ANIMAL MEDIA ALERTS
MILITANT ANTI-VIVISECTION ACTIVISM IN WASHINGTON POST AND UK PAPERS -- 1/31/05
The fight against the vivisection industry made major news today, Monday, January 31. The Washington Post carried a story on the campaign against Huntingdon Life Sciences, while the UK papers carried news of a government crackdown -- legislation introduced that could give five year sentences to animal rights activists guilty of economic sabotage.
The Washington Post article is headed "Animal Rights Group Aims at Enemy's Allies; Harassment Campaign Targets Suppliers, Customers of Product Testing Company." (Pg A 16.) It is a balanced piece.
"Greg Avery was a small-time activist on the fringes of the animal rights movement here when, one day in 1999, he trailed a truck full of cats from a breeding farm to its destination: the gates of Huntingdon Life Sciences, Britain's largest animal research laboratory.
"Suddenly, he recalls, it came to him: Why focus on one little cat farm when you could declare war on a major publicly traded company that experiments on thousands of animals each year?
"Over the next five years, the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty campaign, known as SHAC, brought Huntingdon to the edge of bankruptcy and forced the company to cease trading on the London Stock Exchange and move its corporate headquarters to New Jersey. Activists with clubs assaulted two of its senior executives, while dozens of other employees reported harassment ranging from damage to their property to threatening phone calls and false allegations of pedophilia.
"The campaign spread to the United States, where a federal grand jury in Newark last May indicted SHAC USA and seven individuals on charges that included violation of the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. The trial is scheduled for June.
"The campaign against Huntingdon -- a company with 1,400 employees and $120 million in annual sales -- is the longest, most aggressive and most ambitious that the militant wing of the animal rights movement has ever conducted. It marks an escalation in tactics and a new internationalization of the movement, which to a large extent was born and bred in Britain and still follows the lead of British activists.
"Proponents of animal testing argue that without it, most of the drugs and modern therapies developed to combat cancer and a host of other diseases would not exist. But animal rights advocates contend that testing is inhumane and largely unreliable. For activists such as Avery, testing is nothing less than mass murder.
"The key to strangling Huntingdon, says Avery, has been to focus on harassing its suppliers and customers -- ranging from the bank that lent it money to the caterer who supplied its cafeteria food...."
Whereas many stories on the SHAC campaign fail to detail the activists' case against HLS, this reporter, Glenn Frankel, writes:
"Huntingdon, which conducts experiments on up to 75,000 rats, mice, guinea pigs, cats, dogs and monkeys every year, is an obvious target. Two hidden-camera investigations in the 1990s uncovered deliberate abuse of animals by staff members in England and the United States. Company officials say that the incidents were isolated and that strong safeguards are in now in place to ensure they don't recur."
(You can see video of HLS abuses at http://www.shac.net . It includes footage of a scientist punching a beagle puppy in the face, and of a primate on an operating table, with her chest cut wide open, conscious, lifting her head. Those involved in the SHAC campaign feel that given the horrifying abuses they documented, the company should not have been given a second chance.)
It is a fairly long article, and an interesting read, that you will find on line at:
Having just read this line from the Washington Post article: "Proponents of animal testing argue that without it, most of the drugs and modern therapies developed to combat cancer and a host of other diseases would not exist," I read, with a sense of irony, an article from the Sunday, January 30, Saint Paul Pioneer Press (Minnesota) headed, "A biotech firm's tough choice; Business considerations dictate that a St. Paul start-up company must first market a wrinkle filler before turning its attention to developing a lifesaving blood-vessel graft." (Pg 8b)
It tells us:
"Gel-Del Technologies faced a difficult choice: Which biotech material should it bring to market first: a lifesaving technology to repair blood vessels or a filler injected under the skin to smooth wrinkles?
"Both biomaterials are derived from a common scientific approach developed by Gel-Del and are compatible with human tissue; both underwent extensive animal testing with positive results....
"As a start-up, Gel-Del needs money -- and that means satisfying investors and attracting new ones.... Add to that the tremendous interest from potential consumers and drug company partners, and Gel-Del's answer was clear: Come out with the wrinkle filler first."
You can read that whole article on line at:
Meanwhile, "The Sunday People" in the UK, tells us "Scientists are carrying out nearly three million experiments a year on animals, the Government has admitted. That's the highest number since Labour came to power in 1997. The shock figure has infuriated animal rights campaigners because the Government promised tough action to reduce the number of experiments."
And "Crackdown on animal rights extremists" appeared in the Monday January 31 Guardian (UK). That article tells us that due to the success of militant campaigns in blocking the construction of new laboratories, legislation has been introduced aimed specifically at animal rights activists, who would face up to five years in prison for economic sabotage.
Oppression has so often, historically, led to escalations of violence, followed by further oppression, that those of us who would have liked to have seen a peaceful end to the vivisection industry cannot help but worry at news of the crackdown.
You can read the article Guardian article on line at: http://politics.guardian.co.uk/homeaffairs/story/0,11026,1402399,00.html?gusrc=rss
All of the articles cited above give us opportunities for letters to the editor about the way humans treat members of other species.
The Washington Post takes letters at: email@example.com
The Saint Paul Pioneer Press takes them at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Guardian takes them at: email@example.com
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
NPR COVERS DRUG USE TO MASK INJURY IN HORSERACING 1/31/05
On Monday, January 31, the National Public Radio show "All Things Considered" had a segment on the use of medication in the horse racing industry. Kentucky is considering new limits. We learn from reporter Adam Hochberg that "Few thoroughbreds in the US race without medication" but "while other states allow one or two medications on race day, Kentucky doctors...can give as many as five including prescription strength drugs to fight inflammation."
Hochberg speaks with Wayne Pacelle, president of HSUS, and reports:
"Pacelle says medication encourages people to race injured horses, to mask an animal's pain with drugs so it can run when it should be recuperating in the stable. He says that can worsen injuries and lead to breakdowns - violent race track spills that can harm both the horse and jockey."
Hochberg also speaks with various trainers. He learns from one that "most horses have to race about once a month to earn a profit, and drugs are the only way to do it."
You can hear the whole segment on line at:
It is a great wake-up call for NPR listeners who might have thought horse-racing is benign entertainment. Please thank "All Things Considered" for covering the issue. Positive feedback for animal friendly segments will encourage similar programming.
"All Things Considered" takes comments at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Those interested in hearing more about this issue, as well as how closely horse racing is connected to horse slaughter, might like to listen to a brief interview (eight minutes) I did with Dr Holly Cheever last year, a veterinarian who worked in the industry and who has treated horses coming off the tracks. It is part of an hour show on horse abuse, that you'll find on the Watchdog website at:
The interview with Dr Holly Cheever is introduced at 12 minutes past the hour and begins at 13 minutes past the hour. Immediately after that interview is one with Amy Rhodes, PETA's horse racing expert, who also talks about the use of drugs to mask injury. And then there is a bit from Bill Maher, who gives his seriously funny perspective on the horse racing industry.
KANSAS CITY STAR ON ANIMAL SANCTUARY VOLUNTEER VACATIONS
The Sunday, January 30, Kansas City Star has a beautiful article headed, "Animal farms -- Volunteer vacationers find renewal at sanctuaries across the country." It discusses various animal sanctuaries, and the heartwarming experiences that people can have spending a few days working at them.
It also offers this warning:
"In fact, you will find there are thousands of sanctuaries, says Barbara Yule, director of The Association of Sanctuaries, known as TAOS. Many, however, she terms 'pseudo-sanctuaries,' places that enjoy nonprofit status but are, at worst, profiting from the breeding of animals or, at best, trying to run a refuge without the wherewithal to sustain them properly. TAOS is one of two self-appointed organizations — the other is the international Animal Centers of Excellence — that set standards for accreditation."
For those looking for a meaningful holiday, the article tells us:
"Not many accredited sanctuaries are open to the public, but some domesticated animals thrive on human contact. Sanctuaries for companion animals and farm animals, for instance, encourage visitors to come and interact with the animals. They offer tours, special events, bed-and-breakfast stays and volunteer vacations."
You'll find the TAOS list of approved sanctuaries at: http://www.taosanctuaries.org/sanctuaries/index.htm
You can read the whole article on line at:
Those who have had wonderful sanctuary experiences should send letters to the editor about them.
The paper suggests: "Send letters of up to 150 words to The Kansas City Star...by email to email@example.com . Please include name, address and daytime phone number. Letters will be edited for length and clarity."
After the article, the sanctuaries discussed in it that offer volunteer opportunities are listed. Below I will reprint the list. And I will take this opportunity to note that the wonderful Mindy's Memory primate sanctuary in Oklahoma is currently looking for volunteers. Check out: http://www.mindysmem.org/
These sanctuaries welcome visitors and volunteers:
• Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, Kanab, Utah 84741-5001; (435) 644-2001 or www.bestfriends.org .
• Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, P.O. Box 998, Hot Springs, S.D. 57747; (605) 745-5955 or www.gwtc.net/~iram .
• Big Cat Rescue, 12802 Easy St., Tampa, Fla. 33625; (813) 920-4130 or www.BigCatRescue.org.
• Farm Sanctuary (East), P.O. Box 150, Watkins Glen, N.Y. 14891; (607) 583-2225. Farm Sanctuary (West), P.O. Box 1065, Orland, Calif. 95963; (530) 865-4617 or www.farmsanctuary.org.
• Performing Animal Welfare Society, P.O. Box 849, Galt, Calif. 95632; (209) 745-2606 or www.pawsweb.org
I had a beautiful time at Farm Sanctuary in New York, and could not recommend the experience more highly.
LOS ANGELES TIMES REVIEW OF TEMPLE GRANDIN'S "ANIMALS IN TRANSLATION" 1/30/05
Temple Grandin's new book (written with Catherine Johnson) "Animals in Translation: Using the Mysteries of Autism to Decode Animal Behavior" is featured in the Sunday, January 30, Los Angeles Times Book Review. The review is headed, "Animals have feelings too."
Temple Grandin designs slaughterhouses, attempting to make them less distressing for the victims. She is autistic, and holds that she therefore has an edge of sorts. Reviewer Laurel Maury explains:
"Animals don't have inattentional blindness. They don't filter information. Autistic people filter far less than the rest of us. And people with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and dyslexia filter somewhat less than the rest of us. Grandin believes that she sees the world more as an animal sees it, visually without much of a subconscious. Without denial or repression."
"But animals do have emotions and desires. Love, curiosity, attachment to offspring and friendship are survival tactics that evolution bred in. An animal that is not curious is less likely to find food. Love and friendship allow animals to work together. Reading Grandin, one wonders whether Freud should have looked more to the animal kingdom when formulating his theories. Grandin makes her philosophical challenges through simple descriptions of scientific data she has more than 300 articles to her name but without scientific murkiness. Her literal prose, almost completely without metaphor, allows ideas to sink in until they feel like your own."
Maury's final paragraph is inviting, but a little hard to digest:
"'Animals in Translation' may end up being the best animal book of the year, certainly the most human. It's cold science proving a near-religious argument for compassion.... Grandin's argument is simply that living beings should not be exposed unnecessarily to pain."
Those of us who realize the whole world is not going vegan in the next few years, no matter how much we might wish it would, are grateful for Grandin's efforts. She has had a huge impact on the slaughter industry and her work seems to have made the final day somewhat less terrifying and agonizing for billions of animals who are raised for meat. However Grandin is not vegetarian. While many reasonable people hold that meat eating is natural and traditional (though no reasonable person could step inside a factory farm and say that about most modern meat eating -- see http://factoryfarming.com for more information) one cannot live in this world, with healthy vegetarians, including many star athletes, and say that meat eating is "necessary." Though Grandin helps animals immensely by devoting her life to giving them gentler deaths, the suggestion that she argues against their being exposed "unnecessarily" to pain is a stretch.
You can read the whole review on line at:
It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor about factory farming, vegetarianism/veganism, or any aspect of the way our society treats members of other species.
The Los Angeles Times takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
WILLIAM SAFIRE "ON LANGUAGE" NEW YORK TIMES COLUMN EXAMINES "VEGAN" 1/30/05
Just five years ago, when I started DawnWatch, "vegan" was such a rarely used and little known word that I avoided it for fear of marginalizing the animal protection movement. How wonderful to see that today (Sunday, January 30) William Safire has chosen that word as the focus of his New York Times "On Language" column (Magazine section, pg 24). Besides the Times, the column appears in the Sunday Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, The Sunday Taipei Times (Pg 9), the Monday January 31 International Herald Tribune, and no doubt other papers I haven't yet seen.
The column doesn't offer much information on the reasons people might choose a vegan lifestyle. But it is a fun read, and it ends by letting us know that Safire feels veganism shouldn't be treated as a fad-diet, and that the man who coined the word "vegan" is now "a spry 94."
You can read the column on line at:
The Times version recommends, "Send comments and suggestions to: email@example.com "
The column also presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor on the pleasure of being vegan.
The New York Times Magazine section takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The International Herald Tribune takes them at email@example.com
Those in Pennsylvania should submit letters to the Post-Gazette at http://www.post-gazette.com/contact/comments_form.asp?ID=40 . The column was in the Post-Gazette on page J8, headed "What makes a vegetarian a vegan?"
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
WASHINGTON POST FRONT PAGE STORY ON AQUACULTURE -- 1/24/05
There is a story on the front page of the Monday, January 24, Washington Post, headed "Fish Farming's Bounty Isn't Without Barbs."
It discusses the environmental impact of aquaculture -- the factory farming of fish.
"The Bush administration has vowed to quintuple the yield of aquaculture -- the fastest-growing sector of U.S. agriculture, with $1 billion in annual sales -- by 2025. That same year, forecasts say, half the fish consumed worldwide will be farm-raised instead of wild-caught."
The article makes it clear that fish farming is highly controversial and discusses some of the issues:
"Much of the controversy has focused on the fish feces and excess food that build up beneath the floating net pens and can form bacteria mats on the sea floor that harm marine life. Many scientists say these problems can be reversed by rotating the pens and allowing some to lie fallow, and most growers now use closer monitoring to reduce excess feeding. But salmon waste off the British Columbia coast still releases as much excess nitrogen as sewage from a city of 250,000, according to some estimates....
"Many commercial fishermen are more worried about two other factors: the spread of disease that comes when animals are crowded together and the use of chemicals to combat these illnesses. In Maine, Canada and elsewhere, farmed fish have passed sea lice, which eat salmon flesh, to their wild counterparts. Infectious salmon anemia, a lethal disease first discovered in Norway in 1984, has spread globally, prompting one Maine fish farm to kill more than 1.5 million fish in 2002 to try to contain the infection.
"Escaped salmon, which compete for natural resources with other fish and can sometimes interbreed with their wild counterparts, pose another potential risk. Fred Whoriskey, who heads the research staff at the Atlantic Salmon Federation and works on saving the few thousand wild salmon that still live in North American waters, found more than eight times as many escaped fish farm salmon as wild salmon in New Brunswick's Magaguadavic River last year. "
Human health issues are also noted:
"The recent debate about health risks associated with farm salmon -- one 2004 study published in the journal Science concluded that raised salmon had such elevated levels of PCBs, dioxin and other cancer-causing contaminants that consumers should limit themselves to one eight-ounce portion a month -- has also made aquaculture controversial. Industry officials counter that the health benefits of eating salmon, rich in omega-3, far outweigh any cancer risks, and they have conducted recent studies showing PCB levels in farm salmon that are comparable to those in wild fish."
(Note: Flaxseed is extremely high in Omega-3 fatty acids and comes with no PCB driven cancer risks.)
You can read the whole article on line at:
It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor singing the praises of plant based diets. And since animal welfare issues are not addressed in the story, letters to the editor might cover that area. Many people comfortable with eating animals but not with supporting the horror of factory farming (Check out http://www.FactoryFarming.com if you don't know much about that issue) have chosen to eat fish, feeling comforted to know that at least they were free until their final day. Environmental concerns, as our oceans are stripped bare, or concerns for sea mammals and reptiles killed en masse by the fishing industry, might have infringed on the comfort; the knowledge that the fishing industry is going the way of every other animal farming industry, with animals held captive in abusive conditions from birth till death, should do so even more. A great resource on that issue is http://www.FishingHurts.com
The Washington Post takes letters at: letters@Washpost.com and instructs:
"Letters must be exclusive to The Washington Post, and must include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers. Because of space limitations, those published are subject to abridgment."
I send thanks to Paul Shapiro of the superb group Compassion Over Killing ( http://www.COK.net ) for making sure we saw this.
WASHINGTON POST ON CHICAGO ZOO ELEPHANT DEATH --1/21/05
On a day when we might have expected Washington papers to carry nothing but the inauguration, the Washington Post has a large page A3 story by Marc Kaufman headed, "Elephant's Death Renews Debate. Cold-Weather Zoos Called Harmful."
It gives information similar to the Chicago Tribune story, noting that of three elephants transferred in 2003 from the San Diego Wild Animal Park to the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago, Peaches was the second to die. This article includes some stinging quotes.
It tells us, "Ray Ryan, a former elephant keeper at the San Diego park who cared for Peaches, Tatima and Wankie there, said he did not think the surviving elephant would live long at the zoo."
He is quoted:
"She's lost all of her family, and I think she'll quickly die of grief. When all three were moved to Chicago [in 2003], I said then they wouldn't last two years. And already two of them are dead."
And it quotes activist Tony Madsen, who has been working to send the zoo's elephants to sanctuaries in warmer climates:
"Zoos in northern climates, like Lincoln Park Zoo, are not suitable to house elephants. It is ethically wrong to keep these intelligent and social animals, the world's largest land mammals, in small enclosures and barns just for human amusement."
Chicago's zoo is talking of sending the remaining elephant, Wankie, not to sanctuary but to another zoo. The American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which accredits the Lincoln Park Zoo, has fought zoos such as the Detroit Zoo and San Francisco Zoo who have chosen to send their elephants to sanctuaries.
The article tells us:
"By coincidence, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association, which accredits facilities, is meeting in Florida this week to discuss elephant care. Spokeswoman Jane Ballentine said that the meeting is part of an ongoing review of standards and research, and that it is likely to result in new recommendations on elephant care. Asked about the protests aimed at closing northern elephant exhibits, Ballentine said the association strongly disagrees with the notion that elephants cannot be well cared for in colder climates."
You can read the whole article on line at:
It gives us a great opportunity for letters to the Washington Post against keeping wild animals captive for human entertainment.
The Washington Post takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and advises "Letters must be exclusive to The Washington Post, and must include the writer's home address and home and business telephone numbers."
A great web resource for information on this issue is http://www.savewildelephants.com/
CANADA'S NATIONAL POST TAKES STAND AGAINST SEAL HUNT 1/19/05
In its lead editorial, in the Wednesday January 19 edition, Canada's National Post has come out, forcefully, against the seal hunt.
Headed, "End the Seal Hunt," it opens:
"Each year, mostly within a few spring days, hundreds of thousands of baby seals are killed in brutal and inhumane fashion off the coast of Newfoundland and Labrador. This year's hunt should be the last, at least in its present form."
It provides horrifying images:
"A panel of veterinarians who observed the hunt in 2001 reported that as many as 42% of the seals whose carcasses they studied appeared to have been skinned while they were still conscious. Whereas the preferred manner to kill a seal is to render it unconscious with a single blow and then bleed it to death, live seals are often dragged across the ice by hooks before being skinned. In 40% of filmed cases studied by the same vets, injured animals were left on the ice after being clubbed once before hunters returned to hit them a second time. And that doesn't even include the seals that are shot by hunters but escape under the ice, where they die agonizing deaths.
"Following the vets' damning report, which received considerable international attention, the federal government should have put an end to this macabre harvest. Instead, the seal hunt was expanded."
We see evidence that we must continue to do everything we can to make sure the animal protection movement is inclusive and bi-partisan in the line:
"Opposition to the seal hunt is not limited to tree-hugging left-wingers. Mr. Scully, who has emerged as one of the most articulate anti-hunt voices, is a former speechwriter for George W. Bush." You may recall that Scully penned a beautiful op-ed on behalf of the seals that ran in the National Post on January 5. (See http://www.DawnWatch.com/1-05_Animal_Media_Alerts.htm#SCULLY) The editorial refers to points he made. One might suspect that his stance, and his op-ed, helped influence the stance this national and conservative paper has chosen to take.
Since the piece also discusses the damage the hunt does to Canada's international reputation, appreciative letters from people outside of the US, who read the piece on the web, are appropriate. You can read it on line at:
and send appreciative letters at:
CHICAGO TRIBUNE ON DEATH OF LINCOLN PARK ZOO ELEPHANT
The Wednesday, January 19, front page headline in the Chicago Tribune is "Huge loss for Lincoln Park; Lincoln Park Zoo puts to rest Peaches, a 55-year-old African elephant, leaving it with a solitary pachyderm."
It opens, "Peaches, at 55 years old the oldest African zoo elephant in the United States, died Monday night in her indoor habitat at Lincoln Park Zoo. Keepers arriving for work Monday morning found her collapsed and too weak to get to her feet."
We learn, "It is the second African elephant death in three months at Lincoln Park. Tatima, a 35-year-old female, died of apparent tuberculosis.
"It leaves the zoo with one elephant, Wankie, another 35-year-old African female....
"All three of the female elephants came to Lincoln Park in 2003 from San Diego Wild Animal Park, which continued to own them and sent them to Lincoln Park on loan."
We see at least some progress since the days when the welfare of the animals was of no consequence to zookeepers. A Chicago Zoo spokesperson is quoted: "Wankie will either have to leave the zoo or we will have to get more elephants, because she has to be in a social situation. Elephants are extraordinarily social animals."
However the article tells us, "Following Tatima's death last fall, Lincoln Park came under withering criticism from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, an animal rights group that charges that zoos in cold northern climates like Chicago's should not be allowed to keep elephants.
"PETA contends that elephants, who in the wild roam for miles in warm tropical and subtropical wilderness, should not be penned up in heated zoo enclosures for weeks at a time during cold winters."
The front page article gives us an opportunity for letters to the editor agreeing that elephants need room to roam in warm clients and that the Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago should follow the Detroit Zoo and retire Wankie to a sanctuary (where perhaps she will be renamed).
You can read the whole article on line at:
The Chicago Tribune takes letters at: http://www.chicagotribune.com/services/site/chi-lettertotheeditor.customform
or by email at: ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com
A great website to check out for more information about elephants in zoos is: http://www.savewildelephants.com/
GREYHOUNDS IN MIAMI HERALD AND UK INDEPENDENT
Greyhounds are in the news this week. The Monday, January 17 Independent, in the UK, ran a beautiful piece based on a memorial being organized, to take place on May 1, for a dog named Rusty. It is followed up in the Tuesday Independent with an op-ed discussing not just greyhound racing, but wider animal protection issues. And today (Tuesday 1/18) the Miami Herlad ran a front page story on the attempts to bring slot machines, and thereby many more patrons, to dog tracks.
Those not familiar with the horror behind greyhound racing should visit the Greyhound Protection League site: www.greyhounds.org.
But the coverage, by Jonathon Brown, in Monday's Independent, was also strong, and pertains to the US and other countries that allow the sport, as much as to the UK. Headed, "A dog's life ain't what it used to be," it opens:
"Rusty the greyhound's toe injury proved to be fatal. After performing poorly during a race at Warwick in April, the once-prized sprinter could no longer earn its keep. The following week, Rusty was discovered by a walker in South Wales, lying whimpering on a rubbish tip, its tail still wagging. The dog had been shot through the head with a captive-bolt pistol, its ears cut off to remove identifying tattoos. A vet was called to finish the bungled job of killing the dog."
We learn, "A recent study said that because of the shortage of suitable homes for retired dogs, a similar fate threatens thousands of greyhounds and lurchers discarded in Britain each year as they reach the end of their racing lives."
And the article refers to the dogs who die and even slower death than Rusty: "In Ireland, where 80 per cent of the puppies that enter the industry are bred, protesters are claiming that former racing animals are being sold to mainland Europe for use in vivisection.... In addition, animal rights supporters want to highlight the plight of greyhounds in Australia, from where, they claim, many former racing animals are being shipped to south-east Asia for experimentation. In Britain, they are calling for an end to the use of fallen dogs for dissection."
You can read the whole article on line at:
A piece by columnist Terence Blacker in the Tuesday, January 18, Independent is headed: "These fanatics are chasing after the wrong hare."
Blacker gives us the details of Rusty's life and death as outlined in Brown's piece, then writes:
"It is too easy to mock those who will be standing, heads bowed, to commemorate a dog whose fate is probably no worse than that of thousands, perhaps millions, of other animals who were brought into the world for human diversion and who, once they had served their purpose, were abandoned, neglected, starved or, if they were lucky, killed. Frankly, if Rusty's final resting place is worth a vigil, then there is hardly a rubbish dump in Britain where a solemn remembrance ceremony could not justifiably take place."
He slams the "extremism" of animal rights groups, but writes:
"But the awkward fact is that, behind the hysteria, rage and sentimentality of campaigners, many of their arguments are justified. The life of a second- rate racehorse can be a tough one; that of a dog, used in a sport which has none of the prestige and visibility of horse-racing, is likely to be dire. There is no place for tactics, athleticism and courage in greyhound- racing; the dogs are nothing more than media for a gamble; to both punters and to commentators, they are numbers rather than names."
Then he writes "It is the animal rights groups' fundamentalist approach that counts against them." He describes the "vision of the world as a lovely Eden in which brothers and sisters from other species hop and frolic free and unused" as "bonkers."
He finishes his piece:
"There are serious issues of animal welfare which any civilised society should address: factory farming, the transport of cattle and horses across thousands of miles to abattoirs, the treatment of greyhounds by gormless idiots like Gough. The mad utopian agenda of liberationists, however sincere though they may be, merely serves to distract the attention both of the public and of bodies like the British Greyhound Racing Board from real problems of cruelty."
(So while slamming the Animal Liberation Front, Blacker has conceded a number of important animal protection issues that affect billions of animals. Once again we see the extremists pushing the mainstream of the public to a "middle position" that is far closer to animal rights than we would achieve if there was nobody pushing the envelope. That is why I am skeptical when mainstream activists argue that the extremists hurt our movement.)
You can read Blacker's piece on line at: http://comment.independent.co.uk/columnists_a_l/terence_blacker/story.jsp?story=601937
The articles above open the door to letters about greyhound racing, or any aspect of the relationship between humans and members of other species. The Independent takes letters at: email@example.com
In Florida, in the United States, a statewide November 2 ballot initiative gave Dade and Broward counties the ability to legalize slot machines within their borders, at racetracks, if they so choose. It is expected that both counties will soon vote to put the issue on the March 8 ballot. By all media accounts, the measure is likely to pass, bringing slot enthusiasts to the dying race-tracks - gamblers who might enjoy some greyhound race-betting while they are there.
A front page article in the Tuesday, January 18, Miami Herald is headed, "Ad blitz looming before a vote on slots." It tells us:
"Both sides should have big bucks to spend, especially pro-slot racetrack and fronton owners who have the most to gain, since the slots would go in their struggling establishments."
We read that because gambling is a hard sell, the pro-slot campaign folks are "calling themselves 'Yes for Better Schools and Jobs.'"
That is because some of the takings are earmarked (like Rusty was) for the education system and currently "Florida ranks 47th in the nation in per pupil funding."
The article tells us:
"On the other side, two main political action committees have opposed the slots measure. No Casinos, a coalition of anti-gambling, animal rights and business leaders, raised $334,000, mainly from Osceola County, Disney and the Humane Society."
It gives no information as to why animal rights groups oppose. Many readers would assume that radical animal rights activists can't stand the idea of animals, even human loving dogs, being held captive for any purpose, even something as "fun" as racing. Indeed, there are those in our movement who object to all captivity, but it will be a long time before they win public support. However the general public, a dog-loving public, if it knew the truth about greyhound racing, would be unlikely to support it.
Since the slot machines are expected to be far more profitable than the races, we can hope that venue owners, with plenty of money from the slots, will be willing to let greyhound racing die its well-deserved death. But that will only happen with public pressure, and the public must know something about the issue. The front page coverage in the Miami Herald (Dade Conuty), which leaves out any details about the sport, gives us an opportunity to educate Miami Herald readers (and Dade Country voters).
You can read the front page story on line at: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/10669012.htm
The Miami Herald takes letters at: http://www.miami.com/mld/miamiherald/contact_us/feedback_np1/
For more information, PETA has a great fact sheet on greyhound racing, called "Death in the fast lane" at: http://www.peta.org/mc/factsheet_display.asp?ID=68
And HBO Real Sports did a fabulous expose on the issue last month. I transcribed much of it. It is on my website at: GREYHOUNDS
TSUNAMI DOGS -- LOS ANGELES TIMES AND ANDERSON COOPER
News on the animal situation in the Tsunami zone is sad. On Saturday, January 16, the Los Angeles Times carried a story, by John M. Glionna, headed, "Orphaned Sri Lanka Dogs Seen as Danger. Many canines were left to fend for themselves after the tsunami. Fears of deadly rabies trigger a government plan to exterminate them."
"They are perhaps the most overlooked victims of last month's devastating tsunami, increasingly desperate creatures existing without shelter and little food or even clean water. And under a new government program, their days are numbered.
"They're dogs of all sizes, color and character, former pets that have been left without masters after the tsunami flooded this eastern Sri Lankan village, killing at least 1,000 of its 6,000 residents.
"For three weeks, hundreds of dogs have wandered through the rubble of Ulle in search of food, puddles from which to lap and often just a reassuring pat on the head.
"The animals are too timid to compete with humans for the food that arrives at refugee camps every day. Yet in Ulle and across this poor island nation, some dogs are slowly getting meaner, howling at night, joining wandering packs, snarling at one another over the animal carcasses that wash up along the beach.
"Last weekend, Sri Lankan officials began planning a dog eradication program after one person in Ampara province, which includes Ulle, reportedly contracted rabies, presumably after being bitten by a dog. The victim's condition was not known. In Ulle, more than half a dozen people — including two foreign relief workers — have also recently been bitten by dogs. None has been diagnosed with rabies so far."
Because of fear of a major rabies outbreak, "Officials say the canine eradication program will start in the next few days and could soon be extended to other regions. They plan to poison the dogs with cyanide-laced meat, although they've had problems finding enough cyanide."
A veterinarian who has been so far vaccinated about 300 "free range" dogs is quoted:
"These dogs are starving. It's hard enough for people in these refugee camps to find food. One can only imagine the plight of these animals. They rely on the leftovers from humans. But now there are no leftovers. And the dogs will get desperate."
"The vet, whose efforts are sponsored by the Humane Society International and other donors, said that most of the dogs were undoubtedly former pets because they looked well-fed and had healthy coats of fur.
"'They're very nice dogs, most of them. This is not their fault that they have lost their owners. It's very tragic, actually.'"
And we read,
"The veterinarian said that French Red Cross doctors in Ulle asked him last Sunday to stop vaccinating stray dogs and concentrate only on those that were identified by owners. Many dogs now wear bright red collars, signifying that they are not to be euthanized."
How odd that the word "euthanize" is chosen to describe death by cyanide. We tend to use the word too loosely.
You can read the full Los Angeles Times report on line at:
Perhaps it will inspire you to write a letter to the Los Angeles Times about the plight of dogs in the Tsunami zone, or here in the USA. The Times take letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
You can read reports from the Humane Society International (a sponsor of the vet referred to who is vaccinating animals) and donate towards the group's efforts at:
And HSUS has a great page specifically on this issue: http://www.hsus.org/about_us/humane_society_international_hsi/hsi_asia/relief_efforts_focus_on_human_tragedy_after_catastrophic_tsunami.html
Regarding Anderson Cooper on CNN:
I have missed his reports on the issue, and unfortunately I cannot find them on CNN's website, but I hear that Anderson Cooper has gone out of his way to call attention to the suffering of the dogs, reporting on them in a highly sympathetic manner. I heard that, on January 7, as he reported on the dog's plight and petted and examined the foot of a dog who seemed attached to him, another reporter asked if he were not afraid of disease; he replied that it was a chance worth taking. Since one of the reports I read suggested that many dogs coming to humans seem to be looking as much for a reassuring pat as anything else, Cooper's response is particularly touching. Today, January 18, Jill Church tells me that his report on the Indonesian government's plans to exterminate stray dogs was again very sympathetic, and gave donation information for groups such as the Humane Society International and WSPA.
Many millions of people saw that report, so Anderson Cooper's choice to focus on animal suffering, when many reporters would refuse to do so when there is so much human suffering (as if compassion is a limited commodity) is no doubt responsible for some extra aid going to the animal victims. Please take just a moment to let him know that his focus on the animal issue is deeply appreciated. There is a page that asks specifically for feedback about Anderson Cooper at: http://www.cnn.com/feedback/forms/form4.html?5
It will take just a moment to go there and post a quick thank you for his Tsunami dog coverage.
Those new to DawnWatch will find my extensive report from earlier this month, on the Tsunami animal situation, at: TSUNAMI
OREGONIAN FRONT PAGE ON FOIE GRAS DEBATE 1/16/05
The foie gras debate was on the front page of the Sunday, January 16, Oregonian. If you didn't see the hard copy, you can view that front page, within a week of January 16, on line at:
And you read the article on line at:
It is headed, "An order of duck liver, food fight on the side. When animal rights activists targeted foie gras, they were served a heated debate about the ethics of dining, Portland-style."
The article lets us know that "Many European countries -- and recently, Israel -- have passed laws specifically banning its production."
Interestingly, perhaps inadvertently, it points to the power of direct action, even property destruction:
"For some time now, wars over foie gras have raged in California, home to one of the three U.S. foie gras farms. Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger recently signed a bill that would ban its production and sale by 2012, but not before activists in Northern California vandalized a restaurant and the homes of two chefs."
The article describes gavage:
"When the ducks are about 3 months old (only ducks are used in the United States), they are moved to a barn, and for the last two to four weeks of their lives, a tube is inserted down their esophagus twice a day. A machine pumps corn mash or cooked whole corn into their crop. Since ducks store excess fat in their liver, the liver swells over the course of this force-feeding regimen -- to about 10 times its normal size.
"Those who defend foie gras argue that gavage simply takes advantage of ducks' natural tendency to gorge themselves on grain before long migrations, to create energy reserves for their long flights.
"'If the birds would naturally gorge themselves,' Rossell counters, 'why force feed them?'"
The article goes on to discuss chefs who have responded to the protests, and their consciences, by pulling foie gras off their menus, and those who have dug in their heels, with one chef, Pascal Sauton of 'Carafe,' adding it "to protest the protesters."
Activist Matt Rossell responded to that choice with:
"Whenever you push for change in any social context, the pendulum does tend to swing in the opposite direction. But I think the overarching gain is everyone's consciousness is raised."
The front page article presents a great opportunity for letters recommending compassionate diets. The Oregonian takes letters at: email@example.com and advises, "Please limit letters to 150 words. Please include your full address and daytime phone number, for verification only. Letters may be edited for length and clarity."
SAN FRANCISCO COLUMNIST SLAMS CLAIMS THAT WE TREAT ANIMALS BETTER THAN PEOPLE
On Tuesday, San Francisco's Board of Supervisors passed an ordinance that requires "humane treatment of all companion dogs." The requirements are loose. A dog's water must be in non-tipping bowl and changed every day, food must be palatable and nutritious; and dog houses must have tops, floors, and at least three sides each. Tethering is "highly discouraged." Yet some complained, suggesting the law was frivolous and that dogs are treated better in San Francisco than homeless people. Today, Friday, January 14, in his column "Notes & Errata," which appears twice per week on the San Francisco Gate website (associated with the San Francisco Chronicle) Mark Morford took on the complainants. His column is funny, even charming, but packs a punch.
I won't send out the whole column, since it is likely that hits to the web page are counted, so it is better for Morford if you read it on line. But I will share a few lines and strongly recommend you read the whole piece at:
He opens with a rant against those who pursue PC language such as calling people "guardians" rather than "owners" of their companion animals, and against over-pampering "pets" and treating them as if they are members of our own species. But then he changes track, writing
"There are issues of pet treatment and animal care that are vital and urgent and necessary, that speak to our moral fiber and emotional core and our ability to have compassion and love and a sense of humane decency and passable kibble."
To the suggestion that animals are being treated better than people, he responds, "Oh please." He notes that we kill five million "pets" per year, and writes eloquently of their dependence on us:
"Abused, abandoned, sick, too large too small too loud too furry too unstable too slobbery, unwanted for a thousand different reasons, bred for fighting or for aggression and therefore unadoptable once they've been dumped by their brutal and small-minded owners, or they're diseased and left tied to trees and malnourished and beaten with chains. And each one, unlike humans, completely innocent of its domestic circumstances, and completely powerless to change them."
"Five million. That's about 14,000 animals put to death every day. Or 600 every hour. Ten animals every minute. Go ahead. Pause right here. Wait one minute. There you go, 10 more dead pets."
And he broaches larger animal rights issues:
"It's a large and increasingly important issue, floating over our wildly pet-lovin' culture like a giant question mark: What do our animals deserve? What are their true rights? What constitutes humane or decent treatment in the face of a culture that casually kills millions of unwanted pets every year and openly massacres billions more animals for food and doesn't blink an eye?
"And what infinitesimal steps, more broadly speaking, can we as a species take to maybe just slightly lighten the load of massive destruction we heap upon the animal kingdom in general and pets and/or food animals specifically?"
I urge you to read the whole amusing but stinging piece at: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/g/a/2005/01/14/notes011405.DTL&nl=fix
And there is a link on that page where you can send Morford an appreciative note.
I send a huge thank you to Eric Mills and Karen Benzel for making sure we saw this piece.
SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- "HAPPY COWS" ADS CAN CONTINUE 1/12/05
Those of us in California are familiar with the amusing but misleading 'Happy Cows' advertisements from the California Milk Producers Advisory Board. The theme of the cartoon-style campaign is "Good cheese comes from happy cows. Happy cows come from California." It shows cows on rolling green hills, chatting happily to each other about the California good life. The campaign, though light-hearted, is clearly taking advantage of the increasing public concern for animal welfare, using the preferable conditions in California as the basis for the pitch to buy California dairy products.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the milk board. An article in the Wednesday, January 12, San Francisco Chronicle (Pg C2) tells us, "The ads, funded by dairy farms, were misleading, Peta argued, because California dairy cows commonly spend their lives in dirt and mud, are repeatedly impregnated and milked throughout their pregnancies, often suffer painful maladies, and are slaughtered when they can no longer meet the industry's production demands. A court may not be able to tell whether cows are truly happy, the organization said, but it should decide whether consumers are being led down the primrose path."
Sadly, that article, headed, "Dairy farms can keep milking their 'Happy Cows' campaign," tells us:
"An animal-rights group's suit against a state milk board for its 'Happy Cows' advertising campaign was put out to pasture Tuesday by a state appeals court, which said state agencies can't be sued for false advertising....
"San Francisco Superior Court Judge David Garcia dismissed the suit, saying the false-advertising and unfair-competition laws invoked by Peta can be used only against individuals, companies and private associations, not government agencies."
In other words, government agencies are free to lie to the public.
You can read the whole article on line at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/01/12/BUG0TAOPRK1.DTL
For more information on the law-suit, and the way dairy cows live, including distressing photographs and footage, visit http://www.unhappycows.com/
And please send a letter to the Chronicle. You might discuss the way animals raised for human food are treated, or sing the praises of soy milk. The San Francisco Chronicle takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org and advises, "Please limit your letters to 200 or fewer words ... shorter letters have a better chance of being selected for publication."
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.
BALTIMORE SUN FRONT PAGE ON LINK BETWEEN RED MEAT AND CANCER -- 1/12/05
Today the benefits (for humans) of plant based diets are on the front page of The Baltimore Sun. The article is headed, "Red meat newly linked to colorectal cancer; Study: Latest findings contain the strongest evidence to date of an increased disease risk."
"As millions of Americans fill their plates with protein-rich steak and burgers rather than carb-heavy pasta or potatoes, researchers are reporting the strongest evidence yet that eating a lot of red meat increases the risk of colorectal cancer.
"Those who ate the equivalent of a hamburger a day were about 30 percent to 40 percent more likely to develop cancer of the colon or rectum than those who ate less than half that amount.
"Long-term consumption of high amounts of processed meat such as hot dogs increased the risk of colon cancer by 50 percent.
"The findings, published today in the Journal of the American Medical Association, join a growing body of evidence linking diet and certain types of cancer. By some estimates, as many as 3 million to 4 million cancer cases could be prevented worldwide each year simply through healthy eating and lifestyle changes."
Unfortunately it then continues:
"But meat lovers need not despair over thoughts of stocking their refrigerators with tofu burgers and vegetarian bacon." It suggests that people can limit rather than eliminate consumption of red or processed meat.
If you were once a meat eater who now stocks the refrigerator with tofu burgers but finds no reason for despair, I hope you will write a brief letter to the editor.
There is registered dietitian quoted in the article, expounding on the merits of beef eating. She is the executive director of nutrition for the National Cattleman's Beef Association.
Neal Barnard, from the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (http://www.PCRM.org) is also quoted: "Suddenly the beans and tofu are looking pretty good." And he pointed out to the reporter that there has been research showing that eating white meat also increases colon cancer risk.
You can read the whole article on line at: http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/health/bal-te.meat12jan12,1,5041692.story?
Front page stories offer terrific opportunities for letters to the editor. The Baltimore Sun takes letters at:
http://www.baltimoresun.com/about/bal-feedback,0,6119824.htmlstory or it instructs, "If you wish to use regular e-mail, send your letter to:
email@example.com. For Letters to the Editor be sure to include contact information, including your full name and both day and evening phone numbers."
HARD-HITTING EDITORIAL ON MAGGIE, THE 'ALASKAN ELEPHANT' -- 1/12/05
The Wednesday, January 12, Star Tribune (Minnesota) has a wonderfully hard-hitting editorial about Maggie, the elephant at the zoo in Alaska. A reminder: A column gives the opinion of a newspaper columnist, an op-ed or opinion piece gives that of a guest writer, generally an expert on a topic. But an editorial gives the official stance of the newspaper.
The Editorial about Maggie, headed "Alaskans rally round elephant" opens:
"There are African elephants and there are Asian elephants, but there is only one Alaskan elephant. To animal-rights groups, the national zoo-accreditation group -- and, probably, most anyone who thinks a modern zoo should not condone suffering -- that's one too many."
"Still, the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage is trying to hold onto Maggie, a full-grown female from Zimbabwe who has been on her own there since a companion, an Asian female, died of a foot infection in 1997. By way of rejoinder to its critics, the zoo management is enlarging the concrete barn in which Maggie must spend the long sub-Arctic winter, and also plans a first-of-its-kind, $100,000 exercise treadmill. No kidding.
"Now, the idea of watching a 4½-ton elephant work out on a treadmill might strike you as funny. One can imagine flanking the machine with murals of the African savannah, or perhaps placing a projection TV at the far end, displaying images of an attentive male.
"But in reality, where Maggie has the misfortune to live, this approach to caring for animals -- especially one with an elephant's social needs -- is sickening. The treadmill is not about easing her arthritis, as the zookeepers say, or helping her lose some of the fat she has put on. It's about holding onto a 20-year star attraction, no matter what."
Sickening! Hurray for the Star Tribune!
The editorial goes on to discuss "a praiseworthy trend in which zoos that can't properly house their elephants are setting them free in special sanctuaries, where they can roam widely in something like their intended climate. "
You can read it on line at:
The paper deserves many notes of thanks for its stance. And you can widen the discussion with a line or two about the ethics of keeping any wild animal captive for human entertainment, or other points on the issue of how human society treats members of other species. The Star Tribune takes letters at: http://www.startribune.com/dynamic/feedback/form.php?opinion=1
I send thanks to Lisa Kane for making sure we saw this.
NEW YORK TIMES ON LINK BETWEEN VEGETARIAN DIET AND LOW BLOOD PRESSURE 1/11/05
There are various articles in the Tuesday, January 11, New York Times, on diet and heart disease. One discusses the effect of a vegetarian diet on blood pressure. It is headed "Cause, Effect and Vegetables." (Pg F6).
"Many large-scale epidemiological studies have found that vegetarians are less likely than meat eaters to have high blood pressure. But moving from that observation to proof of cause and effect can be difficult, because the findings may reflect an unknown third factor -- for example, a tendency of vegetarians to do other healthy things as well."
It then discusses various studies in which groups were matched for lifestyle factors, the only differences between them being diet. They still found lower blood pressure amongst vegetarians.
You can read the article on line at:
It opens the door for letters from people living vegan/vegetarian and wonderfully healthy. And while it concentrates only on health, it gives us the opportunity to discuss other reasons for choosing a plant based diet, such as not wanting to contribute to the horror of factory farming. (You can find out more about that, and see photos of the way most animals raised for food live, at http://www.FactoryFarming.com)
The New York Times takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
NEW YORK TIMES ON ALASKA ZOO ELEPHANT TREADMILL PLANS
The Sunday, January 9. New York Times has a story about the Alaska Zoo's elephant, named Maggie. She is a lone elephant - unconscionable for such social animals, and suffers from Artic climate, so different from an elephant's natural environment. But rather than sending her to sanctuary in a warm climate, the zoo's answer to her health problems, exasperated by her small enclosure and lack of exercise, is to build her a treadmill.
The article, by Sarah Kershaw, is headed, "A 9,000-Pound Fish Out of Water, Alone in Alaska" (Pg A 12.)
Kershaw tells us,
"The zoo has been under fire from national animal rights groups and some Alaska residents, who, in atypical acceptance of outside interference, have called for a boycott of the zoo until Maggie is moved south. Other zoos across the country, including those in San Francisco and Detroit, facing similar criticism and internal debates about the treatment of elephants in captivity, have closed their elephant exhibits in recent months, saying they were relocating the animals to warmer climates and to wide-open sanctuaries where they could roam for miles, as they do in the wild."
There is a quote from Nicole Meyer, of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, who calls the treadmill idea a ''truly ridiculous concept.''
Even those from the zoo community, not involved in animal rights, comment negatively. Mike Keele, deputy director of the Oregon Zoo and chairman of the elephant species survival program for the American Zoo and Aquarium Association is quoted:
"People use treadmills. I guess it's an interesting concept. But I'm not sure what the message is -- for visitors to come up and see an elephant on a treadmill and somehow make a connection with nature? That's a tough one for me.''
You can read the bizarre but true story on line at:
And you can send a letter about the way our species treats elephants, or more generally, about keeping wild animals captive for human entertainment, to email@example.com
LOS ANGELES TIMES MAGAZINE STORY ON ANIMAL CUSTODY AND ANIMAL RIGHTS --1/9/04
The Sunday, January 9, Los Angeles Times Magazine has a lengthy story headed, "To Love, Honor and Belly-Scratch. Marriages come and go. Judging by the rising number of pet-custody disputes, though, some passions endure." It is by Sanjiv Bhattacharya.
It opens like many articles we have seen recently on custody battles over companion animals, discussing the lengths people will go to and prices they will pay to maintain custody. But it includes rich material looking at larger issues. For example, Bhattacharya writes:
"The key difference between child and animal custody cases, however, is that in the former, the welfare of the child is paramount, whereas the animal's interest rarely has a bearing. The letter of the law in all 50 states is stark on the subject—a pet is property, 'chattel,' more like a piece of furniture than a family member. To arrange joint custody for a dog is legally equal to arguing a visitation schedule for a sofa, and many judges apply the law literally, to avoid burdening the courts with yet more custody arrangements to monitor. But then other judges, often pet owners themselves, understand the emotional difference between relating to a dining table and relating to a dog. Increasingly, these judges have ruled to protect this relationship."
The article follows Los Angeles attorney Sandra Toye. We read:
"In her office at Melrose and Vine, Toye's pet rats scurry about on her desk. 'I'm not some animal-rights nut,' she says, extricating a rodent from her hair. 'I'm levelheaded, I'm conservative, I eat meat. But I'm on a mission to show that animals have value in excess of their replacement value.'"
It is an interesting paragraph, setting up the kind of juxtaposition that Bhattacharya notes throughout the article. On one hand, human society has such an unfounded disregard for, even revulsion towards, rodents, that people who would never hurt a stray dog or cat will exterminate, by drawn out and painful methods, rodents unlucky enough to take up residence under their roofs. And though rodents make up 95% of animals used in biomedical testing, they are exempt from the minimal standards of animal welfare applied in that field. So it is nice to see them being treated, by the lawyer and writer, as if they are animals. On the other hand, we have the suggestion that having animals running all over your desk and through your hair, while you are at work, is not nearly as nutty as refusing to eat them.
After we read about the custody battle over a dog named Pepperoni, Bhattacharya points out the following "inconsistency" getting to the heart of the animal rights debate:
"The disconnect between the law and heartbreak is symptomatic of the inconsistencies that bedevil animal law in general. For instance, while Pepperoni is the legal equivalent of a sofa, he is nonetheless protected by anti-cruelty laws. Of course, Pepperoni is a sentient being, capable of experiencing cruelty in a way that a sofa is not, but then—the inconsistencies continue—why should 'food' animals, who are as feeling and emotionally alive as Pepperoni, be for all practical purposes exempt from cruelty legislation?
"These discrepancies go to the heart of society's schizophrenic attitudes towards animals. Argues Corey Evans, an attorney from San Francisco: 'If you took a dog and you pumped a pound of food into its stomach in three seconds, three times a day, for three weeks until the dog was so diseased it couldn't move to defend itself from rats eating it alive, then people would lose their minds. But do it to a 'food' animal to make foie gras and people aren't so shocked.'
"Still, societal sands are shifting. California recently passed a bill banning the production of foie gras starting in 2012. And the animal-rights group In Defense of Animals has succeeded in changing the term animal 'owner'—with its property connotations—to animal 'guardian' in city codes in such places as San Francisco and West Hollywood..."
In the following paragraph, Bhattacharya's ironic "moral of the story" again points to the wildly inconsistent societal norms that govern the treatment of animals:
"And although courts frequently will bend over backwards to accommodate the dying wishes of a pet guardian, if that request is that the pets be put down, the wish is often refused. These cases are particularly unusual in that they defy the owner's wishes in favor of the interests of the animal. Moral of the story: If you want to kill your pets, do it while you're alive."
He continues, making his way to the meat of the matter generally avoided in articles about animal custody battles:
"The wave of pet custody cases joins this list of small victories for the animal-law community. The more courts recognize the value of the relationship between a human and a pet, then the further animal-welfare issues are nudged in animals' favor. But the cases beg certain questions: Is there a slippery slope? Could pet custody rulings affect the treatment of lab rats or abattoir cows?"
He quotes Bruce Wagman, an attorney and professor who teaches three university courses in animal law, who, he writes, dreams of a world without cruelty to animals:
"Pet custody is just one way of taking down the wall. For courts to recognize the value of a human/animal relationship would be one of the bricks."
You can read the full article, which gives details of the various companion animal custody cases, on line at:
It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor focusing on some of the cruel inconsistencies in human relationships with members of other species. The Los Angeles Times takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Times says letters should be brief (I am always happy to edit activists' letters) and it asks for your full name, mailing address and daytime phone number.
PETA's FISH EMPATHY PROJECT IS FIRST ARTICLE IN US NEWS AND WORLD REPORT 1/10/04
For years, scientists made and shared the assumption that because their nervous systems are different from those of mammals, fish do not experience pain as we do. Therefore, not only did many otherwise vegetarian people continue to eat fish, otherwise compassionate people have fished, not just for food, but for sport, with "catch and release" fishing being a popular way to maintain lake populations. In some areas, the same fish might get caught between five or ten times. Recent studies, published in lead scientific journals, have demonstrated that fish do feel pain. But causing them pain for fun is still legal, as is killing them slowly, via suffocation, for food -- there is no Humane Slaughter Act for fish (nor for birds, in the USA).
A few months ago PETA launched the Fish Empathy Project. The group has a wonderfully informative website on the issue, with information on the environmental devastation wrought by commercial fishing and aquaculture, and on the cruelty of angling: http://www.FishingHurts.com
The campaign has received much coverage in the last week as PETA has asked ex-president Jimmy Carter to retire his rod. PETA suggests that the cruel sport is not in keeping with his Noble Peace Prize. And they refer to his first hand experience with having a hook caught on his face. The national magazine US News & World Report covered the issue in the January 10 edition, currently on newsstands. It is a short article, which I will paste in full below, but it is the very first article in the magazine, impossible to miss, at the head of the "Washington Whispers" page.
"PETA has a beef with Jimmy Carter's fishing
"He's the most famous presidential angler since Herbert Hoover, but Jimmy Carter has so far avoided the wrath of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Not anymore. PETA's truce with the catch-and-release advocate is over, thanks to the ex-president's promotion of his new book, Sharing Good Times, the cover of which features a picture of Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, cradling fresh-caught Alaskan salmon. Carter opened the door to a hit from the fur-and-scales rights group when he told Jay Leno about the agony of having an errant hook yanked from his face as he was held down. PETA says fish feel the same way. Now they want Carter to give up his rod and reel. 'Our hope is that this experience may have given you a little insight into the fish's point of view,' Karin Robertson, PETA's fish-empathy project manager, wrote to Carter. Unlike humans, adds PETA exec Bruce Friedrich, fish "can't go to the hospital." Carter's unlikely to listen, though. In a recent phone call, Carter said he was headed to Florida's Gulf Coast last week to fish for snook with his own flies."
That article is on line at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/issue/050110/whispers/10whisplead.htm
It presents a perfect opportunity for letters to the editor in favor of compassionate pastimes and cruelty free diets. It is nice to notice that the letters page is the only (non advertisement) page that comes before the Washington Whispers Page. US News & World Report takes letters at: http://www.usnews.com/usnews/usinfo/infomain.htm (Select "letters to the editor" from the pull-down menu.)
NEW YORK TIMES ON (ABUSED) ELEPHANT HELP IN TSUNAMI CLEAN-UP
The Friday, January 7, New York Times, covers the use of elephants in the Tsunami clean-up effort in an article, by James Brooke, headed "Thais Use Heavy Equipment: Elephants Help Recover Bodies." (Pg A13)
It tells us:
"Thais have long revered elephants as a national symbol. Now, the task of cleaning up in the aftermath of the deadly tsunami has, at least temporarily, brought elephants out of technological retirement."
They are used to shift debris and to locate and transport bodies.
The story includes the tale of the elephants, giving tourist rides, who (inadvertently) saved the lives of those tourists:
"Here in Khao Luk, people are talking about how eight elephants from a local tourist ride may have saved the lives of a dozen European tourists. After the earthquake, the elephants started trumpeting oddly. Then, shortly before the first tsunami hit, the story goes, they bolted for high ground, charging through jungle, with frightened tourists clinging desperately to their baskets on top. Down below, the waves were crashing through the resorts, wiping villas cleanly off their foundations, wrapping pickup trucks around utility poles, wedging a motorboat into a second-floor balcony and sending hundreds of tourists running, too late, for the high ground."
For those who did not receive or read through all of the Tsunami update I sent out Wednesday, I will share some of it here. I wrote:
"Even more ironic are stories of captive elephants in the Tsunami region, carrying tourists to safety or helping in the clean-up.
In Thailand, baby elephants to be employed in the tourist industry are dragged from their mothers and have their spirits broken in a practice called Phaajaan. They are held in pens for three days and tortured. Many die. Each elephant's mother is chained nearby so that the baby learns that when he screams, his mother cannot or will not come to help -- he learns that he is utterly at the mercy of humans. You can see horrifying footage, or a slide show, of Phaajaan at http://www.helpthaielephants.com/. Last year, PETA asked tourists to boycott Thailand to protest the practice. While talk of a boycott no longer seems appropriate, stories of elephants helping humans give us an opportunity to talk about what humans in Thailand do to elephants, and, of course, what we support if we ride elephants while traveling, or go to see Asian elephants at circuses."
The appearance of this story in the nationally and Internationally distributed New York Times gives us a chance to speak for that species that has been so abused by our own. You can read the whole story on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/07/international/worldspecial4/07thailand.html and send a letter to the New York Times at email@example.com
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published. I am always happy to edit letters.
Since I am again suggesting that in the face of this disaster, which has killed so many people, we take on the somewhat awkward task of making sure that the world does not completely forget about the animals, I will include here the last paragraph from my Tsunami alert:
It is natural to feel helpless in the face of such a disaster. Those of us who cannot go to the disaster sites to help, can donate; funds help. (Vegetarian food relief: http://www.ffl.org ) And we can write letters to the editor, appealing to the world's heightened state of compassion, and reminding people that there is daily massive suffering that generally doesn't make the news, and which humans have the power to stop. Since those in animal abuse industries like to portray animal advocates as misanthropes, it is important to remember, in such letters, to express sympathy for the human victims -- sympathy that we might just take for granted. There is a line to be walked, pointing out the ironies in some of the animal stories without appearing to have little concern for people. It is worth walking -- our letters are worthwhile. They don't bring the same immediate gratification as handing out food or providing shelter. But whether read by the public, or by news editors, they make sure that the plight of non humans is part of the public dialogue. They give a voice to those who suffer year round and who rely on a small group of committed people to speak on their behalf.
An update since that Wednesday alert: I shared the story of the rescue of one trapped dolphin and the apparent death of another.
It has not been in the news, but Jill Robinson, from Animals Asia, who was in Phuket this week, tells me she was told by others on the scene that "there may only have been one dolphin after all in the Tsunami made lake and that pictures showing two individual animals, may actually have been of one and the same dolphin, which had been reversed." A hopeful thought. But then every year thousands of dolphins still suffer and/or die at human hands.
Finally, I wanted to let people know that the superb website, Animals' Voice, has a terrific page devoted to the Tsunami disaster, giving information on relief agencies and much of the latest animal related news: http://www.animalsvoice.com/PAGES/news/tsunami_animals.html
CHICAGO TRIBUNE OP-ED AND NEW YORK TIMES LETTER ON HORSE SLAUGHTER 1/7/05
The Friday, December 7, Chicago Tribune, has an op-ed on the wild horse issue. It is entirely different in tone from Judy Blunt's
Tuesday New York Times piece. This one, written by HSUS's (previously president of the Fund for Animals) Mike Markarian is headed, "They shoot wild horses, don't they?" and sub-headed, "There's a move afoot to send thousands of wild horses to auction, where they are likely to be bought for slaughter by horse dealers and sent to one of three foreign-owned plants in the U.S. that slaughter horses for human consumption." (Pg 25.)
Markarian notes some of the horrifying methods employed by cattlemen in the Old West to rid the land of horses, touts the passage of the federal Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act in 1971, but then tells us that recently:
"Sen. Conrad Burns (R-Mont.) quietly slipped a provision into a 3,000-page omnibus spending bill that effectively guts federal protections afforded to wild horses for more than three decades and allows wild horses to be sold for slaughter. The authorizing language mandates that any excess horse or burro be sold 'without limitation' to the highest bidder if the animal is more than 10 years old or has been offered unsuccessfully for adoption at least three times. There was no public discussion, no public hearing and no opportunity for consideration of this provision. It was backroom political dealing at its worst."
He ends his op-ed:
"At the turn of the century, there were some 2 million wild horses but today there are only 36,000. When compared to the 4 million cattle grazing on our public lands at taxpayers' expense--more than 100 cows for every horse--no one can reasonably argue that wild horses are overpopulated. Less than 3 percent of the beef consumed in the U.S. is from cattle grazed on public lands, but the ranching industry, along with its allies such as Burns, has maintained its stranglehold on public lands and its insistence that wild horses need to go. In the rare case that a horse herd needs to be managed, the BLM can use humane methods such as birth control.
"The rampant cruelty that Wild Horse Annie witnessed a half century ago may now be resuscitated with the anti-democratic insertion of this rider in a spending bill. As a practical matter, Burns' rider could result in thousands of wild horses sent immediately to slaughter.
"Congress should quickly pass legislation correcting this tragic error, ensuring that policymakers don't cave in to the unreasonable demands of livestock operators and that wild horses remain a living part of America's western lands."
Legislation that would help correct the error is The American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. You can find out more about that bill and send a letter to your legislators to support it at: http://www.ddal.org/legislation/federal/
Markarian's full op-ed is on line at:
http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/opinion/oped/chi-0501070350jan07,1,1473903.story?coll=chi-newsopinioncommentary-hed It presents a great opportunity for supportive letters to the Chicago Tribune. You may want to address horse slaughter, or use the op-ed as a jump-off point for a letter on wider issues regarding how we treat members of other species. Cows and pigs tend to evoke less sentiment from most Americans, but are just as sentient as horses.
The Chicago Tribune website tells us:
"The Editorial and Commentary pages drive our daily conversation with readers. Like all energetic conversations, this one thrives on the generosity of people who share their thoughts and passions. If you're not already taking part, we hope you'll join the fray. The space other papers label 'Letters to the editor' we call 'Voice of the people.' That's because the Tribune wants to stress that this is a conversation among equals. We urge you comment on issues in the news, or challenge our editorials or the Tribune's news coverage. ... You may e-mail us at this e-mail address, ctc-TribLetter@Tribune.com, or via the feedback form below. Include your name, address and phone number. The more concise the letter, the better the chances for publication."
The feedback form is at:
In response to Judy Blunt's unfortunate op-ed, The New York Times has, today, January 7, printed the following letter:
Judy Blunt takes aim not only at free-roaming horses and burros but also at the defenders of wild horses, whose positions she caricatures (''Live Free and Die,'' Op-Ed, Jan. 4).
It is fatuous to argue that 30,000 wild horses roaming the West are degrading the region's arid lands when there are more than four million livestock grazing on those same lands.
Her claim that livestock grazing is ''under strict regulations'' is laughable.
Groups like the Humane Society of the United States have advocated for fewer roundups of horses and helped develop a contraceptive vaccine as a centerpiece of an active, nonlethal management strategy.
Where population reductions are well justified, nonlethal strategies like contraception should take the place of costly roundups, which are now just an antecedent to the slaughter of horses for export to foreign markets for human consumption.
President and Chief Executive
Humane Society of the U.S.
Washington, Jan. 4, 2005
I send thanks to all who wrote on the issue. When a paper gets many letters in response to an article, it will generally print at least one; so all who wrote are responsible for the compassionate message in today's New York Times.
SCULLY OPINION PIECE ON CANADA SEAL HUNT 1/5/05
Matthew Scully, ex presidential speechwriter and author of the beautiful book, "Dominion: The Power of Man, The Suffering of Animals, and The Call to Mercy" has penned another wonderful op-ed voicing disdain for those who slaughter the innocent. It appears in Canada's National Post -- Wednesday, January 5. He has let me know that in support of the HSUS Canada boycott (which you can learn about at: http://www.hsus.org/marine_mammals/protect_seals/protect_seals_what_you_can_do/) he would love to see the piece circulated widely. So I am pasting it in full below. It is also available on line at:
Please write a supportive letter. Letters from all over the world politely expressing the ill-feeling towards Canada, evoked by the seal hunt, will be helpful. The National Post takes letters at: http://tinyurl.com/7xk4j
Here's Scully's opinion piece:
you are in the business of killing baby seals, it takes a strange turn
of mind to think of yourself as a victim. Yet this is how Canada's seal-pup
hunters have always wanted us to see them – as the victims of "propaganda,"
meddlesome "outsiders," unfair trade restrictions and other
forces arrayed against the noble sealer. And now, as they prepare the
boats, guns and clubs for another intrepid assault on the nurseries
hunters wait until the pups are weaned, at about 12 days, and left alone
by their mothers on ice floes off the coasts of
Efford, a Newfoundland MP and
six weeks' time they would learn to fend for themselves. Instead, the
men move in, welcoming the newborns into the world with clubs, hakapiks
and hooks. With all the manhood – and less skill – that it would take
to execute tens of thousands of frantic puppies or kittens, they go
by boat and snowmobile from nursery to nursery. British and Canadian
veterinarians, observing the scene in recent years, estimated that about
40 percent of victims are skinned alive. Uncounted others are "struck
and lost," meaning shot and drowned.
who followed last year's hunt, which brought death to some 350,000 pups,
will remember such typical scenes as one seal trying to escape as another
is clubbed nearby; the creature makes it to water's edge but, too young
to even swim, must wait there as the man with the club approaches. Other
footage – seen across the world, however unfairly, as the face of
standing there, ankle deep in gore and innocent blood, the sealers just
can't understand why anyone would object. And we're all supposed to
feel sorry for them, these fine, upstanding fellows so unappreciated
by the modern world. Mr. Efford, back when he led
involved are understandably averse to cameras. Before the films started
airing in the 1970s, the rest of us knew little of seal nurseries or
of seal hunting except from the colorful accounts of sealers themselves
– much as we once knew nothing of whales and whaling except from the
adventurous and self-serving accounts of whalers. The camera, in both
cases, allowed all of humanity to witness the scene for ourselves. And
this evidence, requiring no narrative or interpretation, has never squared
with the proud and heroic self-image of the hunters.
they have never faced up to is that the "propaganda" by which
they feel so victimized consists of straight photographic documentation
of what they do, and to whom they do it – the complete helplessness
of the creatures an unanswerable rebuke to their slayers. What the sealers
still dismiss as "cultural intolerance" is actually the natural
and objective reaction of an overwhelming majority of people -- urban
and rural, liberal and conservative, in
and self-pity are a fierce combination, however, and so in recent years
the sealers – full-time fishermen who get about 5 percent of their income
from the hunt – have found someone else who's been victimizing them:
most obvious problem with the now-common claim that harp seals are depleting
do such elementary facts of marine science get brushed off? In a political
version of the aquatic life chain, industrial fishing interests shift
responsibility for their own excesses – the actual cause of cod depletion
– on to provincial authorities. These authorities, in turn, have exerted
this way, the long-term interests of Atlantic Canada have been sacrificed
to easy, short-term economics, and a perverse and destructive industry
is artificially sustained. Meanwhile,
though, charges of "cruelty," "barbarism" and the
like have never quite resonated with the sealers. Such terms have a
plaintive, weepy ring that only plays into their image of "outsiders"
as soft and over-refined, and of themselves as rugged and daring men.
So this time around let us put the point more plainly, in terms they
will understand: The problem with clubbing and skinning these most defenceless
of creatures is not merely that it is merciless. The problem is that
it is low, dishonourable and cowardly.
men are forever telling us to take a hard, unsentimental look at the
baby seals. They would do better to take a hard, unsentimental look
at themselves for once, for their country's sake and for their own.
Matthew Scully served until recently as special assistant and deputy director of speechwriting to U.S. President George W. Bush. He is the author of Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy.; www.matthewscully.com
TSUNAMI -- ANIMAL RELATED NEWS
As the Tsunami disaster has headed world news for the last ten days, various stories of particular interest to animal advocates have emerged. In this lengthy 'catch-up' alert, I will focus on those stories, and on ways we can help.
Food relief is the obvious place to start. From animal advocates that relief should be vegetarian, as there is no need to kill members of other species in order to feed humans. Plus, many of the people needing relief are Buddhist, (Sri Lanka is 70% Buddhist) following a religion that espouses vegetarianism. It is sad to think that those who have lost everything might also be forced, by mainstream relief agencies, which are too often oblivious to animal suffering, to sacrifice their religious or ethical concerns. "Food for Life" offers vegan/vegetarian food relief. Its website tells us that in Tsunami disaster areas:
"Food for Life Teams are currently distributing nearly 20,000 freshly cooked vegetarian meals every day, along with medical care, clothing, water and shelter. You can learn more about the group, and donate via Paypal, at Food for Life's website: http://www.ffl.org/
Or you can send a check to
Food for Life Global
PO Box 59037
Potomac, MD 20859 USA
Or you can donate to Food For Life from the "Just Give" website Tsunami relief page, where it is a featured charity: http://www.justgive.org/tsunami/index.jsp
There is an odd story, on the CBS News website, headed "Buddha Statues Survive Tsunami." In a tone uncomfortably reminiscent on Donna Summer's suggestion that AIDS was God's punishment for homosexuality, or Jerry Falwell's statements after 9/11, it quotes a Buddhist monk:
"The people are not living according to religious virtues. Nature has given them some punishment because they are not following the path of the Lord Buddha. The people have to learn their lesson."
The article tells us:
"Buddhist beliefs oppose killing of any animal, and some believers said the Indonesian earthquake that triggered the devastating waves occurred one day after Christmas, a time when many animals were slaughtered for feasts. They also said that massive floods in Sri Lanka last year happened during feasting at the end of Ramadan, the Muslim holy month of fasting."
You can read it on line:
Those of us who find the idea of divine punishment abhorrent can nevertheless take the article as a reminder that regardless of our own ethical beliefs, food relief should be vegetarian in largely Buddhist countries.
Most of us have encountered the widely publicized stories on the lack of wildlife casualties (I will look at those below). However domestic animals are faring badly. And they lost one of their leading human champions: Leone Cosens, a New Zealand woman who moved to Phuket twelve years ago and co-founded the Phuket Animal Welfare Society, was killed while attempting to help the human tenants of a house she rented out. Leone was closely involved with Soi Dog Foundation. You'll find information about her, and a photo, as well as extensive updates on the Phuket animal rescue efforts on the Soi Dog Foundation website at:
Many canines who survived are now without human caretakers. And Phuket's strays, who had generally done reasonably well in the tropical climate living on scraps from all the food stands and local restaurants frequented by tourists, are now starving as the restaurants are gone. The Soi Dog Foundation is doing its best to help but needs money. You can donate, via Paypal, on the Soi Dog Foundation link I just provided, or send a check to:
Soi Dog Foundation
C/O 57/61 Laguna Golf Villas
Moo 4, Srisoonthorn Road
Phuket 83110 Thailand
Another human loss to our animal protection community is Rebecca Clark, from Nova Scotia, who was working on a sea turtle conservation project in Thailand when the tsunami struck.
At http://www.ctv.ca/servlet/ArticleNews/story/CTVNews/1104788749798_100197949/?hub=Canadaou you can see a photo of her, and read an article in which a friend is quoted, saying:
"She didn't discriminate against anybody. Everybody was equal. I think the animals were just as equal as the people. She just loved life and always wanted to do something better."
Before I take a closer look at the "animal stories" from the region, and discuss how we might respond to them, I wanted to note that Donna Zeigfinger, from Green Earth Travel, tells us in her newsletter:
"For those who would like to volunteer their time to travel over to the affected areas and help out, please call us as we have arranged with certain wholesalers to get you there at a special rate. We want you to know that we are there to help you help those in need."
You can contact her by email at firstname.lastname@example.org, phone at 301 229-5666, or visit her website: http://www.vegtravel.com
During a human disaster, the concerns of nonhumans, always ranked low by human society, can be ignored entirely. Even animal advocates can feel awkward about focusing on them. However, those of us who have committed ourselves to helping those of other species have a duty to make sure that discussion of their suffering is part of the public dialogue at all times. The Tsunami disaster has generated various animal stories that have a sad ring of irony. Before world news goes back to focusing on the latest sensational murder or rape case, we have an opportunity to further the discussion of some of the animal issues that have emerged from this crisis.
Earlier in the week we saw a hopeful story about the attempted rescue of two dolphins, apparently a mother and calf, who had been washed approximately one kilometer into a lagoon and were trapped there, amongst human bodies, and in fresh water that held no food from them. They were reported, on CNN's website, as "a symbol of hope." Thailand's minister of natural resources and environment said, "When we heard the good news about survivors, even though they're dolphins, it's great news. I'm sure that everyone is happy to see at least some life after the tsunami." There was a huge rescue effort earlier in the week. It failed, and today the story appears to have a sad ending. The larger dolphin has been scooped up, had a wound treated, and released into the sea, where "She swam away like a rocket." However we read, "rescuers failed to locate her calf which had been dumped in the same fetid lake by the wall of water that smashed over Thailand's Andaman Sea coastline on December 26. Watchmen were told to monitor the tiny lake through the night in the hope of spotting the small calf. 'I'm afraid she's probably dead,' said Wiek, a Dutch national who has worked in Thailand for more than a decade."
You can read the whole story on line at: http://www.cnn.com/2005/TECH/science/01/05/tsunami.dolphins.reut/
It was heartening to read about humans getting behind the effort to save those nonhuman Tsunami victims. But last year we read stories of hundreds of dolphins being rounded up in the Solomon Islands, pulled away from free life with their families, into holding pens, to be sold as slaves to human entertainment at amusement parks and 'swim with dolphins' tourist programs around the world. Many mothers were separated from their calves and many died in those holding pens or soon after arriving at their destinations (perhaps death being a blessing when compared to life in a tank). There was no government sanctioned rescue effort for them.
In Japan last year, hundreds of dolphins were slaughtered in front of members of the marine mammal entertainment industry, who visited the slaughter pens to pick out the best looking dolphins to be used for human entertainment rather than food. (You can find out more about that at: http://onevoice-ear.org/english/campaigns/marine_mammals/ There was no government sanctioned rescue effort for those dolphins either, (Sea Shepherd's Alison Lance's illegal release of 15 dolphins landed her in jail) and little public interest. The public continues to visit theme parks that profit from captive marine mammals.
Yesterday, January 4, NPR's Marketplace did a story on the influx of funds to charity groups during media covered disasters, and the unwillingness of those who donate to have funds diverted to people in other areas who might be even more desperately in need. That strange phenomenon is reflected in our concern for animals: Concern and major media coverage goes to the plight of dolphins trapped by the tsunami, but little coverage is given to those trapped by theme parks or those who die, by the hundreds per year, in fishing nets. Animal advocates can take this opportunity to appeal to people who care about dolphins; when you see the dolphin rescue story in your local paper, please consider a letter to the editor reminding people of the plight of dolphins all over the world, and the ways in which they support their suffering.
Even more ironic are stories of captive elephants in the Tsunami region, carrying tourists to safety or helping in the clean-up.
See http://www.reuters.co.uk/newsArticle.jhtml?type=topNews&storyID=647317 and http://www.smh.com.au/news/Asia-Tsunami/Elephants-help-weary-Thai-tsunami-rescuers/2005/01/02/1104601245554.html?oneclick=true
In Thailand, baby elephants to be employed in the tourist industry are dragged from their mothers and have their spirits broken in a practice called Phaajaan. They are held in pens for three days and tortured. Many die. Each elephant's mother is chained nearby so that the baby learns that when he screams, his mother cannot or will not come to help -- he learns that he is utterly at the mercy of humans. You can see horrifying footage, or a slide show, of Phaajaan at http://www.helpthaielephants.com /. Last year, PETA asked tourists to boycott Thailand to protest the practice. While talk of a boycott no longer seems appropriate, stories of elephants helping humans give us an opportunity to talk about what humans in Thailand do to elephants (and, of course, what we support if ride elephants while traveling, or go to see Asian elephants at circuses.)
Happier stories, telling us that nonhumans sensed the approaching Tsunami, broke soon after the wave hit and were widely publicized. Many of us wondered if they were feel-good stories that would quickly be discounted, but that has not been the case. Indeed, though the tsunami advanced miles into Sri Lanka's Yala National Park, no wild animal carcasses have been found in the Yala area. About 200 humans, however, perished there. Whereas the Hindustan Times and some other papers are reporting that the animals sensed the danger days in advance, (See http://www.hindustantimes.com/news/181_1183513,001301540003.htm ), Western scientists are quick to discount the possibility of the animals having a sixth sense, which humans have lost or never had. They attribute the phenomenon to incomparably stronger development of one of the known five senses, that of hearing. Many animals, most famously elephants, are able to detect extremely low frequencies. Canada's National Post, January 5, (pg A9) explores this issue in an article, from Agence France-Presse, headed, "Acoustic senses prevented carnage: Animals at park in Sri Lanka fled well ahead of wave." In that article a researcher in animal behavior at France's National Centre for Scientific Research explains, "In anything to do with vibrations, seismic shocks or sound waves, animals have capabilities which we do not." The piece is not available on the National Post website but is posted (identical but for a few words) on Animal Planet's website at: http://animal.discovery.com/news/afp/20050103/animtsunami.html . It was also in The Australian, on January 4, headed "How Animals Escaped the Wave" - http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/common/story_page/0,5744,11848908%255E1702,00.html
Canadians can send comments on it to the National Post at: http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/info/contactus/mailto.html?name=Letters&SUBJECT=Letter%20To%20The%20Editor The Australian takes letters at: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/files/aus_letters.htm
How interesting that the animal escape story got so much coverage, with so much talk of a sixth sense. Humans take a natural delight in animals. Yet look at how our society treats them. Reports of their abilities, which often go beyond ours, present a nice opportunity for letters to the editor that discuss the disrespect our society shows towards other species. There is a delightful story that shows what can happen when humans do respect other animals, when people live in harmony with nature: The Central Chronicle , in a story reported on the "Science and Development Network" website, tells us "Indigenous people on the Andaman and Nicobar islands are thought to have escaped the 26 December tsunami thanks to traditional warning systems that interpret bird and marine animal behavior." Scientists are considering formal study of those warning systems.
You can read that story on line at:
A story in the January 3 edition of The Hindu manages to find what is referred to as a "silver lining." The story headed, "Tsunami has not affected marine life" tells us, referring to the Centre for Advanced Study in Marine Biology in Portonovo:
"The Director noted that there was a silver lining in the disaster too, as it would help in the prolific propagation of marine life. Mr. Balasubramanian said when the sea was churned, the nutrient-rich bottom soil got spread over a wider area, thus becoming a good breeding ground for marine animals. Therefore, in the aftermath of tsunami, there was a possibility of fish population going up." You can read that whole story on line at: http://www.thehindu.com/2005/01/03/stories/2005010310720400.htm
It is natural to feel helpless in the face of such a disaster. Those of us who cannot go to the disaster sites to help, can donate; funds help. And we can write letters to the editor, appealing to the world's heightened state of compassion, and reminding people that there is daily massive suffering that generally doesn't make the news, and which humans have the power to stop. Since those in animal abuse industries like to portray animal advocates as misanthropes, it is important to remember, in such letters, to express the sympathy for the human victims -- sympathy that we might just take for granted. There is a line to be walked, pointing out the ironies in some of the animal stories without appearing to have little concern for people. It is worth walking -- our letters are worthwhile. They don't bring the same immediate gratification as handing out food or providing shelter. But whether read by the public, or by news editors, they make sure that the plight of non humans is part of the public dialogue. They give a voice to those who suffer year round and who rely on a small group of committed people to speak on their behalf.
HORSE SLAUGHTER ON NBC AND IN NEW YORK TIMES -- Jan 4
I sent my last DawnWatch alert for 2004 just before Christmas, and have come back on line in 2005 with the Tsunami disaster heading world news. I am compiling and writing up animal related Tsunami stories for an alert I will send out tomorrow -- a big job. (One of the stories, the suggestion that a sixth sense may have saved many animals, is on the Tuesday, January 5, edition of ABC's World News Tonight.)
Today I wanted to get out an update on major coverage of the wild mustang issue:
On Thursday, January 30, NBC Nightly News aired a terrific piece. Correspondent Chip Reid told us that congress, three decades ago, calling wild horses "living symbols of the pioneer spirit of the West," ended their widespread slaughter and gave them legal protection, "But, in a surprise move, Congress recently changed the law —with no hearings and no debate." He told us that many will be headed for the slaughterhouse and "The meat will likely be served in restaurants in France, Belgium and Japan, where horse is a delicacy." The story ends with a reference to the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act:
"Wild horse activists say the long-term solution includes better birth control and adoption programs. But first they're launching a campaign to ban the slaughter of this symbol of American freedom."
The story is still linked to the front page of the NBC Nightly News website so it is not too late to send NBC News a huge thank you for the coverage. Please do.
Positive feedback will encourage more animal friendly stories.
Unfortunately, the January 4 New York Times has less sympathetic coverage, in the form of an opinion piece, by Judy Blunt, headed "Live Free and Die." She opens with:
"Those whose knowledge of wild horses comes from coffee-table books and animal-rights propaganda tend to embrace the mythology of the wild horse and ignore the reality." She writes of horses starving to death because "The land can't support an infinite number of wild horses..." She suggests, as is commonly done by hunters, that we have to kill the animals in order to save them:
"Senator Burns's amendment, signed last month by President Bush, may actually end up rescuing the wild horses he is accused of murdering."
She is vague as to how that will happen, suggesting only that "At its best, it will prod us, as a nation, to take that first difficult step toward a sustainable program to manage wild horses."
She recommends sanctuaries for the wild horses -- perhaps not a bad idea, though she is in favor of sending older horses to slaughter.
She ends her piece:
"A side effect would be the rejuvenation of our depleted public lands to the benefit of all species. Americans have a chance now to become part of a sustainable solution before we stand guilty of loving our wild horses to death."
You can read it on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/01/04/opinion/04blunt.html
Blunt's reference to the depleted public lands points to the link missing from her piece, and from most of the coverage of the issue. Our public lands are being depleted by government subsidized cattle ranching. The horses are starving because they are competing with cattle, and are being exterminated to protect the livelihood of cattle ranchers.
There is a terrific book on that issue, called "Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West." Much of the book is available on line at: http://www.publiclandsranching.org/book.htm
Please consider a letter to the New York Times protesting the slaughter of wild horses to protect the cattle ranchers, perhaps singing the praises of a plant-based diet (for humans) and/or in support of the American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act. (You can find out more about that bill and send a letter to your legislators to support it at: http://www.ddal.org/legislation/federal/)
The New York Times takes letters at: email@example.com
As always, I ask you to take care, please, not to use any of my exact language when writing. Since our responses are not form letters, it would be a shame if the reader interpreted them as such; phrases in common will give that impression. Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone number when sending a letter to the editor. Shorter letters are more likely to be published.