#MeToo. We know what it means for entertainment and sports figures, arts reps, politicians and countless others accused of sexual harassment: at the very least, censure and disgrace.
What does #MeToo mean for an animal activist -- a person who for years has claimed one victory after another on behalf of animals; who has made myriad appearances and written articles, blog posts and books about helping animals; who has built his organization into what’s been described as “one of the most prominent animal welfare groups in the nation” . . . now that he has been accused of “workplace misconduct” -- sexual harassment.
What it means for Wayne Pacelle, (former) president and CEO of the Humane Society of the US, and “the face of that organization for more than a decade,” I don’t care. He has resigned and he’s out and bad cess to him. It’s the animal suffering and deprivation his alleged behavior has caused that I’m concerned about, for of course it’s the creatures served by the HSUS who will take the hit from any loss of trust and loss of revenue.
Seeming “holier than thou” for as long as I’ve been aware of him, Pacelle reminds me of erring Catholic priests. Like him, they also have “flocks” on whose behalf they claim to work. Like him, they are (or have been!) assumed to be above human failings because of their stated altruistic mission.
In both those cases, who gets hurt in the end? The animals, the people, the innocent victims.
Yes, I believe in due process, or “innocent until proven guilty.” But this uproar over Pacelle’s alleged actions (reportedly involving crude behavior and lewd suggestions, not sexual assault), and his subsequent resignation, must inevitably affect HSUS success.
What will happen to donations to the Humane Society of the US? What will happen to organization staff morale, at the very time a massive rebuilding of credibility must be undertaken? Can the HSUS come back? How long will it take? Will people who want to help animals switch their allegiance for a short or long time to other organizations – or worse, become disenchanted and drop out of animal advocacy altogether? (“You can’t trust anybody these days!”)
Accepting Pacelle’s resignation, the HSUS statement is understated, to say the least, and includes one surprising sentence, from among the many others that might have been stated: “We are profoundly grateful for Wayne’s unparalleled level of accomplishments and service to the cause of animal protection and welfare.”