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Senator Named PETA’s Person of the Year

Written by PETA | December 26, 2007

Senator Robert C. Byrd of West Virginia has been named PETA’s “Person of the Year.” Byrd has been recognized with the award for his passionate defense of animals throughout six decades of public service. The senior senator, who was a meat cutter in his youth, has evolved into a tireless advocate for improving legal protection for animals, including animals who are slaughtered for food. The following are a few of Byrd’s many efforts in behalf of animals:

  • When the Michael Vick scandal broke, Byrd made a stirring 24-minute speech on the senate floor condemning dogfighting as “barbaric.”
  • In a hearing to determine how to prevent a reoccurrence of 2007’s massive pet food recall that may have killed hundreds of cats and dogs, Byrd said, “Our pets are our companions, our soul mates, and our hedge against emotional turmoil.”
  • In 2005, Byrd coauthored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which prohibits the transport, purchase, and sale of horses for human consumption. The bill was publicly supported by PETA ally and singer Willie Nelson. Byrd also introduced a bill that would prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros.
  • In 2002, Byrd led an effort to convince the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide $5 million—a record amount—for improving enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act.
  • In 2001, Byrd gave a moving oration in defense of a bill addressing cruelty to farmed animals, saying, “Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. Six-hundred-pound hogs—they were pigs at one time—raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around or lie down in natural positions, and this way they live for months at a time. … These creatures feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain.”
  • “Sen. Byrd is never shy about making his strong belief in the importance of animal protection heard,” says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk. “Much animal suffering has been alleviated thanks to Sen. Byrd, and this year we are proud to honor him for giving a voice to the voiceless.”Thank you for all of your hard work for animals, Senator!And to be clear, PETA does not support or oppose any candidate for public office or any political party.- Joel

    Commenting is closed.
    • david says:

      A true hero to the animal cause. Thank you Robert Byrd.

    • Jeri Barrington says:

      Hey folks no offense but we are ranchers and do not agree with all you stand for. I am an animal lover and hate animal cruelty but am not going to become a vegetarian to keep from butchering a cow for meat. Jeri

    • Caboose says:

      so carol Youd support animal lib if it meant total economic collapse?

    • carol says:

      sen byrd may have his faults and shortcomings but dont almost all polititans if we wait only to receive help for the animals especially on factory farms animals used for comsumtion of food who suffering is great unfornatly most polititians are for busines which is at the animals expense because of money we need all the help we can get for these animals puting aside some things we diagree with what if you were one of the animals suffering in factory farm a fur farm adog fighting ring would you want to wait around to get help from a perfect person no i think you would welcome ahand exteted to you even if the person is not perfect

    • 11 Year Old Vegetarian Animal Lover Political Girl says:

      I am a 11 years old vegetarian since birth girl. I couldn’t decide between Obama and Clinton. Both of them seem to be good but anyways I want PETA’s view of them and which democratic president they like the best. Thanks!

    • Barbie says:

      I cannot believe Senator Byrd is being praised for caring for animals. He supports and funds coal companies in West Virginia that employ mountaintop removal a method of stripmining that decimates the entire mountain leaving the mountainous landscape of West Virginia no more than a moonscape. And obviously when you blow up a mountain the trees soil and ALL forms of wildlife there are destroyed the ecosystem ruined. Coalminers have reported watching bears deer and other animals buried by the dirt being excavated by bulldozers. Millions of animals have lost their habitats and their lives because of mountaintop removal which our saint Mr. Byrd has openly supported. I just don’t understand how PETA can take his news conferencecomments and kissingbabies routines seriously while ignoring where his money goes and who his real friends are the coal companies.

    • baatin says:

      you’ve gotta be kidding me! senator byrd? this man refused to join the military because there were black people serving. he was a member of the KKK into his early thirties and certainly for a part of that ‘six decades of public service.’ i cannot believe you peta. a racist is your person of the year. thanks guys.

    • Brad Wood says:

      Geraldine I live in West Virginia and would be glad for you to have him. Don’t be surprised if Australia begins running out of valleys though. We have the most biodiverse temperate ecosystem in the world mixed mesophysic forest but that didn’t stop Byrd from destroying the habitats here. For FIFTY years he has aided and abetted and profited from the almost complete destruction of our wildlife and ecosystems!!!!! Take him please! You and PETA can fight for him.

    • Geraldine Robertson says:

      This message is from Tasmania Australia and I wish there were politicians here who fought for animal rights like Senator Byrd. Send him over here!!

    • Lous Heshusius says:

      I have supported PETA now for a long time but the award going to senator Byrd makes me ill and the thought of withdrawing my monthly support has entered my mind. If I do I will notify PETA of my reasons. And then to think that I have been thinking of putting PETA in my will. There are other animal organizations that stick to their principles who now may benefit from my $$$. The reasons for my feeling nauseated have been amply noted in comments so far His support for mountaintop removal mining his hunting and his not being a vegetarian how possibly can PETA be so superficial in their choice? So narrow and so mistaken? Perhaps even so political for the sake of being political? It has ruined my day and my trust in PETA’s knowledge base. It now makes me hesitant to completely believe anything PETA says or does.

    • Lorraine O'Connor says:

      “…I cringe every time I read or hear someone making the distinction between humans and animals. WE ARE ANIMALS…” Oh you bet WE are animals although I dislike insulting all those species known by that title animals!! . In our pitiful socalled superiority as humans we think abusing torturing and ignoring what could be and should be a worldwide utilization of humane methods in the slaughtering of domestic animals is no big deal “they’re just dumb animals”. Arrgghhh. and will homo sapiens be able to save those magnificent wild species in danger of extinction? e.g. Bengal tigers polar bears etc? Probably not or not unless a new regime Liberal in Washington D.C. this November will truly take global warming seriously!!! . Noone has ever answered this simple question for me. Since humans will never give up their juicy bloody arteryclogging beefsteak retchgag or pork chop why WHY do slaughterhouses continue to be places of unspeakable torture to the steers pigshogs being killed in such horrific ways?? . I like telling people I am a member of PETA and yes I have been on the receiving end of what some ditzy dimbulb thinks is his original thoughtPETA “People Eating Tasty Animals” but I’ve learned to hide my revulsion for that person because I know all they want from me is an unladylike reaction …and I refuse to blow my top as I used to…lol. . Will humans ever evolve to a more compassionate species? Probably not. And isn’t that pathetic?

    • Dave Cooper says:

      If people would like to see aerial pictures of mountaintop removal mining currently going on in West Va Kentucky Tennessee and Virginia they can go to or look at the photo galleries at There are some great video clips on you tube as well just search mountaintop removal

    • brad says:

      PETA thank you for talking to Byrd about MTR but the truth is people have been reaching out to him for years without a lick of success. A grandpa even walked 200 miles to talk with him in DC. He has facilitated the expansion of stripmining since the mid 50s and refuses to budge. I hope you will accept the invitation to come to West Virginia and see firsthand the destruction. Mountain top removal is not just an environmental issue. Tell that to the countless animals burried alive in valley fills. I will continue to be a member of PETA and support the good work you do but I will remain very disappointed for a long time.

    • Amal says:

      Why does someone have to be a vegetarian to be honored and respected as an animal lover? I eat meat yes but only organic and I do consider myself as being “animal rights” for other reasons! I for one love Senator Byrd for being a voice for animals who speak but who aren’t heard by those who refuse to listen. He may support MTR Mining and he may eat meat but he has still done so much for animals all over and I admire him for that. Senator Byrd may not be perfect but he sticks up for the animals that are stuck in small crates at factory farms living like that for their entire lives until death finally ends their suffering. Isn’t that what matters most? Thanks to PETA for recognizing Senator Byrd and congratulations to this political animal lover!

    • Susannah S says:

      Thank you Jack for what I believe to be a good solution here commend the Senator for his courageous stand against the agribusiness lobbyists and for the well being of particularly farm animals but also work to see what he might be willing to tackle regarding mountaintop removal. I have no problem whatsoever with the choice of Senator Byrd as it pertains to his stand for animals. That is commendable. But I was stunned when I realized how much he’d had to do with moutaintop removal mining. I do hope he will reconsider this vital issue. And as you said no one is 100 and this Senator has stood alone many times for the wellbeing of animals. On that I think most of us can agree.

    • Maya, CVT says:

      Thank you for clarifying Jack. I think this must be an extremely difficult issue for PETA. On the one hand senators who fight for the rights of circus bears cats and dogs farm animals zoo animals etc are in desperately short supply and every voice counts for a lot. On the other hand environmental destruction causes millions of wild animals to suffer and hurts not only endangered species but native peoples as well. Politicians who allow destruction of the Earth cause tremendous and callous suffering. If PETA took on an environmental stance it would seriously complicate their mission. So I understand their stance on this. On the other hand seeing a circus bear or elephant chained up is a real no brainer for many people while the thought of blast mining does not register as animal abuse for many people because it seems so vague and far away. This is a tragedy. I thank Jack and PETA for speaking to the senator about the mountaintop removal issue and in the meantime no one has to support or vote for him if they don’t feel right about it.

    • Jack says:

      There have been a few comments questioning the selection of Senator Byrd because of his position on mountaintop removal mining so I figured I should jump in with some thoughts on that First we are aware of this and were appealing to Senator Byrd to reconsider this important issue. But we stand by our decision to commend him for his work to help animals. Senator Byrd has taken a strong stand against different kinds of animal abuse throughout his career and its important to acknowledge the impact his efforts have had on educating the public about animal issues. While many elected officials turn a blind eye to animal suffering Senator Byrd has courageously stood up to very powerful agricultural industries responsible for killing billions of animals every year. It would be marvelous if everybody in the world got it right 100 percent of the time with their stance on animal issues but while we work to get there were thankful for people like Senator Byrd who have done so much good for animals even if they dont see the whole picture yet. By acknowledging the good Senator Byrd has done we hope that he’ll be inspired and more importantly inspire others to help animals more in the future. Jack

    • Susannah S says:

      My thanks to Hillary Ann Brad Hollergirl and the others who have pointed out the disaster that is mountaintop mining and Senator Byrd’s part in that. You’ve opened my eyes to a painful realization that a man I’ve admired and respected for years has played a major part in the destruction of the Appalachians that I love. This doesn’t diminish his very real good and honorable works but it does point out that he has feet of clay. Unfortunately his are made of the red clay of West Virginia a beautiful proud state that is falling apart largely because of the shortsightedness of the coal industry and its political buddies. I am very sad to learn of this but I’m also grateful to this blog for teaching me something new. I will write to Senator Byrd and to my congresspeople and I vow to do everything that I can to see that mountain top removal and the destruction of West Virginia’s wild animals doesn’t continue. PETA has meant many things to me since I joined this past Spring but its educational aspects as demonstrated in this blog are one of the most valuable things of all.