Saving Elephants: An Interview with ESPFund founder Scott Nelson

I recently met up with Scott Nelson, the founder of ESPFund, an organization that is helping African elephants. I wanted to learn more about how ESPFund came to be. Here’s what I learned:

What is ESPFund?
ESPFund is short for Endangered Species Protection Fund, a Seattle-based 501c3 nonprofit helping to stop the extinction of African elephants, and by extension also helping rhinos, lions, giraffes, and other wildlife. We partner with African communities to help them protect the biodiversity not only of their areas, but of the earth overall, since many species and ecosystems exist only in Africa.

How did ESPFund get started?
I see the over-exploitation of our environment as the biggest issue of our time, and I was not comfortable ignoring my love of elephants and letting others fight for them. I am not able to ignore the killing of such an amazing creature as the elephant. It goes against everything that I am and that I believe about myself and my place in the universe. We can all learn from elephants. Most people would agree that they are amazing, and yet we kill them by the thousands, and historically, by the millions. We are now down to the last remaining few.

baby elephant

What drew you to elephants?
This species is considered keystone, and their prevalence is indicative of a healthy ecosystem. They are so unique, so majestic and representative of the wild blue yonder, and so intelligent, that to me their decimation represents one of the clearest cases of humans destroying our very own habitat. I believe that elephants are like the canary in the mineshaft, and that the fate of humans is linked to the fate of elephants. If we lose them, it means we have irrevocably lost our way and poisoned our own environment beyond the point of no return. If we cannot protect such an intelligent being as the elephant, can we save ourselves from our own destructive ways?

How are you different from other organizations that help endangered animals?
We believe people need better options for channeling their conservation interests into change. Traditionally, many nonprofits start off with a noble idea, but in the growth process, they become large companies where accountability can become hazy, salaries get excessive, and the activities become too self-serving and competition-based. We are volunteers who are motivated by the mission, and our focus is specific, specialized, micro: Stop the poaching of elephants by giving Seattle and others a direct link to conservation in Africa.

In Africa, this must be intertwined with community involvement, so that is why we partner with other nonprofits whose missions center economic development. In this way we appeal to those supporters whose hot button is the poaching of endangered species, and we give those supporters a direct link to the front line. The collaboration aspect also provides a greater degree of oversight and accountability, because nobody wants to partner with a shady organization.

Can you explain a bit about the goals of ESPFund and how you’re meeting these goals?
We want to help communities secure areas where wildlife will be safe in the long run. We start by finding community groups that are trustworthy and motivated. Right now we are focused in Kenya, near Tsavo West National Park and Mt. Kilimanjaro. We have partnered with a community group that falls between the areas tended to by larger nonprofits. We are getting their community rangers trained and equipped so they can work alongside the Kenya Wildlife Service and other private rangers, sharing resources and expanding their reach.

Our goal is to turn this patchwork of private and government rangers into a cohesive, effective network, and get them to a point where their operating area is free of poaching. Along the way we assist the community in forming a wildlife preserve within the protected area so they can bring in tourists and make a living by showing off their amazing part of the world. We then take the same model and apply it to a new area, and so on.

The group fighting for Elephants

What are the highlights of your work with ESPFund so far?
Working with the community rangers is amazing. We trained them on self-defense and first aid, along with training on Kenya’s wildlife laws and integrating with Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS). Many of them are former poachers who are now passionate about saving wildlife. One of the rangers is a member of the Maasai tribe who rides his bicycle for three hours on rough dirt roads to get to get to the patrol area. That’s dedication!

We also recently promoted the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos in Seattle where we had Tom Skerritt speak, along with Sam Wasser from the UW and Wendie Wendt from Big Life. It was part of a worldwide awareness-raising campaign, and we made many contacts around the world that we will work with in the near future. Also, working with the leaders of other nonprofits, planning and strategizing, is promising and encouraging for the future of wildlife in East Africa.

What’s next for you and the Fund?
The elephants are coming! They will be making a stand in Seattle. Look for the Elephants’ Last Stand in the coming months around the city. This will be a large fundraiser. As soon as funds are available, we will be focusing on building a ranger base in Kenya, getting rangers trained by KWS and better equipped, and expanding our efforts into Tanzania.

How can people help your cause?
We need help in all forms! We need contacts and introductions to people and organizations that want to save wildlife.  Donations of funds and outdoor equipment are sorely needed. (editor’s note: Look for the Donate Now button on the ESPFund home page)

We make every dollar count and not a cent is spent on overhead costs. Every member of our organization is donating their time and energy, and I personally oversee the allocation of all assets. We need someone with WordPress expertise to help with our website, and we need motivated and reliable people to join our fundraising committee. A graphic designer is needed for flyer production and other graphics. Soon we will need adventurous volunteers to come to Kenya and help build a ranger base. Lastly, I direct you to our What You Can Do page.

It is imperative that everyone who cares about wildlife starts to think much more frequently about doing what they can to save the animals we have left. And if you care about African wildlife and want to help save it, we want to hear from you.

Anything else you would like to add?
Well, yes, if I may step onto my soapbox for a bit, I would like to close with this:

For thousands of years elephants have been persecuted, while simultaneously revered for their intelligence, compassion, and “godliness.” King Solomon, Roman emperors, and countless ancient kings and leaders in Europe, while hunting the elephants for their ivory and using them for war, along with philosophers like Aristotle, Pliney, and Aelian, all praised the elephants for their power, intelligence, community spirit, and moral virtues. Edward Topsell, a naturalist and parson in the 1600’s, summed elephants up by saying “there is no creature among all the beasts of the world which hath so great and ample demonstration of the power and wisdom of almighty god as the elephant.”

There are many authors, scientists, conservationists, and even the occasional politician, all saying that the wild is vanished, that the end of nature is here. Personally, I agree with them. I have seen it in what most people consider the wildest place on earth: Africa. The African wild is gone, taken over by overpopulation and corporate and political interests. We as humans have successfully tamed, bent, and broken nonhuman life to our desires, and we have proven our dominance over our surroundings, to our own detriment. And we are continuing to do so by continuing to believe and act as if we are separate from other life forms, and smarter than other life forms. In the coming years we will see iconic species after species disappear forever from earth because we failed to respect their instinctual desire for contentment and survival, and we failed to understand that our own survival is intertwined with theirs.

There seems to be a collective view that as long as there is a dam providing us power, a farm providing us food, a factory providing us gadgets and technology, and our 401k is growing, then we have what we need and everyone and everything else is either extra or irrelevant. We forgot that we need nature. Nature does not need us, but we need nature for our own survival. It is easy to forget we need nature, because the day-to-day changes in our surroundings are so minute that we barely notice the slow deterioration of our environment. But when we step back and look at the changes of our planet on a decade by decade basis, then we see how much things have “progressed.”

I believe we as humans on this earth are at a critical point, a point where if we are not actively working to create positive change, then we are actively hurting ourselves and our future as a species. It is time for each of us to change course and show our dominance in new ways. By showing respect for all other creatures and their habitats, we can show that the new dominance is a spirit of protectiveness, humility, and cooperation. It is the only way that we can protect our own future as a species.

ESPFund logo

Thank you Scott! I’m happy to be involved is such a noble and urgent cause.

How much is that doggie in the window?

When I was a kid, my grandparents bought a dog from the House of Puppies. I never thought twice about it because Angus, as they named him, was a cute, fun puppy. Looking back, I have a few questions. Sadly, I know the answers.

Pet store puppies

Most puppies from pet stores come from puppy mills (the exception being pet supply stores that showcase adoptable dogs from local rescue groups). Puppy mills are large-scale, commercial dog breeding facilities that breed dogs repeatedly. While the puppies are sold to families, their parents suffer in dirty cages for years, often with little to no veterinary care. These places are like factory farms for dogs. A pedigree doesn’t mean a thing–dogs from puppy mills can have pedigrees and be AKC registered. Never buy a dog from a pet store, not even to “save the puppy.” You’ll just be putting money into the wrong hands and increasing demand for more dogs.

Puppy mill

Online dog sales

Buying a puppy online is a recipe for disaster. The dogs likely come from puppy mills too. A “responsible breeder” won’t sell to an unknown person and ship dogs (I put quotes around responsible breeder for reasons I’ll address below). An online purchase is opening the door to scam artists who might take your money and not deliver the “goods.” Puppies might be sick, or “not as advertised.” Many puppies die during transport. Even if  puppies make it to their destination and are healthy, online sales support a shady business that puts money before the dogs’ well-being. Don’t do it!

Backyard breeders

Smaller, non-commercial operations also abound. Maybe it’s because someone wants a litter to show the kids “the miracle of life,” or they have an idea for a “boutique dog” (cockapoo, puggle anyone?). Backyard breeders know nothing about their dogs’ genetics or how to avoid congenital issues with the puppies. Sometimes the litter was a complete accident. They often sell unlicensed puppies online, at flea markets or on Craigslist. Don’t support this irresponsibility.

Responsible breeders

This is the preferred term for people who specialize in specific breeds, selectively breed a limited amount of dogs, and are careful with regard to genetics, screens prospective owners. Responsible breeders will take back their dogs at any time for any reason (thereby keeping dogs out of shelters) and often are involved with breed-specific rescue. Of these four categories, this is the best one. Judging by the number of purebred dogs in shelters, it’s also the rarest.

Adopt don’t shop

Despite some people being relatively responsible with their dog businesses, I can’t endorse buying a dog. Why? Because 2.7 million adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized in the US every year. Almost half the households in the country have at least one dog but only 20% of the dogs were acquired through adoption. Of the 83 million dogs in homes today, 20 million were rescued. That’s great, but it also means if we don’t buy from breeders, we could clear out the shelters overnight! And not until shelters are empty would I even consider endorsing breeders.

Contrary to what a lot of people think, you can get puppies and purebreds (and purebred puppies) at shelters–25% of the dogs in shelters are purebred. And the dogs aren’t bad. They often end up in shelters because they were lost, their owners were moving, had too many other animals, had a baby, developed allergies, or couldn’t afford caring for the dog.

Which dog dies?

When someone adopts a shelter dog, they make room in the shelter for another needy dog. Conversely, when someone buys from a pet store, online, or from a breeder, they essentially let a shelter dog die. For every dog purchased, one isn’t adopted. Yeah, yeah, dogs in shelters “aren’t my problem.” but it sure is nice to help out an animal in need.

dogs at a shelter - photo by Estambar

Ready-made family member

I prefer shelter dogs because I get to meet them, assess their personalities, and adopt one that fits with my life and the other animals I live with. I’ve only adopted adult dogs, which meant I didn’t have to housetrain them, they didn’t destroy my house with chewing like puppies can, and they were already fixed and vaccinated.

When you’re considering a new addition to your family, walk past that window and straight into your local animal shelter.

Global March for Elephants and Rhinos

Every 15 minutes, an elephant is killed.

Every 9 to 11 hours, a rhino is killed.

These beautiful creatures are often poached for their ivory and horns. Whether for trinkets or so-called medicine, there is no justification for their deaths.

That’s why, this Saturday, thousands of people from over 125 cities around the world are participating in the Global March for Elephants and Rhinos. The event will bring awareness to the plight of elephants and rhinos–two species whose very existence is in peril (poaching kills 35,000 elephants and over 1,000 rhinos every year).

The march will put pressure on  governments around the globe to publicly destroy their stockpiles of wildlife parts and show zero tolerance for this illegal trading. The main reason these species are in decline is because of the growing trade in tusks and horns. Here are the details for the Seattle event:

What:  Global March for Elephants and Rhinos
When:  Saturday, Oct. 4th at noon – 2 pm
Where: International Children’s Park, 700 S Lane St, Seattle, WA 98104.

Global march for elephants and rhinos

The march will be about half a mile long. Signs will be provided, but you can bring your own. For more info or to RSVP to the event, check out the event’s Facebook page.

Before the march, a lineup of speakers will inform, inspire, and entertain. Cathy Sorbo, comedian and former Seattle PI columnist, will emcee the event. Speakers include:

  • Tom Skerritt, acclaimed actor and passionate animal conservationist.
  • Wendie Wendt, Executive Director of Big Life Foundation, one of the leading organizations in the fight to stop poaching.
  • Kathleen Gobush PhD, A research scientist who worked with Save the Elephants, a key player in saving elephants in Kenya. Currently she is a Senior Project Developer with Vulcan.
  • Lisa Kane JD, a retired lawyer and author who has advocated for the welfare of captive and wild elephants locally, nationally and internationally.

My friend Scott Nelson is working with the organizers of the Seattle march to make the event a success. Scott recently founded the Endangered Species Protection Fund, a 501c3 non-profit with a focus on protecting endangered species like elephants, rhinos and tigers. The ESP Fund website had a handy march map you can use to get to the event and follow the route.

Please help bring awareness to this crisis and help stop the demand for elephant tusks and rhino horns.

Another Successful Walk for Farm Animals

This past Saturday was the 2014 Seattle Walk for Farm Animals, a fundraiser for the rescued animals at Farm Sanctuary’s three shelters. Walkers raised close to $12,000 and donations are being accepted until September 27th, so pitch in if you’d like!

Like last year, we met at Green Lake to walk the 2.9 mile path around the lake. Before the walk, participants stretched at a yoga class, ate Mighty-O vegan donuts, and bid on items in the silent auction.

auction collage

After the walk, Br-er Rabbit, a Bellingham-based band played for the crowd while we ate delicious vegan food by Field Roast, Chaco Canyon Café, Pizza Pi, Seattle Cookie Counter, and No Bones About It.

Br-er Rabbit

Auction winners took home prizes like gift cards to Café Flora, cooking classes by Fire and Earth Kitchen, and a pet portrait session by Vegan Me.

The best thing you can do to help animals is to not eat them. Being vegan makes a huge difference to the lives of so many animals–and you’ll feel better too! If you’ve never been to a farm animal sanctuary, I encourage you to visit one and make the connection between the “food animals” in the food system and the animals at these wonderful shelters.

NARN table

Anika will help you go vegan

Billions of animals are killed for food every year–a number too big to fathom. But seeing the individuals at Farm Sanctuary and other safe havens makes the issue personal.

My evening with John Salley

I spent last night with John Salley.

No, wait. That doesn’t sound right! Last night, I attended “An Evening with John Salley,” a special event at Plum Bistro. The event was a fundraiser for Pasado’s Safe Haven and was also an opportunity for John Salley to share wines from The Vegan Vine with the crowd.

Salley collage

John Salley, as any self-respecting sports fan will know, is an NBA superstar. With four Championships under his belt, he’s played with the Detroit Pistons, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Chicago Bulls, and LA Lakers–that’s quite a resumé!

What you might not know, though, is that Salley is a long-time vegan, wellness expert, and animal advocate. I thoroughly enjoyed hearing his story, learning about how he connected with Makini Howell, owner of Plum Bistro, and also how became the owner of a winery. And not just any wine: Vegan wine.

vegan vine wine

Many people don’t think about animal products when they drink wine, but many wines are fined (or finished) with clarifying product that include gelatin (from cows or pigs), casein (a milk protein), albumin (from egg whites), or isinglass (from fish bladders). Now I’m a fan of voting with my dollar. So why support a company that uses animal products (even if they’re not in the final product)? There’s no need.

John Salley is such a genuine guy. You can feel his love for animals and people and being vegan when you’re in the room with him. He also happens to be really funny! I felt like I’d known him for a long time and even though I was a bit star struck, talking with him was fun and comfortable.

jean, john, steph and amy

Plum didn’t disappoint either! We nibbled on decadent vegan hor d’oeuvres and drank plenty of The Vegan Vine wine. All proceeds went to Pasado’s, a farmed animal refuge right here in Washington. Pasado’s fights against animal cruelty, helps pass animal laws (and enforce them) and is a sanctuary for abused and neglected who would have ended up on the dinner table.

I knew a number of people at the event and it was a great way to catch up with friends. Best of all, I didn’t know a lot of people. I love meeting vegans and that’s what I did. It was a great night all around–right to the very end when I won an auction item: an autographed (by Mr. Salley) bottle for Vegan Vine wine.

The event sold out in days, but you can ask for The Vegan Vine wine at your local Whole Foods. And if you ever have a chance to meet John Salley or hear him speak, don’t miss it! You won’t be disappointed.

When animal welfare groups fall short

Many different types of organizations are fighting for animals. Some focus on companion animals, others advocate for wildlife or animals in captivity, like zoos and circuses. Still others promote vegan living. And while many groups don’t always agree with each others methods and priorities, they usually have the same goal: saving animals.

However, the Humane Society of The United States (HSUS) fell short of that goal recently.

I learned that they were the main sponsor of Hoofin’ It, a farm-to-table culinary tour in Denver where, as the website says, “a different hoofed animal will be featured at all of the stops each evening.” That’s right. The Humane Society sponsored an event where people eat animals. Bison on the first night, sheep on the second, pigs on the third, and cows on the last.

hoofin' it webpage

The HSUS celebrates that these animals were raised in a “sustainable” way and weren’t part of the factory farm system. Unbelievable! This highlights the main difference between animal rights organizations and animal welfare groups.

I’m an abolitionist. I don’t believe any animal should be exploited, abused, or eaten. That said, I also recognize that the world won’t wake up vegan tomorrow. So I appreciate efforts to make the miserable lives of farmed animals slightly less hellish. Ban gestation crates for breeding sows. Ban battery cages for laying hens. Ban tail docking, dehorning, and castration without anesthesia. Sure. It helps the animals in the system, but it’s not the answer. It’s not the end goal.

It’s one thing to fight for better conditions for farmed animals. That’s not a stamp of approval. But sponsoring a meat-based event is incredibly irresponsible and near-sighted. The HSUS is condoning the commercial exploitation and killing of animals by being a sponsor. They’ve made strange bedfellows by praising farmers who practice free-range animal-rearing methods while criticizing factory farms.

Let’s pretend Hoofin’ It was about a dog-eating festival, right here in the good ol’ US of A. Would the HSUS be a sponsor? No! Because we love dogs and cats. Sponsoring a let’s-eat-farmed-animals event is speciesist. “Grass-fed” doesn’t change the fact that an animal’s life is cut short by a brutal killing (no, there is no such thing as humane slaughter). Free-range animals fight for their lives just as hard as factory-farmed animals. And the slogan of the festival is “respect your dinner.” What a disgrace!

respect
I don’t usually criticize other groups’ tactics. But in this case, I have to speak up. The HSUS is setting back the vegan movement by condoning meat-eating. Additionally, grass-fed, free-range meat is expensive, so they’re being elitist. Even if everyone in the world could afford this type of meat, there wouldn’t be enough grazing land in the entire world to support it. Obviously the people at HSUS haven’t seen Cowspiracy.

I’m never donating to the HSUS again and I’ve told them. There are a lot of great cat and dog rescue groups that I’ll give to instead: Soi Dog in Thailand rescues street dogs and is fighting the dog meat industry in Southeast Asia, Rudozem is working to save street dogs in Romania, Best Friends Animal Society is a no-kill shelter that works nationwide in the US, the Beagle Freedom Project rescues animals from labs, and Darwin Animal Doctors helps wild animals in the Galapagos by promoting a spay/neuter program for cats and dogs. I’m sure you know of smaller, local groups that are worth supporting.

Furthermore, I’m going to continue to support Vegan Outreach, a group that promotes veganism and doesn’t pander to special interest groups that exploit animals.

I suppose the HSUS is doing what it always has. They don’t rock the boat–and as a result they rake in big donor dollars. They advocate for “pets,” they push limited farmed animal welfare changes, and everyone goes to bed at night feeling good about themselves. Discovering the Hoofin’ It event was like discovering there’s no Santa Claus. It’s disappointing, but I kind of knew it all along.

The Seed NYC

Today my parents and I visited The Seed NYC, a plant-based event featuring vegan food and wares, speakers, cooking demos, and more! Even before I arrived, I knew I was almost there. Mercer Street turned into Vegan Street.

vegan cars

The Cinnamon Snail was out front–what a great place to grab a bite. I’d heard excellent things about this award-winning food truck and never had the chance to try their dishes (until today).

Cinnamon Snail

I made a grand entrance:

the seed

Then, I looked at fantastic companies–from artichoke water (very refreshing) to chocolate truffles (deliciously decadent). I saw Upton’s Naturals–makers of my favorite vegan bacon–and Taft Foodmasters, a new-to-me company that makes great seitan for gyros.

Seed food collage

The Regal Vegan, a company that makes great dips and spreads, had a booth too. Their Faux Gras is fantastic!

regaln vegan

I jumped on the chance to buy a Gunas handbag for a fraction of the original price. I liked all their bags, especially this little cross-body bag. My mom liked a neat white purse with a combo-lock closure. I ended up with the yellow and cream number on the rack.

gunas

I said hi to Lois Eastlund, a fantastic NYC-based designer (and of course I bought one of her dresses–that makes four!). I saw Miakoda clothing too (I’ve been following them on Instagram for a while now). Michelle Leon Vegan had fantastic vegan belts made of recycled plastifc bottles. They were soft as suede and included a cool buckle. She carries a line of vegan jewelry too. Gorgeous!

seed clothing collage

There was message gear too, from a number of organizations. Animal advocacy groups I know well were there too: Sea Sheppard, Mercy for Animals, Evolve for Animals, Farm Sanctuary, Catskill Animal Sanctuary, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary. Others, like Darwin Animal Doctors, I didn’t know before today, and I was glad to learn about the great work they do.

Darwin Animal Doctors

I got to hear Jenny Brown, cofounder of Woodstock Animal Sanctuary, speak about farmed animals and why veganism is the compassionate answer to the cruelty in our food system. Earlier this year, I reviewed her book, The Lucky Ones, on this blog, and it was an honor to meet her.

jenny brown

I even got to meet Tha Vegan Dread, who happened to be visiting NYC for his birthday. He said I was cute <blush>. Of course, I asked for a photo with him and his vegan bodybuilder friend.

Tha Vegan Dread

I always love meeting other vegans and learning about new products, sanctuaries, and organizations. If you’re in NYC this time next year, check out The Seed. For more about the experience, check out my mom’s account on her blog.

Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret

Last night I attended the Seattle premier of Cowspiracy: The Sustainability Secret. And wow, what an eye-opener. It’s the REAL Inconvenient Truth!

Trailer:

The show played to a sold-out crowd at a popular mainstream cinema and was followed by a Q&A with producers Kip Anderson and Keegan Kuhn.

Cowspiracy is a documentary that follows Anderson as he tried to find out why mainstream environmental groups like Greenpeace and The Sierra Club aren’t talking about the main cause of destruction to the planet: animal agriculture.

Even government departments that promote energy savings such as low-flow shower heads and better lightbulbs avoid the issue. There was so much ignorance, denial, and greenwashing that you start to think everyone’s crazy–or maybe you are!

Unlike Meat Your Meat or Earthlings, with graphic scenes and animal rights as the main focus, Cowspiracy is an environmental film–but one that concludes animals suffer greatly in our current food production system and the environment cannot survive with the current state of animal agriculture. Adopting a plant-based diet is the only true way to make a difference and, quite literally, save the world.

Unfortunately, Big-Ag (corporations that run the animal agriculture industries) is a powerful force with gobs of money and loads of politicians and lobbyists on its side.

With fantastic interviews with the likes of Howard Lyman, Will Tuttle, and Michael Pollen (and head-scratching ones from people at Greenpeace, the Department of Water Resources, and The Sierra Club), you’ll follow the plot like a suspense movie.

For a few tidbits (to tie you over until the screening comes to your town), here’s the info about the environmental footprint of a single hamburger:

Here’s a fascinating short clip about how ranching is decimating wildlife:

And finally, a clip about the exploding human population and the farm animals raised for food:

There’s only one short clip in the film that shows overt animal cruelty, and you’ll know when it’s coming if you need to turn away. However, it’s followed by a happy animal scene that still brings joyous tears to my eyes.

This film shares the truth and we shouldn’t turn away from that. Despite the grim realities, there is hope in the message. The remedy is simple:

Go vegan!

cowspiracy cow

Tail docking and ear cropping

Heidi Montag reportedly had 10 cosmetic procedures done in a single day. Well, whatever you think of that (or her), at least she was a consenting adult.

Dogs are sometimes subjected to amputations when they’re just puppies. Two procedures affect dogs of one breed or another–and they’re both unnecessary and cruel.

Tail docking

Docking is the process of severing the end of a dog’s spinal cord at the dock (or rump). It’s done when puppies are just a few days old–usually without anesthetic! Historically, people docked the tails of ratters, fighters and bull baiters (less for an opponent to grab). But two wrongs don’t make a right! Sometimes docking is done to increase speed or prevent injuries “in the field.” Again, if you’re not racing dogs or hunting with them, this is a moot issue.

I got my dog from a rescue when he was five years old. He already had his tail removed. Even people who buy puppies from breeders (something I do not condone) generally buy their dogs at eight weeks of age–too late to save their tails. Docking inflicts unnecessary pain on dogs and can cause nerve problems. Several countries, such as Australia, Norway, and Turkey, ban it outright. Besides, dogs communicate by using their tails and need them to send messages. It’s hard for other dogs to read a docked dog’s body language. And tails help a dog balance–leave them on!

Frankie

Frankie is a rat terrier and has naturally upright ears (one was torn in an accident and doesn’t stand up anymore). His tail was cropped, however.

Ear cropping

Cropping is the amputation of part of the ear in an effort to make the ear erect. A vet performs the procedure while the dog is under local anesthesia (although unscrupulous people have been known to try DIY versions, which can lead to blood loss, infection, mutilation, and death).

Cropping was historically done on dogs used for fighting, with the thinking being the ear flaps are something for the opposing animal to sink his teeth into. That’s why you’ll see certain “tough” breeds with cropped ears–Doberman pinschers, boxers, and pit bulls come to mind. Today, though, it’s a cosmetic procedure.

boxer puppy

This sad-looking puppy has her ears taped while they heal from being cropped.

Cropping is usually done when puppies are between two and three months of age. Sadly, instead of learning to socialize and explore the world, these dogs are recuperating from surgery with splints on their ears. They are bandaged up for three weeks and need twice-daily wound cleanings. So instead of bonding with my dog and helping her learn new things, she gets to associate me with pain and fear. No thanks!

Several countries, including Belgium, Germany, and South Africa have banned ear cropping.

Some dogs, like rat terriers and German Shepherds have naturally erect ears. If you love the look of upright, pointy ears, consider adopting a dog with that style of ear already. If looks are more important to you than the well-being of an animal, may I suggest a classic car instead!

If you don’t like the idea of inflicting unnecessary pain on a dog, you probably aren’t a fan of cropping and docking. Spread the word and stop the cruelty!

Help send Watoto to a sanctuary–not another zoo

Watoto is one of the three elephants–and the only African elephant–at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo. Over forty years ago, as an infant in Kenya, she was captured, torn away from her mother and family, and brought to the US.

watoto

So today, about 70 people, organized by Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants, filed into the Seattle City Council meeting to represent Watoto and ask that the council send her to a sanctuary.

All elephants at the Woodland Park Zoo (the others being Bamboo and Chai) languish in a small enclosure–about an acre in size. That acre is subdivided to keep Watoto apart from the other elephants (they don’t get along). And for over half the year, because of Seattle’s cold, damp climate, the elephants spend 16-17 hours a day indoors.

For large, migratory animals used to traveling great distances, this is a cruel arrangement.

Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants is working hard to have the three elephants retired to a sanctuary. However, Watoto’s situation is urgent: The zoo intends to send her to a different, impoverished zoo!

Watoto is lame, broken and aging. She deserves to live out her days at a place like PAWS or The Elephant Sanctuary.

The Council didn’t let us speak up for Watoto, but our presence–and our shirts–spoke volumes. We will try again. Watoto depends on us.

How to Help

Please take a few minutes to email the Seattle City Council and Mayor Ed Murray. Simply say, “Send Watoto to a Sanctuary” or include these points:

  • A super majority of citizens want the elephants retired to a sanctuary.
  • Since the zoo is moving Watoto, we’re asking that the Zoo honor our values and send her to a sanctuary.
  • Studies have shown that keeping elephants in zoos serves no measurable conservation or educational purpose.
  • Woodland Park Zoo has received $100 million taxpayer dollars from the City and King County since 2002 making the welfare of Watoto all of our responsibility.
  • Twenty-seven zoos have closed or will close their elephant exhibits; let us join those progressive enlightened Zoos.

Email: Ed.murray@seattle.gov, Jean.Godden@seattle.gov, Sally.Bagshaw@seattle.gov, Tim.Burgess@seattle.gov, Sally.Clark@seattle.gov,  Bruce.Harrell@seattle.gov, Nick.Licata@seattle.gov, Tom.Rasmussen@seattle.gov, Mike.OBrien@seattle.gov, Kshama.Sawant@seattle.gov, Deborah.jensen@zoo.org, Bruce.Bohmke@zoo.org, Darin.Collins@zoo.org, nancy.hawkes@zoo.org, zooinfo@zoo.org

Tweet: @Mayor_Ed_Murray   @SeattleCouncil   @woodlandparkzoo

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July 14/2014 update

We made the news this evening!

August 23rd update

Watoto was found dead in her cage. RIP Watoto. This tragedy highlights how unsuited elephants are for zoos and reinforces the importance of sanctuary.