|Courtesy of Lelah Foster
Having a celebrity as the face of an animal rights campaign has helped PETA achieve huge victories. For instance, vocal protests by Sir Paul McCartney and Alicia Silverstone helped convince NASA not to blast squirrel monkeys with harmful doses of radiation. Celebrities such as Olivia Munn and Sarah Silverman have helped publicize Ringling Bros.’ cruelty to animals, which recently resulted in the largest U.S. Department of Agriculture fine in circus history. And with the help of Lea Michele, the suffering of horses in New York City’s carriage trade is garnering attention.
Michelle Cho, the senior manager of communications, dishes about what it’s like behind the scenes of some of PETA’s most visible work:
What is one of the most exciting things happening right now with PETA’s work with celebrities?
So many professional athletes are enthusiastic about getting involved. Tony Gonzalez, Chad Ochocinco, Chase Utley, Gilbert Arenas, Amar’e Stoudemire, Willis McGahee, Lance Briggs, Chris Andersen, and many others are allowing us to reach legions of sports fans about animal issues.
What is one of your favorite celebrity stories?
When I first met Steve-O six years ago, I was interviewing him about elephant abuse that he had witnessed as a student at Ringling’s clown college. I recall him saying that he didn’t think vegetarianism was possible for him. Then began the phone calls inquiring about feathers, leather, wool, and even animal products in chewing gum! And just two years later, he had an “aha moment” in which he decided that he didn’t want to contribute to the unnecessary suffering of animals and went vegan. He is one of the most inspirational people I’ve ever known, and I’m so proud to call him a dear friend.
Is Hollywood more animal-friendly than it used to be?
Definitely. Thanks to the Internet, we disseminate a lot more information, and it’s reaching powerful people. Major ad agencies are pledging never to use great apes, filmmakers are using computer-generated imagery rather than using live animals, and TV shows and movies are including animal rights–related storylines. The support of so many influential people in show business can only pay bigger dividends for animals in the future.
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