Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Monthly Archives: September 2007

Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary Open House – Sunday, September 30!

sheep at psas

If you’re in the general DC area, the local animal sanctuary, Poplar Spring, is having an open house this coming Sunday from 1-5. I’ll be there all day!

Sunday, September 30, 2007
1:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Our biggest event of the year — and everyone’s invited! Come enjoy a live band, speakers, delicious catered food and drink, a fabulous silent auction, clowns, and the opportunity to stroll around and visit the rescued animals. RSVP requested.

I’ve heard that the speaker is to be James Laveck! They’re expecting around 800 people this year, and the food will be catered by Java Green, Stickyfingers, Yuan Fu, Antonio’s Cafe, and Hard Times Café, so the food alone should make it an event to experience. I’m looking forward to all of it, except maybe the clowns.

Blogging against abuse, a blog for hope

hermie

This is a harder post to write than I anticipated. I do a lot of work fighting various forms of abuse (mostly through animal rights and environmental activism), I read a lot, and I face up to a lot of difficult realities. To choose a focus when talking about abuse is difficult. They all bleed together for me.

So that is what I’m going to talk about. It is easy to look at the obvious abuses and point our fingers, and work to stop individual events from happening. Well, easy is relative. What I mean is it is easy to recognize these, and the path is relatively clear in stopping it. The neighbor’s child is being abused? There are authority figures to contact, there are things you can do to try to protect that child.

But what about the overall issue of child abuse? Why does it happen? Not just child abuse, but animal abuse as well. And while we’re at it, why is this world so violent? And why do we consciously turn a blind eye to it (yes, it is difficult and it is unpleasant to think about, but is that really a good excuse?), and why do we resist making changes in our own lives that would begin to limit, for example, the environmental abuse we are complicit in and perpetuate?

I believe there is a connection, a thread that runs through all of these forms of abuse. (And yes, I do think exploitation is a form of abuse.)

There is a garbage patch in our oceans, and there are manure lagoons on our land. The most toxic industries and waste sites are located in the poorest areas of the country, and of the world. The U.S.A. is a giant consumer of the earth’s resources, and that means that we are also a giant producer of refuse. We ship much of it down to the global south, which allows us to ignore the consequences of the problem. Out of sight, out of mind.

This prevents the world’s largest consumer of resources and producer of refuse from looking seriously at solutions to the problem. Imagine, for those of you who live in the land of consumerism, if you had to deal with your own trash in your own way, and it had to be dealt with on your property. I think we’d all take a hard look at our behavior, our consumption. And maybe, just to start, we’d grow food not lawns.

In Bolivia, the nation’s poor had to fight what is now known as a resource war for access to their own water after their government (due to pressure by the IMF) sold the water rights out from under them to an international company. The actions of this company, and those who supported it, caused the deaths of many people. Many poor people. Why don’t we call it murder? It is not ethical, it is not moral, so why aren’t we protesting? This, naturally, is one snapshot of the fight for basic survival that people are in all over the earth. Please don’t buy bottled water. It is killing people in Bolivia and India and may other places, and it is also killing the albatross, whose starve to death with stomachs full to bursting from plastic bottle caps.

The earth itself is taking a beating. The human population continues to grow, and the earth’s resources are used with little to no thought for sustainability. The earth can not sustain the current rate of resource usage. It is obvious and simple math to figure this out. So why aren’t we protesting? Why aren’t we changing?

One of the reasons I think all of these abuses and exploitations are tied together, and need to be fought as if they are one, is that if you follow the issues back far enough, you’ll see something interesting. We abuse and exploit those who we have determined are different, and in saying they are different, we usually mean they are lesser than we are. We also only exploit and abuse those who have less actual power than we do.

This may seem simplistic, and it doesn’t fully get at the psychosis in the people in our society, as individuals. However, it gets at the root cause.

When we are born, we are not sexist, we are not racist, and we are not even likely to abuse or exploit other species. We have all witnessed the child’s wonder and awe at nature’s everyday miracles. A child committing animal abuse is seen as a future psychopath and/or sociopath. So what happens? How do we go from the innocent child to being sexist and racist and turning a blind eye to a variety of abuses in society and in our community?

It starts when we’re taught that some are okay to hurt, and others aren’t. The distinctions are arbitrary. Explain to a small child exactly why dogs are pets and pigs are food. They are both affectionate, and pigs have been judged to be smarter than dogs. Explain to a small child why it is okay that some people are not allowed to sit on a public bench in a public park, while others are. Explain to a small child why it is okay for a wealthy corporation to tell people that they deserve to die for lack of potable water for the heinous crime of having been born into an economically repressed family.

These lines we draw, they don’t make sense. But children learn them, and they use them. They make fun of their classmates who are “different.” We are taught that different is wrong, even though there is no such thing as normal. Abused children are more likely to abuse animals, and more likely to grow up to abuse both animals and children. And anyone else they have power over.

Governments and corporations abuse and exploit those who have less power. Highways cut through poor rather than powerful neighborhoods, increasing poverty. Health care is distinctly lesser in quality in poor neighborhoods, and the school systems suffer as well. Grocery stores are scarce in poor communities, which impacts the health and the scholastic achievements in these same neighborhoods that are already at a disadvantage.

I could go on. I could look at the specifics, or I could look at the bigger picture, and I could continue to find more and more connections. The problems are many, as are the solutions. We only have so much time to act before some things will pass us by and become more devastating than we seem willing to imagine.

Despite everything, I manage to retain some hope, in part because of grassroots community oriented action, such as BlogCatalog’s action that spurred this post for me. We can make changes, in our own lives, and in the lives of those around us. Start small. Think big.

beach

Blog against abuse – September 27, 2007

hermie

Blog against abuse. I haven’t been up to much blogging the past few months, so I have no idea who might even see this post. If you’re reading it and you’re a blogger, this seems like a good way to get some more attention on the abuses we’re constantly fighting.

On September 27th, join 1,000s of bloggers around the world in BlogCatalog’s Blogging for a Great Cause Challenge.

This Blogging Challenge will be:

Bloggers Against Abuse
September 27th, 2007

The Outcome we are after is to be part of the largest group of bloggers to ever blog about an important cause, all on the same day.

So how do you participate?

On Sept. 27th, blog about putting an end to some sort of Abuse (you decide what kind of abuse to blog about).

In the meantime though,

* Spread the word among all the bloggers you know. Perhaps even give them a link to this Discussion.

* If you are a graphic’s designer, perhaps you can come up with some small badges announcing the event, that we can then place on our blogs. To share the badge, place it on this thread.

* List any organizations, on this thread, who are involved in putting an end to abuse.

What do you get?

You will receive a link to your Blog Post from the Blogcatalog blog when we list everyone who participated.

You get to use your blog for an important cause.

You get to create blogging history.

If you join in, I’d love to hear about it, so leave a quick comment to make sure I know to read your post. I’m going to try to join in, maybe it will help get me out of my posting slump!

Mo’s How-to guide on getting the most out of pet insurance

the bean

Mo has been a wonderful commenter on my pet insurance series, and she not only has many years of experience filing claims and getting the most out of her insurance, she’s used several different insurances, so she’s a great source of information for how to deal with the insurance. She agreed to write up a how-to guide on filing claims, so without further ado here is Mo’s Guide:

Complaints about dissatisfaction with pet insurance abound wherever pet insurance is discussed on the internet. There are two major categories affecting the experience of pet insurance policyholders: The overwhelming number of complaints indicates we’re don’t think we’re getting what we’re paying for, and/or we don’t feel we’re getting what we were promised. In a moment we’ll look at ways to get the most of the insurance we’re paying for. First, we’ll look at some “promises” that are implied.

We’re given a certain impression of what we’re buying when we buy a pet insurance policy. We seem to forget it’s strictly “insurance” like any other – insurance is dry and stuffed with rules and legalese…it’s a business. In the pet insurance world we’re spoon-fed a big steaming pile of…snuggly, warm kitty and puppy kisses lavished upon us by very happy and healthy pets – they just want to play, look adorable, and snuggle, they’re just so darned happy!! That pet insurance must provide our pets all this good health and happiness!! Their websites and brochures give the impression they love & care about our pets too (who could not?), and they’re so generous and caring they’re going to help pay our vet bills!!

The implied promises here are propaganda just like any advertising. The difference here is that it targets deep within our hearts…our love for our companions. We can make the mistake of trusting these companies to care about us, our pets, and our bank accounts, and we will find ourselves seriously disappointed, feeling ripped off, and feeling betrayed…. I don’t believe I’m “in good hands with Allstate” or that “State Farm is there for me like a good neighbor”. It’s important to think beyond the advertisements.

As for getting what we’re paying for, pet insurance does actually help significantly with vet bills but you need to be realistic, and you need to be responsible for making that happen. It requires a little bit of work. Don’t negate the propaganda, just be sure to remember you are dealing with the business of insurance.

We begin by doing everything we can to stop potential problems before they start. What I suggest here may seem like a pain, but it really takes just a few minutes here and there and it can save you a lot of time, trouble, anguish, and disappointment (and quite a bit of money)…things you want to avoid when you’re in the midst of the emotional turmoil you will find yourself in if your companion animal gets very sick or injured. You definitely don’t want to do battle with your pet insurance when you’re emotionally enmeshed in caring for your sick or injured companion.

  1. The first and foremost rule is, pet insurance does not cover pre-existing conditions. Period. They will do everything they can to determine whether a condition was pre-existing, so if it was, don’t get your hopes up that they won’t figure it out…they will.
  2. Plan ahead (specifics are described below). Understand that all insurance companies retain a lot of money when they are not paying it out on claims. Don’t expect them to automatically find every possible way to pay out money on your claim.
  3. When you adopt or purchase your pet, get a copy of all available records from the shelter, previous vets, etc. You want as complete a history as you can reasonably get. This is not just for insurance purposes, but it could be very important if your pet becomes ill…it will give your vet some history to work with.
  4. Every time you submit a claim, include:
    • Invoice showing exams, treatments, labs/diagnostics, medications, etc. – all charges and payments made (they require this).
    • Copies of all lab/diagnostic results related to that claim – bloodwork, urinalysis, biopsy/histopathology reports, etc.
    • Your vet should readily provide you with these upon request. I make it a habit to get copies when the diagnostics are done so I have them if needed. I usually bring a SASE or two with me on each visit for illness or injury for the clinic to send me copies when they get the results – the easier you make it for the clinic, the better for everyone. Sometimes results come back at different times and staff may not know that, hence sometimes-more-than-one SASE is needed in case they send you some results but then more arrive at the clinic later.
    • To elaborate, the lab/biopsy/histopathology reports not only back up the primary diagnosis, but could also show concurrent problems. Depending on your insurance type, some will consider each problem revealed by these reports in addition to the primary diagnosis, and may pay benefits for each. Some of the claim forms ask for specifics on all treatments; some ask for only a diagnosis – that’s insufficient to describe what’s going on with your pet, so the diagnostic reports can be important.
    • If you really want to cover all the bases, you could also get copies of the vet’s chart notes and include those. I usually don’t do that unless it’s the first claim I’m filing, but it doesn’t hurt. (This typically amounts to only 3-4 pages total submitted for a claim, including the claim form and invoice…it’s not a lot.)
  5. If this is your first claim with the insurance company (especially if you’ve had the insurance for less than a year), along with the above you should also include:
    • Vet records for the past year.
      • Vet records means chart notes and copies of all lab/diagnostic results, including same from any specialists. This is so the insurance company has a history of your pet’s health prior to the claim so they can determine if the claim is related to a pre-existing condition. If you don’t send this information your claim will be delayed, perhaps for up to a couple of months. They will put it on “hold” and request the records from you and/or your vet before they’ll process your claim, so you’ll greatly speed things up if you send the records up-front.
  6. If you’ve had the pet for less than a year, include those records from the shelter and/or previous vets mentioned earlier, including adoption/purchase documentation showing when the pet came into your family.
  7. Particularly for initial claims for a pet, I include a cover letter explaining anything I think might help the insurance company understand the history of my pet, such as, I tell them I just adopted my cat six months ago, enclosed are the records from the shelter and documents showing date of adoption, etc. If I don’t have any other vet records I explicitly state that, and explain why (just adopted, only have initial vet introductory visit chart notes (include those), cat has been healthy up until now, etc.) If you don’t include all of the information, they will delay processing your claim until they get around to requesting the vet records, and either receive them or confirm none exist. Some companies will flat out deny the claim, not troubling themselves to request vet records, and you have to essentially start over by appealing the denial (which is incredibly frustrating), so it’s best to provide them with all the info up-front.
  8. And finally, know what level of coverage you’ve purchased. You will only receive benefits according to the coverage you purchased. If you purchased a lower tier you should have a realistic idea of what to expect in benefits (i.e., if you spend $8,000 you may still only get $200), so consider that carefully when buying coverage.

To summarize: This all sounds like a lot to do, but it’s actually straightforward and simple. Just plan ahead – get a copy of records when you adopt/purchase, get copies for each vet visit. Send copies with your claim. Include an explanation letter if necessary, especially when filing your first claim for an illness. The insurance company will insist on knowing the history of your pet’s health before it will process a claim for an illness. Pre-existing and directly related conditions are not covered by pet insurance.

A big thanks to Mo for taking the time to provide such a clear and comprehensive guide to help us file our claims! As big a job as it is to research the pet insurance that best fits our needs, it is only the first step, after all. Thanks Mo!

tempest

Consequences of mismanagement at Kofa NWR

mountain lion kofa

This is not my photo, it was sent to me by someone who urged me to post it far and wide, because this is the truth that doesn’t make it into the newspapers.

I debated whether to give a warning in the title of the post, because just about anyone reading this post is going to be as upset by that picture as I am. But he died, hunted by a Arizona Game and Fishing Department employee who used his radio collar to track him. The radio collar, paid for with tax dollars, which he wore for the three months after the AGFD trapped him until his death by the AGFD, was ostensibly attached to this mountain lion for the purpose of scientific study.

Instead, it was used to count the number of animals the mountain lion killed for survival. When the number of sheep he killed was too high, according to the hunters who want the sheep available for humans to kill with guns for the purpose of sport and trophies and bragging rights, then it was determined that this mountain lion was to be punished by death.

The AGFD employee then took a gun and tracked this mountain lion down by using the radio collar that was supposed to be used for scientific research. In what was essentially a canned hunt, this young mountain lion was killed for the sin of eating too many sheep.

And so we have a picture. A picture of a mountain lion, dead, the radio collar that the AGFD used for his canned hunt clearly visible. This is the consequence of mismanagement of a National Wildlife Refuge. This is the consequence of management making decisions with an extremely small subset of the population in mind – hunters.

It will get worse. Mountain lions are not easy to trap to put the collars on them, and so the sheep are being collared instead. This means that the managers of the “refuge” will justify killing every mountain lion without even the weak argument of how many sheep a specific mountain lion has killed. Does it matter? Probably not, because the likelihood of every mountain lion killing at least 2 sheep in 6 months is high. Regardless it is an escalation of the attack on mountain lions, an escalation of the effort to eradicate Kofa of predators. Already there has been a notice that a radio collar accidentally fell off of a second lion, a collar malfunction, supposedly. Call me cynical, but my bet is that they killed the second lion in the same sort of canned hunt, and rather than deal with potential outrage from those of us who care, they conveniently found only the collar.

The president of the United States has decided that these same managers should do everything they can to promote hunting. That means this dead mountain lion is just one in a long list of predators that will share the same fate. It is ignorance at its worst, a complete lack of ethics, and a betrayal of what these people are supposed to be doing – protecting the environment and the wildlife at a refuge that was created for the purpose of being a refuge for wildlife. The refuges have become no better than private hunting grounds for people entertained by killing sentient beings, except these refuges are supported by our tax dollars, and our tourist dollars.

The refuges and the media claim that these refuges couldn’t continue without the revenue from the hunting permits, but this is false. This ignores the millions of dollars in revenue from the many other peaceful visitors to the refuges. Photographers, hikers, tourists, campers.

But I have a feeling this is all a set up. The refuges are under attack on many levels. Hunting is dying in this country, though it is a slow death, long overdue. The powers that be are making noises about trying to encourage more hunters, more killers, but when a CNN article talked about revenue and completely ignored the amount of money non-violent visitors bring in to these refuges, I got a big hint of what is coming.

The military.

The military wants free reign in these protected areas, and one way for them to have that is if management can claim that without hunting license revenues, which are bound to continue falling, they no longer have the money to support a refuge. Refuge status will be taken away, or parts of the refuges will be sold to the military, most likely with no public review or say.

These are the consequences. Death, destruction.

I don’t know what we can do, except write letters and make our voices heard, make their voices heard.

We need to contact our state governors, the Director of the USFWS, and the US Fish and Wildlife Regional Directors, as well as the AZ GFD officials.

Contact information:

  • Department of the Interior, Secretary of the Interior, Dirk Kempthorne – http://www.doi.gov/
  • Key DOI officials – http://www.doi.gov/secretary/officials.html
  • Director of the USFWS Dale Hall: dale[underscore]hall [at] fws [dot] com
  • Wildlife Refuge Map (by State): http://www.fws.gov/refuges/refugeLocator.html
  • National Wildlife Refuge System: http://www.fws.gov/refuges/
  • RDTuggle at fws dot gov (Region 2 Director Dr. Benjamin Tuggle)
  • Chris_Pease at fws dot gov (Chief NWRS Region 2)
  • Thomas_Harvey at fws dot gov (Refuge Supervisor AZ/NM)
  • Lvoyles at azgfd dot gov (AGFD Region IV Supervisor Larry Voyles)
  • Duane Shroufe (AGFD Director) directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov
  • AGFD Commission directorsoffice at azgfd dot gov

Answering questions on “humane” animal experimentation

bariloche trek

Ron, my Kofa contact, asked me to post some comments/questions he has. He is looking to learn what the animal rights community thinks. Any comments that are not “nice” or “respectful” in response to this will be deleted. He is looking for our input, not our attacks.

As part of my duties while in the U.S. Army as a senior veterinary animal technician, I cared for animals, including Rhesus monkeys, which were involved in important research involving corneal transplant and other experimentation. As a wildlife biologist, I have been involved in research with wildlife that sometimes resulted in deaths from capture myopathy (shock disease) during capture techniques or broken bones that required veterinarian-assisted amputations and release back into the wild of several three-legged “tripod” bighorn sheep. Simple helicopter surveys of bighorn are stressful to them and have resulted in deaths from stress-induced capture myopathy, from falls, or from missing a turn of the trail during pursuit and bailing off of a cliff death fall. At least one proposed wildlife research project I fully supported was scuttled because animal rights groups might be opposed to having wild animals captured and placed in a lab for physiological studies involving free water needs of bighorn which would result in those research subjects never being returned to the wild.

I am asking for your reasons why you might be against using domesticated or wild animals as laboratory research subjects to further the advancement of human health or understand how to best manage wildlife in the wild using the best available laboratory science. This would require housing research subjects in humane (not inhumane!) enclosures following all applicable rules, regulations, and laws, but the research could eventually lead to the animals’ sacrifice to answer valid scientific questions. Wild animals would require care for the rest of their lives away from their natural habitat.

I am seeking reasoned debate and answers from an informed group that has a different view of animal rights than I might espouse.

These questions are both specific and broad, so I might skip parts and rely on comments to fill in the detail on what I leave fuzzy.

A couple things jump out at me – research to further human medical science and research for the better management of wildlife populations initially appear to be very different issues, but in reality they aren’t. Also there is a general misunderstanding in the media of the difference between welfare goals and rights goals. It could be argued that the media isn’t aware that there is a distinction at all, since they often call HSUS an animal rights organization, which HSUS itself does not.

A quick and simple distinction: the goal of rights is to end exploitation, while the goal of welfare is to regulate exploitation.

Animals used in experimentation.

Experimentation is always to benefit humans. Even when humans aren’t the sole beneficiary, they do benefit. However the cost is rarely paid by humans themselves. When the cost is paid by humans, the humans being experimented on rarely (arguably never freely) have agreed to their self-sacrifice. The well-known examples where people were given no choice are the medical experiments performed by the nazis in the concentration camps, and medical experiments performed in the American south on Blacks starting in colonial times. What this means to me is that no matter who is experimented on, those being sacrificed are also being exploited, and they are being treated as property or as inanimate objects rather than the sentient beings that they are.

And here I will touch on rights. What right do we have to treat any sentient being as property? I’m not talking legal rights, I’m talking morals or ethics. Religion only works as a comfortable excuse if you think your family’s number isn’t up next.

Beyond the ethics of the situation, medical experimentation is not sound science, and there are alternatives.

Is that the desperate view of an animal rights activist, or is that someone who has actually read the opposing viewpoint? The majority of people never look beyond what the medical corporations flood the media with, and what amazes me is that most people never seem to take a step back and wonder whether there isn’t a measure of propaganda considering the multi-billion dollars at stake in the medical research community.

I, on the other hand, will not gain financially or otherwise, regardless of other people’s views on medical research. PCRM, the second link which has many articles, sometimes gets knocked for having ties to PETA, but whether you like or hate PETA, don’t be blinded to the fact that the biomedical community has an extremely strong financial interest in continuing animal research, and thus are motivated to maintain the status quo and convince people to ignore reasoned alternatives presented by a group of intelligent doctors, such as the Drs. Greek or the doctors at PCRM.

In summary of my vague argument in which I rely on people to do their own open-minded research, I do not think that anyone has the right to experiment on another sentient being, regardless of whether the individual is treated “humanely” during the experimentation. In addition, it is unsound science.

How is this tied into wildlife experimentation?

Wildlife Management

The first question is: why are we managing the wildlife?

You see, wildlife “manages” itself. Ecosystems are in constant flux, and are always finding their new equilibrium point. Dry year? The vegetation changes, which drives the population of those who rely on vegitation for nutrition, and the changing prey population drives the predator populations as well. It is simple, it is elegant, it is automatic. So what is there to manage?

Humans.

Humans want to hunt, humans are creating drastic alterations in every aspect of every environment, and the resulting wildlife changes make humans think that there is some housekeeping that needs to be done. It is a sterile climate-controlled world that most humans (at least in the western world) seem to expect. Extermination is the answer when expectations aren’t met and humans come in contact with the sentient beings we share the earth with. New housing development displaces a deer population? Clearly there is a deer “problem” requiring “management,” or so goes the popular thinking. I posted on this earlier and there are other groups out there putting together information on how changing human behavior is the key to “management” of deer populations, for one example.

A dry year resulting in lower prey-species populations? Hunters will be upset, so clearly these populations need to be “managed” to artificially increase the prey populations. Of course the predator populations are destined to react to the prey population NOT the human desire for hunting opportunity, so this will also be seen as needing “management.” Individuals who naturally prey on the animals that hunters want to reserve the opportunity to kill are put on a diet. Numbers are artificially chosen that result in an automatic death sentence (enhanced by radio collars on the predators, allowing easy kills, essentially a canned hunt without the stigma attached to canned hunting) to any animal that dares to eat more than the share the hunters will allow them.

But what about an experiment on the wildlife itself to help them?

Help them…survive drought better (with human intervention) so that there are more for hunters to kill? What exactly is the motivation?

Sometimes it is simply for scientific knowledge, but is the pursuit of scientific knowledge automatically ethical to pursue? This knowledge benefits humans, while the animals being experimented on pay the ultimate price. The specific populations the knowledge is proposed to help would be better helped by humans reversing some of the environmental damage we have wrought and ceasing our interference in the wildlife populations themselves. We consider this (obvious) option only when we have no ulterior motives towards the wildlife populations and the environment they depend on.

On a practical level, no matter the good intentions of some of the researchers, the animals experimented on rarely, if ever, get a comfortable retirement. They are viewed as property, and as such they have an assigned value, which fluctuates based on how “useful” they are. If their usefulness diminishes for one experiment, the options considered are to kill them or to find another experiment which can make use of them. The only time these animals get a retirement is when the animal advocates step in and campaign. This is not always successful, of course. And even when it is, the individuals in question have been forced to sacrifice their lives (and they will never have anything close to what their natural life would have been, no matter the “humane” treatment or subsequent retirement to a sanctuary, if that is allowed) for the supposed “good of the herd.”

This is a utilitarian type argument, where sentient beings are seen as numbers. It is okay to sacrifice some for the better survival of others, is what the utilitarian argument boils down to. But we aren’t volunteering our kids and our parents and our friends, let alone ourselves, for this nebulous greater good, no matter how pure we consider our motives to be. We apply this “for the greater good” (in western society) only to other species.

In summary, let’s leave the wildlife to their own management, and focus our “management” efforts on cleaning up our own acts.

bariloche trek dead trees