How Their Love for Animals Began
“Our real passion was always about directly helping animals,” said Sia, “so we quickly made a come-back as animal activists. After all, our dream as little girls was to be veterinarians. However, a demand for us to model came at an early age, which made our goals detour a bit.” According to their website, the Barbi Twins were born on April 2nd in San Diego California, USA; and the twins lived separately for most of their childhood. They were tomboys that aspired to become nuns and veterinarians. They had a family background firmly set in the celebrity and entertainment industry as Dusty Springfield was their godmother and their great aunts were the Andrew Sisters; and their mother was a beauty pageant winner. “So,” said Shane, “as you can see, it was no great surprise when we began a modeling career at the age of seven beginning with posing in a Sears mail-order catalog and moved in to top publications and fashion magazines such as Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Teen and so on–we were lucky that our career, in the long term, allowed us to work with and rescue animals.”
“We actually started rescuing animals when we were very young,” said Sia, “breaking out some of the mice and hamsters that were caged up in our school.” Shane motioned for me to join them in their sun room, where I climbed up on a nice chase lounge. “See Mattie, we viewed the cages at school as a jail for animals and because of this we would sneak and free them into the wild where we felt they should normally live. You could most definitely say we were obsessed with animals and wanted desperately to help all animals in any which way we could!” The sisters believe that we all should research the collection, treatment and disposal of lab animals.
The Barbi Twins first encounter with an expert animal activist was Chris DeRose of Last Chance for Animals in 1989, who helped guide them to useful animal activism. Mr. DeRose, a well-known actor and animal activist, showed the Barbi Twins troubling animal videos that relayed the cruelty done to animals in labs and medical research facilities; and was done for big business. For example, said Shane, “Animal experimentation was disguised as necessary medical research when in fact it is proven to be mostly medical fraud repeated unnecessarily for research grants and insurance reasons (Last Chance for Animals: animal research/vivisection).” The Barbi Twins also became aware of the way animals were abused on factory farms and in circuses, and even showed how some animals are skinned alive for their fur. “It was eye opening to watch these videos of how animals are really treated. Since then, we do our own research and work for all animals,” said the twins.
And work they have! Not only have the Barbi Twins joined efforts with CNN’s Jane Valez Mitchell and Mel Torme’s daughter Robin to spread the word about anti puppy mills, they have also worked on transformational animal protection legislature, from the crush bill (H.R. 5566: Animal Crush Video Prohibition Act of 2010), to partnering with Dr. Jenny Conrad (the famous big cat DVM) on the anti-declaw bill, and teamed up with Willie Nelson to promote the anti-horse slaughter bill; and have made numerous public appearances in Huffington Post, Politico, FOX, Extra TV, People, USA Today, etc. in order to spread the word about their work and the documentary Saving America’s Horses. Also, the Barbi Twins work to expand everyone’s knowledge of puppy mills, promoting the “adopt don’t shop” movement; and work tirelessly to bring awareness to anti-fur and stop the seal slaughters. The Barbi Twins also created a great vegan book, “The Eco Anti-Diet,” that teaches people how to wean themselves from animal products; and all proceeds go to the animal charity Sea Shepherd.
According to the Barbi Twins the real eye opener to get them fully entrenched in helping animals was Katrina. “We were happy that during this rough time most people, when presented with the problems of animals needing help, really did want to help. But we were shocked that a few animal welfare organizations seemed to take advantage of people’s good intentions to help Katrina animals. Some animal welfare organizations took in enormous donations that never really went to the Katrina victims, leaving many animals to die. We had learned about the real stats of rescue…10 million dogs and cats were killed in the United States last year, while animal organizations receive $10 million in donations and tax money. That is more money being donated, yet the USA has more killing than any other country,” said the twins.
Doing the Right Things
The Barbi Twins’ main goal has become to help make animals rescue more than a trend, they want to make it a brand that is mainstream America. “We know that rescuing an animal during these hard times would make people feel good that they are contributing and connecting to a problem all of us have contributed to. Over population of dogs and cats is a problem that we have created, so we have the responsibility to not kill the extra dogs and cats, but instead adopt. We also need to spay and neuter to get to the root of the problem of pet over population, and stop breeding until we have found a home for every single animal.”
“As for wild animals, we feel that animals should live naturally in their own environment the way nature intended. There are always solutions that we can bargain with to keep that formula going. One example is eco tourism which allows wild animals to stay in their habitat and create a business model where sanctuary workers earn money to preserve the species, rather than hunt or poach.” “We want people to be very careful of specieism, like racism, as it basically allows a person to obsess on a specific species, saying certain ones have the right to live over another one. We feel that when an animal is called “feral”, we are manipulating words to say the animal is not native to the land–which is ridiculous when their is no timeline to dictate that law. We are the biggest non natives that invaded our land!” The Barbi Twins encourage us to be global and all encompassing in our thinking when we ponder ways to help animals. Shane and Sia’s motto is ‘Insanity is repeating the same thing over and over and expecting different results!‘ The Twins ask us to consider this as we think about ways we can make changes to effect a difference for the animals!
“We are proud to say we are not stuck following one organization, more so we support many. There are many wonderful grass-root organizations (i.e. Delta Rescue who rescues animals hands on); however, we are still careful, do our homework and do not endorse those who hoard animals. We want to encourage people to do more than donate. Unfortunately some big organizations start off great, but can end up as functioning as corporations with hefty salaried executives, leaving not much money to help the animals. Big organizations can and often do help with raising awareness of animal issues. We want to take it one more step–our goal is a NO KILL NATION. We are trying to be creative in helping people become proactive: to act, not react. It is so tiring to meet people who say they don’t want to hear what really goes on behind closed doors with animals, yet they do nothing about it–it’s hard, but changing the lives of animals is hard work. We want to encourage everyone to do their own research, and then become active by volunteering at shelters, getting involved in animal legislation (local and federal), protesting unnecessary cruel use of animals in the circus, experimentation, and not to wear or eat animals, etc. If everyone tried one vegan meal, think of the little grateful animal whose life was spared.
Celebrity Helps to Make a Difference
As I get ready to leave, I ask the Barbi Twins if there was any parting words they’d like to leave the our readers with–something for them to think about. “Yes,” said Shane and Sia together, “we’d like to remind people that we do have the power to help–as an example we pay taxes which in many cases support animal shelters, thus we can demand better shelters and adequate staff to tend to the shelters. Also politicians want and need our vote, so calling and writing letters to your local and federal representatives does pay off!”
Shane and Sia are deeply committed to helping animals and for that, all of us animals, and animal lovers, are thankful. If you’d like to contact the Barbi Twins to thank them for their dedication, ask them a question or just to say hi, please tweet them on Twitter at @Barbi_Twins and ‘Like’ them on Facebook.
Read “Rescue Me” to tour the world and meet some great people and organizations dedicated to sparing the lives of animals. If you know of an individual, group or organization that could be featured in “Rescue Me,” please email me mattiedog AT anipaltimes DOT com or @MattieDog on Twitter.