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December 2, 2009

Oprah: A Powerful Voice for Animals

Oprah's shows highlighting the abuses of factory farming and puppy mills were watched by millions

Dog Puppy Mill Chihuahua TN

Michelle Riley/The HSUS

Oprah Winfrey's announcement that she will end her daily talk show in 2011 sent shock waves through the television industry. Oprah's influence on television and society is impossible to measure.

In addition to her effect on her viewers and others around the world, Oprah has had a lasting impact on animals and has made a difference in how we treat them.

Helping farm animals

Last October, Oprah devoted an entire hour-long episode to farm animals. During the show, HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, family farmers, and industry representatives participated in a lively conversation about farm animal welfare and California's Proposition 2, the Prevention of Farm Animal Cruelty Act.

She spoke movingly about the issue from a stage filled with a life-sized battery cage, gestation crate, and veal crate—and she informed tens of millions of viewers about the abuses that farm animals routinely endure on factory farms.

Less than one month later, Prop 2 passed in a landslide, becoming the state's most popular citizen ballot initiative ever. It will free approximately 20 million egg-laying hens, breeding pigs, and veal calves from tiny cages when it takes effect in 2015. Oprah might not have singlehandedly clinched this landmark victory, but she certainly played a hand in its passage.

Oprah's groundbreaking show on Prop 2 was the second animal issue she tackled last year.

Exposing the cruelty of puppy mills

In April 2008, Oprah devoted an entire episode to the issues of puppy mills and pet adoption. Correspondent Lisa Ling highlighted the cruelty that is a day-to-day reality for breeding dogs kept in mills. The show also brought much-needed attention to the great animals in shelters who need only for someone to come adopt them.

Oprah shed light on the abusive puppy mill industry that preys on the affection the American public has for dogs. The industry remained largely hidden from public view, selling its mill-produced puppies through pet stores and upscale websites, misleading buyers along the way. 

The Oprah show on puppy mills was eye-opening for millions of viewers. Stephanie Shain, who leads The HSUS' campaign against puppy mills, says the impact of the show cannot be overstated.

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"The Oprah puppy mill show shed light on the puppy mills of Pennsylvania, and helped to move legislation," said Shain. "Oprah brought a nation of animal lovers to the frontlines in the fight against puppy mills."

Oprah aired a follow-up show several months later, featuring rescue footage from The HSUS and updating viewers on the puppy mill issue.

While puppy mills continue to operate, Oprah accelerated the pace in the effort to stop inhumane puppy mills for good in the United States.

We hope Oprah will tackle additional animal issues as she and her producers work to wrap up the remaining episodes of the historic show.

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