Congressman Tom Lantos of California died today of cancer at the age of 80. The only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, Lantos was a staunch advocate for human rights and a powerful defender of animals, beginning with his offer to help with the Silver Spring monkeys case (PETA’s first major investigation), and continuing throughout his career, as he went on to found the Congressional Friends of Animals Caucus, push through the Pets Evacuation and Transportation Act following Hurricane Katrina, and sponsor or support dozens of pieces of legislation aimed at ending the suffering of animals.
Lantos has said that his traumatizing experience in the Holocaust, during which his family was killed and he spent time in a forced labor camp, gave him and his wife Annette an understanding of what it means to be victimized for no other reason than being different from others, and inspired them both to devote their lives to working on behalf of the oppressed and the downtrodden. At PETA, we are profoundly indebted to Tom Lantos for his insistence that oppression should be fought wherever it exists, not just where it’s convenient, and we will always remember the important work that he did to help animals with gratitude and admiration.
Tom Lantos will be deeply missed here at PETA, both by those of us who knew him personally, and by those of us, like me, who have been inspired by his example. Even as we mourn his loss, we celebrate his amazing work for all beings.