Debate 101, HSUS Style

Taking on the goliath that is HSUS is no easy task, as many readers know. HSUS has illegitimately claimed the moral high ground, has a huge marketing budget to spread misinformation far and wide to deceive Americans, and can skillfully beat the you’re-with-us-or-with-animal-cruelty drum to stifle dissenting voices.

It’s no surprise to read that HSUS doesn’t always tell the whole story, whether on farm issues or other matters. And they’ve been able to get away with it for years , so why change? The latest example of HSUS rhetorical trickery comes in its response to our announcement that  well over 100 complaints have recently been filed against HSUS with the Federal Trade Commission. Many are in regard to deceptive advertising–including many from people who have given money to HSUS.   

CEO Wayne Pacelle told this to Farm & Dairy last week:

There is nothing to be said for [HumaneWatch]’s false claims concerning The HSUS’s advertising, save for that the organization recently earned a four star rating (the highest rating) from Charity Navigator, the most prominent of charity watchdogs, on the basis of our performance with respect to transparency and governance, financial information and results reporting.

There’s one little flaw to his argument: Charity Navigator doesn’t evaluate advertising content. It basically takes a group’s tax returns at face value to perform cursory analysis—and as we’ve explained, that’s silly because accountants can classify as “program  costs” things that really are fundraising costs. That’s why the not-so-flattering evaluations from the American Institute of Philanthropy and Animal People News are much more credible. (HSUS doesn’t fare well. And read our full reply here.)

We print Pacelle’s reply because it’s his typical M.O.—writing non sequitur and flim-flam rebuttals in the newspaper or bashing us in the controlled environment of his blog or personal podcast. (One of Wayne’s latest 13-minute podcasts is devoted to berating us alongside his endeared “host.”)

Here’s our open challenge to Wayne Pacelle: If he wants to have a focused debate on the merits of the FTC complaints—or HSUS’s ads, or the American Institute of Philanthropy ratings—we’re game. Pacelle regularly claims we’re making “false” statements, so it should be a cakewalk for him to zero in on our statements—not to mention Pacelle has a Yale degree and is a silver-tongued slickster. Surely he can hold his own. Just name the date and time, Wayne. As a little incentive, we’ll even address his complaints about this nonprofit’s management expenses.

We doubt he’ll step up, though. We would hand Wayne Pacelle his derrière in a debate, and he knows it (even if he stacked the deck with Jane Velez-Mitchell). So he can keep whining on his podcast while ever more people are catching on to HSUS’s game. He’ll have to face the music sooner or later.

In the meantime, maybe he can freshen up on his logic skills at Humane Society University. Isn’t there a class for that?