Rush Limbaugh's HSUS promos make sportsmen howl

America's top conservative talk show host, Rush Limbaugh, has stunned many of his fans by recording two commercials for the Humane Society of the United States. One spot is about opposing dogfighting and the other is about animals and faith.

The HSUS says in a statement, "The animal protection movement should never confine itself to the Left or the Right in American politics. Opposition to cruelty and the embrace of the human-animal bond are universal values, and people of every background and point of view should find common purpose with the work and programs of The Humane Society of the United States and its affiliates. The animals need skilled advocates, and the cause deserves the widest audience. There are no political litmus tests when you sign up with us to help advance the cause."

A year ago Limbaugh was assailing the liberal agenda and its proponents, now the popular conservative pundit has turned 180 degrees and is lending his support to the biggest animal rights group in the U.S., the HSUS, which has a long-standing history of assaulting hunting, fishing, and trapping rights.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance (USSA) is spearheading an effort calling on American sportsmen and women to ask Limbaugh to disassociate himself from the Humane Society. The USSA CEO and President Bud Pidgeon has sent Limbaugh a letter to shed light on HSUS' true agenda and urges Limbaugh to disassociate himself from the group. The letter, signed by Pidgeon, details why the HSUS is the top opponent of sportsman rights:

"... every major piece of legislation, lawsuit or ballot issue that would restrict the rights of Americans to hunt originated with HSUS. This includes bankrolling ballot issues to ban the hunting of America's #1 game bird, the mourning dove, lobbying legislation to ban the only effective hunting methods to control black bear numbers, opposition to hunting on Sundays, and opposition to allowing parents the ability to choose at what age their sons and daughters are permitted to begin hunting and much, much more."

"The HSUS ... uses seemingly harmless campaigns like the ones endorsed by Mr. Limbaugh to raise funds for the organization to advance its controversial mission. It is our hope that once Mr. Limbaugh hears from American sportsmen and women he will understand how his endorsement aids HSUS in its quest to to destroy American freedoms such as hunting, fishing and trapping," says Pidgeon.

The Humane Society calls itself "the nation's largest and most effective animal protection organization — backed by 10 million Americans, or one in every 30. Established in 1954, the HSUS seeks a humane and sustainable world for all animals — a world that will also benefit people."

Indeed, they have a war chest of at least $133 million, and are actively trying to be the umbrella organization for all animal rights groups in the U.S. — "the National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement" — according to HSUS President Wayne Pacelle.

The HSUS position statement for its "Wildlife Abuse" campaign says its goal is "Ending the killing of animals for trophies and pleasure." Stopping "captive hunts, poaching, contest kills, pheasant stocking and bear hunting" are among its highest priorities. It considers these activities "unsporting hunting practices."

OK, as I understand the definition of "sport," it implies that one derives pleasure and satisfaction from the act. From the HSUS position statements it seems that one can hunt and fish wild animals for food, but not enjoy it. Ah, the guilty conscience! Never fear, HSUS is promoting a vegetarian agenda to sooth that guilty knot in the stomach.

In 2004, HSUS President Wayne Pacelle told The Washington Post: "Hunting? I think you will see a steady decline in numbers." In earlier news interviews, Pacelle has said that it is OK to use misinformation about hunting to build opposition.

According to the National Animal Interest Alliance, the HSUS distorts many animal welfare issues and is dead set against programs like Campfire in Africa, which utilizes sport hunting to pump money for conservation into the local economies.

HSUS also opposes fishing on the grounds that it causes pain to the fish.

The word "humane" brings up images of pet shelters. According to ActivistCash.com, "the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is not affiliated with your local animal shelter.

"Despite the omnipresent dogs and cats in its fundraising materials, it's not an organization that runs spay/neuter programs or takes in stray, neglected, and abused pets. And despite the common image of animal protection agencies as cash-strapped organizations dedicated to animal welfare, HSUS has become the wealthiest animal rights organization on earth."

Animal shelters are maintained by the American Humane Association, which competes with HSUS for funds and members. AHA, a much more pragmatic group, monitors all films involving animals, and does not oppose ethical, fair chase hunting.

HSUS has 10 regional offices. Most of its money and energy goes into churning out huge volumes of information, but it has started up a Wildlife Land trust, where people can donate lands, which of course will never permit hunting or fishing.

It would be hard to find many people in support of dogfighting or cockfighting, and it's good that Limbaugh is promoting linking religion and animals, but "Many of Mr. Limbaugh's supporters are the very people targeted by the HSUS," says Bud Pidgeon, USSA president and CEO. "By lending such a prominent voice to supporting HSUS, he is helping to deceive people about the real agenda of the organization."

The issues that Limbaugh speaks about in the two commercials are not bad, it's the advocacy of HSUS that has sportsmen hopping mad.

A note to Rush: while it's true that religion does not support animal cruelty, it is also true that no major religion forbids ethical hunting. (All major religions except HSUS, that is.) In fact, all major religions offer guidance about how to hunt so as to show respect for any animals harvested and not feel guilt. (See my book, The Sacred Art of Hunting, for more details.)

Rush says that he owns a cat named "Punkin," who he obviously cares very much about. Rush, please ask Punkin about his policy on killing mice. But don't tell the HSUS what Punkin says.

James Swan — who has appeared in more than a dozen feature films, including "Murder in the First" and "Star Trek: First Contact," as well as the television series "Nash Bridges," "Midnight Caller" and "Modern Marvels" — is the author of the book "In Defense of Hunting." Click to purchase a copy. To learn more about Swan, visit his Web site.