First introduced to the world as a finalist on a popular reality show and then having appeared in many movies, this model-actress talks to us about her non-profit organisation – Peace 4 Animals.
Katie Cleary first hit the screens in the first season of America’s Next Top Model. Since then, she’s had a wide-ranging career leading her to act in films and shows such as Rules of Engagement, The Break-Up and Chuck.
Her passion for animal welfare led her to launch her own non-profit organisation, Peace4Animals. She was active in the banning of the sale of fur in the city of West Hollywood. We catch up with Katie to find out all about her award-winning documentary, Give Me Shelter.
Woman This Month (WTM): It’s been over a year since the launch of Peace4Animals. Have you seen it bring about the change you hoped for?
Katie Cleary (KC): It’s amazing when you’re fighting against lobbyists, big corporations and even the government. This is how much of an uphill battle there can be.
One year is not a lot of time when your corporate motto is to “change the world – one animal at a time.” I certainly have learned a lot and I think I have opened a lot of eyes as a result of my passion to help animals around the world.
WTM: Talk to us about the upcoming Peace4Animals Boutique.
KC: We have a t-shirt line coming out as well as silver, crystal and copper tiger pendants with individual quotes on the back. We are getting ready to sell online at peace4animals.com and in stores. They are really beautiful and affordable. Twenty-five percent of the proceeds goes towards our endangered species campaign to save the last 3,500 tigers left in the wild due to poaching for their parts used in Asian medicine. If something isn’t done soon, we are going to lose these amazing animals forever.
WTM: The ‘Diamonds not Fur’ campaign has seen many celebrities join the cause. How far has the project helped make the world of fashion ‘fur free’?
KC: Getting Betty White to host our first charity event in LA was really a milestone as she is a living legend. Alison Eastwood joined forces with us last year for our ‘Stars for Stripes’ campaign with Born Free USA to save the last 1,500 wild tigers left in India.
Our biggest accomplishment was getting the ‘fur-free’ bill passed in West Hollywood, two years ago because of the horrendous pain animals go through in order to get their fur. Now we want to see it passed all around the world because no animal deserves to go through that kind of torture for our vanity for fashion.
If people saw videos on what happens to the animals they are wearing, I guarantee you they wouldn’t wear fur, especially if they have compassion and love animals.
WTM: What are the challenges you face actualising campaigns?
KC: One word – greed. Whenever money is involved, morals and ethics go right out the window. If you watched the videos that I have watched on what goes on in factory farms, you would not be able to eat; much less eat meat.
There’s big money in the abuse of animals and when animals can’t fight back, they are going to lose. Look at what humans do to other humans in this world. You can imagine the challenges I face when trying to speak for those who depend on us to be their voice.
WTM: What are your thoughts on the illegal breeding and smuggling of animals, especially dogs that are unsuitable for Middle Eastern climatic conditions?
KC: People need to be responsible. If they have a pet, then they need to look after them and take care of them. Do not let them be exposed when the weather gets extreme.
There needs to be animal rescues that step up and take care of stray animals instead of shipping them off so someone else can take care of them. The solution is to spay and neuter animals, so the population can be controlled and less animals end up starving or being killed.
I saw a picture of a drugged tiger cub in a suitcase with stuffed animals around it that was seized by the TSA in Thailand. Smuggling animals for the illegal exotic pet trade needs to end.
When I volunteered at sanctuaries, it was always the same old story. People get these exotic animals thinking they’ll make great pets. When they get to about six months old and are completely uncontrollable, they end up being tied to the front gate of a sanctuary with a note or get confiscated. It’s terrible!
WTM: Give Me Shelter is a very special project. What was on your mind when you created the award-winning documentary?
KC: My aim was to open people’s eyes to the plight of animals throughout the world. What ‘earthlings’ did for the meat industry, we want to do for the ‘species’ industry. We need to create change and respect how we think, act, eat and co-exist with the rest of our world’s amazing animals.
WTM: There is always a defining moment before you take the decision to really do something for a cause. When and what was that experience for you?
KC: When I graduated from college, I wanted to do something for animals and looking through the yellow pages, I started calling animal welfare organisations to help them raise funds. I was 21 and raised USD10,000 for 10 different animal organisations all on my own time and effort. When I accomplished that I realised I could do anything!
WTM: What can our readers do to join the cause?
KC: It starts in your own backyard, saving one animal’s life at a time. Volunteer at an animal rescue. Start your own rescue cause with like-minded people, who want to make a difference or foster and re-habilitate animals. Try to find good homes for them.
Do not support the ivory trade or any other exploitation of endangered species. Buy recycled paper products eliminating the risk of them coming from rainforest trees. Recycle paper, plastic and glass products and try not to purchase plastic water bottles because many end up polluting our oceans and killing marine mammals.
Spread awareness through social media about animal issues. Write letters to your elected officials asking to protect animals in your country and other countries. Organise trash cleanups because that is one of the leading results in pollution and animals being killed by eating plastic, thinking it is food.
Join Peace 4 Animals, The Humane Society, WWF, Defenders of Wildlife, ASPCA, Born Free and other animal organisational newsletters for e-mail updates to stay informed and spread the word about animal issues. Sign online petitions on AVAAZ.org, ThePetitionSite.com and Change.org.
When choosing a vacation destination, support eco-tourism by participating in tours that feature and view local animal species and wildlife rather than hunt them. You can donate money to our charity at peace4animals.com and support our efforts around the world. You can watch Give Me Shelter when it is releases in November.
WTM: What new projects are in the pipeline for Peace4Animals and for you?
KC: My focus right now is on World Animal News, Give Me Shelter and the new t-shirt and jewellery line. We’re working to raise funds to save animals in need. I’m currently pitching two other animal-related TV shows to networks.