If you’ve only seen TV ads for the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), you might be under the illusion it’s a good charity. But past the deceptive images of dogs and cats lies a scandal-ridden group. The organization, which is not affiliated with local humane societies, once agreed to pay nearly $15 million to settle a racketeering and bribery lawsuit, gets a “D” grade from CharityWatch, and pays its executives millions. Only 1% of the money it raises goes directly to local pet shelters, according to its public tax filings.
And then there’s that small problem of HSUS’s longtime leader Wayne Pacelle being accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. A new book from a former staffer at the HSUS main office sheds new light on this scandal.
The Farm Animal Movement, by Jeff Thomas, discusses his time at HSUS as well as his thoughts on the broader work by animal rights groups to end livestock farming and promote veganism. Thomas worked 20 feet from Pacelle’s office and dedicates a chapter to his firsthand experience witnessing unethical practices at HSUS in the months before Pacelle’s scandal became public.
Keep in mind: this is someone who was working to advance the HSUS political agenda. But to hear Thomas’s account, at one point he was considered a “mole” or spy by HSUS colleagues.
Thomas began working for HSUS’s political arm in 2017. “Six weeks after I was hired, I expressed concerns about the inappropriate relationship between the married CEO and a ‘special assistant’ half his age,” he writes.
But that didn’t go over so well.
“The HSUS Office of General Counsel was already well aware of Pacelle’s long history of alleged predation and abuse, having already paid out at least three settlements,” Thomas writes. “It was a mantra and urban legend when I was employed at the Humane Society that somebody who wanted to destroy HSUS would plant a mole to hurt Wayne. Beginning at orientation, employees were brainwashed with the anti- ‘mole’ omerta. … The ‘mole’ indoctrination helped cover up Pacelle’s sexual misconduct through exposing whistleblowers.”
And soon enough, Thomas says he was suspected of being a mole. “Immediately after I complained,” he writes, a staff attorney “texted special assistant Moreland that I was asking ‘some really probing questions about sexism at HSUS,’ and, ‘We know he’s not [a ‘mole’], right?’” He also writes that a right-hand woman of the COO “began coming to the DC office and sitting in the cubicle behind me to watch as I worked.”
Ultimately, Thomas says he was fired after Pacelle’s special assistant/paramour concocted an allegation that Thomas had been inappropriately behaving towards her.
As a result, Thomas has sued several current and former HSUS staffers. The litigation is ongoing.
Today, Pacelle has formed a new animal rights group and is back stalking the halls of Congress. The blame for this should be at the feet of the new HSUS CEO, Kitty Block.
Block has been more talk than walk. “Accountability is key,” Block told one journalist in an interview. But evidence of accountability? We can’t see any.
HSUS announced a “reconciliation process” in 2018, but quickly announced in 2019 that it was ending the process. Details were scant. But HSUS did make this admission: “Our problems were far greater than what was publicly discussed in early 2018. There were more victims of abuse, harassment and other inappropriate workplace behavior than had previously been known, and there were more bad actors involved as well.”
It was even worse than people believed? So who was held accountable? The details we can see publicly don’t make it look like much accountability happened.
The COO left his post with a $120,000 severance package. Pacelle’s special assistant got a promotion. Pacelle started a new lobbying group and is hobnobbing with Members of Congress. And Kitty Block got a promotion and a nice $600,000 compensation package.
Seems like everyone’s making money and moving on. At least at the top.
And for the little people? Things still are not great, according to Glassdoor reviews:
- “Management plays favoritism”
- “Tone-deaf leadership”
- “This is a toxic work environment”
The more things change, the more things stay the same.
“The executives at HSUS are the most dishonest group of people I have ever met,” concludes Thomas. Take it from someone who knows.
His book is available on Amazon. If you’re interested in the political side of animal rights, it provides a good read of how an activist thinks, and where he sees strengths and weaknesses for the movement.