The Age of Umbrage (or What to Get Mad About When the Money Runs Out)

August 14th, 2017 | Posted by Karel Minor in Uncategorized

It seems like we have entered an Age of Umbrage, where you can count on someone taking offense to just about anything. This offense is most annoying when it has a tone of smug superiority and starts with, “Well I do this and you don’t blah, blah.”  There is a substantial segment of this in animal welfare.  All the people who did something first, or does something everyone else doesn’t do, wants to remind us that they were there before us and bought the tee shirt to prove it.

There is a particularly prolific practitioner of this who just publicly called out Federated Humane Societies of Pennsylvania- not by name, but close enough- and its member organizations for not picketing at the last couple of pigeon shoots in Pennsylvania. Since one of these is in Berks County, I’m pretty sure Humane Pennsylvania Berks got stirred into this steaming pot of umbrage.

I won’t link to it, because I’ve finally learned that acknowledgment just encourages some folks.  And I inevitably end up being drawn into saying something stupid that lasts forever on the interweb.  But this group is one which loves to antagonize, engages in personal attacks down to the level of a person’s religion or children, has proven themselves to be a rather untrustworthy political and strategic partner, and is a group that puts some of its stock in being created by a reformed trophy hunter and fisherman. Some of us knew that killing for fun wasn’t right to begin with, but, hey, now I’m just being petty.

I’ll barely acknowledge the absurdity of implying that Humane Pennsylvania Berks hasn’t taken on pigeon shoots, and we have paid a price for doing it. Just search “pigeon shoots” in this blog to read more than you’ll want to.  We went up against a DA who threatened to strip us of our police powers for attempting to prosecute pigeon shooters, we’ve lobbied our State House incessantly, and we generally haven’t shut up about them.  For a primarily cat and dog organization, we’ve done more than most.

But we certainly haven’t done more than all, especially if the bar being set by some folks is that we have to be there at every one, demonstrating, picketing, photographing attendees, and generally being obnoxious. Let me be clear- I love that there are people doing all those things and I hope they are as obnoxious as humanly and legally possible.  Pigeon shooters are immoral a-holes as a rule, and mostly aren’t even from Pennsylvania, who gamble on killing birds, and wave Confederate flags around because, you know…oh, heck, I have no idea what Confederate flags have to do with shooting pigeons.  Those people are just idiots.  If they don’t like having their faces posted on YouTube, don’t shoot pigeons.

However, when did taking umbrage at pigeon shoots and pigeon shooters, with which I can wholeheartedly join in, turn into faulting animal shelters in our state for not standing shoulder to shoulder with the protesters every time? When did my not going to a pigeon shoot equate to people actually shooting pigeons as a thing to be mad about?  Sure, these guys can think I should go protest.  I think they should invent a time machine and go back in time to stop themselves from killing Mako sharks for fun before they had their animal cruelty conversion.

I don’t get mad that I’ve never seen any of these protest folks cleaning our kennels or the kennels of any of Federated Humane’s members, do I? Were they there when Humane PA Berks was giving out free lifesaving vaccines and veterinary service to poor peoples’ pets?  Did they stand shoulder to shoulder with us when my staff and I left our homes during natural disasters to set up and man emergency shelters for pets in our region?  Where they in any of the meetings we had with our elected officials to lobby and pass Libre’s Law, or the Gas Chamber Ban Law, or the two Puppy Mill Bills?  Nope.  Maybe they were just being really quiet in the corner and I didn’t see them.  But we did those things to help animals in Berks and Lancaster and across Pennsylvania.  So did our fellow organizations.  Real lives of real animals.  They weren’t- and aren’t-  here, we are.

That’s entirely OK. We must all focus on what we think is best, what we have resources for, and what we can and should focus on.  I’m glad they are out there for the pigeons.  Good for them that they drive a long way to stand there, even if standing there doesn’t have much of an actual impact.  I don’t fault them for not being here, where we are doing what we do.  Both of these efforts need attention and both need people to focus more on one than the other, otherwise neither will get much undivided attention.

But don’t get on the high horse of umbrage because everyone isn’t as single mindedly pure about your issue as you are. It’s your approach and your issue, not everyone else’s.  There are many people who could fault us both for not doing more for children, or poor people, or veterans, or the rainforest.  They are just as right.

And please, don’t make your case in screeds that are wrapped in whining about who is getting all the money instead of you. Maybe you aren’t getting money because donors don’t think what you are doing is effective or something they want to support.  My organization, or HSUS, or some tiny upstate animal shelter, or anyone else isn’t stealing money from you.  We’re just doing a job that more people want to support than the job you’re doing- or at least how you’re describing it to donors, apparently.

Try just doing job you’ve chosen instead of telling everyone else how to do theirs. There’s plenty of work to go around.

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