Back at Yale, Pacelle started the Student Animal Rights Coalition. Members demonstrated against fur stores and the Yale Medical School's use of animals in research. "I got vegan meals instituted into the dining hall system," he says with pride.
Pacelle also started connecting with movement leaders, including the late Cleveland Amory, the curmudgeonly author who founded the Fund for Animals in 1967.
"I had this basic sentiment that it was wrong to pick on the less powerful - even if they had four legs or two wings," says Wayne Pacelle, new president of the Humane Society of the United States.
(Robert A. Reeder - The Washington Post)
After graduation in 1987, he wrote for a couple years for Animal Agenda, the movement's main magazine, then was hired by Amory as the Fund's 23-year-old national director. Five years later, the Humane Society plucked him away to be its vice president of communications and government affairs.
"I thought it was a coup because already at that point, Wayne was establishing himself as a leader in the animal-protection movement," says Paul Irwin, the former HSUS chief executive who groomed Pacelle to take his place. "I wanted him to be the face and the voice of the Humane Society."
Pacelle became probably the most quoted and visible defender of animals besides PETA's Ingrid Newkirk. Some of his early positions -- like his promise to ban hunting, species by species, state by state, and the use of animals in research -- remain fodder for opponents.
In June, he succeeded Irwin, who spent 28 years turning HSUS into the largest and richest animal advocacy organization in the world, with 8 million members and $80 million in revenue last year.
By comparison, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals is a $41 million nonprofit with 740,000 members, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a $24 million nonprofit with 800,000 members, and the Fund for Animals is an $8 million-a-year nonprofit with 200,000 members. Among HSUS adversaries, the $1.7 million U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance and Foundation has 35,000 members.
Pacelle took charge promising to use those deep pockets to take the HSUS into the new era of animal protection advocacy. "I think they wanted the aggressive approach," he says. "They wanted someone who was going to think things up. And they got him."
Not Buying It
The things Pacelle thinks up worry his enemies. They say he's against: hunting and fishing, eating meat and cheese and eggs, lifesaving drugs from animal research, even keeping pets.
"The thing about Wayne is he is a very competent spin doctor. He's very good at disguising the true agenda with a message that the public would accept," says NAIA's Strand, who with husband Rod authored a 1993 book arguing that the humane movement had become radical. The book is being updated for publication in November under the title "The Bambi Conspiracy: The Hijacking of the Humane Movement."
She says Pacelle is a key figure in that "hijacking" and that HSUS is a Trojan horse rolled into mainstream America by the extremist animal-rights movement. "It is the fundamentalist wing, a take-no-prisoners point of view," she says. "They equate all animal use with animal abuse."
David Martosko, research director for the District-based Center for Consumer Freedom, whose mission is promoting consumer choices, says: "His game plan is the same as that of the larger animal-rights movement -- demonize meat and dairy, throw up legal obstacles to farms, increase artificially the price of animal protein and try to convince Americans they would do better without it."
Other opponents of animal rights worry about the logical conclusion of Pacelle's supposed agenda were it to succeed.
"How will a successful animal-rights ideologue change America? Read George Orwell. Then look at your lunch and whether or not you wear leather shoes. Then you do the math," says John Aquilino, director of publications at the International Foundation for the Conservation of Natural Resources, which describes its goal as "human involvement in the management and scrupulous use of natural resources."