Interview: Kim Basinger Talks Bluntly About Her Ongoing Fight For Animal Protection
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Acclaimed actor and activist Kim Basinger has made just one post on her personal Instagram and it’s the only one needed to express where her efforts, heart, and commitment lie: animal rights and rescue. She calls it “the most important thing I do.”
In the photo, alongside fellow actors Donna D’Errico and Priscilla Presley, Basinger is pictured holding a Last Chance for Animals (LCA) poster, captioned “STOP DOG MEAT,” unapologetically showing skinned dogs hanging from wires. It’s an image from a protest last month outside the Consulate General of the Republic of Korea in Los Angeles. The brutal practice is also happening in China.
Under the photo, tagging LCA — a non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating animal exploitation through education, investigations, legislation, and media attention — Basinger writes:
“Everything is about awareness… and education. Please post. They don’t need your tears they need your help. Tell a friend to tell a friend to tell another friend. Help stop the torture… because they think the meat is tastier the more they suffer… they are electrocuted, hung boiled alive and or striped of their skin.”
“The bad thing about animal protection is it never seems to get better,” Basinger tells Samaritanmag. “We can look back in history and see things not having changed with the way they were, so it’s an ongoing fight to protect any kind of animal.”
The 64-year-old activist, who has starred in such high-profile films as 9 ½ Weeks, 8 Mile, Batman, Never Say Never Again, and Fifty Shades Darker — winning a 1998 Academy Award for best supporting actress in L.A. Confidential — puts her face and voice out in the public to raise awareness for the causes she supports: Last Chance for Animals, plus Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and the Humane Society.
“I’ve always been a huge member of PAWS up in San Andreas [California]. I’ve been the spokesperson for the elephant campaign for many, many, many, years,” she says. “I’m working on numerous things with Last Chance for Animals to try to stop this Yulin [dog meat] festival and to bring awareness all over Asia about the tragedy that is going on with the dog-meat industry there.
“There’s so many things — the wild animals in the poaching situation. I’m working on something 24/7 with the Humane Society, as well as with my daughter, Ireland.”
The Humane Society, probably the best-known animal rights organization, tackles the worst of the worst, “driving transformational change in the U.S. and around the world by combating large-scale cruelties such as puppy mills, animal fighting, factory farming, seal slaughter, horse cruelty, captive hunts and the wildlife trade,” it lists in its mandate.
Performing Animal Welfare Society was founded in the late 1980s by the late Pat Derby, an animal trainer in the TV and film business who published a book in 1976 about the harsh treatment of exotic animals in entertainment called The Lady & Her Tiger. The sanctuary was established “to help protect performing animals, to providing sanctuary to abused, abandoned and retired captive wildlife, to enforcing the best standards of care for all captive wildlife.”
Last Chance for Animals also has its roots in Hollywood, set up in 1984 by then-actor Chris DeRose, initially fighting and exposing the cruelty of vivisection (he received a jail sentence for breaking into UCLA’s Brain Research Institute and was fired from General Hospital). The organization “opposes the use of animals in food and clothing production, scientific experimentation, and entertainment and promotes a cruelty-free lifestyle and the ascription of rights to non-human beings,” it says in its mandate.
“These are humble people who have dedicated their lives. I know them up close and personal. I know who the real players are,” Basinger tells Samaritanmag passionately.
In 2015, Basinger was instrumental in the launch of LCA’s widespread campaign to let the public know about the dog meat industry in commercial slaughterhouses in Northern China. Undercover investigations by LCA staff showed dogs in the province of Jilin sold, transported, and killed. Basinger narrates LCA’s public service announcement about the industry, for which an estimated 10 million dogs are slaughtered each year, many stolen family pets.
Last Chance for Animals is calling for the Chinese government to pass an animal-cruelty law before the Beijing Winter Olympics in 2022.
The organization’s other target is South Korea, another country with different cultural practices, different laws, and different views on family pets, but according to current statistics one in five South Koreans (two million – one-fifth of a 10-million population) have dogs as companions.
“Old attitudes are changing. Dogs are increasingly considered as part of the family,” it reads on the petition page.
Basinger’s fight to help stop animal cruelty began as a child in Athens, Georgia, where she was born. “I wrote my first animal-rights letter when I was like seven or eight to a local newspaper,” she recalls. After reading an article about the necessity of animal testing, she sarcastically wondered if speedier results could be achieved if a human being was substituted.
“This is what I really can’t believe, because we really love our domestic pets especially in America, they are the most brutally treated animals in the world, our dogs, our cats,” Basinger says.
“Forget experimentation and all the animals they use for things like cosmetics, and how we’ve used animals over the years in entertainment and we call them ‘man’s best friend.’ The mistreatment of animals any day of the week, anywhere you go — go to YouTube; oh, my God — just the evil that’s out there when it comes to the mistreatment of animals is just way too high, still. Still.
“I don’t know if it’s to show power, or exert power in some way, over some innocent creature, I don’t know what it is, I don’t,” she reflects. “But I’ve always been baffled that we can use them for profit and for entertainment and for all of these things and we call them our best friends.
“Don’t get me wrong,” she continues, “I’m not completely negative on this. I see a lot of people take care of their animals, and love their animals and treat an animal the way they should be treated. On the other hand, the things that I deal with on a daily basis and write letters for, just the situations that come my way every single day, it’s treacherous.”
Basinger says she and her daughter have been asked by the Humane Society to go to South Korea “and save hundreds and hundreds of dogs,” but the timing was not right. Ireland, 22 — a successful model and aspiring actress who also posed naked for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), for their famous I’d Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur campaign — is following in the footsteps of her mom, who did the same 24 years earlier. Ireland has it in her contracts that she will not wear fur.
“This is something my mother has fought her entire life and has advocated for, and something that I have tried to as well,” Ireland says in the PETA clip about the shoot.
“I do see young kids and their attitudes towards animals and animal life-changing things,” says Basinger. “It’s a slow process. I still see a lack of knowing the real meaning of the environment, which is not only global warming – or whatever he [Trump] says is not there; it is there. Changes are happening, and animals are a huge part of that environment — wild animals, marine animals. We’ve got some really heavy-duty problems going on here in this planet. Heavy duty. And the animals are a huge part of the environment.”
Basinger continues: “People should be reminded that we are one. I don’t care where we’re from or we’re going, but we are all in this together and we are one. Like it or not, suffering together, suffering individually, however it is, we’re all the same — one.”
After the interview ended, Basinger forwarded a link to an article through her publicist that ties in with her parting comments. In the USA Today piece, it reports that the Trump administration declined to list 25 species as endangered.
“This is a truly dark day for America’s imperiled wildlife…Denying protection for these 25 species despite the imminent threat of climate change and ongoing habitat destruction is typical of the Trump administration’s head-in-the-sand approach,” said Noah Greenwald, endangered species director at the Center for Biological Diversity, in a press release.
* Samaritanmag.com is an online magazine covering the good deeds of individuals, charities and businesses.