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Murray Journal

Confronting Cruelty

Jul 06, 2016 08:24AM ● By Alisha Soeken

Jamie Ortwein, Ricardo the cat, Dash Anderson and Savanna Fluter assist at the book signing for Wayne Pacelle’s new book, “The Humane Economy.”

By Alisha Soeken | [email protected]

From his heart, crafted words run persuasively and eloquently. Wayne Pacelle, devout in his charge, spoke to a Murray crowd about the responsibility of confronting cruelty.

Pacelle is president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United Sates and has been an advocate for animals since childhood.

“When I was a kid I had an instinctive empathy for animals. I hated the misuse of human power against them and viewed myself as very emotionally connected to that issue,” Pacelle said.

That empathy drove Pacelle. While attending Yale, he started the Student Animal Rights Coalition, an animal advocacy group.

“When I learned about the gravity and severity of animals suffering in college, I decided I didn’t want to be a bystander. I wanted to do something about it. I’ve been full throttle ever since,” Pacelle said.

When the effects are seen, felt, and understood, animal cruelty causes even the most unbending to twitch. Animals are starved, beaten, hung and bled to death, burned, shackled, stabbed, skinned, scalded alive and immovably confined for a lifetime. Cruelty to animals is part of our history. But things are changing.

Pacelle’s New York Times best-selling book, “The Humane Economy,” chronicles those changes. It describes a hopeful transformation in the areas of food and agriculture, wildlife management, the pet business, exotic animal trade, animal testing and science.

“We are at a real tipping point. There is a mass conscience about animals that’s forming. We are seeing big changes in every sector of the economy and incredible changes in the last three years,” Pacelle said.

In scope, those changes are massive. With the Humane Society, Pacelle recently secured agreements with trade associations and companies like McDonalds, Walmart, Costco, Burger King, Kroger and hundreds of others to eradicate the extreme confinement of animals in agriculture by 2025.

In March 2014, South Dakota joined the other 49 states in instituting felony-level penalties for malicious animal cruelty, a change Pacelle was proud to play a part in. And for the first time, chimpanzees will live in a world where they are protected. Pacelle led the effort to add the United States to the list of nations that will end the use of chimpanzees in invasive experiments. As a result, 745 chimps in the United States will move from labs to sanctuaries.

“Everything is changing, it doesn’t mean we’re, done but it means we’ve demonstrated real progress,” Pacelle said.

Utah has progress to make.

“Utah is one of the largest mink farming states in the country, and there are a number of inhumane practices like hound hunting of cougars, bear baiting and hound hunting of bears that we find very inhumane and unsportsmanlike,” Pacelle said.

But Utah is making progress. A strong anti-cockfighting law passed in 2015, euthanasia rates have dropped significantly for cats and dogs and the use of gas chambers for euthanasia is declining.

Individuals can amplify that good by buying humanly produced animal products, adopting a pet, eating more plant-based foods, buying cosmetics that are not tested on animals, recycling, spaying and neutering, planting native plants, choosing synthetic furs and fibers, donating to local shelters, voting for animal protection and influencing elected officials.

Congressional candidate Doug Owens listened as Pacelle spoke of the obligation of law.

“We are a society of laws, and our laws reflect our values. Animals are very vulnerable to human abuse. Because we have so much power over them, the law must speak in that regard,” Pacelle said.

After speaking himself, Pacelle signed books, shook hands and met with people like Carlene Wall, adoption and operations director at the Humane Society of Utah.

“Wayne has been here a few times. He’s great; he’s very supportive and just a really amazing guy,” Wall said.

Pacelle’s work and book prove that empathy and intentional action have power to confront cruelty and change it.

“We all have more power than we imagine to affect the lives of animals. We are born with great power and intellect, and we should use that for good. Change will happen when people of conscience come together and exert a collective impact on society,” Pacelle said.  λ