Animal “Rights” Gets Yale Platform

If you look at the animal rights movement, two trends are apparent: consolidation and incest. The consolidation is apparent in how HSUS has brought other animal rights groups under its corporate arms, such as the Fund for Animals and the Doris Day Animal League. But less visible is the revolving-door nature of the business.

Very few people in the movement seem to stay at one group, with folks like PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk being an exception. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle was at the anti-hunting Fund for Animals before HSUS; HSUS VP Paul Shaprio was at Compassion Over Killing before HSUS; and HSUS food policy director Matt Prescott was at PETA before HSUS. Other folks have more movement; Carter Dillard (remember him?) was at COK, then HSUS, and now he’s at the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF).

What’s our point? It’s that while animal rights groups may have different tactics—PETA is the street-theater group, HSUS is the moderate-seeming group, ALDF is the lawyer group—they all have the same goal in mind: Animal rights.

With that in mind, it’s interesting to see Yale University, Wayne Pacelle’s alma mater, hosting a “personhood beyond the human” conference in December. The conference is put on by the Nonhuman Rights Project, whose executive director is Natalie Prosin—a former HSUS employee. Prosin has not only worked for HSUS but also the D.C. law firm Meyer, Glitzenstein, and Crystal. You might remember MGC from the federal racketeering lawsuit that also names HSUS and two of its in-house lawyers as defendants.

The point of the Nonhuman Rights Project is to gain legal “rights” for animals. What does that mean? Animal welfare laws provide for well-being and protection of animals but don’t assign them legal “rights” (like free speech, assembly, etc.).  But consider the practical aspects of overthrowing the legal system by giving personhood to animals.

In 2011 PETA filed a federal lawsuit against SeaWorld under the 13th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution for supposedly “enslaving” killer whales at its theme park. NHP was an amicus curiae in the SeaWorld suit.

The suit failed, but it sought to bring animals under the Constitution’s legal protections, a radical departure from the Founders’ intent. (Recall that the preamble begins with “We the People” and not “We the Animals”…)

The Humane Society of the United States has dreamed in fundraising material of achieving legal rights for animals. “The critical goal,” HSUS explains, is “getting litigation into a format where someone with ready access to the judicial system is representing the animal and its interests and only the animal and its interests.”

There’s been a system like that in Zurich, where an “animal lawyer” has “represented” animals—such as pursuing criminal charges against a fisherman for taking too long to reel in a fish. Think it can’t happen here in the U.S.? Interestingly, the Yale conference will be going on after a legislative session in Connecticut that saw one lawmaker push for animals to have legal “advocates” in the courtroom.

If you’d like a more high-minded analysis of the legal implications of giving rights to animals, read this piece by federal judge Richard Posner. In the meantime, Yale’s budding legal minds should be wary of animal rights activists’ attempts to turn the U.S. into a kangaroo court.

Posted on 06/11/2013 at 4:31 pm by Humane Watch Team.

Topics: Main


  • Thumper’s Mom

    I wouldn’t be overly concerned about this. When I received my paralegal degree about 15 years ago, I was hoping to work with an attorney who worked on behalf of animals. I’m not talking about “rights,” but to protect them from abuse. I couldn’t find a single lawyer who was doing this — because they couldn’t make a living doing it. As the years have progressed, not much has changed. There are lawyers who might incorporate a tad of “animal practice,” but it will never be something to which an AMERICAN lawyer will commit his/her time — unless perhaps they have monetary support coming from someone else. After all, who would pay them?? Sadly, the years have also taught me that most lawyers do what they do because they make good money doing it — not because they believe in what they do, truly care about their clients, or love the practice of law. There will always be exceptions — but, I’ve yet to find those exceptions. The extreme notion of “rights” vs. protecting animals from abuse and inhumane treatment will also put a crimp in this. Extremists — they destroy things on both sides.

    • cbcaniche

      Yes, they do have monetary support, and plenty of it, from HSUS. I agree that giving animals ‘personhood’ is not going to happen, but laws are changing, and not all the laws will benefit pets or the people who love them. The animal rights movement has already staged a brilliant propaganda coup in which people have been convinced that adopting from shelters is a moral imperative. (The movement is also continuing to try to equate all breeders with puppy mills.) But as a person who does rescue, I can confirm that, however well-intended, not everyone is equipped to deal with shelter dogs that come with issues. I used to support HSUS until I learned about the ‘one generation and out’ agenda and I saw how they fail to support local shelters but instead use publicity from cruelty cases like Michael Vick to raise money (which was not given to the shelters who helped those dogs). It is sad that so many animal rights supporters do not understand that the goal is to end all ownership and breeding of animals, so no more pets. In fact, pets would no longer exist…only animals in the wild. While I doubt that this ultimate goal is going to happen, I think there may be plenty of very bad, unintended consequences if politically zealous animal rights organizations like PETA and HSUS (which are one and the same) get to make the rules about animals. I don’t believe such organizations are motivated by love of animals (or people), but by love of a terribly wrong-headed agenda that will allow them to do harm under the pretense of doing good.

      • WORSEKarma

        cbcaniche – It’s even worse than the H$U$ not giving the money they raised using Vick’s dogs to the shelters helping them. At the same time the H$U$ was using the dogs’ images to fundraise, they were actively lobbying in Virginia to have every single dog rescued from Bad Newz Kennels seized and killed, on the premise they were all, (including the days-old puppies), “too damaged to rehabilitate”.

  • Carol Batten

    Isn’t over-shooting a common practice in law?Is that not how they reach a more satisfying compromise?

  • WORSEKarma

    “Incest” is putting too positive a spin on it, I think. I believe the term you should be using in this instance is “metastasis”.

    • Brandy Shale Davis

      Exactly!!..You see The Humane Society University yet???…Check out the graduate courses and the course material…Gag!

  • Ed Cummings

    With rights comes responsirbilities something animals have no understanding that they would be breaking laws or commiting crimes. Were this understanding comes from is up to debate as in does one have to have some level of consciousness and self-awareness and is this level unique to human or also other animals for example whales and dolphins? Animal consciousness/intellgence form part of my animal science degree.

  • Brandy Shale Davis

    Animal “rights’ means a little more than that….It means the right to not be exploited…..Good bye Meat and meat Bi products…which is in more things than most know…and good bye pets…Funny alot of their supporters are the people that hoard animals to the point of being abuse-Stop the insanity!!,,,make animal abuse-REAL animal abuse a felony….abuse is not taking too long to yard in a flippin’ fish!