Thursday, February 9th, 2023
Thursday, February 9th, 2023

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Animal rights movement gets religion? So says Rush Limbaugh

The old saying “You can’t make this stuff up” certainly applies
to radio personality Rush Limbaugh, who recently aired two public
service announcements for the Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS), which is the nation’s largest animal rights
organization.

If you are a regular reader of outdoor publications or pay
attention to hunting and fishing politics, you know that HSUS is
very often the political muscle behind initiative to ban forms of
hunting and trapping or disrupt scientific wildlife management.
While People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) draws
publicity to the animal rights movement with goofy and outrageous
stunts, HSUS does the heavy lifting to further the movement’s
political agenda.

So how does an avowed conservative – and some say the unofficial
voice of a beaten and disheveled Republican Party – like Rush
Limbaugh end up as spokesman for the animal rights movement? That’s
a good question… and you can’t make this stuff up. In one segment
Limbaugh links the animal rights movement with faith-based
organizations (apparently he didn’t read the chapter of the Bible
speaking of man’s dominion of the Earth). Somehow, I can’t see the
conservative Christians in his audience aligning with the “meat is
murder” crowd. In the other announcement, he addresses illegal
dogfighting.

I listened to both announcements on Limbaugh’s website, then
followed a link to the HSUS website, where I learned more about
this unusual partnership on Executive Director Wayne Pacelle’s
blog. Pacelle has long been the point man on antihunting
initiatives and is, by all accounts, a worthy opponent. In other
words, he’s really good at what he does. Here’s what he has to say
about Rush, Republicans, and animal rights. On April 15, Pacelle
wrote:

“Yesterday, we at The HSUS were pleased and extremely grateful
to receive a full-throated expression of support for our work in
fighting cruelty from Rush Limbaugh, America’s top radio talk show
host. Rush adores his cat Punkin, whom he calls Punky. He has also
done some serious thinking on our moral obligations to animals, he
rejects the excuse-making of those who defend cruelty, and he
affirms compassion for animals as a unifying American value…

“…people of every background and point of view should find
common purpose with the work and programs of The Humane Society of
the United States and its affiliates. The animals need skilled
advocates, and the cause deserves the widest audience. There are no
political litmus tests when you sign up with us to help advance the
cause.

That’s why in Congress, our allies span the spectrum – from Rep.
Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) to Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.) in the
House, from Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) to Sen. David Vitter
(R-La.) in the Senate.”

Pacelle’s name-dropping hardly makes a case for an imminent
upset of either political party by the animal rights movement. In
fact, it begs the question: What was Limbaugh thinking when he
endorsed HSUS? It is not a stretch to believe, as he says on the
announcements, that he adores his cat Punkin and thinks organized
dog fighting is vile. But linking the animal rights movement with
faith-based organizations? That’s a heck of a stretch. Perhaps as
an urban dweller, he’s out of touch with the relevancy of HSUS to
the portion of his audience that farms, hunts, breeds dogs, or
participates in other mainstream activities involving animals.

Limbaugh’s efforts were not coordinated with the First Family’s
recent acquisition of a dog, Pacelle says. You may wonder how two
seemingly nonconnected media moments are linked, unless you are
scrolling through his blog. The next post after his tribute to
Limbaugh is a compilation of emails from HSUS members who are
dismayed the Obamas chose a dog from a reputable breeder rather
than a shelter stray. Apparently, there is much angst among animal
advocates because the Obamas didn’t adopt a shelter dog.

Elsewhere on the site, I found a 2008 news release trumpeting
the federal court decision to remove wolf management
responsibilities from Minnesota and return them to the federal
government. Doing the pro bono legal work for HSUS on the case was
the Minneapolis law firm of Faegre and Benson. Interestingly, HSUS
said the decision would protect wolves from hunting (to my
knowledge, Minnesota had no plans to hold a wolf hunt) and that
“Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan had all authorized the killing
of wolves, and their management plans would collectively allow
nearly a 50 percent reduction in the region’s wolf population.” If
the states truly planned such slaughter, they must have kept their
plans a secret to everyone but HSUS.

As you might expect, the HSUS site contains plenty of
anti-trapping and anti-fur rhetoric, and the organization is
against pheasant shooting preserves (I learned a new term, “boot
and shoot”), shooting captive big game, encouraging children to
hunt, bear baiting, hunting with hounds and dove hunting. While I
couldn’t find a statement saying the organization is flat-out
against hunting, treatises on deer contraception and promoting
nonlethal means to deal with nuisance wildlife suggests HSUS
doesn’t view hunting as a management option of choice.

So, does Limbaugh’s endorsement of HSUS make him an antihunter?
Not necessarily, but the endorsement does draw question to his
credibility when he addresses animal issues such as hunting or
ranching. Since Limbaugh is an entertainer, rather than a
journalist, he can carry just about any special interest’s water in
his bucket without disclosing that he is doing so to his listeners.
And that may mean his ideals and agenda are something quite
different than what he professes them to be.

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