Fur Is Beautiful… But Only on Animals

A mother searches through the forest for food. Her babies are back in the den, safe but hungry. She doesn’t like to leave them, especially in the cold weather, but she must in order to keep them fed. Spotting something in the brush she cautiously approaches for a better look.

CRACK! CRUNCH! With the force of hundreds of pounds of pressure, the spring-loaded, six-inch steel jaws of a leg-hold trap snap shut, shattering the bones in her foot. The mother howls in pain and fear. The trap is anchored to the ground by a short chain and metal spike, so she can’t drag it away. Knowing her babies will die if she doesn’t return to the den, she tries to chew off her own leg to get free.

Elsewhere in the woods, a fur trapper is making his rounds in the woods, checking his traps. If the scavenging mother hasn’t died already from exposure, dehydration, and blood loss, he will dash out her brains with a club. A quicker death with a gun is out of the question – bullets put holes in the pelt. He stuffs her lifeless body in his bag and resets the trap for the next victim. Back in the den, the babies wait for their mother who is never coming home. For the sake of a pair of fur-lined gloves, they will soon be dead, too.

I urge you to take a minute and watch this video by fellow animal advocate Bill Maher. Isn’t it time we stopped thinking that fur (and feathers) are hip fashion statements, and see them for what they are, the remains of an animal, killed for human vanity?

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, such as the one described above. 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 for all seasons. Compassion: now that’s a hip fashion statement!

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

Why Should Animals Have Rights?

“I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” – Abraham Lincoln

“One day the absurdity of the almost universal human belief in the slavery of other animals will be palpable. We shall then have discovered our souls and become worthier of sharing this planet with them.” ― Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

“We must fight against the spirit of unconscious cruelty with which we treat the animals. Animals suffer as much as we do. True humanity does not allow us to impose such sufferings on them. It is our duty to make the whole world recognize it. Until we extend our circle of compassion to all living things, humanity will not find peace.” – Dr. Albert Schweitzer

Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. Many of us bought kittens or puppies at pet shops, kept fish in tanks or birds in cages. We wore wool and silk, munched on hot dogs and egg salad sandwiches, and went fishing. Never did we consider the impact of these actions on the animals involved.

We hear all the time about human rights. The question is often asked, do – or should – animals have rights? The answer is, quite simply, yes! Animals deserve to live their lives free from suffering and exploitation. Way back in the 18th century, Jeremy Bentham, social reformer and founder of the Utilitarian school of moral philosophy, identified the elemental question behind establishing the rights of all beings. “The question,” wrote Bentham, “is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?” Unlike the development of abstract language or the ability to perform higher mathematics, the capacity for suffering is universal. Animals suffer in just the same way and to the same degree as humans do. All of us, human and non-human animals alike, feel pain, pleasure, fear, frustration, loneliness, and maternal love.

Whenever we engage in activity that causes animals to suffer – killing and eating them, imprisoning them in tanks or cages, stripping off their fur and hides to wear, or painting our faces or cleaning our homes with products associated with gruesome animal tests – we violate the rights of animals to live their lives in peace. This is unethical and immoral. What you would not do to a human, it is wrong to do to an animal. Why, then, does human society permit horrors to be perpetrated on 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 own babies. 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. Humans have a seemingly limitless capacity to hurt, abuse, and destroy the lives of non-humans.

Those who believe in animal rights understand that all sentient beings 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, arrogance, and a stubborn unwillingness to give up what is comfortable and familiar allows us to deny others the rights that we demand for ourselves. This is wrong. In this season of peace and good will, it’s something to think about.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet.

Judaism and Animals

Happy Hanukkah to my Jewish friends and family!

My parents came from different religious backgrounds – my father born Jewish, my mother Roman Catholic. I was brought up as neither, but because the grandfather, aunts, uncles, and cousins I saw most often and on holidays were Jews, I have always felt culturally Jewish.

There are many religions and cultures in the world, and because humans do not occupy this planet alone, each has some relationship with animals. Judaism teaches that animals are part of God’s creation and should be treated with compassion. The Talmud specifically instructs Jews not to cause pain to animals, and there are several Bible stories which use kindness to animals as a demonstration of virtue. In the Jewish tradition, humans must avoid tzar baalei chayim – causing pain to any living creature. In this regard, Jews were trailblazers; cruelty to animals was not outlawed in other cultures until the 1800s, and even now animal suffering is sadly ignored in so many.

In the Bible, those who care for animals are heroes, while those who hunt animals are villains. Jacob, Moses, and King David were all shepherds, people who cared for animals. Rebecca was chosen as a wife for Isaac because of her kindness to animals. When Abraham’s servant asked for water for himself, Rebecca took it upon herself to water his camels as well, a demonstration of her care for animals. On the other hand, the two hunters in the Bible, Nimrod and Esau, are both depicted as villains. Hunting for sport is strictly prohibited under Jewish law. The Talmud also tells the story of a great rabbi, Judah Ha-Nasi, who was punished with years of kidney stones and other painful ailments because he was insensitive to the fear of a calf being led to slaughter; he was relieved years later when he showed kindness to animals.

When people tell me that God gave humans “dominion” over animals, I remind them that “dominion” is more properly translated as “care.” “Dominion” does not give humans the right to cause pain and destruction. “Thou shalt not kill” is one of the Ten Commandments and could not be stated any more plainly.

Under Jewish law, animals have rights. Pets and companion animals must be allowed to rest on Shabbat, just as humans do. Don’t be sending Fido out to fetch the newspaper for you – it’s his day off, too! Shabbat may be violated only to rescue an animal in pain or at risk of death, but walking, playing with, and caring for your companion animal is never a violation.

In the Talmud, the rabbis dictated that a person may not purchase an animal unless he has made provisions to feed it, and that a person must feed his animals before he feeds himself. This carries over to faithful Jewish pet owners who have an obligation to feed their pets before themselves. That’s part of the “dominion,” or “care,” I was just talking about.

The Bible informs us that humans were intended to eat a vegan diet. Note that in Genesis 1:29, God gives humanity all the fruits and vegetables of the world for food, but not the flesh of his animals. It seems humanity has forgotten this. Veganism is making a tremendous rise worldwide, though, which is exciting and encouraging, and vegan food options are now easy to find in most grocery stores and restaurants. For Jews, there is no holiday or observance for which it is a mitzvah (commandment) to eat meat, and most symbolic foods used in holiday rituals are not taken from animals; vegan substitutes for honey at Pesach are allowed.

Over the past few years, Israel has been swept by a vegan revolution. It is now the most vegan country on Earth, with a full five percent of its population eschewing all animal products. That number has doubled since 2010, when only 2.6 percent of Israelis were either vegan or vegetarian. Israeli vegans are both widespread and well-fed. There are more than 400 vegan-friendly restaurants to be found in that small nation, including Domino’s, which sells a vegan pizza made with soy cheese exclusively in Israel. The site of the world’s biggest annual vegan festival is in Tel Aviv. Even the Israeli Defense Forces have gone vegan, offering animal-free food, boots, and berets (no wool) to vegan soldiers.

Christianity has its roots in Judaism and incorporates the Jewish Bible into its own as the Old Testament. Jesus, after all, was a Jew, and although he wasn’t a shepherd by trade, his care for humanity is frequently compared in the Christian Bible to that of a shepherd for his flock. Jews and Christians share the same wish for peace, joy, and goodwill, especially at Hanukkah and Christmas. That is my wish for the world, too, which is why I end all of my essays by saying –

Peace to ALL of the animals with whom we share this planet.

Animal Gifting Is No Gift

Holiday gift-giving season is here again. One popular choice for gift donations in recent years are programs that send live farm animals as “gifts,” ostensibly to help alleviate hunger and poverty in low-income countries. The sad reality is that animal gifting helps no one but the organizations that sponsor them. Organizations such as Heifer International would like you to think your donation gives a lift to impoverished peoples around the world. In truth, your donation is more likely to cause considerable harm.

10 REASONS TO SAY NO TO ANIMAL GIFTING HUNGER RELIEF ORGANIZATIONS

  1. MOST DAIRY ANIMAL RECIPIENTS ARE LACTOSE INTOLERANT AND HARMED BY DAIRY.

75% of the world – and 90% of Asian and African populations – is lactose-intolerant. Increased dairy production is frequently touted as one of the greatest successes of animal gifting programs. But, in reality, both small- and large-scale dairy programs negatively affect the health, well-being, and productivity of people in lactose intolerant populations.

Lactose intolerance occurs when there is not enough of an enzyme called lactase. The result is widespread digestive ills such as stomach pain, gas, bloating, cramps, diarrhea, and even vomiting. Consuming milk from other animals is also associated with allergies, asthma, and a host of autoimmune disorders. Most mammals (including humans) become lactose intolerant after weaning. Milk is very specifically created for infants, not adults. Furthermore, there is no need for humans to consume the milk of other animals. Logically, this makes perfect sense but rarely is it fully considered. The resources used to produce dairy ought to be spent on alternatives that provide a higher quality and quantity of calories, protein and calcium.

A typical dairy factory farm.

While animal gifting programs seem to focus on small-scale farming, they have extremely large-scale implications that pave the way for factory farming, and exponentially increase consumption of meat, dairy and eggs throughout entire countries and beyond.

For example, Heifer International is largely considered responsible for the kick-off of industrialized dairy in Japan after World War II. Heifer International boasts that their projects produced 3.6 million gallons of milk in one year in Uganda, and developed a national dairy program in Tanzania. These massive programs were developed despite the fact that 90% of Asian and African populations are lactose intolerant.

  1. MORE FARMED ANIMALS DOES NOT EQUATE TO LESS HUNGER.

Pro-meat biases mean that sustainable plant crops that provide better nutrition and greater income are often overlooked.

In Ethiopia, over 40% of the population is considered hungry or starving, yet the country has 50 million cattle (one of the largest herds in the world), as well as almost 50 million sheep and goats, and 35 million chickens unnecessarily consuming food, land and water, Severe overgrazing has led to deforestation, soil erosion, and eventual desertification.

Instead of using precious food, water, topsoil, and massive amounts of land and energy to raise livestock, countries like Ethiopia, for instance, could grow teff, an ancient and extremely nutritious grain grown in that country for the past 20,000 to 30,000 years. Teff is very high in protein, with an excellent amino acid profile, and is high in fiber and calcium – one cup of teff provides more calcium than a cup of milk – and is a rich source of boron, copper, phosphorus, zinc, and iron. Researchers have found that teff can be grown by farmers at a yield of 2,000 to 3,000 pounds per acre, with more sustainable growing techniques employed and no water irrigation. Teff has been shown to grow well in water-stressed areas and it is pest resistant.

  1. MORE FARMED ANIMALS MEAN MORE MOUTHS TO FEED.

Many recipients of animal gifting programs struggle to provide even the most basic care to the animals they receive. Animals do not magically produce milk and meat or just “live off the land” by grazing (see below). Animals must be provided food and water in areas where these resources are already scarce, and many of the animals Heifer International gives to impoverished populations care of unaware donors wind up suffering from neglect, dehydration, lack of shelter from temperature extremes, and starvation.

  1. FARMED ANIMALS DO NOT JUST “LIVE OFF THE LAND.”
Zero-grazing animals frequently languish in confinement.

While tempting to believe, farmed animals do not just “live off the land,” consuming only grass and scraps that don’t compete with human consumption. In response to criticism that promoting irresponsible animal agriculture in regions already plagued by desertification and drought, Heifer International and other organizations promote their animals’ “zero-grazing” requirements. “Zero-grazing” is simply a euphemism for “confined in filthy pens.” 

Animal gifting organizations such as Heifer International promote inherently water-intensive animal farming, even in areas identified as water-scarce. Raising animals for food requires up to 10 times more water than growing crops for direct consumption. Additionally, in many arid communities, water is only available from a communal well or reservoir, in which case hydrating animals is a labor-intensive process for adults and children who must travel by foot and can only carry so much. Because of this, hundreds of thousands of animals die a slow death from dehydration.

Initiatives such as micro-irrigation (or drip irrigation) projects for growing crops are far more sustainable and ecologically sound. With micro-irrigation, crops can be grown year-round, harvesting rainwater and precisely redistributing it, and supplying families with sources of food as well as income from surplus harvest. Some families in impoverished countries whose animals have died from dehydration and malnutrition have begun growing crops instead and experiencing food security, better nutrition, and access to healthcare and education from the resulting steady income.

  1. EXPERTS DISAPPROVE OF ANIMAL GIFTING.

The World Land Trust calls animal gifting programs “madness… environmentally unsound and economically disastrous….” WLT concludes that “now that the grave consequences of introducing large numbers of goats and other animals into fragile, arid environments is well documented, it is grossly irresponsible … to continue with these schemes … as a means of raising quick money for charities over the Christmas season.”

Sean O’Neill of the Times of London explains that animal gifting organizations like Heifer International and similar organizations spend exorbitant amounts of money on colorful, glossy catalogs with pictures of cute children hugging and kissing animals wearing Christmas hats along with promises of helping the poor in developing countries, when in fact they do the exact opposite. Children who allegedly benefit from animal gifts are frequently taken out of school to tend to animals. Ultimately, most of their animal “friends” will suffer painful deaths due to disease, dehydration and slaughter.

  1. ANIMAL GIFTING PROGRAMS MISLEAD THE PUBLIC.

Heifer International and similar organizations want their donors to believe that gift recipients and their animals are happy, but they are far from it.  Many gifted animals suffer from confinement, neglect, malnutrition, and lack of protection from weather and temperature extremes. Animals also endure horrific slaughter processes and long-distance transport where they are literally forced to lie down and tied with heavy rope so they can’t get up and die miserable deaths during transport.

According to Animal Nepal founder, Lucia DeVries, “I have been sending letters to Dutch agencies to stop this kind of program for yet another reason: the animals are generally slaughtered in an inhumane manner. In Nepal, for instance, there is only one slaughterhouse, in the capital, Katmandu. This means that virtually all livestock are killed with the often not-too-sharp-knife of rural butchers, causing much suffering to the animal and possibly to the butcher. I’ve met quite a few people who lost fingers while trying to kill a goat.”

  1. ANIMAL GIFTING ORGANIZATIONS ENGAGE IN QUESTIONABLE SPENDING.

Heifer International spent more than $22 million for printing, distribution, processing, and other fundraising-related costs. According to Heifer International’s public tax form, the organization spent $22,359,441 on fundraising alone in one year. Concerns about the priorities and appropriate use of donations apply to all animal gifting programs, but Heifer International raises special concerns because of their annual budget -in excess of $100 million a year – and their well-known luxury spending practices.

Is this where you want your donation to go, to pay for fancy buildings and expensive glossy catalogs that are shipped to tens of thousands of people who haven’t requested or even want them?

Former Indian minister for social welfare and animal protection, Maneka Gandhi, has said, “Nothing irritates me more than charities abroad that collect money and purport to give it to women or children or for animals in Asia or Africa. Very little reaches the country or the cause for which it is meant. Most of it goes toward their own ‘infrastructure,’ which means rent, staff, travel and ‘investigation.’

  1. ANIMAL GIFTING PROGRAMS RAISE CONCERNS FROM CHARITY RATERS.

The Give Well charity-rating organization deemed in their evaluation of Heifer International that the organization lacked sufficient transparency and priority programming to secure positive recommendations or funding. Numerous other charity-rating organizations do not recommend Heifer International as a recipient of your donor dollars because they lack transparency and show no positive results regarding those living in impoverished countries.

  1. THERE ARE BETTER FEEDING PROGRAMS AND GIFT DONATION PROGRAMS.

Due to popular demand, A Well Fed World created a special Plants-4-Hunger  program to provide a compassionate and highly-effective gift-giving alternative.

A Well-Fed World sends 100% of your donation to four hand-picked groups with low overhead and proven successes in high-need areas. These hunger relief projects provide both immediate assistance and long-term community solutions that feed families without harming animals.

They make it easy with one tax-letter, gift card and present. You may also choose to give directly to these groups or choose from their grants list.

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

For Turkeys and Those Who Care, Thanks-Grieving Day Approaches

For millions of turkeys and those who care about animals, Thanksgiving Day is Thanks-GRIEVING Day.

When I was little, I ate turkey with my family at Thanksgiving. But it alarmed and upset me to watch my mother prepare the turkey. I recognized it as a dead bird, and the sight of its pale, cold skin with little pimples where the feathers had been pulled out made me cringe, and watching my mother stuff the bird’s bloody organs with fistfuls of breadcrumbs into the gaping hole where its head used to be made me feel ill. It saddens me that, when the turkey was served, I was able to put those images out of my mind and dig in. Of course, I was a child then and didn’t know any better.

This Thanksgiving, some 40-50 million turkeys will be murdered and eaten. Millions more will be slaughtered a month later to celebrate a season dedicated to peace and good will. How sad and ironic.

Turkeys are beautiful, intelligent, and sensitive birds. Under natural conditions, turkey hens are devoted mothers who care diligently for their babies. They are fiercely protective of their young and will risk their lives to save their babies. Male turkeys, called toms, have beautiful feathers they love to show off. Toms at sanctuaries are known to follow busy human caretakers from chore to chore, puffing out their feathers in a blast of scalloped ruffles, patiently waiting to be noticed and admired.

Did you know that turkeys love to be petted? Turkeys make very affectionate animal friends. When they feel love and trust, many turkeys make a sound that can only be described as “purring.” Turkeys rescued by sanctuaries, even those who have known great cruelty at human hands, will happily sit for hours having their tummy rubbed.

But few turkeys enjoy such loving, caring treatment, for most live excruciatingly painful lives at factory farms or on oxymoronically-named “humanely-raised” farms. On these farms, turkeys are artificially inseminated, the industry euphemism for being held upside down, struggling, while a syringe of semen is pushed into their vaginas. They and their offspring have been bred to grow so unnaturally fast and heavy that their bones are too weak to support their weight. They suffer from leg deformities, arthritis and joint pain almost from birth, resulting in lameness so severe that they are sometimes forced to walk on their wings to reach food and water.

Turkeys are packed by the thousands into long, windowless buildings, where they breathe ammonia fumes and irritating dust that lead them to develop respiratory diseases. Forced to live in their own urine and excrement, they develop grossly ulcerated feet, blistered breasts, and ammonia-burned eyes and throats.

Although turkeys have claws, under natural conditions and with proper living space, they will not use their claws against others, but subjected to overcrowding and brutal handling at turkey farms, stressed turkeys use their thick nails to defend themselves. Because of this, turkey farmers use shears to cut off – without anesthesia – not just the nails, but the first and second digits of the turkey’s toes so they will not grow back. Disregard what you may believe about “humane” farms or “free-range” turkeys; the same painful brutality is performed on those birds. The open wounds often get infected and swell, making it incredibly painful for the turkeys to walk. I’ve visited rescued turkeys at sanctuaries and seen for myself their terribly deformed feet and the swollen stumps of what used to be their toes.

The cruel practice of debeaking – done also on chicken farms – is performed while the turkeys are still chicks. Debeaking is done using sharp shears, a heated blade, or a high-voltage electrical current. Turkeys’ beaks are loaded with sensory receptors, much like human fingertips, and this painful procedure severs and exposes nerves. Some turkeys starve to death before they are able to eat again; others die of shock during the procedure. Not only are debeaked turkeys painfully mutilated, but as birds who use their beaks to preen, groom, peck and eat, those who survive the procedure suffer tremendously for being unable to do these natural activities.

Before a turkey arrives in your grocer’s freezer case, they are forced through several stations along a gruesome assembly line at the slaughterhouse. The process begins by shackling the birds by their feet before dragging them upside down through an electrified water bath designed to stun them. From there their throats are cut by an automated blade. But this assembly line of death moves so quickly that many of the turkeys are not properly stunned. Still flapping and writhing, they miss the blade, and remain alive as they and those before them are dropped into the scalding tank, designed to loosen their feathers for easy removal. Any turkeys who have survived to this point are boiled alive.

Festive? No. Can mutilation, torture, and death bespeak thankfulness, home, or family? As compassionate people, can’t we reevaluate the systematic suffering and merciless killing of billions of animals in the name of tradition?

Now that you know the truth behind a Thanks-Grieving dinner, here’s a short, uplifting video about Hildy, a turkey rescued from a commercial farm who was lucky enough to live out her life with people who loved her.

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

November is Adopt-a-Senior-Pet Month

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!

Torturing Primates Is Anything But Monkey Business

In an episode of “Space Academy” called “Monkey Business,” a solar mirror at an agricultural lab fails and only Jake, a chimpanzee, can climb the tower to make the repair. Guided by telepathic instructions from Laura (my role), Jake scales the tower and saves the day.

It broke my heart to work with Jake. When the poor chimp was not on the set, he was locked in a cage barely larger than he was. He looked so sad, and even when he was on the set, he still looked sad and confused. He wasn’t at all enthusiastic about climbing the “tower” (really a succession of props that, when the shots were edited, created the impression of a tall tower). Apes and monkeys are not stunt performers and shouldn’t be forced to be.

The plight of primates (apes and monkeys) is so much worse than simply being forced to grin and perform on Hollywood sets. At this moment, thousands of primates are languishing in cages, living in fear, and being denied everything that’s natural and important to them. These complex, intelligent, and sociable animals will be tortured and killed in crude, cruel, and useless experiments conducted in university, government, and private laboratories.

Numerous investigations have found that in order to abduct primates from their homes in the wild, trappers often shoot mothers from trees, stun the animals with dart guns, and then capture the babies, who cling, panic-stricken, to their mothers’ bodies. Some wildlife traders catch whole primate families in baited traps. The animals are packed into tiny crates with little to no food or water and are taken to filthy holding centers, where they await long and terrifying trips in the cargo holds of passenger airliners. Their destination: laboratories like Covance or Charles River Laboratories, laboratory dealers like Primate Products, Inc., or primate breeding centers.

Torn from their families and social groups, these traumatized primates are typically confined to barren steel cages—a far cry from the lush forests and savannahs of their native habitat.  At home, nonhuman primates travel for miles, foraging for a variety of foods, socializing with family and friends, climbing hills, swinging from vines, swimming in rivers, scampering across fields, and cavorting with their companions. In laboratories, these animals have barely enough room to sit, stand, lie down, or turn around. The rich days full of sensory stimulation that they should be experiencing are replaced by days that are devoid of color, scent, and almost every other type of environmental enrichment. At most, the primates in laboratories are given cheap plastic toys, scratched mirrors, and the occasional slice of apple or banana. Research shows that 90% of primates in laboratories exhibit abnormal behaviors caused by abuse, stress, and social isolation. Many go insane, rocking back and forth, pacing endlessly in the cages, and engaging in repetitive motions such as back-flipping. They even engage in acts of self-mutilation, including tearing out their own hair or biting their own flesh.

Besides having their most fundamental needs and desires disregarded, primates imprisoned in laboratories are subjected to painful and traumatic procedures, including having tubes forced up their nostrils or down their throats so that experimental drugs can be pumped into them. The National Institutes of Health, it should be added, reports that animal tests have a 95% failure rate in predicting the safety and/or effectiveness of pharmaceuticals, making them pointless as well as cruel.

Rhesus monkeys are given infectious diseases and then used as test subjects for experimental vaccines. Even though decades of these experiments on primates have failed to produce effective vaccines for humans, monkeys are still infected with HIV-like diseases that cause them to suffer acute weight loss, major organ failure, breathing problems, and neurological disorders before they die excruciatingly painful deaths or are killed.

In recent experiments conducted by the military, primates were exposed to anthrax and infected with botulism and bubonic plague. In archaic chemical casualty training exercises, squirrel monkeys were poisoned with nerve agents that caused them to convulse, even though human-patient simulators exist and provide more effective training.

Monkeys are torn from their mothers in order to cause psychological trauma and examine the harm that results. After 50 years of these studies, don’t we know enough already about the effects of maternal deprivation?

In invasive brain experiments, monkeys have holes drilled into their skulls, metal restraints screwed into their heads, and electrodes inserted into their brains. Experimenters at Columbia University caused strokes in baboons by removing their left eyeballs and using the empty eye sockets to clamp critical blood vessels leading to their brains. Some animals have portions of their brains destroyed or removed to impair their cognitive function or cripple them. These sensitive, intelligent animals then have their bodies immobilized in restraint chairs and their heads bolted into place as they are forced to perform a variety of behavioral tasks while their brain activity is recorded. In order to coerce the monkeys to cooperate, they are sometimes deprived of water for up to 24 hours at a time. When the experiments conclude, most of the animals are killed and their brains are removed and dissected.

Experiments on primates, like those performed on any animal, are cruel, painful, and ultimately deadly. Some primates differ in DNA from humans by only 3%. You could say they are our closest relatives on this planet. So why do we insist on torturing and killing them?

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

Wishing Everyone an Animal-Friendly Halloween!

Halloween may be different this year, but safety and compassion should be the hallmark of every holiday every year. Listen to medical experts about coronavirus safeguards and follow these additional tips for a happy Halloween for everyone, humans and non-humans.

If you’re eating or distributing candy, make it vegan candy. Candy made from milk, eggs, gelatin (made from animal skin, tendons, cartilage, ligaments, and bones), confectioner’s glaze (made from the resinous excretions of certain insects), or carmine color (red pigment made from crushed cochineal insects) contribute to animal suffering. I like Twizzlers but click here for a list of some other lip-smacking cruelty-free candy.

Keep candy out of reach of animals, and make sure that kids know not to share their goodies with pets or other animals. All candy (and wrappers!) can cause animals to become sick, and chocolate, which contains an ingredient that is poisonous to dogs, can kill. A simple cat or dog treat will make your animal companion’s’ Halloween great without making them sick.

I’ve seldom seen an animal happy in a Halloween costume, but if (and only if) yours is, make sure those costumes are pet friendly. Costumes that restrict vision or movement are no good. Costumes that are kept in place with tight rubber bands can cut off circulation. Costumes made of flammable materials are likewise out of the question. Pets can be curious about flickering candles and lit jack-o-lanterns – don’t make Halloween a life-threatening proposition for them. Keep those things away from animals, costumed or not.

Keep other decorations away, too. The ink that is used in some brightly colored decorations, such as orange streamers and paper pumpkins, is toxic to animals, and swallowed balloons or party favors can block an animal’s digestive tract.

Keep your pets inside. For cats—especially black cats, who have been unfairly associated with “evil forces”—the days leading up to Halloween can be dark indeed as sick people go on the prowl for cats to torture and often kill. In fact, many animal shelters refuse to adopt out black cats during the entire month of October. It’s a sad commentary on humans that it has to be this way.

Dogs should be kept indoors too. Halloween can be a terrifying experience for dogs, who often run from the noise and the strangely dressed people and can become lost.

When Halloween is over and those pumpkins on your doorstep are looking tired and sad, don’t throw them in the garbage. If there is a wooded or wild area nearby where animals live, bring your pumpkins there. Not only will hungry animals eat them, but smaller animals like chipmunks and squirrels will hollow them out and move in. Old pumpkins and gourds make warm and comfortable homes for the cold months ahead. Note: If you have deer in your area, cut hollowed-out pumpkins up before leaving them in the woods so that feasting deer don’t get their heads caught in them.

Happy Halloween, and peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet!

 

Are Your Purchases Supporting Poaching?

A few years ago, I visited Uganda where I photographed these beautiful elephants enjoying an afternoon stroll along a riverbank. African elephants are the largest land animals on Earth. They are a keystone species, meaning they play a critical role in their ecosystem. Also known as “ecosystem engineers,” elephants shape their habitat in many ways. During the dry season, they use their tusks to dig up dry riverbeds and create watering holes for other animals. Their dung is full of seeds, helping plants spread across the environment. In the forest, elephants feasting on trees and shrubs creates pathways for smaller animals to move through, and in the savanna, they uproot trees and eat saplings, which helps keep the landscape open for zebras and other plains animals to thrive. Once, these intelligent and social animals roamed across a large portion of Africa, but because of habitat destruction and poaching, they are now confined to 25 percent of their historical range. The exact number of elephants is difficult to track, but scientists estimate that the number has dropped from several million in the 1930s to less than 100,000 today.

When most people think of poaching, they think about exotic animals on distant continents, but poaching and its consequences extend far beyond Africa, Asia, and other faraway places right into our own communities and even into our own homes. 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 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.

Poachers under arrest in Zimbabwe.

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 trade in African elephant ivory. Shamefully, the ban has been partially lifted by the current administration.

What can you do? Lobby your legislators to reinstate the complete 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.

Peace to ALL the animals with whom we share this planet.