Wayne Pacelle: Humane Society
Jonathan Bailor: Hey everyone, Jonathan Bailor back with another bonus Smarter Science of Slim podcast. I really have a treat for you today, folks. We talk so often about being the change that we want so see in the world and about how everyone and everything can live better. It’s very difficult to find a person alive today who better demonstrates this than today’s guest, who is the president and CEO of the Humane Society; which we all know is doing a massive amount of good in the world-in large part due to our guest’s efforts. Wayne Pacelle, welcome to the show, brother.
Wayne Pacelle: Well thank you for that very warm introduction. I am so glad to be with you.
Jonathan Bailor: Wayne, before we get into specifics, can you talk a little bit about what has motivated you to work so hard for so long against so much adversity just to help animals to live better?
Wayne Pacelle: Well, for me it has been a lifelong passion for animals. You can’t really explain it from a scientific perspective as a kid, but as an adult you look at patterns of behavior and you start to examine animal science. In the first chapter of my book, I argue that our intuitive connection with creatures has a lot of biochemistry behind it. We have social bonding hormones that connect us to one another. We’re friends with people, we have family members-it’s not just that we think in intellectual terms about the relationships and attach value to those relationships because of some active self interest that we perceive. There are actual social bonding hormones that connect us. I believe – and there is research coming out on this – that these same social bonding hormones are an explanation of times when we have pets and we relax and smile. The same explanation for our veterans. The get a therapy animal and they can get off the PTSD medications. Animals have an incredible rehabilitative effect on us. That doesn’t explain why I got into this, but it is part of this connection that all of us have to animals. Layer on top of that the notions of fairness, decency, and mercy – my God, these animals are less powerful than us. In our relationships with animals, we hold all of the cards. Why shouldn’t we be good to them? Why can’t we use this incredible ingenuitive mind that we have to figure out ways that we live our lives to help animals live their lives as well? That is really the broad enterprise of the Humane Society. Animals feel, and they suffer. We have a connection to them. We can avoid causing them harm and pain, and we have a moral duty to do so.
Jonathan Bailor: Certainly we can lift up and celebrate that symbiotic relationship that we have with other species instead of conquering and domination. One specific area that I know will resonate with our listeners is that symbiotic relationship. The maximal amount of goodness for the maximum amount of beings. Often times in scientific studies we will use animals to approximate humans ans ostensibly help people to live better – potentially at the cost of the animals. What is going on there? How do we find the right balance?
Wayne Pacelle: Again, I think that you can look at many different uses of animals and their value to society. One reason that dogfighting was so widely criminalized was not only because of the Human Society’s work, but there is no socially redeeming quality to it. Putting two dogs in a pit and watching them fight and wagering on the outcome – as a society, we said that the health of those dogs greatly outweighs the fleeting entertainment that we get from that. That is one example of something that just about all of us in our society that we agree upon. We have a social consensus on that. What people argue when they argue the benefits of using animals as research is that it is providing some benefit to us. It helps us screen for toxicity or providing insight for a disease that is killing so many people. You can see that on that spectrum, there are different ideas that exist. In animal testing in particular, we are finding much more reliable ways to research problems that exist in public health than to rely on animals. The National Institute of Health made an announcement not too long ago saying that it was going to cease breeding of chimpanzees for these experiments and turn all of the chimps that they own over to animal sanctuaries so that they can live the rest of their lives in peace and security in an ecologically appropriate environment. That announcement was preceded by research looking at the necessity – that was the real question. Is the research and testing done on chimps necessary for humans? This panel of scientists basically concluded that it was not. There have been some examples where we have derived important analysis from chimps, but now there are ways in which we do not need to use them to find these bits of information. We have alternative pathways in. In some cases we see that the use of animals actually retards progress. In the case of (Unintelligent), there were a couple of cases where it worked out with chimps, but then when it was applied to humans there were disastrous consequences. Sometimes they actually lead us down the wrong road. Sometimes the animal testing doesn’t translate to the human condition. You may find that animals react a certain way to a particular substance or molecule, but it doesn’t quite work that way when you try it with humans.
Jonathan Bailor: Wayne, core to the scenario that you just outlined for us is the idea of spectrums. For example, dogfighting is obviously horrific based on the cost-benefit. Then possibly doing some behavioral experimentation with a mouse – where it is in a cage and fed normally – where it just runs through a maze every one in awhile would be more acceptable than more barbaric forms of animal experimentation. In your mind – this is more personal even though you are the CEO and everything that you say reflects your organization – when it comes to being humane to animals, is there a spectrum in terms of animals? You mentioned chimps, and we all see a bit of humanness in chimps, but we don’t feel bad when we step on an ant. Maybe we should. We certainly don’t feel bad when we pull weeds out of our garden. These are all living things, but we as a society seem to have a spectrum there. Is there a spectrum in terms of animals?
Wayne Pacelle: I think there is. Peter Singer wrote a book in the mid 1970’s called Animal Nation where he was challenging the notion that we can do whatever we want to animals just because we happen to be a different species – simply because they are from another species. He argued that it is really not species that is critical moral criteria. It is the capacity feel pain and suffer. If you are hiking and a bear comes after you, it is a matter of survival. You have a pretty well considered moral argument. To kill a grizzly bear for a fur coat for a separate matter when there are faux fur alternatives – those are different contextual circumstances that we need to evaluate if we are serious about a moral consideration of animals. When you talk about the “higher” animals like chimpanzees – with genetic similarities with humans. They exhibit many behaviors that we can identify with. They mourn, they act with members of their social group, they exhibit altruism, they are capable of communication – they are pretty capable of learning things that we do, like American Sign Language. They know our language better than we know their language. I do think that it matters. There is a big debate going on now. There is a documentary out now called Blackfish about killer whales in Seaworld and whether they should be housed in small, sterile pools and engage in tricks that people pay money to watch. What are the costs for these animals that live in family groups and range well over a hundred miles a day? Yes, that matters, but what is the difference between a chimp, a dolphin, and a whale? Or other mammals? If you look more broadly at mammals as a category – birds and fish – they all feel. They all suffer. Many of them are used in an institutionalized setting where the uses have become normalized in our society. That is really where the Humane Society in the US is asking the question. It is not just illegal acts that concern us. Those things do concern us – if someone sets a dog on fire or bludgeons a cat – those are real indicators of a loss of empathy and hazardous situations. A person who has those inclinations often go against society. Looking even more broadly at institutions using animals for testing or for industrial agriculture, we need to ask if it should be this way. Shouldn’t we try to find solutions where we can feed ourselves and find cures without victimizing so many animals? Every animal researcher must recognize that there is a moral cause. You can do something in a more humane way by not using animals at all. That would be a much better outcome from a moral perspective. There are so many different pathways for us in terms of the uses of animals turning out to be dead ends. These newer methods are proving to be much more fruitful for us, strictly from a scientific perspective.
Jonathan Bailor: Wayne, you mentioned finding equivalent or more superior results when we take a humane approach. I can’t think of a better example – maybe you can – then when it comes to treating cows and chickens free range, grass fed, humanely raised animals. If you are not an individual who is willing or able to go completely vegan or vegetarian, finding animals in their natural habitat and facilitating that is not only better for those animals, but we were finding unambiguously that it is better for the humans because the quality of the nutrition is far superior. That is a great example of boosting up the moral element and also boosting up our health, and in many ways, the deliciousness.
Wayne Pacelle: No question about it. It is no accident that when you do the right moral thing, you have a better outcome down the line. I am researching my next book now, which is really going to argue that when we make the right moral decision, it actually turns out to be the right decision for us. The industrialized production of animals for food turns them into a commodity. We put animals shoulder to shoulder or wing to wing in these factory farms. It is an environmental catastrophe and it is a public health catastrophe in the making. 80 percent of all antibiotics used in the society are fed to animals. The proprietors of those operations no that those living conditions are so unhealthy – the animals are so overcrowded – that they use the antibiotics as a prophylactic, which is something that our doctors would tell us never to do. When you overuse and antibiotic, you develop an antibiotic resistant bacteria. You develop superbugs. You then become immune to the antibiotics that all of us, as a society, use. This is a case of playing Russian roulette with a very narrow class of life-saving drugs that we need in society. Then you look at the incredible amount of energy inputs and all of the waste to animals produce on these factory farms. It accounts for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas issues. Larger than the transportation sector. If we are serious about climate change and addressing it, we have to look at the fact that we, as a global community, are raising 65,000,000,000+ animals a year. There are 10 animals raised for every person in the world. That means all of these animals are emitting gases and other forms of waste, taking enormous energy inputs, and having all sorts of impacts in terms of the atmosphere. Again, I am all for people making the right choices with transportation, I am all for people making the right choices with other forms of energies in the home; but you also have to think about one of the greatest impacts that we are responsible for, and that is our dietary choices. When you are talking about 7 billion people raising about 70 billion animals, there are enormous energy efforts that are really changing our atmosphere.
Jonathan Bailor: Wayne, do you feel that there is any significant division between – especially in American culture we talk so much about meat, inventing new terms like “meatless Mondays”. When most people think of meat, they think a land animal. Is there a division – because there certainly is in the nutritional aspect – between seafood and land animals from a humanitarian perspective?
Wayne Pacelle: Well, I do think that there are differences, but what we are seeing in the realm of marine animals is similar to what we saw in the realm of domesticated animals used for food. We are seeing the industrialized nation of those processes. One manifestation of these industrializations are these enormous fishing fleets that basically gobble up all of the life that they can. One source that I have said that there are 200 million pounds of dead fish and other animals discarded daily. 200 million pounds. Then we got agriculture issues. We are reaching a point where much of the marine animal protein that we are consuming as a society is coming from agricultural operations and all of the different problems associated with that. The concentration of waste issues, the feeding of other fish to these animals – the net toll is far greater than what we are eating. I think that there are important differences in each sector of animal product consumption. They each have their own features, energy inputs, pathways, disease threats – these are all very serious matters. The oceans are a big part of the health of this entire planet, and the marine ecosystems matter a great deal for our own safety as well as the health of the planet. I don’t think that one can simply say “I am going to think about my food choices in terms of terrestrial animals and ignore what my food choices are from the marine systems”.
Jonathan Bailor: I very much appreciate that broader perspective. It does seem like every aspect of industrializing our food supply – even with what we are doing with plant products and GMOs. It’s really just taking a step back and realizing – what I think is extremely positive news -the more humanely we treat anything and everything, the more humanely we are treating ourselves. It is more nutritious and more delicious. When things line up that way, you start to feel like “hey, maybe we are on the right track”. What do you think, Wayne?
Wayne Pacelle: Oh, absolutely. I say this with animal cruelty in general. When we see someone who exhibits malicious cruelty to animals, that is somebody who is behaving in an unhealthy way. That misuse of power could be exhibited for people, that is why you have laws to prohibit cruelty to animals. Not just for the animals, but to help people. In these factory farms, it is a race to the bottom. The only factor is driving down cost and increasing production. We could have a whole show just about the public health concerns of eating is very heavily animal centered diet. We eat more meat per thousand than any nation in the world with the exception of a very small European country. We more than the French, we eat twice as much as the Chinese, and 50 times as much as the Indians. If we really continue on this pathway and other countries in the world follow, we are headed for a train wreck. You cannot raise billions and billions and billions of animals in a healthy and humane environment. That is why we have to reduce the total amount of consumption of animal products in our society. We just can’t do it at this level.
Jonathan Bailor: Wayne, you have done so much. What is next?
Wayne Pacelle: Well, we at the Humane Society are really concerned about all animals. One of the things that we are trying to do is connect people with animals. One of the cons of the food production system is that we are so disassociated with it. We make a purchase and a restaurant or a supermarket and we have no idea what the supply chain look like. We have no idea how the animals were treated 1000 miles away. I think what we are trying to do most broadly is to connect people with animals and to ask people to honor their instincts and kindness toward animals. To use our great ingenuity and creativity as a species to find solutions that are good for us and animals. When we do find those solutions that are good for animals, I have no doubt that we are going to race ahead in so many ways – including economically. This reliance on these industrialized methods of animal production and animal testing is holding us back as a society. Again, we could spend a lot more time on what some of those elements are. I believe it and I am writing about it. I look forward to having additional conversations with you.
Jonathan Bailor: Ladies and gentlemen, his name is Wayne Pacelle. He has a blog which you should definitely check out called A Humane Nation. Just give that a search on Google. Wayne, thank you so much for joining us today. It has been an absolute pleasure.
Wayne Pacelle: Thank you so much.
Jonathan Bailor: Listeners, I hope you enjoyed today’s conversation is much as I did. Please remember: this week and every week after; eat smarter, exercise smarter, and live better. Chat with you soon.