Pundit passionate about animal rights

When Delhi, a 57-year-old circus elephant, developed chemical burns from having had her feet soaked in undiluted formaldehyde, the org known as People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals furnished videotaped evidence of her mistreatment to the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture. The result: Delhi was confiscated and placed in a sanctuary. Today, Delhi makes orange juice with her feet by squashing the oranges and sucking up the juice.

Delhi can thank Bill Maher and the other supporters of PETA for her new life.

“Protect the innocent,” says the comedian and animal rights activist. “They are the most vulnerable, and they need our guardianship. In the 30 years since PETA has been around, it’s legend what they have done to change people’s thinking. Animals don’t vote or speak, but PETA has made people think that animals are a constituency.”

And whenever he gets an award for his efforts helping critters, Maher is quick to say that it “should go to the people at PETA who go out in the field. Not me.” Maher, who is extremely modest about his role in the charity, adds, “I don’t go into the field. It would upset me too much. I’m too much of a baby.”

Since Maher is such an active voice for PETA, he has a real fan in Diana Goodrich, who is outreach director for the Chimpanzee Sanctuary, a 28-acre farm in the Cascade Mountains of Seattle. It is just one of nine sanctuaries in the country that care for chimpanzees. The Sanctuary took in seven chimps from a supplier of laboratory animals that had been fined and sanctioned by the USDA after PETA brought attention to their mistreatment. Then PETA gave the Sanctuary $56,000 for operational expenses.

“The chimps’ physical appearance has changed so much since they have been here. Even I have been surprised. Foxie, one of the seven, was aloof and nervous. Now, she’s the most playful chimp,” says Goodrich.

“People are animal people or they’re not,” Maher points out. “The gulf is the holocaust of species. How long can we continue to destroy animals before we destroy ourselves? And we don’t know when it will end.”

And in his own life, Maher recently lost his dog, Shadow. “I’m going to the shelter to find a couple of creatures,” he says. “Not cats. I like cats but they’d probably eat my fish.”

For more information, visit peta.org

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