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Posts Tagged ‘wildlife’

This is one of my favorite responses from omnivores when they find out that I would love it if the whole world stopped eating animals. “But what would we do with all the animals that are currently on farms? They’d have to die–we can’t possibly keep them all around if they’re going to serve no purpose.*  Is that what you want? You want all the farm animals to just die?”

Um…okay, really?  Yes, that is why I’m vegan – because I’d like all the farm animals to DIE!  Does that even make sense?

First of all, people aren’t going to go vegan over night – at least not the entire population. These kinds of things don’t just happen like that.  If they did, I guess I’d have to give some pretty serious thought to what would happen to the billions upon billions of animals that are currently suffering on farms everywhere.  Until that’s a real possibility, I’m not really going to stress too much about what we’d do with all the now “useless” animals.

Secondly, the fact of the matter is that many farmed animals could likely survive if they were left to their own devices.  Those that couldn’t – like “broiler” chickens – would only find it difficult because of human intervention in their breeding.  Chickens who are bred for meat grow so large so quickly that even with the best of care, they do not live long.  My sister lives in Tampa, FL and she sees wild chickens all the time.  They live like any other normal wild bird, and are happy and free. Many farmed animals would be able to do the same if given the opportunity.

The last thing I’d say on this issue is that sometimes people say that these animals wouldn’t even exist if we didn’t breed them and eat them, and isn’t it better to have existed just for a little while than to never be born at all?  To that I’d like to say a BIG FAT NO.  If an animal never existed, s/he would never know s/he never existed, but when an animal lives in pain and fear every day of his/her short life, and then is brutally slaughtered at the hands of humans, s/he knows it.  That’s no way to live.  So, do I want pigs, cows, and chickens to exist?  Of course I do – but I want their existences to be ones of joy and comfort. And I don’t want them to die just because humans like the way they taste!

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* Someone actually told me that animals would “serve no purpose” if humans didn’t use them for food, clothing, etc. I did not do a very good job of hiding my shock.

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polarSometimes being an animal rights advocate is emotionally exhausting.  Today is one of those days.

Last night I was watching Animal Planet, as I often do, and the show was about polar bears in the wild.  There was a  mama polar bear and her 2 cubs who were not yet full grown, but also not tiny. Due to lack of food, a big male polar bear was following the threesome in the hopes that he could eat one of the cubs (apparently they will eat their own kind if they can’t find other food).  The mama and her cubs walked for hours trying to get away from him, but finally one of the cubs collapsed from exhaustion and hunger.   The mama bear was trying to get him back up but she couldn’t and eventually she had to leave him so that she could protect her other cub and herself.  I had to turn the channel before the big male bear got to the dying cub.  And then I cried.  Yes, I cried at the cruelty of nature.

What immediately hit me after getting so emotional about this is how nature is kind in comparison to the horrible cruelties humans impose on non-human animals, especially “food” animals.  That cub probably lived just as long as any pig does on today’s factory farms…and he at least lived his short life FREE.  He knew the love of his mother, got to swim, play, and run around.  Chickens, turkeys, pigs and other farmed animals get nothing of the sort. They spend their lives cooped up in tiny cages, feeling pain and sorrow every day.

So then I got even sadder.  Then today I read a story about a man who broke into his ex-girlfriend’s house and put her 5 month old puppy in the oven and killed him, and I got EVEN SADDER.  I mean, how can a human being be so incredibly heartless? HOW?

Anyway, the thing about caring so much about animals is that it lends itself all too easily to sadness.  I still have not figured out how to completely combat this.  How do you find the energy sometimes to go about your every day life when you know how much suffering there is in the world around you – human and non-human?  And how do we ever know if we’re doing enough?  The truth is that I never feel like I’m doing enough.  I’m vegan, and I educate others about veganism; I write this blog; I volunteer for an animal rights organization doing office work and event planning; and I have a dog and a cat whom I love dearly….but none of it really feels like enough.  Will it ever?  Will I ever hear a story about animal cruelty and not feel like surely I’m NOT doing enough if things like that are still happening?  I don’t know.  Anyone have any thoughts/advice?

(Sorry this post is such a downer….I guess it’s just one of those days.)

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Earlier this week  a Connecticut woman was attacked by a 200 pound chimpanzee named Travis who had been kept as a pet for 14 years.  The woman was friends with the chimp’s “owner”, and was called to help coax him back indoors after he escaped using a key to unlock the front door.  Sandra Herold, the woman who kept Travis, seemed surprised by this attack on her friend because “He could eat at the table, drink wine from a stemmed glass, use the toilet, and dress and bathe himself.  He brushed his teeth with a Water Pik, logged on to a computer to look at photos and channel-surfed television with the remote control.”  The thing is, those abilities make him very intelligent, but they still do not make him a domesticated pet.  Travis, like all other chimps, no matter how many amazing “human-like” behaviors they exhibit, are still wild animals who do not belong to anybody else, and who will undoubtedly revert back to their instincts eventually.  In addition, chimpanzees have about 5 times the strength of a human male, so if and when they attack, it is going to be brutal – as it was for Herold’s friend, Charla Nash, who is still in critical condition in the hospital.

During the attack, Herold called police, and pleaded with them to help her friend.  In the end, police shot Travis, killing him instantly.  Now, of course I feel awful that Ms. Nash was   attacked so brutally….but it also makes me extremely angry that this poor chimpanzee was killed simply for being a chimpanzee.  Sandra Herold’s ignorance about what Travis needed – i.e. to not be kept as a prisoner, basically – led to this attack, and I blame her, not Travis, for her friend’s injuries.  What’s more is that the state of Connecticut (and the US as a whole) needs to take some of the responsibility for this.  Herold was legally issued a permit to keep Travis as a pet.   I am hopeful that animal advocates will rise to the call and try to make some legislative changes, as one has already begun to do:

A chimpanzee is not a domestic pet,” said Pricilla Feral, president of the international animal advocacy group Friends of Animals, based in Darien. “Keeping an animal like that as a pet and force-training it goes against all of its natural instincts. For an attack like this to happen should be expected.”

Feral said she was appalled to hear the state issues permits to homeowners for primates such as chimpanzees. In the wake of Monday’s incident, Feral is calling on the state to adopt new legislation that would make primate pet ownership illegal. She is also requesting that existing permits for primates be exposed and revoked.

“The state has no business issuing permits to people to keep these animals as pets,” said Feral. “The fact that Stamford allowed this to occur in its own backyard is astonishing.”

I couldn’t agree more.

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This is probably one of the cutest stories about animals I’ve seen in a while, and what animal advocate couldn’t use a good pick-me-up every now and then, right??

It is a story about a very unlikely couple: Tarra the elephant and Bella the dog. They found each other at Elephant Sanctuary in Hohenwald, Tennessee. Each showed up all alone, but soon found comfort in the other’s presence. They know they’re not the same species, but it doesn’t seem to bother them at all–they’re friends through and through.

When people try to argue that non-human animals are mindless dolts (which, to be fair, isn’t often argued about dogs, but still…), I like to point to stories like this, which to me so clearly illustrates how complex and emotional non-human animals really are:

Tarra and Bella have been close for years — but no one really knew how close they were until recently. A few months ago Bella suffered a spinal cord injury. She couldn’t move her legs, couldn’t even wag her tail.

For three weeks the dog lay motionless up in the sanctuary office. And for three weeks the elephant held vigil: 2,700 acres to roam free, and Tarra just stood in the corner, beside a gate, right outside that sanctuary office.

“She just stood outside the balcony – just stood there and waited,” says Buckley. “She was concerned about her friend.”

Watch the video – totally worth your time, I promise – to see the full story, including watching Tarra’s giant foot pet Bella’s furry belly!

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “On Elephant Sanctuary, Unlikely Frien…“, posted with vodpod

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If you’ve been following the whole debate about what to do with all the wild horses in the western United States, then you probably know that there was a possibility that thousands of these beautiful animals would be rounded up and potentially euthanized. Well, it looks like the horses might actually “win” this one, thanks to a wealthy philanthropist & horse lover, Madeleine Pickens (wife of billionaire T. Boone Pickens) who recently announced that she would adopt not just the doomed wild horses but most or all of the 30,000 horses and burros kept in federal holding pens. While she looks for land that would be appropriate for the horses, the Bureau of Land Management will continue to care for the animals for another year.

Wild horse & burro populations have become more “problematic” as of late, because while their populations are growing, the number of people willing or able to adopt them has fallen, as feed prices have skyrocketed, and the economy has dipped into a serious recession:

The federal government has been rounding up wild horses since the 1980s, putting them in holding facilities and offering them for adoption to horse lovers, who promise not to sell them for slaughter. But the roundups became aggressive under the Bush administration. As of June, BLM was holding 30,088 animals, more than triple the 9,807 held in 2001…. Meanwhile, the pace of adoptions has been falling as the cost of feeding and caring for the wild horses has skyrocketed. The price tag to federal taxpayers for maintaining the horses tripled from $7 million in 2000 to $21 million in 2007. Hay prices for one short-term holding facility in Nevada rose from about $160 per ton in 2007 to almost $300 per ton in 2008, for example.

Luckily, these American icons will not meet the fate that many of their predecessors have, thanks to Ms. Pickens.

See, this is why I should be a billionaire – I’d be a totally good billionaire!  I’d save lots of animals and throw money at different non-profits that were doing animal advocacy work. AND I’d be able to volunteer my time instead of working for a paycheck.  It seems ideal….so, yeah, I should be a billionaire. Heck, even being a millionaire would suffice.  How can I make that happen?  Dear Lottery, pick me….??

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Our political leaders have a profound effect on how animals are treated in this country. They enact – or fail to enact, in many cases – laws regarding the treatment of wildlife, companion animals, and “food” animals. The U.S. is regrettably behind the times when it comes to many of these issues, and it seems to me that this is most noticeable in how animals used for food are treated. For example, in Western Europe, non-cage egg production has reached 35%, while it comprises a more modest 4% of all U.S. production. The EU will, by law, be entirely cage free by 2012.

Republican Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin is a complete disaster for animals, and electing her to be our next vice president would be a colassal mistake.  Palin has a horrific record when it comes to animal rights – just look at this picture of her sporting fur and you get a peek into her regard for the lives of non-human animals.

In order to boost populations of moose and caribou for trophy hunting, Palin has tried to pass legislation that would make it easier for state officials to gun down wolves and bears from helicopters.  Palin denies that polar bears are a threatened species and went as far as filing a lawsuit to reverse the Bush Administration’s decision to add them to the Endangered Species list.

In her short time as a politician, Palin has clearly demonstrated that her interests are in no way aligned with those of animal rights advocates.  As a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, and a staunch conservative with no regard for the lives of animals, the thought of her being one step away from the presidency should the Republican party stay in power is terrifying to me, as it should be to any animal advocate.  Given her record on wildlife issues, I can’t imagine her supporting any legislation that would positively impact the lives of those animals who are most oppressed: “food” animals.  We cannot afford to go backwards on these issues, and electing her would undoubtedly hinder any progress toward creating better lives for our farmed friends.

For more information on how politicians nationally and locally have voted on animal welfare issues, check out the Humane Society’s Humane Scorecard.

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You need to go watch this awesome video, courtesy of Non-violence United. It’s about the environmental impact of eating meat and dairy products vs. going vegan; the global food shortage; your health; and the human/non-human animal disconnect.  It’s 11 minutes out of your day and more information than you can shake a stick at!

No disturbing images (ok, there are a couple of dead sea-life, but aside from that…), no anger or aggression – just information! Check it out now and see how you can help the people, the planet, and the animals.

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On Deer Hunting

I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.

~Ellen DeGeneres

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Until I read Tom Regan’s book, Empty Cages, I never really thought about dolphins in captivity. I mean, dolphins are beautiful animals, and watching them is mesmerizing. Though I can’t remember a time I’ve paid to go to a show involving dolphins, I know I’ve seen and been amazed by them on TV on a number of occasions. Reading that book, however, opened my eyes to what marine parks across the world don’t want us to know: dolphins are incredibly unhappy in captivity. Some facts:

  • Dolphins are incredibly intelligent. They have unique voices and communicate with each other frequently. They have been known to use tools and to teach their offspring to use tools.
  • Wild dolphins can swim 40 to 100 miles per day – in pools they go around in circles.
  • Many marine parks subject their mammals to hunger so they will perform for their food. Jumping through hoops, tail-walking and playing ball are trained behaviors that do not occur in the wild. Dolphins don’t perform for the love of performing or because they want to please humans – they perform because they are hungry.
  • The dolphins you see at marine parks were probably captured in the wild. They were taken from their families, to whom they were undoubtedly very strongly attached. Their strong bonds have been documented to lead them to stay with injured or ill individuals, even actively helping them to breathe by bringing them to the surface if needed.
  • Every seven years, half of all dolphins in captivity die from capture shock, pneumonia, intestinal disease, ulcers, chlorine poisoning, and other stress-related illnesses. To the captive dolphin industry, these facts are accepted as routine operating expenses.
  • The average life span of a dolphin in the wild is 45 years; yet half of all captured dolphins die within their first two years of captivity. The survivors last an average of only 5 years in captivity. In addition, 53% of dolphins die within 90 days of capture.

Like other animals, dolphins rely heavily on their families (“pods”). They get love, companionship and a sense of safety from being together. Obviously once they are stolen from their pods to become entertainment for humans, they lose this vital emotional support. It is understandable then that so many of them die — they literally die from heart break.

Dophin Care UK sums it up nicely, I think:

The tragedy of dolphin captivity can be seen between the shows. When the music stops and the cheerful crowds go home, the dolphins resume to lying listlessly on the surface of the water, starring into the barren concrete wall of their tank. There is nothing else for them to do. This is where their journey ends.

How depressing–I can’t imagine how lonely and bored they must feel. I am glad there are groups both in the US and abroad that are doing everything they can to stop the imprisonment of dolphins. In the meantime, please don’t go to these marine parks – you’ll be supporting a cruel, horrible industry and all for what? Just a little entertainment? It’s just not worth it.

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A couple weeks ago, I took my Boston Terrier Otis out to go potty in front of my house. He kept sniffing at this one place and would NOT go do his business. I tugged on his leash and said “Otis, let’s do a potty!” in my nicest voice, but he refused. Something just smelled too darn good. Finally, I decided to go see what all the fuss was about. I looked where he was sniffing and saw this:
OH MY GOD, have you ever seen anything so cute?!?! I couldn’t believe it! There in my front yard was a nest of baby bunnies, cute as little buttons. Otis licked one of them and she hopped up, eyes still shut, and then landed back on her siblings. That got Otis pretty interested (and not in the most gentle way), so I figured it was time to pull him away. After that, I checked on those bunnies several times a day. It was so fun to see how big they got from one day to the next, to see when their eyes opened and they started exploring life outside the nest. I felt like they were my little babies and they were growing up so fast!

Last Thursday, all four of them left the nest, but basically just relocated to another spot about 15 feet away from the original nest. This worried me, but apparently it’s normal (according to the internet, which is always accurate). I kept checking on them to make sure they were still growing and didn’t need saving. Friday afternoon I saw this and had to take a picture:

Okay – THAT is the cutest thing I’ve ever seen. Two of them are using the other one as a pillow! And look how big they got! Saturday they were around part of the day, and same with Sunday. This morning they were all gone. I imagine they are out on their own now. I hope they’re doing well for themselves, making it in this big, scary world where they don’t have some strange human looking over them at all hours of the day and terrifying the beejeebies out of them. Yep, I imagine it’s difficult without me around, but I have faith that they’ll be okay.

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