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Archive for January 2013

Cherokee’s Trail of Tears continues

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By Dan Paden

The Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians in North Carolina has a long history of suffering and hardship, and adversity on their territory has not yet come to an end. The sovereign land is home to three decrepit roadside zoos, in which animals are deprived of everything that is natural and important to them. One zoo, Chief Saunooke Bear Park, was exposed recently after a PETA undercover investigation documented desperate bears incessantly turning in circles in cement pits, so stressed by the grotesquely inhumane conditions that some have broken their teeth while biting the metal bars of their cages in frustration.

It’s puzzling that this situation is allowed to continue, particularly since non-natives own and operate the zoos—all located on tribal land—even though the conditions clearly appear to violate tribal law. The Tribal Council has done nothing to intervene, much less put a stop to the cruelty. It’s time for these zoos to be closed.

Surrounded by four solid walls, the bears at Chief Saunooke Bear Park cannot see anything beyond their allotted space—a pitiful fraction of what bears actually need. In their natural habitat, bears are curious and energetic animals who spend their time exploring diverse terrain, foraging for a wide variety of foods and digging in soft earth, brush and leaves. The zoo’s concrete pits have no grass or dirt. They are simply holes in which bears are forced to beg for food and wait for visitors to throw it to them. One bear was shot in the head 20 times before dying, and a zookeeper admitted to eating at least one bear.

But this roadside zoo is just one of hundreds in which animals suffer and die. All over the country, animal collectors market their tawdry outfits as roadside Americana or, worse, as “rescue” facilities that give animals in trouble a safe haven. The vast majority are frauds, making money off the misery of animals and the kind hearts of people who want to help them.

Animals in roadside zoos typically are confined to chain-link or chicken-wire cages with nothing but concrete to walk, sleep and eat on. Some owners toss out an old tire or a ball to give visitors the impression that animals can use them to pass the interminable hours, but most of them have no enrichment whatsoever, not even a patch of grass.

Animals who may not get along are jammed into the same pen. Predators are housed in close proximity to prey. Babies are traumatically removed from their mothers immediately after birth to be used as photo props. The lives of these animals are turned upside down. Many pace incessantly, rock back and forth or even hurt themselves by chewing on their fingers, plucking out their feathers or grooming themselves raw.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses animal exhibitors, but the laws protecting captive animals don’t go far enough and the standards that do exist are not properly enforced. Animals must be given food, water and shelter, but cages only need to be “large” enough for an animal to be able to move around a little bit. There is no requirement for grass, shrubbery or other natural vegetation.

Since there are no restrictions on breeding animals, owners churn out babies, knowing that they’ll bring in customers. But babies grow up quickly, leaving a surplus of adult animals with less and less space and fewer resources to meet their complex needs. Exotic animals often go without veterinary care, and zoo operators would often rather depend on free roadkill or donated rotten meat than spend money on wholesome, quality food.

If you’re on a road trip and see a zoo billboard trying to entice you to pull over or if a traveling exhibitor is selling photo ops with tiger cubs at your local mall, please think about the suffering that you’ll be supporting before buying a ticket.

Dan Paden is a senior research associate with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

January 28, 2013 at 7:04 pm

In 2013, let’s remember: Kindness is not a finite commodity

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By Alisa Mullins

The dog on the chain vibrated with excitement as the woman picked her way through the muddy, junk-strewn yard. She was only bringing a bale of straw to line the floor of the dog’s dilapidated doghouse, a small measure of comfort that would hopefully prevent the dog from freezing to death in the coming winter months. But for a dog who goes without human—or canine—contact for 23½ hours out of every 24, this was a thrilling event.

Such impoverished living conditions might find favor with South African President Jacob Zuma, who caused an international uproar recently when he told attendees of a rally that people who lavish their dogs with so-called extravagances, such as taking them to the veterinarian when they are sick, show a “lack of humanity.”

Zuma has it precisely backwards, of course. It has been demonstrated over and over again—so many times that you’d think that it wouldn’t bear repeating—that it is not the people who are kind to animals that we have to worry about. It is the people who are cruel.

That’s because cruel people are equal opportunity abusers. Men who beat their dogs often beat their wives and kids, too. In three separate studies, more than half of battered women reported that their abuser threatened or injured their animal companions. The same goes for negligent and abusive parents. Sixty percent of more than 50 New Jersey families being monitored because of incidents of child abuse also had animals in the home who had been abused. In Indiana, a couple faced felony charges after authorities reportedly discovered their two children and three dogs languishing in a trash- and feces-strewn home. In Illinois, authorities found 40 sick and emaciated dogs mired in 6 inches of feces on a filthy property that was also home to three children.

History is replete with serial and mass killers whose violent tendencies were first directed at animals, including the Boston Strangler, the Son of Sam and Jeffrey Dahmer, just to name a few. Not much is known yet about Adam Lanza, the disturbed young man who massacred more than two dozen first-graders and educators at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but the youngsters involved in previous school shootings at Columbine; Pearl, Mississippi; Jonesboro, Arkansas; and other places “practiced” their crimes on animals.

The FBI has found that a fascination with cruelty to animals is a red flag in the backgrounds of serial killers and rapists, and a police study in Australia revealed that “100 percent of sexual homicide offenders examined had a history of animal cruelty.” President Zuma himself was charged with rape in 2006. He denied the charge, reportedly saying that he could tell the woman wanted sex because she was wearing a short skirt.

Contrary to the implication of Zuma’s dog-pampering comments, kindness is not something that gets used up. You don’t start out your day with a measure of kindness that you have to dole out sparingly, reserving it for the most “worthy” recipients. For example, the people whom a Clemson University student recently documented intentionally running over lifelike rubber turtles that he had placed in the road as part of an experiment weren’t saving up their kindness—if indeed they possessed any—for a little old lady crossing the street in the next block.

Scientists are planning to study Adam Lanza’s DNA in an effort to determine if there is some genetic marker or mutation that sets apart a mass killer. While they’re at it, maybe they should also study the DNA of people who intentionally mow down animals or chain up their dogs and leave them to rot in the backyard. They might be surprised by what they’d find.

Alisa Mullins 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 15, 2013 at 9:28 pm

There is good reason to be optimistic about 2013

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By Heather Moore

It was practically impossible to turn on the television in 2012 without hearing a whole lot of political bickering. And when the news wasn’t dominated by presidential campaign coverage, it was filled with devastating stories about mass shootings, natural disasters, deadly factory fires and other heartbreaking events. So it was easy to miss the positive things that happened in 2012. But if you look back on the year, you’ll see that a great deal of progress was made for those whose interests are often overlooked—animals—and that there are plenty of reasons to be hopeful about 2013.

Just a few months ago, for example, the Los Angeles City Council banned pet stores from selling dogs, cats and rabbits obtained from commercial breeders. They can now offer animals only from shelters, a measure that will help countless homeless animals find loving homes. Los Angeles also passed a resolution encouraging residents to eat vegetarian meals at least one day a week, making it the largest city yet to endorse “Meatless Monday.”

It’s now easy to find animal-friendly vegan options in other cities and at popular venues, too. The Daytona International Speedway served veggie dogs at the 2012 Coke Zero NASCAR race, giving vegetarian fans a reason to cheer. Starbucks promised to use a plant-based colorant instead of insect extracts in its drinks, and many popular restaurants, including Taco Bell and Subway, added vegan options to their menus in 2012.

These changes aren’t exactly earthshaking—in fact, they’re pretty basic and long overdue—but they do illustrate society’s evolving attitude toward animals. More and more people now reject activities that cause suffering, and more and more companies are changing their practices as a result.

Ann Taylor, for example, stopped selling exotic skins in 2012, and both Alloy, an online clothing retailer, and Chinese Laundry, a stylish footwear company, stopped selling fur. Haband, an apparel and accessories company, stopped selling down—which is commonly ripped from the bodies of live birds—because of PETA‘s efforts.

More companies pledged not to use great apes in advertisements this past year, and NBC was forced to cancel Animal Practice after only five episodes, evidence that people aren’t interested in watching exploited animals on TV anymore.

Prominent financial institutions, including BB&T, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs, as well as Georgetown University and the city of Cartersville, Ga., pledged not to use glue traps, because the fate of animals who get stuck in them is very cruel. They often lose skin and fur to the sticky glue while struggling to escape or else die slowly of thirst, exhaustion or suffocation.

District of Columbia Public Schools passed a dissection-choice policy, giving students the right to use humane, modern methods to learn about anatomy, and the Carolinas Association of Neonatal Nurse Practitioners agreed to use effective simulators instead of animals for medical training.

UPS, DHL and FedEx, the top three cargo shipping companies, now refuse to transport any animals for use in experiments, as does Nippon Cargo Airlines, which had been shipping cats and dogs from the U.S. to Japanese laboratories.

These are just a few of the many reasons why 2012 was a banner year for animals and why we can be optimistic about the changes that 2013 will bring. We can all continue to push for progress in the year ahead. All we have to do is resolve to make compassionate choices.

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