Katerina Lorenzatos Makris
In a hillside aerie above the City of Angels, octogenarian former game show host Bob Barker rallied a crowd of animal activists into an entire minute’s worth of shrieks and applause—not unlike those he often elicited from eager contestants on The Price is Right—when he handed a check for $250,000 to Mercy for Animals (MFA) founder Nathan Runkle.
“I’m up here babbling away,” Barker said in his speech to about 300 supporters gathered in James Costa’s elegant West Hollywood home for MFA’s Hidden Heroes event Saturday night, “but you’ve heard the old adage, ‘money speaks louder than words’? Well, I’ve brought a check.”
As wild cheers from the audience nearly drowned him out, Barker continued, “Here you are, Nathan. That’ll help you to continue the splendid work you’ve been doing.”
Barker frequently speaks out in support of MFA’s undercover investigations, which he said have “closed slaughterhouses and saved much suffering and animal cruelty in pig farms, chicken farms, dairy farms. I think undercover work has been responsible for many of the advances that we’ve made.”
The evening’s Hidden Heroes theme referred to past and current MFA undercover investigators, two of whom discussed their experiences gathering covert video and photographs of abuses at large-scale animal agriculture facilities such as Hyline Hatchery, Willett Dairy, and E6 Cattle Company, resulting in law enforcement investigations and in some cases criminal charges and convictions.
MFA organized the event to honor Barker and the investigators, and to “raise funds to elevate MFA’s lifesaving work—including the expansion of our investigations department and the launch of a Los Angeles office,” according to the group’s website.
Film producer and philanthropist Cindy Landon, widow of actor Michael Landon, also made a large donation of $25,000.
“The thing that is shocking to me is that people love their dogs, but they eat the cows and they eat the pigs,” said Landon, who became a vegetarian at age 15. “To me there’s no difference between my dogs, the pigs, the horses, the cats, the chickens. They’re all animals. They just come in different shapes, sizes. They feel. They care about their babies. They need to eat. They breathe. They get sad, they get angry, they get happy to see you, they love you, and all of this needs to be exposed. People don’t know enough. So tonight being here and seeing the amazing work these people do, it’s just the right thing to do.”
Barker receives Compassionate Leadership Award
During the evening’s program Runkle presented Barker with MFA’s Compassionate Leadership Award, saying, “When I was 11 years old, I went to the library and picked up a book on animal rights. And Bob Barker was on the cover of it. It was Bob protesting fur in Beverly Hills, and I remember telling my parents, ‘Hey, Bob Barker is a vegetarian.’ And all of the sudden it was like mainstream.”
Runkle continued, “Bob has been such an outspoken advocate for all animals for over 30 years, whether it’s chickens or whales, no animal is too small or too large for Bob to care about. He has done more than probably anyone to bring many issues of exploitation to the forefront. From encouraging people on The Price is Right to spay and neuter, to fighting for whales, to speaking up on behalf of elephants, to supporting Mercy for Animals undercover investigations, he is a real hero.”
Barker is known for his plea at the end of every The Price is Right segment: “Help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered.”
Why care about animals?
In answer to Animal Policy Examiner’s (APE) question as to why he cares so much about animals, Barker replied, “I don’t know. I was just born an animal lover. I’ve loved them all my life, and worked on behalf of them all my life. I picked up strays and tried to help injured animals and here I am an old man still doing it.”
Another reporter asked, “Bob, can you talk about… you just donated a quarter of a million dollars.“
“To Mercy for Animals.” Barker nodded. “That’s right.
“That’s amazing,” the reporter remarked.
“Well, it’s not amazing,” said Barker. “It’s money well-spent. They do a great job. They really do and I’m pleased that I’m able to help them.”
APE asked, “Mr. Barker, you care not only about the dogs and cats that you talked about spaying and neutering on your show, but you care very much about farmed animals as well?”
Barker said, “I care about all living things. All animals, all people, all trees, all plants. I care about the world.”
Runkle ‘shocked’ by Barker’s donation
“We’re shocked and we’re extremely grateful to Mr. Barker for this contribution and all the support that he’s offered for our investigations,” Runkle told APE. “He puts his money where his mouth is. He is a living legend, and he has done probably more than anyone to make this world a kinder place for all animals. He is definitely pushing our society towards that kind of future.”
During his speech Barker quipped, “I wish I had a refrigerator for every one of you. I feel I’ve met every one of you tonight. I feel as though I’ve had a picture made with every one of you tonight. We’ve become a close-knit group. I sincerely appreciate your warm welcome. And I sincerely appreciate your kind words, Nathan, and this beautiful award. I’m flattered and pleased to receive it from an organization for which I have so much respect.”
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Having a down-to-earth spokesman like Barker has been highly beneficial to MFA, said Runkle. “Mr. Barker is someone who generations of Americans have grown up with. He is just such an incredible ambassador for animals. His being a vegetarian and supporting farmed animal protection issues has certainly pushed them into the mainstream.”
‘Don’t get discouraged—we will prevail’
“I could go on and on here about people I admire and who’ve helped in the animal rights movement,” Barker told the group. “There are thousands and they are adding to the ranks every day. The animal rights movement is not unlike a big snowball rolling down a mountain. It gets bigger daily, and it gains speed daily. That’s exactly what’s happening with this movement."
“I urge you not to get burnt out,” he counseled, “or to get discouraged.”
A woman called out, “Thank you!”
“The changes that I have seen in the last 35 years are magnificent,” Barker went on,” and that says to me that we will prevail.”
After another minute-long round of cheers and applause, he concluded, “On that happy note, I’m going to say goodnight. But I do want to remind you of one very important thing: Help control the pet population…”
The audience enthusiastically joined the veteran voice for animals in the rest of his trademark sign-off: “Have… your… pet… spayed… or… neutered!”