Letters (Jan-Feb 2013)

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  January/February 2013:



Taiwan agriculture official believes omitting strays from mention will solve the problem

Amendments to the Taiwan Animal Protection Act to limit the capture of stray animals to those who pose a threat to human beings were to be introduced on December 26,  2012.  The current policy is to capture and kill all stray dogs.  Over the past 13 years, approximately 1.4 million stray dogs have been killed.  Since the government does not fully support neuter/return,  and hopes to make it illegal,  the stray population is destined to keep growing. The proposed amendments also called for controls on the breeding of cats and dogs to help reduce the number of strays,  and would have made it illegal to emotionally neglect and abuse animals.  We hoped to bring in regulations specifying minimum cage sizes for animals,  minimum leash lengths,  and the maximum number of hours that animals can be kept caged per day. On December 26,  however,  before our proposed amendments were even discussed in detail, the Director of the Council of Agriculture told the legislators responsible for the Animal Protection Act that the amendments would be impossible to execute and that the term “stray animals” should not be included in the Act. He argued that including this wording in the Act would indicate that the government supports abandonment of animals and accepts them living on the streets. As animal organizations we do not want to see stray animals on the streets either,  but we want the government to face the reality that our country has many strays on the streets already,  and that therefore regulations must be set to protect their welfare and reduce their numbers humanely. ––Beki Hunt, Co-founder/deputy director, Taiwan SPCA, www.spca.org.tw


On Origins of New Forms of Life 

I have just come across your April 2012 article “On the Origins of New Forms of Life:  A New Theory”.  You managed to extract the two most important consequences of Eugene McCarthy’s work ––first,  that “speciation,”  the formation of a pure strain,   devoid of genetic variation,  becomes progressively less able to adapt to changing environmental pressures.  Thus “speciation” is the process which drives extinction.   Second,  hybridisation is the process which drives diversity into the genome,  allowing the hybrid to occupy a new niche in a changing environment. Of course,  in a world with limited resources,  it is inevitable that the new hybrid will oust one or even both of the parental lines or cousin lines,  as humans seem to have done with our own proto-human hybrid cousins. The realization that hybridization is the future,  and not an abhorrent monstrous aberration,  is an important gift.  Yet probably the deeply engrained belief that sex across species is a sin,  or at least morally reprehensible,  is stopping most people from considering that humans are a relatively new hybrid.  We are descended from apes,  and are not some pinnacle of evolutionary development,  but a happenstance creature with the dexterity and pack identity of our ape mother,  and the voice,  intelligence and omnivore gut of our father,  barely viable yet able to develop to the point that we think ourselves to have been anointed by God.  I believe that Gene and those who see the rational sense in his theory have a long road ahead of them. On a different subject,  I work with an ex-racing greyhound rehoming charity.  The charity has realized that they can never find homes for all the greyhound bred every year for the racing industry,  and so they have set themselves the goal of working toward the end of the greyhound racing industry. While browsing your site, I came across the most excellent November/December 2012 editorial “Why boycotts are not the answer to cruelty called culture.”   I realized that this article applied directly to the dwindling residue of the racing industry.  I wonder,  would you mind discussing possible strategies that anti-racing supporters might adopt? ––Derek Smith, Long Sutton,  Lincolnshire. United Kingdom <derek@execsec.co.uk>


The importance of the Cambridge Declaration

I have just been reading Kim Bartlett’s commentary “The most overlooked victory for animals of 2012” about the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,  a little noticed but incredibly important step forward. Quite apart from the article being so powerfully written and moving,  I also felt much empathy with Kim Bartlett’s concern that this very important breakthrough seemed to be largely overlooked.  I didn’t see it published in animal protection journals,  nor very much promoted online,  but it is an extraordinarily significant piece of evidence for the animal rights movement,  to be able to casually mention in conversation over the dinner table when friends are feasting on the dead bodies of pigs or cattle.  When we founded the organization Animal Liberation in Australia in 1976,  agricultural scientists were,  incredible as it may seem now,  claiming that lambs didn’t feel any pain from the mulesing operation,  as they ate again as soon as it was over.  We know now that eating is a survival response among herbivorous animals,  signaling to predators that the the injured animal will not be easy prey. Kim Bartlett’s comments re consciousness are also important.  The Cambridge Declaration reduces the pomposity of humans in thinking ours are the only minds,  when in fact quantum physics is showing that “mind” is an electrical energy,  invisible to us,  but shared by all living things. I believe ANIMAL PEOPLE has been hugely influential as back-ground information support for animal rights activists––a very valued contribution to the animal protection movement. ––Christine Townend, Sydney,  Australia <christownend@bigpond.com>

More about Cambridge

I so enjoyed reading your end-of-2012 appeal letter,  including Kim Bartlett’s masterful takes on the complex situations raised by the Cambridge Declaration of Consciousness.  Sometimes even activists can’t see the forest for the trees and your letter points the way.  I was almost embarrassed for the eminent scientists finally realizing what anyone who lived with animals already knew! ––M.L.Corbin Sicoli,  Ph.D., Professor Emeritus,  Psychology, Cabrini College <www.sicolitesting19382.com>


Watchdog Report

Thank you so much for publishing the 2012 ANIMAL PEOPLE Watchdog Report on Animal Charities,  that I purchased in October 2012.  It is so helpful,  and I very much appreciate having it.   Your appeal letters,  too,  are informative.  For example,  I had not heard before about the Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness (featured in both the fall 2012 ANIMAL PEOPLE appeal and the November/December edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE),  and I rejoice at hearing this news. The work that you are doing for animals is so important and so worthy of support!  Please never stop doing it.  Human awareness of animal suffering is growing,  albeit not as rapidly as we would like.  We must never give up.  Sometimes a tipping point occurs that can shift momentum quite suddenly. ––Lela Sayward, Lincoln,  Nebraska



Thanks for your really excellent points in your November/December 2012 editorial “Why boycotts are not the answer to cruelty called ‘culture’”––really clearly explained,  with a lot of very precise historical references. I have often felt frustrated by people who call for boycotts––of China, and really of practically every country in the world (except the U.S.)––without giving much thought to the consequences or the effects. I’m really glad you made the point about advocacy on the part of local animal people being needed,  because without that absolutely no change at all happens,  no matter how many Facebook appeals are sent around and around the world. ––Sharon St Joan, Co-Founder, Best Friends Animal Society, Kanab,  Utah, sharonsj@bestfriends.org


The Last Walk

Thanks for reviewing my book The Last Walk:  Reflections on Our Pets at the End of Their Lives,  in your November/December 2012 edition.  I agree with you that my treatment of killing in shelters was weak,  relative to the rest of the book, and since I finished the The Last Walk I’ve done more research and talked to a number of people working within sheltering. Almost without exception,  the people who work within sheltering that I’ve talked to––and it is a very small number,  admittedly––think Nathan Winograd’s version of the “no kill” movement has caused more trouble than good––fascinating,  and also,  I think,  counter-intuitive.  I am very interested in the dynamics of shelter killings and hope to write something in the future that focuses on the kinds of issues you raised,  e.g.,  what to do with dogs who cannot be safely re-homed. I am a regular reader of ANIMAL PEOPLE.  It is a wonderful resource for those interested in and working on behalf of animals.  Thanks for the work you do. ––Jessica Pierce, Lyons,  Colorado


Superstorm Sandy

We were severely flooded during Superstorm Sandy,  lost most of our possessions,  and even some wildlife.  We may never recover. ––Gayle Wertz,  Wildlife Rehabilitator Massapequa,  N.Y.


Good riddance to Ken Salazar

President Obama’s recently resigned Secretary of the Interior,  Ken Salazar,  proved himself to be totally unqualified for his office.  A  former cattle rancher from New Mexico,  Salazar  was strongly promoted to the President by Senator Jeff Bingamen,  also of New Mexico.  Immediately after his appointment,  Salazar delisted the gray wolves of the greater Yellowstone ecosystem from the protections of the Endangered Species Act.  This was not only premature,  but was essentially pandering to the ranchers. Wolves are now “managed” (read killed) in Idaho,  Montana,  and Wyoming.  All three states hold the view that the only good wolf is a dead wolf.  There are no effective U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service controls over the excesses of these states. Ranchers claim livestock losses as pretext for killing wolves.  Actually wolf predation on domestic stock accounts for barely 1% of livestock losses on public lands. Wolves are a keystone species.  When wolves and pumas were exterminated,  decades ago,  elk multiplied tremendously.  Elk often rested on the lawns outside the lodges within the park,  behaving like tame barnyard stock instead of wild ruminants. As the elk were protected by the elk hunters’ lobby,  no attempts were made to control elk over-browsing the aspen,  birch,  and cottonwood trees.  Thereby,  the elk destroyed an important component of the Yellowstone ecosystem. This resulted in the loss of the lynx,  whose primary prey is the snowshoe hare,  which depends upon aspens and birches.  Loss of the aspen,  birch,  and cottonwood also caused a major decline of beaver,  since beaver need these trees for sustenance and lodge-building. With the return of gray wolves to their ancestral home in Yellowstone,  the elk population was brought down to historic levels.  The aspen,  birch,  and cottonwoods regenerated.  Snowshoe hares returned,  along with lynx and many avian species of importance.  The remaining elk now act wild,  maintaining a healthy population without lingering excessively among the aspen and birch. Tourism in Yellowstone flourished.  The presence of the wolves was a big induce-ment for photographers and other wildlife enthusiasts.  Proprietors of eateries and motels outside Yellowstone were most pleased.  Yet,  despite the boost that Yellowstone tourism has given to Wyoming,  the state remains politically dominated by cattle ranchers and elk hunters. During very harsh winters,  the elk,  like bison,  trad-itionally migrate out of Yellowstone to lower elevations to find more accessible forage.  This is one reason why elk are fewer in severe winters.  Another is that groups of elk hunters illegally and clandestinely captured and trucked elk who were untested for chronic wasting disease to Wisconsin,  Michigan,  and many other states for massacre in canned hunts.  This helped to deplete the Yellowstone region elk herd and resulted in the spread of chronic wasting disease to whitetailed deer in the upper Midwest. Unfortunately, elk hunters have feeble memories and make the gray wolf the scapegoat for the elk population decline. We need to impress upon President Obama the damage done by the ranchers and elk hunters.  We also need to impress upon the President that we need a Secretary of the Interior who has the background and the ethics to conduct the office properly,  not to pander to special interest groups. I commenced my career as a livestock veterinarian,  and know cattle and sheep ranchers all too well. ––Marvin J. Sheffield,  DVM, Wild Canid Research Group, 651 Sinex Avenue, Pacific Grove,  CA  93950

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