Humane Society's Litigation Arm Walks Tightrope Between Radicalism, Complaisance

Posted by: T. A. Breedlove    |    Wednesday, October 3, 2012 8:00 am

Huffington Post
By Joe Satran
Posted: 10/02/2012 6:39 pm EDT Updated: 10/02/2012 6:39 pm EDT

On Tuesday morning, Wayne Pacelle, the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, announced that he was pursuing a seat on the corporate board of meat giant Tyson Foods. A few hours later, the animal rights group announced that a group of pork farmers in Iowa had signed on as co-plaintiffs in its pending lawsuit against the National Pork Board.

These two alliances aren't as unlikely as they initially appear. That's because the Humane Society, the country's largest animal advocacy organization, has increasingly embraced a moderate, Goldilocks approach to animal rights advocacy over the past several years. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the Humane Society's litigation group, which was founded by attorney Jon Lovvorn in 2005.

"We look at cases that are going to have a concrete impact on animals but that are winnable," Lovvorn told The Huffington Post. "You won't see us out asking for courts to declare animals persons. Or to file habeas corpus requests on behalf of animals, or other things that require judges to go way beyond what they're comfortable with."

The narrow path between animal rights extremists and the agricultural industry can be lonely. The Humane Society sometimes gets pilloried by critics on both sides at once. But experts in the field say the group's moderation has produced real results. The group started with just three full-time lawyers, including Lovvorn; it now employs 25 and works with 2,000 others on a pro-bono basis. Lovvorn, 43, estimated that he and his colleagues have won about three dozen cases in the past seven years.

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