BOOKS: Making Burros Fly

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, December 2006:

Making Burros Fly:
Cleveland Amory–Animal Rescue Pioneer
by Julie Hoffman Marshall
Johnson Books (Big Earth Publishing, 3005 Center Green Drive, Suite 220,
Boulder, CO 80301), 2006. 176 pages, paperback. $17.50.

The title of Making Burros Fly refers to
the well-publicized 1979 rescue of 557 wild
burros from Grand Canyon National Park,
organized by Cleveland Amory after the National
Park Service deemed them alien and invasive, and
ordained that they should be exterminated. Amory
persuaded the reluctant and skeptical agency to
allow his 11-year-old Fund for Animals to attempt
capture and relocation. Using a variety of
methods including net-gunning from the air,
Amory and his “Army of the Kind” achieved the
rescue at a cost to donors of $500,000. The
capture operation led to Amory’s acquisition in
1980 of an 83-acre property which became the
Black Beauty Ranch sanctuary.

Author Julie Hoffman Marshall maintains
that perhaps the most significant victory for the
animal advocates in the episode was that it
changed how wildlife is managed, forcing
conservationists to begin to recognize the power
of public opinion. The transition has still
barely begun in the U.S., and our experience in
South Africa is that wildlife managers have
merely become more adept at going through the
motions of public participation. But Amory did
demonstrate that there could be alternatives.
The title Making Burros Fly is perhaps
too narrow for the book, which is a biography of
the long, valuable, and eventful life of a
legendary pioneer of the animal welfare movement.
The burro rescue was merely one event in a
lifetime of achievement.
As a Harvard senior, Amory in 1939
edited the Harvard Crimson, was briefly a
reporter for the Nashua Telegraph and the Arizona
Daily Star, and then at age 22 became youngest
member of The Saturday Evening Post editorial
staff. Amory produced numerous features
calculated to appeal to animal lovers, but left
the Post early in World War II to join his elder
brother Robert Amory Jr. in the U.S. Army
Intelligence Corps. However, Amory continued to
have an influence. Witnessing a so-called “bunny
bop” in 1945, sponsored by the American Legion
at Harmony, North Carolina, he ensured that the
event became subject of a Post photo feature.
The Post for a few weeks afterward reportedly
received more letters about the rabbit killing
than about the fighting overseas.
Also circa 1945, Amory witnessed and was
outraged by his first bullfight.
Amory’s first book, The Proper
Bostonians (1947) established his reputation as a
popular social critic and satirist. Producing
several successful sequels, Amory used his fame
and acclaim to cofound the Humane Society of the
U.S. in 1954. When HSUS failed to oppose
laboratory use of animals with the vigor that
Amory hoped for, he helped fellow HSUS cofounder
Helen Jones to start the National Catholic
Society for Animal Welfare in 1959. (It became
the International Society for Animal Rights in
1977.) When HSUS also failed to oppose hunting
and wearing fur, Amory founded the Fund for
Animals in 1968. The National Catholic Society
and the Fund eventually succeeded in goading HSUS
into doing what Amory felt it should have been
doing from the first.
All the while, Amory used his prominence
as a broadcast critic and journalist to advance
the humane ethic whenever he could. A
commentator for the NBC Today show from 1954 to
1963, Amory lost that job after he aired an
expose titled “Science is needlessly cruel to
animals.” He became chief critic for TV Guide
from 1963 to 1976, later wrote columns for the
New York Post and Saturday Review, and had a
long association with Parade.
Philosopher Peter Singer’s 1975 book
Animal Liberation is often credited with sparking
the animal rights movement, but Amory’s 1974
exposé Man Kind? sold many times more copies.
Julie Hoffman Marshall focuses on the
latter part of Amory’s career. She describes how
Amory put up the money to enable Paul Watson to
purchase of the first Sea Shepherd Conservation
Society anti-whaling vessel, which Watson used
to ram the pirate whaler Sierra in 1979. Amory
accompanied Watson on the first Sea Shepherd
expedition to protest on the ice against the
Atlantic Canada seal hunt. In appreciation,
Watson named the ship he used during his 1985
campaign against dragnetting off Atlantic Canada
the Cleveland Amory.
Rescuing Andalusian goats from massacre
by the U.S. Navy on San Clemente island went on
for three consecutive years, saved more than
4,000 goats, and led Amory to help Chuck and
Cindy Traisi found a southern California wildlife
rehabilitation center.
The annual Labor Day pigeon shoot in
Hegins, Pennsylvania, whose sadistic cruelty
beggars one’s powers of description, was held
from 1935 until 1998. Amory and the Fund for
Animals team, led by Heidi Prescott, set out to
stop it, focusing on massive public exposure,
and were ultimately successful.
Hunter harassment campaigns modeled after
British hunt sabotage made then-Fund for Animals
staffer Wayne Pacelle famous; Pacelle, who
wrote the preface to Making Burros Fly, now
heads HSUS. However, hunter harassment tactics
are now outlawed in all 50 states and rallied the
hunting lobby to unprecedented political
organization. Among other results, Marshall
mentions that Pennsylvania for the first time in
three decades allows hunters to trap or shoot
bobcats, while New Jersey recently held a black
bear hunt for the first time in 31 years.
One way to counter hunting lobbying
strength is to pool resources. On January 1,
2005, seven years after Amory’s death, the Fund
for Animals merged into HSUS, creating a
legislative fund of unprecedented clout on the
animals’ side, though the hunting lobby still
has at least three times their resources. Marian
Probst, co-founder of the Fund for Animals,
believes Amory would have wanted this merger,
but mergers do not always succeed, and only time
will tell if the Fund’s activist philosophy is
lastingly compatible with the more conservative
HSUS approach.
Julie Marshall describes the issues well,
summarizing the views of protagonists and also
analyzing the propaganda and legislative ploys of
the perpetrators. Her examination is
educational, as the same issues crop up again
and again, around the world, and it is
essential that activists know the arguments which
will be raised against them, as well as the
Amory’s skill as a debater was admired
throughout his life, especially his ability to
interject wit at the right time to provoke even
hostile audiences to laughter at his opponents.
When “ethical hunters” tried to distance
themselves from “slob hunters,” for example,
citing meaningless rules to try to obscure the
cruelty intrinsic to blood sports, Amory asked
mischievously if it would be murder to kill
hunters, so long as the killing did not take
place within city limits, or in their cars, or
during the dating season.
Marshall is skimpy about Amory’s
personality and foibles. He called himself a
“curmudgeon,” and indeed he was. He was also a
womanizer, and sometimes a hypocrite. But he
inspired and recruited a generation of prominent
animal rights activists, including ANIMAL PEOPLE
publisher Kim Bartlett, longtime HSUS senior
vice president Patti Forkan, PETA cofounder Alex
Pacheco, National Institute for Animal Advocacy
founder Julie Lewin, Animal Switchboard founder
Virginia Handley, Paul Watson, and Pacelle,
who arranged the merger of the Fund with HSUS
almost as soon as he was named president of HSUS.
Actress Gretchen Wyler, an early Fund director,
recently retired from her own legacy, the
Genesis Awards.
Cleveland Amory died in his sleep in
October 1998, after another hard day’s work.
His memorial stone at Black Beauty ranch is
inscribed “Why Can’t We Be Kind?”
What a man. What a life. What an
–Chris Mercer

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