Human Exceptionalism

HSUS’s Wayne Pacelle Endorses Human Exceptionalism

Wayne Pacelle is the head of the Humane Society of the United States.  He is very slick, sophisticated, and runs HSUS as if it is only about animal welfare.  I don’t believe it for a second.  HSUS works diligently to make meat raising more expensive and morally marginalized, without vocally pitching the animal rights dogma.  It’s a tactic, not a true belief in the principle of animal welfare.

Toward that ultimate end, Pacelle has explicitly embraced human exceptionalism. From an article in Prism, an evangelical magazine, “A Call to Compassion From Our Brothers the Animals:”

Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the HSUS, explains why it encourages animal welfare instead of animal rights: “I think it’s a recognition that we are special and exceptional,” he says. “All these creatures are at our mercy…The rights language suggests that that there’s something inherent in them, and I think it’s more about us.”

Well, I can agree wholeheartedly with that.  Human exceptionalism is why we have duties to animals.  That is what I preach here every day and indeed is the core thesis of my book A Rat is a Pig is a Dog is a Boy.  (Funny, I missed that rave review from Pacelle.)  Indeed, that is the core animal welfare principle.  We have a right to use animals instrumentally, so long as we balance the human benefit with the best and proper methods for attaining humane care.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t for a second believe Pacelle means what he said.  He’s an old animal rights radical, a belief system predicated on the concept of “speciesism,” which explicitly holds that HE is unwarranted discrimination against animals.  Moreover, while HSUS implicitly endorse humane meat, I perceive it as obfuscation.  Indeed, HSUS’s VP stated in 2006:

For all of us, our goal is to reduce the greatest amount of suffering for the greatest number of animals. We don’t want any of these animals to be raised and killed. But when we’re talking about numbers like “one million slaughtered in the U.S. in a single hour,” or “48 billion killed every year around the world,” unfortunately we don’t have the luxury of waiting until we have the opportunity to get rid of the entire industry.

Oops, that let the cat, er chicken, out of the old bag.

And speaking of cats, back in his more candid days before becoming head of HSUS, Pacelle said he would prefer see no more felines or dogs born. Asked by the author of Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt, “What about pets, Wayne? Would you envision a future with no pets in the world?” Pacelle said that would be his personal preference. which is a classic, if rarely expressed, animal rights view (Animal rights activist, Gary Francione, has a similar outlook). From page 266 of Bloodties:

“I wouldn’t say I envision that, no. If I had my personal view that might take hold. I don’t want to see another cat or dog born.  It’s not something I strive for, though. If people were very responsible, and didn’t do manipulative breeding, and cared for animals in all senses, and accounted for their nutritional needs as well  as their social and psychological needs, then I think it could be an appropriate thing.  I’m not sure. I think it’s one of those things that we’ll decide later in society. I think we’re still far from it.”

“Decide later,” meaning that ending pet ownership comes at the culmination of the animal rights multi-generational campaign to end all domestication, not now.  Besides, dog and cat lovers donate millions to HSUS and PETA, and it wouldn’t be prudent to openly advocate that ultimate goal.

Pacelle also analogizes between slavery and the instrumental use of animals (pp 253, 259)–a classic animal rights approach.  And, of course, he says on page 251–contrary to the title of his current book, that he doesn’t actually feel “bonded with any nonhuman animal” and “There is no special bond between me and other animals.”  Ah yes, discussing fauna in relation to humans as “other animals,” a way of subtly erasing the moral distinction between us and them–another classic animal rights meme.  Pacelle certainly won’t be caught being that candid these days about what he really believes!

Oh well.   The next time animal rightitsts yell at me about the hubris of human exceptionalism, I’ll tell them to go complain to Wayne Pacelle.

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