Letters [April 2008]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2008:
Training Saddam’s royal guard
Thank you so much for s ending ANIMAL PEOPLE to me here in
Australia. I encourage everyone to subscribe. Many people I know
who love animals and belong to animal welfare groups tell me they
have never read anything quite like ANIMAL PEOPLE, that covers so
many global issues in depth.
Your reports from war zones pull the heartstrings of soldiers
I know who have made note of their own experiences with animal
suffering and blatant cruelty during war or training.
My former husband served in Iraq as one of Saddam Hussein’s
royal guard. He told me they were trained by being given a goat,
then a pig, then a donkey, whom they had to run down and wrestle to
death with their bare hands. He felt bad about killing these
animals. He described them as “My friends when I was a child, and
not my enemies. Never my enemies.”
–Rebekah Blackwolf Mitchell
Islam & dogs
The commentary “What did the Prophet Mohammed really say
about dogs?” by Merritt Clifton in the January/February 2008 edition
of ANIMAL PEOPLE is entirely correct in its factual data and its
Another anecdote about a dog is quite telling. Caliph Umar ibn
Al-Khattab was a close friend, follower, and father-in-law of the
the Prophet Mohammed. During his 10-year caliphate, which started
about a year and a half after the passing away of the Prophet, Islam
spread rapidly across the whole Middle East, Iran, Egypt, and the
rest of North Africa. Near the end of his life, Umar ibn Al-Khattab
was asked why he still looked worried even though the Islamic world
was at its zenith and he was regarded as the great leader of Islam.
He replied: “If on the day of Judge-ment, God says to me that there
was a dog dying of thirst somewhere in the Islamic world, and if He
asks me what I did to save the dog, I must have a good answer!”
The problem is that a miniscule number of Muslims know and
understand what Clifton reported. Sadly, there continues to be
widespread bias and ignorance, which I am afraid is not likely to go
away anytime soon.
–Kamran R. Siddiqi
The future of Islamic animal sacrifice
I was happy to read the detailed and well-researched
editorial feature on the future of Islamic animal sacrifice in the
January/ February 2008 edition of Animal People. This editorial
feature cleared up several questions about Quranic injunctions on
sacrificing animals. It should come as an eye-opener to a lot of
practicing Muslims that as in every other aspect of life, the key to
human progress lies in moving with changing times. Modern times
strictly uphold animal rights, and sacrificing animals to feed a
ritual that had sanctity centuries ago is not relevant now. As the
feature rightly points out, it is time to appease Allah by donating
to animal charity, rather than by committing sacrifice.
–Brinda Upadhyaya, President
Assn. for Service
& Healing of Animals
903-3B Green Acres
Mumbai 400053, India
The Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA,
& what happened in Europe during the Middle Ages
I very much appreciate Animal People’s review of my book The
Longest Struggle: Animal Advocacy from Pythagoras to PETA. When my
friend of long standing Merritt Clifton said that it will be the
standard against which future histories of animal advocacy are
judged, that was both gracious on his part and gratifying to me as
As to the “glaring omissions” that Merritt found, I can only
quote from the introduction: “. . . of necessity, there have been
omissions, and I regret every one…If an advocate, group, or
campaign is missing that you believe should be included…I am sure
you are right. But had I given every leader, group, and campaign
the space they deserve, ‘the longest struggle’ would be the reader’s
effort to make it to the end of the book.”
As to “errors,” there is one that I truly regret. That is
my misstatement regarding Michael Mountain’s age and background. I
have apologized to him privately, and I would like to take this
opportunity to apologize publicly. As readers of the book know, I
am a big fan of Michael Mountain and Best Friends.
The other “errors” mentioned are actually disagreements. To
cite just one example: The claim that the Cathars were immigrants
from India and that Catharism taught animal protection is supported
by no credible evidence of which I am aware. The Cathars were ethnic
Europeans and spiritual descendents of the Manichaeans and other
Gnostic groups. They were vegetarian, for arcane theological
reasons, but they were not animal advocates. There was no
significant animal advocacy in Europe during the Middle Ages.
Stating “There was no significant animal advocacy in Europe
during the Middle Ages” requires defining “animal advocacy” to
exclude anything benefiting animals that was (or is) promoted to
benefit the human soul.
Most prominent among the exclusions would be the influence of
Islam, which discourages cruel spectacles involving animals. Most
of Spain was under Islamic rule from 711 to 1492. Portugal was under
Islamic rule for much of that time. Bullfighting is forbidden in
Islam, as then-Egyptian head mufti Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel
reaffirmed in a November 1997 fatwa, and only emerged as a
regionally characteristic pastime in the post-Islamic era,
coincidental with the rise of the Spanish Inquisition.
Explains bullfighting historian Mario Carrin, “The first
historic bullfight, corrida, took place in Vera, Logroo, in 1133,
in honor of the coronation of king Alfonso VIII,” a Christian who
drove the Muslims from that region. “From that point on,” Carrin
continues, “kings organized corridas …After the Spanish War of the
Reconquest, the celebration of corridas expanded throughout Spain.”
Much of the other cruelty to animals notoriously practiced as
part of Spanish and Portuguese village festivals originated as
persecutions of alleged heretics, especially Muslims and Jews.
Animals were substituted when alleged heretics became scarce.
Islamic influence on the treatment of animals elsewhere in
Europe is less well documented, but by 1396 Islamic rule extended
from Albania and the Danube River east, and after the capture of
Constantin-ople in 1453, Islam was regionally dominant for more than
There was extensive legal advocacy for animals, which is
“advocacy” in the strictest sense of the term, in Christian medieval
Europe. This was documented by E.P. Evans in The Criminal
Pros-ecution & Capital Punishment of Animals (1906), reprinted in
1986 by Faber & Faber with a foreword by Nicholas Humphrey. Humphrey
saw in the mostly quite serious trials of animals, some of whom were
acquitted, an ongoing effort to define the bounds of the animal/
human relationship. Reviewers for animal advocacy media recognized
in the arguments some ideas which resurfaced in animal rights and
animal welfare legal theory. (Those reviews drew my notice to the
The history of the Cathari divides into two portions. From
1143, when the Cathari first challenged Catholic dominion in Europe,
until they were exterminated by the Albigensian Crusade in 1329,
they were chiefly ethnic Europeans. But their origins are less
clear. Main-stream sources such as
<www.cath-ar.info/1204_origins.htm> acknowledge that their teachings
“probably spread from the eastern part of the Byzantine Empire,”
which then extended from Bulgaria to Persia, and that Catharism “may
have originated in a form of Manichean belief, itself a melange of
Persian Zoroastrianism and early Christian Gnostic dualism.”
Most theological discussion of the Cathari accepts the view
that they practiced a heretical variant of Christianity, but I am
hardly the first to notice that the Cathari “preached a Jain-like
creed of nonviolence,” as historian Frank Lynn wrote in The New
Statesman of December 18, 2000, reviewing The Yellow Cross: the
story of the last Cathars 1290-1329, by Rene Weis. Weis apparently
observed this too.
As far back as 1932, when scholarly study of the influence of
eastern religions on Christianity was relatively new, Maurice Magre
in Magicians, Seers, and Mystics described the Cathari as “western
Buddhists, who introduced a blend of Gnostic Christianity into the
The distance from Persia to the last Cathari villages in
France is about the same, by the same trade routes, as from Persia
to India, through the Thari and Rajasthan deserts, where the
Bishnoi of Rajasthan still practice a vegetarian religion similar to
This is to thank everyone at ANMAL PEOPLE for the lovely
things you said abut my husband, Perry Fina, in your January/
February 2008 obituary.
Perry went with Merritt Clifton to Puerto Rico in 1998 to
look at how the animals in the shelters there were treated and how
they were just abandoned and left to die in the streets. The
conditions in the shelters and streets were deplorable. In the May
1998 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, Clifton mentioned Perry and Michael
Arms, a former employee of the North Shore Animal League. Perry had
just started an outreach program at the League, called the Pet
Savers Foundation. When he returned from that trip, he was even
more determined and devoted to saving animals all over the world. He
made many friends and was touched by all of them.
Perry loved his work at North Shore and loved all the people
there and those he came to know all over the U.S. and the world.
Many people have written to me about him and how much he will be
Even while he battled cancer for two years, Perry continued
to work hard, and was even more committed to saving the lives of
animals. He lived for this, and I think it was keeping him alive.
Perry has given his children and me a beautiful legacy, to somehow
and in some way continue his work of saving animals, and in our
small way we will do that. I am enclosing a small donation to help
support the wonderful work of ANIMAL PEOPLE. Once again I would like
to offer you all my deepest and most heartfelt thanks.
New Milford, Connecticut
Empathy for all species needed
Animal rights organizations publicize abuses to animals
raised for food or hunted for sport through undercover
investigations, videos, court cases, legislation, political
outreach, etc. However, one category of groups involved with
animals remains largely untouched by these efforts.
Most animal shelters, sanctuaries, and rescue groups show little to
no interest in species other than those for whom they directly care.
Their fund-raising events serve chopped-up, sliced, and diced
animal parts for dinner, their publications encourage adoptions of
dogs who can accompany people on hunting and fishing trips, and
their pre-Thanksgiving adoption promotions declare that it would be
wonderful to have a new pet while the family is feasting on
qOrganizations providing direct care to dogs, cats, horses, birds,
and other species express empathy for these animals, but for many
it is a limited empathy, protecting and advocating for a few
specific kinds of animals while not considering the needs and rights
Trying to avoid offending potential donors, such
organizations also tend to avoid the idea that all animals should be
treated with compassion–overlooking, for example, that a potential
major donor hunts.
Some groups point to the stress of their work as a rationalization
for avoiding wider expression of humane values. Others appear to
have such a strong emotional identification with just one kind of
animal that they act as if the possibility of expanding their empathy
to other living beings has never occurred to them.
Typically in an attempt to avoid taking a firm stand on
humane values for all animals—but not wanting to appear indifferent
to those values, which is a juggling act in itself–these groups
will serve both meat and a vegetarian dish at their functions.
This does not promote kindness. Rather it puts their food on
the same level as that served in the local diner. Nearly all
restaurants, including steak houses, have non-meat options. The
meat-eaters eat meat and the vegetarians choose vegetarian.
When an animal organization serves both meat and vegetarian food, it
communicates to its donors that any food choice–no matter the animal
suffering involved–is acceptable. Further, it is also telling its
donors that only the animals cared for at its shelter or sanctuary
should be cherished, and other animals can be trashed.
Rather than a fund-raising event doubling as an opportunity
to raise awareness about the misery of millions of animals, so that
more people can develop humane ethics, it becomes simply a tool for
Organizations that provide direct care for some animals and
are not consistent in expressing respect for all animals inevitably
undermine the efforts of animal rights groups to stop
institutionalized abuse. Unless the millions of people who have
contact with animal shelters, non-farm animal sanctuaries, and
rescue groups are educated about the cruelty of factory farming,
slaughterhouses, and hunting, the adoption of humane values by the
general public and legislators will be limited.
It would be wonderful if a system could be created for
disseminating information from animal rights groups to direct care
groups in a way that actively involves the latter in specific issues
and long-term campaigns.
There would need to some give-and-take as to whether a local
group is willing to promote a larger humane goal, how its efforts
would be supported, and how disagreements could be managed without
losing momentum. Regular meetings to discuss creative ideas for
advancing the goal, as well as to review progress, would promote
New York, N.Y.
Katrina memorial ceremony
If you or an organization you are affiliated
with helped during the 2005 storm season, we thank you. Tens of
thousands of people came to our aid when the levees failed and most
of New Orleans flooded, stranding thousands of residents, leaving
more than 50,000 companion animals homeless, and killing countless
I hope you will accept my personal invitation to return to
New Orleans and help us commemorate the third anniversary of
We have commissioned artist Richard Chashoud-ian to sculpt a memorial
statue to honor the animals lost during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The statue will be unveiled on August 29 in the chambers of the New
Orleans City Council.
Further details about the events planned for the day are at
our web site.
–Jeff Dorson, founder
Humane Society of Louisiana
P.O. Box 740321
New Orleans, LA 70174
Cruelty to sea turtles
Please speak up against cruelty to marine turtles.
An investigation by animal welfare volunteers at the Vizhinjam
fishing harbour in Trivandrum, Kerala, recently found that the
local fishers are still selling marine turtles, and that there had
been more than 100 catches in the past few weeks or months. We could
spot more than 150 shells and carcasses of turtles.
Two were exhibited to be sold at a local market shed just
behind a police outpost.
Our findings are shown in videos posted at YouTube and in
photographs posted at <www.saveturtleskerala.blogspot.com>.
The Bhima Club
Trivandrum, Kerala, India
Chinchilla Chat Line
As always I do so enjoy receiving your fabulous newspaper and
read it with glee before passing it on to all and sundry!
I am delighted to announce the 10th anniversary of Chinchilla
Chinchilla Chat Line
Chelston, Portsmouth Road
Esher, Surrey KT10 9AW
Phone: 0208 3987397
Zoo director in jail
Thank you for your great March 2008 article “Could the Giza
Zoo become a rescue center?” Former zoo director Moustafa Awad,
whom you mentioned, is now in jail. He allegedly stole King
Farouk’s furniture and antiquities, and sold them. There were
rumors also about wild animal smuggling.
Awad massacred the zoo. I can say he deserves being in prison.
Society for the Protection
of Animal Rights in Egypt
16 Taha Hussein, Zamalek
Awad directed the Giza Zoo from 1995 to 2003. A translation
from the December 17, 2007 of <www.alwatan-voice.com/arabic/news> by
Animal Welfare Awareness Research Group of Egypt coordinator Dina
Zulficar affirms that “Awad was arrested on a variety of charges,
including the possession of valuable contents from the royal rest
house, and various properties of the zoo.”