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Archive for January 2012

The military abuse video you haven’t heard about

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

Americans and Afghans alike are rightly outraged over a video circulating on the Internet that allegedly shows U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses. Pentagon officials are scrambling to do damage control, fearing that the video will hinder peace talks, and military officials are promising that those involved will be punished to the highest extent. But another video that surfaced recently also merits outrage and action: It shows a soldier viciously beating a sheep with a baseball bat while other soldiers laugh and cheer.

Blow after metallic, stomach-churning blow rains down on the terrified sheep’s skull. The convulsing and kicking animal tries in vain to rise and flee, but the man with the bat just keeps swinging. A local boy in the background jumps up and down in apparent delight while the sheep struggles on the ground. After much public outcry, military officials are finally investigating the video.

Animals don’t start wars. They don’t have political views, militaries or weapons. Yet they are often the victims of cruelty in combat zones. In 2008, video surfaced of a smiling Marine who hurled a live puppy off a cliff while another Marine laughed. Thankfully, after a massive public outcry and pressure from PETA, the puppy-tossing Marine was expelled, and another Marine in the video faced disciplinary action.

The same year, video that was allegedly taken from a CD found in Baghdad’s Green Zone depicts what appear to be U.S. soldiers taunting and tormenting a dog whose back legs were apparently crippled. The laughing men threw rocks at the dog, who snarled and yelped in pain before making a desperate attempt to flee on two legs. One of the men in the video said the dog’s attempt to run was “the funniest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.” Many other similar incidents of abuse have been recorded on video, and many more likely never see the light of day.

Whether the abuser is a military service member or a regular Joe, cruelty to animals isn’t “normal” behavior, and it must be taken seriously, for everyone’s safety. People who find pleasure or humor in harming animals aren’t just cruel; they’re also cowards because they target “easy victims” who don’t have any hope of fighting back.

Mental-health and law-enforcement professionals know that animal abusers’ disregard for life and indifference to suffering indicate a dangerous psychopathy that does not confine itself to animal victims. A history of cruelty to animals regularly shows up in the FBI records of serial rapists and murderers, and a study by Northeastern University and the Massachusetts SPCA found that people who abuse animals are five times more likely to commit violent crimes against humans. Violence is a fact of war, but the depravity shown by the sheep-beating soldier and the sick pleasure the onlookers seemed to derive from watching the beating are red flags.

All the students who have opened fire on their classmates have histories of cruelty to animals. “BTK” killer Dennis Rader, who was convicted of killing 10 people, admitted that he was cruel to animals as a child and apparently practiced strangling dogs and cats before moving on to human victims. Serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer tortured animals and impaled cats’ and dogs’ heads on sticks. The Boston Strangler, Albert DeSalvo, used arrows to shoot cats and dogs who were trapped inside crates.

Whether it occurs at home or in a war zone, there is never an excuse for harming animals. The stakes of cruelty to animals are far too high to ignore it, to excuse it or to let those who commit it go unpunished. It’s time for the military to treat acts of cruelty to animals with the seriousness that they deserve.

Lindsay Pollard-Post is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

January 30, 2012 at 9:09 pm

A resolution for cat people

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By Paula Moore

I would like to propose a simple resolution that requires almost no effort and will prevent countless animals from suffering: Keep your cats indoors. Allowing cats to roam outside unsupervised puts both them and other animals in peril.

Case in point: Late last month, a cat miraculously survived a terrifying four-hour, 200-mile trek under the hood of a car in Ohio. The cat was discovered when the car’s driver stopped at a rest area after smelling something burning. With the help of a passing police officer, the driver was able to free the cat, who was wedged in the engine compartment and had suffered burns to his right side. He was rushed to a veterinarian, underwent surgery and is expected to recover.

This story is unusual only in that the cat survived. During the winter months, many animals are maimed or killed when they crawl inside car engines, seeking warmth, and are slashed by fan blades when the unsuspecting driver starts the car. (That’s why, in wintertime, it’s always a good idea to bang on the hood of your car a few times before starting it to give any animals who may be hiding underneath it a chance to jump out.)

This cat’s close call is also a reminder of the many outdoor dangers that await our feline friends. Every day, animals are kicked, beaten, poisoned by intolerant neighbors, used for target practice and worse after being left outside alone for “just a few minutes.” Some animals are stolen and sold for use in painful experiments. Others are used as “bait” by dogfighters.

Random acts of cruelty are common: Most of the 400-plus new cruelty cases that PETA receives each week involve animals who were victimized while outside unattended.

Many people have learned the hard way never to let their cats outside alone. In Washington, D.C., a cat let out for her daily stroll returned covered with burns from hot cooking grease. In California, a woman searching for her cats found that both had been shot with arrows. In Florida, more than a dozen cats were mutilated, gutted and skinned before police charged a local teen with the crimes. The list goes on and on.

Cats who are left outside may also be hit by cars or attacked by other animals, or they may ingest antifreeze—which tastes sweet to them but is potentially lethal. They are also more likely to contract debilitating diseases such as feline leukemia, distemper and feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) and to become infected with parasites.

Other animals are also at risk when cats are allowed outdoors. According to the American Bird Conservancy, cats kill hundreds of millions of birds every year and more than a billion squirrels, rabbits and other small mammals. A study last year in The Journal of Ornithology found that cats are the number one killer of fledgling gray catbirds.

Now before anyone starts calling me a “cat hater,” you should know that I share my home with three rescued cats. Both of my boys had been strays—and neither was exactly thriving in the “great outdoors.” Mochi was skin and bones when he was found and had a nasty wound on his back leg, most likely from a dog attack.

To keep your cats content in the great indoors, set aside daily play time—crumpled-up paper, catnip balls and Cat Charmers will get your cat’s heart and mind racing—and make sure that they have access to windows. You can also provide safe outdoor excursions by training your cat to walk on a harness and leash (yes, really).

Please, resolve to keep your cat safe this year—by keeping him or her indoors. Your feline friend would surely prefer to cuddle up on your lap than in an engine compartment anyway.

Paula Moore is a senior writer for The PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

January 23, 2012 at 6:24 pm

2011: A surprisingly good year for animals

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By Heather Moore

2011 was tough—when people weren’t bemoaning budget cuts, lining up outside job fairs or fretting over the stagnant housing market, they were listening to worrisome news about the war in Afghanistan, political shootings and natural disasters. But things weren’t all bad. There were signs of progress and reasons to be positive, especially when it comes to issues that impact animals. As we head into the new year, let’s reflect upon some of the things that made 2011 memorable for animals.

Eight of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including MetLife, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial and U.S. Bank, stopped using glue traps after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained that animals who get stuck in them often suffocate and die slowly. The Social Security Administration, Georgia Institute of Technology and Toronto District School Board—the fourth-largest school district in North America—also agreed to use more humane methods of rodent control.

While this is hardly revolutionary, it is indicative of a larger social movement to reform practices that harm animals. Many people are now less likely to accept activities that cause suffering—and it shows in our laws and business practices.

In 2011, West Hollywood became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur. City council members in Toronto and Irvine, Calif., banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Rodeos and circuses that feature exotic animals were also prohibited in Irvine, and Fulton County—the most populous municipality in Georgia—banned the use of bullhooks, sharp steel-tipped devices that are commonly used to beat, jab or yank on elephants.

The American Zoological Association (AZA) announced that bullhooks will be forbidden at all AZA-accredited zoos by 2014. The Toronto Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its remaining elephants to a facility that does not use bullhooks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which routinely uses bullhooks to “discipline” captive elephants, with a $270,000 fine—the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history—for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Also in 2011, eight top advertising agencies pledged never again to feature great apes—who are often torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and beaten in order to force them to perform on cue—in their advertisements. Capital One pulled an ad featuring a chimpanzee and pledged not to use nonhuman primates in its advertisements again. The blockbuster film Rise of the Planet of the Apes featured CGI animation to create realistic-looking apes without exploiting and abusing animals.

U.S. Army officials announced that monkeys will no longer be used in a cruel chemical nerve-agent attack training course at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The University of Michigan, Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City and Naval Medical Center San Diego began using sophisticated simulators instead of live cats for intubation training. And the world’s largest tea-maker, Unilever—maker of Lipton and PG tips—stopped experimenting on pigs and other animals just so that it could make health claims about its tea.

Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign—local restaurants, schools, hospitals and businesses are now promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. The board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., also signed a “Meatless Mondays” resolution, and several more celebrities, including Russell Brand, Eliza Dushku and Ozzy Osbourne, went vegan in 2011. The Rev. Al Sharpton also ditched meat from his diet.

Many of these developments were brought about, at least in part, by PETA, but everyone can bring about change simply by resolving to be kinder, greener and healthier in the coming year. By taking simple steps such as buying cruelty-free products, choosing meatless meals, wearing animal-friendly fashions and enjoying animal-free entertainment, we can all help make 2012 even better than 2011.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.