Activist legends in U.K., New Mexico, Texas, Louisiana, & California
Recently deceased longtime animal advocates John Bryant of Dorset, U.K., Judy Paulsen of Corrales, New Mexico, Randy Carothers of Rockwell, Texas, Rae Nell Domingues of Lafayette, Louisiana, and Susan Weingartner of southern California most likely never crossed paths in person, and may never even have known of each other.
Had they been acquainted, however, they would have had a lot to talk about.
Leading foe of fox hunting for 50 years
John Bryant, 77, a leading advocate for British wildlife and against fox hunting in particular, died on February 21, 2020 after a long battle against bone cancer.
Elected to the Royal SPCA National Council in 1972, Bryant during the next seven years served on the Animal Welfare Establishments Committee, Wild Animals Advisory Committee, Education Committee, and Unwanted Animals Working Committee, eventually becoming vice president of the National Council itself.
Recalled longtime colleague Trevor Williams, “I first met John in 1977 at an RSPCA animal rights symposium in Cambridge. John was already well known as part of the faction that finally established the charity’s official opposition to hunting. It overturned an absurd inconsistency defended by a group of ‘country set’ trustees who had systematically infiltrated the society over the years for the express purpose of preventing such a move.”
Managed Ferne Animal Sanctuary
From 1976 to 1983, Bryant as an RSPCA employee managed the Ferne Animal Sanctuary in Dorset, “where he faced constant intimidation from local hunters who chain-sawed the gates, hung dead animals on the fences, and threatened staff and volunteers,” Williams wrote.
“Naturally, those attacks galvanized John’s opposition all the more.
“Whilst at Ferne,” Williams continued, Bryant “was arrested on suspicion of receiving beagles liberated from a laboratory,” where they had been obliged to inhale tobacco smoke.
“It would not have been appropriate for me to comment whilst John was alive as to whether or not he was involved,” Williams said, “but all who knew him should be proud that he was. The dogs received new identities and were relocated under what John once termed a ‘witness protection scheme.’”
League Against Cruel Sports
Overlapping his RSPCA work, Bryant himself recounted in a brief online resumé, “In 1978 I was elected to the executive committee of the League Against Cruel Sports and served in this voluntary position until 1984, when I joined the staff as press officer and wildlife research officer. I also became editor of the League’s quarterly newspaper, Wildlife Guardian and, in 1997, was presented with the BBC Wildlife Magazine‘s award for ‘Best Campaigning Environmental Newspaper.’”
Concurrently, Bryant published a book about animal rights philosophy, Fettered Kingdoms: An Examination of a Changing Ethic (1982), and from 1984 to 1988 chaired the Council of Animal Aid.
The League Against Cruel Sports, founded in 1924, “was supposed to be a political pressure group,” recalled Williams, “but Parliament barely knew it existed. John and his allies recruited ex-prime minister Harold Wilson to spearhead a campaign that led to the first ever official commitment by a major political party to outlaw bloodsports.
“We shared an office”
“The prospect of political change brought John to London,” Williams explained, “where he was recruited as a League Against Cruel Sports staff member at the same time as myself,” Williams serving as assistant promotions manager.
“We shared an office,” Williams remembered, “our desks pushed together, face to face. My desk was left tidy at the end of each day whilst his was a pile of perpetually sliding papers, books, pens, cigarette packets and unwashed coffee mugs. When the tsunami washed over onto my territory, it would be shoved impatiently back over the border.”
Despite that friction, Bryant met his wife of more than 30 years, Tess, at Williams’ wedding to his wife of 30 years, Susan.
“I was honored to be John’s best man a couple of years later,” Williams mentioned. “We celebrated our joint 30-year anniversaries on the Shropshire Union Canal.”
Protection of Badgers Act 1992
Bryant listed as one of his chief accomplishments for the League Against Cruel Sports helping to win passage of the Protection of Badgers Act 1992, as negotiator for a coalition including also the RSPCA, Royal Society for Nature, and National Federation of Badgers Group.
Bryant also recalled briefing members of Parliament on the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981 and helping produce the original drafts of the Wild Mammals (Protection) Bills of 1992, 1995 and 1996, the latter finally becoming law in April 1996.
After former League Against Cruel Sports chief officer James Barrington appeared to switch sides on a proposed fox hunting ban in 1995, Bryant and another staff member, Graham Sirl, for a time were joint chief officers, but Bryant resigned in protest after the League reportedly sold several wildlife sanctuaries to pay costs associated with political campaigns.
“John wasn’t going to let that stop him”
Wrote Williams, “In diametrically opposite circumstances to those in which John and I were recruited to League Against Cruel Sports by forward thinking, energetic new management, we were both subsequently forced out by the incompetent regime that followed,” culminating in Sirl following Barrington in switching sides.
“John wasn’t going to let that stop him,” Williams continued. “He became a consultant to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, which, along with the RSPCA, was largely responsible for the eventual success of the Hunting Act 2004, working under the auspices of Protect Our Wild Animals, formed in 1998, and the Political Animal Lobby, an IFAW subsidiary.
“Left the world better than he found it”
After the passage of the Hunting Act nominally banned traditional fox hunting, Bryant produced books including Living with Urban Wildlife (2002); Unearthing the Urban Fox: A Householder’s Guide to Fox Deterrence, co-authored with Williams (2012); The Mouse Stranglers, a critique of wildlife control methods (2014); and Lady Patricia (2018), a novel about a mare who leads a mass escape from an animal sanctuary.
“In 2014, the RSPCA forgave him his earlier trespasses and presented him with their highest award – the Queen Victoria Gold Medal for services to animal welfare,” Williams eulogized.
“John will long be remembered,” Williams finished, “as a legend in the animal welfare/rights movement and a man who left the world more than a few degrees better than he found it.”
Defender of greyhounds & coyotes
Judy Kody Paulsen, 71, founder of Greyhound Companions of New Mexico in 1996 and New Mexico/Colorado representative for Project Coyote from 2012 to 2019, was reportedly found dead in her home on February 13, 2020.
An ophthalmology assistant and contact lens technician for 23 years, according to her LinkedIn profile, Paulsen became involved in greyhound rescue in 1992, starting her own greyhound rescue organization four years later.
At peak, 2006 through 2009, Greyhound Companions of New Mexico raised and spent as much as $46,000 per year, but there was never actually any greyhound racing in New Mexico, and both rescue activity and revenue dropped sharply after greyhound racing ended in the adjoining states of Colorado in 2008 and in Arizona in 2016.
Paulsen obtained the last five greyhounds she rehomed from the Macau Canidrome in China, which closed in July 2018.
Dispirited by two failed adoptions in two weeks, involving allegedly severe neglect of the dogs, Paulsen disbanded the Greyhound Companions of New Mexico adoption program at the end of March 2019.
From rescue to activism
Paulsen meanwhile joined the national anti-greyhound racing organization Grey 2K soon after it formed in 2001. For many years Paulsen campaigned against the greyhound racing industry relatively quietly, including deciphering the often cryptic injury reports filed by greyhound track operators for Massachusetts author and longtime anti-greyhound racing activist Greta Marsh, as Marsh acknowledged in her 2001 book The Story of My Life – By Shayna, who was a rescued and rehomed greyhound.
Then a part-time resident of Marco Island, Florida, Paulsen in February 2008 joined a demonstration against the now closed and demolished Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound Track in Bonita Springs. Interviewed by the Naples News as an unofficial spokesperson for the demonstrators, Paulsen became increasingly outspoken to media thereafter, especially in opposition to the use of greyhounds to hunt and kill coyotes.
Took up defense of coyotes
New York Times corespondent Juliet Macur described the practice in an April 25, 2010 article entitled “Coyote vs. Greyhound: The Battle Lines Are Drawn.”
Writing from Elgin, Oklahoma, Macur described how two greyhounds belonging to cattle rancher John Hardzog killed two of a family of seven coyotes.
“If the dogs don’t return from the hunt,” Paulsen explained to Macur, “some hunters just leave them for dead because, to them, they are expendable.”
Recalled Project Coyote founder Camilla Fox, “Judy came into my sphere in 2012 when she contacted Project Coyote to find out how she could get more involved in promoting coexistence between coyotes, domestic animals and people in her hometown of Corrales, New Mexico.
“Guardian of the pack”
“For the next six years, Judy dedicated her passion, time and talents to Project Coyote. With her many presentations and tabling events, she reached innumerable citizens with our message of compassionate conservation and coexistence. She also personally helped countless individuals address specific coyote conflict situations, no doubt saving the lives of many coyotes who would otherwise have perished.
“She spoke out vociferously against greyhound coursing, the unconscionable practice of setting greyhounds on wild prey including coyotes and foxes,” Fox continued, “often with her beloved greyhound rescue Rowdy by her side. Judy worked hard to raise public awareness about the dangers of traps and poisons to wildlife, and represented Project Coyote in the Trap Free New Mexico coalition. Working closely with our allies throughout the state, Judy contributed significantly to our recent coalition victory in banning coyote killing contests in New Mexico.”
Paulsen was recipient of Project Coyote’s 2019 Guardian of the Pack Award, Fox recounted, “recognizing her unstinting commitment to making this a better world for coyotes and all persecuted carnivores in North America.”
Rockwell PAWS founder
Randy Carothers, 69, a longtime resident of Rockwell, Texas, died in January 2020. Posted longtime acquaintance Kelly Reid Walls to Facebook on January 28, “I just learned that Randy Carothers passed away. Randy had a huge heart for animals and based on his encouragement, Rockwall PAWS was formed. The program ensures that heartworm positive dogs in the Rockwall community receive treatment at an affordable cost.
“Randy was a true Texas gentleman,” continued Walls. “Even though we were on different sides of the political spectrum, we could still discuss politics with civility––something that is rare nowadays. I did not always agree with him but I respected him immensely.”
After earning a degree in accounting from Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Carothers worked in the oil industry in many capacities, including in Bellingham, Washington, Anchorage, Alaska, and in the Prudhoe Bay and Kuparuk oil fields on the Alaskan North Slope.
Animal control officer & online critic
Following his oil industry career, Carothers worked in human resources for a time in Las Vegas, Nevada, before becoming an animal control officer in Rockwell as a post-career occupation. Joining the Rockwell Police Department “Citizen on Patrol” program in 2013, Carothers was honored a year later, and again in 2017, for leading the program in hours volunteered.
Along the way Carothers became a frequent online commentator about animal care and control issues, applying his background in statistics to evaluating the various Texas programs meant to achieve no-kill animal control.
Wrote Carothers in 2014, “Waco is a city to look at. It gone with a spay/neuter approach as well as promoting adoptions. The Waco program has received strong support from rescues and the citizens. Austin,” by contrast, “has spent a fortune and is spending more for [additional] shelter space because they did not have their [dog and cat] population under control before they started.”
Challenged “No Kill Equation”
Challenging the “No Kill Equation” promoted since 2007 by No Kill Advocacy Center founder Nathan Winograd, Carothers pointed out that “The No Kill Equation contains most of the known techniques for helping to reduce euthanasia and is not original. Many times however, no-kill supporters have focused primarily on adoptions, and that has proved challenging if intakes are not controlled. Hopefully, for the animals’ sake, intake control takes the form of spay/neuter efforts, not just gimmicks to reduce intake by making it harder to bring an animal [into a shelter].
“For what it is worth,” Carothers added, “the difference in the numbers published by ANIMALS 24-7 and Mr. Winograd’s numbers is that if you ask ANIMALS 24-7 how they got their numbers, Merritt Clifton can explain the details to you and is happy to do so, and is okay if you do not agree with the conclusions. If you ask Mr. Winograd about his numbers, you get crickets or blocks as an alleged supporter of killing, with no explanation! So yes, that makes me much more suspicious of Mr. Winograd’s analysis or conclusions.”
Quiet volunteer for 45 years
Rae Nell Domingues, a founding member of the Coalition of Louisiana Animal Advocates, former president of the Animal Concern & Education Corps, of Abbeville, Louisiana, enthusiastic reader of ANIMALS 24-7, and former member of the Lafayette Animal Control Center Advisory Board, died on December 21, 2019.
Already involved in hands-on animal rescue, as well as advocacy, for nearly 30 years, Domingues was especially well-remembered for her work, chiefly as a volunteer driver, during the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
Photographer & vegan activist
Susan Weingartner, 59, a noted longtime Southern California animal advocate and photographer, died on November 4, 2019, after three-year fight against lung cancer.
Weingartner had been events director at Mercy For Animals for about a decade. Earlier, beginning in October 2007, Weingartner served for a time on the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society (USA) board of directors.
Wrote Sea Shepherd Conservation Society founder Paul Watson when she was elected, “Trained as an actress and dancer, Susan is also an accomplished public speaker and frequent Mistress of Ceremonies at film screenings and conferences. She is a member of the Genesis Awards screening committee and a co-producer of numerous ground-breaking documentaries.”
“Why I refuse to consume dairy”
Weingartner may be best remembered, however, for her April 21, 2017 essay, posted by Mercy for Animals, about how the 1998 birth of her son influenced her activism.
“Even before my son was born,” Weingartner began, “I knew I would do anything to protect my child. I would go to the ends of the earth so he wouldn’t feel pain. The love I feel for my son is so strong that I would die to keep him safe.
“That’s why I refuse to consume dairy products.
“To produce milk,” Weingartner explained, “animals in the dairy industry are continually impregnated inside cramped, filthy factory farms. They feel their babies grow inside them, just like I did with my son, but they will never be able to raise their children.
“If my son and I were cows, he would be immediately dragged from my side. I would scream for the farmer that was taking him to stop and run after them as far as I could go. Once he was out of my sight, I would continue bellowing for him to come back. He would be gone. He would never be coming back.”