New Rules for Feld Entertainment, Inc.—Pay and Comply

Spencer Lo

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has imposed a $270,000 civil penalty on Feld Entertainment, Inc., the parent company of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus (“Greatest Show on Earth”), for alleged violations of the Animal Welfare Act spanning a period of years, from June 2007 to August 2011. The civil penalty was made pursuant to a settlement agreement, the largest of its kind in U.S. history, in which Feld Entertainment agreed to “develop and implement annual AWA compliance training for all personnel who work with and handle animals (animal trainer, animal handler, animal attendant, and veterinarian technician).” After March 31, 2012, employees who work with and handle animals would be required to complete the training within 30 days of being hired, and by February 28, 2012, Feld must have established a staffed AWA compliance position. This development is welcome news following recent failures to hold Feld accountable for animal abuses, particularly against elephants. Just this past October, a lawsuit brought by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Animal Protection Institute, alleging violations of the Endangered Species Act, was dismissed in federal appellate court because they lacked standing. Continue reading

Eliminate Euthanasia by Gas Chamber

Spencer Lo

At an animal control facility in Florence, Alabama, where stray, unwanted animals are routinely euthanized, a young beagle named Daniel was sent to die in a gas chamber along with 17 other dogs. Amazingly (perhaps miraculously), Daniel survived the 17-minute ordeal unscathed, and has now found a permanent home with the help of animal rescue groups. His story recently featured on Anderson Cooper’s show, bringing national attention to the fact that, while Daniel’s survival is unique, his situation was not. Between six and eight million animals are brought to animals shelters each year, and with nowhere to go, upwards of four million are euthanized, many by carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide inhalation. 18 states have outlawed some forms of gassing, while only 9 have prohibited euthanasia by gassing altogether.

As documented by The Humane Society, euthanasia by gas inhalation can be unreliable and cause prolonged suffering and great distress. Death is not always quick, as it can take up to 25-30 minutes to end an animal’s life, and loss of consciousness and brain function occurs only after vital organs are shut down. Further, where multiple animals are gassed at the same time, feelings of panic and excitability can cause fights to break out. A far more effective, and painless, method of causing death is euthanasia by injection (EBI), using sodium pentobarbital, which results in clinical death within 2 to 5 minutes, and loss of consciousness within 3 to 5 seconds. Clearly, then, EBI is more humane, and yet it still isn’t legally mandated in most states.   Continue reading

A Companion Animal for Your Pet

Sarah Kelland 

            Have you ever questioned the emotional state of your pet? Perhaps you have thought your pet was happy or sad at one time or another. According to the money column in the New York Times Magazine, guinea pigs are predisposed to loneliness. To solve this animal welfare issue, Switzerland passed a law making it illegal to own only one guinea pig. This might force a pet owner to buy a new guinea pig every time one passes away. Fortunately, guinea pigs are now available to rent in a town outside of Zurich for the small one time fee of $30. This is clearly an economic opportunity that was seized. Continue reading

The New Jersey Bear Hunt

Brittney Holmgren

New Jersey has begun its second annual six-day bear hunt in an effort to control the state’s growing bear population. This year’s hunt will allow about 6,200 hunters to track down the animals.

As expected, anti-hunt protestors were ready early Monday morning at the beginning of the hunt, winning a ruling from the sate Appellate Court allowing the protestors to demonstrate outside the check –in station on Route 23.

Hunters feel differently, with one stating “It’s not just walking and shooting. I think bears are a natural renewable resource and hunters are doing their job by hunting and keeping the bear population in check.” Continue reading

Rock stars, factory farmers, and 2 gifts to the food bank

Farm Sanctuary photo

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Sister-in-law Lisa called from the Ozarks recently to suggest that we change our Christmas routine. Let’s just make donations to a good cause, she proposed. Instead of the seasonal madness of obligatory gift-giving–frenzied shopping trips, needless consumerism, looming mailing deadlines–we’d simply contribute something meaningful to someone who needed it. We decided on our local food banks–theirs in Missouri, ours in Montana.

We’ve frequently contributed to our food bank, and I’ve volunteered there a few times in years past. As vegans, though, it gave us pause to consider that this year’s larger-than-usual contribution might purchase meat from factory farmed animals who suffered their entire lives. Continue reading

Elephant Death at San Diego Zoo Launches Calls for a USDA Investigation

Coral Strother

On the morning of November 17, 2011, Umoya, a 21 year old African Elephant, who was a part of the San Diego Zoo Safari Park was found lying on the ground by zoo caretakers.  She had severe injuries and could not get up.  Umoya passed away before veterinary assistance could be provided.  Although the cause of death has not been determined and autopsy results could take weeks to come back, zoo officials believe the wounds were inflicted by an “aggressive interaction” with another elephant.

Umoya was born in the Kruger National Park and was one of the seven original elephants rescued from Swaziland in 2003.  In 2007, Umoya gave birth to a female calf, Phakamile, and in 2010, gave birth to a male calf, Emanti, which brought the San Diego herd now up to 18 elephants in total.  On the day Umoya died, San Diego zoo caretakers gave the herd time to mourn her death, something elephants, both in the wild and in captivity, are known to do.  Umoya stood out in the San Diego herd as being one of the most dominant females and as being the only elephant in the exhibit who walked backwards. Continue reading

A New American Pastime: Hog Dog Fighting

Adrianne Doll

There is a new game in town joining the ranks of cock and dog fighting: hog-dog fighting.  Many southern states report high frequency of such fights, and even justify the cruelty as a solution to their “hog problem.”  The fighting is even being advertised as a new American pastime for the whole family to enjoy, through events, such as hog-dog rodeos, and television, like American Hoggers.  There are numerous website posts looking for places to hunt hogs and hog dogs for sale.

Dogs, often pit bulls, are taught to attack hogs on command.  The hogs usually had their tusks removed with bolt cutters and are unable to defend themselves from highly trained attack dogs.  The defenseless hogs are ripped apart and left to painfully bleed to death.  Often the owners enter their dogs in contests that reward the fastest attacking dog with trophies and cash prizes.      Continue reading

“All I Want for Christmas is a Puppy”: When Dog Shopping, the Devil is in the Details

Coral Strother

As the Holiday Season sets into full swing, and people begin to shop for the perfect gift for their loved ones, no doubt “puppy” will be on the top of many lists.  But before rushing out to the nearest pet store to find that perfect pooch, it is best to be aware of who you are really buying from.  An investigation launched by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) published on November 10, 2011 reported that more than 100 New York pet stores they investigated, including several upscale ones, bought their puppies from puppy mills, despite claims that they only sell dogs that come from private and reputable breeders.

The investigation by the HSUS consisted of two parts.  First, a HSUS investigator along with animal rights activist/ABC’s “The Bachelor” Lorenzo Borghese went undercover with hidden cameras to 11 New York pet stores posing as customers and asked the store staff questions about the stores’ breeder sources.  All 11 stores made either explicit or implicit and misleading statements that they did not get their puppies from puppy mills, but instead got their dogs from small private breeders.  The second stage of the HSUS investigation involved reviewing the shipping documents of over 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 visited undercover).  The results of the review concluded more than 100 New York pet stores (including the 11 interviewed) did in fact obtain their puppies from puppy mills.  All 11 of the interviewed stores as well as many of the 100 investigated stores used puppy mills that had numerous Animal Welfare Act violations, including citations for filthy conditions, lack of adequate space, exposure to extreme weather conditions, malnourished animals, and a neglect of proper veterinary care.  Most notably, several pet stores used facilities owned by Brandi Cheney (who has over 500 pages in of USDA inspection and enforcement reports linked to her) and facilities owned by Kathy Jo Bauck/Kathy Cole (convicted animal abuser who had her USDA license revoked).  Additionally, HSUS checked out and filmed several of the “small private breeding facilities” that some of the 11 pet stores investigated cited to use, only to find these facilities housed hundred of dogs in small cages. Continue reading

Is the End Near for Chimpanzee Research?

Gillian Lyons

With the holiday approaching, at least one species has (a little) something to be cheerful about.  Earlier this week, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a government commissioned report on the status of chimpanzee research in the United States.  The report concluded that “recent advances in alternate research tools have rendered chimpanzees largely unnecessary as research subjects.”   Dr. Collins, Director of the National Institutes of Health, announced on December 15 that NIH would be accepting the recommendations contained within the report, and until further notice will not be accepting any applications involving chimpanzee research.

It should be noted, however, that NIH is NOT considering an outright ban on all chimpanzee research- it is simply considering a significant decrease in funding for such research, via the implementation of strict standards that will limit chimpanzee experiments to those that are absolutely necessary.  While the report and NIH agree that most chimpanzee research is currently unnecessary, there is no saying whether the use of chimpanzees will become more “necessary” in the future.  The IOM report itself states that while chimpanzee research is largely unnecessary as things currently stand, that “it is impossible to predict whether research on emerging or new diseases may necessitate chimpanzees in the future.” Continue reading

Thoughts on the ethics of pet ownership

Eric Chiamulera

On October 18, 2011, Terry Thompson released 56 exotic pets from a private zoo he owned and maintained on his 73 acre farm in Zanesville, Ohio. This group of released animals contained such species as lions, tigers, wolves, bears, and mountain lions. Because of the perceived threat to the public, authorities slaughtered over 50 of these unfortunate animals. As the story unfolded, it became apparent that Thompson had been ill equipped to properly care for these animals, and that he had been convicted of animal cruelty in 2005 based on his treatment of these exotic pets. One result of this tragedy is that it has increased public awareness of the existence of similar zoos around the country. It has also brought to light the fact that many exotic pet owners do not have the knowledge or experience to properly care for these animals.  Continue reading

Israel Bans Declawing

Adonia David

 Israel has banned the practice of cat declawing, joining the ranks of a number of other counties that have found it inhumane enough to prohibit.  This week, the Knesset (Israel’s parliament) passed a law prohibiting declawing (with a few medical exceptions).  Violators can face up to a year in prison as well as a fine.  This is good news for Israeli cats.  Unfortunately for American cats, the situation is not quite as bright. In the United States, declawing cats is a common practice among pet-owners, with one poll showing 55% of cat owners approve of the practice.   Unfortunately many people do not understand that declawing a cat is not simply the same as clipping its claws.  Declawing is really amputation, and similar to actually removing the last segment of a human’s finger or toe.  While some pet owners insist that their cats act the same as they did before declawing and they do not know the difference, the hidden truth is that declawing affects the way a cat walks and balances.  The difference in the way thei r feet grip the ground can lead to back pain.  Other complications can include hemorrhages, regrowth of the claw inside the foot, lameness, and abscesses.  For more information on the physical aspects of declawing, see here.    Continue reading

Feral cats with Rabies

Eric Chiamulera
On December 1, 2011, the Westchester County Department of Health issued a rabies alert to residents of New Rochelle, N.Y., who may have come into contact with a rabid cat. The cat, a red tabby, had been observed acting aggressively towards other animals and people. There are reports that the red tabby cat may have come into contact with a colony of feral cats in New Rochelle. Similarly, Westchester health officials had to issue a rabies warning to Ossining residents when a rabid calico kitten, who had been in contact with other feral cats, had attacked an adult cat before being captured. This problem of feral cats being exposed to rabies is occurring in other parts of the country as well. For instance on November 23, 2011, city officials in Fort Worth, Texas warned residents that a woman was attacked by a rabid feral cat. Continue reading

A Day at the Zoo

Jessica Witmer

Recently I went to the Bronx Zoo where I was able to see first hand, all different types of wild animals, ranging from grizzly bears to polar bears.  Aside from visiting a zoo I will most likely never experience seeing these wild animals first hand.  However, seeing these animals outside of their natural habitat made me think about whether it is ethical to confine a wild animal to a synthetic version of its natural habitat.  In the past zoos were seen as a source of entertainment and their missions were to make profits.  In contrast, today zoos purport that their role has transformed into one of promoting conservation by providing educational and scientific mechanisms.  If a zoos role is what it claims to be, they can become a crucial source in saving species from the brink of extinction.  With increasing threats to wildlife in their natural habitats, it is becoming more important to find ways to sustain populations.  Continue reading

Civil Penalties Assessed Against Feld Entertainment (Ringling Bros.)

Sarah Markham

A strong message of against animal cruelty has been delivered to the public, especially those who exhibit animals for profit, with the assessment of civil penalties against the Ringling Brothers.   On November 28, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, Field Entertainment, Inc., paid $270,000 in fines for violations of Animal Welfare Act pursuant to an agreement that have been reached with USDA.

The Animal Welfare Act requires that minimum standards of care be provided for animals exhibited to the public.  PETA repeatedly urged the USDA to take action against Ringling Brothers for numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  In 2009, PETA led an undercover investigation to reveal “the saddest show on earth,” which included the exhibited animals being struck with bull hooks.  In August of this year, an elephant ‘stumbled’ according to Ringling Brothers, but an eyewitness believed the elephant collapsed when the handlers were moving her. Continue reading

Should We Leave Certain Species Behind?

Theologia Papadelias

Should we let certain endangered species die out? Scientists have long stated that biodiversity is significant in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but some are taking a seemingly unintuitive view that has been termed conservation triage. Conservation triage focuses resources on animals that can realistically be saved, and giving up on the rest. Those that fall into the too-expensive-to-save category might include the panda and the tiger.

Unfortunately, economic factors must be taken into consideration and some species require more money to save than others. For example, the California condor population saw an increase to 381, with 192 living in the wild, since 1987. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going. But is this program a success or merely a waste of finite resources? Continue reading

Dolphins Dead Following Rave at Swiss Aquarium

Josh Loring

Police are investigating the deaths of two dolphins from a Swiss aquarium.  The dolphins died following a techno rave that was held at the facility earlier this month.  The first dolphin, Shadow, was found dead directly following the event, which led experts to suspect the cause of death was stress related due to the deafening music being played in close proximity.

It has been well documented that loud music is known to bother dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity who navigate by echolocation, which entails bouncing sonar waves off other objects to determine location, shape and distance.  The confined tank walls create an environment where the reverberations from their own sonar cause great stress.  Back in October, Senior Vice President of PETA, Dan Matthews, attended a fundraiser at the Georgia aquarium and witnessed the effect first hand.  While observing beluga whales, he witnessed one “squirming and twisting” more than the others.  He asked one of the aquarium staff members whether the music bothered them, which she replied, “Well, yes.  Especially the males―as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks.”  Continue reading

Striking the Balance Between Public Health and Wildlife Conservation Policy Concerns in Africa: Why Sustaining Wildlife is a Crucial Element

Jessica Witmer

          Bushmeat hunting is a growing and immediate threat to the future of endangered species in Africa.  While bushmeat may be crucial to the diet of indigenous people in rural areas where other food may not be easily available or affordable, the continuation of bushmeat hunting will ultimately lead to the species extinction.  Bushmeat hunting has already caused the ecological extinction of multiple large animals and it continues to reduce the biological diversity of forest ecosystems.  Decreasing the population of these species at increasing rates is neither beneficial for the ecosystem or for the people whose livelihood depends on the species sustainability.  A recent study from the University of California found that consumption of bushmeat is beneficial to children’s nutrition.  The researchers predicted that “loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia.”  The study also revealed that 20 percent of meat consumed by locals was made up of bushmeat, even though the hunting is illegal.  Continue reading

Reducing Funding for Animal Research

Usra Hussain

The University of Pennsylvania houses as many as 5,000 animals a year at their medical and veterinary schools.  Recently, the U.S. Department of Agriculture issued an official warning letter to the University of Pennsylvania for its “failure to establish programs of adequate veterinary care” for some of its research animals.  Over a course of three years, reports have stated, that the Ivy League institution may be responsible for up to 115 violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The inspections also noted that, “two dogs had interdigital cysts (often from standing on wire flooring); dirty and algae-filled water containers for four horses, and three gerbil deaths that occurred because of ‘unsuitable sipper tubes.”  In another incident  at Penn, a newborn puppy was found dead, trapped beneath a floor grate. The puppy had slipped through the grate unnoticed, and an unknown amount of time passed before his death.

The University of Pennsylvania had more than double the amount of violations in comparison to other Ivy League schools.  The Agriculture Department, which regulates research facilities that use animals, and  the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) found that the eight Ivy League universities had what it called “disturbingly high numbers of Animal Welfare Act violations,” many of which were repeat or severe. Despite these violations, the University of Pennsylvania continues to receive the highest amount of federal research funding among all Ivy League Schools.  According to PCRM, University of Pennsylvania received $1.4 billion from the National Institutes of Health since 2008 for researching.  Continue reading

Sister Species: Negotiating the intersections of animal and human injustice

By Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

An intersection in Missoula, MT was formerly called Malfunction Junction, so named for the muddle of major thoroughfares that collide there and the lengthy red lights drivers endured while each street (in some cases, each direction of each street) took its turn.

Malfunction Junction is, perhaps, an unfortunate model for our approach to the intersections of oppressions that plague us: racism, sexism, homophobia, and yes–speciesism. It’s a long wait to see the light. Or maybe it’s not an apt model, since we tend to idle in our own lane and miss those intersections entirely.

As a second wave feminist (Ms. Magazine, the ERA, that whole Sisterhood is Powerful thang) and an animal rights activist, I’ve had plenty of time to consider how exploitation of both women and animals runs side-by-side and intersects. Sometimes it smacks you upside the head.  The other day I was pumping gas when in pulled a gigantic pickup truck sporting a window decal featuring the silhouette of a mudflap girl’s body with a deer’s antlered head. (If that’s too subtle, try this.) Bleh. Continue reading

United States Based Horse Slaughterhouses Set to Reopen

Kelly Kruszewski

Horse slaughter is a very dark reality for a majority of horses in America.  Currently, however, there are no horse slaughter plants operating in the United States because in 2005 the Agricultural Appropriations bill yanked federal money used for inspections of horse slaughter facilities in the U.S. Without USDA inspections, U.S. based slaughterhouses cannot operate because the meat may not ship across state lines and the major market for horse meat is overseas. This all recently changed on November 14th, 2011, when a Congressional Conference Committee issued a report failing to recommend the defunding of inspections of horses slaughtered for human consumption. So this has positioned U.S. based horse slaughter plants to reopen despite the fact that horse meat is consumed largely in foreign countries; Americans would be required to subsidize what is essentially a foreign-owned industry. Continue reading

The Disappearance of Honey

Theologia Papadelias

Recently, beekeepers have been observing unusually high losses of honey bees. This phenomenon has been termed, “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The mysterious onset of decline in the honey bee population has been linked with the following causes: viruses, fungi, pathogens, parasites, and pesticides.  Researchers also believe that bees are more susceptible to CCD when they are additionally exposed to stress by commercial beekeepers through seasonal trucking back and forth across the country.

The New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,”
described a “major” breakthrough. A group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, said in their jointly written paper that a virus and fungus were found in every killed colony the group studied; however, neither agent alone seemed able to devastate a colony.

It was later revealed that Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk was linked with Bayer
CropScience.  Why is this so significant? Dr. Bromenshenk had received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination.  Astonishingly, before receiving this funding, Dr. Bromenshenk had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers in the class action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003, ultimately dropping out and receiving the grant. Dr. Bromenshenk had also acknowledged as much that his company would profit more from finding that a disease, rather than pesticides, was harming bees. Recently, Bayer has come under a great deal of scrutiny for manufacturing and marketing the highly controversial pesticide clothianidin, a next-generation neonicotinoid, a toxic compound to honey bees. Continue reading

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