Women Who Dedicated Their Lives to Animals

Ann Cottrell Free (1916-2004)

Colman McCarthy:
As a newspaperwoman who knew the score, as well as how to keep score, Ann Free understood the care and feeding—and cajoling—of the media. She was one of my most reliable sources. When needing the skinny on the latest animal welfare or animal rights bill making its way, or not making its way, through one congressional committee or another, I'd call Ann. When needing to know the statistics on animal abuse, I'd call Ann. When needing to get beyond the public posturing of a politician fronting for the prohunting lobby, I'd call Ann.

Sometimes I didn't call. Which meant she would call me. Half-accusing me of sloth because I'd yet to write about an issue regarding animals and half-inspiring me to drop everything and get to it, she supplied the facts. Then more facts.

Beneath Ann's activism was a moral commitment to the sacredness of life, especially defenseless life as found in the world of animals, whether wild or tame. In 1982, she gave me a copy of Animals, Nature and Albert Schweitzer, a gem of a book that she edited and which included her commentary on the great doctor of Lambarene. I've read the book dozens of times, each reading offering more insight into both Albert Schweitzer's thinking and Ann's commitment to reverence for life.

I made the mistake one time of suggesting to Ann that as influential as Schweitzer assuredly was as a world figure, he was still a half-notch below Monhandas Gandhi of India. "Absolutely not," she replied. "How can you even think that?" For the next 20 minutes or so, Ann made the case for Schweitzer ending with the clincher that Schweitzer won the Nobel Peace Prize but Gandhi never did.

Every time I saw Ann since that conversation, she would ask, "you've changed your mind, haven't you?" "I'm trying to," I would reply. Ann: "keep trying."

Many of my conversation with Ann came when she visited her daughter Elissa and son-in-law Bill Nooter, my next-door neighbors. These were lively and lovely moments. More than once I found myself thinking if only journalism had more reporters like Ann. She acted like a woman of thought and thought like a woman of action. 

Colman McCarthy is a journalist and former syndicated columnist for the Washington Post, veteran peace activist, educator and stalwart animal advocate.

Animal Welfare Institute:
Ann Free, dear friend of Christine Stevens, received AWI's Albert Schweitzer Medal in 1963 for her report of hundreds of laboratory beagles housed in tiny metal cages. The dogs were confined in a windowless sub-basement at the Food and Drug Administration for years while being used for studies on food additives. Ann's reporting led to Congressional action securing spacious indoor/outdoor kennels.

Donations in memory of Ann can be made to the Vieques Humane Society (VHS) of Puerto Rico. She co-founded the VHS in the mid-1980s in response to the condition and number of stray animals on the island. Be forewarned that the Society is not likely to send a receipt for your donations—they are too busy rescuing animals. The address for the VHS is P.O. Box 1399 Vieques, PR 00765.

Dr. Sylvia Taylor (1963-2005)

It is with great sorrow that we note the untimely death of Dr. Sylvia Taylor, Primate Specialist with US Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Animal Care program. An intelligent and compassionate woman, Dr. Taylor had been with the Animal Care program since its inception. She was a pioneer who sought to help build a strong program to ensure sound enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. She was devoted to helping all animals, and was especially knowledgeable about primates. We have lost a much respected colleague, and animals have lost a terrific champion.

An added tragedy is that Dr. Taylor was not able to see the fruits of her extensive labor on USDA's primate policy. She was a major contributor to the document and recognized it would secure a better life for primates at dealer premises, on exhibition and in experimental laboratories. Derailed by industry, that document should have been her legacy.


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