Celebrit-izing Animal Rights Activism?

Crystal Davis

From protesting about tortured birds, to endorsing the benefits of an all vegan diet, and

boycotting abusive animal acts, animal activists have had a steadfast view on change. They have

sought out the opportunity to change the lives of humans and benefit the lives of animals

worldwide. Creating non-for-profit organizations such as PETA, Mercy For Animals, and IDA

(In Defense of Animals), animal activists have made a true career out of saving the lives of

animals. Animal activists go out of their way to help animals who are abused and neglected.

Sarah McLachlan is a Canadian musician, singer, song writer, and an animal rights activist that

has actively campaigned for the ASPCA from as early as 2006.

In a particular commercial for the ASPCA, there are multiple panels of despondent

animals and a set of impactful title cards meant to catch at-home-viewers as McLachlan’s song

“In the Arms of the Angel” plays in the background.

Finally McLachlan appears onscreen while petting a golden retriever. She begins a

monologue and stares sadly into the eyes of her viewers and asks them to donate for a cause. The

commercial continues as she talks about how viewers will receive a photo of the animal they will

be helping. Her words aren’t as heartfelt as they should be and seem to feel as cold as the keys of

a teleprompter.

Kira Brekke, of The HuffPost Live recently wrote an article in which McLachlan

expressed her dread at watching the ASPCA commercial she started in.

“The famed singer has lent her voice to numerous commercials sponsored by the

American Society For The Prevention Of Cruelty to Animals that feature sad-looking animals

desperate for a home…” during Brekke’s interview McLachlan explained—“I change the

channel. I can’t take it… I can’t even look at it. It’s just so depressing.”

When celebrities are cast to pull on heartstrings, is it really about the animals or the


Executive Director, Jon Bockman, of the Animal Charity Evaluators explained during an

email interview that celebrities are commonly used to catch the viewer’s eye.

“I think most charities are trying to do good, but that some are just more effective at

achieving their goals than others. Organizations use celebrity faces because the general public

often looks up to celebrities, so seeing a celebrity engage in a particular behavior can influence

other people’s behavior,” he said.

However, not everyone believes that the money truly is donated to fund the animal

activist organizations. There are many people who believe that the money goes to the workers or


Kathrine Ainsworth of The Seattle Dogs Examine, captured a picture perfect view of why

donations have diminished in recent years.

“One of the ASPCA’s and HSUS’s favored expenditures is advertising. And although it

is logical that one must spend money to make money, perhaps they get a bit carried away… A

weighty issue for critics of the ASPCA is their handling of advertising on a national level. The

ASPCA is one of the largest and most profitable ACG charities in the country, but it is located in

New York,” she wrote.

Viewers don’t often donate because they are unclear as to where their donations are

actually going.

Ainsworth explained that “There are an estimated 3,500 animal shelters in the United

States, some of which are SPCAs and some of which the public believes are HSUS-affiliated.

The perception that your local SPCA shelter is linked to the ASPCA and therefore will receive

some portion of the donations you make to the phone number shown during commercials like

Sarah McLachlan’s ad is false. At the low end, there is a growing group of critics claiming the

ASPCA uses only $11.00 of every $100.00 donated on the animals. In order to get an idea of the

most likely situation for yourself, consider these verifiable statistics regarding how many animals

the ASCPA “saved” in 2012.”

In reality, even the ASPCA isn’t true to its own word. A way to change this would really

be to allow donators to apply for the adoption of abandoned and stray animals.

Professor Broderick