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Archive for September 2009

The season’s best look: faux fur

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I was flipping through some of the fall fashion magazines recently when I noticed a surprising trend. This season, a lot of women are going to be “faking it.”

I couldn’t be happier.

In years past, the September fashion magazines were depressingly furry. Last year, one magazine featured a two-page article on fur coats and shawls that were infused with a mist of 24-karat gold. This year, because of the ailing economy, ostentation is “out,” frugality is “in” and many fashion trendsetters are sporting faux-fur jackets and vests instead of the real thing. 

I urge everyone to embrace the faux-fur trend, and here’s why. Many of the fur accessories and fur-trimmed jackets that you see in stores are made from rabbit fur because it’s often cheaper than other animals’ skins. But I’ve lived with several rabbits over the years, and I can tell you that they are much more than muffs.

Just like our dog and cat companions, rabbits have their own individual personalities, likes and dislikes. One of my rabbits, Henry, loved to be the center of attention, and he would sit in the middle of the living room while I watched TV or lounge on the futon with his legs stretched out to the side.

My rabbits Cozy and Freya fell in love and became inseparable. No matter where they were, they would always sit with their bodies pressed together. When I petted Cozy, he’d respond by giving me tons of kisses. Freya would gently nibble on my inner arm. They both had a sweet tooth and loved bananas, apples and raisins.

Rabbits make lifelong bonds with other rabbits as well as with their human companions and other animals in the household. Henry and my cat Winnie used to chase each other around the house and playfully wrestle. When my cat Josie groomed Henry, he would grind his teeth in delight. He especially loved to have his face cleaned.

Rabbits are fastidiously clean by nature, so imagine what it’s like for them on fur farms, where they are confined to tiny, filthy cages, surrounded by their own waste. PETA Asia’s director and a coworker of his visited a typical rabbit fur farm in China recently, and the first thing that struck them was the stench—a sickening combination of urine, feces and freshly removed skins left to dry in the sun.

There’s a reason rabbits have those strong back legs—to dash about. All my rabbits would make crazy dashes around the house and do 180-degree turns in the air, joyfully kicking out their legs.

On the fur farm that PETA Asia’s staff visited, hundreds of rabbits were individually packed into cages not much bigger than their own bodies, all of them freezing in the cold. Each cage, one after another, row upon row, contained one solitary rabbit, living all alone.

When most people envision fur farms, they probably think about the animals’ terrifying slaughter, and it is horrible. PETA Asia’s staff documented workers pulling terrified rabbits from their cages and twisting their heads—breaking their necks but not killing them. These rabbits, still alive and convulsing, were tossed into barrels like pieces of trash. 

But I also think about the extreme boredom and loneliness that those rabbits, housed all alone, had to endure, day after day, month after month, until they were finally killed. Rabbits can be shy, but they are not solitary animals. They all love to be stroked and spoken to gently, and they want to be part of the family.

With so many Americans worrying about losing their jobs or keeping up with their monthly mortgage payments, flaunting real fur right now is a bit tacky, to say the least. It’s little wonder that fashion editors are pushing fake fur this season. But, for the sake of rabbits everywhere, I hope that women will continue to “fake it” long after the recession is over. Cruelty is never in fashion.

Robyn Wesley is the senior editor of Publications for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 28, 2009 at 7:45 pm

Posted in fur

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Turning kids into killers

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A new Wisconsin law begs the question: How low will hunting lobbyists go?

In an effort to revive a dying sport, states across the country are loosening hunting restrictions and putting loaded weapons into younger and younger hands. The Wisconsin law, which went into effect this month, lowers the state’s hunting age from 12 to 10. Since 2004, more than a dozen other states have also changed their laws to allow younger children to hunt. According to the Associated Press, 30 states do not even have a minimum hunting age.

But teaching children how to kill can be downright dangerous—and not just to Bambi and his friends.

In 2008, the Tulsa World in Oklahoma (a state that has no minimum hunting age) analyzed reports compiled by the International Hunter Education Association of hunting-related injuries and fatalities. Of the more than 6,650 hunting accidents included in the group’s database since 1994, nearly 35 percent involved hunters who were 21 years old or younger.

An analysis by Milwaukee’s Journal Sentinel found that young hunters were more than twice as likely to cause accidents as other hunters. During the 2007–8 hunting season in Georgia, four of the five fatal incidents involved children or teenagers. Among those killed was an 8-year-old boy who died after shooting himself in the chest with a shotgun.

While these were clearly accidents (“waiting to happen,” some would add), some young hunters have deliberately taken aim at other human beings. Earlier this year, the nation was shocked by news reports about an 11-year-old Pennsylvania boy who allegedly shot and killed his father’s pregnant fiancée. According to the reports, Jordan Brown’s father had given his son a youth-model 20-gauge shotgun for Christmas. Jordan used the gun to win a turkey shoot on Valentine’s Day and then, allegedly, to kill 26-year-old Kenzie Marie Houk execution-style as she slept.

All the students involved in school shootings in recent years first “practiced” on animals, and many of them were hunters. In 1998, 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson and 11-year-old Andrew Golden of Jonesboro, Ark., took the hunting guns belonging to Golden’s grandfather and used them to ambush their fellow students, killing four girls and one teacher.

David Ludwig, who is serving a life sentence for shooting and killing his 14-year-old girlfriend’s parents in Lititz, Pa., when he was 18, was an avid deer hunter. Photos on Ludwig’s blog showed his grinning face as he disemboweled the bloody deer he had just shot. In 2006, the Pennsylvania Game Commission launched the Mentored Youth Hunting Program to encourage more young people to hunt.

It’s no secret why hunters are taking aim at state hunting laws. Hunters are fast becoming an endangered species. The number of hunters in the U.S. dropped from a peak of 19.1 million in 1975 to just 12.5 million in 2006. Between 2001 and 2006—the last year for which national figures are available—hunters’ numbers fell by 4 percent.

But is handing an immature 10-year-old a gun the answer? In a letter to the Wisconsin State Assembly, the Wisconsin Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics says, “No.” The group reminded lawmakers that young children are not “developmentally ready to safely handle a gun while hunting” and warned that causing harm to another living being—intentionally or not—can lead to “long lasting emotional disability for the involved child.”

Putting both children and the community as a whole at risk just to boost declining hunting numbers is appalling. In this culture of escalating violence among teens and even children, do we really want to desensitize young people to suffering, give them guns and teach them how to kill?

Martin Mersereau is the director of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Cruelty Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; http://www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 21, 2009 at 7:58 pm

Posted in hunting

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In a fog? It could be the fish

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If your hair is thinning and you can’t remember where you left the car keys, last night’s fish fillets just might be to blame. According to a new study released by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), over a seven-year period, scientists found mercury in every single fish they tested from streams across the country.

This study should put to rest once and for all the old fish story that fish is a “health food.”

From 1998 to 2005, USGS scientists tested more than a thousand fish collected from nearly 300 streams nationwide. All the fish were contaminated with mercury, and more than a quarter of them—27 percent—had mercury levels that exceeded the Environmental Protection Agency’s safety limits for the average fish-eater. Numerous other studies have also found worrisome levels of mercury and other contaminants in farmed fish and lake and ocean fish, including tuna and swordfish.

Mercury is a documented poison that can cause learning disabilities in children and neurological problems in adults. Elevated mercury levels can lead to brain damage, memory loss, exhaustion, depression, joint pain, hair loss, gastrointestinal disturbances and numbness in the hands and feet. Some studies suggest that mercury exposure can also cause vision loss and increase the risk of a heart attack.

If you don’t think Americans suffer from mercury-related health problems, think again. When college student Luke Lindley arrived at Stanford University, he started eating canned tuna as an inexpensive alternative to meals in the campus dining hall. This formerly bright student suddenly found himself struggling to read and study. “I would study four times as long to retain the same information that should have taken me a very short amount of time,” Luke told USA Today. “Each day was an ordeal.”

Luke also began experiencing insomnia—sleeping only two or three hours at a time—and suffered agonizing gastrointestinal distress. A lab test found mercury concentrations in Luke’s hair that were 44 times what the government says is safe.

When Luke stopped eating tuna, his condition improved.

How many other people who think that fish is a healthy source of protein are suffering from the “fish fog” that Luke experienced? According to Dr. Jane Hightower, a San Francisco physician and author of the book Diagnosis: Mercury, perhaps more than we realize. Dr. Hightower identified dozens of patients with high levels of mercury in their bodies, and many showed signs of mercury poisoning, including headaches, fatigue and difficulty concentrating. As in Luke’s case, when Dr. Hightower’s patients stopped eating fish, their conditions improved.

“Common sense says that if you are not feeling well, and are eating poison, then stop eating it and see if you feel better,” says Dr. Hightower. “Most American consumers are simply unaware that the fish they eat could be making them sick.”

If you eat fish to boost your heart health, there are safer sources of cardio-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, including walnuts, flaxseed oil, spinach and soybeans as well as vegetarian supplements made from microalgae (which is where fish get omega-3s in the first place). An article published earlier this year in the Canadian Medical Association Journal argues that the purported benefits of fish have been overstated. One study involving men with angina found an increased risk of cardiac death among those who consumed fish oil, and a new Harvard study found that consuming fish and fish oil raises the risk of type 2 diabetes.

None of us would dream of drinking water tainted by sewage, pesticides, heavy metals and other contaminants, yet we’ll happily eat fish who are pulled from this toxic brew. Why is anyone surprised when it makes us sick? The smartest thing we can do for our health is skip the fish sticks and tuna salad sandwiches and reach for nutritious vegetarian options instead.

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

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 8, 2009 at 7:09 pm

Posted in vegetarian diets

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