Another Shelter Fiasco

Angela Garrone

A three week investigation has been ongoing at the Memphis Animal Shelter in Memphis, Tennessee after authorities discovered deplorable conditions at the shelter.  Sheriff’s deputies raided the facility on October 27 2009 after receiving numerous reports of abuse at the shelter. (photo gallery from the shelter raid here)  Complaints about the conditions of the shelter have been thrown around at least since 2007.  In 2007, the state found that the shelter was out of compliance with the minimum standards established by the Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners.  The state found various violations of record keeping concerning drug usage for euthanizations.

Memphis City Mayor A. C. Wharton fired  Memphis Animal Services supervisor Ernest Alexander nine days after law enforcement authorities raided and closed the shelter. (see City’s search warrant here)  Alexander previously oversaw a shelter in Albuquerque, NM until 2008 when he was hired after a nationwide search by former Mayor Willie Herenton.  Herenton was searching for a new administrator in response to long term complaints about the shelter from animal rights activists.  Three other shelter employees remain suspended with pay until the city finishes their investigation.

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Protecting Animals, One Mouthful at a Time

David Cassuto

Emory University is attempting to preserve “heritage” turkeys by feeding them to its students.  The Standard Bronze and Bourbon Red turkeys are in danger of dying out due to lack of demand.  So, apparently, is the Tennessee Fainting Goat and other species that don’t fit the factory farm mold.  The lede of this Chronicle of Higher Ed. article (pay site but there are day passes…) declares: “Sometimes the best way to save something is to eat it.”  It then describes how Emory ordered 1,600 pounds of birds for its Thanksgiving meals.

I’m fascinated by this rhetoric as well as how this type of logic goes routinely uncontested.  Last time I read the Endangered Species Act, it said nothing about how only edible species merit preserving.  Continue reading

The Grey Lady’s Vegan Debate

David Cassuto

They NYT recently featured an op-ed by Gary Steiner that lays out the challenges of ethical veganism in contemporary society.  I have my issues with the piece, which suffers from a rigidity that can be off-putting to people of all stripes.  More interesting, though, are the letters it generated.  Amid a few thoughtful exceptions (both pro and con), the same tired arguments against veganism get recycled over and over as if they were revelatory and/or had any intellectual rigor.

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It’s a Girl!

Kate Blacker

Meet my new edition, Rhonda.  She was rescued by Farm Sanctuary and lives in upstate New York.  I think she has my eyes.  You, too, can sponsor a turkey just in time for the holidays.

I admit it is a bit cliché to talk about turkey cruelty on Thanksgiving.  But it is also quite an exercise in gratitude to reflect on the life and death of a Thanksgiving turkey.  I am thankful for not having my toes chopped off.  I am thankful no one will trim off a piece of my face or neck (unless I elect to have such work done and I don’t mind paying the taxes).  I am grateful that my eyes and lungs do not burn in agony as I live out the rest of my days breathing in ammonia and standing in my own waste (and the waste of everyone around me).  I am not so overdosed with antibiotics and hormones that my little legs break underneath the immense weight of my unnaturally oversized body.

Yes, our Thanksgiving turkeys are mutilated at birth and tortured to death.  Their lives are replete with pain, misery and even sexual abuse.  I have a lot to be thankful for when I compare my life to that of the turkey.  And don’t be deceived; the life of a natural/organic turkey is no better.  You can check out some “free range” turkey farm pictures here.

Maybe we don’t need to kill turkeys in order to get the most out of Thanksgiving this year.  Maybe we can capture the spirit of Thanksgiving by having compassion for one another and by treating everyone with a little kindness.

Some Further Thoughts on Gadhimai

Sandra Mekita

Tibetan Volunteers for Animals has joined forces with other animal rights activists to petition the Nepalese government to stop the slaughter of a half a million animals during a “Gadhimai” festival on November 24th and 25th.  This festival is considered the world’s largest animal sacrifice. The animals slaughtered are generally: goats, buffaloes, ducks, roosters and pigeons.

The activists say that they are sensitive to the devotees needs but they feel that the sacrifice is unnecessary suffering. The Nepalese government is concerned about impinging on the sentiments of the devotees. (Sound familiar?)

Although, I, personally, don’t subscribe to organized religion, I have always been under the belief that exercising one’s own religious beliefs is essential to the traditions that this country is firmly grounded. However, religion is something that can be molded, changed, and broken down over time. Essentially, religions are adaptable. For example, the Vatican has come up with modern “sins” to keep the religion current and applicable to people in modern times.

Animal Sacrifice is a barbaric ritual, something used during the same time human sacrifice was being practiced. Animal sacrifice can be traced back to the Hebrews, Ancient Greeks, Ancient Romans, Aztecs and the Yorubas. Many have banned this practice centuries ago.

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More Human than Humans

Michael Friese

As the years go by mankind finds that it has more in common with its ape cousins than previously thought.  The ape that humans have the most in common with is the chimpanzee.  Emory University may have closed the gap even further with a new play entitled Hominids.  In this play humans enact a true story of intrigue that occurred within a troop of chimpanzees in the 1970s.  The most interesting thing about the play is that the actors are not pretending to be chimpanzees, rather the play’s  approach is to enact the story as if it were humans upon whom the story is based.

A summary of the play is as follows:

“A conniving kingmaker and his young protégé conspire to overthrow a popular king. Their plot fails, so they murder him instead. The kingmaker then installs his protégé as ruler. The young king does not properly reward his mentor, however, so the kingmaker selects a new protégé. Together, they torment the young king to the point of madness. He throws himself into the palace moat and drowns.
The brutal power struggle reads like a Shakespearean tragedy, but it actually happened on an island of captive chimpanzees at a Holland zoo during the late 1970s.”

The implications of this play are far reaching.  It intends to leave spectators wondering what makes us human.  The play asks how different are chimpanzees than humans?  Specifically these questions have important effects on the ethics of medical testing on human’s closest relatives.  If chimpanzees’ actions are so close to human actions, then how can we justify testing on chimpanzees in situations where testing on humans would be unethical?

Chimpanzees have and are used in biomedical research because of their close genetic similarity to human beings.  In some cases chimpanzees are the only available nonhuman species that can be infected with the microorganism that is being studied.  Two well known microorganisms whose creation of vaccines depended on the testing of chimpanzees, are Hepatitis B and C.

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Talking Turkey and the Sanctimony of American Slaughter

Christine Saenz

It’s that time of year again. A time when 45 million turkeys are slaughtered, stuffed, and feasted upon for Thanksgiving dinners across the U.S. According to PETA and other sources, this 45 million makes up 1/6 of the number of turkeys killed each year in America. While many animal rights groups will be imploring President Obama to pardon all turkeys this season, you shouldn’t have to worry about a protest stampeding across your lawn if you partake in this gluttonous “tradition.” Apparently the protestors and news media outlets will be thoroughly preoccupied with the Hindu Gadhimai festival in Nepal, where, every 5 years, 200,000+ animals are ritualistically sacrificed to bring peace and prosperity to devotees.

Last week, an organizing committee member defending the ritual stated, “We will not stop this centuries-old tradition now. This is our religion, belief and tradition and we will continue with it no matter what.” Sound familiar? The 45 million turkeys slaughtered in the U.S. this year will die in the name of our own time-honored beliefs and traditions. On one end of the world, hundreds of thousands of buffaloes, pigs, sheep, birds, and goats (to name just a few) will have their throats slit by priests and their carcasses distributed to devotees after the festival. In our own country, hundreds of millions of turkeys will live their lives in tightly-packed, windowless “houses,” hung upside down in shackles (alive), mercilessly slaughtered, and decorated on dining room tables.

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