LOS ANGELES (CN) - A Chinese businessman claims in court that the Humane Society of the United States bilked him for $500,000 by promising to promote his documentary on the "horrendous" truths of the dog-meat trade.
Hiroshi Horiike and World Dog Alliance sued the Humane Society of the United States and its CEO Wayne Pacelle, on Oct. 29 in Superior Court.
Pacelle told Courthouse News that the Humane Society did help get the movie shown in Washington, London and Milan, though four other showings were canceled at the last minute "for unexplained reasons," and that "we offered to refund his donation" despite "unpredictable behavior from Mr. Horiike's camp."
Horiike aka Hiroshi Genlin describes himself as "a self-made Chinese industrialist who grew up in a 300-square-foot attic apartment in Shanghai."
Genlin says he devoted the past two years to ending the dog meat trade in Asia, and founded the World Dog Alliance in 2014 to produce "Eating Happiness," a documentary about the "horrendous" practice of stealing and slaughtering household pets.
Genlin claims the defendants courted him after a conference at Hong Kong University in December 2014, "with the goal of obtaining a large donation" in exchange for the Humane Society's assistance with the film.
Pacelle "promised Genlin and WDA the world-nationwide promotion and screening of the documentary film; a screening of the documentary film before the U.S. Congress; lobbying for federal legislation banning the consumption of dog meat and passage of said legislation, within three months - in return for a $1 million donation," the lawsuit states.
For two "investments" from him of $500,000 each, Genlin claims, the Humane Society agreed to "create the atmospherics for the movie's success."
He says Pacelle promised that the group would mount a "global publicity campaign," including events in New York, Washington and Los Angeles, and that "We will do this by mobilizing our resources to shine a spotlight on the cruelty of the trade."
But he says the defendants' tune "changed rather dramatically following the receipt of the first $500,000."
Genlin says he was told that legislative efforts in Congress were "unobtainable in the short term," nor could the film could be shown to members of Congress.
The Humane Society did not promote the film to its 12 million members, and performed "none" of the functions Pacelle promised, according to the complaint.
"Simply put, the Humane Society and Pacelle, recognizing that Genlin was of substantial means and could contribute substantial sums to The Humane Society, sold WDA and Genlin a veritable 'bill of goods,' never intending to follow through on any of it upon receipt of a substantial donation," the lawsuit states.
Genlin's attorney Brandon Fernald told Courthouse News that the Humane Society "balked" after receiving Genlin's donation.
"The Humane Society promised a global campaign to publicize 'Eating Happiness' as a means of promoting the shared goal of ending the dog meat trade," Fernald said Friday. "Upon receipt of my client's substantial donation, however, the Humane Society balked. The Humane Society should not have made promises it had no intention of keeping."
In response, Pacelle said the Humane Society is "committed to shutting down the dog meat trade," whose toll may exceed 50 million dogs a year.
"We believe that awareness-building proportionate to the scale of the problem is part of the challenge, and that's why we were interested in spreading the word about the cruelty of the dog meat trade through Mr. Horiike's film," Pacelle told Courthouse News.
Pacelle said the Humane Society screened the film for "hundreds" of advocates in Washington, D.C., and supported screenings in Milan and London.
"Unfortunately, four other planned screenings were canceled at the last minute by the producers for unexplained reasons," Pacelle said. "The planning and coordination between the parties became unworkable because of the entirely unpredictable behavior from Mr. Horiike's camp, and we offered to refund his donation."
Pacelle said the Humane Society is "in this fight to end the dog meat trade whether we partner with (Horiike) or not."
Horiike says in the lawsuit that he hoped that his film "will change the destiny for dogs" as the Oscar-winning documentary "The Cove" did for dolphins in Japan.
"Dogs, like dolphins are beloved creatures in American society - dogs perhaps more so," Fernald said.
"Speaking for myself, I was completely unaware of the extent of the dog meat trade in Asia, as I assume are most Americans. The images of 'man's best friend' being carted off stuffed in cages for slaughter is something that the American public will take interest in."
Genlin seeks punitive damages for fraud, breach of contract and breach of faith.
Los Angeles Times published a review of the movie on Oct. 29, the day the lawsuit was filed, under the headline: "'Eating Happiness' a disturbing treatise against eating dog meat."
The Times called the movie a "manifesto and propaganda for the nascent World Dog Alliance."
"It's tough to stomach in more ways than one," reviewer Martin Tsai added. "A capricious, counterintuitive narrative also renders the film nearly unwatchable."
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