“What mattered to him most was using his voice and prominent position to protect animals,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said of the late TV show host
Following the news of Barker’s death on Saturday, PETA issued a statement honoring the legendary game show host for his significant contributions to safeguarding animals throughout his life.
“Bob's influence on the entertainment industry is indisputable, but what mattered to him most was using his voice and prominent position to protect animals,” PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said in a statement to PEOPLE.
“Of course, everyone is familiar with his ‘spay and neuter your pets’ sign-off on The Price Is Right — a show where he refused to allow fur prizes — but he was also one of the first stars to go vegetarian more than 30 years ago,” Newkirk continued.
Barker practiced what he preached, and in 1995 established the DJ&T Foundation, a nonprofit which focuses on curbing the problem of animal overpopulation, according to the Society of Nonprofits. The foundation helps fund low-cost spay/neuter clinics and voucher programs.
Newkirk also said that Barker’s generous donations to PETA were used to “open its West Coast headquarters, the Bob Barker Building, in 2012.”
“[The Bob Barker Building] stands as a testament to his legacy and profound commitment to making the world a kinder place,” she continued. “To us — and to so many animals around the world — Bob will always be a national animal rights treasure.”
However, PETA wasn’t the only organization to receive financial support from Barker. He also awarded $1 million to Columbia Law School to support animal rights law initiatives in 2004.
In a news release about the award, Columbia Law School noted that Barker had been vocal about his support for animals rights for several decades, and even refused to host the 1987 Miss USA Pageant if the contestants wore real fur.
Although the pageant conceded, he ultimately resigned in 1988 after hosting for 21 years because organizers refused to remove fur coats from its prize packages, according to the news release.
In 1987, Barker also helped lead an investigation into the movie Project X, which resulted in the Los Angeles Department of Animal Regulation requesting animal cruelty criminal charges be filed during the film’s production.
Newkirk also highlighted the TV icon's work “urging families to stay away from SeaWorld,” demanding “the closure of cruel bear pits masquerading as tourist attractions” and imploring “Hollywood to take action to protect animals used in film and TV.”
She also noted that as a Navy veteran, he had “called for the end of military medical drills on live animals.”
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Barker died of natural causes in his longtime Hollywood Hills, California home this week, his former publicist Roger Neal confirmed to PEOPLE. He was 99.
“It is with profound sadness that we announce that the World’s Greatest MC who ever lived, Bob Barker, has left us," Neal said in a statement.
“I am so proud of the trailblazing work Barker, and I did together to expose the cruelty to animals in the entertainment industry and including working to improve the plight of abused and exploited animals in the United States and internationally," Burnet added in her own. "We were great friends over these 40 yrs. He will be missed.”
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