AWI was honored to be with Willie Nelson and his family at the Hard Rock Café in New York City in June for a celebration of his 80th birthday, and to recognize his legacy and his commitment to activism on behalf of horses. Hard Rock International honored Willie as part of the Artist Spotlight program, acknowledging his many accomplishments as both a musician and an advocate.
Willie performed some of his best-known songs, and was joined by a number of bands led by talented family members, including the Paula Nelson Band, Raelyn Nelson Band, Lukas Nelson and the Promise of the Real, Insects vs. Robots, Folk Uke, and Lechuza. Members of Willie’s family have often joined his animal protection efforts, and this was an excellent opportunity to celebrate not only the enormous talent of the Nelson family, but also their willingness to speak out on behalf of horses, dogs and other animals.
Horse welfare, in particular, has long been an issue of great importance to Willie. He works with AWI in support of a federal horse slaughter ban. Amy and Raelyn Nelson, Willie’s daughter and granddaughter, respectively, have accompanied AWI’s legislative team to Capitol Hill to speak to legislators about the importance of protecting America’s horses from the cruelty inherent in slaughter. The Nelsons have been instrumental in raising awareness about the many ways supposedly unwanted horses could benefit society rather than end up in the slaughterhouse, and about our responsibility to treat all horses with kindness and respect.
Willie speaks out on behalf of wild horses, as well, advocating for an end to inhumane and unnecessary roundups of free-roaming, wild horses by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). The BLM—ironically, the federal agency charged with protecting these wild equines—routinely rounds them up and herds them into holding pens on public lands. The BLM’s stated justifications—to address overpopulation, damage to range, and other adverse ecological impacts—are unsupported by scientific evidence. The BLM’s management decisions, rather, are tailored to benefit a livestock industry that has long exploited Western public lands—reaping huge profits at taxpayers’ expense. Willie has consistently voiced his opposition to BLM’s cruel roundups and implored the Bureau to dramatically change its management approach to better comply with the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971, the federal law that mandates protection of these animals.
AWI is proud to celebrate Willie’s talent, legacy and dedication to animal welfare, and we applaud his ongoing commitment to protecting wild and domestic horses. As part of its Artist Spotlight program, Hard Rock Café is selling commemorative Willie Nelson t-shirts, pins, and bandanas, with a portion of the proceeds donated to AWI.