How Sad is that Doggie in the Window?

Seth Victor

Pets are property, and while we debate the moral underpinnings of that distinction, they are regulated by commercial laws. It’s a tricky business treating living creatures as commercial goods; while many laws and regulations on commerce seek to protect vulnerable consumers, when the goods are pets we must talk about the welfare of the good itself, and not just in terms of resale value to buyer and seller. Actually, it’s still all about value, or rather the bottom line. Supply and demand still reigns supreme, and when supply is up, cost comes down, even with steady demand. My apologies to any economists reading this for my over-simplification, but this is a trend quite prevalent in our country’s pet stores.

Pet stores, the kind you see in malls across America, are fed by commercial breeding facilities, aka “puppy mills.” By holding their breeding standards to the same candle that lights the inside of the CAFO industry, puppy mills are able to mass produce animals for mass consumption. The retail outlets who sell these animals cater to a market that has regretfully poor knowledge of the conditions of these facilities, filled with people who see only the fuzzy puppies rolling in paper shavings in the window with a reduced price tag. The desire to save money when shopping isn’t in itself despicable, but your pocket’s savings on a good deal have to be realized elsewhere, whether in the indentured servitude of overseas workers or the liquidation of a local business. With pet stores, it is the animals who eat the cost with their quality of life and health.

Certainly not all animal breeders fall into this category, but how is the average person looking to add a companion to the family to know who is buying from healthy breeders? Enter Jon Cooper of Suffolk County, NY. Continue reading

Elephants in the News…

Gillian Lyons

It’s been an active two weeks for African Elephants in the world news.  Here’s the round-up, both good and bad:

Early last week, NGOs including Elephant Family released a report discussing the soaring illegal ivory trade in China.  According to the report, Chinese demand for ivory has increased dramatically over the past few years due to the country’s recent economic boom.  The report states that the number of ivory items on sale in China has doubled since 2004, and that approximately 90% of all ivory sold in the country has been obtained illegally.   The report, which has received significant attention in the news, has prompted ivory researchers to beseech the Chinese government to tighten enforcement of ivory regulations. Continue reading

Snapperfest -or- Hoosiers gone wild (and stupid)

Google images

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

A couple weeks ago I wrestled with the idea of pig wrestling at the Western Montana Fair. Turns out my healthcare provider, Western Montana Clinic, was one of the sponsors. Yes, healers–people whose empathy should be well-developed–sponsored an event where frightened pigs and piglets are chased and wrestled into a bucket. These things leave you shaking your head: Who finds this kind of stupidity entertaining? Why would any savvy business person agree to sponsor something with an element of cruelty? One species’ “fun” is another species’ terror–is this so hard to grasp?

Now comes Snapperfest and, as a native Hoosier, I’m loathe to report that Indiana has to claim it. Continue reading

The wilderness vegan: Hold the cheese ‘n’ skeeters, please!

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

Let’s say a couple–fairly new at describing themselves as vegan–is backpacking with friends in the Beartooth Mountains along the Montana/Wyoming border. Let’s say the mosquitoes are so thick–zillions of them, dense clouds of them–that they risk inhaling them (check), swallowing them (check), and swat them by the tens in their tent (check, check, check!). They find them floating in their oatmeal and coffee, and plastered into their couscous (check, and check). In spite of the blood-letting, they have a glorious hike above 10,000 feet elevation, are appreciatively reminded of their place in the food chain (this is grizzly country), celebrate one friend’s end-of-chemo first-year anniversary, and return happy and rejuvenated with over 100 bites each. Continue reading

Planet of the Hominids

WETA/20th Century Fox: The ape rebellion in “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.”

ANDREW C. REVKIN  (x-post from Dot Earth

6:35 p.m. | Updated 

Last weekend, I took my two sons, 13 and 21, to see “Rise of the Planet of the Apes,” which we thoroughly enjoyed on several levels. It’s a rousing slave revolt, an entertaining techno-thriller, a drama about a dysfunctional household (chimp included) dealing with disability and job-related stresses (in the conflicted genetic engineer played by James Franco). (Manohla Dargis liked it, too, as did my sons’ favorite critics, the team at

It’s also a film about the troubled relationship of Homo sapiens to its closest kin, the other species in our taxonomic family, the Hominidae. Abuses have occurred from the forests of the Congo basin and Borneo to the research centers of drug companies and universities.

In the realm of drugs and medicine, there’s certain research that can only be done on apes or other primates. Where does one draw the line, in terms of which research goals are lofty enough to justify killing or causing pain to animals. Are some animals too sentient for such uses?

Wolves in the northern Rockies: It ain’t over ’til it’s over


Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Until the next legal dust-up, the northern Rocky Mountain states have new wolf hunting rules. Bidding farewell to Endangered Species Act protection means the fur will fly and wolves will die. And get this–Montana, the state that attempted to legalize big game spear hunting this past legislative session–is by far showing the most restraint. Wyoming and Idaho? Yikes. Continue reading