Kiss My Pit Bull: HSUS Gets Political
Reading the Wall Street Journal on Election Day, I was pleasantly surprised to see a front-page article on the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and its current director. It’s not exactly standard fare for this business-themed paper so I read the piece with a particular exuberance the WSJ doesn’t typically evince—in me, anyway.
Interestingly, it was more than a mere profile. It was actually a full-on description of the kind of political work we animal advocates are always engaged in, to one degree or another. It detailed the regular, pre-election canvassing the HSUS is engaged in and was particularly interested in the pan-party support garnered by this organization.
According to the article, it appears there’s a new issue-driven voter base out there—and it’s us! Apparently we’re even bigger than the NRA! And we’re about as female as the NRA is male (should I stop there with the contrasts or would you prefer I took it to its sordid conclusion?). Despite potentially unfavorable comparisons, we animal huggers can afford to celebrate a bit—we’re all the rage—finally!
That’s right. We’re considered a new special interest group, disorganized though we may be, with growing strength thanks to the distillation of our power in the HSUS, among other organizations.
HSUS is finally doing what I`ve always proposed should be their primary role—to employ their name recognition and reputation in furthering the humane treatment of animals within the political arena. (Perhaps they’ve taken to reading my posts?)
No longer the myopic organization focused on managing a sprawling network of shelters, HSUS has successfully begun to broaden their platform. While they still advocate for pets, they take on humane issues ranging from sow penning to cat trapping and songbird rights. This is not your mama’s HSUS.
Like other special interest groups in their earliest phases, this one is learning the political ropes: everything from the humble door-to-door canvassing to getting their feet wet playing big-time lobbyist games. They advocate for ballot initiatives written by lawmakers from either side of the aisle, they campaign vigorously against candidates with unsavory track records with respect to animal issues, and they support those with animal friendly leanings regardless of party affiliation.
Unlike the NRA or the Christian Coalition, HSUS is wisely gunning for a non-partisan, humane-issues-only agenda. This party neutrality serves to attract voters who may well never have supported a candidate outside their beloved party, were it not for the strength of their bond with a beloved pet or a burgeoning belief in the sanctity of all life, regardless of genetic code.
What remains to be seen, however, is how HSUS will handle the touchy issues. Will they wade into the morass of animals in laboratory settings? Will they advocate against the use of product testing on animal models? Will they take on the Greyhound and Thoroughbred racing industries?
The HSUS has yet to grow into its role as rallying point for our special interest group, the pro-humane treatment, anti-cruelty among us. But I suspect that in so doing, they will remain moderate in their support for animal friendly policies. The last thing they should want is to open up rifts in the animal friends movement, thereby alienating voters and effectively neutralizing their unifying role.
If I were to give them advice (because you know I always have an opinion) I would urge them to play it conservatively for at least five or ten years. They should stick to the basic humane issues that will serve to build consensus slowly. Except in the most egregious cases, they should—for the time being—shy away from issues that might threaten the lifeblood of entire industries. And they should recruit supporters (us) actively with a marketing plan that would put Coca-Cola to shame. That’s my 2 cents.
Regardless of how HSUS proceeds I, for one, will continue to support their efforts. It’s high time someone saw the unleashed power within our grasp and finally decided to take us out for a nice long walk.