US senator Robert C. Byrd, who co-authored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, has been named PETA's Person of the Year for 2007.
Sen. Byrd's passionate defense of animals has spanned six decades. The senior senator, who was a meat cutter in his youth, has evolved into a tireless advocate for improving legal protection for animals, including animals who are slaughtered for food.
The following are a few of Byrd's many efforts in behalf of animals:
- When the Michael Vick scandal broke, Byrd made a stirring 24-minute speech on the Senate floor condemning dogfighting as "barbaric."
- In a hearing to determine how to prevent a reoccurrence of 2007's massive pet-food recall that may have killed hundreds of cats and dogs, Byrd said, "Our pets are our companions, our soul mates, and our hedge against emotional turmoil."
- In 2005, Byrd coauthored the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, which prohibits the transport, purchase, and sale of horses for human consumption. The bill was publicly supported by PETA ally and singer Willie Nelson. Byrd also introduced a bill that would prohibit the commercial sale and slaughter of wild horses and burros.
- In 2002, Byrd led an effort to convince the Senate Appropriations Committee to provide $5 million - a record amount - for improving enforcement of the Humane Slaughter Act.
- In 2001, Byrd gave a moving oration in defense of a bill addressing cruelty to farmed animals, saying, "Our inhumane treatment of livestock is becoming widespread and more and more barbaric. Six-hundred-pound hogs - they were pigs at one time - raised in 2-foot-wide metal cages called gestation crates, in which the poor beasts are unable to turn around or lie down in natural positions, and this way they live for months at a time. ... These creatures feel; they know pain. They suffer pain just as we humans suffer pain."
"Sen. Byrd is never shy about making his strong belief in the importance of animal protection heard," says PETA President Ingrid E. Newkirk.
"Much animal suffering has been alleviated thanks to Sen. Byrd, and this year we are proud to honour him for giving a voice to the voiceless."