Contributing Editor Dr. Jordan Schaul recently asked the world famous, celebrity models and animal activists—the Barbi Twins—to find out how some of their celebrity friends are using their clout to help animals around the world. Within a few moments, the Twins arranged a sit-down interview with two other celebrity sisters—Amy and Raelyn Nelson—children of Willie Nelson. The two sets of sisters comprise a dynamic foursome of animal activists known as the Quad Squad and they all sat down with Jordan for an exclusive interview.
Jordan: The Nelson family is known to be very compassionate and involved in both human and more recently, animal causes. What made you two jump into ANIMAL activism?
Amy: It must have begun with Shasta, a capable and compassionate sibling of mine—my German Shepherd.
Once I fell down our steep asphalt driveway and skinned up my knees and couldn’t walk. Shasta ran home, found my parents and brought them to me.
It wasn’t a stretch to imagine that all animals must be capable of this same depth of love and understanding. Most importantly, they were all worthy of human respect.
Raelyn: Animals have always been in our family. We’ve had many cats and dogs and Papa Willie has lots of rescue horses. I started in animal activism seven years ago. Amy opened my eyes to issues like the inhumane treatment of animals due to factory farming, the slaughter of American horses for human consumption overseas, the importance of spaying and neutering, and other animal welfare issues. I was surprised that our law makers weren’t doing more to protect animals.
BARBI TWINS: When did you start animal activism and which one of you started first?
Amy: When I was five, I saw Rudyard Kipling’s The White Seal, an animated film about a seal named Kotick, who searched for an island where seals would be safe forever from their terrible enemy…man. It told of seals who would were having their skin stolen by big mean men. I was so upset that I wrote a letter to President Carter asking for his help; and he wrote back!
Raelyn: Amy’s influence inspired me. Chris Heyde at the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) gave us direction on how to raise awareness and attempt to change our laws to ensure the humane treatment of animals in our country. It gave us hope that we could do something. It’s hard to turn a blind eye if you’ve ever been taught to show compassion. We should have compassion for all living things and all souls.
BARBI TWINS: Most stars go to charity fundraisers or pose for pictures for animal charities. You guys have been in the news for lobbying in DC and being very proactive. How is your approach to help animals different than other stars and why so hands on?
Amy: Any approach is a good start. We wouldn’t have thought of lobbying or had an idea of how do I do it without the help of Chris Heyde and AWI.
Raelyn: I wouldn’t know anything if it weren’t for Amy. Raising awareness is the most important job of any animal activist. Most people are ignorant to the inhumane treatment of animals and what they can do to improve animal welfare.
BARBI TWINS: Can you talk about what causes or organizations you are dedicating your time to and what they are about, what you’ve done to help and can you tell how others can help?
Amy: We’ve been working with Animal Welfare Institutue (AWI) to put a federal ban on horse slaughter by supporting the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. The purpose of the bill is to put a federal ban on horse slaughter for human consumption, and it would ban the transport of horses across U.S. borders for the same purpose. Passage of this law would also prevent the slaughter industry from setting up in states that have not independently voted to outlaw them. People can contact their elected officials and ask them to co-sponsor this bill.
We’ve joined AWI’s efforts to help American wild horses who are being managed into extinction by the Bureau of Land Management. Millions of acres have been taken away from them. They are being fenced away from their water sources by corporate cattle companies. Over 30,000 are in captivity; that’s more than are left in the wild.
Willie and The Nelson Family released a version of “Wild Horses” to raise awareness and draw attention to the plight of all the American horses. It is available on iTunes. All proceeds go to AWI for the horses.
We went to D.C. to raise awareness about the South Korean dog and cat meat trade. They are being purposely tortured. It must be stopped. It’s no more part of South Korean culture than horse slaughter is part of American culture. AWI is working with South Korean animal welfare groups to find a solution.
Raelyn: Amy and I went to our Capitol in Nashville, TN and spoke against a bill that would allow a horse slaughter plant to be built in Tennessee. So far, our efforts have managed to keep pushing the bill out of session. Tennessee is safe for now.
We also support the Paw Project’s efforts to rehabilitate large cats who have been declawed, and to outlaw declawing of all cats. (www.pawproject.org)
BARBI TWINS: Chris Heyde of AWI wrote and walked the anti-horse slaughter bill over 10 yrs ago. Other than Bo Derek, was it your names that helped give credit to this organization that has the ONLY registered lobbyist on this anti- horse slaughter bill?
Amy: Dad’s name helped along with Bo Derek, and John Corbett. We do all we can to draw attention to AWI, the most effective and overlooked animal welfare lobby organization.
BARBI TWINS: We know you’re a supporter of “Best Friends Animal Society”, so why is this NO kill rescue the top in the nation?
Amy: They have spacious and clean facilities. They continue to expand and grow, and reach out to communities who need them most. They were the heroes in the Katrina disaster, setting up temporary shelters and transporting hundreds of animals to safety. Dad worked with them to strengthen dogfighting laws in Georgia. We love Best Friends (www.bestfriends.org). And AWI (awionline.org). Check out their web-sites.
BARBI TWINS: You have shown support for Nathan Winograd & read his top selling rescue books promoting No Kill Advocacy. Do you agree with him that as rescuers shelters should ban “management by death” & instead for people to demand shelter reform, which includes cheaper, more humane ways to save animals?
Amy: We agree with him. In his books Redemption, and Irreconcilable Differences, Nathan explains how to transform a shelters and communities to “no kill.” He has done it time after time using a checklist called the “no kill equation.” Spay and neuter is part of the equation. Please read his books, or check out his site http://www.nathanwinograd.com/
BARBI TWINS : When we showed you the killer Luka Magnotta kitten killing video in Dec. 2010, why were you so generous to lend your name to help find Luka?
Raelyn: Animal cruelty must be taken seriously for the sake of the animals, and for the sake of future potential victims. Serial killers always start with animals.
BARBI TWINS: Can you each give a personal inspirational animal rescue story, even if was just not stepping on a bug?
Amy: I laid on the floor next to a dying mouse in my parents’ kitchen and cried as he suffered. He had gotten into poison. I want to develop a mouse contraceptive food instead of poison. Don’t even get me started on those awful sticky traps.
Raelyn: I remember the first time I didn’t squash a spider. I admit it. I used to squash them. God, forgive me…. that whole “Do not kill” thing. I don’t anymore; I “shoo” them until they’re outside. Auntie was the first person to remind me that they have a soul, too.