New book by Humane Society’s president is a beacon of hope
In November 2014, the Koch Foods chicken processing plant in downtown Chattanooga denied reports that an undercover video made by Mercy For Animals showed chickens being scalded alive and shackled upside-down before their throats, wings and chests were sliced open while they were still conscious.
As usual with this company, nothing was done but denial.
But times are changing—fast. The new book by Humane Society President and CEO Wayne Pacelle, “The Humane Economy: Animal Protection 2.0,” covers, among many other topics, the consumer and innovator forces that are creating this change.
If you believe puppy mills and dogfighting should be outlawed, that factory farming as it’s currently practiced is barbaric, that cosmetic and medical testing on animals has been unnecessary for years, that wildlife needs protection from people like Cecil’s killer Walter Palmer—then this is a must-read book for you.
Pacelle presents his information and stories in a straightforward, journalistic way. He’s not going for shock value, although he doesn’t shy away from detailing abuses when these are things informed consumers must know.
“I don’t think many people of conscience, once they become alert to the suffering of animals, want to be a part of it,” he writes. In other words, it doesn’t cut it anymore to shrug and say, “I don’t want to know.”
Pacelle doesn’t just tell us about the suffering. He points to the people and organizations who are demanding change. An example, cited in the chapter “Pets and the GDP,” is David Duffield, who’s committed more than a billion dollars to his group Maddie’s Fund (named for his own dog), whose aim is to achieve a “no-kill nation.”
Carl Ichan—yes, that Carl Icahn—called Pacelle and offered to help fight animal cruelty (covered in the chapter “Big Ag Gets Its Hen House in Order”). It was through Icahn’s direct intervention that McDonald’s eventually announced in February 2012, “McDonald’s wants to see the end of sow confinement in gestation stalls in our supply chain.”
And then, as Pacelle recounts, pork industry leaders “recognized groundbreaking change for what it was—the giant retailer’s acknowledgement that consumers were owed a voice in how animals were treated in the food system.”
In the book’s epilogue, “High Yield Bonds,” Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen is quoted as saying, “I believe that people and economies do best when they work in harmony with nature, as opposed to treating it solely as a source of resources to be extracted.” Allen is funding wildlife scientists in Africa, and also financing “The Great Elephant Census” in Africa, which, when complete, will be hugely useful in fighting poaching.
So please, read this book. Learn what you can do on a daily basis. Pacelle notes for example, that conscious consumers still need to fight back against the “ag-gag” bills that would criminalize making the kind of videos Mercy for Animals filmed at Koch Foods.
The book’s epilogue also contains some words from Pope Francis in Laudato Si. “We have only one heart, and the same wretchedness which leads us to mistreat an animal will not be long in showing itself in our relationships with other people. Every act of cruelty towards any creature is contrary to human dignity.”
“The Humane Economy: Animal Protection 2.0 How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals,” by Wayne Pacelle. William Morrow, available April 19.