Among the major social movements of our time, there are very few that have the breadth of support that The HSUS has demonstrated through the years. Our backers—from Oprah to Ellen to Rush Limbaugh to the late Paul Harvey—run the political gamut, and many are icons in their own right and possess enormous popular appeal.
Yesterday’s news about Rush recording PSAs for The HSUS—one against dogfighting and the other in support of our outreach to religious communities—might have surprised some on the Left or the Right, but it is precisely the sort of broad appeal that we have come to expect.
Regardless of their ideologies, decent people get to the same end point with animals, but they may take different pathways there. Conservatives have always had a healthy skepticism about the misuse of power, and that’s exactly what’s at work when people cause needless harm to animals. Values related to personal responsibility and community matter to conservatives, and those same principles undergird any serious social concern for animals.
On the other end of the spectrum, liberals and others on the Left have a commitment to social justice and fairness. It’s only logical that a concern for human rights, poverty, and other large-scale social problems would inevitably lead those on the Left to consider the moral question of the mistreatment of animals. In fact, one theme throughout American history has been a consistent broadening of our consideration for others, and now that concern includes animals.
Even more fundamental, it’s just hard not to like animals. Regular people, especially children, are drawn to animals. It’s a narrow and perhaps an empty person who cannot appreciate the beauty of other creatures and who would reject or deny our kinship with them. That's why Oprah is so drawn to her dog Sadie, and why Rush is so committed to his cat Punkin. And it’s a person without much capacity for creative thought or ingenuity who cannot sidestep cruelty in their daily living.
The HSUS was founded 50 years ago as a big-tent organization, one that tackles issues from a national perspective and that unites people of conscience in the quest for a more humane society. They never wanted the organization to be a movement of the Left or the Right, but rather a mainstream movement, grounded upon fundamental values of decency, mercy, and kindness.
We’ve had our critics on the Left and the Right—perhaps more so on the Right, it would seem to some. But Matthew Scully has quelled much of the bellyaching and knee-jerk opposition with his literate and trenchant work "Dominion" in 2003. He exposed cruelty and its apologists, and reminded conservatives of the consonance of their core values with those of animal protection advocates.
Today our primary critics are non-ideological. Typically, they are narrow economic interests who want to perpetuate the status quo—whether sealers, cockfighters, puppy millers, factory farmers, or others. More often than not, they are front groups for these interests that operate under the facemask of an ideological concern. But when you pull back the curtain or mask from groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom or National Animal Interest Alliance, you do not see folks on the Left or Right. You just see selfishness and greed laid bare.
We’ll continue to march forward, and do what Americans have always done best. Spoken up for the most vulnerable among us.