Was among first celebrities to oppose fur
Actress and longtime animal advocate Mary Tyler Moore, 80, died from cardiopulmonary arrest ascribed to pneumonia on January 25, 2017 in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Born in Brooklyn, New York, Moore lived almost her entire life in and around New York City, and rose to television stardom playing the role of homemaker, wife and mother Laura Petrie in The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966), set in Westchester, a New York City suburb.
Her most famous role, however, was as television news producer Mary Richards in The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970–1977), the concept for which she developed and successfully pitched to CBS in partnership with her husband Grant Tinker.
Posed in 1971 faux-fur ad
The Mary Tyler Moore Show had only aired for one successful season when in July 1971 longtime TV Guide columnist and Fund for Animals founder Cleveland Amory reputedly persuaded Moore and fellow actresses Doris Day, Angie Dickinson, Amanda Blake and Jayne Meadows to pose in a glossy magazine ad headlined “Five Women Who Can Easily Afford Any Fur Coat in the World Tell Why They’re Proudly Wearing Fakes.”
The two-page ad was placed by E. F. Timme & Son, a leading maker of faux fur garments.
Reported The New York Times, “At their request, according to the Mervin & Jesse Levine agency, a contribution will be made to the Fund for Animals. The ad will appear The New York Times and the New York Times Magazine, Look, McCall’s, Cosmopolitan, New York and Esquire. It will not appear in Vogue because, according to the Levine shop, the magazine turned it down and has not as yet given an official reason.
“In 1970, according to the Publisher’s Information Bureau, the magazine carried 36 pages of advertising from the real fur folks,” the New York Times item finished.
“A bloody, barbaric story”
Said Moore, “Behind every beautiful fur, there is a story. It is a bloody, barbaric story.”
Diagnosed with type 1 diabetes soon after The Mary Tyler Moore Show became a hit, Moore also battled alcoholism, as she recounted in her first of two memoirs. Dealing with both issues, Moore developed an enduring interest in diet and health.
The vignettes that opened each episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show included several frames of Moore in a supermarket, inspecting a meat package before tossing it into her shopping cart.
But Moore reputedly never did like the scene.
“I’d like to become a vegetarian”
“I’d like to become a vegetarian,” Moore told celebrity cook and cooking columnist Helen Dorsey in February 1974, “but it seems to involve a real commitment––almost a way of life.”
Eventually Moore made the necessary commitment. By the 1980s “Lifestyle” items often mentioned that Moore had become a vegetarian.
Moore took her public commitment to not eating animals farther in 1995, writing an open letter in support of PETA demonstrations against the annual Maine Lobster Festival in Rockland. Published as a full-page newspaper ad, the Moore letter urged festival-goers to quit eating lobsters.
Moore’s best-known animal advocacy project, an annual shelter animal adoption promotion called Broadway Barks, was begun in 1999 in partnership with fellow actress Bernadette Peters.
By 2014, according to Associated Press drama writer Mark Kennedy, “the annual star-studded event in Shubert Alley – a pedestrian alley at the heart of the Broadway theater district – had grown from a folding-table affair with a few animals from six shelters to a mammoth one with celebrities, musical acts and animals from 27 shelters across the city,” and sales of “signed memorabilia like calendars and stuffed dogs, with all proceeds going to help homeless animals.”
Pit bull advocacy
But Moore also began making some of her most significant missteps in animal advocacy in 1999, also in partnership with Peters, campaigning against breed-specific legislation to prevent pit bull proliferation, pit bull attacks, and dogfighting as far away as Washington D.C.
As of 1999, about two million pit bulls were in U.S. homes at any given time, of whom about 700,000 were surrendered to animal shelters or impounded for dangerous behavior within a year’s time, and about 630,000 were killed from lack of safe adoptive homes. No pit bull rehomed from a shelter was known to have ever killed anyone.
At Moore’s death, about 3.5 million pit bulls are in U.S. homes at any given time, of whom about one million per year are surrendered to animal shelters or impounded for dangerous behavior within one year. The number of pit bulls killed in shelters rose as high as 930,000 before falling back to the 1999 level. But at least 45 pit bulls rehomed from shelters have killed people since 2000, 42 of them killing people since 2010.
More before & after
As of 1999, pit bulls were about 3% of the U.S. dog population, but accounted for 17% of shelter dog admissions. Today pit bulls are still barely 6% of the U.S. dog population, but account for more than a third of shelter dog admissions.
In the 17 years before Moore and Peters took up pit bull advocacy, pit bulls killed 36 people in the U.S. and Canada. In the 17 years since, pit bulls have killed 347 people in the U.S. and Canada.
In the year 1999, 791 pit bulls were seized in dogfighting cases nationwide, up from 365 in 1998 and 95 in 1997. The post-2000 average is close to 1,000 pit bulls impounded each year in dogfighting cases, including 1,071 impounded in 2016.
To blame Moore and Peters alone for these national trends would be unfair; but they did prominently lend their names to a prolonged trend of pit bull advocacy coinciding with ever increasing numbers of pit bulls being bred to excess, flunking out of homes, getting killed in shelters, and killing and maiming people, while dogfighting has soared to a level of activity not seen since Elizabethan England.
On the useful and positive side, Moore in August 2000 became celebrity spokesperson for an American SPCA-led campaign to restrict New York City carriage horses to Central Park.
In 2001 Moore joined another old friend and fellow actress, Rue McClanahan, who had supported Farm Sanctuary since 1996, at Farm Sanctuary’s first Gala for Farm Animals at the Plaza Hotel in New York City.
In 2003 Moore endorsed the long-running In Defense of Animals campaign, begun in 1999, which urges use of the term “guardian” to describe the relationship between humans and companion animals. Said Moore, “I like the term guardian, as opposed to master or owner. It is an honor that is bestowed on some of us and we need to treat it that way.”
Pale Male & Lola
A pair of red-tailed hawks known to New York City birders as Pale Male and Lola nested from 2002 to 2004 on the 12th floor of the condominium building in which Moore lived.
Summarized Wikipedia of the ensuing controversy, “In December 2004, the hawks’ nest and the anti-pigeon spikes that had long anchored it were removed by the condo board. The removal caused an international outcry and a series of impassioned protests organized by New York City Audubon Society and the Central Park birding community. Mary Tyler Moore participated in the protests.
“On December 14, 2004,” Wikipedia continues, “the building, various city agencies, and the Audubon Society came to an agreement to replace the spikes and to install a new ‘cradle’ for the nest. By December 28, 2004, the scaffolding had been removed and the hawks started bringing twigs to the nest site.”
Pale Male and other red-tailed hawks remain in the vicinity.
Moore joined actor Richard Gere in promoting legislation in 2005 meant to reduce the numbers of wild horses sold to slaughter in contravention of the intent of the Wild Free-Ranging Horse & Burro Protection Act of 1971.
In 2005-2006 Moore was also active, with Mary Tyler Moore Show co-star Ed Asner, in successfully seeking federal legislation requiring the Federal Emergency Management Authority to include companion animals in disaster relief planning.
That was effectively Moore’s last major campaign on behalf of animals, due to her own deteriorating health, including elective brain surgery in May 2011 to remove a benign meningioma.