Michelle Cho is Vice President of the Los Angeles Office for The HSUS.
Cho is responsible for the day-to-day operations of the Los Angeles Office’s Animal Content in Entertainment (ACE), Membership Services, and Special Events departments, where her experience in production and media management will serve to bring the vital message of animal protection in front of an ever-evolving audience.
Cho and her staff interact with compassionate and influential members of the entertainment community, members and supporters, animal advocates, and the public at large with the goal of cultivating opportunities to further The HSUS’s mission: to celebrate animals and confront cruelty.
Before joining The HSUS in September 2013, Cho served as Associate Director of Communications at PETA—where she spearheaded hundreds of high-profile campaigns with influential celebrities from the world of the arts, film, television, sports, and music—leading to countless victories for animals who suffer on factory farms, in the fur trade, for cosmetics, and more. Cho considers herself the embodiment of the adage “be the change you wish to see in the world.”
Cho graduated from Columbia College Chicago with a bachelor of arts degree in entertainment and media management. Born in DeKalb, Ill., Cho now resides in Studio City, Calif., and has plans to adopt a dog (or two!) in the very near future.
This is the second time we’re interview the fabulous Michelle Cho. Here is our first interview with Michelle, while she was working with PETA (People for The Ethical Treatment of Animals).Wow! Almost 250,000 views!!
As consumers, we have so much power over how animals are treated and viewed by society.
ASIANCE: For people who are interested in getting involved in animal rights or making a difference for animals, what do you suggest is the best way to get started?
Michelle: The most effective thing people can do to combat the worst abuses that billions of animals face each year is by choosing a compassionate diet. By eating healthy, plant-based foods, we’re not only saving pigs, cows, chickens, turkeys, and other animals from a miserable life and death, but we’re also preserving our health and fighting environmental degradation. It’s quite simple: by choosing meatless meals, you’re saying “yes” to helping animals, “yes” to good health, and “yes” to saving our planet!
Other ways to help include adopting homeless pets from animal shelters or rescue groups instead of buying from a pet shop, refusing to patronizing facilities that cruelly confine animals such as SeaWorld, and purchasing products that weren’t tested on animals.
As consumers, we have so much power over how animals are treated and viewed by society. When we refuse to purchase cruelly-derived products, we are demanding a more humane world for animals which results in a more humane economy.
ASIANCE: How about becoming a vegetarian or vegan?
Michelle: For an inveterate carnivore, labels like “vegetarian” and “vegan” can seem so daunting that they immediately shun the thought. However, there is no denying the global impact that our food choices make on all of earth’s inhabitants. If you happen to fall into that category, don’t get discouraged. The Meatless Monday campaign – now recognized and embraced by school districts and major corporations all over the country – is a great introduction to delicious, healthy, meat-free meals.
Michelle Cho talks about cruelty free eating
Personally, I am a staunch vegan and it’s thrilling to see how many vegan options are popping up on menus in traditionally meat-heavy restaurants. It’s proof that the demand for humane food choices is growing by the day.
ASIANCE: How many animals do you own?
Michelle: I share my home with my rescue dog, Benji. He’s around 4 years old and I found him on the streets of L.A. in the Boyle Heights neighborhood near our Pets For Life center. Adopting Benji was a game-changer for me. I have never had a more loyal, loving, hilarious companion and he amazes me every day by how kind he is to me despite having clearly been abused by human hands. He is my greatest teacher.
ASIANCE: Do you think you would ever not work in an animal related field?
Michelle: I have no greater passion than serving the underprivileged and being a voice for those who suffer unseen and unheard. Working at The Humane Society of the United States inspired me to open my eyes to the suffering of all beings and speak against prejudice and injustice in all forms. I have a huge interest in helping children and do so by sponsoring through an organization called Save the Children.
ASIANCE: What campaigns are you working on?
Michelle: Our main campaigns revolve around farm animal protection, stopping puppy mills, ending animal fighting, ending product testing on animals, cruelty to horses, and wildlife protection. Information on The HSUS’ campaigns and ways you can help can be found here. And be sure to “like” us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter. Share our content with your friends and family and help us build a more humane society!
ASIANCE: What are the main and most important animal issues that you are focusing in Asia right now? If it’s cultural, how will we be able to stop it?
Michelle: The main issues that The HSUS’ international arm, Humane Society International (HSI), is working on are wildlife and farm animal consumption, cosmetic animal testing, street dogs, and the dog meat trade. We believe that compassion for animals is a natural human condition regardless of culture, economic circumstance, or political system.
In the case of wildlife, some consumption is of a cultural nature, however the scale and commercialization is unprecedented. Elephant ivory, rhino horn, tiger products, shark fins – just to mention a few are being consumed at an indefensible pace. By working in country our demand reduction campaigns are rapidly gaining support, we are reducing the demand for shark fins, rhino horn and elephant ivory throughout the region.
HSI has been working in a number of Asian countries to extend a humane philosophy of animal control, providing expertise and guidance to create programs that focus on sterilization and vaccination against zoonotic disease. With our help, determined local organizations have implemented spay and neuter programs all over the region to humanely address the overpopulation of street dogs.
A strong educational component is central to our work, and HSI offers training in proper surgical skills to allow veterinarians to successfully and humanely perform spay and neuter procedures. We have developed training teams and clinics in India, Bhutan, and Philippines that offer hands-on surgical opportunities for any interested vets from the developing world. We educate the public about the importance of spay/neuter, rabies prevention and humane treatment of animals, and each year we encourage local organizations to take part in international Spay Day events.
The dog meat trade in some parts of Asia is one of the most inhumane practices. Dogs suffer inexplicably throughout the capture, travel and slaughter for the trade in their meat for human consumption. Eating dogs is a cultural practice but there is a growing movement showing strong signs of change. HSI is working with local organizations in Thailand, Vietnam, the Philippines and China to raise public awareness of the grisly dog meat trade in these countries. Recently in China there are growing numbers of volunteers who are stopping the dog meat trucks and finding homes for the animals. This was unprecedented 5 years ago. Together with local partners we are changing laws, participating in raids on trucks crammed with dogs headed for slaughter, training officials for improved enforcement and support care for confiscated animals.
The animal welfare challenges are significant in the region. But in every area we are seeing signs of change – leading to a better life for all animals in Asia and around the globe.
ASIANCE: Do you think we’ll (human race) will ever stop eating meat?
Michelle: For the sake of humankind, we can’t ignore the evidence before us. Factory farming has moved beyond the ethics of eating animals. It is the central reason for environment destruction and meat and dairy products have been linked to heart disease, certain types of cancer, diabetes, stroke, obesity, and more. To ignore these important issues not only affects us, but could leave future generations in ruins. I think we owe it to them to take these matters seriously and make responsible choices and that includes decreasing the amount of meat we consume.
The HSUS is so privileged to have the support of so many amazing celebrities who use their fame to advocate for animal protection.
ASIANCE: Who would you say are the most animal friendly celebs? Even ones who may surprise us?
Michelle: The HSUS is so privileged to have the support of so many amazing celebrities who use their fame to advocate for animal protection. Most recently, Steven Tyler of Aerosmith urged legislators in Massachusetts to pass a bill to protect farm animals from cruel confinement. Who knew that Steven had such a heart for pigs, and chickens? That was pretty amazing. And Meryl Streep – who is a New Jersey native – urged the Governor Christie to sign a law that would ban the sale of ivory and rhino horns. Meryl Streep! Need I say more?
ASIANCE: Do you see an improvement in the rights of animals since you started?
Michelle: Absolutely! I’ve been active in the animal rights movement for half of my life and the victories for animals are being won faster than ever before. Thanks to undercover investigations, social media, legislation, and consumer demand, passion for animals and their innate right to live lives free from suffering is being recognized on a global scale. We’re seeing cities banning weapons used on animals in circuses, states outlawing the cruel confinement of farm animals, entire cities banning the sale of fur and puppies from puppy mills, and more. There is so much more work to do, but I humbly say we’re poised to win the battle. We certainly won’t quit.
All images credit to Don Flood