24 May 2005

Wayne Pacelle on the Future of the Animal-Protection Movement

We are now at a new and strange juncture in human experience. Never has there been such massive exploitation of animals—from the puppy mills to the canned hunting ranches to the laboratories to the billions of animals raised on factory farms. At the same time, never have there been so many people determined to stop this exploitation. One force or the other has to prevail, and it is the goal of the animal protection movement to see the forces of kindness and mercy triumph over custom, complaisance, and selfishness, and to usher in a new era of respect and concern for animals.

The means of effecting these sweeping changes take many forms. There is enlightenment and education, and the personal transformation that occurs when people of conscience become aware of abuse and misconduct. There is direct care and relief, and the humane movement has spent the bulk of its resources during the last century and a half providing shelter, sanctuary, food and water, and other animal care services to creatures in need.

In a market-oriented economy—in which many animals are treated only as commodities—the humane movement must influence corporate practices and policies. We vote for or against animal cruelty with our dollars in the marketplace, and our ability to spur corporate policy changes has enormous implications for animals. When major corporations halted animal testing, or when fast food giants stipulated that producers had to observe basic welfare standards, these decisions affected the lives of millions of creatures.

And then there is the matter of the law. When it comes to animals, the law must speak, and set a standard in society for personal, corporate, and government conduct. Matters dealing with the treatment of animals cannot be left entirely to personal choice or conscience, since many people would knowingly flout society’s voluntary proscriptions. As elsewhere in the law, people must be held to clear standards of conduct, and those standards must be enforceable.

(Wayne Pacelle, “Law and Public Policy: Future Directions for the Animal Protection Movement,” Animal Law 11 [2005]: 1-6, at 1-2)

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