Letters [Nov-Dec 2013]

From ANIMAL PEOPLE,  November/December 2013:


Bringing cats inside

The September 2013 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial feature “Successful neuter/return must recognize reality” quoted Humane Society of the U.S. president Wayne Pacelle using the phrase “community cats” to include stray and abandoned cats,  but my understanding was that when the Best Friends Animal Society introduced the use of “community cats” in 2009,  they intended for the phrase to replace “feral.” Either way,  “community cats” is not a good definition for cats at large,  diminishes the problem for either stray and abandoned cats or ferals,  and makes it seem like it’s a great thing to be a “community cat.” Shouldn’t this problem be obvious to all of the organizations involved with cats?  I like how you make clear the feelings of abandoned animals,  because I don’t think many “community cats,”  once owned and loved, are happy to be permanently outdoors. Blatantly clear to me when I rescued my cats Billystorm and Brambellina last year was that they should have a home.  There was no kind of “Sophie’s choice” agony in deciding which two of the four cats I found within a fenced city property needed rescuing;  it was a no-brainer based on the stressed behavior of these two.  If I’d had to choose only one out of those two to bring in,  that would have been a little harder––one seemed desperate for human interaction,  stressed,  but at least staying within the fenceline at all times;  the other regularly ran across the street in front of fast cars,  so was in more immediate danger,  also stressed,  and not grooming himself properly. Having said that,  the remaining two cats at that location are not “feral” any more,  even if not lap cats,  so it may be my obligation to bring them in now,  as they are increasingly visible to others,  especially when I show up,  and so are in more danger. Plus,  I encounter “ecos” too often and I know what they’d like to do.  A few days ago one stopped and had the nerve to call the Grandview Cut,  dug to facilitate train travel,  “Vancouver’s unofficial wildlife preserve,”  wondering how far the cats who inhabit the cut might range.  I told him the Grandview Cut was full of “invasive species” and started listing them:  blackberries,  English ivy,  Norway rats,  starlings… The guy got upset and said he had to be somewhere,  but his attitude is dangerous stuff for my formerly feral cats to be subjected to. ––Judith Webster Vancouver,  B.C. Canada

Environmentally responsible conduct

Regarding your Editor’s note responding to “The long and winding road to environmentalism,”  by Larry Weiss in the September 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,  I couldn’t agree more with your position that the biggest problem facing animals is “how people choose to live.” Daily environmental activism goes hand-in-hand with animal activism.  Presumably the majority of animal activists are vegan or vegetarian,  but the choices we make at the hardware store,  the shopping mall,  and countless other venues,  and the actions we take at home,  the beach,  in the mountains,  the desert,  on the highways,  etc.,  directly affect wildlife near and far. Every one of us needs to be aware of how our actions right now might help,  instead of contributing to deforestation,  pollution,  and global warming.  Using re-usable washable containers instead of plastic bags for food storage,  cloth instead of paper napkins,  buying items at a farmer’s market where you bring your own bags,  or grocery items in bulk rather than in smaller,  usually double packaging,  and choosing natural ingredients instead of chemicals to kill harmful pests on garden plants and crops are simple examples of where changes at home––be they ever so small––can make a difference. We’d better all be environmentalists if we care about the beautiful creatures of the world being preserved for future generations! ––Carole DaDurka San Clemente, California

Editor’s note:   Depending on where one lives,  and a variety of other highly variable circumstances,  any or all of the above prescriptions for environmentally responsible conduct may do more harm than good.  The water and the energy used to heat the water that are expended to wash containers or cloth napkins,  for example,  can easily exceed in environmental impact what little is saved by re-using the products.  Buying groceries in bulk saves something only if the food is used in bulk;  if the savings in packaging are offset by greater spoilage,  the net effect is a loss.  And “natural ingredients” are chemicals,  even if not closely regulated.  Some “natural ingredients” that people commonly use to try to avoid using pesticides are much more lethal to more species,  for longer,  than the products they replace.  Living with authentic awareness of animals and the environment requires thinking through all of the consequences of what one does.  In that context,  the sum of everything else that most people can easily do adds up to much less than simply not eating meat.

Safe Haven debacle in Delaware shows the importance of S/N outreach

Regarding “Attempt to make Delaware a no-kill state fails with dissolution of Safe Haven,”  in the October 2013 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,  on December 6,  2012,  almost a year before this debacle,  I pointed out in public comment to our state animal welfare task force that the 2010 passage of the Delaware Companion Animal Protection Act was likely to bring such a setback. I testified from a personal standpoint,  not to express the official opinion of the State of Delaware or the Department of Agriculture.  As the ANIMAL PEOPLE coverage made clear,  my concerns are still timely. As a Delaware taxpayer and Spay/Neuter Coordinator for the Delaware Department of Agriculture,  I am appalled at the waste of resources that have been expended as result of CAPA,  both by the Department of Agriculture and by the Attorney General’s office.  CAPA requirements,  introduced without funding for additional staff,  have added to the workloads of many people,  to implement a law that we have all known was unenforceable from the start,  with the result that we are less able to implement laws that can be enforced. I understand that the CAPA shelter standards were well-intentioned,  but even with the  best of record keeping,  a shelter’s choice to euthanize an animal will never be clear-cut.  There will always be one person who says an animal was aggressive,  and another who says otherwise.  And there will always be someone who claims to have taken a healthy animal into a shelter,  and that it is not possible that the animal was so sick as to require euthanasia,  but the animal may have been severely ill due to unrecognized symptoms. Since most complaints about inappropriate euthanasia will be based on hearsay,  CAPA will continue to waste state resources even if enforcement is adequately funded. Obviously I support the Delaware spay/neuter program.  There should be no doubt that this is the front line in the battle to end pet overpopulation. To help us make more rapid progress,  the shelter standards imposed by CAPA should be repealed,  so that we can again have open-access shelters serving homeless former pet cats and owner surrendered dogs should not be turned away and be subject to being dumped on our streets or the dangers of free Craigslist ads. Random inspections enforcing appropriate health and safety standards should replace CAPA,  and should be applied to all shelters and rescues housing animals. Additional funding should be provided to allow expansion of the spay/neuter program,  as the program transitions to the new Office of Animal Welfare,  since the program has been operating at a substantial deficit and will be negatively impacted once the funds that built up prior to the program launch have been depleted.   Participating nonprofit organizations should renew their commitment to ensuring that all animals are spayed or neutered before adoption,  as required by law. ––Lisa Tanielian Camden, Delaware

Disease management  

We are pleased to announce that the second edition of our Infectious Disease Manual:  Infectious Diseases of Concern to Captive and Free Ranging Animals in North America has been completed with the collaboration of 126 authors and 294 reviewers,  and is now available for download from the American Association of Zoo Veterinarians web site:  <www.aazv.org/?page=IDM2013>. ––Kathryn C Gamble,  DVM AAZV Infectious Disease Committee Chair <kgamble@lpzoo.org> and Meredith M Clancy DVM AAZV Infectious Disease Committee Co-Chair <mclancy@wcs.org>

Disaster of climate change magnified by shooting birds  

It’s winter,  time for the arrival in the wetlands of Pakistan of migratory birds from Europe,  Central Asia and Siberia.  Several endangered migratory birds including Siberian cranes and bustards are being hunted indiscriminately.  Locals have been found shooting at flocks of Siberian cranes just for leisure.  Members of royal families from the Middle East,  particularly those in Saudi Arabia,  are often given licenses to hunt endangered migratory birds,  such as bustards,  despite the stringent restrictions supposed to be in effect in compliance with international laws. These birds are of much ecological importance.  The disaster of climate change is magnified by the mass killing of such birds. ––Khalid Mahmood Qurashi, President Animal Save Movement H #1094/2 Hussain Agahi Multan,  Pakistan <thetension@hotmail.com>

Send South Korean bile farm bears to sanctuaries  

Moonbears.org has been fighting to save 1,000 moon bears at 50 bile farms in South Korea since early 2007.  Prohibiting bile farming is now being contemplated,  but it is possible that the bears now on bile farms will be slaughtered when farmers are forced to stop using them. This expedient but cruel solution has apparently been proposed by the environment minister on the basis that these bears did not come originally from the wild in Korea.  Bear farming in South Korea was originally encouraged and initiated by the Korean government,  so they have a responsibility to not only ban it,  but also to ensure that the victims of this misguided practice have the opportunity to live out their days in peace in sanctuaries. We are proposing three things to the Minster of Environment:  first,  that an internationally supervised veterinary program should determine which of the freed bears are genuinely candidates for euthanasia based on their health;  second,  that the bears identified as being healthy enough to live not be euthanized;  and third,  that the government establish sanctuaries,  with assistance and advice from animal welfare groups,  for those bears to live out their days,  with the properties later to become commemorative parks. ––Gina Moon,  founder, Moonbears.org P.O. Box 167,  Sai Kung New Territories,  Hong Kong <g.moon@moonbears.org>

Seeking to stop the Gadhimai massacre  

The Gadhimai Festival is held every five years in the Bara district of southern Nepal.  Sacrifices are offered to placate Gadhimai,  the local Hindu goddess of power.  At the last Gadhimai Festival,  20,000 buffalo were killed,  plus other animals including rats,  snakes,  pigeons, chickens,  ducks,  goats,  and sheep.  Altogether,  about 200,000 animals were killed in two days. Local communities are being pressed to increase the numbers.  Each village committee has been asked to pledge one thousand animals for this year’s Gadhimai Festival. About 70% of the Gadhimai devotees come from India,  which is just across the border from Bara.  Sacrificial slaughter is now discouraged in India,   where there is greater awareness about animal sacrifice and animal suffering,  but Nepal caters to devotees who persist in conducting sacrifices that might be considered illegal in their home states. The worst killings are those of Pancha-bali (“five offerings”),  in which the throats of five species (buffaloes,  goats,  pigs,  roosters and rats) are slit with a knife.  This is not done quickly.  The animals die a slow,  extremely cruel,  violent death,  while the priests sprinkle the blood across the Gadhimai idol and its surroundings. Right after the Pancha-bali killing,  sword-wielding men enter a fenced yard where the rest of the buffalo are kept,  and start hacking at their necks.  As the killers cannot chop off the buffaloes’ heads at one stroke,  they first cut the hind legs.  After the animals fall,  the men hack until each buffalo’s head is separated from the body. It is estimated that the organizers of Gadhimai Festival make as much as two million Euros from selling animals at exorbitant prices to poor people who buy them for sacrifice.  Then the organizers make more money selling the meat and hides of the animals.  Many people will spend up to two months’ wages to buy an animal for sacrifice,  after being told by unscrupulous priests that they must appease the goddess if they wish to avoid bad luck,  or conversely to receive good fortune,  relief from ill health,  and such-like. ––Geoff Knight Truro,  Cornwall United Kingdom <kbros@tinyonline.co.uk>

“Animals can’t understand what a red light means.”  

Will you please feature an article on driving as an animal rights issue?  I’ve never seen the animal rights movement address this. What right have we to tear across the landscape in vehicles so fast and strong that they kill animals by the multi-millions?  It’s not fair:  Animals can’t understand what a red light means,  or any of our other traffic safety laws.  And many animals are too low to the ground for many drivers to see,  especially at night. This landscape is theirs,  too.  To my knowledge,  no other species kills other species just in the process of getting somewhere.  (Except stepping on insects,  which can’t be helped even if you’re walking.) I haven’t driven for 20 years,  partly out of consideration for my fellow beings.  People may say,  “We need to drive to go to work,  etc.”   But people worked,  etc.,  long before motor vehicles were invented.  I think our lifestyles and communities changed to accommodate our driving habits.  Likewise,  we can create car-free lifestyles and communities by putting our attention in the other direction.   Even now,  we can opt for public transportation whenever possible,  so that there are fewer vehicles on the road. ––A. Rosen Ashland,  Oregon   Editor’s note:   Roadkill prevention has been a concern of the founders of ANIMAL PEOPLE since long before there was an ANIMAL PEOPLE.  The second edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE,  in November 1992,  featured a compendium of species roadkill avoidance tips which in updated format is available as a free download from http://www.animalpeoplenews.org/IMPORTANT_MATS/roadkillTips1104.htm.  Many humane organizations and some mainstream news media have reprinted these tips.  A Spain-specific version has just been published by Asociacion Defense Derechos Animal,  of Barcelona. We have often published updates about roadkill prevention research,  most recently in our January/February 2013 edition.  From the earliest attempt to quantify roadkills we are aware of,  done in 1937,  to the latest available data,  the rate of roadkill occurrence in the U.S.  appears to have dropped from about one mammal per 3.7 drivers per year to about one per 6.2 drivers,  even as the number of miles driven by each driver has increased at least tenfold.  But the number of drivers in the U.S. has increased from about 43 million to 211 million. Total roadkills of mammals per year appear to have increased from about 11.6 million in 1937 to about 34 million now––but the current toll appears to have dropped about 20% from the peak reached circa 20 years ago,  probably mostly due to improved road design and the introduction of anti-lock brakes. Counting birds and reptiles,  total roadkills circa 20 years ago fluctuated between 137 and 187 million per year,  depending mostly on climatic conditions such as the length of winter and abundance of acorns near roadways,  and may now be between 110 and 150 million per year. ANIMAL PEOPLE believes that even just five minutes of education in driver training courses about species-specific animal behavior around cars,  detailed in our roadkill prevention download,  could cut this toll by perhaps as much as half,  and save human suffering too.  Either hitting animals or swerving to avoid animals are involved in about 250,000 driving accidents per year,  resulting in about 27,000 serious injuries.  Though drunk driving results in about 60 times more fatalities than accidents involving animals (12,000 per year compared to 220-plus),  animals in the roadway are among the top 10 causes of fatal accidents.


Great follow-up on Blackfish in your October 2013 edition.  Every time I go out and spend time on the elephant seal bluff near here,  I hope that the visitors who come to see them will stop going to theme parks. I hadn’t heard about Spay It Forward.  Catherine Ryan Hyde,  who wrote the book Pay It Forward,  from which the movie was made,  lives in the same town as I do and we are acquainted.  I passed the story on to her. ––Christine Heinrichs Cambria,  California <christine.heinrichs@gmail.com>


The October 2013 ANIMAL PEOPLE obituary “Angela Cope,  97,  senior RSPCA volunteer,” paraphrased a November 19,  2001 report by Valerie Elliott, longtime countryside editor for The Times of London,  that Cope had been retired in 2001 from the Royal SPCA ruling council,  along with fellow RSPCA vice presidents William Jordan and Dame Janet Fookes,  who were replaced on the council by celebrities Geri Halliwell,  Elton John,  and Cliff Richard.  Elliott’s report had apparently not before come to the notice of then-RSPCA president Peter Davies and RSPCA chief of public affairs David Bowles.  Davies and Bowles subsequently sent ANIMAL PEOPLE slightly differing recollections of why Cope,  Jordan,  and Fookes were retired from participation in ruling council meetings,  but agreed that Halliwell,  John,  and Richard were never on the RSPCA ruling council,  and never had any significant involvement with the RSPCA.   The October 2013 ANIMAL PEOPLE article “What do horses & donkeys tell us about dogs in Romania?” included a typographically reversed sentence.  The statement “Currently Romania has about 4.1 equines per dog” should have been “Currently Romania has about 4.1 dogs per equine,”  which closely compares to the U.S. ratio of 3.9 dogs per equine in 1950.

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