Activists amass millions
Groups opposed to animal agriculture rake in donations
By DAN WHEAT
The Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary have substantial financial resources and basically oppose consumption of animals as agricultural commodities, according to their position statements.
While HSUS is less overt, Farm Sanctuary's website states that it "opposes the slaughter, consumption and commodification of farm animals."
"Farm Sanctuary has never and will never support so-called 'humane' meat. We maintain that the words 'humane' and 'slaughter' are mutually exclusive," according to the group's website's position statements.
Both groups seek the ban of small cages for egg-laying chickens, veal crates for calves and gestation crates for breeding sows, potentially through federal legislation.
"We encourage a vegan lifestyle but it is not an imperative. It's more an aspiration," Farm Sanctuary president Gene Baur told Capital Press. "We work against inhumane treatment of animals."
Baur said he has a master's degree in agricultural economics, spent time on a dairy farm and doesn't want farmers to go out of business.
"Farming changes over time. Farming now and in the future will change," he said. "What's the most efficient way to feed our world? Growing more plants and fewer animals makes sense."
It takes more resources to produce food from animals than plants, and more food is needed as the world's population grows, he said.
However, Farm Sanctuary's pro-vegan stance is clear on the organization's website.
"Those who are sincere in their concern for animals and for the environment make a knotty compromise if they choose to eat ostensibly crate-free or free-range meat instead of a vegan diet," the Farm Sanctuary website states.
"The degree to which so-called humane meat is more sustainable than factory-farmed meat is negligible; plant-based agriculture is far more environmentally sound than animal agriculture whether 'humane' or factory farmed. And while some farmers may treat animals better than others, we achieve a much deeper compassion when we do not eat animals at all."
Baur co-founded Farm Sanctuary in 1986 to combat abuses he said exist on farms. The organization was headquartered in Watkins Glen, N.Y., until Baur recently moved to College Park, Md., close to Washington, D.C.
Farm Sanctuary lists total 2009 revenue of $6.4 million, mostly from member contributions. Expenses, largely animal shelters in New York and California, totaled $5.7 million. It lists total assets of $6.6 million.
Established in 1954, the Humane Society of the U.S. has 11 million members and claims to work to reduce animal suffering. It opposes confinement of animals in crates and cages. Its undercover investigation of abuse at a California slaughterhouse in 2008 led to U.S. Justice Department action. The organization's 2009 annual report contains a page on slaughterhouses.
HSUS has been engaged in legislative and initiative efforts in California, Michigan, Maine and Ohio.
The organization lists total revenue of $132 million in 2009, total expenses of $130 million and total assets of $218 million. Of the revenue, $83 million comes from contributions and grants. Expenses are spread over research, education, disaster relief, wildlife programs, animal care facilities and advocacy and public policy. The society spent $3.7 million on political campaigns and lobbying in 2009, $35.8 million in salaries for 629 employees and $30.9 million on fundraising.