America's Next Top Model Turned Director, Producer, and Animal Advocate, Katie Cleary is on a Mission to Save our Planet

Ujwal Sharma
Photo byKatie Cleary

Someone has to help raise awareness to protect our one and only planet Earth and the millions of species who call it home – Katie Cleary is determined to be that person.

Appearing on the first season of America’s Next Top Model and as a regular on the hit TV show Deal or No Deal, Katie realized that acting and modeling was just a stepping stone to her true mission of helping to protect animals around the world.

Katie began rescuing animals with her mother in Chicago when she was just 11 years old. Together, they found injured wildlife and brought the animals to a family vet who treated and rehabilitated them. Once they were healed, Katie and her mother then released them back into the wild. The dynamic duo was especially passionate about rescuing cats and kittens and ensuring they found loving homes.
Photo byKatie Cleary

In 2012, Katie took her activism to an entirely new level. She founded the nonprofit animal welfare organization Peace 4 Animals to help protect animals around the world. Her first official campaign tackled tiger conservation in India.

“Our first campaign inspired Peace 4 Animals’ logo: a beautiful peace sign with a tiger,” explained Katie. “I have loved big cats ever since I was a young girl, and I remember wanting to do something about the devastating truth that only 5,000 tigers were remaining in the wild at that time, so it really was a full-circle moment.”

But she didn’t launch her first campaign alone. She sought support from fellow animal advocate Alison Eastwood, daughter of legendary actor Clint Eastwood, who was starting Eastwood Ranch at the time. Alison hosted Peace 4 Animals’ first charity event to raise funds for tiger conservation.

Since then, Peace 4 Animals has continued to tackle a variety of animal welfare issues, from the destruction of critical rainforest habitat by the palm oil industry that is endangering our planet’s last wild orangutans, to the abuse and neglect of farm animals by the meat and dairy industry.

Eventually, Katie found herself back in the entertainment industry, but this time, on her own terms. The renowned animal advocate founded the popular news network World Animal News, which is now recognized as one of the world leaders in news and information for animals around the globe.

Katie has also ventured into filmmaking and produced several documentaries that highlight animal welfare issues. She wrote and produced her first award-winning documentary Give Me Shelter, which premiered on Netflix in 2015. In August 2022, the award-winning filmmaker released her latest documentary Why on Earth, narrated by fellow animal advocate and director Clint Eastwood, who, in addition to his acting career, has a passion for rescuing horses from slaughter. Through stunning, rarely-seen footage, Why on Earth shows the effects of deforestation and the illegal trade of threatened and endangered species that put the entire world at-risk, including orangutans, elephants, rhinos, lions, sharks, and many more species. Her next documentary will tackle the protection of wolves and the critical role they play in balancing our ecosystem.

“Filmmaking became a natural extension of my work because I needed to show people around the world what is really happening to our planet and its precious species, and what we must do collectively to save them before it’s too late,” Katie said. “Why on Earth is a call to action for others to join the fight and understand that by caring for these beautiful animals and our natural world, we begin a healing process that will eventually help all life on Earth.”

But Katie isn’t stopping there. She wants to see more regulations and legislation passed in the next five years as a critical step to protecting our endangered species and their natural habitat. This includes generating awareness about the consumption of meat and dairy and promoting a healthy plant-based lifestyle.

“The good news is that I do believe consumers are becoming more aware of what they’re purchasing and how they can reduce their carbon footprint on this planet to become more sustainable,” says Katie. “This is thanks to a rise in clean products that don’t contain single-use plastics, palm oil, or other harmful ingredients that have led to the destruction of critical habitats.”

The World Animal News founder also wants to see more environmental and animal welfare stories in mainstream media. Katie has a dream of watching the first-ever animal/environmental news show on mainstream television that delivers important information about how our actions are affecting the environment and our planet’s species, and what we can do to affect positive change in our world.

The work, however, is far from over. The past 150 years of destruction has been caused by humans, and now it’s up to us to reverse all of the damage that has been done. This includes switching to a plant-based diet because, according to Katie, “people don’t realize that the burger that they’re eating is also killing endangered species and destroying their habitat due to human-wildlife conflict. By taking away wild spaces to graze cattle, wildlife has nothing left to eat but the animals that are put on their land to feed humans. So when wildlife kills cattle, they in turn are killed by cattle ranchers.”

However, Katie understands that eliminating meat and dairy can be a challenging task for some, so it’s okay to start with small steps, one meal at a time, and one day at a time. She suggests starting with meatless Mondays that include tasty vegetables and meat alternatives like Beyond Meat and JUST Egg.

Another way to make a positive difference in the lives of animals is by adopting a pet from your local shelter instead of buying them from breeders. Katie also encourages people to volunteer, whether it's walking, feeding, or fostering animals, every positive action helps. Fostering is especially important because it allows animals to be in a home environment, which can help them become more socialized and ultimately increase their chances of finding a permanent, loving home.

“I’m always wondering about the ‘how,’” says Katie. “How are we going to save our planet? How are we going to fight to save animals from extinction? My goal is to bring this issue to a mainstream, global audience, but for now, I know I’m going to continue my part in saving the planet and its species in every possible way I can.”

Katie’s award-winning documentary Why on Earth is currently streaming on Amazon, Google Play, iTunes, and Apple.

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Ujwal Sharma is an Indian award-winning entrepreneur, investor, freelance journalist, and digital marketer. He is the Founder and CEO of Uzi World Digital, and Editor-in-chief at Empire Weekly.


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