ANIMAL WATCH-Hollywood celebrities, friends and animal lovers gathered on the roof-top deck of PETA’s LA headquarters in Echo Park last week to celebrate the life and loves of Prince—especially his compassion for animals. On June 7, 2016, Prince would have turned 58.
This was an opportunity to not only learn about Prince’s involvement with PETA but also attain insight into PETA’s activities and goals for their Los Angeles office at 2154 Sunset Boulevard.
Among those in attendance at the gala affair were Pamela Anderson and her son, Brandon Lee; Russell Simmons, the force behind the hip-hop revolution and creator of Phat Farm fashions; Belinda Carlisle, lead singer for the famous all-women’s pop band, The Go-Go's; Davey Havok, lead vocalist with rock band AFI, and other celebrities who have used their talent and fame to support and promote animal-rights.
Mayte Garcia, Prince’s ex-wife, co-hosted the dazzling but respectful event and gave a touching speech about Prince, the private man, who spoke out passionately and candidly against animal cruelty in any form. "Prince didn’t want to celebrate birthdays, but to live life, to elevate and educate to the next level of enlightenment,” she said.
The “Purple Rain” icon--whose life and music defied convention and boundaries--is widely quoted for proclaiming, “A strong spirit transcends rules.” He explained his aversion to celebrating his birthday to a Dutch television interviewer in 1999, "I don't celebrate birthdays. It stops me from counting days, which stops me from counting time, which allows me to still look the same as I did 10 years ago."
He believed time was a trick and told The Guardian in 2011 that he did not age because "time is a mind construct...It's not real."
In 2001 Prince, whose real name was Prince Nelson Rogers, became a Jehovah’s Witness, a decision he called a “transition,” rather than a conversion. Jehovah’s Witnesses do not celebrate birthdays or holidays.
He was a member of the Kingdom Hall of Jehovah's Witnesses in St. Louis Park in Minneapolis, where he was remembered fondly, according to E! News. A source is quoted as saying, "He was kind and gentle, funny and he liked to laugh.”
In 2006, Prince was named PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Celebrity. He explained his vegan lifestyle simply, he didn't “eat anything with parents” because “”Thou shalt not kill’ means just that!”
When critics pressed him for justification of his concern about animals in the face of widespread human suffering, Prince responded, “Compassion is an action word with no boundaries.”
PETA chose this occasion to re-release “Animal Kingdom,” the song he donated to serve as a musical invitation to its 20th anniversary party in 1999.
Mayte Garcia said she is working alongside the charity to mark June 7 every year to encourage Prince’s fans to support his legacy.
Most Angelenos don’t realize that PETA--which has a history of stirring controversy with flamboyant campaigns--has been working quietly and steadily in Los Angeles since 2005 on popular and lauded local animal-protection issues.
Lisa Lange, Senior VP of Communications, who heads PETA’s Los Angeles branch, told me:
When we first opened an office in L.A. in 2005, we had a little one-room space in Silver Lake in the Roger Building on Rowena. . .but we grew too big for the space after we moved our marketing, corporate, youth, and social media divisions to L.A.
We fell in love with Echo Park and the building we're in now. Thanks to Bob Barker's generous support, we now reside in one of the coolest neighborhoods in town. We love our neighbors, the proximity of Echo Park Lake, and all the vegan and vegan-friendly restaurants.
I asked her if we will see PETA involved at City Hall, testifying on local concerns. She responded:
PETA has been a presence at City Hall for some time, weighing in on issues such as the wonderful bullhook ban, celebrating the City Council's decision to implement Meatless Mondays, and encouraging the City to enforce the strong spay/neuter ordinance that's been on the books (but largely ignored) since 2008.”
Lisa said she started with PETA in 1992 as a campaigner before moving into the Communications Department and, among other progressive measures, developing PETA Latino.
She also oversees the Animals in Film and Television Division, which has been successful in persuading filmmakers and the TV industry to stop using wild animals in productions and opt instead for computer-generated imagery and animatronics (such as in Noah, The Jungle Book, and Rise of the Planet of the Apes).
I asked about her primary goals for PETA in Los Angeles in the near future. She responded thoughtfully:
Locally, I am very concerned that in recent years, some groups have taken the focus off the real solution to the homeless dog and cat overpopulation crisis—which is to create a ‘no-birth’ city by actively enforcing the spay/neuter ordinance and making spay/neuter surgeries available to lower income households.
There are groups that like to blame the shelters for the need for euthanasia, and that's simply neither fair nor useful.
We want to see an end to the NEED for euthanasia. We want to see an end to animal homelessness and suffering. There are too many animals living on the streets—getting hit by cars, being hurt by cruel people, dying slowly of disease, never knowing where their next meal will come from, and so on. This is the cruelty that we need to bring to an end.
Author’s note: I think Prince would agree with that!
(Animal activist Phyllis M. Daugherty writes for CityWatch and is a contributing writer to opposingviews.com. She lives in Los Angeles.) Prepped for CityWatch by Linda Abrams.