Early Years and Yale
The son of a high school football coach and a part-time secretary, Wayne Pacelle was born in 1965 in New Haven, Connecticut. During his early years, Wayne developed a sensitivity towards the cruelty confronting many animals in the modern world. He went on to earn bachelor’s degrees in history and environmental studies from Yale University. His academic work further heightened his concern for the threats facing animals and the environment. He saw these threats becoming magnified as a result of rapid technological advances. While at Yale, Wayne founded the Student Animal Rights Coalition, today known as the Yale Animal Welfare Alliance.
Post College and FFA
After graduating from Yale in 1987, instead of enrolling in law school as he had initially planned, Wayne Pacelle immersed himself in the cause of animal welfare. He took a position right out of school as an associate editor at The Animals’ Agenda magazine, and later became chair of the board of the parent publishing organization.
In 1988, at the age of twenty-three, Wayne was appointed as national director of the Fund for Animals (FFA), the organization founded by legendary animal protection advocate and author Cleveland Amory. During his tenure there, Wayne Pacelle re-engaged the animal protection movement in ballot initiative activity, contributing to a ban on mountain lion hunting in California and a ban on spring, bait, and hound hunting of black bears in Colorado. With those early wins, Wayne in subsequent years launched dozens of measures that have changed the legal standards for animals in our society.
Early years at HSUS
Wayne Pacelle made the difficult decision to leave FFA and join The Humane Society of the United States (The HSUS) in 1994 in the newly-created role of Vice President of Government Affairs and Media. This was a pivotal transition for Wayne and coincided with his effort to build a mainstream movement for animals and to forcefully take the cause into the realm of public policy making. More than anything, the animal protection movement needed, he believed, a single powerful organization that could reframe the debate about animals and drive tangible policies to elevate the status of animals in society.
In his new role, Wayne Pacelle guided The HSUS through an ambitious agenda of animal protection campaigns while becoming the organization’s chief lobbyist and spokesperson. During the 1990s, led a series of ballot measures to outlaw cockfighting and the use of steel-jawed leghold traps in a number of states, and he pushed for the passage of nearly two dozen laws in Congress, including the California Desert Protection Act, a federal ban on selling videos depicting illegal acts of animal cruelty, the protection of great apes in their native habitats, and a ban on the sale of dog and cat fur.
Ambitious goals for increasing the membership base of The HSUS, and he began to push for a series of other policies at the state and federal level, including efforts to ban canned hunts, to end subsidies for the U.S. mink industry, and to target the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments.
But he picked up the pace dramatically after 2000, helping to pass the first anti-confinement law (a Florida measure to ban gestation crates), to make it a federal crime to transports dogs or roosters for fighting across state lines, and cracking down in the pet trade for big cats.
President and CEO of The HSUS
Wayne Pacelle was promoted to President and CEO of The HSUS on June 1, 2004. During his tenure, the organization has experienced impressive growth in concert with many notable gains for animals. The reach and power of The HSUS was measurably increased with the corporate merger of The HSUS and The Fund For Animals in 2005. This was followed by combining the operations of the Doris Day Animal League with those of The HSUS in 2006.
Wayne envisioned the eventual formation of a 501 (C) (4) organization under the umbrella of The HSUS for the purpose of grassroots lobbying and political action. This became a reality when The Humane Society Legislative Fund (HSLF) was formed in 2006 as a separate lobbying affiliate of The HSUS, after the merger HSUS had with FFA and the Doris Day Animal League. Wayne felt strongly that animals needed to be part of the political agenda and this required having a new entity that could engage in a major way in political activity. This would allow an expansion of ballot initiatives and other state legislative activity and of Congressional action.
During this period, Wayne also architected the formation of the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association from the Association of Veterinarians for Animals Rights which had previously been brought into The HSUS fold. This growth of the organization continued under Wayne’s leadership with the corporate combination of the SPCA Wildlife Care Center in Broward County, FL with The HSUS. The center is now known as the South Florida Wildlife Center and is the one of five animal care centers of The HSUS. These moves and a series of other efforts, including the establishing of the Duchess Horse Sanctuary, dramatically expanded the hands-on work of the organization.
Wayne pushed for the enactment of legislation to include pets in disaster planning, after spending spent weeks in Louisiana deploying with dozens of HSUS staff in helping to lead the massive rescue operation for pets left in homes and roaming the streets and parks left behind in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. The next year, he led the effort to make animal fighting a federal felony and helped upgrade dozens of laws in the states to make dogfighting a felony everywhere in the U.S. He also closed out campaigns to outlaw cockfighting in the last two states where it was legal — New Mexico and Louisiana.
Taking up the Cause of Farm Animals and Battling Extreme Confinement
Under Wayne Pacelle’s leadership, The HSUS began to expand its mission to include advocating for improved circumstances for the millions of animals subjected to inhumane conditions within the nation’s factory farming industry. In 2006, Wayne and HSUS led a successful ballot initiative in Arizona to ban the use of gestation crates and veal crates. Soon thereafter, in January 2007, Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, committed to phasing out gestation crates used to render pregnant sows immobile. In the same month, Canada’s largest pork producer, Maple Leaf Foods, followed suit as did the Strauss Veal company in phasing out veal crates. Strauss’s CEO even went as far as publicly stating the veal crates were “inhumane and archaic.” Momentum on the farm animal protection front was beginning to increase.
The next big blow against confinement agriculture came in November 2008 with the passage of Proposition 2 in California — banning veal and gestation crates and battery cages for hens. This win produced enormous reverberations throughout the factory farming industry and led to major reforms in Michigan and then in Ohio.
More recently, Wayne Pacelle and The HSUS have ramped up the pressure on egg producers to switch from extremely confining battery cages where hens are unable to even lift their wings to a cage-free environment. With the remarkable work of HSUS’s Farm Animal Protection team, more than 200 major food retailers pledged to phase out their purchasing of eggs and pork from extreme confinement operations. It was movement by McDonald’s that helped to trigger dramatic corporate policy reforms by other food retailers, including Walmart, Albertson’s, Sodexo, and others.
Wayne has acknowledged that while cage-free doesn’t necessarily equate to cruelty-free, it nevertheless is a dramatic improvement over being immobilized in a battery cages for laying hens and breeding sows.
Confronting the Worst Forms of Cruelty
Animal cruelty in any form is unacceptable, however, the kinds that are the result of willful disregard for the well-being of an animal or flagrant exploitation is the kind requiring aggressive and relentless action. The practice of animal fighting as in cockfighting and dogfighting are examples of this kind of abuse. These practices exploit and harm animals purely for the entertainment of humans. Unfortunately, many are firmly rooted in certain cultural traditions and require a campaign of education backed up by law enforcement initiatives. This in turn requires passage of tough laws outlawing such practices.
Wayne Pacelle and The HSUS have been instrumental in helping pass laws banning cockfighting and dogfighting as well as restricting the operations of puppy mills. The unimaginably cruel practice of horse soring within the Tennessee walking horse “sport” where young horses are burned with caustic chemicals, cut, and otherwise injured, is one in which Wayne has continued to speak out against. The HSUS and its legal team have been fighting an on-going battle with the USDA and entrenched federal supporters of this barbaric practice. Like prior successes fighting extreme confinement issues, it will require a relentless effort before meaningful legislation is ultimately passed outlawing this practice.
Corporate Collaboration for a More Humane World
The incredible progress made in the transition to cage-free eggs in the foodservice and retail industries was a direct result of working in cooperation with corporate giants such as McDonald’s, Costco, and Target. Granted, a certain degree of pressure was required to attain this change, but it only occurred when a dialogue was opened between these companies and The HSUS. Once they were able to acknowledge that it was in the best interests of their enterprise as well as for society at large to adopt more humane food sourcing practices were they then able to make the commitment to change. This was the thesis in his 2016 book The Humane Economy.
It was that spirit of engagement and forward progress that prompted Wayne to negotiate a landmark agreement with SeaWorld to end its captive orca breeding program. That came on the heels of the dramatic announcement by Ringling Bros to retire its traveling elephant acts.
Mission, Accomplishments and the way Forward
Wayne worked with the Obama Administration on nearly four dozen major rulemaking actions for animals — from banning the slaughter of downer cows in the food supply, to forbidding predator control practices on nearly 100 million acres of federal land in Alaska to ending the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments. The accomplishments of The HSUS on behalf of animals the world over are almost too many to enumerate (for a comprehensive listing please visit the website of The HSUS). Wayne Pacelle and his staff have driven so many of these changes and taken animal protection from the margins to the mainstream.
In recent years, he’s been focused on expanding the footprint of the organization. The HSUS and its international affiliate, The Humane Society International (HSI), work in more than 50 countries, taking the same hard-hitting yet pragmatic approach and delivering reform to Brazil, India, South Africa, and so many places in between. HSI has had a particularly big impact in the European Union, where it’s banned the trade in seal skins, halted the sale of dog and cat fur, and ended the era of cosmetic testing on animals. Today, it has street dogs programs throughout the world, cares for abandoned chimps in Liberia, fights poaching and canned hunts in Africa, and battles the horrific dog meat trade in Southeast Asia.
Incredible progress has been made on many fronts by The HSUS and its affiliates under the leadership of Wayne Pacelle, some of it at a breathtaking pace. Others have proven to be less yielding. Nevertheless, all who work for and support The HSUS on its mission to give voice to the voiceless, are committed to not only continuing along well-established fronts, but also to continually identify and open up new ones. As President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle is dedicated to leading this work on behalf of animals forward into the second decade of his tenure and the second half-century of life of The HSUS.
Wayne Pacelle Author
Wayne is also a best-selling author. Both The Bond and The Humane Economy are New York Times bestsellers, and his books have drawn enormous critical praise including the 2016 Nautilus Award for The Humane Economy. He’s written for Foreign Affairs and for dozens of newspapers throughout the nation. He also blogs every weekday at The Humane Nation and Wayne maintains an active social media presence on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.