It feels like a staggering accomplishment to have been aware of and immersed in this glorious, independent, unique animal advocacy organization since 1969—12 years after its founder Alice Herrington incorporated Friends of Animals (FoA) in New York City In 1969, I found this unusual group through Betty Long, one of FoA’s spay-neuter volunteers in Westport, Conn., who gave lectures over the phone about not being lazy—to ensure that each cat or dog we acquired be surgically sterilized through FoA’s affordable breeding control program.
Because she sold me spay-neuter certificates, I drove 40 minutes to Dr. George Whitney’s veterinary office in Orange, so he’d spay or neuter the two orange-colored kittens I adopted. These were my first adopted cats after leaving college and home.
Living on a shoe-string budget, the cost break from acquiring FoA’s certificates was lifesaving, plus Betty’s lecture about preventing the births of unwanted puppies and kittens made an impression. That’s when I joined FoA as a member.
In the early 1970s, I admired FoA’s unduplicated, bold efforts to challenge hunting, fur trapping, seal and whale killing, so-called humane slaughter, and I admired its lobbying efforts in D.C., which helped pass The Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Herrington didn’t waste energies mitigating or regulating atrocities against animals. Whether deer were hunted with guns or bow and arrows, she condemned the violence on moral grounds. As a trained statistician, she’d assail a government agency’s bad science and technical errors for justifying carnage, whether it was fur seals on Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, Alaska’s wolves or other animals suffering from cruelty.
Then in November 1974, after a friend doing pro bono work for FoA urged me to interview with FoA for an opening for a public information director, I popped into New York City, and interviewed with Herrington, who asked me one question, “What animals do you like?” I realized she was uncomfortable with small talk, impatient over interviewing me, but with her large, circular eyeglasses, which revealed her affinity for owls, she sized me up.
I said I loved all animals—from tadpoles to elephants—and that my work for advancing women’s rights related to defending animals whose suffering couldn’t be justified for pleasure, amusement or convenience. I was hired, warned not to ask too many questions and started a commute to New York City for the next few years.
My first assignment was to stage an anti-fur protest outside the entrance of the ASPCA’s fur fashion show luncheon on Fifth Avenue. No problem, I said, after learning how rabbits, like the ones trapped in steel-jawed leghold traps, had died. My mother bought me a rabbit fur in 1969, and this garment had hung in the basement, so I streaked it with red lipstick and dragged it in a leghold trap outside the luncheon. ASPCA members in attendance found the stunt eye-opening and the group’s president later joined other anti-fur demonstrations we organized in the heart of the fur industry.
Friends of Animals found its sea legs by the mid-1970s-80’s by being the first group to expose factory farming, and taking it a step further. We said we should not eat animals, and that regulating husbandry or slaughter doesn’t bring chickens, pigs, cows or others closer to animal rights. Incremental progress, we stressed, for liberating animals does happen with education, one person or one group at a time, and by the 1990s our vegan advocacy work was defined with behind the scenes exposés of so-called free-range egg operations and more.
Then FoA began educating the public about the moral, environmental and physical benefits of a plant-based, vegan diet. I authored and published two vegan cookbooks for FoA in 2005 and 2009, and in 2015 released For the Love of Dog Biscuits to benefit our four-legged friends. In January 1987, Herrington retired and I was elected to take the reins as FoA’s president.
Nicole Rivard’s stories inside this issue of Action Line delve into several of FoA’s accomplishments over the last 60 years through our eyes and from the views of several, wonderful, longtime members. Working in the animal rights movement transforms us and everyone who supports us. Initially we connect with folks to anguish, and to talk about problems and what we believe about environmental justice and animals.
This helps us figure things out. Movements allow problems to be collective and thus provide support and energy to keep going and growing. They also give us a reason to hope, and to see that it is possible to remake a culture.
Friends of Animals has worked for six decades to change the world for animals, and the support you offer us is the rocket fuel for this goodness and much more.