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From  Issue
2 June 2002
Senator Byrd (D-WV) Speaks on Animals

From: http://www.humaneusa.org/fed_leg/107/byrd_042902.htm 

On Thursday, April 25, 2002, The Humane Society of the United States hosted a gala to present its annual humane awards. Special recognition was given to seven legislators, six federal and one state, as well as four corporations, each of which had made significant efforts to promote the protection of all animals. Awards were also given to Christine Stevens and Dr. Richard Leakey for their lifetime work in animal protection and conservation respectively. The awards acknowledged courage as much as actual legislation to protect animals.

Senator Robert C. Byrd (D-WV) has been a great friend to animals. Below is the moving speech he gave at The HSUS gala:

From ancient days, before the ink of history, man has held dominion over the animals. Should we be able to peer through the mist of those distant times, we might witness the process by which man turned from gatherer to hunter, and, skill permitting, began to use the flesh of animals as a source of food and survival in a cold world full of danger and a perilous future. Later, the relationship of man and animals began to evolve through so-called domestication, and animals became a more reliable source of food. A partnership of sorts was formed in which animals came to bear the brunt of labor and the title "Beasts of Burden."

Over this same stretch of time, man developed social compacts from which sprang the seeds of modern civilization, and which led to pursuits of philosophy, and an emphasis on morality. The process was slow in development and uneven in allocation among and within societies. Even today, attitudes and actions persist that run counter to a higher understanding about the value of life and the lives of all things. For better or worse, man is destined to rule this world, and with that charge comes the heavy responsibility of benevolent custody and faithful husbandry to all creatures found within nature. To fail in that duty is to denigrate the sanctity of all life. Choices in our treatment of animals are a good barometer of how well we are carrying out our stewardship of God's beautiful world. Man may choose to rule this world, or attempt to do so, but for all his worry over property rights among his own species, it is well to remember that it is only God who holds title to this planet.

Maintaining civilization sometimes seems a process of constant struggle with those who, either because of ignorance or a deliberate scheme, would prefer to stress efficiency and materialism over more elusive concepts. To balance those forces, those of us who hear a different drummer must educate, legislate, and promulgate better understandings and guidelines aimed at bringing mankind into closer harmony with nature. The Congress embodies the collective will of the American people, and those of us who serve there recognize that our duty is to the people in our states. But, we also have a duty to safeguard the spirit of this nation and all that it represents in terms of philosophy and ideals, as well as law. You honor me this evening for my work in pursuit of these higher objectives, and I am very grateful.

Your organization works to enrich the condition of man by improving his relationship with nature, and in particular, his relationship with the animal kingdom. You bring to the public discourse a better understanding of the conditions in which animals exist and, unfortunately in many instances, of the inhumane manner in which they are treated. You remind us all that animals share this planet with us, and that their space, their comfort, and their lives are not without importance. You remind us of man's higher purpose in the larger universe. Public debate is enriched by your participation, and the lives of God's creatures greatly benefit because of your contributions.

Animals are man's fellow occupants on this blue-green ball, slowly spinning through eternity, and they enlighten and enliven our lives in many ways. They provide us companionship and friendship. They ward off loneliness. They assist the blind. They protect us. They help maintain the balance of nature. While there are those who object to the practice, they feed us. They benefit us in ways we don't even recognize. In return, it is our duty to ensure that their lives and, in some cases, their deaths, are free from unnecessary discomfort. Animals, deserve our respect because, they, too, are creatures of God. Combating cruelty and apathy towards the welfare of animals is a high and moral calling. I commend you for your altruism, and I am proud to count myself among your number. We cannot correct all the problems overnight, but we can make changes today, and we can make changes tomorrow. We have come a long way towards the goal of fostering more humane treatment for animals, but we still have much to do.

This evening, together we pause to reflect on our achievements and to contemplate future strategies. I am humbled by your recognition of my work, your encouragement, and the hope that our efforts may inspire others to a more sublime level of humanity through empathy with the animals with which we share this lovely world.

Go on to Zambia Trying To Step Into The Ivory Trade
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