Ian Somerhalder Goes to Washington – for Animals

George Pimentel/Getty

07/29/2011 AT 5:00 PM ET

Ian Somerhalder may play a murderous bad boy on The Vampire Diaries, but in real life, he’s got a soft spot for humans and animals alike.

“Wildlife and environmental conservation has always been not just a passion, but a priority of mine,” he testified in Washington, D.C., on Thursday before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Natural Resources.

Speaking on behalf of the Ian Somerhalder Foundation, which is dedicated to “habitat conservation, species protection and clean energy initiatives,” the actor urged Congress to pass a new conservation act. This would ensure continued funding for the protection of species like the African elephant, rhinoceros, tiger and Asian elephant.