The Bond: On Rationalizing Cruelty

An exclusive excerpt from “The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them,” by Wayne Pacelle

Due out for release on April 5 by William Morrow, The Bond is the product of Wayne Pacelle’s more than two decades as a national leader on animal welfare issues. In this exclusive excerpt from the book, Pacelle writes:

It’s not that animal advocates have broadened their claims of what constitutes cruelty, but rather, the detractors’ views have become too narrow, selective, and arbitrary.

A classic example of this capriciousness is found in the federal Animal Welfare Act, in which the research industry succeeded in defining “animal” to exclude birds, mice, and rats, who are surely animals by any other definition and who happen to make up 95 percent of all animals used in research. If they’re not animals, as the experimenters see it, then what are they? And what kind of scientific mind disregards such a fundamental truth out of sheer convenience, just to spare themselves the responsibility of compliance with even minimal standards of care?

Consistency, to say nothing of scientific integrity, requires that we address cruelty of every kind—both the random abuses that everyone sees for what they are, as well as those still cloaked in the false respectability of business and industry.

Viewed in this light, so many of today’s controversies over the treatment of animals are a rearguard action by animal-use industries to prevent the public from making increasingly obvious moral connections—between those individual acts of cruelty and the systematic ones.

The industries and trade groups all have their various arguments, displaying what Cleveland Amory once called man’s “infinite capacity to rationalize his cruelty,” but their whole cause ultimately amounts to a campaign of denial. And it’s part of our mission to keep making those connections, overcoming their denials with an appeal to objective standards and universal values.

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