|ANIMAL MEDIA ALERTS
WALL STREET JOURNAL FRONT PAGE ON MERCURY IN TUNA -- 8/1/05
The front page of the Monday, August 1, Wall Street Journal included a story headed, "Fish Line. Mercury and Tuna: U.S. Advice Leaves Lots of Questions." I will paste it below. We learn from it that groups such as the National Food Processors Association, the National Fisheries Institute and the U.S. Tuna Foundation have dissuaded the US government from coming out with strict advisories regarding tuna consumption and that the American public has therefore been put at risk.
The front page story presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor on the joys of a plant-based diet.
Many people eat fish for the benefits of the Omega 3 fatty acids. You'll find good information on healthier plant based sources, such as flaxseed, at:
And you'll find plenty of other information on the downside of fish at www.FishingHurts.com
The Wall Street Journal takes letters 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 send thanks to Roy Fassel for making sure we knew about this Wall Street Journal article. Here it is:
Mercury and Tuna:
U.S. Advice Leaves
Lots of Questions
Balancing Interests, Agencies
Issue Guidance at Odds
With EPA Risk Assessment
A Schoolboy's Sudden Setback
By PETER WALDMAN
Staff Reporter of THE WALL STREET JOURNAL
August 1, 2005; Page A1
SAN FRANCISCO -- One by one, Matthew Davis's fifth-grade teachers went around the table describing the 10-year-old boy. He wasn't focused in class and often missed assignments, they said. He labored at basic addition. He could barely write a simple sentence.
"Our jaws dropped," says his mother, Joan Elan Davis, describing a teachers' meeting she had requested in late 2003, when her son abruptly lost interest in homework. Matthew had always excelled in school. In the fourth grade, he had written and illustrated a series of stories about a superhero named Dog Man.
Ms. Davis noticed something else: Her son's fingers were starting to curl, as if he were gripping a melon. And he could no longer catch a football.
A neurologist ordered tests. They showed Matthew's blood was laced with mercury in amounts nearly double what the Environmental Protection Agency says is the safe level for exposure to the metal. Matthew had mercury poisoning, his doctors said.
The Davises had pinpointed the suspected source: tuna fish. For a year or so, starting in late 2002, Matthew had gobbled three to six ounces a day of white albacore tuna. Based on Food and Drug Administration data for canned albacore, he was consuming a daily dose of mercury at least 12 times what the EPA considered a safe level for a 60-pound child. The Davises' doctors' prescription was simple: Matthew should stop eating canned tuna.
Ms. Davis, an artist, says she and her husband, a corporate executive, had been proud of their son for choosing tuna over junk food. Now, she asks herself: "Was I a bad parent? Was it my fault I didn't know there was mercury in tuna?"
One reason she didn't know was that the government had never said so. The FDA had known for many years that canned tuna contained mercury, which studies link to learning impairment in children. Consumer groups long urged the agency to address the issue. But it wasn't until March 2004, after regulatory tussles between health advocates and the tuna industry and between clashing scientists for the FDA and EPA, that those agencies issued a mercury advisory that cited tuna. That joint EPA and FDA advisory urged limits on how much tuna children and some women should eat.
But the limits set in the advisory may exceed safe levels for some people, judging by a mercury risk assessment that the EPA produced on its own years earlier.
The federal advisory said that nursing mothers and women who are pregnant or may become so should eat no more than 12 ounces of chunk light tuna a week. For solid white albacore, which is higher in mercury, it set a six-ounce weekly limit. Young children, it said, should eat "smaller portions." No advice was given for men or older women.
The maximum mercury ingestion the EPA deems safe is one microgram a day for each 22 pounds of body weight. If a 130-pound woman ate as much albacore tuna as the joint federal advisory allows, she would exceed that safe level by 40%.
If the joint advisory had been available in 2003 and the Davises, following its advice about "smaller portions" for children, had given Matthew just half a can of albacore a week, he still would have consumed 60% more mercury than the EPA can say with confidence is safe.
"This is a glaring example of shutting out science," says Vas Aposhian, a University of Arizona toxicologist. He quit the FDA's Food Advisory Committee in early 2004 because he felt the agency ignored the panel's instructions to hew closely to the EPA's mercury maximum.
Senior EPA and FDA officials deny the advisory is unscientific. The EPA's daily limit for mercury intake, called a "reference dose," isn't some "bright line" that distinguishes safe from unsafe, officials of both agencies say. To provide an ample margin of safety, the EPA had set the limit at just one-tenth of the mercury level that had been found to affect children's learning.
And the EPA limit is extra-cautious in another way, says David Acheson, the FDA's director of food safety and security. It was based on a study of prodigious fish eaters in the Faroe Islands of Denmark that found neurobehavioral effects, such as learning and language deficits, in children who'd had high bloodstream mercury at birth. But those effects were "subtle" and insubstantial, Dr. Acheson emphasizes, not "clear, long-lasting mental disability."
The struggle to find the right balance on mercury is part of a larger issue: How to deal with dozens of industrial chemicals now known to linger in the environment and the human body in trace amounts. Mercury emissions, about 40% of which in the U.S. come from coal-fired power plants, settle into oceans, lakes and rivers. Then people take in mercury by eating large fish that have accumulated an organic form of the metal in their flesh by consuming smaller fish.
People vary in how they react to mercury they ingest and how fast they purge it. The EPA's exposure limit is based on its calculation that mercury above 5.8 parts per billion in young women's bloodstreams may pose a danger to their babies. By this measure, 5.7% of U.S. infants, or 228,000 a year, could be at risk of mercury poisoning during gestation, based on the latest blood survey of women of childbearing age by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The maximum safe level might be lower still, says the EPA's top mercury risk assessor, Kathryn Mahaffey, based on recent evidence that fetuses concentrate more mercury in their blood than do their pregnant mothers.
Former EPA Administrator Michael Leavitt says the reason the government didn't make the mercury-in-fish advisory tougher was to avoid scaring people away from fish. "Mercury is bad and fish is good. We needed to choose the right words that would give people a sense of knowledge without creating unwarranted fear," says Mr. Leavitt, now head of the Health and Human Services Department. He adds that scientists, not bureaucrats, worked out the guidelines, reconciling the varying views of FDA and EPA researchers.
The EPA senior scientist handling that reconciliation, Rita Schoeny, says there is no way to know for sure whether people who follow the fish advisory and consume more mercury than the EPA's limit are actually safe. Asked whether she agreed with what the advisory said about tuna, she didn't respond except to say: "I think what we have in the advisory is good public-health advice."
At Bumble Bee Seafoods, executive vice president John Stiker acknowledges the federal tuna-eating advice could lead some people to exceed the EPA safe level for mercury. But he says it's not a big problem because the average American eats only 10 servings of tuna a year, and just 35% of that is the higher-mercury type, albacore.
Food companies have long lobbied to mitigate any FDA action on canned tuna, one of the top-grossing supermarket items in revenue per unit of shelf space. Five years ago, after risk assessments by the EPA and the National Academy of Sciences raised fresh worries about mercury, the FDA began preparing to revise a 1979 advisory that said it was all right to consume four micrograms of mercury a day per 22 pounds of body weight -- four times the EPA's maximum.
Food companies urged the FDA not to single out canned tuna. In private meetings with FDA officials in fall 2000, industry and agency documents show, the industry argued that health data were inconclusive, that citing canned tuna would drive down its consumption by 19% to 24%, and that seafood producers "would face the distinct possibility of numerous class action lawsuits."
A strict advisory "could have an irreversible impact on American dietary habits, profoundly affecting consumers and producers of seafood and resulting in significant segments of the population turning away from the proven health benefits of fish consumption," said a 2000 letter to an FDA commissioner from three trade groups: the National Food Processors Association, the National Fisheries Institute and the U.S. Tuna Foundation.
When the FDA issued a revised mercury advisory in 2001, it urged women of childbearing age to shun four high-mercury species: swordfish, shark, king mackerel and tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico. It didn't mention tuna. Yet cumulatively, according to data provided by the EPA, the four species it urged avoiding account for less than 10% of Americans' mercury ingestion from fish, while canned tuna accounts for about 34% of it.
Echoing industry arguments, FDA scientists also rejected the study of fish eaters in Denmark's Faroe Islands, saying dietary differences made the data inapplicable to Americans. The FDA stood by its 1979 mercury-consumption limit that was much higher than the EPA's.
Some EPA scientists griped that FDA officials were coddling food companies. "They really consider the fish industry to be their clients, rather than the U.S. public," charges Deborah Rice, a former EPA toxicologist now working for the state of Maine. The FDA's Dr. Acheson denies that commercial concerns played a role in the agency's decision making.
Change of Course
In April 2003, his agency changed course, following years of prodding by health advocates, some members of Congress and the agency's own outside food advisory panel. The FDA said it would base future mercury warnings on the EPA's stricter limit. Late in 2003, FDA and EPA officials proposed their first joint mercury advisory at a meeting of the FDA's Food Advisory Committee.
At the hearing, FDA scientists said they had put fish in three categories: high in mercury, medium and low. The level for the low-mercury group was that of canned light tuna, explained FDA official Clark Carrington. "In order to keep the market share at a reasonable level, we felt like we had to keep light tuna in the low-mercury group," he said, according to the meeting's official transcript.
Later, the FDA's Dr. Acheson reiterated that point. He told the meeting the fish categories "were arbitrarily chosen to put light tuna in the low category."
Says Maine's Dr. Rice: "Here's the FDA making what are supposed to be scientific decisions on the basis of market share. What else is there to say?"
Asked about this, Dr. Acheson gives a different reason why the low-mercury group was pegged to light tuna. He says it was because a woman weighing 140 pounds could eat 12 ounces of it a week and stay at or below the EPA reference dose.
The FDA's outside advisory panel asked the agencies to rework the advisory, saying it didn't adequately spell out mercury risks from canned tuna. In particular, members of the panel urged a specific warning about the higher-mercury albacore tuna.
But food processors lobbied the administration. At the White House, they implored officials not to single out albacore. They said doing so would only drive people, especially the poor, to eat more junk food, says a scientist who was there.
In meetings with companies, there are indications administration officials sometimes expressed views not in sync with those of all agency scientists.
At the EPA, three companies met with Steve Johnson, then deputy administrator, on Feb. 23, 2004. The three were the StarKist unit of Del Monte Foods Co.; Chicken of the Sea, part of Thailand's Thai Union Frozen Products PCL; and Bumble Bee, which is owned by Connors Bros. Income Fund in Toronto.
The three companies later wrote to then-EPA chief Mr. Leavitt that Mr. Johnson -- who now heads the agency -- had assured them that "the EPA did not consider any children to be at risk from mercury poisoning." An EPA spokeswoman denies Mr. Johnson said that. Asked about the denial, Bumble Bee's Mr. Stiker said, "I was at the meeting. It was clear that that was said at the meeting by Steve Johnson and others in that room.... We were assured the EPA did not consider any U.S. children to be at risk of mercury poisoning."
The FDA tested the planned advisory with focus groups of women of childbearing age, the target of the warning. Some complained they didn't understand the vague advice to give kids "smaller portions." Others said the advisory was ambiguous because it encouraged them to eat fish but not too much.
'His Brain Food'
Like many parents, the Davises in San Francisco always thought fish was great. They knew it was high in omega-3 fatty acids, which they understood could help brain development. They were delighted, Ms. Davis says, when Matthew started eating what she calls "his brain food" for lunch and snacks.
It struck Matthew that something was wrong one day at recess, he says, when his buddy Zach could suddenly catch and throw a football much better than he could. He remembers his father, a little while later, getting frustrated when his son couldn't hit a baseball. "I kept telling Dad I was rusty," Matthew says.
After the meeting with his teachers, the Davises spent thousands of dollars on tutors, but still Matthew struggled. A specialist gave him a diagnosis of "mixed learning disability," which just made his parents mad because they had watched him do so well in school before.
Then Matthew's father happened to read an article in the San Francisco Chronicle describing adults with similar problems as a possible result of eating too much swordfish, tuna steaks and other high-end fish in restaurants. Ms. Davis remembers bolting to the pantry and throwing away eight pouches and 20 cans of StarKist albacore tuna.
Spokeswomen for StarKist and Chicken of the Sea referred questions to the U.S. Tuna Foundation. The trade group's executive director, David Burney, says the study of mercury in heavy fish eaters of the Faroe Islands had found only minor effects in kids. It wasn't as if they "couldn't function in school," he says, adding: "There is no connection between a learning disability and mercury."
The notion that chronic, low-level mercury exposure can diminish children's learning capacity was affirmed in 2000 by a panel of experts convened by the National Academy of Sciences. Citing "a large body of scientific evidence showing adverse neurodevelopmental effects" on children from mercury, the NAS panel endorsed the EPA's choice of the 1997 Faroe Islands study, led by Philippe Grandjean of Harvard, as the basis for the agency's reference dose.
It noted that a similar study of fish eaters in the Seychelles Islands in 1998 hadn't found any effects on childhood development from mercury-tainted fish, but concluded the Faroe Islands results were more reliable because they were firmly supported by other studies.
Matthew Davis's symptoms -- declines in concentration, coordination and learning ability -- were classic signs of mercury toxicity, says one of his doctors, Jane Hightower, who has published studies of such toxicity in her patients. She notes that in some kinds of fish, mercury content varies widely, exposing diners to random spikes. In chunk light tuna and snapper, some samples had seven times as much mercury as the average for the species, as measured by the FDA. Certain samples of canned albacore tuna showed a spike to 2½ times the average.
As for the fresh and frozen tuna found in tuna steaks, its mean mercury level was comparable to that of canned albacore.
The tuna industry has continued to aim some marketing at pregnant women and kids. An ad sponsored by the U.S. Tuna Foundation last year, which specified the new federal consumption guidelines, reassured "pregnant and nursing women and young children" that canned tuna "is absolutely safe to eat." Extolling the benefits of fish's omega-3 fatty acids for babies' eyes and brains, the ad said: "No government study has ever found unsafe levels of mercury in women or young children who eat canned tuna."
By "unsafe levels," says the foundation's Mr. Burney, the ad wasn't referring to mercury above what the EPA declares safe, but to the actual blood-mercury level of Faroe Islands infants. That level is 10 times as high as the EPA's safe level.
Mr. Burney maintains that no Americans come close to having a toxic level of mercury in their blood. Accordingly, he rejects the notion that Matthew Davis or anyone else could get mercury poisoning from eating canned tuna. "That's the dumbest thing I've ever heard in my life," Mr. Burney says.
Bumble Bee's Mr. Stiker, when told of Matthew's problem, said it didn't make sense to him because only early-childhood development can be affected by trace amounts of mercury. "The hype has far outstripped the science" on mercury in fish, he said, with the result that canned-tuna sales are falling more than 10% a year. "We're getting killed because of this perception," he said.
Today, nearly two years after Matthew quit eating albacore tuna, his blood-mercury level is zero and his condition is dramatically improved. Although his doctors don't know if he had any permanent damage, signs so far are that he didn't. Sports and homework come much easier again. Matthew played the lead in a local performance of "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." He is writing stories again.
His mother wrote about her son's struggle for the school newsletter. The family hasn't consulted a lawyer and doesn't plan to sue anyone, Ms. Davis says. But "I think about what I could have lost, and it makes me angry," she says.
The American Medical Association called on the FDA a year ago to consider requiring stores to post warnings and mercury-content data wherever fish is sold. Dr. Acheson of the FDA says the agency opposes mandated warning labels or market postings. "We feel the best way to get the word out is via the advisory," he says, calling it "an optimal balance between the benefits of eating fish and the risks of mercury."
Write to Peter Waldman at firstname.lastname@example.org
(End of Wall Street Journal article)
The Wall Street Journal takes letters at email@example.com
LOS ANGELES TIMES FRONT PAGE ON PITBULL BANS AND BREED SPECIFIC LEGISLATION -- 8/2/05
The front page of the Tuesday, August 2, Los Angeles Times has a story about people having to either adopt out family members or leave their homes thanks to Denver's overreaching pitbull ban. It is headed, "Denver's Dogged Outlaws;
The city has banned pit bulls. Owners hide them, move away or turn to an 'underground railroad' to keep them from being put to death."
After some heartbreaking stories, including one about a man now living in a car so that he can keep his dogs, we learn that "Denver is not alone in banning the breed -- cities including Cincinnati, Miami and Lanett, Ala., have outlawed pit bulls." But then we get welcome news about California:
"California cities cannot ban specific breeds of dogs, but a bill in the state Legislature would permit them to require certain breeds be spayed and neutered, making them less aggressive."
As California kills hundreds of thousand of dogs every year in shelters, most true animal advocates would be thrilled to see compulsory spay/neuter of all breeds as long as there are any dogs dying for lack of homes. Why not start with those breeds deemed dangerous, that tend to attract those who enjoy organizing dog fights for sport? I write that as the adoptive mother of a sweet little red-nose pitbull, who is, of course, spayed. But thousands of her relatives die every year in California shelters and countless others die in organized dog fights. A ban on breeding them would be wonderful. And it is no doubt the compromise needed that will prevent a misguided over-reaching law like that in Denver, which takes loving dogs out of loving homes.
The bill is SB 861, authored by Senator Jackie Speier, a democrat from the San Francisco/San Mateo area. It states, "Cities and counties may enact dog breed-specific ordinances pertaining only to mandatory spay or neuter programs and breeding requirements." You can read it on line at: http://info.sen.ca.gov/cgi-bin/postquery?bill_number=sb_861&sess=CUR&house=B&site=sen Click on the most recent amendment.
The California Animal Legislative Action Alert recommends that we "Tell the legislators that local government needs to have the ability to regulate the breeding of pit bulls, the unnamed subjects of this legislation, for the welfare of both the public and the dogs themselves. Too many misused and mistreated pit bulls flood the animal shelters."
Californians, you can write in favor to your assembly member and please also send a quick note of support to the bill's author, Senator Speier. You can email her at: Senator.Speier@sen.ca.gov
It is likely the office will print out emails in support. A written letter is preferable (but only if it actually gets printed out and sent) and should be sent to:
Senator Jackie Speier
State Capitol, Room 2032
Sacramento, CA 95814
You can read the full Los Angeles Times article on line at
It presents a great opportunity for letters about California's companion animal overpopulation crisis and the need for extensive spay-neuter legislation. Legislators look to letters to the editor pages as barometers of public opinion, so your letters matter. The Los Angeles Times takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
FIRST CLONED DOG MAKES FRONT PAGES WORLDWIDE -- 8/4/05
Big news around the world today, Thursday August 4, is the first ever cloned dog. His name is Snuppy, short for Seoul National University Puppy . He has made the front page of the International Herald Tribune, USA Today, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, UK's The Guardian, Ontario's Hamilton Spectator, Melbourne's Herald Sun and many others.
Gina Kolata's article, which appeared on the front page of the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune, says that the group who created Snuppy have no intention of cloning pets.
But the front page story in USA Today, headed, "Another cloning 'first': A dog" (http://www.usatoday.com/tech/science/2005-08-03-dog-clone_x.htm ) tells us: "Genetic Savings & Clone, a California firm that sells cloned cats for $32,000, heralded the advance in a statement: 'We expect to provide cloning services to the owners of exceptional dogs around the world.' That article goes on to report that biologist Martin Stephens of the U.S. Humane Society has "grave concerns" and "notes that millions of dogs await adoption in the nation's animal shelters."
The Los Angeles Times front page story tells us that Woo Suk Hwang, a lead researcher, "said his group's primary aim was to develop genetically identical laboratory dogs for the study of animal and human diseases." (http://www.latimes.com/news/printedition/la-sci-dogclone4aug04,1,6438989.story )
And the article on page 2 of the International Herald Tribune, by Choe Sang-Hun, says, "With human cloning ruled out as unethical, scientists have been racing to master cloning of other animals, hoping that some day this would help them find cures for human diseases."
This story, in virtually every paper on the front page of many, opens the door for animal friendly letters to the editor. You may wish to write about companion animal overpopulation. Or you might question the assumption that all animal research is ethical and express regret that scientists are figuring out ways to do more experiments on dogs rather than devoting themselves to the promising fields of testing that do not involve animals.
Here are links for letters to the editor for the papers cited above:
International Herald Tribune: email@example.com
New York Times: firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Times: email@example.com
But your letter to your local paper has the best chance of being published. Some of the smaller papers publish close to 100% of the letters they receive. You'll find links to over 700 articles about Snuppy, probably including the one from your local paper, at
http://news.google.com/news?hl=en&ned=us&q=snuppy&ie=UTF-8&filter=0 . Or just go to your paper's website (go to www.Google.com to find it) and put Snuppy in your paper's search engine. If you have any trouble finding the correct email address for a letter to your editor, don't hesitate to ask me for help.
LOS ANGELES TIMES OP-ED AGAINST DOG CLONING 8/5/05
The August 5 Los Angeles Times includes an op-ed about dog cloning, by Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society of the United States. (Pg B13)
Pacelle warns that "the genetic duplicate may turn out to act, and even look, different than its forebear." And he writes,
"More to the point, with millions of healthy and adoptable cats and dogs being killed each year for lack of suitable homes, it is a little frivolous to be cloning departed pets."
He writes about the health problems cloned animals have faced, then notes:
"As all of this has unfolded, policymakers have stood idly by, placing almost no legal restraints on corporations and scientists tinkering with the most fundamental elements of biology. Biotech companies and their allies in agribusiness also have won approval from the Food and Drug Administration to sell commercial clones as food....Farmers already produce so much meat that they must find export markets to turn a profit. As for the animals in our factory farms, cloning is the final assault on their well-being and dignity."
The piece ends:
"Humanity's progress is not always defined by scientific innovation alone. Cloning — human and animal — is one of those cases in which progress is defined by the exercise of wisdom and of self-restraint."
You can read the whole article on line at:
It provides a good opportunity for letters to the editor about the companion overpopulation crisis. Los Angeles kills approximately 60,000 companion animals every year! Or you might write on any aspect of human treatment of other species, for example factory farming, which is mentioned in the piece. The Los Angeles Times take letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Since this issue is in every paper, please consider a letter to your own paper, perhaps using some of Pacelle's points. If you have any trouble finding the email address for a letter to your editor, don't hesitate to ask me for help. And I am always happy to edit letters.
CHICAGO TRIBUNE FRONT PAGE ON PETA'S KFC CAMPAIGN -- 8/6/05
PETA's campaign against KFC (see www.KentuckyFriedCruelty.com ) is on the front page of the Saturday, August 6, Chicago Tribune. The article is headed "PETA ruffles feathers. Graphic protests aimed at customers haven't pushed KFC to change suppliers' slaughterhouse rules."
We read about successful PETA campaigns against other companies, which led to changes in animal welfare standards, and then:
"What makes the KFC campaign unique is that the chicken chain has refused to submit to PETA's demands, which include stopping the use of growth-enhancing antibiotics and using gas, rather than electric shocks and sharp knives, to kill chickens. As a result, company executives have been doused with fake blood, criticized by the likes of Pamela Anderson, Al Sharpton and the Dalai Lama, and continually subjected to the circuslike atmosphere of PETA protests at its restaurants."
We learn that KFC company officials, asked to comment on PETA's campaign, "refer to the animal-welfare guidelines available on the company's Web site." However, "the Web site does not mention that several members of the advisory council, formed in late 2000, quit in frustration because of the lack of progress and because they had to sign a strict confidentiality agreement."
Richard Berman, from Consumer Freedom, is quoted, saying "I think PETA is largely seen as being a somewhat bizarre organization."
The irony is that Consumer Freedom spends most its time and millions of dollars fighting PETA, so one has to take his dismissive comments with more than a grain of salt.
The article explains PETA's demands of KFC:
"Most chickens in the United States are killed in the same manner, whether sold by KFC, McDonald's or a local grocery. They are hung upside down, knocked unconscious with an electrical stunner, slashed across the throat with a knife and then dunked into a tub of boiling water to remove their feathers. The Humane Slaughter Act, passed by Congress in 1958, dictates that livestock must be unconscious before the fatal blow is delivered. However, for reasons that remain unclear, chickens were exempted from the act. PETA alleges that many chickens still are conscious when their throats are slashed or when they are dunked in the boiling water. In a graphic undercover video that PETA says it shot last year at a KFC supplier in West Virginia, slaughterhouse workers are shown slamming chickens against a wall and stomping on them.
Using gas, rather than electric shocks, would ensure that all the chickens are dead before a worker touches them, PETA says."
There is a nice quote from Temple Grandin about PETA's impact on the fast food business: "The way I look at it is, heat softens steel. And when steel is soft, you can bend that steel into constructive shapes."
The article ends with an unfortunate quote from a 9-year-old passerby, "When there's world peace, we can worry about chickens."
One doesn't have to eat KFC while working on peace campaigns. In fact, there is a huge overlap between the social justice movements, and there are a lot of vegetarians amongst those actually working for world peace.
You'll can read the full article on line at:
It is no secret that PETA would rather people gave up chicken altogether. This story on PETA's attempts just to ease some of the worst of the suffering gives us a great platform for letters to the editor reminding people that a plant based diet is a terrific option.
The Chicago Tribune takes letters at:
GUARDIAN (UK) COMMENTARY PIECE ON SPECIESISM -- AUGUST 6
The Saturday August 6 Guardian (UK) has a commentary piece by Dr Richard Ryder, who coined the term "speciesism." It is headed, "All beings that feel pain deserve human rights. Equality of the species is the logical conclusion of post-Darwin morality." (Guardian op-ed writers generally do not choose their own headings.) It is on page 20.
"The word speciesism came to me while I was lying in a bath in Oxford some 35 years ago. It was like racism or sexism - a prejudice based upon morally irrelevant physical differences. Since Darwin we have known we are human animals related to all the other animals through evolution; how, then, can we justify our almost total oppression of all the other species? All animal species can suffer pain and distress. Animals scream and writhe like us; their nervous systems are similar and contain the same biochemicals that we know are associated with the experience of pain in ourselves.
Our concern for the pain and distress of others should be extended to any "painient" - pain-feeling - being regardless of his or her sex, class, race, religion, nationality or species. Indeed, if aliens from outer space turn out to be painient, or if we ever manufacture machines who are painient, then we must widen the moral circle to include them. Painience is the only convincing basis for attributing rights or, indeed, interests to others."
Ryder details human disregard for the suffering of other animals:
"In the case of non-humans, we see them mercilessly exploited in factory farms, in laboratories and in the wild. A whale may take 20 minutes to die after being harpooned. A lynx may suffer for a week with her broken leg held in a steel-toothed trap. A battery hen lives all her life unable to even stretch her wings. An animal in a toxicity test, poisoned with a household product, may linger in agony for hours or days before dying."
And he writes:
It is almost as if some people had not heard of Darwin! We treat the other animals not as relatives but as unfeeling things. We would not dream of treating our babies, or mentally handicapped adults, in these ways - yet these humans are sometimes less intelligent and less able to communicate with us than are some exploited nonhumans.
The simple truth is that we exploit the other animals and cause them suffering because we are more powerful than they are."
And, "It is the heartless exploiter of animals, not the animal protectionist, who is being irrational, showing a sentimental tendency to put his own species on a pedestal."
It is a lengthy and interesting piece, which you'll find on line at: http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,3604,1543755,00.html
The article provides a great opportunity for letters to the editor about our treatment of other species. The Guardian takes letters at email@example.com and advises, "We do not publish letters where only an email address is supplied; please include a full postal address and a reference to the relevant article. If you do not want your email address published, please say so. We may edit letters."
LOS ANGELES TIMES ARTICLE 8/2/05 AND NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL ON DAIRY FARM POLLUTION -- 8/7/05
On August 2, the Los Angeles Times ran an article headed, "In San Joaquin Valley, Cows Pass Cars as Polluters. Air district says bovines on the region's booming dairy farms are the biggest single source of smog-forming gases." It includes a great quote from Brent Newell an attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment: "This is not some arcane dispute about cow gases. We are talking about a public health crisis. It's not funny to joke about cow burps and farts when one in six children in Fresno schools is carrying an inhaler."
You can read that article on line at: http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-cows2aug02,1,6393711.story
The Sunday, August 7, New York Times includes an editorial (the newspaper's official opinion) headed, "A Malodorous Fog." (Section 4, Pg 11.) It is short, and I will paste it below. It suggests that we need new rules that would improve air quality. Neither the August 2 Los Angeles Times article or today's New York Times editorial question the role of cow's milk in the human diet. We can do that with letters to the editor! A good source of information is http://www.milksucks.com/
Here's the editorial:
August 7, 2005
A Malodorous Fog
Here is an axiom for farmers and consumers: Crowding animals together in large numbers always leads to problems. It turns hog manure, for instance, from a source of fertility into toxic waste. It creates enormous opportunities for disease, which tends to be warded off by inappropriate use of antibiotics. And in central California, it turns dairies, which are environmentally benign on a small scale, into major sources of air pollution - perhaps as bad as automobiles.
One of the smoggiest places in the country is the San Joaquin Valley, where one-fifth of the country's dairy cattle live - some 2.5 million animals and still growing. Local environmentalists and some local legislators argue that cow emissions - which come mostly from the front end of the animal rather than the tailpipe - have gotten out of control. There is a growing call to impose new rules that would improve air quality. The best way to do this isn't completely clear. But few, if any, of the proposed solutions would be palatable to the dairy farmers.
The San Joaquin Valley Air Pollution Control District estimates that at present each cow emits 19.3 pounds of pollutants a year in the form of gases from manure, from regurgitation and from flatulence. Defenders of the dairy farms - a large and powerful California industry - say that number is a wild overestimation. But behind the debate over the emissions measurements and their regulatory implications, there is a simple fact to contend with: the eye-stinging, nose-burning smell of cattle congestion in rural California
(End of New York Times piece.)
The New York Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org . 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.
NEW JERSEY BEAR HUNT BEING PLANNED -- PLUS COMMENTS ON GRIZZLY MAN 8/10/05
Last night I saw a screening of "Grizzly Man," the new film about Timothy Treadwell, who lived with wild bears in Alaska for eight summers and was killed by one in 2003. In winter, Timothy would visit classrooms and share with children his love for his bear friends, and the importance of conservation and the need to protect animals. He shot over 100 hours of glorious footage of the animals, and of himself talking to the camera about his adventures. Tim was an extraordinarily charismatic and warm person. I had hoped that the gift of his footage would form the basis of a documentary as beautiful and uplifting as "March of the Penguins" about the wonderful bears of Alaska, and about a man who devoted his life to something greater than himself, who died doing what he loved. I am therefore disappointed that Timothy's extraordinary footage went to Werner Herzog, who is not particularly sympathetic to Tim's work or to the bears. The movie is tender in parts but mean-spirited in pla
ces, including a rant by Timothy in one of his darkest moments, which might be interesting but is a downer, and that Timothy never would have wanted shown to the public. Since the footage was Timothy's, I think the choice to show it was disrespectful and unfair. However, despite my disappointments, I would not discourage anybody from seeing Grizzly Man. The reviews are superb; it is a good film. Both Timothy and his footage are so captivating it would have been hard to make a bad film out of them. You can find out more about it at: www.GrizzlyMan.com
This morning I felt glad the film is in theatres (though sorry it is unlikely to do for bears what "March of the Penguins" is doing for penguins) when I awoke to news that New Jersey is planning another bear hunt. I can't imagine any member of the public who sees Grizzly Man not being upset to learn of the impending hunt.
The story is on the front page of the Metro section (B1) in the Wednesday, August 10, New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer and on the front page of Bergen's "The Record."
The Record's August 10 front page story is headed, "A heads-up for bears: The hunters are coming; Increase in complaints triggers council's vote."
"New Jersey's black bears moved out of the political crossfire and back into the hunter's crosshairs on Tuesday, as the state Fish and Game Council voted unanimously to allow a six-day bear hunt this December."
"There have been 677 reports of bear-related property damage injury or nuisance between Jan. 1 and July 8 of this year, according to statistics compiled by the state Division of Fish and Wildlife. There were 424 incidents during the same period last year.
And with the increase in bear activity has come several encounters with humans that have increased worries."
We learn that last year Environmental Commissioner Bradley M. Campbell "opposed the bear hunt, saying the state should experiment with non-lethal means of population control. The Fish and Game Council ignored him and authorized the bear hunt anyway. Campbell then threatened to close state lands to bear hunters, touching off a legal battle to decide who had the power to regulate hunting in New Jersey. The fight went all the way to the state Supreme Court, which reasoned that Campbell, as the environmental commissioner, had the power over the Fish and Game Council."
However, "Several months ago, Campbell informed the council that he would not oppose this year's hunt, given the rise in bear complaints."
We learn that the "updated bear management strategy," which includes the hunt, will be released soon, and a pubic hearing and period of public comment will follow.
You can read the whole Record article on line at:
The New York Times piece (Pg B1) is headed "A Ruling of Import to Hunters, and Bears." It includes a quote from Jeff Tittle, the executive director of the New Jersey chapter of the Sierra Club, which opposes the hunt: ''I think there is too much knee-jerk reaction and not enough real work on what has to get done. The state is just not doing enough. There needs to be better plans in place.''
You can read the New York Times article on line at: http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/10/nyregion/10bear.html
The Philadelphia Inquirer article (pg B1) is headed, "Bear hunt is set, pending DEP approval; The Fish and Game Council voted for a Dec. 5 start, but Commissioner Bradley Campbell has final say. Supporters of alternative strategies vowed a fight." It includes a quote from
former council member George Howard, who was not reappointed to the council after clashing with Campbell last year: "Sport hunting is the only way to control the population. Only then can you try garbage management and education. New York and Pennsylvania do it that way, and so should we."
You can read the Inquirer article on line at: http://www.philly.com/mld/inquirer/news/local/12345246.htm
The stories reveal, without specifically pointing out, that though human/bear encounters are up this year in New Jersey, no person has been seriously injured, let alone killed, by a bear. Yet the state is planning on allowing hunters to kill hundreds of bears.
Politicians look to letters to the editor pages as barometers of public opinion. Let's get the public comment period started! Those in New York and Pennsylvania might want to share how they feel about the bear hunts in their own states.
The New York Times (a nationally distributed paper and therefore open to letters from anywhere) takes letters at email@example.com
The Record takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
The Philadelphia Inquirer takes letters at Inquirer.Letters@phillynews.com
ANTI PET CLONING OP-ED IN SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE -- 8/10/05
Jennifer Fearing, president of United Animal Nations, has a strong op-ed in the Wednesday August 10 San Francisco Chronicle. It is against dog cloning and headed, "Good grief, Snuppy." (Pg B9.)
She reminds us "that it can take more than 200 animals surgically impregnated to yield a single clone birth" and that "Along the way, in each of these grand experiments, these 200 animals are housed in laboratories and subjected to multiple invasive surgeries, to say nothing of the very few they actually give birth to -- clones whose lives are often short and painful."
She writes, "I don't know any pet lover who would willingly comply with a process that caused the pain and suffering of hundreds of animals to clone his or her favorite pet. Once people really understand that the odds are better than not that the clone will not act and possibly not even look like the animal they hope to replace, most are turned off."
The piece ends, "Don't be fooled by the cute photos. For every one of those kittens and puppies that they bring out into the light, there are hundreds more who suffered to make that photo op possible. The 'promise' of pet cloning isn't humane -- to either the animals or the humans involved. It is a consumer fraud and an animal welfare atrocity."
You can read the whole piece on line at: http://sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/chronicle/archive/2005/08/10/EDG9OE4U9I1.DTL
It presents a great opportunity for letters to the editor about human treatment of other animals. The San Francisco Chronicle takes letters at
email@example.com and advises "Please limit your letters to 200 or fewer words ... shorter letters have a better chance of being selected for publication."
Since pet cloning is currently being discusses in many papers, you might use some of the points from Fearing's article as a basis for letters to the editor in your local papers. If you have any trouble finding an email address for a letter to the editor, feel free to ask me for help. And I am always happy to edit letters.
NEW YORK TIMES ON ASTRAKHAN AND BROADTAIL FUR -- 8/11/05
A story headed, "The Lamb on the Runway" is on the front page of the G section of the Thursday, August 11, New York Times. It is by ERic Wilson. It discusses astrakhan, which is "a recently popularized name for an old-fashioned fur that in previous generations has been known as Persian lamb, karakul or in some cases broadtail." We learn that it is "one of the most important trends in the store for fall."
"For some customers, high prices and the fact that it is not a classic beauty may dampen the appeal of astrakhan, which comes from a sheep called the karakul, originally bred in central Asia and prized for its glossy, tightly curled coat at birth. But what the fashion industry is also about to discover is whether customers will balk once they understand the origins of this new-old fur, now at its highest visibility in years. Most astrakhan lambs, according to the fur industry, are killed within days or weeks of their birth because as they age, the quality of their wool quickly changes from tightly curled rows to a more coarse and wiry pelt. And some examples, called broadtail, often considered the most desirable, are the skins of unborn lambs."
Broadtail coats can cost $45,000.
It is a long article, which you can read on line at: http://tinyurl.com/bsgfc
It gives us a great opportunity for letters to the editor on various aspects of the way humans treat other species, or about the encouraging boom in great looking humane fashion. Please write. The New York Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
GUARDIAN (UK) FRONT PAGE ON MEAT GROWN IN PETRI DISH -- 8/13/05
There is a fascinating story on the front page of the Saturday, August 13, Guardian (UK) headed, "When meat is not murder. Would you eat this steak if it had been grown in a petri dish?"
"It is the ultimate conundrum for vegetarians who think that meat is murder: a revolution in processed food that will see fresh meat grown from animal cells without a single cow, sheep or pig being killed.
"Researchers have published details in a biotechnology journal describing a new technique which they hailed as the answer to the world's food shortage. Lumps of meat would be cultured in laboratory vats rather than carved from livestock reared on a farm.
"Scientists have adapted the cutting-edge medical technique of tissue engineering, where individual cells are multiplied into whole tissues, and applied them to food production. 'With a single cell, you could theoretically produce the world's annual meat supply,' said Jason Matheny, an agricultural scientist at the University of Maryland.
"According to researchers, meat grown in laboratories would be more environmentally friendly and could be tailored to be healthier than farm-reared meat by controlling its nutrient content and screening it for food-borne diseases.
"Vegetarians might also be tempted because the cells needed to grow chunks of meat can be taken without harming the donor animal."
You can read the whole article on line at:
Many studies have shown that vegetarians and vegans are healthier than those who live on standard Western diets. But people who eat meat only occasionally are similarly healthy. For those of who eschew meat largely because of the cruelty issue, this new development might be of interest. It could be ethically sound, overcoming issues of animal cruelty and environmental destruction, and possibly combating human starvation.
No matter how you feel about it, the front page story gives us a great opportunity for letters to the editor condemning factory farming. Or you might want to write on the joys of plant based diet.
The Guardian takes letters at email@example.com and advises, "We do not publish letters where only an email address is supplied; please include a full postal address and a reference to the relevant article. If you do not want your email address published, please say so. We may edit letters."
OP-ED IN LOS ANGELES TIMES (KAREN DAWN) -- "GOT MILK? YOU'VE GOT PROBLEMS" 8/13/05
I have an op-ed in the Saturday, August 13, Los Angeles Times. I will paste it below. No doubt the paper will receive letters from the dairy industry about how wonderfully dairy cows are treated and how important cows' milk is for human diets. They will probably publish some, for balance, so I encourage you to send letters in favor of plant based diets -- if they receive many of those they will probably publish one or two. Supporting letters will keep the discussion alive in the paper and will encourage publication of more animal friendly pieces.
You may want to express appreciation to the Times for publishing the piece questioning cows' milk, and expand on any one of the points made in it. Or come up with your own, perhaps sharing your experiences with milk free diets.
Those less familiar with the topic might look at PETA's site www.milksucks.com , which has loads of information on the animal cruelty, environmental, and human health issues around cows' milk consumption. And the Physician's Committee for Responsible Medicine has a great fact sheet, the "Parents' Guide to Building Better Bones," which includes a long list of calicium rich foods. It is on line at: http://www.pcrm.org/health/prevmed/building_bones.html
The Los Angeles Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org . Always include your full name, address and day time phone number when sending a letter to the editor.
Here is the op-ed, available on line at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/commentary/la-oe-dawn13aug13,0,4920117.story :
Los Angeles Times
August 13, 2005
Part B; Pg. 19
Got milk? You've got problems
KAREN DAWN runs the animal advocacy media watch DawnWatch.com and is a contributor to "In Defense of Animals: The Second Wave" (Blackwell Publishing, 2005).
DAIRY COWS have overtaken automobiles as the No. 1 air polluter in parts of California, according to a Los Angeles Times article. A New York Times editorial discussed "the eye-stinging, nose-burning smell of cattle congestion in rural California," acknowledging that something had to be done. What nobody wants to say, in this land of milk and cookies, is that we shouldn't be drinking cow's milk.
In the last edition of his "Baby and Child Care" bible, Dr. Benjamin Spock made it clear that cow's milk is for baby cows, not for human children. He wrote that it was "too rich in the saturated fats that cause artery blockages" and that it "slows down iron absorption." He suggested that it may cause ear and/or respiratory problems, and may be linked to childhood onset diabetes. He stressed that infants should drink only human breast milk and older children should try soy and rice milk products.
But the dairy industry would rather you didn't know that. As it spends millions of dollars telling us that milk consumption will help us lose weight, it would rather we didn't see a study published in the June issue of the Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine. The study found that children who drink more than three servings of milk daily are prone to becoming overweight, even if it is low-fat milk. Neither does the industry advertise the Harvard School of Public Health finding that 15% of whites, 70% of African Americans and 90% of Asians are lactose intolerant.
The dairy industry prefers to scare us with tales of brittle bones, hoping we don't notice studies showing that people in Asia, who consume almost no dairy products, have a significantly lower rate of hip fractures than people in "got milk?" America. Consistent with those results is Harvard University's 1997 Nurses Health Study, which followed 78,000 women over a 12-year period and found that those who consumed the most dairy foods broke the most bones.
And a study published just this month in the International Journal of Cancer found a 13% increase in ovarian cancer risk in women who increased their lactose intake in amounts equivalent to one glass of milk per day.
Men don't need milk either. A Harvard study published in 1998 linked high calcium consumption to prostate cancer, and in this week's news, we learned that Dean Ornish's low-fat, vegan diet (no dairy) may block the progression of that disease. While touting its products as a fundamental part of a healthy diet, the dairy industry won't rush to tell us that Scott Jurek, who just won the Western States 100-mile run -- for the seventh time in a row -- is vegan.
Now, we learn that the dairy industry may also be harming our children by polluting the air. The Times article quoted an attorney for the Center on Race, Poverty & the Environment, who said that in Fresno, in the center of the nation's dairy industry, one in six children carries an inhaler to school.
Instead of protecting us, the government aligns itself with the dairy lobby. The California Milk Advisory Board, a government agency, playfully took advantage of society's increasing concern for animal welfare with its phenomenally successful "happy cows" campaign, which shows extended bovine families grazing in meadows.
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals sued the board for false advertising, arguing that most California dairy cows live miserable lives on overcrowded dirt lots. They are artificially inseminated annually, because they don't produce milk without pregnancies, and are pumped full of hormones so that they will give 10 times as much milk as they would naturally. Their calves are carted off to veal crates. Then at about age 5, the "happy" cows are turned into hamburgers. PETA's suit failed -- on the grounds that government bodies are exempt from fair advertising laws. Government is free to say whatever it wants about the conditions in which cows live, or about the "health benefits" of milk.
Unfortunately, the government is unlikely to start running ads suggesting we follow Asia's lead and switch to tofu, or even kale, though both have more calcium per cup than cow's milk. But for your health, the environment, the animals, and for those kids in Fresno carrying inhalers, why not change your next Starbucks low-fat latte order to soy?
TERRIFIC ATLANTIC MONTHLY ARTICLE ON ANIMAL RIGHTS - "IF PIGS COULD SWIM' -- September edition
The Book section of the September edition of the prestigious "Atlantic Monthly" has a wonderful article headed, "If Pigs Could Swim. Why our farm animals would be better off on the other side of the Atlantic" by B.R. Myers. (Page 134.) Myers looks at two recent books dealing with animal issues: "Animal Rights" by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum, editors, and "Animals in Translation" by Temple Grandin and Catherine Johnson.
The first few paragraphs are available on line at http://www.theatlantic.com/doc/prem/200509/myers and I will paste them below. The segment ends with one of my favorite lines in the piece -- a reference to the Ringling Brothers "miserable menagerie."
Here are the opening paragraphs:
"George Orwell once wrote that the Spanish are cruel to animals, but he added, "such things don't matter." Over the years the second generalization has probably startled more readers than the first. Whether or not Kant was right that hardness to animals causes hardness to people, we tend to think the two go together, and no one wants a matador for a babysitter. But among the eloquent essays compiled by Cass Sunstein and Martha Nussbaum in the new book Animal Rights is one by Richard A. Posner, an advocate of "humancentricity," who asks, "Are the Spanish, who watch bullfights in which the bull is killed, more violent toward each other … than Americans, who do not watch bullfights at all? I don't think so."
"I don't think so either, but Posner's point rests on the assumption that because we don't watch bullfights, we are kinder to animals than the Spanish, and this is nonsense; the number of Americans who kill animals for pleasure would fill every bullring in Spain several times over. The 25 million or so people in question prefer to describe themselves as hunting, but there is often little of that involved. As the Los Angeles Times wrote with approval last summer, Californians who enjoy decimating flocks of doves "simply park the pickup or SUV next to a field, unfold a chair, pop the ice chest and let it rip." Then there's baiting bears and shooting them at close range, frequently in the back, a custom that the citizens of Maine recently voted to preserve. It is obvious that the real attraction of these "sports" is the thrill of the kill, and the more honest devotees come right out and say so. ("An excitement just rushes through your body," a high school homecoming queen in Louisiana told a reporter last year, "when you see a squirrel and you say, 'I've got to shoot it.'") If one adds the many fans of circuses, rodeos, cockfights, dogfights, and other American spectacles in which animals are tormented or killed, the total would probably fill Spain itself. Judging from the T-shirts and postcards sold at highway rest stops, some of us are even tickled by the sight of wildlife hit by cars. (For a while there, Kraft was selling "road kill" candy animals, complete with tread marks.) Anyone who thinks this is all just redneck culture should look around the bleachers the next time Ringling Brothers drags its miserable menagerie into New York City."
The article discusses with appreciation much of Grandin's work, particularly its main thrust, "that life cannot be classified in terms of a simple neurological ladder, with human beings at the top; it is more accurate to talk of different forms of intelligence, each with its strengths and weaknesses." Myers writes, "This point was well demonstrated in the minutes before last December's tsunami, when tourists grabbed their digital cameras and ran after the ebbing surf, and all the 'dumb' animals made for the hills."
But Myers slams Grandin for her acceptance of various factory farming practices, and the use of euphemisms such as "ranchers" to describe those who own factory farms.
The article is rich and compelling. It compares the abuse of power at Pilgrims' Pride, where workers threw live chickens against walls, to that at Abu Ghraib. (Note: Peter Singer and I wrote an op-ed for the Los Angeles Times in which we made that comparison. You can read it on my website at: http://www.dawnwatch.com/oped-july25-2004.htm ) And Myers's pieces discusses the treatment of livestock in the US, as compared to other nations, and tells us that "America is no place to be born an animal."
The whole piece is not available on line except to subscribers. You have to buy the magazine, at the newsstand or on line, to read it. I recommend it. And I urge people to send supportive letters to the editor. The Atlantic takes letters at: http://www.theatlantic.com/letters/edlet.htm
DES MOINES REGISTER FRONT PAGE ON GREAT APES IN SHOW BUSINESS --8/15/05
There is a front page story in the Monday, August 15, Des Moines Register, headed "Use of apes in ads worries scientists; Ape Trust's Shumaker thinks 'some kind of abuse' is inevitable."
"Scientists at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa have teamed with colleagues at several major zoos to oppose the use of apes and monkeys in advertisements and entertainment, because they say the animals often are abused.
"Animal welfare groups have documented apes being shocked with prods and beaten with broom handles, tire irons, fists and hammers. For years, they have fought to expose and stop abuse. Now, with a growing contingent of scientists fighting the same battle, the issue is getting more attention.
"'Many animals are kept in disastrous conditions,' said Philippe Cousteau, president of EarthEcho International, a nonprofit conservation group. 'It definitely elevates the debate to have respected scientists involved.'
The article discusses the popularity of apes in television advertising. Those who provide the animals say they are trained with positive reinforcement.
Robert Shumaker, director of orangutan research at the Great Ape Trust of Iowa says that though young apes may not always be beaten, "in those cases, the apes typically were taken away from their mothers as infants -an experience he describes as emotionally and psychologically damaging. Those who take young apes from the wild often shoot the protective mothers..."
The article then tells us "As entertainment apes get older and more defiant, many are beaten, shocked, castrated or forced to have teeth pulled by private owners determined to make money as the apes perform on demand, Shumaker added. 'The abuse comes when no one is looking,' Shumaker said. And that ape smile that so often graces the silver screen? 'It's not a smile,' he said. 'It's a fear grimace.'
"When older apes stop performing, they are often sent to substandard, unaccredited zoos, he said."
The article refers to Jane Goodall and a coalition of researchers called the Chimpanzee Collaboratory. You can find out more about that group at http://www.chimpcollaboratory.org/ and watch a terrific short film on the group's website at: http://www.chimpcollaboratory.org/news/movie.asp
You can read the full Des Moines Register article on line at:
The front page story provides a great opportunity against the use of wild animals for human entertainment. The Register takes letters at:
SLATE MAGAZINE HOME PAGE ARTICLE ON PETA'S ANIMAL SLAVERY CAMPAIGN - 8/18/05
The home page of Slate Magazine ( www.Slate.com ) has a picture of penned pigs and the headline, "Are animals our slaves? What's wrong with PETA's new ad campaign?" Inside, the article, at http://www.slate.com/id/2124601/nav/tap1/ is headed, "KKK vs KFC. The difference between blacks and animals."
The article, by William Saletan, opens:
"Do animals deserve the same respect as black people?
"That's the question posed in an online exhibit by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The exhibit pairs a slave auction with a cattle auction, two hanging black men with a hanging steer, herded Native Americans with herded cattle, a burning black man with a burning chicken, a shackled black ankle with a chained elephant hoof, and a pygmy in a zoo with a monkey in a dress."
"The introduction ( http://www.peta.org/AnimalLiberation/ ) includes a quote from Alice Walker that says animals "were not made for humans any more than black people were made for whites."
Saletan calls himself an "animal rights sympathizer." He writes, however, that the PETA exhibit gets it wrong because it suggests that the powerful exploit the powerless, whereas Saletan contends "Abuses of blacks, Native Americans, and women were products of a belief in subordinating the inferior, not the powerless. We learned to respect others not for their disabilities but for their abilities. That's why we'll come around eventually—and only partially—to animal rights."
He writes that "ability was a more salient consideration than guilt or weakness" as whites came to "accept racial equality." He attempts to support his argument by citing "Racial Attitudes in America," a study published by Harvard University Press, which reported, "Data collected by the National Opinion Research Center … indicate that more than half of the white population surveyed in 1942 assumed that blacks were less intelligent than whites." He writes that as that assumption was discredited, "Whites began to see blacks as peers." But his argument seems contradictory since human slavery was abolished in America two hundred years ago, when over half the white population still assumed that blacks were less intelligent.
Though surely studies displaying our similarity to other animals are helpful, Saletan does not convincingly support his argument that animal rights will come as a result of those studies (which he lists and provides hyperlinks to articles about). I find more compelling the argument put forward most eloquently in Matthew Scully's book, "Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy." It holds that we must appeal to the trait of mercy, which assumes that the powerful are granting something to the powerless, if we wish to see real change.
Saletan notes that the exhibit has "upset some people." Having lost family members in the Holocaust, yet having not been offended by PETA's "Holocaust on your plate Campaign," it would be disingenuous for me to pretend to empathize with those who are offended by the suggestion that the way they treat animals (or support animals being treated with their food or entertainment choices) is comparable to the way their forefathers were treated. The campaign doesn't even say the crimes are equal -- it just compares human and animal slavery and says both are wrong, which PETA has the right to say. I can't help wondering if many of those protesting most loudly would like to keep eating innocent creatures for dinner every night, no matter how the animals are treated, or taking their kids out for traditional family entertainment, without having to face comparisons to behaviors that society has agreed are wrong.
But no matter what one thinks of the comparison, or the wisdom of making it publicly, it opens the door for a discussion of the way human society treats other animals. The animals need us to grab every opportunity to speak on their behalf. So I urge people, when they see this issue in their local papers, to write letters, either supporting or slamming the exhibit, but calling for a revolutionary change in the way nonhumans are treated by human society.
Don't hesitate to ask me for help if you have any trouble finding the right email address for a letter to your editor. And I am always happy to edit letters. Always include your full name, address and telephone number when sending a letter to the editor.
Also, Slate Magazine has a discussion board about the article -- a good opportunity to speak up for the animals. It is at:
NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL ON DAIRY FARM POLLUTION -- Friday, August 19
In response to a three million gallon manure spill from a dairy farm, the Friday, August 19, New York Times includes an editorial (the newspaper's official editorial opinion) headed "How to Poison a River." (Pg A 18.)
It is available on line at http://www.nytimes.com/2005/08/19/opinion/19fri3.html, and I will paste it below. It argues strongly for regulations on mega-dairies and other animal confinement operations, to prevent further environmental disasters. It provides the perfect opportunity for letters to the editor discussing what those operations mean for the animals. You might question America's mass consumption of animal products and sing the praises of plant based eating.
www.FactoryFarming.com is a great resource for information on the treatment of animals on factory farms.
The New York Times takes letters 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.
Here is the New York Times piece:
How to Poison a River
New York is increasingly a state of mega-dairies, and when things go wrong with such operations, they go wrong in a mega-way. The Marks Farm near Lowville, N.Y., has a herd of some 3,000 dairy cows. Their milk is trucked away regularly, but their liquefied manure is stored in a reservoir with earthen walls. How much manure? Before Aug. 11, the reservoir at the Marks Farm contained some three million gallons. Sometime in the next day, one of the walls blew out and released most of that waste into the Black River, a popular fishing stream and a water source for towns downstream. In case you have trouble visualizing it, three million gallons of liquid manure is roughly equivalent to the water in six Olympic-size swimming pools.
The result has been a major fish kill and the loss - at least temporarily - of all recreation on the river. The mess has been gradually diluted and will finally make its way into Lake Ontario, where it will do the fish there no good.
With any luck, what this spill will leave behind is a resolve to place new limits on concentrated animal feeding operations - as these mega-farms are known - in New York. As always, advocates of industrial farming argue that the increase in the number of large dairies and the inevitable loss of small ones are just a result of market forces and economic efficiency. But this has always been nonsense.
Mega-dairies, like huge hog confinement operations, are all too often forced upon local communities against their will. Some New York towns have tried to restrict the expansion of industrial farms nearby. But whenever that happens, the State Department of Agriculture and Markets has sued, or threatened to sue, under the state's Right to Farm Law.
That law made sense when farms were smaller and incapable of causing serious air pollution or a manure spill of massive proportions. Farmers still need to be protected against frivolous lawsuits, but the state needs to get out of the business of forcing industrial farms on communities that don't want them. And when farms operate at the scale of Marks Farm, they need to meet far stricter environmental standards than currently prevail. This disaster should never have had a chance to happen.
USA TODAY ON SWIMMING WITH CAPTIVE DOLPHINS -- 8/19/05
The Friday, August 19, edition of the national newspaper USA Today has a story on the cover of the "Life" section (Pg 1D) headed "Dolphin swims: 'Disney-fication of wildlife'?"
It is on line at http://www.usatoday.com/travel/destinations/2005-08-18-dolphin-swims_x.htm and it is short, so I will paste it below. It gives us a great opportunity for letters against the use of wild animals for human entertainment. A terrific resource, which includes horrifying accounts of the capture, during mass slaughter, of dolphins for the marine mammal industry, is Ric O'Barry's website http://www.dolphinproject.org/
USA Today takes letters at http://asp.usatoday.com/marketing/feedback/feedback-online.aspx?type=18
Here is the article:
Dolphin swims: 'Disney-fication of wildlife'?
By Laura Bly, USA TODAY
CruiseMates.com editor Anne Campbell's dolphin epiphany came during a cruise-ship stop in Cozumel, Mexico.
Treading water? Programs that allow people to swim with dolphins have come under criticism.
Gannett Photo Network
"I wandered from my beach spot to the Dolphin Encounter and stopped in my tracks," she recalled in a recent newsletter. "These highly intelligent, beautiful mammals were in cages as they pulled tourists through a small area of water." She returned as the park was closing: "Tears filled my eyes as I saw one dolphin, his head raised above water, staring out to sea, held back by a link fence."
The reaction of travelers like Campbell notwithstanding, human-Flipper interactions are popular at cruise ports in Mexico, the Bahamas, Bermuda and the Caribbean. Nearly 20 programs operate there, and another dozen are being planned, says Susan Sherwin of the World Society for the Protection of Animals.
At least 18 U.S. facilities offer swim or wade programs with captive dolphins, up from four a decade ago.
And in a Harris opinion poll in March, 72% of respondents said they would be interested in swimming with dolphins in a "safe and legal environment" at a park or zoo.
But now, some travel purveyors are cutting back on dolphin programs.
In July, citing a new campaign by the World Society for the Protection of Animals, Radisson Seven Seas Cruises announced it would no longer offer dolphin-encounter shore excursions. "We learned that what we thought were natural environments really weren't," says Radisson's Darius Mehta.
Costa Rica last month banned swims with wild dolphins and prohibits dolphin captivity except for temporary rehabilitation — the first Caribbean country to do so.
Though no firms there offer captive-dolphin encounters, at least 25 operators advertise swims with dolphins or whales, says Priscilla Cubero-Pardo of PROMAR, a non-profit group that proposed the legislation.
Responsible interactive programs foster a connection that inspires participants to care about conserving wild dolphins and their habitats, argues Marilee Menard, executive director of the Alliance of Marine Mammal Parks and Aquariums.
But Naomi Rose, marine mammal scientist with the Humane Society of the United States, says the industry's unchecked growth and dearth of regulations has led to widespread abuse and contributed to the "Disney-fication of wildlife."
CONTRA COSTA TIMES ON HEN FARMING AND RESCUE --8/19/05
There is a terrific story on the front page of the Friday August 19 Contra Costa Times (Pg F4 in some editions) headed, "Rushing to Rescue Homeless Hens. Groups save chickens, offer them for adoption."
It opens with a vivid picture of standard egg farming:
"You first notice the smell when you walk into the huge warehouse housing a commercial egg farm in Gilroy. It's awful.
"About 160,000 white leghorn hens fill a building roughly the length of two football fields. They have been debeaked, their beaks cut in half, so they can't peck each other.
"They are crammed in tiny wire cages, five to seven to a cage, squeezed so tightly together they can barely move, so they just pile on top of one another.
"This is standard California egg farm operation as seen by a group that arrived Thursday to save some of the birds after the sale of the farm.
"No one cleans the birds. Their cages sit on metal racks with three levels. They defecate through the wire bottoms of the cages onto the birds beneath them.
"The chickens in the top level cages are white. The birds on the next level are dirty brown, and the birds on the bottom level are absolutely filthy. Dried feces fills the air in gray clouds whenever they move.
"The place is fully automated. Food is on a narrow belt that moves through a trough in front of the cages. Eggs roll down the slanted bottoms of the cages and land on another moving belt. Dim bulbs hang amid six-foot-long prehistoric streamers of dirty gray cobwebs.
"Capt. Cindy Machado, animal services director at the Marin Humane Society was taking hens from cages to load in a large horse trailer.
"'If people saw this, they'd never eat a single egg again,' she said.
"At 11 a.m. Thursday, a caravan of personal vehicles from Animal Place in Vacaville and animal control trucks from the Marin Humane Society in Novato descended on the commercial egg farm. Their job was to rescue a few of the hens, clean them up physically and mentally, and find them homes in the real world.
"Kim Sturla, executive director of Animal Place, a nonprofit organization that rescues farm animals, says egg production starts to drop when laying hens are between 11/2 and 2 years of age. The birds at the Gilroy farm are 18 months old and Sturla had learned the owner was preparing to send the whole lot to slaughter and then move his operation to a new area.
"A few months ago she persuaded the egg farm owner to let her take some of the hens and find them homes. And then the fun began.
"On Aug. 14, Animal Place staffers and volunteers rescued about 700 hens. They kept some and placed the others with the Marin Humane Society and Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA in San Mateo. The groups offered the chickens for adoption."
The public response was terrific so the rescuers came back for more. The article describes birds learning to perch and feeling sun on their backs for the first time. It is accompanied in the paper and on the website by photos of hens in horrible condition being shipped off to slaughter and others being rescued. You can see the photos and read the full article at http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/email/news/12423233.htm
The article ends by telling us "How to Adopt a Hen":
If you'd like to help by adopting a hen (or hens), contact one of these organizations:
Animal Place, Vacaville, 707-449-4814; www.animalplace.org
Marin Humane Society, Novato, 415-883-4621; www.marinhumanesociety.org
Sacramento SPCA, Sacramento, 916-383-7387; www.sspca.org
The story presents a great opportunity for letters against factory farming and in favor of plant based diets. The paper takes letters at http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctimes/news/editorial/letters or firstname.lastname@example.org
LOS ANGELES TIMES EDITORIAL SUPPORTS ANTI COCKFIGHTING BILL -- 8/19/05
The Friday, August 19, Los Angeles Times includes an editorial (the newspaper's official editorial opinion) in favor of a bill that would make a repeat violation of laws against cockfighting punishable as a felony or misdemeanor, at the discretion of a judge. Cockfighting is currently a misdemeanor. The piece is on line at http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-fight19aug19,0,1145490.story and I will paste it below. It presents a great opportunity for appreciative letters to the editor that discuss any aspect of how humans treat other animals. You may wish to discuss the use of animals in abusive "sports," or you might use the piece as a jump off point for letters about the factory farming of chickens.
The Los Angeles Times takes letters 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.
Also, you can find out more about the bill, and send a supporting letter to your legislators at
Here is the editorial (Pg B12):
More than a slap on the wrist
August 19, 2005
Nearly 1,500 fighting roosters, along with 109 slasher knives meant to be attached to their legs, were seized in a bust of a cockfighting ring in Escondido this spring. In Fiddletown in May, a spectator at another cockfight raid dropped $4,000 in cash as he attempted to flee the scene. A list of similar occurrences provided by the Humane Society runs on for four pages, and it's just a sample of incidents.
Cockfighting, and gambling on the "sport," have long been illegal in California. But light penalties provide little or no deterrent. That can be corrected to a degree by a bill from state Sen. Nell Soto (D-Pomona).
The measure, now being held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee, would make a repeat violation of laws against cockfighting punishable as either a misdemeanor or a felony, at the discretion of a judge. At present, it's always treated as a misdemeanor. A felony conviction could carry a sentence of up to one year in jail and a fine of $25,000.
Even better would be to make a first offense a felony, but the California Attorneys for Criminal Justice argued that would put cockfighting entrepreneurs at risk of a life sentence under California's three-strikes law. A Senate staff analysis of the bill said, "The opposition argues that cockfighting is culturally ingrained in many immigrant communities and that they do not realize it is a serious offense."
The arguments from opponents are weak. The Humane Society, sponsor of the bill, is correct in arguing that organizers of cockfighting rings are willing to try their luck with law enforcement agencies largely because the penalty is so light. Surely the word would get around quickly if sentences were stiffened.
Cockfighting is often associated with drug trafficking, illegal guns and even homicides, the Humane Society said, demonstrating "the undeniable social costs of tolerating the practice in California." Not to mention the inhumane treatment of the fighting roosters, which are put inside a ring with knives on their legs to battle until one or both are killed. Betting on the outcome is hardly sport.
OP-ED BY PETER SINGER ON ANIMAL WELFARE IN BOSTON GLOBE -- 8/20/05
The Saturday, August 20, Boston Globe includes an op-ed by Peter Singer (Princeton professor and author of "Animal Liberation") that examines animal welfare laws in the United States as compared to other countries. It is available on line at
http://www.boston.com/news/globe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2005/08/20/un_american_about_animals/ and I will paste it below.
It should be an eye-opener for some of our friends and family who are under the impression that US farm animals are protected from cruelty, and it provides a great opportunity for pro-veggie letters to the editor. The Boston Globe takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
Always include your full name, address, and daytime phone when sending a letter to the editor.
Here is the op-ed:
Un-American about animals
By Peter Singer | August 20, 2005
WHAT COUNTRY has the most advanced animal protection legislation in the world? If you guessed the United States, go to the bottom of the class. The United States lags far behind all 25 nations of the European Union, and most other developed nations as well, such as Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand and Canada. To gauge just how far behind the United States is, consider these three facts:
Around 10 billion farm animals are killed every year by US meat, egg, and dairy industries; the estimated number of animals killed for research every year is 20 million to 30 million, a mere 0.3 of that number.
In the United States, there is no federal law governing the welfare of animals on the farm. Federal law begins only at the slaughterhouse.
Most states with major animal industries have written into their anticruelty laws exemptions for ''common farming practices." If something is a common farming practice, it is, according to these states, not cruel, and you can't prosecute anyone for doing it.
Together these last two points mean that any common farming practice is legal. If you hear farm industry lobbyists trying to tell you that there is no problem in the United States because unhappy animals would not be productive, ask them how it can be good for a hen to be kept with four or five other hens in a cage so small she couldn't stretch her wings even if she had the whole cage to herself.
To measure how far ahead other countries are, we can first look at British animal protection legislation. British law makes it illegal to keep breeding sows in crates that prevent them from walking or turning around -- the way in which about four out of every five US sows are kept. In Britain, law does not allow veal calves to be denied adequate roughage and iron, as is common in the United States to help produce the gourmet veal often served in restaurants.
Nevertheless, it is not Britain but Austria that has the most advanced animal protection legislation. In May 2004, a proposed law banning the chicken ''battery cage" was put to a vote in the Austrian Parliament. It passed -- without a single member of Parliament opposing it. Austria has banned fur farming and prohibited the use of wild animals in circuses. It has also made it illegal to trade in living cats and dogs in stores and deems killing an animal for no good reason a criminal offense. Most important, every Austrian province must appoint an ''animal lawyer" who can initiate court procedures on behalf of animals.
Why are Europeans so far ahead of Americans in protecting animal welfare? I doubt that it is because Americans are more tolerant of cruelty. In 2002, when the citizens of Florida were given a chance to vote on whether sows should be confined for months without ever having room to turn around, they voted, by a clear majority, to ban sow crates. Most Americans, though, have never had the chance to cast that vote. The animal movement in the United States has not succeeded in turning animal rights into electoral issues about which voters seek their candidates' views.
As a result, the American animal movement has shifted toward targeting corporations rather than the legislatures. For example, in 2001, the organization Viva! launched a campaign accusing Whole Foods of selling inhumanely raised duck meat. Whole Foods responded by exploring the issue and setting new companywide standards for raising ducks.
Other sets of standards will follow by 2008, Whole Foods plans to have in place a set of standards for all the species of farm animals it sells. By addressing an individual corporation, animal rights activists are hoping that other retailers will follow suit and this pressure will influence legislation changes in the United States.
Judged by the standards of other developed countries, over recent decades the United States has done little to improve the protection of the vast majority of animals. We should direct our energies to reducing the suffering of farm animals and put pressure on our corporations and our legislatures, both state and federal, to bring the United States at least up to the standards of the European Union in our treatment of animals.
LOS ANGELES TIMES editorial against PETA display and Common Dreams in support 8/22/05
The Monday, August 22, Los Angeles Times includes an editorial (the newspaper's official editorial opinion) about PETA's animal liberation display, which compares human and animal slavery and abuse. PETA launches campaigns that the general public (and some animal advocates) finds outrageous in order to generate discussion of issues that are otherwise largely ignored. The Los Angeles Times discussion has opened with the editorial staff's condemnation of the campaign. PETA's controversial "Holocaust on your Plate" campaign resulted in a groundbreaking op-ed and then a page of letters in the Los Angeles Times (April 2003) discussing whether or not one should compare human and nonhuman holocausts. (Interestingly, later that month, the Los Angeles Times put a huge story about factory farming and slaughter -- "Killing Them Softly" April 29 -- on its front page.) Hopefully the current campaign will generate similar discussion, and draw attention to the oppression of nonhuman anim
The Los Angeles Time piece is available in the Times on page B10, on line at
http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/editorials/la-ed-peta22aug22,0,2115846.story and I will paste it below.
I also wish to point people to a defense of the campaign, penned by Andrew Christie, which was posted on the "Common Dreams" website on Friday, August 19.
Christie discusses the PETA campaign, then makes reference to the despicable Carl's Jr. advertisement currently on television, which shows us a beautiful live chicken and tells us that the only thing she is good for is being eaten.
On PETA's campaign, Christie comments:
"PETA got it wrong in New Haven in only one respect: Animals are not 'the new slaves.' They're the first ones. They're the ones who got the worst a dominator culture had to offer, and the worst has lately gotten much worse, as a quick tour through a Confined Animal Feeding Operation will demonstrate to anyone in possession of two or three of his senses and lacking a vested interest in the company's quarterly profit statement."
He finishes his piece with a quote from Howard Zinn about and the tendency of the disenfranchised to fall upon each other "with such vehemence and violence as to obscure their common position as sharers of leftovers in a very wealthy country."
"Thus the good people of New Haven recoil, the NAACP shouts at PETA, and the pundits trot out safe, predictable outrage, using generations of conditioning to studiously miss the point. It's a fight amongst ourselves on a deeper level than usual. It misses not only the fact of our increasing disenfranchisement but the dysfunctional ways in which the disproportionately distributed wealth is produced by a system that is impoverishing the Earth and our ethical sense alike. One of that system's most fundamental control measures persuades people that in their visceral rejection of the truth PETA is laying down, they are standing up for their dignity and humanity, when, in reality, they are defending a system in which commonality of suffering is not on the agenda, the members of only a single species have any right to life, liberty and freedom from harm, a chicken is of value only as a sandwich, and the idea that a chicken might be of value to the chicken is an idea that must not be
Christie's piece, which is available on line at http://www.commondreams.org/cgi-bin/print.cgi?file=/views05/0819-25.htm is worth reading, before responding to the Los Angeles Times comment on PETA's campaign.
Here is the Los Angeles Times editorial:
PETA's crude analogies
August 22, 2005
WE ALL HAVE HEARD of comparing apples to oranges, but is the burning alive of a black man equal to the burning of a chicken? People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals would have you think so.
Known for its provocative ads, PETA has created yet another firestorm; this time exhibiting scenes of some historic atrocities and comparing them to images of animal abuse (www.peta.org/AnimalLiberation/display.asp).
The online exhibit, which accuses a "human dominated society" of tyranny over "powerless animals," uses imagery and words to compare lynchings of blacks in the South to the hanging of cows, the Native American Trail of Tears to modern-day cattle herding, as well as forced labor of children to that of caged chickens in chicken farms. The site also employs quotes from Alice Walker, Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. to reinforce these crude analogies.
We understand the need of groups such as PETA to shock society out of what it considers to be widespread indifference to a moral wrong. But this insulting and shrill approach, while guaranteed to garner PETA attention, does its cause a disservice. PETA already had to apologize this year for making an inappropriate Nazi analogy — a common pitfall of demagogues — when it compared the plight of factory animals to the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust. Another apology may not be far behind. PETA is now "rethinking" its campaign, putting on hold a tour of the art scheduled for 17 cities.
What is especially insulting about PETA's campaign is the heinous historical pedigree of comparisons between slaves and animals. The argument that blacks and Native Americans were inferior animal-like beings was one of the justifications behind human enslavement and forced labor.
If it wants to be more effective at getting its message across, PETA will have to embrace a second meaning for its acronym — People for the Ethical Treatment of Analogies.
(END OF EDITORIAL)
Discussion on various animal advocacy lists tells us that some advocates support the PETA campaign, and some condemn it, feeling it is wrong to make our point on the backs of humans who have suffered so much in this country, and whose suffering is still unresolved. With the Los Angeles Times having written this searing condemnation, I hope those who support the campaign will keep the discussion going by voicing their support with letters to the editor, perhaps pointing out what the editorial misses: It is because of society's "heinous" acceptance of animal slavery that when a group is portrayed as "animal-like," the comparison can be used as "a justification behind human enslavement and forced labor." And letters should seize the opportunity to detail human society's treatment of other species.
The Los Angeles Times take letters at email@example.com
GRAVE-ROBBING SUCCEEDS IN CLOSING DOWN GUINEA PIG FARM -- 8/23/05
An article from the UK's Daily Telegraph (Tuesday, August 23) is headed, "Grave robbers force farm to stop breeding guinea pigs."
"Farmers breeding guinea pigs have said they will abandon the work in the hope that the remains of their grandmother dug up from a grave in Staffordshire will be returned.
"The Hall family, who run Darley Oaks Farm in Newchurch, have been targeted by animal rights activists during a six year campaign of intimidation.
"The body of Gladys Hammond has still not been returned
They have been breeding guinea pigs for biomedical research.
"In October 2004 grave robbers removed the remains of their 82-year-old grandmother, Gladys Hammond, from a churchyard in nearby Yoxall.
"Now the farm is to stop its work at the end of the year, a spokesman for the David Hall and Partners family-run business said today."
The article ends with a quote from Local Tory MP Michael Fabricant:
"Isn't it a tragedy that behaviour of that type apparently has succeeded in this country?"
You can read the whole piece on line at: http://news.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/08/23/ufarm.xml
No matter how one feels about the grave-robbing, we can probably all agree that it is indeed a tragedy that behavior of that type seems to have become necessary to bring about change. The story presents a perfect opportunity for letters on the need for a complete overhaul of the biomedical testing system. The Telegraph takes letters at: firstname.lastname@example.org
LOS ANGELES TIMES LENGTHY FRONT PAGE STORY ON CANINE UNDERGROUND RAILROAD 8/24/05
The front page of the Wednesday, August 24, Los Angeles Times has a superb article, that extends over three pages, headed "Riding the Underground Railroad." It follows the journey of Paddy, "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" from Tennessee, from where a rescuer closing down shop posted his photo on the Internet, to his new home in California. He changes hands many times on his 2,260 mile, 60 hour, drive across the country.
The article is written with tenderness -- I found myself almost moved to tears by the efforts of so many people to save one dog. But it asks the hard questions. For example, we meet Deanna Trietsch, 44, who "regularly gives last walks to strays about to be euthanized in public shelters, to 'make their last hours feel like they were loved,'" and who is part of the Paddy express. We read:
"Still, she found Paddy's odyssey a little puzzling. 'I do wonder why somebody in California would want to bring this dog all the way across the country. Quite frankly, I'm sure I could have found an animal I loved right here in Tennessee. Why wouldn't you search your local area? But they must've seen something in this pretty fella.' As she spoke, about 250 dogs needing homes were being housed at the shelter in Orange County. Most would end up euthanized."
And we read:
"Some animal welfare organizations question the need for the marathon relays, noting that people can easily adopt from nearby shelters. An estimated 3 million to 6 million cats and dogs are still euthanized nationally each year, according to the Humane Society of the United States. Those numbers are down from 20 years ago, when about 17 million stray dogs and cats were destroyed annually. The organizations worry that it is stressful for animals to be hauled long distances, and wonder who monitors them during their journeys and afterward."
The article tells us: "But transporters say there are many reasons for far-flung adoptions. People sometimes can't find a certain breed in their region, so they look farther afield. Finding homes for older or disabled animals can be difficult within a small range. And there are sharp regional disparities in the number of available pets."
Still, that hardly explains why people would devote such effort to bringing a "a mid-size, aging brown mutt" to a city that kills 60,000 dogs every year for lack of homes.
The story does not have a joyous ending. The woman who is choosing to import the mixed breed from the other end of the country seems strange. We read of Paddy's new home:
"The acrid smell of dog and cat urine cut through the night air. Inside, a frenetic chorus of barking and hissing came from behind a closed door. Three sick kittens with rheumy eyes lay curled up in a fleece basket. Paddy was joining Meddick's menagerie, which already included 26 animals in the 900-square-foot house and backyard, including a litter of puppies. Four dogs were stacked in crates covered with blankets. Meddick said she crates some of them when she is away on rescues and transports, which can take as long as 14 hours. The living room had little furniture or indoor lighting. Paddy squeezed himself into a narrow hiding place between the front door and a stack of boxes. Meddick lay down next to him and talked softly. Along with her unfamiliar non-Southern accent were the familiar sounds and smells of many animals in a confined space. 'It beats the alternative: being put to death at a shelter,' Meddick said. Within minutes of ending his transcontinental journey, Padd
y was in a crate, his eyes peering into the dark."
Those who had cared for Paddy in Tennessee and set him on his journey to his new home wrote and asked for pictures and information but his new caretaker feels his welfare is none of their business. They are left to wonder how much of his life Paddy spends, 2,000 miles out of their reach, in a crate.
The article brings home the importance of spay-neuter, with Annette Rauch of the Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine commenting:
"We have some areas of the country now where we've done enough spay and neutering that you really don't have surplus puppies and kittens. In other parts of the country, she says, things are grim."
And it includes some touching lines, such as those from a woman who "decided to work with animals rather than the elderly or children after consulting her Bible." In her words: "It said, 'The man who cares for his domestic animals is blessed. God gave man dominion over the animals.' So I said OK, I'm doing animals…. They are not masters of their fate; they're just floating along in the human deal."
You can read the whole, lengthy, article on line at http://www.latimes.com/news/local/la-me-roaddogs24aug24,0,1938520.story
It cries out for letters recommending a trip to your local shelter, and calling for spay-neuter legislation.
The Los Angeles Times takes letters at email@example.com
GUARDIAN OPINION PIECE COMPARES NEWCHURCH GUINEA PIG FARM TACTICS TO MANDELA -- 8/24/05
The Wednesday, August 24, Guardian (UK) includes an opinion piece that compares the "controlled violence" of the campaign against the Newchurch guinea pig farm with that of Nelson Mandela. (Pg 7.) It is available on line at http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1554931,00.html and I will paste it below.
You'll find numerous articles on the issue on the Guardian website linked from the following page: http://www.guardian.co.uk/animalrights/0,11917,687263,00.html
The discussion of the success of the Newchurch campaign is currently focused mostly on the controversial behavior of the activists -- what the general public and many activists consider to be anti-social behavior. Our letters can help guide the discussion back to the animals and what is happening to them in laboratories, often for trivial purposes. The Guardian takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org and advises, "We do not publish letters where only an email address is supplied; please include a full postal address and a reference to the relevant article. If you do not want your email address published, please say so. We may edit letters."
If you see the story in other papers, please write, not for the activists but for the animals. Don't hesitate to ask me for help if you have trouble finding an address for a letter to the editor.
Here's the Guardian Piece
Animal rights and wrongs
The campaign against the Newchurch guinea pig farm may have shocked, but Nelson Mandela would understand it
Wednesday August 24, 2005
No one, I think, would put the attempt to liberate the Newchurch guinea pigs on a par with the anti-apartheid campaign in South Africa. A few thousand - or even a few tens of thousands - of furry laboratory animals is not on the same scale as an entire repressed nation. But perhaps the two struggles are not as far apart as you think.
The Hall family's decision to close down their guinea-pigs-for-laboratories enterprise, and return to more traditional farming, is a result of terrorism. The family, and almost everyone they know, have been the target of sabotage, bomb hoaxes, hate mail, a paedophile smear campaign, malicious phone calls and arson attacks. Most appallingly, the body of Gladys Hammond, a Hall family relative, was dug up and her bones kidnapped. Electricity pylons have been blown up. There have been demos outside the farm every Sunday and Wednesday for the past five years.
All of these are clearly forms of terror, delivered by people who have thought, and probably rightly, that their campaign for the better treatment of the guinea pigs would not get anywhere if they used more polite, or less violent methods. The science and government establishments have been set against them and, to stay true to their ideals, they have had no alternative.
We all hate terrorists, but as a side-light on this nasty and bitter corner of modern life, it is interesting to read what Nelson Mandela, at his trial for violence and sabotage in October 1963, had to say about those crimes. This was the trial at which he was convicted and sent to Robben Island for life. He admitted quite freely that he was guilty of what he was accused of. "I do not deny that I planned sabotage," he told the court. "I did not plan it in a spirit of recklessness, nor because I have any love of violence. I planned it as a result of a calm and sober assessment of the political situation. Without violence there would be no way open to the African people to succeed in their struggle."
As a small armed wing of the ANC, Mandela had formed Umkhonto we Sizwe, meaning Spear of the Nation, because without such a channel, any violence would have been chaotic and far more destructive. The leaders of the ANC felt they had no other option. Mandela quoted Chief Lutuli, who had led the ANC in the 1950s: "Who will deny that 30 years of my life have been spent knocking in vain, patiently, moderately and modestly at a closed and barred door? What have been the fruits of moderation? The past 30 years have seen the greatest number of laws restricting our rights and progress, until today we have reached a stage where we have almost no rights at all."
It is largely forgotten now but Mandela received guerrilla training in Algeria. The notes he made from the lectures he attended there were produced in court. He studied Clausewitz, Mao Zedong and Che Guevara. He prepared himself, quite cold-headedly, as he told the court, for "guerrilla warfare. I wanted to be able to stand and fight with my people to share the hazards of war with them." It never came to that because he was caught and imprisoned before he could take up arms. The sabotage of government buildings and electricity pylons and setting up the training regimes for recruits was all he was responsible for.
There is, in this comparison, a problem of scale and, to be honest, of seriousness, but there is not a deep or very real distinction in principle. Mandela's term for his control of Umkhonto we Sizwe was "properly controlled violence". Seen simply in tactical and strategic terms, that phrase would be perfectly appropriate for the things that animal rights activists have been doing to the Halls, their friends, families, employees and neighbours. Digging up the body of Gladys Hammond - deeply shocking as it is - is nevertheless a very precisely calibrated act of terror. Not in moral but in these tactical terms, you could see it as a form of "properly controlled violence".
It may be in the future that the use of large numbers of animals to test drugs, for which the motivation is often commercial, not humanitarian, will come to seem outrageous and that the treatment of animals in our society will be thought of as one of our great blindspots. (Nothing new there: ducks in Tudor England had their feet nailed to the floor so that their flesh would not be coarsened by exercise.) If that does happen, then the campaign to close down the guinea pig sheds at Darley Oaks Farm will surely look like a violent, necessary and ugly step on the long march to freedom.
UK INDEPENDENT PIECE ON ANIMAL RIGHTS MILITANCY SLAMS VIVISECTION -- 8/3/0/05
This past week, UK front and editorial pages have been filled with news surrounding the announcement that a Newchurch farm that breeds guinea pigs for biomedical research is closing down. The announcement has come after a long campaign of harassment, which culminated in grave-robbing the remains of an old woman who was part of the farm owning family. The press around this incident has been overwhelmingly critical of the animal rights movement, with the phrase "animal rights terrorists" appearing in many headlines. That is one of the dangers of militant activity.
It may be that the gains, the suffering prevented and the lives spared, are matched or overrun by a loss of our movement's good image, which makes it more difficult to move our cause forward. But then it is hard to judge exactly how much our movement's good image helps the animals.
Every social justice movement has militants who are unpopular with the movement's mainstream and with the general public. My belief is that we have to accept that such will be the case with our movement, and that we must use, to the animals advantage, the way things are, rather than how we might wish them to be. Taking the "good cop bad cop" approach is one way to take advantage of the enormous amount of press around the Newchurch incident. For that reason I urge even those who disdain this type of activism to use the opportunity it provides -- the media spotlight on animal rights -- to have their voices heard on behalf of the animals. Letters or op-eds that disavow militant activism but still call for a change in the system can be just as useful, or more useful, than those that support militant activity. Such letters interfere with the animal exploiters' ability to paint all animal advocates with the same brush.
On August 24 The UK Guardian ran a piece that supported this kind of militant activism. You'll find it on line at http://www.guardian.co.uk/g2/story/0,,1554931,00.html.
On August 29 The Independent printed a piece that commented little on the activism but explored the motivation behind it -- the wasteful cruelty of animal testing. It is a perfect guide for letters to the editor that shift the focus away from the style of activism and onto the animal testing issue. I will paste it below. You can send supportive letters to the editor to The Independent at email@example.com .
The paper advises, "Note: If you wish to submit a letter for publication in the newspaper, it must include the sender's name, postal address and daytime telephone number."
And please consider letters to other papers, slamming or praising the activism as you see fit, but focusing on the animal testing issue. Don't hesitate to ask me for help if you have trouble finding the email address for a newspaper's letters page.
Here is the piece from the Independent:
August 29, 2005
THE GREEN GODDESS: A VICTORY FOR GOOD SENSE AND GUINEA PIGS
I cheered when I heard that Darley Oaks guinea pig farm is to close. As usual this rare victory for the animal rights lobby caused a storm of protest and the usual band of scientists and doctors, many financed by pharmaceutical companies, were wheeled out to give their one-sided view. Predictably, the focus was on a minority of violent protesters and avoided the real issue: that animal tests offer misleading results and cause suffering for both people and animals.
Many doctors and scientists are growing increasingly concerned about the efficacy of animal experiments. Thousands of them have joined Europeans for Medical Progress, an independent body who oppose animal experimentation solely because it harms people.
Its director, Dr Kathy Archibald, admits that those who speak out risk ostracism from the medical establishment, but they feel compelled to fight for the truth. Testing on animals slows down medical progress because it tells us about animals, not people. Animals are biologically and physiologically different to humans and react differently to many substances. It's no surprise that prescription drugs tested on animals are the fourth leading cause of death in the Western world. The question is, why do animal experiments continue if they are so inaccurate and given that there are more efficient alternatives such as human DNA chips, human tissues, computer programmes that predict human metabolism, and micro-dose studies that reveal the fate of drugs in the human body?
The tradition of animal experiments is so deeply ingrained that the whole medical system is based on it. Researchers attract grants based on how many papers they publish. It's much easier to publish papers using animals than by doing human-based research. Animal breeders, cage and equipment manufacturers and the pharmaceutical industry are multi-billion pound industries. Animal tests help them speed new drugs to market and give them liability protection when their drugs kill or injure.
However, the tide is turning. We recently witnessed the biggest drug disaster in history when the arthritis drug Vioxx was withdrawn after causing heart attacks. The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, American doctors who campaign against animal testing, are suing Merck for promoting an unsafe drug on the strength of test results in monkeys.
This was reported on the same day as the one-sided reports about Darley Oaks closing. No one made the link between Vioxx "Extensively animal-tested yet lethal to humans" and the guinea pig farm, but if they had they would have cheered. Guinea pigs are used in medical research for skin irritation testing. Their fur is shaved and medication applied, without anaesthetic, causing agony. But due to a difference in the distribution of blood vessels, their skin reacts differently to ours, rendering most experiments useless. Yet the media avoid these arguments and exaggerate the extremist angle.
In reality, most animal rights protesters are law abiding. However peaceful old ladies don't make waves, and in frustration a minority of extremists take violent action, which acts as propaganda to the vivisectionists.
LOS ANGELES TIMES ARTICLE ON MEXICO'S BURRO ERADICATION PLAN -- 8/30/005
This Tuesday, August 30, article on a proposed plan to kill burros in Mexico includes some heartening information: "The newspaper's poll of about 100 Durango residents showed 95% thought the burros should be spared." It provides a nice opportunity for animal friendly letters to the editor. The Los Angeles Times takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org
Los Angeles Times
August 30, 2005 Tuesday
Part A; Pg. 6
Burro-Eradication Plan Meets Resistance;
Mexico's Durango state wants to kill off the feral animals, which are costly to farmers. A wave of sympathy halts the scheme, for now.
Chris Kraul, Times Staff Writer
If you ask Epifanio Flores, his burro isn't a beast of burden. It's just a burden.
"They eat 10 times what a cow eats and they are nothing but trouble," the peasant farmer said as he took some shade in the baking central plaza of this agricultural town in the southern part of Durango state.
He is among the thousands of Mexican farmers scratching out a living amid mesquite and cactus who have switched from the once-indispensable burros to pickup trucks and tractors to do their farm work. For Flores, the long-eared and long-revered emblem of Mexican rural life has become just another mouth to feed.
So, like many other peasants, Flores simply lets his burro roam this picturesque area, which served as the backdrop for several Hollywood Westerns, including "The Old Gringo" and "The Sons of Katie Elder."
Now the state of Durango says the feral burros -- 100,000 at last count -- have proliferated to the point that they are consuming unacceptably large amounts of pastureland that could sustain "productive" livestock such as cows, sheep and goats. The state blames the wild beasts for everything from increased erosion to a lowering of the water tables.
But when it announced plans to "regulate" the burros, animal rights activists from Egypt to Uruguay howled about a possible burrocidio, or mass extermination of the animals.
The proposal, announced in May but now on hold, seemed simple enough: a subsidized plan giving farmers incentives to round up the beasts and exchange them for calves, goats or sheep.
After being turned in, the burros would be "regulated" -- that is, taken to the local slaughterhouses and converted into their only commercially viable forms: dog food, meat for zoo animals, or sausage for human consumption.
The plan drew solid support from Mexico's two largest peasant labor unions. Raul Castaneda, general secretary of the Durango unit of the National Peasants Council, said: "Burros cause more damage than benefit. Our members are completely behind the de-burroization."
But after the newspaper El Siglo of Durango city wrote about the plan, and published it on its website, more than 100 cyber-cries of protest were sent to the newspaper from far corners of the world. The newspaper's poll of about 100 Durango residents showed 95% thought the burros should be spared.
The wave of sympathy surprised local officials. Now a leading member of the state's Chamber of Deputies says the plan has been suspended.
"I applaud the response. How great that society is paying attention!" said lawmaker Oscar Garcia Barron, who heads the lower chamber's agriculture committee.
The plan struck a nerve in this state where burros are an integral and fondly regarded part of history.
Durango historian Manuel Lozoya Cigueroa said that until recent years, much of the state was inaccessible except to farmers who had burros to carry supplies, farm products, firewood and water.
Burros also played an important part in Durango's mining industry, the second largest in the country, lugging supplies up the Sierra Madre to the mines, and silver, gold and other metals down from them.
Several Mexican states observe National Burro Day on June 1. The town of Otumba in the state of Mexico plays host to burro races and awards a prize to the "most beautifully adorned" animal.
"In all of Mexico, in all of Mesoamerica, in fact, burros had an important role as beast of burden from the 16th century on to the beginning of the 20th century," Lozoya Cigueroa said. "But they have been replaced by the internal combustion engine."
Now burros are just part of the scenery, visible at nearly every turn on Durango's rural roads. To tourists, they are an adorable fixture with their docile eyes, furry ears and loud heehawing across canyons.
For farmers and cattlemen, however, they have become pests, ravenously consuming scarce pastureland like giant locusts.
Reynaldo Sanchez Gallego, secretary of the Mezquital cattlemen's association, has little time for the animals.
"Burros have no value. That's why no one cares about them," said Sanchez Gallego. "They eat more than they are worth."
Francisco Ibarra is a livestock dealer who buys horses for a slaughterhouse about 100 miles to the east in Fresnillo, in Zacatecas state, where many of the Durango animals would end up. He said he isn't authorized by the owner to buy burros. There's just no demand, he said.
"The cost of killing a typical burro and a horse is the same, but a horse has twice the meat that a burro does, so the commercial potential of the burro is less," Ibarra said, adding that the number of burros he buys and sells has dropped 90% over the last five years. "There really isn't a market for them."
Despite the burros' drawbacks, many peasants are reluctant to give up the beasts because they regard them as pets, like a dog or a cat.
"Many peasants feel affection for their burros, at least enough not to just give them away," said the peasant council's Castaneda. He said a typical burro would sell for less than $15, hardly worth the cost of corralling and transporting the animals.
Jose de Jesus Munoz Ramos, who as state secretary of agriculture announced the culling plan, said he still hoped the exchange would be instituted, perhaps later this year.
He said the plan was misunderstood by animal rights advocates and that no extermination of burros was planned, just a "regulation" of them by means that have always been available to get rid of surplus livestock. He insisted that the state was merely providing an incentive because the market was no longer doing the job, and because the animals had become an environmental hazard.
"Extermination is a word that applies to what was done with the gray wolf 40 years ago, and which unfortunately has contributed to this overabundance of wild burros that we suffer from today," Munoz Ramos said. "If those who are against the program could only see the damage to pastureland that burros are doing, the silt they are adding to our reservoirs, they might change their minds."
GROUNDBREAKING LEGISLATION IN CLEARLAKE CALIFORNIA ENFORCES SPAY-NEUTER 8/31/05
Today, Wednesday August 31, I share an article from a small paper in California, published just twice per week, The Clearlake Observer-American. It announces groundbreaking legislation. The article headed, "City council passes spay/neuter ordinance" tells us:
"The ordinance adds a section to the city's current code establishing mandatory spaying/neutering of dogs and cats in Clearlake....The addition to the city's current code mandates spaying/neutering of dogs and cats by 4 months of age. The section includes exceptions for animals meeting specific criteria. Among the list of exceptions are dogs used and trained specifically as service companions such as guide dogs, therapy dogs, law enforcement canines, dogs used for hunting and others trained to assist. Licensed and certified purebred canine and feline breeding stock can also gain exceptions, as can show animals."
We learn from Leslie Woods, president of Clear Lake Animal Welfare Society (CLAWS) that "Lake County has the highest per capita euthanasia rate in California."
And we read that during the hearing, "Officer Morgan Nelson invited the public to join her at the county shelter in Lakeport where she loads dead animals into barrels each day."
You can read the whole article on line at: http://www.clearlakeobserver.com/Stories/0,1413,254~26916~3034159,00.html
The Clear Lake Observer-American belongs to the Lake and Mendocino Newspaper Group (LMNG), which includes the Lake County Record-Bee. The Record Bee is also running the story today. It is on that daily paper's website at:
On August 6 the Lake County Record bee ran an editorial (the paper's official editorial opinion) urging the Clearlake city council to adopt the ordinance. It said,
"Animal overpopulation is a huge problem here in Lake County, where 64 percent of animals impounded are euthanized. So we were appalled that last week the Clearlake City Council refused to accept the ordinance...The right to have an animal does not mean one has the right to not vaccinate it, allow it to attack other dogs and people, give birth to unwanted offspring or otherwise not care for it. You can't legislate common sense, but you can create measures that will limit certain behaviors. This ordinance is meant to limit irresponsible pet ownership and, in so doing, promote the health and welfare of the county's animals. Besides, there is a lengthy list of exemptions to the spay/neuter requirement that, if warranted, would allow service dogs, purebreds and other specific animals to opt out."
You can read that wonderful August 6 piece on line at: http://www.record-bee.com/Stories/0,1413,255~33982~2998713,00.html
Many cities in the USA have spay-neuter laws for shelter animals but I know of no others that have passed this sweeping legislation. (I would love to hear otherwise if you know of any.) It should serve as a blueprint for other US cities. The Record Bee deserves acknowledgment for its stance and the city of Clearlake deserves congratulations from everywhere for enacting legislation desperately needed in most cities.
The Lake County Record Bee takes letters at: email@example.com
The Clearlake Observer takes letters at firstname.lastname@example.org