Helping elephants in Thailand

For her birthday, all my friend Loreen wants is an elephant.

Last year, while visiting Thailand, Loreen discovered Elephant Nature Park, a sanctuary for abused elephants. She donated generously, a gift that her company matched, and she enabled ENP to build a shelter for their elephants.

This year, she’s aiming high. Instead of gifts, she’s asking all her friends to help her rescue another elephant at Elephant Nature Park by donating directly to ENP, or by donating to The Abraham Foundation, a U.S non-profit that supports ENP.

elephant c/o Elephant Nature Park

Elephant Nature Park and its founder Lek, are featured in the documentary film, How I became an Elephant. I was horrified to learn of the conditions of so many captive elephants in Thailand, and comforted to see Lek care for and give a refuge to survivors. In the film, she said she doesn’t buy elephants from people who will use the money to abuse more elephants. A position that I completely endorse. It does, however, take money to negotiate an elephant’s freedom and transport.

Lek offers elephants over 100 acres to roam, form natural groups, and for the first time ever, live without chains and set their own agendas. Amazingly, some of the rescued elephants have been reintroduced to the wild. Many others are too injured and worn out for life in the wild so Lek and her team offer medical care and the best quality of life possible.

In Thailand, elephants are forcibly impregnated and have their babies stolen from them. Babies are beaten “broken,” and forced to beg in busy cities at all hour of the day and night. They are malnourished and suffer greatly. Other elephants are used as beasts of burden in the illegal logging trade, even after injuries and blindness. Still others are used to give rides to tourists or perform tricks such as playing instruments, sports, or painting.

How to help

  • If you’re in the Seattle area, RSVP to Loreen’s fundraising birthday bash on October 24th, 2015.
  • Look at the Elephant Nature Park’s list of ways to help.
  • Donate to Elephant Nature Park at their site or, if you’re in the US and work for a company that matches donations, go through The Abraham Foundation, a 501(c)(3).
  • Never ride an elephant or pay to see captive elephants perform (dance, paint, or anything else). Even if the act itself looks harmless, the ways elephants are physically and emotionally abused to get them to learn tricks is abhorrent).
  • Volunteer at the Elephant Nature Park next time you’re in Thailand!

The problems with zoos

Last year, people were outraged when they heard about the zoo in Copenhagen that killed a healthy two-year-old giraffe. Marius was shot because his genes weren’t unique in the European giraffe population and he was unsuitable for breeding programs.

giraffe

But Marius’ death wasn’t an anomaly. Of the 340 zoos in the EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), approximately 3000-5000 healthy “surplus” animals are killed each year.

In the US it’s no better. Animals are often traded among zoos like playing cards and can end up in circus, private collections, or even in “canned hunting” parks, where people can pay to kill them.

Most zoos have captive breeding programs—and of course cute baby animals are a huge draw—but what happens when there are too many animals in the zoo? Unless a zoo is saving species by breeding them and releasing them into the wild, these breeding programs are pointless.

Being born into captivity is no life for an animal. Even the most enriched captive environments simply cannot compare with an animal’s natural habitat.

Chai in barn c/o FWPZE

Chai at Seattle’s Woodland Park Zoo, before being moved to a zoo in Oklahoma.

And if zoo animals aren’t in a natural environment, they won’t be displaying natural behavior—especially when zoos often don’t treat their animals right. Zoos often point to their facilities as being great educational tools for visitors. However, visitors can’t learn about wild animals by visiting captive ones.

It’s better to learn about animals through educational nature shows (ones that film animals from a distance and don’t harass them). PAWS has a great program underway where people can watch their rescued animals on webcams.

I’ve often thought seeing animatronic animals would be better. Realistic-looking robotic animals could be programmed to behave like real, wild animals. People could learn about what animals sound like, look like, and how they act—all without involving real animals. I hope the zoo of the future is a beautiful park with fake animals. (It would cost less to run as well.)

Further reading:

Zoos are fit for neither child nor beast

Surplus Animals: The Cycle of Hell

Lions and cows and dogs, oh my!

Cecil the Lion, as he was known, was a lion who lived in Zimbabwe. You’ve probably seen the media storm and public outrage this week about his murder. A wealthy American paid to hunt down Cecil—at night, by luring him out of a preserve—and shoot him with a crossbow.

a lion similar to Cecil

It was nothing but a cowardly act by a small-minded trophy hunter, hell-bent on proving his sense of worth by killing others. The man—a dentist from Minnesota—as a complete sociopath and waste of space. But I digress.

What I learned from the frenzy this week is that it pays to have a name. Cecil was a lion who’d been photographed by tourists for years (he was 12 or 13). He was GPS-collared and was part of an Oxford University study. But he was no different from many other lions that wealthy westerners (usually Americans) pay to kill. Six hundred lions are killed in trophy hunts every year, according to National Geographic.

Cecil sparked public outcry because he was well-known. In the same way we mourn for a celebrity’s death, but not the random people who also die.

For most people, the lion is a majestic creature. King of the jungle. We don’t associate them with food or clothing. That’s another thing Cecil had going for him. People around the world have issued hate mail and death threats to Cecil’s killer, and vigils and protests have sprung up at the man’s business.

Most of the people disgusted with Cecil’s death likely also eat and wear other animals. It’s a disconnect. Melanie Joy addresses this topic in-depth in her book, Why we Love Dogs, Eat pigs, and Wear Cows. This phenomenon (of loving some animals and eating others) she calls carnism. I encourage you to read the book and see how people compartmentalize and justify this discrepancy.

It’s okay to mourn for Cecil. His death was a tragedy. His pride is in jeopardy, and his cubs will likely be killed by competing lions. But we need to also mourn for the millions of dogs and cats who are euthanized each year because they have no homes. And for the billions of farmed animals whose lives are brutal and short. They are all as precious as Cecil and as deserving of life.

We can’t stop evil people from hunting (although signing the petition to ask Zimbabwe to stop issuing hunting permits or the petition to include lions on the endangered species list would help). But we can adopt dogs and cats and never buy from breeders. And we can choose to not eat animals.

If you’re not already, please choose veg. For the countless animals just like Cecil, who are worthy of our admiration and who want to live.

The Awareness

The Awareness, a novel by Gene Stone and Jon Doyle, is an exciting tale that follows four animals—a traveling circus elephant, a pet dog in New York, a pig in a factory farm, and a bear in the forest—as they each become “aware.”awarenessOn one specific day, all the mammals of the world gain a level of consciousness they’ve never had before. They are aware of human-animal relationships, they talk, they plot, and they begin a war against humans.

Each of the storylines in the book follow animals with unique and different relationships to humans: pet, slave, food, wildlife. Readers get a wonderful glimpse into the thoughts and conflicts the animals face as they talk through their dilemmas.

The animals talk to each other and to humans. The events and actions were the stuff of fantasy, but this story was so believable. I’ve always talked to animals, and I love stories involving talking animals, so suspending my disbelieve came easily.

The animals’ own stories are complex and gripping and I couldn’t put this book down. It’s a great book that gets one thinking about the lives of animals, their emotions, and our relationship to them. But it’s also a great story that will keep you reading to see what’s next.

Premarin: A cruel way to fight menopause

Many women, upon reaching menopause, reach for prescriptions to treat their change-of-life symptoms.

Premarin is one of the drugs women are often prescribed as a hormone replacement therapy. It stands for PREgnant MARe unINe and it’s a cruel industry. Estrogen-rich pregnant horses’ urine is harvested from horses who are forcibly impregnated, confined to tiny stalls, and forced to wear painful urine collection bags. Horses’ water consumption is restricted so their urine is more concentrate.

horsesWhen foals are born, they’re often slaughtered, but sometimes replace their poor mothers on the urine collection line.

And did I mention it’s horse piss?

Most urine is collected at farms in Canada and North Dakota, but the industry is growing overseas too. Premarin is one of the most popular drugs prescribed today. Pfizer makes billions from it.

Premarin isn’t the only name to look out for. Avoid Prempro, Premphase, and Duavee as well. They’re also made with horses’ urine. If your menopausal prescription includes “conjugated equine estrogen” or PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) just say no.

Controlling the symptoms of menopause

I get it. No one wants hot flashes, trouble sleeping, low energy, and all the other issues that goes along with a change of life. Lifestyle changes can help control symptoms: Go vegan and get exercise. Simple, yet effective. No urine ingestion needed.

If you really need medication, ask your doctor for a plant-based (phytoestrogens) or a synthetic alternative. Alternatives carry fewer risks too (Premarin increases the risk of breast cancer, heart attacks and strokes in women).

Resources

Humane Society article

Last Chance for Animals campaign

Havehest blog

Peta factsheet

No New Animal Lab

This past Saturday, I joined several hundred demonstrators at the University of Washington for the March on UW. We were protesting a proposed animal testing facility that, if built, would see a 30% increase in the number of animals tortured and killed at the university.

marching with banner

No New Animal Lab is a slogan, a campaign, and a movement to prevent thousands of animals from suffering. Their current target is Skanska, the construction company who has been awarded the project.

A recent exposé on a local news channel has sickening information about some of what goes on at the university. It’s inhumane, and it needs to stop. I’ve written before about how animal testing is never justified, and the examples at UW are exactly why.

There are psychopaths in our midst. They are researchers at the UW and they live off federal grant money, despite a history of abuse and fines by the USDA.

At a time when other schools are moving to more modern, accurate testing methods, the UW chooses to invest more money in animal testing and refuses to recognize that animal testing models are outdated.

We marched through campus, to the site of the proposed lab, and up University Avenue. After the march, a smaller–but substantial–group protested outside of the home of one of the UW Regents, a man who is pushing the lab plans through despite public opposition.

Police presence was heavy, but both events were peaceful.

The events generated a lot of media coverage, including TV, newspaper and radio. Momentum is gaining and more and more people are becoming aware.

Please visit the No New Animal Lab FB page to see how you can help.

march

hundreds of people march – image c/o Wendy

Greyhounds: Racing to the death

I first heard about dog racing in college, when a woman introduced me to her retired racing greyhound. I didn’t know how cruel the industry is until she explained some of the details.

  • Greyhounds are bred to race, but most don’t make the cut–and thousands of puppies are killed each year. Many are also injured (and then killed) while training or racing. When their racing “careers” are over, greyhounds are killed or sold into medical research. Only a lucky few are rescued and adopted into homes.
  • Greyhounds are muzzled and caged in cramped quarters for up to 20 hours a day. They often catch diseases in their tiny kennels because they are housed with so many other dogs.
  • Greyhounds often test positive for drugs (even cocaine!) and are seen as simply racing machines, with no regard for their well-being.
  • Greyhounds are gentle creatures but when they are bred to race, they are encouraged to be aggressive. Animals Australia recent blew the lid of the greyhound racing in that country when they exposed the ways trainers make their dogs more willing to chase a lure (they “blood” the dogs–basically, use live lure animals, like piglets, kittens and possums to bait the dogs, give them a taste for blood, and get them to chase a live lure during practice).

greyhounds racing

Dog racing is illegal in most states (and currently happens in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Iowa, Texas, and West Virginia). Commercial racing also still takes place in 7 other countries including Australia, Ireland, Macau, Mexico, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam).

The races are an excuse to wager bets and try to win money, but there are other ways to gamble without abusing animals.

What to do?

  • Never go to a dog race–and tell your friends and family to stay away too.
  • Sign the Animals Australia petition on this page (scroll to the bottom).
  • Consider adopting a greyhound. This list includes US and international adoption groups working to save greyhounds.

Further reading

ASPCA’s page on greyhound racing (with downloadable report)
Grey2k website about greyhound racing
The Greyhound Cruelty page by Animals Australia and Animal Liberation Queensland
Peta factsheet about greyhound racing
Animal Rights Action post about the cruelty in the racing industry
Ten Myths about Greyhounds by Animals Australia