Wayne Pacelle
Key Player

Alleged sexual predator; co-founder of Karner Blue Center for a Humane Economy; co-founder of Animal Wellness Action; former president and CEO, Humane Society of the United States; former executive director & national dir., the Fund For Animals; former president, Animal Rights Alliance; former chairman, Animal Rights Network Inc.; former editor, The Animals’ Agenda magazine

Wayne Pacelle is the former president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), an extremist animal rights group that deceptively portrays itself as an animal welfare organization. Pacelle directed millions of dollars given to HSUS towards animal rights activism, launching attacks on farmers, hunters, circuses, meat-eating, and fur in the media, state legislatures, Congress, and the courtroom. Pacelle’s goal is to advance the vegan agenda of animal “liberation” by engaging in massive fundraising campaigns to raise the money necessary for his expensive and destructive attacks.

Pacelle took the helm of HSUS in 2004 after being a part of the organization for a decade. Before HSUS, Pacelle worked at the Fund for Animals, which folded into HSUS in 2005. Pacelle, who is 49 years old, attended Yale University. He is married to former Al Jazeera reporter Lisa Fletcher and was previously married to singer Kirsten Rosenberg.

Pacelle resigned from HSUS on Feb. 2, 2018, following numerous news reports that women at HSUS accused him of sexual harassment. According to the New York Times, Pacelle “summoned [a female employee] to his office and pressured her for sex. She said she refused and once tried to placate him with a hug. After hugging her goodbye, he turned her around, pushed her over his desk and rubbed his genitals against her, she said.” Another former employee alleged Pacelle “said he asked to masturbate in front of her and offered her oral sex in a hotel room.”

A few months after his resignation, Pacelle founded Animal Wellness Action, a federal political action committee similar to Humane Society Legislative Fund. Later that year, he joined Karner Blue Capital, an animal rights investment group, as a partner and co-founder of Karner Blue Center for a Humane Economy.


The New Haven, CT -bred Pacelle attended Yale University and graduated with a Bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and history in 1987. By the time he graduated, Pacelle was already a radical activist. He was a vegan by 19 and, as a 21-year-old Yale student, Pacelle was arrested and charged with a misdemeanor for harassing hunters. He told the Associated Press that he questioned the hunters for eating Thanksgiving dinner “with blood on [their] hands.” At Yale, he formed the Student Animal Rights Coalition and wrote to outspoken University of North Carolina professor Tom Regan, describing his personal shift to a vegan lifestyle after he realized eating meat was “speciesist.” Pacelle now euphemistically refers to his Yale years as promoting animal “protection” instead of PETA-like animal rights.

Pacelle’s activism earned him a job at the Fund For Animals, a radical anti-hunting organization. He became the group’s director and leader on several issues, including hunting and federal legislation. In 1990, Pacelle told supporters in Full Cry, “We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States… We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state.”

Writing in The Animals’ Agenda in the late 1980s, Pacelle explained to his fellow radicals that the animal rights movement should aim to get more stories in the national media. He also wanted the movement to refocus its efforts in order to propose bills on Capitol Hill that would actually pass, not merely introduce legislation as a symbolic gestures.

In 1991, Pacelle spoke out against the United States Forest Service, saying that the agency should not clear land to allow for cattle grazing. Pacelle has consistently opposed all animal farming, telling Animal People News, “We have no ethical obligation to preserve the different breeds of livestock produced through selective breeding… One generation and out. We have no problems with the extinction of domestic animals. They are creations of human selective breeding.”

While at Fund for Animals, Pacelle also helped Paul Watson and his violent Sea Shepherd Conservation Society raise money for ships. As of October 2012, Watson was a fugitive from the law, having skipped bail in Germany. He is wanted by authorities on three continents.

Tenure at HSUS

Pacelle’s goal is to create “a National Rifle Association of the animal rights movement.” After Pacelle took the helm at HSUS in 2004, HSUS merged with two other animal rights groups: the Fund for Animals and the Doris Day Animal League. (Pacelle even mused when he was younger about a merger between HSUS and PETA.) HSUS also launched a lobbying arm called the Humane Society Legislative Fund and spawned the Humane Society “University.” Pacelle also sits on the board of Humane USA PAC.

In December 2004, a few months after becoming CEO, Pacelle circulated a memo regarding a new food policy for HSUS, in the wake of its merger with Fund for Animals and the pending launch of the Animal Protection Litigation and Campaigns. Because this new work would involve advocacy against “factory farming,” Pacelle urged staffers to go vegan. Furthermore, he made it the official policy of the organization that all events with food would be required to be entirely vegan (or merely vegetarian, if unavoidable).

At the 1996 HSUS annual meeting, Pacelle announced that the ballot initiative would be used for all manner of legislation in the future, including “companion animal issues and laboratory animal issues.” These operations, he says, “pay dividends and serve as a training ground for activists.” Pacelle’s ex-wife worked for Ark Trust, now the HSUS Hollywood Office.

Pacelle has been in charge of HSUS’s many ballot initiative campaigns, winning 30 of the 42 in which HSUS or the Fund for Animals has been involved. While most involved hunting or trapping, HSUS has shifted to farm animals, winning a Florida initiative to give constitutional rights to pregnant pigs in 2002. Florida farmers were banned from using individual maternity pens, also known as gestation crates. Many farmers were forced to kill their animals as a result and the pork industry in Florida is almost extinct.

In 2008, HSUS won the Proposition 2 campaign in California to impose mandates on housing for pregnant pigs and egg-laying hens. According to a University of California-Davis analysis conducted before the vote, the expected impact of Prop 2 “would be the almost complete elimination of egg production in California” within six years. Pacelle has since leveraged his success in California into pushing a federal bill that would impose costly infrastructure mandates on egg farmers across the entire country.

Pacelle relies on classic organizer tactics to attack his opponents. As he told the New York Times, “You have to apply pressure in a careful and determined way to get lawmakers or corporate chieftains to do the right thing.” That pressure has come in many forms, made possible by the massive budget of his organization.

But the pressure hasn’t gone unnoticed. While trying to mask itself as a mainstream group, HSUS has recently drawn the attention and ire of leaders such as Nebraska Governor Dave Heineman and U.S. Sens. Jerry Moran and Mike Johanns. Six Congressmen have demanded an IRS investigation of HSUS. And Feld Entertainment, the subject of a lawsuit from animal rights groups that dragged on for a decade before being dismissed, has sued HSUS and two of its lawyers under the federal Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

Pacelle Gets Cozy with Dogfighting Kingpin

NFL star quarterback Michael Vick is perhaps the most notorious animal abuser in the country. Vick was caught running a dogfighting ring out of his home in Virginia in 2007, where he tortured canines in addition to forcing them to fight for their lives just for the enjoyment of Vick and his sadistic friends. After spending time in prison, there were few who thought Vick could ever show his face in public again.

But Vick’s triumphant comeback tale was facilitated in part by Pacelle.

Pacelle wanted little to do with the Vick-timized dogs, writing them off, saying “The fate of these dogs will be up to the government, but we have recommended to them, and believe, they will be eventually put down.” But that wasn’t before HSUS used the dogs in a fundraising pitch, claiming that “your gift will be put to use right away to care for these dogs.”

Instead of supporting the animals that were treated inhumanely, Pacelle embraced the dog abuser. At least one other animal group, the ASPCA, rejected the overtures from Vick to help him rehabilitate his image, but Pacelle leaped at the chance. Pacelle made several public appearances with Vick, and even told The Atlanta Journal Constitution that Vick “would do a good job as a pet owner.”

Given that Vick’s new team, The Philadelphia Eagles, had donated $50,000 to HSUS, the words surely flowed easily.

What “Bond”?

In 2011, Pacelle’s book The Bond was released, touting him as “one of the world’s leading champions of animal welfare offer[ing] a dramatic examination of our age-old bond to all creatures.” Pacelle then entered a book tour covering 18 months (as of this writing) and dozens of stops around the country to promote himself and his book.

The title was a curious choice of words, for Pacelle himself seems hardly qualified to speak of the bond between humans and animals. Pacelle told author Ted Kerasote for the 1994 book Bloodties: Nature, Culture, and the Hunt: “I don’t have a hands-on fondness for animals. I did not grow up bonded to any particular nonhuman animal. I like them and I pet them and I’m kind to them, but there’s no special bond between me and other animals.

What “Bond”? Part Deux

An earlier essay by Pacelle is perhaps more frank than his statement that he doesn’t have any special bond with animals. Writing in the Yale Daily News, Pacelle admitted, “I don’t love animals or think they are cute.” Pacelle also equated hunting with murder, writing, “Animals are no one’s property, and they have the right not be ‘taken,’ ‘harvested,’ or ‘culled’ or any other euphemism for murder that wildlife managers use. They are no one’s property.”

Racketeering and Witness Bribery Allegations

In 2010, Feld Entertainment named HSUS and two of its in-house attorneys, Jonathan Lovvorn and Kimberly Ockene, as defendants in a federal lawsuit brought under the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) Act. Feld alleges that HSUS took part in a scheme to pursue bad-faith litigation against the circus. Feld’s claims revolve around failed litigation that animal rights groups, including the HSUS affiliate Fund for Animals, pursued against Feld for nearly a decade. In dismissing this animal-rights lawsuit, a federal judge detailed a scheme by which plaintiffs had funneled money to pay the key witness and declared that this witness was a “paid plaintiff and fact witness” who was “not credible.” Feld’s attorneys have released a copy of an HSUS check signed by Wayne Pacelle and sent on HSUS letterhead to a front group that funneled money to this witness.

In December 2012, the ASPCA settled the litigation for $9.3 million. In May 2014, HSUS and the other remaining defendants settled the litigation for $15.75 million. HSUS later revealed in financial statements that it paid $5.7 million of this total.

Charity Navigator Revokes HSUS Rating

In June 2014, Charity Navigator revoked its rating of HSUS following the racketeering settlement, issuing a “Donor Advisory” instead. Pacelle had told the public after the settlement that HSUS expected no donor money would be used to pay Feld. Charity Navigator’s “Donor Advisory” shows that this is a misleading statement, at best. HSUS’s insurance company had denied HSUS coverage for the suit–so HSUS apparently had no insurance when the settlement was paid in May.

Return to the Public Eye

Following the credible sexual harassment accusations and his subsequent resignation, the longtime publicity hound Pacelle became a recluse, waiting for public scrutiny to die down. But it wasn’t long until he tried to stage a comeback.

Pacelle’s partial reemergence came a few months later when he was reportedly attached to a political action committee called Animal Wellness Action. Originally referred to as a “volunteer” with the lobbying group, it was later revealed that Pacelle was in fact the founder of the organization—which he founded just months after his resignation from HSUS. AWA is similar to the Humane Society Legislative Fund, lobbying to cripple animaluse.

Pacelle reportedly signed a non-compete with HSUS that barred him from operating in a space similar to HSUS. Despite violating this non-compete, HSUS has apparently refused to take any action and seemingly given him a pass.

Nearly a year after his resignation, Pacelle fully emerged back in the public spotlight as part of the launch of Karner Blue Center for a Humane Economy. The organization uses a host of activist investor tactics to pressurecompanies.

Pacelle’s involvement in these AWA and Karner Blue has been parsed out in small bits of information to avoid negative press. Regardless, one thing is clear: Pacelle is back to his old tricks.