Equine freedom, but at what cost?

Seth Victor

The blawg has previously discussed the controversy surrounding horse-drawn carriages in New York City. Now there is the potential that those idealized tours around Central Park might be coming to an end. According to the New York Daily News, both major mayoral candidates poised to run the Big Apple support a city council bill to ban horse-drawn rides. There is a concern, however, that if the practice is ended, the 200 or so horses that are impressed to pull these carriages will be sent to their deaths, not to some bucolic retirement field further upstate. The article summarizes the issue.

My question to you, dear reader, is what is the best result for the animals? Place the economic concerns regarding the proposed electric replacement carriages aside. Assuming that no home can be found for these horses, if you believe that the horses who march around the streets of New York City are suffering and are not being properly cared for, is it better to end their suffering through ending their lives, or is life so precious that between a life of hard work and death, life should prevail?

We’ve touched on this question before, and it is a divisive one between different camps of animal rights. Please vote below with your opinion. I recognize that there are many answers to this question, but given the choice between the two (and if being forced to pick the lesser of two evils isn’t American, what is?), where do you stand?

Can Farming Rhinos Save the Species?

Seth Victor

Rhino-horn-tradeKevin Charles Redmon poses an interesting thought: can farming the horns of African rhinoceroses save the species? The horns of the rhinos are used throughout the world, from dagger handles to medicine. Though the animals are endangered, and protected under CITES, there is a lucrative black market business in poaching, especially when the horns fetch $65,000 a kilo; “demand for horn is inelastic and growing, so a trade ban (which restricts supply) only drives up prices, making the illicit good more valuable—and giving poachers greater incentive to slaughter the animal.” Poachers aren’t overly concerned with the long-term extinction risks of their prey. The focus is on the immediate value. Because the activity is illegal, timing is of the essence, and it’s apparently easier to kill and harvest the rhinos versus tranquilizing and waiting for them to go down. What if, Redmon wonders, we were to harvest the horns (they re-grow over time) by placing rhinos in captivity, guarding them well, and introducing a sustainable horn supply that doesn’t kill the rhinos? Continue reading

Legal Issues with California’s Foie Gras Ban

Seth Victor

Late last month PETA filed a suit against Hot’s Restaurant Group in Los Angeles County, CA, alleging that the defendant violated the California state law that went into effect earlier this year prohibiting the sale of foie gras. The essence of the hots-kitchencomplaint is that Hot’s Kitchen, the specific restaurant in question, has skirted the law by selling a hamburger for an increased price and including with the hamburger a “complimentary side of foie gras.” Being that foie gras is sold legally at gourmet restaurants around the country for a pretty penny, on its face Hot’s seems to be blatantly rebelling against California’s ban, taking a position common among many restaurant owners. Taking the ethical debate over foie gras (ahem) off the table for a moment, is what Hot’s Kitchen doing illegal? Continue reading

Felony Conviction for Factory Farm Animal Abuse

Seth Victor

This week Brian Douglas was convicted of felony animal cruelty in Hoke County, North Carolina, and was sentenced to 30 days jail, and nearly four years probation. Mercy for Animals has hailed this conviction as “the first felony cruelty to animals conviction related to birds used for food production in US history.” Other related defendants’ cases are pending. Since the investigation into the abuse commenced last December, Butterball has maintained that as an organization it does not condone animal cruelty. Although my search for “animal rights” or “felony” did not turn up any results on Butterball’s website, the self-described largest turkey supplier in the United States does have a slide show demonstrating the love and affection each and every bird receives. I particularly enjoy the image of a mother and son handling a poult with the text, “Our turkeys need the proper care and attention from the start. This concept of well-being is essential in order for the birds to grow and thrive.” It’s true. I’m sure the turkeys do need that care. Whether they actually get it is the question. Butterball also states that “Regular veterinary exams monitor for diseases and help to ensure the health of flocks.” Again, true, but would these be the same veterinarians that tip-off Butterball prior to a police raid? Some people are skeptical. Continue reading

Don’t Look an Embezzled Horse in the Mouth

Seth Victor

I encourage everyone to read Angelique Rivard’s excellent summary of Steven Wise’s resent presentation at the Dyson Lecture Series, which explored the future of animal legal standing and animal personhood. Mr. Wise’s theories were on my mind when I heard last week’s Wait Wait. . .Don’t Tell Me.  Some of you might have heard that Rita Crundwell, comptroller in Dixon, IL, has been accused of embezzling $53 million from her town. As Peter Segal states, “Now the government wants to seize her assets that she got with her ill begotten gains and that means, according to the law, they have to file a suit against the horses themselves. So the case is on the court docket, as United States of America versus Have Faith In Money, et al.”

Getting a horse’s name on a docket is notable, but I’m sure not for the reasons Mr. Wise hopes. We’ve still a long way to go to move horses from “assets” to “persons.”

The Ghosts in Our Machine – Reflections

Donna Oakes

Last week’s post about The Ghosts in Our Machine featured insightful and thought provoking remembrances of the ‘aha’ moment from 3 of the project team members – Jo-Anne McArthur, Liz Marshall and Ananya Ohri -

Those remembrances were so honest and inspiring that I found myself going back to the post and reading them over and over  again – especially during those moments when I wondered if there will ever be true justice for animals.

Just as inspirational are the writings of 2 other team members – Nina Beveridge (producer) and Lorena Elke (researcher). These are their reflections on the project and what it has meant to them on a very personal level.

Nina’s reflections:

Working on“The Ghosts In Our Machine”  has been a unique and transformative experience for me. It is a cross media documentary so we wanted to employ cross media strategies to gain support and build community. First we built a website ‘demo’ as a sales tool to find funding partners. Simultaneously Cross Media Director/Producer/Writer Liz Marshall created a beautiful trailer with our photographer Jo-Anne McArthur. We accomplished these with a lot of hard work, sweat  and support from professionals who collaborated with us. Once our website and trailer were unveiled, we launched our social media campaign (facebook, vimeo, youtube), which Liz has done an amazing job spearheading. As our community took shape and the outreach progressed, we launched our crowdfunding campaign on indiegogo. The best part about the indiegogo campaign is that the people who donated have become really vested in our project. This is where the magic really started to begin for me. I feel like we are a big family now. It’s exciting to see so many people rooting for the project!         Continue reading

Some Thoughts on The Ghosts in Our Machine

Donna Oakes

I first read about The Ghosts in Our Machine this past May. It is described as “A film & web narrative in development about the individual animals used within the machine of our modern world”.

This project reminded me of how important images (whether in photographs or film) are in eliciting that “aha” moment. The moment when that fog lifts away and we see the truth about how animals are treated – and more importantly, the moment when we see how we have been unwitting accomplices.

I wanted to learn more about the connection that the team members have to this project.  In this post, Liz Marshall (producer, director, writer), Jo-Anne McArthur (photographer, main human film subject) and Ananya Ohri (researcher) provided deeply personal answers to the following questions:

Most people who become advocates for animals can recall having some type of ‘aha’ moment that set them on their path. Was this something that you experienced (and if so, can you tell us about it)?
Additionally, what aspect of the film do you think has the most potential for creating that moment for viewers – and why?

Ananya Ohri’s answer: Continue reading

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