- Animal related issues, including wolf hunt are topic in visit
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) bills itself as the largest non-profit animal rights organization in the world. With reported revenues of over $125 million in 2012, and organizations in all 50 states, it is certainly one of the most influential, with a broad range of issues in it’s agenda, including those affecting companion animals, wildlife, farm animals and the like.
Its work is often controversial, but according to Wisconsin HSUS Director Melissa Tedrowe, the goal of the organization has been the same since its formation in 1954; to celebrate animals and to confront animal cruelty wherever it is found.
Tedrowe, who was named to her current post some four months ago, has been engaged in visiting the various HSUS organizations in the state to get a first hand understanding of the animal welfare related issues in the state.
Tedrowe visited Ashland on Wednesday for an informal listening session about those issues.
“It’s about building strong relationships with people, and I really believe the best relationships are not formed over email, they are formed in person. I wanted to travel around, and meet people at local shelters,” she said.
Tedrowe said among the issues most under discussion in her travels were those relating to Wisconsin wildlife, in particular, issues related to wolves and the wolf hunt.
“It is relatively recently that wolves were delisted from the endangered species list and that Wisconsin has instituted a wolf hunt,” she said. “There has been lots and lots of discussion on all sides of the opinion spectrum, about what that means, how many wolves should be killed, and so on,” she said.
Tedrowe said part of her visit was to access how the Ashland community felt about the wolf hunt, which is opposed as a policy matter by HSUS, as is hunting wolves with dogs.
“We believe Wisconsin’s wolf population is still too fragile, too near the brink of recovery from the endangered list to conduct a full out hunt,” she said, noting that after one hunting season the population had fallen by nearly 20 percent. “We think that is too much for our wolf population.”
Tedrowe said she was “very much in a listening stage” in her visit.
“What I really want, and that’s the reason for my visit is to hear what hunters in the north want, to hear from hunters who are concerned about some of our practices, to hear about what they think and what they would like to see.”
Tedrowe noted that although HSUS opposes the wolf hunt, and indeed opposes trophy and sport hunting, it does not oppose hunting for food and sustenance, although it does encourage humane hunting practices.
She said HSUS also does not contest the right of farmers to protect their livestock, but said that culling of wolves should be done on an individual basis, and not with an open hunting season.
Although the wolf hunt is the current hot button issue, Tedrowe said HSUS is involved in many other animal rights issues, including those involving companion animals.
“A big part of this trip has involved visiting shelters, seeing what they need, helping to connect them to funding, to professional development opportunities, providing some of those opportunities. We work closely with law enforcement to investigate animal cruelty, hoarding or neglect cases,” she said.
Tedrowe said the organization was particularly interested in the development of “factory farms” in Wisconsin that may house thousands of farm animals in a confined area.
“We are working more and more with environmental groups who are concerned with the effects that those kinds of facilities are having on air, water, people and animals in Wisconsin’s rural areas,” she said.
Tedrowe said HSUS favored humane and sustainable farming practices.
“We believe that there are best practices around animal husbandry, treating animals as beings and not production units, the way they are now,” she said.
Tedrowe said the situation in Wisconsin mirrored the state of agriculture in the rest of the nation; the same number or more number of animals are being produced while the number of farmers is decreasing,” she said. “When a concentrated animal feeding operation has not set up in your community, it’s easy to think it’s ‘out there’ it’s not something to be concerned about, an abstract idea. But I’ve just spent a week traveling around the state, visiting communities who have been hard hit by factory farms, and their water quality is plummeting and manure-spraying operations are affecting air quality, a huge concern. People are moving out of communities, property values have crashed in those communities. And we are not even talking about animal welfare issues at that point, that’s just the human and environmental tolls these places are taking.”
Tedrowe said HSUS would like to see Wisconsin “fight back” against huge industrialized agricultural facilities, giving more support to traditional farmers.
She said HSUS was seeking to work to find common ground with people like farmers and hunters who have been opponents in the past.
“It is one thing for a woman who doesn’t hunt to come up from Milwaukee, but for someone who is a hunter, who believes in ethical practices, who does it in the best possible way, in an honorable way to say what we are doing with wolves is not right, and not good for Wisconsin, that carries so much weight,” she said.
Tedrowe said while hunters, farmers and HSUS might not always agree on all issues, there was a lot of common ground all shared. She said HSUS should not be painted as a fringe organization.
“It’s a big tent organization; it has meat eaters, it has farmers, but what we have in common is that the egregious practices like intensive confinement of farm animals or relentlessly harassing wildlife and causing suffering instead of killing them humanely, that just isn’t right in our society.”