Associated Press File
Most animal agriculture organizations are choosing not to comment on the resignation of Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.
Pacelle, who helped build the HSUS into a major political player among animal rights groups, resigned Friday after allegations surfaced that he had sexually harassed several women.
Pacelle also helped build HSUS into a financial behemoth. The organization collected slightly more than $112 million in contributions in the 2016 tax year, according to its federal tax filing. Pacelle received total compensation of $410,861 from the HSUS and related organizations, according to the tax form.
Animal agriculture groups and others have long criticized Pacelle and HSUS for deceptive practices in their stated mission of protecting animals, claiming the real agenda was advocating a vegetarian lifestyle and putting animal agriculture out of business.
“Wayne Pacelle was a dominant driving force in a continuous escalation in HSUS’ tactics and strategies,” said Kay Johnson Smith, president and CEO of Animal Agriculture Alliance.
“With the recent changes in HSUS leadership, we hope that the organization will rethink its constant negativity toward farmers and ranchers as well as its reliance on myths and misinformation to push its agenda,” she said.
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said it would comment, but Capital Press has yet to hear back.
The American Farm Bureau Federation, National Pork Producers Council, the North American Meat Institute and National Milk Producers Federation declined to comment.
The Center for Consumer Freedom — which runs HumaneWatch to keep an eye on HSUS — said it was outraged last week when HSUS board members refused to fire Pacelle and now contends his resignation is not enough.
“While one predator is gone, the culture of corruption remains in place,” said Will Coggin, CCF managing director.
Calls and emails to Pacelle and HSUS seeking comment were not returned.
On Friday, Rick Bernthal, chairman of HSUS board of directors, released a statement saying the board determined there was not sufficient evidence to remove Pacelle from his position after reviewing the information from an independent investigation by an outside law firm.
“Many of the allegations were explosive in nature, and reading or hearing about them is a shock to anyone. It was to us, too. But when we sifted through the evidence presented, we did not find that many of these allegations were supported by credible evidence,” he said.
Later that day, he released a statement saying the board had accepted Pacelle’s resignation and thanked him for his contributions.
“We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare,” he said.
In an email to HSUS staff, obtained by the New York Times, Pacelle said the organization’s mission depends on unity.
“I am resigning, effective immediately, to allow that process to move forward expeditiously and to put aside any distractions, in the best interests of all parties,” he said.
The Washington Post reported the allegations of sexual misconduct and claims of settlements. It also reported that some board members had resigned and donors were threatening to pull their support after the board decided to retain Pacelle.
CCF’s Coggin said the allegations against Pacelle are just the latest in a series of scandalous behavior by top executives and the board.
Allegations of sexual harassment against recently resigned HSUS executive Paul Shapiro were reported by Politco last week. Shapiro had been transferred to a different department when the women took their concerns to the organization’s human resources department, he said.
Certainly donors expect HSUS “is going to be using this money to help animals,” he said, adding that HSUS runs deceptive advertising full of cats and dogs but only gives 1 percent of the money it raises to pet shelters.
“It’s not being honest with donors on how the funding is used. The board and Pacelle have been complicit in what’s going on and refuse to change their practices,” he said.