This is the first in a new series of blog posts highlighting some of the dedicated, inspiring people who support the NhRP’s mission and work. Valerie Traina lives in San Diego, CA and has felt connected to nonhuman animals all her life. She recently held a Facebook fundraiser for the NhRP in honor of her 60th birthday. Below, Valerie explains why the fight for nonhuman rights matters to her:
What inspired me to support the NhRP and why legal personhood is important
I’ve known about the Nonhuman Rights Project for a while. Steven Wise is well known in the animal rights community, so I’ve seen his name and your work come up over the years. I wanted to do something special for my 60th birthday, and having a fundraiser that benefitted a worthy organization was what meant the most to me. It was difficult choosing at first. There are so many admirable people doing transformative work for nonhumans. But, I decided to support an organization that’s been working to change how we treat animals on the most fundamental and comprehensive level. Instead of metaphorically fighting fires all the time, we need to prevent them from occurring. That’s what I love about the Nonhuman Rights Project. Working to change nonhumans’ status from “legal things” to “legal persons” is huge. It’s what will improve and protect the lives of the greatest number of beings.
What I do for work and for fun
I work as an administrative assistant at International Relief Teams, a charity that promotes well-being and helps in disasters in human communities. I care for my husband and my cats as well as a feline feral colony in my spare time. I also regularly visit my elderly parents. I enjoy cooking vegan meals; reading up on new recipes and trying them out is fun.
Why I gravitate to elephants
I have great admiration for all species. But I do have a special place in my heart for elephants. Elephant society is as close to perfect as a culture can get. They are so loving and so protective of one another, and especially of their young. Unlike human society, there’s never been a documented instance of an elephant abusing a baby. Also, elephants have been subjected to so much brutality over the centuries. It grieves my heart to think about how they’ve been forced to transport lumber, carry humans, entertain people, and of course, been killed for their tusks. The way the babies are taken from their mothers and placed in crush boxes—beaten until their spirits are broken—makes me livid. I want justice and I want to halt these practices in my lifetime.
What it was like to fundraise on Facebook
I’ve seen other people raise money successfully on Facebook, so I decided to fundraise there. I figured that, having more than 650 “friends,” I had a shot at raising a decent sum. I was pleasantly surprised at the people who donated. I was equally surprised at those who didn’t. But, I looked at the experience as more than just a fundraiser. I used it as a means of educating. I thought about many instances of animal abuse that could’ve been prevented had the animals in question been recognized as legal persons. I posted a synopsis of each of these stories and related them to the NhRP’s work in the courts. Many more people know about your fine organization because of these posts. I would do it again.
How and why I got involved in animal rights work
Since I was a little girl I’ve felt a deep connection to our nonhuman brethren. I couldn’t help them as a child, but I knew I could do so as an adult. I’ve written numerous letters to editors and to congressmen and have made phone calls to legislators and people organizing animal-abusing events. I got involved in animal rights work in my twenties. I think of it as an extension of my passion for human rights advocacy. Peter Singer’s book Animal Liberation gave me ammunition. And, in the late 80s I joined TranSpecies and PETA. I’ve tabled and protested, and continue to do so today. I believe education is key to winning the rights nonhumans deserve. Education informs people of the work of biologists and ethologists, which underpins our legal system.
One thing others might be surprised to learn about me
I think that people who casually know me would be surprised to learn that I care about a spectrum of social justice issues. I want to see equality for all people. I want a high minimum wage, and I want our government to be truly representative of the common people, rather than corporate CEOs.
What else you should know about me
I emerged from a typical middle-class Italian-American family in Brooklyn, NY. My parents are conservative and I grew up eating meat. I give them credit for encouraging their children to educate themselves. An open mind and a yearning for truth have expressed themselves in the person I am today.
Thank you, Valerie! We’re grateful for your support and for all you do for human and nonhuman animals alike.