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.