Latest mainstream meme?

If you thought the debate over human cloning was bad, read on....

Today's Philadelphia Inquirer features an Op Ed by Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States. In a piece called "Cloning is cruelty to animals and people" Pacelle comes out swinging against animal cloning:

[W]ith millions of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs being killed each year for lack of suitable homes, it is a little frivolous to be cloning departed pets.

Behind the cloned puppy and kitten are far grander schemes to clone animals for use in agriculture and research. Before such projects become the norm, we should all pause and think carefully about where it is leading - for animals and for humanity.

If it's frivolous to clone because there are unwanted animals, isn't it just as frivolous to breed? (Yes, I'm coming to that.)

And where is this leading?

Agriculture and research? Heaven forefend!

If that wasn't Kass-like enough for you, Pacelle has more:

Behind every heralded success are hundreds of monstrous failures.
Hmmm.... Couldn't that be said about almost any human innovation? Repeated failure followed by success? How is that an argument against trying? Pacelle doesn't say.

Instead, sounding like a moralizing Kass/Rifkin hybrid, he calls for more laws:

As all of this has unfolded, policymakers have stood idly by, placing almost no legal restraints on corporations and scientists tinkering with the most fundamental elements of biology.

Biotech companies and their allies in agribusiness also have won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell commercial clones as food. Like pet cloning, the cloning of farm animals is monumentally unnecessary.

Is there any serious debate that meat is meat? That a clone is a twin? What logic underlies the argument that the government should allow me to eat a hamburger made from Cow A, but not from a twin of Cow A? Unless there is something intrinsically evil about eating meat, it just doesn't follow.

But it does follow if you read on, for in the next sentence, Pacelle makes it clear that what he seeks is a meat moratorium:

Farmers already produce so much meat that they must find export markets to turn a profit. As for the animals in our factory farms, cloning is the final assault on their well-being and dignity.
Obviously, he thinks there is too much meat on the market, and he fears that cloning techniques will allow the evil farmers to produce more.

Now, I'm a thinking person, and I do love animals. I understand that there are many valid arguments against the way factory farms raise animals. What I cannot understand here is how cloning would have any effect on things like overcrowding on feed lots or poultry farms. Cloning is a method of reproduction, and unless we attribute human thoughts and emotions to them, the animals that are cloned have no idea how they got here. And the techniques which produced them have nothing to do with how they are ultimately treated on farms.

Quite ironically, Mr. Pacelle forgets that the technologies which could evolve from cloning could lead ultimately to huge meat factories in which edible meat could be grown without the need for any animals:

In a paper in the June 29 issue of Tissue Engineering, a team of scientists, including University of Maryland doctoral student Jason Matheny, propose two new techniques of tissue engineering that may one day lead to affordable production of in vitro - lab grown -- meat for human consumption. It is the first peer-reviewed discussion of the prospects for industrial production of cultured meat.

"There would be a lot of benefits from cultured meat," says Matheny, who studies agricultural economics and public health. "For one thing, you could control the nutrients. For example, most meats are high in the fatty acid Omega 6, which can cause high cholesterol and other health problems. With in vitro meat, you could replace that with Omega 3, which is a healthy fat.

"Cultured meat could also reduce the pollution that results from raising livestock, and you wouldn't need the drugs that are used on animals raised for meat."


No slaughtering, no suffering, no breeding!

After all, Pacelle is on record as being against killing chickens for food. Why, if we consider the future of the technological developments he opposes, there'd be no need for humane policing of slaughterhouses -- because there wouldn't be any slaughterhouses! Mr. Pacelle could retire.

(Might that be what he's against?)

In any event, he doesn't seem ready to retire, as he's busy working full time for all the federal legislation and regulations it is humanly possible to pass. Back to the Inquirer:

When the FDA held a public consultation on animal cloning in November 2003, researchers reported a graphic list of problems for clones and their surrogate mothers in cattle, pigs, sheep and goats - a string of developmental abnormalities and a host of deaths before, during and after birth.

Congress and regulatory bodies must weigh in; many of the ethical concerns raised by human cloning apply here, too. Such questions should not be left entirely to scientists and corporations, with their intellectual and commercial stakes in these projects.

Humanity's progress is not always defined by scientific innovation alone. Cloning - human and animal - is one of those cases in which progress is defined by the exercise of wisdom and of self-restraint.

Progress has been defined -- and in truly Kassian language.

But I'm wondering.... Does Dr. Kass's moral philosophy about cloning really apply to animals? Many of the ethical concerns raised by human cloning apply here? Forgive me, but I thought the ethical concerns (expressed by Leon Kass and many others) about human cloning were grounded in the very distinction between man and animal (i.e. that man is not an animal, and that human life is sacrosanct).

The morality of human cloning is of course fiercely debated, and without getting into the human aspects of cloning in this essay, claiming that the ethical concerns are the same with animals as with humans makes little sense -- unless of course there is no moral distinction between humans and animals.

I suspect that this lofty language is intended to persuade the ordinary meat-eating American that there's something evil, something hidden and lurking, something being done by pointy-headed mad scientists, to the very food we eat, and which only the government can keep pure. But what neither Pacelle nor the Inquirer disclose is that Pacelle's agenda is far more radical than preserving the integrity of the public's supplies of meat.

As John Hawkins points out, if Pacelle had his way, there wouldn't be any domestic animals at all:

We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding. ...One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding...Wayne Pacelle - Former National Director of Fund for Animals.
Wayne Pacelle is one of those vegans I've criticized as not being content to merely eat what they eat, but who want to force others to adopt their lifestyle. (Indeed, he claims that "nothing is more important than promoting veganism" and is placing self proclaimed "abolitionists" in top positions at HSUS. He's also hired J.P. Goodwin -- a former ALF activist with a history of picketing executives' homes, and publicly advocating the torching of processing barns. (These people all have a right to their opinion, but do contributors to the HSUS know what causes their money is funding?)

NOTE: In the interest of fairness, it should be pointed out that Pacelle seems to have helped ALF radical Goodwin clean up his act. In an article they co-wrote, Pacelle and Goodwin weigh in on the murder of Pim Fortuyn by an animal rights activist. (While they characterize Fortuyn as "the leader of a marginal right-wing political organization that had been outspoken in its sympathy for fur ranching," they admit that the murder was a bad tactic because it "prompted a wave of sympathy" and "caused average citizens to associate animal activists with extremism and violence." I guess it's relieving to know that they're thinking about these things, but I should also note that it is by no means settled that Fortuyn's assassin was motivated by animal rights.)

In this interview with, Mr. Pacelle describes his background:

Out of college I became an Assistant Editor and later Associate Editor of The Animals' Agenda, the national magazine of the animal rights movement. And I also started a group in Connecticut called the Animal Rights Alliance. I ran under the green party for city council, and raised issues of animal rights during the campaign. Then I joined the Fund for Animals as National Director, and served there for five and a half years. We did a lot of work on wildlife issues,particularly against sport hunting, and we were also in the mix on a broad range of animal issues. We did a lot of field protests against hunting where we would walk with hunters and talk with them about hunting. And in the process they were seldom able to make a kill (the distraction and six people tromping with a hunter scared away the animals). We also challenged the constitutionality of state hunter harassment laws, and there are some close parallels there with the food disparagement laws that are emerging in agricultural states.

Then I moved on to Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) in order to focus on national political organizing for animals.

This man is no longer a college animal rights activist; he's president of an old, respected, mainstream organization.

Are his views mainstream?

I guess that depends on how we define mainstream. Considering that the Humane Society of the United States is the largest animal rights organization in the country, if mainstream is defined by size, then veganism and opposition to hunting and fishing must now be considered mainstream. Pacelle's opponents disagree.

From an article in the Washington Post (appropriately titled "Vegan in the Hen House"):

Pacelle took charge promising to use those deep pockets to take the HSUS into the new era of animal protection advocacy. "I think they wanted the aggressive approach," he says. "They wanted someone who was going to think things up. And they got him."

Not Buying It

The things Pacelle thinks up worry his enemies. They say he's against: hunting and fishing, eating meat and cheese and eggs, lifesaving drugs from animal research, even keeping pets.

"The thing about Wayne is he is a very competent spin doctor. He's very good at disguising the true agenda with a message that the public would accept," says NAIA's Strand, who with husband Rod authored a 1993 book arguing that the humane movement had become radical. The book is being updated for publication in November under the title "The Bambi Conspiracy: The Hijacking of the Humane Movement."

She says Pacelle is a key figure in that "hijacking" and that HSUS is a Trojan horse rolled into mainstream America by the extremist animal-rights movement. "It is the fundamentalist wing, a take-no-prisoners point of view," she says. "They equate all animal use with animal abuse."

David Martosko, research director for the District-based Center for Consumer Freedom, whose mission is promoting consumer choices, says: "His game plan is the same as that of the larger animal-rights movement -- demonize meat and dairy, throw up legal obstacles to farms, increase artificially the price of animal protein and try to convince Americans they would do better without it."

Other opponents of animal rights worry about the logical conclusion of Pacelle's supposed agenda were it to succeed.

"How will a successful animal-rights ideologue change America? Read George Orwell. Then look at your lunch and whether or not you wear leather shoes. Then you do the math," says John Aquilino, director of publications at the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, which describes its goal as "human involvement in the management and scrupulous use of natural resources."

For some reason, the article spent more time discussing Pacelle's handsome, John F. Kennedy Jr. appearance than asking him about statements like these:
"If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would."-- Associated Press, Dec. 30, 1991.
"We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States… We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state." – Wayne Pacelle, quoted in an interview published in the magazine Full Cry, October 1990.
I believe him.

However, I don't think Pacelle would be considered mainstream by most people, and I thought a little fuller disclosure would be in order.

Otherwise, his calls for a ban on animal cloning might seem mainstream.

Even reasonable.

MORE: I've posted twice before about attempts to stop animal cloning, and I'm sorry to see that this absurd, illogical idea is gaining ground.

Can tyranny of the ridiculous be stopped by logical scrutiny and serious criticism?

Or is ridicule the best weapon against the ridiculous?

posted by Eric on 08.09.05 at 09:43 AM


Only thing I have to say here is that I don't believe the assassination of Pim Fortuyn was motivated by a concern for animals but rather because of Pim Fortuyn's forthright stand in defense of Western values and freedoms. With his death and in his death, the battle lines were drawn....

I agree, Steven. What's interesting is how his assassin's thinking apparently morphed effortlessly from one antisocial form of fanaticism into another.

Eric Scheie   ·  August 9, 2005 2:15 PM

This guy is obviously not aware of the major problems of cloning, of which are far more numerous and dangerous than his.

1) Cloning a full grown animal/human/other the chances of getting a healthy 'copy' or almost minimal. Let's say that a new egg/sperm react to give a 'perfect' first cell. That cell has to divide about 'a billion' times to get to a full grown adult, and then keep splitting every few years to replace cells as they die. A minority of these splittings result in transcription errors (copy errors) which result in small defects in your DNA. As you get older, these small defects tend to create problems like cancer, nervous system disorders, and general 'aging' problems.
Now let's take a cell from a middle-aged man, which is already has some copy errors and use that to start a brand new birth-cell. We're going to have to start out by splitting that cell 'billions' of times again to get that fetus full grown. This 'imperfect' cell has too many errors to begin with which are just excacerbated by this massive splitting.
The result is that cloning has a very low success rate, and the success are plagued with horrible illnesses. Incorrect blood vessel size, unfinished nervous systems, only partially functional organs, various cancers and a weak immune system, to name a few.
To clone you would have to take one of the first few cells. But why would you want to clone someone who's not even born yet?

2)Even if you could clone, you would still create a agricultural product (ie herd of cows) with the exact same immune system. One sick cow could wipe out the entire herd as the illness learns to combat this specific immune system with more effeciency (the same way an illness gets worse traveling through families)

3) How expensive is it really for nature to 'work' out a new cow? Will it really ever be cost-effective to clone a really good tasting/big/healthy pig?

Unless we radically find a new way of learning to clone, our current methods are just ineffective at solving the problem. At this point, I believe cloning is a dead end, with all forms of life.

alchemist   ·  August 9, 2005 4:00 PM

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