Comedian Bill Maher: A Stand-Up Guy for Animals

April is Animal Cruelty Prevention Month, and to spread the word we're spotlighting some outspoken celebs who are doing the right thing by other species. Here's our look at the good works of Bill Maher, the talk show host who has been talking up about the fair treatment of animals.
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Bill Maher Photo

Bill Maher, comedian, political talk show host and vocal supporter of animal rights issues.

Comedian and political talk show host Bill Maher may take no prisoners when it comes to jokes about his fellow humans, but he is incredibly serious about his work on behalf of other species. He has been an animal rights activist for decades and a board member of the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) since 1997. Maher also lent his star power to such other groups as the Best Friends Animal Society and Farm Animal Rights Movement

Just like on his show, Real Time with Bill Maher, he is outspoken and unafraid to stir up controversy. Maher has thrown his support behind animal rights issues around the country, from animal testing to gestational crates. As he told McLean's magazine, he finds "any form of animal destruction" to be the saddest thing in the world. Let's take a look at just a few of the projects he's tackled as an activist for animals. 

Maher's Best Friends

Bill Maher Photo

Bill Maher and a four-legged friend at the Annual Bow Wow Beverly Hills "True Blood Hounds" charity event in 2009, benefiting The Amanda Foundation. (Photo Credit: Tina Gill/PR Photos)

Maher is a dedicated dog lover, and usually has two as his pets. He takes a relaxed approach to pet parenting, according to In Style magazine. "I don't like to train an animal, because you lose the humor." While his pooches enjoy luxury living in his Beverly Hills home, he has campaigned for the welfare of other dogs in California. He reached out to several of his state's senators in 2006 to ask them to support a bill to ban the practice of chaining dogs. 

In his letter, Maher wrote: "Life at the end of a chain is miserable." He discussed the negative effects of this practice on the animals, saying that they become "frustrated and bored" and "highly protective of their tiny territory." Maher cited the fact the chained dogs are "three times more likely to attack than those not tethered." The bill passed by the state senate and assembly that August and approved by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger the following month.    

Speaking Out for Chimps

While he's known for making fun of politicians, Maher tried to motivate them to action in 2012. He wrote to then Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to encourage him to support the Great Ape Protection and Cost Savings Act. In his message, Maher wrote "it's time to get real about ending invasive experiments on chimpanzees." He pointed out that "nearly 1,000 chimpanzees are locked in laboratory cages across our nation right now—many are elderly and have spent decades trapped behind bars." Unfortunately, the legal measure designed to phase out testing on chimpanzees failed to pass. 

Robocalls for Cats

In 2013, Maher lent his distinctive voice to a campaign against the animal experiments conducted at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. He recorded a message for PETA to put an end to hearing-related tests done on cats there. Maher said, in part, that "dozens of live cats have holes drilled into their skulls, steel posts screwed to their heads, and metal coils implanted in their eyes." Roughly 100,000 individuals, including university students and faculty, received Maher's message via auto-dialed phone calls. 

Not everyone was impressed by Maher's efforts, however. The university released a statement regarding these robocalls, calling Maher's message part of a "campaign of misinformation" by PETA about the school's research programs. 

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Maher at PETA’s Stand Up for Animals comedy show last year poked fun at hunting, asking the audience: “Is it really a sport if you have all the equipment and your opponent doesn’t know a game is going on?”

A Heart for Horses

Maher has a soft spot for horses. He couldn't even watch the 2003 horse racing film Seabiscuit because, as he told Larry King on CNN, "I don't go to see movies where they put a bit in a horse's mouth and get on his back. Anyone who gets on a horse's back deserves to be thrown off." Maher further objected to these animals being portrayed as "gambling icons."

In 2014, Maher became these noble creatures' advocate, speaking out against the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City. The comedian won't even stay near the city's Central Park because the treatment of these animals. He released a video on the issue, explaining that horses weren't meant for such work. "If anyone has ever seen a horse run wild, even in movies or whatever, you know that’s the furthest from the way these animal should be." He also took actor Liam Neeson to task for his support of the horse-drawn carriage operators, saying "why a guy would go out of his way to champion animal abuse, I have no idea." 

Better Lives for Farm Animals

In 2014, Maher focused his efforts on his home state of New Jersey. He wrote an opinion piece for the New York Times in an effort to help pass legislation to ban the use of gestational crates in pig farming. Maher started off his article with this provocative question: "Would you cram a dog into a crate for her entire life, never letting her out, until you took her to the pound to kill her?"

Maher explained that "nothing makes me angrier than cramming animals into environments where they can't move." He also criticized Governor Chris Christie for vetoing an earlier version of the bill and questioned his motives. Maher thought Christie was putting his political career ahead of the wishes of New Jersey legislators. "Could it be that a possible presidential candidate is aware that Iowa is the No. 1 pig state in the country, and that Republican primary voters there are strongly anti-regulation?" Unfortunately, Maher's words were unable to sway Christie, who vetoed the bill for a second time that year.