Karen Dawn is an American animal rights and welfare advocate and writer.
Karen Dawn was born in the United States and grew up and was schooled in Australia. She studied at the University of NSW — a science degree with a major in psychology. Dawn got her first experience working with the media as a news researcher and writer for Australia's national nightly news magazine show "The 7:30 Report," on ABC. Dawn moved to New York City and pursued her interest in music throughout the early 1990s as a singer/songwriter.
Dawn is an animal rights spokesperson who speaks at the national animal rights conferences and the annual "Taking Action for Animals" conference in Washington DC. She has appeared on major TV networks discussing animal issues and she is a popular speaker at colleges.
Dawn's career in animal rights began in 1999 when she started the DawnWatch.com list serve, which she created to encourage activists to stay in contact with the media.
Dawn was invited to serve on the voting committee for the Genesis Awards a position which she held from 2001 to 2004. In 2006 she returned to the Genesis Awards voting committee as the print consultant.
Her piece "Best Friends Need Shelter, Too" was published in The Washington Post and she was subsequently interviewed for a New York Times article about the media coverage of displaced pets during the Katrina aftermath. A year later she participated in an on-air follow-up — a one-hour program on Washington Post Radio devoted to the Katrina Animal Disaster and what we learned from it with regard to the need for disaster preparedness and policy changes.
Dawn was an official spokesperson for California's Proposition 2, a 2008 election ballot initiative that changed the standards for confining farm animals.
On May 17, 2008, Dawn was presented with the Outstanding Activist for Farm Animals Award. The award was presented at the Farm Sanctuary 2008 Gala by Karen Dawn's friends actress Emily Deschanel and Skinny Bitch author Rory Freedman.
Dawn is outspoken in her advocacy for pit bulls and was featured in a Los Angeles Times front-page story as a “passionate defender” of the breed. But she also fully supports the need for pit bull spay-neuter legislation, even testifying in favor of such legislation in a California Senate committee hearing in Sacramento. The bill, SB861, was signed into law in 2006. It allows for breed specific spay-neuter local ordinances but “prohibits cities and counties from banning any specific breed of dog.”
Karen Dawn may be most widely known for her annual Thanksgiving turkey rescue. It garners much media attention and was picked up by the Associated Press for Thanksgiving 2012.
In a radio blog that aired on Washington Post Radio on Thanksgiving Day 2006, Dawn explains that she met a turkey for the first time in 2000 at the Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary in Washington DC. She says that she was surprised that the turkey, Olivia, was so friendly and gentle and that when she crawled into Dawn's lap and fell asleep, Dawn "fell in love."
She first brought two live turkeys, who had been destined for slaughter, into her own home for Thanksgiving 2009. They were later retired to the Animal Acres sanctuary in Acton California. The Los Angeles Times did a spread on that effort, printed on the front page of the California Section under the heading "Hold the turkey, please: A vegan Thanksgiving – where the birds are friends, not feast." Dawn told ABC World News Now, during an interview (at the time of her third annual turkey rescue) that she had done the original rescue largely as a publicity stunt in order to garner that Los Angeles Times story. But the next year she missed having live turkeys, and she now does her rescue every year because, as she told CNN's Headline News anchor Jane Velez Mitchell, she realized that having the turkeys in her home over Thanksgiving is "A fun way to present a serious message about health, about animal welfare, and about the environment.”
The media coverage includes serious messages: The ABC World News Now story from 2010 shows slaughterhouse video of turkeys hanging upside down on a conveyor belt while Dawn comments, "Something I think very few people would be aware of is that turkeys are not covered under the Federal humane slaughter laws. The ironic thing about the slaughter laws in this country is that they actually exempt 95% of the animals who are slaughtered." (She is referring to all poultry, plus rabbits.) The Thanksgiving 2012 coverage from Dawn's local ABC station showed the reporter, Elex Michaelson, petting a turkey and talking about how much they enjoy the human touch. Dawn tells viewers that "Turkeys are a lot more adorable than they are delicious" and that "turkey day is a lot more fun when the turkeys are alive and well."
Almost all of the media coverage includes video and photos of the turkeys getting a welcome bath and blowdry. Dawn posts an annual turkey rescue video on her YouTube channel (youtube.com/thankingthemonkey) where you can watch the bath and blow-dry scenes.
Los Angeles ABC-7 has covered Dawn's turkey rescue every year from 2008 through 2018. Below are examples of that coverage as well as Fox Business News and KTLA.
Dawn has hosted animal issues talk shows on Houston's Pacifica station, KPFT and on the Los Angeles Pacifica station, KPFK.
Dawn has written opinion pieces published in The Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, New York's Newsday and the UK Guardian. She contributed to "Terrorists or Freedom Fighters: Reflections on the Liberation of Animals" a 2004 anthology edited by Steve Best and Anthony Nocella, and to "In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave," edited by Peter Singer.
Dawn's first book, Thanking the Monkey: Rethinking the Way We Treat Animals, was published in May 2008. She promotes animal rights with a fun and friendly image, stating, "There's no reason that animal rights can't be fun and inviting. For heaven's sake—gin's vegan!"
Thanking the Monkey was chosen by the Washington Post as one of the "Best Books of 2008."