Yesterday the queen of daytime nattering, Oprah Winfrey, hosted a televised discussion about the welfare of animals raised for food. Predictably, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) had more than its fair share of airtime filled with exaggerations and animal-rights histrionics. But sandwiched between HSUS president Wayne Pacelle’s propaganda sound bites were the voices of — hold on to your hats — actual farmers (click here and here for examples). The discussion included everything from egg prices to pregnant pigs, but one thing was curiously missing: Any talk whatsoever about vegetarianism.
Rather than playing to his firmly anti-meat base, Pacelle tried to romance Oprah’s audience with fictional assurances that HSUS is more interested in animals’ welfare than in their “rights.” Oprah played along. And guess what? Pacelle’s radical base is not amused.
HSUS members and other activists have been burning up the animal rights movement’s chat rooms, blogs, and Internet mailing lists since yesterday afternoon. Here’s a sampling of what they’re saying:
“Wayne Pacelle and the HSUS betrayed the animals today, on a grand, nationally televised scale … Pacelle and company just sold out all the animals suffering — yes, suffering — immensely in supposedly free-range and cage-free operations and in slaughterhouses as well all the traumatized cows and calves who pay for humans’ love of dairy.”
“It was disgusting! There was absolutely no discussion about vegans.”
“Pacelle said we treat the animals like commodities, like things, and he spoke of their desire to live and move. All I heard was crickets. Jingoism, speciesism and the economic interests of humans ruled the day.”
“I really wasn’t impressed. I felt it was downplayed. No bloody pigs and downed cows.”
“I watched the whole thing and it just left me outraged … Right, according to Oprah and the farmers, of course, you either eat ‘humane’ meat or factory-farmed meat. Why NOT mention vegan?? … ‘Happy meat’ will only increase suffering and increase volume. I won’t say the word that is burning in my mind.”
“My main concern is that the show depicted cage free/free range in too good a light, and since there are no regulations on these products, people will think as long as they are buying cage free/free range eggs/meat, that it’s ok … It just wasn’t powerful enough.”
“I turned the TV off after five minutes. This has in my opinion just backfired. Here are people arguing about economics and two choices: One choice is cheaper dead animals to eat and the other is more expensive? What happened to the third choice and again in my opinion the foremost choice — STOP EATING ANIMALS? … Sick, shameful and now probably all that will happen is more people buying organic dead animals.”
“It was an insult and a slap in the face to me and millions of other vegan/vegetariens [sic] like me.”
Remember: Wayne Pacelle is a vegan. So are many of his top deputies. He has more in common with these commenters than he was willing to tell Oprah’s audience. Pity he lacked the courage to plainly admit his ultimate aim: pushing eggs, chicken, beef, veal, pork, and dairy foods out of everyone’s reach. As much as we criticize People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) for its over-the-top antics and blatant hypocrisy, we’ll say this much for them: At least they’re honest about their goals.