Review Essay

Toward Animal Personhood

Why They Need Legal Rights

In This Review

The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals
The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers Are Transforming the Lives of Animals
By Wayne Pacelle
William Morrow, 2016, 368 pp. Purchase

Every year, humans inflict tremendous suffering upon other animals. Humans hunt them by the millions, farm them by the billions, and fish them by the trillions. In circuses, zoos, rodeos, puppy mills, fur farms, factory farms, marine parks, and laboratories, humans routinely abuse and slaughter animals. They do this because they can—under the law, nonhuman animals are only “things.” 

In The Humane Economy, Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States, the largest animal protection organization in the country, proposes harnessing capitalism for moral ends. He wants to pressure businesses to treat animals more humanely and provide information to consumers that they can use to purchase products that minimize animal exploitation; in other words, he wants to create a “new humane economy . . . with consumers gently and sometimes urgently pushing companies to do more for animals.”

Pacelle presents impressive evidence of successful campaigns that have helped reduce the suffering of many nonhuman animals. In the mid-1990s, Petco and PetSmart ceased sourcing pets from puppy mills and stopped selling dogs and cats altogether; instead, they now help animal rescue organizations offer pets in need of homes. Ten years ago, Smithfield Foods phased out its use of hog gestation crates, metal enclosures with concrete floors in which breeding sows may spend nearly their entire adult lives. Thanks to pressure from Starbucks, McDonald’s, Walmart, and other businesses, egg producers promised to begin phasing out their use of tiny battery cages in which laying hens can barely move. Scientists are developing plant-based “meats” and “eggs.” In films, computer-generated nonhuman animals are replacing real ones. Ringling Brothers, one of the most successful circuses in the United States, no longer uses elephants. Scientists have developed alternatives to animals for cosmetic and medical testing. Tourists now travel to see whales, lions, and gorillas, not to kill them.

These victories are real, and more will follow. But the humane economy is a temporary solution; Pacelle’s strategy of informing consumers and pressuring businesses to

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