Last week, a napkin was purchased for $10,200 on eBay. This ordinary hotel paper napkin became extraordinary when Michael Vick jotted talking points on it for his "apology" news conference.
A representative from the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) found the noteworthy napkin after the press conference. Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle decided that the napkin should be auctioned off -- so that the HSUS could put the proceeds toward "rooting out the next Bad Newz Kennels."
Now, most of us would agree that those who oppose dog fighting are "the good guys." What bothers me about this $10,000 napkin is that someone profited from dog fighting and that someone is the Humane Society of the United States.
Yes, the HSUS is going to use the proceeds to put a leash on dog fighting -- and I applaud them for this. But the Humane Society is already the wealthiest animal welfare organization in the nation with over $200 million in assets. That leads me to wonder, is the Humane Society auctioning this napkin for the Benjis or the Benjamins?
Many animal welfare groups attract their audience by sensationalizing issues. This means that animal welfare issues are often promoted with divisive language and the mention of dire circumstances. Unfortunately, some groups are better at enraging than educating their audience. Perhaps an enraged person is more likely to donate money than one who is simply educated?
One of the most outspoken groups, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), has a long history of fanning the flames of controversy. When the food recall occurred earlier this year, PETA pounced on the opportunity to renew its longstanding agenda against a certain pet food company and implied that this food had killed one cat -- urging a boycott of all that company's products. (PETA failed to provide any proof that a particular food caused this older cat's death.)
Most recently, PETA's Web site says that we can "Save the Planet" and "Stop Global Warming" by becoming vegetarians. This marks a new strategy in the realm of animal welfare. Animal rights groups have moved beyond saving the animal and are now seeking to engage a new audience by also saving humankind and the world.
Though many organizations have done a great deal to further animal welfare, I am concerned that "animal rights" has now become a big business. Even if you don't count the Humane Society's $200 million war chest, the ASPCA is sitting on a nest egg of $93 million, and PETA is no small potatoes at $16 million in assets. And that's just three of the dozens of international animal rights organizations that operate in the United States.
Certainly, contributing your hard-earned dollars to help animals is a noble thing to do. However, I encourage you to read the web site of the group that you are supporting. Do you believe in their agenda and are they providing you with clear information that is free from divisive and dire language? These issues are too important for us to become enraged; instead, get engaged and educated and learn how you can help animals live a better life.
Dr. Jon Klingborg is a Merced veterinarian and is associated with Valley Animal Hospital. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org