The #metoo movement is finally catching up to the animal protection movement, at least in the public arena. Over the past week, articles have come out exposing prominent men in the corporate animal welfare arena for bullying, abusing power, sexual abuse and harassment, and general disrespect towards women.
The first of these articles about an investigation into the conduct of HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle appeared in the Chronicle of Philanthropy, the second by the same writer appeared in the Nonprofit Chronicles, followed by the Washington Post and Politico.
For some in the movement, it came as a surprise to read that Wayne Pacelle, Paul Shapiro, Nick Cooney, and Hugo Dominguez have been accused (some multiple times) of reprehensible behavior towards women. For many others, it was no surprise at all. There have been rumblings in the movement about these men, and others, for years, in fact.
They and many other prominent men in the community were and continue to be protected by a culture of patriarchy that is no different than the culture that eats and uses nonhuman animals, but let’s focus on one reason that women are silenced. I’m talking about women being told that if they come forward, if they speak up for themselves, or speak up for those who are abused by men in the movement – they are hurting animals.
We hear this refrain all of the time, in many contexts, sometimes simply to stifle any disagreement or “infighting.” It’s a tool used by those in power to remain in power. And it’s a statement that tends to be used by those with the loudest voices in the movement, and those with the biggest platforms, the biggest followings, who control the biggest budgets.
Those people tend to be men, of course.
What hurts animals is men bullying women, suppressing their voices and their power within the movement.
What hurts animals is an unhealthy environment where brilliant, dedicated women abandon the cause for their own self-protection. What hurts animals is losing the talent of women who have been bullied, abused, harassed.
What hurts animals is keeping the secrets of these men, pretending that sexism, unfair power dynamics, or sexual assault doesn’t exist in the movement. What hurts animals is paying lip service to intersectionality and inclusion while turning a blind eye to the voices of women.
What hurts animals is men pretending that because we love animals and fight for their equality and their justice we are above reproach, above scrutiny. What hurts animals is a culture of hero worship and a movement where male leaders have unprecedented power to manipulate female activists, both within these organizations and on the grassroots front lines.
What hurts animals is remaining silent when women, people of color, and those outside of privilege are oppressed and marginalized. What hurts animals is when all of us in this community, however one self-identifies, fail to take a stand not only for other animals, but for each other as well.
What hurts animals is a social justice organization or movement built on a foundation of sexism, violence, patriarchy, lies, secrets, and fear, a movement that does not truly reflect the values that we purport to stand for: compassion, kindness, empathy, equality, ethics, and fairness.
Exposing men who do these things, and holding them accountable, ultimately helps animals.
Keeping silent is hurting animals, and hurting women.