by Priscilla Feral

As we sew up 2017, I think the question most asked of Friends of Animals this year is how we stay devoted to knowing and making news while sustaining enthusiasm for intense animal advocacy campaigns.

As someone resilient and serious-minded, I work at making optimism work for me – visualizing what Friends of Animals wants and going after it. What makes the difference is action not passivity, which means tackling setbacks with persistent effort. As The New York Times columnist Jane E. Brody said, optimism is about how we respond when times get tough. We keep going, being fully engaged. She called it “fake it until you make it.” 

The key to staying hopeful is to operate on an assumption of success rather than failure…and to identify success on your terms. Taking risks, instigating, agitating and inspiring others not to water down principles or quit is as important as being victorious in a lawsuit.

With an acrimonious, harsh Trump administration, our efforts have been further complicated. Alaska’s Congressional delegation and GOP legislators have pushed commercial exploitation of Alaska’s Arctic Refuge, specifically a 1.5 million-acre coastal section, for oil and gas drilling as a way to offset budget deficits caused by tax cuts. Meanwhile, the administration that sees pristine wilderness as nothing more than a cash crop, moves to auction off millions more acres for oil exploration and development in Alaska’s North Slope. It’s as though clean water, air, public lands, and wildlife are all under threat and up for sale as former industry executives are plopped into key government agencies with promises of rolling back government regulations for corporate, or trophy-hunting interests. 

The year has truly been nightmarish, yet we prevailed with nine victories worth celebrating, in addition to our filing a lawsuit to safeguard African elephants in Zimbabwe. These victories include:

· Artist Christo abandoned a controversial art project in Colorado, which would have harmed the environment and wildlife. FoA represented the grassroots organization that sued the BLM for approving the intrusive, ridiculous project.

· Five species of tarantula are now poised to have Endangered Species Act (ESA) protection because of FoA’s actions.

· FoA intervened and secured ESA protection for Utah prairie dogs.

· FoA’s legal actions prevented a wild horse roundup in Wyoming’s Red Desert Complex.

· FoA’s case against the BLM’s roundup of wild horses from the Three Fingers Herd in Oregon moved forward, despite BLM’s protests so that BLM’s officials will be deposed.

· We prevented the forced drugging with chemical sterilants of Nevada’s Rocky Hill wild horses through successful litigation.

· We halted a roundup of wild horses during the winter of 2017-18 of the Challis Herd in Idaho.

· FoA’s successful lawsuit in Colorado halted upcoming roundups of wild horses from the West Douglas herd.

· The National Marine Fisheries Service announced that it would finalize an Obama-era proposal to list the daggernose shark, Brazilian guitarfish, striped smoothhound shark, spiny angel shark and Argentine angel shark as endangered species, and the narrownose smoothhound shark as a threatened species under the ESA. Friends of Animals was part of that successful coalition that supported the listings.

If supporters are not always up for the task of facing off with hunters, furriers, the meat industry’s ranchers, or other federal and state bureaucrats, please do invest in us. We’ll craft arguments, publish letters, articles and Op-Eds to educate and raise awareness as well as lobby Congress and state legislators. We will go to the wall — often litigating for the best results. We hope to be your special interest group.

Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, has presided over the international, non-profit animal advocacy organization since 1987. She has also served as president of the San Antonio-based sanctuary Primarily Primates and is a food activist and author of three vegan cookbooks.