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Archive for September 2010

Fall fashion’s hottest trend: Faux fur

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By Paula Moore

If you’d rather go naked than wear fur, you’re in luck. This fall, faux fur is everywhere. Many of the hefty fashion magazines on newsstands this month include spreads spotlighting faux-fur coats and other creations. Designers and retailers from Anna Sui to Uniqlo are selling faux-fur bags, faux-fur jackets, boots trimmed with faux fur and more. Even veteran designer Karl Lagerfeld featured head-to-toe fake fur in his fall collection for Chanel.

Whether it’s a sign of a slow economic recovery (fake fur is considerably cheaper than the “real thing”) or a nod to the growing “eco-fashion” movement hardly matters. For the sake of the millions of animals suffering in crowded wire-mesh cages on fur farms, faux fur is one trend that we should all embrace.

On fur farms around the world, animals spend their entire lives in small, filth-encrusted cages, often with no protection from the driving rain or the scorching sun. Rabbits’ tender feet become raw and ulcerated from rubbing against the wire mesh of the cage bottoms, and the stench of ammonia from urine-soaked floors burns their eyes and lungs. Video footage taken during undercover investigations of fur farms in China and France shows rabbits twitching and shaking after their throats are cut.

In China, which is now the world’s largest exporter of fur, animals on fur farms are bludgeoned, beaten and mutilated—all in the name of fashion.

Earlier this year, PETA’s affiliate PETA Asia released footage from its latest undercover investigation of fur markets and farms in China. The shocking footage reveals that raccoon dogs are beaten with steel pipes and left to die slowly as they writhe in agony in full view of other animals. Rabbits’ necks are broken while the animals are still conscious and able to feel pain. Animals live in barren wire cages—exposed to all weather extremes—as frozen piles of waste accumulate below them. Some are driven insane from the constant confinement and frantically pace and walk in circles in their cages.

Says Project Runway guru Tim Gunn, “With so many great alternatives, why would you buy the real thing? Why would you? I just don’t understand it.”

For anyone who worries that faux fur may not be as “green” as other options, consider this: Before a fur garment reaches the local mall, it is soaked in a bath of chemicals—including sulfuric acid, ammonium chloride, formaldehyde, lead acetate, sodium perborate and more—to keep it from decomposing in the buyer’s closet. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, one of the chemicals used to dye furs, hexavalent chromium, is a hazardous waste.

As designer Marc Bouwer (who uses no fur, leather or wool in his collections) points out, the technology used to produce faux fur will continue to improve. “But death is death.”

So when you’re out shopping for clothes this fall, remember that sometimes it’s OK—in fact, it’s preferred—to “fake it.” “Technical advances are so perfect you can hardly tell fake fur from the real thing,” says Lagerfeld. “Fake is not chic … but fake fur is.”

Paula Moore is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;


Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 24, 2010 at 4:31 pm

Salmonella poisoning tied to cruel farming practices

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By Heather Moore

Congressional leaders have launched an investigation of the two Iowa egg farms that were recently implicated in the nationwide salmonella outbreak. As this case shows, America’s food safety system clearly isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

But perhaps now that more than 1,300 people have fallen ill from eating tainted eggs (and experts estimate that at least 38 other people get sick for each reported case of salmonellosis), people will realize that we need to change more than our food safety regulations. We need to change the way we eat. We can start by scratching eggs off our shopping lists. There’s cruelty in every carton.

Among other things, Congress plans to review documents pertaining to the health, safety, environmental and/or animal welfare allegations against or violations committed by Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms—the Iowa farms implicated in this case—and/or their suppliers. I can save them some trouble there. Jack DeCoster, the owner of Wright County Egg and Quality Egg of New England, the company that supplies chickens and chicken feed to both Wright County and Hillandale, has been cited for numerous offenses throughout the years, including cruelty to animals.

Just this past June, DeCoster, who owns several agribusinesses in the Midwest and Northeast,  pleaded guilty to 10 civil counts of cruelty to animals and paid more than $130,000 in fines and restitution following Mercy for Animals’ undercover investigation of Quality Egg. Investigators with the animal protection group documented that hens were crammed into filthy cages without sufficient food and water, that sick and injured birds were left to languish without veterinary care and that live birds were tossed into the trash.

Such cruelty, while inexcusable, is the norm on egg farms. Ninety-nine percent of egg-laying hens are confined to filthy sheds containing row upon row of tiny, multitiered wire mesh “battery” cages. Four to six birds are crammed into every file drawer–sized cage. Each bird lives on an area smaller than a standard sheet of paper. The birds often suffer crippling leg injuries from standing on wire 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They never breathe fresh air, feel the sun on their backs, build nests or engage in any other natural behavior.

Feces from birds in the top cages constantly falls on the birds below and into the huge manure pits that line the sheds, providing ideal conditions for disease. Many birds die, and the survivors must live with their rotting cagemates.

When birds are forced to live in such squalid conditions, the likelihood that harmful salmonella bacteria, which live in the intestines and feces of animals, will spread from bird to bird—and from birds to people—increases dramatically.

People who don’t want to get sick from salmonella poisoning—and those who don’t want any part of cruel egg-production practices—should stop eating eggs and egg products. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) chief Margaret Hamburg has already cautioned people about eating eggs, especially ones with runny yolks. She also wants Congress to allow the FDA to take a more “preventive approach” to food-borne disease outbreaks.

What better way to prevent salmonella poisoning and reduce animal suffering than to stop eating eggs altogether? Instead of buying eggs, you could opt for egg replacer (a cholesterol-free powdered mix that can be used in baked goods), scrambled and seasoned tofu and other tasty vegan foods. Vegan cookbooks and websites are full of egg-free recipes and product suggestions.

Heather Moore is a research specialist for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 16, 2010 at 4:45 pm

Will Obama allow 60-year-old space program veterans to retire?

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By Ingrid E. Newkirk

New Mexico’s Governor Richardson met with National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials recently in a last-ditch effort to stop NIH from moving 202 “retired” chimpanzees out of Holloman Air Force base and back into invasive experiments. NIH is moving swiftly to transfer the chimpanzees into facilities so substandard that caging conditions within them violate not only everything that we have come to know about what chimpanzees require but also federal law itself. Some of the animals are 60 years old; some are left over from the space program. Gov. Richardson’s visit came on the heels of petitions and pleas by everyone from physicians, veterinarians and primatologists to actors such as Gene Hackman, all of which have been ignored.

It was only a week earlier that Time magazine’s cover story asked the question, “What’s on animals’ minds?” Fifteen years before, as Dr. Jane Goodall mulled over the complex relationships within chimpanzee families, Time had asked, “Do animals think?” Now the question is “What do animals think?” In the case of chimpanzees, who have been taught to use sign boards and even American Sign Language to communicate with their human captors, they think a lot. 

The more pressing question is now “What is NIH thinking?” And the answer isn’t befitting our nation’s level of awareness about animals and its commitment to their protection.

In 2001, the U.S. Congress recognized that chimpanzees should be retired from experimentation. “Retirement” has not meant a beachfront condo or a return to the Gombe. Charities have managed to wrest away some chimpanzees, rehabilitate them from a life that, in some cases, consisted of 34 years on a concrete bench in a tiny cell or two decades in a steel cage barely any bigger than the animal’s body, and put them in group care. 

In many cases, “retirement” has meant a continuation of solitary confinement but no more invasive and painful procedures. Imbued with active, intelligent minds, naturally inclined to complex social relationships, as capable of falling in love and carefully raising their children as we are, they sit and wait, alone, with not even a blanket or an orange to keep them company. It is cruel and unusual punishment for a thinking being, but it is still far better than also being cut apart and sewn back up every so often, the fate that now awaits them again if NIH does not stop this wretched plan.

NIH has already moved 15 of the “retired” chimpanzees to the Southwest Foundation, a Texas facility that has failed to meet federal minimum standards for the care of animals. Federal minimum standards for chimpanzees, by the way, require no more than enough room in which to stand, sit and turn around―for life. Charles River Laboratories, which operates the Alamogordo Primate Facility, another dungeon-like laboratory complex as notoriously inhumane as Devil’s Island, plans to start experimenting on these and the other chimpanzees soon. 

Carl Sagan once wondered if those who experiment on nonhuman primates would fare as well as their subjects if the tables were turned. At first, he thought they would. But in one experiment, in which monkeys were only permitted to eat if they pulled a lever that administered an electric shock to another monkey, the monkeys chose to abstain from food for up to 14 days, even if they didn’t know the monkey being shocked. Sagan had to wonder how many human beings in the same situation would be so selfless.

If this administration is to be seen as remotely humane, President Obama must act quickly to stop the NIH officials who have chosen to ignore all that we have learned over the years about how indistinguishable chimpanzees are from us in any important way, such as the ability to feel pain and fear, love and joy, and the desire to live with others of one’s own kind. The chimpanzees being moved out of Holloman are not a testament to our society’s quest for understanding and compassion but rather a testament to its ability to betray, for a few bucks, those who depend on us for mercy.

Ingrid E. Newkirk is the president and founder of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; Her latest book is The PETA Practical Guide to Animal Rights.

Tax dollars thrown away on pointless animal experiments

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A report issued last month by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blasts 100 “questionable,” “mismanaged” and “poorly planned” stimulus-funded projects, including an especially pointless and cruel experiment that the report aptly calls “Monkeys Getting High for Science.” The study in question is being conducted at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, a Winston Salem, N.C.–based facility that was awarded $71,623 in stimulus funds to feed cocaine to monkeys.

“I think all of [the projects] are waste,” McCain told ABC News. “[S]ome are more egregious than others but all of them are terrible.”

Hooking monkeys on coke definitely falls into the “more egregious” category. Unfortunately, this study is just a drop in the proverbial crack pipe. Wasteful and cruel addiction studies on animals are currently being conducted all over the country—and most are simply slight variations on experiments that have been conducted for years. Often the “results” have been known for years as well.

For example, it has already been well established that smoking harms developing human fetuses. But that hasn’t stopped the federal government from funneling more than $10 million to Eliot Spindel of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Spindel impregnates monkeys and then continuously injects them with nicotine to cause damage to their unborn babies’ lungs. The preterm babies are then cut from their mothers’ bodies and killed so that their organs can be cut out and dissected.

Other experiments on animals could easily be conducted on willing human volunteers.

At Yale University, experimenter Marina Picciotto has squandered nearly $10 million in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health for nicotine, amphetamine and cocaine addiction experiments on monkeys, mice and rats. The stated goal of one such experiment was to determine how long one should wait after ingesting nicotine before brain imaging is done.

But rather than using actual human smokers who were enrolled in a clinical study, Picciotto isolated monkeys in cages and fed them nicotine-laced Kool-Aid for eight weeks. One monkey received a dose of nicotine each day that was equal to the amount of nicotine found in 17 packs of cigarettes (far more than even chain-smoking humans consume), and the monkeys had to suffer through the distress and discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.

Some addiction experiments appear to be almost sadistically pointless. At Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, Jack Bergman has conducted federally funded experiments on squirrel monkeys in which they were isolated in steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, strapped in restraint chairs and given electric shocks.

Bergman now wants to spend another $1.75 million of public money from NASA to blast squirrel monkeys with radiation and then cage them for the rest of their lives to see how it damages their brains and bodies—even though four decades of government-funded radiation experiments on primates have not produced any results that are relevant to humans. A NASA space station engineer who resigned in protest over the experiment says she believes that the agency’s resources would be better spent devising ways to prevent radiation from entering spaceships rather than trying to figure out what to do after it does.

While it is always unethical to confine, poison, mutilate and kill animals for experimentation, it is especially egregious that experimenters are trying to use animals to model addiction, which is in large part caused by social, psychological and even economic factors. Studies on animals can’t resolve these issues.

Furthermore, vast fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals make the results of such experiments difficult if not impossible to extrapolate to humans. Data from mice, rats and monkeys who are trapped in a laboratory and forced into an unnatural and involuntary addiction are of no relevance to humans suffering from drug addictions. Federal tax dollars would be much better spent funding cash-strapped addiction treatment centers and studying drug addictions in humans in a clinical setting rather than torturing animals.

 Alisa Mullins is a research specialist for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510;

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 2, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Posted in animal testing