It’s the Year of the Dog – And Your Pets Are “Cutered” When They’re Neutered

Happy New Year! According to the Chinese lunar calendar, it’s now the Year of the Dog. Here are some photos of me and some of the great dogs I worked with in my acting career. Each one of them was a beautiful, intelligent, loving animal, and every one of them was brought to the set in a cage and returned to their cages when their work was done. This made me sad and angry. I enjoyed the companionship of several beloved dogs of my own growing up; I still do. Who doesn’t love dogs – and cats, too? So why do we allow millions of them to be killed each year in animal shelters?

About ten million healthy cats, dogs, puppies and kittens are killed each year in animal shelters across the United States. The numbers overwhelm us and, in an important sense, that number diminishes the true horror of the situation, reducing the impact to a confused statistical jumble.

Ten million individual lives. Who can understand a number that big? To appreciate the magnitude of this crisis, one must look into the eyes of the individual dogs and cats waiting to be killed in our animal shelters. I have seen them myself, with ropes around their necks, their legs literally shaking. They looked up to me as if to say, “I just want to be loved. Please help me, I don’t want to die.” They watch as the others who go before them are slapped on a stainless-steel table, a needle filled with poison thrust into their beating hearts and then, sometimes while they are still breathing, dumped onto a cement floor like so much garbage.

Who is responsible? Why DO animals die? The responsibility for the mass execution of animals in our shelters each year is shared by us all. It is the fault of one uniquely powerful, incredibly myopic and self-centered species, the human. Many of us treat animals like a cheap commodity and take them for granted. They are not accorded the intrinsic value they deserve; the value that a caring, compassionate person may begin to understand if you look into the eyes of all animals. But there are three things that you can do to prevent these unnecessary deaths.

First, we must all be aware that breeding equals killing. There is no adequate justification for the purposeful or accidental breeding of any owned companion animal no matter what the commercial value. Spaying and Neutering is a responsible step to prevent companion animals from giving birth to more and more puppies and kittens. It’s not only healthier for the individual animal, but it will help stop the killing of those in the shelters. There are low-cost spay/neuter facilities if a person can’t afford to pay the usual $80.00 it costs to spay or neuter a companion animal. Also, most shelters will spay and neuter the adopted dog or cat before they are taken home by their new family. With the advent of “early spay/neuter programs” a puppy or kitten can be neutered starting as early as eight weeks of age.

Secondly, only go to an animal shelter or rescue to adopt your next best friend, NOT to a pet store or breeder. Behind the facade of the pet store window is hidden the gruesome puppy mill industry. Within these breeding farms, puppies endure extreme deprivation during their first weeks of life. At six to eight weeks of age, puppies are crammed two to a crate and shipped to any of the thousands of pet shops across the country. These puppies, jostled from truck to truck and finally to air cargo bays, may endure days in transit. The adult dogs who are used to produce the “cash-crop” of puppies are forced to spend their entire lives in cramped cages or pens. And because profit is the ultimate goal of the puppy mill owner, these poor breeding dogs are kept in conditions that will barely keep them alive and producing. When the adult females are so worn out from giving birth to litter after litter, she is killed because she is no longer profitable to the puppy mill owner.

Even AKC breeders who let you see their facilities are in fact putting a price on the heads of animals who look a certain way and have a certain bloodline. But how can a person base a dog’s or cat’s worth by these criteria? That’s what the Nazis did in Germany. They placed a high value on an individual only if they had blond hair and blue eyes and were of the “correct” bloodline; all other individuals were “worthless.” A dog or cat’s value is NOT in what their AKC papers say; each dog or cat is a unique individual. And those dogs and cats, puppies and kittens who are waiting at your local shelter to be rescued and given a chance at life will be killed if people continue to frequent pet stores and breeders.

Last but certainly not least, the hope for the animals is to be found in a human culture which learns to feel beyond itself. We must learn empathy; we must learn to see into the eyes of an animal and feel that it’s life has value. Nothing less will do.

For more information, please visit:

friendsofanimals.org/program/dont-delay-neuter-or-spay/

www.peta.org/…/companion-animal…/overpopulation/spay-neuter/

 

 

 

The Cruelty of Egg Farming

In the movie “The Beguiled,” starring Clint Eastwood and Geraldine Page, I played Amy, a tender-hearted girl who loves and nurtures animals. Early in the movie Amy is seen tending to a wounded crow. The crow, whose wing has been injured, is tied to the railing of a balcony so he can’t fly away until he has fully recovered. “I love ya, Mr. Crow,” Amy says as she tries to comfort the struggling bird, “but until your wings are mended, it’s for your own good.” The scene foreshadows the plight of Eastwood’s character, McB, as he recovers from his injuries in the boarding school.

When I think about birds now I think about the horrific abuse birds – chickens, ducks, and others – endure on egg-laying farms. Egg farms continually breed birds so they have a fresh supply of hens to lay eggs. After two years spending their lives in horribly cramped conditions inside huge warehouses, the hens stop laying enough eggs to cover the cost of their feed and are shipped to the slaughterhouse.

If chicks in the hatchery turn out to be males (who, of course, don’t lay eggs), they’re considered useless by-products. Those poor baby birds are tossed ALIVE, cheeping pitifully for their mothers, into the trash, or thrown ALIVE into rendering machines to be ground up and used as feed for other animals.

Female chicks have part of their beaks painfully cut off while fully conscious, because egg-laying hens are forced to live in such crowded conditions they peck at each other. This is why I don’t eat eggs, or any other animals for that matter. Birds such as “broiler” chickens and egg-laying hens are made to live such miserable and painful lives that I simply cannot ethically eat their abused corpses.

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

Are You Pescatarian? Here Are a Few Things You Should Know

In the Hanna-Barbera animated series, Sealab 2020, my character Sali lived in an underwater research station commanded by her father, Captain Murphy. Sali – and those who watched the show – learned about the ecology of the earth’s oceans and the interconnectedness of life on land and in the sea. Sali understood that aquatic animals were intelligent, social beings in the same way land animals are.

There are a lot of people who have stopped eating meat and dairy for health reasons as well as for the horrific cruelty and suffering the animals experience.  Many of these same people, however, still eat fish; they call themselves pescatarians. They believe that by eating sea animals like fish, they are not causing any suffering.

I’ve never understood why people think sea animals don’t feel pain. Maybe because they look so different from us land mammals, and they live underwater so we don’t see them as often. The only time many people see them is when their flesh is delivered on a plate.

Even before I was vegan I didn’t like eating sea animals. I had seen them on fishing boats when I was a young girl. I’d see them flopping around violently, their eyes open wide, their gills gasping for air. So, for all those pescatarians out there, here is some valuable information to educate you about the truth regarding fish and how science is proving they certainly feel pain.

Fishing: Aquatic agony

Like the animals many people share their homes with, fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do.

Fish can communicate, make tools, think, and feel pain

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “Fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.”

In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.” According to Dr. Jens Krause of the University of Leeds, while some fish live in large hierarchical societies and others have smaller family units, all rely on these “social aggregations,” which “act as an information center where fish can exchange information with each other.”

Fish such as sharks, tuna and others have demonstrated intelligence, curiosity, playfulness, the ability to learn through trial and error, and the ability to maintain social networks.

Scientists have learned that fish feel pain and suffer like any other animal. They just don’t have the vocal cords to scream.  Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds—similar to buzzes and clicks. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to mammals.

Hooked fish struggle because of fear and physical pain

Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they begin to suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders rupture because of the sudden change in pressure;  their eyes bug out and since they can’t breathe outside the water, they flop around violently gasping until they succumb. If they are released or somehow escape back into the water, the hooks stay inside their mouths preventing them from feeding and die of starvation.

Today, many fish are raised on fish farms—crowded, waste-filled pools where they’re packed so tightly together they can barely move. At processing plants, they’re often skinned alive and cut into pieces while still fully conscious. Even wild-caught fish endure a miserable death, which can take up to half an hour as they slowly suffocate or are crushed beneath other fish.

Many trout streams are so intensively fished that they are subject to catch-and-release regulations, requiring that all fish caught be released; the aquatic animals in these streams are likely to spend their short lives being repeatedly traumatized and injured.  Biologist Ralph Manns points out that fish such as bass are territorial, and once they are caught and released, these fish may be unable to find their homes and “be fated to wander aimlessly.”

Birds are killed as well as a result of fishing with hooks

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission reports that discarded monofilament fishing line is the number one killer of adult brown pelicans, although one Audubon biologist says that “[p]retty much every type of water or shore bird can get caught up in fishing line …. We find dead cormorants, anhingas, herons, egrets, roseate spoonbills … you name it.” Ospreys sometimes use discarded fishing line in their nests, and both parents and their young have been found entangled in it or impaled on fishing hooks. Dolphins have also died from asphyxiation after choking on fish who had tackle still attached.

Commercial fishing

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually, the aquaculture industry raises more than 700 million pounds per year, and another 5 billion pounds of seafood is imported.

Commercial fishers use vast factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing everyone in their path. These boats haul up tens of thousands of fish in one load, keeping the most profitable and dumping other animals (such as rays, dolphins, and crabs) back into the ocean. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Millions of tons of fish who are considered to be “undersized” are left to die on the decks or are tossed back into the ocean, where they usually die soon afterward.

Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets. These kinds of nets are believed to be responsible for the majority of incidents involving the accidental netting and death of hundreds of thousands of marine mammals over decades of use.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reported 71 cases of whale entanglement off the Coast of California in 2016, the highest total recorded in the area since NOAA started keeping records in 1982.

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, nearly 80 percent of the world’s fish are fully exploited, overexploited, or depleted. One study conducted by 14 marine scientists concluded that continued overfishing of the world’s fish will cause “100% of species [to] collapse.”

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark … has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Eating fish is hazardous to your health

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat and especially cholesterol.

The flesh of fish (including shellfish) can accumulate extremely high levels of carcinogenic chemical residues, such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), thousands of times higher than that of the water they live in. A study of the nation’s freshwater waterways concluded that one in four fish is contaminated with levels of mercury that exceed government standards for safety.

The New England Journal of Medicine asserts that fish “are the main if not the only source of methyl mercury,” which has been linked to cardiovascular disease, fetal brain damage, blindness, deafness, and problems with motor skills, language, and attention span.

After an analysis of Food and Drug Administration (FDA) data on canned tuna, Consumer Reports cautioned that cans of tuna “especially white, tend to be high in mercury.”

So, when people you know say “I’m a pescatarian, I only eat fish,” you might want to point out that not only do fish feel pain, they suffer and die in agony like any other animal raised for food. You can also tell them that eating fish is completely unnecessary. You can get all the protein you need from a low-fat vegan diet (look at elephants!) Plus, there is zero cholesterol in a vegan diet. We human animals make more than enough cholesterol in our own livers, we certainly don’t need to ingest the cholesterol made in the livers of the animals being consumed.

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

 

Thinking of Giving a Companion Animal to Someone You Love This Christmas? Do It Right!

Once you’ve decided that you and your family have the time, the patience, the financial means, and the compassion to bring a companion animal into your home, go to your local city or county animal shelter to adopt. You will be amazed at how many wonderful cats, dogs, puppies, and kittens are desperately waiting for someone to come in and save them from imminent death. Did you know that over five million healthy, adoptable companion animals are killed every year in shelters and pounds for no other reason but the lack of people to adopt them? Most animal shelters not only have cuddly cats and doggies waiting for loving homes, but also rabbits, chickens, pigs, etc., all of whom are homeless and longing to be a companion to someone special.

Many local rescue organizations hold adoption days at pet supply outlets such as Petco and PetSmart, etc. If you’re looking online, go to Petfinder.com, where you can search more than 4,000 shelters across the country by breed, size, location and other categories for wonderful animals to adopt.

Irresponsible people who don’t spay or neuter their pets, dump boxes of newborns at city and county shelters. It’s a terrible way to start out life, unwanted and abandoned. Personally, though, I have always adopted older doggies. They’re every bit as loveable as a puppy or kitten, but typically more mellow, and they don’t need to be potty-trained! Remember, too, that older animals are the first to be killed at shelters.

There are other great reasons for adopting an animal from a shelter or pound. The cost is low, and there are often discounts on spaying and neutering; most shelters spay or neuter your new best friend for you.

Never, ever buy from a breeder or pet shop. Adopt your next best friend and know that you are saving not one, but two lives – the precious animal you are adopting, and, by opening up shelter space, another animal who now has a chance to be rescued.

When you’ve done it right, your child or loved one will receive the gift of a longtime friend and companion. Those who share their home with an animal find the experience one of the most magnificent of their lives.

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

 

Don’t Give the Gift of Suffering and Death

When I was in my early 20s, I went to my boyfriend’s graduation, and I was so pleased to wear a mink stole given to me by my godmother. I had no idea of the awful suffering and brutality I was wearing. As I grew older I was enlightened, thank goodness, to the cruelty inherent in the fur trade as well as in other animal industries. After I learned the truth about the fur industry and the suffering of the poor animals whose pelts I wore, I took that mink stole, streaked it with red paint, purchased a horrible leg hold trap from a thrift store, and used them as visual aids in protesting against fur. Now I’d like to share with you what I learned about fur, in the hope that you won’t buy your loved one anything made from those poor souls this Christmas, Hanukkah or at any other time.

Here are some facts you need to know about the fur industry and the most common ways fur-bearing animals are killed in the US, Europe, and China, the world’s largest exporter of furs:

People admiring a fur coat or fur-trimmed garment in a store window or glossy magazine are likely unaware that animals like mink, fox, coyote, beaver, rabbits and raccoons are clubbed, electrocuted, and even skinned alive for their fur. Anal and genital electrocution is a common and agonizing method of slaughtering fur-bearing animals. To accomplish this, fur farmers stick an electric probe in the mouth and anus of a living, suffering fox or other animal. Try to imagine the terror felt by these poor animals. When the farmer turns on the electric current, the animal seizes uncontrollably until it dies an excruciating death. Fur farmers favor this method because the animals are electrocuted from the inside out, limiting damage to the animal’s pelt. New York is presently the only state in which this ghastly practice is illegal.

Eighty-five percent of the fur industry’s “harvest” comes from animals held captive on factory farms, where they are crammed into severely crowded, filthy wire cages, and often skinned alive.  Mink are known to go insane inside these tiny wire cages; many undercover animal activists have filmed the poor creatures going round and round in circles for hours on end, making high-pitched screeching noises.

One billion rabbits are slaughtered each year so that their fur can be used for trim in clothing, craft items, or for lures in fly-fishing.

One-third of all fur sold in the US comes from animals killed in steel-jaw traps. The fur farmers set out these traps in the woods. The heavy steel traps slam shut on an animal’s limb, shattering the bone, which causes excruciating pain and leaves the animal stuck and starving, sometimes for days.

The huge conibear trap crushes an animal’s neck by applying 90 pounds of pressure per square inch, leaving the animal to suffer for up to eight minutes while he or she slowly strangles to death. These sadistic traps are set not only on land, but are also positioned at the bottom of shallow ponds to kill beavers who swim by building their homes or collecting aquatic plants to feed their families.

In China, more than two million cats and hundreds of thousands of dogs are bludgeoned, hanged, or bled to death, or simply skinned alive for their fur, which is then exported to the US.

I beg of you, if you or anyone you know still wears fur or fur trim, please let them know about how cruel the fur industry is. Faux fur is a compassionate and cruelty-free alternative this holiday season or any. Want to do something really kind this holiday season? Instead of wearing a fur coat to your next party, how about donating it to PETA so they can use it in their provocative protests against cruelty? You can contact PETA at the address below.

Remember. . . FUR TRADE = DEATH TRADE.

Attn.: Fur Campaign

PETA
501 Front Street
Norfolk, VA 23510

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

In Times of Disaster, Animals Need Your Help More Than Ever

 

The fires in Southern California are wreaking havoc on both wild and domestic animals. Some fires are moving at the rate of one acre per second, consuming everything in their paths. Fleeing animals can’t outrun the flames and are being burned alive or suffocating from smoke inhalation. My heart breaks because they are confused, frightened, and have no place to go. More than anything in the world, I wish I could save them all.

The news today that 25 horses trapped in a barn perished, many burned alive, saddens and angers me. Someone could have given those horses a chance to live by simply opening the latch to let them run free. Why must some people think only of themselves? Such selfishness and lack of caring disgusts me.

I have been volunteering at the Last Call animal shelters, trying to reunite lost cats and dogs with their owners. I’m also helping dozens of volunteers wash animals being brought in completely covered with ash. We’re flushing out their eyes with warm water since animals are incapable of doing that for themselves. The animals are crying and shaking; it’s so very, very sad. We’re doing what we can by giving them loving kindness and comfort.

I urge anyone who can make the time to volunteer at your local animal rescue. Even in non-emergency times and locations, animals need you to help them find safe and loving adoptive homes.

Humans who have lost their homes can rebuild, but poor animals are dying by the thousands in fear, pain, and misery.

All of us must be stewards of the earth’s animals. They are so innocent and need us to love them, adopt them, and NOT to eat them.

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

Fish Are Intelligent and Social Animals – and Killed by the Billions Each Year

These images are from the animated series “Sealab 2020,” which ran from 1972 to 1973. The series was produced by Hanna-Barbera, the same studio that produced classic cartoons such as “The Flintstones,” “Yogi Bear,” “The Jetsons,” and “Scooby-Doo,” I voiced several cartoon characters for Hanna-Barbera over the years; in “Sealab 2020” I played Sali Murphy, daughter of Captain Michael Murphy, commander of Sealab, a research base constructed on the Challenger Sea Mount, an underwater mountain, in the year 2020, then 48 years in the future. Sealab was home to 250 men, women, and children, and was dedicated to the study and protection of marine life.

The series was ahead of its time in developing stories around the destructive effects on sea life, marine mammals, and the environment of human activities such as commercial fishing, shipping, oil spills, and dumping of radioactive waste. At the time, I had no idea of the extent to which humans were – and are – trashing the oceans and causing harm to the living things in it. Most people don’t have much feeling for fish, but when you do some research you learn that they are highly intelligent creatures. Even before I became vegan, I never liked to eat fish after I witnessed a fish being pulled from its ocean home. I saw the sharp metal hook in its mouth, and the fish flapping around on the deck of the boat in panic and agony as it suffocated to death.

As an adult, I learned that fish are individuals who have their own unique personalities. Dive guides have been known to name friendly fish who follow divers around and enjoy being petted, just as dogs and cats do. Yet billions of fish die every year in nets, hooks, and on long lines.

According to Culum Brown, a researcher at Macquarie University in Sydney, “fish are more intelligent than they appear. In many areas, such as memory, their cognitive powers match or exceed those of ‘higher’ vertebrates.” In Fish and Fisheries, biologists wrote that fish are “steeped in social intelligence, pursuing Machiavellian strategies of reconciliation, exhibiting stable cultural traditions, and cooperating to inspect predators and catch food.”

Fish communicate through a range of low-frequency sounds from buzzes and clicks to yelps and sobs. These sounds, most of which are only audible to humans with the use of special instruments, communicate emotional states such as alarm or delight, and help with courtship.

While fish do not always express pain and suffering in ways that humans can easily recognize, scientific reports from around the world substantiate the fact that fish feel pain. Researchers from Edinburgh and Glasgow Universities studied the pain receptors in fish and found that they were strikingly similar to those of mammals. The researchers concluded that “fish do have the capacity for pain perception and suffering.”

Hooked fish struggle out of fear and intense physical pain. Once fish are taken out of their natural environment and pulled into ours, they suffocate. Their gills often collapse, and their swim bladders can rupture because of the sudden change in pressure.

The average U.S. consumer eats nearly 16 pounds of fish and shellfish every year. To meet this demand, U.S. commercial fishers reel in more than 8 billion pounds of fish and shellfish annually.

Commercial fishers use factory-style trawlers the size of football fields to catch fish. Miles-long nets stretch across the ocean, capturing every fish and marine mammal in their path. Fish are scraped raw from rubbing against the rocks and debris that are caught in the nets with them. Then they bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of the ships, gasping for oxygen and suffering for as long as 24 hours. Some fishing boats use gill nets, which ensnare every animal they catch, and fish are mutilated when they are extracted from the nets.

Longline fishing, in which 40 miles of monofilament fishing line dangles thousands of enormous, individually metal baited hooks to catch tuna and swordfish, drowns thousands of turtles and birds every year. Because of the fishing industry’s indiscriminate practices, the population of the world’s large predatory fish, such as swordfish and marlin, has declined by 90 percent since the advent of industrialized fishing.

Overfishing is threatening shark populations, too, with more than 100 million killed every year. One underwater photographer says that when he works off the north coast of New South Wales, he finds that “almost every second grey nurse shark… has a hook hanging out of its mouth, with a bit of trailing line following it.” Many sharks are the victims of “finning,” in which fishers catch sharks, haul them on deck, hack off their fins (for expensive shark fin soup), and toss the maimed, helpless animals back into the ocean to die in agony.

Like the flesh of other animals, the flesh of sea animals contains excessive amounts of protein, fat, and cholesterol.

What can you do? Never buy or eat fish. Grains, legumes, vegetables, nuts, and seeds provide all the essential amino acids you need. Vegetarian products like mock lobster, shrimp, and crab have all the taste of the “real thing” with none of the cruelty or contaminants. Omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent heart disease, can be found in flaxseeds, canola oil, nuts, and avocados. Recipes for fabulous, healthy, and animal-friendly vegetarian dishes, including faux fish sticks and sushi, can be found at VegCooking.com.

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

 

Pigs: Clean, Intelligent – and Tortured on Factory Farms

Here I am with Wilbur in the animated movie “Charlotte’s Web.” The movie had an all-star cast: Debbie Reynolds voicing Charlotte the spider, Paul Lynde as Templeton the rat, Henry Gibson as Wilbur the pig, and Agnes Moorehead as the Goose. Then there was me; I did the voice of Fern, the little farm girl who saves Wilbur from her father’s axe!

The reason why I love this film so much is that it’s really an animal rights film. “Charlotte’s Web” depicts all the animals as having unique personalities as well as having the capacity to feel pain, sadness, fear, joy, and happiness. If you’ve never seen it, watch the movie on Netflix and you’ll understand exactly what I’m saying!

The movie opens with me as Fern, eating breakfast and seeing my father carrying an axe out to the barn. “Where’s Papa going with the axe?” I ask my mother, and she tells me a litter of piglets were born the previous night and he was going to kill the “runt.” I race to my father in tears, hoping to stop him. In my most favorite line from the movie, I ask him, “If I had been born a runt, would you have killed me?” And so begins the film and Fern’s and Wilbur’s loving, compassionate relationship.

I didn’t know at the time how horribly pigs are treated then killed to produce pork, but I had an innate sense that animals should not be killed, exploited or abused for a human’s pleasure. As Plutarch aptly expressed it, “But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and the light, and that proportion of life and time it had been born into this world to enjoy.”

Activists give water to overheated, dehydrated pigs crammed into a transport truck.

There’s an animal rights group in Los Angeles that waits outside an enormous slaughter facility where truckloads of poor, suffering pigs are brought to be butchered. When the trucks stop at the entrance, activists offer water to the pigs they can reach. The pigs are completely dehydrated, their skin burned from the long, grueling trip, and packed in the trucks so tightly they can’t even turn around.

Did you know that pigs are highly intelligent animals? Not that that should matter, but they are. Some very ignorant people believe pigs are dirty, but this is not true. The reason pigs love to take mud baths is that their skin, which is very sensitive, has no sweat glands, so the only way they can cool down is to roll in the mud. Wouldn’t you roll in something cool if you were unable to sweat?

Pigs are clever animals, as well as friendly, loyal, and intelligent. They are naturally very clean and avoid soiling their living areas. When they are not confined on factory farms, pigs spend hours playing, lying in the sun, and exploring their surroundings with their powerful sense of smell. On modern factory farms, these outgoing, sensitive animals spend their entire lives in cramped, filthy warehouses under the constant stress of intense confinement, denied everything that is natural and important to them.

Piglets struggle to be fed by their mother behind bars in a factory farm.

Mother pigs – sows – spend most of their miserable lives in tiny gestation and farrowing crates so small that they can’t turn around. They are impregnated again and again until their bodies give out and are then sent to slaughter. Piglets are torn away from their distraught mothers just a few weeks after birth. With no painkillers to ease their suffering, their tails are chopped off, the ends of their teeth are snipped off with pliers, and the males are castrated. The young pigs then spend their short lives in cramped, crowded pens atop slabs of filthy concrete.

When the time comes for slaughter, pigs are forcibly herded onto transport trucks that often travel for many miles exposed to all manner of weather. Many pigs die from heat exhaustion in the summer or arrive frozen to the inside of the truck in the winter. According to industry reports, more than one million pigs die in transport each year, and at least 40,000 sustain injuries by the time they arrive at the slaughterhouse. There at the slaughterhouse, due to improper stunning methods, many pigs are still conscious when they are dumped into tanks of scalding-hot water, which is intended to remove their hair and soften their skin. For more information, please see PETA’s eye-opening article on factory farming pigs.

What can you do to help put an end to this cruelty? The best way is to switch to consuming vegan foods. Please consider ordering PETA’s free vegan starter kit, which contains great tips and free recipes to help you make the transition to animal-friendly eating.

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

The Carriage Industry Is Taking You for a Ride

Pictured here are two scenes from the Walt Disney movie “The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band.” In the first, I am riding in a horse-drawn wagon with my movie dad Buddy Ebsen and brother John Walmsley; in the other, I and all my movie siblings ride in a carriage with our grandpa, Walter Brennan.

In another essay on this site I posted a photo of me posed on a large horse when I was very young, and told you about the horrible cruelty of horse racing. Today I’d like to say a few words about the cruelty of horse-drawn carriages on our streets, like those in New York City.

I’ve always felt sad for the carriage horses, plodding along wearily on the streets as buses and cars go whizzing by, just inches away. Carriage horses are forced to pull heavy loads in extreme weather, dodge traffic, and pound the pavement day in and day out until they get old, injured, or sick, after which they’re sent to the slaughterhouse. These horses lead very sad lives. From constant walking and standing on hard streets, lameness and hoof deterioration are inevitable in carriage horses. Many develop respiratory ailments from breathing in exhaust fumes, and suffer debilitating leg problems from walking on hard surfaces. Weather conditions, too, can prove fatal for working horses. Carriage horses are exposed to long shifts in bitter cold and wet weather in the winter, and scorching heat and debilitating humidity in the summer. Many drop dead on the city streets from dehydration and heatstroke.

A carriage horse dies on the streets of New York.

In an audit of the New York carriage industry, the city’s comptroller found that horses on the street did not have ready access to water, had insufficient shade during hot weather, and that, because of poor street drainage, “the horses are left to stand in pools of dirty water.”

People around the world are increasingly recognizing that it’s the carriage industry – not just the horses – taking them for a ride. Please don’t patronize carriage rides, and explain to family and friends why they shouldn’t, either. If your city allows carriages on city streets, urge your legislators to propose legislation that will ban them.

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

Racehorses Never Win

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.
Coming up soon: me in another riding role and the horribly sad and lonely life of carriage horses. 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!