William McNamara
Interview: Barbi Twins

Barbi Twins: You were a famous child actor that became a successful actor, producer, and writer. What made you dedicate your life to helping animals?

William McNamara: I wasn’t really a child actor; I didn’t start until after college at Columbia University. But I looked very young and played sixteen when I was twenty one. I was an only child. Growing up, we moved a lot, so I didn’t have any close friends. So the animals I was around as a child—dogs, cats, and horses, and stuffed animals— became my family and friends. The only strong bonds I made as a child were with animals.

BT: What inspired you to become vegan and live a green lifestyle? Which came first, veganism or rescuing and helping animals?

WM: Rescuing animals came first. Eventually, I realized that all animals, not just dogs and cats and horses, were sentient beings; therefore, I just couldn’t say I love animals and then eat them.

The last thing I gave up was fish. I was in Taiji, Japan, as a crew member of Sea Shepherd [Conservation Society], doing the first cove campaign in 2003, and I was eating dinner one night in Shingu with other Sea Shepherd crew mates. I ordered sushi, and the table went quiet. I asked my other crew mates what was wrong, and they said, “Dude, what the f—k are you doing?” And I said, “What do you mean?” They replied, “You’re sitting with a bunch of Sea Shepherd crew members, and you’re eating sushi!” And then I said, “Yeah, I’m a vegan. I don’t eat meat or kill any animals.” They all stood up from the table and began to walk away. I asked them what I did, and they said, “We are ocean conservation. We don’t eat fish!” That was the last time I ate fish. It was a long and lonely walk back from Shingu to Taiji that night.

BT: Tell us about your wildlife shows and how they help send the message about poaching, endangered species, and captivity.

WM: The only show that I created and produced that has aired is National Geographic’s Animal Intervention, which mainly focused on the private ownership of exotic animals, like primates, bears, and tigers. Basically, private ownership of exotic animals should be banned in the United States, and I do think that, because of shows like mine, which increases the awareness of the potential danger and the cruelty of this selfish and narcissistic act, our country is closer to a national/federal ban. More shows are coming!

BT: Describe when you were a Sea Shepherd crew member and went to Japan to oppose the Taiji dolphin slaughter.

WM: I saw a news report and picture of the blood-filled cove in Taiji on the Drudge Report. I had known Sea Shepherd for years—they used to have an office on the beach in Malibu about a mile from my house—so I called them immediately and asked if there was anything I could do to help, like donate money. The person on the phone said, “Can you go to Taiji? A bunch of our crew members are rotating out, and there’s only one guy in Taiji right now.” I asked her if it was dangerous, and she said, “No, you’re an actor. They won’t hurt you.”

I was whacked on the head with a two-by-four, arrested, had all my scuba gear confiscated, and had to sneak out of the country. Fortunately, my ex-roommate from boarding school was from Japan. He was well off and very well connected. He planned and executed my escape. It was like a spy movie—multiple trains and cars, left all my luggage and personal belongings behind. I was at Osaka International [Airport] before word spread that I had escaped police custody.

BT: What message would you give to your fans to help our planet?

WM: Being vegan or vegetarian isn’t just about compassion for animals. Most of the destruction of the planet is the result of all the clear-cutting, groundwater contamination, grain production, fuel consumption, greenhouse gas, viral proliferation—the direct result of livestock production. The best thing you can do for the planet is be vegan or vegetarian. I think, when God told Moses, “Thou shall not kill,” I think God meant, “Thou shall not kill.” And within the next one hundred years, we will see that God was right.

And it’s catching up with us fairly quickly. Either we change our ways, especially the United States, or we will continue to lead the world in heart disease and cancer. If you don’t believe me, take a look at all the third-world countries that are increasing the so called standard of living. One aspect of this rise in standard of living is the increased consumption of animal products, which directly correlates with the rise in heart disease.

BT: Why is it so important to support exotic-cat vet Dr. Jennifer Conrad in her cause and her movie, the critically acclaimed The Paw Project?

WM: Whether you are a fan of cats or not, The Paw Project movie and the movement are very important in the study of activism. I don’t just mean animal activism. What Dr. Jenny Conrad did in creating this movement should be studied in every college. Dr. Conrad wanted to help anima ls and be a champion for cats and fight against the veterinarian practice of declawing cats for profit—totally legal and acceptable across the United States. What did she do? She became a veterinarian. Not easy, but what is really amazing is, instead of practicing the highly profitable declaw procedure like all her associates, she instead spoke out against declawing, completely alienating the entire veterinary community in California as well as the USA.

She brought on the wrath of two very powerful trade unions, the AVMA [American Veterinary Medical Association] and the CVMA [California Veterinary Medical Association]. She must’ve known they were going to ostracize her and seek her financial ruin. They spread rumors about her, attacked her, investigated her. Then, as a veterinarian, she invented the surgery to reattach the tendons on the cats’—primarily the big cats—paws so they could walk again. She then spent her own money and time fighting the CVMA in court and city governments, from city to city, starting in West Hollywood, all the way to Sacramento, winning declaw bans throughout California.

She documented the whole thing and made a movie about it and brought it to the public via movie theaters, Netflix, Amazon, iTunes. The movie garnered five-star reviews from The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Hollywood Reporter, Variety, and it went on to be the second-highest-rated Netflix documentary. This is the anatomy of an activist. She worked it at every level of the issue: medical, monetary, ethical, propaganda. Dr. Conrad, on her own, has done more for the animal movement than all the well-funded, well-known nonprofits.


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