HSUS Dithers in the Gulf

Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle was in Louisiana yesterday to hold a press conference. He told reporters that not enough is being done to help oil-covered wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico:

Pacelle, at a news conference in Belle Chasse on Monday, said there needs to be hundreds more people going to the oil-affected areas seeking oiled creatures.

He said those working on it are doing their best but the effort is not “pro-active.”

He said “trained workers need to be identifying and getting the oiled animals and birds so it isn't left to chance.”

Absolutely. There should be far more people wading into the ocean to rescue pelicans, egrets, terns, sea turtles, and whatever else is out there. And HSUS should be writing massive checks to fund the work.

Isn’t that the sort of a thing you’d expect a national “humane society” to spend its $192 million nest egg on? It’s hard to imagine a more suitable purpose than helping to clean up a major shoreline so that tens of thousands of animals don’t die needlessly.

In other words, it’s time to tap into the rainy-day fund. Because it’s raining like hell.

As far as we can tell, here’s a list of all the things HSUS has actually done in response to the greatest environmental disaster in America’s history, which began on April 20:

  • May 5: an online article says HSUS’s experts “stand ready to support local, regional and national responses to the spill”
  • May 6: a promotional Youtube video with a voiceover from HSUS’s Louisiana director, and a pledge to “help in any way we can … in the event our assistance is requested”
  • May 7: HSUS republishes a government document with instructions for “What to Do If You Find Oiled, Injured or Dead Marine Mammals, Sea Turtles or Birds,” and a blog article reminding everyone that “HSUS stands ready to assist in this time of crisis”
  • May 10: another video explains that HSUS is “gearing up to help wildlife in trouble from the Gulf oil spill”

Starting to get the picture? Lots of preparing, and not much actual doing. Here’s more:

  • May 17: HSUS offers assistance, and reminds everyone that its wildlife care center in Broward, FL (where the oil spill isn’t likely to affect much wildlife), is “on standby” in case anyone needs them
  • May 20: HSUS announces that 20,000 volunteers have signed up to help with oil cleanup (there’s no mention of what fraction of them are volunteering to help rescue wildlife, or what even tinier fraction were organized by HSUS), and the offer of the use of a climate-controlled van that can hold at most 20 rescued animals
  • June 1: HSUS publishes yet another online article about how it’s “ready, if needed, to deploy quickly”
  • June 3: HSUS announces of a 12-ton donation of pet food to families in the gulf, 97 percent of which was donated by Mars PetCare and the remaining 3 percent by the company that makes HSUS’s private label vegetarian dog food (HSUS offered to deliver it all in a truck, so naturally they took most of the credit, although Mars made massive financial contributions as well)
  • June 4: Wayne Pacelle explains that “BP and its contractors are handling animal rehabilitation at the scene, and wildlife experts of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service are responsible for capturing oiled and injured animals … But we stand by to assist in any way we can”
  • June 10: HSUS announces that it has assembled a seven-person team to “assess the impact” of the oil spill on wildlife (it’s stated purpose is not to actually do anything productive, but to “gather information, assess impacts, and determine which questions still need to be asked and answered”)
  • June 12: HSUS describes a helicopter ride that its team took over the Louisiana shore
  • June 14: Pacelle publishes a blog article describing his fact-finding mission, assisted by Louisiana Senator David Vitter (who happens to be the second-biggest recipient of money this year from HSUS’s “Humane USA” Political Action Committee)

In case you missed the key message, HSUS is tanned, rested, and ready. But no one in charge seems interested in putting these showboaters to work. And if HSUS can’t reap publicity from being the lead dog, they just don’t want to hunt. Accordingly, they’re simply not doing much. Consider that last week, when the Better Business Bureau issued a lineup of charities engaged in gulf cleanup efforts, HSUS didn’t even make the list.

Add it all up: HSUS has paid for seven part-time consulting contracts, about $1,700 worth of dog food, a truck rental to drop it off, a few hours of a blog writer’s time, a short-term van rental, and a couple of video cameras. Not exactly breaking the bank, are they? It looks like a lot of talk and not much forward motion.

But every time one of those online articles reinforces just how prepared, ready, and hopeful HSUS is, a “donate now” message appears on the right side of the screen. Amazing, isn’t it?

Here’s a list of what HSUS should be doing instead if it’s really interested in helping out:

  • Encouraging Americans to donate generously—not to HSUS, but to organizations like the International Bird Rescue Research Center and the Audubon Nature Institute
  • Writing seven-figure checks to those organizations, and others that are actually rolling up their sleeves and rescuing animals in the gulf
  • Building a new bird rescue center in the Florida panhandle, or in another gulf coast region that has no such facility
  • Paying people a daily stipend for helping with wildlife cleanup
  • Buying plane tickets for Americans in other regions who want to come to the gulf coast and volunteer
  • Making interest-free loans to land owners along the coast so they can afford to help rescue animals on their property while BP processes whatever claims will eventually be paid

This isn’t rocket science. And I’m sure there are other things HSUS’s money could be covering right now that would actually help animals. But instead, what we’ve seen is a lot of posturing, posing, and preening. Is a little bit of action too much to hope for?