Viewing and using animals as commodities is nothing new. From the fur trade to trophy hunting, from whaling to the wholesale farming of animals as food and leather, our relationship to our fellow animals has historically often been one of exploitation.
There are still many ways today that our global economy relies on the systemic confinement and mistreatment of animals. But old attitudes are changing. A new, more humane business model is replacing the old and Wayne Pacelle argues that it’s better not just for the animals but for the businesses themselves.
"We can really progress beyond exploiting animals and have a new, commercial set of activities that are prosperous for us as individuals and for companies, but don't leave a trail of animal victims in our wake," he explains.
Pacelle is the president of the Humane Society of the United States. His newest book is The Humane Economy: How Innovators and Enlighted Consumers are Transforming the Lives of Animals.
Pacelle says that consumer awareness of animal welfare has caused many businesses to rethink their practices. And consumer demand for humanely sourced products has increased the bottom line of the businesses that provide them. According to Pacelle, it's a rising tide of consciousness:
"We know too much to be in denial any more," he says. "People of conscience are taking action. And now businesses realize that it’s a brand risk to do the wrong thing and a brand opportunity to do the right thing with animal welfare."
Pacelle says the rate of positive change in how we treat animals has sped up over the past five years especially, thanks to that awareness.
"Most people, whether they work for a food corporation or an entertainment organization or a cosmetics company or any enterprise, they want to do the right thing," he states. "Once they are themselves more alert to the needs of animals, to the feelings of animals, they want to do better."
Pacelle will be in Milwaukee tonight to speak at Boswell Book Company about his latest book and animal welfare.