By Daria Zeoli, Guest Contributor
Sam Simon, co-creator of The Simpsons and champion for animals, died Sunday of colorectal cancer at the age of 59.
The news wasn’t shocking – after all, Simon had been fighting for his life ever since he was diagnosed a few years ago. At that time, he was given a few months to live. How lucky the we are that he outlived his prognosis. How lucky the animals are.
If you’ve been alive for the past quarter-century, you may be familiar with the animated residents of Springfield – and with the characters designed by Simon, Chief Wiggum and Mr. Burns among them. Remember how Homer adopted Santa’s Little Helper from the greyhound race track? That was thanks to Sam Simon.
Vegetarian since he was a teenager, Simon didn’t become an animal activist until 2002, when he met PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk, according to a 2014 interview with Ecorazzi. Since that time, he’s been a loud voice on behalf of many, including:
- the shelter dogs destined for euthanasia, rescued by his foundation and trained to help the disabled
- the bears and other animals he’s liberated by buying roadside zoos and circuses
- the whales and the dolphins who are slaughtered each year, as well as the ones in captivity in places like SeaWorld
- the racehorse he retired to a ranch to live out his life away from the racetrack
Sam Simon had no heirs, so he used his money to help those who needed help. His fortune will be used to continue this cause.
It was quite a thing to behold, the outpouring of love and gratitude for this man on social media. Fans of his work and his philanthropy, well-known colleagues in television and in activism. The human and non-human lives he touched are the better for his influence.
There are already so many obituaries and coverage of Sam Simon’s life worth a moment of your time. Reading about his life these past couple of days, I couldn’t help but wonder, how can I – or any of us – be a bit more like this millionaire philanthropist in our bid to change the world for animals? I have a few pieces of advice:
How to Be A Badass Like Sam Simon
- Live like your days are numbered: Simon knew that his illness was going to kill him. So he did what he wanted to do – he spent his time, his energy, and his money helping animals. He traveled the world for them. He spoke up for them. Cancer isn’t pretty, and if you followed Sam Simon’s Twitter feed, you got a glimpse into what living with it was like. If a dying cancer patient can change the world for animals, so can you.
- Speak your truth: We aren’t Animal Rights Robots. We come at activism from different paths and in different ways. I don’t have to agree with PETA or any other organization every (or any) step of the way, but that doesn’t negate every shred of good they do. Were it not for Ingrid Newkirk, Sam Simon may never have taken this fork in his journey. And were it never for each one of us, someone else might not take their own fork. So speak your truth, because someone is listening.
- Help people, too: As Vanity Fair covered last year in “Always Leave Them Laughing“, the Sam Simon Foundation funds the Feeding Families program, a vegan food bank offering free meals to Los Angeles families. Simon was also “the largest individual donor to Save the Children.” Remember, caring about animals does not mean you can’t care about humans; quite the opposite, in fact.
The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean had it right with this piece of advice:
.@thesimpsons#everysimpsonsever If you would like to honor Sam’s memory, do something nice for the next animal you meet. An enormous loss.
— Al Jean (@AlJean) March 9, 2015
Doing something nice for an animal can be easy and cost you nothing. Helping animals is something we strive to do here at Your Daily Vegan with every word we write.
To every vegan badass who speaks up, speaks out, votes with their dollars, educates, motivates, and inspires, thank you. To Sam Simon, a vegan badass in his own right, you will be missed.