WV Sen. Byrd receives "Lifetime Achievement Award"


Mar 11, 2001
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Group calls Byrd a ‘real champion’ for animal rights

Karin Fischer <kfischer@dailymail.com>

Daily Mail Washington bureau

Charleston Daily Mail

April 30, 2002
WASHINGTON — The 60-year-old pay stubs, for a few dollars apiece, hang framed in the Capitol Hill office of one of the Senate’s most powerful members.

A young Sen. Robert Byrd worked sorting produce and as a meat cutter in a store near his Southern West Virginia home.

Just as Washington is a long way, physically and psychologically, from coal country’s hollows, Byrd, D-W.Va., has come a great distance on animal rights issues. The one-time butcher last week was honored at a Humane Society gala with a special lifetime achievement award.

But don’t think Byrd has forgotten his roots. Drawing on his experience as a meat cutter, Byrd’s speech to the Humane Society of the United States, delivered over a meatless dinner at the Willard-Intercontinental Hotel, admonished, “It is our duty to ensure that (animals’) lives and, in some cases, their deaths, are free from unnecessary discomfort.”

The Humane Society’s Wayne Pacelle calls Byrd a “real champion” for animals.

“What distinguishes Sen. Byrd is his oratory,” Pacelle said. “He took to the floor with criticism of abuse of animals, of factory farming, of forced molting . . . I do not believe any other senator has ever come to the floor to speak out about those issues.”

For most of his Senate career, Byrd has been better known for netting pork projects for West Virginia than for protecting pigs or other animals.

Byrd did support animal protection legislation and was known for launching into the occasional rhapsody about faithful companion, 15-year-old Maltese terrier Billy Byrd, who died today.

All that’s changed in the last year as Byrd has taken to the floor to combat cockfighting, denounce factory farming, decry animal cruelty and, even today, talk about his sadness over Billy’s death. And Byrd used his Appropriations chairman’s muscle to add millions of dollars to the Agriculture budget for inspectors to enforce federal law mandating humane slaughter. He recently took Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman to task for not moving quickly enough on the issue.

Byrd has said he was outraged by a newspaper’s investigative report into livestock production and slaughter practices.

“I used to kill hogs,” Byrd said. “I used to help lower them into the barrels of scalding water, so that the bristles could be removed easily. But those hogs were dead when we lowered them into the water . . .

“It is sickening. It is infuriating. Barbaric treatment of helpless, defenseless creatures must not be tolerated even if these animals are being raised for food . . . Life must be respected and dealt with humanely in a civilized society.”

Washington Sen. Maria Cantwell said her colleague uses his rhetorical skills and ability to negotiate Senate procedure to accomplish a great deal on animal issues.

“You could not have found a better advocate than Robert C. Byrd,” she said.

Writer Karin Fischer can be reached at (202) 662-8732.

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