My worry is that the term "animal rights" has become a catch-all term for animal welfare and animal protection, and thus in handing out the cash, a trustee or judge might not understand crucial distinctions. But animal rights and animal welfare are completely different concepts, the former being an ideology that ultimately seeks to end all domestication of animals, and the latter being in keeping with human exceptionalism to increase our efforts to treat animals humanely.
So far, two familiar national animal rights groups, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Humane Society of the United States have announced their intentions to claim big slices of the $8 billion bounty. But neither one has the track record to handle such a responsibility.
Look at how PETA has spent the money it already has: The group raised more than $30 million last year, and found adoptive homes for 17 animals. Just 17. Meanwhile, it killed 1,815 dogs and cats--slightly more than the number of naked interns it sent out to "save" cows, chickens, and minks.
And although much of the public (and press) consider HSUS to be an actual "humane society," its record isn't any better. The group's name hides its lack of affiliation with any hands-on pet shelter anywhere in America. Of the $85-plus million HSUS spent in 2006, it gave only 4.2 percent to pet shelters.
In my research for my upcoming book, PETA cames across as distinctly anti-human and profoundly mendacious. HSUS seems motivated by animal rights ideology but circumspectly spends its vast fortune biting at animal industries around the edges without actually promoting liberationist ideology.
But remember, money is fungible. If either organization gets their hands on the Helmsey fortune, woe betide animal industries that will be assaulted with increased litigation, propaganda, and agitation.