Blogging About Critters Since 2007

Monday, December 31, 2007

Shopping at an Asian Supermarket in Seattle

I don't eat meat or fish and sometimes shopping can be a little tricky depending on where you shop. I find that the best places to shop for tofu, soy and other meat and dairy substitute products is at Asian supermarkets. Great variety, great prices. But I tend to avoid them because sometimes the meat they do sell is, well, kind of against my principles.

Well, yesterday, we happened across a great Asian supermarket with affordable, tasty food and I was really enjoying the shopping experience....and what do I see as I round the corner with a cartload of food?

LIVE LOBSTERS! LIVE CRAB! and LIVE TILAPIA! There was some more live stuff, but I couldn't bear to look.

Well, I'm no hero. I went ahead and paid for the groceries and scuttled my way out of there without looking back. Even though I didn't buy an animal product, I still felt like scum.

Happy New Year to me.

Photo by latoyajnb.

Health Food Trend Increases Animal Testing

It's damned if you do and damned if you don't. In this case, even eating "healthy" can cause animal suffering...although I'm not sure these "superfoods" and supplements are necessarily healthy. Sounds like they are just some marketing ploy to make more profits.

Eat some vegetables instead!

The demand for new health foods [in the UK} has led to a large increase in the number of experiments carried out on animals in the past year, Government figures show.

According to Home Office figures, the number of laboratory tests on live animals in this area of research jumped by 368 per cent from 862 in 2005 to 4,038 last year.

Animal welfare groups say many of the food additive tests are unnecessary and blame the increase on the demand for "superfoods", such as probiotic yoghurt drinks and dietary supplements.

Researchers at the University of Glasgow fed raspberry juice to rats and killed them to study where the juice went in their liver, kidney and brains. A fish supplement for "intestinal health" was tested on rats at the Hammersmith Hospital.

The animals' guts were injured before tubes were forced down their throats to administer the supplement. They were later injected with a chemical to cause their guts to swell before being killed.

In a test to see if the food supplement gingko biloba could lessen pain, scientists at Glasgow Caledonian University injected rats in their paws and then cut them...

"People are unaware of the animal suffering that goes on behind the latest headlines about this new youth-giving fruit or that wonder supplement."

The Home Office figures for 2006 also show a four per cent rise in the total number of animal experiments, to more than three million.

It just makes me sick. How "necessary" are these tests? And is animal testing the only option?

Same old questions with no real answers in sight.

Photo by jepoirrier.

Renewal of Tribal Buffalo Hunt

The Shoshone-Bannock tribes are renewing the tradition of the buffalo hunt. This time it's very carefully regulated, and involves animals they raise.

A 22-year-old woman is the latest member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to kill a buffalo, renewing a tradition of American Indians in the region who once relied on the giant animals for their livelihoods.

Tradition Dann was chosen earlier this year in a random drawing to kill one of the buffaloes her tribe raises in a pasture on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation in southwestern Idaho.

Dann's killing of the buffalo, tagged with a violet ear marker with the number "356," is part of broader American Indian interest in ceremonial bison hunting, animals that once numbered in the millions across much of North America before they were reduced to small isolated herds in the mid-19th century by rampant killing by white European settlers pressing west.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Captive-bred Giraffe Struggles in Canadian Zoo

Another controversial breeding of a wild animal. This time it's a baby giraffe bred at the Greater Vancouver Zoo. Apparently, he had to be separated from his mother and is being fed by zoo staff, spurring criticism from animal welfare groups.

Doesn't sound like a great zoo though. The Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums stripped its accreditation in 2004. Yikes!

The giraffe, born at the Aldergrove facility Dec. 20 to 18-year-old Eleah, has maintained a fairly steady weight and is standing on its own, {Zoo representative Jody} Henderson said. After failing to feed from its mother, the two were separated. The baby is now being cared for by a veterinarian and zoo staff.

Critics say the calf's plight furthers their argument that there is no good reason to breed giraffes in captivity.

Debra Probert, executive director of the Vancouver Humane Society, said the only reason she can think of is that baby animals are "a money-maker."

There is no conservationist justification, as there is no release program in place, said Rob Laidlaw, executive director of Zoocheck Canada, a national wildlife protection organization.

Animals that breed in captivity often don't have the mothering skills necessary to care for a baby, he added.

This calf is the second in two years born to Eleah. Her previous baby died of pneumonia after eight days.

{Zoo representative Jody} Henderson said the zoo did not intentionally breed this calf, which was fathered by six-year-old Jafari.

"We just let nature take its course," Henderson said.

The Greater Vancouver Zoo has a history of controversy with regard to animal welfare.

Probert said the zoo does not have appropriate resources to properly breed animals, calling it "one of the worst facilities in Canada for wildlife."

Last year, two counts of cruelty to animals were laid against the zoo when the SPCA alleged it kept Hazina, a baby hippopotamus, alone in a dark shed for 19 months. The charges were later stayed after a new enclosure was built for the animal.

In 2004, the zoo was stripped of its accreditation by the Canadian Association of Zoos and Aquariums, which sets standards for wildlife facilities in the country.

Photo by mailmandan.

New Calls for Reforming Canadian Animal Laws

A recent abuse case has highlighted the antiquity of Canadian animal laws and spurred fresh cries for reform. Note that the article quotes a petition organizer claiming that Canadian animal welfare laws have been virtually unchanged since 1892 (it would be great to get confirmation on this from some Canadian readers).

Queen Waldorf {the abused German Shepherd} has since made a strong recovery and was adopted by a St. Catharines woman. Her former owner was charged with causing unnecessary suffering to an animal by failing to provide veterinary treatment, failing to provide suitable and adequate care for an animal and abandoning an animal in distress.

“She puts a face to the suffering,” petition organizer Sherry Nath said about the dog.

Animal abuse, she explained, can be a warning sign of more severe criminal behaviour to come in abusers.

“Everyone knows by now there’s a human link,” Nath said. “It’s been well-documented for many years. It’s quite surprising Canada is so progressive a country and yet we have these laws (that are lax).”

Nath said Canada’s animal cruelty laws were first drafted in 1892 and have remained virtually unchanged since.

The Queen Waldorf petition is in support of a private member’s bill, C-373, introduced by Ajax-Pickering Liberal MP Mark Holland. It proposes animal abusers be banned for life from keeping animals. It also calls for longer jail terms and higher fines.

Currently, the longest a person can be prohibited from owning an animal is two years, plus any time for probation.

Fines are a maximum of $2,000 and jail terms are no longer than six months.

C-373 is stuck in a long queue of private members’ bills waiting to be read in Parliament. Meanwhile, another animal cruelty bill, S-213, is now before the Senate. But Nath said that bill virtually maintains the status quo.

“It doesn’t make any sense as far as protecting society,” Nath said. “It goes beyond animal welfare. It’s an extremely important social issue.”

For more information or to add your name to the petition — Nath is trying to collect 10,000 signatures — log on to

Photo by JCB2007.

SF Zoo has History of Problems

According to the Chronicle, the SF Zoo has a long history of morale problems and other issues.

A koala is kidnapped. Sheep are molested by a human intruder. An elephant does a headstand on a technician, breaking her pelvis. A tiger ravages its keeper's arm. A year later, on Christmas Day, the same feline escapes, kills and gets killed.

This is what life can be like at the San Francisco Zoo, a 78-year-old institution saddled with a history of mismanagement and scores of injuries to animals, employees and visitors alike - yet still beloved by generations of Bay Area residents.

I think someone needs to step in and do something. It sounds like zoo director Manuel Mollinedo is a big part of the problem.

Since Mollinedo took over, there has been a steady exodus of employees, including the deputy director, education director, two successive public relations managers, development director, curator of birds, marketing manager, events director, human resources manager, general manager of concessions and a number of veteran keepers.

Photo by Christopher van Belle

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dairy Industry Fights Back with Well-Being Initiative

While flipping thorough my issue of Tribuna Portuguesa, from Modesto, CA, I came across a plea to readers from a contributor asking that they consider joining the National Dairy Animal Well-being Initiative. There are many dairies in Central California and many Portuguese own them. So, I was intrigued to find out more.

It is a real initiative. Based on the contributor's article mentioned above, it looks like an attempt by the dairy industry to fight public perception of its attitude towards animal welfare and the environment. Any teeth though is removed by making this a VOLUNTARY program.

Here are some highlights from the Initiative's web site.
Note the response that "If we work together we can protect our freedom to operate by successfully managing this issue." Ah.

Q: What is the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative?
A: The National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative is a producer-led effort to build consumer trust and confidence in the dairy industry’s commitment to animal well-being. We want to protect our freedom to operate by demonstrating that we recognize our ethical obligation to care for our animals and that we have programs in place to meet that obligation. We want to create an umbrella of well-being principles and guidelines that will provide uniform validation of our commitment regardless of which dairy well-being program a producer uses.

Q: Who is on the Coalition doing this work?
A: The Coalition is a broad based group of volunteers from across the country representing every facet of the dairy industry. It includes producers, processors, co-ops, allied industry, academics, associations and others. More than 60 people have been involved in the work of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative since late 2005. The Coalition is not part of any specific association or organization, but a group that reflects the diversity and strength of the U.S. dairy industry.

Q: Why is this important?
A: Animal well-being is increasingly important to our customers and other dairy industry stakeholders who grant us the social license we need to operate. Today, dairy animal well-being is not a top of mind consumer concern. We want to maintain the level of consumer trust and confidence in dairy producers.

The Initiative gives you a chance to control your destiny and protect your freedom to operate by demonstrating that the dairy industry is committed to doing the right thing when it comes to animal well-being. It also provides you the opportunity to protect your markets and preserve market access by proving your commitment to animal well-being to customers and other stakeholders by participating in an animal well-being program that incorporates the national well-being principles and guidelines.

Q: Why should I participate?
A: We need all producers to demonstrate the dairy industry’s commitment to animal well-being. Today, dairy animal well-being is not a top of mind issue for consumers. We want to provide our customers, policy makers and other stakeholders who grant us the social license to operate, the assurance that we are meeting our ethical obligation to care for our animals. If we work together we can protect our freedom to operate by successfully managing this issue.

Q: Isn’t this just giving into the activists?
A: No. The creation of the National Dairy Animal Well-Being Initiative demonstrates the dairy industry’s awareness of the need to communicate our commitment to animal well-being to our customers and consumers. Dairy producers have a long tradition of providing good care for their animals. We want to control our own destiny by creating a program that proves our commitment and allows us to honestly and accurately portray what happens on the farm.

Photo by Dawn Endico.

Animal Group Raises Awareness in Portugal

I was pleased to come across this article. It's a pre-Christmas story, but I'll take it. My family is from Portugal, specifically the Azores islands, and I know better than anyone about the cultural mindset of this country towards animals. It's probably no worse than Puerto Rico, which doesn't say much though.

So I was pleased to read about the group ANIMAL and their efforts to educate the Portuguese about the responsibilities of animal ownership. I also see that they are interested in establishing an animal sanctuary in Lisbon.


Thousands of pets are abandoned each year after being given as presents, only for the new owners to find the responsibility too overwhelming.

Miguel Moutinho, president of the ANIMAL protection association, told The Resident that this was one of the leading causes of the dire animal abandonment problem in Portugal.

...The current laws are vague and inadequate”, he said adding “they are difficult to apply and there is lots of bureaucracy”. He also said that there was a problem with the authorities taking cases of animal cruelty seriously.

“Next year, we are planning many initiatives and continuing with existing projects including presenting a proposal to the government to change the legislation to provide more protection for animals”.

Considering that schools are among the most important places to encourage animal protection, he said that he is eager to come to the Algarve to give seminars in the international schools, as well as state schools.

According to Moutinho, ANIMAL is keen to establish a non-profit animal sanctuary in Lisbon, with the prospect of expanding to other regions, including the Algarve.

As part of this plan, ANIMAL is endeavouring to set up a mobile veterinarian unit that will travel the length of the country to treat sick animals. People who cannot afford medical pet bills would benefit and the units would also treat abandoned animals.

Moutinho said: “Animal cruelty can only change when peoples’ attitudes change and with stronger legislation and more awareness, this may be possible but we must be united”.

For more information about ANIMAL, please visit (site available in English).

Photo by Pascoe Porter.

Using Feral Cats to Catch Rats

Voice for Animals has a program to place feral cats in police stations with rodent problems.

The Working Cats program of Voice for the Animals, a Los Angeles-based animal advocacy and rescue group, has placed feral cats in a handful of police stations with rodent problems, just as the group placed cats in the rat-plagued downtown flower district several years ago -- to great effect.

Six feral cats were recently installed as ratters in the parking lot of the Los Angeles Police Department's Southeast Division, and another group will be housed at the Central Division early in the new year.

Their reputation as furtive and successful exterminators grew after feral cats were introduced to the parking lot of the Wilshire Division nearly six years ago. Rats had been burrowing into the equipment bags that bicycle officers stored in outside cages; inside the facility, mice were sometimes scurrying across people's desks.

"Once we got the cats, problem solved," said Cmdr. Kirk Albanese, a captain at the Wilshire station at the time. "I was almost an immediate believer."

Here is a link to Voice for the Animals.

Friday, December 28, 2007

San Francisco Tiger Talk

I had a conversation at work yesterday regarding the San Francisco tiger tragedy. I call it a tragedy because it is a tragedy on both sides of the human/animal divide.

The circumstances of the attack are still being investigated and, of course, the finger-pointing has already started. We may eventually know what happened from the two surviving victims....or we may never know. However, I think there are a few indisputable conclusions that come out of this whole story. (I know, using the word "indisputable" is probably begging for some disputing!)

1. Animals must be protected from stupid zoo visitors...and stupid zoo visitors must be protected from themselves. I'm not saying these three young men did anything wrong. There's not enough evidence for me to say. However, even if they themselves are completely innocent, there are many, many stupid zoo visitors out there who are not. For some unknowable reason, there are both male and female visitors around the world that sometimes want to taunt an animal. Or they want to test their courage by climbing into that enclosure for that picture or by sticking their hand through those cage bars. Zoos must plan for this. In whatever manner, zoos have to evaluate their set-up to make sure the animals are protected from this occurrence and that the stupid zoo visitors can't get themselves injured even if they try. Because they will try.

2. Wild animals are always wild at heart.
If a zoo or any place thinks that it can domesticate an animal's wild instincts, part of their very genetic wiring, then they are deluding themselves. No matter how well a keeper may know an individual animal, that animal will always be fundamentally driven by instinct. Zoos need to understand this and respect that. When they take that animal into custody within their walls, they are ultimately responsible for that behavior.

3. An animal that kills a human being will be put down.They just will. I think it's terrible that a magnificent creature like Tatiana was put down for simply behaving like a tiger. The zoo is responsible for her actions, not her. I think she should have lived. However, let's be realistic. Public relations-wise, the zoo would be pilloried for allowing Tatiana to live after she killed a human. Letting her live would dredge up the people vs animals debate. She would have to be under uber-security and who knows what the quality of life consequences would be for her. This is not even mentioning the increased liability and insurance costs for the zoo. Remember, a dog that attacks a human is put down too and that's a "domesticated" animal.

4. People will obsess over, discuss and fear the rare man-killing tiger incident rather than the more likely incident of being killed by their own fellow species. It amazed me that two people in my office were so interested in the tiger attack. They were also fearful of it as though it could happen here. It shows that we humans still have that fear of the predatory animal ingrained in us (why is probably why we are so eager to cull and control it). This was also the same day that Benazir Bhutto was assassinated. And 6 humans were killed by a member of their family on Christmas Eve in Carnation, WA.

Sorry, it's human on human violence that we should fear. That's where our attention and fear should be focussed.

Photo by soachs.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

New Rwandan Tax to Help Mountain Gorillas

Great idea! Companies should pay to support the species whose image they exploit...oops,I mean, "borrow." The mountain gorillas are an important asset to the Rwandan economy and I'm glad to see the government realizes that. Hopefully, the money raised really will be earmarked for gorilla protection.

Rwandan companies using the country's famous mountain gorillas' image for marketing purposes will have to pay a tax aimed at financing the endangered species protection, officials announced Monday.

"We are launching this campaign to generate income earmarked for the species' protection," said Fidele Ruzigandekwe, in charge of conservation at the Rwandan Office of Tourism and National Parks.

There are an estimated 720 surviving mountain gorillas in the world. They live in national parks straddling the borders between Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

"From now on, any company using the gorillas' image for advertising or any other commercial purpose will have to pay a tax to finance the Volcanos Park and specifically the gorilla conservation programme," Ruzigandekwe said.

The new law is to come into force at the beginning of 2008.

Photo by *Simian*.

PETA Sex Dolls Seized in Philippines

Gotta love that headline! Apparently they were going to use the sex dolls in a protest. The Philippine government seized them.

PETA said it was hoping to use the sex dolls in its campaign against Kentucky Fried Chicken (KFC) for abuses of chickens. "The sex dolls would have been covered only with a banner reading 'KFC Blows'", PETA said, "but now that plan has been dealt a blow."

Talk about blowing...

Did Mauling Victim Provoke Attack?

Authorities in San Francisco are investigating a shoe print on an outer fence where a tiger escaped and killed a 17 year old.

Police are investigating a shoeprint found on the railing of a San Francisco Zoo exhibit from which a Siberian tiger escaped and killed a teenager in a Christmas attack, the city's police chief said on Thursday.

Chief Heather Fong told reporters police want to know if the print matched the shoes of any of the victims, including two brothers who survived maulings, but said there was no indication yet they had incited the 350-pound female cat named Tatiana.

Some reports say they may have provoked the tiger, although at this point, there seems to be no proof of that.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Rare Pets Being Smuggled into China

Too bad people aren't satisfied with going to shelters or other places to adopt loving animals. Instead they have to smuggle in cuddly pets like boas and lizards.

But let's be serious. These "rare pets" are not really pets at all. They are status symbols for the rich or have some folkloric symbolism to the not-so-rich. There is no appreciation or love for a species going on here.

"In the past two years we have been seizing a lot of animals, including some on the lists of endangered species assembled by international organizations," a publicity official at Guangzhou Customs surnamed Xu told China Daily yesterday.

Many of them were destined for local pet markets, she said.

Smugglers send the animals from other countries to China via sea transport or mail, she said.

Customs officials recently cracked a case in which a South Korean man tried to smuggle 50 boas and 56 lizards into Guangzhou from Jakarta, Indonesia, by air.

Customs and anti-smuggling officials spotted 10 suspicious bags and three boxes in his suitcase as his luggage passed through a scanner on December 14.

Closer investigation revealed the contraband snakes and lizards.

Animal experts said the animals belonged to 10 different species.

Photo by Crimson Chaos.

Tibetan Antelope Threatened by Shawl-Making

Fashion may yet claim another victim. This time it's the chiru, the Tibetan antelope, whose wool is used for the high fashion shahtoosh shawl.

Alarmed conservationists in India have launched a massive campaign to encourage weavers of shahtoosh to organize themselves to promote an alternative fashion brand: the pashma, a handcrafted, traditional Kashmiri pashmina made from the wool of non-endangered, domesticated Himalayan goats.

"Many traditional craftsmen still feel that weaving shahtoosh is their birthright," wildlife activist Aniruddha Mookerjee said. "No government would be able to enforce a total ban unless you provide alternatives."
Jammu and Kashmir, in the Himalayas, borders Tibet, where an estimated 100,000 chiru are fighting a losing battle for survival. In the upper reaches of the Tibetan plateau, these animals face intensive poaching for their under-fleece, which yields the finest of wool used for making shahtoosh shawls.

Jammu and Kashmir's chief wildlife warden, A.K. Srivastava, said that 7,000 to 8,000 chiru were killed in Tibet every year.

"At this rate, the animal would be extinct in another eight years," he warned.

Conservationists blame the dire predicament of the chiru on the popularity of shahtoosh among wealthy consumers in Asia, the U.S. and Europe from the 1990s onward. Seizures of shahtoosh shawls, each weighing less than 6 ounces and hyped for their warmth and snob value, have been made in the fashion capitals of London, Rome and New Delhi, as well as in China, Japan, France, Dubai and Switzerland.

Photo by keong-zai.

Sen. Byrd Honored by PETA

Sen. Robert Byrd was named PETA's "Person of the Year" for his work on animal cruelty issues.

"Much animal suffering has been alleviated thanks to Senator Byrd, and this year we are proud to honor him for giving a voice to the voiceless,'' PETA President Ingrid Newkirk said.

Calls to Byrd's offices were not immediately returned today.

Past recipients of the award include owners of a company that makes cleaning products without testing them on animals and the designer of a "humane'' rodent trap.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Tiger Shot and Killed After Killing Zoo Visitor in San Francisco

Somehow a tiger got out and attacked several people, one fatally.

"Apparently, right around closing time -- there was a pen with four tigers in it -- one of the tigers got out," Talmadge said. "The tiger went into a cafe at the zoo and attacked a patron. That person ended up dying at the scene."

Police arrived on the scene as the tiger attacked two other patrons, Talmadge said. "They shot the tiger, and the tiger is deceased," she said.

Strange Animal Happenings from 2007

Well, it's started....the 2007 retrospective.

Here's some weird animal stories for your reading enjoyment.


Photo by Ron Lemise.

Israeli Monkey Experiments Shock Citizens

Shocking pictures of monkey experiments have upset Israeli animal lovers.

Free the monkeys" and "Monkeys feel the same pain humans do" were among the signs waved by some 250 animal rights activists who gathered outside the Weizmann Institute of Science in Rehovot on Tuesday in protest of controversial experiments on animal brains.

The protest came following a week of public outcry after the release of shocking hidden-camera footage taken by a monkey caretaker who worked in the institute's labs.

Some of the protestors went as far as likening the animals' suffering to the Holocaust, and wore black t-shirts bearing the words "For the animals, it is an eternal Treblinka" – a quote by Nobel laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer in "The Letter Writer"....

The Weizmann Institute of Science issued a statement saying that it "abides by all laws of the State of Israel as well as international codes of ethics (including the National Research Council) in all matters pertaining to animal experimentation and welfare. This includes minimization of suffering and an extremely high standard of animal maintenance and care. The Institute will terminate, quickly and unconditionally, any research that does not meet even one of these regulations.

Photo by ^Alfie^.

Few Big Donors for Animal Welfare Causes

This article highlights some wealthy LA residents who actually donate big dollars to animal welfare causes. According to the article, it's really hard to get large donations for really good causes.

It is difficult to quantify the amount of money given to myriad animal causes. Philanthropy watchers say Americans gave $295 billion in cash donations to U.S. charities last year. About 2 percent of all giving goes to animal causes, estimates Merritt Clifton, editor of the Animal People newspaper and the annual Watchdog Report on Animal Protection Charities.

As for the age-old argument about giving to people instead of animals....

Spending on animal-rights issues invites criticism from some people who believe that charity should go to humans.

"Sometimes you feel like you have to defend yourself," philanthropist Cheri Shankar said. "I'm not a misanthrope. There's just a deficiency when it comes to dealing with all the animal abuse and killing. And it may be easier to solve this problem than to solve world hunger."

Photo by groovehouse.

Monday, December 24, 2007

How Much is Enough Vet Care

Here is a thought provoking article in the Times about advances in vet care, and whether it's all worth it for the animals involved. Is it fair to put Fluffy through chemotherapy just to keep her alive for another year or two?

Anything owners can get, their pets can get too. Vets now see a need for a national animal blood bank; and a company called PetScreen is marketing a commercial kit to screen dogs for lymphoma cancer.

In the States, needless to say, the medicalisation of pet care is even more – and I hesitate to use the word – advanced. There, vets perform CPR on dead animals; fit braces on their teeth, carry out cosmetic operations to improve their looks and, in one case earlier this year, actually did a £30,000 stem cell transplant on a cancerous golden retriever called Comet. And yes, it was successful. The gentle Comet is now eating his biscuits and waiting to die of something else.

It can be an agonizing decision. When our cat Charotte got pyothorax, we knew it would cost thousands of dollars, but also that it was a bacterial infection with a good chance of being knocked down. It's easy to call someone crazy for spending thousands on a cat, but when it's your companion, you feel like a monster putting a monetary value on an animal that looks up at you each day. If it was cancer, the decision might have been different. A heart condition? Who knows?

It's been a while now, and Charlotte is doing great. It's definitely been worth it. Happy Holidays!

Man Survives 3rd Attempt in Tiger Enclosure

Darwin award nominee Sudhir Yadav was again denied after a 3rd jump into a big cat enclosure in India.

Sudhir Yadav, 25, clambered up the iron-mesh, crossed the dry moat and walked up to the white tigeress "Shwetwari" on Sunday, as benumbed visitors at the Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park looked on.

Angry at the intrusion in its "den", the tigress held Sudhir by his neck and began dragging him, it is when the crowd raised an alarm. The animal keepers rescued Sudhir after firing water jets at the tigress, Park Director Rakesh Kumar told PTI today.

Japanese Foreign Minister Continues to Lie About Whaling Program

Japanese Japanese Foreign Minister Masahiko Komura continues asserting its whaling program saying it is "conducted based on international agreements and there is no problem in it".

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith said this week Australia will dispatch a coastguard ship and an aircraft to collect evidence against the whalers for possible international legal action against the Japanese government. The U.S., European Union, Australia and New Zealand have condemned Japan's plan to kill humpback whales as part of its annual hunt this year.

Frankly, I think this has been the best publicity Australia has gotten since Paul Hogan. Modern industrial whaling is barbaric, economically unsound, and should be stopped at all costs. If they do aerial monitoring, I hope they do it about 50 feet over the mast of the Japanese ships at 500 miles per hour.

Photo by SqueakyMarmot

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Quote of the Week

Ask the experimenters why they experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are like us." Ask the experimenters why it is morally okay to experiment on animals, and the answer is: "Because the animals are not like us." Animal experimentation rests on a logical contradiction.

~Charles R. Magel, Professor of Philosopy at Moorhead State University, Minnesota.

Rescued NZ Hens Get a Merry Christmas

In the midst of so many depressing animal stories, it's nice to hear about a rescue once in a while.

Some fortunate battery hens in New Zealand received immediate relief from cruelty and severe confinement thanks to the efforts of members of New Zealand Open Rescue Collective.

The group's members, coined Santa's little helpers, rescued 15 emaciated caged birds from an Auckland egg factory and is urging consumers to boycott caged eggs for the coming year.

A Colmar Brunton poll shows almost eight out of ten New Zealanders oppose keeping hens in cages. In 2006 Parliament's Regulations Review Committee deemed battery hen cages to be in breach of the Animal Welfare Act 1999.

The New Zealand Open Rescue Collective openly rescues battery hens and other factory farmed animals across the country out of sheer frustration that the legal system fails animals. The group has just released a Christmas DVD appealing to New Zealanders boycott battery eggs for 2008.

Photo by joaobambu.

UK Supermarkets Ranked for Animal Welfare

Here's an overlooked story from early December. The British farm animal welfare organization Compassion in World Farming (CIWF) released a ranking of supermarkets based on animal welfare criteria.

Asda has been singled out as the supermarket to avoid if shoppers care about the welfare of the animals they are about to eat.

Britain's second biggest grocer was named and shamed in a report published today by Compassion in World Farming (CIWF), which campaigns for higher standards of animal welfare. Supermarkets were scored out of five based on the standards they set their suppliers on a range of categories, from transport and slaughter of animals, to fish farming. Tesco, which is the UK's most powerful retailer, was also rapped for not using its huge influence to do more to improve conditions for farmed animals.

The biggest exception is Marks & Spencer, which won the compassionate supermarket award for 2007 at a ceremony last night. It stole the crown from Waitrose, which came second. Sainsbury's, which has been turned around under its current chief executive, Justin King, also did well. It was highlighted as both the best of the Big Four chains and the supermarket that had done the most to improve its animal welfare standards over the past 24 months....

CIWF's Anna Fraser, who wrote the report, said Asda had been placed at the bottom of the caring supermarket league – in eighth place – based on its attitude towards animal welfare two years ago. This year Asda was the only supermarket that refused to complete CIWF's survey. The chain was recently condemned for selling chickens for £2.

"We see Asda's approach as a measure of its commitment to animal welfare and believe that companies willing to reveal their animal welfare standards are ones with less to hide," she said.

Asda, part of Wal-Mart, the world's biggest supermarket group, slammed the charity's survey as "subjective". It claimed its refusal to co-operate "does not mean that we don't take animal welfare seriously".

Asda is part of Wal-Mart? 'Nuff said.

Photo by derrickting.

Greenpeace Esperanza Web Cam

Greenpeace has a web cam on the Esperanza that updates every minute. Not the most exciting pictures at the moment (unless you like looking at waves), but it's still pretty cool.

They have a blog too.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Woeful Animal Welfare Laws in Ireland

That's what the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said earlier this month.

It's a tiny article so I'll post the whole text here.

The Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals has said Ireland needs to update what it describes as woefully inadequate animal welfare legislation, which dates back nearly 100 years.

The ISPCA made the call in the wake of official figures that show that more than 24,000 dogs were abandoned in 2006.

The figures reveal that Ireland puts down dogs at a rate 10 times higher than in the UK.

Photo by [Lum O]

February 2007 Video of Sea Shepherd Attacking a Japanese Whaler

Here is a video of Sea Shepherd from last February ramming a Japanese whaler. I'm sure they only rammed it for scientific purposes.

Monks to Shut Down Egg Operations Due to Pressure from PETA

I wasn't sure what to think here at first.. I thought why are they going after a bunch of Trappist monks? From the article:

One letter to the editor earlier this year, from Wadmalaw resident Celeste Albers, was particularly informative. Ms. Albers raises free-range chickens for eggs and described herself as a "green grocer." She addressed the specific complaints raised by PETA in its campaign, writing:

"I have known the monks for 12 years and am familiar with their operation. I know them to be caring and responsible people, and hardworking and honest. They would never deliberately mistreat one of God's creatures ...

"The monks collect the eggs by hand, wash, inspect, grade and pack them. The monks grind and mix the feed on site from local corn and soybeans. They interact with the hens daily. In today's largest egg operations, a human being almost never enters the hen house and the eggs are handled by machine. has a different perspective, and a good video too. It looks like a factory farm to me. Chickens packed in 4 to a tiny cage. Some were left dying on the floor with broken legs.

Mepkin Abbey is a Christian (Trappist) monastery in South Carolina that runs an egg factory farm to make money. In January 2007, a PETA investigation found that the abbey’s hens endure constant abuse for almost two years before they are killed. The abuse is so awful it would warrant felony cruelty-to-animals charges if dogs or cats were the victims.

Here's that PETA video:

Friday, December 21, 2007

Wildlife Corridor to Help India's Elephants

A wildlife corridor is being opened between two reserves in India that will help the migration of elephants for feeding and breeding purposes. Very, very important for a healthy and diverse genetic pool. It's not just the number of a species, but the "quality" that matters as well. Inbreeding is disastrous.

An "elephant corridor" linking two forest reserves is being opened in southern India, giving the endangered animals unrestricted movement to feed and breed in the region, officials say.

More than 1,000 elephants are set to gain right of passage through the corridor linking the Edayargalli and Doddasampige reserves when land deeds are handed over to the Karnataka state forest department on Thursday.

India is home to an estimated 25,000 wild elephants, the most in Asia, but their numbers have been vastly depleted by poaching and habitat loss.

Thanks to the Wildlife Trust of India and the International Fund for Animal Welfare for acquiring the deeds to the land.

Photo by sam2cents.

Chimps Helping Humans Again - Whether They Want to Or Not

Interesting article about the apparent ability of chimps to self-medicate and science's attempts to co-opt their knowledge to make pharmaceutical drugs (and money!)

Ugandan and French scientists have for months been observing the behaviour of a group of chimpanzees whose uncanny aptitude for self-medication could help their human cousins discover new drugs.

The great apes' ability to treat ailments by adjusting their diet has long been observed by scientists, including world-renowned primatologist Jane Goodall, but a project in Uganda's Kibale forest offers a unique opportunity for pharmaceutical research.

"It's the first time that a chimpanzee observation aimed at discovering new medicine for humans is conducted within a scientific framework," said Sabrina Krief, a French veterinary and professor at the Paris National History Museum....

The key moment in the observation is when one among the group of around 50 chimps she monitors gets sick.

The primate's choice of food -- what he pulls out of his medicine chest -- is packed with information that could lead the scientists to new discoveries.

"We want to compare which plants are used by the traditional healers or traditional practitioners, and the medicines used by chimpanzees. Is there a relation for the kind of treatment they go for?," Kasenene said.

"What is surprising to me is that these chimps have no chemist, no lab... They simply move in and collect plants and eventually find themselves getting cured," the 27-year-old marvelled. "It's a proof that they are very close to us."

I'm a cynic and I know it. As soon as I read this article, which should have been inspiring, here was my first thought, "Here we go admiring and leaching off the ingrained knowledge of animals, only to later disavow their similarity to humans and stick them in labs."

As long as their freedom serves our benefit, we keep them in the wild. As soon as our needs require their sacrifice, all bets are off.

Photo by emeybee.

When Animal Sacrifice Meets the USDA

The USDA shut down an operation by a North Carolina farmer who allowed Muslims to come to his property to slaughter their own lambs. His customers came to celebrate the Eid al-Adha or Festival of Sacrifice. That's right, these amateurs got to kill their own animals.

To Muslims around the world, this is an important ritual -- a tribute to Allah and to the prophet Abraham, who in both the Koran and the Bible is said to have offered his son as a sacrifice to God.

To research scientist Ahmed Mamai, 40, a native Moroccan, performing the sacrifice on Rowe's property allows him to maintain an ancient tradition that would be difficult to square with his lifestyle in suburban Raleigh. If he slaughtered an animal in his backyard, Mamai said with a smile, "My wife would sacrifice me."

Sooo, it's important enough to do every year, but not in your own backyard. Uh huh.

The article goes on:

Animal sacrifice on Eid al-Adha is not a requirement in Islam, but it is suggested by the Prophet Muhammad. A feast with family and friends typically follows the slaughter, and some of the meat is given to the poor.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, many Muslims find the sacrifice impractical; instead, they may choose to donate money to poor families.

I'm not one to normally tell people how to celebrate their religious holidays, but I think killing your own lamb or goat ought to be phased out of this one in the US. It's one thing to eat meat. It's another for some Lab Scientist to practice killing a lamb once a year, as I doubt they can do it humanely. Not that conditions at slaughterhouses are very good, but at least they have some regulation.

Japan Drops Plan to Kill Humpback Whales

Looks like the pressure is getting to them. Good.

Japan has suspended its first humpback whale hunt in seas off Antarctica since the 1960s, the government said Friday, backing down in an escalating international battle over the expansion of its hunt.

Japan dropped the planned taking of 50 humpbacks — which have been off-limits to commercial hunting since 1966 — at the behest of the United States, the chair of the International Whaling Commission, said Chief Cabinet Secretary Nobutaka Machimura.

"The government has decided to suspend hunts of humpback whales while talks to normalize IWC is taking place," Machimura said, adding the suspension would last a year or two. "But there will be no changes to our stance on our research whaling itself."

But, they'll go ahead and keep lying about their phony "research" program. I hope people and countries keep hounding them to give up this barbaric practice.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

EU Scientists Say Seal Hunters Need Training

It's good to see scientists stepping in to the debate over Canadian seal hunts. It's not just those crazy animal rights activists that have concerns.

A committee of European scientists is recommending that Canadian seal hunters be trained to kill the mammals in a more humane way.

The panel has told the European Food Safety Agency there's little peer-reviewed scientific evidence on the hunting and skinning of seals. However, the panel said in a news release Wednesday that available evidence on killing techniques shows there are "obvious areas of concern for seal welfare."

The panel said if a single bullet or clubbing doesn't kill the animals, then hunters should shoot or club them again before they're dragged to a vessel.

The panel also said some methods of killing seals, such as trapping them underwater or herding them before a slaughter, are inhumane.

In addition to calling for more training of hunters, the panel called for independent monitoring of the hunts in Greenland, Namibia and Canada.

In response to the findings, here's a statement by Loyola Hearn, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released a scientific study on the animal welfare aspects of global seal hunts. We are supportive of EFSA's recommendations since they uphold the legitimacy and humaneness of hunting practices and techniques that are used, regulated and enforced in Canada's annual commercial seal hunt.

Independent and peer-reviewed studies have shown - time and again - that the vast majority of seals in Canada are taken in a humane manner. We believe that Canada's current practices are consistent with EFSA's general recommendations and we are already taking measures to address some of the issues raised in the study....

Photo by divedi.

Sea Shepherd Again Calls on Greenpeace to Join Forces

According to the press release:

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society was informed today that the Greenpeace ship Esperanza has departed New Zealand without helicopter support.

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society would like to once again extend an offer of cooperation with Greenpeace.

We suggest that the Esperanza join forces with the Steve Irwin. Both ships could run on a parallel search pattern along the coast separated by 100 miles with the helicopter flying between both vessels.

"For the sake of the whales, I am requesting that Greenpeace set our political difference aside," said Captain Paul Watson. "Our disagreements are trivial and petty compared to the slaughter we are both trying to stop. Once again I appeal to Greenpeace for cooperation. If Greenpeace cannot make peace with me, one of their original founders, then how can they expect to promote peace between nations?"

Sea Shepherd, as many of you may know, was started by Paul Watson, one of the founders of Greenpeace.

Here is a little bit from Wikipedia on this:

The society was founded by Paul Watson in 1977 after Watson, one of the three founders of Greenpeace, concluded that "bearing witness" to environmental damage was an inadequate response compared to actual enforcement of international laws, regulations, and treaties.[3]

Sea Shepherd is more confrontational than Greenpeace.[4] Watson has since referred to Greenpeace as "The Avon ladies of the environmental movement."

Ouch. Well, as you can probably tell, they don't get along very well. The Greenpeace vessel Esperanza doesn't have a helicopter. The Steve Irwin, has a helicopter with a former US Marine Corp Pilot. That would obviously be a huge increase in search capabilities.

Photo by Ajft

More Mad Cow Disease Found in Canada

This is one scary disease. It's sure to re-ignite a lot of problems with Canadian cattle exporters.

The animal was identified by a national surveillance program, which targets cattle most at risk. According to CFIA, the surveillance program results in "an extremely low" incidence of BSE in Canada.

"Canada has a suite of robust BSE control measures exceeding the recommended international standards. This year, the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) categorized Canada as a Controlled Risk country for BSE. This status acknowledges the effectiveness of Canada's surveillance, risk mitigation and eradication measures. This case will not affect Canada's risk status," it said in a statement.

However, US producers' association R-Calf claims Canada's controls are "inadequate" to protect the US from the avoidable risk of BSE.

Toyota Opposes Japanese Whaling

Good for Toyota.

The company's stance was revealed in a letter sent to a Napier woman who has proposed a boycott of Japanese products to oppose the slaughter of whales.

Raewyn Sceats wrote to the Japanese embassy in Wellington and Toyota New Zealand protesting against the slaughter of the whales.

"The way Japan cruelly attacks and kills these beautiful animals is a disgrace to the human race," she said in the letters.

"I was planning this year to replace my Toyota Celica with a Toyota Prius, and have always been a huge promoter of Japanese cars. But I will NOT be buying any Japanese-made car or any other Japanese product until Japan stops whaling.

"I am just one person boycotting Japan, but I'm sure there will be many others doing the same. So think on! Shame on you Japan!" Mrs Sceats said.

She had received no reply from the embassy yesterday, but a Toyota New Zealand employee had answered her letter.

"We can certainly understand your stance given the comments you have outlined in your letter," customer dialogue centre representative Melissa Lamont wrote.

"Please be assured that Toyota New Zealand and Toyota Motor Corporation Japan do not condone whaling for commercial, scientific or research purposes."

Photo by Alan-D

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Animal Rights and the Issue of Race

I came across this Op-Ed in the San Francisco Chronicle and feel compelled to address it. I've encountered the same argument at work and I refuse to be silenced by it.

The question stems from the Michael Vick case...does this case show that animal rights are more important than black rights in this country?

The writer, Pamela M. Johnson, is the author and publisher of "From a Hard Rock to a Gem: a Memoir of a Lost Soul."

In American culture, ethnic groups external to African Americans appear to have become more upset over dog fighting than African Americans are. If we were to look at animal welfare rights versus the rights of African Americans, one might conclude the welfare of animals gets more attention in some circles than the welfare of black people in this country. There are more groups fighting for the rights of animals than for the rights of African Americans.

...Killing of animals is more vigorously pursued and more harshly punished than the killing of black people, by both longer sentences and longer probationary periods. The government in this case has shown far more vigor pursuing charges over the death of a dog than solving the serious, often life-threatening, issues affecting black human beings in this country, such as poverty, crime, drug abuse, unemployment and poor schools.

Did Michael Vick make a mistake when he fought dogs? Absolutely - at least, under the law. However, was the 23-month sentence followed by three years supervised probation imposed upon Vick, along with his persuaded consent to deposit nearly $1 million in an escrow account to reimburse costs of caring for the confiscated dogs, excessive? In our society, is a dog's life worth more than a human's - especially a black person's?

There is a lot of other stuff in this article that I am going to leave alone. Let me deal with the issue of race though.

It is ridiculous to argue that animal rights are more important than black rights in the United States. All animals come second to human rights. And, to be honest, there are many animal victims that get no attention at all. Look at slaughterhouses, animal research laboratories, and puppy mills. The media hops on issues that they can make a story out of. So if it can create a story with famous characters like Michael Vick, or a heartrending character like an abused dog, then it will do so. It's about the story and what sells.

Now, as for people who come out and rally for animals, yes, there is a special passion for animals. Blacks, children, women, elderly, any of these groups belong in the HUMAN category. This means they can speak. They can vote. They can usually fight back in one way or another. The abuse of an animal is the ultimate abuse of a helpless victim.

As for the complaining that we animal rights people don't care about black rights. My dear, if only I knew who you were. Animal rights people are among the most compassionate in the world. If you feel compassion for an animal, chances are you will feel compassion for fellow human beings. Too bad you didn't speak to these people to see how they vote, who they volunteer with and how they live their lives. You may have been surprised.

Finally, the African American community in the United States must advocate for itself and fight for its rights. It can't simply hide in a corner and complain that the rest of the world cares more about animals than about them. Blacks in the United States must also help themselves. Where is the support of the black middle-class and the black upper classes for these issues listed earlier? Why are there so many black Republicans in this country? Stop pointing fingers and get at some of the real issues.

Finally, compassion should be for all living things, whether human or animal. We are all on this planet together and we are all in big trouble together. Stop trying to make up divisions and controversy where they don't exist.

Eid Al Adha and Animal Sacrifice

I'd never heard of the Eid holiday until I saw Little Mosque on the Prairie. Then this morning I heard on a BBC podcast about a controversy over Australian Sheep imports to Egypt for the Muslim Eid Holiday.

Animals Australia has been campaigning on the issue

As a direct result of Animals Australia’s exposure of cruel treatment in Egypt, tens of thousands of Australian sheep will be spared unimaginable cruelty, while international outrage at Egyptian treatment of animals has sparked nation-wide public and political focus in Egypt about the importance of animal welfare.

These visibly stressed Australian sheep were tied onto a roof rack to endure a terrifying journey to their place of slaughter.

Australian sheep struggled with their legs bound tightly with twine in open street markets before being be on-sold to private buyers.

During the 'Feast of Sacrifice', it is said that the streets 'run red with blood' -- clearly recorded here by Animals Australia invesgitagors in 2006.

Brutal animal slaughter is a common sight during the Eid, performed in public in the presence of adults and children alike. The shortage of animals for this year's Eid challenges this long held public belief that animal welfare 'does not matter'.

Vision of sheep tied to roof racks of cars, bound and shoved into car boots in extreme temperatures, and trussed on their backs in trucks shocked the Australian public and proved the new Memorandum of Understanding between Egypt and Australia—in which the Egyptian government committed to treating Australian animals in accordance with international standards—worthless.

It should be noted, Eid Al Adha is not just an Egyptian holiday. It's celebrated throughout the Muslim world not. Sumayyah Meehan gives an American perspective in an article in the Khaleej Times.

The sacrifice Muslims make on Eid Al Adha is not only symbolic, but it also serves a social purpose. Muslims who sacrifice an animal distribute the meat among their own families and the needy. Every year, at Haj, an estimated one million kilogrammes of meat are made available to the poor following the sacrifice. So, the sacrifice is not made to please God. It is a sacrifice of wealth and property. It costs money to buy an animal to sacrifice for Eid Al Adha and the price of lambs and goats goes up every year. The real sacrifice is in sharing the sustenance with the poor and needy. And it demonstrates our thankfulness to God for food.

I'll leave it to you what you think. Is it any worse then Thanksgiving?

Photo by Babasteve

PS Babasteve (AKA Steve Evans) ROCKS. Go check his stuff out on Flikr.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Australia and Japan Headed For Confontation Over Whaling

Australian PM Kevin Rudd may send the the Oceanic Viking, leased from P&O, to monitor the Japanese whaling fleet. The vessel would be equipped with machine guns and cameras.

Australia's previous prime minister, John Howard, criticised the hunts but Mr Rudd is openly considering tracking the whalers, despite the potential damage this may inflict on the countries' deepening military and economic ties.

"We take seriously Australia's international obligations on the proper protection of whales," he said last week at the UN climate change summit in Bali. Rudd is expected to outline his anti-whaling policy later this week.

Reports in the Australian media suggest that Mr Rudd has not ruled out sending the Australian navy to track the whalers to gather evidence for a possible legal challenge at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.

Photo by Drumsnwhistles

The Disgusting Dog and Cat Fur Trade

Come on EU! It's time to ban the trade in cat and dog fur.

This story is about how there may be pets in Europe itself that are taken off the streets for their fur.

Animal rights supporters and MEPs are stepping up their campaign for an import ban on cat and dog fur, which they say is finding its way onto European markets.

New videotaped evidence of Belgian furriers explaining how the trade operates has been gathered by undercover investigators working for the Humane Society International (HSI).

One of the furriers says that stray cats and dogs, including lost pets, are rounded up on the streets of Brussels and Ghent and kept at animal farms where they are slaughtered for their fur.

Most of the dog and cat fur comes from, you guessed it, China.

The US has banned the importation of dog and cat fur (although some still gets through due to mislabeling).

Here is the Humane Society's page on dog and cat fur.

Here is a link to a PETA page that has a truly nasty video
of Chinese dog and cat fur traders. Dogs are shoved into cages so small they can't even sit up. It's easy to avoid watching this stuff. It's revolting. But I think you should. The animals in that video are surely all dead, but they deserve you're feeling a little uncomfortable to watch a 3 or 4 minute video. Remember them when you see the happy smiling faces at the Beijing Olympic games.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Importing Sick Dogs Into the US a Problem

Here's an article on ABC about puppy mills being run overseas. Sometimes animals come in with rabies or other health problems. This part caught my eye:

When alerted of a shipment, the Department of Agriculture inspects the conditions of puppies arriving at U.S. ports. The department took pictures of inhumane conditions, including a carrier meant for one dog with a makeshift shelf to hold multiple puppies and plastic bags around dog crates that ended up suffocating the animals.

First of all, the Dept. of Agriculture doesn't inspect much of anything coming in, unless it's something like seeds (at least at the airport). Customs and Border Protection Agriculture, maybe, but that's part of Homeland Security. They wear the same uniforms as Customs inspectors, but don't pack heat.

Secondly, I've cleared rescued dogs through Sea-Tac Customs, and even CBP Agriculture didn't look at them as far as I know. The regular Customs officers went over and looked at the dogs, and they made sure they either had a rabies vaccine form or filled out a CDC form promising to keep the dog separate and get it vaccinated within a certain time period. CBP Agriculture mainly cares about bugs (like wood boring beetles), mad cow or bird flu.

Part of the problem at least in Seattle is that Customs inspectors in places like Chicago were just clearing the dogs with no paperwork (Chicago happened to be the first US port of entry). By the time they got to Seattle, they were all cleared and people were going to the airline and picking them up. When they got a new supervisor here, he freaked out and demanded they be cleared properly (with proper documentation). He backed off a bit (this was an animal rescue group that I was dealing with), but they still had to have the proper documents.

China Testing Humane Slaughter Methods

It's about time....but I wonder where the pressure for change came from?

Henan is set to become the first province in the country to introduce humane methods for killing animals as part of new national guidelines on animal slaughter.

The province has been chosen to conduct the pilot phase of a plan to enhance animal welfare, the Zhengzhou-based Henan Commercial News reported yesterday.

Under a new code of practice for the humane killing of animals, affecting mainly pigs during the trial, the beasts should be treated as painlessly as possible before being slaughtered.

The slaughtering of pigs is currently carried out under old guidelines that include showering and knocking out the hogs before slaughter.

The new standard includes shortening the interval between knocking the pigs out and killing them to 15 seconds, from 30 seconds previously, to lessen the pain felt by the animals.

The authorities said it will punish those who carry out inhumane practices such as killing the pigs when they are still conscious.

Starting next year, training on humane killing methods will be carried out in more than 20,000 commercial slaughterhouses across the country.

Photo by benketaro.

Pachyderms on the Pill

In this case, we are talking about female elephants in South Africa that are on contraception. And to be fair to the ladies, males are also getting vasectomies.

{The irony is that we recently posted a story about the controversy over breeding zoo elephants so they WILL reproduce and here's an article about managing wild elephants so they WON'T reproduce. Gaaah!}

It is part of a national research effort to answer pressing questions about South Africa's elephant population: In short, given the animals' humongous appetites and destructive habits, is the 20,000-strong population threatening the habitat of other species? If so, how do you control population growth?

There are only four known solutions to too many elephants: birth control, relocation, so-called transfrontier parks that span borders and the one that people do not really like to talk about, shooting the animals from helicopters. The South African government's draft policy on elephant population control, released this year, includes all four options.

Some South African conservationists believe a cull (mass elephant kill) is inevitable in hugely popular Kruger National Park, which is nearly twice the size of Los Angeles County and had 12,500 elephants at last count in 2006.

Wanda Mkutshulwa, a spokeswoman for the government's parks agency, SANParks, refused to comment on the likelihood of a cull. "We made our recommendations in 2005," was her only comment, referring to SANParks' controversial call on the government to allow culling.

But shooting elephants would surely cause a storm of international protest, given human sentiments about the animals and the widespread perception that they are an endangered species (correct in other parts of the continent but not in southern Africa). There is talk among animal rights organizations of organizing a tourist boycott of South Africa should culling take place, threatening one of the country's most important industries.

Culls do not involve selectively shooting the oldest or weakest. They mean shooting whole herds, including youngsters, because the animals' social structures are so complex and interdependent.

Photo by Andrei_S.

Global Warming Blamed for Walrus Deaths

According to this article, they are having a tough time due to disappearing ice.

Unlike seals, walruses cannot swim indefinitely. The giant, tusked mammals typically clamber onto the sea ice to rest, or haul themselves onto land for just a few weeks at a time.

But ice disappeared in the Chukchi Sea this year because of warm summer weather, ocean currents and persistent eastern winds, Garlach-Miller said.

As a result, walruses came ashore earlier and stayed longer, congregating in extremely high numbers, with herds as big as 40,000 at Point Shmidt, a spot that had not been used by walruses as a "haulout" for a century, scientists said.

Walruses are vulnerable to stampedes when they gather in such large numbers. The appearance of a polar bear, a hunter or a low-flying airplane can send them rushing to the water.

Sure enough, scientists received reports of hundreds and hundreds of walruses dead of internal injuries suffered in stampedes. Many of the youngest and weakest animals, mostly calves born in the spring, were crushed.

Disappearing ice? That couldn't be happening. Didn't some judge in England take issue with Al Gore's movie? Why only a contrarian pinhead would take the side of the entire scientific establishment. over a smart judge in England wouldn't they?

No wait, actually he didn't disagree with the basic premise of man made global warming according to this article in the Times of London.

Despite finding nine significant errors the judge said many of the claims made by the film were fully backed up by the weight of science. He identified “four main scientific hypotheses, each of which is very well supported by research published in respected, peer-reviewed journals and accords with the latest conclusions of the IPCC”.

In particular, he agreed with the main thrust of Mr Gore’s arguments: “That climate change is mainly attributable to man-made emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide (‘greenhouse gases’).”

The other three main points accepted by the judge were that global temperatures are rising and are likely to continue to rise, that climate change will cause serious damage if left unchecked, and that it is entirely possible for governments and individuals to reduce its impacts.

Photo by Yukon White Light

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Goodbye to Sweet Montana

Well, she wasn't THAT sweet. She was a dwarf hamster.

But our little hammie Montana finally passed away. This hamster is the perfect example of what some animal lovers will do for the little ones in their care. This hammie was a lot of trouble and expense when you measure it per square inch!

Montana was originally a foster from the Seattle Animal Shelter and ended up with us permanently. She had skin problems with fungus infections and mites and went to the vet several times. One of her back legs was injured and she folded it up permanently. But she still ran on her wheel three-legged.

THEN, in the fall, she started chewing on that leg. We took her to the vet and she ended up on THREE medicines....but she chewed the leg off anyway.

She had just finished her last round of meds when she passed away unexpectedly. I think it was for the best. I don't think she was healing and dwarf life spans are short.

Anyway, here's to Montana...the biggest tiny trouble-maker in the State of Washington! May she rest in peace.

Friends of Animals Op-Ed Generates Anger

Here is an Op-Ed about Primarily Primates, a Texas sanctuary, written for the Hartford Courant by Lee Hall. The Op-Ed advocates the return to Primarily Primates of several chimps removed to Chimp Haven after the State of Texas took over the sanctuary. The State of Texas took over the sanctuary due to inhumane conditions and improper financial management. It then returned the sanctuary to some of the previous board members' management, but now with the sanctuary being part of FRIENDS OF ANIMALS, a Connecticut advocacy group.

Per the end of the article, Lee Hall is the an author of a model case for the personhood of nonhuman primates in the Seton Hall Constitutional Law Journal and legal director for the Connecticut advocacy group FRIENDS OF ANIMALS. Not an impartial observer I would say.

I direct you to this article more for the comments than for the article itself. There is a lot of anger out there on both sides. Opponents of returning the sanctuary to current management are angry at the State of Texas and Friends of Animals. Supporters of Friends of Animals think this was all a big stink created by PETA. I'm no fan of PETA, but there are independent witnesses that corroborate its findings.

Anyway, I would direct you to review the 25+ comments on this article and see what you think. I myself have withheld my membership renewal to the Jane Goodall Foundation until I find out what exactly their role was in this mess.

Photo by skoop102.

Coverup Alleged in Huckabee Dog Hanging Incident

Newsweek is saying that Huckabee intervened in the state police investigation that his son and another youth hung a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp.

The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark. It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor's request. Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired. "I've lost confidence in your ability to do your job," Bailey says Huckabee told him. One reason Huckabee cited was "I couldn't get you to help me with my son when I had that problem," according to Bailey.

To be honest, I don't really get how an "official letter" from the state police would have helped his son out. Maybe they wanted some sort of paper trail so that it didn't look like the governor secretly quashed it. Then again, how often do state police intervene in the abuse of one animal (a misdemeanor offense)? Remember the Vick case started out with a drug raid, not an animal abuse investigation.

It's going to be a nasty campaign season...

Photo by Yaquina

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Michael Vicks Letter to the Judge Released

Here is the hand-written letter that Michael Vick wrote to the judge prior to sentencing transcribed by yours truly.

Dear Judge Hudson,

I want to start off by saying thank you for allowing me to be at home for the birth of my third child _______. She's a blessing and I want to personally say thanks.

As you can see, the past six months have been the most difficult of my life. I've lost everything, including my freedom. Throughout my life, I've never been convicted of a crime other than a traffic violation, so this experience was very overwhelming. Growing up in Newport News, I was exposed to numerous illegal activities and dog fighting was one of them. I never understood why people arrested for guns and drugs but never for dogfighting (sic). No one really cared or called the police, so I grew up not knowing the severity of the crime. Your Honor, I grew up loving animals and still to this day (sic). I have (illegible) fine horses, parrots, fish tanks and lizards. I take full responsibility for my actions and am ashamed that my actions hurt animals and allow animals to be hurt and killed.

Your Honor, I am not the bad person or beast I have been made out to be. I have been talked about and ridiculed on a day to day basis by people who who really don't know Michael Vick the human being. They only know the football player, which is unfair. I'm a very humble, soft spoken, and caring guy. Also kind of shy. I'll do anything for anyone and often have a hard time saying no. I'm 100% committed to my family and kids and try to be the best dad I can be. I have a son (8) and 2 girls (2 and 1 month) by my girlfriend and soon to be fiance., _________. This has been painful because my son watches the news and can understand whats going on with his father. He says his friends in school make fun of the situation because we have the same last name. I've read books to the entire school so they know me as a football player and that I am his father. My daughter asks me every day where am I and when I will be home to play games with, but I have no answer.

I have accepted responsibility for my actions and I felt that turning myself in early would show my family, friends, and the world that I have accepted responsibility and was willing to pay my debt to society. It hurts deeply because jail is no place for me and it's hard for me to adjust in here, knowing I left my family behind. There's a saying "when you know better, you're supposed to do better." Honestly, I wish I had never been involved in dog fighting. As a result, I've lost everything - my good name, endorsements, and now my freedom. So, sitting here today I can say I've learned an invaluable lesson.

I apologize for the failed drug test. I was suffering from a deep state of depression, and my father attacked me in the media. I was heartbroken. I expected nothing but support from him; however, he was trying to get money from me and threatened to do a tell-all story on me. That's no excuse for using marijuana, but I didn't know how to cope with all the difficulties I was facing because it was all new to me. After my father did what he did, I just thought it was all over for me.

Throughout this entire case, I've just tried to be honest. Sometimes I didn't know how to be and was scared, but eventually put everything out on the table and left no stone unturned. I was scared because I've never been charged with a crime but in my heart, I only wanted to do what was right.

Your Honor, I have no problem paying restitution for the dogs as I believe they should live a good life as well. All the dogs were in good health and I've always made sure of the continuous upkeep of the dogs and all my animals.

One of the many hard lessons that I have learned is that talent is a responsibility, not just a privilege. I have thought a lot about the fact that if I had not allowed my money to be used, I would not be in the trouble I am. I PROMISE that I will never again use a single dollar that I have earned for anything but to help people. This situation shaped my life in more ways than one. I've learned a valuable lesson and have taken my life into a different direction. I purchased a church for my pastor back in July and ever since, have had a different outlook on life.

I pray for a second chance to be back with my family, and show the world the real Michael Vick (not the person the media has made be out to be). I will live righteous and will continue to be the best father, son, brother, and role model God put me on this earth to be. I plan to be more involved in the community and will continue to assist PETA in being an advocate against dog fighting and animal cruelty. I am forever a changed man; I now understand the importance of the people I surround myself with, spending more time with my family, and continuing to be a good citizen. I fully realize I will be judged on what I do and how I live, not what I say.

Your Honor, I just ask for a second chance. This is my first conviction of a crime and I know deep down in my heart it is my last. Your Honor, every year come the holidays. I sponsor a charity event called the "Grateful Give Back". On Thanksgiving I hand out turkeys, and on Christmas I give out bags of toys to the less fortunate children in either my hometown of Newport News or Atlanta. There's someone out there who needs me and I only hope I can be there for them in the future. I'm asking for a second chance your Honor; my family needs me and I need them.

I've pulled together and stayed strong up until this very day. We've all turned to God and pray that a second chance is given. Thanks for taking the time to listen.


Michael Vick

Here's a link to an original scan of the letter.
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