Monday, October 4, 2010

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. (

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