Friday, July 30, 2010

Want some water? First, do this . . .

Didn't know it goes on at Princeton University and now sorry to learn it does. The "it" is animal experimentation (or "research," the carefully chosen word used in recent news stories).

Media reports indicate that Princeton has been cited for 11 violations of USDA rules (through the Animal Welfare Act of 1966) for treatment of laboratory animals. The university spokesperson offered "spokesperson-speak" in response: "We're aware of it and working on it. . ." and stressed that the animal laboratories there are "immaculate."

Hey, that's great! But within that notable cleanliness, animals sometimes did not get water till they participated in "research," they were not routinely given painkilling meds after surgery, but only "as needed"; and "researchers" performed more surgeries than research proposals had spelled out. Among other violations.

All this sounds like a "tip of the iceberg" situation, especially since the USDA report found its way to the media not from Princeton, but from a group called SAEN, or "Stop Animal Exploitation Now."

To me, a really big question that newspapers probably can't answer is, why, in more than 30 years of living in "greater Princeton," did I never hear or read a word about the university's animal "research"? Could it possibly be that it was just a teeny bit hush-hush?


Thursday, July 29, 2010

Save the date: walk for farm animals

Aileen Jiang, a high school student who was last year's coordinator for the Princeton Walk for Farm Animals -- see blog posts for Sept. 21 and 24, 2009 -- is back on the job again this year. She invites new walkers and those who want to repeat the trip, and their support, to sign up.

This year's walk will be Sunday, Sept. 19. Registration starts at 2 pm; the walk, at 3 pm.

The walk benefits Farm Sanctuary ("rescue * education* advocacy"), an organization all about the use and abuse of farm animals. (Visit the website:, and see also the "about us" section.)

"Factory farming is an attitude that regards animals and the natural world merely as commodities to be exploited for profit. In animal agriculture, this attitude has led to institutionalized animal cruelty, massive environmental destruction and resource depletion, and animal and human health risks." -- Farm Sanctuary's website

Last year's Princeton walk attracted 75+ participants (including babies in strollers and dogs) and raised more than $5,000. It was a feel-good affair, a low-key but committed-feeling event -- no bullhorns, videos or shouting. Just people giving up a few hours of a weekend to stand up for farm animals and the short, horrible lives they lead.

Almost two months ahead of time, this is an invitation to save the date, September 19. And before then, check out the website for details about the Princeton walk (

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

They just can't win

Last week in Michigan, while carrying cows to the slaughter house, a truck turned over, giving the cows a chance to run for their lives. They did.

Reportedly, they made it over highway guardrails, forcing traffic detours and causing at least one accident. Within a day, seven of the 12 had been rounded up; there was no word then or later about the remaining five.

Here comes the kicker: State Police plan to euthanize them once all the cows are captured. No “compassion release” to a farm. No compassion, period. What more does a cow have to do to avoid the slaughter house, and needless death itself?

Of course, this is not a decision that cows can make. Of course, whoever “owned” the animals wants something to show for having raised them. Of course, of course. . .

It’s simple: Cows – and other animals that humans eat – can’t win. Not until we realize we don’t need meat, we can live nicely without it, and all animals deserve a life too . . . will such ugly stories disappear.

Monday, July 26, 2010

"The pooh crew" -- eu!

"Most dog owners do not enjoy picking up after their dogs." -- Huh?! Who said "picking up" had to be fun? Most dog owners may not enjoy "picking up" after themselves either, but they do, and survive it.

But, for the fastidious "dog owners" -- let's call them dog people" and skip the "owner" bit -- whose sensibilities are truly offended at the "picking up" task, now there's "The Pooh Crew."


A flyer available at our vet's office says, "Keep your family safe! Call us to remove your dogs[sic] waste. Enjoy your yard again!" Then it goes on to tick off the 3 health hazards of "dog waste" -- presumably when it's not picked up. By someone.

The services offered by the "Pooh Crew" include "picking up," well, pooh, as often as a client may desire; doing so in uniform*** and with "disinfected tools"; and electronic or paper invoices; as well as cleaning, disinfecting and deodorizing decks, patios, dog runs and kennels.

Rates vary, starting from as low as $12.50/service. Squeamish dog people are urged to "Call us today, don't delay!" because "A clean yard is a happy yard!"

(And seriously, squeamish dog people who may want this service can phone 609-883-7178 or 609-635-0998; or email

*** uniform! just imagine your pride when wearing "Pooh Crew" over your breast pocket!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Seashore vignettes (2 of 2)

Moving right along, more on roads -- or I should say, off roads. That would be diamondback terrapins, a.k.a. the turtles who cross roads to lay their eggs -- but who historically often don't make it to their nesting grounds because they're hit by cars and other vehicles.

Used to be in July, there were dead female turtles all over the roads near wetlands. These days, at least in the Avalon-Stone Harbor area, it's not happening. And the cute yellow “Turtle Crossing” signs didn’t do it.

These happy changes are the work of the Wetlands Institute, in Stone Harbor. It began, I think, with the Institute’s Terrapin Rescue program, whereby thousands of eggs have been harvested from road- killed terrapins, incubated, hatched, and fed until attaining a size that enables them to return to the wild.

The Institute also pioneered the development of terrain barrier fences to reduce the countless deaths of female terrapins in traffic as they struggle to return to traditional nesting habitats. That program has been adopted by other communities in South Jersey.

Huzzah, Wetlands Institute! (

Seashore vignettes (1 of 2)

A change of pace and a change of venue -- a.k.a. a few days at the south Jersey shore. Now back, these impressions of the animal scene between Avalon and Cape May . . .

* the drive south goes through scenic wooded and undeveloped areas, and it included much less road kill along the way than I'm aware of in this area. Maybe that's because animals have sanctuary right off the road. Whatever the reason, it was a joy not to see lumps in the road ahead that as we came closer, became dead animals.

Which reminds me of an earlier post, about birds who fly low across roads, not knowing vehicles are death machines for them. I saw even more of this while away, and it included birds standing in the road eating junk humans had thrown out. Still another reason not to litter: birds must think, that's where the food is, so go there.

Now I'm wondering how long it might take the process of evolution among birds to warn them off roads and get them to fly higher over roads. Millions of years, probably, and by then, humans may have done so much other damage to the planet that the question will be moot.

* "Tula" is a young-seeming black lab female who was roaming around "our" street at the shore last night. She sniffed a pine cone in the street for awhile, then she crossed and re-crossed the street, as if trying to decide where to hang out. She wore a significant leather collar, but when I approached and petted her, it didn't seem to have license or ID tags on it.

Of course, Tula wasn't street-smart, as evidenced by her jogging back and forth without looking. She led me down a driveway into a back yard where people were eating on a 2nd floor deck. I asked if anyone knew where Tula came from and one woman walked through, met me out front and pointed across the street.

Sure enough, after she called out to a woman in the yard, that woman began calling "Tula," and the wandering lab made her way home. No one knew Tula was outside because they were all so busy keeping track of the children. With luck, she'll stay home and go out only on escorted walks.

* one other dog issue: The woman going out who asked her parents to "walk the dog" before she returned. She had left "the dog" -- actually only seven months old, and reportedly a chewer -- in her crate. Probably it didn't bother "the dog," but I was aware she has a name that, if used, would sound much less impersonal and much more warm and caring.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Let these leopards go!

Snow leopards: rare, endangered big cats. And their name suggests the part of the world where they’re native: the high, bitterly cold mountains of Central Asia.

So, then, what are two snow leopard cubs doing in Cape May, NJ? Easy. They are born-in-captivity residents of the Cape May County Zoo. It is to laugh (after sighing, gnashing teeth, fist-shaking).

The claim: that zoos around the world are helping to conserve these animals by housing and breeding them. Hmmmm. How’s that? These babies were never in the wild, nor will they be. They exist to be in the zoo, in this case, a south Jersey zoo.

That may be a fate worse than death, or extinction. “Extinction is forever,” the saying goes, but if an animal could be consulted, would s/he choose life in a zoo? Would any animal make that choice, if given the chance?

OK, so humans can visit the zoo and see the snow leopards – which are heavily furred animals, the better to withstand weather in the Himalayas. Then what? Maybe they’ll contribute to the Snow Leopard Trust, an organization proclaiming its desire to conserving the animal? Then what? More snow leopards in zoos?

Gee, maybe they could become circus animals too, like the tigers who are on the same endangered list. Or the pandas, ditto, who also populate zoos?

Is a "zoo snow leopard" (which I’ve read can’t be released to the wild, by the way) a real snow leopard? Would it be more intelligent and humane to let these creatures go extinct if they must, rather than making them into captive models for tee shirts and tote bags? Talk about fates worse than death. Or extinction.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

The bear came back over the mountain

First came word of a black bear roaming around Ewing. Then, according to the July 13 Packet, the (same) bear visited Hopewell in late June before moving on to Lawrence and being seen in a few places there.

"Several broken birdfeeders" may have been his work, the story said, also mentioning that this bear has been caught and relocated three times by DEP's Division of Fish and Wildlife. His last stop was Hunterdon County, but there must be something about Mercer County that calls him back.

Theorized to have been ousted from his original territory by an alpha male during mating season, this bear is now wandering. (How "he" was identified as a male bear was not disclosed. Or, since the bear wasn't traveling with cubs in tow, maybe "his" sex was safe to assume.)

Bears have to eat so they may take edibles where they find them. Probably in decades past, they could easily find prey and berries and honey (whatever bears prefer!) but now human development impedes them. So a birdfeeder or two, though not on the traditional menu, becomes acceptable as a source of snack food. How would bears know not to raid a birdfeeder in the course of doing what they've always done: forage for food?

Similar, maybe, are the birds that fly low across roads, right in front of cars. What do they know about cars? How would they recognize vehicles as killing machines? Yet to survive in greater numbers, they must lift up and fly higher -- something they obviously haven't needed to do . . . until now.

Animals are doing what comes naturally and has worked for them for a long, long time. We are the reason they're being relocated, or worse.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

I.Q. comparison

The radio report yesterday lacked details, but essentially this was the story: a Chocolate Lab was left in a closed vehicle in 90 degree weather. S/he would have died a horrible and needless death, except that this was a dog with brains and guts.

S/he blew the horn until rescued. When checked out later by a veterinarian, the dog was essentially OK.

The “owner” (talk about undeserving humans and people in the wrong roles) had forgotten about the dog.

Nothing more to the report, including whether the person was fined or even reprimanded for his/her criminal carelessness. Nor did the report include any word on whether the dog took a bite out of the “owner” once they were reunited.

Here’s a good reason for companion animals to forget all about “unconditional love.” And still another reason to believe non-human animals are often smarter than humans.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Emotional support trumps rule

"No dogs," a widespread rule in New York City co-ops, can sometimes be legally ignored. In 25-50 known cases, pets who would be illegal for most residents are permissible because their people appealed the rule and won.

The reason for the appeal: the pet in question is a special kind of service animal; he or she is an "emotional support animal." Amendments to the federal Fair Housing Act of 1968 allow disabled people to keep service animals in their homes, no matter what the building's rules may be.

The case of Manhattan's Donald W. Reilly, described in a recent NYTimes story, illustrates this. Reilly is a Marine vet who takes 10 different meds a day for narcolepsy, diabetes and high blood pressure. He volunteered to help during Hurricane Katrina and while doing so, came across four beagle puppies. He gave three away and kept one, nicknamed "P.T."

When others in the co-op (where he has lived since 1968, long before it became a co-op) learned about the dog, Reilly was told he had to move out or face eviction. He found a lawyer who specializes in pet eviction cases and appealed to the Office of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity of the Dept of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Earlier this year, he won his case . . . and the right to keep P.T. (as well as another dog, when necessary, to follow the beagle).

A spokesperson for the fair housing office says caring for animals forces tenants out of their pajamas and out of the building. That's true with Reilly and P.T. Twice a day they walk to Central Park and socialize.

It sounds as if they're emotional support for each other. But when you think about it, isn't that always the case in the best human-companion animal relationships?

Sunday, July 11, 2010

With friends like these. . .

What an odd and unsatisfactory experience yesterday at the farmers’ market in Pennington. Most of the booths and tents were all about food, but one was for Animal Allies, a group claiming to foster adoption of homeless animals.

First, their tent was a little removed from all the others – so not in the line of traffic. Second, if they had posters or signs about their mission, I missed them. All I saw was a half dozen or so people, mostly seated, a couple holding dogs, and all talking among themselves.

Did I as a stranger approaching them cause anyone to stop talking, say hi and offer information? Not at all.

Did I, putting my fingers into a cage to pet a black cat, cause any of them to speak? Nope. (By this point, I wondered what they’d do if I lifted the cat cage and walked away with it.)

Finally, the woman seated nearest me asked if I needed anything. Perfect question! I responded that I’d kind of hoped for a hello. No reply.

Only when I started walking away did she ask if I had questions or needed anything. By then I had given up, and pretty much told her so.

How do you tell people they’re doing a terrible job when apparently they don’t want to hear that, or much of anything? Why didn’t these so-called “animal allies” in their so-called “animal advocacy group” stand up, move around and encourage people to come over to meet and hear about the animals? Why didn’t they walk the animals around?

Instead, they seemed to prefer hunkering down and talking among themselves – probably about how (other) people don’t seem to want to help animals these days . . . If the world were going to come to them and their cause, as they seemed to expect, it would have done so long ago and there’d be no need for “animal allies.”

“Lackadaisical” would be the nicest possible word to describe these allies. “Pro-active”? Ha! They never heard the word.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

What does it take?

". . .maybe we shouldn't talk about what we're harvesting or harpooning, but whom." -- Whales: once mercilessly hunted all over the world, and now increasingly regarded as second only to humans "in mental, social and behavioral complexity."

Writing after the International Whaling Commission's annual meeting, Natalie Angier reported in the June 27 NYTimes that its 24-year ban on commercial whaling is still intact (despite loopholes she described as "leviathan" in size.)

Some scientists who study whales are pushing for abolishment of commercial whale and dolphin hunting altogether -- they argue that hunting whales is in line with hunting chimps, whom we now know are very, very close to humans. Possibly even closer -- when relative brain size or levels of self-awareness, sociality and the importance of culture are considered -- are whales.

"They fit the philosophical definition of personhood," one biologist concludes. Another says "cetaceans seem like intelligent aliens living among us."

The Times article is incredible, detailing as it does the behaviors of whales and dolphins in their watery world. Their lives and habitat are so different from ours, yet no less complicated, calling for no fewer skills.

In 1851, Herman Melville's Moby Dick was published. Now, finally, in 2010, whales are being called "Brainiacs beneath the waves" and regarded with awe by those beginning to understand and appreciate them.

Is that how long it may take for the beginnings of human respect toward other animals, now hunted, factory farmed, used in laboratories, skinned alive and otherwise tortured and killed? Will it be necessary for them to evidence great brain power and human-like traits to win respect?

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Squirrels got game

Oh, to be squirrelly. Which is to be clever and quick and a survivor, among other things.

Squirrels are “one of the most widely disseminated mammals in the world,” according to a NYTimes story earlier this week; they are found on all continents except Antarctica and Australia. How have they done so well that they’re sometimes considered pests?

Squirrels have a lot going for themselves, Natalie Angier (she’s back!) writes. The Eastern gray tree squirrel, featured in her July 5 story (“Nut? What Nut? The Squirrel Outwits to Survive”) has “a phenomenal elasticity of body, brain and behavior.”

Among other things, Eastern grays can leap great distances (10 times their body length), and, able to rotate their ankles 180 degrees, they can keep a grip while climbing, regardless of where they face. Their vision is acute; they learn from other animals, even humans; they’re social and chatty and willing to deceive when it serves their purposes (for instance, in hiding acorns from other squirrels).

Pretty amazing little animals in short, and they “greet each other with a mutual nuzzling of cheek and lip glands that looks decidedly like a kiss,” at day’s end. That tail movement of theirs? It’s often adjusting temperature – either propelling warm blood toward the squirrel’s core in winter or wicking excess heat off into the air in summer.

And there’s much more about squirrels, waiting to be read with amazement. Go to

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Saluting another letter writer

Mel Marks. Remember that name if you don't know it already. He is a letter writer of note, always on issues similar to those taken up in this blog and occasional letters too.

Earlier this week, Marks' letter in the Trenton Times, "Take a closer look at how we value life," wondered in print whether the same people who help save birds from the oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico then eat a bird for dinner.

Without name-calling or otherwise turning readers off, Marks says many people (most people?!) "compartmentalize" what they know about UN-natural disasters such as factory farms and related health and environmental issues when shopping for food. They "subsidize the systematic killing of . . . animals for their dinner table" -- probably while tsk-tsking about the horrors in the Gulf.

And such behavior happens on a broader scale too, Marks says. Humans are also scarily willing to tolerate killing of people in war while rushing to help them after a tsumani or earthquake.

Selective reading, seeing and hearing; selective knowing.

Marks points out that people could start making a difference by reforming their personal diets. Change can start at home, or, think globally, act locally.

Monday, July 5, 2010

"Branchers and grounders"

You'd have to be close and look closely to see the baby bird in an open part of the rhododendron bush. S/he was fluffy looking and bright eyed, with a blackish patch across the top of the head. And apparently not afraid of humans, or at least this one who had been standing nearby, watering other rhodos.

What to do? Only recently in the Wildlife Center's education session, the point had been made: Parents come back to their young. Don't move baby deer; the mother will return. Same with baby birds?

Wasn't this young bluejay vulnerable to cats and other predators where s/he was? Would s/he be gently grabbable, to put in a box and take to the Wildlife Center after the phone call they request first?

Reaching Diane Nickerson, the center manager, was a calming experience. She immediately said bluejays are "branchers" -- meaning that young birds learn to fly from branch to branch. The parent jays watch out for them (which was how I'd quickly ID'd the baby, aware of jay movements and sounds around me).

Next time I went near the bush that day, no sign of baby bluejay. With luck, her/his route may have been branch, branch, branch, back to nest for a rest.

In contrast, robins, Nickerson said, are "grounders." Their young learn to fly from the ground. When I asked how they manage to avoid predators, her answer: "That's why not all robins make it."

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Biologist gone wrong

Way to go, Phyllis Deal! This master letter writer from Hightstown neatly handled a situation described in an earlier Trenton Times story. A female bear with three cubs reportedly charged a hiker and his dog. Actually, she knocked over the hiker and attacked his dog.

As a result, Ringwood Park’s supervising biologist said the bear had to be killed “because she attacked a human.” We have just met another human who believes that such people-centric macho statements (and beliefs) are justified because humans have dominion over everything else on earth.

Reacting to the biologist’s statement, Deal said “Poppycock”! Then she pointed out the obvious (except to the biologist) likely scenario: that the bear viewed the dog as a threat to her cubs. Simple. Period. Over and out.

And Deal went on: “Leave the animals alone! . . . Why must we continue to kill defenseless creatures? We do not own the world. Other species have the right to exist.”

So far, no follow-up story in the Trenton Times. We can only hope the park biologist – whose specialty must be plants and not animals – thought better of his initial reaction.