Senior Animals Need Love, Too

Can you teach an old dog new tricks? Sure you can, but really, why would you want to? Old dogs (and cats) are perfect just the way they are.

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month. It’s a sad fact that older animals have the hardest time finding homes and are often the first to be killed at city and county shelters. But there are so many reasons that older animals make ideal companions. Here are just a few:

Older pets are typically calmer than curious puppies and kittens and are quite content with a more relaxing day-to to-day routine. The mellow nature of older pets makes them a great fit for households with children too. Before ending up in shelters, senior pets often come from some sort of family life which makes adjusting to a new home environment much easier than it could be for puppies or kittens.

Senior dogs and cats are often already trained (and potty trained) and may even be pros at performing basic commands. The great news is that even if they’re not, they are much easier to train than younger animals. Their experience around humans, along with more established physical and mental abilities, allow them to better understand the requested commands and pick up new tasks much faster than puppies or kittens.

Senior animals don’t require the constant attention required young ones. Of course, they still love to play and go for walks, they just don’t require as much of your focus and energy. All they really want is a warm and comfortable place to sleep, fresh food and water, and a companion to love and one who will love them back. If you want an animal friend who can fit right in the moment he or she comes home, a senior dog or cat might be just what you’re looking for.

Last, but far from least, by adopting a senior pet or any animal – you are giving the gift of life. Animals, old and young, are dumped at city and county shelters every day, and, sadly, many will never leave alive. Doesn’t every animal deserve a chance at a loving and caring home?

Thinking about adding an animal companion to your household? Adopt and save a life – and why not adopt a grateful and loving older animal?

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

Cruelty to Animals Is No Three-Ring Circus

Hanna-Barbera’s The Roman Holidays was a humorous look at “modern-day” life in Ancient Rome, as seen through the adventures of the Holiday family. I voiced the youngest Holiday, Precocia. The Holidays had a family “cat,” a lion named Brutus. Brutus’ antics very often got the family in trouble, but it was all in cartoon fun. What’s not funny is the life of a lion – or a tiger, or an elephant, or any animal – in a circus.

“The circus is coming to town” is a saying that used to bring excitement to small town and city dwellers, but now with the knowledge of what really goes on “behind the big top,” people are thinking twice. Instead of paying money to see the exploitation of animals in circuses, people are choosing “animal free” circuses like Cirque du Soleil and many others who are saying “NO” to the use of animals in circuses. You see, there’s another side to the story of animals in the circus I’d like to address – animal cruelty.

Consider the elephants. Circuses typically confine these animals with a pair of heavy leg chains front and rear, diagonally opposite. An elephant thus chained cannot even turn in a circle. It’s not unusual for these animals to live in double leg chains all night and day except during performances and when they are on   public “display”. Some elephants are kept in a small electrified corral, but even those elephants may spend 10 hours or more a day in double leg chains. Male elephants may have their head and trunk movements restrained with additional chains. Most of us would be outraged to see a dog tethered in that manner. Yet a wild elephant, or even one born into captivity, has an immense, instinctive need to roam, take mud baths and interact with their own social community.

In nature, elephants sleep only four hours a night and can travel up to 80 kilometers a day, but the frustration, boredom, and loneliness of circus confinement creates the motivation for aggression. When I think about the effects of rampaging elephants’ (as has happened in cities worldwide), I wonder why animal acts have been tolerated for as long as they have. A visit behind the scenes of circuses can be an eye-opener. One sees tigers kept in cages equivalent to what an airline carrier would be for domestic cats (where the tigers can’t even turn around let alone express their natural behaviors), hippos in tiny containers with scarcely six inches of water, and bears with muzzles around their mouths while harnessed onto the backs of horses. Animals in circuses also engage in aberrant, repetitive movements such as pacing and rocking; these are pitiful symptoms of the complete boredom and isolation in a totally unnatural environment. Many circus animal “handlers” don’t really care or, worse yet, go out of their way to abuse  animals.

The opportunity to dominate large land mammals like elephants and tigers seems to attract individuals with violent behavior to work as “handlers.” One technique used to dominate an elephant is to wet him down and then repeatedly administer 110-volt shocks to drive the animal to its knees. Not only does this torture and terrify the animal, it may prematurely age its brain. Another is to strike an elephant repeatedly in their most sensitive areas with a bull hook, a long wooden rod with a sharp metal hook at one end. The “handlers” do this in order to get elephants, who weigh thousands of pounds, to do tricks which are difficult and completely unnatural for them to do. Some circuses say that they train their animals with a “reward system”; this is simply false propaganda meant to soothe an uneducated public.

If we want this world to be a more peaceful and less violent place, if we want to start teaching young children to have compassion and respect for those beings with whom we share the planet yet who are different from us, then we must not take them to places that show these magnificent animals doing stupid and unnatural tricks in ridiculous costumes. This teaches nothing to our children about these animal’s lives or who they truly are and should be.

Please teach your children compassion not cruelty and choose circuses that have the jugglers, clowns, cotton candy and acrobats, but do not contain the suffering of those circuses who use animals.

For more information, please visit:

friendsofanimals.org/program/circuses-rodeos-bull-riding/

www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/circuses/

When It Comes to Horse Racing, No Horse Is a Winner

Here I am at the age of 4 or 5 up on a very large horse!! I might be smiling but, boy, was I scared. I didn’t have to be; horses, like many large mammals, are gentle giants. But maybe because I was so tiny, I felt really frightened. I was able to cover up my fear because at 6 I got a part where I rode one on an episode of “Branded,” starring Chuck Connors. I was around horses while filming the movie “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band,” as well as the Walt Disney TV movie, “Smoke,” starring Ronny Howard. When filming the series “Lassie,” I rode a horse regularly; by that time I was pretty much over my fear of riding.

As an adult, I completely overcame my fear of horses and learned a lot about them in the process. Horses are herd animals. They naturally want to be around other horses, graze in meadows, trot great distances, play and court, but they suffer greatly when used to pull carriages around busy city streets, as in New York, or are made to race around tracks.

Behind the romanticized façade of thoroughbred horse racing is a world of injuries, drug abuse, gruesome breakdowns, and slaughter. Horses who weigh at least 1,000 pounds are supported by ankles the size of a human’s, and are forced to run around dirt tracks at speeds of more than 30 miles an hour while carrying a rider on their backs. Celebrated filly Eight Belles was euthanized on the track after breaking both front ankles during the 2008 Kentucky Derby; her poor ankles couldn’t sustain her running that fast. At another race, a horse named Appeal to the City hemorrhaged around her eye when jockey Jeremy Rose “engaged in extreme misuse of the whip.” In his Kentucky Derby win, American Pharaoh was struck with a whip at least 32 times by jockey Victor Espinoza. Pushed beyond their limits, most horses are subjected to cocktails of legal and illegal drugs intended to mask injuries and artificially enhance performance.

Racehorses are the victims of a multi-billion-dollar industry that is rife with drug abuse, injuries, and race fixing, and many horses’ careers end in slaughterhouses. Horses used for racing are forced to sprint — often under the threat of whips and even illegal electric-shocking devices — at speeds so fast that they frequently sustain injuries and even hemorrhage from the lungs. While spectators show off their fancy outfits and sip mint juleps, horses are running for their lives.

I hope all who read these posts learn something they didn’t know about animals and share them with their friends and co-workers. We all need to stand up and be a voice for the voiceless.

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

Humans Have No Monopoly on Motherly Love

Mother’s Day is this weekend, and I can’t think of a better time to remember that humans don’t have a monopoly on loving and caring for their children, or on the anguish and grief of losing a child.

For cows and their calves, the first minutes after birth are spent developing a bond that will last a lifetime. Throughout life, mother and child maintain social contact and regularly enjoy each other’s companionship. Pity, then, the poor dairy cow, kept pregnant and lactating so humans can steal the milk meant for her baby. Pity, too, mother and child when that baby is male. He is taken, umbilical cord still attached, from his mother before even his first taste of his mother’s milk and loaded onto a truck bound for a short and painful life in a veal crate. Both mother cow and calf cry out for each other for days, and mother cows have been known to escape their enclosures to run after trucks taking their babies away.

Mother seals can pick out their pups in a sea of hundreds using their uncanny powers of vocal recognition. How painful it is for them to hear their pups cry as they are clubbed and axed on the Arctic ice by seal killers who skin the pups for sealskin gloves and fashion accessories? The mother seals cry, too, and desperately try to save their pups from slaughter, but the seal killers hold them at bay with spears and other weapons.

Among the world’s most intelligent animals, dolphins are known for graceful synchronized swimming, but dolphin mothers and their babies also synchronize their breathing for the first few weeks following the babies’ birth. These dedicated moms may nurse their young for up to ten years and will also mentor less experienced females by allowing them to babysit as practice for when they have babies of their own. If only they could teach them to avoid the nets and long lines of commercial fishing boats, who consider the dolphins nothing more than “by-catch.”

Nurturing begins in the nest for chicken moms. Mother hens will turn their eggs as many as five times an hour and cluck softly to their chicks, who chirp back to her from inside their shells! Once chicks hatch, devoted moms use their wings to shield their babies from predators and have been known to refuse to leave their nests during a fire if they have newly hatched chicks. Chickens on an egg farm, though, have no opportunity to raise their babies, and male chicks, deemed “useless” by the egg industry, are often tossed into a grinding machine while they are still alive.

Fur-bearing mothers, like foxes, rabbits, and minks, make sure their children are warm and protected in their dens before they leave to search for food. Many never come home, their legs crushed and shattered in steel-jawed traps set by fur trappers. Many will chew their own leg off to get back to their babies. Sadly, it isn’t long before shock, blood loss, or infection kills the mother, and her children, waiting in vain at home, die, too, of starvation.

Human children taken from their mothers often headlines the news, but the fact that animal babies are stolen from their mothers every day isn’t considered newsworthy. But listen to a mother cow crying for her stolen calf, or the wail of a mother seal over her murdered and skinned child and understand that grief and pain are not just something human mothers feel.

This Mother’s Day, please take a moment to recognize the unique bond between mothers and children of all species. To support all moms, go vegan, wear vegan fashion, use cruelty-free products, and never exploit animals in any other way.

Are Your Purchases Supporting Poaching?

A few years ago, I visited Uganda, where I had the extraordinary experience of viewing a beautiful mountain gorilla and her baby from no more than ten feet away. It breaks my heart that, due to poaching, fewer than 900 African mountain gorillas are left on this planet.

When most people think of wildlife poaching, they think about exotic animals on distant continents, but poaching and its consequences extend far beyond African mountain forests or Asian wildernesses right into your own community and even into your own home.

Two poachers under arrest!

Poaching, the criminal hunting and killing of animals for profit, is on the rise worldwide. This year more than 1,200 rhinos will be killed and dismembered by poachers in South Africa compared to just 13 a decade ago. That’s one rhino killed every eight hours, and for the ridiculous reason that some people believe the rhino’s horn has aphrodisiac properties.

There are many species around the world that are poached, some right here in the United States.  Their remains are used in various ways, often for luxury or pseudo-medicinal purposes. Here are some of the most common victims:

Elephants: Elephants are poached for their ivory, which is carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines, and trinkets. To remove a tusk requires removing a very large chunk out of an elephant’s face and skull. Elephants are often chased into pits or poisoned, and their faces and tusks cut off while they are still alive. Approximately 70% of illegal ivory ends up in China, where it is sold on the street for up to $1,000 a pound. Conservationists estimate that between 30,000 and 38,000 elephants are poached annually for their ivory. At that rate, they will be extinct in 20 years.

Tigers: Tiger claws, teeth, and whiskers are believed by some superstitious cultures to provide good luck and protective powers. Some superstitious cultures believe their bones and eyes have medicinal value. In Taiwan, a bowl of tiger penis soup is believed to boost virility. Their skins are used to make coats and handbags. Fewer than 3,500 tigers are left in the wild; like elephants and rhinos, tigers are being poached to extinction.

Rhinoceros: The most expensive items in the world are gold, platinum, and rhino horn, with rhino horn topping the list. Rhino horn can sell for nearly $30,000 a pound. Gold, by comparison, is worth about $22,000 a pound. Their horns are believed to have aphrodisiac properties and are widely used in traditional medicines. Like elephants, they are driven into traps, killed, and their horns sawed off. Since 1960, the black rhino population has decreased by 97.6% due to poaching.

Tibetan Antelopes: They are poached for their fur, which is commonly used as a light wool, and is in great demand world-wide. 20,000 Chirus, as they are called, are killed each year.

Big-horned sheep: Poached for their antlers, which can fetch $20,000 on the black market.

Bears: North American black bears are poached for their gall bladders and bile, another pseudo-medicinal ingredient. A black bear’s gall bladder can fetch more than $3,000 in Asia.

Gorillas: They are poached for their meat, captured for collections, and killed for trophies such as their hands, feet, skins, and skulls. Kidnapped baby gorillas, like the beautiful baby I saw in Uganda, bring $40,000 on the black market.

Lions: Another species fast disappearing, poached as trophies to prove an insecure human’s man(or woman)hood. It is estimated that 30% to 50% of Africa’s lion population has been illegally killed over the last 20 years. Last summer three poachers who broke into a South African game preserve to stalk and kill rhinos were attacked and eaten by lions, to which I say, justice was served.

Sharks: Sharks are poached for their fins, which some cultures consider a delicacy. Once caught, the fins are hacked off, and the still-living shark dumped back into the sea where it will soon die. Poached manta rays and sea cucumbers are also considered delicacies by some.

Red and Pink Coral: This is the most valuable type of coral, known for its use in jewelry and decorations. Not only does the poaching of coral effect coral population but it also effects the population of coral reefs and fish.

Blue Whale: Blue Whales have almost been hunted to extinction. They are poached for their blubber and oil, which are then used in candles and fuel.

Most poaching is done by organized crime syndicates who use high-powered technology and weaponry to hunt and kill animals without being detected. Poachers often prefer using poisoned arrows because there is not a telltale gunshot sound. A well-placed arrow can kill in 20 minutes; however, a misplaced arrow can leave an animal dying a lingering death from infection for up to a month. Poachers will often leave poison on the carcass of the prey to kill the vultures that might fly above and alert rangers.

Violent conflicts and ivory poaching are interconnected. Heavily armed militias and crime networks use ivory funds to finance terrorism and wars. Cash-starved terrorist organizations have turned to trading ivory, which the Elephant League has dubbed “the white gold of jihad.” The illegal wildlife trade nets $8 billion to $10 billion a year.

To combat poaching, in 2014 the United States banned the commercial sale of African elephant ivory. Shamefully, the ban was reversed in 2018.

What can you do? Lobby your legislators to reinstate the ban and expand it to include poached animal products of every kind. Never buy ivory or coral products, whether new or used, or any other poached animal products, and boycott merchants who sell them. It’s only by making poaching less profitable that it can be reduced and the greed-fueled extinction of so many animal species reversed.

Should Animals Have Rights?

Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. Many of us bought our beloved “pets” at pet shops, had guinea pigs, or kept beautiful birds in cages. We wore wool and silk, ate burgers at McDonald’s, and went fishing. Never did we consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved.

People often ask, should animals have rights? The answer, quite simply, is “Yes!” Animals deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Jeremy Bentham, social reformer and founder of the Utilitarian school of moral philosophy, identified the vital characteristic to establish the rights of beings. “The question,” wrote Bentham, “is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Unlike the capacity for language or to perform higher mathematics, the capacity for suffering is universal. All animals suffer in the same way and to the same degree as humans do. All animals feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love.

Whenever we engage in an activity that exploits or causes animals to suffer – eating them, putting them in prison-like zoos, wearing their fur or hides or buying items that are tested on animals – it is unethical and immoral. What you would not do to a human, it is wrong to do to an animal. Human society permits such horrendous things to be done to animals. Think of the steel jaw leg hold trap and anal electrocutions of fur-bearing animals. Think of pigs living their lives in gestation crates, unable to turn around or touch their offspring. Think of male calves ripped from their mothers, fed an anemic diet, and chained to an igloo in the bitter cold to be slaughtered for veal. Think of fish with sharp metal hooks in their mouths, pulled from the water to die of suffocation. Think of elephants in a circus being hit and jabbed behind the ears or knees and other sensitive areas with a “bull hook,” a wooden rod with a sharp steel hook at one end. Think of the miserable existence of a dairy cow, artificially inseminated again and again on what the dairy industry calls a “rape rack” in order to provide milk for humans while her own unweaned offspring are taken from her. Think also of the factory farmed chickens packed so tightly in cages that they go crazy and would peck at each other had their sensitive beaks not been cut off with a sharp blade, leaving many unable to eat or drink. The list goes on and on.

Supporters of animal rights believe that animals have an inherent worth, a value separate from their usefulness to humans. We believe that every creature with the will to live has the right to live free from pain and suffering imposed by humans. Animal rights is not just a philosophy, it is a social movement that challenges society’s traditional view that nonhuman animals exist solely for the use and benefit of humans. As PETA founder Ingrid Newkirk has said, “When it comes to pain, love, joy, loneliness, and fear, a rat is a pig is a dog is a boy. Each one values his or her life and fights the knife.”

Only prejudice, tradition, and an unwillingness to give up what we’re used to, compels us to deny others the rights that we demand for ourselves. Whether it’s based on race, gender, sexual orientation, or species, prejudice is morally unacceptable. If you wouldn’t eat a dog, why eat a pig, a cow, or a fish? Those animals share the same capacity to feel pain as any other, and it’s reprehensible for us to think of one animal as a companion and another as dinner.

 

 

More Than 100 Countries Have Banned Leg-Hold Traps, Why Not the USA?

My character on “Lassie,” Lucy Baker, was introduced in a three-part story in the spring of 1972. Lucy Baker was a nature-loving deaf girl who befriends Lassie and the two have many adventures together. In one of those first episodes, titled “Paths of Courage, Part One,” Lucy has a beloved pet wolf named Mountie. A sadistic sheep herder shoots Mountie and I have a tearful scene as the wolf dies in my arms. It turned out to be one of the most memorable scenes of my acting career.

The wolf playing Mountie was tranquilized so that he would lay quietly in my arms, as seen in the accompanying photo. I felt horrible that this poor wolf was tranquilized for a scene, but that’s what happens to a lot of animals in TV and movies; they don’t ever get to live their lives the way nature intended. Luckily for Mountie, he had a good-hearted trainer in the person of Pat Derby. Pat Derby later became an outspoken advocate for animals, and I’ll tell you more about her in my forthcoming book. Anyway, my job was to kneel over Mountie and cry my eyes out. I was given very specific instructions not to put my face near his; a wild animal, especially when tranquilized, may react badly to his space being invaded. I heeded my instructions and was very, very cautious.

The director called for action, and I began to sob pitifully over my mortally wounded companion, all the while taking care to avoid putting my face near his. The wolf must not have been fully tranquilized because, as my tears fell he began to rouse. At first, I’m sure I was the only one to notice, but when he slowly lifted his head to look at me, I could sense a nervous stir among the crew.

The wolf began to lick the tears from my face. I was startled, but continued acting, unwilling –afraid, is the better word – to break the scene. It was so sweet – and so scary. The more I cried, the more the wolf licked my face. It dawned on me that this big, beautiful animal was trying to console a weeping little girl with kisses!

My instinct to carry on while the camera rolled proved a good one. The resulting footage of Lucy sobbing over her dying pet, with the wolf tenderly kissing his grieving companion goodbye, was nothing short of remarkable. Ever since then I’ve always had a special place in my heart for wolves.

Did you know that legislation was finally enacted a few years ago to stop the slaughter of wolves by hunters using high-powered rifles from inside low-flying airplanes and helicopters and other horrific acts? Did you also know that this past March, with a stroke of the pen, the president rescinded the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule and opened the door for hunters to chase down and shoot wolves, bears, and other animals within Alaska’s national wildlife refuges? Yes, both the House and Senate approved a measure to repeal the legislation that largely banned hunting and trapping of Alaska’s most iconic animals on more than 76 million federal acres, the largest land-based, federally-protected area in the United States.

Once again, the killing of hibernating bears and wolves from airplanes and the slaughter of cubs and pups in their dens is permitted in one of America’s last great wildlife refuges. Legal again are airborne hunters scouting, chasing, and and killing brown and black bears. Legal again are trapping methods like steel-jawed leg hold traps, wire snares, and the luring of bears with food so that they may be shot at point-blank range. Despite years of relentless work by over 70 groups, many of them made up of Alaska citizens, the law that protected these majestic wild creatures on the people’s land – land specifically created to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in their natural diversity – has been senselessly and tragically wiped away.

Steel jaw traps are banned or heavily restricted in many US states. Such traps inflict excruciating pain not only on the targeted animals, but also on any other animal that unknowingly sets off the trap, for these traps do not kill on impact, they snap shut on the leg or other body part when the victim steps on it. The trap inflicts deep puncture wounds to prevent the animal from writhing around and pulling itself free. Imagine slamming your hand in a car door with teeth and waiting in excruciating pain to die of shock, exposure, dehydration, starvation, or infection.

Leg hold traps, also banned in many countries around the world, are used primarily for foxes, coyotes, wolves, and lynx. These traps, which consist of a metal footplate with curved jaws and powered springs, break and crush the animal’s limb. Immobilized, the animal is trapped where they are, easy prey for predators, and without shelter from harsh weather conditions. Many become so desperate to escape they attempt to chew or wring off their trapped limb, breaking their teeth or bones in the process. When they don’t return to their den, their babies are left alone, unable to fend for themselves, and they die, too.

Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States spoke of the recent ruling saying, “What the Senate did should outrage the conscience of every animal lover in America,” adding, “The passage of this bill means that we’ll see wolf families killed at their dens, bears chased down by planes or suffering for hours in barbaric steel-jawed traps or snares.”

Although the repeal of the law was signed by the president, there are still ways to reduce the suffering for these animals. The main way is to stop buying fur products and to encourage others to do the same. Many animals are hunted for their pelts, and if there is no demand for them, there will be less reason for hunters to trap them. We can also spread awareness about this heinous slaughter, send letters to our representatives in Congress, and sign petitions to end the horrific torture caused by these practices.

Many animal rights groups are calling for a ban on inhumane traps. Although the situation is sickening for animal lovers, there is hope. More than 100 countries have banned leg hold traps while 85 nations have banned steel jaw traps; let’s add the United States to those lists!

Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

 

 

Animal Abuse Is No Way to Celebrate Easter

For many, Easter is a celebration, but for animals abused in the name of the holiday, there is nothing to celebrate.

In this horrifying video, you can see the cruel process that chicks may endure when they are dyed bright colors to be given as Easter “gifts.” Although the caption for this video says it was taken in South America, such abuse could take place just about anywhere, including the U.S., where dyeing animals is still legal in about half our states. In the video, you can see how groups of baby chicks are dumped into plastic bins with no regard for their safety or comfort. No doubt some of these tiny, delicate birds sustained injuries—and all the animals felt fear as they were drenched with dye.

The video is hard to watch, but what might be even harder to consider is what happens to the birds after Easter is over. Purchased as gifts, these unnaturally-colored chicks are more likely to be viewed as “toys” than living things to be cared for. Children should never be taught to view animals as playthings but to respect the lives and rights of all living beings. Chicks given as gifts for Easter are most often abandoned even faster than their colors fade.

Chicks require special care that many families aren’t prepared to give, but it’s not just chicks who suffer from holiday novelty gift-giving. Nationwide, rabbits rank third among animals turned in at shelters, many surrendered by people who were not prepared to give longtime care to the cute bunny they took home for Easter.

If you were thinking of buying a chick, a bunny, or any other animal to give as a present this Easter, don’t do it! Instead, give a child an actual toy—the kind that’s stuffed with cotton and does not require veterinary visits, hours of love and attention each day, and years of commitment. If you and your family are ready to provide a loving, permanent home for a chicken, a bunny, or any other animal, please adopt from a shelter or rescue group after giving the decision a lot of thought and thoroughly researching how to care properly for these sensitive, complex animals.

Remember: T

 

Fresh Milk from Contented Cows? Think Again

As a child actress and model, I was photographed in all sorts of poses, including a few like this one – eating a bowl of cereal and milk.  Of course, I had no idea then how cruel the dairy industry is or what goes on at dairy farms. Thank goodness I know now.

We’re so used to drinking cows’ milk we never think about what dairy cows and their offspring endure for people to pour milk on their cereal. Did you know that human animals are the only species on earth who drink the milk of another species? And did you know every animal in the animal kingdom stops drinking milk after they’re weened, except for – you got it – human animals.

Although the dairy industry would rather you didn’t know and tries to hide this fact, lactose intolerance is a natural and common condition among humane. Lactose intolerance affects approximately 95 percent of Asian-Americans, 74 percent of Native Americans, 70 percent of African Americans, 53 percent of Latin Americans, and 15 percent of Caucasians. Symptoms include gastrointestinal cramping, diarrhea, and flatulence, and occur because the lactose intolerant do not have the lactase enzyme to digest the lactose, the sugar naturally found in milk.

The dairy industry would like you to believe that dairy cows graze contentedly in green pastures before being led into a rustic red barn to be milked. Nothing could be further from the truth.   The reality in today’s world find thousands of cows packed tightly together in nightmarish factory farms, hooked up to painful and frightening machines.

Dairy cows are, of course, female, and, like all mammals, produce milk after giving birth to nourish their calves. To keep cows producing milk, it is necessary to force them to remain constantly pregnant. Dairy farmers achieve this by artificially impregnating their cows again and again on so-called “rape racks.”

A cow’s natural lifespan is about 20 years, but cows used by the dairy industry are typically killed after about five years because their bodies wear out from constantly being pregnant or lactating. A dairy industry study found that by the time they are killed, nearly 50 percent of cows have painful mastitis – grossly enlarged and misshapen udders – and are typically lame and infected from standing in intensive confinement on concrete floors and in filth.

If that weren’t cruel enough, do you know what happens to all those calves brought into the world in order to keep their mothers producing milk? First, calves are torn away from their mothers within 24 hours of their birth. This is traumatic for both mother and calf; mother cows can be heard crying out for their calves for days. Female calves will live short and cruel lives just as their mothers do, but a different fate waits in store for the males. Most male calves of dairy cows are shipped to barren feedlots where they will be fattened and slaughtered for beef. Those are the “lucky” ones.

A “city” of veal calf crates, each with a single pitiful abused calf, at a factory farm.

Some male calves are turned over to the veal industry. These calves, beginning at a day or two old, are kept 24/7 in tiny crates, a chain around their neck to prevent them from moving about or even turning around. The muscles of calves who cannot move atrophy and remain tender. To make their flesh white, the calves are fed a diet lacking in iron and any real nutritional value. Veal calves typically suffer from anemia, diarrhea, and pneumonia. Frightened, sick, and isolated from other calves, these poor animals are slaughtered after a few short months, and their flesh stripped and sold. That tender, pale veal neatly packaged in the meat case of your local supermarket is the end product of a short, sad, and brutal life.

Those who refuse to eat veal because of the cruelty involved ought to be aware that drinking cows’ milk or buying dairy products – butter, cheese, ice cream etc. – are still supporting the veal industry with their wallets.

The good news is that removing dairy products from your diet is easier than ever. Today, there are many cruelty-free vegan alternatives at your supermarket, such as soy, rice, oat, almond, coconut, and pecan milks and ice creams, tasty vegetable-based spreads, and delicious cheeses for cooking and eating. Please try them – they’re great!

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

An Ocean of Plastic

Here I am at the age of seven modeling for a soft drink ad. I can’t help but have mixed feelings today about this image. On the one hand, my picture was being used to encourage people to buy sugary soft drinks, something I would never do today, but on the other hand, at least I’m not using a plastic straw. Today we understand that disposable plastic straws and other plastic waste have contributed to the pollution of the Earth’s oceans and the deaths of millions of sea animals.

A massive tangle of human-generated plastic waste called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, twice the size of the state of Texas, floats in the ocean between California and Hawaii. Similar patches cover other parts of the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans, and the Caribbean Sea. These enormous islands of plastic trash cover an increasingly large portion of the earth’s ocean surface.

Every year, eight million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently pollute our marine environments. Discarded plastic bags, bottles, plates, straws, utensils, and other dumped in gutters, lakes, and rivers, and large amounts of mismanaged plastic waste streaming from rapidly growing economies, are finding their way into our oceans at the rate of one New York City garbage truck full of plastic every minute of every day for an entire year! And all that plastic is killing sea animals by the millions.

Maybe you’ve seen the photos of sea turtles grown deformed, stuck in the plastic rings from a six-pack of beer, or dead fish washing up on beaches, their digestive systems clogged with plastic microfibers. Perhaps you’ve seen dolphins tangled in discarded plastic commercial fishing lines, or pelicans, their crops full of plastic bottles and bags.

Fish, turtles, mammals, and seabirds suffer pain and illness from ingesting plastic. Plastic ingestion also reduces the storage volume of their stomachs, causing starvation. It’s estimated that 60% of all seabird species have eaten pieces of plastic, with that number predicted to increase to 99% by 2050. 100% of sea turtles have plastic in their digestive systems. Marine mammals also ingest and get tangled up in plastic, leading to the decline of already endangered species like monk seals and stellar sea lions. Dead whales have been found with bellies full of plastic.

The following facts shed more light on how plastic waste is killing wildlife all over the world:

  1. Of the eight million metric tons of plastic dumped every year into the Earth’s oceans, 236,000 tons are microfibers, tiny pieces of plastic smaller than your little fingernail.
  2. The amount of plastic in the oceans, if unchecked, will increase tenfold by 2020.
  3. At our current rate, by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean, by weight, than there are fish.
  4. The likelihood of coral becoming diseased increases from 4% to 89% after coming in contact with marine plastic. It also damages the skin of coral, allowing infection. Coral reefs are home to more than 25% of marine life.
  5. Oceans cover more than 70% of the planet. They carry about 50% of global production of photosynthesis and support the greatest biodiversity on Earth. They are the “lungs of the planet.” Islands of plastic stretch deep beneath the ocean’s surface, blocking sunlight to where it’s needed by sea plants necessary to replenish the water with oxygen. All animals, even those living in the sea, need oxygen to survive.

Cities, counties, and states from coast to coast have begun to join the world’s nations in banning single-use plastic goods to curb the rate at which we are poisoning our oceans. This summer Stafford Township, New Jersey, and Santa Barbara, California, joined others in banning plastic bags, wrappers and drinking straws. Recycling hasn’t helped; most of these items are discarded by thoughtless consumers rather than recycled.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that more than 33 million tons of plastic, most of which was not recycled, was thrown away last year by Americans. Worldwide the amount is staggering: 6.9 billion tons of plastic became trash last year, with 6.3 billion tons not recycled. The numbers are staggering and appalling.

It’s not hard to avoid or cut down on using disposable plastic. Instead of buying juice in a plastic bottle, buy it in a cardboard container. Instead of using plastic utensils when you eat at a fast food restaurant, bring your own washable, reusable utensils. How about using wooden chopsticks? Keep a few biodegradable straws in your car; paper, bamboo, and reusable straws are readily available in many places, including on Amazon. Become more aware of all the plastic you use and look into environmentally-friendly alternatives. Let’s take back our oceans from thoughtless individuals and profit-hungry corporations who don’t care about the destruction of life on our planet.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!