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'Golden Girls' Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White help animals (in Arthur's case, posthumously)

April 28, 2010 |  7:46 pm

Girls2 We didn't think anything could make us love "The Golden Girls" more than we did already, but the news that most of the show's stars are still doing their part to help animals has done just that.

Stars Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan and Betty White were among the first celebrities to publicly speak out against fur on television; they recorded a commercial for PETA that decried fur-wearing as cruel and advocated the donation of fur garments to the needy when "The Golden Girls" was still airing first-run episodes.

Now, nearly 20 years after the show ended -- and a year after Arthur passed away at age 86 -- the three are still working on behalf of animals.

A controversial full-page advertisement, taken out by PETA and featuring Arthur's image alongside the text "McCruelty: It's enough to make Bea Arthur roll over in her grave," made headlines when it ran in the Chicago Tribune last week. Arthur, a longtime PETA supporter, bequeathed money to the group in her will that was used, in part, to purchase the Tribune ad, PETA blogger Lindsay Pollard-Post explained.

Some objected to the ad -- even gossip blogger Perez Hilton, whose own site is often criticized for its lack of tact, described it as "cringe-worthy." But Bust Magazine defended it in a blog post that read in part, "People just love to hate PETA. But for this? Because it's tacky? As opposed to what, the way these animals are treated? In playing the first character on TV to have an abortion, Arthur didn't exactly shy away from controversy in her lifetime." (The ad concludes with a catchphrase from "Maude" directed at the chief executive of McDonald's: "God'll get you for that.") According to PETA Vice President Dan Mathews, the group had cleared the ad's text in advance with Arthur's son, who "especially liked that the copy was in Bea's irreverent voice," Mathews told the New York Times.

Betty Arthur's ad was perhaps the most widely publicized recent instance in which a Golden Girl stood up for animals, but it wasn't the only one. For her part, McClanahan partnered with the feral-cat advocacy group Alley Cat Allies to help raise awareness of feral cats' plight and support for trap-neuter-return programs.

"Cats have always been a part of my life, ever since I was a little girl in Oklahoma," McClanahan said of her work on behalf of Alley Cat Allies. "In fact, my most recent cat, Kate, was a stray that just showed up at my back door in Manhattan, walked right in and has been in charge ever since." Another well-known comic actress, Portia de Rossi, also recently declared her support for the group.

White, a longtime supporter of animal welfare causes and the Los Angeles Zoo, among other charities, was recently honored by famous L.A. hot dog establishment Pink's with her own menu item called the Betty White Naked Hot Dog. Doesn't sound animal-friendly, we know -- after all, animals went into those hot dogs -- but proceeds from the first day's sales of White's namesake hot dogs were donated to the L.A. Department of Animal Services. (The organization can certainly use the money: It operates six city shelters and is currently facing proposed budget cuts.)

It's not the first time White has pitched in to help needy shelter pets -- she donated her beloved Cadillac, which she called "Parakeet," to help homeless animals in 2002.

[Editor's note: For any animal lovers out there who choose not to eat meat -- even if it is Betty White-approved -- don't feel left out of the Pink's fun. The Times' Patt Morrison, an animal lover if ever there was one, has her own namesake hot dog at Pink's, which is vegan and topped with guacamole, salsa and onions.]

PETA's human 'chicken' hits Ronald McDonald with a pie to protest slaughter method
PETA pushes for slaughter reforms, ruffles feathers by passing out 'Unhappy Meals'

-- Lindsay Barnett

Top photo: Clockwise from upper left, Arthur, McClanahan, White and "Golden Girls" costar Estelle Getty in a 1985 file photo.

Bottom photo: White and a friend attend the opening of the new Pink's Hot Dogs location in Universal City  and the unveiling of her signature hot dog. Credit: David Livingston / Getty Images

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