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Allies all around us

From Animal Sheltering magazine July/August 2014

Wayne Pacelle and his adopted dog, Lily

A volunteer trapping feral cats for sterilization and then returning them to managed colonies.

An animal care and control officer investigating a hoarding case.

A shelter staffer bathing a homeless animal to ready him for adoption.

A worker feeding a tiger at a big cats sanctuary.

A wildlife rehabilitator releasing a pelican back into the wild after extracting fishing line from her stomach.

All of these scenarios represent core activities within the animal protection movement. Each one is about helping animals. Yet the details are all so different, reflecting a staggeringly diverse movement.

There are as many as 20,000 animal protection groups in the U.S. alone, and thousands more in other countries. There are shelters, rescue groups, wildlife rehabilitation centers, rabbit sanctuaries, horse protection societies, political advocacy groups, chimpanzee sanctuaries and so many others. Indeed, there is a group for every kind of animal.

The “animal protection movement” consists of more than just the organizations with an explicit mission to help animals. The lines are blurring as the tenets of our movement seep into all aspects of our culture.

The filmmakers who produced Blackfish are part of our movement—they reached millions with the message that orcas should live free with their family groups. The advertisers who promote pet adoption or extol the virtues of the human-animal bond on commercials seen by millions of people are part of our cause. Whole Foods Market is part of our movement, too, having established a multi-tiered humane rating system for the animal products it sells, giving consumers options other than pork or eggs from factory farms. As is Lush, which won’t sell cosmetics or personal care products tested on animals. And what about companies like Burger King and Costco that have decided they want to clear their supply chain of pork from sows raised in crates or laying hens in battery cages? They are helping our cause as well.

Law enforcement personnel who break up animal fighting rings are part of our movement, as are the prosecutors who make the case for incarcerating or fining those who break laws against animal cruelty. And the juries who mete out sentences are the final link in the justice system for animals.

The family that chooses to adopt is saving a life by making a humane choice. So is the soldier, deployed in Afghanistan or training on some domestic base, who picks up a stray and feeds and waters the hungry, thirsty, homeless little being.

Then there are the personnel with the state highway department who design underpasses and overpasses on the roads to prevent roadkills. And the wildlife officers who enforce anti-poaching laws, and the farmers who decide they won’t confine sows or veal calves in crates. The whale-watching boat operators who give people a glimpse of the majesty of the biggest animals who have ever lived on the planet are promoters of our ideals. The lawmakers who upgrade penalties for cruelty, or help ban captive hunts or set up a specialty license-plate fund for spay/neuter are part of our cause.

Indeed, just about every person who takes action for the good, in a small or grand way, with an instinctive response or a specific intention, is part of our movement. Not everyone may have the same passion, intensity or perfect consistency, or engage in the same level of philanthropy, direct action or conscious consumerism, but they are all part of our movement.

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When we recognize that our friends and neighbors and co-workers are all part of this enterprise, and recognize that we are all on a journey to do better, to make the world more livable for all creatures, then we know we are on the road to success. The boundaries of our movement are expanding, and its goals can no longer be denied.

About the Author

Wayne Pacelle is the former President and Chief Executive Officer of The Humane Society of the United States. Under Pacelle's leadership, The HSUS has been approved by the Better Business Bureau for all 20 standards for charity accountability, voted by Guidestar's Philanthropedia experts as the #1 high-impact animal protection group, named by Worth Magazine as one of the 10 most fiscally responsible charities, and is ranked in the top 10 for nonprofit brands.