Thursday, June 30, 2011

Turtles with a mission

In some seashore towns right now, the signs are up: Turtle crossing. Watch for turtles. Give turtles right of way.

By now, a turtle silhouette usually suffices – that and the visible remains of turtles run over by drivers while they made their slow way across the road.

These diamondback terrapins, who live in coastal salt marshes, were heading for sandy places to lay their eggs. The journey grows harder each year, as their habitat disappears to development and vehicular traffic increases.

Click on the link below to read about turtles who tied up air traffic yesterday at a New York City airport – and were helped on their way.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Saved from the zoo -- sort of

Q. For an animal, what could be worse than being in a zoo?

A. Being in a zoo likely to be flooded by a rising river threatening the whole town.

As the Souris River (a.k.a. “the Mouse”) rose to historic levels and threatened Minot, North Dakota, people moved the zoo animals -- every one of them – to higher ground, area farms or other zoos. The Roosevelt Park Zoo had been flooded in 1969, but this time there was enough advance warning to make better plans for its animal inhabitants.

Most of the 100-plus animals were evacuated to an old furniture warehouse “high above the valley floor,” according to Inside, the warehouse is divided in dozens of pens – chain link, wire mesh or metal-walled -- suitable for the refugees, who may be there for months to come.

Giraffes reportedly had to be persuaded to enter a trailer that accommodated them for the trip to “the north zoo,” and other animals fought being transported. One staffer remarked on “the terror in their eyes.”

Once resettled, the camels turned mischievous, moving light switches with their tongues and trying to escape. A lamb was named “Noah,” after the first know rescuer of animals. Occasionally allowed to roam free around the warehouse, he quickly learned to avoid the caged bobcats’ unfriendly swipes.

And so the zoo animals are riding out the flood safely if not happily.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

'Hurt Hawks'

Hurt Hawks

by Robinson Jeffers


The broken pillar of the wing jags from the clotted shoulder,
The wing trails like a banner in defeat,

No more to use the sky forever but live with famine
And pain a few days: cat nor coyote
Will shorten the week of waiting for death, there is game without talons.

He stands under the oak-bush and waits
The lame feet of salvation; at night he remembers freedom
And flies in a dream, the dawns ruin it.

He is strong and pain is worse to the strong, incapacity is worse.
The curs of the day come and torment him
At distance, no one but death the redeemer will humble that head,

The intrepid readiness, the terrible eyes.
The wild God of the world is sometimes merciful to those
That ask mercy, not often to the arrogant.

You do not know him, you communal people, or you have forgotten him;
Intemperate and savage, the hawk remembers him;
Beautiful and wild, the hawks, and men that are dying, remember him.


I'd sooner, except the penalties, kill a man than a hawk;
but the great redtail
Had nothing left but unable misery
From the bone too shattered for mending, the wing that trailed under his talons when he moved.

We had fed him six weeks, I gave him freedom,
He wandered over the foreland hill and returned in the evening, asking for death,
Not like a beggar, still eyed with the old
Implacable arrogance.

I gave him the lead gift in the twilight.
What fell was relaxed, Owl-downy, soft feminine feathers; but what
Soared: the fierce rush: the night-herons by the flooded river cried fear at its rising
Before it was quite unsheathed from reality.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Mock meat: bring it on!

Mock meat, faux meat, lab meat, cultured meat . . . The May 23, 2011 New Yorker includes an article about a possibility that would make environmentalists, animal welfare advocates and yes, animals, very happy.

Scientists around the world are working to develop “meat” that would have the benefits of animal meat without its many downsides -- consumption of freshwater resources and farm land, as well as greenhouse gas emissions.

The worst downside of animal meat is its production: animals “born solely to be killed”; factory farms where animals live short, confined, horrid lives; the slaughterhouse.

Willem van Eelen, the man credited for the initial idea, has worked toward the goal of laboratory-made meat for most of his life. He’s now 88.

Not till stem cells were discovered in 1981 could his idea start to catch on. In
1999, van Eelen received US and international patents for the Industrial Production of Meat Using Cell Culture Methods.

“For the most part,” says “Test-Tube Burgers” author Michael Specter, “the meat we eat consists of muscle tissue taken from farm animals . . . In-vitro meat, however, can be made . . . ” with this goal: “to grow muscle without the use of animals, and to produce enough of it to be sold in grocery stores.”

Today “the world consumes 285 million tons of meat every year – 90 pounds per person,” Specter reports.

Considering the world’s ever-growing population, which means still more meat eaters, the option of attractive, edible “cultured meat” may seem far more attractive to people than their becoming vegans.

But whichever option “wins” – and of course they could co-exist -- it will mean a great new world for animals. Chickens, cows, calves, pigs and sheep, rejoice!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

‘Animals in War’ – another example

(The following poem appeared as yesterday’s “Poem-A-Day,” from the Academy of American Poets. [])


by David Hernandez

The donkey. The donkey pulling the cart.
The caravan of dust. The cart made of plywood,
of crossbeam and junkyard tires. The donkey
made of donkey. The long face. The long ears.
The curled lashes. The obsidian eyes blinking
in the dust. The cart rolling, cracking the knuckles
of pebbles. The dust. The blanket over the cart.
The hidden mortar shells. The veins of wires.
The remote device. The red light. The donkey
trotting. The blue sky. The rolling cart. The dust
smudging the blue sky. The silent bell of the sun.
The Humvee. The soldiers. The dust-colored
uniforms. The boy from Montgomery, the boy
from Little Falls. The donkey cart approaching.
The dust. The laughter on their lips. The dust
on their lips. The moment before the moment.
The shockwave. The dust. The dust. The dust.

(from Hoodwinked, published by Sarabande Books, Inc.)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Along the bike trail

It never fails: at whatever time of day I take a bike ride, I see animals along the way. They may be dogs being walked (or walking their owners, as sooo many people like to say); they may be other commonplace - but - interesting creatures.

Yesterday I rode around 2 in the afternoon, a time when I expected most animals to be napping through the afternoon heat and humidity. I knew I was wrong when soon after entering the park and starting along the blacktop path, I surprised a groundhog, right in the middle of it (and near bushes s/he could bolt into). Which is just what happened, but not till I was closer to this "critter" than I've ever been to one.

Groundhogs don't lope, they ripple along, w/ parts of their bodies undulating at different times. They look much like Harry, our orange cat, making his escape from a room when a stranger threatens to appear: he gets close to the floor and undulates quickly away.

Next along my ride I encountered two rabbits, one smaller and younger than the other. They too moved quickly into nearby bushes. Then came one black(ish) "Princeton" squirrel, who didn't move away but kept busily at whatever s/he was doing.

Finally, overhead, I saw a familiar bird soaring over the field. I want to think it was a hawk, but its flight didn't look purposeful (as I suppose hawks' would); it looked instead as if the bird was enjoying the air and the afternoon. (Was it cooler up there than on my bike?)

Maybe it was a vulture. I've been told they soar too and they're common around here. Somehow, though, it looked too streamlined for my idea of a vulture in flight; that, as well as too leisurely to be eyeing the ground for road kill.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Yes, in our backyard

The very expression, “lab animals,” is repugnant. As is “food animals,” seen just yesterday in a newspaper. And of course there’s also “service animals.” And “domestic animals,” a sad contrast to “wild animals.”

One expression not used is “free animals” – thanks to human assumptions that all animals are ours to capture, tame, train, eat, experiment on. . . .

Which brings me back to “lab animals” and the local scene. Princeton University can claim all it wants that its animal “research” is good for the world (of humans). Maybe the school’s animal experiments have helped some people. So what? They were done on the backs of innocent animals.

Merely reading through the 15 pages of USDA inspections reports (2008-2011) for the university’s animal research program should be enough to make an anti-vivisectionist of anyone. References to “NHP” for non-human (of course!) primate; to water-provision schedules, to pain killers administered “as needed” and to how many surgeries an NHP may have . . . all suggest images of mad scientists with their clipboards and schedules, playing with the lives of other sentient beings.

What gives them this right?

The story at this link includes the website for obtaining USDA inspection reports as well as the site for Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN).

Saturday, June 18, 2011

"Gray," a family cat, outside

Just found this poem at "The Writer's Almanac" [] and had to share it.)


by Philip F. Deaver

This was our pretty gray kitten,
hence her name; who was born
in our garage and stayed nearby
her whole life. There were allergies;
so she was, as they say,
an outside cat.
But she loved us. For years,
she was at our window.
Sometimes, a paw on the screen
as if to want in, as if
to be with us
the best she could.
She would be on the deck,
at the sliding door.
She would be on the small
sill of the window in the bathroom.
She would be at the kitchen
window above the sink.
We'd go to the living room;
anticipating that she'd be there, too,
hop up, look in.
She'd be on the roof,
she'd be in a nearby tree.
She'd be listening
through the wall to our family life.
She knew where we were,
and she knew where we were going
and would meet us there.
Little spark of consciousness,
calm kitty eyes staring
through the window.

After the family broke,
and when the house was about to sell,
I walked around it for a last look.
Under the eaves, on the ground,
there was a path worn in the dirt,
tight against the foundation -
small padded feet, year after year,
window to window.

When we moved, we left her
to be fed by the people next door.
Months after we were gone,
they found her in the bushes
and buried her by the fence.
So many years after,
I can't get her out of my mind.

"Gray" by Philip F. Deaver, from How Men Pray. © Anhinga Press, 2005.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Wish we could ask Princeton's lab animals

Since the June 11 newspaper story about Princeton U's violations of rules for lab animal care -- not for the first time -- opinions, arguments and "facts" have been flying. First, it was the university's spokesperson, named in the Trenton Times story; then it was Michael Budkie, who heads the Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) watchdog organization, also mentioned there.

Next came Peter Singer, Princeton professor of bioethics. Reached while traveling in Europe, he weighed in with his opinion based on the Trenton Times story. (Singer's comments are projected to appear in Friday's Princeton Packet, as a sidebar to a story about the university's violations.)

Information is still coming in, with some sources diametrically opposed to others. The story at the link below is just the opening installment. There's much more to be said on this subject. . . !

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Princeton U's lab animal violations (cont.)

For at least the 2nd year in a row, Princeton University has been cited for violations in caring for laboratory animals. The Times of Trenton reported on Saturday that once again a USDA inspection revealed that some primates were not provided with water for over 24 hours and there were “inconsistencies in the use of animals from what was described in the IACUC protocol.”

IACUC stands for Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee – a group legally required to exist where research occurs. According to a university spokesperson last year after violations were publicized, this committee consists of 3 members, a veterinarian, a member from the Princeton-area community and “a practicing scientist experienced in animal research.”

The same spokesperson reportedly indicated last year that the university was “strengthening" this committee. However, this year’s repeat of some violations prompts questions about how much stronger the committee is now – assuming members exercise any kind of oversight.

Of course the far bigger question is, Why animal research (Princeton’s term) or experimentation (the word others use) at all in 2011? One quick answer seems to be “money.” Animal research for the government and for companies wanting to test products on animals pay institutions and/or their researchers.

Decades ago, Peter Singer, ethicist and Princeton faculty member, wrote about the field of animal research – its horrific cruelty and its inapplicability to humans. How could it possibly have become more humane or germane since then?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Being war horses -- against horses' nature

The last post dealt with one person’s views on War Horse. The “Lincoln Center Theater Review,” about the play, the book and the time in which they're set, includes a piece by professional horse trainer Monty Roberts. He writes about the nature of horses (as part of his answer to the question “Why do we love horses?”).

The following passages are quoted from Roberts’s article.

* Horses are flight animals. They do not stalk, kill, or devour the flesh of any other animal in order to exist. They are herbivores. They graze on large areas where they can see for great distances in every direction. They do not possess anatomical tools designed for violence toward other species. They live in a virtually nonviolent environment, wish to exist in a tranquil state, and mean no harm to others. Horses have but two goals in life: to survive and to reproduce.
(After humans saw horses as the means of moving their belongings, and then their bodies, from one location to another, the war horse was born.)

* While most soldiers loved their horses, they typically prioritized the lives of other humans and their own well-being ahead of the horses that brought there and assisted them in their war. Through all of that, remember that it was never the horses’ war. These wonderful animals would never know the meaning of war or understand the intent of any human to inflict harm on another.

* Horses want no part of war or any of the pain, the sound, or the smell of it. They are truly animals with a deep disdain for violence. And yet they came along with us and I believe they constantly wondered what in the world we were thinking about, but they did their job without question.

* The saddest chapter in any war was when the horses were left in trenches when the soldiers were shipped home. The horses did not get a hero’s reception back in the old hometown.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fight against future war horses

The much-acclaimed play, War Horse, is a contender for Tony awards this weekend. As probably everyone knows by now, the show – based on Michael Morpurgo's book of the same name – is about a horse involuntarily involved in World War I, the so-called Great War and “War to End All Wars.”

A woman who has read the book and seen the show recently commented on both. Here are her main points:

* buy and read the book, which is short, deeper and gives a more
nuanced and more poignant story of horses in the first World War
. . . and costs only $7, instead of buying tickets that cost $125
at the Vivian Beaumont theater in NYC.

* the book is so beautifully written and poignant that I think it
emphasizes the theme of humans' need to lay down our arms
and be peaceful more than the play does.
She found the show “impressive, particularly the beautiful puppets
for Joey, the hero horse and his supporting-star Topthorn, and as usual the special effects of the war are powerful.”

And she cites “a wonderful touch of irony in the presence of a goose at the very end (humans,is my interpretation) and the haunting voice of a balladeer singing, ‘only remember for what we have done’ as the stage lights go out.”

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Buying time in beaver case?

The Princeton beaver shooting case is on hold, with no action taken for or against the ACO who shot the two beavers on May 13.

The link below leads to a summary story telling where things stand right now on this issue. Overall, it still sounds like a situation of “Let’s buy time so maybe those who protested will move on to something else.”

Meanwhile, yesterday’s Packet reported the same animal control officer caught a rabid raccoon near a school. The story gave him some quotable quote opportunities, and he sounded like "Mr. Careful and Compassionate."

Nay, not so.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Save ALL the greyhounds

“Adopt a greyhound,” the billboard invited. Meaning, save a greyhound who used to race and now needs a home.

A recent newspaper story reported “Greyhound racing in steep decline” -- but it can’t end fast enough. Animal welfare activists have for years claimed “the dogs are kept muzzled in small cages, fed inferior food, injected with steroids and frequently injured at the track,” the story said.

The good news is that “Ten years ago, there were 50 greyhound tracks in 15 states. Today there are just 25 tracks in seven states, with 13 of them in Florida, once considered the hub of dog racing.” There are fewer than 300 greyhound farms today, a number considerably lower than the 750 estimated to have operated in the 1980s.

According to the story, greyhounds live an average of 12 years and run between 42-45 mph – they’re the world’s fastest dogs. They usually race when they’re between 1½-5 years old.

It’s easy to imagine why racing is dangerous for the dogs, who are subject to myriad injuries and cardiac arrest. Of course, those on the side of greyhound racing claim the dogs are well taken care of and – ready for this? – “love to run.”

Ha! Shades of the Lipizzaner horses, described some time ago by a promoter as loving to do the idiotic things they’re forced to do, or the service animals, who love being shackled to a human and co-living that person’s life instead of their own. And on and on.

Save a greyhound – and pray for that steep decline to quickly grow more steep.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Antibiotics are not the worst of it

Factory farming is bad enough all by itself. Animals lead short, brutal lives in hideously overcrowded and filthy conditions. It's all about the money. People want meat, preferably cheap. Farmers make more money the more animals they can rush to slaughter.

One of the ways they can do this is to routinely feed antibiotics to factory farmed animals, in an attempt to keep them "healthy" till slaughter. For many, many years, this practice has been criticized because of its eventual effect on humans (no not the animals -- of course).

Reproduced below, a New York Times editorial published on June 2 discusses this problem. Instead of ending the feeding of antibiotics to factory-farmed animals, the temptation is to say, "Stop factory farming!" But the far better thing to say is, "Stop eating meat!"


The point of factory farming is cheap meat, made possible by confining large numbers of animals in small spaces. Perhaps the greatest hidden cost is its potential effect on human health.

Small doses of antibiotics — too small to kill bacteria — are fed to factory farm animals as part of their regular diet to promote growth and offset the risks of overcrowding. What factory farms are really raising is antibiotic-resistant bacteria, which means that several classes of antibiotics no longer work the way they should in humans. We pay for cheap meat by sacrificing some of the most important drugs ever developed.

Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council, joined by other advocacy groups, sued the Food and Drug Administration to compel it to end the nontherapeutic use of penicillin and tetracycline in farm animals. Veterinarians would still be able to treat sick animals with these drugs but could not routinely add the drugs to their diets.

For years, the F.D.A. has had the scientific studies and the authority to ban these drugs. But it has always bowed to pressure from the pharmaceutical and farm lobbies, despite the well-founded objections of groups like the American Medical Association and the World Health Organization, which support an antibiotic ban.

It is time for the F.D.A. to stop corporate factory farms from squandering valuable drugs just to promote growth among animals confined in conditions that inherently create the risk of disease. According to recent estimates, 70 percent of the antibiotics sold in this country end up in farm animals. The F.D.A. can change that by honoring its own scientific conclusions and its statutory obligation to end its approval of unsafe drug uses.