The Humane Society of the United States has been indignantly complaining in the media recently about an auction that occurred on Saturday. The Dallas Safari Club auctioned off a permit to hunt a black rhino, an endangered species, in Namibia for $350,000.
Sound troubling? At first glance, probably. But consider the situation:
- A few rhinos a year are shot by the government of Namibia as a part of population management;
- The rhino will be older and not capable of breeding;
- Older, non-breeding rhinos can harm younger, breeding rhinos;
- The money raised is going towards anti-poaching efforts (poaching is a major threat to the rhinos).
Given these facts, we think most reasonable people would find the auction practical. Yet HSUS has maintained strident opposition to the auction, and the auction has even spawned death threats from the animal rights fringe.
HSUS, like PETA, is ideologically against hunting, and some moderate people might still be uneasy about shooting an endangered animal. So there seems to have been an easy option: HSUS could have outbid everyone and chosen not to shoot the animal. Not only would HSUS have spared an endangered rhino, it would have given over $350,000 to anti-poaching efforts.
That just makes too much sense, though. It’s far easier—and cheaper—for HSUS to complain and get quoted in the press. In fact, the record shows that HSUS, with $200 million in assets and a $120 million yearly budget, apparently isn’t doing much to help rhinos at all.
According to HSUS’s 2011 tax return, it only made $39,000 in grants to sub-Saharan Africa. None of that money appears to have helped rhinos. In 2012, HSUS only made $40,000 in grants to sub-Saharan Africa. Again, none of this money appears to have gone to help rhinos.
HSUS spends about $50 million a year on fundraising costs alone—if it could spare more for rhinos, we might take its cries more seriously. Instead, its priorities are clear: Make noise, create conflict, and then move on to another issue while raking in the dollars.
The way it stands, $350,000 was just raised for anti-poaching efforts that will help an endangered species. It’s a net gain for a situation in which the animal was going to be taken already. And it’s yet another case where HSUS has crocodile tears, but no practical solutions.