The HSUS annual conference Taking Action for Animals (TAFA) was held June 27-30, 2014 in Washington DC. HSUS describes the conference as one that promotes “mainstream solutions” and provides attendees education to become a better advocate for animals. In other words, TAFA serves as a huge pep rally for animal rightists to connect, bolster their morale, and in the words of HSUS: “recharge their batteries.” In his conference speech Wayne Pacelle told the audience, “TAFA is an attempt to attract the elite in the animal protection movement to help train you and educate you so then you can fan out all over the country and spread these messages and heighten your own level of effectiveness as an advocate.”
The various conference speakers included many of the old guard from the animal rights industry: Gene Bauer and Bruce Friedrich (Farm Sanctuary); Carole Baskin (Big Cat Rescue); Sara Amundson (Humane Society Legislative Fund); Keith Dane (HSUS Equine Protection); Jonathan Lovvorn (HSUS VP Animal Protection and Litigation); Nancy Perry (Sr. VP Government Relations, ASPCA).
Nick Cooney and Nathan Runkle from Mercy for Animals (MFA) were also among the speakers. MFA is probably best known for their undercover videos of animal agriculture which Runkle calls the “lifeblood” of the organization. MFA considers itself part of a “social justice” movement where portraying production agriculture as harsh and cruel will move people toward a vegan diet.
Although not her first appearance, a newer face at TAFA was Lisa Fletcher, host of “The Stream” on Al Jazeera America and wife of Wayne Pacelle, who describes herself as a friend to all animals and vegan food maniac. You may remember reading recently that Fletcher provided a platform for longtime radical activist Paul Shapiro, HSUS VP on Farm Animal Protection, on a segment of her show covering new USDA regulations.
Other TAFA scheduled speakers included, State Rep. Eddie Lucio III (TX); Jill Kline (Education and Advocacy Manager, Wisconsin Humane Society); Christine Coughlin (Pres. Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection); and Nicole Paquette (VP, HSUS Wildlife Protection/former Texas State Director).
TAFA also offered a series of workshops for the attendees.
“Becoming a Political Animal” workshop was moderated by HSUS director and former member of Animal Liberation Front, John Goodwin. Presenters included former state senator Roy Afflerbach (PA); Matt Dominguez, HSUS Public Policy Manager Farm Animal Protection; and Wayne Pacelle. Workshop attendees were instructed on effective lobbying at all levels of government from city council to Congress.
“Giving Farm Animals a Voice” workshop presenters included Erica Meier, Executive Director, Compassion Over Killing, and Kristie Middleton, Corporate Outreach Manager, HSUS Farm Animal Protection who shared strategies for effectively waging initiatives against farm animal cruelty.
Kelly Peterson, HSUS Senior Vice President for State Affairs moderated a workshop with former and current legislators to teach activists what “humane legislators” need to hear in order to pass animal protection laws. The discussion panel included Delegate Eric Luedtke (MD); Representative Diana Urban (CT); and former Tennessee state Representative Eric Swafford, now HSUS Director for Rural Outreach and Development. We will cover this portion of the conference in more detail in a later article.
THE HSUS PLAN AND PROGRAMS
When Pacelle addressed the audience his speech centered on the four policy sections that HSUS uses to break down the animal protection movement. They are: Public Education and Awareness; Hands on Caring; Corporate Reform and Corporate Policy; and Public Policy and Enforcement.
Pacelle noted it is now a universal value in our society to oppose cruelty to animals. With anti-cruelty statutes in every state carrying felony penalties it reinforces the fact that people who are cruel to animals are going to pay a price to society, either with incarceration or fines. Pacelle continued, “That is the meaningful sort of legal framework for us to build upon.”
As part of the HSUS “hands-on” programs, teams of staff and volunteers are assembled for disaster response, animal rescue, and for animal fighting and puppy mill cases. According to Pacelle, HSUS can leverage images from these programs to raise public awareness that animals are in crisis situations every day across the country.
Pacelle then covered the third portion which is Corporate Reform. Pacelle stated, “We live in a capitalist society where corporations produce the products that so many of us consume. They employ millions and millions of people. We want them as part of their broader mission of social responsibility to include animal welfare. We ask them to try to reach a higher standard. So this is where the anti-animal testing policies come in and the no gestation crate policies. This is vital work for us and we in HSUS spend a tremendous amount of time on it.”’
The final segment of Pacelle’s speech, which focused on Public Policy and Enforcement, should be a major wakeup call for everyone on how far the HSUS tentacles continue to invade our communities pretending to dispense mainstream values.
Pacelle introduced this segment saying that laws in a civil society are not only designed to keep order but to reflect the values which are basic to society. The laws are not designed to change everybody; they are designed to deal with those who are increasingly viewed as (moral) outliers in society. The law addresses these outlier cases of people who are engaging in conduct that is no longer acceptable. The conduct may have been acceptable at one point, but it is no longer acceptable today. Pacelle reminded listeners that it is up to them to advance social progress for animals just like the other great causes of civil rights, anti-slavery, and women's rights.
He then announced that HSUS now had State Councils in place in half the states in order to expand the HSUS reach and support HSUS state directors. The councils cover equine and farm animal protection, law enforcement, faith, and park animal protection and HSUS plans to have these councils in all 50 states. Pacelle informed the audience that these structures were being created to empower those committed to the animal rights industry and to advance the ideals of social reform. He reminded listeners that social reform is not perfectly linear with consistent forward progress. Felony and increased animal cruelty penalties, ending use of gestation crates, corporations enacting animal welfare policies sometimes move a step or two forward toward progress and then a step back. To quote Pacelle, “That's the nature of a social movement -- especially when you've got big adversaries.”
We may be used to the animal rights rhetoric and vegan agenda; however the really disturbing part of this new “structure” plan is the HSUS District Leader Program now in place. This program is designed to engage people in all 435 Congressional Districts and have those District Leaders lead political efforts to advance federal legislation by concentrating on influencing members of Congress.
Below is the ambitious position description for a District Leader as posted on the HSUS website.
The purpose is to help HSUS advance and accelerate animal protection priorities for companion animals, farm animals, and wildlife with legislation at the local, state, and federal levels. Under the guidance of HSUS staff, the Leader is to develop an action plan for successful completion of one goal related to Legislative Advocacy; one goal for protection of Companion Animals, Eating with a Conscience, or Wildlife Protection; and one goal related to growing the “movement.” The Leader is also expected to participate in the state Humane Lobby Day. The Leaders are expected to organize grassroots activities, attend community events and meetings, and will be given a 'Toolkit' with program ideas.
Qualifications for District Leader positions include a commitment to the mission of HSUS; willingness to cultivate strong relationships with elected officials and lawmakers; and willingness to recruit new members, among other requirements and abilities. It should be noted that these are volunteer positions and HSUS membership or greater philanthropic commitment is required.
Pacelle explained to listeners that this new structure being developed for the District Leader program was very important. It is not just political. The Leaders will work with school districts to establish Meatless Mondays; connect with small farmers to unite them against “factory farms;” work with animal shelters on spay/neuter initiatives in the community. The program is designed to build an army in every community in the United States and it is well underway.
In addition to the District Leaders, HSUS plans to include within this framework County Leaders in all 3,100 counties across the U.S. Quoting Pacelle, “Our ambition is to have thousands and thousands of people involved. If we get this done, we’re going to be hell on wheels.”
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