The animal cause needs an oil change & new spark plugs
When I first read the title of Does guilt have a place in animal rights activism?, the most recent ANIMALS 24-7 guest column by United Poultry Concerns founder Karen Davis, I hoped it referenced the faults and failures of our side.
Then I started reading, and realized that is not the case. We are once again taking aim at those who are not “us.” We are fine; the problem is with everyone else.
This is no strike against Karen Davis, but I think we’re focusing a bit much on the faults of others when we have so much of our own disfunction to repair. We are akin to an eight cylinder engine with only two cylinders firing: that engine accesses very little of its potential power.
The absence of a strong, honest animal rights movement necessarily translates into more and continued animal suffering on a global scale. Given that reality, we should be more than willing to critique ourselves. Sadly, that is not the case.
Money-hoarding, laziness, incompetence, fraud and corruption
There are so many issues in what was once a movement, but has now become an industry. Money-hoarding, laziness, incompetence, fraud and corruption are among the former movement’s now most notable and ever-present traits. We could clean things up. We could at least make an effort, but precious few want to even discuss that, much less take action.
Lies, or at the minimum intentionally misleading claims, are routinely made about what issues groups are working on, or the methods they are using, or the results of their efforts.
Credit is regularly stolen to grab financial support following the hard work of others.
A group may work a campaign only long enough to draw off the easy money from gullible donors, and then abandon the campaign to find more easy money from gullible donors, leaving the animals from one abandoned campaign after another to continue suffering and dying.
When scams become business as usual
When a home improvement company pulls that with a remodeling job, it is called a scam, or a flimflam operation. The company can be sued and be put out of business. When an animal rights organization does basically the same thing, it is called standard operating procedure.
There are the straight-out frauds, who just outright lie about their supposed campaigns. Alex Pacheco and Will Potter come to mind, but they are just the very tip of a very large iceberg.
Anyone with active brain cells should be able to see what is going on, but it is considered a violation of manners or protocol to openly discuss the crooked dealings. Those who do are branded as troublemakers.
Driving 800 miles to do what locals won’t
The so-called movement has proven to be very proficient at selective ignorance. Veteran campaigners will remember when the Hegins pigeon shoot was a standout cause. A few groups and individuals made quite a name for themselves from those suffering pigeons, “nonprofit” status be damned. Then those same people shamelessly abandoned the pigeons.
Today, Hegins is gone, but pigeon shoots continue, and SHARK continues to deal with them, in Pennsylvania and elsewhere. Those shoots combined kill far, far more than the number of pigeons slaughtered in Hegins. Nevertheless, we find very few organizations work on this issue. None of those are the ones that made so much money before, and swore they would not abandon the victims.
SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness [SHARK] drives 800 miles on average to document each Pennsylvania pigeon shoot. Groups in Pennsylvania, like the 60+ organizations belonging to the Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania, and those in the Washington, DC area, like People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States are far closer. All of these organizations have far more resources, but they do nothing. They act as if they never heard of pigeon shoots.
Rodeos & cockfighting
It is much the same with rodeos and cockfighting. Larger groups raised fortunes making noise, and then quietly disappeared with their fortunes, abandoning the animals. Before we try to run a guilt trip on everyone else on this planet, should we not make at least some half-hearted effort to clean up our own house, and make a foundation for our own credibility?
In return for openly speaking out about the abomination that the former movement has become, SHARK has been ostracized, marginalized, and branded as outliers. Beth and Merritt Clifton of ANIMALS 24-7 know what I am talking about, I would guess, because they are in much the same boat. Given the state of this movement, I’ve come to consider that criticism to be a compliment.
It is similar to the relationship we have with our opponents in animal abuse. Just as we do not want to be popular with cockfighters, pigeon shooters, rodeo thugs, etc,, we also do not want to be popular with those who are responsible for turning the “animal protection movement” into the profiteering sleaze pit it has largely become.
Animals continue to suffer and die by the billions due to the profiteers and fraudsters of the animal movement, the complicity of those worried about upsetting their status if they speak out, and the resulting blissful ignorance of many donors.
Until we acknowledge and deal with that reality, we are in no position to point our fingers at anyone else.
The crux of the problem that Steve Hindi, above, has addressed both via ANIMALS 24-7 and via Showing Animals Respect & Kindness videos on multiple occasions, is that donor psychology tends to differ remarkably little from the behavior of slot machine gamblers, or of rats and pigeons in a Skinner box, as the psychology researcher B.F. Skinner (1904-1990) discovered and documented through animal experiments early in the history of direct mail fundraising.
The fundraising industry knows that most donors decide whether to donate to a direct mail or online appeal even before opening it, based largely on the emotive appeal of the first image and caption they see.
Crime & Punishment
The strength of the begging letter inside the appeal mailing or the “ask” that pops up in response to a mouse click matters most in persuading donors to increase the sum they might plan to give.
The emotional reward that the donor gets from giving is immediate, not at all contingent on whatever the donation actually accomplishes.
The decision to give is triggered chiefly by donor recognition and response to the appeal itself, not to reasoned analysis.
Thus donors often continue to give generously to organizations and causes which long since ceased to have much relevance to present conditions, and derive a rewarding feeling of goodness from making the donation, while new and dynamic charities addressing the issues of today are left to starve.
Established donors rarely change their minds
A further verity that has carried over from the direct mail era to the online era is that once a donor has established a pattern of response, it seldom changes.
Thus, if a donor decides that a charity is “good” or “bad” before making a first donation, the donor may form a different impression of the charity later. Rarely, however, will a donor change opinions of a charity after beginning to give to it, even if the charity is embroiled in scandals of a major magnitude.
Also, reversals of opinions about charities tend to be linked to scale. Donors change their minds much more easily about small and specialized organizations, such as local dog rescues, than about organizations that are large and diverse, able to bury catastrophic management mistakes beneath a blizzard of appeals about different things they are doing––or claiming to do.
Far from the madding crowd
Beyond the immediate feeling of goodness that rewards a donor, regardless of the use or non-use of the donation, a further reward tends to come from a donor receiving the impression that he/she is part of a larger socially approved and accepted cause. Thus the more people display or wear the images and slogans associated with any given charity, the more donors will feel rewarded for having given to the charity, even if it is a complete scam.
Conversely, donors to a less well-known charity will get much less emotional reinforcement from others for their giving choices.
ANIMALS 24-7 learned years ago that our readers and donors tend to be among the small, often contrarian minority who are the most inclined to think critically and take the long view of issues.
Our donors are extremely loyal to animal advocacy as a cause, but much less loyal than most in support of organizations that fail to deliver results and individual leaders who prove to be charlatans.
The same is probably also true of donors to Showing Animals Respect & Kindness. But donors to either ANIMALS 24-7 or Showing Animals Respect & Kindness are among the very small minority of all animal advocacy donors who do not follow the rules of behavior observed by most.
Commercial fundraisers write appeals for the majority; organization directors tend to do whatever succeeds most, in terms of funds raised relative to expenditure, when expressed in appeal form.
Aspiring to reform animal advocacy as a whole requires reforming animal charity behavior, which in turn requires reforming animal donor behavior, which requires somehow persuading the majority of donors to contradict the verities established by B.F. Skinner through animal experiments and sold, long ago, to the fundraising industry, for whom appealing to those verities continues to pay off.