Junk food non profits: their empty promises fail to deliver
Updated: May 12
By Staci-lee Sherwood
That empty feeling
Have you ever had a taste for something like pizza or Chinese takeout? You fill up on what tastes and smells good and feel full. An hour later you feel hungry as if you hadn’t eaten at all. This is the junk food effect. Something that makes you feel satisfied until you realize you’ve filled up on empty calories with no nutritional value. Many politicians are like junk food. They give emotionally charged rousing speeches that make the public feel engaged or hopeful. You listen intensely. Then the emptiness that follows once you realize that while the speech triggered emotions the promises fell flat .
Many non profits are the same in the sense they hit that part in a person that feels unsatisfied by what they see around them. The feeling of helplessness that has them looking for leaders to solve the wrongs in the world. These junk food non profits will use words, stories and pictures known to evoke powerful emotional responses. Promises are made to make things better, fix what is wrong if only you will donate to them to fight injustice. They do this knowing very few with look into their history and check their actual success.
Claims of exaggerated success and influence are made knowing few will verify this, fewer will call them out publicly. They lack substance so they rely on emotions to guide well meaning people to give money they hope will go toward fixing whatever tragedy these groups purport to want to solve. Often their plan is vague because it hides their true agenda which is to profit off tragedy. In many ways these people are worse than the corporations we often point to as a bastion of corruption. As long as flawed people run non profits, fraud and corruption will be a huge part of it. Our culture has reached epidemic levels of fraud as it permeates throughout every aspect of human existence.
Women tend to rely on their intuition and emotions. This makes them easier targets to manipulate. Most women would not be surprised by a man manipulating them but would be surprised if a woman did that. Almost all the major wild horse non profits are run by women and many have ethical problems. Coincidence or by design since most of the volunteers and donors are also women.
We like to think what someone does in their personal life doesn’t influence their professional life but it does. As humans that firewall does not exist so it’s crucial to look into the background, work history and personal finances of those who run and sit on the boards of non profits. Once you start digging many answers to questions suddenly come to light.
In 2004 the Burns Amendment added to the Ominbus Appropriations Bill allowed for older or 'unadoptable' horses to be sold at livestock auctions. There is no question this is a straight line to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada. This allows kill buyers to by pass the anti slaughter law which is not enforced. I guess all the non profits high powered lawyers and top lobbyists were too busy sending out donation newsletters to focus on this. If they had, wild horses would have a fighting chance to be saved.
Truth in advertising
The claim that the use of PZP on wild mares would end roundups never happened. Non profits then pivoted to roundups would decrease. That did not happen either and instead they increased. Loss of donations from false advertising or gross negligence in dealing with the Bureau of Land MISmanagment (BLM) was not appealing. They tried to justify pushing for PZP as a compromise with BLM. You know what they say about making a deal with the devil, the devil always wins. While they hashed out their word play it’s the wild horses that end up abused, experimented on and eventually killed in slaughterhouses.
The real reason these groups sue is YOU the donor. Lawsuits looks big and important like they’re doing something. They know most will fail, waste time and money. Even with a win few get enforced and there is no follow. Collectively the groups below have assets over $600,000,000.00 according to their financial documents. They could buy every horse on the range and in corrals, place them in sanctuaries save them from slaughter. Know why they don’t?
There is boat loads of money in victimhood but little in solving problems. They have no interest in fixing it just looking like they are. You the donor help keep this going by not asking questions. They could be hero’s if they believed in their own cause. Ask yourself why waste money on weak lawsuits when they could have saved all these horses years ago?
Return to freedom (RTF)
In 2000 the federal agency, US Fish & Wildlife, paid them $440,000 as a contractor to round up 50 horses and remove them from their native home. Why would the government pay a non profit and why so much money? When I asked Neda Demayo, founder and director, that question I got no response. RTF does best when they dish out pre-scripted responses to questions they want to answer while sidestepping those they feel they can’t respond to.
Best known for ushering in the boondoggle Path Forward over the years Demayo has tried to blame others for her failure. RTF has taken in about 500 mustangs that would otherwise have gone to slaughter. However when you helped create the situation that puts the horses in jeopardy in the first place this would hardly qualify as a hero move. Demayo claims she was blindsided by the BLM and Cattlemen’s Assoc who were part of the Path Forward council. Hard to swallow that claim when she had been involved with wild horses and all those obstacles like BLM and Cattlemen’s Assoc for 17 years.
They also push PZP as a way to stop/decrease roundups. Either Demayo is grossly negligent or not telling the truth. One can’t possibly be that unaware of the obvious when you’re on the front lines of a fight for two decades. As stated in their own report “Myths and Facts: Native Porcine Zona Pellucida (PZP) Immunocontraception in Wild Horse Herds “provides an alternative to the current capture, removal and warehousing of horses and burros in government holding facilities” Hard for most to spin failure but they sure give it a try. For more in-depth information scroll to end of article.
paid to round up horses
American Wild Horse Campaign (AWHC)
Founded in 2004 by Return to freedom to “give a unified voice”. Why would you need to form two non profits? Suzanne Roy is listed as secretary but is the face of the group. They rabidly push PZP and have a hand in most of the Facebook wild horse groups. Many of their members routinely hijack other groups and push the failed policy of PZP while blaming BLM and ranchers for all the problems never taking responsibility for their hand in it. Anyone who questions them, or questions groups pushing PZP is blocked and removed. If you truly believe in what you’re selling you wouldn’t be so quick to block people asking for proof of success. If your policies actually worked you would be promoting it not running and hiding from questions. They are currently lobbying congress for a piece of the $11,000,000 pie to shoot horses with more PZP.
This group also seems to draw those with a history of animal abuse like Eleanor Phipps Price, President, who spent years fox hunting. As of 2012 she was listed as a member of the Arapaho Hunt Club along with her father, perhaps she is still a member. Fox hunting is a brutal barbaric ‘sport’ that many are trying to ban. Chloe Gosselin is a recent addition to list of sponsors. She designs shoes with ‘exotic animal skins’. What is it about wild horses that has drawn so many with abuse issues? In 2019 they had revenue of $2,000,000. Do they ever buy horses sold at auction or just complain and do nothing ? https://americanwildhorsecampaign.org/board-directors For more in-depth information scroll to end of article.
Sand Wash Advocate Team (SWAT)
This small volunteer group few would know outside wild horse advocates. Founded in 2012 by Michelle Sander and partner to Great Escape Mustang Sanctuary they became a non profit in 2020. Despite obvious failure they still claim their PZP darting program will save horses. In 2021 they were ‘blindsided’ when the BLM rounded up 684 horses and only let 50 return to the range, 70% loss of the herd. That is hardly a win. Furthermore they thought their friendly relationship would have saved more but it did not nor did it save one of the most famous horses, Michelangelo, who was rounded up and sterilized. His son was shot by BLM shortly after being rounded up.
After being hauled off the range he was sold at an auction to Pat Craig who runs a sanctuary for big cats. Outbidding wild horse sanctuaries he paid a whopping $14,000 just for this horse, about $9,000 for another. In total he did save 11 horses from slaughter but normally these horses go for about $1000 so all that money could have gone to save three times as many horses. Craig is hoping to get a permit and land to open a wild horse sanctuary knowing these famous horses will draw a crowd and money.
Their mission statement ‘Freedom through fertility control’ has failed on the freedom part since most of their herd is gone and the rest shot up with drugs. Their whole purpose is based on shooting horses with dart guns with PZP ‘birth control’. Should be noted that HSUS holds the patent for PZP and SWAT is tied to AWHC. None of the volunteers are sharp shooters or veterinarians but they are out there aiming at a moving target. The entire birth control issue is really pushed by the BLM and those clutching in desperation to believe the lie this will help.
Many thought their friendly relationship with BLM would save the Sand Wash Basin herds, a favorite among photographers. When the horses were rounded up, including many famous ones that were then gelded, many were stunned. If their warm sentiments and public support for BLM was thought it would save the horses it did not. Despite their failure they continue to dart what few horses are left.
A gofundme has collected close to $37k as of July 2021. What would they be spending this money on? Not spent buying horses at auctions. Dart guns run from the cheap @ $400 to top of the line $2,000. With seven darters that would still leave plenty. Everyone says HSUS isn’t profiting by their patent on PZP so are they giving it away because they believe in their cause or is SWAT paying for it? Hard to get an answer or find their financial records on that. Most important question no one asks – Why isn’t this group spending donations on buying horses they claim they care about ? At last auction their Facebook page was filled with sanctuaries who had to pay thousands to the BLM to buy the freedom of a few horses. They’re raising money for a fence….https://www.gofundme.com/f/protecting-the-wild-horses-of-sand-wash-basin
Volunteering is a great thing I commend anyone who does it, I’ve been volunteering since college. Whom you volunteer for is as important as the act itself. Many non profits with hidden agendas rely on volunteers to smooth over the rough edges of corruption and fraud. Human nature looks upon an all volunteer group and thinks how wonderful. They rarely dig deeper into the motive, background and effectiveness of these groups but they should.
The SWAT team:
Stella Trueblood President & Darter
Kathy Simpson, Vice President
Angie Seipp, Treasurer
Linda West, Secretary
Connie Wagner, Darter
Denette Webber, Darter
Megan Crawford, Darter
Patti Mosbey, Darter
Gary Wadhams, Darter
Robin Wadhams, Darter
All the darters are volunteers with little experience
Pictures like this are designed to make the darting of drugs seem like a warm and happy alternative.
The famous Michelangelo in 2021 sold for $14,000
Humane Society United States (HSUS)
Founded in 1954 the list of questionable actions is extensive. During the tenure of Wayne Pacelle this group ‘lost’ millions of donations to a fund for dogs and cats lost during Hurricane Katrina, was sued under RICO and lost and saw both Pacelle and his friend Paul Shapiro step down in disgrace from multiple allegations of sexual misconduct. As they say where there is smoke there is fire and this group is surrounded by smoke.
In 2017 they joined forces with ASPCA and RTF to push the rancher backed Path Forward for wild horses and burros. After blowback from wild horse advocates they have been back peddling ever since trying to blame the BLM and ranchers for this sham. Both the ranchers and BLM have been up front about removing the horses it’s the many non profits who have been shady in these dealings.
HSUS CEO Kitty Block made close to $450,000 in 2021. According to HumaneWatch they also keep close to $70,000,000 of donations in Carribean banks away from prying eyes. Their operating budget for 2020 was $135,000,000. Despite Pacelle leaving they still have ties to not one but all three non profits Pacelle and Irby formed after leaving HSUS. With hundreds of millions do they ever buy the horses sold at auction ? Ask yourself why not. They have no affiliation with local Humane Society’s. For more in-depth information scroll to end of article.
Animal Wellness Action (AWA)
This group was founded in 2018 by former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, who gave up a six figure salary and resigned in disgrace under a cloud of suspicion for harassing female coworkers. Pacelle has had a career that often finds him in an ethical quagmire. Marty Irby, who’s not without his own list of questionable behavior is their executive Director. The chair is Deborah Wilson, M.D. while Dr. Annie Harvilicz is a board member and runs the companion foundation https://animalwellnessaction.org/our-team/
They haven’t been around long but the oddest thing about this group is how it seems to be one of three Pacelle has formed. Most people only have time and money to form one non profit but Pacelle has triplets. All three of these groups have many board members and staff pulled right from HSUS. Knowing the history of alleged fraud and misconduct everyone should think twice how this or any group Pacelle is associated with stacks up ethically. Having a big war chest does not equal success. They too push the misguided PZP drug on wild horses yet have failed to save them.
Irby, speaking for the group, openly supports horse racing and gave testimony in 2020 supporting this industry. He was a fellow at the Heritage Foundation in DC, a conservative think tank known for many anti conservation policies. Despite some of their more generic rhetoric put out to sway those who aren’t familiar with them, the Heritage Foundation is no friend to wildlife. Their idea of conservation starts and ends with landowner rights, people’s needs above all else.
As someone who has dug into the laws they do support I can’t imagine how a self described top lobbyist for animals would have garnered a fellow from this group just a few years ago. This gives you an idea how they really feel about conservation though much of this wording is designed to hide their more insipid agenda.
While the bill, H.R. 1754, "The Horseracing Integrity Act" was sold as a step toward humane treatment of racehorses it will always be a sport of institutionalized cruelty. There has been little integrity in horseracing and no law will change human nature when it comes to exploiting animals. On January 28, 2020 Irby stated in his testimony “I first want to underscore that Animal Wellness Action does not oppose horseracing.” If they really wanted to end the suffering of racehorses they should work to end the sport as so many horses die because of it. https://twhfacts.com/2019/08/03/the-facts-about-marty-irby-executive-director-animal-wellness-action/
Another disturbing side to Irby was the years he spent deliberately torturing horses by the painful practice of ‘soring.’ Irby spent years doing this while showing his Tennessee Walking Horse and winning prizes for the exaggerated gate that comes from pain. He claimed to have had an epiphany in 2012 and stopped supporting and lobbying to keep the practice. Many did not believe that since he competed the following year, 2013, with his horse wearing the padded shoes. Take all this into consideration and one must ask how this man plans to truly help animals when so much point to the opposite.
Marty Irby with his Tennessee Walking horse in obvious ‘soring’ shoes 2013
There are several devices used to inflict pain this is one the huge heavy padded shoe.
While there is some legislation Irby is pushing for that is commendable, like ending Mink farming why stop there. Millions of rabbits, raccoons, skunks, fox, coyote, wolf, dog, cat, big cats , horses and burros also suffer in the fur/skin industry. Either you believe all fur farms should be banned or you don’t. Only focusing on one species calls sincerity into question. Irby’s friend and college Scott Beckstead grew up on a mink farm and perhaps that is more than just a coincidence. Be wary of non profits who do the bare minimum. Does this group(s) buy horses sold at auction or just use their sad images to get more donations ?
Animal Wellness Foundation
This non profit was founded by former HSUS board member, Dr. Annie Harvilicz. and looks more like another satellite of HSUS. Many current board members are also former board members of HSUS such as John Mackey CEO of Whole Foods. former HSUS president Wayne Pacelle, former staff Marty Irby and Holly Gann (Bice). Gann is also the lobbyist for another questionable non profit American Wild Horse Campaign. Interesting to note that Gann’s bio does not mention her lobbying for AWHC just her former work for HSUS. https://www.animalwellnessfoundation.org/team
What does it say they can't even file paperwork to the IRS?
Center for Humane Economy
This is the 3rd yes 3rd non profit that Pacelle has his hands in. He’s listed again as President with Beckstead listed again as Director of Campaigns. To get an idea of their staff and mission just click on Animal Wellness as they are almost identical. https://centerforahumaneeconomy.org/our-team/
Pacelle, Irby and Beckstead are involved with several non profits which begs the question who needs three groups with overlapping staff covering the same issues? This seems almost incestuous. What is their real motive ? With millions of dollars in donations the wildlife should be gaining back habitat and legal protection right? Despite a few small wins wildlife in general is losing ground. Irby and Beckstead come from an animal abusing background and Pacelle is thought to be a predator towards women. These predators are animal hero’s?
How often does a leopard change their spots? For all three to change that would be statistically improbable yet many animal advocates hang their hopes they will save wild horses and other species. Maybe a miracle has occurred but I wouldn’t bet on it. Too many questions remain about these non profits and the men involved.
Veterans for mustangs
This organization was started by Hollywood actor and film maker Cameron Ring, who stated he wanted to help veterans with PTSD. It’s a lofty idea but he’s not the first or only group in this space since horses have been used in therapy with people for years. When looking at a non profit the actions should match the stated mission. How would this group actually save wild horses from being removed off public land? From their Facebook page As Ray Barmore of War Horse Creek said, “these guys would love to shoot something and not kill it”. Is shooting something the best remedy for PTSD ? How does that really help a soldier traumatized by violence that usually involves shooting something?
Another concern that gives pause are those Ring associates with. By his own words he’s close friends with Scott Beckstead and Marty Irby both with a history of animal abuse. Ring has made statements that he served in the Army and to most people they assume that means combat.
This is his Linkedin profile –
Army National Guard Feb 2012 - Feb 2014 · 2 yrs 1 mo
Washington D.C. Metro Area
This does not meet what most think of as military and it’s doubtful Ring suffers from PTSD. After leaving the National Guard he went to Hollywood to do some acting, make a couple of films and form his movie company. If he suffered from PTSD highly unlikely he would be able to accomplish that. How is this self appointed representative qualified to work with those who do suffer? Over the past weeks many have sent me emails with even more disturbing information I have not been able to personally verify yet. As my dad always said there is always more to the story and eventually the truth does come out no matter how one tries to hide it. Could this be another role for Ring the actor to play?
“Veteran’s for Mustangs push for PZP … they contact you to give them a good review … if you don’t they twist your words what you said & flat out lie … typical gaslighters & very detrimental to Wild Horse Lives! Sarah Smith Appears to be their spokesperson… very manipulative & quite deceitful!”
Pictured below are a series of photos posted by Ring in March 22 on Facebook. No details were given just a vague mention of dogs chasing off a wild horse. When asked for details like where is this, when was this taken, who took the photo and the name of the ranch Ring refused to answer. He claimed the photos came from Wild Horse Education but I couldn’t find them anywhere and it’s doubtful WHE would post a photo without details.
photo Guillermo Avila Paz
There is nothing to be gained by riling people up without actionable information. But it can be a powerful tool for fundraising.
Deflection is used when you can’t/won’t answer a question honestly
The BLM and private corrals are bleak and painful to see the neglect. Does this really seem like someone driven to help, someone able to be a leader? Or maybe more like a James Deanish actor standing around smoking waiting for his next cue?
Did he call for help ? Would anyone ever know?
American Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Founded in 1866 it’s one of the oldest animal welfare non profits. Originally formed to help carriage horses, that industry still exists despite efforts to end it. Carriage horses don’t fair much better than they did years ago since few laws are enforced and they lead a life of misery. ASPCA championed former NYC Mayor Diblasio who ran on a campaign to end the cruel industry. He never kept that promise. In 2017 they came under fire for being embroiled in the controversy surrounding wild horses and burros. They too were involved with HSUS and RTF in pushing the disaster Path Forward onto the public taxpayer and tortured wild horses.
Dogs and cats are next on the list on the menu of animals to save. It’s estimated that over 4,000,000 are killed for lack of homes every year and these are the ones reported. Though this group is most associated with dogs and cats little real progress has been made. Few protective laws passed, lack of enforcement have failed our companion animals. They make a lot of noise but how many animals have they actually saved? This figure is impossible to determine and many non profits bank on that impossibility.
One of the worse things they stand for is their unwavering support for the PZP method of birth control. As with these other groups there seems to be a theme among the groups who support this. Lots of money in the bank, very few lawsuits, even fewer wins which makes for a poor track record. Add all the issues concerning PZP and how it has failed to stop or decrease roundups and one must ask why does this large long standing group keep supporting the lie? .
Their CEO Matthew Bershadker has a salary of between $700 – 850,000 a year. As reported in Forbes magazine in 2021 they had net assets valuing $407,000,000. It should be noted that as non profits go they appear to have a history of using close to 75% of donations on projects. It would be great if they ditched their support for PZP and other failed policies and worked at suing the BLM for accountability, they certainly have the money to sue this rogue government agency. With so much in the bank do they ever use it to save horses from slaughter? It should be noted they have no affiliation with the local SPCA’s. For more in-depth information scroll to end of article.
CAES – Citizens Against Equine Slaughter
This group is best known for bringing water to neglected wild mustangs in holding corrals. That is commendable but that is not the only thing they do. Unfortunately they too have jumped on the PZP band wagon. The entire comparison with Assateague is confusing to those who know anything about the park. It’s a small barrier island, the horses are wild but not mustangs and were brought there by humans. The island is landlocked so essentially their population has to be managed. It’s also a very busy park so these horses are watched and photographed on a daily basis as opposed to those out west in vast areas where they can go weeks without being seen.
The statement below only sounds believable to someone who is unfamiliar with both the island and out west. This is how these groups operate. They give half truths to people they know will take them at their word and not ask questions.
Wild Horse Education
Laura Leigh might not come out and say she supports PZP anymore because so much money is at stake. The millions in donations and government grant money will make most people say what people want to hear whether it's true or not. In 2017 Christopher Ketcham interviewed her for the The Daily Beast where she talked about support for PZP ‘In 2009, horse advocates, including Laura Leigh, proposed a broad fertility control program in Nevada similar to the experimental program at Onaqui. Leigh suggested developing a pilot program among horses in a section of public land called Fish Creek, in the wild expanses of Nevada’s Eureka County. Fertility control in the Fish Creek Management Area was briefly implemented and then shut down. No one in the business of wild horse management–not the contractors and not their friends in the BLM-wanted any working alternative to capture-and-hold. As Leigh put it to me, “If I was allowed to show we can dart in a large population and in a few years we had populations stable? No multimillion dollar industry.”
This sounds good until you research the problems with PZP and worse those supporting its use. Article first published here https://www.thedailybeast.com/trumps-cowboy-allies-say-all-the-pretty-horses-must-die?ref=scroll can be read here https://returntofreedom.org/trumps-cowboy-allies-say-all-the-pretty-horses-must-die/
There have been rumors going back over a decade about her cozy possible romantic dealings with men who work for the BLM. She too has failed to stop the use of helicopters has failed to stop the roundups. This is hardly a track record to brag about. I first heard rumblings about Leigh and her questionable ties and possible underhanded dealings as far back as 2010. Longstanding rumors stay around because there is always some truth to them. Lately she's been quiet about PZP seeing all the controversy she doesn't want the cash to stop flowing. She does support legislation that calls for its usage that includes millions in tax dollars. That is support for PZP by proxy. Same end result just a more cowardly way. When I confronted her about this she refused to respond.
When it comes to all these non profits their unbridled support for PZP has led them to ignore the obvious truth. The BLM admits they prefer and will invest in Gonacon and more permanent sterilizing drugs. Donors must question the disconnect between what the BLM says and does and what these groups claim. It’s as if all those involved with these groups have Munchausen Syndrome, a mental disorder that causes a person to make another person sick for the attention. Usually associated when a parent harms a defenseless child the similarity with these defenseless horses and burros against zealot humans does strike a cord. The addiction to the attention of thinking they are hero’s, and the money, might be the driving force. Though it has never been applied to animals many of the people involved certainly fit the profile.
This one word encapsulates what drives most of the agenda. The main difference between a non profit and a business is non profits don’t pay sales tax, can negotiate discounts on goods and services by giving tax deductions in exchange. Rule #1 in business it’s easier to keep a client than get a new one. In a highly competitive world of donation seekers many will say and promise anything for that cash. Best advice DO YOUR RESEARCH look at their tax returns, dig into the background of board members you might get a surprise and save yourself heartache.
Keeping the gravy train going
Wildlife does not need or benefit from money. That is the spin the public has been fed and forced to swallow. For billions of years the planet was balanced and functional. Once humans showed up all that changed. Few ask how these billions of dollars translates to saving a species, it rarely does. Big budgets are pushed by the people whose jobs depend on it. Government staff and non profits in bed with them are the real beneficiaries.
For more in-depth information about HSUS/ASPCA/RTF/AWHC, including their tax returns and the dangers surrounding PZP & Gonacon click here https://www.realitycheckswithstacilee.com/post/wild-horse-birth-control-or-sterility-tainted-horse-groups-push-for-drugs-amid-warnings
Before donating do the following:
Look at the 990 tax forms
Check backgrounds/work history of board members & staff
Look at their success rate in lawsuits
Contact the group see if they answer questions directly
In the end you’ll save yourself money, time and heartache by not giving to frauds and have a better chance of helping
The real victims of fraud, lies & deceit and the only ones that matter
photo Ann Velvick