Pets: National Humane Society CEO Wayne Pacelle comes to Ann Arbor for event in support of his new book
"Animal rights is more about human responsibility."
A clear, profound statement to say the least. And the man behind it, Wayne Pacelle, has made it his life's work to ensure to welfare of animals of all species — not just dogs and cats — by way of edifying the public-at-large in many ways.
In "The Bond: Our Kinship With Animals, Our Call To Defend Them", his thought-provoking book allows readers to explore not only the symbiotic relationships between animals and humans but also the capacities of animals that reach far beyond what we humans had originally known — or thought we knew about them — when considering cognition and animal's ability to understand things.
Pacelle has been president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States since 2004 and with the org anization ten years prior to that.
He points out in his best-selling book that the animal/human bond is about more than animals just being cute and fuzzy — it's biochemical.
Having said that, animals have come to live in "our" world, living side by side with us in our homes, spending countless hours with us.
For that reason, Pacelle notes, "We have an inherent responsibility to ensure their welfare."
Since we have the power to decide what happens to them, he adds, "It's about stewardship."
Pacelle mused about growing up watching the weekly show "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" and poring over books and periodicals with sections devoted to animals, dog-eared to refer back to, including a fond staple found in so many homes focusing on all things natural and frequently having an animal feature: National Geographic. All of this, was of course, long before the Internet. (All of this, I can relate to as well.)
He was "mesmerized," as he puts it.
It was obvious from a young age that he was enthralled with animals and their welfare. He never felt that there was an epiphany or defining moment that propelled him into the realm of animal welfare: from day one, he had always felt that caring for all animals was important. Pacelle notes that the title of his book is quite fitting, as he always had powerful, early bond to animals of all species.
As our conversation continued, the Yale graduate elaborated on his vision for the future of animal welfare and how people can be empowered to be stewards for animal rights in their daily lives. He spoke about where strides have been made state by state (including in Michigan) — and where things are going.
He expands on all these topics in his book, and he'll be in Ann Arbor talking about the book at an event on Monday.
Michigan has seen changes in animal welfare legislation that affected everyone just a few short years ago. In 2006, Proposal 3, which banned the practice of hunting of mourning doves, was passed. Further, in 2009, House Bill 5127 established better care standards for farm animals — something that Michigan residents might not have been aware of, even though so many regularly consume meat, dairy and eggs.
"Eating is a moral act," states Pacelle.
We are all capable of doing things to facilitate change in that area, like reducing our consumption, choosing more ethical farmers — and eating more plant-based meals.
Puppy mills are another enormous problem.
Puppy mills are unethical facilities that breed purebred or "designer dogs" with no regard for the welfare of the animals being used to breed, nor the resulting offspring. The cramped cages and neglect are, in essense, reckless breeding. These practices sacrifice not only the underlying health and emotional well-being of these animals, but they also result in a reduced life span.
"Cruelty," Pacelle says in a thoughtful tone,"comes from human hands."
So how can the average person make an impact where these facilities are concerned? Adopt, don't shop. Consider adopting from local shelters, like the Humane Society of Huron Valley. And, don't buy a pet from pet stores and online sources.
The HSUS has strived to facilitate change at the federal and state levels in the realm of commercial breeding operations. And, the Shelter Pet Project, a public service ad campaign focused on highlighting the awesome aspects of adopting a shelter pet.
See how the state of Michigan stacks up on the puppy mill issue by clicking here.
As we talked, Pacelle interjected simple, easy ways that people can make a difference and help animals, directly or indirectly. Knowing how important children are in being a part of positive change, I asked about the best ways to discuss the problems that exist and how to involve kids.
He brightened and said, "There is a unique resource in the appendix of the book that is perfect for that!"
"50 Ways To Help Animals" offers suggestions that are easy to implement and that empower adults and kids alike. A few points like nurturing a child's natural instincts, volunteering time at a local shelter and be mindful of purchasing choices — items that are not made with animal products and are not tested on animals — can help begin the path of change.
Pacelle's final word: Moving people in the right direction, that's the goal.
Wayne Pacelle will be on hand for a discussion, Q and A and signing copies of his best-selling book "The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them" at Nicola's Books, 2513 Jackson Ave., Ann Arbor on Monday, Aug. 8 at 7 p.m.