LETTERS (April, 2013]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  April 2013:


Farm animal welfare in Vietnam

Several months ago I was asked by Humane Society International to help them to establish some collaborative relationships concerning farm animal welfare in Vietnam.  As mentioned in previous letters to ANIMAL PEOPLE,  I used to work at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi,  and continue to work with a number of groups involved in animal protection and youth development,  so I jumped at the chance. We set up day-long workshops with the veterinary and animal science faculties at Hanoi Agricultural University and Ho Chi Minh City University of Agriculture & Forestry.  The principal aim of these workshops was to discuss the impacts of Vietnam’s industrial farm agriculture trends and to begin a conversation about what could be done to alter the trajectory of policies that not only greatly undermine non-human animal welfare, but will also lead to disastrous consequences for the environment and public health.  I was happy that representatives from WSPA,  Animals Asia Foundation and Compassion in World Farming accepted our invitation to attend.  WSPA has been working with the Ho Chi Minh University of Agriculture for two years to incorporate an animal welfare curriculum into their veterinary and animal science programs.  This curricula is not yet implemented,  but they have incorporated similar coursework from Australia’s Queensland University. The two workshops went very smoothly.  There were no animal rights breakthroughs,  but we found definitely a willingness to explore paths towards economic development and modernization other than the discredited western models of intensive factory farming. During my visit I also arranged for two pubic information sessions at the American Centers at the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi and the U.S. Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City.  At each location we had more than 80 high school and college students in attendance.  The vast majority were enthusiastic about making a “meatless Monday” commitment and I handed each of them one of the Vietnamese “Go Veg” guides that my organization developed last year.   These guides offers the rationale for a plant based diet and tips for making the transition in the context of foods that are commonly available in Vietnamese markets. In addition,  I took advantage of my time in Vietnam to kibbutz extensively with Yêu Động Vật (Animal Lovers),  a domestic association of animal protection activists in Ho Chi Minh City that my organization has been supporting for the past two years.  They have been doing some amazing work, in terms of rescue,  educational activities,  and in building their organization.   They recently established the Restored Hope Foster Home to hosue rescued dogs and cats. HSI flew four YDV members to Hanoi to be part of our factory farming workshop.  They are now forming a farm animal advocacy department within their organization to spread awareness to the general public about farm animal issues and to help people transition to plant-based diets and a vegan lifestyle. I discovered a similar group in Hanoi,  called Tram Cuu Ho Cho Meo Ha Noi (Hanoi Pet Rescue). They have been rescuing and re-homing dogs and cats off the streets of Hanoi for about a year.  My organization will now begin working with them.  I hope that by this time next year we will see a national,  formally recognized domestic animal protection organization in Vietnam that speaks on behalf of all animals.  This would be a qualitative leap well beyond the wildlife conservation work that is currently the focus of established groups,  both domestic and international. ––Robert E. Lucius Executive Director Kairos Coalition 340 Bishop Ave. Pacific Grove,  CA  93950 <execdirector@kairoscoaliion.org> <www.kairoscoalition.org>

“Ask and ye shall receive”

We have had an unusually rainy winter,  considered a blessing in this part of the world.  But when we arrived one recent morning after a particularly stormy night, we found our 43-year-old shelter flooded.   The large hill behind the shelter had been flattened to prepare for construction by the municipality,  with no thought given to the runoff and drainage.   The storm took what was left of the hill and spilled it into the shelter. Water filled our quarantine area and continued down through the dog yards and out the other side.  We found the dogs in the quarantine cages standing in muddy water.  Most of our 150 dogs were dry,  but their yards were full of mud.  Our 200 cats  stayed dry.‬ We started calling other shelters,  news stations,  and volunteers. In addition to our loyal and regular volunteers,  people we had never met began arriving to help.  People from all over the country came in their cars with blankets and heaters,  many of them staying to help with the clean-up.  Officials from the municipality and government agencies called to see what we needed.‬ Most of the dogs were evacuated to other shelters or temporary homes.  Most of the dogs were gone for about a week while we waited out the storm and cleaned up the mud.  Thanks to all the help we got,  including municipal workers sent to help,  we were soon back on our feet.‬ ‬ Many dogs were fostered by kindhearted people for the duration of the storm and cleanup. Ten of these wonderful souls decided to adopt the dogs they were fostering. We have learned two valuable lessons from these events:  every dog is adoptable if only the right person comes along.    And sometimes humanity can be surprising. ––Varda Linett Chairperson Jerusalem SPCA P.O. Box 4009 Jerusalem,  Israel <jspca.jeru@gmail.com>

Fake fur promotes real suffering

The March 19, 2013 Federal Trade Commission enforcement action against Neiman Marcus and two other retailers for mislabeling animal fur “faux fur” painfully illustrates the lack of critical thinking and disregard for ongoing consequences that have gone into the promotion of fake fur by animal groups. People look to animal advocates for ethical clarity regarding our relationship with animals,  not confusion.  No matter the context,  the simple and clear message we want to deliver is that animals do not exist for our benefit.  They have their own lives to live. Wearing or viewing someone wearing fur––real or fake––powerfully validates the notion that animals should be exploited for fashion and by extension for anything else––i.e. food,  sport, entertainment,  drug research,  and whatever misperceived health or sexual benefit one can concoct. The continuing brutalization and slaughter of “fur” animals through disguising real furs as fake reflects a failure by animal defenders to encourage people to want to avoid wearing any garment that looks as if it came from an animal. The only concept animal groups should be promoting on this issue is that only on the animal does animal fur look great.  Is this not the heart of the matter? We should be attempting to destroy the seductive associations of fur by replacing them with messages such as  “You look grotesque in that animal skin––real or fake,”   rather than assuming that people are so impaired that they cannot relinquish the idea that wearing fur will bring them some benefit. ––Irene Muschel New York,  N.Y. <benirv@hotmail.com>

The Blue Cross of India enters 50th year

The Blue Cross of India was officially born on April 1, 1964.  The coming year is our Golden Jubilee and what better time to look back and see how best we can learn from what could have certainly been done better. Our achievements include the introduction of the world’s first Animal Birth Control program for street dogs; bans on the export of monkeys and frogs’ legs from India; ambulance services and shelters for animals other than just cows (such shelters for old cows have existed in India for 2,500 years);  and a ban on dissection of animals in schools. Our major achievement,  however,  has been the creation of a new level of awareness about animal issues. Today’s Times of India includes a half page article on the use of animals in films––a fabulous reminder of how much things have changed in this field. It was this issue that initially brought Blue Cross of Hyderabad founder Amala Akkineni to us,  when she and her mother would bring animals injured in shootings to us. From the beginning, the Blue Cross has shared our limited resources with other groups – giving free spay hooks; graspers; dog traps; cat traps; surgical tables; and helping to train vets in ABC. This year, we would like to start a training centre for vets,  para-vets,  and animal handlers, similar to the International Training Center run by the India Project for Animals & Nature and World Veterinary Services in Ooty,  where we can have surgeons up-grade their skills and where para-vets and handlers can learn humane techniques. This is a most urgently needed project and we are likely to get an acre of land for it contiguous to and just behind our centre at Guindy. I have retired as both chair of the Blue Cross and from its governing body,  but am involving myself in fund-raising and special projects. Today,  I can look back at the six years of activity by the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations since it debuted at the Asia for Animals conference in Chennai in 2007 and feel that we have achieved something worthwhile.  As in the case of the Blue Cross, I know we could have done better,  but we are still a bit fragile and must all put in our best to ensure its growth. I know that but for Kim’s encouragement and Animal People’s support and confidence boosting messages in the first few years,  the animal welfare movement in India would not have come as far as we have.  Thanks a million for this and the much more you have done around the world––the Asia for Animals conferences;  your tsunami relief efforts;  and for encouraging so many diffident people on at least three continents to do so much more. ––S. Chinny Krishna Blue Cross of India 1-A Eldams Rd.,  Chennai Tamil Nadu 600018,  India Phone:  91-44-234-1399 <chinnykrishna@gmail.com> <www.BlueCross.org.in>

Armenia persecutes dogs as make-work for thugs

Armenia,  a former Soviet state which has now been an independent country for 24 years,  has become one of the worst nations on the planet for committing animal cruelty by government police. Unlike nations where the government simply does not enforce animal cruelty laws,  Armenia actually hires politically well-connected people to shoot as many dogs as possible,  just to give them jobs.  I am ashamed to reveal this,  as I am Armenian. Please contact the USAid office in Washington D.C.,  as hundreds did last year,  at <pinquiries@usaid.gov>,   or call them at 202-712-4810,  and ask that financial support to Armenia be reduced even more than it was last year. Last year we put out a similar request,  and the U.S. State Department cut aid to Armenia by 19%.  That’s progress for dogs in a country whose leaders have no conscience,  who jail their opposition,  who operate one of the most corrupt governments in the world,  who believe that shooting friendly street dogs is acceptable.  If Armenian leaders do not start behaving within the norms of the rest of the civilized world, we will next urge the U.S. to cut off all economic aid to Armenia. ––Garo Alexanian Companion Animal Network P.O. Box 750214 Forest Hills,  NY  11375 Phone:  718-544-7387 <Garo@Companion-AnimalNetworkTV.org>

Hauling horses

Thank you for the May 2012 ANIMAL PEOPLE article “When it comes to hauling horses, bassackward is right.”  My gelding would always prefer to ride backward when he was loose in the trailer I used to have.  He is a big horse,  so I just gave him the whole area to ride in. I would love to have a rear facing trailer. ––Ute Philippi Puyallup,  Washington <balancedstep@gmail.com>

Likes book reviews

I sure do like the interesting and informative book reviews in your newspaper. ––Reg Green Iroquois County Animal Rescue 100 NW Lincoln Iroquois,  IL  60945

Deer & organic

Veggie farmers and politicians in Central Saanich,  British Columbia are trying to introduce a bounty on deer,  increase the hunting quotas,  and recruit sharpshooters and First Nations hunters to kill deer who are attracted to crops.  Most people do not make the connection that buying organic fruits and veggies could result in deer being killed.  Some Vancouver Island organic growers want this massive slaughter.  Some won’t even fence their crops and will not use other nonlethal controls. ––Peter Hamilton,  founder Lifeforce P.O. Box 3117 Vancouver,  B.C. Canada  V6B 3X6 Phone:  604-649-5258 <lifeforcesociety@hotmail.com> <www.lifeforcefoundation.org>

What “makes us human”?

“The Trans-Species Concept of Self and the Subcortical-cortical Midline System,” by Georg Northoff and Jaak Pansepp,  published in Trends in Cognitive Sciences,  volume 12,  #7,  may be as important as the “Cambridge Declaration on Consciousness,”  discussed by Kim Bartlett in her commentary “The most overlooked victory for animals of 2012” in the January/February 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.  It’s basically about neural substrates for the “self,”  which has been long attributed to humans only. Philosophers will have all sorts of things to say about this,  of course,  but what scientists are beginning to say more and more loudly is that evidence suggests that we should work on the basis of sameness and not difference.  This provides implicit support for anthropomorphising in discussing some of the core things that supposedly “make us human.”  The Northoff/Pansepp paper can be downloaded at <http://www.imhr.ca/research/northofflab/documents/self_northoff_panksepp_tics_2008.pdf>. ––Christine Townend Sydney,  Australia <christownend@bigpond.com>

Yellowstone bison mourn their murdered kin

Forty-four of America’s last wild bison were killed in the Gardiner Basin of Montana during the last week of February 2012 by hunters from the Nez Perce and Umatilla tribes.  Most of these bison were shot less than 300 yards from the north boundary of Yellowstone National Park.  Three wounded bison did not immediately fall,  but walked into Yellowstone,  where they were not allowed to be retrieved by the Nez Perce hunters who shot them.  The hunters who shot these bison were allowed to keep their tags to kill others. Three other bison were illegally shot and killed by two non-tribal members. Two days later we watched as more than a hundred bison approached.  We watched in sorrowful awe as the bison approached the gut piles.  Their tails shot up in the air as they ran from remains to remains,  discovering what was left.  Enormous bulls bellowed like roaring dragons, mouths agape,  bodies arched, pawing the ground.  The bison placed their faces close to the flesh left behind,  nuzzling their muzzles into the earth where their relatives fell.  They sniffed at fetuses still sheltered in their mother’s flesh whose lives were ended before they were born.  The bison circled and scattered,  ran to each other and away again. We could only think of it as a wake.  The mature bulls lingered the longest,  as the mothers and grandmothers led the young ones on in an ancient procession,  their deliberate footsteps slower in their sorrow. ––Stephany Seay Buffalo Field Campaign P.O. Box 957 West Yellowstone,  MT 59758 Phone:  406-646-0070 <bfc-media@wildrockies.org> <www.buffalofieldcampaign.org>

Argentina may lift ban on foie gras production

The government of Argentina is in the process of repealing Resolution 413/03,  won in 2003 by the Asociacion para la Defensa de los Derechos del Animal,  which prohibits nationwide the forced feeding of ducks and geese to produce foie gras.  We need all entities in defense of animals in the world to help us work against the derogation of Resolution 413/03. With the passage of Resolution 413/03,  Argentina joined other nations in prohibiting force-feeding,  including Austria,  the Czech Republic,  Denmark,  Finland, Germany,  Ireland,  Israel, Italy,  Luxembourg,  Norway,  Poland (formerly the fifth largest producer in the world),  Sweden, Switzerland,  the Netherlands,  and the United Kingdom.  The U.S. state of California also prohibits force-feeding. Currently,  only five European countries continue to produce foie gras: Belgium,  France, Hungary,  Spain,  and Bulgaria. Please write to:  D. Norberto Yauhar,  Ministro de Ganadería,  Agricultura y Pesca,  Paseo Colon 922 / 982,  Buenos Aires,  Argentina;  or send an e-mail to <minagri@minagri.gob.ar.>.  Please send a copy to:  Dr. Marcelo Míguez,  Sr. Presidente de SENASA,  Paseo Colon 367,  9 piso,  Buenos Aires,  Argentina; <presidencia@senasa.gov.ar>. ––Martha Gutiérrez President AADA Argentina Julian Alvarez 143 Buenos Aires 1414 Argentina <adda@fibertel.com.ar> <www.adda.org.ar>

Crustacean suffering

Nice piece in the March 2013 edition of Animal People about crustacean pain and suffering.  I recently took on this topic in a blog that might interest your readers: <www.psychologytoday.com/blog/animals-and-us/201301/crustacean-rights-the-case-the-lucky-crabs>. ––Hal Herzog Department of Psychology Western Carolina University Cullowhee,  NC 28723 <herzog@email.wcu.edu>

Editor’s note: Hal Herzog’s blog,  distributed by both Psychology Today and the Huffington Post,  examined the practice of pulling the claws off of stone crabs and returning them to the water.   Herzog estimates that about eight million stone crabs per year suffer this procedure along the Florida Gulf coast.   National Park Service research indicates that about half of the fully declawed crabs die within 24 hours;  about 25% die if deprived of only one claw.  Stone crabs regrow their claws,  but regaining a functional claw takes about 18 months.

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