Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cleveland Amory: worth knowing about

Some of the animal rights issues of today include animals in laboratories, hunting (including the infamous leg traps), speciesism (as in, humans are superior to/have dominion over non-human animals), murder of fur-bearing animals (including Canada's harp seals) . . . and on and on.

What a surprise, then, to read about a man who fought against these same abuses -- and many others -- in the second half of the last century. And we're still at it!

Cleveland Amory (1917-1998), born in Masachusetts, educated at Harvard and well-known as "a best-selling author, social critic, journalist and man-about-town in Manhattan," was also an animal rights crusader. In fact, it could be argued that his campaigns for animals were the very best things he did.

Marilyn Greenwald's new biography, Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon & Animal Rights Crusader, details the many ways in which Amory rubbed people the wrong way -- while steadfastly pursuing better treatment for animals. He didn't win on all the issues, as already mentioned, but he fought well-publicized fights that must have impressed, and recruited, many other people. (Think: an airlift of burros from the bottom of the Grand Canyon; think: hiring a ship and beating the hunters to some of the baby seals that would otherwise have been clubbed and skinned alive.)

Amory also founded the Fund for Animals in 1967, and by 2005 when it merged with the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), the Fund had 200,000 members and constituents, a budget of $7 million and $20 million in assets.

One of his last, and lasting, acts was starting an animal sanctuary he called Black Beauty Ranch. At its peak, it housed nearly 600 abused animals of all kinds, beginning with some of the burros he had rescued earlier.

Animals could use more curmudgeons like this.

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