Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) is the smartest and richest animal rights group around.  Unlike PETA, it doesn’t openly proselytize that old animal rights religion, e.g., sentience gives moral value, “a rat, is a pig, is a dog, is a boy,” the quote from Ingrid Newkirk and title of a certain author’s soon to be published book. This strategy has been very effective, allowing HSUS a level of mainstream respectability that other animal rights groups can’t match.

But make no mistake, HSUS is about animal rights—eventually ending all animal husbandry and human hegemony over fauna—and its head, Wayne Pacelle, is a hard core evangelist.  He has a piece on Michael Vick today, that, I think, unconsciously reflects the explicit religious nature of animal rights advocacy. It is about fall, repentance, redemption, and altar calls—indeed, it is permeated with a subtle, but distinctly Christian, narrative.  From his piece:

A person who committed an awful crime against animals is found out. Prosecutors take the case seriously, and the perpetrator eventually pleads guilty. The judge metes out a stern penalty, given the sentencing guidelines at the time.

Man falls. Of course, Vick acted abominably, but follow me on this. He is convicted of his wrongdoing, confesses, and suffers just punishment.  But there is redemption and a public confession of faith:
And then, upon release from prison, the perpetrator comes knocking on the door of the largest animal protection group and says he wants to sign up to do community service for the anti-cruelty team. He makes the pledge public so there is accountability.

You think I am reading too much into this?  Then, get the ending:
In a civil society, there must be accountability for grievous actions. But there also must be an embrace of people who are willing and ready to change - even in tough cases, like Michael Vick. We are all sinners when it comes to animals, and we can all do better.

We have all sinned against animals?  Substitute God for animals in this piece, and you have a classic Christian message.  Yup. animal rights is religion and Wayne Pacelle a high priest of the faith. Hallelujah!

Dear Reader,

Your charitable support for First Things is urgently needed before July 1.

First Things is a proudly reader-supported enterprise. The gifts of readers like you— often of $50, $100, or $250—make articles like the one you just read possible.

This Spring Campaign—one of our two annual reader giving drives—comes at a pivotal season for America and the church. With your support, many more people will turn to First Things for thoughtful religious perspectives on pressing issues of politics, culture, and public life.

All thanks to you. Will you answer the call?

Make My Gift

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles