In fact, hours before the resignation, the board voted 17-9 to keep Pacelle on at the helm of the organization. Amazingly, the board just didn’t find the allegations credible, even though settlements had been previously made to former employees that were demoted or dismissed after speaking about Pacelle’s conduct to others. Sources reported that “a majority of the board members calculated that cutting ties with Pacelle would do more damage to the nonprofit than keeping him in the post.” The board decided that Pacelle, who has held the position since 2004, had done such a good job expanding notoriety of the organization and largely increasing profits the allegations just weren’t sufficient to get rid of him.
Let that sink in for a second: the allegations of sexual harassment and a hostile work environment were not enough to get rid of Pacelle because he was making the organization so much money.
Not everyone was satisfied with the board’s reasoning. In fact, several people resigned their positions after the vote, including the HSUS Director in Iowa, who found it sick that the organization was prioritizing money over female employees. Reportedly, others also found the evidence compelling and were “stunned” by the vote. In case you’re wondering, The Washington Post reported: “The Humane Society investigation interviewed 33 witnesses, including Pacelle, outlining complaints from a former intern who said Pacelle kissed her against her will in 2005; a former employee who said he asked to masturbate in front of her and offered her oral sex in a hotel room in 2006; and a former employee who said he stopped by her office late one night in 2012 and asked her to salsa dance with him.”
But, you know, money.
Given the shady tactics HSUS employs to raise money and market itself to the public, I’m not surprised. HSUS uses all of those adorably heart-wrenching commercials of abused and neglected cats and dogs to induce folks to donate. In reality, less than 1% of HSUS’ annual budget actually goes to local humane shelters. Instead, HSUS takes the cash and puts it to work for the organization’s ultimate goal: ending animal agriculture. From state to state, ballot measures are offered up to voters with the mask of helping animals, though they usually have more sinister motives. All the while, HSUS is laughing all the way to the bank.
Forwarding that agenda is apparently more important than protecting female employees. How can an animal rights organization really stand by that principle? For all the talk of love and compassion for animals it spouts, HSUS cannot even create a safe environment for the women working to advance its own cause. HSUS is willing to look the other way while this happens, going so far as to pay off employees that do stand up and say something. The message here is clear: if you bring us lots of money, you get a free pass.
Yet, they think animal farmers are the bad guys??
Pacelle might be gone, but this entire drama raises important questions about the priorities of HSUS and the animal rights movement.
Sam Olsen says
Wayne Pacelle’s misconduct at HSUS goes far beyond sexual harassment allegations. He has, as a matter of routine, lied about his accomplishments and used charitable resources to publicize false claims that elevated his stature and fostered the kind of hero worship that has been so pervasive. This put the women he interacted with at a tremendous disadvantage when considering whether or not to report inappropriate behavior. His fabricated victories enabled his predatory ways by attracting followers and by insulating him from accountability and exposure. Pacelle generated tremendous publicity for himself when he announced a legislative deal with United Egg Producers, which he claimed would “outlaw battery cages nationwide.” In reality, that deal would have kept laying hens confined inside egg factory cages in perpetuity.
Facing litigation that included charges of bribery, money laundering, and obstruction of justice (a check signed by Pacelle was apparently used to pay a witness who had repeatedly lied under oath), HSUS settled a massive RICO lawsuit by paying the owners of Ringling Brothers Circus millions of dollars of charitable donations that should have been used to protect animals. That’s in addition to all the money in legal fees that were paid out. This use of charitable dollars – to cover the improper conduct of Pacelle and other executive staff – was not unlike the misuse of funds used to buy the silence of women allegedly sexually harassed at HSUS.
In the biggest blunder in animal rights history, Pacelle squandered over $10 million dollars on that botched 2008 initiative and it resulted in millions of laying hens being subjected to more than nine years (and counting) of cage confinement. Nevertheless, Pacelle’s false assertion that he had “outlawed” battery cages in California has been his biggest claim to fame. Pacelle and the egg industry have now introduced yet another ballot initiative. This new initiative would declare battery cages legal in California for additional years and would forever allow the egg industry to provide hens with as little as one square foot of floor space per bird.
None of this would have been possible without the complicity of the HSUS executive staff and members of the board of directors. Just as Pacelle provided cover for Paul Shapiro, HSUS’s senior staff and board members have covered for Pacelle’s behavior. Thus, even with Pacelle (officially) gone, his enablers remain in firm control and a culture of secrecy and corruption still looms at the top of HSUS. There needs to be a clean sweep.