Guest Host: Susan Page

Commercial free-range hens

Commercial free-range hens

The animal rights movement has seen some major victories over the last year. Ringling Brothers abandoned its use of circus elephants, Sea World vowed to end its orca breeding program and Walmart announced it will sell only cage free eggs by 2025. The head of the Humane Society of the United States says this is no coincidence. In a new book he argues that technological innovation, combined with heightened consumer awareness, is ushering in a new era of animal protection, one driven by market forces. A look at the future of the “Humane Economy.”


  • Wayne Pacelle President and C.E.O. of the Humane Society of the United States

Read An Excerpt

Reprinted with permission.

The Humane Economy


  • 11:06:54

    MS. SUSAN PAGEThanks for joining us. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. Diane is having a voice treatment. The first major animal rights issue in the United States was the treatment of horses in the country's rapidly growing cities. A solution ultimately came in the form of the automobile. The head of the Humane Society of the United States says just as cars replaced work horses, technology today can alleviate suffering for animals, from factory farming to scientific testing.

  • 11:07:25

    MS. SUSAN PAGECombine this with heightened consumer awareness and, he says, we are on the brink of major shifts in how we treat animals. Wayne Pacelle joins us from a studio at Stanford University to discuss his new book titled "The Humane Economy." Welcome to "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:07:44

    MR. WAYNE PACELLEGlad to be with you.

  • 11:07:45

    PAGEWe invite our listeners to join our conversation. You can call our toll free number. It's 1-800-433-8850. You can send us an email to or find us on Facebook or Twitter. Well, I have your book here in front of me, "The Humane Economy," and the subtitle is "Animal Protection 2.0," 2.O. What does that mean?

  • 11:08:10

    PACELLEWell, it really means we've gotten to a new more sophisticated stage in our society in our human relationship with animals. And in my book, I argue that across different sectors of the economy where animals are used in these different sectors, food and agriculture, cosmetic, chemical and drug testing, wildlife management, fashion, the use of animals in live entertainment, as you talked about in your teaser with Ringling and Seaworld, we're seeing changes in how we're treating animals in every one of these sectors.

  • 11:08:45

    PACELLEAnd just to kind of make the case again as you did in your setup piece, a combination of moral intention, where we know that animals suffer. We humans are acting to alleviate and prevent that suffering combined with new technology and also kind of a broader framework in our society that we all recognize that animal cruelty is wrong. All of that is combining to give us incredible new opportunities and many companies and lawmakers and others are seizing those opportunities and we're at a moment of great change for the good for animals.

  • 11:09:25

    PACELLEIt doesn't mean that things are settled. We've got a lot more work to do, but in my book, I really chronicle some amazing gains just in the last two, three, four years.

  • 11:09:34

    PAGESo let's talk about some of those gains that you've seen just in the past few years. One of them has involved McDonald's use of eggs. And this seems particularly remarkable because, I'm just looking for the statistic, it's something like 3 percent of all the eggs in the United States go to McDonald's. Is that right?

  • 11:09:52

    PACELLEOh, yes. And now, they're -- McDonald's is doing all-day breakfast so that number will increase because the largest, you know, amount of eggs in their servings are for the breakfast items. And they announced the cage-free policy in September 2015 with the Humane Society of the United States and just days later, they announced the all-day breakfast. And I think they were signaling to consumers that, hey, we're a company that's now paying attention to animal welfare.

  • 11:10:16

    PACELLEWe already adopted a policy on no extreme confinement of pigs in gestation crates, which are two-foot by seven-foot cages that effectively immobilize the pigs for three years of their lives, pregnancy after pregnancy. And I saw the McDonald CEO quoted the other day that their profits are up and they said that the new cage-free policy that they've adopted, hasn't been fully implemented yet, is part of the explanation for the increase in sales.

  • 11:10:45

    PAGEYou call this capitalism at its best in that, you know, we can push to pass laws for things that we think are important, but you're saying this is really using consumer pressure to change the way companies, including very large companies, do business.

  • 11:11:03

    PACELLEI mean, capitalism can be terrible for animals. I mean, factory farming is an example of human ingenuity and innovation detached from conscience. But now that we know so much about animals and now that we're getting a look into the operations of factory farms, an informed base of consumers can drive the behavior of corporations. And I think that's my argument here is that, you know, 25 or 30 years ago, when I started an animal protection organization in college, I mean, we were a protest movement.

  • 11:11:37

    PACELLEWe were just trying to be part of the discussion. And some of these ideas, frankly, were just not treated very seriously. Now, I argue that the notion that animal cruelty is wrong as a universal value, every state in the nation has animal cruelty laws and it's a felony in every state now to perpetrate malicious acts of animal cruelty. What we're saying is let's logically apply these anti-cruelty principles to the uses of animals, even legal uses of animals in some of the biggest industries in the U.S.

  • 11:12:10

    PACELLEAnd the biggest industry in terms of the use of animals, by far, is food and agriculture. We raise 9 billion animals, that's billion with a B, every year. The average American eats 30 animals. We eat 260 or so eggs. And that means that there are a huge number of animals caught up in the system. And over the last 50 or 60 years, agriculture moved in a disastrous way, moved from outdoor settings where animals could feel sunlight on their backs and soil beneath their feet and we jammed them into warehouses and then even within those warehouses, we crammed them into cages and crates barely larger than their bodies.

  • 11:12:50

    PACELLEThat was kind of unfettered capitalism where we kind of valued efficiency, but subordinated our values about animal welfare, environmental protection, even public health. Now, we're seeing a correction because consumers are now alert to animal issues and groups like the Humane Society of the U.S. and others are raising these issues. Journalists are writing about them. Undercover investigations are showing the realities of these factories farms. And now, big corporations, like McDonald's and Wal-mart and Burger King and Aramark and Sodexo, are responding.

  • 11:13:24

    PACELLEIt's been just a cascade of announcements we've had on the cage-free issue just in the last seven months.

  • 11:13:29

    PAGENow, here's a comment that we've gotten on our website from a listener who writes, "how much will each type of more humane treatment cost and could that money get better results if it was spent some other way? I'm in favor of cage-free eggs, free-roaming cattle and so on, but I'm living a comfortable middle class life. If I were struggling to feed my children, I wouldn't care about a cow's comfort. I'd just want cheap hamburger."

  • 11:13:54

    PACELLEWell, I think we need to be concerned about all of the core values in our society. Obviously, feeding people is essential, but treating animals well is also essential. I don't think you'd get Wal-mart and McDonald's and Burger King, companies that serve millions and millions of people and do it at a pretty low cost, they did the economic analysis. They determined that the differential cost between extreme cage confinement where we immobilize animals and giving them some opportunity to move around is negligible.

  • 11:14:26

    PACELLESo I think we've really settled that issue in the marketplace. If we hadn't had this cascade of companies announcing these policies, maybe that point would still be in dispute, but I think it's settled. And when you have 150 of the biggest brands in food retail, every big name you can think of has already made these pledges to phase out these purchasing practices from extreme confinement, I think that's settled. I'll also say that one part of my book is to argue for a proper economic accounting.

  • 11:14:57

    PACELLEFactory farming has produced cheap meat at the cash register, but those costs have not been fully tabulated for us as a society. Not only do we give enormous subsidies to big agriculture and specifically animal agriculture, but there is enormous waste that comes from these factory farms that pollutes our streams and putrefies our air and drops property values in these communities. There are public health threats from the overuse of antibiotics with the possibility of antibiotic resistant bacteria really creating catastrophic health circumstances for us.

  • 11:15:32

    PACELLEWhen we really have a proper accounting, we'll see that this meat doesn't quite come as cheaply as we think. And when we do better from an animal welfare perspective, we have many fewer collateral costs in our society.

  • 11:15:45

    PAGEYou know, the approach on this in the United States has really turned out to be different than the approach in Europe. Europe has passed legislation really across the continent on the treatment of farm animals. That's legislation that hasn't gone very far here in the United States. Why the difference?

  • 11:16:02

    PACELLEGreat question, Susan. I think that what happened here -- and we tried. We're a strong group, the Humane Society of the U.S. and we pushed in Congress, but the farm lobby has legendary power in the corridors of Congress and many of the bills that would address these problems go to agriculture committees, which are dominated by lawmakers from more rural districts, very aligned with the agribusiness interests. You know, to kind of take a popular term in our presidential debate, the system is rigged in Congress for the farm lobby.

  • 11:16:35

    PACELLEAnd we saw that. We tried very diligently. In fact, we reach an agreement with the egg industry and the beef and pork lobbies and the farm bureau blocked an accord to set a new minimum standard for the treatment of laying hens. But we're determined campaigners at our organization and that's when we went in the corporate realm and we started talking with folks, but the big pivot point was when we did a ballot measure seven or eight years ago in California called Proposition 2.

  • 11:17:05

    PACELLEIt was a ballot measure to stop the extreme confinement of veal calves, breeding sows and laying hens. And what happened, despite a huge campaign by agribusiness groups to defeat it, we go nearly two-thirds of the vote in California. And I think that was a wake-up moment for McDonald's and Wal-mart and all these big companies that have so many products and probably just kind of wanted to keep charging ahead with their business model, but they said, hey, we're really misaligned with our consumers on animal welfare.

  • 11:17:35

    PACELLEAnd the California vote was a great indicator of that. And you can really draw a straight line from the electoral outcome on Prop 2, which was that same night, of course, that Obama won his first victory for president, and all of these policies that we've now enacted with these major food retailers.

  • 11:17:53

    PAGERight. We're talking to Wayne Pacelle. He's president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. He's written a new book called "The Humane Economy." We're gonna take a short break. When we come back, we'll go to the phones. We'll take some of your questions and comments, 1-800-433-8850. Give us a call.

  • 11:20:02

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today sitting in for Diane Rehm. We're talking this hour with Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. He's got a new book out, it's called "The Humane Economy: Animal Protection 2.0: How Innovators and Enlightened Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals." And we want to go to the phones and let you ask your questions, join our conversation. We're going to go first to Elizabeth, who's calling us from Birmingham, Ala. Elizabeth, you're on "The Diane Rehm Show."

  • 11:20:32

    ELIZABETHHi. Thank you for taking my call. This is a very important subject to me. I was wondering how the laws in our country regulate zoos and as zoos are a good or bad thing in our society?

  • 11:20:45

    PAGEThat's an interesting question, Elizabeth. What do you think, Wayne? What's happening with -- when it comes to the animals that are held in zoos?

  • 11:20:52

    PACELLEIt's a very significant issue. And we estimate that there are about 220 accredited zoos. And they're accredited by a private organization called the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. There an additional 2,000, what we call, roadside zoos or menageries that may have a chimpanzee in a cage or they may have tiger cubs that you can come and pet and take a picture with. In terms of the law, the U.S. Department of Agriculture enforces a law called the Animal Welfare Act. And it really is just about minimum care standards, that the animals are being fed regularly, that they have clean water, that there's not some protruding object in the enclosures.

  • 11:21:35

    PACELLEAnd you're inspected by the USDA if you put animals on exhibition, which is what zoos and aquariums do. So we work with many of the accredited zoos in the country on a variety of issues. And generally those standards have been improving over time. We still have criticisms of some exhibits and some practices. But the big problem are these roadside zoos. You go into many communities in the U.S. and you'll see these tiger-cub petting or bear-cub petting or these chimpanzees or other animals often living in overcrowded, insufficient environments with very little professional attention, very little enrichment, often inadequate nutrition -- a big problem.

  • 11:22:17

    PAGEAll right. Elizabeth, thanks very much for your call. Here's an email from Kelsey, who's listening in Charlotte, N.C. Kelsey writes, How can I tell if my eggs and meat are produced in a humane way at the supermarket? I know certain items are advertised as free range or cage free, but how do I know for sure that meat is produced humanely? What are some of the most humane food brands out there for consumers in the supermarket? So, Wayne, somebody goes to the supermarket and wants to do the right thing. What can they look for?

  • 11:22:45

    PACELLEWell, this is a real challenge. And the problem is that we're deeply disassociated from our food. You know, we get food in a restaurant, we get it in a supermarket, and it's very difficult to know the back story just by looking at the labeling. Because we really have no federal animal welfare standards that are enforced on the farm. The only significant federal law that exists on the farm animal front is the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, which stipulates that animals have to be rendered insensible to pain prior to being slaughtered.

  • 11:23:17

    PACELLEUnfortunately, this law, originally written in the 1950s, excludes poultry. And chickens and turkeys represent more than 95 percent of all animals slaughtered on the farm. So our federal government has absolutely, positively failed in terms of oversight and regulation. You can trust, generally speaking, these descriptors on egg cartons that say cage free, free range, pasture based. Cage free literally means the animals are not in a small, wire cage. It doesn't mean that they have freedom to roam in a pasture. The free-range description essentially does guarantee that the animals have outdoor access and they have access to pasture.

  • 11:23:59

    PACELLESo you can take these descriptors and just generally get a sense that the animals have more extensive living circumstances if it's a free-range sort of system. What we're trying to achieve at the Humane Society and what I talk about in the book is that we're creating a new minimum standard in our society through corporate behavior with all of these big food retailers -- the fast-food companies, the food-service companies, the grocery stores -- now basically all saying that they're going to transition to cage-free production. We would love to codify that at some point in the law and not just rely on these companies to behave properly.

  • 11:24:36

    PAGEHere's Billy calling us from Dayton, OH. Billy, you're on the air.

  • 11:24:40

    BILLYHi. Thank you so much for accepting my call. My concern is -- and this is a topic that means a lot to me, dearly -- my concern is that these larger corporations like McDonald's are coining phrases like cage free as a gimmick to just increase the excess in consumerism. And I don't believe -- and it sounds like that it might have been touched on in the last comment -- but my concern is that it's not truly, you know, a better environment for the chickens that are being raised in these situations.

  • 11:25:17

    BILLYYou know, it's -- just because they're cage free doesn't mean that they're not plugged into these giant warehouses of rooms where they have, you know, no room between them and they're just, you know, inseminated pregnancy after pregnancy, and just laying these chick, you know, laying eggs time and time again in these confined conditions. So I guess my comment/question for the guest is, is what you think this means, you know, in terms of the larger debate for animal welfare.

  • 11:25:48

    BILLYIs this just a gimmick by companies like McDonald's to increase it and getting in on these, you know, trigger words of cage free, when, in reality, they really have not much more of a meaning, you know, outside of words like fresh or natural and stuff like that, these words that aren't really regulated. And I'll take any response off the air. Thank you.

  • 11:26:10

    PAGEBilly, thanks very much.

  • 11:26:12

    PACELLEYeah, I -- Billy, thank you for the question. It's an important one and you're probing these issues. I do think it's very meaningful. These companies responded because of pressure from the Humane Society of the U.S. and other animal welfare groups. And that is positive movement. We need to celebrate it. And I tell you, I've been on these huge factory farms. I talk about it in the book, where I went to a 10-million bird facility in central Iowa. I went to many egg farms. I went to pig farms. I went to all sorts of farms in doing the work and research for this book. But there were 10-million birds. There were 150,000 birds per building and there were 93 buildings.

  • 11:26:51

    PACELLEAnd the birds were jammed six or eight to a cage. Each hen had less than -- less space than two-thirds of the size of an 8 1/2" by 11" sheet of paper. I mean, they were shoulder to shoulder. It would be like six or eight adults in a small elevator and never able to get out. So cage free is a dramatic improvement. It is real. But cage free doesn't necessarily mean cruelty free. You've got to have good stewardship of the animals. And then when you get access to pasture and you have animals getting other forms of enrichment, that improves their circumstances.

  • 11:27:27

    PAGEAll right. Jacqueline is calling us from St. Louis, Mo. Jacqueline, hi. You're on the air.

  • 11:27:32

    JACQUELINEHi. Thank you so much for taking my call. Long-time listener, first-time caller.

  • 11:27:36

    PAGEWell, great.

  • 11:27:37

    JACQUELINEI'm doing my senior thesis at University of Missouri, St. Louis, on the exotic animal trade in Missouri. And I've done several field visits to an exotic animal auction and a chimpanzee facility. And what I have found is that the Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act are not properly enforced in the state. And I was wondering if your guest had any suggestions as to how we could properly enforce these while it already exists? And I will be happy to take my answer off the air.

  • 11:28:02

    PAGEJacqueline, before you go off the air, though, let me ask you...

  • 11:28:04

    JACQUELINEOh, sure.

  • 11:28:04

    PAGE...what got you interested in this type of work? Why did you decide to do your senior thesis on this topic?

  • 11:28:10

    JACQUELINESo, I traveled to Sierra Leone in 2013, saw (word?) chimpanzees. And what I found was that there was a very complex relationship between humans and animals that was more -- that required more attention than just my behavioral studies of these animals. So when I came back to Missouri, I started, you know, researching different topics for my senior thesis. And it was my adviser, actually, Dr. Sarah Lacy from the University of Missouri that kind of advised me and supported this interest. And we found this topic together and she's been helping me out with the master. So it's been really great.

  • 11:28:40

    PAGEAnd, assuming that you graduate with great honors, which I'm sure you will, what -- do you hope to use this in your career after graduation?

  • 11:28:48

    JACQUELINEYes. I actually just accepted a position as a political organizer for a company, a nonprofit called Impact and I'll be starting in Boston in August.

  • 11:28:56

    PAGEAll right. Great to hear. Wayne, why don't I give you a chance to respond to Jacqueline's question?

  • 11:29:02

    PACELLEWell, the exotic animal trade is a serious problem. There are multiple uses of exotic animals. One is for pets. People keep tigers, people keep primates, people keep large constricting snakes as pets. Some animals are funneled into captive hunting facilities, where they're shot in fenced enclosures in a guaranteed kill arrangement. Others are shuttled between roadside zoos and other menageries where people pay some money to go see these animals or pet them. So a really ugly business. We saw this a few years ago in Ohio, where there was an emotionally troubled man, he just got out of jail. He let 50 exotic animals out in eastern Ohio and they ran through the town before sheriff's deputies killed most of them.

  • 11:29:47

    PACELLEWe saw the case in Connecticut of a woman who came to help her friend who had an angry captive chimpanzee and the woman was disfigured by that chimp. That chimp came from Missouri, which is really an incubator of the exotic animal trade. The Missouri legislature is one of the worst in the country on animal welfare. They're pro-puppy mills, they're pro-factory farming, they're pro-exotic animal trade. They resisted any reasonable efforts to restrict the trade in these animals. And the USDA, under the Animal Welfare Act, has standards. But many of these animals are moving between state lines and the USDA just doesn't have the power.

  • 11:30:23

    PACELLEWe're working to strengthen the laws on exotic animals. We've got several bills in Congress on this issue right now.

  • 11:30:28

    PAGEWell, it sounds to me like Jacqueline is in the right place then. Here's an email from Del, who writes us from Florida. Del writes, it's wonderful to be concerned about humane farming. But I will bet, if you took a survey, you would find people are more concerned about the high euthanasia rate of dogs and cats due to a lack of easier, cost-effective ways to get them spayed or neutered. Certainly, by now, somebody should have invented a pill or something. Well, Wayne, I know you were on "The Diane Rehm Show" back in 2004 and you were telling people then to avoid pet stores when looking to buy a dog or cat. What's happening now when it comes to trying to avoid euthanasia for stray dogs and cats?

  • 11:31:09

    PACELLEWell, the emailer will be pleased. I've got a full chapter on this issue in my book. And I celebrate two companies, PetSmart and Petco, that have upended the pet store model. And now they open their stores to rescue groups and shelters and make homeless animals available for adoption in their stores. And since they started this program, 11 million dogs and cats have been adopted from their 2,500 or so stores. That has helped us chip away at the euthanasia problem of healthy and adoptable dogs and cats. I note that, in the mid-1970s, there were 15- to 20-million dogs and cats euthanized in American shelters every year. Now it's about 2.5 million, which is 2.5 million too many, but dramatically down.

  • 11:31:54

    PACELLEAnd I think this is just an issue of we've got to make getting a rescue animal cool. Rescue animals are great on so many levels. They -- it's usually a human problem, you know, someone moving, that results in the animals being relinquished.

  • 11:32:09

    PAGEI'm Susan Page and you're listening to "The Diane Rehm Show." We're taking your calls and questions, 1-800-433-8850. Well, you know, you mentioned Petco and PetSmart stopping selling dogs and cats at their stores, allowing the adoption of stray animals at their sites. They don't get any money for that. They don't get a fee for every adoption. So what is the capitalist explanation -- excuse me -- for why they've been willing to do this?

  • 11:32:36

    PACELLEWell, it's been quite extraordinary, Susan. The data show that people who adopt animals from the stores are likely to spend five times as much money as a regular customer going to the store. So you get kind of a psychic high from saving this animal and bringing a new family member into your life. And it has also given a broader sort of halo effect to the company that, here's a company that's kind of doing something to make money in terms of pet supplies and pet-related activities, but they're now contributing to a broader societal solution on the issue.

  • 11:33:08

    PACELLEAnd this is really a core thesis of my book is that, when companies embrace animal welfare as a core ethic, they get opportunities to succeed. When they have animal cruelty build into the business model, it's going to be a drag with an alert consumer base that doesn't want that sort of activity.

  • 11:33:26

    PAGEYou know, it's also a very American solution it seems to me. You know, we talked earlier in the hour about why Europe has passed legislation that regulates treatment of farm animals. It seems to me, in the United States, Americans are much more likely to embrace a system where consumers are pressuring companies to do -- take behaviors that they support. You know, we've seen that even in some of this legislation passed in North Carolina and Mississippi involving treatment of transgender people, where it's really been the corporate response that has pressured governors and legislatures.

  • 11:33:59

    PACELLEClose parallels, I think, with the corporations in America basically trying to honor a standard and then really pushing lawmakers in this case to do better or to change. I will say that, for us, you know, we believe in representative government. We also believe in direct democracy. We do a lot of ballot measures at the Human Society. The reason that we've been forced to move into the corporate realm is because lawmakers in so many states and also in the Congress have blocked sensible reforms. We believe that government has an important role, partly because there's such an asymmetry in power between humans and animals.

  • 11:34:35

    PACELLEI mean, humans can do anything they want to animals. We hold all the cards. Laws exist to keep order in society, but they also exist to shield victims from abuse. And that's what laws for animal cruelty -- or against animal cruelty should be doing.

  • 11:34:51

    PAGELet's go to Baltimore, Md., and talk to Ashley. Ashley, hi. Do you have a question or a comment?

  • 11:34:56

    ASHLEYOh, hi. Yes, I do. And thank you for taking my call. I think it's really nice to be hearing about, like, moving towards cage free and free range and stuff. But I was kind of wondering maybe why, in your book, you don't discuss -- well, I mean, I haven't read the book but you haven't discussed it yet on the radio -- just about the increase in the vegan movement and how that's kind of a better solution to animal cruelty, not eating them or killing them at all?

  • 11:35:21

    PAGENow -- Ashley, thanks for your call. Now, Wayne, you, yourself, are a vegan. Is that correct?

  • 11:35:26

    PACELLEYes. Thirty-one years I've been a vegan. So I -- when I was a college student and I saw what was happening on factory farms, I just decided I didn't want any part of it. And I do, Ashley, talk about this extensively. In fact, I have a chapter in the book called, The Chicken or the Egg or Neither. And in this chapter, I talk about the incredible innovations that we're seeing in food and technology with plant-based proteins and even lab-grown meat.

  • 11:35:54

    PACELLEAnd, Susan, I want to read the opening quote in that chapter three of "The Humane Economy." It's from Sir Winston Churchill, who wrote, in 1931 in an essay titled, "Fifty Years Hence." He said, we shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing by growing these parts separately under suitable medium. Synthetic food will, from the outset, be practically indistinguishable from natural products. I mean, this is an extraordinary quote from an extraordinary leader nearly a century ago.

  • 11:36:28

    PACELLEAnd he predicted, 50 years, that that would be the norm. It's not but it is upon us. And I visited -- in the course of doing the research on my book -- I visited with Andras Forgacs who's got a company in Brooklyn called Modern Meadow that's growing meat in a lab. That's meat, like the tissue, but without the heart or the brain or the bones or any of the moral problems associated with raising animals for food. And then I talked with Ethan Brown with Beyond Meat, who is replicating chicken with plant-based proteins. They've got a new burger coming out that bleeds. It's incredible. Human technology can do so much.

  • 11:37:05

    PACELLEAnd I talked to folks at Hampton Creek, a San Francisco-based company that is producing a plant-based egg, with all of the nutritional properties but none of the moral problems.

  • 11:37:14

    PAGEWe're talking to Wayne Pacelle. He's the author of a new book, "The Humane Economy: Animal Protection 2.0." We're going to take a short break. When we come back, we'll go back to your questions, your comments, your emails. Stay with us.

  • 11:40:01

    PAGEWelcome back. I'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting in for Diane Rehm. Wayne Pacelle is talking with us from Stanford University. He's the author of a new book, "The Humane Economy." He's also president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. You know, right before the break, Wayne, you were talking about visiting scientists who are doing what's called biofabrication, which is creating meat or meat-like substances without actually involving growing an animal and slaughtering it. How did it taste?

  • 11:40:33

    PACELLEWell, you know, I must say, Susan, because I've been a vegan for so long, I -- and I talk about this in the book, I had some reluctance in kind of sacrificing my veganism for this little beef jerky that (unintelligible) provided. You know, I must say it didn't explode with richness and taste in my mouth, but I don't think the normal stuff would have, either. I have no doubt that we're going to do better and better. It's almost like computing.

  • 11:40:59

    PACELLEYou know, the first computer were a bit clunky and slow. They get better every year. And I think these entrepreneurs and innovators, and there are so many of them now, are growing meat in a lab. You've got Sergey Brin of Google, who is backing some of this going on in Europe. You've got other capitalists and philanthropists who are backing it. it's just going to be a revolution. Food and technology are going to offer us new opportunities to do familiar things with food. But it will be different in terms of the treatment of the animals.

  • 11:41:30

    PAGEYou of course are -- have devoted your life to the treatment of animals, and you're a vegan. Do you think that the fact that animals are bred and slaughtered for food is itself a form of cruelty?

  • 11:41:44

    PACELLEWell, you know, I have chosen this lifestyle because it was easy enough for me to pursue a plant-based diet. I do really believe, and certainly as president of the Humane Society, in kind of a heterodox approach on animal protection. I don't think there's just one way to do things. I want to be inclusive. I want to bring people into the cause who want to take little steps. If they want to spay and neuter their animals to reduce the pet overpopulation problem, great. If they want to buy cosmetics that aren't tested on animals, fabulous.

  • 11:42:10

    PACELLEIf they want to shun fur, I love it. Please come along. Be part of us. But I do think it's important for all of us to think about our food choices because whether we realize it or not, even though we're not involved in the violence of animal slaughter or the raising of animals on factory farms, we're connected to it through these markets.

  • 11:42:30

    PACELLESo we're not doing it ourselves because so few of us are directly involved in agriculture, but somebody's doing it for us. And whether that supply chain stretches 100 miles or 1,000 or 5,000 miles, we should be thinking about it because our food choices have enormous implications for animals. I mean, just from an environmental perspective, we're raising 77 billion animals a year for food in the world. Now 70 percent of our Earth's surface is covered by water. Of the terrestrial landscape, a lot of it is rock and ice. We cannot sustain this.

  • 11:43:00

    PACELLEThat's why so many of our grains, our corn and soybeans are fed to animals rather than to people, and those animals are inefficiently converting that plant matter into animal protein. From an environmental perspective, this is a real problem. If the rest of the world adopts our dietary habits, we will need four Earths, according to Mark Bittman, and I did an In Conversation with him at Barnes & Noble the other night. It's just not sustainable what we're doing with all this meat eating and raising of animals for food.

  • 11:43:30

    PAGENow here's an email from Ann. She writes, one of the problems for farmers is that environmental regulations often require you to keep the -- require you to keep the animals in a confined area because it's easier to manage the waste. Strict environmental regulations are leading to ever-larger farming operations as these are the only farms who can afford the technology and record-keeping needed to comply with ever more stringent government regulations. Is that true?

  • 11:43:56

    PACELLENo, I don't agree with that. I think that, you know, we have thousands of small farmers in this country who are raising animals on pasture and actually being farmers. There are certain subsidies that some of the big agribusiness operations get with waste management subsidies that flow to them. But overall, you know, there's this notion that somehow the EPA is doing something terrible and overreaching with farmers. I mean, that's what I hear from some sectors of the factory farming industry. I don't think it's true. I think the EPA needs to strengthen its waste management protocols.

  • 11:44:33

    PACELLEWe're talking about nine billion animals producing such enormous volumes of waste, and all of it is untreated. You know, 320 million Americans produce waste. Our waste is treated. All the waste from these animals is not. It's going somewhere. It's going into the environment. And, you know, we're tied to it. As I said, the average American eats 30 animals a year. If we just went meatless one day a week, we have a program called Meatless Monday, if we could reduce consumption by 15 percent, we would save a billion and a half animals, and we would also have all of these other salutary environmental benefits from that reduction in the number of animals used.

  • 11:45:10

    PAGEAnn, thank you so much for your email and for offering us your perspective. I've got -- I'd like to read an email also from Frank, who writes us from Cleveland. He says, what is the Humane Society doing to ensure that employees in the poultry and other food areas are treated and paid better? It would be a sad message that we are more concerned about animal welfare than the oppressed humans. What would you say to Frank?

  • 11:45:35

    PACELLEWell, I would say number one, the Humane Society has an enormous agenda. I mean, we're trying to have humans do better in their relationship with animals, and it has so many manifestations. We are absolutely overwhelmed with the array of problems that exist for animals. I will say that while it's not, you know, a core focus of us, he's absolutely right about the mistreatment of these workers, and I don't think it's surprising an industry that callously treats animals, treats them as commodities and things and just meat-, milk-, and egg-producing machines is probably also going to exhibit that same kind of non-empathetic response to its workers.

  • 11:46:09

    PACELLEAnd, you know, in my book I do talk about how at some slaughterhouses the turnover rate is 100 percent a year. You could visit a slaughter plant, you know, on April 30, 2016, and then go there April 30, 2017, and not see a familiar face. I mean, this is punishing, crushing, morally deadening work. And, you know, the wages are terrible, the conditions are horrible. I mean, Upton Sinclair wrote about this in 1906 in "The Jungle," and if you go to these plants today, you see many, many problems. You see immigrant communities largely populating these plants, whether the factory farms or the slaughter plants.

  • 11:46:45

    PAGEWe have a very international tone to this hour. Earlier we took a question from Moscow, Ohio, and now we're going to go to Peru, Illinois, and talk to Bobby. Bobby, hi.

  • 11:46:55

    BOBBYHi. I had a question regarding reducing animal abuse. If you reduce animal abuse, is there any correlation to reducing other forms of abuse in our society like domestic violence, child abuse, one if you -- like if animal abuse is lowered or we take care to treat animals better, is there any research that shows we're treating other forms of life in our society better? Thank you.

  • 11:47:18

    PAGEBobby, interesting question. Wayne, what do you think?

  • 11:47:23

    PACELLEBobby and Susan, thank you. No question about a meticulously documented connection here. In 75 percent of cases where there's animal abuse in a home, there's also some other form of domestic violence. So there's spousal abuse or child abuse. So one day it's the pet, another day it's a person. And we also see this when we raid dog fighting operations and cock fighting operations, many of the people involved in these enterprises are involved in other criminal conduct.

  • 11:47:50

    PACELLESo this is really part of my thesis, that when we're good to animals, when we don't put them on factory farms, when we don't stage fights between them, when we, you know, don't abuse them in circus acts, we have better outcomes for the whole of society. And the correlation between animal cruelty and human violence is absolutely documented. We've done a lot of lawmaking on this in the states and even the federal government.

  • 11:48:14

    PAGEYou're going to have a kind of landmark on Sunday. That will be the last day that an elephant will perform in a Ringling Brothers circus. This has been a really long battle on your part. Tell us about the past battle and why you finally have prevailed on this issue.

  • 11:48:31

    PACELLEWell, this -- this really was a small thing from an animal welfare perspective because, you know, there are just dozens of elephants used by Ringling, and compared to other forms of animal abuse, that -- it doesn't rise just in raw numbers to the levels that we see in other industries. But symbolically it was tremendously significant. Ringling Brothers has been using elephants for decades. They've been at the center of the brand of Ringling.

  • 11:48:55

    PACELLEAnd the criticism was that this became customary in the circus industry to chain elephants for 22 hours a day, let them off the chains just for the two hours when they're walking to the arena or performing or walking back, and they were shuttled between Detroit and Chicago and Milwaukee and Minneapolis and all over the country. They're on the road 350 days a year. And it's just not the life for one of these creatures.

  • 11:49:20

    PACELLEAnd, you know, I think, and I talk about in the book, that Las Vegas used to be full of animal acts. They had Siegfried & Roy with the white tigers, there were elephants who walked through the casinos. Now you can't see an elephant -- an animal act in the whole city, and now it's been replaced by Cirque du Soleil. And this is part of my argument in the book that innovation and creativity are giving us great entertainment options without any of the animal cruelty, and it's a wonderful thing that Ringling has advanced to this point. We're going to celebrate on May 1 that elephants will no longer be used in traveling acts. And we're seeing other circuses shed their use of elephants, as well.

  • 11:49:57

    PAGEAnd what prompted the change in Las Vegas?

  • 11:50:02

    PACELLEI think just this rising tide of concern about animal welfare and also the new creative activities. The folks who create Cirque du Soleil, who were street performers in Montreal, they built this enormous, billion-dollar company, you know, using human acrobatics. And I think that is one of the other theses in my book. It's not just that we're more alert to the sense -- to the physical well-being of animals. We're also just doing things better and more efficiently. You see this in chemical testing and cosmetic testing. I mean, we used to poison animals as a way to assess risk when we were going to use these products or have chemicals in commercial use. Now we have much more reliable methods, which are really kind of independently created of a moral sort of force behind the creation of these new technologies.

  • 11:50:53

    PACELLEAnd that's what we've seen in the entertainment industry. You see this in the movies. Computer-generated imagery, "The Jungle Book" now, which is the number one movie in the country, is all computer-generated imagery. "Noah" that Darren Aronofsky did, I talked with him my book, you know, what movie has a higher degree of difficulty than in representing animals than Noah? You need two of everything. He couldn't do it with live animals. So he did it with CGI, and that's what we're seeing in the movie industry, as well.

  • 11:51:20

    PAGEI'm Susan Page, and you're listening to the Diane Rehm Show. We're taking your calls, 800-433-8850. Let's go to Mattawa, Washington, and talk to Matt. Matt, thanks for holding on.

  • 11:51:32

    MATTThank you. I was wondering about your stance on hunting compared to factory farming.

  • 11:51:41

    PACELLESure. I have extensive writings in the book about the changes in wildlife management. And I really do take on more of the trophy hunting issue. I'm not so much taking on the issue of a person who is shooting a deer and eating the animal for food. You might argue that that is actually less inhuman or more humane than procuring animal products from a factory farm.

  • 11:52:08

    PACELLEBut I really talk about Cecil, last July, the lion who was killed by a trophy hunter from Minnesota, and how he took this animal, who was so watched and beloved, from this national park, and not only did he, you know, perpetrate an act of cruelty, in my opinion, but he also kind of deducted from the experiences of the rest of us to see this incredible animal in the wild.

  • 11:52:32

    PACELLEAnd I talk about the economics of wildlife, especially in the context of Africa but also in the U.S., that keeping the living capital around, elephants, tigers, lions, allows to ecotourism. These animals can be watched 100 or 1,000 or 10,000 times. They can be shot only once. We can monetize wildlife appreciation and get more revenue for nations like Botswana and Kenya than by offering up animals for trophy killing purposes, where you're not even eating the meat, you're just on a headhunting exercise.

  • 11:53:04

    PAGEMary's calling us from Milton, Florida. Hi Mary.

  • 11:53:07

    MARYGood morning. Excuse me. I wanted to comment on the fact, I grew up in Northwest Iowa, back in the '50s and '60s, where, you know, raising hogs and cattle was just a part of life and really added, I think, to the community spirit because everybody was involved in it. I moved back there after a long absence, probably 25, 30 years, to take a job. I was stunned by the difference in -- not only in the environment because of the huge hog confinements now that exist there but also by the impact that that had on the community itself and how people -- well, if you've never lived near a hog confinement, I don't think you understand how horrible it is.

  • 11:53:50

    MARYWe actually moved to Florida, in part to get away from it, because the smell is so overwhelming. On certain days you can't even go outside. It's just awful. And the effluence from the confinements themselves are not well-contained. So you never know, you know, about planting your own stuff. So -- and there is another impact, too, and I obviously am concerned about the animals. That's -- it's just terrible.

  • 11:54:16

    MARYIt also has an impact on the community spirit. It's much more depressed. The economy has gone way downhill for small farmers and few holdouts who are still doing their own free-range or cage-free or whatever thing with chickens and hogs. They're such a minority, and people kind of look down on them and say, oh, why don't you get with the program and make some money.

  • 11:54:40

    MARYSo it's I think environmentally all around for both creatures or animals and human beings, it's just a bad situation.

  • 11:54:48

    PAGEWell, you know, Mary, from -- in Iowa, which is a big, rural state, lots of hogs and chickens and so on, are -- have you seen the same change in attitudes that Wayne is talking about in other places, like in California, that prompted of the referendum on free-grade -- on cage-free eggs?

  • 11:55:08

    MARYI haven't. We haven't lived there for about nine years. So I don't -- I'm not sure what's going on there now. I know that it has been maybe about five or six years since there was a huge raid on a meat processing plant in Northeastern Iowa, where it was mostly immigrants, a lot of undocumented immigrants who were working there. And suddenly someone came in, some -- I don't know what group it was, but they basically came in and arrested the workers and shipped many off to wherever they came from.

  • 11:55:42

    MARYSo I don't know if that's causing any difference or not. I really...

  • 11:55:45

    PAGEMary, thanks so much. It's great to hear your perspective and your experience. And is this an issue, Wayne, on which there's kind of a rural-urban divide?

  • 11:55:53

    PACELLETo some degree, but I think Mary's point is spot on, that somehow there's this notion that improving animal welfare, improving environmental protection, is against the values of rural people. I mean, they're the folks who are experiencing it most directly. So we're working with small farmers all across the country. You know, we've got agriculture councils with the Humane Society of the U.S. in 12 states in the Midwest. I reject the idea that somehow being concerned about animals and concerned about the environment is against rural people and rural communities, quite the contrary.

  • 11:56:24

    PACELLEI mean, we need animal welfare, and we need environmental protection to value rural communities.

  • 11:56:30

    PAGEHere we have an email from Kelva, who says as a child growing up, one of my favorite books was "Black Beauty," published in 1877. It brought to light the cruelty to horses, dogs and farm animals. Did it have an effect in England at the time. Do you know, Wayne?

  • 11:56:45

    PACELLEOh absolutely. I mean, this was really a seminal work in animal protection. There were a number of 19th-century books that really sparked interest. And you saw the humane movement arise after the civil war ended and the first organizations that were fighting for the horse. So "Black Beauty" obviously was in line with that.

  • 11:57:05

    PACELLEAnd we actually have our largest animal care center at the Humane Society of the U.S. and the Fund for Animals, it's called the Black Beauty Ranch outside of Dallas, Texas. It's the largest animal sanctuary in the country, with 1,200 animals, including more than 600 horses.

  • 11:57:18

    PAGEKelva, thank you so much for reminding us about that wonderful book. And thanks to you, Wayne Pacelle, for joining us this hour to talk about your new book, "The Humane Economy."

  • 11:57:28

    PACELLEThank you.

  • 11:57:28

    PAGEI'm Susan Page of USA Today, sitting for Diane Rehm. Thanks for listening.

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