Letters

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  March 2012:

Letters

The Animal Rights Agenda 25 years later

Concerning the January/February 2012 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial “The ‘Animal Rights Agenda’ 25 years later,”  I would have little to argue with in the statements quoted,  except that I shy away from the term “animal rights,”  as it has such negative connotations in the United Kingdom (at least),  and have always had at the back of my mind the philosopher  Bertrand Russell’s statement that “The logical extrapolation of animal rights is votes for oysters.”  I prefer the cause of “animal welfare,”  where humans accept that they have a responsibility to protect all the animals of the planet.

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From an entirely personal point of view I would have to qualify some of the other detailed statements for my own satisfaction.
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For example,  I am relaxed about the use of non-wild animals in circuses if the training, living,  and travel conditions meet legally agreed and enforced standards,  whilst remaining entirely opposed to the use of wild animals under any circumstances.
I feel the same about horse racing and greyhound racing,  assuming that tracks, surfaces,  and frequency of performance are strictly controlled and veterinarians are always present,  that doping is totally forbidden and a criminal offense,  and that proper and caring provision is made for these animals in retirement.
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Animal experimentation,  in my view, must be governmentally licensed,  each experiment having being approved as medically essential by a properly constituted expert panel including lay persons,  and all animals involved subject to invasive surgery being rendered unconscious throughout and euthanised at the end of any procedure.  I  am opposed to any experimentation on members of the ape family.
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Whilst respecting the views of vegetarians and vegans,  my commitment to animal welfare standards being applied to food animals and strictly inspected/audited  remains constant. I am proud of the achievements of the RSPCA’s Freedom Food scheme,  of which I was chair for several years from its inception.  I would hope that such schemes would multiply so that increasing welfare conditions in rearing, traveling and eventual slaughter of food animals can be enforced.  Long distance transport of animals to slaughter is generally unnecessary and should be universally banned.
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I remain opposed to hunting with dogs, hare coursing,  bullfighting,  dogfighting, whaling,  fur farming:  everything which involves animal cruelty.  Indeed that is my personal benchmark–if it is cruel to animals,  I am against it.   I take a pragmatic approach to fishing,  the most common sport in the U.K.,  and would wish continuing dialogue with the various fish organizations to ban barbed hooks,   limit fishing seasons,   etc.  Whilst sport fishing is regularly attacked,  in my view the real cruelty in fishing is in deep sea trawl fishing. Here I would hope to see more research to minimize the suffering of the millions of fish involved.
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I really think it is totally impracticable to seek a ban on dog breeding.  If it was followed to its logical conclusion there would be,  in a few decades,  no companion animals left,  and the world would be a sadder place.
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I would seek to reduce the numbers of unwanted dogs by seeking a global dog registration scheme involving the legal necessity for universal microchipping and a nationally applied license fee heavily subsidized for those producing a certificate of completed neutering; this would have the collateral benefit of removing the scourge of rabies and of the annual horrific cull of unwanted dogs.
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No doubt eventually something similar for cats could follow.  Puppy farming should be abolished.
Those are some very quick reflections on your editorial. No doubt  many readers will take different stances.  If some debate is initiated as a result of this letter it could be beneficial or at least though provoking!
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Meanwhile on a personal note,  I am concentrating my personal animal welfare energies in chairing the Brooke Hospital for Animals and chairing the Marjan Centre for the Study of Conflict & Conservation,  which is based at the War Studies Department of King’s College, London University.  Amongst our other work,  we have recently received a request to review and report on  the effects of conflict on the historic,  present and future trade in wild animals.  I would be happy to hear from readers of any views they might have on this important subject.
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Finally,  I urge all readers to continue to support the Universal Declaration on Animal Welfare,  which I helped to promote during my tenure as director general of the World Society for the Protection of Animals.  WSPA is continuing to gather support for this much needed Declaration at the United Nations.  Many nations have pledged their support;  make sure that you have signed it and continue to support it.
–Peter Davies Coombe House,  Ansty
Salisbury SP3 5PX
United Kingdom
<pdavies@fastmail.fm> Nico Dauphine case

Thank you for your coverage of the Nico Dauphine case,  in which a now former National Zoo ornithologist was convicted of trying to poison cats.  Outrageous!
As a native of Washington D.C.,  I know the city has a bad rat problem.  Trying to kill cats is idiotic.
–Ida Miller
Sarasota,  Florida

Tigers should not be exhibited in cafes

Sahabat Alam Malaysia recently learned from a visiting tourist about a tiger who is exhibited at a café in Burau Bay,  Langkawi.  We found the tiger displayed in an enclosure with a natural setting of grass and bamboo plants. Another exhibit next to the tiger enclosure displayed a marmoset.  There is intent to bring a mate for the tiger some time this year.  Upkeep of the tiger is from donations and fees charged for photographs.

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When asked the purpose of keeping a tiger in a café,  the café management proclaimed that this facility benefits education and promotes the conservation of endangered species.
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Sahabat Alam Malaysia believes that even the best zoos deliver a misleading and damaging message by implying that captivity is beneficial to the cause of species conservation.  This message directly contradicts the overwhelming body of evidence that species can be conserved only as part of their entire ecosystem.  In addition,  by virtue of their captive state,  zoo animals do not behave as their wild counterparts. Thus seeing an animal in a café does not educate about the species’ life in the wild.
By  allowing a mini-zoo to operate in a café,  the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment and the Wildlife Department are setting a bad precedent. But our calls on the ministry and the department to cease issuing permits to new zoos and other such facilities have fallen on deaf ears.
–S.M. Mohd Idris,  president
Sahabat Alam Malaysia
258 Air Itam Road
10460 Penang
Malaysia
Phone:  04-6596930
<sam_inquiry@yahoo.com>
<www.foe-malaysia.org

Update on Irish Hens

Further to the January/February 2012 cover article “13 nations miss the European Union deadline for phasing out battery cages,” following the new directive banning battery cages in Ireland we have been able to save 15 hens from unnecessary slaughter.

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These hens are doing well,   apart from some of them having significant feather loss, and others are limping on sore feet.  They are learning how to leave their new house in the mornings,  but most still need to be carried into bed at night.  They are beginning to run to us when they see us–it is incredible how quickly animals make friends with members of the species that has caused them so much deprivation and hurt.
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Unfortunately, we cannot undo the damages caused to them by genetic modification by the egg production industry.  Nor can we offer them the liberty of the jungle environment they descended from.  However,  we will ensure that they have a degree of liberty,  lots of space,  good food, green grass,  an area for dustbathing,  a comfortable,  clean house with private nest boxes and perches,  veterinary care when necessary,  a lot of love,  and every opportunity to find joy in their lives.
–Sandra Higgins
Eden for Animals Sanctuary
County Meath,  Ireland
<www.edenfarmanimalsanctuary.com>  

Ava Barcelona appreciates kind words about rats

This is to thank ANIMAL PEOPLE president Kim Bartlett for what she had to say about rats in your January/February memorials column.

I can count on one hand the animal activists I have met in the past 29 years who don’t dislike rats,  mice,  pigeons,  etc.,  even among those who rally against vivisection.  Yet rats,  mice,  and birds are more than 95% of the animals used in laboratories.  And yes,  just as the ANIMAL PEOPLE July/August 2002 editorial stated,  May 13,  2002 was a date which should live in infamy among American animal advocates, since on that day then-U.S. President George W. Bush signed into law the amendment to the Animal Welfare Act that permanently excluded rats, mice,  and birds from the Act definition of “animals,”  with scant visible opposition from major national animal charities.
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I have lived a long time and my failures are many,  my successes few.  I was able to convince my Siamese cat to leave my parakeet alone (I never believed in cages.)  One day a little field mouse wandered into the house.  When I walked into the room,  the mouse was sitting in front of the cat,  shaking with fright.  The cat just looked at me with her huge blue eyes,  as if saying “No,  I’m not going to touch your mouse.” Those were small victories.
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Unfortunately,  I can’t count the times I have heard “animal lovers” say “I hate roaches, mice,  rats,  snakes,”  etc.  Thank the Creator that I only have animals for friends.  And I thank you for your kind words about rats.  I wish the “humane” people had not let them down on May 13,  2002.
–Ava Barcelona
Action Volunteers for Animals
1146 W. Argyle
Chicago,  IL  60640
Phone:  773-728-7913  

Chimp Haven reviews costs and benefits of retiring former laboratory chimpanzees

I am writing in regard to your January/February 2012 article “NIH To Quit Funding New Chimp Studies-But Broke Past Pledges.”  Your readers are likely interested in what may become of the hundreds of chimpanzees currently in research labs.
Fortunately, there is already a mechanism to retire chimpanzees from federally supported research–the CHIMP Act,  passed in 2000 and amended in 2007 to ensure permanent retirement. Chimp Haven,  located near Shreveport, Louisiana,  operates the National Chimpanzee Sanctuary System made possible by the CHIMP Act. We have retired 159 federally retired and 20 privately retired chimpanzees to date.     Primate research consultant Joe Erwin, quoted in your article,  estimated the cost per chimpanzee currently living at Chimp Haven by dividing the cost of building Chimp Haven in 2005 by the number of current occupants.  This is like comparing the cost of building a 500-room hotel to the receipts from the guests for one night. Erwin did not take into account the total capacity,  length of stay,  or rotation of residents.

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The more chimpanzees the government sends to Chimp Haven,  the lower the cost of housing and care for each individual.  If the government decides to complete the unfinished construction of six enclosures,  we can take in at least 50 more chimpanzees.  Of the 200 acres we own,  only 80 are in use,  so we could easily double our capacity.  Expansion is cost effective because the basic infrastructure,  including extensive support and medical facilities, is already established.
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Thank you for correcting Erwin’s erroneous statement that sanctuaries are not subject to federal Animal Welfare Act standards. In fact,  Chimp Haven follows more rigorous regulatory and oversight standards than those pertaining to laboratories.  We abide by not only the Animal Welfare Act,   but also Public Health Service policy and the Standards of Care for Chimpanzees Held in the Federally Supported Chimpanzee Sanctuary System,  which apply to all chimpanzees no longer used in research.
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Chimp Haven has also also achieved accreditation by the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care International and Global Federation of Sanctuares.   Our chimpanzees enjoy expansive enclosures,  large social groups,  professional veterinary care,  and individualized attention, all tailored to maintaining the chimpanzees’ long-term health and well-being.
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Anyone who thinks the labs provide the government a better business deal should think again.  A comparison of costs recently proposed to the government for a chimpanzee sanctuary vs. a chimpanzee laboratory illustrates the savings available in a sanctuary setting.
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Total annual costs per year per chimpanzee (including complete care, housing and administrative/overhead expenses) were $17,500 at Chimp Haven and $23,500 at Texas Biomedical Institute.  This equates to $600,000 in savings per year for a colony of 100 chimpanzees at a sanctuary.
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I am saddened to see individuals like Erwin make chimpanzee retirement an economic as opposed to ethical issue.  But no matter how you look at it,  from an animal welfare perspective or an economic perspective, retirement of research chimpanzees at professionally run sanctuaries like Chimp Haven is a win-win situation for the chimpanzees and public.
–Karen Allen
National Advancement Director
Chimp Haven
13600 Chimpanzee Place
Keithville,  LA 71047
Phone:  318-925-9575
<kallen@chimphaven.org>
<www.chimphaven.org>  

An update from the San Francisco SPCA

We are fans of ANIMAL PEOPLE and recently read your 2011 Watchdog Report on Animal Charities.  We wanted to take a moment to applaud you.  This is a great piece of research that provides valuable information to donors.  Your ten-point statement of expectations of ethical charities is thoughtful and completely in alignment with our beliefs.

We thought this might be a good opportunity to update you about the San Francisco SPCA.  We have been leading the organization for roughly 18 months.  We continue to be a no-kill shelter and continue to work to push adoptions higher and euthanasia lower.  But in some ways, when an animal enters a shelter,  society has already failed it.  We believe the best outcome for animals is to never enter a shelter,  but to stay in loving homes.
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San Francisco’s rate of euthanasia per capita is often quoted,  and understandably so. Decades of work have made San Francisco the safest major city in America for dogs and cats. But often overlooked is another important statistic:  the number of dogs and cats surrendered to city shelters has been cut in half over the last 15 years.  We hope to see the day when intake per capita is quoted side by side with euthanasia per capita.  To us,  both are critical indicators of how well we are caring for our animals.
Since we started as co-presidents,  we have aggressively expanded our spay/neuter efforts.  When we took over,  the SF/SPCA was performing approximately 6,500 surgeries per year.  This year we are on track to do 10,000. We operate on a sliding scale.  Eighty percent of our surgeries are discounted or free.  We are offering free spay/neuter for the entire month of February.  We have made pit bull spay/neuter free year round.
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We are investing in our neuter/return feral cat program.  Last year we performed more than 1,300 feral cat surgeries without charge. We were shocked last spring to actually run out of kittens in our shelter.  To our knowledge this has never happened before.  We are eager to see if it happens again this year.
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The Leanne B. Roberts Animal Care Center last year provided nearly $2 million in charity care,  and did it while breaking even.  Revenue generated by full-paying customers paid for all charity provided to the public.
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We have launched free vaccine clinics in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods.  Many clients tell us these clinics are the first time their animal has seen a veterinarian.  These clinics help us to identify sick animals who can receive care at our hospital,  and educate people about spay/neuter,  including offering free surgeries.
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We have done all this while keeping a balanced budget and making sure our overhead is as efficient as possible.  Over the past two fiscal years we have reduced the percentage of our budget spent on administration and overhead from 12% to 7%.
–Jennifer Scarlett,  DVM & Jason Walthall
Co-presidents
San Francisco SPCA
2500 16th Street
San Francisco,  CA  94103
Phone:  415-554-3000
<publicinfo@sfspca.org>
<www.sfspca.org>  

Editor’s note:
Total U.S. shelter admissions have fallen 31% over the past 15 years.

Defends author of Dewey’s Nine Lives

In your November/ December 2011 edition was a review of Vicki Myron’s book Dewey’s Nine Lives,  her fifth about the cat she kept at the Spencer Public Library in Spencer,  Iowa, 1988-2006.   The review mentioned that,  “Dewey was declawed,  front and back.  At the time, more than 20 years ago,  this was not yet widely recognized as inhumane.  Has Myron changed her perspective about declawing?”  Declawing Dewey may have been at the library board’s behest because it all happened early on when the board was agreeing to his residence in the library. All of Dewey’s vet bills during his lifetime were paid by Myron,  rather than the library.

The review went on to ask,  “What does the Dewey story and the similar stories of other kittens,  including Myron’s current cat,  say about the public image of humane work and the need to extend free and low-cost pet sterilization services?  Is Myron herself involved in organized humane work?  Is she a donor to any humane society?”
It is no one else’s business what charity an individual donates time and money to.  Maybe Myron has donated to a local shelter,  and the public does not know about it.  She did donate a large sum to the library two years ago with “more to follow.”  For Myron an example of animal charity,  as formerly with Dewey, was adopting her current cat,  Page Turner,  rescued by a former library employee from the streets of Spencer after a heavy snowfall.
As a side note,  I much appreciated a well-detailed and argued letter to the editor by Nedim Buyukmihci,  DVM regarding the definition of euthanasia, which appeared in that same edition.
–Susan Hess
Elgin,  Illinois  

Praise for HSUS & UEP collaboration

Wayne Pacelle of HSUS and Gene Gregory of United Egg Producers were interviewed on National Public Radio’s Morning Edition on February 10, 2012.  Their partnership to try to pass HR 3798, the proposed federal laying hen caging standards bill,  is a perfect example of what I have preached over the decades as I worked in two different state legislatures,  and then worked as a professional lobbyist for the Michigan Humane Society.

I would have much preferred to see the progress directed at raising chickens in large buildings where they can roam around freely, scratch, and get to behave like chickens.  But what people in our movement (and people in the U.S. generally) do not always understand about the democratic legislative process is that many disparate interests are represented and weighed in order to arrive at a bill, which must generally start the process toward passage by becoming a compromise.  This is frustrating,  but this is truly democracy.
Legislation can be passed very quickly under fascism,  but look where that leads.
–Eileen Liska
Holly,  Michigan
<eliska01@comcast.net>
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