“So our animals can’t turn around for the 2.5 years that they are in the stalls producing piglets. I don’t know who asked the sow if she wanted to turn around …” — Spokesman for National Pork Producers Council
This quote represents the kind of thinking Brian Shapiro is trying to change in his new role as New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). The former Ulster County legislator and former Woodstock town council member says, “This new position is the culmination of my life’s work,” combining his longstanding interests in politics and animal rights.
He remembers when he was first taught compassion for animals. “I was four years old, and my mother saw me step on a caterpillar and stare at it. She scolded me and told me, ‘You don’t step on bugs — you need to respect animals.’ It was eye-opening for me, a lesson learned — not to cause needless cruelty to other creatures.”
His mother, Ronnye Shapiro, was also a role model in the field of grass-roots organization, beginning in 1976, when she was head of a moped owners association. “As a nine-year-old I was stuffing envelopes and sorting mail,” recalls Shapiro, as he watched his family help to pass legislation that promoted safety for motorbike riders. “My mother was instrumental is putting together a moped owner’s safety guide. I saw at a young age how to make yourself part of a system for change.”
Over the past four years, Shapiro has served as director of the county’s ASPCA. “I’m proud of my time there,” he says. “I increased the numbers of adoptions, expanded the spay-neuter program, strengthened the humane law division, and focused on cases of neglect and cruelty.”
But his work at HSUS has a longer reach, he says, with 800,000 supporters in New York State and 11 million nationwide. “It’s an incredible opportunity to help rescue animals and help mobilize the animal advocacy community. I’m honored to be with such a prestigious organization that has accomplished so much.”