Earlier this week I received a letter from a woman who was irate about Dogtime articles citing the Humane Society of the United States as a source. She was so incensed, she said she was planning to disable her account.
Even within the animal advocacy set (or maybe especially within that set?) HSUS can be a controversial, if not downright polarizing, organization. Among other criticisms, opponents condemn the iron grip they keep on their sizeable financial holdings, none of which trickles down to local shelters – even those with Humane Society in their name.
Like many, I don’t agree with HSUS positions on several key animal advocacy issues. I’ve been discouraged by their lack of support for other agencies in the same field. And I’m particularly skeptical that their alliance with Michael Vick has done any good, save helping to rehabilitate the image of Vick himself. (HSUS’s recently-announced partnership with Sheryl Crow seems much more promising.)
But do HSUS contributions outweigh their disappointments? Yes.
Yesterday, governor Arnold Schwarzenegger signed into law the requirements outlined in Proposition 2, which California voters passed in 2008. Specifically, it mandates that “…all whole eggs intended for human consumption in the state be produced by chickens that are able to fully extend their limbs, stand up, lie down and spread their wings without touching the side of their enclosure or other birds.”
And that is huge. Not because the lives of egg-laying chickens will now be so enviable, but because the quality of life of those animals will be significantly improved. And in movements like this, in which so many suffer so profoundly, each step is a victory.
Of course we need to support our local shelters. As a volunteer, I know how agonizing it is to have to do so much with so few resources. But we also need behemoths like HSUS to lobby state and federal governments, to expose the cruelty of dog fighting and the heartbreak of puppy mills, and to ensure our livestock are treated with the compassion and humanity they deserve.
There is no group, national or local, whose every position lines up perfectly with ours here at Dogtime. But I believe it’s important to work together as much as we can, especially when there is a substantial amount of common ground in which to join forces and effect change.