Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society, and Michael Pollan, a food writer, urged consumers to support higher standards for farm animal protection at an event held in Memorial Church Monday night.
Sponsored by the Harvard Animal Law and Policy Program and the Coop, the event featured a conversation between Pollan and Pacelle, two authors who have called for the humane treatment of animals.
Pacelle encouraged audience members to recognize the importance of farm animal protection and take actions to make the food system more humane. An advocate for informed consumer habits, Pacelle supported a ballot initiative in Massachusetts that aims to require all eggs sold in the state to be cage-free.
Pacelle traced the origins of what he called farm animal cruelty to the age of industrialization. The application of industrial methods to farming has compromised animal welfare, he argued, and the mistreatment of farm animals, which he said are now subjected to worsening conditions, has “gone too far.”
Still, the case for animal protection is relatively new because, in the past, people knew where their food came from, Pollan said.
Pollan said the public has recognized the increasingly harmful animal practices of several food companies, in part due to investigations by the Humane Society and various undercover videos, which he said has influenced public opinion against animal cruelty.
“People’s tolerance for these systems is much less,” he said.
Several audience members drew personal connections between their lives and the authors’ discussion.
Shannon Pastuszak, an audience member, said she attended the event because of her own involvement in the farm animal protection movement.
“I am a supporter of the ballot measure in November, and I’m helping to raise awareness for that in the state of Massachusetts. I’m just a concerned citizen and an educated consumer, and I’m a vegan myself,” she said.
Eric D. LaGuardia, another audience member and student at the Graduate School of Education, said he was drawn to the event because he recently completed a final paper about animal cruelty in which he cited Pacelle.
“It’s a crisis management paper regarding Seaworld’s answer to Blackfish and [Pacelle] was pretty much instrumental in this new partnership with Seaworld’s CEO Joel Manby to end the orca breeding program,” he said.
LaGuardia said that he appreciated Pacelle’s balanced approach to discussing standards for farm animal protection, adding that the event inspired him to learn more about these issues.
Pacelle ended the conversation with a call for legislators to take into account moral issues when making laws related to the food system.“Our laws are designed to maintain order in our society, but they’re also a reflection of our values,” he said.
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