Letters [April 2011]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, April 2011:
Cruelty to catfish
This is ust a quick note of thanks for covering Mercy for
Animals’ investigation at Catfish Corner (“Mercy for Animals exposes
cruelty at a Texas factory catfish farm,” March 2011). We
appreciate you bringing this important issue to the readers of Animal
–Nathan Runkle, executive director
Mercy For Animals
3712 N. Broadway, Suite 560
Chicago, IL 60613
Developing the 70% chemosterilant solution
Your September 2010 article “Papaya product and calcium
chloride emerge as rivals to zinc sterilants,” about chemosterilants
for male street dogs, raises hope. It also raises an essential
epidemiological question that merits investigation before we get too
excited by any particular sterilization method, chemical or
The question is what percentage of males in a street dog
population need to be sterilized in a particular city before male dog
sterilization has an effect on street dog demographics. For example,
70% is the oft-cited percentage of humans and wild or companion
animals in an ecosystem who need to be vaccinated before one can stop
the spread of a viral disease. Has that minimum percentage been well
and properly established with regard to reducing street dog numbers
via male dog sterilization? The minimum percentage for street dog
sterilization could be, say, 82%, because dogs are eager breeders.
So, if the sterilization success rate is 72%, the number claimed
for one product described in your article, using that product would
do nothing to control a street dog population.
In addition, there might be a different minimum percentage
needed for success in different cities due to geographic conditions,
such as obstacles to dogs roaming.
Is the minimum percentage for success so high that no
intra-testicular chemosterilant can plausibly be expected to ever
qualify? Not knowing the answer to this question, but still
spending a lot of time and money developing a male chemosterilant may
be putting the cart before the horse. Developers of male dog
sterilants should have a scientifically established and reliable
success rate as a target, so that we don’t end up applying a male
dog sterilant that has no chance of controlling a street dog
–Bruce Max Feldmann, DVM
The Editor responds:
Many studies have now shown that sterilizing 60% to 70% of a
female street dog or feral cat population stabilizes the numbers of
dogs or cats, while sterilizing more brings a steep reduction. The
study data also indicates that sterilizing males as well as females
tends to lower the number of females who must be sterilized to see
the population decrease. As yet, however, there are no studies
demonstrating that sterilizing males in any volume accomplishes
population reduction if at least two-thirds of the females are not
sterilized at the same time.
But the usual object of street dog and feral cat
sterilization is not just to reduce their numbers. Most such
programs, especially in the developing world, are undertaken to
reduce the threats and nuisances that street dogs and feral cats are
perceived as posing to the public, and sometimes to wildlife.
In that regard, while females give birth to puppies and
kittens, unaltered males are usually responsible for most of the
behavior that humans consider dangerous and obnoxious. The
exceptions are when females are in heat or defending litters, and
when dogs or cats of either gender become rabid.
Otherwise, male dog and cats do most of the roaming, most
of the chasing, most of the noisy fighting with each other, and are
typically the leaders in pack attacks (although not always.) Male
dogs and cats also do most of the territorial marking.
When only female dogs are sterilized, ever-growing packs of
frustrated unneutered male dogs tend to follow the last females in
heat, creating disturbances as they go. This activity typically
increases opposition to the presence of any dogs, and sometimes
leads to dogs being killed, including well-behaved dogs who have
already been sterilized and are easier to catch than the alleged
villains. The behavior of the unaltered male dogs thereby undoes
whatever has been accomplished by sterilizing females.
The effects of not sterilizing male feral cats are less
obvious, but still often infuriating to gardeners who find fresh
scent mounds every morning, to cite just one irritant that often
leads to cats being killed.
It is therefore essential to sterilize both males and
females, right from the beginning of a street dog or feral cat
sterilization program–because, for most people, the real issue is
behavior, not just numbers.
Lifeforce lost Canadian charity status & opposes sled dog industry
Lifeforce is a Vancouver-based ecology and animal rights
organization. The Canadian Revenue Agency also revoked our
charitable status, as your March 2011 article “Canada Revenue Agency
moves to muzzle animal charities” mentions was done to the Fur
Bearers Protection Association and the Animal Defence League of
We were still negotiating with them when they issued a Notice
of Revocation. They said it might have been premature, but once
issued it could not be overturned. They claimed most of our work
was not charitable, since we did not present both sides of the
issues. I recall they mainly focused on vivisection and our
opposition to the Vancouver aquarium.
Lifeforce was recently invited to be part of the British
Columbia Sled Dog Industry Task Force review. Lifeforce has recently
submitted a draft report entitled The Case Against Sled Dog
The history of the sled dog industries reveals that the
reported inhumane slaughter of dogs in Whistler, British Columbia
last year was not an aberration. Culling is inherent in the sled dog
racing and tourism industries. We pointed out to the Task Force that
there have been many, many cruelty investigations and charges laid.
There are thousands of dogs bred for this industry, but
there are not humane retirement homes for all of the victims. The
lack of veterinarians in the North isn’t the real problem. The real
problem is that in those communities many people treat dogs as
commodities, not as companions. There is no Canadian culture
involved to preserve, now that some sled dog breeders are crossing
huskies with greyhounds and other breeds in attempts to create faster
breeds to win the lucrative prizes.
A compassionate society should not licence cruelty. As
stated in our report, regulation will not eliminate the abuses.
Enforcement is not possible in many cases. People can choose to race
themselves under gruelling circumstances without further exploitation
of dogs. So racers and tourism businesses must put on their skis,
ride snowmobiles or run all terrain vehicles.
People can enjoy British Columbia without animal
exploitation. The plight of these dogs must end!
–Peter Hamilton, founder
P.O. Box 3117
Canada V6B 3X6
Among the points made in The Case Against Sled Dog Industries
is that the Iditarod dog sled race is promoted “as a commemoration of
the 1925 Anchorage to Nome diphtheria serum run. However, there are
very few similarities between the two events. Half of the 1925 serum
run was done by train. Dogs ran in relays for the remaining 500 or
600 miles, with few dogs running over 100 miles. In the Iditarod,
dogs run 1,150 miles over terrain far more gruelling than the terrain
found on the serum run route.”
Some of the Iditarod racing route follows the Iditarod Trail
route, but much does not. Overall, the race most resembles the
408-mile All Alaska Sweepstakes, held 1908-1917, in 1983, and in
2008. Early editions of the All Alaska Sweepstakes were instrumental
in introducing Siberian huskies to North America. Previously most
sled dogs were Malamutes–larger, stronger, with a calmer
disposition, reputedly less inclined to bite, fight, and chase
other animals, but much slower.
ANIMAL PEOPLE has previously pointed out, however, that the
elite Iditarod and Yukon Quest racing dogs are the fittest of the
fit. Mortality during the Iditarod and Yukon Quest has in the past
25 years not been greater, overall, than would be expected among a
comparable number of large pet dogs during any two-week interval.
The major humane issue is not the treatment of the elite teams, but
rather how dogs are bred, culled, kept, and trained by the far
greater numbers of would-bes and also-rans. Teams kept for tourism
often consist of culls from attempts to breed racing teams, and are
considered expendable because they are cheaply replaced.
The incidents of mass culling and neglect described in The
Case Against Sled Dog Industries occur at the rate of about two per
year. This does not sound like many. However, there are fewer than
18,000 mushers in the U.S. and Canada. If mass killing and neglect
occurred among all people who keep dogs at the rate that these abuses
occur among mushers, the mass culling and neglect case volume would
be more than 10 times as high as it actually is.
“Shoot, shovel, & shut up” in Serengeti
Re “Are Serengeti highway proponents practicing ‘Shoot,
shovel, & shut up’?” in the March 2011 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, I
have just returned from a trip to Tanzania with Frankline Mukwanja of
the Africa Network for Animal Welfare to identify organizations and
individuals within Tanzania who are working to stop the proposed road
through Serengeti National Park.
The government of Tanzania may be involved in siphoning
millions of dollars by awarding contracts to ghost companies because
there is no active movement to demand transparency and
accountability. The government has not disclosed to the people of
Tanzania who will fund the road through the Serengeti ecosystem, but
individuals we met confirmed that the government does not have funds
to build the road.
The 600-page Environmental & Social Impact Assessment Draft
Report whose content ANIMAL PEOPLE summarized was leaked. We do not
know when the National Environ-ment Management Council will call for
hearings on the report. We are developing a strategy with
counterparts in Tanzania to sensitize local communities in Tanzania
to reject the proposed road. The court case we filed in December
2010 in the East African Court of Justice remains our best option at
the moment. We hope that the court will grant an order to stop the
The Tanzanian government headed by President Jakaya Kikwete
is determined to build the road, but the World Bank and other donors
have expressed interest in helping the Tanzania to build the
alternative southern route, not the northern route through
Serengeti. But will the Kikwete government build a road to serve an
opposition stronghold, and ignore party supporters in the north?
We are trying all we can to ensure that the Serengeti is preserved.
–Steve Itela, President
Youth for Conservation
P.O. Box 27689, Nyayo Stadium
Nairobi 00506, Kenya
Get a coffee fix
It took a while, but we have finally managed to get the
McKee Rescue Coffee project up and running. The idea behind it is to
stimulate the local economy, add a sustainable component to our
advocacy, and generate desperately needed revenue to fund outreach
as well as spay/neuter.
We are looking to start small local coffee clubs in the U.S.,
wherever supporters are willing to help.
–Davide Ulivieri & Carla Ferraro
Alajuela, Costa Rica
Liked review of The Lady & Her Tiger by Pat Derby
I read your March 2011 review of the recent reprint of
Performing Animal Welfare Society founder Pat Derby’s book The Lady &
Her Tiger and thought you did a great job. Thanks for putting it in
Animal People. I hope it will renew interest in the book, as well
as educate more people about exotics’ plight.
Las Vegas, Nevada
Then-Circus Circus employee Linda Faso was in 1972 the first
person on record to try to stop former entertainer Bobby Berosini
from beating his orangutans. Her complaints to Circus Circus
management were ignored. Berosini was in 1989 exposed by film taken
by dancer Ottavio Gesmundo, sent to Entertainment Tonight by Pat
Derby. PETA sought to prosecute Berosini; Berosini sued PETA. The
ensuing litigation effectively ended his career.
Sees no problem with Canada nonprofit regulations
While I am a director of an animal charity, I hadn’t
perceived a problem in what the Canada Revenue Agency is saying in
their new regulations governing animal charities, so after reading
“Canada Revenue Agency moves to muzzle animal charities” in the March
2011 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, I checked with a couple of friends
who are much more familiar with the legislation and involved in what
it addresses than am I, and they confirmed what I thought, that the
situation is not nearly as bad as implied in this article.
First and foremost, it is important to note that the CRA is
not making any changes. They are merely clarifying what the court
has already defined as charitable activities.
I think that this probably became an issue because a couple
of years ago the CRA clarified the rules for charities with respect
to lobbying. The good news is that charities were given greater
rights to lobby. In other words, we have more, not less, freedom
and fewer obstacles to lobbying the government on animal issues. No
doubt this caused a lot of new complaints by animal users and abusers
against animal charities, so now the CRA is clarifying their
position to stop the erroneous complaints. I know that many
complaints have been levied against an animal charity I’m associated
with, but the legislation has always protected us.
In Canadian law, and I doubt that it is significantly
different in most other countries, the rights of humans supersede
everything else, including any rights of animals or the environment.
That means that if an organization does something that the court
deems to harm humans, it cannot be charitable. This is nothing new;
it has always been the case. So the clarifications have cost no loss
to animal charities.
Canada, like every other country I know about, has
inherently speciesist legislation. We are able to have charities
work for animals because such work can clearly be seen to aid human
interests. As being compassionate and advocating for compassion is
seen as being in the interest of humans, this is allowed as a
There is nothing to prevent animal groups from promoting
alternatives to things that harm animals, or to promote changes to
industry. For example, we have had far more success than our
American friends in preventing Canada goose culls, by being able to
provide alternative solutions to real or perceived problems. We are
having at least some similar successes with cormorant culls,
although in that case American groups seem uninterested in the issue.
The problem with existing legislation comes when a charity
seeks to outright ban an activity or cause quantifiable harm to an
To give a theoretical (not actual) example, if a registered
Canadian charity were to say it wants to close down, say, a legally
regulated abattoir, that action would not be charitable (nor
realistic at this point in time). However, if the same charity were
to publicize how animals suffer in transit to the plant, or in the
plant, then it can do so as a charity, even if, as a result of the
response to such a campaign, the plant shut down. Another example
is that if a charitable group is running ads promoting vegetarianism,
that is fine; it is not asking to ban an industry, merely offering
an alternative. It all comes back to how the charities position
The sad reality is that for the most part animal charities in
Canada do not have the public support to cause quantifiable harm to
an industry. As the public becomes more aware of our issues and
begins to support our ideals the law will follow.
Animal charities in Canada are aware that there is some good
in the CRA clarification. I am particularly happy that it notes that
zoos are not charitable.
I agree that many charities are frightened, and I think it
is unfortunate to the degree that it may make them needlessly
self-censor. When a group of us formed the Animal Alliance of Canada
we opted not to make it a charity, and to further allow us to bring
issues to the political forum, we formed a federal party which is
free to support or oppose politicians. We don’t expect ever to
elect a candidate, but our candidates are able to bring issues to the
fore during election campaigns.
–Barry Kent Mackay
“Gaping flaw” in CRA case
The courts, according to the Canada Revenue Agency, have
determined that “an activity or purpose is only charitable when it
provides a benefit to humans. For some purposes and activities,
including those relieving the suffering of animals, the courts have
decided that the benefit is the promotion of the moral or ethical
development of the community.”
But don’t try to argue that supporting animal welfare is a
good thing in and of itself.
The gaping flaw in the CRA’s argument is that it
freezes–indeed, prevents–the evolution of the law. The law
reflects the moral consensus of the community at a particular moment
in time. When the consensus changes, the law must change as well.
The law once decreed that women were chattel, slavery was fine, and
petty theft warranted hanging. When society reversed its thinking on
these matters, the law eventually reversed its position too.
CRA argues, in effect, that charitable purposes can only
reflect the past–the decisions that the courts have already made.
But the very phrase “the moral and ethical development of the
community” concedes that moral and ethical attitudes evolve. That’s
what the word “development” means. And if moral attitudes have
evolved, then someone who demands corresponding changes in the law
is very precisely “promoting the moral and ethical development of the
A growing body of opinion now holds that we will not achieve
our human potential–or even survive–unless we develop a respectful,
ethical relationship with the rest of nature. The coyote, the cod
and the chestnut have a right to live and flourish, and advocating
on their behalf–with or without a benefit to humans–is a deeply
moral activity and a legitimate charitable purpose.
–Silver Donald Cameron
Host & executive producer
The Green Interview
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Proliferation of fighting dogs becoming critical issue for humane cause
The animal advocacy movement is at a turning point. Perhaps
the most critical legislative issue we’ll face over the next decade
is how we will deal with the proliferation of fighting dogs in our
The modern animal rights movement is often said to have begun
in 1975 with the publication of Peter Singer’s book Animal
Liberation. Coincidentally 1975 was also the year in which pit bull
terriers began visibly emerging from the fighting pits, into the
mainstream pet population.
It was entirely natural that the emerging advocacy movement
would come to the defense of these dogs who were, to advocates,
refugees from a harsh history. Probably almost every animal advocate
at the time thought that pit bulls were at heart like any other dog.
The animal advocacy movement has been so successful in
sustained defense of pit bulls that the belief that pit bulls are
like any other dog persists despite the preponderance of evidence
amassed for more than 35 years that in some significant respects they
are behaviorally quite different. Much of the humane movement
unequivocally continues to fight any form of breed-specific
legislation, even leash laws which would only require heavier
leashes for pit bulls.
Meanwhile, four people have died from pit bull attacks in
the first seven weeks of 2011 alone; dozens have been seriously
mauled. As Henry David Thoreau put it, “Some circumstantial evidence
is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.”
Animal shelters are at times overwhelmed with dogs, at least
25% of whom are abandoned and abused pit bulls. Dogs are transferred
all over the country in an effort to avoid euthanasia. Vast human
and financial resources have been exhausted in the process, yet
there is little or no assurance that the dogs will avoid euthanasia
in the end. Rescue groups and the humane movement are on a treadmill,
desperately trying to keep ahead of the backyard breeders. Yet these
are the same animal advocates who fight laws to ban backyard breeders
of pit bulls.
With this letter we are launching a campaign, requesting
that the humane movement, advocacy groups, and legislators engage
in a reappraisal of our collective views toward pit bulls and
breed-specific legislation. I am optimistic enough to hope that
within a few years someone will commission research to study why
humans defend so tenaciously these dogs, when clearly such devotion
is not beneficial to the breed itself, to the humane movement, to
animals in general, or to humankind.
Friday Harbor, Washington
I read Bonnie Carolin’s letter “Training curriculum needed
for animal control personnel” in the March 2011 edition of ANIMAL
PEOPLE. When the Palmetto Equine Awareness & Rescue League was first
conceived in 2005, we quickly realized that there was no affordable
training available to law enforcement or animal control officers in
South Carolina. The state criminal justice academy currently does not
address animal cruelty .
Putting such a program together was not as simple as we
thought. However, our Large Animal Cruelty Investigations class at
last premiered on March 2-3, 2011, presented in collaboration with
the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. We had 37 students and 25 more
on a waiting list. We have been asked to present the class elsewhere
in South Carolina and in other states. We hope to have the classes
pay for the costs of travel, presenters’ fees where applicable, and
materials, and to donate part of the receipts to local rescue groups
that host us. We are approaching an accredited university to
discuss a partnership, and offered continuing education units for
this first class.
–Nicole Walukewicz, chair
Palmetto Equine Awareness & Rescue League
P.O. Box 362
Sandy Spring, SC 29677
Yellowstone bison need habitat
The last wild population of American buffalo–the Yellowstone
herds– are in dire straits and need your voice. Yellowstone
National Park holds prisoner six hundred and fifty nine wild buffalo,
captured for following their natural instincts to migrate, so that
they may eat, give birth, and survive. The lands they need and
seek are outside of Yellowstone’s ecologically meaningless
boundaries, in the state of Montana.
Buffalo Field Campaign is in the field, every day, with the
buffalo, as they migrate into Montana and consequently into a battle
zone. We document every move made against them by state and federal
agencies, and we have every reason to believe that Yellowstone
National Park will bend to pressure from Montana’s cattle industry
and send hundreds of captive wild buffalo to slaughter.
The wild buffalo of the Greater Yellowstone region are the
last continuously wild population left in America and the last ones
to hold their identity as a wildlife species. Fewer than 3,600
exist. Because of livestock industry-driven mismanagement schemes
that block them from accessing available habitat, they are
ecologically extinct throughout most of their native range. The
wounded land cries out for the healing that will come with the return
of wild buffalo to their native homelands. But, the same forces that
nearly drove them to extinction in the 19th century are still at work.
Montana’s cattle industry claims that wild buffalo “threaten”
their cattle with brucellosis. But, outside of a laboratory
setting, there has never been a documented case of buffalo
transmitting this cattle disease back to the cows they got it from.
The truth is, the war against wild buffalo is about grass
and control. Livestock interests–ever eager to place burden and
blame on wildlife–want to hoard land for their cattle, even our
public lands. Yellowstone’s authority and integrity has been trumped
by livestock industry politics, as park administrators abandon the
very mission and principles upon which the world’s first national
park was established.
These buffalo are self-willed, wild born, and unfit for
cages or confinement. Habitat is the only solution to the buffalo
question, and it is everywhere, all around us, just waiting for the
human mind to change and embrace wild buffalo roaming free upon the
Buffalo Field Campaign
P.O. Box 957
West Yellowstone, MT 59758