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Archive for August 2009

What marine-mammal parks don’t want you to know

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Dolphins are dying to entertain us. That’s the message of a devastating new documentary, The Cove, which sheds light on a dirty secret of the marine-park industry.

Every year between September and March, more than 2,000 dolphins are slaughtered in the small fishing village of Taiji, Japan, where The Cove was secretly filmed. Most of the dolphins are butchered and sold for meat. A dead dolphin is worth about $600.

But a few live dolphins—about two dozen each year—are sold to aquariums, performing-dolphin shows and swim-with-the-dolphins programs in Mexico, China, the Philippines and other countries. It’s these lucrative sales that keep the dolphin slaughter going. A single live dolphin can fetch more than $150,000.

During a typical slaughter—or “drive fishery,” as it is called—boats chase pods of dolphins while crew members clang metal poles together underwater, creating a cacophonous wall of sound that disorients the animals. Some dolphins are pursued for hours. Photojournalist Boyd Harnell, who observed the Taiji slaughter in October and November 2006, says, “It was like a military operation. … The pursuit was relentless.”

Calves who are unable to keep up and become separated from their mothers are left to die of starvation or to be eaten by sharks. The rest of the dolphins are herded into a hidden cove, and the mouth of the cove is blocked with nets to prevent the exhausted animals from escaping.

There, the dolphins are stabbed with spears or have their throats slashed with long knives. Video footage of past killings shows dolphins thrashing in their own blood for many agonizing minutes. By the end of the slaughter, the entire cove is red with blood.

According to a report released by the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, dolphins captured during drive hunts have ended up in aquariums all over the world. Even countries that no longer allow the importation of dolphins caught during the gruesome slaughter may be displaying animals purchased before the ban or moved through other countries to disguise their origin.

These dolphins fare little better than their slaughtered cousins. In the open sea, dolphins swim some 40 miles a day. In captivity, these intelligent, sensitive animals are confined to shallow tanks measured in gallons. Dolphins communicate with one another through whistles, yelps and squeaks. In tanks, their vocalizations become a garble of meaningless reverberations. Most aquariums keep Maalox and Mylanta on hand to treat the animals’ stress-related ulcers.

Louie Psihoyos, director of The Cove, says he was compelled to tell this story because he realized that “if nobody gets active, then nothing would get resolved. I felt it was time to stand up.”

The rest of us can stand up too, and say, “Enough is enough.” As long as the sale of a handful of live dolphins funds the deaths of all the rest, the marine-park industry must share the blame for this carnage. If you don’t want to support dolphin killings, stay away from dolphin shows and swim-with-the-dolphins programs, both here and abroad. No fleeting moment of entertainment is worth the price that the animals must pay.

Lisa Wathne is the senior captive exotic animal specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;


Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 28, 2009 at 8:21 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

To truly help the environment, try cash for ‘cluckers’

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Car dealers are breathing a sigh of relief now that the popular “cash for clunkers” program has been extended by $2 billion. With the new funding, as many as a half-million more Americans will be able to junk their gas guzzlers and buy more fuel-efficient vehicles.

I’m not impressed. If we are serious about wanting to put the brakes on climate change, we should be offering “cash for cluckers.” Encouraging meat-eaters to trade in their chicken for chickpeas and their pork chops for “fib ribs” is the best way to help the environment. 

Under the original $1 billion set aside for the “cash for clunkers” program, officials expect that a quarter-million gas guzzlers will be taken off the roads. According to calculations done by the Associated Press, replacing those clunkers with more fuel-efficient cars will reduce carbon-dioxide emissions by about 700,000 tons a year. Sounds pretty good, right?

It does until you consider that America spews out more carbon dioxide than that—728,000 tons on average—every single hour. Last year, the U.S. emitted nearly 6.4 billion tons of carbon dioxide—and that figure was lower than in previous years.

Now consider this: In its groundbreaking report Livestock’s Long Shadow, the United Nations concluded that the meat industry generates approximately 40 percent more greenhouse gasses than all the cars, trucks, SUVs, ships and planes in the world combined. The report summarizes the devastation caused by the meat industry by calling it “one of the top two or three most significant contributors to the most serious environmental problems, at every scale from local to global.”

The best way to fix this problem isn’t to junk clunkers but to kick the meat habit. Researchers at the University of Chicago have determined that switching to a vegan diet (which includes no meat, eggs or dairy foods) is about 50 percent more effective in countering climate change than trading in a standard American car for a Prius. And according to the Live Earth Global Warming Survival Handbook, “refusing meat” is the “single most effective thing you can do to reduce your carbon footprint.”

Vegetarians could drive Hummers and still do less damage to the planet than meat-eaters who cruise around in hybrids or switch to energy-saving light bulbs.

Even eating less meat can help. According to the Environmental Defense Fund, if every American ate just one meat-free meal per week, the emissions savings would be the same as taking more than 5 million cars off our roads. If we all went meat-free one day per week, the group says, it would be like eliminating 8 million cars.

It’s time for us to face facts: Raising animals for food is destroying the planet. Not only do today’s meat factories spew greenhouse gasses, they also gobble up precious resources, sicken nearby residents, contaminate the air, pollute the water and, of course, abuse animals. If we want to tread more lightly on the Earth, taking clunkers off the road is not enough. We need to take “cluckers”—and other animals—off our plates.

Chris Holbein is the project manager of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Special Projects Division, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 20, 2009 at 4:18 pm

Hot cars can be death traps for dogs

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

The dog days of summer are here, and many people are traveling with their canine companions or driving them to fun places like the beach or the dog park. But unfortunately for dogs, a joyride can quickly turn into a death sentence if their guardians leave them in a parked car, even for a minute or two. It doesn’t take much time for disaster to strike, and it does not help if the windows are cracked or there is water in the car. It’s simply too hot for Spot.

Every year, PETA hears about gruesome cases involving dogs who have literally been cooked to death inside parked vehicles. In a recent USA Today column by Sharon Peters, Plano, Texas, veterinarian Shawn Messonnier described what happens to animals who are left in hot cars. As the car heats up, dogs try to cool themselves the only way they can—by panting. But with only hot air to breathe, panting doesn’t work, and many dogs panic and try to escape the stiflingly hot vehicle by clawing at the windows or digging at the floor or seats.

Their desperation only increases their body temperature, and some dogs have heart attacks as a result. Without intervention, trapped dogs collapse, vomit and have diarrhea and soon lose consciousness as their organs begin to die. Death quickly follows. According to Dr. Messonnier, “When you do an autopsy on a dog [who] died this way, the organs are soupy.” Most people wouldn’t wish such terrible suffering on their worst enemy—let alone “man’s best friend.”

Countless dogs have suffered this terrible fate after their guardians wrongly assumed that it was safe to leave them in a parked car “just for a minute” with the windows cracked or the air conditioner running. But even on a moderately warm day, it only takes a couple of minutes for a dog trapped in a car to suffer and die from heatstroke.

On a 78°F day, the temperature inside a shaded car is 90°F, while the inside of a car parked in the sun can reach 160°F in minutes. And the unexpected can happen. Air conditioning can fail or the car can stall. That “quick trip” could take longer than expected if you get stuck in line or run into an old friend.

Some lucky dogs have been rescued in the nick of time after caring passersby called 911, insisted that a store page the dogs’ guardians or even, as a last resort, broke into vehicles to release overheating dogs. But many dogs who do survive terrifying ordeals in hot vehicles sustain kidney or liver damage and require extensive, costly veterinary treatment.

No dog deserves to go through this. If you see a dog who has been left alone in a car, note the car’s color, model, make and license plate number and have the owner paged inside the store, or call local animal control authorities or police immediately—every second counts, and that dog depends on you. Don’t let your discomfort prevent you from doing the right thing.  

If a dog is showing signs of heatstroke—restlessness, excessive thirst, heavy panting, lethargy, lack of appetite and coordination, dark tongue and vomiting—don’t waste a second. Get him or her into the shade immediately and call 911. Lower the animal’s body temperature gradually by providing water to drink; applying a cold towel or ice pack to the head, neck and chest; or immersing the dog in lukewarm (not cold) water. Rush the dog to a veterinarian.

And please, don’t take any chances with your canine companions. If you’re on the road with Rover and are tempted to stop to mail a letter, cash a check or pick up a loaf of bread—don’t. Drop off your dog at home first, where he or she will be cool, comfortable and safe. You’ll be glad you did when you return home to your best friend’s wagging tail.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a research specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 17, 2009 at 8:09 pm

Posted in animal companions

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If you love your cat, keep her inside

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By Paula Moore


I recently read a heartbreaking story about a cat named Hadley who had been deliberately set on fire. Hadley suffered painful third-degree burns on his face, ears, neck, back and legs. A photo in a Michigan newspaper shows Hadley’s blackened ears, which vets say will probably fall off because they are so badly burned. The orange-and-white tabby is also missing half his whiskers, and much of his fur will likely never grow back. After the attack, Hadley’s distraught guardians found him crouched in fear outside their home.


Bad things happen to cats who are left to wander outside on their own. While many people mistakenly believe that their cats “need” to go outside to be happy, if you want your feline friend to live a long, healthy life, the best thing you can do is keep her safely inside with you.


What happened to Hadley is far from an isolated incident. Random acts of cruelty are common, and the more than 300 new cruelty cases that PETA hears about every week mostly involve animals who were victimized after they were left outside unattended. In June, cat guardians in two suburban Florida neighborhoods were shocked when their beloved companions began turning up dead and mutilated. Many of the cats had been gutted and skinned. Some were missing limbs. At least 19 cats were killed before police charged a local teen with the crimes.


Outside cats have been beaten, kicked, hanged and shot with arrows. Some are stolen and sold for use in hideous animal experiments. Others are used as bait in dogfighting.


Even if your kitty never encounters a person with cruel intentions, there are plenty of other outdoor dangers. Cats left outside may be hit by cars, poisoned by antifreeze or pesticides from neighbors’ lawns or attacked by a dog or wild animal. Last year, I adopted a 5-year-old former stray from a local Siamese cat rescue group. When Mochi was first picked up by local animal control officers, he had a nasty wound on one of his back legs that had most likely come from a dog attack. To this day, Mochi’s leg gives him trouble, and he sometimes stumbles when he tries to run or jump.


Cats allowed to roam outdoors are also much more likely to contract devastating diseases such as feline leukemia, feline AIDS (FIV) and feline infectious peritonitis (FIP). Or they become infected with tapeworms, Giardia and other parasites. Mochi had roundworms when I adopted him—which I discovered when he unceremoniously deposited one on my bedroom rug. Trust me, you don’t want to see your cat hacking up a still-wiggling, 3-inch-long worm.


I do understand why some cat guardians are tempted to let their cats go outside. Mochi has lived with me for more than a year now, and he still occasionally sits in front of the door and howls—in that special way that only Siamese cats can—hoping to be let out. But I simply remind him that there is no dinner bowl outside (when animal control found him, he was little more than skin and bones) and distract him with the Cat Charmer or a toy mouse. He soon forgets all about going out. By setting aside daily “kitty quality time” to play with your cat and providing lots of diversions—including access to windows, perches, catnip gardens, scratching posts and tons of toys—you can keep your cat purrfectly content in your home.


So, please, if you care about your kitty, help him or her live to a ripe old age in the safety and security of the great indoors. And if you ever are tempted to let your cat go outside unsupervised, just think of poor Hadley and his burned ears. Today’s concrete jungles are simply no place for our feline friends.


Paula Moore is a research specialist for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 10, 2009 at 4:53 pm