitors Association soon afterward, became press secretary for Republican U.S. Representative Ed Whitfield, a longtime critic of the walking horse industry, and moved to HSUS in February 2017, several months after Whitfield retired from politics.
Pacelle & California Proposition 12
Pacelle’s comeback, Gunther said, “is resurfacing old questions about how the board of HSUS handled the charges against him, while raising new ones about how HSUS intends to work with Pacelle in the future.”
This question is politically urgent.
Pacelle’s successor as HSUS president, longtime HSUS staff attorney Kitty Block, on June 23, 2018 announced that a California ballot initiative promoted by HSUS and the HSUS subsidiaries Humane Society Legislative Fund and Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association had qualified to go before California voters in November 2018.
Proposition 12, as the ballot measure has been designated, purports to correct defects in Proposition 2, a California ballot initiative passed through the efforts of HSUS and Farm Sanctuary in November 2008.
Pacelle & United Egg Producers
Focal to what Proposition 12 would actually do, if passed, would be to replace the implied but never enforced requirement of Proposition 2 that egg-laying hens be kept in a cage-free environment with a caging standard that HSUS has promoted in partnership with the industry trade association United Egg Producers since 2007.
The agreement to promote the standard recommended by United Egg Producers was jointly announced on July 7, 2007 by Wayne Pacelle and then-HSUS farm animal campaigns manager Paul Shapiro. Shapiro left HSUS amid sexual harassment allegations just over a month before Pacelle.
If Proposition 12 passes, according to an analysis by Humane Farming Association founder and national director Brad Miller, “The egg industry would not only be allowed, but would be incentivized, to construct multi-level egg factories that provide hens with a mere one square foot of floor space. The measure would allow the industry to pack 33% more hens into egg factories than what HSUS promised throughout its entire Proposition 2 campaign, as well as throughout the decade that followed. Although voters thought they had outlawed cages back in 2008, this measure would explicitly legalize battery cages until the year 2022.”
Proposition 12 & Animal Wellness Action
Despite the flaws in Proposition 12 identified by Miller, who also warned in 2008 that the language of Proposition 2 would prove to be unenforceable, Proposition 12 was on June 28, 2018 endorsed by Animal Wellness Action and the Animal Wellness Centers veterinary clinics.
Said the Animal Wellness Action media release announcing the Proposition 12 endorsement, “Farmers and farming organizations are also endorsing the ballot measure, including Matt O’Hayer, chief executive of Vital Farms Eggs, based in Texas, and Jeff Peterson, General Manager of Central Valley Eggs, headquartered in Wasco, California. O’Hayer is also on the board of directors of Animal Wellness Action, the political arm of the Animal Wellness Group.”
That Pacelle is willing to work with egg producers to advance a ballot initiative that is consistent with his HSUS legislative agenda from 2007 to his resignation in 2018 is no surprise.
But to what extent is HSUS willing to continue to work with Pacelle?
Observed Gunther, “In talking points distributed to staff, HSUS said it would decide on a ‘case by case basis’ whether to work with Pacelle. By email, Anna West, an HSUS spokeswoman, added: ‘We will never require any individual staff members to work with Mr. Pacelle or his new organization.’”
Said the HSUS memo to staff, “Legislators often request that groups work together on specific pieces of legislation or issues to coordinate their efforts for greater impact. Should that happen with this group [Animal Wellness Action], our leadership will evaluate at that time.”
The HSUS memo acknowledged that, “Animal Wellness Action sent a press release endorsing” Proposition 12, but added “Endorsement does not indicate any formal relationship or partnership.”
Suggested Gunther, “By joining a political action committee to work on animal welfare issues, Pacelle could be violating a non-compete clause in his contract with HSUS, which operates its own political action committee. The two political action committees are likely to compete for donations. By email, West said: ‘There is a non-compete in his (Pacelle’s) employment contract and the board leadership is aware of the situation and will be considering our options.’”
The same phrase appeared in the HSUS memo to staff.
“Board chair Eric Bernthal declined to be interviewed, as he has ever since #metoo allegations against Pacelle became public in January,” continued Gunther. “Pacelle set the tone when he told The Washington Post,” before his resignation, “that the accusations [of sexually predatory conduct toward subordinate female HSUS staff] “were ‘a coordinated attempt to attack me and the organization.’
“Ludicrous & scurrilous”
“Coordinated? By whom? Pacelle didn’t say,” Gunther scoffed. “On Facebook, David Harvilicz, who registered the Animal Wellness Action PAC, charged that women going after Pacelle had become ‘pawns of Richard Berman and Citizens for Consumer Freedom.’ “Berman,” Gunther explained, “runs an industry-funded organization that has attacked the animal welfare movement for years.
“The claim that women who devoted years of their lives to animal-welfare causes are pawns of its enemies is both ludicrous and scurrilous,” Gunther wrote.
“The accusations against Pacelle came from multiple women,” Gunther elaborated, “some of whom have accused him of behavior that, if proven, would warrant criminal charges.”
Gunther went on to detail allegations by five women against Pacelle; ANIMALS 24-7 has heard similar from several others.
Resignations from HSUS continue
Fallout from what Gunther described as the HSUS “board’s reluctance to distance itself from Pacelle” continued, he wrote, with the resignation of a female attorney who had worked at HSUS since 2010, had a consensual relationship with Pacelle at one point, and later rejected his continued advances.
She wrote in a resignation email, Gunther said, that how the HSUS board handled the Pacelle situation “made it impossible for me to stay at HSUS and be in good health.”
“There was never enough transparency or accountability [at HSUS],” Tofurky director of charitable giving Rachel Perman told Gunther.
Gunther followed up on July 20, 2018, after Animal Wellness Action executive director Irby emailed to object that Gunther had not called or emailed him.
“I did reach out to him on Twitter,” Gunther said.
Responded Irby, apparently unaware of the communication habits of the current and previous U.S. Presidents, “I don’t consider Twitter messages to be a professional avenue for media inquiries.”
Continued Irby, “Pacelle is a friend to Animal Wellness Action, myself, and other supporters of our organization and has volunteered to help us, and a number of other organizations within the animal protection world. He is unpaid, does not have any title, and is not a member of the board or an employee.
“According to our legal counsel,” Irby added, “who has reviewed Mr. Pacelle’s non-compete, as a volunteer, it does not appear that he has violated the agreement.”
Carol Adams v. Josh Balk
Gunther meanwhile discovered that “Animal Wellness Action filed a list of contributors with the FEC that includes Josh Balk, an HSUS vice president at the Humane Society. That prompted Carol Adams, the activist and writer, to respond on Facebook.”
Asked Adams, “Besides the fact that there is a non-compete clause with HSUS, what person would support a PAC that puts a man accused of sexual assault of interns into a lobbying position that may place him near Congressional interns? What does it mean to all of your peers that you would betray the women at HSUS, women you work with every day? And why is another PAC needed if HSUS already has one? Josh, how will you defend this tomorrow with your colleagues at HSUS?”
The Pacelle association with Animal Wellness Action, commented Politico, in a three-paragraph item carrying six bylines, “is creating friction with HSUS, which is considering legal action against Pacelle for violating a non-compete clause in his contract, according to an internal memo obtained by Politico’s Ian Kullgren.”
Unclear is whether this was the same memo quoted by Gunther and ANIMALS 24-7.
The little old winemaker Markarian
Apparently not directly related to the other turmoil at HSUS and involving Pacelle, but perhaps influenced by it, is the impending departure of HSUS chief operating officer Mike Markarian, also longtime president of the HSUS Legislative Fund.
“I am leaving at the end of August,” Markarian confirmed to ANIMALS 24-7.
“My wife and I have been planning to move to Italy for a while, where I’ll be studying and pursuing a career in wine. We’re excited about it and looking forward to the next chapter.”
Markarian’s career has been closely associated with Pacelle. Markarian joined the staff of the Fund for Animals in 1993, while Pacelle was Fund for Animals national director.
When Pacelle jumped to HSUS in 1994, Markarian succeeded Pacelle as Fund for Animals national director.
In that capacity, Markarian brokered the 2005 merger of the Fund for Animals into HSUS, six months after Pacelle was promoted to the HSUS presidency after a decade as vice president for legislation.
Following the merger, Markarian assumed Pacelle’s former role as HSUS vice president handling legislative matters.