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. ( )”

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 and

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 [] 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.)


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.


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.

* * * * * * * *

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 for in-depth commentaries about pets.

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 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!

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

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 and scroll down for information and opinions on both subjects.

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 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."

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:

Those who want to sign a petition against this idiocy can go to

Friday, February 10, 2012


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.

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.


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 --

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.