Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Time to take a break


This will be my last AnimalBeat post. I had hoped to “make the world a better place” for animals with this blog – reasoning with readers, effectively persuading and converting through sheer “rightness.”    

It didn’t happen. AB didn’t even attract steady readers, as far as I could tell, except for drivers of horse-drawn carriages. Dubious distinction: I did get their attention!

I could go on forever with blog posts about animal issues that interest, sadden and often enrage me, but without numbers of readers and some positive re-actions, there was no point. So a couple months ago, I decided to call it quits on May 30 – exactly three years from the first post in 2009.

But that couldn’t happen either. Soon after my April 16 post about Harry’s birthday, I saw that Google will soon change everything about the system I had so laboriously learned to use. I can’t go through that again – and still need numbers of readers if I’m to do any good.

Besides, after almost 440 posts, would I be saying anything new? 

So, my thanks to anyone reading this post and others before it. I invite you to try www.nj.com/pets, where I’ve been posting entries about pets since last fall. 

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(The poem that follows was reprinted from today’s Writer’s Almanac [newsletter@americanpublicmedia.org]. It seemed like a fitting last poem here.)

How to Foretell a Change in the Weather

by Ted Kooser 

Rain always follows the cattle
sniffing the air and huddling
in fields with their heads to the lee.
You will know that the weather is changing
when your sheep leave the pasture
too slowly, and your dogs lie about
and look tired; when the cat
turns her back to the fire,
washing her face, and the pigs
wallow in litter; cocks will be crowing
at unusual hours, flapping their wings;
hens will chant; when your ducks
and your geese are too noisy,
and the pigeons are washing themselves;
when the peacocks squall loudly
from the tops of the trees,
when the guinea fowl grates;
when sparrows chip loudly
and fuss in the roadway, and when swallows
fly low, skimming the earth;
when the carrion crow
croaks to himself, and wild fowl
dip and wash, and when moles
throw up hills with great fervor;
when toads creep out in numbers;
when frogs croak; when bats
enter the houses; when birds
begin to seek shelter,
and the robin approaches your house;
when the swan flies at the wind,
and your bees leave the hive;
when ants carry their eggs to and fro,
and flies bite, and the earthworm
is seen on the surface of things.

(from Flying at Night, Copyright symbolUniversity of Pittsburg (sic) Press, 1985)  
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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

EASEL @ the Farmers Market

There's news of all sorts in the animal world, so much of it that it's hard to summarize.Let's start local with the EASEL adoption day last Saturday at the Trenton Farmers Market. (Luckily, we missed the drenching Nor'easter by a day, and had to "endure" only bright sun and gusty breezes at times.)

The best part, as usual, was how the dogs seemed to relish being out of the shelter and into the bright light of day -- meeting people, looking around and being the center of attention.

Another highlight: the two dogs from Alabama, of the 4 or 5 who were transported from there to New Jersey to escape a kill shelter. The story of their travels will be told later. Suffice it to say here that they were dear dogs, a mix of hound and another working breed I forget, with wonderful markings and seemingly lovely manners.

One, "Dixie," was a 3-month old puppy, and darling. The second one was adopted before the 5-hour stretch ended. (His new family is shown in the photo.)

Lots of EASEL people there, and a pretty good turn out of others interested at least in meeting the animals. Some 20 cats were in the county van, able to see out and be seen. No kittens yet; they're still too young.

The bottom line: 2 cats and 2 dogs adopted, for 4 fewer shelter animals in the world. That can only be good!

So now EASEL will continue with weekend adoption events at pet stores in the area -- schedule on the website: www.easelnj.org. Come on out!
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Happy birthday, dear Harry!


“A model of excellence or perfection” – how fitting: the word “paragon” is today’s word in A.Word.A.Day (words@wordsmith.org). Today is also Harry Summers’ seventh birthday.

As indicated in earlier posts – probably last year at this time! – Harry was our first ever cat, nearly seven years ago. Because we were so taken with the tiny, shy orange fluff ball, we converted wholly and happily to cats. (Before long, Billy Summers joined the family, but that’s another story, probably re-told every February 3).

Harry was a “rescue cat,” probably twice, although his exact birthplace was hazy in the telling by Deb, the woman who advertised Harry on Petfinder. Maybe somewhere in Hamilton, maybe in her own backyard – it was never clear.

What was clear: he was adorable. And very, very shy of people, giving us the idea he may have been a feral kitten. Whenever we visited him that summer, on the screen porch in Trenton, he got as far from us as he could. The other cats there were fine with people; not Harry.

Deb even suggested bringing Harry into her house for an extra week, to socialize him more. That was a good idea, although once he came home with us, he was still elusive for awhile.

And, until the first vet appointment, Harry was also still a girl, or so we all thought. The vet’s disclosure – that “Orangina” wouldn’t work for a name because we had a male orange tabby kitten – caused us to re-name our new kid.

“Orangina, “Harry,” the sex and name make no diff – we love him! Happy birthday, grown up pussycat, regal Harry!
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Saturday, April 14, 2012

Animal advocates in perPETual motion


It must seem some time to animal advocates, friends of homeless animals, pet partisans -- call them what you wish -- that fundraising and "pitching pets" are never-ending activities.

Take EASEL Animal Rescue League for instance. On Saturday April 21, Easel is sponsoring a five-hour pet adoption event at the Trenton Farmers Market. Some 20 cats and a half-dozen dogs from the Ewing Animal Shelter will be there between 10-3, ready to be adopted and taken home by their new families.

Then, less than a week later, on Friday, April 27, EASEL will sponsor "Casino Night" at the Trenton Country Club, with proceeds benefiting the animals.

EASEL members -- all unpaid volunteers with lives to lead, jobs and families -- put in tremendous amounts of time for the good of animals -- cats and dogs mostly. While other people may be stretched out on the couch watching TV or even getting chores done, EASEL volunteers are all over the place, thinking up ideas for ways to help animals and carrying them out.

Which is all so impressive, so notable.

If you or someone you know is looking for a pet -- a dog or cat or kitten -- consider stopping by the Farmers Market (960 Spruce St, Lawrence) this Saturday. Wonderful prospective pets will be there. Right now, except for the Ewing Shelter, they are homeless, but they'd love to lose that status.

Stop by to say hello. . . to make a donation. . . to adopt a pet, or all of these. You might also visit the EASEL website -- www.easelnj.org -- which is terrific as well as informative.

Help EASEL help animals find loving, forever homes.
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(Please remember: visit www.nj.com/pets for a mix of info and opinions about pets!)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Welcome back, Jeoffry


(Today’s post is borrowed-in-admiration from The Writer’s Almanac for April 11. Part of a longer poem, "Jubilate Agno,” written in the 18th century under unusual circumstances, this fragment is about a cat. I’ve long been charmed by Jeoffry the cat – and hope readers will be too. [Another section appeared earlier in this blog.] A little info about poet Christopher Smart follows the fragment.)

Fragment B: For I will consider my Cat Jeoffry

For he is the servant of the Living God, duly and daily serving him.
For at the first glance of the glory of God in the East he worships in
his way.
For is this done by wreathing his body seven times round with elegant
quickness.
For he keeps the Lord's watch in the night against the adversary.
For he is of the tribe of Tiger.
For he purrs in thankfulness when God tells him he's a good Cat.
For he is an instrument for the children to learn benevolence upon.
For every house is incomplete without him, and a blessing is lacking in
the spirit.
For he is the cleanest in the use of his forepaws of any quadruped.
For he is the quickest to his mark of any creature.
For there is nothing sweeter than his peace when at rest.
For there is nothing brisker than his life when in motion.
For by stroking of him I have found out electricity.

April 11 is the birthday of poet Christopher Smart, born in Shipbourne, England (1722). After experiencing a religious awakening that convinced him that he was a prophet, he began praying and preaching in the streets of London. He tried to follow the Biblical injunction to "pray ceaselessly," dropping to his knees whenever the spirit moved him. This embarrassed his family, who put him into an asylum, where he wrote the two poems for which he is best known: "A Song to David" (1763) and "Jubilate Agno" (first published in 1938), which includes the section praising his cat, excerpted above.

(Blogger’s note: I doubt the accuracy of the contraction “he’s” in the sixth line starting with “For.” Doesn’t seem very 18th century to me. Calling all English language specialists, who may know either way.)
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Friday, April 6, 2012

What we don’t see doesn’t hurt . . . animals


For animals, the basis of “animal welfare” is simply staying alive. But for countless animals, simply staying alive is difficult to impossible to do.

Only consider the billions of animals – you read it right, billions of them – killed every year to be eaten by humans. For them, NYTimes columnist Mark Bittman argues that “animal welfare” means we should be aware of the “torture” animals go through on the way to being slaughtered.

Because people eat animals, and some are erroneously convinced they must eat meat, innumerable animals must die. And in the process, they suffer unimaginably.

Bittman, with whom I’ve had issues earlier in this blog, seems slowly to be gaining awareness of just how horrific the system of meat production is – initially horrific for the animals involved, of course, and then for the people involved, who are isolated from what happens to the animals.

In a column last month titled “The Human Cost of Animal Suffering,” he wrote about a book whose author was exploring “the normalization of violence.” Not only do most people not know how animals are “processed” into food, but many of the workers involved are also isolated from those horrors.

Not seeing the “process” – which presumably would horrify them and prompt them to protest – helps people tolerate its continuation. And not seeing it, they continue to eat “meat” – i.e., dead animal tissue, which resulted from animal suffering.

“Distancing and concealment” in imprisonment, war, torture, deployment of drones and other sophisticated weapons allow “impersonal killing” to take place over and over again. Bittman says “we should look more carefully at how we raise and kill animals” because “when we all know the system, we’ll be even more eager to change it.”

This whole problem would disappear if people stopped eating animals. But Bittman’s not going there. For now anyway, he’s proposing only to raise and kill them in more humane ways – as if that’s not a contradiction in terms.
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(http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/03/13/the-human-cost-of-animal-suffering/?emc=eta1)

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Unthinkable future for elephants


Elephants are “on the edge.” They’re in serious danger of becoming extinct. After centuries of poaching, culling, starvation and habitat loss, their numbers have dropped from more than ten million to a few hundred thousand.

The current condition of elephants was discussed March 27 on an NPR program, “Here and Now,” from WBUR, Boston. The scientist who spoke about the plight of elephants was G. A. Bradshaw, whose book, Elephants on the Edge: What Animals Teach Us About Humanity (Yale University Press), was published in 2009.

To obtain elephants’ tusks for ivory jewelry and bric-a-brac, some poachers actually use hand grenades to wipe out whole families at a time. Nor does it end there. Close-knit and emotional, with strong family ties, elephants also have elaborate grieving practices for those who die.

Baby elephants lose the mentors they need when adults are killed, and all survivors are traumatized by the noise, bloodshed, death. They show distinct behavioral symptoms like those of young people exposed to war and genocide, who witness their elders and others around them being killed. Overall, the fabric of elephant society has broken down.

Speaking with the show host, Bradshaw indicated that the trauma elephants have experienced is irrevocable. It passes through the generations. Violence leaves scars on the bodies and brains of victims.

Worst of all, she said, local extinctions of elephants could lead to total extinction – which, she thinks, could happen in 20 years.

Unthinkable and unbelievable, is this future also unstoppable?
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(http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2012/03/27/elephants-post-traumatic)

(photo from New York's Natural History Museum)

Monday, April 2, 2012

Friends of . . . carriage horses


In New York City, Friends of Animals has long waged war against horse-drawn carriages. And, given the numbers of tourists who find carriage rides romantic and fun, as well as the numbers of horses involuntarily involved in this inhumane and unnecessary industry, that war was and still is warranted.

Traditionally -- in my experience, anyway -- proponents of horse-drawn carriages (often the owners of both, actively guarding their livelihood) insist the horses want to work and are well taken care of. But I've talked with people who have seen the deplorable stables where these carriage horses are housed, and I've seen the horses out pulling carriages in very cruel weather and/or with dreadful street conditions.

It's all about money -- money that's made on the backs of the horses.

And that’s why, when I heard from Edita Birnkrant, the New York director of Friends of Animals, I immediately wanted to share her story of yesterday’s demo in NYC. The photo here shows Lee Hall, FoA’s VP of Legal Affairs, taking part in the event.

(The first and only time I met Lee was in Philadelphia, a couple years ago on Valentine’s day. She was doing the same thing then: demonstrating against horse-drawn carriages. That event introduced me to how FOA “demonstrates”: without chanting, yelling or insulting passersby. Instead, participants protest by quietly holding signs.)

Here are excerpts from Edita’s report on yesterday’s public outreach event and demonstration that Friends of Animals held at the carriage horse hack line from 11:30 am-3 pm.

The carriage horse industry was holding a media event in which they had not only frightened the poor mini-horse involved, but also another horse they claim they are “retiring” to the forced labor camp they call a “sanctuary” in Massachusetts. They unloaded these horses from a trailer and trotted them around on the street and allowed the public to surround the mini-horse and grab at it, as if they were in a petting zoo.

The carriage industry was there with their bizarre signs about sharing the road with horses, who “paved the way,” and most of them were incredibly hostile to us as we handed out our flyers. The police had to get involved when one of them shoved one of our volunteers. Overall, they were infuriated that we ruined their event, outnumbered them, and of course, outclassed them.

In my interview with NY1, I rebut the claim about the industry “retiring” their horses, stressing that the state ban legislation that’s pending would place horses in a true sanctuary, where they can’t be exploited for commercial gain or forced labor. I also pointed out that no horse chooses to pull carriages in NYC, so “retirement” is an absurd term to use.

It was a worthwhile day of action during which many tourists changed their minds about taking carriage rides, hundreds more took our flyers, and we ruined the carriage industry’s efforts to delude the media and public into believing they “retire” their horses anywhere except the slaughterhouse.

For details on the entire situation of carriage horses in NYC, see the latest issue of FoA’s Act*ion Line magazine, which includes Birnkrant’s article, “The Campaign to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages Goes to the State Level; New York Senate Assembly Bill Seeks to End Exploitation.”
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Thursday, March 29, 2012

Some "sport"

The quote of the day in last Sunday’s New York Times was, "It's hard to justify how many horses we go through. In humans you never see someone snap their leg off running in the Olympics. But you see it in horse racing." (Dr. Rick K. Arthur, equine medical director for the California Racing Board).

That quote should be an indication of the story content under this headline: “Mangled Horses, Maimed Jockeys” and this subhead: “Drugs, Lax Oversight and Growing Casino Purses Exact a Nationwide Toll.”

Here are excerpts from the story, which began on page 1 and spilled to two full pages inside, including color photos of injured race horses before or after being euthanized.

The main point to be made about this situation is that the jockeys choose to ride horses for a living; the horses have no say in any of it. So, besides horse-drawn carriages and war horses, this is one more example of horses having to serve humans – or more specifically in this case, humans’ greed.

* . . . On the ground next to him, his frightened horse, leg broken and chest heaving, was minutes away from being euthanized on the track.

* On average, 24 horses die each week at racetracks across America.

* (In 2008, after Kentucky Derby horse Eight Belles broke two ankles . . . and was euthanized, the racing industry promised to make horseracing safer.) But . . . “industry practices continue to put animal and rider at risk.”

* All too often at racetracks, “trainers who illegally pump sore horses full of painkillers to mask injury – and then race them – are neither fined nor suspended and owners of those drugged horses usually keep their winnings.”

* As many as 90 percent of horses that break down had pre-existing injuries, California researchers have found.


To describe horse racing as a “sport” is a cruel joke. It is a crime.
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(http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/us/death-and-disarray-at-americas-racetracks.html?nl=todaysheadlines&emc=edit_th_20120325)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Real snake has lock on scariness




It may have seemed that Nagani, Voldemort’s huge venomous snake in the Harry Potter series, was the scariest snake imaginable. And in fact that’s true – because a real live snake – from 60 million years ago – is much scarier to contemplate.

That 48-foot long reptile, whose diameter was the size of a manhole, weighed more than a ton. It lived after the dinosaurs and on a different continent, when rain forests were just beginning. Its scientific name, “Titanoboa,” sums up its size and methodology.

For more about this UN-cuddlesome creature, check out the full story at NewJerseyNewsroom.com.
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Thursday, March 22, 2012

An advocate's sanctuary 'for the animals'


With an image like that on the front page, who wouldn't read the rest? The Animal Protection League Activator is a solid newsletter every time, but this photo and the accompanying story make it irresistible.

It's hard to decide whether the pig or the woman looks happier, but isn't it great that they both do? He is Brutus, while she is Debbie Kowalski, and they're each a part of For the Animals Sanctuary, in Blairstown.

Brutus wouldn't look like that without Kowalski; nor would the other animals there who were all rescued from the food farming trade. Kowalski, a nurse, began as an animal advocate after seeing what happened to animals in the vivisection industry. From the Stop Huntingdon Animal Cruelty site she moved into veganism and on to co-found Caring Activists Against Fur with Julie O'Connor, who still leads that organization.

The sanctuary was Kolawski's next stop -- and she's still there, most recently saving a mother and her calf from the milk industry.

The sanctuary's website is www.ForTheAnimalsSanctuary.org. Warning: you’ll want to visit the place once you see pictures of the animals there.

For those not familiar with the APLNJ newsletter (bottom of home page, aplnj.org), its remaining space includes a rundown on “Legislative Assault on Wildlife”; a vegan recipe; extensive information about New Jersey’s black bears and steps toward protecting them; and excerpts from “2010 slaughterhouse figures for the US,” including the following:

Pigs: 133.9 Million
Turkeys: 276.2 Million
Chickens (Meat): 9 BILLION 210.4 Million
Cattle/Calves: 39.2 Million
TOTAL for land animals alone: 10 BILLION 152.8 Million
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(Note: photo courtesy APLNJ)

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

2nd lab animal dies in ‘pattern of negligence’


(Tsk! Those pesky, forgetful lab employees. They did it again. Another lab monkey gone. . . . Oh, well, plenty more where s/he came from!)

For the second time in five months, a monkey in the dubious “care” of Bristol-Myers Squibb has died. This one, because s/he was restrained and left unattended, according to the story in the Trenton Times yesterday.

The earlier death in a BMS lab occurred when a monkey was left in a cage that was put through the wash cycle. Scalded to death. Hard to believe, right?

The pharma giant was cited by the US Dept. of Agriculture in an inspection report, and a company spokesperson confirmed the Dec. 17 death. She indicated employees “failed to follow established company policies and procedures designed to protect animals in our care.”

BMS’s “care” means the company uses primates to test pharmaceuticals – “a practice that has been repeatedly denounced by animal rights activists,” according to the TimTimes.

Once more, this lab animal death was reported to the media by Michael Budkie, executive director of SAEN (Stop Animal Exploitation Now), which has filed a complaint with the USDA, demanding additional citations and punitive action.

The USDA enforces the 1966 Animal Welfare Act, which the Times reports “is the only federal law that regulates the treatment of animals in research, exhibition and transport, and by dealers, according to the department’s website.”

“When you start to see multiple primate deaths this becomes what can only be described as a pattern of negligence,” Budkie said.
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(NOTE: go to www.nj.com/pets and scroll down for a list of 14 “pets” and information about a New York art show featuring animals in images, literature and music.)

Monday, March 19, 2012

This show must NOT go on


Exotic and wild animals in circuses – that’s bad enough. But those same animals forced to travel the country in squalid and cruel conditions – that’s too much. Please call, fax or email your Congressional representative tomorrow -- Tuesday, March 20 -- and help save wild animals from the traveling circus life, an awful life for all involved.

The Performing Animal Welfare Society (or PAWS,www.PAWSweb.org) is working with Animal Defenders International (ADI) to mount a mass broad-based support campaign, declaring, “The show must not go on!” We can help toward that goal by urging legislators in the House of Representatives to act positively on H.R. 3359, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA).

This life-saving bill is in the Agriculture Committee of the House of Representatives – reports PAWS, describing it as “the committee where most animal protection laws are assigned, and all too often, die.” Unless we act tomorrow, that bill may never make it out of committee.

According to the PAWS website, “Traveling circuses cause suffering to exotic and wild animals," as follows:

* Limited space. The animals' living spaces are always small and the animals’ ability to move around is severely restricted.

* Extended hours inside vehicles. Not only are circus animals forced to travel great distances, but they must also be loaded well before the circus is packed to travel to the next location. The animals must then wait in their vehicles while the circus is set up, before they can be unloaded. Set up time can take as long as 24 hours, even on short journeys.

* Lack of free exercise and restriction of natural behaviors. Circuses may pitch their show in any spot they can find – on roadsides, in fields, on a concrete parking lot. The animals’ needs are not taken into consideration.

* Stress from abnormal conditions. Solitary animals are housed alongside other animals; prey species are kept in sight of predators; family group animals are isolated. Any of these circumstances can cause psychological suffering, and sometimes even insanity.

* The tricks these animals are forced to perform require extreme physical coercion and violence, including the restriction of food and/or water, use of bull hooks, stun guns and other electric shock devices, as well as metal bars, whips, and intimidation.

These conditions cause the animals to be prone to health, behavioral and psychological problems. The extreme levels of stress that circus animals endure can make an already dangerous animal even more dangerous, a scary thought when you consider their close proximity to the public. These situations have resulted in human injuries and even deaths.

Please call, fax or email your Congressional rep tomorrow. Support H.R. 3359!
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***** visit www.nj.com/pets for a mix of info and opinions about pets.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Afternoon of the mobbin' robins


What brings them out, all together? Is it the time of year or month? the weather (this was a sunny, warm, premature spring day)? Could it have been pre- or post-rain (by a few days in each case)?

Or, as I think I asked last year around this time, did one of the robins call a convention in Village Park? It looked that way: they were there in droves (or whatever robin mobs are called), all over the ground on one side of the fenced baseball field. That was empty at the time, so they weren't at risk -- except maybe from a couple bike riders.

There were too many of them to even think of feeding (and I refuse to carry worms around as I do nuts for the squirrels). Nor did they seem to wish for anything, except to be right where they were, doing just what they were doing: enjoying the beautiful afternoon.

After that, they could fly home and tell the wife and family* all about it.
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* We badly need a naturalist here. would there be robin families yet? do they eat worms? (I "know" only that they're ground feeders.) What else is on their menu? What's a robin mob called? And what were they really doing there?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

The cruelest show on earth


They're baaaaack: the “Baby Beaters,” a.k.a. Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

Baby beaters? Yes, for sure. You wouldn't want to be a baby elephant within range of this crowd.

It’s horrible enough that adult elephants and other wild animals are forced to exist in a circus setting, far removed from anything like natural habitat . . . to travel around the country in train cars for most of the year, through extremes of climate . . . march in demeaning parades when the circus comes to town . . . and perform “tricks” alien to them in real life for just two reasons: human enjoyment and circus profit.

But babies too?

Nothing positive can be said about RBandB&B where animals are concerned, despite or especially because of the phony website claims about taking care of performing Asian elephants and conserving the species at a Florida site.

Then there’s the testimony from former circus employees about animal cruelty; the law suits against RBandB&B; the tear-inducing pictures of baby elephants being tortured into learning “tricks” and following commands (http://circuses.com/bullhooks.asp). Already cruelly torn from their mothers (in the wild, they stay together), the elephant babies are turned into involuntary performers.

Captive, sad, lonely and debased for their lifetimes, all so people can watch them do dangerous, uncomfortable tricks. It is so wrong. The circus must be “the cruelest show on earth.”
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Thursday, March 8, 2012

Rick Berman (cont.)


Thanks to a representative of The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), here’s more information about Rick Berman, the behind-the-scenes bad guy connected with “front groups” that cause trouble for numerous organizations.


Rick Berman has set up a network of groups that attack public interest charities such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, The Humane Society of the United States, environmental nonprofits, and others. The groups often have positive-sounding names like the ‘Center for Consumer Freedom’ or the ‘Center for Union Facts,’ but they use misleading attacks to try to discredit various organizations.

. . . You can find more information about Berman on our website:

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/opposition/facts/faq_berman_hssp12162011.html

(FAQ on Rick Berman)

http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/opposition/facts/center_for_consumer_freedom.html

(Info on the Center for Consumer Freedom)

Other webpages such as SourceWatch also offer more information on Rick Berman, if you’re interested. The Center for Consumer Freedom also sends out press releases criticizing PETA and many other groups.

At this point, enough said on the subject of Rick Berman. The moral is that when we encounter surprising claims about or criticism of organizations we’re inclined to trust, we should check out the sources instead of simply accepting and spreading those claims or criticisms.
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Monday, March 5, 2012

New members of the wedding


Let's assume the best: Even the woman who carries her tiny dog around in a stylish tote bag could be doing that because she likes having her best friend with her. That may be a small example of how people want to involve their pets in their most important activities. . . like weddings.

When it comes to nuptials, dogs and cats -- and chickens -- are in some wedding parties. They may dress for the occasion, and they may even stay dressed for the occasion.

It's all in a NYTimes story that ran earlier this year about the growing percentage of couples who involve their pets in their weddings.

You can read more about this trend at www.nj.com/pets, which includes a link to the Times coverage. And that nj,com site is strictly about pets, by the way, so you can drop in often for stimulating reading and some good ideas (we hope!).

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SAVE THE DATE: Saturday, March 31, from 12-4 pm: the grand opening of the NEW Ewing Animal Shelter. Around 12, the township mayor will cut the ribbon on the new facility, and after that come building tours and "tabling" by other animal groups, Ewing's health dept., vendors and trainers. There may be pet adoptions that day too -- after all, that's what the shelter exists to facilitate.

Check local media, this blog and nj.com/pets for more details as the date comes closer. And please help spread the word.
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Friday, March 2, 2012

Smoke and/or fire?


The last post had to do with PETA and (what seem to be) the growing number of accusations of animal cruelty against that organization. Here’s another side to the PETA rep’s response that was reproduced last time. The source of the following comment is a highly reputable writer on issues having to do with animals.


The State of Virginia’s Veterinary Office, however, is not a front group.

http://ow.ly/97CQs Office of the [Virginia] State Veterinarian 2010 report: PETA collected 1553 cats Killed 1507. Placed only 28.

http://ow.ly/97CQs Office of the [Virginia] State Veterinarian 2010 report: PETA collected 792 dogs Killed 693 and placed only 16.

When asked, “How can PETA run the risk of exposure or misunderstanding, or a combination, by turning in such numbers?” the reply was, “Evidently they count on public acceptance of this maltreatment of dogs and cats.”


Bottom line for now: It’s hard to judge credibility when numbers are being tossed around and when we know there are “front groups” whose purpose is to discredit organizations. I hope to add more from another animal welfare organization soon.
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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

A comment conundrum


“WalterH” commented on my February 10 post, and instead of simply publishing or deleting what he said, I decided to address it here.

Reacting to the "Go, PETA!” post about a lawsuit PETA brought in behalf of captive killer whales, or orcas, WalterH wrote: “ Pat, As a responsible journalist, you should really represent who PETA really are. (http://beefmagazine.com/blog/peta-killed-95-pets-its-care-2011-watchdog-group-charges )”

First of all, Walter, you must be eager to criticize PETA if you seize on a post having nothing to do with PETA and pets – which is the subject of your link. Second, were you careful about the source of your information? (I’d sure have questions about something called Beef Magazine, and one look at it would have proven any suspicions.)

Do you know what a front group is, Walter? I checked with PETA about it, and for your further reading, I recommend the response received from Nicole Dao that’s reprinted below. After that, you might want to contact PETA directly when you have issues/questions/complaints.

CCF is a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year—and do so not out of compassion, but out of greed. Have a look at BermanExposed.org and ConsumerDeception.com.

CCF puts out this release every year when we submit our numbers to the state. We have a small division that does hands-on work with animals, and most of the animals we take in are society's rejects; aggressive, on death's door, or somehow unadoptable. We have posted many blogs about this over the years. CCF's goal is to damage PETA by misrepresenting the situation and the number of unwanted and suffering animals PETA euthanizes because of injury, illness, age, aggression, and other problems, because their guardians requested it, or because no good homes exist for them.

PETA sent out a news release about these numbers weeks ago, and it was picked up by media at that time. So, as you can see, CCF is distributing old information.

I would also like to direct you to a recent blog post [http://www.peta.org/b/thepetafiles/archive/2012/02/20/a-gentle-hand-for-the-toughest-cases.aspx] about PETA’s work on helping to end the suffering of animals in Norfolk, VA.


(Blogger's note: Tune in next time for still another look at this issue.)

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Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Another ‘hunger game’

Poetry so often speaks more effectively than prose. The poem that follows came from today’s Poem-A-Day, which I receive daily via email from the American Academy of Poets.

I doubt that any other words could express so well, or so sadly, the plight of deer in winter – especially these days when deer habitat is ever more limited and humans regard deer as little more than traffic hazards. In neighboring Princeton, the culling continues. . .


Winter Study


by Mark Wunderlich


Two days of snow, then ice
and the deer peer from the ragged curtain of trees.

Hunger wills them, hunger
pulls them to the compass of light

spilling from the farmyard pole.
They dip their heads, hold

forked hooves
above snow, turn furred ears

to scoop from the wind
the sounds of hounds, or men.

They lap at a sprinkling of grain,
pull timid mouthfuls from a stray bale.

The smallest is lame, with a leg
healed at angles, and a fused knob

where a joint once bent.
It picks, stiff, skidding its sickening limb

across the ice's dark platter.
Their fear is thick as they break a trail

to the center of their predator's range.
To know the winter

is to ginger forth from a bed in the pines,
to search for a scant meal

gleaned from the carelessness
of a killer.


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Monday, February 27, 2012

Lobster’s size saved it


A week or so ago, a shrimp fisherman off Rockland, Maine, pulled up his nets and found a 27-pound lobster. That size Crustacean is hard to visualize, so imagine holding a three-year old child (without giant red claws) in your arms. One media story offered that comparison.

This lobster, named “Rocky” because of where he was caught and his claws’ resemblance to Rocky Balboa in boxing gloves, did not go into a giant lobster pot filled with boiling water.

The guy who netted him decided instead to take him to a maritime aquarium, where Rocky was weighed and measured, admired and photographed (after his claws were banded) . . . and a few days later, released back into the Atlantic.

For more information about Rocky, including why he escaped becoming dinner for at least one Maine family, go to the site below.

http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/science-updates/rocky-the-giant-lobster-escapes-the-usual-fate-of-maine-catches

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Reminders: (1) Tuesday the 28th is National Spay Day, an event promoted by the Humane Society of the US. Check the organization website (listed at right) to get an idea of what people all over the country are doing to observe the day.

Be alert: there may be special spay/neuter-related activities in this area. Every spay helps a cat to avoid continuous pregnancies and live healthier. It also helps level off the number of feral cats in the world – which is great, because they are the least likely cats to survive if they’re picked up and taken to shelters.

(2) Visit www.nj.com/pets for in-depth commentaries about pets.
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Thursday, February 23, 2012

WANTED: world spay day participation!


Cat cafes. Depending on where you may be in the world, those two words mean different things. Both "definitions" are basically good.

In Japan, cat cafes allow cat lovers (many who can't have cats where they live) to interact with felines who are there for that purpose. Closer to home in St. Thomas, cat cafes are decorative feeding and watering stations for feral cats on the island.

Who could argue with either kind when cats are well-treated at both? (Please visit www.nj.com/pets for details on both types, with an emphasis on the Caribbean version.)

Here in New Jersey right now, we're on the cusp of kitten season -- a time when feral cats, already getting enough negative attention, have litters of kittens, which means still more cats living outdoors.

Of course, the overall answer continues to be T-N-R, or trap, neuter, return. If adult feral cats are sterilized, they can't procreate. They can live out their lives, often in a colony, until the colony gradually dies off.

The challenge to T-N-R is . . . T-N-R: quite simply, not enough people have bought into the T-N-R concept; not enough people are involved in trapping, neutering and returning feral cats, with the result that there will be more kittens this spring and more adult feral cats next year, and so on and so on.

Next week is World Spay Day, an annual event when the Humane Society of the US and other organizations promote T-N-R even more strongly. (Click on HSUS in the box at right for more details.)

Spay Day events are planned all over (the HSUS site includes a map), though none show for the Trenton area -- yet. There's still time to pull something together and get numbers of cats sterilized; every neutered cat helps!
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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Recommended reading


A dear friend has shared a dear book: Give a Cat a Home: True tales of courage and survival. A diminutive 5" x 6 1/2," it's about the Battersea Dogs & Cats Home in London, and the animals it shelters and "re-homes" every year.

Published in 2008, the book was written and illustrated by Anna Danielle, who is also the author-artist behind Give a Dog a Home. It tells the stories of cats at Battersea and how they were helped, sometimes moving on to new loving homes as well. Charming and poignant.

* * * * * *

The differences between human and non-human animals seem to become more blurry every day. The Feb. 20 Time magazine cover story describes “friendship” – not between people, but between non-human animals. In “Friends with Benefits,” Carl Zimmer claims that “Humans aren’t the only species capable of forging true and lasting friendships. Animals do it too – and get many of the same rewards.”

A graphic with the article sketches how “different species experience friendship in different ways” – horses, dolphins and chimpanzees, for instance.

It’s heartening to think that (non-human) animals may be getting some of the benefits of friendship. Many of them live in a world where every friend helps and can make a difference.

* * * * * * * *

The January 23 New Yorker includes “Slow and Steady,” William Finnegan’s “Letter from Madagascar” about how a Manhattan hotel and restaurant owner is working feverishly to save an ancient species – the plowshare, “one of the rarest tortoises in the world.”

Finnegan describes the first plowshare he saw: “She was strikingly tall. Perhaps sixteen inches long, she seemed nearly as high, like a walking Hussar helmet. She had a curving spear of shell jutting out from between her front legs, under her chin. This spear. . . had once put someone in mind of a plow.”

Facing extinction in the wild, the plowshare is sought after by collectors as well as scientists and others who want to breed the tortoise – not an easy task.

* * * * * * *

To read more about animals, please visit www.nj.com/pets.
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Friday, February 17, 2012

Battery cages must go


Egg-laying hens in most states are crowded together in wire "battery cages." Unbelievably, each one of these cages -- comparable in size to a microwave oven, but taller -- can hold between 4-11 hens.

Clearly, animals housed this way are regarded as nothing more than egg-producers, as if they weren't even alive. There's no consideration of their comfort, let alone their normal life style -- which of course does not include living in a cramped wire cage with other hens, never free to walk around, move wings or scratch the ground.

This disgusting treatment has gone on for a long time as a facet of factory farming. Only now is there slow movement toward eliminating battery cages, the NYTimes reported in a Feb. 14 editorial ("More Humane Egg Production").

A federal bill would call for "labeling on all egg cartons to specify whether the eggs are from caged, cage-free or free-range hens." (Exact definitions for these terms were not included, and earlier reading indicates "free-range," nice as it sounds compared with battery cages, can mean very limited time on the ground among countless other hens: not very free; not very far-ranging. )

Further, it would "phase in over the next 15 years to 18 years (!!!) requirements for larger cages, perches,scratching areas and nesting boxes," with farmers allowed full depreciation on their present "equipment."

More humane treatment of laying hens is not right around the corner! How many more generations of chickens will suffer in battery cages till there's change for the better?

* * * * * *

A couple more points on McDonald's move toward eventual elimination of gestation crates among their suppliers. It consumes about 1% of the nation's total production, a number considered huge and potentially influential. The National Pork Producers Council, reportedly concerned about the possibility of (more sweeping and stringent?) federal legislation on farming practices, will work with McDonald's to assure changes for sows are market-driven, not the result of government mandates.

* * * * * *

If you're thinking about assuring your pets' healthy, happy future if they live longer than you, and/or if you're interested in another take on the recent Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show, you're invited to visit the Star-Ledger pets page at www.nj.com/pets and scroll down for information and opinions on both subjects.
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Monday, February 13, 2012

Scratch that act & other briefs


Who knows how seriously to take the idea about bringing back the Steel Pier diving horse act -- the good news is it's been scrapped, again, and maybe for the last time. Now, we read, the reconstituted Steel Pier will focus on the future, not the past.

Little was said in the statement about the animal advocates who protested in the thousands at change.org. Maybe the pier owners had visions of mass demonstrations if/when the diving horse act started again.

It really doesn't matter because the thing we all protested won't happen now.

* * * * * *

To McDonald's well publicized action this week on gestation crates for sows, we offer small kudos and feel only "modified rapture," as Gilbert & Sullivan put it.

After all, the fast food giant is talking only about eliminating these metal crates that don't even allow pregnant pigs to turn around in. It will be months before their suppliers submit plans for this, and probably many more months more before sows are crate-free.

But they and their offspring will still wind up being slaughtered for human food. That's the bottom line here. Sure, eventually there may be one fewer inhumane way to treat pigs along the way, but the way still leads to their deaths for human purposes.

* * * * * *

In the January 31 NYTimes, science writer Natalie Angier wrote about the African crested rat, which is a rat just the same, but one with potent chemical weapons to deter predators.

First of all, this rat is "so large, flamboyantly furred and thickly helmeted" that it seems at first to be an altogether different animal. Not so. This one's better protected, though, because it gnaws on trees known to contain a toxin traditionally used by African hunters to kill elephants.

With the toxin spread on hairs along its flank, the crested rat can sicken or kill a predator who takes one nip. Result, Angier reports: "African's many carnivores give the rat a wide berth."
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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Diving horse (and animal abuse) redux


There’s not enough animal abuse these days. Let’s ramp it up.

Let’s see . . . what can we add to the inventory of ways to hurt, demean and exploit animals? Ah, got it! Bring back the Steel Pier diving horse!

We can always learn from the past, and this diving horse idea is pure inspiration. People used to love it in Atlantic City, so they’ll probably come out in droves for it again.

What about the horse, you ask? Not to worry – horses love diving from great heights into water. Just like those Lipizzaner horses who love doing those crazy dance steps. Nothing like a trained animal . . . except the money it’ll bring in.

Just think of the circus tigers and elephants who do tricks too – even the baby elephants, taken away from their mothers so they can be trained to keep up the family tradition.

Animals love attention and want to work. We’re just helping them . . .

* * * * * * * * * *

The recent announcement that the Steel Pier diving horse act will in fact return this summer has triggered a protest reaction by animal activists (who must have thought this idea died a final death in the 90s, when they objected to a much smaller scale version of it – and stopped it.)

But no, it seems that awful ideas live longest. Here’s a link to the story about it from the Press of Atlantic City; if necessary, please just copy and paste:

http://m.pressofatlanticcity.com/mobile/article_0b491910-4e10-11e1-9238-001871e3ce6c.html

Those who want to sign a petition against this idiocy can go to www.change.org.
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Friday, February 10, 2012

Go, PETA!


It's not likely to make a legal difference, but it's sure to generate discussions -- and that's the first step toward change.

The "it" is the lawsuit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) against SeaWorld in behalf of killer whales. Five whales, or orcas, all involuntary residents of SeaWorld, are named as plaintiffs.

The killer whales "are treated like slaves for being forced to live in tanks and perform daily at the SeaWorld parks in California and Florida," PETA claims.

According to the Feb. 6 BBC story, the lawsuit "invokes the 13th Amendment to the constitution, which abolished "slavery or involuntary servitude" in the US.

While the whales are not expected to win their freedom, those involved with the case said they're happy it even made it into a courtroom. This may be the first time a US court has heard legal arguments over whether animals should enjoy the same constitutional protections as humans.

The five orca plaintiffs -- all captured in the wild -- were named: Tilikum and Katina, at SeaWorld Orlando; and Kasatka, Corky and Ulises, at SeaWorld San Diego.

The decision here is that these orcas and all non-human inhabitants of SeaWorld and other such marine parks should go free; that all such marine parks should be closed forever; that all animals living in captivity and forced to be displayed or to perform for human entertainment or profit be freed . . . that, in short, humans stop exploiting non-human animals.

Of course, alas, that decision is non-binding.
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Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Beautiful bond

(Reproduced below, Linda Gregg’s poem came from Chosen by the Lion. © Graywolf Press, 1994. It appeared in the January 31, 2012 edition of The Writer’s Almanac. All horses, and people, should be so lucky.)

The Weight

Two horses were put together in the same paddock.
Night and day. In the night and in the day
wet from heat and the chill of the wind
on it. Muzzle to water, snorting, head swinging
and the taste of bay in the shadowed air.
The dignity of being. They slept that way,
knowing each other always.
Withers quivering for a moment,
fetlock and the proud rise at the base of the tail,
width of back. The volume of them, and each other's weight.
Fences were nothing compared to that.
People were nothing. They slept standing,
their throats curved against the other's rump.
They breathed against each other,
whinnied and stomped.
There are things they did that I do not know.
The privacy of them had a river in it.
Had our universe in it. And the way
its border looks back at us with its light.
This was finally their freedom.
The freedom an oak tree knows.
That is built at night by stars.

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Monday, February 6, 2012

Iguanas, feral cats & St. Thomas


Just back from a visit to "Technicolorland," aka St. Thomas, USVI, and sorry to report that for feral cats on that beautiful island, all is not well. Or at least, all is not united.

And while the status of iguanas on St. Thomas is still looking good -- we saw and enjoyed them in all their usual haunts -- it's very bad news for iguanas on Puerto Rico. There, officials have decided to kill off island iguanas and sell their meat.

Details on this cruel "solution" to what people there see as an iguana problem can be found at my 2nd blog -- www.nj.com/pets.

Now back to St. Thomas cats . . . Last February after returning from vacation, I wrote a number of posts here about the woman who had founded the "cat cafe" program, Dellia Holodenschi. At the time, she was working with the Humane Society of St. Thomas.

Since then, a lot has happened, including a rupture between the two, with Dellia starting her own foundation to continue with the cat cafes (and their Trap-Neuter-Return component.) The HS operations manager was unavailable to meet with me -- a great disappointment because of course I’m there only once a year.

That, plus the fact that their new facility should be opening any time now, and I didn’t get to see either the current site or it. So as far as cats are concerned, then, this was nearly a feline-free vacation, except for the few feral cats at MorningStar, where we stayed. They were usually in the vicinity of the cat cafĂ© near the restaurant.
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Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Peter Singer and 'animal studies'


Not long ago, the words "animal studies" would probably have suggested lab animals -- that is, animals used in lab experiments. But now, the phrase often refers to a new, growing but still undefined academic field: "animal studies."

Harvard, Dartmouth and NYU are among the colleges and universities offering courses that have to do with "the way humans and animals interact," according to one prof. That could include art, literature, sociology, anthropology, film, theater, philosophy, religion -- all of which include animals.

The six-year old Animals and Society Institute lists more than 100 courses in animal studies offered around the country. Its website, www.animalsandsociety.org, describes it as "where knowledge and science meet ethics and compassion." (Yea!)

Why "animal studies"? Increasingly over the years, according to the NYTimes story where this was reported on Jan. 2, similarities between humans and other animals have become clear. Language, tool use, even the roots of morality -- all are characteristic of both animals and humans.

Among the reasons behind this growing "animal studies" trend, philosophy is mentioned as possibly the most direct influence, with Peter Singer's Animal Liberation (1975) cited as an example.

I wonder: during the production of his seminal book, could Peter Singer possibly have foreseen the effect it would have on individuals and organizations? Could he ever have dreamed it would become the cornerstone of a major new academic area of study? Then I wonder: how much more his book may yet affect human and animal life for the better.

Talk about a ripple effect -- say rather a positive tsunami!
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(http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/03/science/animal-studies-move-from-the-lab-to-the-lecture-hall.html?emc=eta1)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Princeton beaver-shooting case: stalled


More than 8 months ago, two beavers were shot and killed in a Princeton, NJ park. The shooter, who apparently had no authorization to kill the animals, was Princeton’s animal control officer, of all people.

Since then, though there's been talk of what’s happening with this case, in fact there’s been more talk than anything else. Investigations, reports, court dates . . . blah, blah, blah. . . and the shooter is still on the job doing heaven-knows-what-else with impunity.

For a run-down of “events” since May 13, 2011, click on the link below or, worst case, copy and paste it.

http://www.newjerseynewsroom.com/science-updates/in-princeton-beaver-shooting-case-wheels-of-justice-seem-stalled



* * * * * * * * *

SAVE THE DATE to save homeless cats!

Rain or shine on Saturday, January 28, the “Trenton Cats” organization will sponsor a Cat Adoption Day in support of the Trenton Animal Shelter. Scheduled at the Trenton Farmers Market on Spruce Street, Lawrence Township, the event will run from 11 am-3 pm.

These are cats who did not find loving homes for the holidays. In fact, some of them lost loving homes – they were abandoned at just the time everyone needs a warm home.

Besides adoptions, donations are also welcome.

Watch this blog for more details, and/or contact Sandra at TrentonCats@gmail.com.


* * * * * * * * *

Reminder: You’re invited to take a look at my other blog,www.nj.com/pets. Read about hypoallergenic dogs and the last word on declawing cats.

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Monday, January 16, 2012

Of caged birds


Today commemorates the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, equal rights and peace activist, Nobel laureate and assassination victim. In honor of the date and the man, the poem below appeared on a couple websites, and the note with it (on www.PotW.org -- Poem of the Week) explained the connection between the poem and Maya Angelou, who came much later.

Like many poems, this one can be read on many levels, including the literal level of a caged bird and the sadness it must often feel. "Caged bird" on every level is a contradiction in terms.


Sympathy

I know what the caged bird feels, alas!
When the sun is bright on the upland slopes;
When the wind stirs soft through the springing grass,
And the river flows like a stream of glass;
When the first bird sings and the first bud opes,
And the faint perfume from its chalice steals —
I know what the caged bird feels!

I know why the caged bird beats his wing
Till its blood is red on the cruel bars;
For he must fly back to his perch and cling
When he fain would be on the bough a-swing;
And a pain still throbs in the old, old scars
And they pulse again with a keener sting —
I know why he beats his wing!

I know why the caged bird sings, ah me,
When his wing is bruised and his bosom sore,—
When he beats his bars and he would be free;
It is not a carol of joy or glee,
But a prayer that he sends from his heart's deep core,
But a plea, that upward to Heaven he flings —
I know why the caged bird sings!

--Paul Laurence Dunbar (1872-1906)


(The above poem was published in Lyrics of the Hearthside by Dodd, Mead and Company in 1899. It was this poem that inspired the title to Maya Angelou's autobiography I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings.)

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Saturday, January 14, 2012

A walk in the park


It's a different experience to walk in the park just for walking purposes -- briskly, purposefully, all that good stuff -- and to walk in the park for purposes of capturing animals . . . on camera.

Of course a weekend or holiday is the best time for this, preferably with warmish weather, however unseasonable it may be. That combination brings out the fathers with kids and balls -- and dogs. And the couples walking their dogs. And the loners walking two dogs. One day recently, I encountered all these, and more.

To my surprise, they all agreed to let me take their dogs' pictures. First came Cookie, a fluffy white mixed breed, who wanted to play ball with a little boy and his dad -- except that she was leashed to one of their backpacks, and dragged it around with her on the perimeter of their game.

Cyrus and Beatrix were next -- a big, black long-haired German Shepherd and a squat little Corgi. They were walking with a man who warmed up talking about them. Beatrix, he specified, was named for the royal Beatrix, of the Netherlands, while Cyrus looked the way German-German Shepherds ought to look.

Then came Baby, a female pit bull who had been saved from litter after litter. The woman walking her was a friend of Baby's owner-savior. Finally, Luna, a Boston Terrier -- haven't seen one of those in a long while -- was walking from the car she arrived in toward the home she and her people were visiting.

It was a great day to be out and around, meeting these terrific dogs who seemed to feel the same way.
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Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Against declawing & fur for humans


It happens, but that doesn't make it right or desirable. The "it" here is declawing cats. It's most often done to protect furniture, as silly as that may sound. People look at a cat, whose standard equipment includes claws, and decide to redesign the cat -- rather than look around for alternatives to that procedure.

And there are plenty of alternatives to this inhumane practice that's illegal in at least 3 European countries, though not in the US.

For details about declawing and its alternatives, please visit www.nj.com/pets, another place where I blog about/for animals. The two most recent entries there are all about declawing.

**************

This reminder from Caring Activists Against Fur: this weekend, celebrating Martin Luther King, is often also the time for big sales, including furs, and never the twain should meet -- a proponent of peace and an industry that's all about death.

The organization invites others against fur to rally at three sites, as shown below:

Sat., Jan. 14 - Steven Corn Furs, 358 Rte. 17N Paramus, NJ -- 1-2:30 pm
Sun., Jan. 15 - Bloomingdale's, Lexington Ave. at 59th NYC -- 1-3 pm
Mon., Jan. 16 - Macy's, 151 W. 34th St. NYC -- 1–3 pm

For more details, visit www.CAAFGroup.com or email information@caafgroup.com.

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Friday, January 6, 2012

It doesn't end with war horses


Shades of “war horses” – there are also “war dogs.” And in these enlightened times, the reactions they may exhibit to warfare can now be diagnosed and often treated successfully.

Of course, dogs’ main reaction – “What am I doing here, involved in peoples’ issues?!” – will not be diagnosed. That’s because it’s not in peoples’ interest to free dogs from that reaction – humans long ago decided other animals exist to serve their needs.

Accordingly, “military dogs” deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan are being diagnosed as suffering from “canine post traumatic stress disorder,” or CPTSD. Exposed to gunfire, explosions and other combat-related violence, “war dogs” sniff out mines, track down enemy fighters and clear buildings.

Then, as happened with one dog after a firefight, they may cower under a cot and refuse to come out. That "cowering" dog wasn’t diagnosed with being intelligent or discriminating, as he was – but with CPTSD.

Usually German shepherds, Belgian Melinois and Labrador Retrievers, more than 5 % of the military dogs deployed are developing CPTSD, as James Dao reported in the NYTimes last month, in “After duty, dogs suffer like soldiers.” That can come as no surprise.

Like humans, dogs show different symptoms of CPTSD. The cases that aren't successfully handled through “exercise, play time and gentle obedience training” may get “desensitization counterconditioning” (yes, you read it right) and maybe even anti-panic medications.

The lucky ones are retired from service.
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(http://www.nytimes.com/2011/12/02/us/more-military-dogs-show-signs-of-combat-stress.html?_r=1&emc=eta1)

Thursday, January 5, 2012

'War Horse' movie alert


This post is written in the heat not of battle but of recollection of battle -- that which Joey, the title horse of the book, play and movie, was subjected to: World War I, the "war to end all wars," which succeeded only in ending the lives of countless horses who were involuntarily involved in it -- "They had no choice," as London's heartbreaking monument to "Animals in War" reminds us.

The book, originally intended for children, is one thing. It's an OK read, giving a face to all the horses "enlisted" to serve in a war between humans. They were cavalry mounts (a crazier waste of life would be hard to find) and they pulled ambulances and armaments, among other things. They truly were "cannon fodder."

What horses have been made to do in wartime, all against their wills and natures, is unspeakably cruel. It should be unthinkable.

The Broadway show, which I heard and read about, was of necessity, stylized. It could not begin to "show" the horrors of war.

What the play could only suggest the movie "brought to life" -- and death. Disregarding for now scenes of the bucolic English countryside, where Joey grew up, the movie shows Joey in training for war service, then actually there -- miraculously and gallantly surviving charges, guns and bombs, ill treatment, unreasonable work burdens, noise, barbed wire . . . the list goes on.

As unlikely as it would seem, Joey is ultimately reunited with the devoted farm lad who raised him and together they return home to Devon.

Easy to resent is the tear-jerking manipulation of the movie. Harder to deal with is the moral wrongness of causing "war horses" to be. That's what is worthy of our tears.
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Sunday, January 1, 2012

This pantry helps people & pets


(The following story first appeared January 31 in www.NewJerseyNewsroom.com.)

Any animal shelter staffer will readily tell you about the growing number of surrendered and abandoned pets. Dogs and cats from loving homes, once thought of as “forever homes,” are being turned in to shelters. Even worse, they may be left on the street. All because their owners can’t afford to keep them anymore.

What’s sadder than homeless pets? They’re unable to take care of themselves and unfamiliar with the ways of the street, or the world, yet suddenly they lose the people who took care of them.

For pet owners hit hard by the current economy who fear they’ll have to give up their pets, there’s help and hope in West Trenton. The Pet Food Pantry offers temporary help for pets much as other pantries help people going through rough economic times.

Founded by Lisa and Jonathan Iszard -- owners of Tumbleweed & Eddie’s, a natural pet treat company in Ewing – Petfood Pantry has already helped support nearly 60 dogs and more than 80 cats, as well as five parrots and a duck. Almost 2,000 pounds of food has gone out to pet owners in the greater Mercer County area.

Older and low-income people and animal shelters are among the recipients of Petfood Pantry’s help. Sometimes it takes just a one-time small boost to get over a rough spot.

The operation’s based in the Iszards’ home, where volunteers help out. Some groups have held pet food drives for the pantry and donations – both monetary and pet food -- are accepted. Counseling on spay-neuter and links to resources are also available.

“To ensure that no pet goes hungry, the pantry provides free dog and cat food to anyone in financial crisis, counsels pet owners on proper nutrition for their pets and provides information on free and low cost spay and neuter programs.” according to Petfood Pantry’s website, www.ThePetfoodPantry.org.

Guidelines for applying and possible jobs for volunteers are detailed on the site. Through the Pet Food Pantry, when the going gets tough, the tough get to work keeping pets in place and fed until the crisis passes.

The Pet Food Pantry, 1803 Scenic Drive, West Trenton, NJ. 08628. Email: ThePetFoodPantry@hotmail.com .

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