Letters (Sept. 2012)

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  September 2012:

Salmon farming isn’t sustainable or humane
I am currently having an argument with the Scottish government over a description of salmon farming as “sustainable” by First Minister Alex Salmond.  He made this claim in quotation marks in a statement in a government press release which was posted on the government web site.

The person who eventually replied to my complaint over this claimed it was the Scottish government web site which said this and not the First Minister.  When a web site starts making statements all on its own, I might start believing that salmon farming is sustainable.

Until then I’ll stick with the fact that you have to feed between three and four tons of wild-caught fish to the caged salmon to produce each ton of finished product.  That’s a very long way from being sustainable. Our new environment minister, Paul Wheelhouse, added to Salmond’s remark that, “More than 60 per cent of Scottish farmed salmon now has the Royal SPCA’s Freedom Foods accreditation, which is a great endorsement and selling point.”

I suppose he thought that bringing the RSPCA into it was better than admitting that when his own agency, the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency, surveyed for pollution on the seabed around salmon farms, they described the findings of 44% of the samples as “unsatisfactory” and 21% as “borderline.”

It is is bad enough that the RSPCA allows Freedom Food-endorsed salmon farmers to shoot and kill seals.  It is sickening to see senior politicians use the RSPCA name to divert attention from the negative impact salmon farms are having on the Scottish marine environment.

If you think things are bad now, just wait to see what happens as the Scottish branches of the Norwegian salmon farming industry expand to fill all the new orders Alex Salmond is bringing in from his political panda pals in Beijing, who are now leasing two giant pandas to the financially shaky Edinburgh Zoo for a million U.S. dollars per year.  I maintain that the extremely high costs involved in leasing and caring for these two giant pandas, plus any possible offspring, will prove too expensive for Edinburgh Zoo, just as several other zoos around the world discovered after taking exactly the same foolish financial flutter in an attempt to gamble their way out of a cash crisis. –John F. Robins, Campaigns Consultant Animal Concern, P.O. Box 5178, Dumbarton Scotland G82 5YJ <animals@jfrobins.force9.co.uk> <www.animalconcern.com>

Rhode Island Thank you for highlighting in the July/August 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE the passage of legislation in Rhode Island to give animals legal representation in cruelty & neglect cases.  This is the successful work of Dennis Tabella and Rhode Island Defenders of Animals.

Many humane laws have been passed over the last 30 years through their volunteer efforts, including prohibition of the use of gas chambers to kill homeless animals,  banning the release of intact female cats from shelters, and restricting hunting in state parks.  We were proud to join with Dennis to end dog racing in Rhode Island in 2010. –Christine A. Dorchak,  Esq. President & general counsel Grey 2K USA P.O. Box 442117 Somerville, MA  02144 Phone:  617-666-3526 <christine@grey2kusa.org> <www.GREY2KUSA.org>

Closing pet stores helps backyard breeders I am belatedly responding to “Puppy millers move from malls to web sites,”  in the January/February 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.

I am fed up with brainless people who are demanding (and getting) bans on pups and kittens being sold in pet stores, which– unlike backyard breeders–are out in the open, licensable, regulatable, and accessible to cruelty prevention enforcers without a warrant needed during business hours.

The British Columbia SPCA jumped on this bandwagon.  The BC/SPCA is also on the “Pit bulls are no more dangerous than any other breed” bandwagon.  Even though it may still kill more pit bulls than any other agency in B.C., despite often turning away pit bulls [brought for surrender].  It even tells municipalities that are considering adopting pit bull bans not to.

This is putting people and other animals at risk of life-altering attacks, and assures that the abuse and killing of so many pit bulls will continue. –Judy Stone Animal Advocates Society of British Columbia Box 114,  103-1075 Marine Drive North Vancouver,  B.C. Canada BC V7P 3T6 <judy@animaladvocates.com> <www.animaladvocates.com>

Bowhunter Paul Ryan Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan loves bow hunting.  This is something that animal people need to be aware of, along with presidential candidate Mitt  Romney’s endorsement of the rodeo held at the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City, and his strapping his Irish setter to the car roof [in a portable kennel] for 1983 trip to Ontario. –Eric Mills,  coordinator Action for Animals P.O. Box 20184 Oakland,  CA  94620 510-652-5603 <afa@mcn.org> Editor’s note: “I love hunting and fishing.  Bowhunting is my passion,” Paul Ryan declared in a recent interview with <www.deeranddeerhunting> Southern managing editor Alan Clemons.  Clemons also revealed that Romney once drove the Oscar Meyer Weinermobile. Donors & taxpayers should not subsidize cruelty, agrees Animals’ Angels founder I agree wholeheartedly with Erika Abrams, whose commentary “Let us not call for donor support for small farmers” appeared in the July/August 2012 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE, and would like to support her opinion with European evidence.

European member states in the last decade have very much embraced environmental issues–to various degrees of commitment, of course.  Small farms are popular with people because their image fits the dream of old-fashioned, understandable and controllable agriculture.  The media promote this unrealistic view by broadcasting films and printing images of happy cows in green meadows, smiling pigs, and snow-white hens in the sunshine.  The Green Party in particular promotes financial support of small farms,  as perceived to be opposite to industrial farming.

But when we look at dairy cows, who are just one gender and species of farmed animals, the truth of small farms is quite different from these illusions.

In Germany every third cow is tethered in the old-fashioned barn of a small farm with under 30 animals.  These cows are fixed to the same place seven days a week, twelve months a year.

They never see daylight or set foot in a green pasture. They have no freedom of movement:  they can only lie down or stand up.  They have inadequate stall lengths. Modern high-performance dairy breeds are too large for the old short stalls, so they have to stand or lie down on the grating above the drainage channels, which leads to foot and teat ailments.  There is insufficient rest area for the numbers of large cows.  They cannot all lie down at the same time.  The cows have insufficient bedding. The majority of the cows stand on bare concrete, so standing and lying down is torture for the thin-skinned and weak-muscled cows.  There is no calving box, so the cows give birth still tethered, which leads to severe physical and emotional pain.  There are unsuitable drinking systems in the old small barns, so the high water requirements of a lactating cow are never met. She is always thirsty.

So-called traditional (small) farmers often lack professional competence to deal with their high-performance cows.  And they show a gross lack of consideration for the basic needs of the animals in their care.

The German government and the EU grant these farmers full subsidies, despite the violations of the cross-compliance regulation required by law.  That means this torture is financed by the German/European taxpayer.  Since the small farmers can in no way compete with the big industrial dairy business, their income is based not on milk or meat sales, but comes mostly from subsidies.  It is money easily earned and there is no real interest in the animals, whereas in older times cows on a small farm were more often than not treasured members of the household and their wellbeing was of much concern.

One could demonstrate a similar appalling state of affairs with pigs, calves, bulls, sheep and goats in other parts of Europe.  As Erika Abrams put it: donors’ money should not be spent on animal cruelty.  I might add: neither should taxpayers’ money. –Christa Blanke Founder and Director Animals’ Angels Rossertstraße 8 D-60323 Frankfurt a. Main Germany <info@animals-angels.de> <http://www.animals-angels.com/>

Romanian sabotage In 2004 there were approximately 5,000 stray dogs in Oradea, Romania, despite a continuous poisoning campaign.  Petru Filip, who was the mayor at the time, accepted an offer from several British and American organizations to replace the killing strategy with neuter/return.  Petru Filip now speaks for the extraordinary results: the number of stray dogs in Oradea fell  to only 250 in 2011.

The Oradea program was initially financed by Dogs Trust, Battersea Dogs & Cats Home, and the North Shore Animal League America.  For the past several years it has been coordinated and financed solely by British businessman and Foundation for the Protection of Stray Dogs president Robert Smith.  Smith has conducted sterilization and educational programs in schools not only in Oradea but throughout Bihor county.

Despite the extraordinary results of the Oradea project, Romanian officials have never been interested in emulating it on a national scale.  Some have sabotaged all attempts to implement clear legislation to support such programs.

As Robert Smith could no longer afford to finance the project, he recently retired from it.  He offered the local authorities the shelter he built, and the other logistics he put in place, along with his own support to some extent, under condition that the strategy followed since 2005 must be continued.

Instead, mayor Ilie Bolojan has ignored the extraordinary results of the neutering program,  and has decided to return to the old method of killing stray dogs, which is now illegal according to the current Romanian laws.

From the number of 250 dogs, reached with great effort, we will go back to 5,000. If in Oradea, which now has no problems with stray dogs, the mayor decides to resume killing, the mayors of cities where the stray dog population is large will be influenced to do the same.

The National Federation for Animal Protection has already registered an administrative appeal to the Oradea City Hall, and have brought this case to court,  requesting that the resolution to kill dogs adopted by the local council be dismissed at once, and we are planning to start criminal lawsuits against the local counselors who voted for this decision. –Carmen Arsene Pitesti,  Romania <cmarsene@yahoo.com>

Turkish neuter/return law jeopardized The Turkish government is preparing to issue an amendment to our present national animal protection law, which since 2004 has obliged municipalities to neuter and return stray animals to their territories and clearly forbids release of animals outside of their cities.  The amendment, already signed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and submitted to the parliament for approval, abandons neuter and return and states that all stray animals will be collected by municipalities to be neutered and kept in shelters until the shelters are too crowded,  then to be released to “natural life parks,” which will be run by municipalities in areas allocated for this purpose by the forest ministry.

We don’t believe that the mentality which keeps animals in death camps like the typical Turkish municipal shelter will be able to look after thousands of animals in what they call “natural life parks.”  What they call natural parks will turn into dumps where dogs will either starve to death or kill each other.

In practice, under the 2004 law, the neutering was very slow and inefficient, and most of the neutered animals were returned not to their territories, but were dumped outside of their cities in forests and beside highways.  Nevertheless, with the help of animal protection organizations,  there was a noticable  change in awareness about stray animals, and an increase in tolerance toward them.

With this amendment, we will be back to square one.  Please make your protest be heard by the Turkish government. –Bilge Okay Evsiz Hayvanlari ve Dogayi Koruma Dernegi Baltalimani Cad #13 5 Rumelihisari Istanbul 80860,  Turkey Phone:  90-5324665480 <bilgeokay@ixir.com> <http://evsizhayvanlar.org>

Editor’s note: The Romanian experience described by Carmen Arsene, the Turkish experience described by Bilge Okay, ongoing widespread resistance to the Indian national Animal Birth Control program even after more than 15 years of demonstrable success in many major cities, and continuing antipathy toward neuter/return feral cat control from birders and others here in the U.S. all demonstrate the same major shortcoming of the method.

Ecologically, neuter/return works, but the population reduction achieved through neuter/return often takes years to become evident.  Often by the time a population drops, many of the people who want animals to be gone have forgotten what the numbers were.  Instead of appreciating that the street dog or feral cat population is steeply reduced and continuing to decline, people who have an antipathy toward street dogs and/or feral cats agitate against the presence of any.

Culturally and politically, neuter/return is vulnerable to allegations of failure when street dogs and feral cats are still seen and continue to engage in “nuisance” behavior, which often becomes more evident than ever if the animals are fed at public sites, and are thereby encouraged to visibly congregate.

Neuter/return projects are frequently sabotaged and made to fail by advocates of traditional catch-and-kill.  Among the common strategies are killing the sterilized animals so that open habitat comes to attract animals from elsewhere; dumping unsterilized animals from other locations into neuter/return target areas; and using the methods employed by neuter/return practitioners to identify animals who been sterilized to covertly mark fertile animals, then alleging malfeasance on the part of the neuter/return practitioners.

Avoiding public feeding can help to prevent the conflicts that often build opposition to neuter/return.  Also essential is doing intensive public education about how neuter/return works, and why, to build understanding and support for neuter/return programs before misunderstandings produce ill-informed resistance.  Finally, as ANIMAL PEOPLE has pointed out ever since urging the use of neuter/return in appropriate situations in our very first edition 20 years ago, not every site where street dogs or feral cats exist is amenable to neuter/return.  If the animals are a perceived risk to public health and safety, even if vaccinated against rabies, or present a frequent traffic hazard, or are a threat to wildlife,  or are likely to be killed by neighbors, property owners, and/or public agencies, neuter/return will not succeed, and trying to force the use of it is likely to squander goodwill and resources, with no net benefit to the intended animal beneficiaries.

Spindletop failure

There seems to have been a near complete lack of due diligence on the part of humane society leaders and rescue groups who had relationships with the Spindletop Refuge north of Houston, where 287 dogs, mostly pit bulls, were impounded due to alleged neglect in July 2012.  Similar attitudes prevail throughout the entire humane community.  Those of us who point out an obvious lack of care for sheltered animals to local inattentive boards (who show up for meetings once a month without even looking at the kennels), are met with derision and ostracism. In my humble opinion, the Spindletop case is a clarion call for an entire nation of (so-called) humane groups and rescuers to face the hard realities surrounding the care and keeping of all displaced companion animals, and take a hard look at the “feel good” myths that often result in great suffering for animals. –Clova Abrahamson Bartlesville, Oklahoma

Editor’s note:

The Spindletop Refuge failure followed similar disasters at Tiger Ranch in Pennsylvania, the 10th Life Sanctuary, Caboodle Ranch, and Sanctuary Animal Refuge in Florida, and dozens of other”no-kill” facilities which have taken in far more animals than they could properly care for from conventional shelters, individual “rescuers,” and even national organizations eager to avoid killing homeless animals, but unwilling or unable to either fund quality lifetime care or look closely into what becomes of the animals they parcel out, many of whom later must be re-rescued–if they survive the conditions they endure after being “rescued” the first time.

Palestinian project In addition to our donkey sanctuary situated in Israel, established in 2000, Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land has for some years been offering free veterinary services to working donkeys, mules and horses owned by Palestinians through our mobile veterinary clinic. In 2011, our founder Lucy Fensom and her team visited Nablus to run a farrier course for local donkey and horse owners.  Lucy decided to return on a regular basis with the mobile clinic. It became Lucy’s dream to build a permanent clinic in Nablus, as she had already done in the Palestinian town of Qalqilya.  A few weeks ago one of Safe Haven’s supporters not only donated the funds to build the clinic, but also to fund it for the first year.  Opened just over two weeks ago, the clinic is open 24 hours a day. –Wendy Ahl Safe Haven for Donkeys in the Holy Land The Old Dairy,  Springfield Farm, Lewes Road, Scaynes Hill West Sussex,  RH17 7NG United Kingdom Phone:  011-44-1444 831177 <wendy@safehaven4donkeys.org> <www.safehaven4donkeys.org>

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