Wayne Pacelle: The Life and Times of a Radical Leader


 A Pacelle graphic   Welcome to the first of our two part series on one of the most famous names in the animal rights industry. He is the president of the Humane Society of the United States, arguably the most dangerous animal rights organization in America because of their prolific, and profitable, fundraising efforts. This look at Wayne Pacelle’s life and what turned him into the coolly composed extremist that he is today will provide a unique insight into the organization. Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS since 2004, was born in New Haven, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale University in 1987 with Bachelor’s degrees in environmental studies and history. As of 2011 he had been paid over $2.6 million from HSUS donations, but with yearly raises that number has continued to rise. Although he has had many relative successes and failures in his life, it’s best we focus on the big picture events. Part One will focus on his college years and time at the Fund for Animals, where he is documented to be the most radical in his personal history. College Years Wayne Pacelle converted to veganism by the age of 19, having a brief 1 month stint as a vegetarian before that and no prior non-meat diet experience. During his early years at Yale he wrote to the animal rights philosopher and author of Animal Liberation, Tom Regan, claiming the speciesist actions of his past self and current peers angered him and that he wished to do more to ‘protect animals.’ Here is what he wrote as a self-introduction:

“I am a Yale University undergraduate hoping to establish an animal rights group here this academic year, 1985-6. … After realizing that I too had been a speciesist, I changed my lifestyle by halting my consumption of meat products and my use of other animal derivatives. These actions have been extremely self-satisfying on a personal level, yet frustrating because I would like to help protect animals on a larger scale...”
Please note that the term speciesism, although made popular by Singer himself, was first coined by the most radical of animal rights activists, Richard Ryder, who compared using animal products to racism and sexism. According to him, we are ‘discriminating’ against the other species when we utilize their products. Ignoring man’s dominion and natural order he called it, “a prejudice based upon morally irrelevant physical differences.” Pacelle did end up founding the animal rights group of his (early) dreams, and called it the Student Animal Rights Coalition. Today, his group is called Yale Animal Welfare Alliance. They are one of the major vegan influences in Connecticut secondary education, pushing ‘meatless Mondays,’ handing out thousands of flyers, and showing videos to hundreds of students each year. The organization in-and-of itself is an epidemic of misinformation being fed to America’s youth, and a great start to showing the man he would eventually become. However, the current methods that they use are extremely tame compared to when he ran the organization. When Pacelle was in charge they were well known for their ‘activism’ protesting hunters and the medical laboratories. They did everything in their power to stop individuals from enjoying a traditional sport and testing medication, performing surgery, or studying animals. It took only a few years for Wayne to do something over the top for his cause, but at age 21 and still a Yale student, he was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for harassing hunters. He later justified those actions by saying that the hunters were eating thanksgiving dinner “with blood on [their] hands.” Other tidbits of his ideology can be found in articles throughout the archives of the Yale Daily News to quote him just a few times:
 “I don’t love animals or think they are cute”  “Animals have their own rights. We’re animals too.” “Animals are no one’s property, and they have the right not to be ‘taken,’ ‘harvested,’ or ‘culled’ or any other euphemism for murder that wildlife managers use. They are no one’s property just as you and I are no one’s property other than our own.” “To leave [animals] alone and to allow animals to live their own lives in their appropriate environments…is to recognize their rights.”
There you have it, directly from the mind of the president of the Humane Society of the United States. What is the definition of animal rights? To leave animals alone. In college, Wayne Pacelle had a very distinct picture of his ideal world, and was willing to do almost anything to see it become a reality. This activism paid off for him; he left Yale planning on attending law school, but took a position at The Animals’ Agenda, a national animal rights magazine, instead. He then started a group in Connecticut called the Animal Rights Alliance, and ran under the radical Green Party for city council. Not long after, at age 23, he took a position as a national director for Cleveland Amory’s The Fund for Animals. The Fund His young ‘activism’ caught the attention of national animal rights leaders, and he fit in well with the anti-hunting organization that was well known for their radicalism at the time. Under the tutelage of Amory – also the mentor of Alex Pacheco, a PETA co-founder – Wayne came to be very influential at the Fund For Animals. He was the group’s director and a leader on hunting and federal legislation. One well known quote from his days at the Fund was from 1990, where he told supporters,
“We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States… We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.”
Considering the size and content of the HSUS current legislative agenda, it seems that this goal has not left Pacelle’s mind. Instead of focusing on hunting, though, he wants to end the use of all animals by human. Yet he claims that this goal doesn’t make him radical. He even has the audacity to say that he practices ‘animal-protection’ unlike other animal rights activist, saying his organization is not as radical as PETA. However, his ties to PETA are much stronger than he would care to openly admit. Although he distances himself from  the organization today, during his time at the Fund For Animals Wayne highly praised PETA and admired their actions to ‘protect’ animals. He even proposed the idea of a three-way merger between HSUS, the Fund For Animals, and PETA as far back as 1988. He wanted to combine the organizations and their resources to create one overarching animal rights umbrella group that could be extremely active in every state all across the nation. As if this high praise towards the organization was not enough, in a 1989 Vegetarian Times profile he was quoted by PETA leaders Ingrid Newkirk, Alex Pacheco, and Kim Stallwood, saying PETA is “innovative” and “highly regarded.” He goes on the say that they have “visionary and professional leadership.” His unwavering admiration for the organization most well-known for their radicalism and offensive advertising is unsettling. Another organization that he had strong ties with at the Fund was Paul Watson’s violent Sea Shepherd Conservation Society; while he worked for the Fund, Wayne helped Watson raise money for ships. The groups preferred method of protest is to ‘police’ the seas and when they find a fishing boat that they do not approve of Watson attacks and rams the ships in an effort to sink them, “throwing butyric acid on their decks, and firing machine guns.” Watson has since been a fugitive from 3 continents and branded an eco-terrorist and pirate. Pacelle “established a reputation as someone with the courage to confront hunter in the field and the political savvy to help get initiatives passed” during his time working for The Fund. He freely admits that he would not only fight the legislative battles, but go out with five or so others to follow and harass individual hunters to ensure they would not get a kill. An example of the legislative action he was involved in while at the Fund was in 1993, when AB 302 and AB 1000 were a few of the bills that Wayne and the Fund were trying to pass in California. This legislation would give animal control the authority to round up and kill domestic cats on sight. The ordinance also would have made it illegal to trap cats in Santa Cruz, excepts “for proper disposal.” The group argued that the possibility of rabies, despite only a few cases each year, was reason enough to ‘dispose’ of the animal community In actuality, these bills suggest Pacelle’s distaste for domestic animals. In May of the same year, to Animal People News, he is quoted saying “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds . . . We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding." Overall, Wayne Pacelle’s tenure at the Fund allowed him to develop his ideology and grow into the radical animal rights leader that he is today. Many people assumed that he would one day become the president of the Fund, but instead he left them and took up a newly created VP position at the Humane Society of the United States in 1994, opening a new chapter of his life. In an attempt to elaborate on his decision, Pacelle made an interview with The Animals’ Agenda, where he said:
“I find the distinction between animal welfare and animal rights less useful than I once did. The difference between animal welfare and animal rights on a range of issues, such as the use of animals in circuses, fur, rodeo, puppy mills, tapping, and hunting, is a distinction without a difference.”
In other words, he wanted to fundamentally change the definition of the animal welfare movement to align with that of animal rights. Coincidentally, ever since joining the organization, despite all of HSUS ideology being nearly identical to other animal rights groups, he has always referred to HSUS as an ‘animal protection’ or ‘animal welfare’ organization, which is simply not the case. The early part of Wayne Pacelle’s radical life shows the development of his beliefs. When he decided that following and harassing hunters would not be the most practical way to change society he made a dramatic shift in protest forms and goals, but we believe his ideology has stayed the same as he’s gained more influence.     In Part Two of our look at Wayne Pacelle’s animal rights career (this coming Monday), this influence will become more apparent as we discuss his tenure at HSUS. *Many thanks to all of our great sources, which you can find at the links. .


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