October 12th, 2010
SHARK has been working hard in Pennsylvania not because we want to, but because pigeon shoots are absolutely horrendous, and there has been a lack of real effort on the ground, at the shoots themselves. As part of our work, we expect to be attacked by those who desire to slaughter pigeons, but it came as a complete surprise when we were sucker-punched by Karel Minor, Executive Director of the Humane Society of Berks County, in a blog that he wrote and posted here.
Though we are extremely busy fighting for animals, we had no choice but to respond to his insane blog-rant. We even asked him to allow it to be posted along with his, but he refused.
To clear the record and our name, here are the communications from this issue:
SHARK’s response to Mr. Minor’s original post
This is in response to Humane Society of Berks County Executive Director Karel Minor’s recent blog in which he apologized to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell and Tom Cruise for comments made in a recent SHARK update. There are a few things that need to be reiterated, a few things to be corrected, and a few things that must be clarified.
Mr. Minor claims Governor Rendell didn’t deserve to be called sleazy. He claims Rendell has done much to help animal causes, although more could be done, so he doesn’t deserve to be ‘attacked’. Perhaps Mr. Minor finds it acceptable that his governor helps some animals while not bothering to help others when he can help all of them, but we find that wholly unacceptable for this governor and for every governor across this Nation.
At issue is Governor Rendell’s promise that he would sign a bill to ban pigeon shoots if such a bill were to make it to his desk.
Rendell’s “offer” is nothing more than manipulation - trying to make himself out the good guy when in fact he’s done nothing whatsoever. Governor Rendell hasn’t lifted a finger to push the bill, although he could do so. When it comes to Pennsylvania animal issues, as leader of his state, Rendell should have made it a priority, especially considering that Pennsylvania is the only state that openly allows these mass slaughters.
Given the profound cruelty of pigeon shoots, coupled with the embarrassment that regularly results for his state as these killing contests are exposed, that would be the right thing for Rendell to do.
Without an active effort from Rendell, it is virtually impossible for that bill to get to his desk. He knows that. It’s akin to offering you a million dollars to jump the Grand Canyon. Rendell’s offer was no better - just a pitch to take in suckers.
Governor Rendell’s manipulation is as sleazy as it gets, especially when he apparently has ample tax-payer funded time to appear on national television to “enrich” everyone with his knowledge of the national political landscape instead of taking care of business in his own backyard. In our update I suggested that Rendell focus considerably more on the cruelty and corruption at home where he was duly elected to serve.
Mr. Minor also takes issue with our suggestion that Mr. Cruise’s parenting skills are lacking because he took his children to a rodeo. I reiterate that position, just as I would if Mr. Cruise took his children to a dog fight or cock fight. Interestingly, the late, great human rights activist Cesar Chavez equated the violence of rodeos with the violence of dog and cock fighting:
“Kindness and compassion towards all living beings is a mark of a civilized society. Racism, economic deprival, dog fighting and cock fighting, bullfighting and rodeos are all cut from the same defective fabric: violence. Only when we have become nonviolent towards all life will we have learned to live well ourselves.” - Cesar Chavez
If Mr. Minor doesn’t understand the blatant abuse that occurs at rodeos, perhaps he might educate himself before commenting further on the issue. I assume Mr. Minor would question parents who bring their children to pigeon shoots. I certainly do. So why would parents who bring their kids to another form of abuse be any less subject to criticism?
What was perhaps the strangest part of Mr. Minor’s blog was the claim that in criticizing the leadership of the Church of Scientology, we were somehow blaming every person who is a member of Scientology. Not only is that incorrect and certainly not our intention, but the sheer stretch of Mr. Minor’s imagination to that end is troubling.
Mr. Cruise has made himself the public face of his Church. They are conjoined with his celebrity. We gave The Church the benefit of the doubt and ample time to disavow Mr. Cruise’s personal choices of not only indulging in being a spectator at an animal abusing venue, but his past and future movie deals which glorify cruelty to animals as fun and entertainment for movie-goers. The Church and Mr. Cruise have both failed to respond to written concerns. Their silence speaks volumes. Therefore, we will hold the leadership of the Church responsible and equally culpable for Mr. Cruise’s involvement in animal cruelty issues because they have claimed to be humane minded while their actions, or in this case lack thereof, demonstrate otherwise.
Mr. Minor accuses us of intolerance, bigotry and fascism. Yet, he made the comment: Thank God he isn’t a Muslim; who knows what they would have asked us to do!” Perhaps he would care to address why he felt the need to single out Muslims. What was his need to make that ridiculous statement at all? But in response to his inappropriate question, we would suggest consultation with his Imam.
Mr. Minor further likens us to the Ku Klux Klan. That is ludicrous and should be beneath him. He condemns us for what he perceives is a lack of civil discourse. Our lack of civil discourse? He must cover his mirrors, because in them is the reflection of someone who is guilty of the same with his own accusations of us. He calls our organization bigots but in his opinion we can’t call an elected official who won’t keep promises a sleaze. Mr. Minor says he agrees with the way we handled a vulgar, foul-mouthed pigeon shooter, but when he doesn’t agree with us, he tries to crucify us by calling us bigots. There is nothing civil or logical in Mr. Minor’s teeter-totter opinions.
We understand there are times to be diplomatic, such as when we first approached the church and Mr. Cruise. But as they choose to ignore the issue, so it is time for straight talk.
We promised Mr. Cruise and the church that if the rodeo project goes forward, we would make Cruise and the church “carry the stain” of involvement with animal abuse for the duration of his career and beyond.
Of course we will. What does Mr. Minor think rodeo animal abuse is, a traffic ticket? Neither he nor anyone else will get an apology from us for holding the guilty responsible for abuse. That’s what we do.
Mr. Minor characterizes our promise as “stunning, horrible,” and “profoundly un-American.” Our First Amendment rights are as American as it gets, so I have no idea where he is coming from. We talk straight. We don’t beat around the bush or kiss political butt. We tell it as we see it, as it is. Our tongue is civil; we don’t spew vulgarity. But if the truth hurts to hear it, your conscience is telling you something.
When I first became involved in animal protection via Pennsylvania’s pigeon shoots, I quickly learned that Illinois also had these killing contests. It took less than two years to knock them out of Illinois.
We didn’t succeed by sleeping with the enemy. We talked straight, and released graphic, bloody video images that upset people. We’re not trying to be popular. We’re trying to stop pigeon shoots, and in Illinois, we succeeded. In Pennsylvania, you have quite frankly failed.
I’ve watched some so-called leaders in Pennsylvania animal protection dilly-dally with lawmakers and even the National Rifle Association over the pigeon shoot issue for some twenty years, and legislative efforts to stop the abuse were ongoing prior to my arrival. Nevertheless, the shoots continue.
People in power are not caring that they’re being asked kindly to do away with animal abuse. They need to be talked to with firmness and conviction. Constituents need to demand change, not ask for it like beggars. The honey vs. vinegar analogy doesn’t work with people who are indifferent to animals being harmed. They don’t see or need to care for a suffering animal; therefore, they don’t care, period.
Mr. Minor writes that he looks forward to getting rid of pigeon shoots so that we will leave his state. Well, we surely are on the same page there. There is little I would enjoy more than being able to leave Pennsylvania, and I will do so at the first opportunity. Unfortunately SHARK is compelled to continue to document and expose pigeon shoots.
Now you might ask the question - why not allow Mr. Minor and his humane society do that work? My answer is, I would love to do just that. After all, there are two locations that regularly hold pigeon shoots in Mr. Minor’s Berks County.
In fact, Mr. Minor brought cruelty charges against one of those locations about a year ago. Then, when Berks County District Attorney John Adams ordered Mr. Minor to withdraw the charges, Mr. Minor did just that. Mr. Minor withdrew the charges because Berks County District Attorney John Adams - who has accepted campaign money from pigeon shooters - told him to.
I don’t know what motivated Mr. Minor to withdraw the charges, but I am quite certain it wasn’t consideration to the tens of thousands of pigeons who have been slaughtered since Mr. Minor’s capitulation. Perhaps Mr. Minor would care to address that withdrawal at some point in the near future.
After Mr. Minor--who is paid for his Executive Director position-- backed down to DA Adams, Humane Police Officer Johnna Seeton, an unpaid volunteer who is NOT affiliated with Mr. Minor’s humane society, re-filed the charges. She, not Mr. Minor, is now pressing the issue in the courts. A volunteer doing more for the animals than a paid Executive Director. That’s dedication.
I believe much of the so-called leadership in Pennsylvania’s animal protection movement is either soft, terribly naïve or generally incompetent and prefers to allow things (i.e. the suffering of pigeons) to remain status quo so as not to rock any political boats.
In the lead-up to a so-called “Rally for Animals in Harrisburg on September 13, we learned that the organizers of the rally wanted the pigeon shoot issue kept out. The stated reason for the organizers’ desire to say nothing about the most obvious and outrageous abuse in the state was that they were afraid they would upset the NRA - the National Rifle Association.
To say that I was appalled is an understatement. The organizers called it bullying when I threatened to disrupt the rally if the pigeon shoot issue was not included. I did indeed threaten to disrupt it, because holding a “Rally for Animals” in Pennsylvania without including the pigeon shoot issue is ridiculous.
When I first got involved in Pennsylvania’s pigeon shoots, I met Ed Blotzer, a humane police officer from Pittsburgh. Ed Blotzer was a true hero for all animals. Ed had the same compassion, dedication and guts as Johnna Seeton, and there is no way that Ed Blotzer would have tolerated a rally for animals that didn’t include the pigeon shoot issue.
As I bullied the pigeon shoot issue into the rally, I thought to myself that perhaps the real reason pigeon shoots continue in Pennsylvania isn’t because of the pigeon shooting ghouls, or the NRA, or the sleazy politicians like Ed Rendell, but rather, because of Pennsylvania’s supposed humane leaders who are not only willing, but outright determined to sell out the beings for whom they are supposed to advocate.
Interestingly, the person who ended up being picked to discuss the pigeon shoot issue at the rally was none other than Karel Minor, and I am told that he did a good job.
The only reason Mr. Minor was able to speak about the pigeons was because of what SHARK did; he was the compromise that we created. Without SHARK, pigeons would have not had a word said about them. So while Mr. Minor complains about SHARK’s tactics, he certainly has no problem reaping the benefits from them.
I found it weird that Johnna Seeton was passed over to discuss an issue that she has championed for more than twenty years, while a guy who abandoned the pigeons a year earlier and never again came to their aid spoke on their behalf. I think that speaks volumes about the current state of animal protection in Pennsylvania - none of it good.
The saddest aspect of supposed humane-minded people who are willing to sell out the pigeons is that those people actually weaken the position of all the other animal issues, including their own. Advocating for pigeons only strengthens consideration for other animals, most notably cats and dogs, which is what rally organizers are involved in. When humane people sell out pigeons, they also diminish consideration for the cuddly species.
Allow me to draw a very clear line for those who claim to care about animals. If you want to play the political games, and stay on the good side of celebrities, and dump some animals in the process, you should steer well clear of SHARK. If, on the other hand, you intend to stop animal abuse, legally and nonviolently, but with an edge when required, we’re your group.
We’re not here to be popular or to look good. SHARK exists to stop animal abuse, period.
Don’t get me wrong about my opinion of Karel Minor and the Humane Society of Berks County. I’ve heard good things about Minor and the Society, and I believe they are doing a vital service in a tough area for animals. But Minor’s own back-off of pigeon shoots a year ago shows just how tough they are to deal with. The people and organizations supporting these killing contests, are corrupt thugs. It will take more than smooth words and kind thoughts to knock these things out. That’s where SHARK and I come in.
In closing, there will be a pigeon shoot at the Erdman Sportsmens Club on October 3, and SHARK will be there to document and expose the abuse. Other shoots will follow regularly throughout the fall and winter, and into the spring.
Since Mr. Minor is so repulsed by our tactics, I will make him an offer.
If Mr. Minor will fully commit himself, and the resources of his organization to doing the job that we have been doing, and to not repeat his back down of the pigeons again, SHARK will stand down. We’ll be out of the state, according to Mr. Minor’s expressed wishes.
However, if Mr. Minor, who already capitulated on this issue a year ago, is unwilling to do the job, then I politely ask that he please stop complaining, get out of the way, and let us continue with the very difficult and thankless task at hand. SHARK will be there for the pigeons of Pennsylvania, since Mr. Minor won’t.
SHARK asking Minor to Post Our Response
From: "Steve Hindi"
To: "Karel Minor"
Cc: "Merritt Clifton"
Sent: Sunday, September 26, 2010 2:16 AM
Subject: Your blog - our response
Dear Mr. Minor,
Below please find a response to your recent blog. I would like to know if you intend to post it.
I found your charges of intolerance, bigotry, hate mail, rudeness, self-righteousness, hyper-emotionalism, viciousness, vulgarities, etc., to be most interesting. Remember when you withdrew legitimate cruelty charges against the Pike pigeon shooters last year? While we were well aware of your retreat, you heard nothing from us. We were frankly shocked and disgusted, but we never uttered a single word about it publicly, choosing instead to simply support Ms. Seeton, who bravely took up where you left off. But now that things are in the state they are in, why not tell everyone why you did what you did?
We will be posting both what you wrote and my response on our website. In the interest of showing that you are at least well-intentioned, you might consider doing the same.
Minor’s response to our letter and our request that he include it in his blog:
From: "Karel Minor"
Date: September 26, 2010 6:20:16 AM PDT
To: "Steve Hindi"
Cc: "Merritt Clifton"
Subject: Re: Your blog - our response
Thank you for your response. Our blog serves to facilitate our organization's message and goals and responses are posted accordingly. To address the specific issue you bring up here, the HSBC faced exactly what Johnna Seeton did. The DA, as he is permitted to do under PA law, required the withdrawal of our charges because he did not share our interpretation of cruelty law. The fact that we did it voluntarily following his request was both in recognition of his legal right to require it of us and in recognition that failure to do so could place future cruelty charges, warrants, and convictions sought by our organization in jeopardy if we were perceived by the DA and judges to be engaging in activist rather than legal activity. To have "bravely" continued on in the face of a clear lack of legal standing could have resulted in an inability to prosecute any other case of cruelty because of a question of which master we serve- our own personal agendas or the law- and appropriately so.
I will say I am very much in sympathy with many of your concerns and supportive of many of your causes but I cannot support your general tone. Johnna Seeton has as much skin in the game as you, yet she is never histrionic and mean. However, in many ways your indiscriminate personal attacks serve to make one of the most effective arguments against shoots that can be made to those who don't really care about the issue: that they do not fit our community standards and they invite ill-mannered shoot participants and equally ill-mannered shoot opponents from out of state who arrive in our communities and coarsen them. I believe that pigeon shoots on their face should be banned immediately, but I also point out the added benefit of ridding us of the accessory elements they bring to our state.
I believe you engage in a very ineffective method of promoting change which holds every person to your purity test and casts all who fail in the same lot as those you actually oppose. It renders your group of compatriots smaller and smaller, empowers your opponents, and embitters and demobilizes those who should be your natural allies. I would encourage you to take a page from the book of truly effective individuals and organizations who affect change through bridge building and broadening of message and appeal. It's harder to do but vastly more effective- and more terrifying to your opponents.
Karel I. Minor
Humane Society of Berks County
The Leader In Animal Welfare
1801 N. 11th Street
Reading, PA 19604
1201 Ben Franklin Highway E. (Rt. 422)
Douglassville, PA 19518
610-921-2348, ext. 10
A final note; I think someone needs to tell him that calling yourself the “The Leader In Animal Welfare” means nothing if you are going to stand by and allow terrible abuse to go on and on.