BOOKS: The Bond
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, May 2011:
The Bond: Our Kinship with Animals, Our Call to Defend Them
by Wayne Pacelle
William Morrow/Harper Collins
(10 East 53rd St., New York, NY 10022), 2011.
432 pages, hardcover. $26.95.
Wayne Pacelle, in The Bond: Our Kindship with Animals, Our
Call to Defend Them, becomes the third president of the Humane
Society of the U.S. to produce a book during his tenure, but the
first whose book is a work of sole authorship.
Longtime Pacelle associate Mike Markarian describes The Bond
as “one of the first major political books for animals, looking back
on political activity in the movement and calling folks to action on
political advocacy for animals in the future. A quarter-century
ago,” Markarian accurately notes, “legislative activity and
political organizing on behalf of animal protection was scarce.”
Animal advocates lobbied politicians and inundated them with
calls and letters of protest, as they had for more than 100 years,
but did not take an active role in either electing or defeating
candidates for public office.
Pro-animal ballot initiatives had been put before the voters
of several states during the preceding 50 years, but had either been
defeated or, when victorious, were soon repealed by the state
Pacelle was not the first animal advocate to mobilize voters
to defeat an incumbent politician who took an anti-animal position.
That honor went to Companion Animal Network founder Garo Alexanian,
who toppled House of Representatives member Bill Green in 1992. But
Pacelle noticed that Alexanian succeeded by just identifying fewer
than 1,000 pro-animal swing voters in Green’s precinct, then sending
each one a postcard on the eve of the election, bearing a reminder
about Green’s voting record–which, ironically, was considered
positive by several national humane organizations.
As national director of the Fund for Animals, assisted and
eventually succeeded by Markarian, Pacelle chiefly led
confrontational protests. His emulation of British hunt saboteur
tactics backfired when within five years every U.S. state had passed
anti-hunter harassment laws.
Jumping from the Fund to HSUS in 1994, where for 10 years
Pacelle was vice president for legislation, Pacelle at first lobbied
in the traditional manner. By 1996, however, Pacelle had begun to
emphasize grassroots political organizing, with increasing success
both in passing ballot initiatives and in mobilizing voting blocks to
either reward or punish politicians for their positions on animal
issues. Ascending to the HSUS presidency in 2004, Pacelle within
six months brokered a merger with the Fund for Animals and created
the Humane Society Legislative Fund, headed by Markarian.
As a young activist Pacelle hoped to form what he termed a
“National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement,” meaning
an organization to which politicians would have to listen. Twenty
years later, the NRA, the American American Veterinary Medical
Association, and the Farm Bureau Federation, among other frequent
foes of pro-animal legislation, are increasingly often fighting
rearguard defensive battles in state capital corridors to avoid
making concessions to animal advocacy, because they are no longer
able to win against animals in the open court of public opinion, and
in each recent election have lost numerous legislative allies.
Many of the gains for animals achieved through grassroots
organizing strategy are small, incremental, and allow the animal
use industries years of phase-in time, during which the industries
predictably lobby to weaken or erase the new animal care standards.
Pacelle sees this as the beginning, not the end, of raising public
expectations about how animals are treated and impressing upon the
industry the need to accept change.
The Bond is neither a deep philosophical tome nor a
personally revealing autobiography, but Pacelle outlines the ideas
that have most influenced him, and offers some personal vignettes.
His summaries of issues and how they have evolved offer no news to
any longtime reader of ANIMAL PEOPLE, but are accurate both in
outline and, mostly, in detail. Stumbles come chiefly in
discussing companion animal issues, where Pacelle credits several
former HSUS employees for larger roles than they really had in
introducing ways, means, and motivation for reducing shelter
killing. Pacelle overlooks that one of those ex-employees–Ed
Duvin–was fired by HSUS for taking the “no-kill” positions that he
did, and that HSUS vehemently opposed many of the new directions in
sheltering until early in Pacelle’s own tenure as president.
The Bond is essentially a well-informed extended campaign
speech, seeking to win friends and to avoid making enemies. Pacelle
attacks the NRA, AVMA, and Farm Bureau Federation, but avoids
criticism of other animal advocates. His only major discussion of
tactical differences within animal advocacy pertains to his decision
to accept football player and convicted dogfighter Michael Vick as a
public spokesperson for HSUS in opposition to dogfighting. Pacelle
acknowledges other activists’ reasons for skepticism, but concludes
that if the cause is to progress, activists must allow people who
formerly exploited and abused animals the opportunity to demonstrate
that they have changed.
The books by Pacelle’s predecessors John Hoyt and Paul
Irwin, could also be described as extended campaign speeches, but
were cobbled together from essays by numerous HSUS senior staff.
Hoyt in Animals In Peril: How “Sustainable Use” Is Wiping
Out The World’s Wildlife (1995) presented a timely, much needed,
and quite thorough rebuttal of “sustainable use” conservation
philosophy, especially as applied to African elephants. Hoyt,
however, was at the very end of his 25-year HSUS presidency, and
Animals In Peril offered little forward direction for either HSUS or
Irwin in Losing Paradise (2000) was in mid-tenure, but
offered only a muddled Jeremiad which called for little in specific
except “a return to the traditional practices of conscientious family
farmers, who cared for their animals and their land”–a sentimental
phrasing which overlooked 10,000 years of cruelty, exploitation,
and environmental havoc wrought by the farmers of every culture that
was ever centered on animal husbandry.
The Bond is, as a whole, a coherent philosophical and