Animal agribusiness apparently ordered the hit in response to a rumor that the ASPCA might finally do something for farmed animals
NEW YORK CITY, N.Y.––How, and why, has the American SPCA, often exposed by ANIMALS 24-7 over the past 35 years for episodes of excessively funded, overpaid mendacity, sloth, and incompetence, recently ascended to the top of the anti-animal advocacy public relations firm Berman & Company hit list?
Doesn’t an organization actually have to do something controversial, challenge the status quo, and exercise some sort of leadership to incite the formation of an another hugely funded entity specifically to attack it?
What is the “Center for the Environment & Welfare”?
Reported Houston Keene and Aaron Kliegman of Fox News on April 28, 2023, “The Center for the Environment & Welfare, a newly formed think tank,” apparently spun off from and inspired by the much older Berman & Company project HumaneWatch, “announced this week the launch of a paid media campaign to ‘expose the duplicity’ of” the ASPCA.
“CEW’s media campaign, which is currently a six-figure expenditure but will grow into a million-dollar effort, currently includes a TV ad running nationally as well as a radio spot and a digital ad on Twitter and Facebook,” Keene and Kliegman said.
Backing the CEW campaign is a Change.org petition posted by one Kathleen O’Neil.
ANIMALS 24-7 is all about exposing duplicity, by erstwhile animal advocates who raise tons of money and do not spend it as donors expect, of course, and even more so by animal use industry greenwashers, who pose as environmentalists and animal advocates, shamelessly adopting any guise but vegan.
In this instance, the Center for the Environment & Welfare, along with HumaneWatch, have so far attempted to tar and feather the ASPCA so ineptly that the effort almost amounts to whitewashing.
Fairness alone requires pointing out that the Center for the Environment & Welfare and HumaneWatch have amplified many of the same issues initially exposed years ago by ANIMALS 24-7.
But CEW and HumaneWatch have almost nothing new.
Most of their flak pertains to issues of ten to 30 years ago, not related to each other, occurring under previous ASPCA administrations.
Some of the ASPCA personnel involved in those long ago issues are now deceased, others retired. None are still at the ASPCA in prominent positions.
Several of those old issues date back to when the ASPCA provided animal shelter service for New York City, from 1895 to 1994. Others pertained to the former ASPCA role in doing New York City humane law enforcement, dropped coincidental with the 2013 election of current president Matt Bershadker.
“Workers of the world, unite!”?
The only matters raised by the Center for the Environment & Welfare and HumaneWatch that have not previously been discussed by ANIMALS 24-7, years ago, are two rather mundane and unrelated wrongful dismissal lawsuits brought by lower-tier former staff.
One of the two plaintiffs, a woman, worked in New York City and sued over an alleged gender discrimination grievance dating to 2016. Her complaint was filed against a well-reputed female senior staffer who retired in 2018.
The other plaintiff, a man who worked in Los Angeles, alleges racism, but rather unconvincingly.
When an organization employs 1,280 people, these things happen. Two such complaints in 7,680 employee years is a very normal record.
In any event, CEW and HumaneWatch have no history of sympathy for rank-and-file workers. Their main concern appears to be anxiety that 32 years after the ASPCA board fired then-president John Kullberg for advocating vegetarianism, the ASPCA might actually do something significant on behalf of farmed animals.
Fruit, vegetables, or tofu?
ANIMALS 24-7 will not hold our breath waiting for any ASPCA initiatives in that direction to bear fruit, vegetables, or tofu, but to call Center for the Environment & Welfare executive director Jack Hubbard a wolf in sheep’s clothing would be to malign transvestites.
As well as wolves.
Hubbard’s concerns are not for sheep, goats, any other farmed animal, or wolves for that matter, who are killed by the hundreds in cattle ranching territory simply on suspicion that they might some day eat a cow before the cow can be sold and slaughtered for beef.
“Hundreds of millions of dollars”
The ASPCA, charged Keene and Kliegman, “is sitting on hundreds of millions of dollars — including millions in offshore Caribbean accounts — and doling out six-figure salaries to employees while giving just 2% of its budget to pet shelters, according to an explosive new report,” from Hubbard and CEW.
“At the same time, according to CEW,” Keene and Kliegman continued, “the ASPCA in 2021 had $390 million in revenue and $575 million in assets, including $310 million in investments and $105 million in savings.
“Perhaps most striking, the animal welfare group has about $11 million in offshore accounts in the Caribbean, while tax filings show ASPCA CEO Matt Berkshadker rakes in nearly $1 million a year and 259 of his employees make six figures.
You read it here first
“CEW’s findings seem to correlate with a 2021 investigation by CBS News,” Keene and Kliegman went on, “which reported at the time that while the ASPCA raised more than $2 billion for animal welfare since 2008, it spent $146 million, or about 7% of the total money raised, in grants to local animal welfare groups.
“Meanwhile, the group spent nearly three times that — at least $421 million — on fundraising.”
All true, in gist, though some of the exact numbers vary from year to year. But you read it here first.
CEW targeting ASPCA over 2023 Farm Bill
“Hubbard called for Berkshadker to cut his salary in half and for ASCPA to distribute its roughly $300 million investments to local shelters ‘on the front lines of saving animals,’ arguing people should donate their money to them, not the ASPCA, if they wish to help pets in need,” Keene and Kliegman said.
Intoned Hubbard, “We’re concerned about misinformation and a lack of information about the true agenda of the ASPCA.”
Then Hubbard’s fleece slipped.
“CEW is also targeting the ASPCA for its lobbying efforts to influence the 2023 Farm Bill, a legislative package passed every five years that has significant impact on the country’s food supply and agriculture,” Keene and Kliegman revealed.
“The ASPCA is leading a coalition of 40 animal rights groups in the lobbying push,” Keene and Kliegman said.
Following up on 28-hour law of 1873
The ASPCA agenda, Keene and Kliegman alleged, “includes a national moratorium on new and expanded large livestock feeding operations and a complete ban by 2040, as well as creating new animal welfare standards for the transport of livestock and poultry, such as reducing the amount of time animals can be transported without rest.
Wow! 150 years since the ASPCA under founder Henry Bergh helped to win passage of the 28-hour law of 1873, limiting the time cattle could be hauled by train without rest, food, and water, the ASPCA might want to update the legislation to accommodate current livestock industry realities.
“The ASPCA-led coalition also supports a proposal for $100 billion ‘voluntary’ program to transition animal-feeding operations to ‘raising pasture-based livestock, growing specialty crops, or organic commodity production,” Keene and Kliegman continued in apparent panic.
“Incentivizing farmers to grow crops”
“The purpose, according CEW,” Keene and Kliegman said, “is to incentivize livestock farmers to stop raising animals and focus instead on crops and plants.”
Keene, Kliegman, and perhaps Hubbard thereby demonstrated a noteworthy lack of understanding that animal agriculture, like every other form of agriculture, is based on growing “crops and plants.”
Indeed, about 70% of the crop acreage of the U.S. is used right now for producing feed and fodder for livestock.
If livestock farmers quit raising animals altogether, around half of that acreage would no longer be needed to produce food for U.S. consumption, meaning that far more food could be exported to help feed malnourished people in the parts of the world hardest hit by global warming––which is in large part a consequence of animal agriculture.
Less productive land could be returned to wildlife habitat, as much already has been.
Scared that the ASPCA might actually do something
So what really concerns Hubbard?
Not, it seems, that the ASPCA is not doing much with assets that at present amount to about 20% more than the net wealth of the Humane Society of the U.S., the second richest animal advocacy organization in the world.
Rather Hubbard and the Berman & Company clients appear to be worried by the prospect that maybe, perhaps, somehow and someday, the ASPCA might actually do something to change the dismal status quo for animals, in this case the animals whose misery it has long most ignored.
The current Berman & Company client list is unknown, but clients of the Center for Consumer Freedom, a previous Berman project, included Wendy’s restaurants, the Outback steakhouse chain, Cargill, Coca Cola, the Tyson chicken empire, Pilgrim’s Pride, and RTM Inc., owner of Arby’s restaurants.
So who is this “Mother Hubbard”?
From February 2018 to January 2023, Jack Hubbard was chief executive officer of the American Humane Association, before returning to his previous employer, Berman & Company, as partner and owner.
Founded in 1877 as the intended collective voice of the humane movement, the American Humane Association was captured at the board level by representatives of animal agribusiness in stages between approximately 1998 and 2007, after 50-odd years of flirtation with the major animal use industries.
Suggested then-Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle, heading Animal Wellness Action since 2018, in a February 8, 2017 blog posting, “The American Humane Association reached a new low in my view when it hired Jack Hubbard from the public relations shop of Richard Berman, who fights animal protection efforts across the board on behalf of unknown clients involved with animal exploitation. Hubbard is now AHA’s chief marketing officer and vice president of communications,” positions from which he was soon promoted.
“The group has flipped”
“It feels to me,” Pacelle said, “like the group has flipped and may no longer be an ally of animal welfare but an adversary instead.”
Asked ANIMALS 24-7 eight months earlier, “What does it signify that American Humane Association chief marketing officer and vice president of communications Jack Hubbard came to that position in May 2016 after nine years as vice president of the aggressively anti-animal and habitat advocacy public relations firm Richard Berman & Company, 2007-2016?
“American Humane Association president Robin Ganzert did not respond to a June 28, 2016 inquiry to that effect from ANIMALS 24-7, perhaps because hiring Hubbard might be very difficult to explain.”
HomeMade Gin Kit
“Richard Berman & Company,” ANIMALS 24-7 pointed out then, “is perhaps best known for representing the anti-regulatory Center for Consumer Freedom, and other projects including HumaneWatch.org, which chiefly attacks the Humane Society of the United States, and the Humane Society for Shelter Pets, an entity dissolved in September 2013 after a two-year existence during which it appeared to do little––if anything––except attack HSUS.”
Hubbard, apart from his work for the Center for Consumer Freedom, in October 2012 cofounded a company called HomeMade Gin Kit.
The ASPCA & farmed animals
Meanwhile, if the ASPCA has suddenly developed a strong concern for farmed animals, it is not readily evident from the ASPCA web site, though some advocacy material pertaining to farmed animals can be found with the site search engine.
Nor is concern for farmed animals readily evident from the list of grant recipients included in the ASPCA filing of IRS Form 990 for 2021, the most recent available.
Among 89 other organizations receiving ASPCA grants, totaling more than $10 million, the largest ASPCA grant recipient was the Denver Dumb Friends League, receiving $750,000.
Only four ASPCA grant recipients appeared to be involved in opposition to animal agribusiness.
Where the money went
Among these, the Socially Responsible Agriculture Project received $125,000; Food Animal Concerns Trust received $120,000; $80,000 went to A Greener World; and $23,000 went to Farm Sanctuary.
Schedule O of the 2021 ASPCA filing of IRS Form 990 adds mentions that the ASPCA in September 2021 “celebrated Farm Animal Awareness Week,” and that “in April 2021 the ASPCA and Vermont Law School launched a new animal law fellowship that offers journalists the opportunity to attend a VLS summer course focusing on the intersections of farm animal welfare, factory farming, media, and the law.”
ANIMALS 24-7, for what it’s worth, learned a lot about that stuff while actually reporting about farm animal welfare and factory farming decades ago for rural newspapers serving that very region.
What the ASPCA actually does besides raise funds
This obviously amounts to more than not giving a shit, the traditional ASPCA position, but falls well short of being the whole manure spreader load suggested by Jack Hubbard and the Center for the Environment & Welfare,
The rest of the ASPCA grant money appears to have gone toward spay/neuter work, disaster relief, and a variety of other projects in support of mostly dog-and-cat-centered missions, including promoting pit bulls.
On the one hand, the ASPCA has been the leading spay/neuter service provider in the U.S. since absorbing the Humane Alliance, of Asheville, North Carolina, in 2015.
On the other, the ASPCA has long been the leading pit bull-pushing entity worldwide, albeit sharing this dubious distinction with the Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie’s Fund, the Humane Society of the U.S., and Dogs Trust and the Royal SPCA of Great Britain.
“Follow the money!”: where Hubbard & Bershadker meet
The ASPCA has had some principled presidents in the 135 years since Henry Bergh died in 1888, in particular John Kullberg, 1978-1991, deceased in 2003, though Kullberg took the ASPCA in the wrong direction on pit bulls.
The ASPCA has also had some charismatic presidents, notably former television personality Roger Caras, 1991-1999, deceased in 2001, who often served as ringmaster for the Westminster Dog Show hosted by the the American Kennel Club.
Despite that, the ASPCA has long been strikingly short of dynamic, inspirational leadership, principled or otherwise.
Bergh remains the first and last ASPCA president to establish a nationally influential presence. The current ASPCA president, Matt Bershadker, though paid more than any two of his predecessors combined, has less presence even in Manhattan, where the ASPCA is headquartered, than some of New York City’s more vociferous cat ladies.
If, after a decade under Bershadker, the ASPCA is belatedly becoming interested in farmed animals, the growing popularity of plant-based diet among potential donors likely has a lot to do with it.