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Our Kinship With Animals: Wayne Pacelle Presents at VegFest

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August 30, 2011

By Peter Spendelow, Contributing Writer

Even as a child, Wayne Pacelle was interested in animals. But it wasn't until his sophomore year at Yale, after reading about industrial farming in Peter Singer's Animal Liberation that Wayne decided to go vegan. The following summer, after spending months as an intern ranger at Isle Royale National Park, his views were further cemented. "It was a Thoreau-like experience," Wayne remembered. "You see this pristine environment, and it is absolutely magical. At that point I just kind of dedicated myself."

Returning to Yale, Pacelle founded the Student Animal Rights Coalition, protested against the use of animals in research at the Yale Medical School, and got vegan meals instituted in the university's dining halls. His rise from there has been meteoric. At age 23, he was hired by Cleveland Amory to be national director of the Fund for the Animals. Five years later, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) hired him away to be its vice president of communication and government affairs. This gave Pacelle a key role in influencing federal legislation, as well as working through the initiative process in states. These earlier efforts dealt mainly with wildlife issues including trapping and bait hunting, and also banning cockfighting. The first effort to pass an initiative to protect factory farm animals did not happen until 2002, when HSUS and other groups successfully passed a ballot measure to ban gestation crates in Florida.

In 2004, at age 38, Wayne Pacelle became CEO of HSUS--the largest animal protection organization in the United States. Wayne promised an aggressive approach, and hired people like Paul Shapiro (founder of Compassion Over Killing and 2008 Portland VegFest speaker) to head the HSUS Factory Farm campaign. HSUS' impact has grown significantly since Wayne took over, and in August 2011 was named the top-ranked animal protection organization in terms of impact for animals by Philanthropedia, a part of Guidestar.

Wayne Pacelle's new book, The Bond, looks at our kinship with animals, and how it leads not only to great acts of kindness and compassion, but also to unthinking acts of unspeakable cruelty. At VegFest, Wayne will speak about The Bond; the agreement with United Egg Producers to ban battery cages nationwide; cruelty and those that defend it; and how we can all work to build a more humane world. Wayne's talk, on Saturday Sept. 17th, is sure to be one of the highlights of VegFest.

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