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15 Minutes with HSUS President Wayne Pacelle

January 24, 2011
By: Sara Brown, Farm Journal Livestock and Production Editor

Earlier this month, AgWeb editor Greg Vincent and I sat down with Wayne Pacelle, Humane Society of the U.S. president, at the Missouri capital. After a day of visiting with Missouri legislatures to keep Missouri’s puppy mill law in place, Pacelle said he and his staff also wanted to “challenge some of the false notions about the Humane Society of the United States,” he said.

Throughout the interview, Pacelle emphasized his organization’s desire to enter into discussions with U.S. farmers. “I think the agreement we hatched in Ohio was I thought a great example. We were heading toward a ballot initiative and then we all sat down together…and we crafted a solution that none of us felt entirely good about but that we all felt we could move forward with,” he says.

“Do you think the measures like in Ohio will work in every state? Is that something you are looking for from Missouri?” I asked.

“You know, I’ve stated publically before that we are not looking to do any ballot initiative in Missouri on farm animal welfare,” Pacelle said.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because we just decided that we are not going to do it,” Pacelle said.

“Do you think Missouri farmers are better at producing their animals?” I asked.

“Well, I think what we want is a general principle, not just in Missouri, is we want to have more dialogue and more discussion, which is part of the reason I’m talking to you guys. We want to have this discussion with farmers,” he replied.

What are acceptable production practices? “I just visited one of our member’s farms in Nebraska that was a cattle ranch, 1,000 cattle, and I think they are doing a fabulous job. In fact we are forming a national farmers and ranchers council for the Humane Society of the United States,” Pacelle said.

“Can you describe some of the practices he was engaging in that would make this an ideal situation?” Vincent asked.

“Well, I think you haven’t ever really heard any big criticisms on the production side of cattle production from the humane society,” Pacelle said. “Cattle are generally in extensive systems, they are grazing, they have outdoor access. We have been concerned about downer cows. We have advocated for a no downer policy and we think that is a sensible policy from an animal care perspective as well as from the beef industry’s perspective. Frankly the beef industry has gotten more the shaft on this issue than more of a dairy issue.”

Money and image. HSUS has been most critiqued in regards to financial transparency and their image as an umbrella animal shelter organization. “We have it on our website that we don’t run the shelters—we support the shelters, help set standards, publish the magazine for the field, have the national trade show, but there is no group that runs the shelters,” Pacelle said.

“You can not measure the direct care work of an organization by saying well the only stuff that counts are the grants they give to local shelters. We have the biggest network of animal care centers in the United States. We have a national veterinary core that deals with thousands of animals. We treat in rural areas where there are no vets. We have an emergency response unit that deploys to raid cock fights and dog fights , deal with puppy mills that go awry—any sort of animal crisis situation.

“We spend millions, tens of millions on direct care of animals…We have our own experts; we have our own staff that give animal care we don’t need to give money to another group,” he said.

“How much money do you spend directly on animal welfare research through the Humane Society?” I asked.

“Well we don’t need to do research to say that dog fighting is wrong. It’s wrong and we stop it. Cockfighting—,” he said.

“Let’s take it back to the ag community,” I said.

“We have an agreement with the Ohio groups to together spend money on research to solve some of these issues and to give farmers best practices in moving forward with animal production strategies,” Pacelle said. “But you know the whole thing that—HSUS is one group. What do all the farm groups spend on research? I mean, why is all the scrutiny on HSUS about trying to micromanage everything we do? We do things because that is what our board and our members want. The reason groups are concerned about us is because we are very effective.”

“What credibility does HSUS offer more than veterinarians and industry professionals? Where does that authority come from?” I asked.

“The authority comes from—these are moral questions. I mean, the Humane Society has veterinarians, it has animal scientists, it has a whole scientific convey of people. We are not saying that we need to germinate every idea, just like no individual association need to generate every idea about animal welfare. Science happens in a lot of places and you aggregate that information and you move forward with the best information in order to make science based decisions. But science alone doesn’t give you the answer. Science and values together give you answers. And that is where the Humane Society has moved forward.

“One can chose to be completely adversarial about it and say the Humane Society 'they don’t do enough of this and they don’t do enough of that,' or we can begin to have a dialogue to solve some of these issues. Because I assure you that the initiative process is not the way we want to solve the issue. We want to have a discussion and move forward cooperatively and Ohio provides a great case example of how to do that."

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COMMENTS (9 Comments)

Mike Hannewald - Waterville, OH
The one thing that I think I somewhat agree with Wayne Pacelle on is the need for dialogue. However, I don't think there should be any need for dialogue with HSUS; rather, we as agriculturalists should initiate dialogue with consumers. If we can educate consumers (who are also voters, and some are members of HSUS), then HSUS will lose their credibility when it comes to agricultural issues because consumers will have confidence in the modern production methods that are used to produce a safe, abundant, and affordable food supply.
5:46 PM Jan 25th
JRthe original
Good job greg and sara for this interview. Talking with them just gives us the proper ammo. YOu also asked very good questions. Keep it up!
11:14 AM Jan 25th
charless - Wake Co, NC
What I saw in this interview is the avoidance, the excuses, and the lies by Mr. Pacelle. Research is needed and is based on science and certainly or any moral bases. The research helps us take better care of our animals to feeding. diet, illness, to what to plant in the pasture. If you look at testemony by HSUS given before Congress, at the end of the document you will find all "research" done by HSUS but not by valid scienced based researchers, more of a feel good research. The vegan animal rights social movement is truly a dangerous movement to the economy of the USA and to the people who own the animal that produce the food. We can not produce and sell a product unless we raise the animals with care, compassion about what we raise for the meat industry. People in large cities may not understand a farmers life. I have lived and worked in a large city and I am always appreciative our life on the farm. Of course some people see farmers as murders, destroyers of the earth, and farms as big jails, but to me it is heaven and a life like no other. I can say that after being out taking care of animals in 20 degree weather three nights last week. I like it when my ag man gives me suggestions because I know he is trying to help the environment and the animals and myself, but as for Mr. Pacelle, there is a different motive - no more animals for food!
10:38 PM Jan 24th
NE family farm - NE
Got to love it. Lets just let all the cattle hogs(all livestock)
loose and see what nature does with them. because I know nature wont care what pain is inflicted on an animal before it is killed. Just keep on making everything more expensive and make farmers and ranchers look worse and worse, such bull​
10:33 PM Jan 24th
HSUS doesn't want dialog! They just want to distract you while they slip more laws through to put you out of business.
8:02 PM Jan 24th
dmull - Waldo, WI
Why does the ag industry keep talking to ones who want to put us out of buisness? They say they are not the enemy(as long as we care for our animals the way they think we should).The one thing I don't understand is we cannot keep our animals inside yet, it is inhumane to let a cat or dog outside in the winter or the summer.I think it is inhumane to bring these animals inside because God did not create them that way that is why they have fur!
7:36 PM Jan 24th
ridethethunder - Richfield, UT
HSUS is all about MONEY! Donations, donations, donations. If they were so concerned about the 'poor' puppydogs and kittycats why do they euthanize huge numbers everday? HSUS were mainly behind the closing of the processing plants for killer horses. (BTW Obama hand carried the legislation to close down the Illinois processing plant when he was a state senator.)
The anti slaughter act alone has crippled the horse market with the trickle down effect putting Ma and Pa family auctions out of business. Horses have become a liability NOT and asset. Trailer sales, tack shops, vet clinics and all those associated with the horse market have suffered immensely.
Wayne, take your Ivy League suit, silk tie, tassled leather shoes and march back to your office. For you to make us believe you want any type of dialogue with US farmers, ranchers, and livestock breeders is laughable. Pick up your phone...PETA is on the other line.
6:06 PM Jan 24th
cow land - SHERBURNE, NY
action speaks louder than words, all you have to do is see what they do. more propaganda from hsus​
5:11 PM Jan 24th
Why do you even bother to give this zealot a voice in this paper. His group is a large supporter of peta whose goal is to get everyone to become a vegetarian and to not allow anyone to own animals.
3:13 PM Jan 24th



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