Air Date: Saturday 04 February 2017
Guest: Robert Fisk
Host: Steve Woods (Stevoe)
Studio Contributor: Debi Davis
Executive Producer: Emily Sullivan (Sully)
Robert Fisk of Maine Friends of Animals (MFOA) didn’t start his career planning to help animals, but it seems he plans on ending that way. Fisk, an Exeter, NH native, was an athlete: a physical education major, a college basketball coach, and the owner of the Portland Athletic Club. He says he’s always been “politically inclined,” so he decided to run for state legislature in 1997 and did a 2-year stint in Augusta which was his first step in animal welfare advocacy.
When Fisk was campaigning, the issues he ran on were small business advocacy, environmentalism, government campaign reform, and animal rights advocacy to a lesser degree. He was always a supporter of animal rights, but after he was elected he realized that many other legislators were supporters of his other issues so he became the “de-facto animal guy” in his party.
After leaving Augusta, Fisk felt he needed to continue his animal advocacy efforts in Augusta and formed Maine Friends of Animals to do so (a 501c4 at the time). The mission of MFOA is to promote the humane treatment of animals through education and legislation. Fisk and a small staff manage a membership of 1500 strong and as a non-profit, operate completely on donations.
One of the biggest issues MFOA has been dealing with lately has been the treatment of retired harness racing horses. Scarborough Downs, southern Maine’s harness racing track, has been struggling to stay open and is actively searching for a financial partner or risks having to close their doors forever. According to Fisk, this is a clear sign that the harness racing industry should no longer be an industry. In Maine, many retired horses (who could be as young as three) are sent to Mexico or Quebec, Canada to be slaughtered. Fisk and MFOA are working to educate the public on the treatment of these horses. They are also attempting to convince legislators to re-write the line in the “cascade funds” where money goes back to the racing facilites to deter racing teams/owners from further investing in the dying industry.
MFOA was also very active in November 2015 with the “Bear Baiting” ballot question. Fisk says Maine is the only state in the country where people are still allowed to use steel traps. He speculates that the controversy between hunters and animal activists/advocates forced more LePage supporters to the voting booths.
Fisk says although there have been struggles like these, Maine is still a leader in regards animal treatment. In the early 2000’s the house was the first legislative body to ban the use of circus elephants and temporarily banned Barnum and Bailey from bringing that act to Maine.It did not pass the Senate because according to Fisk, when Barnum and Bailey caught wind, they sent lobbyists to sway the senators.
To learn more about Maine Friends of Animals, please visit their website at mfoa.net or listen to the interview below.