My Speech for Humane Advocacy Day


On Tuesday I delivered the following speech at Humane Advocacy Day in Annapolis. Animal welfare is a very important issue to me, so I thought I would share my speech with you. Here it is:

Thank you so much. And thanks to HSUS, the ASPCA and Maryland Votes for Animals for organizing and hosting this Advocacy Day.

And thank all of you for being here. If there’s going to be change in Annapolis it has to start at gatherings like these. Thank you so much for taking the time to travel here on a weekday morning to talk to your representatives about what you care about. It really does matter. And it’s especially important because in our system animals don’t have a vote, so they need a voice. And all of you are that voice. Thank you so much. It’s truly important.

I’m so honored to have been asked to speak at this gathering, because animals are an issue that is really close to my heart. If you live with a dog, or a cat, or a horse, or a chicken, or a pig, as many of you do, and if you’ve looked into their eyes, as all of you have, then you know that animals are sentient beings. Animals are sentient, just like we are. It’s the truth. I don’t know what else to say about that because it’s self evident. An argument is not required, you just need to spend quality time with other animals, besides the human animal, to know that simple truth.

The problem is that we, as a society, don’t treat animals like the sentient beings that they are. Like the Earthlings that cohabitate this planet with us, that they are. Like the beings that share this ecosystem with us, that they are.

Instead, as a society, we treat them like tools. Like commodities. Like resources. To be used. Traded. Sold. Consumed. Viewed for our entertainment. Experimented on. Abused.

As a society, we objectify every other animal on this planet. And that needs to stop. As a society, we view animals as things whose only purpose is to serve our needs. Our desires. Our wants. And that needs to stop.

Animals are not here, on this Earth, to serve us. They are here for their own ends. They are here with us. Not for us.

The reality is that we are all connected. Plant. Animal. Humans included. And although I can feel that on a spiritual level, as I know that you can, science shows us that we are indeed all connected.

We all live together in the same giant ecosystem. An ecosystem that we have put out of balance, and endangered, because of our misunderstanding of where we, as human beings, fit into this whole equation.

Look at what we’ve become as a species. We just suck everything up. We consume. We even call ourselves consumers. Our modern-day economic system is based upon that consumption. And animals are just collateral damage. That needs to change.

Look at violence in society. Until we stop abusing animals, we won’t stop abusing each other, and we won’t find peace. In 2011 Maryland had over 300 million broiler chickens on the Eastern Shore. That’s about the population of the United States. They spent their short lives crammed into dark warehouses, with their beaks cut off, living in filth and being fed drugs before being “processed”. And that’s just the female chickens. The males, useless as broilers, were immediately killed after being sexed. Likely through high-speed grinders.

If as a society we allow for that to happen then we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in society. It’s all connected. We already know the connection between animal abuse and violence. And if factory farming isn’t animal abuse I don’t know what is.

Look: full disclosure. I’m a vegan, but I’m not saying that all of us shouldn’t ever eat meat. But we shouldn’t eat meat like that. Not from factory farms. Not from that kind of cruelty. That’s just wrong.

Chickens are social, they have needs, they have desires, they have self-awareness, and if you’ve ever been around chickens in some yard somewhere… my yard was in a rural village in Zambia while I was a Peace Corps Volunteer… then you know that chickens have opinions, preferences, likes and dislikes, and their own ideas about what they’d like to see in their life. At least that’s what it seems like to me.

What we’re doing to them in these warehouses in unconscionable, and if, as a society we’re able to look the other way, we’ll never find peace. And we shouldn’t be surprised at the violence in our society because we’ve built it from the ground up. We literally eat that violence every day.

Chickens are one example. There are so many others. But I don’t want to talk about the negative anymore. Let’s talk about the positive.

Even though animals can’t vote. We can. We can change all of this. An we will. Choose your representatives wisely. Make sure they consider these issues and do the right thing. They will listen to you.

We have had successes. We’re lucky in Maryland to have organizations like the ones that organized this advocacy day. They’ve worked tirelessly for animals and deserve our support. Last year they ensured passage of the spay and neuter fund. Which was huge. And this year they’ll likely negotiate a fix for the pit bull issue.

Next year, in conjunction with the International Fund for Animal Welfare, we’ll continue working on a bill that will ensure basic welfare needs for all animals. Including the need for a suitable environment; the need for a suitable diet; the need to be able to exhibit normal behavior patterns; the need to be housed with, or apart, from other animals; and the need to be protected from pain, suffering, injury, and disease. Basically the beginning of an animal bill of rights. Are you with us? If so stay tuned for more about that as the year progresses.

But in the meantime, go out there and speak truth to power. For the animals. Those wonderful sentient beings that share our lives with us but have no say in our political system. Or what our broken society inflicts upon them. Be their voice because you are the only voice that they have. Be their voice to save them, because that is the only way that we will save ourselves. Thank you.




Annapolis Update — 3/29/13


There has been significant progress on several issues that I have been monitoring closely this session:

  • I have watched with great consternation as a bill that could undermine future Chesapeake Bay cleanup and restoration efforts moves through the legislature. Senate Bill 1029 – The Agricultural Certainty Bill – would provide farms with a ten-year exemption from future regulations if they conform to new pollution standards. While I applaud the bill’s effort to incentivize farmers to commit to a higher standard, I believe it sets a dangerous precedent. Nobody knows what the next ten years will bring. When it comes to ensuring the future health of the Chesapeake Bay, I feel we should keep all options on the table. This bill limits our capacity to implement new pollution control technologies; I oppose it.
  • Physicians should be empowered to decide what medicines work best for treating debilitating diseases like cancer and multiple sclerosis. Last week, the House agreed with this common sense assertion and passed a bill that would legalize medical marijuana. It does not make sense that narcotics–infinitely easier to abuse than marijuana–are prescribed daily, while cancer patients are denied a therapeutic respite because elements of our public policy remain based on decades old cultural mores. Science has discovered multiple medicinal uses for marijuana and many researchers feel that removing superfluous impediments to conducting further research would result in countless more. The benefits of this bill’s passage for medicine and society would be numerous.
  • The House will also take up a bill (already passed by the Senate) that decriminalizes the possession of small amounts of marijuana. Our prisons are overflowing, our judicial system clogged, and our police overburdened with victimless crimes. Amongst them is the possession of a substance less harmful to one’s health than alcohol. Why should Maryland continue to allocate precious fiscal resources so nonsensically? My sincere hope is that we move closer this session towards treating marijuana like alcohol: regulate its use so that our roads are protected, a new revenue stream provided, and substance abuse programs remain funded. Recently, voters in Washington and Colorado decided that funding state programs through marijuana taxation would be more prudent than continuing to allow marijuana profits to flow to drug cartels in Mexico. Eventually, the rest of the country will join them. Let’s move Maryland closer to becoming a leader on this issue rather than a follower.
  • Finally, the Governor’s gun control bill – the Firearm Safety Act of 2013 – will be voted out of committee in the next few days and move to the House floor for debate and a final vote. Gun violence in this country has reached epidemic levels–over 3,000 gun deaths since the Newtown tragedy is simply unacceptable. And while regulation alone will not secure our families, we must attempt to see what change new policies can bring. I support the Governor’s approach on this issue and will be writing more about it as the legislative process continues next week.

As always, I welcome your thoughts and encourage you to reach out to my office.


By Authority: Friends of Shane Robinson; Mary Robinson, Treasurer.