Leif loved animals. His pets were dear to him, but his protectiveness of animals extended far beyond that. In September 2007, seven months before he died, while he was recovering from his collarbone surgery after his motorcycle accident, he sent out an email strongly condemning the cruel treatment of animals. That resulted in some email exchanges with members of the family. I am posting some excerpts of what he wrote below. They are very revealing of his feelings about causing harm, pain and death of innocent creatures.
"Any of you that know me know that I am not much of an activist or a humanitarian but on occasion I come across something that I just can't ignore. Sending an email out to those I know is a very small effort and if it makes a difference for even one fuzzy creature then it was certainly worth my time. I stumbled upon this as a sidebar ad on Yahoo Mail because I recognized the name Trent Reznor as musician I respect and admire from the Group "Nine Inch Nails" or NIN. I was suprised and impressed that he was involved in this. Watch the video and share it. It is short but shocking. Ironically, for myself I have little sympathy for the suffering and death of most humans, whom I generally see as corrupt and self serving, yet I could not kill an animal unless it was a threat or I needed it for food, and after doing so I would feel regret at even the necesity. Anyway, here it is:"
Trent Rezor's Shocking New Fur Video
He got some responses from those to whom he sent the email, including from me, and he answered:
"Yeah, I don't condone hunting or any sort of unecessary killing or hurting of animals. Animals of course hunt and kill, but they do so out of necessity. Never hear of a lion keeping a collection of anelope heads to show other lions how cool he is. You know my attitudes about gun ownership and right so I won't repeat them save for how they relate to this issue. I have been asked either directly or via the basic and often repeated media question of why do I need/own an assault rifle? What sporting purpose does it have, or, most bluntly, what are you going to hunt with that thing? To which I would reply, "whatever gives me a reason to shoot it. Innocent fuzzy animals rarely do." I mean, if I found an alligator in my back yard and it was not safe to wait for Florida Fish and Game to remove it I might shoot it, but otherwise not. I honestly hope that I will never have cause to shoot my weapons at anything but some paper targets or maybe a clay pigeon, but then one never knows. Being a cynic and a beliver in the Boy Scout idea that it is better to have it and not need it than need in and not have it should home ever become like Iraq or Darfur, I choose to arm myself.
"I would not shoot an animal unless it threatened me or I needed to eat it and had no alternative, and killing animals for their hides is just wrong. Leather is one thing; it's a byproduct of a necessary meat industry. We don't murder cows for leather. We do kill them for food, but that is necessary. Leather is just a bonus.
"One little success of mine was managing to get some video taken off of MySpace and YouTube and hopefully getting some US marines in hot water with PETA. A friend came across a video of some marines shooting dogs for fun in Iraq. Some yellow Lab-looking mutt was just sitting there panting, trying to stay cool and this marine just goes up and pops a round in it with his rifle. The poor dog yelps in pain as it hit it in the flank and it tried feebly to move or get away, but my guess would be that it was hit in the lower spine as its mangled hindquarters did not respond at all. The marine shoots it twice more and it yelps in pain again but is still twiching. The marine walks away from it, off camera, making a callous remark about his surprise that it is not dead yet. This is followed by another marine carryng a SAW [squad automatic weapon] who stands over the poor dying dog and puts it out of its misery with a short burst of full auto fire.
"We were actually in contact with these assholes via email for a while and I tried to impress upon them how wrong it was. They replied saying that I had no idea what it's like over there and that made it ok, and that they knew other special forces guys, even, that shot dogs, and that made it ok. And, that since I was a mere infantryman from the lowly army that I knew nothing compared to the higher morality of marine force recon - and that made it ok. And that the heroic deed of these fighting men, which were undoubtedly virtuous, made it ok for them to viciously murder an innocent dog for their sadistic amusement. It wasn't just one dog. Actually there were clips of them shooting others from afar for target practice. They eventually toook the video down and closed their MySpace profiles, hopefully not before PETA got ahold of their info, as we send the links to them.
"What amazed me was that all these other marines came to defend this guy and to attack me for not blindly supporting and worshiping him as a member of marine force recon. What I found surprising was not that they defended their buddy, or even his character, but they actually defended his actions. Were I to witness a buddy do that I might defend him as a man, considering his other deeds, but I would still tell him he was an asshole and admit that what he had done was wrong.
"Ironically, I am really not even a dog lover, but then what animal besides man causes pain or death for purposes of amusement?"
I don't know whether Leif's assertion that animals are not killed for their hides for leather is completely true, but he believed it. We also pointed out to him that killing animals for their meat is not completely necessary, as people do live as vegetarians. However, he felt that food needs are legitimate throughout the animal kingdom, and that while regrettable, were understandable. He was an avid meat eater. I do wonder how difficult it would have been for him had he lived in another time in history and been forced to hunt for his meat.
The first photo above is Leif with our kitten, Scamp, circa fall 1987, in his favorite black leather Members Only jacket. The second one is Leif feeding pigeons in Kamakura, Japan, in May 1981.