Wayne Pacelle has proved to be an effective champion for animal rights in Washington.
Pacelle meets with his literary agent Gail Ross.
Pacelle talks with Representative Jon Runyan about an amendment to protect hens.
Posing with Lilly, at home in the dog-friendly office.
by roland flamini | September 9, 2013 | People
In his nine years as president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Wayne Pacelle has transformed the organization from a rather sedate protector of the nation’s domestic pets to a dynamic advocacy organization—one that has become a scourge to factory farming and a vocal opponent of animal confinement systems. But beyond working to improve the welfare of farm animals such as chickens—Pacelle says battery cages used with poultry are equivalent to “eight or nine of us jammed into an elevator for life”—HSUS strives to protect horses and companion animals, including dogs and cats.
Today the nonprofit society, with assets of $215 million, 900 staffers, and thousands of volunteers, has emerged as the biggest animal welfare group in the country in large part because of Pacelle’s willingness to compromise, when necessary, to get results. His political skills and admirable work ethic are always on display, as this day in his life illustrates.
He travels about 130 days per year, but when he’s in town, Wayne Pacelle divides his time between the HSUS offices in Gaithersburg, Maryland, and a smaller building in downtown Washington. Today he has a DC schedule, and he answers e-mails and clears paperwork before his first outside appointment.
Kitty Block, vice president of Humane Society International, which tackles the nonprofit’s issues on a global scale, enters Pacelle’s office leading Lilly, her half beagle, rescued from an animal cruelty situation in Trinidad. Staff can bring their dogs (but not cats) to work, and there are at least a couple dozen dogs hanging around the work space—yet the floors are remarkably quiet. “It’s as if the dogs know this is a working environment; they bark very little,” says Pacelle, petting Lilly.
Pacelle meets with his literary agents, Gail Ross and Howard Yoon, to discuss his next tome. They negotiated the publication of his successful first book, The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them, an autobiographical account of his commitment to animal welfare reform. While attending Yale, Pacelle started an animal rights group, and in 1994, when he was 28, he joined the Humane Society as its head of communications and government affairs, eventually becoming its president and CEO in 2004. In his next book, he wants to demonstrate how economic growth can be “driven by a moral imperative, a love of animals,” he tells his agents. “Destructive and cruel practices are at odds with sustainable society.” He may call the book Humane Capitalism or maybe The Humane Economy and promises to deliver an outline within a few months.
A vegan since age 19, Pacelle stops at the Starbucks near his office for a late morning venti soy chai latte. Though many staffers are vegans or vegetarians, this is not a requirement for those working at the Humane Society, he says.
Pacelle arrives back in his office and starts a blog entry on the measure to provide more space for laying hens, a measure he had pushed vigorously in the $500 billion Farm Bill. He posts to his widely read professional blog, A Humane Nation, on most weekdays.
Pacelle travels to the Hill to lobby support for the Egg Products Inspection Act amendments in the Farm Bill. The legislation would, in effect, ban battery cages in favor of better housing for egg-laying hens. Yesterday Pacelle met three congressmen to ask for their backing. Today he meets with New Jersey Representative Jon Runyan, a former Philadelphia Eagles player with the size and build of an armoire. He asks Runyan to co-sponsor the amendment, which he argues is supported by both consumers and chicken farmers. The measure has its critics: Some farming groups warn it would open a Pandora’s box for more Washington interference, while animal rights groups say it is a cop-out because hens should be free range. But Runyan says he will think it over and talks about his pet pig, Lucy. “Easier to manage than a dog,” he quips. (Editor’s note: In a surprising development, the Farm Bill was defeated in the House a week later.)
Back in his office, Pacelle smiles when legislative specialist Jessica Feingold-Lieberson tells him that a provision to ban horse slaughtering for human consumption—a Humane Society initiative—has passed in the US House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations and is likely to win congressional approval.
What is left of the afternoon is spent working in his Washington office, finishing a blog entry and deliberating over his book outline. “There’s been an undoubted transformation in American attitudes toward animal welfare in just the last quarter of a century,” he says. “We used to be on the margin; now we’re in the mainstream.”
Pacelle begins a 10-minute interview with a Minnesota radio station but, for once, he is impatient to get home—to watch day four of the NBA finals.
photography by daniel bedell
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