by Christie Lagally
Originally published in City Living Seattle
Social justice movements in the last century have cemented rights for women and minorities, given access to the disabled and provided equality to the disenfranchised. This transformation took us through times of intolerance to increasing inclusion for humans, but this almost-linear progress has not been so straight-forward for animals.
With the rise of factory farming and sped-up slaughter operations, establishments of puppy mills, animal use in entertainment and an era of intensive animal testing, the necessity to protect animals became an uphill battle as our economy grew into an industrialized state.
But my recent discussion with Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), helped me understand why the growth of capitalism — which has been an impetus for intensive animal abuse in many industries — can now be a driving force to protect or free animals from that very abuse, while benefiting consumers and corporations alike.
Pacelle will visit Seattle for a lecture and discussion on these topics encapsulated in his new book, “The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals.” The April 30 lecture, at the University Book Store (4326 University Way N.E.) at 3 p.m., is open to the public.
I met Pacelle four years ago, when he visited Seattle and spoke about the need for corporations, like Walmart, to reject some of the cruelest practices in agriculture, such as gestation crates for pigs and battery cages for egg-laying hens, which restrict animals from any natural movement for years. This Walmart-scale of industrial reform would be groundbreaking, Pacelle said in 2012, and yet, within just a few years, HSUS announced Walmart would adopt significant commitments to animal welfare to source animal products.
Now, these types of economy-shaking reforms are taking hold in industries from food service to wildlife management, and in The Humane Economy, Pacelle tells this incredible story of progress for animals happening right before our eyes.
“Reform is accelerating at a pace that is startling,” Pacelle said, adding that much like the fall of the Berlin Wall foretold the path away from communism, the number of companies pledging to remove some of the worst forms of cruelty from their supply chains increases every day.
Similarly, a recent high-profile announcement by SeaWorld to reform treatment of orcas and end the practice of forcibly breeding these intelligent beings and compelling them to perform is certainly evidence of a more humane economy in development. In a world that exploits animals in every conceivable way, it is enlightening to realize the influence of corporate and economic incremental change, as seen at SeaWorld or Walmart, as first steps against massive institutionalized cruelty.
But Pacelle’s book doesn’t just land on incremental progress. “The Humane Economy” captures compelling stories of new and rising companies striving to take animals out of the supply chain altogether, thereby working to genuinely solve long-standing cruelty issues and change our economy permanently. National brands like Beyond Meat (which makes plant-based chicken) or Hampton Creek Foods (which supplies mayonnaise and dressings without eggs) are changing the landscape of the food industry by commandeering market shares with animal-friendly alternatives without sacrificing quality or taste.
Likewise, alleviating the suffering of animals in entertainment is plenty of motivation to spur innovation. Pacelle writes about the incredible history of animals often brutally abused in movies to create scenes of drama and how developments such as computer-generated imagery (CGI) are replacing animals altogether.
Further, “The Humane Economy” tells how we came to terms with the largely non-productive, morally problematic and abusive testing on chimpanzees, now that an end to this practice in the United States is within sight. Chimpanzees in federal laboratories will now be released to an already-full network of sanctuaries, including the Chimpanzee Sanctuary Northwest (CSNW) here in Washington State.
CSNW co-director Diana Goodrich announced plans for sanctuary expansion to be completed in several phases to house 10 to 20 new chimpanzees. But community support is needed for the expansion, and CSNW is holding a fundraiser on April 30 at The Foundry (4130 First Ave. S.) in SODO, where Pacelle will be a special guest presenter that evening.
A different future
Starting today, we can be the change we want to see for animals.
“We may be physically separated from the supply chain, but we aren’t morally separated,” Pacelle explained, adding if we are separated by 1,000 miles or 10 miles, we are connected to the cruelty involved in the production of commodities.
Pacelle’s book outlines how consumers can grow a humane economy by voting with our dollars and choosing products that don’t harm animals. Further, Pacelle reminds us that getting involved with an animal protection organization like HSUS or CSNW has a tremendous impact.
“There is no substitute for organized, collective action for animals,” Pacelle writes.
So whether that action is at the corporate, nonprofit, community or individual scale, participation in the humane economy is an active choice to propel progress for animals from today on forward.