Animal Protection > AR Interviews

Wayne Pacelle
CEO, Humane Society of the United States
Fall 2004

Wayne Pacelle, the 38-year-old Connecticut native who last week was elected Chief Executive Officer-Designate of The Humane Society of the United States, promised on Monday, April 26, to engage a broad range of people in a tireless campaign to protect animals, which he called "one of the most important moral causes of this age."

"We have a responsibility," Pacelle told The HSUS staff in a packed conference room at its national headquarters. "Social change is not self-executing. It only happens with human agency, and really that's us as the professional staff of The HSUS. And it's up to all of us...It's up to each one of us to do all we can to advance this incredibly important moral cause.

"One of the things that we also need to do is we need to engage people in this country," Pacelle added. "A professional staff cannot achieve all the successes that we envision in this society. We have to engage people in every community in this country if we're going to hope to succeed, because for us this is not just a job. This is a cause and it's a mission."

The HSUS Board of Directors announced its new CEO-Designate to staff late Friday afternoon, April 23, and made an official public announcement on Monday. Pacelle is expected to assume his new responsibilities in May after his contract is finalized. Pacelle is replacing Paul G. Irwin, whose planned retirement in 2002 was delayed by the board until a replacement could be found.

"Wayne Pacelle has long been one of the nation's leading advocates of social reforms to benefit animals, and our board of directors recognized that we need a leader of his determination and inspiration in facing the challenges of the 21st century," said HSUS Board Chairman David O. Wiebers, a neurologist at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn.

The 1987 Yale University graduate has worked with the Humane Society of the United States since 1994, when he left The Fund for Animals, where he was executive director, to serve as The HSUS's vice president for government affairs and media. Six years ago, Pacelle was promoted to senior vice president of government affairs and communications. In that position, he has been instrumental in passing countless state and federal laws and more than 15 statewide ballot initiatives. He has also served as The HSUS's public persona in various media.

Meet the New Boss

About 100 staff members gathered in the board room for the afternoon meeting with the CEO-Designate, and dozens more were connected by speaker phone. It was the staff's first taste of The HSUS's new era. Pacelle will be only the sixth CEO in The HSUS's 50-year history; the others have included Fred Myers, Oliver Evans, Mel Morse, John Hoyt, and Irwin.

"I think it is especially important that executive leadership be drawn from within the organization, rather than out," Irwin told the staff before Pacelle spoke. "And so, it's great news that our board�has chosen to elect Wayne to this position."

Pacelle assured the staff that "our mission is not going to change at all. Our policy positions won't change." He also noted that Irwin will continue to work with The HSUS, and that Chief of Staff Andrew Rowan will have a "very, very senior position with The HSUS, and I so look forward to working with him in the days and years ahead."

The CEO-Designate did indicate where he would lead the organization in the years ahead: into the crowded pens and battery cages of factory farms.

"We are going to continue the excellent work that this society has done, that all of you have done, but we're going to continue to press ahead because the responsibilities and imperatives ahead of us are enormous," Pacelle said. "We're going to be identifying some major campaigns, one of which is going to be factory farming. It is the greatest abuse of animals that occurs on this planet. Nine billion animals are killed for food every year, and most of them are confined in intensive conditions."

Pacelle also gave staff members a rare insight into a chief executive's psyche: "One of the things that I truly do ask myself every day is, 'Have I done something this day that has materially advanced the cause of animals? Has my time from 8 in the morning until 7 or whenever I leave done something beneficial to improve their lives?' And I think that every person here should be asking that question of himself or herself. So many of you are doing incredible work. We need to keep our eye on the prize, and that prize, of course, is improved treatment of these creatures who cannot speak for themselves."

During a brief question-and-answer session with staff, Pacelle was asked about whether the new factory farming campaign would extend to areas outside the United States. The CEO-Designate took the opportunity to address his international experience.

"Some may be concerned that I have been quite domestically focused," Pacelle responded. "I have been involved in a number of international issues, but I focused domestically because that was principally my charge here�But I even find the divide between domestic and international to be almost a false one these days. It's a global economy, global systems. Animals suffer wherever they are, whether it's within the boundaries of the U.S. or outside."

And with that, Pacelle said he was committed to working with The HSUS's senior executives in charge of international issues. Then he added a final thought about engagement again�and accessibility.

"Obviously, I'll be here and I'll be accessible to you," he said. "I spoke to the board about the issue of engagement: engaging our board, engaging our constituency, engaging the culture at large, but also engaging our staff. So I want to be accessible and available to all of you."