Mandel Ngan/AFP/Getty Images
A protester gets the message across at the State Department in September.
Replace "animal rights" with "animal protection" — that's one guideline the Humane Society of the United States is giving a handful of Utah groups as they lobby for a bill in the state legislature that would enforce stiff penalties for acts of cruelty to animals.
Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society, has successfully shepherded over a dozen ballot initiatives, more than six federal laws and some local measures to help protect animals. In Utah, the proposed "Henry's Law" would classify malicious acts of animal cruelty as felonies.
Pacelle says advocates for animals, long ridiculed as caring more for critters than for people, can do a lot to improve their public image. "We're a nation of animal lovers," he says. And yet, he argues, activists for animal welfare need to lower the pitch of the debate because other interest groups, including hunters and ranchers, tend to worry that a bill like "Henry's Law" could end up affecting them.
"Our focus is really about human responsibility and less about animal rights," he says. "We have all the power in the relationship over animals."
On our blog: Anyone feeling cropped by the call for manners?