Thursday, December 31, 2009

Toasting a TNR star

What turns a person into an animal advocate, focusing on one key cause connected with cats? When that person has significant professional responsibilities, a family and friends – all things that for others could be excuses for not doing much -- what makes her spend all kinds of time and her own money in abundance to help feral cats?

It’s hard to tell for sure, although Joyce Arciniaco says she grew up in a family of animal lovers, with cats and dogs. She also saw homeless cats and kittens and was aware of animal abuse in her neighborhood.

As she came to know about feral cat colonies, she noted that people who fed them often were unable to pay for neutering. Besides, in many cases, the cats were wild and couldn’t be handled easily.

Arciniaco had long recognized trap, neuter, release (TNR) as the best way to deal with ferals, letting them stay in place while preventing reproduction. “You need to get to the root of the problem, and that’s where it is,” she says.

So she started in Chambersburg, learning how to trap wild cats then transport them to a vet. At first, there was no discount for the number of procedures. These days, Arciniaco knows clinics where high volume, low cost neutering is the rule. That helps, of course, though she still pays out of pocket for the ferals she involves in TNR.

The “ear tip” – when the pointed tip of a cat’s ear has a small scallop out of it – means a feral cat’s already been neutered, had immunizations and was turned back outside. “They want to go back to where they were, their roots,” she says, explaining the importance of the “return” part of TNR. That, and their food source too: even when people can’t afford to neuter them, they feed ferals.

Arciniaco’s efforts have also extended to area shelters, Ewing in particular this year. She was a compelling speaker on behalf of the shelter animals at a Ewing council meeting last fall, and she has done the paperwork and paid for neutering many cats there.

She believes federal legislation could mandate spay-neuter for cats; drug companies should be charged to come up with feline contraceptives; and veterinarian schools should require students to do spay-neuter procedures as a community service.

A new year’s toast to Joyce Arciniaco: Here’s to the great work she does! May she continue helping cats and succeed at building support for TNR.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More horses reach finish line

Race horses can have a brief, exciting and even glorious life. It's after their careers end that they're in danger of being sold for slaughter, euthanized or abandoned. Last Sunday, a NYTimes editorial estimated one of these three fates befalls two out of three horses.

A scandal last spring, with nearly 200 former racers being readied for slaughter, called public attention to what can happen to horses, even when -- as was true here -- they're owned by a prominent, successful breeder.

One result: the New York Racing Association announced that breeders or trainers who sell horses for slaughter will be banned. Threat of punishment may be the only deterrent to people who would do such a thing.

Better yet, as the scandal story spread, individuals and organizations came to the horses' rescue, and many have been given homes on ranches and as "recreational companions." One group, the
Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, buys horses for rural prisons where they're cared for by minimum-security inmates. Speaking about his horse, one inmate said, "The little guy just wants to run free."

Sunday, December 27, 2009

"Eco-aquariums" -- not!

My post for Dec. 18 was about the Eco-Aquariums I'd just seen at Norman's in Lawrence Shopping Center. Later, when the Norman's buyer and I spoke by phone, she said she had researched the subject carefully and found an endorsement for it; however, she also expressed interest in knowing what PETA had to say about this "item" I had complained about.

So, I contacted PETA and spoke w/ the rep who handles such things. She emailed the two paragraphs below, in answer to my questions. I forwarded the PETA reply to the Norman's rep, and have not heard back from her. Here's what she said:

Yes, Eco-Aquariums are virtually identical to Frog-O-Spheres; the only difference appears to be the colored base that the cube sits on.

Would you be able to pass along our investigation on the Eco-Aquariums supplier, Wild Creations: There is video and expert testimony that recommends these 'products' be removed from distribution immediately.

I invite readers to look at the PETA information, consider the appropriateness of Eco-Aquariums being sold in card and gift stores -- or anywhere -- then contact Norman's HQ to protest such sales and refuse to shop there till they stop. Again, the Norman's phone number is 215-579-2600. Please call!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Get credit and HSU credit

Animal advocates with an academic leaning and/or a need to build or enrich their jobs might consider going back to school at Humane Society University (HSU). For real: get credit for learning how to be more effective at what you love doing with and for animals.

The link below takes you to a December 17 message from Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the US. (“This year, our educational affiliate, Humane Society University [HSU], became the first higher education institution exclusively devoted to providing academic curriculum in animal protection studies.”)

The time is right to look into what HSU can offer you next term. There can never be too much of a good (and needed!) thing! Go for it.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

'Gimme (a well-run regional) shelter'

Animal shelters are in the news. The idea of a regional shelter, serving Hopewell, Lawrence and Ewing, resurfaced this week in Hopewell Township, where a tract off Reed Road has been ID’d as a potential site for the facility.

Such a place would immediately improve the chances of animals that now are “sheltered” by the Hopewell Valley Vet Group, where they can stay for seven days only before being euthanized. The pressure is now on volunteer rescue groups to place such animals before their time runs out, but ironically, the vet group’s facility doesn’t allow people to come in and see the animals up for adoption.

Ewing’s shelter has been the cause of great unrest during the last year, and lacking one at all, Lawrence uses the Trenton shelter – the reason for last week’s demonstration at Trenton’s City Hall. So if a new shelter is approved, its three possible beneficiaries have already proven their need for its existence.

The group known as EASEL, or Ewing Animal Shelter Extension League, supports a regional no-kill animal shelter in Mercer County, one that some reports indicate EASEL wants to run. Exactly how and by whom that would be done, how staff members would be qualified and how EASEL defines “no kill,” which means different things to different people – are among the myriad questions that deserve detailed answers if this regional shelter idea begins to move toward reality.

With luck – and credible leadership, lots of persistence and money to do it right – maybe 2010 will be the year when Mercer County's animal shelters take a giant step forward.

Monday, December 21, 2009

'Shelter' in name only?

After last Wednesday's rally for the Trenton Animal Shelter, did anything there change for the better? A few dozen animal advocates, led by longtime volunteers at the shelter – which they say is understaffed and in deplorable condition – had marched and chanted in front of City Hall at noon.

Demonstrators spoke of the need to fill vacancies for animal control officers (ACOs) at the shelter and the growing need for volunteers to do some of the work that paid employees would ordinarily do. They cited animals without water and dirty litter boxes.

In a written response, the city’s director for health and human services denied, point by point, the accuracy of the protesters’ claims. Another city official disputed the argument that the $75,000 to be paid to a consultant could instead go to hiring three ACOs.

One city councilman (Manny Segura, at-large), reportedly the only city rep at the protest, had visited the shelter. He found people sharing a closet as an office and described as “terrible” that “there’s not even enough space for the animals.” He said other city council members have ignored his reports.

Segura advised the protesters to bring their message to a city council meeting, and one of the demonstrators’ leaders said they’ll return “next month” if conditions don’t improve.

As usual, the animals are in the middle, unable to speak for themselves about the living conditions at the Trenton shelter. How and when can this situation be improved?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Goodbye, dear friend

Published in today's NYTimes, the column that follows was written by Verlyn Klinkenborg, a much admired writer. His subject is one that anyone who reads this post has probably encountered. Regardless of how often it happens, it's still heart-breaking.

Darcy at Her Days’ End

Not quite 15 years ago, my wife adopted a mixed-breed puppy she found tied to a storage tank behind a gas station in Great Barrington, Mass. I say she adopted it because I wasn’t quite sold on the idea. We had a new pup already — a border terrier named Tavish — and this gangly new addition looked, in comparison, like a badly made dog. Darcy’s feet were too small for her body, her hind knees were weak, and her coat made her look like a wire-haired golden retriever. But who ever loved a dog less because it was ugly?

And now, suddenly, it’s all these years later. Darcy still lies on the lawn, basking like a lioness, and barks at the pickups going up the road. Much of the day she still has the look of an indomitably gratified mutt. But there are hours now when her eyes, a little misty with cataracts, seem worried, hollow. And she has stopped eating, or rather, she eats with deliberation and reluctance, a spoonful of this, a forkful of that.

Which means that now is the time for a hard decision. According to the vet, there are no signs of disease, other than the disease of age — nothing to force our hand. When Tavish died, four years ago, his liver was failing, and there was no choice but to sit on the floor and hold him while the vet inserted the final needle. It’s somehow not surprising that Darcy raises the matter of our responsibility in its purest form.

I’ve known too many owners who waited far too long to put their dogs to sleep, and I’ve always hated the sentimentality and the selfishness in their hesitation. Last week, watching Darcy out in the sun, it felt as though I was trying to decide just when most of the life — the good life, that is — inside her has been used up. Is it conscionable to wait until it’s plainly gone? Or is it better to err on the side of saying goodbye while she’s still discernibly Darcy, while she seems, as she nearly always does, to be without pain?

It comes down, in the end, to the pleasure she shows, the interest she takes in the world around her — and not to anything her humans feel. She has not had the life she might once have expected — a far better one instead. My job is to make sure she gets the death she deserves — in her human’s arms.

And so she has. She died quietly last Friday while I sat on the floor beside her at the vet’s. The world is a poorer place without her.

Friday, December 18, 2009

"Frog-o-spheres" return

They're baaaaaack. If not the exact same inhumane sales item as reported here on September 11, then close enough to be infuriating whatever they're called. They're some kind of "Eco-something" and today I spotted a small mountain of them at Norman's, Lawrence Shopping Center.

They hold at least one tiny frog in water . . . and that was about all I noted before it was my turn at the cash register. I mentioned that I'd heard these things could not be sold legally without a license. The saleswoman replied that they do have a license to sell these things, as do all the Norman's stores in the area, and she pointed vaguely toward a wall with framed papers.

Then she complained about having them -- not for the frogs' sake, alas, but because staffers must handle some maintenance of the frogs and there's all kinds of paperwork to be completed in a sale. Awww. Tsk-tsk. She apparently had no conception of the little frogs being alive, sentient and hopelessly far from home.

Later, too late to go back and return my $2-3 purchase, and unable to find the receipt anyway, I phoned the store to say I won't buy at Norman's again until I know they've abandoned this kind of sale. Then I got the (Penna) number for Norman's HQ (215-579-2600), phoned there and left a voice message and my phone #, declaring I'm a newspaper reporter and will spread the word.

Well, those two facts are true, but lacking a newspaper forum for this subject, I'll try to spread the word here: Please tell Norman's you object to their selling live creatures. Tell them you won't buy there as long as they continue doing it. And then find another card store. Thanks!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

“Animal Control Officer”: a varied job

Earlier this fall, Chris Buck, Animal Control Officer in Lawrence Township, NJ, talked about what her job includes. Don’t take her job title literally to describe what she does because that's far from all she’s ready and responsible for.

Buck says “as a kid, she was always into animals,” and for a while, she wanted to be a veterinarian. A friend who had held this job made it sound so good, Buck took the course and became ACO-certified – then when the position opened, she was ready and she got it, starting in on the 21 years she’s now served.

One of her duties is to inspect township kennels and pet shops. She also deals with wildlife calls – for instance, a sick fox with mange; advice on ground hogs; animals, including a snake, in someone’s house.

Buck enforces Lawrence licensing requirements and handles stray animals, taking dogs and cats to the Trenton Animal Shelter and “exotics” to people in the area who handle them.

Rabies cases and bites fall under her purview as well, as do any violations of township ordinances pertaining to animals. As a certified animal cruelty investigator, she can issue violations and with police help, arrest.

Twice a year, she coordinates the clinic for free rabies shots for dogs and cats in town. Her job also entails the regular Lawrence animal census and gives her numerous opportunities to make suggestions and educate residents.

During her work day, Buck uses the ACO truck, fitted out to deal with whatever she may encounter. Her equipment includes noose poles, nets, leashes, gloves, treats and toys, as well as two stretchers for sick or injured animals. There’s heat and air conditioning in the back for animals in transit.

Buck takes courses whenever she can, which is why she’s also certified for cruelty investigations, CPR and First Aid. Treasurer of the Princeton Dog Training Club, she also takes classes through that organization, and she teaches dog obedience through the Adult School in Hamilton Township, where she lives.

Not surprisingly at all, Buck’s family includes four Dalmatians -- Slide, nearly 13; Flash, almost 12; Noah, 10; and Lazer, 2. There’s also Riot, a Great Dane who will be a year old on New Year’s day. Two cats, Kodi and Kaluha, are in the family picture too.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Protest in Trenton

This just in. Trenton's Animal Shelter is the reason for a demonstration by shelter volunteers and those who support them this Wednesday. At noon, people who believe the shelter should be better staffed and managed for the sake of the animals there will meet at City Hall, Trenton.

Some will be in costume, some will make speeches, some will hold signs ("Honk if you love animals" or "Honk for City Shelter Jobs"). The event aims to call attention to the facility's understaffing and the unsatisfactory conditions there.

According to the volunteers' press release, "Lack of staff leads to animal neglect." They say that a year ago there were six Animal Control Officers (ACOs), three secretaries, one animal attendant and a shelter manager -- a total of 11 people. Now, they say, there are only three ACOs, one secretary and a shleter manager, and because of the cut in staffing, "most of the on-site shelter work is now done by volunteers."

One 10-year volunteer at the shelter, Kristina Wetzel, recalls that the initial job of volunteers was to socialize the animals and help get them adopted. Now, of necessity, they're doing so much more, including keeping the place in compliance with State Health Codes.

Shelter volunteers describe "City Hall" as indifferent to the situation in not filling vacant positions. Meanwhile, they say, Mayor Palmer has just given himself and his staff a 10% raise and the city's business administrator has just created a new position for an acquaintance, paying over $100,000. Either of these moves, says Beverly Kidder, a nine-year shelter volunteer, "could have paid to re-staff the shelter positions."

Check your schedule for Wednesday, Dec. 16, between 12-1, and attend the demonstration if you possibly can. Come and speak for the shelter animals.

(For more information, Kristina Wetzel: 609-509-3248; Beverly Kidder: 609-309-5095.)

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Animals as props

Socialites or celebrities with little dogs under their arms or in totes -- everyone has seen them. Models posing with fluffy cats or dogs. And L. L. Bean catalogs that often seem to feature more appealing puppies than clothes or gear.

All these are examples of animals being used as props, reflecting a human need, not an animal need. What dog wants to be trucked along Fifth Avenue in a carry bag? Or clutched by a model whose attention is really on showing her own assets and what she's wearing? Or displayed on flannel sheets for sale, and then it's back to the kennel?

Earlier this week, another example of animals as props turned up in New York City: animals with beggars on the street. A homeless man sat in a doorway with a tabby lying next to him. The cat was partly covered by a small blanket or sweater. Another man (without an involuntary animal companion) had a sign telling passersby: I care for five cats. Homeless. AIDs.

If people donated to either man, were they prompted to do so because of the animals, either present or mentioned? Wasn't there a suggestion that financial aid would also help the animals? Which was the bigger motivating force -- the plight of either man (which at some point may have been voluntary) or that of the animals, which was never their choice?

Animals as props. Or hostages.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Strange food-fellows

Answering my plea for good animal news, a California friend forwarded photos of a leopard and a mouse sharing a meal: the leopard’s.

The accompanying story had it that her keeper had just put the 12-year old leopard’s raw meat into her enclosure when a mouse suddenly appeared and began eating it. Instead of finishing off the mouse, the leopard merely sniffed and sort of nudged the rodent -- who kept on eating. And that was that.

And the leopard shall sit down with the mouse. . . and "do lunch." Or something like that.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Dear "Anonymous": thanks!

(In response to the last post, about Cleveland Amory, "Anonymous" sent a comment that deserved to become its own post, so here it is . . . )

A Holiday Thought

Aren’t humans amazing animals? They kill wildlife -- birds, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice and foxes by the million in order to protect their domestic animals and their feed.

Then they kill domestic animals by the billion and eat them. This in turn kills people by the million, because eating all those animals leads to degenerative -- and fatal -- health conditions like heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, and cancer.

So then humans spend billions of dollars torturing and killing millions of more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals.

Meanwhile, few people recognize the absurdity of humans, who kill so easily and violently, and once a year send out cards praying for "Peace on Earth."

--Revised Preface to Old MacDonald’s Factory Farm by C. David Coates

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Cleveland Amory: worth knowing about

Some of the animal rights issues of today include animals in laboratories, hunting (including the infamous leg traps), speciesism (as in, humans are superior to/have dominion over non-human animals), murder of fur-bearing animals (including Canada's harp seals) . . . and on and on.

What a surprise, then, to read about a man who fought against these same abuses -- and many others -- in the second half of the last century. And we're still at it!

Cleveland Amory (1917-1998), born in Masachusetts, educated at Harvard and well-known as "a best-selling author, social critic, journalist and man-about-town in Manhattan," was also an animal rights crusader. In fact, it could be argued that his campaigns for animals were the very best things he did.

Marilyn Greenwald's new biography, Cleveland Amory: Media Curmudgeon & Animal Rights Crusader, details the many ways in which Amory rubbed people the wrong way -- while steadfastly pursuing better treatment for animals. He didn't win on all the issues, as already mentioned, but he fought well-publicized fights that must have impressed, and recruited, many other people. (Think: an airlift of burros from the bottom of the Grand Canyon; think: hiring a ship and beating the hunters to some of the baby seals that would otherwise have been clubbed and skinned alive.)

Amory also founded the Fund for Animals in 1967, and by 2005 when it merged with the Humane Society of the US (HSUS), the Fund had 200,000 members and constituents, a budget of $7 million and $20 million in assets.

One of his last, and lasting, acts was starting an animal sanctuary he called Black Beauty Ranch. At its peak, it housed nearly 600 abused animals of all kinds, beginning with some of the burros he had rescued earlier.

Animals could use more curmudgeons like this.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Sea turtles' turn

Sad to say, a creature that has lived in the Pacific Ocean off Costa Rica for 150 million years is severly threatened. And all it took was humans.

Sea turtles have become so scarce that the Leatherback Sea Turtle National Park and a related museum in Playa Grande are both defunct, for all practical (and tourist) purposes.

What happened? Beach development, drift net fishing and Costa Ricans' custom of eating turtle eggs, that's what happened. However, climate change is the overarching reason. It has caused rising seas, more violent storm surges and slow increases in beach temperature (which can result in all-female populations -- obviously a problem.)

Heroic efforts are being made to artifically cool turtle nests and protect coastal property from development so turtles have a place to nest as the sea rises. But the back of the beach is already fillled with hotels, restaurants and planted trees, giving the sand no place to go. "Turtles will have to find their way between the tennis courts and swimming pools," as one person observed.

The ultimate irony: many of those who enjoy slurping turtle eggs in bars from a shot glass . . . have never seen a turtle.


Monday, November 30, 2009

Crating is wrong

Dedicated to all those who think a dog belongs in a crate, day and night, and being outside the crate is the exception -- this sign on a PETA dog park bulletin board:

No, he doesn't "love" his crate.
He loves YOU. And he will do anything to please you, including
sitting behind bars, waiting patiently for you to free him.

No, a crate is not a "cozy den."
A real den doesn't come with a locked door.
No, a crate is not like a playpen.

A crate is an extremely cramped and impoverished environment.
Sure, it keeps dogs safe.
It also keeps them from living.

How would YOU like being locked inside a small see-through box?

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Fur free? if only . . .

The day after Thanksgiving used to be called “Black Friday.” It had to do with major holiday shopping and retailers’ hopes to move financially out of the red and into the black.

That day’s also known as “Fur Free Friday” now. Animal activists converge on sites where fur garments and clothes with fur trim are sold to let everyone within earshot know the horrors behind fur: how innocent animals who can’t speak for themselves are brutally murdered so humans can wear fur.

On Friday afternoon, three activist groups met in NYC to protest at Lord & Taylor then at Macy’s. From, here’s the link to a story that was written about the event and its leaders:

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving

. . . "And that Thanksgiving turkey? Even if it is raised “free range,” it still lives a life of pain and confinement that ends with the butcher’s knife.

“How can intelligent people who purport to be deeply concerned with animal welfare and respectful of life turn a blind eye to such practices? And how can people continue to eat meat when they become aware that nearly 53 billion land animals are slaughtered every year for human consumption? The simple answer is that most people just don’t care about the lives or fortunes of animals. If they did care, they would learn as much as possible about the ways in which our society systematically abuses animals, and they would make what is at once a very simple and a very difficult choice: to forswear the consumption of animal products of all kinds. . . . ”

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Good news, please!

A reader’s comment reacting to a recent post here exclaimed at how welcome the good news (about two former service dogs) was. This also happened a few months ago, when a reader wrote some good animal news – about the resurgence of wild turkeys in the area.

It’s true: most of the posts here are in fact warnings or bad news. In part, I think, that reflects what’s actually happening to animals. I only wish it were like most news in the media -- dealing with the exceptions, not the rules. But I don’t think so.

Even so . . . here’s my invitation to any readers with good news about animals: please tell me about it! Then, if at all possible, I’ll post it.

We’d all like to think life is better for animals than it so often seems. But then, all it takes to suggest the real way of the world is a thought about factory farming or the fur industry or zoos and circuses or even the people who leave dogs tied up outside 24/7. . . or those who think the way to celebrate a holiday is to eat an animal.

Calling all good news!

Saturday, November 21, 2009

So-called "service"

Lottie and Janet, from my last post, would have been considered “service animals” during their time as seeing-eye dogs. They would fall in the same category as the myriad animals drafted for service in wartime (see Veterans Day post).

Service animals have no choice! They are selected and trained to do things for humans, often things that have nothing to do with the lives they’d otherwise lead. They perform involuntarily and typically to their own detriment – static, robotic lives, ill health, death.

Non-human animals do not exist to serve human animals!

On Jan. 4 of this year, the NYTimes magazine ran a long story on the many ways that “service animals” help people. The story blurb read: “It's no longer just guide dogs for blind people. Service animals now include monkeys for quadriplegics, parrots for psychotics and at least one assistance duck. Should the law recognize all of them?” (Note: another service animal mentioned in the story: a guide miniature horse, pictured above. Advantages of the horse, named "Panda," included his mild and trainable nature and the fact that he could outlive five-seven seeing-eye dogs.)

The letters to the editor in response to the story included one from a philosophy prof. His key points follow: “[The author] considers various moral and legal issues related to the use of exotic nonhuman species as guides for disabled humans. Except for one: the interests of the animals themselves. . . . they are persons in their own right, born with a capacity for natural freedom that their ''service'' entirely deprives them of.

“Guide animals are brutally separated from others of their kind, are discouraged from seeking affection from other human beings and are reduced to a life of perpetual bondage to their masters. If there is a meaningful difference between ''service animal'' and ''animal slave,'' I fail to see it.”

Thursday, November 19, 2009

"Free at last!"

Lottie is a fit, tail-wagging Golden Retriever, seven-plus years old. Janet is a solidly-built black Lab, also seven-plus. They were both walking with their person through Lawrence’s Community Park when I saw them and couldn’t resist them. They both looked so happy.

Then when I heard their stories, I knew they had reason to be enjoying every moment of life now. Starting with Janet, both dogs had been seeing-eye dogs with a woman in Trenton. When Janet began having seizures, she was retired and replaced with Lottie. Then Lottie was bitten by another dog, and she too was removed from duty.

In short succession, a couple in Ewing adopted both dogs, and the husband was walking them this morning. (His wife works part-time, and she knew of the Trenton woman and the dogs’ problems through her job.)

Anyway, there were Lottie and Janet, free! For them, no more doing only what their human needed them to do -- sitting for hours, sleeping by her bed, leading her on leash. Their confined, constrained lives were over (and Janet has had no more seizures), and as their person said, “Now they sleep on the bed!”

Hope it's a sturdy king-size bed!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Activism ops

I. If you believe “The most responsible way to help outdoor cats is to ensure that no kittens are born,” and that “Trap-Neuter-Return (TNR) is the only effective, humane way to control the outdoor, feral cat population” -- and if you want to help feral cats in your own area -- consider attending the Trap-Neuter-Return Workshop Saturday, November 21, at the Ewing Branch Library (61 Scotch Road, Ewing).

Sponsored by the Animal Protection League of NJ (formerly NJ Animal Rights Alliance), the workshop will run from 1-4 pm. A registration fee of $10 covers bound reference materials and light refreshments.

To reserve ahead as required, phone 732-446-6808 or write to For more information on TNR, visit

II. Think again about getting involved in the anti-fur movement. Think about how fur coats and fur trim and fur boots happen. It’s gruesome and barbaric. And it’s unnecessary – no one in today’s world needs fur to keep warm – except the animals who originally wear it.

The following paragraph comes from a reminder about a demonstration this weekend. Julie, the writer, is a school teacher and mother of twins, besides everything else. Yet for years now, she has also been a prime mover behind this anti-fur effort. You can tell from her message how committed she is.

***** Please join me this Sat. Nov. 14th - I don't cancel for rain. Only check website for cancellation if it is downpouring, which it is not supposed to be. Being out in sometimes lousy weather shows people that we are dedicated to the cause of helping animals. These foxes, mink, and chinchillas are kept outside in wire mesh cages in all weather. It's theleast I can do to bring attention to their suffering for an hour and a half. Please help me speak out for them. – Julie *****

The fur trade is very ugly. Check Julie’s website,, for info on other demonstrations, including the big one in NYC on “Fur-free Friday.”

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Animals in war (cont.)

The photographs in the last post, about Veterans Day, were taken in London a couple years ago. The Animals in War monument was a total surprise, discovered during a walk along Park Lane, overlooking Hyde Park. Exploring it, then trying to capture it in photos while thinking about what animals have endured, was an emotional experience. Countless people contributed to the memorial, recognizing how animals have served, suffered and died for human purposes.

English author Jilly Cooper published a book called Animals in War in the early 1980s, and some sources have it that her book inspired the monument. In any case, she was part of the drive to raise money for its creation.

The wording in one photo is hard to read; here it is:

Animals in War ~ They Had No Choice

This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.

Many and various animals were employed to support British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns over the centuries and as a result millions died from the pigeon to the elephant they all played a vital role in every region of the world in the cause of human freedom their contributions must never be forgotten

The building of this monument was made possible by generous public donations . . . .

This monument was unveiled on 24 November 2004 by HRH the Princess Royal KG KT Patron the animals in war memorial fund

David Backhouse ~ Designer and Sculptor
Richard Holliday Harry Gray, carvers
Built by Sir Robert McAlpine, LTD

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

R. I. P.

In the post for Oct. 10, “No rest in peace,” I wondered what happens to the bodies of dead animals removed from roads in town. Now I have specific answers from Chris Buck, Lawrence Township’s animal control officer (ACO) for the last 21 years.

For deer, the biggest animal, it depends on what kind of road the body is found on or near – municipal, county or state. A private vendor is authorized to pick up and dispose of the bodies of deer on or near municipal roads. He bills the township for the service. Workers with the Dept. of Transportation pick up deer bodies from county and state roads.

Lawrence’s ACO picks up the bodies of birds, raccoons and other wildlife. The bodies are double-bagged, placed in a dumpster and eventually wind up in a landfill. (Interesting to note that with injured, sick or orphaned birds or wild mammals, the birds are taken to a township resident who handles them; mammals go to the Wildlife Center on Route 29.)

The bodies of dogs, cats and other animals who may belong to someone are checked for ID (collars, tattoos or micro-chips); when there’s ID, Buck contacts the owner. Bodies without ID are each are placed in a bag (with descriptive info on the outside) and stored in a freezer that Lawrence and Hopewell share. Then if people ask about an animal companion, the body can be turned over if desired.

After a fixed time, bodies go to Pet Meadows, Hamilton, for cremation and the township is billed.

Case closed – with thanks to Chris.

(Note: This blog has occasionally mentioned helpful people in the world of animals. There are more to come, starting soon with a sketch of Chris Buck that will include what her job as an Animal Control Officer entails.)

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A parallel world

The current national health care bill debate includes story after story of people who can’t afford the medical treatment they need. They have responded to requests to tell their stories, adding weight to the push for health care reform.

But animals – non-human animals, that is – can’t tell their own stories about needed health care that is too expensive for their people to handle. They often miss out on the medical treatments that could make them well because the cost is prohibitive.

Then what? Well, it can go the way of an area artist whose dog was diagnosed with heartworms. The artist could not afford the cost of dealing with the condition, and the dog eventually died.

Or, it can come to the attention of the Animal Protection League of NJ (formerly NJ Animal Rights Alliance) – which gives the animal a fighting chance. APLNJ invites caring people to contribute to its Veterinarian Bill Assistance Program (VBAP) which since 1990 has helped animals who need medical interventions when their families can’t afford to pay for them.

APLNJ’s programs director Janine Motta tells about one such case:

"We just helped a cat named "Brooklyn." I got a call from his "mom" today, telling me that we saved his life. He was in acute kidney failure. Her vet wouldn't allow her to pay over time - even though she has been to him for years.

"I suggested she try another vet, and she did. They were very kind, the bill was much lower than it would have been at the other place and Brooklyn is now home after a 3-day stay at the vet’s and visibly improving.

"These types of calls can be very emotionally draining, long and involved because we don't just give money. We talk to the caller, sometimes offering our own experiences to help them decide what is best for their animal -- are certain diagnostics really necessary, can they do things (such as fluids) at home themselves, etc. We often suggest going to a vet we work with to help reduce the cost. That sometimes gives enough of a financial break that they can then afford the treatment."

To donate to this APLNJ program, go to and put VBAP in the comment section. Or, send a check payable to APLNJ, to PO Box 174, Englishtown, NJ 07726 (put VBAP in the memo). Find out more about the program via

Friday, November 6, 2009

He's back

He’s at it again. “Mr. Outdoors” is once more heralding the wonders of the season by ticking off what animals can be hunted and killed, and exactly when. What a sport – which he must be seen as, since his column runs in the sports section of the Trenton Times. There are sports and sports.

When the headline reads, “Small-game season opens tomorrow,” he’s not talking Monopoly. No, he refers to “the men and women in orange” – as if that phrase were equivalent to “men and women in (some sort of altruistic) uniform” – and how they can enjoy themselves outdoors over the next few months.

His fearless band in orange will be “taking to the fields and thickets” to kill “pheasant, quail, rabbits, squirrels and . . . other small game” in whatever way is legal. He mentions “stocking” at least five times, as in “60,000 pheasants will be stocked on 24 wildlife management areas throughout the state.”

In other words, the pheasants will be brought in so the hunters can do their best to kill them. Does this sound like an adult version of hiding (or stocking?) Easter eggs for kids to find? No one can claim hunters are helping to control overpopulation in this hunt, since the population is expanded for the hunt!

Lucky rabbits! “The cottontail is one of New Jersey’s most popular game species,” Mr. Outdoors reports, mentioning that “use of a beagle or basset hound . . . can increase the likelihood of success and add to the overall enjoyment of the hunt.” Well, maybe not overall enjoyment.

Not to be outdone, those thoughtful gray squirrels “provide exciting opportunities for hunters.” To “the men and women in orange,” animals exist to serve humans in such ways. And what a glorious death: mobbed by happy hunters, shot and killed, then bagged. (“Daily bag limit is 5 per day.”)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

About birds

When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore --
When he beats his bars and he would be free:
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to heaven he flings --
I know why the caged bird sings!

--Paul Laurence Dunbar, the son of 2 runaway slaves

With thanks once more to PETA President Ingrid Newkirk for this poem in her chapter on "Cute 'Pet' or Complex Individual and Friend for Life?" in The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights. (2009)

What follows the poem are observations and facts like these:

* "There is no such animal as a 'cage bird.' All caged birds were either captured or captive-bred. No bird was born to be in a cage."

* An estimated 40 million birds are confined to cages in homes across the US.

* "Of all the cruelties of thoughtlessness, including the loss of flight and liberty, depriving them (birds) of companionship may be the most heartless."

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Factory farming's negative reach

The following few paragraphs need no editorial comment:

. . . “According to reports by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN and others, factory farming has made animal agriculture the No. 1 contributor to global warming (it is significantly more destructive than transportation alone), and one of the Top 2 or 3 causes of all of the most serious environmental problems, both global and local: air and water pollution, deforestation, loss of biodiversity . . . Eating factory-farmed animals – which is to say virtually every piece of meat sold in supermarkets and prepared in restaurants – is almost certainly the single worst thing that humans do to the environment.

“Every factory-farmed animal is, as a practice, treated in ways that would be illegal if it were a dog or a cat. Turkeys have been so genetically modified they are incapable of natural reproduction. To acknowledge that these things matter is not sentimental. It is a confrontation with the facts about animals and ourselves. We know these things matter.

“Meat and seafood are in no way necessary for my family. . . . And we are healthier without it. . . . ”

(from “Against Meat: Or at least 99 percent of it” by Jonathan Safran Foer, The New York Times Magazine (The Food Issue), October 11, 2009, pp. 68+.)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Elect humane candidates

Have you reviewed your sample ballot for next Tuesday’s election? Are you re-thinking what you know about the candidates (sometimes much more than you want to know)? Isn’t there something missing -- specifically, where they stand on animal issues?

Not to worry. LOHV-NJ, or the League of Humane Voters of New Jersey, can help you find out. Its website will direct you to information on where candidates stand on animal issues and LOHV-NJ’s endorsements this time around.

LOHV-NJ advises voters to let candidates know their stand on animal issues counts and can affect their electability. If candidates are aware that we’re checking on them in this area, they just may behave better. Remember the story about Mitt Romney that circulated during last year’s presidential election – and still comes up periodically? Leaving for vacation, he tied the family dog to the roof of the car for their trip to Canada. Now there is a man to watch (out for)!

As an ad on the LOHV-NJ website puts it, “If your dog doesn’t like someone, you probably shouldn’t either.”

Check out the candidates you’re considering in the area that matters to you: animal welfare.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

"Fur-free Friday"

With just about a month to go till Thanksgiving, it’s time to lock up the day after the holiday for a major good deed. Although it’s also been known as “Black Friday” (for the holiday shopping, the related traffic and the hoped-for move from red to black ink in ledgers), animal advocates have turned this day into “Fur-free Friday.”

Winter will bring with it the inevitable fur coats, jackets, boots, hats, scarves – what else? -- so it’s time to remind fur consumers of how that fur was “harvested”: what animals endure, what kinds of deaths they suffer, so humans can wear their skins.

One admirable group of fighters for a fur-free world is ”Caring Activists Against Fur,” or CAAF. Based in North Jersey, founded and energized by a school teacher and a nurse, visible all over Manhattan and North Jersey on weekends and holidays, this organization makes no bones about the horrors of the fur trade and the vanity and selfishness of people who wear fur.

They demonstrate outside major NYC-area stores and furriers, sometimes with bullhorn and videos and always with leaflets to distribute and chants to get the attention of passers-by (often wearing fur).

And it’s often cold, very cold, during these demonstrations. They call for much more discomfort than writing a check or tooting a car horn while driving by. Standing in one place for a couple hours at a time during winter months is no picnic.

Just think, though: it may win the attention of some fur wearers and buyers. They may then think about how that raccoon collar moved from the animal to the neckline of their coats; how their sheepskin books meant that sheep too had to die; how even their mink earmuffs necessitated death – often grisly.

But grisly or anesthetized, what’s the diff? Why should animals die so humans – with countless other ways to keep warm in winter – can wear their skins? Supposedly, we’re millennia away from cave people days; we’re enlightened. There’s no excuse for today’s knowledgeable humans, who ought to know where those skins came from, as well as myriad alternatives to them.

Check out CAAF. Then (in your cloth coat and man-made shoes) join them!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Royalty confirmed

Huzzah, Queen Maggie! Ms. TUSKany 2009.

To which readers might say, “Huh?” For the background details, please read the August 6 post, "Earned royalty," which tells about PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in California. Maggie, an elephant rescued from the Alaska zoo – you read it right, Alaska – and flown to this haven, was among the pachyderms there who were competing for the crown during PAWS’ annual Elephant Grape Stomp.

Votes for any of the elephants were really donations to PAWS, and Maggie was the winner. It almost had to be. She was the sentimental favorite this year because of her plight and then her flight to freedom, followed by her gradual adjustment to living in a habitat much closer to the one from which she was taken as a baby . . . to Alaska.

Way to go, Maggie!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

"Look out!"

“Leopard behind you!” Does that sound like a common warning among humans? Of course not. But in her (NYTimes) blog, Olivia Judson discusses the kinds of alarm calls (non-human) animals use to alert one another to danger.

And some of those warning sounds can be surprisingly predator-specific. For instance, Judson says, vervet monkeys make different sounds to warn of snake or eagle; at the first sound, the monkeys look to the ground, while at the other, they look up. At “leopard,” they head for the trees.

Other animals do much the same, distinguishing among predators with the sounds they make. She details the alarms issued by Gunnison’s prairie dogs, meerkats and black-capped chickadees – some so subtle as to differentiate between what’s coming and how close it is, and how dangerous a resting predator is.

Possibly more surprising, Judson reports that “animals of one species often respond to the alarms of another.” That can include choosing to ignore an alert if it’s a threat only for the caller, but not the “overhearing” animal. And of course, predators can hear the warning calls too, and may decide since their cover’s blown, they’ll quit for now.

Whether animals do all this because of innate intelligence, personal experience or watching what happens to others is not yet known. One theory is that positive reinforcement – when young animals sound the right alert, adults join in – plays a part.

All of which may prompt us to think about how we signal danger to other people; whether our words are as specific as some animal warning sounds; whether those beyond our intended audience listen and act too – and how we learned do any of this in the first place.

(All this talk of animal warnings recalls Ogden Nash's famous alert; it's irresistible here: . . . “if called by a panther/don’t anther.”)

Sunday, October 18, 2009

2 small steps for . . . "animal-kind"

Two victories for farm animals have been reported by Gene Baur, the co-founder and president of Farm Sanctuary, the organization behind the “Walk for Farm Animals” last month in Princeton (and many other places). These are small triumphs, but “every little bit . . .” Here’s what Baur wrote:

“I'm very excited to let you know that this week two important bills were signed into law that improve the lives of farm animals in California and Michigan. Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has signed a bill which will ban tail docking by the California dairy industry and Governor Jennifer Granholm of Michigan has just signed legislation to ban cruel battery cages, gestation crates and veal crates in her state. California is the first state to ban the tail docking of dairy cows. Michigan is now the second state to ban battery cages, following the example set by California last year with the passage of Proposition 2. It is also the fifth state to ban veal crates and the seventh to ban gestation crates.

"Cutting off cows' tails and confining animals so tightly that they cannot even turn around or stretch their limbs is cruel and outside the bounds of acceptable conduct. We are now seeing growing momentum in our collective efforts to end the most egregious abuses of farm animals in this country.”

Saturday, October 17, 2009

"Oh, give me a home . . ."

“Hopewell Twp. close to purchasing land for animal shelter,” according to a story in last Monday’s Trenton Times. It sounded like the long-awaited next word on a shelter to house animals from a few communities, including Lawrence Twp.

The three towns mentioned in the first story, some months ago, may have included Ewing too, although Monday's story quotes Mayor Jack Ball, who says his town is working on building its own shelter, and “time is of the essence.”

However, Ewing council member Bert Steinmann spoke in support of a regional shelter run by a nonprofit organization. He claims having said “from day one” that “we” (presumably, the local government) “should not be in the animal business” – a belief that innumerable animal rights activists in the area would immediately agree with.

Two such different opinions from reps of Ewing township only add to the impression that one hand doesn’t know (or care?) what the other hand is doing and/or that whoever is in charge there (mayor or council?) is up for grabs and/or that Ewing reps speak with forked tongues -- all of which has sure seemed to be the case throughout the current brouhaha over Ewing's animal shelter.

Adding to the advisability of taking all this news of a shelter site with a large grain of salt – maybe a giant salt lick would be better – the animal control officer of one community likely to be involved says the story came as a total surprise to her; she hadn’t heard a thing about it.

So does that mean politicians know more about animal shelters than their towns' own animal control officers? Will they involve the ACOs only after the plan is final, if then? Any chance the ACOs might contribute questions and ideas – call it expertise -- before decisions are made?

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

National feral cat day

This Friday, October 16, is National Feral Cat Day, brought to us by Alley Cat Allies, “the cats’ leading advocate.”

One place that really should not need feral cat-advocacy at this point, yet clearly does, is nearby Ewing Township. For months, the animal shelter there has been the focus of attention and dissention via newspaper coverage and activists’ energy directed against the mayor and town council. Of course, the animals involved, who can’t speak for themselves, are caught in the middle, helpless.

It recently became even more upsetting because a number of trapped feral cats at the shelter were threatened with death. It’s not known right now whether they were euthanized today, as threatened.

Ewing officials seem to have no idea of what feral cats are all about. One council member has reportedly described them as a “health hazard,” when in fact Ewing officials themselves seem to constitute the worst possible health hazard for cats.

Trapping feral cats is only step one of the three-part program called “Trap, Neuter, Release (sometimes “Return”),” or TNR. Widely known and practiced, although not in Ewing, the program builds on the reality that feral cats are wild cats who live in colonies. They will keep reproducing (and increasing colony size) unless they are neutered or spayed.

After being sterilized, feral cats should be returned to their colony. By definition, feral cats aren’t looking for a home; they don’t want to cuddle on our couches, as Alley Cat Allies’ website warns. They’ve learned to live outdoors, and that’s the place they prefer. Once an entire colony is neutered or spayed, they can’t reproduce, and over time, they die out. (Note: feral kittens sometimes can be socialized and adopted.)

For reasons unknown, Ewing has not accepted the idea of TNR. In fact, Ewing seems to lack any coherent plan for what to do with animals at large in the township as well as animals in the so-called “shelter” there.

Alley Cat Allies urges people to “get informed.” What better time to do this than on or before National Feral Cat Day, this Friday? Here’s the link to basic info on ferals:

Saturday, October 10, 2009

No rest in peace

From our bicycles we can see up ahead on the road a dead . . . something. There’s no avoiding it, and we can’t even look in a different direction to miss seeing it, as a car passenger can do.

Now it’s clear: a dead squirrel, with only its fluffy tail unbloodied. The little head and face are very sad to see. No doubt a car traveling fast and/or in the dark v. a small squirrel. We’ve seen a number of frolicking babies lately – maybe squirrels have more than one litter/brood/family a summer – most of them seeming to love playing in the street.

This is too, too bad, and there’s nothing to be done except notify the animal control officer in town. Then she or a colleague usually picks up the body. Then, at least, the poor dead thing doesn’t get more ‘hurt’ by being driven over and decomposing in public.

Question: what does the animal control officer do with the bodies so collected? Are they buried? cremated? Are they treated with respect, which is my reason for reporting them on the road and assuming they’ll be well treated in death.

I don’t know, though. When I tried to find out what happens with animal bodies picked up on or near roads, at least in Lawrence Twp., I couldn’t. The animal control officer (ACO) was surprisingly evasive, seemingly secretive -- first saying her supervisor would have to decide if she could tell me, then saying that person was on vacation, then saying the township administrator would have to decide, and finally never getting back to me when promised with an answer either way.

Strange. And of course, her evasions only gave me more reason to wonder whether she’s hiding anything. What could have been a simple question and answer -- last summer! -- turned into a long campaign of phoning the ACO and getting a new excuse and/or not getting a return call; phoning the ACO, etc., etc.

What could have been a blog post positively citing the township’s ACO for compassionate treatment of animals killed on our roads . . . remains a question left unanswered. The situation is suspicious, at best.

(Note on 10-13-09: Since this post was published, Lawrence's ACO and I have talked. Look for specifics in answer to the questions raised here, as well as an overview of the ACO's job, in a November post. )

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

"Save Pete the Moose"

Pete! You're so lucky to have a name! That you are "Pete" or "Peter" to those who know and love you means you're different -- and maybe you'll be better taken care of than "that moose in Vermont" might be.

Talk about teaching moments. Yesterday, soon after my post about calling animals "he" or "she" and giving them names too, there was a newspaper story about Pete, a Vermont moose whose living quarters and very future are threatened. People have sprung to his defense, with "Save Pete the Moose" bumper stickers and a Facebook page with (then) 1,646 members.

Throughout the story, Pete is referred to as "he" when not by "Pete" or "Peter." Nice! No doubt that personalizing helped people relate to Pete and the issue. (It, by the way, has to do with "chronic wasting disease," "captive hunting facilities" [oh, boy, the Trenton Times' "Outdoors" columnist would probably love them!] . . . and, ultimately, politics.)

A link to the story follows, and it's worth reading -- not just because of its "I told you so" content!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Influential words

“Liberate your language!” advises the new PETA guide (see "news" post for September 5). “An animal is “he” or “she” – not “it.”

How often have we heard (or said!), “Where did you get it?” (of a dog or cat or ferret or turtle). “It was just a kitten,” or “The puppy ran to its mother.”

De-personalizing, isn’t it? Still worse may be using “it” to reference animals, such as pit bulls, who already have enough problems. Daubed with the brush of “vicious” to start with – when in reality, it’s their people who are vicious and try to make them the same – these dogs don’t need to be referred to as “it,” as if they were non-breathing, “vicious” automatons.

Instead, alluding to an animal by gender, just as we allude to people as “he” or “she” -- and giving an animal a real name, instead of “cow” or “pig” -- may prompt us to look on non-human animals more compassionately, as sentient beings with feelings, needs and rights. (If “Molly,” who happens to be a pit bull, is accused of attacking an innocent person, maybe we’d be more likely to check the story and consider both sides than we’d be if “that [expletive deleted] pit bull attacked so-and-so.” )

Friday, October 2, 2009

People-watching whales?

A fittingly huge piece of news about whales to mention. In the New York Times magazine for July 12, 2009, Charles Siebert wrote the cover story about gray whales off the Baja peninsula and the real likelihood that they have initiated interspecies communication with humans. Imagine.

After first discussing the problem of the US Navy’s use of sonar and its catastrophic effects on whales (and ocean ecosystems), and the startling fact that the US Supreme Court had even considered the issue in late 2008, Siebert moves on to a lengthy description of recent human experiences with gray whales off Baja.

Siebert says, despite “. . . all of our transgressions against them, they may . . . have learned to trust us again,” not long after “our gradual transition from murdering whales to marveling at them.” He tells of gray-whale mothers (some still bearing harpoon scars!) seeking out humans and seeming to introduce them to their young. Both eye contact and “sociable tactile contact” has occurred between two vastly different species of mammals.

“Watching Whales Watching Us” is so astounding and touching at once that it deserves to be read word-for-word. And the illustrations are striking.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Sticky's torturer ID'd

It sounds as if Sticky, the little tabby cat who was wrapped in duct tape (link to story in last post), has lots of friends.

First, well-wishers boosted the amount of the reward offered for the conviction of the person who did that to her. Then, a telephone tip led enforcement officers for the Penna. SPCA, based in North Philadelphia, to a suspect who has been arrested. Finally, since no one could offer proof of being Sticky’s human parents – it’s hard to say “owners” – she will be adopted out to one of the hundred or so families offering her a home. Happy ending.

But then a nagging afterthought: the 19-year old who was arrested for this cruel act sounds incompetent and untrustworthy. The words he reportedly said to the arresting officer offer no comfort to other cats, other animals. How can he – or any human being – still act as if (other, non-human) animals are inconsequential and have no feelings, no needs, no rights? It’s scary to have such people in the world.


Monday, September 28, 2009

"The good news"

Out of fiendish animal cruelty, some good can (sometimes, finally) come. First case, an innocent young cat, who became the victim of one human’s act – and then the recipient of lifesaving help from many other people. The story of “Sticky” is told via this link:

Another piece of happy, humane news was reported late last week in The Press (of Atlantic City). Atlantic County has “announced plans to establish a regional pet-evacuation center at the Atlantic City Race Course, to be used during weather and other emergencies.” How welcome is that? And what a beautiful change it represents compared with the atrocious treatment of companion animals during and after Hurricane Katrina – which subject, BTW, is documented in a recently released film, “An American Opera: The Greatest Pet Rescue Ever!”

According to a film review in the Sept. 25 TimeOFF section of the Princeton Packet, producer/director/narrator Tom McPhee went to New Orleans to help. There, as part of an effort to reunite rescued animals with their families, he photographed the animals. He also shot video footage, which became part of this movie. It will be shown at Princeton’s Garden Theatre on Oct. 1 at 8 pm.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

One 'right' approach?

In many ways, last Sunday’s Farm Sanctuary walk for farm animals was a model for public expression of opinion: participants were quiet and orderly, while firmly against factory farming; neither signage nor flyers was strident or inflammatory; peace prevailed as points were made.

It was all very civilized.

It was also worlds away from the anti-fur demos in New York City that I’ve become familiar with in the last few years: chants and bullhorns; gory (i.e., reality-based) signs and videos; critical exchanges with passers-by wearing fur; protesting from behind barricades (in front of stores that sell fur), with police protection.

There’s no argument that both causes – terribly abused farm animals and fur-bearing animals, both slaughtered for human use of their bodies or their fur – are equally worthy. And yet the two approaches to getting the message out are so different. Why? and which way is more effective at “winning hearts and minds,” at moving people away from eating flesh and wearing fur?

On reflection, Sunday’s walk was itself rather bucolic, peaceful. Was that a deliberate reminder of what we still idealize farms as being like -- before we let ourselves remember what factory farms are like? Then what’s to be said about how anti-fur demos proceed: angrily, from the start? Does the difference come down to being a matter of who’s heading up the event, rather than the issue itself – diff'rent strokes and all that?

It may simply require more experience with demonstrations to conclude which approach seems to work best – or even to decide which “style” participants are most comfortable with.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Walk for farm animals

An uplifting event took place yesterday afternoon in Princeton. At least 70 people walked along a four mile route, carrying signs and giving out flyers, to show their compasssion for farm animals. Literally billions of land animals are slaughtered each year in the US for food; untold additional billions of fish meet the same fate.

And how these creatures "meet their fate" is almost worse than the fact that they do. It's all about factory farming and how that heinous system causes animals to be treated.

The walk was an annual event sponsored by Farm Sanctuary, one of 66 such walks taking place this fall across the US and in Canada for the same cause. I walked and took pictures and talked with other participants -- a very diverse mix yet all quietly committed. Afterwards, I was glad to have the chance to write about the walk, twice, for publication.

Now, if some of the bystanders and drivers who saw the walk underway would only feel/act more open to the horrific information that Farm Sanctuary exists to provide. ( Not that they should become vegetarians or vegans on the spot; their merely cutting down on flesh consumption would be a good start. Positive reactions can start small -- then build. It all begins with willingness to listen, read, think. #

Saturday, September 19, 2009

'Harvesting' column inches

My last post, about the awful "Outdoors" column from the Times of Trenton earlier this month, prompted my checking yesterday's paper to see if it's a weekly thing. Apparently so. Even worse: the latest one was way long -- would you believe about 27 column inches? That in contrast to the length allowed the Times' "regular" columnists, which this morning was about 17 inches in the case of Sharon Schlegel. Her reward for writing well is to get less space, whereas his turgid, disingenuous drivel goes on and on.

It looks to me as if "Outdoors" is (believe it or not) a paid column -- that is, he or his interest group may pay the Times for the right to hog space and be published, without benefit of editing beforehand. All in the interest of "the harvest"!

The only good news here is that my letter to the editor of the Times was printed today. Essentially, it's the same as the post before this one, "Who is he kidding?", except that my deliberate "bloody vein" was for reasons unknown to me changed to "gruesome vein." Too sanguine? Or too un-euphemistic?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Who is he kidding?

“There is no question that autumn is in the air.” The words of a real nature lover? No, definitely not, in the sense of enjoying the beauty or taking care of it all. On Sept. 11, The Trenton Times’ “Outdoors” columnist continued: “Goose season got off to a good start and the next season that will garner the attention of hunters is the start of the fall archery deer season.”

And on and on in that bloody vein. This guy tells time by which animals can be killed. If it’s autumn, he can go after geese and deer. And he can refer to the “harvest” as if he’s discussing root veggies. If weather comes into it at all, it has to do with “more comfortable hunting conditions.”

“Harvest” stands in for “kill” five times in just two paragraphs. Then he moves on to permits -- without using the word “hunting” as a modifier – in relation to “managing” the deer population. New Jersey’s “deer management zones” are ranked based on the number of deer “taken” or “harvested” – never “killed” -- with the “top zone” posting the highest number of dead deer.

Finally, he bemoans the loss of deer hunters (what, not “harvesters” or “managers”?) to other states because New Jersey’s system is “too complex and costly.” Such impediments “only further hurt the sport.” (“Sport”?!)

He quotes one hunter’s complaint that “the division” (i.e., Fish and Wildlife) is more interested in profit than “protecting hunting in the state.” But who is protecting the fish and wildlife?

How about changing the column name to “Go get ‘em!” or “Ready, aim, fire!”?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Animal Qs in transit

A weekend trip to the North Carolina coast generated a variety of observations and Qs about animals. Answers to questions are invited and welcome!

* baby seagulls: even though this isn’t the baby bird season, the question remains -- who has seen them? where are they raised? why are “adult” seagulls always the ones we encounter on the beach?

* seashells and critters: is every seashell automatically a home/shelter for some kind of animal? (are seashells always functional as well as oftentimes beautiful?)

* what’s the recommendation about feeding feral cats? I encountered a long, lean black and white kitten(?) near a visitor info center in NC and had nothing with me to offer it. Later, I wondered if it’d be a good idea to keep healthy cat treats in the car for such an occasion. Though I couldn’t bring the cat home – and sensed I shouldn’t try reporting it to any animal welfare organization in the area, not knowing the operating philosophy – I wanted to do something.

* no joy ride: on the highway coming home, a pickup truck passed our car . . . with a handsome German Shepherd in the open back. Looking uncomfortable, the dog moved from side to side and when the driver accelerated, nearly lost his balance. The truck (with Pennsylvania tags) quickly got out of our reach/vision; I couldn’t even note the license plate (though I don’t know what I could have done with it—citizen’s arrest?). Do any states have rules against dogs or other animals in open trucks? “There ought to be a law.”

Friday, September 11, 2009

Fighting "Frog-O-Spheres"

Brookstone, the place people think of for pricey high-tech gadgets, recently got into – and at least in West Windsor, out of -- the business of selling frogs. Here’s the story, as reported in a local paper late last month.

The company was selling the “Frog-O-Sphere,” a popular item (doesn’t everyone shop for frogs at Brookstone?) that included “ two live aquatic African dwarf frogs, a snail and a bamboo plant all enclosed in a plastic see-through cube.”

PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) had complained to the township’s health office about these sales, arguing, “Displaying and selling wildlife for profit is never in the best interest of the animals.” PETA reported receiving hundreds of complaints from Brookstone customers, who either (1) found that the frogs they’d bought were dead or dying within days of purchase, or (2) were “horrified” that live frogs were in proximity to remote controlled chairs and other gadgets.

(Blogger’s note: So the first group of complainers didn’t much care about the frogs bought in these circumstances except that they were dead or dying? And was the second group trying to say the frogs’ habitat [beyond the “Frog-O-Sphere”] should be . . . habitat, and not merchandise? Oh, well, any protest is better than none.)

So, lacking the required pet shop license, this Brookstone store has stopped selling frogs/“Frog-O-Spheres.” But there are more than 300 more of them across the US, and sales are reported to be brisk at the (licensed) Brookstone in Bridgewater.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

No horse sense

In these sour economic times, some bigger animals seem to have proportionally bigger problems. Horses are one (sad) example.

A few weeks ago, a newspaper story told about retired race horses who had been sold for slaughter. Their racing and breeding work was done and it was too expensive to continue boarding and caring for them. So, the creatures who had never had a say about whether they wanted to race in the first place, and who in many cases had nevertheless made skazillions for their owners . . . weren't even allowed to spend the rest of their lives in a green pasture somewhere.

The last horse slaughter facility in the US was closed a couple years ago, but horses are still trucked to Mexico or Canada for slaughter. So much for the one-time "stars" of the racing industry.

But why are we surprised? Horse racing is an awful "sport." Innocent animals are ruined and killed in the process, and now we simply know more about what happens to many of them if they survive to retire.

On another front, in this area, a number of horses were out of a home and up for auction. Their current owners -- one-time horse lovers; kids who had to have a horse, then tired of it, etc., -- claimed they could no longer afford to keep them. So, as humans already do with dogs and cats, they "surrendered" the horses.

Disposable animals: how convenient.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Powerful poem

Not to waste time about it, here’s one of those occasional excerpts from the PETA guide that was threatened in the last post – an anonymous verse that pretty well sums things up:

Coat with fur,
Hat with feathers,
Lobster broiled alive,
Shoes and bags in sundry leathers
Of animals who’ve died.

Hunted, trapped, and torn apart
For me to satisfy
And, who am I? And what my rank?
That I may live
And they must die?


Two "news"

Two organizations that advocate for animals have come up with something new: a book and a name.

Ingrid Newkirk, president of PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), published her new book earlier this summer. In many ways, it’s a winner. “The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights” is just that, a guide.

For some animal activists, the book will serve as a reminder and reference on a wide variety of issues. For others, it should be a great eye-opener and motivator – from “How Animals End Up as Dinner” to “Those Incredibly Amusing Animals” and “What’s Really Going on in Laboratories.”

Part 1 of the book is called “The Issues,” and very readably, Newkirk spells them out. Part 2, about a third of the volume, is “Resources” – from health charities that do not and do fund animal experiments through recommended books and videos to contacting the media and the government.

Overall, “The PETA Practical Guide” is a keeper (and excerpts from the book will occasionally appear here).

Second news: the New Jersey organization known for about a quarter century as the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance (NJARA) has changed its name to Animal Protection League of New Jersey (APLNJ --

In her statement giving the reasons for the change, Angi Metler, executive director, says, “The new name still reflects the type of work we do but will be a help, not a hindrance, in garnering support. Our goals, policies, and charter will remain the same and our numerous programs aimed at ending animal abuse and exploitation will continue, unchanged.”

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Walk the talk

On Sunday afternoon, Sept. 20, animal advocates can "take compassion to the streets" of Princeton by joining Farm Sanctuary's "2009 Walk for Farm Animals." These walks take place around the country each fall in an effort to (1) raise awareness about animal welfare issues associated with factory farming and (2) raise money for Farm Sanctuary's rescue, advocacy and education programs.

About four miles in length, the Princeton walk starts and ends at Grover Park, behind the Princeton Shopping Center, with a route that will take participants downtown. Those who register early ($15) may be in time to get a walk T-shirt; those who register the day of the walk ($20) may not. Registration starts at 2:30 pm; the walk itself, at 3 pm.

Walkers can set up on-line fundraising pages for contributions they solicit from supporters. Everything's spelled out in the second website below.

For information about Farm Sanctuary, visit and details about the annual walk, including on-line registration, are at For more information or to register by mail, email NJ coordinator Aileen Jiang at or phone (after 2:30 pm weekdays): 609-238-1680.

Friday, August 28, 2009

So-called "animal lovers"

Lots of people describe themselves as “animal lovers.” Too often, that means only that they can say either “oh, how cute!” or “oh, ain’t it awful!” with feeling. How cute is the dear little kitten or puppy; how cute is the dog who shakes hands on command. Ain’t it awful about poor animals in shelters, ain’t it awful about abused pets, ain’t it awful what Michael Vick did. And so on, ad nauseam.

In the preface to his landmark 1975 book, “Animal Liberation,” Peter Singer tells about two such animal lovers he had met before its publication.

The Singers had tea with a couple of women who had heard he planned to write about animals. As a self-described “animal lover,” one of the women waxed rhapsodic about her pets and related subjects. Then, while she ate a ham sandwich, she asked the Singers about their pets. Both women were surprised to learn they had none.

They were more surprised to learn how the Singers were interested in animals: not as pets, but as independent sentient beings who should not be exploited by humans (as was the pig whose flesh was now in the sandwiches before them).

The Singers explained that they weren’t particularly interested in animals as pets and they didn’t “love” animals. But they did care about “the prevention of suffering and misery”; they were “opposed to arbitrary discrimination”; they thought it “wrong to inflict needless suffering on another being, even if that being were not a member of our own species”; and finally, they wanted to change how animals “were ruthlessly and cruelly exploited by humans.”

His book is not about pets, Singer says after telling that story. It would probably be uncomfortable reading for those who think “love for animals involves no more than stroking a cat or feeding birds in the garden.”

“Animal lovers” – it is to laugh.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Cats in trouble -- part 2

Second case of cats in trouble: In the last few days, two newspapers have reported on Princeton Borough’s problem with feral cats. Inexplicably late, the stories mention 50-some feral cats being rounded up about two months ago (!?), and taken to SAVE, described as a nonprofit shelter on Herrontown Rd.

Council members are reportedly wondering if cats should be licensed. Feral cats – licensed? Not likely. And why domestic cats aren’t already licensed is a mystery.

Without licensure (and its back-up info about owners and addresses and shots) a hurt or lost cat can’t be returned home. That’s just for starters. Either the newspaper reports were woefully incomplete (as well as late coming), or town officials haven’t (yet) given this issue their best thinking.

The cats deserve better.

Cats in trouble -- part 1

Feral cats are in trouble in Ewing Township, where there are also problems with the staff and volunteers, as well as the inhabitants, at the animal shelter. Sketchy newspaper coverage makes it hard to talk about the issues with authority, but the situation has been festering all summer, with no word of a peaceful solution.

The problems – many of which seem to come down to poor communications and indistinct lines of authority – include (1) what to do about feral cats; (2) should (and could) the operating philosophy of the animal shelter be "no-kill"; and then immediately (3) how is that term defined.

For instance, “no-kill” can mean different things to different people with different interests. What about incurably sick animals? What about vicious ones? What about animals for which there is simply no room? And then, how’s a word like “vicious” defined and proven? Who must vouch for “incurable”? And so on.

Meanwhile, of course, the animals are in the middle. That’s not a good place to be when emotional, partial and often politicized information is being traded without ground rules for civility, accuracy or timeliness. At some point, people can become their dearest cause’s worst enemies, and impartial mediation seems to be the only way out.

Friday, August 21, 2009

P.S. on pachyderms

Another lucky elephant, this one in Thailand. She’s the recipient of a permanent artificial limb. Here’s what happened.

Ten years ago, Motola, now 48 years old, stepped on a land mine while working in a logging camp near the Myanmar border. She lost her left front foot and part of her leg. Happily for her, in 1993 a group called Friends of the Asian Elephant had opened the Elephant Hospital in northern Thailand. That’s where she was cared for.

The hospital has treated thousands of elephants – and well it should, because the numbers of domesticated pachyderms has dropped from 1950’s 13,400 to about 2,500 today.

For the last three years, Motola wore a temporary device aimed at strengthening her leg muscles and tendons and getting her fit for the permanent prosthesis. Then, earlier this month, she took her first tentative walk with her newly installed artificial leg.

If – as she was photographed doing -- grabbing dust with her trunk and spraying it into the air conveys happiness, then Motola is recovering well.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Earned royalty

“There she is” . . . the Pachy Princess, chosen from among all the contestants in the “Ms. TUSKany Pageant.” The elephant (yes, the elephant) with the most votes (as in donations) will be crowned Ms. TUSKany on Oct. 17 at the 2009 Elephant Grape Stomp.

Humans who attend the event will “sip regional wines, savor Tuscan cuisine and share a squishy moment with the elephants” (a.k.a. “pachyderms” or thick-skinned animals).

If this seems stranger and stranger, that’s because it’s all about an elaborate fund-raiser for PAWS, the Performing Animal Welfare Society, in California. Among the residents at one of its three sanctuaries are nine elephants, including Maggie, formerly of the Anchorage, Alaska zoo.

You read it right: an elephant – whose habitat is tropical – lived for years in Alaska, in a cage with a concrete floor, and for much of the time without elephant companionship, until animal activists raised such a wide and loud ruckus that Anchorage reluctantly let her go. Underwritten by a humane and moneyed friend of animals, Maggie was flown to California, where she has settled right in, as reported in reports and videos from PAWS.

The vote-donations from here for “Pachy Princess” won’t go to Annie, Ruby, Gypsy, Lulu, Mara, Rebecca, Wanda or Nicholas (in the running for Mr. TUSKany) – however worthy they all are. Maggie’s the sentimental favorite. In becoming a “rescued elephant” and escaping Alaska, she beat the odds. (As Maggie’s freedom fighters said at the end of each note, “Warm rumbles” or “Trumpets!” )

Besides an introduction to PAWS and news of Maggie, more details on the Ms. TUSKany pageant can be found at the organization website: .

Vote early and often!