Humane Matters: Q&A with Wayne Pacelle

Photo: Paul Markow Photography

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Long before becoming president and CEO at the Humane Society of the United States in 2004, Wayne Pacelle went vegan. â??I didn’t want to contribute to the killing of animals for my palate preference,â? says the author of the newly published book The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them. Pacelle spoke to VT from his Washington office.

Q In The Bond, you propose a â??humane economy.â? What does that mean?

A It means there’s no confl ict between economic progress and compassionate treatment of animals. Killing animals, consuming them, and using their hides are 19th-century approaches. Wildlife watching, for example, is more productive than hunting, and generates billions of dollars in places like Kenya.

Q Your book claims that our primal connection to animals is broken, but notes we spend $100 billion a year on pets and wildlife. Isn’t that a huge disconnect?

A A major thesis of the book is that we have confl icting attitudes. We profess our love and affection toward animals, but confi ne them to factory farms, raise dogs in puppy mills, and club seals for their fur. The use of animals is so ingrained in our culture, and human beings have an incredible capacity to rationalize or excuse conduct. We have all sorts of moral problems surrounding this, but we also have moral opportunities, opportunities to do good, because we confront these problems every day.

Q What can each of us do to â??repair our relationship with animals,â? as you urge us in The Bond?

A The book ends with 50 things you can do. There’s no category of animal exploitation bigger than food production: whether you go vegetarian or vegan, reduce consumption, or stop buying products from factory farms, everyone can do something.