Wayne Pacelle

CEO, Humane Society of the U.S., SCA Alum

SCA Service: 1984, Isle Royale National Park, in northern Michigan
Hometown: New Haven, Connecticut
Current town: Washington, D.C.
College: Yale University
What’s your most memorable SCA moment?
Canoeing alone in the largest lake (Siskiwit Lake) on the largest island (Isle Royale National Park) within the largest freshwater lake in the world (Lake Superior), and hearing the haunting calls of loons, with the water having a tiny ripple, the sun shining so brightly it left only a slight chill in the air, and the leaves of white birch trees fluttering in a soft breeze. I was overwhelmed, feeling humbled by nature’s perfection and so privileged to experience it.

How did SCA impact your life and career?
It was during that summer at Isle Royale that I committed to devote my adult life to the goal of protecting animals and nature. I told myself I would be a bystander no longer. I’ve been doing that work ever since. 

How did you come to dedicate your career to animal advocacy?
Isle Royale was an example of human beings at their best, with the hand of humanity caressing and caring for nature, rather than claiming it as a commodity or doing damage to it in some other way. I knew that we humans could do better, in a broader and bigger way, in our dealings with all animals and nature. That was my take-away conclusion during the contemplative days and nights I spent at one of the most remote and least visited parks in the U.S.
What’s the coolest thing about leading the Humane Society?
The Humane Society of the United States has the power and depth and breadth to take on the biggest problems facing animals – factory farming, the trade in wildlife, the slaughter of marine mammals, puppy mills and street dog management, animal fighting, and so much more. I get to work with extraordinary people who join me in pushing ahead the ideal that animals matter and that we humans must demonstrate responsibility in our dealings with other creatures.

What’s today’s most pressing conservation issue from your perspective? Why?
One of the biggest problems facing the planet is the industrial production of animals in agriculture – we raise and slaughter 70 billion land animals a year. According to the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations, livestock agriculture is responsible for 18 percent of all greenhouse gas emissions. We grow corn and soybeans on millions of acres to feed animals, who then inefficiently convert that plant matter into animal protection. Livestock adversely affect riparian areas, arid regions throughout the world, and even rainforests, which are often razed in order to graze more cattle. We kill wolves and other predators throughout the world to clear the way for grazing. It is an issue of animal welfare, public health, and national and global conservation. We can ameliorate these impacts by making better and more conscious food choices.