An open letter to Wayne Pacelle, from Joan Harrison, Ph.D.:
To: Wayne Pacelle
Chief Executive Officer and President
The Humane Society of the United States
It is part of the mechanism of domination to forbid recognition of the suffering it produces, and there is a straight line of development between the gospel of happiness and the construction of camps of extermination so far off in Poland that each of our own countrymen can convince himself that he cannot hear the screams of pain.
––Theodor W. Adorno, Minima Moralia
August 27, 2014
Dear Mr. Pacelle,
I am trying to understand how the Humane Society of the United States—an organization that has done so much for animals, that claims to champion veganism on ethical grounds, that educates large portions of the public so effectively, and that urges ending and preventing horse slaughter because it’s “fraught with terror, pain, and suffering”—is able to back an event such as the “Hoofin It” in Denver, an event premised on and tacitly promoting an indifference toward the torment and premature deaths by slaughter of other once living beings. That event is said proudly to “showcase” the flesh of a different animal corpse each night for five nights, August 17 through 21—bison one night, goat another, pig another, cow another, and sheep another. The Humboldt is one among many restaurants participating in that event—restaurants that claim to use “humane ranchers” as their source. The mission of the Humane Society, according to your website, is “to prevent cruelty before it occurs.” Are you not, however, sponsoring and, indeed, endorsing cruelty by donating to the Humboldt Restaurant or any other such place?
The Heroes Like Us website states that the Hoofin’ It event would not have been possible without the Humane Society’s sponsorship. And it vaunts the fact that,
“Hoofin’ It is a benefit for the Colorado Food Guild, a project of the Mile High Business Alliance, in their collective efforts to build a healthy and sustainable food system in Colorado.”
There is, however, nothing healthy or sustainable about slaughter. Even the jingle advertising the event, superimposed on a photograph of a bison (“Respect your dinner, Move your feet, Get to hoofin’ it”) shows a completely alienated way of relating to animals—and not merely because bison are being persecuted unto annihilation by federal agents. The jingle makes light of a crime against creatures of whose torment it is in complete denial, and its presumed erasure of that crime is already a template among the general population. A cow is not dinner for anyone advocating cow protection as Gandhi, for example, did. Gandhi called the cow “a poem of pity”— maybe because he looked into the eyes of one and perceived a kindred spirit. Maybe he felt her breath on his hand and knew her fragility. Maybe he hugged her and felt the euphoria all animals bring. Maybe he watched her and easily inferred her sublime sensitivity and preternatural wisdom.
Niman Ranch is one of the sources at the Hoofin’ It celebration of the animals “showcased”—animals who, like those of any so-called sustainable farm, are coerced into slaughter. Slaughter is not only obscenely cruel, as you know, and its victims’ pain a bottomless hell. Those victims, in addition, are wrenched from their families and communities, leaving grieving everywhere. Their lives are cut short by decades. And the moment the wagon appears, if not before, they know full well whence they are going. The habit of animal sacrifice needs to end.
The Humane Society is said to be America’s leading animal protection organization and it boasts a membership of over a million. Are you not aware that by donating freely a significant amount of money for such a slaughter fest you are sending a destructive message to your members, a message completely opposed to everything for which you claim to stand? If you are not aware, then why should anyone take you seriously as a protector of animals? And if you are aware—as the absence of any mention of Hoofin’ It from your website suggests—why would you knowingly and willingly support slaughter?
To tolerate slaughter is not to protect. It is to fail to recognize the intrinsic worth of animals. It is to buy into the party line of ownership, to perceive animals as property not persons, commodities not individuals, slave not free. It is a failure of empathy.
I don’t think this is merely a matter of new welfarism—as opposed to abolitionism—showing its true stripes, as some might say. Some of the most vocal people perceived as new welfarists (whether or not they define themselves that way) are impassioned ethical vegans who have contributed significantly to animal well-being—Martin Balluch and Bruce Friedrich, for example. Farm Sanctuary, of which Mr. Friedrich is the policy director, does not even allow anyone onto its property who does not first agree to maintain a vegan diet for the duration of his or her stay. I can’t imagine either of those men agreeing to finance a meat eating bonanza such as the one in Denver.
A part of the proceeds from Hoofin’ It goes to the “Miles High Business Alliance,” a locavore group. The locavores—who seek out and pride themselves on their use of local food—are an offshoot of the sustainability movement, a movement that seems to speak about the natural world as if animals were not part of it, about animal agriculture as if slaughter were not integral to it, and (when pushed) about slaughter as if gross injustice were not at its core. The injustice of slaughter is THE issue here, however. The absence of pain, the absence of terror, even if achievable or guaranteed, would not erase the atrocity of snuffing out an innocent life—all the more so when for something so frivolous as the human palate’s fleeting delectation. Porphyry says that pleasure and justice are opposites—a seeming hyperbole the Hoofin It choreography would now appear to bring into relief.
To regard as Gandhi did the control of the palate as an ethical imperative is to recognize the need to end the barbaric custom of eating flesh. The integrity of creatures needs to be addressed and not only their physical pain…their souls, their understanding, and not only their bodies. Though there’s no one who does not backslide at one time or another, and maybe your donating was merely a backsliding, even so, the thought of an ethical vegan backsliding into funding slaughter strains the imagination. If to liberate is at the very least to liberate from the yoke of another, this event would seem to demonstrate the difference between animal liberation and mere protection. It makes clear why the only true protecting is by liberating.
(Please see “How HSUS sponsorship of a meatfest in Denver overshadowed announcement of reforms by the world’s largest food producer,” http://wp.me/p4pKmM-Hm.)
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