10/24/2012 12:29 EDT | Updated 12/24/2012 05:12 EST

The US Humane Society Doesn't Like Animals? That's a Crock


There are about 20,000 separate groups in the U.S. dedicated to animal causes -- from small Mom and Pop rescue groups devoted to helping, say, a specific breed of dog, to the very largest of organizations, like The Humane Society of the United States, with our agenda of animal protection priorities as extensive as the problems themselves.

In large part, the profusion of these groups is a positive thing -- raising our national level of energy and awareness to combat the challenges of cruelty, whether involving pets, farm animals, wildlife or animals use in research. There are hundreds of millions of animals that need our attention in this busy nation, so 20,000 groups with locked arms is probably just the bare minimum to keep our society moving forward.

But, and of course, there is a "but" to be voiced, a small few who claim to have the interests of animals at heart let their ambitions get the best of them. They end up, perversely, giving comfort to those who have a vested economic interest in the status quo mistreatment of animals, including countless thousands of breeding dogs caged in horrible puppy mills, and the millions of animals cruelly confined in industrial-scale agricultural operations, and so many more.

We have witnessed just such an instance lately on the Huffington Post.

An angry opinion writer has tried to build himself up by tearing down the work of The HSUS. A small thinker who takes on a large organization in the hopes of gaining recognition is a tired old story, and we'll let him find some other group to play that game. But -- yes, another " but" -- it's not a good idea these days to let even absurd accusations go unanswered out of concern that someone may think silence is the same as surrender.

So we'll reply. On our terms.

The red-in-the-face online writer thinks he could do a better job for animals if only he could command an organization as big and proud and as deeply rooted in our culture as the HSUS. Allow us, just once, to borrow from his own inelegant writing: "This is a complete crock."

His ideas are so weak that he has no organization to speak of. Indeed, all he brings to the discussion is a keyboard and the hope that the Internet will grant him his wish of all vain name-callers, a minute in the spotlight and a smattering of praise from those who revel in the incomplete story.

The lesson here is simple: When you hear the honourable name of a long standing charity dragged through the mud, look a little deeper and make up your own mind. Sometimes, a critic is right. Other times, you might find yourself wondering why someone who professes to care for animals spends his time attacking groups that are doing the work of caring for animals.

The HSUS and its affiliates protect dogs, cats, and other animals every day of the year, through education, rescue, veterinary services, support to local shelters; by backing better public policies concerning puppy mills, dogfighting, and animal cruelty; by promoting improved animal care and control throughout the United States and abroad; and by conducting advertising to promote sterilization and adoption that benefits every shelter in the nation, something that simply otherwise could not be done on this scale except by an organization with the reach of HSUS.

The HSUS provided direct care for 76,955 animals in 2011 alone -- through rescue, rehabilitation, veterinary service, and sanctuary. When we add the spay and neuter surgeries undertaken in cooperation with World Spay Day partners, the number of animals involved rises to 125,625.

Our leadership in working to pass Prop B in Missouri, to crack down on puppy mills, has resulted in 800 of these substandard operations shutting down just in the last two years.

Millions -- yes, millions upon millions -- of animals benefit from the work of The HSUS in bringing to an end the severe confinement of farm animals. More than 40 major companies, including restaurants like McDonald's and giant food service providers like Sysco, have announced just this year the phase-out of gestation crates in their pork supply chains. These crates keep breeding pigs all but immobilized for much of their lives.

It's our effectiveness and dogged pursuit of protecting all animals that led one agribusiness industry publication to write: "The progression of this issue also exemplifies how quickly the Humane Society of the United States can affect change...HSUS and its efforts are having an impact."

To accomplish such leaps forward for animals, The HSUS is also committed to working with new allies for the sake of animals. We have collaborated with mega corporations to reduce suffering. We have partnered with hunters in the fight against wildlife abuses, such as canned hunts and poaching. After we led the way in seeing that he was punished, we provided Michael Vick opportunities to speak to at-risk young men and steer them away from the dead-end world of dog fighting.

We joined the United Egg Producers, the largest trade group in the egg industry, to push for national standards to give laying hens more room and better treatment. We pioneered the idea of a "humane economy" -- to harness the creative potential of the free market system to satisfy both human needs and animal protection.

The HSUS is rated a four-star charity (the highest possible) by Charity Navigator, approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, and named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities. These are the ratings that count in real charity work.

There is room in our vast, energetic movement for disagreement about priorites and about the value of alliances. But there should be zero tolerance for harsh rhetoric that gives comfort to those who would harm animals. That's not what it means when we speak of a more compassionate world.