The last decade has been a very good one for animals in the United States. Millions of laying hens are being freed from their cages, and pregnant pigs are being liberated from gestation crates. Fewer dogs and cats are euthanized, and dogfighting and cockfighting
have been banned in all 50 states.
Major airlines now refuse to transport African
big-game “trophy” animals, Sea World ended its
killer-whale breeding program, and the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus elephants
performed for the last time this year, ending a
No one has done more for animals during this time than
Wayne Pacelle, the hard-charging chief executive of the
Humane Society of the United States, the nation’s largest
“This movement is at a tipping point, at an inflection
point,” Mr. Pacelle says. “Exploiting animals is a practice
under siege. Concern for animals is ascendant.”
How has Mr. Pacelle done it?
In part by doing things differently from other nonprofits.
Under his leadership, the Humane Society has aggressively
pursued political advocacy, mergers, and investments in
business, and he has flouted charity-watchdog measures of
efficiency by spending generously on overhead.
The organization brought in the money and membership clout it needed, first through a series of mergers in
the 2000s and later with aggressive fundraising, including
direct-response television ads.
In 2015, the Humane Society generated $187 million
in private donations, more than t wice the $71.3 million it
collected in 2004 when Mr. Pacelle became CEO. During
that time, the organization climbed from No. 229 to No. 138
on The Chronicle’s annual list of the 400 U.S. nonprofits that
raise the most from private sources.
This year, the growth has halted, in large part because
revenues from bequests to the organization are down, for
reasons that neither Mr. Pacelle nor the group’s fundraisers
can explain. Recently, the Humane Society carried out the
first staff reductions in his tenure, leaving it with about 600
people, roughly t wice as many as when he took charge.
Still, the charity hasn’t lost momentum. Mr. Pacelle has
deployed an unusually varied set of tactics. “We throw the
kitchen sink at animal cruelty,” he says.
The Humane Society lobbies Congress, federal agencies,
and state and local governments. Its political-action committee, the Humane Society Legislative Fund, supports
candidates, including Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump
this fall, and has won dozens of statewide initiatives and
referenda. Since 2005, its lawyers have initiated more than
160 legal actions and won millions of dollars in
judgments, settlements, and lawyers’ fees. Its
investigators go undercover to expose inhumane
conditions in puppy mills and on factory farms,
even as other staff members collaborate with
companies in the food, drug, and entertainment
The Humane Society has also invested in start-up companies that sell vegetarian foods, including Beyond Meat,
which makes veggie burgers; Veggie Grill, a small chain of
meat-free restaurants; and Miyoko’s Kitchen, which makes
vegan cheese. It also supports Hampton Creek, which
makes vegan mayo and cookie dough.
“Our fingerprints are on a lot of growing companies out
there,” says Chris Kerr, an entrepreneur in residence at the
Humane Society from 2007 to 2014.
The Humane Society’s advocacy is controversial: Mr.
Pacelle’s critics include the meat industry as well as animal-rights activists who say the organization is too cozy
with business. But few doubt its clout. The group’s latest triumph came in November, when Mr. Pacelle led a coalition
of animal-welfare groups that won a landmark ballot victory for farm animals in Massachusetts: Voters approved,
by an overwhelming 78 percent to 23 percent margin, a
measure to ban the sale of eggs, pork, and veal from tightly
confined chickens, pigs, and calves by 2022.
Coming, as it did, after the group extracted animal-welfare commitments from Walmart, McDonald’s, and major
supermarket chains, the vote is the latest sign that intensive confinement of farm animals is coming to an end.
While the Humane Society’s campaigns on farm animals generate more attention than anything else the organization does, its concerns are broad. They include combating animal cruelty, animal fighting, hunting, trapping,
By MARC GUNTHER
The charity operates animal-care centers in four
states that provide refuge for thousands of domestic and wild animals, including bison, monkeys, and a kangaroo.
BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager,
hosted a forum with the nonprofit for Wall Street
investors on how animal-welfare policies would
affect food companies, restaurants, and retailers.
Working with the Humane Society, Aramark
became the first major food-service company to
put into place more humane conditions for the
treatment of broiler chickens.
The charity and its PAC won victories in Massachusetts, Oregon, and Oklahoma, where voters
rejected a “right to farm” measure that would
have prohibited future restrictions on agriculture.
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