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Racketeering lawsuit accuses the Humane Society of the United States of corruption

TSCRA News Update, Feb. 22, 2010

In a landmark RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act) lawsuit certain to have far-reaching implications for the animal rights movement, Feld Entertainment and the Ringling Brothers circus sued the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), its lawyers, and several other animal rights groups last week.

The nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) unearthed the lawsuit in federal court records Monday. CCF is making the lawsuit available online at the Web site,

“America’s farmers, ranchers, hunters, fishermen, research scientists, fashion designers, and restaurateurs have seen for decades how the animal rights movement can behave like a mobbed-up racket,” said CCF Director of Research David Martosko. “But it’s still shocking to see the evidence laid out on paper. In a treble-damage lawsuit like this, a jury could actually do the humane thing and finally put HSUS out of business completely.”

In a lawsuit filed Feb. 16, Feld leveled bribery, fraud, obstruction of justice, and money laundering charges against HSUS and two of its corporate attorneys; three other animal rights groups; the Washington, D.C. law firm of Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal; and all three of that firm’s named partners.

On Dec.30, 2009, Federal Judge Emmitt Sullivan ruled that these defendants collaborated to pay more than $190,000 to Tom Rider, a former Feld employee who was an elephant “barn helper” for two years in the late 1990s, in exchange for his impeached testimony against Feld in an earlier lawsuit—testimony Judge Sullivan declared “not credible” and disregarded in its entirety. That lawsuit was dismissed.

Feld is also suing Rider and a nonprofit “Wildlife Advocacy Project” charity, claiming that Meyer Glitzenstein & Crystal used it to funnel money from their plaintiff clients to Rider. These clients included the Fund for Animals, which merged with HSUS in 2004.

“The new HumaneWatch Web site is the only place the public will be able to read this lawsuit,” Martosko added. “We’re publishing a treasure trove of information about the Humane Society of the United States, including lots of surprising documents that HSUS would rather remain hidden from its contributors.”

Last week CCF launched, an online watchdog project dedicated to analyzing HSUS’s activities and keeping the group honest. It includes a blog, an interactive document library, and a growing body of information about HSUS-related organizations and staff.

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit watchdog organization that informs the public about the activities of tax-exempt activist groups. It is supported by American consumers, business organizations, and foundations.

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