Sia Barbi: Shane, want to tell people who the heck we are?
Shane Barbi: You and I got our seven-and-a-half minutes of fame each as Playboy’s celebrities, which we use for an additional sixteenth minute of fame as vegan authors and to lobby for animal rights.
Sia: What do you say to those who criticize us for only promoting animal causes when the world is in such turmoil with violence?
Shane: It’s a perfect time to talk about animal issues and causes that everyone can help with instead of being a hopeless victim. It’s about being proactive, setting an example of showing the greatest humanity to the smallest, most vulnerable victims: the animals.
For example, we’ve become so desensitized to think it’s normal to kill our companion animals in kill shelters. We kill three to four million a year. That’s only one percent of our population, so why do we feel the need to kill healthy companion animals? As animal rights activists, we have the duty to fight for the animal to live, not die. Animal activists claim they’re “biocentrics,” so who are we to pick who should live and who should die?
Sia: Most people say that they don’t like feeling helpless when it comes to protecting animals. What do you say to those people?
Shane: People underestimate the power we have to make real change for animals; it’s with our vote. Representatives may not care about animals, but they care about our vote and that is our leverage. And it’s like you always say, Sia, “Martin Luther King said you can’t change the heart, but you can stop the heartless with laws.”
Sia: I do always say that. So can you be more specific on how to go about helping animals with just our vote? Shane: Most animals have some kind of protection bill. The ESA, or Endangered Species Act, protects all endangered animals, but the government lifts the ESA, enacting loopholes or amendments to these bills for their own interest.
For example, the wild horses have a protection bill called The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). This bill was amended several times to get rid of the horses so that the land could be used for government business. The most recent amendment was The Burns Rider in 2004 by Senator Harry Reid, who tried again to amend it in 2005. Government wrote loopholes claiming wild horses are “feral” or “pests” to the land. They also claim wild horses are overpopulating, by putting out false reports that mares are having three to four foals a year, which is impossible. Horses take up less than one percent of the land and are continuing to zero out in population. Outside agencies are hired by the BLM to do false impact studies that favor government businesses.
Sia: What about the horse-slaughter bill in general? It’s not just about the wild horses. Is horse slaughter legal?
Shane: Currently, there is an annual temporary ban on horse slaughter, through defunding USDA inspections, of horse-slaughter plants. However, horse slaughter has and will always be legal until we pass the anti-horse-slaughter bill, named the SAFE [Safeguard American Food Exports] Act. This federally bans horse slaughter permanently and stops transport to other countries for slaughter. The anti-horse-slaughter bill was introduced in 2001 and has been sitting in Congress without passing because most people don’t know about it. The slaughter of wild and domesticated horses is a big business that the government wastes taxes on for overseas profit.
Sia: Speaking of overseas profit, many animal activists are more interested in stopping the slaughter of animals internationally. They insist because it’s overseas that only petitions will work. What do you say to that?
Shane: Our rapport with our representatives in the U.S. can even have an impact on international animal slaughter. For example, the Japanese hunt endangered whales in the Southern Ocean. We can demand our reps go to the Department of Commerce to make them enforce and uphold the recent International Court of Justice ruling that outlaws the hunt of endangered whales in the Southern Ocean.
Sia: So what about protecting the animals in our own country?
Shane: The government will always protect “business over bodies” in order to profit from subsidized slaughter. The government now enforces several bills that protect businesses that treat animals cruelly. They do this by taking away our first-amendment right to stop us from exposing or protesting any animal cruelty. It’s unconstitutional. For example, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act, the AETA, was the first main bill designed to arrest and convict “SHAC7”—activists fighting animal vivisection at Huntingdon Life Sciences—and, when passed, arrested these activists merely for expressing their opinion about the company. This bill passed in 2006, labeling these activists, and others exposing animal cruelty in a business, as “domestic terrorists.” On the state level, the “ag-gag” bill was designed to hide the cruelty and health violations of factory farms, by also taking away our first-amendment rights. Ag-gag bills are known as anti-whistleblower laws because they make it illegal to take action, like recording undercover videos to expose the animal cruelty.
Sia: What about my contribution to the animal rights movement?
Shane: Oh, right. In 2010, we successfully passed H.R. 5566, the anti-crush bill, banning cruel videos on the Internet. You then teamed up with a Facebook group, December 2010, to catch that infamous kitten killer, Luka Magnotta. You were the first to bring his name to the media. And now he’s on trial for history’s most gruesome murder! That’s when we realized that if Magnotta’s penchant for animal cruelty could escalate to humans, the same thing could happen to many other animal abusers.
Sia: And that’s why we’re working in D.C. on a proposed bill for an animal abuse registry. Anything else to ramble about?
Shane: Yes. Lastly, I’d like to say that true compassion comes from free will by drawing empathy from within.