Heroes of Animal Welfare
June 1, 2012

 
 Daphne Sheldrick and orphaned elephant baby

Jupiter and I have been looking forward to the upcoming summer for quite a while now. I love the smell of flowers blooming, the brilliant hues of the blue sky, and the cool sea breeze late in the day. Because JsuJsu was kept indoors for long hours of the day before we got her, everything seems new and exciting when she is out and about with us. This will be our first summer together, JsuJsu and I, and I can hardly wait to have her experience all of the wonderful things that I get to do in summer. She isn't a water dog, but I think she will be intrigued by the ocean, and she will surely love to run around in the sand. And I'm pretty sure that she will be interested in sharing my sprawling beach blanket so she can snooze while I read beside her. I thought that this summer, I would attack a few non-fiction books instead of my usual summer novels. There are a great many non-fiction books about people who have helped animals and this might just be the summer to dig deep into the lives of some people I admire and want to learn more about.

Throughout history, there have been many people who have dedicated a good part of their lives to advance the studies and humane treatment of animals. Back in the 1700s, Jeremy Bentham, a philosopher and reformer, became known as the "the first patron saint of animal rights." Mr. Bentham developed the idea that, because animals felt pain and could suffering, they needed protection by people. This thinking was not the norm of the day. Most people thought animals were to be used for their own benefit.

William Wilberforce was a great, spiritual man who helped to abolish the slave trade in England in the early 1800s. But he was way more than that! He was a great philanthropist, statesman, and a leader who was one of the driving forces in starting the world's first SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals).

Back here in the United States, Henry Bergh and George Angell were helping to pave the way for our own SPCAs. Mr. Bergh, an educated man from New York, started the ASPCA (American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and later helped with the MSPCC (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children). Mr. Angell, a wealthy philanthropist and lawyer, advocated for the more humane treatment of animals here in our own home state of Massachusetts. After witnessing two horses being raced to their deaths, he was prompted to join forces with the fledgling animal welfare movement. So, it was only a few years after the Civil War ended that Mr. Angell founded the MSPCA (Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals). Our very own animal welfare organization is over 144 years old! How cool is that?!

Rachel Carson was an amazing biologist and conservationist whose book, "Silent Spring" woke up America to the perils of using pesticides. Today, we take it for granted that the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) will look out for nasty chemicals being sprayed on crops and near people. But it was Ms. Carson's simple and beautiful writing style that allowed the average American to understand the gravity of the situation, and then take action.

Ruth Harrison led another brave charge in Britain that awoke the world. She wrote about the inhumane treatment and deplorable conditions of factory farms in her book, "Animal Machines." This was a ground-breaking work that exposed the myth that animals used for food were no longer raised in the fresh air and natural conditions of small farms.

Cleveland Amory, a Harvard educated man, spent almost all of his life promoting animal rights. He worked with HSUS (Humane Society of the U.S.) and then founded Fund for Animals. He was also a famous television critic whose connections with other animal advocates in the entertainment industry encouraged much publicity for animal issues in the media.

As time has moved forward, there have been even more leaders working for animal welfare. Jacques Cousteau lived in the last century and was an oceanographer, conservationist, filmmaker and inventor who taught the world about the importance of our oceans. Before Mr. Cousteau, the average person didn't know much about marine life. He helped to develop the "Aqua-lung" which allowed for breathing underwater, something we might now take for granted. He filmed the beauty beneath the sea, and his many documentaries taught us the value of keeping oceans healthy and pollution-free.

Velma Bronn Johnston, also known as "Wild Horse Annie," worked tirelessly to stop the hunting and taking of wild horses and burros from public lands. She helped to pass legislation protecting these animals and to have large populations moved to more open spaces when needed.

James Herriot, a British veterinarian and author, used his writing talents and good humor to bring stories of a country veterinary practice to millions of readers. He no doubt inspired many a young person to seek out careers in veterinary medicine, as well as an awareness of the beauty and innocence of all creatures.

Peter Singer is philosopher and ethicist whose book, "Animal Liberation" woke up a new generation in the mid-1970's to animal rights and liberation. Likewise, Tom Regan's books, including "The Case for Animal Rights," kept the evolving way we thought about animals on the front burner.

And who hasn't heard of Jane Goodall? Dr. Goodall is an anthropologist, primatologist, and author who has studied chimpanzees in Africa for over fifty years. She is a soft-spoken woman, who at 78 still writes and travels the world to promote conservation.

Daphne Sheldrick also in her late 70's, is still working hard in Kenya to save wildlife there. Dame Sheldrick is an author, conservationist, and caretaker of orphaned animals. Through research and trial-and-error, she developed a successful milk formula that promoted growth and good health in orphaned elephants and rhinos—no small task for sensitive and dependent animals such as these—allowing for many of them to be returned to the wild.

Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is a modern author who has written about animal rights and the sensitivity of animals. These popular, best-selling books, such as "The Pig Who Sang to the Moon: The Emotional World of Farm Animals," have brought much insight, beauty, and humor to a great many people. They have helped to convert many people to believe that animals are sentient creatures with emotions.

There is an endless stream of people who have worked to help animals, and I've only scratched the surface here. It is interesting to learn about what other people do with their passions for animals. Some of us are loud, and some are more quiet. Some use film or TV, and some use pen and paper. Some of us are deep thinkers, some are more hands-on. It doesn't matter. The world needs all of us to help our animal friends.

Three things you can do:
1. Read. Go to the library or look on-line. There are an infinite number of books out there about people involved with animal welfare. If you need help finding one, ask your librarian—that's what they're there for!
2. Watch. Movies/TV/Plays/ Lectures. Again, search on the internet or ask a librarian or teacher for suggestions. Some of my favorites movies are: Amazing Grace, Running Wild, All Creatures Great and Small, and Born to Be Wild 3D. Look for posters, articles or ads in the newspaper, or on-line for people giving lectures in your area. Educate yourself!
3. Be inspired and inspire others. Take in what you've learned and share with others. You don't need to be loud to be an animal advocate. You just need an open heart and mind.