Why are so many people in Canada angry at Bob Barker? The erstwhile “Price is Right” host hung up his game show microphone five years ago — and turned, not to a life of leisure, but a life of activism. Most recently, that’s taken the 88-year-old warrior north of the border to battle on behalf of elephants at the Toronto Zoo, and to castigate the Calgary Stampede on local radio and TV shows and in print.
“You know, every national animal protection organization is opposed to rodeos of any type. And the Calgary Stampede is just about the most despised rodeo of them all,” he informs. “That and Cheyenne rodeo.”
“Because of the treatment of the animals and the deaths they’ve caused,” Barker claims. “The Calgary Stampede has just celebrated its 100th anniversary, and during that 100 years, they have killed I don’t know how many animals total….They do terrible things to the horses. They use bucking straps for the bucking broncs. It’s a strap that is cinched around the groin area, and you can only imagine how painful that is. They use what is called ‘hot shots,’ electric shock devices. They’re already illegal in many countries, but they use them.”
As far as the zoo elephants, Barker is among those who maintain that the animals are in declining health and need to be moved to a reserve — and Toronto officials have agreed, he says, but zoo administrators have been blocking the move.
Barker’s agenda of late has also included narrating presentations for his fellow animal protectionists at Mercy for Animals, an organization dedicated to stopping factory farming. He’s helped lobby against use of the hated so-called “gestation crates” for pigs that don’t allow the animals to lie down or turn. In fact, he says that K-Mart and Costco both recently quit buying pork from a major Minnesota producer that utilized those crates, because of Mercy for Animals bringing the practice to their attention.
Barker’s activities are too numerous to list here, but they also include recently funding a habitat for lab chimps that had been used in HIV/AIDS tests — and his setting up of endowments for the study of animal law at Harvard, Stanford, UCLA, Northwestern, Georgetown, Columbia, Duke and the University of Virginia, in addition to being named an Honorary Fellow at the Oxford University Centre for Animal Ethics.
“I put my time, my energy and my money into it,” says the daytime icon who put in 50 years on the air. “I can’t think of anything I could do that would be more important or helpful, or bring greater satisfaction to me.”
Barker works alongside long-time activist Nancy Burnet, who is the executive director of his foundation. When he’s not involved in work on behalf of animals, he’s often engaged in activities within his other philanthropic passion — aid for wounded veterans.