June 8, 2011
Wayne Pacelle On "The Bond" We Share with Animals
HSUS president continues his nationwide book tour with a stop in Maryland
by Anna West
It’s time for a national dialogue about animals, our bond with them, and the ways we are testing that bond. That was the theme of a talk by Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS, at the Barnes & Noble in Besthesda, Md. on a recent sunny Sunday.
Now halfway through a book tour, Pacelle has been speaking to enthusiastic crowds across the country about his best-seller, "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them."
On this day, Pacelle’s audience, a mixed crowd of about 75 women and men of all ages, filled all seats, leaving standing room only. Outside, Bethesda’s bustling sidewalks are lined with boutiques and outdoor cafes, but inside, Pacelle’s audience is silent with rapt attention.
Humans have a bond with animals that extends back to our earliest ancestors, Pacelle explained. That bond manifests itself in many ways today—from the billions of dollars Americans spend on companion dogs and cats to the thousands of nonprofit organizations that have been established to protect animals of all kinds, from snow leopards to house rabbits.
But in today’s society, that bond is often strained. “We live in a time of incredible contradictions,” Pacelle observed, citing examples like Canada’s notorious seal slaughter and inhumane but common farming practices that leave billions of animals confined to cages so small they can barely move.
“This way of farming is a success from an economic perspective, but it is innovation devoid of conscience,” Pacelle said.
A more humane economy
Pacelle called for the emergence of a new economy: a humane economy that retains our values and is aligned to our bond with animals. The good news, Pacelle points out, is that we as a society realize that cruelty to animals is wrong. For example, while America was at one time the world’s leading whaling country, now our appreciation for whales drives a $2.1 billion whale-watching industry.
“We know this is not a world where we can do whatever we want to animals,” Pacelle said. “The problem is that we’re not logically applying this when animal cruelty is tied to so many aspects of our daily lives.”
Pacelle suggests that by synchronizing our values with our daily choices, “we can turn moral problems into moral opportunities.” Just as we’ve replaced the whaler and his harpoon with a tourist and her binoculars, we can cultivate changes in farming, fashion, and other industries to help animals instead of harm them.
Pacelle admits that we may never solve all the problems, but that every effort makes a difference.
“If you save ten, a hundred, a thousand animals in a year, that is a beautiful thing,” Pacelle said. “We don’t have to be perfect. We just move in the right direction.”
Anna West is a public relations specialist for The Humane Society of the United States.