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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.

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Fighting for the civil rights of orcas

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By Kathy Guillermo

What excuse is given for denying some beings the protection afforded by the law? At various times in history, it has been race, gender, religion, age, sexual orientation or ethnicity. All these reasons boil down to essentially the same thing: Those other beings—the ones who were denied their rights to freedom, to marry whom they chose, to be educated, to worship as they wished, to work at the jobs of their choosing—were different from those in charge. The differences were more important than the similarities until someone went to court to challenge it.

This is what happened last week in the U.S. District Court in San Diego. But in this case, the difference is species. For the first time ever, a federal court considered whether or not a Constitutional amendment applies to five orca whales enslaved by SeaWorld.

There is no question that these five animals are being held in involuntary servitude. They need and deserve the protection afforded by the Constitution.

Plaintiffs Tilikum, Katina, Kasatka, Ulises and Corky—orcas now confined to suffocatingly small concrete tanks at SeaWorld in Orlando, Florida, and San Diego—were heard through their attorneys in this first-ever case to assert that a constitutional right should extend to nonhuman animals. The legal team, led by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) general counsel Jeffrey Kerr and PETA’s outside litigation counsel, civil rights attorney Philip Hirschkop—who argued the landmark Loving v. Virginia case that declared unconstitutional the laws banning interracial marriage—argued that SeaWorld is holding the orcas against their will in violation of the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution’s ban on slavery. The suit was brought on the orcas’ behalf by PETA, three marine-mammal experts and two former SeaWorld trainers.

In this case, as in the others, what matters is not the difference between the enslaved and the enslavers. As Mr. Kerr stated in court, slavery does not depend on the species of the slave any more than it depends on race, gender or ethnicity. “Coercion, degradation and subjugation characterize slavery, and these orcas have endured all three,” he argued.

Indeed they have. These intelligent, complex orcas, who have their own language and customs that they would pass on to their young and who should be swimming a hundred miles every day, have instead spent three decades incarcerated in tiny pens and being ordered by humans in orca-colored wetsuits to leap for dead fish. They were forcibly taken from their families and homes and are held captive at amusement parks where they are denied everything in life that matters to them. They cannot make the simplest choices for themselves. They cannot eat, associate with others of their own kind or even swim except when allowed to by their captors. They have involuntarily lined the pockets of SeaWorld’s owners and have been subjected to artificial insemination or sperm collection in order to breed more performers for more SeaWorld shows for more profit.

This is the very definition of slavery.

When human animals violate the 13th Amendment, it should not matter that the enslaved are nonhuman animals. The five orcas have had one day in court in this precedent-setting case. They deserve more. They deserve their freedom.

Kathy Guillermo is a vice president for PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

 

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

February 21, 2012 at 8:07 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.

 

Why PETA is ready to go all the way for animals

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By Lindsay Rajt

In preparation for the new .xxx Internet domain that will launch later this year, businesses are rushing to preregister their websites to prevent cybersquatters from creating X-rated rip-offs of their brands. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is also signing up, but we’re not blocking our name. Instead, we’re launching a graphic, “not safe for work” (NSFW) website that will open people’s eyes to what truly dirty things are being done—not in someone’s fantasy, but in reality—to animals exploited in the meat, fur and circus trades.

A PETA triple-X site? It’s a provocative idea—and that’s the point.

We at PETA have gained a reputation for bold actions because we are willing to go where few organizations dare, as long as we can make people aware of issues affecting animals.

Sometimes that has meant lying nearly nude inside Styrofoam containers labeled as “meat” or wearing little more than bodypaint to protest the cruelty of the fishing industry. And it has meant arranging photography sessions with  compassionate adult-film industry greats, including Sasha Grey, Ron Jeremy and Jenna Jameson, who have appeared in our ads promoting spaying and neutering companion animals—reminding the public that “Too Much Sex Can Be a Bad Thing”—and urging viewers to “Pleather Yourself” (instead of wearing real animal skins).   

Still, some people were shocked to learn of our plans to register the PETA.xxx website. But they shouldn’t be. While people bothered by online erotica resort to heated discussions, a great many others enjoy taking a peek at what’s getting everyone so hot and bothered in the first place, judging from the massive popularity of X-rated sites. And it’s as important for PETA to reach people who visit triple-X sites as it is for us to interact with sports buffs or music fans so that we can show everyone why stopping the truly obscene abuse of animals is worth bothering about.

Yes, PETA.xxx will feature uncensored graphic material. This is no mere tease. Those who like to watch may find anything from exotic skin flicks to shocking hidden-camera video footage that reveals what really goes on behind closed doors. “Naughty” is too mild a word to describe it. Visitors to the site can expect more than just cheesecake or beefcake (while picking up facts about why beef and cheese are bad not only for your heart and waistline but also for your love life).

We firmly believe that no one will feel cheated but that anyone visiting PETA.xxx for cheap thrills will come away better for it.

While it would be nice to just hold a news conference in our office attire and have animal-related issues widely covered, in a world of nonstop multiplatform media, it is often our racier actions that get people to pay attention to the plight of animals. And getting the word out can mean the difference between life and death.

So we hope that people who gravitate toward NSFW sites will give PETA.xxx a peep, while those who might find it objectionable are invited, as always, to visit our main website, PETA.org. Whether titillated, offended or somewhere in between, we have a responsibility to do whatever we can to create a kinder world for animals.

Lindsay Rajt is the associate director of campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

Written by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals

September 21, 2011 at 8:16 pm