I was a huge Casey Kasem fan in the 1970s and 1980s, back in the heyday of the radio show he hosted, American Top 40.
Little did I know at the time that Casey was very political. In fact, he was a lifelong supporter of a variety of progressive causes, including the anti-nuclear movement, environmentalism, social justice and Arab-American rights. And guess what else? He was a committed vegan and an animal rights activist! He became a vegetarian in 1974 and a vegan in the early 2000s.
With a heavy heart, I read of Casey's passing over the weekend. He died at the age of 82, after spending years combating the effects of Parkinson's disease.
He was a man of so many talents. Not only was he known as Mr. Top 40, he was also a master voiceover artist, perhaps most famous as the voice of the hippie slacker Shaggy in Scooby Doo.
Because Kasem was more famous as a nationally recognized D.J., most people probably overlooked all of the wonderful work he did to help animals. He was, for example, the national chair of the Great American Meatout, which sought to educate people about the harm and violence that came with meat consumption. In 2005, he received the Celebrity Animal Advocate Award at the National Animal Rights Conference.
In a 2007 interview with Dr. John A. McDougall, Kasem discussed his views on the treatment of animals. What better tribute to Kasem than to include his views here?
Here are Casey Kasem's reflections:
"Let's begin with the chickens. Put in those cages that are no bigger than a folded newspaper. Chickens have pride and a pecking order. When you consider that they are in there, some of them without beaks and some of them with beaks. Those that have beaks of course cannibalize the others, because they need room to move, they can't even move their wings. And of course their feet are getting tangled in the wire. And then there is one wire cage set upon another and another and another and another. And the feces fall on top of the heads of these creatures. As they are born and they happen to be born a male chicken, they are thrown into a plastic bag and they suffocate in the bodies of their brothers. And the female chickens, their beaks are put into a metal machine that cuts the beak off. Some of them don't survive that. They are made to create eggs and ultimately become food for animals I guess, if not human beings."
"The pigs are stored very often in the same way. In concrete buildings that are warehouse size. And in order to keep the floors of the building clean, they use ammonia. We know that pigs are much more sensitive in smell than humans are. Could you imagine living your entire life smelling ammonia, day in and day out, in a darkened room. Children don't know that those pigs don't get out and play in the mud, that those pigs are just products, treated like inanimate products."
"Then you have the calves, in their 2 by 4 prisons. Where they have no opportunity to ever feed on their mother's breast. The animal is immediately taken from the mother and the calf is put into this little stall. Not allowed to suck on anything, but just fed milk, so the price for their bodies can be a lot higher as they sell milk-fed veal to customers at restaurants. The mother, the cow. Never seeing their offspring, but being artificially inseminated, again and again and again, so that their udders will be full, because they are impregnated. And that means more milk for the dairymen. Their udder is so big, that they are literally on the floor. They too, hardly ever see the sun or the grass or graze."
"And this goes on and on and on. For all kinds of animals. Not to mention the ones that are being experimented upon. So, this is my priority. I feel that if I do nothing else in life, but can turn a few people around, I can do a lot to help the animals in their tortured lives."
"In protest against the animal industry, we have to stand up and let people know why it is that we don't eat cheese and we don't drink milk. Besides from the fact that it's not healthy for you, how very unhealthy it is for those animals who have just become products. They are not beings anymore in the eyes of the people who produce them."
"I believe that if in the 4th or 5th grade, children could take a field trip to a slaughterhouse, we wouldn't have to worry about people becoming vegetarians. It would be just automatic. It would happen in a day. Those kids would get such an eyeful and their teachers as well."
"I just think that Americans, who unfortunately grow up watching television, motion pictures, day in and day out, where there is so much slaughter of human beings. I would hope that they would recognize, that if we can go back to the very basic thing, that is not to want to bring death to anything, anything that has eyes and can run away from you. And realize that that is basically right and should be just core in our thinking, then that could be the beginning of really a new world order, ultimately. Because as long as we keep killing animals, I have a feeling that we're going to keep killing people. There is certainly a relationship there."
Farewell, Casey. Your wonderful voice of compassion and reason will always be missed!