Wayne Pacelle

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Wayne Pacelle, reading cockfighting magazines, in 2004 (Photo: Washington Post).

Wayne Pacelle may be the single most effective advocate for animals in North America. Since becomming head of the Humane Society of the United States in 2004, he has turned that organization into one of the most powerful animal protection organizations in existence. Pacelle avoids the more-radical-than-thou approach that has plagued animal advocacy groups in the past and focuses instead on achievable victories. He has proven especially good at organizing and winning animal-related ballot initiatives, something he writes about in the current issue of Newsweek:

No battle was ever easily won. But along the way, something remarkable has happened. In recent years, our cause has moved from the margins to the mainstream. Yes, many of our adversaries still have money and influence, and resist even the most modest reforms. But we have something better—the power of conscience and the votes of the majority. There is a sense that the winds of change are blowing in our direction, and more briskly than ever. Since 1990, I’ve been part of 20 successful ballot-initiative campaigns to end the abuse of animals. We have championed hundreds of new reforms at the state and federal level. There aren’t many issues these days on which both parties can agree, but compassion for animals is a universal value.

We’re even seeing the first stirrings of reform in the abusive treatment of the 10 billion animals a year on factory farms. Voters and lawmakers in Arizona, Florida and Oregon have outlawed confining farm animals in crates so small that they cannot turn around, and Californians will have the chance to do the same in the November 2008 elections. The ballot initiative has the potential to relieve the suffering of 20 million animals in California raised for food.

In Europe and elsewhere animal groups have managed to get reforms through national legislatures. In the United States this has proven far more difficult, given the disproportionate role money plays in U.S. politics and the lobbying efforts of the agricultural industry. Pacelle’s breakthrough has been to find ways around this problem by working at the state level. The 2008 California ballot initiative he mentions is shaping up to be one of the most important animal welfare reforms of its kind. More information about the California campaign is avaialable here. To keep up with HSUS projects check out A Humane Nation, Pacelle’s informative blog.

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