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Archive for August 2012

A parked car is no place for kids or animals

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By Lindsay Pollard-Post

It’s a nightmare come true: In a moment of distraction, a baby is left behind in a parked vehicle. The sun beats down, the car heats up and the child—unable to escape the sweltering vehicle—dies of heatstroke.

A Virginia father lived this horror last month. He reportedly forgot to drop off his 5-month-old son at daycare on his way to work, instead leaving the infant strapped into his car seat all day. The father realized his fatal error only after he went to pick up the boy after work and found him unresponsive in the backseat. By then, it was too late. Nearly 40 children die every year after being left in hot cars.

Animals, too, suffer and die every summer after their guardians forget them—or intentionally leave them—in a hot vehicle. Two days before the Virginia boy’s death, Jeg, a drug-sniffing dog with the Arizona Department of Public Safety, had to be euthanized after his human partner reportedly left him in a hot patrol car for more than an hour. The officer was apparently switching vehicles when he left to respond to a crash and forgot that Jeg was still in the first car.

Forgetting a family member in a vehicle may seem impossible, but any of us can make this deadly mistake if our normal routines change, if we are stressed or sleep-deprived or if we are simply distracted. We must do whatever it takes to avoid leaving a passenger behind in our vehicles and to come to the rescue of any living being we see left in a hot car.

In the summer, it doesn’t take long for parked cars to turn deadly: On a 78-degree day, the temperature inside a parked car can soar to between 100 and 120 degrees in just minutes, and on a 90-degree day, the interior temperature can reach as high as 160 degrees in less than 10 minutes. Leaving the windows partially open and parking in the shade do not keep vehicles cool enough to be safe.

Infants and children are especially vulnerable to hyperthermia because their body temperature rises three to five times faster than an adult’s does and they are less able to lower their body temperature by sweating. Dogs, too, are much more susceptible to heatstroke because they can cool themselves only by perspiring tiny amounts through their footpads and by panting—which is ineffective when the interior of the car is as hot as a sauna.

Heatstroke, organ and brain damage and death can occur in minutes in both children and animals, so it’s crucial to ensure that they are never left in a parked car—even for “just a minute.” Some ways to do this include getting into the habit of always checking the front and back of the vehicle after parking; placing a necessary item on the floor in the backseat (such as a purse or briefcase) and keeping a stuffed toy in the child’s car seat when it is not in use and placing it in the front passenger seat as a reminder whenever the child is in the car seat.

If we see children or dogs left in hot cars, their life depends on our quick action. Having the car’s owner paged and/or calling 911 immediately is essential. But if the victim is showing signs of heatstroke (red, flushed skin with no sweating; difficulty breathing and nausea in children and restlessness, heavy panting, vomiting, lethargy and lack of coordination in dogs), get him or her out of the car and into the shade as quickly as possible, cool the victim with water and immediately call 911 or a veterinarian.

Kids and animals count on us to keep them safe. It takes only a second to double-check the backseat or drop off dogs at home before running errands, but the pain of losing a loved one because of a deadly mistake lasts forever.

Lindsay Pollard-Post 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

August 16, 2012 at 6:27 pm

Consumers can convince companies to do the right thing

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By Amanda Nordstrom

Never doubt the power of the consumer. When the hip cosmetics company Urban Decay—whose policy against testing on animals is part of its brand—announced plans to begin selling its products in China, where cruel and deadly animal tests are required by the government, disappointed consumers took action. Thousands of them flooded Urban Decay’s headquarters with e-mails, and the company soon reversed course. For staying true to its slogan—”We don’t test on animals. How could anyone?”—and putting ethics ahead of profits, Urban Decay recently received PETA‘s Courage in Commerce Award.

It’s bad enough that some companies are willing to shed their animal-friendly policies as easily as last year’s Day-Glo animal prints for a share of the market in China. But consumers might be surprised to learn that many makers of cosmetics and household products still poison and blind animals right here at home. That doesn’t mean that we have to buy what they’re selling.

In laboratories across the country, rabbits, rats, mice, guinea pigs and other animals are forced to swallow or inhale massive quantities of a test substance or endure pain as a chemical eats away at their eyes or skin. Some tests, such as the now infamous lethal dose test, continue until a predetermined percentage of the animals die.

Animal tests are not required by law for cosmetics and household products in the U.S., and they often produce inaccurate or misleading results—even if a product has blinded an animal, it can still be marketed to consumers. Fortunately, the number of forward-thinking companies continues to grow as more and more manufacturers reject cruel and crude animal tests—relics of the 1920s—and opt instead for modern, sophisticated techniques to test the safety of their products. More than 1,300 companies, including Burt’s Bees, The Body Shop, Method and Trader Joe’s, refuse to test their products on animals.

These non-animal testing methods are accurate and fast—and no one gets hurt.

The situation is a little different in China, where the government currently requires cosmetics companies to test ingredients and products only on animals—although that’s about to change, too. Thanks to guidance from scientists funded by PETA, Chinese officials are in the final stages of approving the use of the country’s first-ever non-animal testing method for cosmetics ingredients. The test should be accepted in China by late summer.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that unlike Urban Decay, some companies have decided that they won’t wait and are selling out animals for the sake of overseas profits. Earlier this year, PETA was forced to remove Avon, Estée Lauder and Mary Kay—three companies that had been cruelty-free for decades—from our list of companies that don’t test on animals after learning that these cosmetics giants have been quietly paying to poison animals in laboratories at the behest of the Chinese government.

When these three companies banned animal tests back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, they spearheaded a new era for consumer products. Dozens of other companies soon followed suit, prohibiting all tests on animals and marketing their products as cruelty-free.

Mary Kay, Avon and Estée Lauder may have regressed a generation, but consumers don’t have to backslide with them. We can still choose to purchase products from the more than 1,300 companies that are committed to their cruelty-free principles. Rewarding ethical corporate behavior—purchasing humanely produced items instead of ones that are cruelly produced—does make a difference. Just ask Urban Decay.

Amanda Nordstrom is a research associate in People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ (PETA) Laboratory Investigations Department, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

August 2, 2012 at 5:04 pm