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June in animal news: Five questions with International Fund for Animal Welfare leader Fred O'Regan

July 2, 2010 |  5:02 pm

We've invited a panel of experts on animal-protection issues to share their takes on the biggest animal-related news to happen in June and what issues animal lovers should keep an eye on in July. International Foundation for Animal Welfare (IFAW) president and CEO Fred O'Regan took our questionnaire; here's what he has to say about the recent International Whaling Commission (IWC) meeting and other issues. O'Regan's answers represent his own views and not necessarily ours.

IFAW president Fred O'Regan Unleashed: What do you view as the most important development in animal news to happen in June?

Fred O'Regan: It was a big victory for whales this month when a controversial proposal to legalize whaling failed at the IWC's annual meeting in Agadir, Morocco. Among the most hotly contested components of the proposal was a plan to overturn the worldwide ban on whaling, in place since 1986, by allowing legalized hunting of whales by Iceland, Norway, and Japan -- the last three countries still hunting whales commercially.

Unleashed: What were IFAW's biggest projects in June?

O'Regan: The IFAW team pulled out all stops in the weeks prior to the IWC meeting on June 21, in urging IWC member countries to reject the proposed lifting of the moratorium on whaling. Pierce Brosnan joined us in writing a letter to President Obama, asking him to reject the proposed IWC plan. We also collaborated with Pierce and his wife Keely on public service announcements and played a leadership role in rallying the conservation communities together to help stop the deal -- and we are thrilled about any role our efforts may have played in the resulting victory for the whales.

Unleashed: What will IFAW be working on in July?

O'Regan: We will be following up on the recent IWC meetings. We've held the line against whalers and now we want to advance conservation for whales. The summer is always a busy time for our emergency relief team, too. As I write this, Hurricane Alex is bearing down on the Gulf of Mexico, threatening to amplify what is already a mind-boggling disaster. Not only is hurricane season upon us but the end of summer normally brings severe flooding to places like India, where we rehabilitate wildlife. We're preparing for that. We're also gearing up for the fall launch of our U.S. Ivory Campaign, aimed to educate Americans about the reemergence of the ivory trade here in the U.S. and the threat it poses to elephants in the wild. Stay tuned for more on that front.

Unleashed: How can interested animal lovers help in July?

O'Regan: Get involved. Animals are in dire straits all over the world and, in many cases, we're up against powerful interests. Visit IFAW.org and become part of our community. Sign up for our newsletter. Donate. Engage in a campaign. The more people who help us, the more we can accomplish.

Unleashed: What led you to become involved in wildlife conservation?

O'Regan: I joined the Peace Corps straight after college, where my affinity for the outdoors, wilderness and animals grew immensely. In Africa, you really see how wildlife and the communities interact first-hand, and how our health and well-being is connected to the environment and animals. I've always been partial to a life of service, making whatever contribution I can to making the world a better place. IFAW's work with animals has given me a great opportunity to do that.

Fred O'Regan is CEO and president of the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), which saves animals in crisis around the world. With offices in 15 countries, IFAW rescues and provides veterinary care to individual animals and advocates for the protection of entire populations.

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