The Big (Meat-Free) Lie

Is it just us, or has Humane Society of the United States CEO Wayne Pacelle finally painted himself into a corner?

On the eve of Pacelle’s big “town hall” meeting in Lincoln, Nebraska, the Omaha World-Herald asked him to respond to our charge that he “doesn't believe there is such a thing as humane meat … He wants to make more and more of us vegetarians by making the cost of meat, eggs and dairy beyond the reach of consumers.”

His answer?

Pacelle acknowledged that he is a vegetarian, but said many members of his organization eat meat.

"That's just my choice, that's not the position of the organization," he said.

Oh, really? HSUS doesn’t actively promote vegetarianism as a way of life?

Let’s take a look at the evidence. This is for all you members of the press in Lincoln this weekend.

  1. HSUS publishes, prints, and distributes a “Guide to Vegetarian Eating,” which was loosely modeled on PETA’s “Vegetarian Starter Kit” and the identically named “Vegetarian Starter Kit” from the PETA-affiliated Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). In fact, the first edition of HSUS’s “Guide” lifted false material about the fat content of chicken directly from PCRM’s “Starter Kit” publication.
  2. There is not a single instance anywhere on HSUS’s website of a recipe, endorsement, or other food promotion involving non-vegetarian ingredients. Not one. “Our Favorite Recipes,” published online by HSUS in November 2009, consisted of a whopping 145 recipes for breakfasts, drinks, salads, soups, pastas, sandwiches, snacks, side dishes, entrees, desserts, and even animal treats. The number of times any form of animal protein is mentioned? Zero.
  3. Under Wayne Pacelle’s leadership, HSUS has offered its formal endorsement to one (and only one) food product: Tofurky. HSUS’s branded logo appears on all Tofurky packages. The organization has yet to extend that level of endorsement to any meat, dairy, or egg product—even the “cage-free” and “free-range” products it claims to favor.
  4. On one occasion in March 2008, a cage-free egg-white company announced that it had secured HSUS’s endorsement. Two hours later, the press release was retracted.
  5. HSUS began embracing a specific aninmal-rights philosophy thirty years ago. It was first articulated in a 1981 report from HSUS’s general counsel at the time, Peter Lovenheim (ellipses and brackets in the original, emphases added):

Gathered in national convention in San Francisco in 1980, the membership of the Humane Society of the U.S. formally recognized that:

… there is ample evidence and support for the position that [animal] rights naturally evolve from long-accepted doctrines of justice or fairness …

… there is no rational basis for maintaining a moral distinction between the treatment of humans and the treatment of other animals.

The Convention resolved to:

…pursue on all fronts … the clear articulation and establishment of the rights of all animals … within the full range of American life and culture.

Read those words again. They’re important.

HSUS's official policy since 1980 has been that everyone should treat animals exactly the same way they treat people—and that those animals, without exception, should have “rights.”

If animals do have any “rights” at all, the right to avoid being eaten has to be at the top of the list. Cannibalism, the last time we checked, was still frowned upon. So according to this policy, meat-eating has to be considered along the same lines.

The idea of drinking milk, scrambling eggs, or eating meat is simply incompatible with the philosophy Lovenheim described in 1981. There’s no way around it—unless, like Wayne Pacelle, you think your charisma will magically permit you to paint a floor without a door behind you.

Even Wayne Pacelle can’t really pull it off. But he is still entitled to his own personal choices, of course. Everybody is. If Wayne Pacelle wants to be a vegetarian, that’s a fine decision. But only a tiny minority of Americans are going to fall in step behind him. This is why Pacelle needs to tell the Big Lie that while he may be having a tofu Thanksgiving, his organization isn’t trying to push it on the rest of us.

What absolute nonsense.

HSUS's history and its own materials tell a different story from the one Pacelle is selling. We’ll believe he's a non-judgmental “live and let live” vegetarian when his HSUS starts endorsing and promoting cage-free eggs, organic pork and dairy, grass-fed pastured beef, and free-range veal.. After all, those are the things HSUS is fighting for, right?

… Right?

Thanks for sticking with us to the end of this essay. There's lots more evidence where this came from, but it’s safe for you to leave. (The paint has probably dried by now.)