Invisible Voices

a voice for the voiceless

Monthly Archives: June 2008

Lucy’s adventure


I made a new friend today, and her name is Lucy. Here’s the story of her adventure.

I was driving home from the sanctuary, on my way to a confident city cycling class, cruising along GW Parkway. This is a road that is 2 lanes mostly (sometimes 3) in each direction, bordered by a river (and sometimes a steep drop off) on one side, the woods on another, and usually separated by some grassy area or a wooded area. It is curvy, the posted speed limit is 50mph for most of it, but I think most of us drive more like 60-65mph.

In other words, it is a busy, fast road, with enough curves to be dangerous for anyone who is not going right along with traffic, and is also in a car.

Cruising along, the traffic suddenly slowed, and came to a halt. Construction? Accident? We were all, as it happens, in the right lane, and no one was in the left lane. I saw a dog dart from in front of the car in front of me, and realised that the traffic was stopping for the dog. I put on my hazzards, jammed the emergency brake home, and started getting out of my truck just as the giant SUV in back of me started to pull around me to get in the left lane and get around the stopped cars.

They stopped immediately, either seeing me or the dog or both, and once I was sure they weren’t going anywhere, I jogged forward. The dog saw me, and stopped. I could tell she was freaked out, and I was afraid she’d bolt.

I crouched down, making myself small and at her eye level, letting her know that I was a friend. She ran right to me, I grabbed her collar, she got right into the truck, and traffic started moving again.

All that took about 20 seconds.

I don’t know why I was the only one to get out of the car. Maybe it mattered more to me, or I was in the right position to do that quick evaluation – traffic stopped, dog in danger, safe for me to get out in the middle of the road since the entire road was blocked at that point – but whatever it was, I was so relieved that the pup was completely unhurt, that I was able to get her, that she came right to me.

And she was wearing a tag. I called the number. A man answered.

“Lucy is your dog?” I asked, sure that as soon as I mentioned the name on her tag he’d be completely relieved, sure that he was out right now looking for her.

“Yes…” he replied in confusion.

“I picked her up on GW Parkway.”

And then he freaked out. He wasn’t in town, his buddy was watching Lucy, and he was completely thrown that she’d been lost, and wandering on a horribly dangerous road, and he wasn’t even in town! And it is the kind of thing where you feel all the fear of the “oh my gods” and “what ifs” even though he didn’t find out about her danger until she was already safe.

I told him I’d drop her off at my house, and to have his friend call me around 4, after I was done with class.

And that’s what we did. Tempest wasn’t too pleased at having an invader, nor about being locked in the bedroom (just in case), and Lucy was a bundle of nervous energy. I came back from class, and she’d found the basket of cat toys, and I think she played with them all. She about tackled me when I came in the door, frantically happy to see someone. We entertained each other by playing fetch with a few of Tempest’s toys. She is a dog of perpetual motion! An hour later her daddy’s buddy showed up, and I was thanked about a million times. He’d spent 2 hours looking for her and calling for her (his cell phone was in the house, so Lucy’s daddy spent those same 2 hours calling him trying to figure out what was going on), and so his fear and worry had lasted quite a while before he’d found out that Lucy was actually safe.

The disconcerting part of our conversation was the way he continually referred to Lucy as “it.” He never used a different pronoun, even though he clearly had real affection for her, and kept telling me how “it” was a very smart dog.

The morals of Lucy’s adventure:

  • Just because your dog has never bolted before doesn’t mean they never will.
  • You might want to reconsider letting your dog off leash in an unfenced area, if you’re in the habit of it. You just never know, and it doesn’t need to be an especially dangerous road to be dangerous to a dog that darts into the road.
  • Tags with a phone number (cell phone is best) are super important.
  • Don’t be afraid to stop traffic to rescue an animal, but be safe about it. Make sure you’re visible, make sure the cars have stopped. Leave your door open if possible, since your hands (and maybe arms) could be full when you head back to your car if you successfully rescue the animal.
  • Travel with an emergency kit that includes a collar and a leash. (I need to do this!)
  • And as a reminder: in this type of situation, crouching (not bending) down to be at their eye level is one of the best ways to get them to come to you. They can run faster than you, so don’t chase them. They’re likely feeling nervous and freaked out, and if they’re a dog like Lucy, they might be just afraid enough to not recognize that you’re a friend if you’re standing straight. Crouching down is non-threatening, and it is a welcoming posture that most dogs will recognize as such. It is not foolproof, but it should be one of the first things you try.

There are probably other tips out there that are helpful for people to keep in mind. This list is just what Lucy’s adventure highlighted for me.

lucy in motion


Bullfighting protest in Spain

I stumbled on information on bullfighting demonstrations in Spain. The most recent was June 22nd, but there was an earlier one that got international attention (and has english subtitles):

The english switches between saying “bullfighting” and “bullkilling”. I don’t know Spanish well enough to be certain of what the best english translation is, though I believe they’re actually calling for the abolition of bullfighting not just the killing of the bulls at the end. I seem to recall that the bulls aren’t killed in the ring in Portugal, so I would think that the Spanish activists know quite well to go for the abolition of the brutal sport in its entirety.

I have actually seen a bullfight. I look back and I wonder what the hell I was thinking, but at the time I was 20, I was traveling around, I was in Madrid, I was hanging out with people who were totally convinced that seeing a bullfight was part of seeing Spanish culture.

I couldn’t watch most of it. I hated it, I felt sick, and I was SO happy when a matador was kicked in the head by a bull and knocked out. (He was fine, just had a minor concussion. The bull, of course, did not survive the ring.) I don’t know what that says about me, but the brutality of the sport, the constant blood, the terror I felt for the horses who wearing armor or no were often knocked over by the bulls, it all made me feel sick to my stomach. I don’t worry much about the humans in these cases, because even if they get hurt, it is because they put themselves in that situation.

Same with the running of the bulls. Take a chance, do something stupid, and you know you might pay a price.

The bulls and the horses aren’t given any choice at all, and they always pay the price.

If that is something essential in Spanish culture, it is certainly not something that makes Spanish culture look good. There were so many fantastic aspects to Spanish culture, so much beauty in that country, and I didn’t find any of it watching that bullfight.

I, for one, will think that much more highly of the Spanish people when they finally abolish bullfighting.

Of course in the news clip from the youtube video, one of the protesters is quoted very nicely saying that they were a peaceful protest. One of the anti-animal people was quoted as saying “they should be arrested!” And then you see a shot of one of the protesters being dragged out of the ring in a chokehold.

This threat of arrest is a bullying tactic. “Don’t rock the boat, or we’ll arrest you! It doesn’t even matter if you have done anything illegal!”

Anyway, kudos to equanimal. I wish I could read more Spanish!

Earth Balance, palm oil, rainforests and RAN

In November of 2006, Eric wrote a post about the Orangutans in Malaysia, and the associated palm oil issues. There are some first hand accounts linked in that post of his, and they’re heart-wrenching.

I realized in horror that my beloved Earth Balance uses palm oil. I wrote them asking about the palm oil that they use, and this was their response:

100% of the palm oil used in Earth Balance originates in peninsular Malaysia and not Eastern Malaysia (i.e. Sarawak and Sabah on the Island of Borneo), the main home for orangutans. As the website points out, slash and burn clearing methods are illegal. We purchase our oil exclusively from reputable, law-abiding plantations which are registered with the Malaysian

Palm oil and soybean oil are the major edible oils in the world, together they account for over 50% of all oil consumed worldwide. The alternative to palm oil in the world markets is hydrogenated soybean oil. If we reduce the world supply of palm, the markets will compensate by growing more soybeans.

Soybean cultivation is wasteful of natural resources. Palm plantations require only a fraction of the acreage to produce the same quantity of oil as soybean farms. An acre of palm trees will produce roughly 8,000-9,000 kgs of oil per year while an acre of soybeans produces roughly 1,000 kgs of oil
per year. Brazil is now the world’s largest and fastest growing producer of soybeans. For every acre of Malaysian palm oil converted back to jungle, several acres of Brazilian or Argentinean forest must be converted to farmland.

It is for these reason that we feel palm oil should be part of an environmentally friendly food supply chain. The following site has more information about the cultivation of palm oil in Malaysia.

This looked like good news. I checked out the website they had linked in, and it looked legit, with what looked to be some pretty solid information. I didn’t look into palm oil further, but there has always been a worry in the back of my mind. What will I find out if I do research it for real?

It has been a year and a half. Today RAN (Rainforest Action Network) posted about rainforests and palm oil. They are in the middle of an action campaign, where people act as supermarket sleuths and register products that use palm oil, and starting on July 1, RAN is going to start contacting these companies and basically demand that these companies give up their palm oil. And soy oil? I would think they would cover that as well.

I registered Earth Balance on RAN’s site. I also commented on RAN’s blog post to see what they could tell me about Earth Balance’s response to my question a year and a half ago. You can read the exchange by following the link above, but part of the response from Brihannala at RAN was this:

If killing orangutans were the only problem that existed with palm oil, then maybe Earth Balance could get off the hook. But it simply is not. Every where that palm is grown– very much including Peninsular Malaysia– involves clear cutting rainforest and planting massive monoculture plantations– with serious consequences for both endangered species (the tapir lives in Peninsular Malaysia.. does it deserve to go extinct?) and the climate. It also involves displacing communities off their traditionally owned land, which regularly occurs in Peninsular Malaysia. Particularly in Peninsular Malaysia, migrant workers from Indonesia and India are forced into modern day slavery, forced to work for minuscule wages while paying back the companies for their their transportation from their country of origin. It’s a wreck.

Well, I can’t argue with that.

I think this is always a danger when we focus too completely on one piece of an issue – the companies can find ways to address the small concern while ignoring the bigger picture. And if we don’t know the bigger picture, we’ll accept their “green animal friendly washing”. (Obviously I made that phrase up just now. And it is cumbersome. Greenwashing is a great and immediately understandable term; do we have one for the animal rights aspect?)

When I emailed Earth Balance, I had talked specifically about the orangutans and the clear cutting and burning. I didn’t even know about the tapir, I didn’t know about the workers, and I really was fairly ignorant about rain forest issues in general.

Every time I turn around, I’m reminded about how intertwined these issues are. Social justice, environmental protection, animal rights. Palm oil is a hat trick of issues, and it is something we all need to pay attention to.

Rainforests are important and delicate places. They are huge carbon sinks, which makes them incredibly important to the entire issue of global climate change. Their carbon is held above ground, however. Something I remember from college ecology classes is that there is virtually nothing contained in the soil of a rainforest, it is closer to a desert in terms of soil ecology than it is to anything else. All of the nutrients and minerals and everything needed for life is held in the plants themselves. Before they drop their leaves, they actually are able to pull the nutrients out of them first, making the reclamation of nutrients immediate, rather than having it be processed through decomposition and uptake through the soil.

This makes rainforests really bad areas to clear to use for farming, obviously. It also makes rainforests really bad areas to clear from a carbon stand point, because it is all held in the living matter. Cut those trees down, and you’re destroying direct carbon sinks.

Not to mention the fact that rainforests remain the most biodiverse areas of the planet. Biodiversity is important for all of us, for all of our survival, though you have to take the long term view of it to understand why it is important.

And you can’t talk about the destruction of the rainforests without talking about giant corporations and how they profit off of the social injustices perpetuated on the local people. Whether it is South America or Asia, the script is the same.

Now that I have more information, I’m sad to say that Earth Balance’s answers are far from satisfactory.

I’m hoping that someone has a vegan palm-oil free and soy-oil free replacement they can recommend. A recipe, a product, something…

Regardless, I’ll be going without Earth Balance from here on out, unless they change their product to eliminate the palm and soy oils. Pleasing my tastebuds with a buttery spread just isn’t worth what it costs the people, the environment, and of course the animals themselves.

earth balance container

4/22/2011 — Update! There is a recipe for a buttery spread that is soy free and palm free, and which Ryan reports to be quite tasty! Check out the recipe and also Ryan’s review of the recipe.

11/11/11 — Update! An even better recipe for a buttery spread:

3/10/12 — Update! A recipe for palm-free shortening!

02/17/12 — Update to add links for RAN’s 3 part series on “What is Sustainable Palm?”

Also, what about Agropalma (in Brazil), right? Here’s an in-depth article: Occupy the Amazon so as Not to Lose it—with Palm Oil

My letter for the Kofa NWR Lion formal scoping period

My recommendation for the management of the Mountain Lions on Kofa National Wildlife Refuge is: no hunting of mountain lions on Kofa NWR by agencies or hunters. My reasons are as follows:

1. Bighorn Sheep herds on Kofa NWR have increased in size by a significant number (from 390 to 460), around 17%, from 2006-2007. This eliminates the main justification presented for killing the mountain lions. The herd increased in size while a minimum of four of the original five mountain lions were alive, to state it conservatively. The first lion was killed in June of 2007, and it is reasonable to make an assumption that the herd was increasing even in the first six months of 2007, while all five lions were alive. At the very least, the herd increased substantially while four lions were alive. There are now a maximum of three lions on the refuge, since a second mountain lion was killed in April of 2008, so the justification for killing more lions are further weakened.

2. There has been no research done to determine how much a mountain lion can be expected to eat. The limit of “2 sheep in a six month period” are arbitrary and ignorant, and thus unethical as a basis of life or death decisions being made for the animals within the protection of the refuge managers, the AGFD and the USGFD.

3. It is a basic fact of population biology that predator populations are self-limited by the prey population sizes. In other words, the mountain lions are not going to hunt the Sheep into a permanent decline – it is only humans who so completely disregard the natural laws of the world around them. Mountain Lions have strong territorial drives, and that further limits the total number of lions that would reside in any given area. The mountain lions are not endangering the sheep herds.

4. There has been no data gathered to support the theory that the Sheep population size can be expected to maintain a constant size even during decade long droughts. Kofa NWR is situated in an area that has been suffering a severe drought for over a decade. Again, the most basic population biology informs us that the herd size will naturally decrease in conjunction with the decreasing resources expected in a drought situation. Therefore it is is unreasonable both to expect the herd size to maintain pre-drought numbers, as well as to then blame the mountain lions for the decrease in sheep numbers.

5. Research Biologist Ted McKinney questioned statements that lion predation can have significant population level impacts, referring to the top experts on the subject when he said: “Note that Sawyer and Lindzey state that NO studies have clearly demonstrated population-level impacts.” Lindzey is well known to be an expert on Mountain Lion biology, and his research should have been studied exhaustively.

6. No data was gathered by Kofa biologists to determine the actual cause of the Bighorn Sheep decline. Sheep are known to be very sensitive to environmental stresses, which include droughts, habitat pressure, and disturbance of sensitive lambing areas. In the 1980’s, Kofa Sheep herds had a dramatic decline due to respiratory ailments, yet no necropsies were done in response to the current decline. That’s illogical. These types of questions need to be resolved in order for any logical plan to be worked out for recovery, if warranted. As it happens, there were at least two environmental stresses that the sheep had to deal with – the drought, as well as the disturbance of their lambing areas, which hunters were given access to.

7. There has been no research to determine the actual impact of hunters and hikers through the sensitive lambing areas. It is known that they do have access to these areas, and that hunters do disturb gravid ewes during hunting season, which causes some (as yet undetermined amount of) lamb mortality. Their impact should be quantified, since it might justify limiting their access to these areas.

8. We are in the middle of global climate change, a fact that is almost universally agreed upon by the world’s scientists by now. Refuge managers have to be prepared to update their expectations for various populations sizes as the climate changes. This is not a static world, it is illogical to acts as if it is.

9. Biodiversity is incredibly important to maintain the health of the global ecosystems as well as the local ecosystems. It has been understood for half a century or more that removing the predators leads to a decrease in the health of prey populations. Thus any further destruction of the Mountain Lion population could well have a detrimental impact on the Bighorn Sheep and Mule Deer populations. There is no definitive data to support the theory that Mountain Lions are newcomers to the Kofa NWR.

10. A Wildlife Refuge should have the wildlife as the primary concern. Considering that there was no decrease in hunting permits sold to hunters, let alone an elimination of hunting permits, during the panic over the sheep herd decrease, it highlights the fact that the decisions to kill the two mountain lions were absolutely unethical. Correspondence that is now part of the public records clearly shows that the hunting groups demanded the death of the mountain lions in return for their prior financial support, stating:

“Mr. Hovatter, Why haven’t you returned my email? Is this true this lion has made TWO kills now. On bighorn sheep! I need the dates and locations of these kills. Acording (sic) to the usf&w paper we supported ($138080) two strikes in 6 months and the lion goes to the bid (sic) kofa in the sky. When is his date he does have a collar!! Read the following after my info. I do out source for info.”

Jim Broschart ADBSS Treasurer

I’ll repeat – this email was obtained as part of the public records search, and clearly shows the lack of ethics in the decisions to kill the mountain lions.

11. There are some artificial water sources that have been added to the Kofa NWR to sustain potentially higher than normal populations of the Bighorn Sheep. An additional water source was added more recently (illegally, as it was done in secrecy, without an environmental assessment and public comment), which potentially had a detrimental impact to any young lambs or gravid ewes in the area. Furthermore, and this is just one reason an environmental assessment absolutely should have been done, increasing the water holes is likely to have a corresponding increase on mountain lion predation ranges.

In conclusion, I recommend a policy to be enacted of no hunting of mountain lions on Kofa NWR by agencies or hunters. The agency biologists should be conducting non-lethal observational research to learn more about the Kofa populations so that in the future any decisions made are informed by accurate science, rather than the biases of local hunting groups. Mountain Lion experts should be consulted to fill in the gaps of knowledge of the agency biologists.

I thought I’d post my letter, sent last night, in case it would help anyone else in their letter writing.

Comments can be sent to:

SnailMail: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 356 W. 1st St., Yuma, AZ 85364

Comment deadline is Monday, June 23, 2008.

lions and horses and birds, and guns, oh my!

Having submitted comments (it takes only one) to the USGFD, I am now on the FWS mailing list. I receive alerts about things, often about issues that are open for comments. The trend, as far as I can tell, is to kill everything.

That is, they are excited about giving people the opportunity to kill things, and they themselves often want to exterminate entire populations from an area. Biodiversity has got to be a dirty word, if you work for the USGFD. At least, that is my conclusion based on the emails I get. I know that there are some conscientious government biologists out there, but the driving force behind the USGFD’s motivation appears to be various hunting groups, to the detriment of the environment, the refuges, biodiversity.

I find it disturbing. And now there is a chance that guns will be allowed in National Parks. I really do not want the random twitchy strangers to be allowed to carry guns in the National Parks. Some claim that they need it for protection, and that pretty much tells me that they spend little to no time out in the wide open spaces, and that they would therefore be likely to shoot at any rustling of leaves or even a sneeze. Fantastic.

“Mom, I’m going for a hike!”

“Take your bulletproof jacket, dear!”

No thanks.

But 51 senators don’t agree with me (though in my recollection they seem to mistake each other for ducks or something and oops! Shoot each other.), and they are supporting a move to open up national parks to people who are armed, and therefore dangerous. Believe me, I live in Virginia, and you only have to read the most superficial details about the Virginia Tech shooting from last year to realize how ridiculously easy it is for people to get their hands on guns, and lots of them.

Park rangers across the board don’t want to see guns allowed in the national parks – they have dealt with too many instances where a gun in someone’s hand would have escalated things, potentially fatally. That is always the issue with guns, isn’t it? The Huffington Post does a pretty good job of giving an overview of the issue with some of the comments that have already been submitted.

That’s just one issue that is open to public comment right now, comments due at the end of the month. (That’s just 2 weeks.) If you have an opinion and you’d like to share it, go to the regulations site, search in the “comment or submission” for “guns national park” and then click a link to “submit a comment.” You’ll get a form you can fill out and a text area for your comment.

If you’re in the mood to write letters and get your opinion recorded as part of the official record, now’s a good time to get your fingers limbered up.

The other issues that have come up are:

  • opening more NWR (that is national wildlife “refuge”, grossly misnamed as it is) land to gratuitous killing of migratory birds and big game (July 11 deadline; follow links for instructions on how to submit a comment)
  • gathering up wild horses and burros from the Sheldon National Wildlife Refuge. You can find a lot of really good information on these, and other wild horse and burrow issues on the Wild Horse Preservation site. I recommend reading it to gather yet more information on the many wild animals that are affected by the addiction to meat. The Sheldon issue specifically is addressed (info on where to send the letters) on IDA’s site but for general information on wild horses including some great points to make about why these round ups are not a good idea, you’ll do better at the Wild Horse Preservation site. (June 30 deadline)
  • Kofa Mountain Lions (June 23 deadline)

You didn’t think I’d go much longer without nagging you about writing letters about the Kofa Lions, did you?

Please do write letters. I’d bribe you, if only I knew what it would take!


I can’t claim to know that much about sustainability, but whenever I get an email from FARM, I think about sustainability. Does that sound strange? Well, I have heard Dawn of FARM mention that she came from the sustainability movement, originally, and I have often wanted to pick her brain and get a crash course on the issue. Not that I’ve ever had the chance, but the thought is often there.

I also know that a lot of folks in the sustainability movement see vegan outreach in many areas of the world as being…hm. I don’t know the term that would best describe it, but something along the lines of elitist, obtuse, or maybe even blind. And I can sort of see their point, even though I very strongly believe that the absolute most efficient and most sustainable thing to do in any environment is grow plants. I know, however, that I am basing this primarily on my biology knowledge, and ignoring any potential social issues.

And really, we can’t frame the argument for other people in situations we’ve never imagined, so we have to educate ourselves before we can think to offer anything.

There are small things I do in my own life with sustainability in mind. Growing a garden, of course, and shopping at the farmers market when I can. Not using plastic bottles, and avoiding as much plastic in general as possible. Composting (which I’m only just getting started on) and recycling, of course. This has a lot to do with avoiding putting things into the garbage stream. I also try to avoid taking from the earth, and so I avoid buying things new, when I can. Books, I have to be perfectly honest, are a big failure of mine here. I indulge myself at the bookstore way too often, even though I also use to find used books, and I use the library quite a bit as well.

I also buy off craigslist when I can, rather than buying something new. Today, for instance, I bought a desk. It is a really nice desk, actually, and I’m lucky to be in an area with an active craigslist – I know not all areas have such an active list, and buying things used is much much easier when nice used things are easy to find.

The man I bought the desk from noticed right away the RAN shirt I was wearing. Turns out he works for a company that essentially does sustainability consulting for huge corporations. Like…Walmart. He saw the look on my face, and started laughing. He knew exactly what I was thinking, and we ended up having an interesting conversation. He talked about what his company does to get the big execs at places like Walmart to sit down and talk to the environmental groups, like RAN, and see what they can do to improve. He’s helping teach these big exploitative companies that the better they are from the start in protecting the environment, the better they are overall. Image, of course, but also from a cost perspective. It always comes down to that.

I’m not sure what I feel about it, overall. I think what he’s doing is important – he’s helping people to look at the environment in a way they might never have done on their own, and that’s important. I think there is a deeper more serious problem, and it has to do with exploitation. Of the earth, of the people. Is Walmart going to stop selling massive quantities of new cheap stuff?

No, of course they are not, they are only going to try to sell more. That’s what they do, that’s their business.

And I have a problem with that – if nothing else, the earth can not sustain that consumption indefinitely. The social aspects are legendary as well, of course.

Still, it was an interesting conversation, and an interesting business that this man works for.

I was also able to talk to him about SHAC and animal testing. He had a really hard time imagining how they were convicted of terrorism, without having ever committed a crime. It is indeed a mystery, right up until you realize they were driving HLS to bankruptcy and had their trial in that Land of BigPharm, which is also known as New Jersey.

It was amazing to find someone with whom I agreed on so many levels, just by buying a desk from craigslist.

tomato sprouting


lola at poplar spring

A new lamb arrived at Poplar Spring this week. She had been raised by people who apparently bred expensive specialty sheep, or something along those lines. Her mother was the grand champion of something or other, and this beautiful little girl lamb was worth quite a chunk of change, I’m told.

But not worth, as it happens, any care or consideration. At least not by the people who bought her and saw her entire worth in the form of profits and loss.

Lola has the sweetest little face you’ve ever seen, and when her foot got infected the people “caring” for her neglected to take her to the vet in a timely manner. Three weeks later, when they finally did, it was too late. At least, too late for Lola’s leg. The infection had entered the bone, and there was nothing that could be done to save the leg.

Her then-owners, having done the absolutely nothing they were prepared to do, left her at the vet’s, having not even the first care what would happen to her at that point. The vet was expected to put her down, but since she was seven weeks old (yes, the “owners” failed that soon), they really didn’t want to. They figured she could live pretty well with just three legs, and so they contacted Poplar Spring, who agreed to take her.

She gets around really well at the moment. She even runs, Terry tells me, and I can well believe it. She has taken to her three legged state with apparent ease, showing only occassional and momentary awkwardness.

But she will reach about 200 lbs. I worry for her, as of course do Terry and Dave. It is clear that she will do just fine while small, however, and whatever life she has in front of her, as a three legged sheep who will grow to be huge, it will be as good as it gets at Poplar Spring.

For now, she runs and she is spoiled and her life is wonderful. We will sing to her and feed her alfalfa. And when she gets older, she’ll likely return the favor by head-butting us, as Clover and Hickory are wont to do.

lola on three legs

should poison dumping be recorded?

The obvious answer is yes.

The USDA doesn’t agree. Not that we’re clueless as to where they get their paycheck, this nevertheless is a slap in the face.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on May 21st that it plans to cut its Pesticide Reporting at National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS). The program tracked national pesticide use and proved critical for consumer groups, scientists, farmers and environmental groups to monitor pesticide trends and impacts.

NASS’ elimination of the Agricultural Chemical Use Database will have a major impact on consumers’ Right to Know about pesticide residues and food safety.

Pesticide Reporting has become particularly important in the last ten years since Genetically Engineered Crops have become widely used and pesticide use has actually increased!

This is a serious issue. Reading Silent Spring outlines in horrifying detail just how important this is, and how far-reaching the consequences. The impact these poisons have on the animals and the food, water, and general environment they require for life are usually devastating. Which is exactly why the poison companies and their government sidekicks want to stop recording the damning information.

Now would be a good time to contact your Congressional Representative and let them know what you think.  Can we assign them summer reading?

wet leaf

No-kill cities, revisited

A little over a year ago, I posted about no-kill cities. I get a fair number of hits from people searching for information, and I was curious to see what might have changed (hopefully for the better) since I posted on this topic.

Someone is talking in a nice amount of detail about LA’s move in this direction. Confusingly the author sees LA as on track for being the first major metropolitan city in the U.S. to become no-kill. San Francisco went no-kill over a decade ago (1994), and I’d have thought SF could be considered a major metropolitan area! Nevertheless, this blogger is clearly researching and outlining issue and solutions, and it could be a good resource for others.

NYC is still working on their 10 year plan (begun in 2002) to become no-kill, and they are reporting a 30% reduction in euthanized pets since beginning this campaign. Sadly, the NYC Port Officials continue their absurd prejudice against the feral colony at JFK, a colony that has been maintained and under control for years.

Wiki reports on the notable no-kill communities, and one of the most interesting points in that section (to me) was this:

In 2001, Tompkins County, New York transitioned over a two-year period to a no-kill community.[7] The Tompkins SPCA, an open-admission shelter and animal control facility for Tompkins county, was instrumental in achieving this goal. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve a live release rate of over 90% every year since then. Tompkins SPCA was able to achieve this while going from having a budget deficit to a budget surplus and was even able to raise millions of dollars to build a new cageless no-kill shelter[8].[citation needed] In 2006, 145 (6% of a total intake of 2353) dogs and cats classified as unhealthy or untreatable were euthanised.[9] In comparison, the national average rate of euthanasia in 2005 was 56%.[10]

The wiki page is worth looking at for the linked resources alone.

I came across a no-kill cageless cat shelter in Tucson, Az, The Hermitage. Some of the stories are heartbreaking, but it is wonderful to hear about a place where “unadoptable” cats can live out their lives.

I also happened to hear about a shelter on Long Island that sounds great, Angel’s Gate. They take a lot of animals that are unadoptable for a variety of reasons. They were featured on a recent (April 28, 2008 ) Oprah show as well, so if you Tivo, you might be able to catch it. Or maybe from Oprah’s website.

No Kill Now’s resource page
looks like they’ve covered just about everything.

Richmond, VA reported at the beginning of 2007 that they had successfully achieved their first no-kill year in 2006, two years earlier than the goal they set in 2002 to become no-kill by 2008. They’re now extending their plans to surrounding counties. I look forward to this reaching the DC metro area, for which I have yet to hear a single peep from anyone regarding the no-kill movement. Shame on us!

And of course I am reminded that there was a book that came out last year on this issue, which I have not read. I’ll have to look for a copy to read at some point. The associated website looks pretty helpful, No Kill Advocacy.

Philadelphia still looks like it has a no-kill goal, though it certainly isn’t in the news in Philly, and its alliance website that was up last year has expired. They have nevertheless taken their dismal numbers from 2005 (only 10% of the animals taken into the city shelter made it back out alive) and drastically improved them. 60% of the animals they took in in 2007 were adopted out. That’s strong progress, and I hope they continue to make that kind of progress. Their original goal was to be no-kill by 2015.

This is not an exhaustive list – Tulsa, OK, for example, has soft language of a no-kill goal – but the point in any case was that it is possible. There are models in place that are proving to work. I find this encouraging.

Unfortunately there are also places like Denver that have Breed Specific Legislation, which makes it near impossible for them to become no-kill. And unsurprisingly for a city that has kill orders for specific breeds, there is no talk of no-kill goals.

Best Friends hosted a summit in 2006 on this topic in Denver.

Beyond that we know from our decades of experience with tens of thousands of dogs that trying to correlate a dog’s likelihood to bite a person with their breed is pointless. So, while we know that breed bans are really a lazy and uninformed approach to a growing problem we didn’t have enough information to formulate alternative remedies.

And if we, the humane movement, don’t get in front of this issue now, we will find ourselves responding after the fact to regulations and legislation in community after community that adversely affects people’s pets.

Beyond Denver’s Pit Bull ban, there are 26 breeds and many more mixes that are currently banned somewhere in this country. It’s a real problem that could threaten virtually every family dog over 30 pounds in the name of public safety.

And for people (like Ingrid Newkirk, thankyouverymuch) who actually support BSL, go ahead, find the pitbull. “Pit bull” has become a catch-all term, with 20 different breeds commonly identified as “pit bull”. Check out understand a bull for quite a bit of information on the issue, and the dogs. There are several states (confusingly including Colorado) that have state level laws that prohibit the passing of BSL.

So, overall it doesn’t seem like much has changed since last year. I am nevertheless pleased to see that there have been no major setbacks or scandals (that I could find). Hopefully next time I do an update there will be more cities getting on this wagon.

It would be even nicer, of course, if “no-kill” didn’t refer only to cats and dogs.


rescued from religious rites

A new baby bird arrived at Poplar Spring last Sunday – a baby guinea hen, who they have named Arabelle.


She was found on a DC sidewalk, a more common occurrence than you might expect! Many of the feathered residents of Poplar Spring have been rescued in similar ways, though chickens are the most common to be rescued from these types of situations. Terry says that they are found in all parts of DC, so it is pretty random in terms of location. The reason, the speculation goes, is Santeria. Santeria, as is common (even if only historically) in many religions, has ritual animal sacrifice as a common part of the belief. There is apparently a fairly large following in the DC area. I know that at NYC live animal markets, many of the birds are also bought for animal sacrifice reasons.

I find it disturbing. Looking back at just about any religion will show you that they’re fairly bathed in blood, so that is not much of a surprise, but I still find myself disconcerted to know that there are people living in my area right now who believe in and practice animal sacrifice. And even as I type that, I see the irony.

The wiki article on Santeria implies that animal rights activists were an influencing factor in a case that ended up at the supreme court, Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye v. City of Hialeah, but I am not convinced – it looks like the town board was simply uncomfortable with the religion’s rites. I’m also annoyed that the wiki article states the reason animal rights activists “take issue with” the sacrifice is because they “claim it is cruel.” Santeria practitioners, naturally, claim they kill only in humane ways.

The article regarding the case that was brought to the supreme court says:

It was a case in which the Supreme Court of the United States held unconstitutional an ordinance passed in Hialeah, Florida that forbade the “unnecessar[y]” killing of “an animal in a public or private ritual or ceremony not for the primary purpose of food consumption.” The law was enacted soon after the city council of Hialeah learned that the Church of Lukumi Babalu Aye, which practiced Santería, was planning on locating. Santeria is a religion practiced in the Americas by the descendants of Africans; many of its rituals involve animal sacrifice. The church filed a lawsuit in federal court, seeking for the Hialeah ordinance to be declared unconstitutional.

Adhering to Employment Division v. Smith, the lower courts deemed the law to have a legitimate and rational government purpose and therefore upheld the enactment. The Supreme Court, however, held that the ordinances were neither neutral nor generally applicable: rather, they applied exclusively to the church. Because the law was targeted at Santería, the Court held, it was not subject to an undemanding rational basis test: rather, it had to be justified by a compelling governmental interest, and be narrowly tailored to advance that interest. Because the ordinance suppressed more religious conduct than was necessary to achieve its stated ends, it was deemed unconstitutional.

Mary often talks about tradition and culture, and how neither are reasonable justification for committing unethical acts. I’m paraphrasing her thoughts badly, but if you read her blog at all, you can probably clearly recall her posts taking issue with those particular words!

In this country, it seems, religion is an excuse for quite a bit. The salvation army, being a “christian” charity, is allowed to refuse to aid or employ people who are not heterosexual. The FLDS in Texas is trying to claim religious persecution for their adult male members being put on trial for their “marriages” and sexual relations with children as young as 12 and 13 years old.

Yet the practitioners of Santeria, in their defense of their rituals, make a really great point. They eat the animals after they kill them, and so they ask – how can they be wrong, when the billions of animals sacrificed for the taste buds and bellies of mainstream society are seen as okay?

And that is a really good question. Obviously I am opposed to both, but for the mainstream society meat-eaters who look at Santeria’s animal sacrifice with something akin to horror, how can they look at their own relationship to animals and not see the similarities to what they oppose in the Santeria ritual sacrifices?