Play Live Radio
Next Up:
Available On Air Stations

Humane Society President On Human Bond With Animals, Preventing Cruelty

The cover of "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them" by Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle.
Courtesy of Harper Collins Publishers
The cover of "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them" by Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle.
Humane Society President On Human Bond With Animals, Preventing Cruelty
The President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, joins us today to talk about the biggest threats currently facing animals in the U.S. We also speak to Pacelle about his new book "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them."

The President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, Wayne Pacelle, joins us today to talk about the biggest threats currently facing animals in the U.S. We also speak to Pacelle about his new book "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them."


Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, and author of the new book "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them".

Read Transcript

This is a rush transcript created by a contractor for KPBS to improve accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. Please refer to the media file as the formal record of this interview. Opinions expressed by guests during interviews reflect the guest’s individual views and do not necessarily represent those of KPBS staff, members or its sponsors.

CAVANAUGH: I'm Maureen Cavanaugh, and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. What is the connection between animals and humans? Well, science tells us our DNA is almost identical to changes, and similar to other mammals. Science also tells us that we evolved in a balanced environment where animals and humans were evenly matched in efforts to survive. But now, that balance is out of whack. And the ancient bond between humans and animals have been broken in a variety of cruel ways. A new book is out that documents the roots of our connection with animals and what we can do to restore it. It's called the bond. Our kinship with animals and our call to defend them. The book's author is my guest, Wayne Pacelle. He is resident and CEO of the humane society of the United States. Wayne, it's a pleasure to welcome you to These Days.

PACELLE: So glad to be on. Thank you for having me.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Now, we'd like to invite our listeners to join the conversation. What are the ways that you think that humans can restore a bond with the animals of the earth? Do you have a question about the work done by the humane society? Give us a call with your questions and comments. The number is 1-888-895-5727. That's 1-888-895-KPBS. Wayne, heme start out by asking you to explain what this bond is that you're talking about between animals and humans.

PACELLE: Well, there's a kinship and a real connection that is not just an invention of our modern day, but as you indicated in your opening that really traces back to the origins, our first barefoot steps on the planet. For most of human history, we were preagricultural societies, we were tribal communities hunting and deaths as a way of life. And of course hunting is a pretty rough thing for the animals to endure. But it would be wrong to just see it as kind of a predator prey relationship. People were connected to nature, and to the animals. If we look at today's surviving tribal communities in Brazil or in New Guinea or in other parts of the world, we see that the people in those communities typically have a deep and intimate knowledge of animals, a close understanding of animal behavior, and when animals are killed, there are often rituals of atonement and apology. And if you can fast forward to the era of domestication, 15000 years ago when animals kind of came into our lives and into our world, one might say, well, that's a form of subjugation, and we were controlling animals' lives and reproduction. But there was also a kinship to it, and there was a connection and a bond. If our modern era, we have so many manifestations of this bond. Pet keeping, obviously, is one of the most obvious right in front of us. $170 million dollars on our cats in our homes and another $170 pets of other kinds in America. More pets than people. We spend more than $50 billion a year on pets. But we also have so many other manifestations of the interest in animals, we have 70 million of us are wildlife watchers of we spend another 50 billion on that. Along time ago in this country, and it was actually started right here in the San Diego area, we launched a whale watching industry. We deconstructed the whaling ships in America that we were the biggest whaling nation in the world. And now we have a totally different view now and appreciation of the animals, leaving the animals in the wild, and leaving them in their homes in tact. And I just think this bond is part of us. And I, in the first part of the book, I try to explain what some of the underlying base ease of that bond are.

CAVANAUGH: Right, now, when did it start to got out of whack? You say not when animals were domesticated, but I guess further on down the line in human history.

PACELLE: [CHECK AUDIO] extreme over hunting, and other eras, but in general, there was? Connectivity. I would say that things really got out of whack in the industrial era. And you know, a lot of social movements are born out of crisis. There's a terrible circumstance with civil rights, you know, abuses, and people respond to that, and there's a movement that emerges to address the problem. The humane movement or the animal welfare movement began in the nineteenth century with a couple of phenomena, one was the liquidation of wildlife. We were destroying the bison, we were killing off the passenger pigeons, or killing off grizzly bears and el, and so many other species, and people were saying, wow, there's not gonna be anything left. With our new technologies, with our attitude of domination, it kind of conspired to lead to enormous destruction. Then in the new cities in America, we were transporting goods and ourselves with horses, and people were beating horses and over working them and whipping them, and people in the city said hey, these animals deserve merciful treatment. And just after the Civil War, which dealt with the great world problem of slavery, we began to turn our attention to animals. And over these last [CHECK AUDIO] now there are ten this happened animal workers in the United States, but the forms of exploitation have become more severe as well. In factory farming, the industry production of animals for food is the most obvious example of that. Where animals were moved from pastures and outdoor settings where they could have a decent life, they could feel sunlight on their backs and soil beneath their feet, [CHECK AUDIO] and we've moved away from farming and we've moved to factory production of animals. And the animals have been turned, you business are not into living feeling beings, but into meat, milk, and egg producing machines.

CAVANAUGH: I'm speaking with Wayne Pacelle, he's president and CEO of the humane society of the United States. His new book is called the bond. And if you would like to join the conversation. We invite your call at 1-888-895-5727. Now, when you describe this connection between humans and animals, I think we can all see the fact that we've relied on animals for food and for clothing, and for whale blubber for many years for our products and so forth. So that kind of practical connection is something I think a lot of people can see. But you talk about how animals and our connection or our broken bond with them also impacts our emotions.

PACELLE: Well, animals really provide so much to us. I mean, we're a social being. You look at the rise of pet keeping in the middle part of the nineteenth century. Pet keeping's been around for a long time. Even tribal communities exhibit pet keeping. But it became more of a middle class and a universal experience in America when we were moving away from our agrarian living model and into these newly emerging cities. And I think it was kind of a reconnection to nature. When we got far away from nature, we wanted to be close to animals. 78 parks and city parks, and national parks, I mean, we crave these interactions. And it's almost atomic for our soul. The worst thing you can do to a prisoner, the most severe form of punishment is put him or her in solitary confinement. You're a social being, we need interactions with others to be complete and healthy, and we need interactions with animals generally to be complete and healthy. And there's more [CHECK AUDIO] have amazing rehabilitative efforts. Some of our wounded veterans or our emotionally wounded veterans have come back from Iraq or Afghanistan, they have post traumatic stress disorder from their experiences when they get an animal, they have a therapy animal, they can sometimes get off their meds, they can sleep better at night, there's actually a biochemical connection produced in other animals, and our oxytocin levels go up when we interact with other an will mas, evidence shows, and this provides sort of the biochemical explanation for this connection that we have.

CAVANAUGH: That's amazing. And you, I know Wayne, learned an awful lot about that emotional connection between tell us about that.

PACELLE: It was a devastating moment, obviously it was a catastrophe for the southeast, and we wondered whether a great American city, New Orleans, would even survive the cataclysm, not only the hurricane, but then the floods that followed. And obviously, you know, there were 1800 people who died in the wake of the storm. And people might say, well, you know, the people come first, and forget about the animals. We needed to focus all of our attention. But there were so many people who responded to help the people, and then so many people who helped to respond to the animals, and it was a wake up moment for society that everything was tangled up together. That so many of the people who stayed behind stayed behind because the emergency shelters that opened their doors to people to evacuees in advance of the coming storm wouldn't take pets so people said I'm not going to abandon my pets of they're the ones who stayed behind. So it under mined the effectiveness of the preparation and the planning, and then when we responded to people in crisis, when we wouldn't take, when the fire department or the Navy or the coast guard wouldn't take the animals that the people had in their homes, so many people then said, well, I'm staying behind, and it was kind of a practical example, a real life example of the human animal bond in evidence that this is not some extraction, this is not some weepy sentimental concern that a few people have. This is broad based in society. Two thirds of American households have pets. And most people consider them members of the family. We love these creatures in our lives, and you can't have a disaster now without factoring in the animals. And we worked to pass new legislation in think can, to include pets in disaster planning, a bill here passed in law California, and about 19 other states so we've been continuing to, work on that issue.

CAVANAUGH: Let's take a phone call. James is on the line from Ocean Beach. We are taking your calms at 1-888-895-5727. Good morning, James, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Thank you very much, how you guys doing?

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Great, thank you for calling.

NEW SPEAKER: And I was really intrigued by the idea of domestication that you kind of said. But I've been really interested in wildness versus domestication, and I think when we started farming, basically being an agrarian society, I think there was a lot of problems started to arise. And I see that in animals where a domesticated animals a lot less headlight than a wild animal. And I met a cat that had diabetes last month, and that kind of was a shocker for me, and you don't see a wildcat that has diabetes. And I think that also translates into what we're doing to ourselves as human beings, we're feeding ourselves processed foods, and it's just making us sick, and the more domesticated we become, the more just physically unhealthy we become. I wanted to know what you thought about domesticating ourselves just like animals, and how that's affecting our society.

CAVANAUGH: Well, James, thank you so much. Let me direct that question to Wayne. Are domesticated animals these days healthier than wild animals?

PACELLE: Well, we have a lot of issues with how we're breeding animals now. We can change the makeup of an animal through selective breeding, and do so pretty quickly and dramatically. And I actually go into this in the book for pets as well as for farm an will mas. Farm animals, we've kind of engineered to put into this factory farming mode. The average domesticated cow producing milk in the milk industry produces 20000 pounds of milk a year. We are breeding them for this hyper reproductive, this hyper milk production, and it's stressing their systems, the utters of the cows hang down to the ground. 50 percent of them have mastitis, which is an inflammation of the utters. They're unhealthy. And we did an investigation at a Chino California slaughter plant I couple years ago, some people may remember these downer cows that were too sick to walk, and the workers were tormenting them to get them to stand up of those were spend dairy cows, and you look at the modern Turkey, the modern turkey in the factory farm is this enormous heavily muscled, heavily fatted animal. The wild turkeys are fast flying, they're alert, hunters who pursue them, which I'm not advocating, have been, but they dress up in face paint and camouflage, and they're hard to hunt because they're so elusive, whereas this Turkey that we've engineered for our tables is something completely different. And with pets, very significant. Upon I actually take I'm in the book, at the American kennel club for valuing the exterior attributes of the animal, the confirmation over the underlying health and well being for the animal. A lot of people in the dog fancy -- world of dog breeding care very much about their animals. But too much certainly among certain breeds is going on to find that exterior rather than the under lying health, and a lot of animals like the English bull dog, and Labrador retrievers, they have a laundry list of genetic and hereditary problems that shorten their life span and diminish their quality of life.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I am speaking with Wayne Pacelle, he is president and CEO of the humane society of the United States. His new book is called the bond. Our kinship with animals and our call to defend them. We have to take a short break. When we return we'll continue our conversation, and continue taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. You're listening to These Days on KPBS. I'm Maureen Cavanaugh and you're listening to These Days on KPBS. My guest is president and CEO of the humane society of the United States , Wayne Pacelle. His book is called the bond: Our kinship with animals and our call to defend them. We're taking your calls at 1-888-895-5727. Wayne, for people who may be unfamiliar with it, tell us what the mission is of the humane society.

PACELLE: Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty. So we are essentially an organization that defends the interests of all animals.

CAVANAUGH: And you said celebrating animals and confronting cruelty.

PACELLE: Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty. We celebrate the places that animals have in our lives, we celebrate this bond that we have with other creatures but we also confront cruelty where that bond is broken. Wether it's factory farming, puppy mills, dog fighting, cock fighting, shark finning, captive hunts, the hound hunting of bears, it takes us into so many different realms and into so many different controversies. But we believe that the basic notion that cruelty to animals is wrong is widely accepted in society. And what we want to do is more consistently apply that principle in the real world. And recognize that animals may be different from us. But they are our equals in terms of their capacity to suffer, and they have the same will to live that we have, and we should be better to them if we possibly can.

CAVANAUGH: Now, speaking of dog fighting, I know that you met with Michael vic, of course Michael vic being the ex NFL star who was in prison for dog fighting. What did you talk to him about? Because the stories that came out about the way Michael Vick treated the dogs that he used in this gambling in this dog fighting business were horrific.

PACELLE: Oh, beyond horrific, and we in the humane society of the United States have been the lead group combatting dog fighting and cock fighting, in fact we wrote th law under which Vick was prosecuted. We demanded his prosecution, and we demanded his ouster from the NFL. But as he was serving his prison term which was one that was very much warranted given the extreme and horrible things he did to animals, he said that at the tail end of that two-year prison term that he wanted to help with our antidog fighting campaign. My first response was absolutely not, no way, never. But I had a nagging feeling that we at the humane society are about change for the better. And about making people better and moving in the right direction. I welcome the extrophy hunters into our ranks and I welcome people who used to do experiments on primates in laboratories if they want to advocate for the animals. So I also know that urban based dog fighting which we call street fighting, was the biggest growth area for dog fighting in America. And we haven't been having a conversation with these young men and boys who are getting pit bulls for their own reasons of and I felt like having Vick involved in our outreach might draw some new attention. He might actually be a very good ambassador to offer a cautionary tale with what not to do. And in chapter four of my book, I kind of convey my court yard conversation that I had with Michael vic at Leavenworth penitentiary, was a really interesting one where he told me how much he loved animals which is a misreading of the bond. A lot of these dog fighters and cock fighters say we give great treatment to the animals, we've got them around us, we know so much about them bump it's a corruption of the bond. I mean, they actually are very fascinated by the animals, they like their toughness and their physicality --

CAVANAUGH: They know a lot about them.

PACELLE: They know a lot about them. But they just have lost their empathy for them. So when you see this in a lot of other animal use situations. There are a lot of people who are they're connected to the animals, they're bonded to them. [CHECK AUDIO] living feeling beings, they have the same kind of nerve endings that we do. And I just think we're in 20121 now. We can figure out ways to live a good life without leaving a trail of animal victims in our wake.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: Let's take a call. Jim is calling us from La Jolla. Good morning, Jim, and welcome to These Days.

NEW SPEAKER: Good morning, how are you guys?

CAVANAUGH: Just fine, thanks so much.

NEW SPEAKER: Listen, I just wanted to talk to the gentleman about one thing that really bothers me. I appreciate everything they do about land based animals. But I'm -- have some concerns about what's going on in our ocean. And I wonder if he could enlighten me. I'm very concerned about the Japanese and the Chinese, and some of these other Asian countries hunt sharks just for their fins.

MAUREEN CAVANAUGH: I think that you mentioned that, Wayne. Thank you, Jim, for the call. You mentioned shark finning didn't you?

PACELLE: Oh, absolutely. We have a bill in the California legislature right now to stop this practice of shark finning. 73 million sharks are killed, they're hauled on a ship after they're caught, then their dorsal fin is sliced off in order to make shark fin soup, which can be easily substituted for in our soup versus the animals going through a mutilation and slow death. It's incredible. And we've been working with leaders within the Chinese American community, and Chinese back in China to say hey, we don't need this. We can substitute for this. So certainly contact your state senator, and your state assembly member and urge support of the bill that's now [CHECK AUDIO] we also have legislation to up great penalties against cock fighting, which is a big problem in all 38 counties, frankly, and certainly in San Diego County, and it's widespread as well. We need stronger penalties. California has some of the weakest penalties for cock fighting in the country.

CAVANAUGH: And one of the things that we had a panel on this show a while back talking about shark finning and the idea of this legislation moving through the state legislature. There were some people that were concerned not only about cultural aspects but also about what it might do to the bottom line of some restaurants and I'm wondering, in your book you call for a more humane economy, one that serves both animals and humans. How would an economy, that kind of an economy be different from the one we have right now?

PACELLE: It's very important of I think it's probably one of the most important themes in the book is we've got to synch up our economic institutions and our commerce with our values. When you just have economics and commerce run amok when it's detached from our conscience and our ideals, then you get outcomes like slavery or you get child labor, or you get extreme animal cruelty like the hall mark west land plant where they were abusing those cows, or you get shark finning. [CHECK AUDIO] the folks who are not gonna profit from shark finning because we're not gonna sell shark fin soup, it's gonna open up an economic opportunity for the people who are producing some other ingredient. It's the same over all economic activity, but it's commerce that is synched up with our values. And we [CHECK AUDIO] but then just apply it to our dogs or our cats or a particular wildlife interest that we love. We've got moral problems all around us with animals, they're in the food chain, we use them in science, we use them in entertainment. We've got to live these values on a daily bases. And when we grow this -- these businesses that are built around appreciation of animals, like whale watching, you can really expand your economic opportunities because most people believe in this stuff. Most people believe in the idea of being requested to animals of so when you build an economic matrix, that is grounded on the principle of opposition to cruelty and love and celebration of animals, the economic potential is boundless.

CAVANAUGH: When you talk about defending animals, when does it mean to defend animals? Does that mean, basically, humans should just leave animals alone or are we past that point?

PACELLE: Well, you know, my argument in the book is that cruelty comes only from human hands. There is suffering in the world. Animals do kill each other, and nature deals out a lot of suffering. So we're never gonna be able to eliminate suffering. But we can minimize human caused suffering and cruelty. And I think we do, affirmative things to help animals, there are shelters and wildlife rehabilitation centers. But I think most of it is just allowing animals to be and amount of it is making the right choices in our lives. Fur coats were a past necessity. Today, it is a minor convenience. We have natural fibre, synthetic coats that achieve all the same purposes. Food, we've got a plethora of options sever think Kay when we sit down. If we choose to eat foie gras or veal or if we eat eggs from battery cage pens, that is causing demonstrable pain and suffering, this may not be deliberate, it may not be something we can see. But it's happening somewhere down the line. And if we're serious about having a civil society, if we're serious about being other centered, and we're serious about being good to animals, then we've got to think about these choices, but every day we are presented with this set of moral problems around us. Obviously it's easy to pick on Michael Vick. He deserved to be picked on for the cruel things that he did, but let's do that and let's also examine our own conduct and our own behavior.

CAVANAUGH: We had a caller on the line who wanted to know what about the programs of the humane society has? Do you have programs in schools and in places where people can go to learn more about the things you've been talking about.

PACELLE: Well, you know, we have an incredible network of organizations that operate in this country, independent groups like the San Diego humane society, and SPCA, local group, other local groups here in San Diego. The humane society in the United States is a national group, we don't run [CHECK AUDIO] no group ask. We do have a humane education arm, and folks can go to our website at humane, and they can learn about every issue. We have the most developed website, and video resources, and science based information about animals, and animal problems. And we also have teaching tools, we're at 40000 courtrooms with a publication called kind news, and I'm sure many San Diego schools have that. Teachers can sign up. People can actually adopt the classroom for $25 a year, get ten issues of this newspaper that go to kids. But this is really the central issue. It's not that so many people want to be cruel of it's that so many people are unaware of what's going on. And the end of my book, the bond, I provide 50 ways that beam can help animals because, you just gotta live these ideals. We're making choices every day in our hives, and I wanted to give people a pathway to be more alert to the issues in society. And I think of course, you know, joining a group like the humane society in the United States is very important because you get enveloped with an ongoing bases with our magazine and our e-mail letters, and then you can exert collective innocence on corporations and politicians with the campaigns and activities. Like we ran prop two a couple of years ago, and there were some fabulous organizations local organizations here in San Diego that were very involved in this campaign. Cath Rogers and Brian pees and others were leading an effort here. So very, very important work, but it was through that collective action that we stopped these confinement practices, and we're phasing out these confinement practices, we're phasing out these confinement practices on farms here in California.

CAVANAUGH: We've gotten several calls, Wayne, asking are you a vegetarian?

PACELLE: You know, I am. I've been a vegan actually for 26 years, when I went to college and I started an animal advocacy group as a volunteer. Which, again, it was my passion. It's always been a passion. I've loved animals ever since I was a little kid. But I do want to emphasize that while that's my choice, and that's the right choice for me, we at the humane society the of the U.S. are a big tent organization. We want people who are moving in the right direction. There is no litmus test, you don't have to be perfect, you don't have to be a vegetarian. [CHECK AUDIO] but you're gonna buy cage free eggs, judge you're gonna buy animal products that don't come from factory farms, wing that's great. Sore if you just want to be involved with us because you want to help shelter dogs or you want to adopt from a shelter or a rescue group, rather than go to a pet store or a puppy mill behind that scenes, we want you to be involved. And that's why I wrote the book is to educate people about this incredible dizzying array of issues.

CAVANAUGH: The book is named the bond, our kinship with animals, and our call to defend them. Wayne Pacelle, will be discussing and signing copies of the bond at a benefit event tonight. It starts at sick 30 at Spreckles theatre. If you'd like more information, you can any to Days.