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Archive for October 2009

Fetch a dog from a shelter this October

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Walk into almost any animal shelter, and you’ll see row after row of homeless dogs with wagging tails and pleading eyes, their wet noses jammed between the cage bars as if to say, “Pick me, pick me!” All of them—purebreds and mutts alike—are desperate for attention, for love and for someone to take them home.


October is “Adopt a Shelter Dog” Month, and for people who have the time, patience, money, energy and love needed to care for an animal, there has never been a better time to take home a grateful dog awaiting adoption at the local animal shelter.


While not every dog may be perfect for everyone, every homeless dog is perfect for someone, if only that someone would come along. That’s why, as a shelter volunteer, it’s baffling to me that some people still turn to pet stores, classified ads or breeders—all of which contribute to the animal overpopulation crisis—when animal shelters across the U.S. are overflowing with lovable, friendly, healthy dogs who would make wonderful companions.


Most dogs in shelters are victims of circumstances beyond their control, such as divorce or an allergic guardian. The recession and the foreclosure crisis have flooded shelters with dogs who were given up by people who could no longer afford to care for them or who moved into living situations where dogs aren’t welcome.


Others were surrendered because their guardians acquired them on a whim and lost interest in caring for them once they discovered that veterinarian visits cost money, that dogs need exercise and something interesting to do and that cute little puppies chew and soil things and quickly grow up to be big, rambunctious dogs. Many have ended up homeless simply because someone didn’t spay or neuter his or her dog and an unwanted litter was born.


Adopting pre-loved dogs has many advantages. They are likely to be housetrained, pros at basic skills such as walking on a leash and familiar with good behavior and proper canine etiquette. And while most animal shelters have plenty of adorable puppies who need homes, with adult dogs, “what you see is what you get” in terms of the dog’s size, grooming needs, energy level and personality.


For those of you whose hearts are set on a pedigreed pup, you should know that about 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebreds, and Web sites such as make it possible for adopters to find the breed of their choice and still rescue a dog. Of course, mixed-breed dogs make equally great companions, and they don’t suffer from many of the genetic health problems that plague purebreds.


Another reason to visit your local shelter: Dogs in animal shelters are usually screened for health and temperament issues, and for a nominal adoption fee, most shelter dogs go home spayed or neutered, microchipped, dewormed and vaccinated.


Trained adoption counselors at animal shelters help match potential adopters with the dog who will be the best fit for their personality and lifestyle. Many shelters also offer free training classes and follow-up support to help make the dog’s transition to a new home successful.


Many people who have adopted shelter dogs—myself included—say that their canine companions are exceptionally devoted to them and that they seem to be especially grateful for a warm home, a soft bed, nutritious food and a human who adores them. So if you’re considering adding a canine companion to your family, why wait any longer? October is the perfect time to “fetch” a dog from your local animal shelter. Not only will you save a life, you’ll also make a best friend for life.


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

October 26, 2009 at 2:53 pm

Posted in animal companions

New investigation reveals dairy’s dark side

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By Dan Paden

When people find out that I’m an animal rights activist and a vegan, they invariably have questions. “Are your shoes leather?” they often ask. (Answer: “No.”) “Do you miss meat?” (“Not a bit.”) And, usually, “What’s wrong with eating dairy foods? Cows aren’t killed to make milk.”


I hope that People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) new undercover investigation will put this last question to rest once and for all. Milk and cheese might seem harmless, but the dairy industry is responsible for often shocking cruelty to animals.


From birth to death, animals on today’s factory farms are treated like nothing more than machines. Cows are no exception. Farmed cows are artificially impregnated year after year to force their bodies to produce milk. Their calves are taken from them shortly after birth—sometimes literally dragged away by a chain wrapped around one leg. The traumatized mothers bellow for hours—sometimes days—searching for their newborns.


Cows have a natural life span of about 25 years, but the disease, lameness and reproductive problems rampant in the dairy industry render cows “useless” by the time they are 4 or 5 years old. They are then turned into soup, dog food or low-grade hamburger meat. Their bodies are too “spent” to be used for anything else.


PETA launched an undercover investigation of one such farm, a Pennsylvania facility that supplies milk to Fortune 250 company Land O’Lakes—the largest seller of name-brand butter in the U.S.—after we were contacted by a whistleblower earlier this year.


Our investigator documented deplorable conditions and routine neglect and abuse. Cows who had trouble standing and walking were kicked, electro-shocked or jabbed with a blade. After she was shocked with a high-voltage electric prod, one cow struggled and skidded on her knees, then hobbled in obvious pain through a slurry of manure and filth. She was hauled off to slaughter two days later.


One cow’s gangrenous, infected teat ruptured as she was milked by a machine. Workers were told to tightly wrap the teat with an elastic band in order to “amputate” it. The cow’s condition deteriorated over the next 11 days before she finally died.


Another cow collapsed in a deep pool of liquid manure. She struggled and flailed but could not get up. The cow was left to languish there for at least five hours as the pool of urine and manure covered her body and coated her eyes, nose and mouth.


Cows and calves were kept in pens and barns whose floors were filled with deep excrement, which caused foot and hoof problems and fostered disease. One steer was nearly blind, his eyes scarred from untreated pinkeye. Calves rescued from the facility had pneumonia, “manure scald,” ringworm and parasites. Abscesses were common. As PETA’s video shows, some of them burst and oozed pus even as cows were being milked.


Land O’Lakes “inspected” the Pennsylvania farm as recently as June 2009 and merely noted that there were areas—including the milking parlor walls—in need of cleaning; it approved the facility nonetheless. 


As a result of PETA’s investigation, the farm’s owner and his son have been charged with cruelty to animals. PETA is also calling on Land O’Lakes to implement and enforce a 12-point animal welfare plan that would eliminate some of the worst abuses to cows raised for their milk.


But it won’t eliminate all of them. As long as consumers continue to buy milk, butter, cheese and ice cream (even though supermarkets are full of delicious alternatives), animals will continue to suffer. Mother cows will continue to watch helplessly as their calves are taken from them again and again. They will continue to go lame from intense confinement amid waste and suffer from mastitis, an extremely painful udder infection caused by drugs and overmilking. And they will continue to be trucked to slaughter and ground up for burgers when their worn-out bodies are no longer of any use to farmers.


And that’s what’s wrong with dairy foods.


Dan Paden is a senior research associate in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Cruelty Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 16, 2009 at 7:45 pm

For kids’ health, Ronald McDonald and Joe Camel both deserve the boot

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By Chris Holbein

As part of an effort to snuff out youth smoking, selling candy-, fruit- and spice-flavored cigarettes is now illegal in the U.S. The ban went into effect in September. Health officials say that flavored cigarettes make smoking more palatable to kids, and studies back them up: 17-year-olds are three times more likely to use flavored cigarettes than adults are.


This is certainly a step in the right direction. But if we’re serious about wanting to improve kids’ health, how about a ban on hot dogs and Happy Meals while we’re at it? The children who eat chicken nuggets and pepperoni pizza today will likely grow up to be the obese adults and heart patients of tomorrow.


Our addiction to meat, eggs and dairy foods is making us—and our kids—sick. Thirty percent of children in the U.S. are now overweight or obese. According to a study published last year in the journal Obesity, if current trends continue, that number will double by the year 2030.


Overweight kids tend to become overweight adults who are at greater risk for heart disease, strokes and all the other ailments that stem from extra pounds. Children as young as 3 are showing signs of clogged arteries, and pediatricians are reporting an alarming increase in the number of children with type 2 diabetes, a disease that typically affects adults.


Simply by eliminating meat from your kids’ diet, you can slash their risk of obesity and heart disease. Population studies show that meat-eaters have three times the obesity rate of vegetarians—and nine times the obesity rate of vegans. Vegetarians are also 50 percent less likely to develop heart disease.


Vegetarian foods, which are packed with vitamins, phytochemicals and fiber, can also help your kids ward off cancer as they grow older. Researchers have found that vegetarians are 25 to 50 percent less likely to suffer from cancer than meat-eaters are.


In fact, the American Dietetic Association has determined that vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of life and that vegetarians are less prone to heart disease, cancer, diabetes and obesity than are meat-eaters.


Cut out meat, and you’ll also cut out a heaping dose of cruelty at every meal. Kids have a natural affinity for animals, and they’d be horrified if they knew what happens to animals before they reach our dinner tables. 


The chickens killed for McDonald’s McNuggets, for example, are dumped out of their transport crates at slaughterhouses and slammed upside down into metal shackles—often resulting in broken bones, extreme bruising and hemorrhaging. The birds have their throats cut while they are still conscious, and many are immersed in tanks of scalding-hot water while they are still alive and able to feel pain.


Undercover investigators from PETA have documented factory-farm workers beating and kicking pigs and slamming piglets onto the ground. Fish—whom scientists now know can feel pain, as all animals do—bleed or suffocate to death on the decks of ships, gasping for oxygen. They can be left to suffer for as long as 24 hours.


If we don’t want our kids to know about the horrible abuses endured by animals in the meat industry, then the decent thing to do is to stop feeding them meat in the first place. Our kids would be better off if we did.


Lawmakers aren’t likely to ban burgers and fish sticks any time soon, so it’s up to us as parents to help our children make smart food choices. Encouraging kids to eat nutritious vegetarian foods will give them the fuel they need to be healthy and active now—and help protect them from a host of painful and debilitating ailments as they grow older. If a simple lifestyle change can help our children be happy and healthy, don’t we owe it to them to give it a try?


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

October 9, 2009 at 8:36 pm

Cruelty in the classroom

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By Justin Goodman

Now that kids are back in school, parents everywhere are breathing a sigh of relief. The frantic search for school supplies is over, and most kids are settling in to their new routines. But don’t relax just yet, Mom and Dad: You still have some homework to do. Your assignment: Find out if cruelty is on the curriculum.

If animal dissections are included in this year’s lesson plan, the answer is “Yes.”

As early as middle school, most students are forced by their teachers to cut up intact frogs, fetal pigs and other animals. Only 15 states have passed laws or resolutions that allow students to opt out of animal dissections. But even in states where such laws exist, students who choose not to dissect can be ostracized or ridiculed by their peers and teachers. A New Jersey eighth-grader who opted out of dissection had the remains of a dead frog placed in her purse by her teacher and was ordered to carry a dead animal across campus.

Educators often ignore or are unaware of the abundant data documenting the superiority of non-animal teaching methods and commonly tell their impressionable young students that dissection is vital to a successful science education. Who are 12-year-olds to argue?

They don’t know that each of the more than 10 million animals who are killed and cut open in classrooms every year represents not only a life lost but also part of a trail of animal abuse. Some animals used for dissection are caught in the wild; others come from breeding facilities that cater to businesses that use animals in experiments. Or they are lost or abandoned animal companions who were sold by an animal shelter to a biological supply company. 

PETA investigators who went undercover at one biological supply company documented cases in which animals were removed from gas chambers and injected with formaldehyde without first being checked for vital signs—a violation of the Animal Welfare Act. The investigators’ video footage documents cats and rats struggling during injection. One rabbit, still alive after being gassed, tried to crawl out of a wheelbarrow that was full of water and dead rabbits. Employees laughed as a coworker drowned the animal. 

For both ethical and educational reasons, cutting up the organs of dead animals is not the best way to introduce students to modern scientific methods.

Nearly every published comparative study has concluded that non-animal learning tools, such as virtual dissection software, teach anatomy and complex biological processes as well as, or better than, animal dissection. Two recent peer-reviewed studies show that even something as simple as building body structures out of clay is superior to cat dissection when it comes to teaching anatomy to college students. Last year, the National Science Teachers Association amended its official position statement to approve the use of non-animal alternatives as replacements for dissection. 

Using non-animal science education tools also more accurately reflects what students will encounter if they go on to medical school. Today, nearly 95 percent of U.S. medical schools have abandoned the use of animals; instead, they use non-animal methods that rely on sophisticated tools such as human-patient simulators. 

Educators need to bring themselves up to date on the emerging areas of medical and scientific research that rightly view the use of animals as not only unethical but also antiquated. Concerned parents can take action, too, by urging their local school board to ban classroom dissections or at least give all students the option of doing a non-animal project. In this day and age, using dissection to train students for the modern scientific world is like preparing kids for calculus with an abacus.

Justin Goodman is a research associate supervisor for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) as well as an adjunct faculty member in the department of sociology and criminal justice at Marymount University in Arlington, Va. He may be reached c/o PETA at 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

October 2, 2009 at 8:30 pm