Last week I had a few choice words for forms of activism that stray beyond the bounds of the law. Right away I started seeing feedback and I’ve been encouraged by your response. So today I wanted to give you the floor—here are some of the comments I’ve received so far.
Thank you so much for writing this. When people I have just met find out that I am an animal rights activist I can tell right away what they are thinking by their shuffling feet and downward cast eyes. I assure them I do not condone illegal or violent acts. They seem so relieved… I think it is so important to the success of our movement to treat people with the same compassion that we show to animals. Certainly we can be angry with them for their actions. But we cannot forget that they are God’s creatures as well. Really, it is quite easy to love animals because they are such pure beings. But it takes much more character and resolve to love people. We should take a lesson from the animals themselves who are so resilient, quick to forgive and willing to love. Once again, they are our teachers. —Nash McCutchen
This is sound, responsible advice. For those of us who firmly believe that compassion should extend to all aspects of our lives, this is a no-brainer. Peace begets peace. —Lisa J.
Agreed. As much as we can empathize with lab animals, it is vital to pursue animal rights reform ethically and legally. Due to the actions of some animal advocacy groups, some people view the animal rights cause as "crazy" and even illegitimate. Portraying ourselves as compassionate citizens with an important cause through effective tactics like lobbying and pamphleteering can lead the average person to see animal rights as more commonplace. It can also lead to a wider acceptance of our values and ideals. Violence hurts the cause, the animals, and ourselves. —Sara N
Once again, you demonstrate that leading by example sends the strongest and most principled message. Bravo to the HSUS for eschewing violence and hypocrisy—and yet still accomplishing huge milestones in the fight for animals. Rock on. —Joan McKenna Van Rijswijk
This is a terrific essay! Gandhi would certainly agree. —Sally Cummings
Perhaps one of the best blogs you have written. Thank you [for] setting out the feelings of so many of us [who] support HSUS and other animal protection organizations like no-kill shelters. It is so important that people know where you are coming from and what you stand for. It is things like this that make HSUS the premier animal protection organization that it is. Thank you again. —Angela Auletta
I can’t understand why anyone who supposedly is so devoted to a cause would resort to violence. That just turns people off. I have encountered so many people when they hear that I am an animal rights supporter and an environmentalist just assume that I support these extremists. It is hard to overcome that. I know that in all causes there are people who use radical means to get their message out. But we should be showing our compassionate side. After all, compassion is what our animal friends try to teach us. —Barbara
Amen, amen, and amen! I have been voicing the very same philosophy—we cannot claim to be compassionate people if we ourselves resort to violence. The ones that cross the lines set us back several steps, and make our jobs much harder. Being level-headed, sincere, peaceful warriors is the only way we will truly get through to people—trying to put fear into others will not truly bring positive and permanent change.
A couple of years ago, while both peaceful animal advocates and extremists were trying to get something accomplished, many people were making verbal attacks (including via TV and newspaper ads, as well as published letters), basing their comments and beliefs on extremists’ actions, assuming we were all the same. I wrote a letter to the editor of our local paper, expressing our gentle-is-the-way philosophy in a nutshell. Sticking to our compassionate, non-violent, law-abiding stance may not be the easy route, but it’s practicing what we preach, and that’s the only way people will take us seriously, the only way we can hope for true change in the right direction.
This philosophy, Mr. Pacelle, is one of the main reasons why you’re one of my heroes, why I’ve supported the HSUS for well over a decade. I believe that if we all followed the HSUS approach, our movement would be much more widely accepted—and our ways practiced. I can’t properly express in cyberspace how good your post makes me feel about you, the HSUS, our mission, and just in general, in light of all that’s happening. I wish the whole world could see this blog. Thank you! —Valerie