Saturday, April 30, 2011

Mark Bittman (cont.): Janus or genius?

The previous post here described how in his last column, Mark Bittman went to bat for factory farm animals who are treated inhumanely (the mildest possible word for what happens to many or most of them).

But there’s another side to Mark Bittman, the NYTimes food writer and seeming friend of animals.

Bittman often alternates between pieces like “Who Protects the Animals?” and others about how to prepare leg of lamb, for instance, and he makes no bones(!) about being a meat eater himself. In the same column, he said, “If you’re raising and killing 10 billion animals every year, some abuse is pretty much guaranteed.

“There is, of course, the argument that domesticating animals in order to kill them is essentially immoral; those of us who eat meat choose not to believe this.”

In his former “Minimalist” column for the Times, he also mentioned being a meat eater – and on accompanying videos, he showed how to prepare it.

So what’s the deal with Bittman?

Is he talking out of both sides of his mouth? Trying to please everyone? Hoping that by being matter of fact about eating meat, he’ll prompt other meat eaters to read his pieces on animal cruelty? Hoping that by writing in behalf of abused factory farm animals, he’ll keep vegetarian readers with him?

Who knows! Readers who have theories about Bittman’s strategy are invited to comment.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Mark Bittman on factory farm inhumanity

We don't like to think of this, let alone see it, so let words (from Mark Bittman’s April 27 ‘Opinionator’ column in the NYTimes) suffice here. The piece was titled “Who Protects the Animals?”

“. . . employees at E6 Cattle Company in western Texas were videotaped bashing cows’ heads in with pickaxes and hammers and performing other acts of unspeakably sickening cruelty,” Bittman reports.

Describing that as “far from an isolated incident,” he continues: “Remember the four Iowa factory farmers who pleaded guilty in 2009 to sexually abusing and beating pigs, and the abuses of downed cattle exposed by the Humane Society of the United States in 2008 at the Hallmark slaughterhouse in California, which led to the country’s biggest ever recall of meat.”

Bittman’s column was prompted by proposed new state laws that would prevent whistle blowing photographers and videographers, and those who distribute their work, from publicizing what happens on factory farms. Under such laws, we would not know about the terrible abuses just described.

He points out that “The problem is the system that enables cruelty and a lack not just of law enforcement but actual laws. Because the only federal laws governing animal cruelty apply to slaughterhouses, where animals may spend only minutes before being dispatched. None apply to farms, where animals are protected only by state laws.”

And, Bittman says, “. . . we’ve created a system in which standard factory-farming practices are inhumane, and the kinds of abuses documented at E6 are really just reminders of that.”

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Just check it out with any flying pig

This is the story -- and it's some tale -- about a cat who swam more than a mile from New Jersey to Governors Island, NY. And lived. And was cleaned of all the saltiness and seaweed she reportedly was encrusted with.

And now there's a contest to name this aquatic cat, who will probably become the mascot of Governors Island and a major tourist attraction. (Can't you see the stuffed animal-cats now?)

Cats do swim, according to references on the subject. But they usually don't choose to swim. Typically, there's no need for them to swim and they're fastidious creatures. The one cat who seems to swim for pleasure is the Turkish Van.

However, our New Jersey to New York swimmer is a Calico cat -- white, black and orange. Supposedly, NJ's torrential rains swept her into the river and then NY bay to the northern tip of Governors Island, where she was found by workers.

Do you believe it?


Friday, April 22, 2011

'Exit 8 bear' safe -- for now

During the last week, a NJ black bear climbed a tree near exit 8 of the turnpike. Eventually, the two-year old was tranquilized, brught down and re-located to Assunpink wildlife area.

Drivers could stop gawking and slowing traffic, police and fire fighting personnel could get back to more usual business and the response truck from DEP's Fish and Wildlife division could move elsewhere.

And -- at least for awhile -- this bear was safe: a lucky position to be in, after NJ's notorious bear hunt last December, headed up by the very same DEP/Fish and Wildlife crowd.

Two stories in dealt with the bear in the tree. The best thing about them was the comment following the second story, written by a person intimately and knowledgeably involved with last year's hunt, Angi Metler, the executive director of Animal Protection League of New Jersey.

Read Metler's comment, if nothing else!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A great day for the horses

Not only was last Sunday’s weather wonderful -- bright, sunny and gusty – but the turnout at the Horse Rescue United open house was also terrific. Lots of people made it to New Egypt and then to parking areas near the barn and pastures.

Diana Tuorto, VP of HRU's board, reported that the organization “raised over $1,100 so far and we still have silent auction items to be paid and two vendors left to donate. . . Hopefully, we'll cover our $1,500 expenses for May or come very close to that!”

She gave a few cost for-instances: $800 a month to rent the facility, before hay, grain or shavings – all additional purchases. One delivery of hay runs about $500, while grain fluctuates.

Then come farrier and dental expenses, any shots the horses may need, pain killers and various supplements.

Tuorto estimated, “We probably had about 200-250 people between the first wave in the AM and the afternoon rush.”

During our visit, Joe and I saw lots of kids with their families. They practiced how to greet and feed carrots to the horses, besides learning from those around them that it’s a good thing to take care of horses in need.

Best of all, besides the presence and interest of so many people -- all exceedingly warm about horses -- there were the horses themselves. Dear Tristan was in fine fettle, eating carrots left and right, sometimes blocking Cooper and Jessica from reaching the fence where people waited to offer snacks. Trolley was nearby, getting her share too.

A fine day, apparently good for everyone.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Becker’s book and Easter candy

Here’s another entry in the long-title competition: Your Dog: the Owner’s Manual: Hundreds of Secrets, Surprises, and Solutions for Raising a Happy, Healthy Dog. Those 17 words represent a book by Dr. Marty Becker, “America’s Veterinarian,” contributor to Good Morning America and resident veterinarian on The Dr. Oz Show.

Becker will appear at Barnes & Noble, MarketFair, US Route 1 South this Wednesday, April 20 at 7 pm. A new (to me) wrinkle: those who want a line pass for seating or book signing must buy at least one copy of Your Dog (etc.!) or show a B&N receipt for that book. (And bring a peanut butter sandwich: seating begins at 5 pm!)

For more information about Becker’s visit, phone 609-716-1570 or email

* * * * * * * * *

At winter holiday time, the word goes out that it’s a bad idea to give kids puppies or kittens. Too much else going on, too many distractions for people and pets to make a good start.

Easter’s the occasion for a similar message, this time from the Humane Society of the US, which cautions that “Baby chicks and rabbits are not Easter gifts.”

“People often don’t realize the level of commitment these animals require,” says the director of the HSUS Pets at Risk program. They have “complex social and nutritional needs,” he explains, and “they can’t be caged continuously or relegated to the basement or garage.”

Animal shelters experience a flood of no-longer wanted chicks and bunnies, many of whom must be euthanized. Releasing them into the wild is an equally bad idea because they’re domestic species, unable to fend for themselves. They usually die of starvation, exposure to the elements or being preyed upon by other animals.

Please: Peeps and chocolate bunnies this Easter!

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A (successful) feline missionary

Six years ago today, Harry Summers was born. About 10 weeks later, he joined our family. Today, we celebrate Harry even more that we do every other day.

What facets of Harry should we focus on here? His great beauty, only starting with his being a redhead? His intelligence and independence, both so often exhibited? His regal demeanor, which like his trust, was built slowly?

Maybe Harry as a feline missionary, since that’s exactly what he was. Harry converted Joe and me. Just as he did a turn-around from what we think was a feral kitten to a thoroughly domesticated cat, we became his happy servitors and caregivers.

Before Harry, we were proud, lifelong “dog people” who skirted cats in social settings and in concept. Once we saw the tiny orange fluff ball who became Harry, we were charmed into becoming different people.

Told he was a girl, we called him “Orangina,” a name that lasted till his first vet visit. After some re-thinking, he became Harry, and ever since, the name has seemed perfect for him. Amber eyes, long stripey fur, a huge fluffy tail . . . and a pre-meal whine that carries all over the house: that’s Harry.

So thoroughly did Harry convert us that we concluded two were better than one and he needed a pal. With Billy’s arrival four years ago (see Feb. 3 post), we had the “Summers boys.”

And so, “Senor Harry,” “Harrycat,” “Darling Harry,” “Harry H. Cat,” “Mr. Harry,” “Harry the Cat,” and “Rajah” . . . Happy birthday, pussycat. We’re just wild about you!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Estate planning for pets

If you've ever looked at a loved pet and could only hope s/he would be taken care of in case you die first -- ahem! in case you predecease her or him -- you can do more than just hope.

A new book for caring pet owners tells you how to assure your pet(s) will be OK if . . . the 18-wheeler finishes you off first. Written by two lawyers who work in estate planning, the book is Who Will Care When You're Not There? Estate Planning for Pet Owners. (They just don't write short titles anymore.)

Authors Robert E. Kass and Elizabeth A. Carrie, who practice law at the same Detroit firm, wrote this book for animal owners who have good intentions but also qualms about how to protect their pets. Although a legal guide, the book includes full-color illustrations and inspirational quotes – and you’d hardly find them in your family attorney's office.

The book promo reports that the Humane Society of the US estimates “4-6million pets are euthanized from shelters each year, many of which are due to failure of the deceased pet owner to make proper provisions in his or her estate plan.”

And “proper” means not ambiguous. Merely leaving word to “take care of the cat,” for instance, could mean different things to different people, depending on their feelings about the cat and the deceased, and the amount of money left for the purpose.

Published last month by Carob Tree Press, LLC, Who Will Care When You’re Not There sells for $24.95. ISBN: 978-0-615-44340-9.

With or without this guide, please give some thought – and do some planning -- for what will happen to your pet(s) in case you’re incapacitated, unexpectedly absent or dealing with an emergency, as well as at your death.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Of haiku and bald eagles

If not for the cat,
and the scarcity of cheese,
I could be content.

That’s one of 17 haiku in a charming book for children – and obviously, for adults too.

Children “3 and up” might like the images (paintings by Ted Rand), though I wonder about their “getting” words like “raucously” and “burgle” and “dominion” and “gelatinously.” Maybe worldly 3-year olds could figure out some words from their (brief!) context. (haiku by Jack Prelutsky)

As for the haiku, what a great way, and time, to at least introduce the word and the concept to kids -- a poem, a short kind of poem invented by the Japanese, a poem about animals, a poem that doesn’t rhyme . . . and so on.

I spend all my time
Picking ants up with my tongue.
It’s a busy life.

One of the haiku is about bald eagles. Which reminds me of two eagle cams recently in the news.

One is at The second is at (excellent picture quality, plus sound, plus infrared at night, reports Karen Linder, a viewer in Kingston)

She also suggests handling a video cam this way: “I keep mine on in the background with the sound low and visit it periodically. When I start hearing a lot of peeping, I take a look, as it may be dinner time. A loud noise might indicate the other bird is landing.”

On to big-bird watching!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Anbassadors in Kingston

Silent flight (owl), incredible eyesight (hawk) and other attributes that help birds of prey find food were part of a fascinating talk about wild birds last weekend in Kingston. On Saturday afternoon, four animal ambassadors from the Mercer County Wildlife Center visited the Mapleton Preserve/D&R Canal State Park. (See post for March 31.)

Happily, the weather was good enough for Nancy Derrico -- who had begun her volunteering at the Center cleaning out cages -- to make her presentation outdoors and the crowd, estimated at about 60, seemed comfortable there.

Attendees included children, which was good, although some of them were allowed by their indulgent parents to be antsier than necessary and chatter away on other subjects than the one at hand. Not good.

Nevertheless, Derrico did a beautiful job of handling information, the birds she had brought -- and the kids. (Once, when she gently asked a persistent talker, "Are you answering my question?" the boy acknowledged he was not, and temporarily subsided.)

Tari Pantaleo, Kingston Greenways president, says the animals were chosen to come based “partly on their temperament that day and whether [the presentation is] held inside or outside.” She described the audience as “a rapt crowd” – certainly apropos.

Pantaleo also provided the great photo here, showing Derrico with a red tailed hawk.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Helping Cooper, Jessica, Justice, et al

Typically, these horses were no longer profitable as racers; injured or sick; owner-abandoned. Now they’re enjoying the good life on a farm in New Egypt. The people who made this happen need help helping these horses -- and others.

Sunday, April 17: save the date -- and help save horses. Horse Rescue United – an organization dedicated to saving and placing horses who would probably otherwise go to slaughter – hosts an open house that day. The public is invited to the event in New Egypt, NJ.

There's more to this story here:

Saturday, April 2, 2011

‘And the winner is . . . ’

Remember Radu, the very special rescued cat in St. Thomas? He was the subject of a post here on February 10, and his “mother’s” efforts to spread “cat cafes” on the island also came in for some attention here around that time.

The “multi-rescued cat” might be a more accurate way to describe orange and white Radu, also the hero of a booklet that’s sold all over the island. First, he was rescued in Romania, his owner’s native country, then he was rescued a few more times via surgery to fix his cleft palate.

Now in his and Dellia Holodenschi’s “forever home” on St. Thomas, Radu became a contestant in an online photo contest sponsored by the Human Society of the US and Humane Society International, tied in with its annual Spay Day campaign. Votes equaled dollars, and Radu’s good looks and great story attracted numerous “votes.”

The excellent news: Radu took 2nd place in a field of nearly 29,000 animals!

As a result, the Humane Society of St. Thomas has earned $6,843 from the contest. It will be used for spaying and neutering 60 owned and feral animals on the island.

Once again, Radu has lived up to the name Holodenschi gave him: “feral freedom fighter.” In this case, it’s “freedom from unwanted pregnancies, kittens and puppies.”