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Home > Animal Activism > Bleeding Hearts, Broken Promises > Bill Maher
Bleeding Hearts, Broken Promises

Bill Maher

Bill Maher and Animal Rights

The animal rights movement has been characterized by critics and supporters alike as one of the most politically correct causes of this decade. Ironically, Bill Maher, former host of the recently cancelled late-night talk show, “Politically Incorrect,” is another Hollywood celebrity who has publicly supported PETA, while simultaneously advocating on behalf of disease research.

Maher indicated his opposition to animal testing on his nationally televised talk show on October 22, 1997. During the program, the discussion centered around the ethics of using animal models for human benefit. Maher introduced the segment with the following observation:

“The question is, are the animals here as our farm team, are they stock for us so that we can live longer? And if they are, isn’t that arrogant of humans to think that we have any more right to live on this planet than the animal whose heart we’re taking?" 1

According to a December 1997 Boston Globe article by reporter Jeff Jacoby, Maher had the following to say regarding the tragic accident suffered by actor Christopher Reeve:

“I took it as animal abuse…If you try to make a horse jump over something that it doesn’t want to jump over, I think it really should throw you off its back.” 2

Jacoby made the following observation in response to Maher’s statement:

“To insist upon the humane treatment of animals is enlightened and decent. To root for the horse that throws and cripples its rider is morally twisted.” 3

In addition to these examples, Maher has campaigned on behalf of PETA. He was one of two Masters of Ceremonies at the animal rights organization’s 1996 Animals Ball and Humanitarian Awards Gala, held at Paramount Studios in Los Angles, CA. 4Maher also selected PETA to be the beneficiary of his winnings from his appearance on Merv Griffin’s 1995 “Celebrity Jeopardy!” Tournament. 5


Maher and Disease Research

Maher has expressed his public support for charities dedicated to raising money to fight AIDS, cancer and other forms of critical illness.

Recently, Maher was the emcee at Playboy TV’s 15th anniversary celebration, which raised $50,000 for AIDS Project Los Angles (APLA). 6 APLA is a “non-profit, community-based organization which is a direct provider of, and resource for, HIV/AIDS services and information. APLA is committed to serving all people affected by, and at risk for HIV/AIDS in Los Angeles County. 7


"I think PETA
is a threat to my life....

"I've been living with HIV since 1983. I've been on AZT and other drugs, and I'm alive becuase they were tested on animals first.

"I don't know if any celebrities have stood up to PETA. But it would be nice if one of them would."

– Peter Staley
Founder, Treatment Action Group (TAG)
quoted in the
Daily News
May 6, 1996

Maher was also the 1996 emcee for the City of Hope’s annual “Spirit of Life” dinner gala. The event reportedly raised “a record $5 million for the charity, which fights cancer, AIDS and other life threatening diseases. 8

Disease Research Breakthroughs
Made Possible by Animal Research

  • With respect to AIDS, animal studies led to the test that allows use to detect whether a person is carrying the virus. 9

  • Scientists tested a vaccine prepared from the live attenuated simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in pregnant primates to see whether it would cause SIV in their offspring. Of 18 exposed monkeys, only two became infected, and they had received doses much higher than those used for protective immunization. This result suggested that a live attenuated HIV vaccine should remain an option for human use. 10

  • Nobel prize-winning research by J. Michael Bishop and Harold E. Varmus on a virus that causes cancer in chickens led to an understanding of the genetic basis of cancer and has major implications for diagnosis and treatment. 11

  • Scientists have treated spinal cord injury in rats with an injection of cells taken from the olfactory bulb of the brain, which controls the sense of smell. The injected cells caused new fibers to sprout from severed nerves and through the damaged zone of the spinal cord. Several months later, the rats displayed normal use of their front paws when they otherwise would have been impaired. 12

Impact of AIDS, Cancer, and Spinal Cord Injuries

  • AIDS is the second leading cause of death among Americans between the ages of 25-44. 13

  • In 1998, the number of new cancer cases is expected to total more than 1.2 million. 14

  • More than 560,000 American are expected to die from cancer this year. 15

  • Approximately 1,500 are expected to die from cancer daily. 16

  • Severe spinal injuries affect approximately 9,500 Americans each year. An estimated 200,000 people in the United States suffer either acute of chronic disability due to spinal cord injury. 17


1 . "Politically Incorrect," ABC, October 22, 1997.

2. Boston Globe, December 23, 1997.

3. Boston Globe, December 23, 1997.

4. PETA press/promotional materials, December, 1996.

5. PR Newswire, November 3, 1995.

6. L.A. Weekly, January 30, 1998.

7. AIDS Project Los Angeles (APLA), APLA Website (

8. Daily Variety, October 18, 1996.

9. Washingtonian, Feburary, 1990.

10. Nature Medicine, January, 1997.

11. Boston Globe, October 10, 1989.

12. Science, September 26, 1997.

13. USA Today, September 12, 1997.

14. "Cancer Facts and Figures – 1998," American Cancer Society

15. "Cancer Facts and Figures – 1998," American Cancer Society

16. "Cancer Facts and Figures – 1998," American Cancer Society

17. BRAINWORK: The Neuroscience Newsletter, March/April 1997.




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