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.

End the Annual Seal Slaughter

Canada is a beautiful country. I filmed my first television acting role there, in Vancouver, British Columbia, in 1963. It was an episode of “The Littlest Hobo,” and I was four years old. I played Cindy, a little girl who climbs out of the back of her parents’ station wagon to rescue her teddy bear whom she dropped out of the window. Her parents, unaware she’s climbed out, drive off, leaving Cindy alone in the woods. The little girl is ultimately rescued and reunited with her parents thanks to a heroic German Shepherd. I enjoyed my visit to Canada, although filming outdoors in November it got pretty chilly at times.

Canada is home to extraordinary animals like grizzly bears, caribou, bison, and humpback whales. But Canada is also home to the shameful, brutal murder of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals. It’s the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world.

Every spring, soon after the babies are born, seal “hunters” go out onto the ice floes in the waters off Eastern Canada, and bludgeon and hack seal pups to death for their skins. They crack open their tiny skulls with heavy clubs and hack them to death with a type of pickaxe called a hakapik. There is nowhere for the pups to hide and no means of escape. The ice is stained red with the pups’ blood as their mothers bellow and moan pitifully for their slaughtered babies. Not only is the killing savagely brutal, post-mortem surveys show that more than 40% of these helpless white balls of fluff are skinned while they are still alive.

The Canadian government refuses to acknowledge their part in the savage killing, but it is the Canadian Coast Guard that relay the seals’ locations to the killers, and Canadian Coast Guard cutters that break through the ice to lead the killers to their innocent prey.

Activists like Paul Watson and his organization, Sea Shepherd, have led the fight against the Canadian seal kill. To thwart the killers and make the seal pups’ fur undesirable to them, they stain the pups with henna dye, painting a red stripe down their backs. A dyed baby seal is a seal who will live to grow up.

To hide Canada’s complicity in the slaughter from the rest of the world, the Canadian government has gone so far as to pass a law called, with colossal irony, the “Seal Protection Act,” which does nothing to protect seals and makes witnessing the seal kill by civilians a criminal offense. Taking photos or videotaping the seal killers as they club and hack baby seals to death will land you in jail.

Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd are not deterred, and risk prison to record the brutal killing and share the images they capture with the world. As a direct result, the United States, Mexico, India, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Switzerland, and the 27 nations of the European Union have banned trade in seal products. Thanks to the activists’ bravery and leadership, the worldwide market for seal products is fast collapsing.

Yet, Canada is not the only nation still engaged in the slaughter of baby seals for their skins. Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, and Namibia are, too. Please urge them to stop the slaughter by leaving a message at the Facebook pages for all those nations’ American embassies and consulates.

Canada: https://www.facebook.com/CanadaNY/

Russia: https://www.facebook.com/RusEmbUSA/

Norway: https://www.facebook.com/NorwegianEmbassyinWashington/

Finland: https://www.facebook.com/FinnEmbassyDC/

Iceland: https://www.facebook.com/swedeninusa/

Greenland (autonomous region of Denmark): https://www.facebook.com/DenmarkinUSA/

Sweden’s and Namibia’s embassies have no Facebook page, but you can contact them by email at:

ambassaden.washington@foreign.ministry.se

info@namibianembassyusa.org

 

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

Under Cover of the Pandemic, The National Park Service Targets Baby Bears and Wolves

With the nation’s attention conveniently distracted by the pandemic, the National Park Service is slipping through rule changes that will allow hunters in Alaskan National Wildlife Refuges to kill baby animals and their mothers in their dens, reversing existing regulations and violating every standard of conservation, decency, and compassion. I am outraged, and you should be, too.

Under the new rules, hunters will be permitted to:

  • use bait to attract and kill brown bears in federally protected lands
  • use artificial light to enter dens and kill black bears, including females and their cubs, as they hibernate
  • shoot caribou while they are swimming
  • trap and kill wolves and their pups during denning season

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) claims the new rules are a matter of “principle” and protecting states’ rights. “Principle” is not something normally associated with Sen. Sullivan or those who encourage killing living beings for fun and recreation. Killing for sport is an abomination and the slaughter of sleeping mothers and their young is as evil as it gets. It certainly has no place in our National Wildlife Refuges.

Former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke drafted the new rule before resigning in disgrace in 2018 in the face of no fewer than 17 federal ethics investigations, but the anti-animal, anti-environment federal administration pushed it through. Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Washington) has led more than 70 of her colleagues in Congress in demanding the rule be withdrawn.

“The proposed rule would roll back critical protections for America’s beloved, rare and iconic native carnivores, including brown bears, black bears and wolves on the approximately 20 million acres of national preserves in Alaska—land that belongs to all Americans,” wrote the lawmakers. “The rule would effectively endorse the state of Alaska’s efforts to use extreme practices to reduce bear and wolf populations in order to artificially inflate populations of prey species for sport hunting.”

Zinke’s successor, David Bernhardt, had the opportunity to halt the rule changes but chose instead to ignore common sense and opposition by members of Congress, scientists, and tens of thousands of Americans. Said Theresa Pierno, president of the National Parks Conservation Association, “Shooting hibernating mama and baby bears is not the conservation legacy that our national parks are meant to preserve and no way to treat or manage park wildlife.”

I urge everyone to contact their representatives in the Senate and House of Representatives NOW and express your outrage and opposition to the National Park Service rule changes. Preserving wildlife, especially baby animals and their mothers, should not be a matter of political ideology but one of basic morality. This is an urgent call to save lives and preserve what’s left of our national decency.

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

Hunting Is Not a Sport

I grew up in a city where millions of people follow sports, watch their favorite teams on TV or in packed stadiums, and participate in recreational sports like golf, swimming, surfing, running, and hiking. During my acting career I had little time for recreation, but I did enjoy playing tennis and even made my high school tennis team.
Sports can be fun and exercise, of course, is good for you. Do you what is not a sport? Hunting. Where is the sport in pursuing an innocent animal then firing a bullet through it from a high-powered rifle or taking it down with a bow and arrow? Real sports involve competition between consenting parties and don’t end with the slaughter of an unwilling participant. Hunting is not a sport, and people who enjoy killing are not sportsmen or sportswomen. The same goes for fishing.

There’s no need in a civilized society for people to hunt. Whether it’s in the mountains and forests of California or on the Serengeti plains, killing for pleasure is evil. The thrill hunters get from murdering innocent animals is utterly beyond my comprehension.

Hunters have invented all sorts of excuses to rationalize their bloody hobby. Spare us the effort  – killing has no justification. Hunting has nothing to do with “conservation” or “population control;” nature has handled those matters quite well for millions of years without the “help” of humans. In nature, most animal populations are self-regulating – when food is scarce, those animals don’t reproduce. Left alone by humans, the delicate balance of nature’s ecosystems ensures the survival of most species.

Few things are uglier than the head or other body parts of a noble animal hacked off and hung on a wall or over a mantel. For their “trophies,” hunters typically seek out the largest, most robust animals, those needed to keep their species’ gene pool strong. “Trophy hunting” weakens the rest of the species’ population. Elephant poaching is believed to have increased the number of tuskless animals in Africa, while in Canada, hunting has caused the horn size of the bighorn sheep to fall by 25% over the last 40 years. Nature magazine reports “the effect on the populations’ genetics is probably deeper.”

Quick kills are rare in hunting, and many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves and geese, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities.

The fear and the inescapable, earsplitting noises from gunfire and other commotion that hunters create cause hunted animals to suffer tremendous stress. This severely compromises their routine and their eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need to survive the winter. Loud noises can also disrupt mating rituals and can cause parent animals to flee their dens and nests, leaving their young vulnerable to natural predators. When animals are killed, families are broken up, leaving the young to perish of starvation, exposure, or attacks by other animals.

Hunters likewise often accidentally injure and kill animals other those they’re hunting, including horses, cows, dogs, and cats.  Dogs used for hunting are often kept chained or penned up when they’re not hunting, and much their lives are spent in miserable conditions.

Those who wish only to enjoy our country’s vanishing wilderness and the beauty of nature are often forced to share wildlife refuges, national forests, state parks, and other public lands with armed individuals on the hunt for animals to kill. Forty percent of hunting in the United States is conducted on public lands, at the cost of millions of dead animals every year. Most federal and state agencies charged with managing wildlife refuges, national forests, state parks, and other public lands are funded in part by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and hunting tourism, and agencies now go out of their way to encourage these activities rather than regulate or police them. In fact, wildlife departments often kill majestic predators, such as wolves, bears, and coyotes, to increase the elk, caribou, and deer population in certain areas so hunters will have more of those animals to gun down. Talk about upsetting the balance of nature.

Before you support a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask first about its position on hunting. Some groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, the Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund are either in favor of “sport” hunting or make no effort to oppose it. People who care about animals shouldn’t give a dime to organizations who see nothing wrong in killing them.
Peace for ALL the animals with whom we share the planet!

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 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.

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!

 

 

Fur Is Only Beautiful on Animals

A mother searches through the forest for food. Her babies are back in the den, safe for now but hungry, and even though its cold she must leave them, if only for a while, to keep them fed. Spotting something in the brush she cautiously approaches for a better look.

CRACK! CRUNCH! With the speed and force of hundreds of pounds of spring-loaded pressure, the six-inch steel jaws of a leg-hold trap snap shut, shattering the bones in her foot making her unable to escape the horror. The mother howls in dire pain and fear. The trap is anchored to the ground by a short chain and metal spike, so she can’t even drag herself away. She is trapped and will never see her babies again.

The fur farmer will eventually go into the woods and check his traps and if she is still alive, dash out her brains with a club – a bullet, after all, would damage the pelt and that’s the last thing a fur trapper wants; he must preserve the pelt so that women and men can wear these murdered animals as a fashion statement. But hours or days may pass, and she slowly dies in agony from exposure, dehydration, or blood loss. Knowing her babies wait back in the den, she tries to chew off her own leg to get to them. If she is successful, she will die anyway. Without their mother, her babies will soon die, too. A family will be cruelly killed so that someone, somewhere may have a pair of fur-lined gloves, a jacket or a decorative muff.

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 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 for all seasons. Compassion: now that’s a hip fashion statement!

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

Poaching: Illegal, Immoral, and Driving Many Species to Extinction

photograph by Pamelyn Ferdin

A few years ago, I visited Uganda, where I had the extraordinary experience of viewing incredible animals in their natural state. I saw infant chimpanzees sitting on their mothers’ backs, and older chimps playing games with each other. I watched majestic male elephants lumber past me to stand by mother elephants and their babies. My party drifted on a river in small boats past hippos, the third largest land mammals in the world, shy and sweet but very territorial. I was excited to see “tree lions,” who actually climb trees in the heat of the afternoon to nap among the branches, and I’ll never forget the sight of all those beautiful giraffes feeding on the tops of the tallest trees on the savanna.

But I think what stood out most for me were the mountain gorillas. We had to climb straight up a mountainside, cutting our way through the thick vegetation with machetes, with little more than the hope of seeing one. After about two and a half hours of climbing in the sweltering heat, one of the guides turned to us with one finger over his lips and pointing to an opening in the leaves. There they were! Not one, not two, but an entire family of mountain gorillas, numbering about ten. They were going about their business, resting, eating, and staring back at us, completely unafraid. I watched as one mountain gorilla gave another some of the food he was holding in his hands. I witnessed a tiny baby gorilla nursing at her mother’s breast, and another baby clinging to its mother’s back. Two large male gorillas pounded their chests every once in awhile, not to threaten us, just to let everyone know who was in charge. I approached as close as I could to watch the mother and baby nuzzle and groom each other and play games. After about half an hour of watching us watch them, the largest male gorilla pounded his chest and disappeared back into the forest as the rest of the extended family followed. Elephants, hippos, and gorillas are vegan, you know, so if anyone still thinks you need to eat meat for size and strength, just take a look at those guys!

It breaks my heart to know that, due to poaching, fewer than 900 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 forests and savannas of Africa or the wilds of Asia right into your own community and even into your own home.

Poaching, the criminal hunting and killing of animals for profit, is sadly on the rise worldwide. There are many species around the world that are poached, some right here in the United States. Their mutilated corpses are used in various and ridiculous ways, often for luxury or pseudo-medicinal purposes. Here are some of the most common victims of poaching:

Elephants: Elephants are poached for their ivory, which is carved into jewelry, utensils, religious figurines, and trinkets. Elephants are often chased into hastily-dug 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, elephants will be extinct in 20 years.

Tigers: Tiger claws, teeth, and whiskers are believed by the superstitious 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. Let’s put it this way: if you think eating a tiger penis is going to cure your problems in that department, there’s a lot more wrong with you than what you’re worried about. Tiger 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 too steep to climb out of, 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: Killed for their antlers, which can fetch $20,000 on the black market.

Bears: North American black bears are slaughtered 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. A few more news stories like that one might put a serious dent in poaching. I’m rooting for the lions.

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 this poaching effect coral population but it also effects the population of fish and other marine life who live in and on the reefs.

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. We have plenty of other options for light and energy these days; nobody needs to kill a whale to power outdated technology.

Two poachers under arrest!

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 by a subsequent administration that cares little about protecting animals or stopping the criminal traffic in animal parts.

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.

Stop the Slaughter of Baby Seals

In 1963 I traveled to Canada to act in my first television role. I played Cindy, a little girl who climbs out of the back of her parents’ station wagon to retrieve the teddy bear she dropped. Her parents, unaware she’s missing, drive off leaving Cindy alone in the woods. The tiny girl is ultimately rescued and reunited with her parents thanks to a very special German Shepherd. The show was called The Littlest Hobo, and it was filmed in Vancouver, British Columbia.

Canada is a beautiful country, and home to extraordinary animals like grizzly bears, caribou, bison, and humpback whales. But Canada is also home to the shameful, brutal murder of hundreds of thousands of baby harp seals. It’s the largest mass slaughter of marine mammals in the world.

Every spring, soon after the babies are born, seal “hunters” go out onto the ice floes in the waters off Eastern Canada, and bludgeon and hack seal pups to death for their skins. They crack open their tiny skulls with heavy clubs and hack them to death with a type of pickaxe called a hakapik. There is nowhere for the pups to hide and no means of escape. The ice is stained red with the pups’ blood as their mothers bellow and moan pitifully for their slaughtered babies. Not only is the killing savagely brutal, post-mortem surveys show that more than 40% of these helpless white balls of fluff are skinned while they are still alive.

The Canadian government refuses to acknowledge their part in the savage killing, but it is the Canadian Coast Guard that relay the seals’ locations to the killers, and Canadian Coast Guard cutters that break through the ice to lead the killers to their innocent prey.

Activists like Paul Watson and his organization, Sea Shepherd, have led the fight against the Canadian seal kill. To thwart the killers and make the seal pups’ fur undesirable to them, they stain the pups with henna dye, painting a red stripe down their backs. A dyed baby seal is a seal who will live to grow up.

To hide Canada’s complicity in the slaughter from the rest of the world, the Canadian government has gone so far as to pass a law called, with colossal irony, the “Seal Protection Act,” which does nothing to protect seals and makes witnessing the seal kill by civilians a criminal offense. Taking photos or videotaping the seal killers as they club and hack baby seals to death will land you in jail.

Paul Watson and Sea Shepherd are not deterred, and risk prison to record the brutal killing and share the images they capture with the world. As a direct result, the United States, Mexico, India, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Taiwan, Switzerland, and the 27 nations of the European Union have banned trade in seal products. Thanks to the activists’ bravery and leadership, the worldwide market for seal products is fast collapsing.

Yet, Canada is not the only nation still engaged in the slaughter of baby seals for their skins. Russia, Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Greenland, and Namibia are, too. Please urge them to stop the slaughter by leaving a message at the Facebook pages for all those nations’ American embassies and consulates.

Canada: https://www.facebook.com/CanadaNY/

Russia: https://www.facebook.com/RusEmbUSA/

Norway: https://www.facebook.com/NorwegianEmbassyinWashington/

Finland: https://www.facebook.com/FinnEmbassyDC/

Iceland: https://www.facebook.com/swedeninusa/

Greenland (autonomous region of Denmark): https://www.facebook.com/DenmarkinUSA/

Sweden’s and Namibia’s embassies have no Facebook page, but you can contact them by email at:

ambassaden.washington@foreign.ministry.se

info@namibianembassyusa.org

 

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

Hunting Is Not a “Sport”

For several years I lived in Connecticut, where this photo was taken. It was there I was walking through the woods one winter’s day, appreciating the quiet and enjoying seeing the occasional animal leaving tracks in the snow as they scurried about looking for food. On my walk I encountered a hunter intent on “bagging” a deer, and though I begged him not to, he wasn’t interested in anything but bringing down a big deer just for the fun of it

As we spoke a beautiful red-tailed deer and her tiny faun stepped from behind some bushes. What a perfect picture of nature – a mama deer and her baby walking together through the snowy woods. The hunter raised his rifle and shot her through the neck. The shot reverberated through the woods, sending flocks of birds into the air and the baby deer running back into the bushes.

I wept for the deer and screamed at the hunter, asking how he could cold-bloodedly kill an innocent being who was simply taking care of her baby. As I sobbed, the hunter dragged the dead deer by her legs up the hill to the road leaving a trail of bright red blood in the snow. The little faun crept back out from the bushes and sniffed at the blood in the snow as she followed her dead mother. The hunter tried to scare the baby away by shouting and throwing things at her. But the little baby wouldn’t leave her mother even as her corpse was loaded into the back of a pickup truck. After the hunter drove away with his kill, the baby ran back into the woods. Too young to feed herself or keep herself warm, there’s no question she soon died, too. With one bullet, the hunter had killed two gentle souls.

For what? There’s no need for people in a civilized society to hunt anymore. Whether it’s in the woods of Connecticut or on the Serengeti plains, killing for pleasure as a “sport” or as a hobby is pure evil. The thrill hunters get from killing deer, bears, coyotes, wolves, lions, or elephants eludes me.

Hunters have invented all sorts of excuses to rationalize their murderous recreation.  Save the excuses – killing has no justification. Hunting has nothing to do with “conservation” or “population control;” nature has handled those matters quite well for millions of years without the “help” of humans. In nature, most animals self-regulate; at times of food scarcity, those animals cease to bear young. Left alone by humans, the delicate balance of nature’s ecosystems ensures the survival of most species.

Few things are uglier than the head or other body parts of a noble animal hacked off and hung on a wall or over a mantel. For their “trophies,” hunters typically seek out the largest, most robust animals, those needed to keep the gene pool strong. “Trophy hunting” weakens the rest of the species’ population. Elephant poaching is believed to have increased the number of tuskless animals in Africa, while in Canada, hunting has caused the horn size of the bighorn sheep to fall by 25% over the last 40 years. Nature magazine reports “the effect on the populations’ genetics is probably deeper.”

Hunting is not a “sport.” Real sports involve competition between consenting parties and don’t end with the slaughter of an unwilling participant.

Quick kills are rare in hunting, and many animals suffer prolonged, painful deaths when hunters severely injure but fail to kill them. Hunting also disrupts migration and hibernation patterns and destroys families. For animals such as wolves and geese, who mate for life and live in close-knit family units, hunting can devastate entire communities.

The fear and the inescapable, earsplitting noises from gunfire and other commotion that hunters create cause hunted animals to suffer tremendous stress. This severely compromises their routine and their eating habits, making it hard for them to store the fat and energy that they need to survive the winter. Loud noises can also disrupt mating rituals and can cause parent animals to flee their dens and nests, leaving their young vulnerable to natural predators. When animals are killed, families are broken up, leaving the young to perish of starvation, exposure, or attacks by other animals.

Hunters likewise often accidentally injure and kill animals other those they’re hunting, including horses, cows, dogs, and cats.  Dogs used for hunting are often kept chained or penned up when they’re not hunting, and much their lives are spent in miserable conditions.

Those who wish only to enjoy our country’s vanishing wilderness and the beauty of nature are often forced to share wildlife refuges, national forests, state parks, and other public lands with armed individuals on the hunt for animals to kill. Close to 40% of hunting in the United States is conducted on public lands, at the cost of millions of dead animals every year. Most federal and state agencies charged with managing wildlife refuges, national forests, state parks, and other public lands are funded in part by the sale of hunting and fishing licenses and hunting tourism, and agencies now go out of their way to encourage these activities rather than regulate or police them. In fact, wildlife departments often kill majestic predators, such as wolves, bears, and coyotes, to increase the elk, caribou, and deer population in certain areas so hunters will have more of those animals to gun down. Talk about upsetting the balance of nature.

Before you support a “wildlife” or “conservation” group, ask first about its position on hunting. Some groups, including the National Wildlife Federation, the National Audubon Society, the Sierra Club, the Izaak Walton League, the Wilderness Society, and the World Wildlife Fund are either in favor of “sport” hunting or make no effort to oppose it.

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