Friday, December 31, 2010

NJ scores high with animal protection laws

Describing itself as “the nation’s largest animal protection organization,” the Humane Society of the US (HSUS) has released its 2010 ranking of state animal protection laws – and lo! New Jersey is second. Our state has the second highest number of laws dealing with pets, animal cruelty and fighting, wildlife, animals in research, horses and farm animals.

The other animal protection issues also counted in the survey of state laws were puppy mills, factory farming, fur and trapping, exotic animals and companion animal laws.

This year’s top four states are California, NJ, Illinois and Massachusetts. South Dakota is at the bottom of the list, with Alabama, Hawaii, Idaho, Mississippi, North Dakota and Ohio joining it in the bottom seven.

Use the link that follows to see the full story.*****

Wishing non-human animals everywhere a happy, healthy new year -- largely dependent on human animals smartening up, gaining compassion and going vegetarian (at least)!

Thursday, December 30, 2010

Vick: could he be a changed man?

He’s back, and bigger than ever. First was the gradual comeback in pro football with the Philadelphia Eagles. And then the recent phone call from President Obama, putting him more in the spotlight.

Michael Vick, convicted dog abuser and killer, is back in the limelight. The question – besides why did Obama ever choose him to talk about – starts with, is he credible? Is he really reformed? Could he ever be trusted with an animal again?

Vick may become this year’s MVP (thanks in part to his declaration that he’s the one), but . . . do we trust him? do we forgive him?

Here’s one opinion:

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

An owl's Christmas story

Twas the night before Christmas . . . and shortly before closing on that dark winter day, staff members at the Mercer County Wildlife Center were presented with a new patient, one needing quick, emergency medical attention.

(follow the link below for the rest of this story – a place worth knowing about)

Monday, December 27, 2010

ComBATting ‘white-nose syndrome’

Bats are in grave danger from a lethal white fungus that’s found on the wings and snouts of those infected by “white-nose syndrome.” Their main hibernation site in New Jersey, Morris County’s Hibernia Mine, is now described as more of a morgue than a wintering haven for bats.

Since it was detected in a New York cave in 2006, the disease has killed more than 90% of the wild bats in the Northeast, hitting especially hard in NJ, with nine bat species. (Altogether, there are about 45 different bat species in the continental US.)

Once up to 30,000 bats gathered in Hibernia Mine to hibernate for the winter; now just a few hundred hang on the walls. A state biologist with the Endangered and Non-Game Species Program reports that “last spring, before they left hibernation, we found only about 1,715 bats” there.

Worse yet, fewer than 650 returned this fall to hibernate – so the syndrome is affecting them even after they leave, he added. Those who survive hibernation are weakened and leave the hibernaculum later than others. Some die at that point because “the fungus created holes in their wings and they cannot fly to feed.”

A study now underway will test whether bats who have recovered from the disease will remain immune to it. Since they were rescued from sure death last April, in the throes of white-nose syndrome, six little brown bats were hand-nursed back to health at a rehab center. About a month ago, they were returned to Hibernia Mine for this winter’s hibernation.

The question: after catching it and being cured, will these bats have developed any kind of resistance to white-nose syndrome, or will they become just as infected when returned to the environment where they first contracted it?

Hoping for good news next spring.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Orangutan ‘quieted by . . . something else’

(The following is a complete movie review [“A Meditation on Captivity, Featuring an Orangutan”] by Jeannette Catsoulis that appeared this week in the NYTimes.)

A child’s voice whispers “Nénette!,” and immediately we are in the patient and curious world of the French filmmaker Nicolas Philibert. Best known in the United States for “To Be and to Have” — his captivating 2002 portrait of a rural schoolteacher — Mr. Philibert has switched his gaze to a primate with rather less agency: a 40-year-old female orangutan in the zoo at the Jardin des Plantes in Paris.

That gaze never wavers. “Nénette” is a film devoid of human faces, the camera merging with the more than half-million visitors who traipse past the orangutan’s cage every year. We hear their voices, these mothers and children and couples, their words revealing the complexity of our relationship to caged wildlife. Is Nénette depressed, they wonder, or just lonely?

Quiet and watchful, the object of their fascination leans on her gnarled knuckles, straw clinging to her mat of ginger hair. She arrived from Borneo in 1972, has survived three mates and produced four offspring. Once she was lively (“The bane of the place,” says an older zookeeper); now she looks passive and glum, quieted by age and arthritis. Or something else.

Beautiful in its minimalism, “Nénette” is no antizoo rant but a melancholy meditation on captivity. Nénette may be better off than her endangered kin, but as we watch her delicately pour tea into the yogurt container that holds her contraceptive pill (she lives with her son, and the zoo is keen to avoid procreative embarrassment), that knowledge gives us small comfort.

Yet Nénette is loved, with some people stopping by every day. A keeper likens them to those visiting a relative in prison — which, when you come to think of it, is exactly what they are doing.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The way of (most of) the world

“I was taken on a drive around . . . this morning. It seems a pleasant enough town. I saw no horrors, no drug-testing laboratories, no factory farms, no abattoirs. Yet I am sure they are here. They must be. They simply do not advertise themselves. They are all around us as I speak, only we do not, in a certain sense, know about them.

“Let me say it openly: we are surrounded by an enterprise of degradation, cruelty and killing which rivals anything that the Third Reich was capable of, indeed dwarfs it, in that ours is an enterprise without end, self-regenerating, bringing rabbits, rats, poultry, livestock ceaselessly into the world for the purpose of killing them.”

-- Elizabeth Costello (Lesson 3, The Lives of Animals: ONE: The Philosophers and the Animals). J. M. Coetzee, c. 2003.

The NYTimes food section this week included recipes for “a progressive slant on rack of lamb,” “roasted lamb, fresh ham, lasagna and other main courses for the big holiday meal,” a restaurant review of “a shrine to steak” and “recipes for health” including various uses for turkey.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Almost 'Finnegan's wake' -- a happy story

Finnegan, a "beloved Springer spaniel," was saved from a cold death in Rosedale Lake last week. The story is almost too good to be true, but the letter to the editor of the Trenton Times from Finn's person must be for real.

Finn broke away from Stephen Maybury's grip on his leash to chase geese onto the partially frozen lake. He plunged through thin ice into the frigid water, then swam for nearly an hour trying to escape and steadily growing more tired.

Bystanders had called 911 and police, fire and rescue personnel arrived from Pennington, but rescuing the dog from land proved impossible. One firefighter raced home and returned with his fishing boat. He and two others chopped through ice to launch the boat and reach Finn.

Once Finn was out of the water ("his barely breathing, hypothermic body," as Maybury put it) , he was rushed to the vet clinic, where he was brought back from the "brink of death."

This happened on Saturday, Dec. 11, and Maybury's letter appeared on Dec. 18, so it was probably written a few days after the crisis. Maybury's report that Finnegan is "now fully recovered" seems reasonable given that elapsed time.

What a happy story -- or "Christmas miracle," as Maybury described it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Work to do after the bear hunt

Mid-week after NJ’s shameful black bear hunt, Angi Metler, executive director of Animal Protection League of NJ says, “If the Governor thinks this is over, he is sadly mistaken. We are taking this fight much further and will stay in it until black bears are protected permanently.”

She reports a total of 589 bears killed during six days last week – or almost 100 a day on average. Though there’s no report yet on cubs or yearlings, one news story indicated about 60% of those killed were females.

Besides continued phone calls to Governor Christie (609-292-6000) to protest the hunt, APLNJ urges hunt-opponents to target NJ Legislators in the "New Jersey Angler and Hunter Conservation Caucus." (It doesn't matter where you live; many of these legislators aspire to be governor. Phone or write to them.)

Says APLNJ, “The NJ Hunter Caucus was set up in New Jersey by a couple of hundred loudmouths who have bamboozled legislators into thinking they are an ‘electoral force,’ when the NY Times has written that gun groups' real electoral power is in retreat and when NJOA couldn't even gets its candidate (Marcia Karrow) nominated in a Republican primary.

"From powerful Senate President Stephen Sweeney to Tom Kean, Jr., politicians are making a political calculation that the hunters' side is the place to be. We need to prove them wrong.

“Our safety is now at risk,” APLNJ declares. In reaching out to those in the caucus, we should demand that each “Senator/Assemblyperson remove himself/herself from this shady caucus and represent families with children who do not want hunters in our backyards and who respect wildlife.”

(For details or with questions:

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Desert lions: starting over in Namibia

“Desert Lions,” tonight’s “Nature” program on PBS, told about two young sister lionesses in the Namid desert of Namibia, on the southwest coast of Africa. Decades ago, lions were thought to have left the desert, but now they’re back.

The story of the scientist who keeps track of them, hoping to keep them from a village and its livestock, is pretty much the usual Nature narrative: will the lions stay away from the village; will they leave the livestock alone, thereby escaping the wrath of the villagers; will they find their way to the coast, where colonies of seals are there for the taking? (In the end, of course, they do all three things.)

Along the way, though, we learn (1) the desert temperatures are high enough to crack rock; (2) these two young lions learn to hunt aurochs (with their amazing long/high horns) in tandem; (3) in these parts, brown hyenas are solitary, and not the threat they’d be elsewhere; (4) though lions can rise to most challenges, their biggest obstacle is people.

“No animal has a concept of restraint, predators least of all.” This point was made while the lionesses tore into a herd of wild donkeys near the village. It looked as if they killed many more donkeys than needed for their own food, but beyond that, the point wasn’t satisfactorily detailed.

The long-range hope: lions will become established along the coast to South Africa. We’ll have to wait and see.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

The hunter’s mind (such as it is)

. . . “Hunter Joe Bartnicki, 39, of Hackettstown, bagged a nearly 120-pound yearling.

““I’m gonna actually get a rug made out of him,” Bartnicki said. “It’s on the way to the butcher; I’m gonna get a lot of hamburger made out of it and some Italian bear roast.”

Asked what bear tastes like, Bartnicki said, “It’s like pork – a little juice to it. It’s very edible.”” . . .

--from, Dec. 8, 2010.

And there, in brief, you see the hunter’s mind. Callous, cruel, insensitive, inhumane. A mind that changes a young, once-living creature who did him no harm into a dead creature. Not only that, but a creature whose skin he will put on his floor and walk on, a creature he will eat. Notice how the “him” used early becomes “it.” Maybe that impersonal pronoun is a more comfortable way to refer to the victim of a needless murder.


***** Gov. Christie indicated at a press conference yesterday that he might stop the hunt IF there are scientific reasons to do so and IF they’re presented to him by the Division of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) -- the same hunter-and ammo-connected outfit (many of whose higher ups are hunters) in state government that brought us this bear hunt to begin with.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

You call this a ‘management’ plan?

“For hunters, a big first day”: So read the headline in Tuesday morning’s Trenton Times. Too bad they couldn’t interview the bears involved too. But – oops, I forgot: they were dead. Yes, mothers, cubs, males – all were “fair” game.

And those diligent, eager hunters killed at least 150 of them on the first of six hunting days. Or as the Times reported it: “the biggest one-day take in the hunt’s three seasons.”

Hunters, stand tall. You bagged ’em. You kept New Jersey safe for . . . unsecured garbage? unprotected bird feeders?

A reported 7,800 permits were issued to hunters from NJ and neighboring states. They were up against an estimated 3,400 bears. How do those odds stack up?

And those hunters we read about earlier, eager to make taxidermy arrangements: how do they feel later about a bear cub they shot to death?

All in the interest, so state officials said, of reducing the bear population that “preyed on livestock, the occasional house pet and, mostly, table scraps tossed into the trash at the margins of suburbia.”

Mostly table scraps. Which, if laws were enforced, wouldn’t be there to attract the bears.

We’ve repeated the many arguments against this hunt. We’ve discussed how shy and non-aggressive New Jersey’s black bears actually are. We’ve pointed out the errors in the so-called “management plan,” with its so-called “proof” of the need for a hunt.

This hunt is heinous, nothing less.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Opposition loses fight; bear hunt begins

Earlier posts have dealt with the NJ bear hunt and steps against it. Now all efforts have failed and the hunt started today; it will run through Saturday. Poor, poor bears, robbed of their habitat and their right to live free. Instead of cherishing these animals, New Jersey slaughters them.

. . . . . . . . . .

Don’t go in there,
into the faded orange wood –
it’s filled with angry old men
sneaking around in camouflage gear
pretending no one can see them.

Some of them aren’t even old,
they just have arthritic foreheads,
or else they’re drunk,
but something’s got to suffer
for their grudges, their obscure sorrows:
the more blown-up flesh, the better.

--from Margaret Atwood's "In Autumn"

. . . . . . . . .


Sunday, December 5, 2010


Though I haven't gotten the hang of interacting with comments, I'm glad to do so this way. The reaction to my last post, on Schultz, the police dog killed in action -- I believe animals should not be forced into servitude for humans -- argued that beyond his police K-9 work, he still had numerous hours to be a family pet and have a good life.

I don't agree. Schultz was conscripted as a police dog -- the 1st wrong. The 2nd is that that he was made to do what humans thought important; he had to live by their values. And finally, he had to die for their values. That's all unfair, inhumane and based on humans' distorted belief that animals exist for their use. Nonsense.

“Service animals” can sound good. “Service” is such a positively loaded word. But of course, it depends on who’s doing the serving, who’s benefiting from the service. In the case of Schultz, that’s very clear.

Earlier posts in this blog discussed “service animals.” I invite the reader who commented and any others who may be interested to visit Nov. 21, 2009, Nov. 19, 2009 and Nov. 11, 2009 (in that order) – and comment on how they feel about the subject after that.

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Schultz: being a police dog was 1st mistake

Earlier this week in south Jersey, a police dog died in the line of duty. Correction: he was murdered. And now a memorial fund has been set up and the dog will be honored.

How much do you want to bet that 3½ year old German shepherd would much rather have been a family dog, playing outside with the kids and barking at the neighbors . . . than running down the shoulder of Rt. 48 after a two-bit robber. When 85-pound “Schultz” fastened on his arm, the crook hurled the dog into traffic, where he was hit by a car and reportedly killed instantly.

Some life. And forget about the dog’s (human) friends on the force, who lined up outside the veterinary hospital when Schultz was driven out in a hearse.

Did Schultz make the decision to be trained as a K-9? Did he swear to risk his life to track down wrong-doers? Did he want to die a hero’s death?

Phooey. Humans decided all that for him; humans made Schultz a “service dog” – as in service to humans. Get the pattern? Humans have dominion over animals. Phooey.


Friday, December 3, 2010

“Like a deer in the headlights!”

We sometimes talk about people who look, and act, blank – “like a deer in the headlights.” It turns out we sometimes look and act that way for much the same reason deer do: they’re temporarily dazed and don’t know what to do, and so they do nothing. (Recognize the feeling?) But for deer, doing nothing is a bad idea, especially with a moving vehicle coming at them . . . with headlights on. Why? In a recent NYTimes Q & A, this was the answer.

Deer are crepuscular, explains C. Claiborne Ray – they see best around sunset and sunrise. Therefore, their vision is best in very low light.

“When a headlight beam strikes eyes that are fully dilated to capture as much light as possible, deer cannot see at all, and they freeze until the eyes can adjust. They don’t know what to do, so they do nothing,” Ray reports.

Scary, isn’t it? Because he goes on to say that by human standards, deer are legally blind. They’re actually better adapted to detecting motion.

What to do about this headlight problem? Beyond “deer crossing” signs, articles to warn the public and defensive driving, no one has come up with a better way to avoid deer-car collisions – especially during the fall breeding season, when even more deer are on the move.

Monday, November 29, 2010

There’s still time: defend NJ black bears

New Jersey’s black bears are very close to suffering a needless, cruel trophy hunt starting next Monday, Dec. 6. It’s more important than ever to keep calling on Governor Christie to cancel the hunt -- at this point, he’s the only one who can do so, and all it would take is an executive order.

Phone 609-292-6000. Ask to speak with a governor’s aide. Spell out the reasons against this hunt (mentioned here earlier and also available at or Enlist friends and relatives to phone and do the same.

Attend the rally this Friday in Trenton to protest the hunt during working hours near the governor’s State House office. Friday, Dec. 3: 1-3 pm. Bring banners, posters, signs and noise-makers.

With questions or to RSVP, contact Edita Birnkrant, of Friends of Animals, one of the two groups (NJ's Heart for Animals is the other) behind this rally. or 212-247-8120 or Dustin Rhodes, at, or 202-906-0210.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

This is the life . . . cats deserve

Imagine a place where homeless cats can go to live with hundreds of other cats; where they can roam free and have regular meals, fresh water, medical care and safety. They can be indoors or outdoors as they wish.

That would be Cat House on the Kings – California’s largest no-cage, no-kill lifetime cat sanctuary and adoption center. It was founded in 1992 by Lynea Lattanzio, who has devoted her life to the place ever since. (And BTW, the “Kings” refers to a nearby river.)

A video taken at Cat House on the Kings is accessible via the link below. You may be charmed into watching it many times (it’s a riot without sound, when the cats living the good life look like tourists at a resort) – besides checking out the sanctuary site itself. Naturally, donations help keep the place going, but how much more deserving can a place possibly be?


Saturday, November 27, 2010

Leopards lead big cats in survival

Leopards. Of all the big cats in the wild, leopards turn out to be the most successful at surviving today, according to a recent “Nature” program (“Revealing the Leopard”) on TV. Their first habitat was the African rain forest; now, scattered thinly through Africa and Asia, they cover nearly half the world.

Why and how are leopards succeeding?

Described as “the perfect predator,” the “clever” leopard – though slower than the cheetah and weaker than the lion, hunts with his/her wits. Usually nocturnal, leopards are shy and private, and careful killers. They also eat a wider range of prey than all other predators in the world.

Leopards are particularly adaptable, having learned of necessity to live in or near towns and cities; in India, for instance, they’re much more adaptable than lions and tigers.

One theory behind why leopards don’t eat humans is that prehistoric people may have terrified them; even now they avoid people.

“Panthers” are black leopards because a recessive gene has given them their different fur color. Think of red-haired humans; same thing.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

3 degrees of well-being for 3 kinds of cats

“Tigers and leopards and domestic cats” doesn’t have quite the same ring as “Lions and tigers and bears (oh, my!),” but it’ll have to do because that’s what this post is about: three degrees of well-being among cats both large and small.

Tigers first. These beautiful creatures are gravely endangered. In fact, according to a NYTimes editorial on Nov. 23, “tigers could go extinct in the wild within 20 years.” Unbelievable? Not once you learn that a century ago “there were an estimated 100,000 tigers living in the wild” – and now “there are perhaps 3,200 left.”

A summit meeting underway right now in Russia may make the difference for tigers. It has drawn conservationists and World Bank reps as well as delegates from the “13 nations with tigers living in the wild, including India, Indonesia, Thailand and Russia.”

The hope is for a focused conservation strategy and an end to the trade in tiger parts. Details available via this link:

(To be continued after Thanksgiving: leopards, who are reportedly making out much better in the modern world than tigers, and an amazing cat sanctuary in California.)

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Hard keeping up jeans -- and spirits

If you ever doubt that our world is conditioned to use animals – as food, as prey, as slaves, as laboratory subjects, as clothing -- just try to buy a belt that’s not made of leather these days. It’s hard to impossible. Woven leather, padded leather, studded and variously crafted leather; thick and thin leather belts, ad nauseam.

Somewhere back behind all the other belts, if you’re lucky, you may find a web belt -- and if your luck holds, it may not have leather trim. Handbags and shoes are all about leather, but belts?! Yes, those too. (See post for April 17, 2010: “Fur . . . & Skin”) In a related vein, it’s hard to find a breakfast menu that’s not replete with “meat.” Or a wait staffer who doesn’t ask, “What kind of meat would you like with that?”

And on top of all this comes the Trenton Times’ misleadingly named “Outdoors” column, all about hunting and fishing for those who “harvest” from nature the creatures who have often been provided for their “sporting” pleasure. Not to mention their hunting and fishing license fees.

The latest “Outdoors” opus is just that at 36 1/2 column inches long – talk about news values! In this seemingly unedited piece of writing, J. B. Kasper “reports” happily on how environmentalists’ efforts to ban the use of lead in ammunition and fishing tackle have been defeated once again.

It is almost funny to read the counter arguments put up by reps of hunters and fishermen. Almost.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Taking ‘Save the bears!’ to the Governor

Although the last demonstration against the bear hunt was supposed to be it, APLNJ and other bear advocates have planned one more – this Saturday, Nov. 20 – in Governor Christie’s hometown. Christie is the only one who can halt the hunt at this point, and those against the hunt hope for a great show of strength.

DATE: November 20, 2010
TIME: 12 noon - 2pm
PLACE: 95 East Main Street, Mendham, NJ 07945

Contact APLNJ for more details: 732-446-6808 or

Please bring your Stop the Hunt lawn signs. We also need signs such as:
* Governor Christie, DEP Cooked Numbers
* Governor Christie, Do the Right Thing
* Governor Christie, Call off Corrupt Hunt

Message from APLNJ: Mendham is Governor Christie's home town. Please help us show Christie just how many NJ residents are against the bear hunt. Bring friends, family, co-workers and everyone else you know. Make a day of it.

(A note on parking: Please disperse throughout the entire area and try not to park all in one place.)

Keep making those phone calls to Governor Christie: 609-292-6000. Talking points at Black bear info at

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Another country heard from (woof!)

So cats are clever, gravity-defying and fastidious drinkers, according to findings reported here last time. A dog fan was bound to want a say, and it happened in the NYTimes on Monday.

Acknowledging that “cats are superior to sloppy-go-lucky dogs,” James Gorman added, “and no doubt to people as well,” before detailing his own spills and drops. Dogs are tolerant of his personal failings, he noted, suggesting that they might as well be since they’re just as messy.

While cats drink with “neatness and precision,” a dog will “slurp water and then look up at you with a big, happy smile as water cascades from her jowls to the floor.”

It seems as if Gorman’s main reason for preferring dogs is that they’re at least as slurpy-sloppy as people can be. Or is he saying they’re so much worse they make people look good?


Monday, November 15, 2010

Cats beat gravity when they drink

"The cat darts its tongue, curving the upper side downward so that the tip lightly touches the surface of the water.

"The tongue is then pulled upward at high speed, drawing a column of water behind it.

"Just at the moment that gravity finally overcomes the rush of the water and starts to pull the column down -- snap! The cat's jaws have closed over the jet of water and swallowed it."

So four engineers, one with a family cat he had observed lapping, figured out how cats -- domestic ones and big ones both -- drink.

Unlike humans, most adult carnivores cannot fully close their mouths and create suction. The dog, for instance, "thrusts its tongue into the water, forming a crude cup with it and hauling the liquid back into the muzzle," according to the NYTimes story last week.

Without the lapping noises that dogs make while drinking, the cat's method of drinking is seen as much "classier."

Too fast for the human eye to see anything but a blur, the cat reportedly laps four times a second. Once the engineers had worked out a formula for lapping frequency vis a vis the weight of the cat species, they tried it out at a couple zoos, where the big cats lapped at the speeds they had predicted.

Although cats are known to have raspy hairs on their tongues, useful in grooming, those hairs play no part in lapping. The smooth tip of the cat's tongue is the only part involved in drinking.


Friday, November 12, 2010

Shelter animals are waiting

Kate has red hair like her Dad’s and a bouncy nature. Her Mom is blond and has a nose ring and a tattoo and double ear piercings in one ear. One day this happy family sees a newspaper ad for “The Rescue Center: The center for dogs without a home, The center for dogs all alone.”

With that, they decide: “Let’s Get a Pup!” It must be small and cute and get all excited and run around in circles, they say. Off they go to the Rescue Center, where they meet every kind of dog imaginable . . . and Dave.

Dave is small and cute and gets all excited and runs around in circles. He’s white with spots and an orange collar, and suggests a Jack Russell terrier. It’s two-way love at first sight.

As they leave the shelter with Dave, Kate and her parents meet Rosy, who is “old and gray and broad as a table.” Rosy is a dear, but they must leave her behind.

Dave spends his first night with Kate and her parents and everyone’s happy about that, but . . . the next morning they all confess they didn’t sleep well because they were thinking about . . . Rosy.

Off they go again to the Rescue Center, this time for Rosy, who comes back home with the family. The last scene: Kate and Dave and Rosy all happy and home together on Kate’s bed.

This charming picture book by Bob Graham, “Let’s Get a Pup!” conveys many good messages: Domestic animals like dogs and cats need loving homes. Shelter animals are especially in need of loving homes. Kind people can make a big difference in the lives of animals and make themselves happy in the process. Love comes in all ages and sizes.

(Candlewick Press, Cambridge MA 02140, c. 2001; paper 2003)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

‘Save the Serengeti’

“The Serengeti”: scene of so many nature programs on TV (based on so many more real-life events in this huge Tanzanian national park, which is also a Unesco World Heritage site). We have watched in awe as great herds of grazers -- wildebeest, zebras, gazelles – move over the grasslands, “with lions and hyenas stalking them and vultures circling above,” as described in the NYTimes on Oct. 31.

Countless other animals, elephants to rare rhinos and leopards to birds, along with plants, are all part of an eons-old ecological web that has long been undisturbed. Until now.

Now, there are plans for a “national highway straight through the Serengeti park, bisecting the migration route and possibly sending a thick stream of overloaded trucks and speeding buses through the traveling herds.” The proposed highway route would stretch some 300 miles in the northern part of the park.

Just fancy that on some future TV special: an internal combustion traffic jam in the Serengeti. Too bad about those animals whose migration trails are in their genes. Tough luck for the creatures who don’t know to get out of the way of a belching bus or a jeep full of joy-riding tourists.

Introduction of invasive plant forms via increased vehicular traffic and easier access to animals for poachers, who could speed in and out on the highway, are just two other outcomes being predicted by conservationists.

It’s claimed that this road will be a good thing for native people. However, despite anti-road protests around the world, including websites such as, Tanzania officials say they are not interested in an alternative route south of the park.

Will this highway become a reality, threatening the animals who have traversed the Serengeti since ancient times?


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bodies & carcasses

The Indonesian volcano erupts, causing numerous casualties. There are references to the bodies of people killed in the havoc, as well as animal carcasses being found all down the mountainside. Humans have "bodies," while evidently non-human animals have "carcasses."

Similarly, the phone book lists businesses available to pick up animal "carcasses" from roads. (We won't go into why such animals are also referred to as "road kill," though we know humans would not be described that way.)

The synonyms for “body” in the corpse sense include “carcass” and “cadaver,” the latter meaning “a corpse used for dissection.” “Body” itself refers to “material substance, living or dead, especially of a person,” while “corpse” means the physical remains of a dead person.”

“Carcass” primarily denotes the body of a dead animal, especially one slaughtered and dressed for food; the dressed body of a meat animal. Obviously, this is not about human remains. The word “carcass” is applied to a person, alive or dead, only derogatorily or humorously, as in “He exercised to keep his carcass fit.”

How interesting – and puzzling – this differentiation between people’s and animals’ corpses. Why? Without more extensive research, maybe it’s a way to refer to animals’ bodies with a less emotion-laden word – “carcass”? In once again making (non-human) animals the “other” (as well as the lesser!) by using different words for them, does that make it easier to accept a dead animal “dressed for food”?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

How to help a sick stray kitty

Take it from me: I’ve tried and failed to help a sick cat, and then I did research and learned the right way, spelled out here. Earlier posts (last one Sat., Oct. 9) sketched the story of Sally and us, which began in late September. A gruesome experience in every way.

The link below leads to the story that appeared last Tuesday in the Princeton Packet, intended as a public service. But just in case the link ever dies/goes bad, I’m reprinting the last couple paragraphs here so readers can’t help but know what they should do if they’re in a similar situation.

***** On balance, considering all the info amassed and weighing the pros and cons, this recommendation: if you want to help a needy kitty, call the [non-emergency] police number. They’ll involve the ACO [animal control officer], who takes it from there.

Your job then is to keep in close touch with animal control, stressing your desire for the cat to live, to be checked by a vet and impounded for the seven days required. If she bit anyone and/or if rabies is suspected, that seven-day period can extend to the 10-day observation period.

Your vigilance should prevent animal control from acting unilaterally. “Trust but verify.” *****


Friday, November 5, 2010

How to get a bear hunt OK'd in NJ

New Jersey’s first bear hunt since 2005 is scheduled to begin Monday, Dec. 6 and run for six days. Those who want to stop the hunt – which means, those who hope Governor Christie will cancel the hunt – are actively trying everything imaginable to get his attention and his compassion.

Tomorrow’s rally in Paramus is the last of three such events designed to call attention to the cause. All around that, possible ways to get involved include letters to the editor, phoning or faxing the governor with messages and talking up these activities among like-minded others.

The link below leads to a story that spells out some pretty dismal information about the agencies and people involved in making this bear hunt happen. It seems as if the less they do correctly or right, the easier it is to get a bear hunt approved – much to the jubilation of trophy-seeking hunters of all ages.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

3rd and last rally against NJ bear hunt

Location on Map:
(Please park your car in the parking lot behind the Municipal Building. Any questions? contact

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

A world of difference

Back to Lee Hall’s Capers in the Churchyard, where she distinguishes between animal “rights,” which captive, purpose-bred animals do not have and probably could not use, and animal “welfare” – “caring for animals the way we’d care for rightless workers or inanimate machines.”

Those who march and demonstrate against crate size for veal calves and chickens are really all about animal “welfare.” And even when concessions are won – and fewer chickens are crammed into cages, or sows can turn around in their crates, etc. -- the killing and eating continue.

So the demonstrators have altered only the fringe of the problem – which is that these animals will live in slightly better conditions while still serving our wishes . . . until they die.

The demonstration at a Trenton McDonald’s a year or more ago was about killing chickens more humanely – not stopping their killing! It has taken me till now, reading Hall’s two books, to realize this.

Hall’s position is a much harder one to carry out: stop using animals; stop eating them. Let them be!

“Who we are, as animal rights advocates: We are people longing for a world where animals are permitted to live where freedom is possible, on their own terms. Air, earth, woods, water, wind, freedom . . . What are animal rights but the freedom to live on their own terms and not ours? The guiding principle here isn’t to help them, but to aspire not to interfere.”

Sunday, October 31, 2010

Uneasy lies the head that wears . . .

So ends October, the month for animals . . . (See Oct. 1 post) Here’s a long-extinct animal, the Elk-Moose (Cervalces Scotti), who at least 40,000 years ago, ranged over most of the eastern half of the continent, inhabiting bog lands and wetlands.

This impressive skeleton (and head gear!), a gift from Princeton University, can be seen at the NJ State Museum, just inside and to the right of the entrance. It’s believed that rapid climate change at the end of the Pleistocene Epoch probably caused this creature to go extinct – that, and the arrival of the (more adaptive and slightly smaller) “modern” moose.

Found in Hope township, Warren County, NJ, this is one of just two complete skeletons of the elk-moose in the world.

Does anyone else wonder how this guy supported those antlers?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Chew on these ideas for awhile

Cliché or not, sometimes "food for thought" feels like the only right way to say, "Here's something I read and found interesting or stimulating. . . Maybe you'll like it too."

In extracting the following passages from Lee Hall's book, which was the subject of the last post, I’m hoping they’ll be food for your thought.

· Some future discoverer of the ancient culture called humanity might fairly decide that we Homo sapiens were an insecure lot. Until the end, we kept on fighting and vanquishing animals by deliberately ignoring the unremitting destruction of their territory. By ignoring their numbers when they fell in the wars we waged. By the deforestation of their habitat and the expansion of the farming we prized. By only permitting them to exist insofar as we could take advantage of them as tourist attractions, experimental subjects, film props, guards, playthings, or something to package in bright yellow foam and unwrap, ingest, and excrete.

· Treating farm animals as pets calls on us to delight in the total subservience expected by an affluent society over its animals. Indeed, the custom of petkeeping was established as a display of status by a population which can afford to keep more animals than it can use as food, with the leisure time to breed animals to enjoy as a form of play.

· Few would argue against the idea of neutering domesticated pet animals; these animals are selectively bred to be dependent on humans.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Changing minds if not lives too

Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror. by Lee Hall. Nectar Bat Press, Darien, CT: 2006.

Just as it’s hard to read them, it’s also hard to summarize the style or content of Lee Hall’s two books about animals.

During the period I went through both books, highlighting all the way, her viewpoints stayed with me long after I’d finished reading. She’s right about so much, unconventional on familiar issues and painfully demanding as far as what we should be doing.

The first book, Capers in the Churchyard, is the easier read, maybe because it’s shorter and Hall was only warming up for the 2nd book; maybe because not till the 2nd book does she make unarguably clear what she thinks humans should be doing instead of merely improving the conditions of domesticated, purpose-born or captive animals -- not demonstrating against fur, not adopting farm animals in sanctuaries, not demanding kinder ways to kill chickens for McDonald’s to serve . . .

And definitely not threatening or taking physical action against those involved with animal experimentation or any other objectionable activity involving animals.

Hall argues masterfully in Capers that animal advocates must not be militant activists, fighting cruelty and abuse with the same tactics. Don’t fight fire with fire, she argues, but with reason, dignity and inspiration. Those with right on their side should keep it there.

Just think: how often have our minds ever changed when those with different opinions yelled at us, called us names or threatened us and our families?

Hall’s solutions to the world’s myriad wrongs against non-human animals are simple, peaceful . . . and achingly hard to implement:

1 -- transcend the age-old culture of dominion over other animals and accept that the only “right” they need is the right to be left alone.

2 – don’t eat them.

That’s all.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

'Holy crow!' seems apropos

Tonight’s PBS “Nature” program tells us all about crows. What we may have thought of only as cawing, mischievous birds we now know to be the smartest birds.

Not only do crows recognize human facial differences, but they also warn one another of humans who are dangerous to them. And they have different warning calls for cats and hawks. All such alerts are done in the hoarse tones associated with crows, although they also have soft, melodious ways of speaking to family members.

Like humans and great apes, New Caledonian crows use tools. Not only that, they make tools. Not only that, they use tools to make tools.

It’s thought that their being omnivorous eaters encourages crows’ brain development. One example: they drop walnuts from just the right height to crack, but not shatter, on a road; then they retrieve the nuts while the light’s red. Young crows also can spend up to five years with their parents – another means of cognitive development.

Though crows can learn who’s good and bad for them, the question is, do parents pass on this knowledge to their young? This is something only a very small group of animals can do.

One year-long experiment, involving tracking of radio-rigged and leg-banded crow fledglings, indicates the answer may be “yes.” They can learn, remember and put to use info they got from their parents – for example, the reaction to humans wearing a certain mask associated with threats to crows.

This TV program raised serious questions: do crows need such research findings? Does it do them any good to perform tests for scientists? Why can’t crows – and all other wild animals – simply be left alone to live their lives the best way they can? (This foreshadows a discussion of Lee Hall’s 2nd book, “On Their Own Terms,” which promotes “Let them be!” as the only right approach to wild animals.)

Monday, October 18, 2010

Remembering Echo

“Echo” was a mother many times over. She “grew in age and wisdom,” becoming the matriarch of her large family, all of whom depended on her. She died at age 65.

During her lifetime, Echo’s family, like most others, experienced hard times. Sometimes they wanted for food; at other times, enemies attacked them. One of Echo’s babies was born with a severe physical handicap, and one of her sisters became very ill after being poisoned.

Using knowledge that had come down to her through the ages, Echo led the way through all that befell her family, often modeling how others in the clan might behave. She took tender care of her son, Eli, showing patience and loyalty, staying with him when others moved ahead. He recovered from his grave leg impairment.

Knowing her sister could not recover, Echo left her so others in the family might live. When a baby was kidnapped by enemies, Echo led her family to take her back.

When Echo died last year of natural causes, her family grieved. One daughter was so traumatized, she stayed with the body long beyond the usual time.

Echo’s traits – intelligence, loyalty, devotion, maternal love and leadership – made her famous in her own lifetime. She lived in Amboseli National Park, Kenya, with her extended clan of elephants. A scientist who had watched Echo for decades said she “was a lovely being. She gave us a lot of joy. She was a wonder.”

Friday, October 15, 2010

A seasonal, and topical, poem


It’s autumn. The nuts patter down.
Beechnuts, acorns, black walnuts –
tree orphans thrown to the ground
in their hard garments.

Don’t go in there,
into the faded orange wood –
it’s filled with angry old men
sneaking around in camouflage gear
pretending no one can see them.

Some of them aren’t even old,
they just have arthritic foreheads,
or else they’re drunk,
but something’s got to suffer
for their grudges, their obscure sorrows:
the more blown-up flesh, the better.

They’ll shoot at any sign of movement –
your dog, your cat, you.
They’ll say you were a fox or skunk,
or duck, or pheasant. Maybe a deer.

They aren’t hunters, these men.
They have none of the patience of hunters,
none of the remorse.
They’re certain they own everything.
A hunter knows he borrows.

I remember the long hours
crouching in the high marsh grasses –
the grey sky empty, the water silent,
the hushed colours of distant trees –
waiting for the rush of wings,
half-hoping nothing would happen.

-- Margaret Atwood (1939-)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stand up for black bears!

Plan to stand up for black bears this weekend!

There won’t be many of these rallies, and it’s crucial that every one is well-attended!

Rain or shine, come out this Saturday, October 16, 12 noon--2pm.

Route 46 & Sammis Ave., in front of the Wachovia Bank, Dover, NJ. (Note: The address on GPS would be 401 route 46, Dover NJ, but it’s really Rockaway Twp.)

Questions or comments? E-mail

Please come out for the bears!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Save the date to help save the bears

December, the month for New Jersey’s projected bear hunt, is coming closer. With time running out, anti-hunt activists are trying to build support in all the ways they can think of.

Next Saturday’s “Stand Up for Me: Black Bear Rally” is one such activity. “Save the date” (October 16), urges the flyer from Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ). Scheduled for noon-2 pm in Rockaway Township, this rally will be one of only a few. It’s important for anti-hunt people to turn out for it in impressive numbers.

An alert later this week will specify the rally location. To request a rally reminder, write to

Plan to “stand up for the bears.” They need our help.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What we, and you, MIGHT have done

Continuing the story of “Sally,” the cat who had the bad luck to be sick, scarily thin and (I’m convinced now) nervous enough to bite me a few times while also coming closer at my invitation . . .

So, while necessary or not, Sally was tested for rabies. Which means she was first euthanized and then decapitated. Her brain was where proof of the disease would reside – although as we know now, she tested negative.

I have since spoken with Princeton’s animal control officer (ACO) and the doctor who treated Sally a week ago Wednesday. The ACO said that while he could pick up a cat in Sally’s condition – he’s a pro at it and carries pillowcases in his truck for that purposes – other people would need gloves, to avoid bites, and a blanket or towel to wrap her – if they even tried.

Essentially, he said the best thing to do is “call the police.” The reason: they’ll come to the scene and assess the animal’s situation. Then they can phone for the ACO to come; and if he’s not available, he has back-ups in three neighboring towns.And every town has some version or other of an ACO, he said, as required by law. So his recommendation may be the safest bet.

I’m still checking around about the entire process – what could happen and what (if anything) must happen with the sick animal once she’s been picked up. And whether any part of that procedure changes if the animal has bitten someone.

For right now at least, the key advice to keep in mind is “Call the police.”


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Here's what WE did

(picking up on Oct. 3 post)

It was around 9 pm last Wednesday night and we had “Sally” the sick cat in the car with us. The question then was, where could we take her for medical help. SAVE was not far away so we drove there, not knowing but hoping someone would be on night duty.

Throughout this ride, I held Sally in my arms/on my lap. She seemed to like that and stayed quietly in place.

No one home at SAVE (note to self: for emergencies like this, find out whether any place is open at night).

My husband suggested the Princeton Animal Hospital, on Alexander, and once there, we were in luck: they were open. Soon a vet was checking Sally out (confirming my vibe that she was a girl and pointing out she’d been declawed in front.) With a big drink of water behind her, the cat grew restless on the examining table while we and the vet discussed options.

We wanted to assure that Sally had a safe place for the night and was looked after. It had been explained to us that since she was found in Princeton, that town’s animal control officer (ACO) should be involved asap.

The vet said her poor condition (4 pounds and a few ounces despite estimated age of 3-4, and her growing agitation as the exam proceeded) could be a sign of rabies. That word, rabies, came to haunt this whole story.

We left Sally there, with various tests to be run. Soon after we got home, the vet phoned and talked more about rabies, the test for it and the bites on my wrist. Alarming. My response was for her/them to involve the Princeton AOC in a mutual decision if necessary. (As I’d sensed the cat was a girl, I also sensed she did not have rabies.)

The next morning my wrist, swollen and inflammed, prompted an early visit to the ER and I was told I had to stay in hospital overnight on antibiotics.

Meanwhile, Sally, who had been picked up by Princeton’s ACO, was “put down” (a horrible phrase for a horrible deed) so a rabies test could be done. Jumping ahead to this Monday, I learned she had tested negative.

As far as who made the decision, and why, that is still unknown at this point. Along the way, one of the hospital doctors had more than once been in contact with the AOC, and who said what to whom is still in dispute. In any case, Sally is gone. So much for my good intentions.
(To be continued)

Monday, October 4, 2010

Possible answers to a reader's question

Following the Sept. 19 post, Fiona, a reader, commented on how she has helped feral cats on her own and wondered if/how she might get financial help for spaying a cat that may have given birth this summer. From a specialist in the area of feral cats – an advoCAT, in fact – come these suggestions:

1 – Talk with members of your area rescue groups. You can usually find them on weekends at participating pet stores, where they encourage people to adopt animals. These groups may have grant money for spay/neuter.

2 – If you’re a New Jersey resident, contact the staff member at Animal Protection League of NJ (APLNJ) who specializes in feral cats. The phone # there is 1-732-446-6808; the email address is

3 – See if this organization can help fund spaying feral cats: Spay USA. Phone 1-800-248-7729 or 1-203-377-7729 to advise them of your situation. You may be asked where the closest low-cost spay/neuter clinic or vet is located and what the cost is.

Good luck!

A day to foster better days for animals

Today is World Animal Day. It began in 1931 as a way to highlight the plight of endangered animals around the world. (Does that include cows and pigs and chickens on their way to slaughter?)

October 4 is the feast day of Francis of Assisi, the patron saint of animals. (Maybe the animals – seemingly more beleaguered than ever -- haven’t been praying hard enough.)

OK, enough editorializing. The program for World Animal Day has to do with threatened or endangered animals. The International Union for Conservation of Nature estimates that over 9,200 animal species worldwide fall into that category. In New Jersey, nearly 80 species are so described, and 100 more are considered of “special concern.”

Even for common animals, like birds, bees and bats, the outlook’s alarming. All three are in serious decline for one reason or another – many of them having to do with human activity. Pollution, habitat loss and habitat fragmentation impact entire ecosystems and the animals living there.

“Animals don’t need to evolve: we do.” That’s the theme for this year’s World Animal Day. The hope is that observing this day will help raise awareness of what we can do better toward animals and the environment – their environment too!

“Another part of the evolution is continuing to preserve open space and wildlife habitat here in New Jersey, the nation’s most densely populated state. People need homes, but so do animals!” -- Michele S. Byers, Executive Director of the NJ Conservation Foundation. (

Sunday, October 3, 2010

What would YOU do?

As you back out of a parking space behind the ice cream shop, you see a very thin, sick-looking cat sitting a few cars away, illuminated by a street light. She’s not anyone’s pet, at least now, and therefore needs help from someone else.

You get out the bag of cat treats you carry in your car and walk slowly toward the cat, who backs up onto the curb area, watching you. As you make the s-s-s-s-s-s-s sound that gets cats’ attention, and hold out a few yummies, she comes toward you in a stop and go kind of way, seeming interested and yet wary.

Two or three times, she comes very close to you, then seeming to regret her advance, nips your wrist and jumps back. (At the time, you think she swiped you with her claw; later it turns out she was declawed in front. So it must have been her teeth that drew blood in a few places.)

She follows you along the curb to a tree, where she eats numbers of the snacks, seeming not to have eaten for days and days. You start back to your car, where your husband, who’s driving, waits. (He had also urged you not to approach the cat, not to feed her and certainly not to try picking her up.)

The cat – looking to be a yellowish and gray tabby -- follows you to the car and seems ready to get in. So you pick her up and she settles down in your arms. Your husband drives away and the two of you try to figure out where-to now.

* Faced with the situation described above, what would YOU do, and how and why? In a post to come, I’ll pick up this story about what we – my husband and I and the cat -- did.

Saturday, October 2, 2010

“…unto one of the least of these my brethren”

He’s b-a-a-a-a-a-a-k. J. B. Kasper, the outdoorsman behind the Times of Trenton’s weekly “Outdoors” column, this week wrote about how “Drought creates easy pickings for smallies.”

Translation: Despite the weather, you can still catch fish if you follow his instructions.

And his advice, excerpted here from the column, with wording and punctuation exactly as they appeared, includes the following:

· “Hook your minnows through the lips when using shiners, and through the head from the bottom to the top when using killies and fatheads.”

· “Once you detect a hit, wait a second or two and set the hook. This will usually hook the fish in the lip and makes for less gut hooked fish.”

· “Hooking a minnow in the manner we(!) have described and casting it into this flat water will cause the minnow to swim around on the surface of the water.”

· . . . “you can often catch more than one fish on a minnow. Even though the minnow might be dead it can still be used effectively. When the minnow is dead, re-hook it deep in the head.”

If you didn’t know differently, you might think minnows were created to serve as bait fish. If you didn’t feel differently, you might think minnows are just things, not living creatures with feelings, particularly when a fish hook is forced through their lips or head.

And how about those minnows who “swim around on the surface of the water”? Could that possibly be pained and panicked swimming?

Friday, October 1, 2010

A month for animals

October is “World Animal Month.” It’s intended to “celebrate animal life in all its forms, and the intricate, symbiotic bonds between humanity and the animal kingdom.”


It sounds good. But what does it mean for the farm animals slaughtered for our consumption? the animals murdered for their skins and fur? the animals imprisoned in labs and subject to inhumane treatment in the name of science? the animals all over the world whose habitats are being destroyed? the wild and free horses in the American West, forcibly removed to make still more room for profitable cattle grazing? the so-called service animals, who weren't born to and never consented to lead humans around? the captive circus and zoo animals forced to live for the entertainment of humans? the shelter and sanctuary animals right here in New Jersey, whose future is uncertain at best?

“World Animal Month” and “World Animal Day” on Monday Oct. 4 are upbeat-sounding, but easy to be cynical about, given the plight of animals near and far.

Sure, there are “animal-advocate-heroes” out there. Locally, there’s the Mercer County Wildlife Center, and there are feral cat helpers and shelter volunteers, and on and on. But (from this corner at least) animals are still living on the edge, overall; they’re marginal and if-convenient considerations in the human view of things.

Back to World Animal Day. Reportedly, it’s been celebrated in more than 80 countries around the world, and that surely helps raise awareness. Its website ( includes ideas for things to do in the “Get Involved” section.

Rather than giving up in disgust or discouragement -- which would be all too easy to do -- let’s hope for the best for animals. Then let’s “get involved” and move in that direction.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

"OK, now open real wide . . ."

They're lucky tigers, even though they may not agree. Then again, their toothaches have probably gone away and they're feeling much better overall.

For many of the tigers who live at PAWS ARK 2000 sanctuary in San Andreas, CA, the last weekend of August was a marathon dental weekend. (Most of us quail at an hour-long dentist date. Imagine being a tiger -- drugged, trucked to the surgery site, operated on, returned 'home' and then waking up with a feeling that something strange just happened.)

By the end of the weekend, 19 root canals and one oral surgery had been performed on five tigers by a group of doctors ("Vererinary Dentists Without Borders") who provide their services free to "disadvantaged animals" in non profits like PAWS.

Both a video and a slide show of the tigers being treated are on the PAWS newsletter site ( For (amazing!) background information, the site of the Peter Emily International Veterinary Dental Foundation (, which supplied the doctors and technicians who pitched in at PAWS, may also be of interest.

Humans helping non-human animals who, in all these cases, had already been rescued from horrible lives: way to go -- and thanks!

Monday, September 13, 2010

No muddy paws for this animal abuser

Besides all the non-human animals on earth, sometimes pejoratively described as "beasts," there are occasional "strange beasties" among humans. These creatures cry out for sensitivity injections at the very least or, preferably, serious punishment. It would be nice if once in a while such people as the woman described in the news story here could walk in someone else's shoes -- or in this case, walk, run and be dragged and physically injured in someone else's paws.

Here's what happened late last month to Marlin, a puppy.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

About an advoCAT (and TNR)

Cats, especially ferals, need all the friends they can get. The link here leads to a story in about a major friend of cats who has been respectfully nicknamed "AdvoCAT."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

The happy story of Charles the traveling cat

A brief newspaper story – only bad news gets the big column inch count – related the story of Charles the traveling cat. Months after his human (a.k.a. “owner” – ugh!) thought she had lost him forever, Charles, who lived in New Mexico, turned up in Chicago.

Somehow, he had “escaped” from his house while a friend of his human was taking care of him. (With friends like this . . . !) That was the last anyone saw of Charles for 8 or 9 months – until he surfaced at a shelter in Chicago. There, staffers learned he had an embedded ID chip, found out where Charles was from and contacted his person.

She was ecstatic to know her cat lived. But . . . she couldn’t afford the round trip air fare to pick him up and bring him home. The story gets better: Hearing of the woman’s plight – she in Albuquerque, Charles in Chicago – a local man traveling there for a wedding offered to pick up the cat and bring him back.

End of story. Let’s just assume all this came to pass and there’s been a happy reunion in Albuquerque.


And on that happy note – a major departure, I know, from many of the posts here – this blogger announces a vacation, effective immediately. (What time could be more apropos than “the dog days of summer”?)

After writing 200 posts in about 15 months; after too often feeling like a scold; after suspecting I was too often singing to the (too-small) choir . . . time out for R & R! Back next month some time.

Till then, I hope we'll all think about animal rights and do right by animals. (And if you've just found this blog, please dip in and read and comment.)


P.S. Can’t resist citing one more science story about animals, written by Natalie Angier, of the NYTimes. Yesterday she wrote about why we find some creatures unsightly, even if they aren't threatening to us. In a lesser writer’s hands, this story -- “A Masterpiece of Nature? Yuck!” -- could be dull. Not so with Angier! Check it out:

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Spider with spirit of derring-do

Perfect timing: Just as Time Magazine comes out with a cover story about (non-human) animals’ intelligence,* I engage in combat, or at least a battle of wills, with a spider. And I don’t know who won.

Getting into the bathtub, I noticed a spider at the end near the shower, and thought, “I’ll save you from drowning, Spider.” Easier said than done. I lifted the spider from the bottom of the tub to the side corner, thinking s/he’d escape up the tile wall and away from the water.


Instead, as I showered, s/he started back down the tub side toward the drain. A suicidal spider?

This time, I re-caught the spider and put him/her a distance away, on the side of the sink, again thinking s/he’d climb the wall. Wrong.

Instead, by the time I’d showered, the spider was climbing up the side of the sink, away from the drain, then sliding down toward it again, and trying the ascent somewhere else. Up and down a few more times before I was dressed enough to gently wrap this free-thinking adventurer in a tissue and head downstairs to the front door.

Once on the front porch, I shook the tissue out over the ivy bed, but – truthfully – didn’t see the spider heading down.

Maybe s/he had long since escaped my good intentions and found another place in the house, while I was in transit, to hole up – or to do more death-defying stunts.

* “Inside the Minds of Animals: Science is revealing just how smart other species can be – and raising new questions about how we treat them,” August 16, 2010


Saturday, August 7, 2010

'Animal rights' defined

What is meant by "animal rights”?

The following statements (with italics added) are excerpted from a book* by Lee Hall, lawyer, teacher, advocate and legal director with Friends of Animals.(Hall is pictured here at a demonstration against horse-drawn carriages in Philadelphia earlier this year.)

"Animal rights is the development of respect for the interests of conscious beings in living on their terms rather than under human dominion. . . . is not a list of things we give, but an attitude of respect. . . . Animal rights, as distinguished from the extension of humane welfare provisions, is fundamentally an issue of justice. The more justice prevails, the less charity is needed. Thus, the guiding principle here isn’t to help them, but to aspire not to interfere. At essence, it would mean their privacy from our intrusions. . . . It is, at essence, the repudiation of violence, of seeing others as instruments to our ends, of taking advantage. . . ."

* Capers in the Churchyard: Animal Rights Advocacy in the Age of Terror (Nectar Bat Press, c. 2006)

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Animals at the Barnes

Fittingly, for a blog about animals, this post is an overview of animals in art -- the art, that is, at the Barnes Collection in Merion, PA. By now, probably everyone who has a nodding acquaintance with art knows of the Barnes, so we won't go into all that here (except to recommend the movie "Art of the Steal," the sad story of the Barnes' undoing).

On a recent day trip to the Barnes, I decided that, among zillions of other things to see, I'd look for animals in the art. Although often distracted, I did find enough animals represented to cause me to wonder whether Dr. Barnes actively liked animals, and animals in art, or whether they simply came with the territory.

Henri Rousseau probably checked in with the most animals in his work there --unsurprisingly, since he is known for his jungle scenes. His menagerie included a monkey, a bear and (in a more domestic setting) a rabbit having a meal. The bear, shown towering over a nude, was being shot in the back by a slit-eyed man hiding in the underbrush. So the nude would be safe -- or would she?

Two figures with goats; horses of tragedy by De Chirico; Utrillo's baby dog or dog baby -- anyway, a rendering of his black and white companion at ease; Bonnard's image of a woman and her dog at the table. At least two cats figured in pictures. A sinuous black cat stretched up to look into a white bathtub ("Bath tub and cat" [c. 1944], a reverse painting on glass by Angelo Pinto, 1908-1994) and finally and more traditionally, a woman held a cat in her arms.