Kate Mara
Credit: Paul Morigi/Getty

Yesterday, actress Kate Mara joined the Humane Society’s rally outside the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington D.C. Along with fellow protesters, she delivered a Care2 petition urging the USDA to restore deleted online records regarding licensed animal facilities and violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act. Here, Mara explains why she spends her free time fighting for animals’ welfare.

I first became really involved with animals’ rights after watching the documentary Blackfish. I was so moved by the film that I reached out to the director, Gabriela [Cowperthwaite], and asked if there was anything that I could do to help with the cause. We became friends, and through her, I began doing different things with the Humane Society. First, we worked on a "Meatless Monday" campaign. I’m a vegan—that actually happened long before I started working with the Humane Society—but at the time, I didn’t know that eating meat was such a massive problem pertaining to global warming. I knew that not eating meat was the healthy and humane thing to do—but I had no idea that it was actually so much better for our planet. It’s actually quite relevant to what’s going on right now in our country.

Eventually, I was asked if I would be interested in going to Liberia to visit chimps that had been abandoned by the Blood Center [after the end of a research program] there. The Humane Society was trying to care for them all on their own, along with the people of Liberia who care for the chimps on a daily basis. I knew that my sister [Rooney] would love to help, as well, because she’s an animal lover like myself. So we went together. We flew to Liberia and spent a few days with them, and it was really life-changing.

That’s how it all began. We’ve spent the past couple of years trying to get the Blood Center to do the right thing—and, luckily, they came to an agreement with the Humane Society a week ago. They’re going to be providing a certain amount of money to the chimps every year. Obviously we all still have work to do, but I just can’t imagine not being involved with the chimps and the people that we met there. There’s nobody like them—they’ve completely dedicated their lives to animals.

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There are so many different ways to get involved with a cause, and so many opportunities to volunteer and donate your time. It doesn’t have to be just about giving money—and I know not everybody can do that. Really, the best way to deal with [seeing animals suffer] is to continue fighting for them. It’s sort of the only cure. Instead of just sitting in it—which you do, of course—you find the next opportunity to speak up for them, and I constantly want to help.

One of the main reasons that I love working with the Humane Society is that they always tell me about things I’m not aware of. Being a dog owner or dog lover, whatever you want to call it, definitely gives me more empathy and compassion in general—but learning facts about what’s going on and who’s in need of assistance makes me want to do more. I’ve never worn fur, and I refuse to. I’m specifically trying to be more conscious of not wearing or buying leather products, but that’s definitely challenging in the fashion world. My sister is really good at that, so I’m inspired by her—and I’m trying to be better about it myself. I would love to eventually come to a place where I don’t wear any at all.

Kate Mara Animal Rights Rally - Embed
Credit: Paul Morigi/WireImage

The Humane Society informed me about this week’s rally, and I can’t even believe that restoring animal welfare records to the agency’s website is something that we’re having to argue about. When the USDA abruptly purged all the records pertaining to the Animal Welfare Act, it just took away our rights and the animals’ rights. I feel like we have to do everything we can in order to get that back, because it just seems completely barbaric to me. It’s not fair, and I think we deserve that level of decency from the USDA.

We should be able to know the facts, and in this climate right now, I certainly feel that it’s our moral obligation to stand for causes that we care deeply about. Because if we don’t, no one will—and nothing will ever change. We have no excuses.