LETTERS [April 1999]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 1999:

Shrinking stress
A few more words on the
stress endured by animal workers.
Animal helpers face both primary
traumatization, e.g. when attacked
by an irate animal hoarder or a dog,
and secondary traumatization, from
bearing witness to animal suffering.
Secondary traumatization has also
been called “compassion fatigue”
and “vicarious traumatization,” or
VT for short.
Both types of traumatization
can produce profound and toxic
changes in animal workers’ core
beliefs about themselves, others,
and life in general. Primary traumatization
needs to be treated, when it
occurs, as any other psychological
trauma. VT must be seen as an
inescapable occupational hazard.

The irony is that the workers who
are most susceptible to VT are those
who are the most empathic and caring.
So, the more effective you are
at working with animals, the more
likely you are to be adversely affected
by witnessing animal suffering.
Other major factors seeming
to contribute to VT are past or
present trauma in the animal
helper’s life (which seems to promote
identification with animal victims),
and extent of exposure to animal
suffering—either over time or
through exposure to specific
extreme cases.
Prevention and treatment
of VT needs to occur on three levels:
individual personal, individual
professional, and organizational.
In all three areas, workers
need to increase their awareness of
how they are impacted by their animal
work, to strive for balance in
their lives, and to seek to maintain
supportive connections with others.
Means of combatting VT include
taking breaks; alternating duties;
seeking education about the nature
of VT; meeting with co-workers on
a weekly basis to discuss their reactions
to various animal situations;
learning to limit demands on one’s
time, energy and resources; enriching
one’s interpersonal, self-protective
and self-nurturing skills; learning
to manage strong emotions;
learning to intercept and correct
faulty reasoning; engaging in advocacy
work; learning how to pace
oneself; letting go of one’s
Messianic complex (“I am the only
one who can save these animals,
and I must save each and every
one”); cultivating a positive spiritual
outlook; practicing spiritual disciplines;
reading inspirational material;
belonging to a closely-knit,
supportive community; scheduling
regular play time, physical exercise
and vacations; replacing selfdestructive
behavior such as substance
and food abuse with constructive
life skills; using humor;
eating well; sleeping enough;
remembering the meaning and
importance of one’s animal work;
and celebrating each victory, no
matter how small it may appear.
The aim is to counter the
physical stress and demoralization
induced by the never-ending struggle
for animal welfare––and to fight
vicarious traumatization with vicarious
celebration, compassion fatigue
with compassion satisfaction.”
––Caterina Spinaris James


Though my own efforts in
behalf of animals are modest and
local, I found out early on that the
best way to get anything done is to
take the initiative. Perhaps it’s my
own wish for autonomy, but whenever
I tried to work through an
established group, there seemed to
be a need for committees and meetings
and approval from someone.
So, instead of wondering
why the animal rights community
wasn’t using public Access cable
TV, I began producing or (mostly)
sponsoring videos. The ones which
made the most impact seemed to be
on vegetarianism. I’ve had several
calls from viewers wanting more
information or copies of the tapes.
Contacting the public
school administration about animal
dissection alternatives, I met a
woman who became a good friend
and colleague. Together we put in
hours of work to help the city
enforce dog and cat breeder compliance
with animal control ordinances.
After wondering why
there was so little being done in
educating children about the tragedy
of homeless animal killing, I developed
a half-hour presentation based
on the Fund for Animals’ little cartoon
story about “Hope, the dog
who was taken to the pound by the
people who she thought loved her.”
The Department of Animal Control
paid for printing the booklets so that
each school child got one to take
home (so that it would get into the
hands of the parents). Always
addressing small groups, I talked to
more than 3,000 kids in one semester.
With permission from
Albuquerque Animal Control, I
handled the promotion through the
schools, kept my own schedule,
and gave my home telephone number
for the teachers to contact.
I have purchased books
and videos and donated them to the
schools. For a few years, until they
remodeled, a local coffee house let
me put literature on their book shelf.
These are just a few
examples of what people can do
with little money, no secretaries, no
expense accounts, no meetings, no
tax-exempt status, and no ego trips.
––Mickey Protomastro
Albuquerque, New Mexico
[Protomastro’s letter was
not written for publication––we
talked her into it.]

Further to Rita Mayer’s
letter in the March edition of A N IMAL
PEOPLE about the Arad cat
poisoning, Arad’s municipal vet
killed 55 unvaccinated stray cats in
two neighborhoods because a rabid
fox had attacked cats in those neighborhoods.
At least three people died
in Israel from rabies recently,
including a seven-year-old girl and
an Israeli soldier.
Concern for Helping
Animals in Israel pressured the
Mayor of Arad to euthanize animals
humanely when euthanasia is necessary,
but the Mayor and municipal
vet played our position off against
that of people who opposed killing
the cats by any means whatever,
and continued doing what was easiest
and cheapest: poisoning.
On March 4, new Israeli
Veterinary Services head Dr. Oded
Nir met with most of the animal
groups in Israel to discuss future
policy pertaining to street cats.
Most agreed that except for situations
where the cats are given proper
food and water on a daily basis
and veterinary care when necessary,
they should be trapped and killed,
as neuter/return would be inhumane.
Veterinary Services’ new
policy is a vast improvement over
the old policy, which called for poisoning
anything not on the end of a
leash. Unfortunately poisoning will
still be allowed, but only in circumstances
where the municipal vet can
prove rabid cats have been found in
the area, and can also prove that
trap-and-kill was tried and failed to
capture the cats at risk of catching
and transmitting rabies.
CHAI has pressured the
Veterinary Services for years to use
the oral rabies vaccine to eliminate
rabies in Israel. Field trials of the
vaccine have begun.
For more than a decade,
CHAI also sought permission from
Veterinary Services to train municipal
pound and animal shelter workers
in humane capture, animal handling,
and emergency first aid techniques.
When we finally received
permission, several influential vets
complained that allowing municipal
workers to kill animals by needle
injection rather than by poisoning
would take authority from the vets,
who until now have been the only
ones allowed to use the needle
method. They also resented anyone
telling them how to do their jobs.
We hope the new head of the
Veterinary Services will take a more
enlightened view.
CHAI is also raising funds
to purchase and ship to Israel a
mobile neutering clinic to provide
low-cost neutering and neutering
education all around the country.
Donations for this purpose are much
needed and much appreciated.
––Nina Natelson
Director, CHAI
POB 3341
Alexandria, VA 22302


Congratulations on your
January/February cover article
about elephants. I see Zimbabwe
is mentioned, and not in a good
light, either. We are appalled that
CITES has granted Zimbabwe and
Namibia permission to sell ivory
to Japan. As we predicted at the
time of the 1997 CITES conference
in Harare, this will open our
elephant herds to being poached
and massacred. Their extinction
will only be a matter of time.
––M. Harrison
Bulawayo Branch SPCA
POB 1321
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Que, SERA?
SERA, the ARK spay/
neuter program, is over 10 years
old. It was the only program in central
Texas in 1988, and I’m pleased
that there are many other programs
and services available in 1998.
Living in a greenbelt provides
me with plenty of material for
my independent video productions
on animals and nature. I’m thrilled
when vultures park on my roof or
when I hear the coyotes call to one
another. I’m very involved in a local
community park, which amounts
chiefly to deer trails in the woods
behind our houses. Most of the people
want to keep the area rugged,
and enjoy viewing the wildlife.
However, the inevitable conflicts
arise when some individuals feed
animals, and the animals, in turn,
loose their fear of humans. A N IMAL
PEOPLE is an invaluable
resource to help explain to people
how to live in harmony with urban
––Ann Koros
Austin, Texas

Notes on the Amazon

Thank you for your very
thoughtful and challenging article
about the Peruvian rainforest. The
Amazon seen by most visitors is far
from pristine for lots of reasons, not
least tourism itself. There are fake
crafts, a push by some promoters to
create a romantic image of the
Amazon, and the pressure on
wildlife from human presence at the
lodges and near settlements.
It was clear to me when I
visited that most larger animals and
birds had been hunted out, probably
by the very people who live near
and work with the lodges, and not
just since the lodges went in. The
Amazon fires of last year told me
these could happen anywhere and
probably did. Even lodges that use
walkways and are careful about
their footprints (Yacumama is one
example, above Iquitos, way below
the Urubamba) nevertheless are
established in forests that for whatever
reason appear relatively young.
On the higher terraces
where the brazil nut trees grow, the
forest seemed more established, but
when I canoed up the Rio Heath
between Peru and Bolivia (with
national parks on both sides and
very little settlement) the river was
ripping down big trees, cutting new
oxbows and creating vast mudflats
that will become forests over years.
I tried to see each stage of growth as
we explored (with park guards who
were hired at least partially by The
Nature Conservancy.) I lost count
as we ended up in flooded old channels
with great trees and a “normal”
compliment of lianas and larger
mammals, seen and known from
sign. There was no indication of
fire there, but again how many
years did it take to erase the traces
of possible previous forest use, and
how long will the old growth last?
As for biodiversity in general,
comparisons are difficult. I
seldom saw the same kind of forest
twice—and how little anyone has
seen of the whole! What you and I
see is almost entirely along rivers
that have seen human traffic for
many years, and have been used,
cut, hunted out, diminished.
Although I do not know
from direct experience the collecting
methods of the scientists you mentioned,
I am with you on the killfor-science
mentality of traditional
biological collection. Some controls
have been put in place by some governments,
but sometimes that just
results in twice as many specimens
being killed so the remains can be
divided. I note a rebellion by many
younger biologists.
I also hope I’ve seen my
last example of the alternative:
“catch and release but first cut off a
toe or bob some feathers or fins so
we can tell if we’ve caught him or
her before.”
Concerning cultivation vs.
hunting and gathering, people will
resist turning the Tambopata into
Iowa or Alabama. It seemed obvious
to me that the indigenous people
could do better in their fields, and
the brazil nut harvesting business is
as tough as the shells. Unfortunately,
due to my lack of facility in
the native languages, I left not
knowing much more than the E s e
e j a’s apparent wish to keep living
there, use tourism to their advantage,
and yes, hunt and fish as
before. The other cofounding factor
is the heavy settlement by riberenos
(immigrant river people)—who are
definitely not “native” and are definitely
users of the landscape. I
resist guessing or assuming.
As I reflect on my experience
in the Amazon region, I am
profoundly saddened by much,
including sometimes my own reactions
and expectations, and my
exploitation of it all through my
photographs and my lifestyle.
My goal, as I return and
focus on particular places, is to
broaden and deepen other visitors’
views of the forest (including how
forests have been used), and try to
learn how I can really do something
for the local people—if they want
anything. We in the U.S. had
meanwhile best look to our own
lives and the wasteland we create: it
is the most important environmental
focus, bar none.
––Gary Braasch
Nehalem, Oregon

The Dyaks
You’re right: forwardthinking
conservationists need to
add some agricultural knowledge to
their tool bags. The best rainforest
conservationists I’ve ever met were
Dayaks who, in the interior of
Borneo, subsistence-farmed small
rainforest plots. They did some
careful burning, then planted crops
between rows of intact rainforest
vegetation. The thin soil layer was
netted in, so to speak, by the original
vegetation. As plots were rotated,
the former crop strips were easily
reseeded by the primary forest
strips that had been left in place for
precisely that purpose.
Unfortunately, these skills
are being lost among younger Dyaks
who have been moved out of the
Bornean interior by the government.
—Joni Praded
Director & Editor
Animals Magazine
Boston, Massachusetts

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