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Archive for May 2010

Pet stores keep cruel animal trade alive

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By Dan Paden

If you care about animals, you should never buy one from a pet store. That may seem counterintuitive, but PETA’s undercover investigations have demonstrated time and again that pet shops and the companies that supply them treat animals like disposable objects. No thought is given to the fact that they are living beings.

PETA’s latest case proves this point.

Imagine a worker putting hamsters into a plastic bag and bashing them against a table in a crude attempt to kill them. One hamster languishes—panting heavily and suffering—for several minutes.

Unsalable animals are gassed in a filth-encrusted glass tank. Hamsters are killed when careless employees crush their necks between shipping boxes and box lids.

These are just a few of the atrocities that PETA documented during a recent three-month undercover investigation of Sun Pet Ltd., a Georgia-based wholesale animal dealer that supplies small mammals, birds, fish and other animals to PETCO, PetSmart, Pet Supplies “Plus,” Walmart and “mom and pop” pet stores across the U.S.

At Sun Pet, PETA’s investigator routinely found severely decomposed rat, mouse, gerbil and hamster remains in bins containing live animals. Guinea pigs, hamsters, rats, chinchillas and sugar gliders were housed and/or shipped in severely crowded bins, cages and boxes. Sometimes the distressed animals fought, resulting in injuries such as shredded ears and gouged eyes. 

A supervisor and employees routinely handled animals roughly. The supervisor said that “you could throw [the mice] against the wall and they’ll stand back up again and keep on running” and that you could forcefully squeeze small mammals’ abdomens “like a … PlayStation controller handle” to determine their gender.

In more than three months of employment, PETA’s investigator never once saw anyone from PetSmart’s or PETCO’s corporate offices inspecting the Sun Pet facility. Dozens of PETCO and PetSmart stores shipped sick and injured animals back to Sun Pet without food, water or veterinary care. Some animals were dead upon arrival.

One bad apple? Hardly. The situation at Sun Pet is all too common.

This is PETA’s fourth exposé revealing the abusive handling and filthy conditions endured by animals who are eventually sold at PETCO stores and our third revealing such conditions for animals sold at PetSmart. 

Last year, a PETA investigator spent seven harrowing months working inside U.S. Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE), a Texas-based multimillion-dollar animal supplier that sold animals to Sun Pet and other distributors.

Animals at USGE were routinely confined for days or weeks to pillowcases, shipping boxes and soda bottles without proper heat and humidity or even food or water. Hundreds of lizards who were never unpacked perished inside bags and “shipping cups.” Snakes routinely starved, and animals suffering from life-threatening conditions—including an emaciated and dehydrated wallaby who was too weak to stand—were left to suffer and die slowly. Workers routinely put sick, injured and dying animals in a freezer to kill them. Some animals deemed “no good” for sale were thrown into a Dumpster.

As a result of PETA’s investigation, Texas authorities seized more than 26,000 animals from USGE last December in the largest animal confiscation in history. USGE’s U.S. Department of Agriculture license has since been cancelled, and the company is now closed. Its owner, Jasen Shaw—who is now a fugitive—is wanted by the federal government for violations of the Lacey Act and is under investigation for charges of smuggling, conspiracy and aiding and abetting.

One down, many more to go.

If you share your home with an animal companion, please stock up on necessities at shops that sell only supplies, not live animals. And if you’re ready to pour your time, energy, money, attention and love into an animal, visit or your local animal shelter to adopt a furry friend.

Most importantly, never buy an animal from a pet store. Appalling abuse and neglect are just business as usual for the warehouses that supply pet shops. The suffering will continue until consumers stop patronizing stores that purchase animals from these hellholes.

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

May 21, 2010 at 3:09 pm

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KFC’s ‘pink buckets’ are a recipe for cancer

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By Elaine Sloan

As a breast cancer survivor, I’ve seen many tasteless examples of “pinkwashing” over the years. But KFC’s new “Buckets for the Cure” campaign takes the cake. The chicken chain is peddling pink buckets of chicken—available in stores through the end of May—ostensibly to raise funds for breast cancer research.

This is the same company that recently introduced the fat and sodium nightmare known as the Double Down sandwich—slices of bacon and cheese tucked between two chicken fillets.

Finding a cure for breast cancer is certainly a noble goal. But so is preventing cancer in the first place. And this won’t happen if consumers are encouraged to eat unhealthy foods by the bucketful.

A Washington Post blog entry about Buckets for the Cure reminds us that according to the National Cancer Institute, “studies have shown that an increased risk of developing colorectal, pancreatic, and breast cancer is associated with high intakes of well-done, fried, or barbecued meats.” Researchers have long known that cooking certain meats—including chicken—at high temperatures can create carcinogenic chemicals.

Even KFC’s supposedly healthier grilled chicken is problematic. When researchers tested samples of grilled chicken from six different KFC stores, they found PhIP, a chemical that’s classified as a carcinogen by the federal government, in every single sample. PhIP has been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, in dozens of studies.

We also know that being overweight—a risk if you make too many trips through fast-food drive-throughs—can increase your chances of developing cancer. On its Web site, the American Cancer Society warns that being overweight or obese raises the risk of several types of cancer, including breast cancer in postmenopausal women.

If anyone doubts the connection between diet and health, I’m proof that changing how you eat can save your life. 

When I first learned that I had breast cancer, I was devastated. I didn’t know where to turn or whom to trust. For much of my life, I regularly ate meat, eggs and dairy foods. After my mastectomy, though, I knew that I had to make some changes in order to prevent my cancer from coming back.

My son suggested that I switch to a vegan diet.

The research backs him up. Studies conducted in England and Germany, for example, have shown that vegetarians are 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than meat-eaters are. A Harvard study of nearly 136,000 people found that people who frequently eat skinless chicken—supposedly the “healthiest” kind—have a 52 percent higher chance of developing bladder cancer.

And a Colorado State University study released in March found that diets high in plant foods—specifically fruits, vegetables and soy—can cut the risk of developing breast cancer by 30 percent.

But I don’t need any more studies to tell me that vegan foods are wholesome and beneficial. I can feel the difference for myself.

Since I switched to a vegan diet, my energy level has increased, my cholesterol has decreased and I feel healthier overall. And I have peace of mind from knowing that I’m much less likely to have a relapse of breast cancer. I went vegan 18 years ago and have been cancer-free ever since.

KFC no doubt hopes to make a killing by selling many, many pink buckets over the next month. But it is doing consumers a real disservice by glossing over the fact that regularly eating what’s in those buckets can increase your odds of being diagnosed with cancer in the first place. My advice to anyone who wants to beat breast cancer is to load up on fruits, vegetables and other healthy plant foods—and kick the KFC bucket.

Elaine Sloan lives in New York City. She wrote this for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

All bets are off: Steer clear of horse racing

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By Kathy Guillermo

Two years after Eight Belles’ fatal breakdown during the Kentucky Derby, many of us still remember the heartbreak of seeing that beautiful filly lying in the dirt at Churchill Downs, her ankles shattered beyond repair.

The thoroughbred racing industry would have us believe that Eight Belles’ tragic death was a “freak accident,” but it wasn’t. Every single day, three horses, on average, suffer catastrophic injuries while racing and must be euthanized. This is no rare event. It’s business as usual.

At least 2,000 horses have died on U.S. tracks since the Eight Belles tragedy. And every month, 1,000 racehorses who don’t “measure up” are sent to other countries to be slaughtered for human consumption.

People who care about horses for horses’ sake must steer clear of the Triple Crown races if they don’t want to contribute to this staggering death toll.

In the weeks following Eight Belles’ death, there was much talk about reforming the horse-racing industry. And after being prodded by PETA, the racing industry did make some improvements, including banning steroids from the states in which Triple Crown races are run.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Racing insiders tell PETA that the misuse of legal drugs is still the biggest cause of breakdown and death, and the industry has yet to address this issue in any meaningful way.

Horse trainers have told us that in the days leading up to a race, strong anti-inflammatories, painkillers and muscle relaxants are legally injected into injured, sore horses to make them run when they should be recovering. Some horses are injected with drugs up to 30 times in the week before a race, and it’s all legal.

Then there are stories about the unusual substances, such as cobra venom, that are injected into horses in order to mask pain. There is no drug test for cobra venom. Many horses also undergo what industry insiders call “milkshaking”—forcing a large quantity of sodium bicarbonate and sugar into a horse’s stomach through a tube. This procedure is said to make them run faster during a race.

Drugging animals to make them do what they never would under natural conditions is abuse and must be stopped. It’s not enough to sound upset and make empty promises about reform.

PETA had planned to unveil a billboard in Louisville asking people not to attend, watch or bet on the Kentucky Derby while horses are dying on the tracks. Not surprisingly, every single local billboard company refused to post it. But the public deserves to know that the problems with horse racing didn’t end with Eight Belles. Horses are still being run to their deaths on racetracks. Most of them just never make the news.

So here’s my advice to racing fans who want to help push this industry to rein in its worst abuses. Don’t go. Don’t bet. And don’t watch.

Kathy Guillermo is a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

May 11, 2010 at 4:57 pm

Posted in Uncategorized