John Kullberg, the careful, conscientious and dedicated President of the Board of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, died on April 20 after a long battle with cancer. He fought the disease courageously for a number of years, unwilling to yield in his work on behalf of animals. Even in his last days he remained driven, exemplifying the optimism he wrote about in January, when he asserted that it is always preferable to light candles instead of curse the darkness. At the time of his death, he was the Executive Director of The Humane Society of the United States Wildlife Land Trust, a groundbreaking concept ensuring permanent sanctuary for animals. Under his leadership, the program, which he called "shelters without walls," grew to 70 properties encompassing 60,000 acres in the U.S. and four other nations. On these lands, Dr. Kullberg wrote, "the violence associated with trapping, hunting, and logging would be banned forever."
He previously served with distinction as President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and later as President of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Before joining the animal protection movement, he was an Assistant Dean at Columbia University where he earned his doctorate. In all of these endeavors, his stewardship was invaluable, and he never missed an opportunity to advocate living an ethical life, since, in his words, "unethical behaviors weaken and destroy the inherited ethical beacon of a strong conscience."
Dr. Kullberg's sister, Marjorie Cooke, is a member of the Board of the Animal Welfare Institute, and both were close friends of Christine Stevens. He is survived by his wife Karol and three children Kristen, Kathryn and Evan.
Let us all honor Dr. Kullberg by taking his challenge to "commit ourselves to living in ways that reflect broadly compassionate choices over abuse-infused conveniences."
"Like a nation calling upon its best defenders to prepare for the most formidable war imaginable, our suffering Earth is crying out for truly compassionate and able people to defend it and its inhabitants from the increasingly destructive consequences of abusive actions by those whose fundamental interests lie in myopically satisfying their own needs and pleasures, regardless of the harm their decisions cause others. Toleration of complacency about the increasingly destructive impact abuse is having on sentient life everywhere, but especially in Third World countries, is no longer an option if we truly care about our planet and the pain and suffering our past toleration of abuses have meant for those species, now extinct, with whom we once shared the Earth."
-John F. Kullberg