It’s with great pleasure that I introduce this week’s guest blogger, Luanne Castle, who writes about a man who has inspired her since her childhood. Luanne is an award-winning poet, educator, writer, and an advocate for animal rights. She divides her time between California and Arizona, where she shares land with a herd of javelina. Her heart belongs to her four cats and the homeless cats at the animal shelter where she volunteers.
The New England conscience does not stop you from doing what you shouldn’t–it just stops you from enjoying it.–Cleveland Amory
When I was eight and staying overnight with my grandparents, I discovered a tattered copy of Anna Sewall’s novel Black Beauty in my mother’s old bedroom. I began to read and when my parents came to pick me up the next day I was still reading, lost in the Dickensian world of the handsome black horse whose life was adversely affected by human failings. After finishing the book, I felt disturbed that animals are vulnerable to abuse and can die by people’s whims and poor decisions. This was the moment that I became an advocate for animals.
The Early Years in Boston
The only other writer who has been more inspirational to me on the subject of animal welfare is Cleveland Amory. I first learned about him through the animal rights organization he founded, The Fund for Animals. Cleveland Amory was born on September 2, 1917, into a privileged Bostonian family. Although his parents and their peers did not consider journalism a proper career choice, Amory decided he wanted to be a writer.
At Harvard, Amory was president of The Harvard Crimson, the student newspaper. When he graduated from Harvard, Amory was offered a job at The Saturday Evening Post. He was 22 years old and the youngest editor ever hired by the magazine, staying with them until 1941 when he joined the U.S. Army, serving in military intelligence.
A Literary Life
A few years later, Amory began to write bestselling books about society. The first of these was The Proper Bostonians, published in 1947. He also was a columnist for the Saturday Review. As a son of privilege who had easy access to a sophisticated and intellectual world, Amory might have been expected to enjoy an active social life and live a life devoted to the mind and self interest.
Nevertheless, in 1945, as a reporter, Amory attended a bullfight in Nogales, Mexico. After the final cruelty to the bull, he threw a pillow at the bullfighter and immediately quit his job. From then on, his eyes were open to the abuse of animals.
A Defining Moment
A bullfight was a similar defining moment for me. My parents took my brother, my husband, and me to Spain when I was a young grad student. I didn’t want to attend a bullfight, but my father insisted and because he was paying for the vacation, I did as he asked. The bullfight was worse than I expected. The bull was passive and hung his head down, reminding me of my dog when she was upset. A spectator told me that the animal is brutally pre-wounded before the so-called fight even begins. You can read more about the process of bullfighting here. After my experience, I stopped eating red meat. That was thirty-eight years ago, but the memory of that brutal event is still fresh.
The bullfight affected Amory for the rest of his life. In 1952 he became a Today show commentator. This gig lasted eleven years until he was fired for using the platform to rail against vivisection—laboratory experiments on living animals.
The Fund for Animals
He first joined the board of the Humane Society of the United States in 1962, and five years later, he founded The Fund for Animals. In 1979, the organization became famous for saving 580 Grand Canyon burros that were targeted for extermination by the National Park Service. In The Cat Who Came for Christmas, the first of his books about his cat Polar Bear who came to him as a stray, Amory wrote about the Fund’s success at saving baby harp seals by painting them, thus rendering their fur worthless to hunters. He never took a salary from the organization.
As a young adult, I learned of the successes of The Fund for Animals and donated what I could spare. I also joined many others in letter writing campaigns for the organization’s projects to protect animals in the wild and in captivity. For a long time, Cleveland Amory was just the name at the top of the masthead. It took many years before I put two and two together and noticed that this selfless animal protector was the same man as the sophisticated journalist and commentator.
I find it intriguing that Amory combined his writing talent with a passion for helping animals. More importantly, I felt I had found a soul mate when I heard that he had started a refuge called Black Beauty Ranch in Murchison, Texas. Amory wrote:
It was not long after reading Black Beauty for the first time that I had a dream that one day I would have a place which would embody everything Black Beauty loved about his final home. I dreamed that I would go even a step further—at my place none of the horses would ever wear a bit or blinkers or check reins, or in fact have reins at all, because they would never pull a cart, a carriage, a cab, or anything else. Indeed, they would never even be ridden–they would just run free.
The notion that animals have a right to their own lives rang true for me. Most of our societies seem more or less in agreement that animals should be used by humans—even brutal ones—to fulfill their needs and wants. But shouldn’t animals be allowed to enjoy their own innate abilities and follow their own best interests? Maybe that seems idealistic or even utopian, but it is far preferable and humane to believe in the rights of all creatures.
Initially, Amory created the Fund for Animals for the burros that he originally rescued, but it expanded into a world-famous animal sanctuary. According to their website:
With over 1,400 acres, Black Beauty Ranch is home to almost 1,000 domestic and exotic animals, many of whom have been rescued from near-death situations such as slaughterhouses, biomedical research laboratories and trophy hunting ranches. Others have been rescued from roadside zoos or were former victims of the exotic pet trade. Still others came from public lands where they were threatened with extermination by the federal government. Bison and cattle, horses and burros, antelope and apes, camels and tigers: all have permanent, safe homes at the ranch.
Cleveland Amory’s devotion to and bond with the rescued animals was remarkable as you can see in this article and video about Friendly, one of the original burros rescued from the Grand Canyon.
Towards the end of his life, he wrote Ranch of Dreams in 1997 about the creation of Black Beauty Ranch. After he passed away from an abdominal aortic aneurysm on October 14, 1998, a monument was erected at the ranch next to the one for his dear cat Polar Bear.On Polar Bear’s monument, Amory’s words are engraved:
Here lies beloved Polar Bear, the cat who came for Christmas. 1977 to 1992. ‘Til we meet again.
I have no doubt that Amory believed that animals have souls and they do go to heaven. In fact, I’m sure that he believed he would be seeing Polar Bear there again.
I’ve never been a fan of bucket lists, but now I feel inspired to start one. At the top of my list is a visit to Cleveland Amory’s dream in Murchison, Texas. I want to walk where he walked and see the place where he left his heart. Amory famously stated, “What this world needs is a new kind of army—an army of the kind.” Let’s all join his army and honor this remarkable trailblazer.
Sources and Additional Reading
- Amory, Cleveland. The Cat Who Came for Christmas
- Amory, Cleveland. Man Kind?
- Greenwald, Marilyn. Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon and Animal Rights Crusader.
- Marshall, Julie Hoffman and Wayne Pacelle. Making Burros Fly: Cleveland Amory, Animal Rescue Pioneer
- New York Times obituary: http://www.nytimes.com/1998/10/16/arts/cleveland-amory-dies-at-81-writer-and-animal-advocate.html?pagewanted=all
- “Cleveland Amory” in encyclopedia.com
This is the twelfth in a series of articles about forward thinkers who are helping to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges. These remarkable people are helping to define the future direction of their community, country, and even our global society. To read more about the Pilot Fish Trailblazer Awards and the nominees Dr. Fred Sanger, Paolo Soleri, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Jane Goodall, Alice Waters, Swami Vivekananda, The Man in Black, Dr. B. R. Ambedkar, Dr. Jean Raffa, Astrid Lindgren, and Sadar Vallabhbhai Patel click on the embedded links. Suggest new nominees in the comments section below.
Categories: Pilot Fish Trailblazer Awards