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News :: Politics
Corruption in "Good Ol" North Carolina?
27 Jun 2005
Is there a “Good Ol Boy” Network in North Carolina?
PETA has been involved with trying to improve animal welfare conditions in parts of North Carolina for some time. A few years ago PETA launched a campaign against Yadkin County officials who continuously ignored “the dire living—and dying—conditions for the unwanted animals whose care and custody they are charged with”. PETA went public with their concerns causing Yadkin officials to receive numerous letters of concern. This angered Yadkin officials and they refused PETA’s help to build a shelter. Instead they took $15,000 for a shelter from a sleazy lobbyist and front group for the tobacco, restaurant, alcohol and meat industries called The Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). CCF has been attacking PETA for years calling the organization “terrorists”. CCF is also the outfit behind the “petakills” website. It is very confusing why Yadkin County, NC refused PETA’s money for animal welfare improvement but took The Center for Consumer Freedom’s (which hates PETA) money. Since when does a lobbyist who represents industries such as tobacco, meat, alcohol and restaurants care about animal welfare? Has there been an accurate accounting of how Yadkin county officials used all the donations they received to build the shelter? What is even stranger is the behavior of the media not only in the USA and Canada but abroad. They are interviewing CCF for articles regarding animal welfare. Makes you wonder, is there some collaboration and corruption going on between the “good ol’ boys”; CCF and some North Carolina officials?
For PETA’s work regarding Yadkin County, North Carolina, please read below
Despite the efforts of the local humane society and animal advocates throughout the U.S., Yadkin County officials continue to ignore the dire living—and dying—conditions for the unwanted animals whose care and custody they are charged with. Commissioners don’t seem to consider their county’s unwanted animals as worthy of anything more than the county landfill adjacent to the animal shelter.
Many of you remember lending your voices to the lost, stray, and abandoned animals of Yadkin County, North Carolina. Complaints about the county “shelter”—a dilapidated collection of cramped wire-and-wood cages with metal roofs offering little to no protection from the elements—have been flooding PETA’s headquarters for years. These animals still need your help.
PETA and many concerned citizens have attempted—in vain—to help Yadkin County improve the deplorable conditions at its shelter. In 1996, county officials rejected an offer to pay the difference in cost between intravenous injections (the most humane method of euthanasia) and the gas chamber. In May 2002, after receiving increased pressure from PETA and local residents, Yadkin County commissioners finally voted to put $75,000 toward the construction of a new shelter if the community could raise an additional $75,000. PETA offered to donate $15,000 toward the construction of the shelter if the county would ensure that certain humane standards were met. The commissioners never bothered to respond directly to PETA (but Commissioner Thomas Wooten had the audacity to tell the media that the offer was “not as much as [he] would have liked” and that each of PETA’s 750,000 members should be willing to donate $1! And in January 2003, commissioners turned down an offer by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) to visit the shelter and make suggestions for improvements for free. Why? County Manager Cecil Wood told the local paper, the Elkin Tribune, “We’re already aware of the problems we have over there. We’re focusing on a new shelter.”
It is now nearly a year later, and nothing has changed for the needy animals in Yadkin County. Not only has a new shelter not been built, little if any effort is being made to find land to build it on, either! And the animals are paying the price, often with their lives.
Animals at the shelter are killed in a crude, windowless metal box pumped full of carbon monoxide. Even adequate carbon monoxide equipment can fail, subjecting fully conscious animals to the horror of watching and hearing others struggle and suffer as they succumb to the fumes. But makeshift chambers, like the one used by Yadkin County, are virtually guaranteed to subject animals to suffering and to a prolonged, agonizing death. PETA is told—and video footage confirms—that animals are crammed into the box one on top of another and that live animals are thrown in, layer after layer, on top of dead and dying ones. A shelter employee allegedly once bragged about being able to stuff more than 80 animals into the tiny “kill box” at once.
Yadkin County’s Annual Animal Control Report for January 1, 2003, through October 11, 2003, shows that out of 1,933 animals killed, only four puppies and four kittens were euthanized by a veterinarian. This means that the rest of the animals—including the old, young, and sick ones, who are particularly susceptible to gas-related trauma because they breathe and circulate oxygen and other gases differently than healthy adult animals—were crammed into and died inside the chamber that has been used to kill animals at the shelter for years. (News reports indicate that Yadkin County commissioners have spent nearly $7,000 on a new gas chamber, which they refuse to hook up until a new shelter is built. So the new chamber sits unused.)
Yadkin County budget reports for 2001 through 2003 show that not one cent was slated to be spent on training for the animal control staff or on veterinary fees. One complainant wrote to PETA to say that on one occasion, an adult dog had "a large flap of skin and muscle [lying] down over his left hip, exposing bone. He lay from Wednesday until Friday on kill day. He had numerous other wounds, and the hip injury was teeming with maggots." PETA's file on Yadkin County is full of similar heartbreaking accounts.
The General Statutes of North Carolina, specifically § 130A-192, state that impounded animals who are not reclaimed can only be destroyed by “a procedure approved by the American Veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the United States [HSUS], or … the American Humane Association [AHA].”
The AVMA panel states that “inhalant agents [should] not be used alone in animals less than 16 weeks old except to induce loss of consciousness, followed by the use of some other method to kill the animal.”
The HSUS states, “It is unacceptable to use [carbon monoxide] for the euthanasia of dogs and cats who are … [o]ld …; [u]nder the age of four months; [s]ick or injured; or ([o]bviously) pregnant.”
The AHA considers euthanasia by injection of sodium pentobarbital to be “the only acceptable method for euthanasia of dogs and cats in animal shelters” and states, “American Humane considers the use of any other lethal method for dogs and cats in animal shelters unacceptable, including use of carbon monoxide ...”
The AVMA also specifies in its panel that when carbon monoxide is used, the “chamber must be of the highest quality construction and should allow for separation of individual animals … [and] the chamber must be well lit and have view ports that allow personnel direct observation of animals …,” neither of which is followed by Yadkin County.
Moreover, Yadkin County has a mandatory kill policy, prohibiting adoptions, supposedly because of a fear of rabies. However, the county dedicates no resources to enforcing North Carolina law requiring that animals be vaccinated against rabies. The excuse? Money, which, of course, would be collected if violators of the state rabies law were fined as warranted!
Conditions for animals before they are destroyed are equally cruel. The rundown structure that animals are housed in offers little to no protection from harsh wind, freezing or scorching temperatures, rain, and snow and more often than not is covered in urine and feces. Small, weak animals are housed in cages with aggressive large animals, who bully the smaller animals and prevent them from eating or drinking. Food bowls are not used at the facility, so food is simply thrown on the ground, contaminated by feces, urine, dirt, and water, creating a disgusting health hazard for the animals. The water buckets provided for the animals appear to be too tall for small dogs to reach, and the water is often foul and black with mold and filth. Cats are forced to sit on wire in small cages.
On November 4, 2003, Yadkin County Humane Society President Alice Singh spoke to the House Interim Committee on the Prevention and Disposition of Unwanted and Abandoned Companion Animals in Raleigh—formed last August by the Honorable Speakers of the North Carolina House of Representatives to address the overpopulation crisis and related issues in the state—about dire conditions at the Yadkin County shelter. Singh shared with committee members heart-wrenching photos of the facility, and graphic video footage of gas killings shot in 1997 (the same gas box is still in use) by a North Carolina School of the Arts student. The following day, County Manager Cecil Wood advised humane society members that they were no longer welcome to use the county planning building for their monthly meetings as they had been doing for nine months. The humane society is the only hope that these animals have.
Please help. Commissioners must get their heads out of the sand and immediately improve the deplorable conditions that the animals have and continue to be subjected to right now. Construction of a shelter hasn’t even begun and won’t be completed overnight once it does. There’s a long list of simple things that the county can and must do to make the shelter comply with minimum national standards.
Please contact Yadkin County commissioners and urge them to stop shirking their legal, moral, and financial responsibilities to their county’s lost, abandoned, and unwanted animals. Ask that they provide these animals with the least they deserve: a painless, peaceful death administered by a licensed veterinarian at least until caring individuals can be trained. Please push for immediate improvements to be made at the current facility. Animals shouldn’t have to wait for fundraising and construction efforts before having their basic needs met.
Yadkin County Commissioners
Cecil Wood, County Manager
Yadkin County Commission
P.O. Box 146
Yadkinville, NC 27055
cwood (at) yadkincounty.gov
Roger Evans, Commissioner
6052 Aquilla Creek Rd.
East Bend, NC 27018
Kim Clark Phillips, Commissioner
1139 Knoll Dr.
Yadkinville, NC 27055
Allen Sneed, Commissioner
2511 Rockford Rd.
Yadkinville, NC 27055
D.C. Swaim, Commissioner
2553 Swan Creek Rd.
Jonesville, NC 28642
Brady Wooten, Commissioner
3540 Arnold Rd.
Hamptonville, NC 27020
James Graham, County Attorney
P.O. Box 625
Yadkinville, NC 27055
Please keep all correspondence and calls polite. Thank you.
For information about The Center for Consumer Freedom, please read below.
ConsumerFreedom.org: Tobacco Money Takes on Activist Cash
by Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber
Full page advertisements in Newsweek magazine are expensive, so who footed the bill for an attack ad aimed at Greenpeace that ran in the January 28 issue? The Center for Consumer Freedom, which produced the ad, isn't saying.
At first glance, with its photo of a diving whale in the ocean, the ad looked like it might have been placed by Greenpeace itself--until, that is, you read the nasty quote from Patrick Moore, identified as a "Greenpeace Co-Founder," calling his former colleagues "a band of scientific illiterates who use Gestapo tactics."
The advertisement featured a web address, www.ConsumerFreedom.com, which belongs to the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). Like the advertisement itself, the name is misleading. CCF doesn't represent consumers. It's just the new name for lobbyist Rick Berman's latest front group.
Until January, the CCF called itself the "Guest Choice Network." Its name change coincided with the launch of a second website, called ActivistCash.com, which purports to reveal a vast, left-wing financial conspiracy among major foundations and nonprofit public interest organizations.
Berman's specialty as a lobbyist is what he calls "shooting the messenger": attacking activists who criticize his clients. PR Watch first exposed Berman & Co. in our First Quarter 2001 issue, detailing his work for the restaurant, tavern and alcoholic beverage industries. Since then, we have uncovered new information documenting his ties to Philip Morris.
Although ConsumerFreedom.org isn't saying who funded its attack advertisement against Greenpeace, Philip Morris is a distinct possibility. The tobacco giant is also now the largest food company in the United States. Greenpeace is one of the international leaders in the fight for safety and environmental testing of genetically engineered foods, and recently Greenpeace targeted Philip Morris Kraft for its sales of such products.
Ploys 'r' Us
ActivistCash.com and ConsumerFreedom.org are merely the latest in a string of organizations that Berman has created to advance his clients' interests. Another Berman front group, the Employment Policies Institute (EPI), calls itself a "non-profit research organization dedicated to studying public policy issues surrounding employment growth." In reality, EPI's mission is to oppose increases in the minimum wage so restaurants can continue to pay their workers as little as possible. EPI also owns the domain names to MinimumWage.com and LivingWage.com, a website that attempts to portray the idea of a living wage for workers as some kind of insidious conspiracy. "Living wage activists want nothing less than a national living wage," it warns (as though there is something wrong with paying employees enough that they can afford to eat and pay rent).
Some of Berman & Co.'s most visible lobbying has been waged against efforts to lower the legal blood-alcohol limit for drivers. It runs the American Beverage Institute, which was organized in 1991 with the stated mission of promoting "responsible alcohol consumption," but actually represents restaurants and retailers that sell alcohol. The ABI's arch-enemy is Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD).
Following the Money
ActivistCash.com claims to expose the funding behind groups like MADD, Action on Smoking and Health, and the Center for Science in the Public Interest. In reality, none of the information that it "exposes" has ever been hidden. It is available in public foundation reports and IRS tax statements that non-profit organizations provide to anyone who asks. Most of the information in the ActivistCash database can already be found in public libraries or the Internet. Non-profit organizations are not obligated to disclose the names of specific individual or institutional donors, but most of the groups attacked by ActivistCash have gone beyond the requirements of the law in providing the information that ActivistCash is now using to attack them.
It is hypocritical in the extreme, of course, for ActivistCash.com to "expose" the funding of others, while keeping the details of its own finances hidden to conceal the fact that its funding comes from the very industries that share a vested interest in attacking activists. Fortunately, some information about the funding of Berman's operations can be found as a result of lawsuits against the tobacco industry, which have forced the disclosure of internal industry documents. Correspondence between Berman and Philip Morris reveals that the Center for Consumer Freedom (then called the Guest Choice Network) was founded in 1995, with initial funding coming entirely from the tobacco industry.
"I'd like to propose to Philip Morris the establishment of the Guest Choice Network," Berman stated in a December 11, 1995 letter to Barbara Trach, PM's senior program manager for public affairs. "The concept is to unite the restaurant and hospitality industries in a campaign to defend their consumers and marketing programs against attacks from anti-smoking, anti-drinking, anti-meat, etc. activists. . . . I would like to solicit Philip Morris for an initial contribution of $600,000."
The purpose of the Guest Choice Network, as Berman explained in a separate planning document, was to enlist operators of "restaurants, hotels, casinos, bowling alleys, taverns, stadiums, and university hospitality educators" to "support mentality of 'smokers rights' by encouraging responsibility to protect 'guest choice.'"
According to a yearend 1995 budget, Guest Choice planned to spend $1.5 million during its first 13 months of operation, including $390,000 for "membership marketing/materials development," $430,000 to establish a communication center and newsletter (which Berman promised would have a "60% to 70% smoking focus"), $110,000 to create a "multi-industry advisory council," and $345,000 for "grassroots network development/ operation."
The tobacco company complied with Berman's initial funding request for $600,000 and pitched in another $300,000 early the following year. "As of this writing, PM USA is still the only contributor, though Berman continues to promise others any day now," wrote Philip Morris attorney Marty Barrington in an internal company memorandum dated March 28, 1996. No further information is publicly available about Guest Choice's finances or activities until its public launch two years later, in April 1998, sporting an advisory board comprised mostly of representatives from the restaurant, meat and alcoholic beverage industries.
In 1999, Berman continued to combine tobacco flackery with his role as a restaurant lobbyist, as his American Beverage Institute published a study titled "Effects of 1998 California Smoking Ban on Bars, Taverns and Night Clubs." The study surveyed bar owners and managers, asking whether business increased or decreased after January 1, 1998, the date the California bar ban went into effect. It claimed to find that business declined an average of 26.2%, but no hard numbers were used to arrive at this percentage. Rather than look at actual sales receipts, the ABI survey merely surveyed the opinions of bar owners. Numerous other studies have examined the effect of smoking bans on the hospitality industry, and studies that actually look at taxable sales receipts show no significant impact.
As a private company, Berman & Co. is not required to disclose its finances. However, two of its front groups--the Guest Choice Network and the Employment Policies Institute Foundation--are registered as tax-exempt non-profit organizations, and they are required to disclose some financial information to the Internal Revenue Service which is publicly available by inspecting their IRS Form 990s.
The IRS Form 990 for the Employment Policies Institute Foundation shows that it received revenues of $1,237,566 during the 1999 calendar year. Of that amount, $508,173 went to Berman & Co. for "consulting services." Another $163,026 in salary and benefits went directly to Rick Berman as EPIF's executive director, a job on which he reportedly spent 28 hours per week. EPIF secretary Thomas Dilworth (sometimes described in news stories as the organization's "research director") worked an average of 8.5 hours per week and received $32,863 in salary and benefits for the year.
The Guest Choice Network claims to represent "more than 30,000 U.S. restaurants and tavern operators." However, the IRS Form 990 which it filed for the the six-month period from July to December 1999 (prior to changing its name to the Center for Consumer Freedom) shows that almost all of its financial support came from a handful of anonymous sources. Its total income for that period was $111,642, of which $105,000 came from six unnamed donors. It received no income from membership dues. Some of its funding apparently comes from one of Berman's other organizations, the American Beverage Institute, which "contributes monthly amounts to the Guest Choice Network to assist with media expenses." The Guest Choice Network did not report paying salaries to any of its employees, who were presumably paid by other sources.
For The Center for Consumer Freedom suspicious contribution please read below.
Center for Consumer Freedom Trumps PETA on Animal Shelter Contribution
PETA's Links To Domestic Terrorism Sink Their Standing In Yadkin County, North Carolina
Washington, DC - The Center for Consumer Freedom is contributing $15,000 toward construction of a new animal shelter in Yadkin County, North Carolina, after commissioners rejected a similar offer from People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) at a county commission meeting last month. The $15,000 offer from PETA was rebuffed by County Commissioner Brent Hunter, who led dissenters in rejecting the offer, in light of recent revelations that PETA has links to active domestic terror groups.
"While construction of the county animal shelter is a priority, I cannot, in good faith, accept an offer from a group like PETA when they support and finance groups that engage in arson, harassment and vandalism in the name of their political agenda," Hunter said. "The Center for Consumer Freedom's offer is very generous and timely in meeting the needs of our county while sticking to our principles."
PETA has a long history of financially and philosophically supporting the Earth Liberation Front (ELF) and Animal Liberation Front (ALF), organizations that the FBI has labeled "the largest and most active U.S.-based terror group." Since 1996, ELF and ALF have caused more than $43 million in property damage resulting from over 600 attacks including arson, assault and massive vandalism.
The Center for Consumer Freedom's research into PETA's 1995-2000 IRS tax filings found:
• In April 2001, PETA gave a direct contribution of $1500 to the North American Earth Liberation Front (ELF) to "support their program activities." Among its long list of crimes, ELF claimed credit for the 1998 firebombing of a Vail ski resort, resulting in $12 million in damages.
• In January 1995, PETA gave a $45,200 contribution to the "support committee" of Rodney Coronado, a convicted arsonist who firebombed a research facility at Michigan State University. PETA also gave an unreturned $25,000 "loan" to Rodney Coronado's father in 1994.
• In January 2001, PETA gave $5000 to the "Josh Harper Support Committee." Josh Harper is an ALF-affiliated criminal arrested numerous times and convicted for assaulting a police officer. In 1998, Harper told an Oregon newspaper "we're going to continue to be confrontational, we're going to continue to be militant. If people see that as extreme, then so be it."
• In August 1999, PETA gave $2,000 to David Wilson, a Utah-based animal-rights extremist who was then a national "spokesperson" for ALF. Wilson has bragged, "We started with animal rights, but we've expanded to wildlife actions like the [1998 arson] in Vail." PETA's financial contributions to these criminals are matched by their extreme rhetoric. At the Animal Rights 2001 Conference, PETA spokesperson Bruce Friedrich delivered the following chilling message to his captive audience: "It would be a great thing if all of these fast-food outlets, these slaughterhouses, these laboratories, and the banks that fund them exploded tomorrow."
Richard Berman, Executive Director for Center for Consumer Freedom, said that his organization's donation to Yadkin County is a symbol of its efforts to bring information about the backgrounds and motivations of many activist groups (like PETA) to their unsuspecting supporters.
"PETA collects millions of dollars in contributions every year from people who intend to support the humane treatment of animals," Berman said. "However, many of these well-intentioned individuals are likely unaware that since 1988 PETA has spent four times as much money defending criminals and domestic terror groups as it has in support of animal shelters. We will continue to educate and urge those who support just causes to ensure that they know whether their money is going to the right place -- a dollar given for animals should be spent on animals, not on terrorism."
More on Yadkin County
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