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.”