Pilot Fish Trailblazer Nominee: Cleveland Amory

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

Black Beauty

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.

His Impact

Cleveland Amory ~ Here with “Polar Bear”, his beloved white cat, at Black Beauty Ranch. Photo: Tyler Hughes Collection.

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 RanchAfter 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.

Cleveland Amory

Cleveland Amory. By PBS-Public Broadcasting System (eBay front back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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


To learn more about our guest writer Luanne Castle and her work, click on the following links:  writersite.org and thefamilykalamazoo.wordpress.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.


35 replies »

    • Oh, Sally, I’m sorry I am so late responding! How well you put that sentiment! I so agree with you. A world that has lost its way. So sad. But it shows there is hope if we can respond to his call.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Reblogged this on Writer Site and commented:
    I’m so honored to write an article about my hero Cleveland Amory for Patti Moed’s Trailblazer Nominee series over at Pilot Fish. Please check it out and see what kind of world Amory wanted to create.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What a wonderful article, Luanne. I enjoyed learning more about this fine man, as well as more about your background and interest in animal rights. I don’t think I could ever watch a bullfight. I can see why it would affect you so.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Of course, I absolutely loved this post! I support the Fund for Animals and get newsletters from the ranch. I enjoyed reading about the man behind the Black Beauty Ranch. There is another Fund for Animals ranch in Oregon called Duchess Sanctuary for rescued horses–a most wonderful place! Thank you for spreading the word about Mr. Amory and his dedication to being a voice for the animals.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carrie, yes, bullfights are so horrific and unnecessary. Some people accept events like that under the guise of it being someone else’s culture that should be respected. I don’t buy that. Most human cultures have sorry track records in their relationships with animals.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Jackie, thank you for being a support to the animals and those who are trying to help them. And thanks for mentioning Duchess Sanctuary!!! For some reason I was thinking of it as the same as the Doris Day Equine Center that is on the grounds of Black Beauty Ranch, but it’s yet another sanctuary!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely and inspiring tribute, Luanne! I have never heard of Amory, so I am glad to know there was such a person. Liked learning more about your history with animals too. Bullfight? Really? A cousin and I have been reading Hemingway. :/

    Liked by 1 person

    • Carla, I have always felt a real barrier to Hemingway because of his “connection” to bullfighting. I never felt simpatico with him. What you say here about Margeaux I find so interesting. Does she talk about how it makes her feel about her grandfather?

      Liked by 1 person

      • The documentary shows her at the actual bullfight, weeping as the bull is being killed. She narrates the moments, and I recall a few comments, mainly that she identified with the bull. Somehow the whole thing was reaching a deeper part of her own being. Really painful to watch, but a good documentary overall about the whole family. I read a few books also by Hemingway relatives (his sons), and the stories of safari killings are also brutal and disturbing for those of us who are not fond of hunting.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Oh, that does sound powerful, Carla. I wonder how they set that up for the filming. Maybe she said she never saw a bullfight and they asked her to sit through it to document her reaction? I know once a camera is involved there is at least some degree of manipulation, but I have no doubt she was really affected by it as it’s so horrific. I just finished a Jody Picoult novel that weaves in a lot about the plight of elephants. I am going to write a post about it. Elephant poaching is something everyone needs to know more about.

        Liked by 1 person

      • The segment was filmed at the time it occurred, though I think that Mariel found it and included it in her documentary about the family, so it is the actual footage at the time of the bullfight. Yes, elephants! After Hemingway died, his son went to Africa and killed something like eleven elephants. Yikes.


      • That is interesting that someone would film her reaction like that. A private moment, really. Eleven elephants. It just makes me cry. What is wrong with some people?

        Liked by 1 person

  5. What a wonderful tribute to Mr. Armory, who I think was a lonely voice for many years. His efforts to raise awareness of animal rights has clearly influenced many today, given the many tireless advocates who work on behalf of animals-but I am sure his–and others–would feel that they had finally succeeded when there would no longer be a need for these groups anymore-Thank you Luanne and Patti!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Meg. Thanks so much for joining the conversation. I am sure you are right about the definition of “succeeding.” There is still so much cruelty to animals, but public awareness of this has certainly grown. I’m delighted that Luanne chose him. I didn’t know the extent of his involvement in animal rights.


      • Meg, you put that so well: “a lonely voice for many years.” So true. That is where the real courage came in. And when he spoke up against vivisection on air, knowing the potential cost to himself, it was not like it is today where he could get a groundswell of supporters through internet news and social media and maybe even get his job back. He really was so alone.

        Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Rajiv, actually a javelina is not a pig, although they look like they are in the pig family. They are a rodent, oddly enough. Their teeth are 6″ long. They travel in packs and always have twin babies travelling with them. When they sleep (behind my daughter’s bedroom) they lie down like a row of dominoes, each one touching the next. Although ugly, their behavior seems very cute until they get mad (or eat all your new flowers and new cacti haha). They hate dogs and will fight them to the death. And they have been known to occasionally attack a human, inflicting very nasty wounds, but that is actually fairly rare. Yes, pre-wounding the bull. What a nasty trick.

      Liked by 1 person

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