Friday, June 30, 2006

Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act Would Require Producers Who Supply to Federal Programs to Comply With Moderate Animal Welfare Standards

Yes, unfortunately, moderate, but better than now. So, follow the link below to find out more about the act.

Support Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act (H.R. 5557)

Introduced on June 8, 2006, the federal Farm Animal Stewardship Purchasing Act would require producers who supply meat, dairy and eggs to federal programs to comply with moderate animal welfare standards. The bill would help ameliorate some of the worst suffering endured by animals raised for food in the U.S., and force factory farmers to recognize the suffering of farm animals. Read more and take action.

http://www.farmsanctuary.org/campaign/fed_stewardship.htm

Site Set Up to Support Lost and Found Companion “Pet” Effort from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita

A great site that shows both Companions “pets” found and lost in an attempt to reunite them with their companions. Please take a look. Perhaps you can help.


http://www.arches.uga.edu/~rrhudy/bfrr/

Interesting New Site Takes a Look at the Truth Behind Puppy Mills and Pet Stores and Asks You to the Pet Store Challenge

A very educational site. I encourage all to visit it and certainly tell others about it and the truth behind pet stores. Of course, if there is a pet store in your area, take the Pet Store Challenge.

http://www.stoppuppymills.org/petstorechallenge/

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Teen Will Spend Two Weeks Chained To a Doghouse to Raise Awareness Against Chaining Dogs in Yards and As a Stand Against Animal Cruelty

Amazing stuff. It’s rare to find a teen that cares about anything other than clothes, friends and popularity. Well, this teen goes beyond the norm and is suffering to raise awareness to the horrible issue of chained dogs. You can find out more about chained dogs and how you can help, plus view daily pictures of this heroic endeavor at http://www.dogsdeservebetter.org/home.html

Jacob Pittman, you’re an inspiration. Stay strong and remember that the end goal is more important than the problems you’ll face.

Article:


Cape teen to spend two weeks in dog house

http://www.nbc-2.com/articles/readarticle.asp?

articleid=7720&z=3&p=

Stephen Ryan
Last updated on: 6/29/2006 7:27:38 AM

WMP 9 or higher required

LEE COUNTY: A Cape Coral teenager is putting himself in the doghouse - literally. He is going to spend two weeks chained to a doghouse as part of a reality TV show. He says he is doing it as a stand against animal cruelty.

There is no doubt that Jacob Pittman is a dog lover, especially when it comes to beagles. He has 10 of them.

"It's like they're part of the family; they all have their own personal attitudes," said Pittman.

On Saturday, Pittman is going to start living a dog's life. He's going to stay outside, in a dog house, for two weeks in Pennsylvania as a part of a contest to raise awareness against chaining dogs in yards.

"I’m going to have a sleeping bag, but I'm going to be chained to it," said Pittman.

Unlike the beagles Pittman takes such good care of, he won't have any comforts such as books, TV, or visitors.

"It's going to be tough. I'm so used to being in a world where I'm able to do what I want, use the computer, or games," said Pittman.

Pittman is going to have to bathe in a Porta-Potty, using nothing more than baby wipes. Even if he can't stick it out, his mother and sister say they'll still be proud of him.

"My son is a very loving guy. He's got a really big heart. He's very tender-hearted," said Pittman’s mother Janet.

"It means a lot. I really love him and I'm happy he's doing it," said Pittman’s sister Audrey.

Jacob must outlast 13 other contestants to win. If he wins, he will get a new car. But to reinforce the fact that this is about the dogs, he's going to give the car to his sister if he wins.

You can vote for him online at www.dogsdeservebetter.org. The site will post new photos every day so you can check out his progress.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Group Releases List of Precautions and Steps to Take to Protect Your Companion Animals (Pets) On the Forth of July

From the HSUS at http://www.hsus.org

To protect your pet on the Fourth of July, take these precautions:

a. Resist the urge to take your pet to fireworks displays.

b. Do not leave your pet in the car. With only hot air to breathe inside a
car, your pet can suffer serious health effects, even death, in a few short
minutes. Partially opened windows do not provide sufficient air, but do
provide an opportunity for your pet to be stolen.

c. Keep your pets indoors at home in a sheltered, quiet area. Some animals
can become destructive when frightened, so be sure that you've removed any
items that your pet could destroy or that would be harmful to your pet if
chewed. Leave a television or radio playing at normal volume to keep him
company while you're attending Fourth of July picnics, parades, and other
celebrations.

d. If you know that your pet is seriously distressed by loud noises like
thunder, consult with your veterinarian before July 4th for ways to help
alleviate the fear and anxiety he or she will experience during fireworks
displays.

e. Never leave pets outside unattended, even in a fenced yard or on a
chain. In their fear, pets who normally wouldn't leave the yard may escape
and become lost, or become entangled in their chain, risking injury or
death.

f. Make sure your pets are wearing identification tags so that if they do
become lost, they can be returned promptly. Animals found running at-large
should be taken to the local animal shelter, where they will have the best
chance of being reunited with their owners.

If you follow these simple precautions, you and your pet can have a safe and
happy Fourth of July.

American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act: Stop Horses From Being Sent to Slaughter for Food: How You Can Support It

From another group. Though this doesn’t appear to be news, it most certainly is information that most would want to know. Therefore, I have decided to post it.

The U.S. House of Representatives may vote on H.R. 503, the
American Horse Slaughter Prevention Act, very soon. Each year,
an estimated 90,000 horses are slaughtered at three
foreign-owned slaughterhouses in the U.S., their meat shipped to
Europe and Asia where horsemeat is considered a delicacy in some
countries.

Help end this practice by urging your U.S. representative to
support H.R. 503!

Please call or fax a letter to your U.S. representative today
and urge him or her to vote YES on H.R. 503 to end horse
slaughter for good in the United States.

To find your representative and get his or her contact
information, follow this link:
http://ga4.org/ct/x7LlBfn18X6F/

Refer to our talking points, below, for more information. Also,
don't forget to mention that you are a constituent.

Many of the horses who are slaughtered were once used in the
manufacture of hormone replacement therapy drugs made from
pregnant mares' urine (PMU), or are young foals born as a result
of this process.

Thank you for being a strong and compassionate advocate for the
animals!

*** TALKING POINTS ***

- Last year, more than 90,000 horses were slaughtered in the
United States for human consumption in Europe and Asia. Tens of
thousands more horses were exported from the United States and
slaughtered in other countries.

- Horses suffer horribly on the way to and during slaughter.
They can easily get trampled, injured or die while being
transported 24 hours or more with no food, water or rest. They
are often slaughtered while still consciously alive.

- Americans overwhelmingly support an end to horse slaughter
for human consumption. In California, a 1998 ballot initiative
banning horse slaughter for human consumption passed with 60
percent of the vote.

*** RELATED LINKS ***

Text of H.R. 503:
http://ga4.org/ct/xdLlBfn18X6G/

More current animal protection legislation:
http://ga4.org/ct/xpLlBfn18X6-/

Excellent Summation of Laws Either Enacted or Currently Proposed That Affect Companion Animals (Pets) In Some Way

This article provides an excellent summation of laws either enacted or currently proposed that affect companion animals in some way. In addition to helping companion animals in emergencies like hurricanes, there also have been bills passed aimed at dogfighting and bestiality. All in all, positive steps.

Article:

Legislators Help Pets in Disasters

http://www.infozine.com/news/stories
/op/storiesView/sid/16028/

By John Gramlich - With hurricane season under way and images of Katrina lingering, state lawmakers are turning to the plight of pets in emergencies - an issue among a host of animal-related legislation to reach governors' desks in recent weeks.

Stateline.org - infoZine

Since May 22, the governors of Florida, Hawaii, New Hampshire and Vermont have signed bills that provide more protection for pets during emergencies. In Louisiana, where animal rights groups estimate thousands of pets died during Katrina, a bill passed by the Legislature June 15 has drawn national attention as the most sweeping attempt to keep pets and their owners together during disasters.

Meanwhile, the U.S. House of Representatives has passed a bill that would require states to have emergency evacuation plans for pets in place. Sens. Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Frank Lautenberg (D-N.J.) have introduced a similar bill that could add federal funding to help states carry out the mandate, though no amount has been specified.

The flurry of new laws and bills has gone beyond pets in emergencies. The Humane Society of the United States reports that, since January 2006,

* Three states (Kansas, Maryland and Montana) have restricted the ownership of exotic animals - including bears, lions and tigers - as pets.
* Three states (Colorado, Georgia and Illinois) have increased penalties for owners of dogs deemed "vicious" or "dangerous."
* Illinois became the first state to ban certain felons from owning aggressive dogs; among felons specifically targeted are drug manufacturers, who were blamed for using dogs to attack law enforcers.
* Six states (Alabama, Illinois, Mississippi, Oregon, South Carolina and Washington) have clamped down on animal fighting, including for gambling purposes.
* Arizona and Washington outlawed bestiality, or sexual relations between a human and an animal, bringing to 32 the number of states in which the act is a crime.


In addition, since 2005, legislatures in 21 states have outlawed "Internet hunting" after a Web site premiered offering customers the chance to kill live animals from the safety of their homes, according to the Humane Society. (See related story: State lawmakers bag online hunting).

The post-Katrina pet evacuation laws are about more than saving animals. Victims in storm-affected areas in many cases refused to leave their pets behind.

An October 2005 Zogby International poll found that 49 percent of adults said they would not leave disaster areas without their pets. In New Orleans, 44 percent of those who did not evacuate during Katrina claimed they stayed because of their pets, according to the Louisiana Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA).

A bill sponsored by Louisiana state Sen. Heulette "Clo" Fontenot (R) would be the most far-reaching to date if signed into law, as expected, by Gov. Kathleen Blanco (D). Both houses approved the bill unanimously.

Like the new Florida and New Hampshire laws, the bill requires that service animals, such as guide dogs, be evacuated with their owners. But it also calls for the establishment of pet shelters in the state and an identification system to reunite pets and their owners after emergencies. The measure, which applies only to cats and dogs, would require local authorities to outfit the animals with bar-coded tags during emergencies.

Fontenot told Stateline.org he introduced his legislation after seeing televised images from Hurricane Katrina in which service animals were left behind.

"I thought it was totally unconscionable to take a person's only source of independence away from them," Fontenot said.

The plan is expected to cost the state about $4 million, according to Fontenot, who said federal regulations add to the cost of evacuating pets. In temperatures above 85 degrees, for example, pets must be evacuated in refrigerated trucks, Fontenot said. Temperatures above 85 degrees are routine in Louisiana.

"Those refrigerated trucks are very expensive. We could easily transport those same animals in an open-air flatbed trailer at one quarter of the cost," he said.

Like Louisiana's measure, the Florida, Hawaii and New Hampshire laws call for authorities to develop plans for pet evacuation. Vermont's new law requires that state and local emergency planning commissions include representatives from animal rescue organizations and removes from civil liability those who voluntarily shelter pets during emergencies.

In 2005, Maine became the first state to sign an "animal emergency" bill into law. The Maine law established an Animal Response Team to respond to disasters affecting animals.

Animal rights representatives have hailed the state and federal initiatives. Ledy Van Kavage, senior director of legislation and legal training for the American SPCA, said it would be a disgrace if Louisiana did not enact pet evacuation legislation.

"Let's face it, all eyes are on Louisiana," Van Kavage said.

Meanwhile, other pet-related legislation has moved speedily through statehouses nationwide.

In the past year, at least 15 states have introduced "dangerous" or "vicious" dog bills, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), which tracks state legislation. At least 29 states and the District of Columbia already have laws in place, according to NCSL. Only Ohio's statute bans certain breeds of dogs, including pit bulls and Rottweilers.

States also are getting tough on animal fighting, such as dogfighting, cockfighting and - in the recent cases of Alabama and Mississippi - hog-dog fighting, in which trained dogs attack penned feral hogs. Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour (R) signed a bill to outlaw the sport on March 28, and Alabama Gov. Bob Riley (R) followed suit on April 13. Louisiana became the first state to criminalize the practice in 2004.

Cockfighting remains legal in only two states, New Mexico and Louisiana. But that hasn't prevented some lawmakers from voicing their disapproval. A proposal introduced in January by New Mexico state Sen. John Grubesic (D) sought to make cockfighting the official "state disgrace."

The start of hurricane season, however, has served as a grim reminder of Katrina and has made pet evacuation during emergencies a top priority for legislators and animal rights groups alike.

"I think it's a good animal welfare policy, but I also think it's a good public welfare policy," said Dan Paden, a researcher with the domestic animal department of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. "It goes a long way toward not forcing Americans to abandon, in disasters, all they have left of their lives, which are their animals."

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Pets as Companions: Words Mean A Lot: Changing the Legal Status of “Pets” and Changing Mentalities

A good article that touches on the changing view of pets to that of companion animals, and even legal objects. As the following quotes state, we’re already seeing it some cities. The implications being that people will start to view “pets” as what they are – beyond simple objects. What follows of course, is better treatment and respect for them and for life in general.

“Changing legal terminology also reflects the cultural shift. Since 2000, several cities have officially switched from the phrase "dog owner" to "dog guardian" -- first came Boulder, Colo., then Berkeley and West Hollywood in California; Sherwood, Ariz.; Amherst, Mass.; Menomonee Falls, Wis.; the state of Rhode Island; and San Francisco.

"We want people to understand that a dog isn't a piece of garbage," Mark Bekoff, a professor of biology at the University of Colorado, told me not long after the Boulder initiative. Proponents of this change argue that children will benefit from thinking of themselves as an animal's guardian, with the responsibilities toward living beings, as opposed to inanimate objects, that the ownership term implies.”

Article:

What's the value of a pet?
While Fido and Fluffy traditionally have been seen as property, a litigious society increasingly considers our furry friends as family

http://www.oregonlive.com/commentary/oregonian/
index.ssf?/base/editorial/115101871328510.xml&coll=7

Sunday, June 25, 2006
RICHARD LOUV
The Oregonian

Banner, a collie, was 6 weeks old and I was 2 years old when we became best friends. One day, when I was 7, my little brother, stubborn and red-faced, crawled out onto the hot asphalt road. Banner appeared, grabbed his diapers with his teeth, pulled him back into the yard and sat on him.

Banner was a worrier. When either of us was in the kind of trouble he couldn't control, he would go home. But he always came back.

That same year, I fell through the ice of the creek in the woods. Up to my waist, I tried to climb the steep and snowy bank but slipped back. Banner left. I climbed and slipped back, climbed and slipped. And then Banner's head appeared again above the bank. I remember him at one end of a fallen branch, tugging. I tell you this with some embarrassment, knowing the trickery of memory, especially a child's memory.

Just the other day, Banner came back to me again as I read a story about the Estacada man who ran over a neighbor's dog in 2004. He was convicted of animal abuse, and last month the dog's family made international headlines when they sought $1.625 million for the loss of companionship of Grizz, who they'd raised as a puppy. A victory would have turned on its head the centuries-old legal tradition that pets are merely property.

After a judge tossed out the emotional-loss portion, saying the law doesn't provide for animal companionship, a divided jury decided that Raymond E. Weaver should pay Mark Greenup and his two daughters $56,400: $50,000 in punitive damages, $6,000 for their suffering and $400 for the value of Grizz. The damages were substantially less than the $1.325 million the judge allowed but still among the highest ever awarded for a family pet.

Had that been my dog -- had it been Banner -- I would have wanted the maximum penalty. But Weaver's attorney wondered if Clackamas County wanted to "set itself up as a venue where any cat that gets run over gets a trial?"

Good question. Legally and culturally, just how far do we want to take this?

At a time when aging baby boomers are turning corgies, retrievers, Labradors and the rest into "their children" -- with regular trips to doggie day care, doggie boutiques and doggie parks -- should the law be changed to catch up with society? Or does society need a reality check?

Judges have resisted letting animal owners sue for loss of companionship, a right traditionally reserved for spouses. After all, a parent who loses a child can't make that claim in court (although a parent, unlike a pet owner, can sue for wrongful death). All sorts of furry questions

But the line is blurring. Consider the case of Dog v. Cat. In May 2005 a Seattle court awarded a woman more than $45,000 as compensation for the death of her cat, Yofi, killed in her backyard by a neighbor's dog. The neighbor had failed to adequately seal gaps in his fence, the woman's lawyers charged.

Adam Karp, founder of the Washington State Bar Association's Animal Law Section, defended the size of the award: "There tends to be a culture that says dogs are more of man's best friends and cats are aloof and can't bond, but if anyone has ever shared their bonds with a cat, they know that's utter nonsense," he told the Associated Press.

But wait. If we're looking for legal parity, why are there so few leash laws for cats? Should cat owners be sued for letting their cats roam the neighborhoods, where they kill endangered birds? If a coyote has my cat over for lunch, should I sue the city for inadequate control of coyotes? Once you start asking questions, it's hard to stop. Just like family

That's a harsh pill for many animal lovers to swallow. A 2005-2006 survey by The American Pet Products Manufacturers Association says three-quarters of dog owners consider their dog like a child or family member; more than half of cat owners feel the same way.

Eight out of 10 dog owners and 63 percent of cat owners buy gifts for their pets. Nine percent of dog owners host birthday parties for their furry friends. Doggy day-care centers are hot; in Oregon, for example, you can drop your companion off at A Dog Gone Good Place or the Barka Lounge ("Where Portland's hip dogs hang").

In the U.S., Canada and Great Britain, the newest trend is doggy dancing, or "canine freestyle," where the dog and costumed human companion move together in choreographed competition.

Changing legal terminology also reflects the cultural shift. Since 2000, several cities have officially switched from the phrase "dog owner" to "dog guardian" -- first came Boulder, Colo., then Berkeley and West Hollywood in California; Sherwood, Ariz.; Amherst, Mass.; Menomonee Falls, Wis.; the state of Rhode Island; and San Francisco.

"We want people to understand that a dog isn't a piece of garbage," Mark Bekoff, a professor of biology at the University of Colorado, told me not long after the Boulder initiative. Proponents of this change argue that children will benefit from thinking of themselves as an animal's guardian, with the responsibilities toward living beings, as opposed to inanimate objects, that the ownership term implies.

An interesting argument, but it's doubtful legal terms have much influence on the thoughts of children. I certainly don't recall mistaking Banner for an inanimate object. Costly procedures abound

If the legal line between pets and people continues to blur, will increased litigation balloon veterinary malpractice premiums, resulting in more expensive care for pets?

Vets worry about that. Yet they have no problem offering increasingly costly procedures once available only to human beings: heart pacemakers, CT scans, chemotherapy, radiation treatment, kidney transplants and hip replacements, chiropractic treatment, acupuncture, orthodontics, whitening strips, mouthwash.

One vet even recommends brushing your dog's teeth three times a day -- with garlic.

Even as the number of Americans without health insurance increases yearly, pet health insurance is becoming growth industry. So is the pet remembrance business. According to the American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, we can commission "created diamonds," gemstones made from carbon captured during cremation; 20 percent of all created diamonds are made from pet remains. A one-half carat ring costs $2,500.

The current popularity of "The Dog Whisperer," a television reality show, comes to mind. In the program, a charismatic pet trainer helps pet owners -- er, guardians -- change the behavior of unruly or seemingly mean dogs by changing their human behavior.

By treating dogs as if they were humans, we forget the particular nature of pack behavior, we ignore the value of their dogness. By making our companions into something they're not, do we objectify them, make them objects -- things -- of our affection? How is that different, in practice, from owning them? Human emotions tricky

Love and rationality are never easy companions. More than sentiment or terminology is at play here. Our litigious society devalues what we love most by substituting a dollar value for meaning. And our fragile and far more complicated relationships with members of our own species get lumped into this brew.

One dark morning, when I was 11, I woke to the sound of my mother crying. I was convinced something had happened to my father, a troubled man. I ran down the stairs and out to the porch. Banner, carried from the road by my father, was lying there cold and stiff. I cried, but the crying was fake -- I was relieved my father was still alive.

For a long time, I felt guilty for that secret fakery. But as an adult I understand that, as much as I loved Banner, I loved my father more.

Sometimes when I return to Kansas City I walk back behind the old house, to the depression in the ground, and recall how, in the darkness before dawn, my father and I dug that simple grave. And I remember how Banner always came back.

Kangaroo Island Near Australia Takes on Feral Cat Issue by Requiring Microchipping and then Killing of those Cats Without a Chip

It would be nice if they could tackle the issue another way.

Article:

Kangaroo Is cats to be microchipped

http://abc.net.au/news/newsitems/200606/s1672642.htm


Domestic cats on Kangaroo Island will be required by law to be microchipped and contained in a move to combat the feral cat problem.

It is the first council region in South Australia to introduce the legislation, which applies from July 1.

The feral animal project officer on Kangaroo Island, Pip Masters, says they will now be able to start a trapping program in the townships.

"Any cats that are caught will have to scanned for microchips because every domestic cat now will be microchipped," he said.

"If they're not owned and they don't look like they're somebody's pet cat, they'll be put down using injection."

Designer Dogs: Big Price tags and Big Health Problems Down the Road: The Reason, Human Vanity

I won’t go too deeply into the obvious problem with going after designer dogs while thousands are killed daily in pounds. Quite simply, it’s pure human vanity and idiocy to do such a selfish act.

Article:

Designer dogs: Fashionable hybrids may face problems later

http://www.timesnews.net/article.php?id=3648357

Published 06/27/2006

By JESSICA FISCHER -Kingsport Times-News
Years ago, puppies resulting from a romantic encounter between a cocker spaniel and the handsome poodle down the street were called mutts, Heinz 57s. You couldn't give them away, much less sell them.
Today, these "designer" dogs sport price tags as highfalutin' as their names; cockapoos, Labradoodles (Labrador retriever and poodle mixes), shorkies (a cross between a schnauzer and a poodle) and puggles (a pug and beagle blend) can fetch upwards of $1,000 - more than what many of their pure-bred parents cost.
Yet there are plenty of people waiting in line to open their wallets for one of these mixed-breed pups, the season's trendiest accessory.
Singer Jessica Simpson carries her maltipoo (a cross between a Maltese and a miniature poodle) around in a Louis Vuitton bag, while actor Jake Gyllenhaal couldn't leave the set of "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" without gushing about his pride and joy, a cute little puggle named Boo Radley.
But designer dogs aren't just the playthings of the rich and famous. They're hot among the non-celebrity set, too.
Kingsport's Steve and Stephanie Bellner fell in love with Macy, their 8-month-old, eight-pound maltipoo with soulful brown eyes and long, wavy black locks, when they spotted a photo of her on the Eastman classifieds Web site last fall.
A few weeks after their beloved Chihuahua Oscar died, the Bellners began entertaining the thought of getting another dog, and after meeting their daughter's coach's maltipoo, they were sold on the breed's appearance, intelligence and warm personality. The fact that maltipoos and other poodle hybrids shed very little was also a plus for Stephanie, who is allergic to some dogs.
"My daughter says that I dote more on Macy than I do on her," Stephanie said, laughing. "But her personality is just so sweet, so playful. She cracks me up. She's brought life to the house."
The Bellners aren't alone in their love for designer dogs.
The American Canine Hybrid Club, the designer dog world's version of the American Kennel Club, is registering about 500 litters of hybrid pups a month, double what it was a year ago. The company offers $20 certificates of authenticity to people who can demonstrate they own the offspring of two different purebred dogs.
There's even a concerted effort under way to have hybrids recognized by the AKC.
But not everyone is jumping on the designer dog bandwagon.
Stephanie Shain, director of outreach for companion animals at the Humane Society of the United States, urges potential puppy owners to exercise caution when dealing with breeders who claim that their hybrids are free from the kinds of genetic afflictions and character flaws that sometimes plague pure-bred breeds - one of the qualities that has vaulted many designer dogs to stardom.
"We want consumers to understand that so-called ‘hybrid' puppies are not protected from genetic diseases," Shain said. "They are just as likely to have the same problems that other puppies have who come from large-scale, high-volume breeding, especially since the demand is massive, and puppy mills are responding by pumping out the hybrid-du-jour as quickly as possible. Factory breeding like this increases the chances of a puppy having genetic, physical and emotional problems, which may not be apparent at first."
Claims that these dogs are healthier than their pure-bred counterparts can be misleading, agrees Dr. Karen Tobias, a veterinarian at the University of Tennessee's School of Veterinary Medicine and co-host of the show "Barkitecture" on the DIY Network.
"Certainly a pug has more risk of having airway problems than beagles because of its short face, so a puggle might have less airway problems - if it has more of the beagle gene for facial development," Tobias said. "On the other hand, Labradoodles are not truly hypoallergenic, as claimed by many Web sites. All dogs shed skin cells, which are the true cause of allergies in people, so reaction to these dogs is really related to how much skin cells are getting in the environment.
"Bottom line is, by breeding two healthy dogs with no structural, functional or genetic problems that could lead to health issues, you are likely to get healthy pups. This occurs with purebreds as well as mixed breed dogs. By raising those dogs in a healthy environment with appropriate training, you are likely to get a healthy happy dog, whether they are mixed breed or pure-bred."
There's also concern that the popularity of designer dogs is encouraging "backyard breeders" who lack credentials and genetics expertise to take a stab at producing the novelty puppies, leading to poorly bred pups and animal cruelty.
Crossing a pug with a Pekingese, for example, can produce disastrous consequences. Both breeds have eyes that easily pop out of the socket to rest on the cheek. Surgery is required to fix the injury, often at the cost of the dogs' sight. Breeding the two could yield a dog that literally has its eyes falling out. A Newfoundland and a St. Bernard could generate a crippled giant, since both of these breeds are plagued with hip dysplasia, a genetic disorder that often requires hip replacement before the dog is a year old.
Labrador retrievers should be OFA certified for hip dysplasia at 2 years of age. Breeding of Labradors with hip dysplasia to standard poodles is more likely to result in development of hip dysplasia in these offspring. Since standard poodles rarely have hip dysplasia, the trait could be carelessly introduced into the offspring gene pool."
There are also those who decry popularizing these specially bred dogs - mutts with marketing, they call them - when thousands of puppies are languishing in shelters. And because many people are in such a rush to get their hands on one of these designer dogs that they don't take the time to learn about the needs and personalities of the breed, some designer dogs end up in shelters.
"We are concerned that people are caught up in the trend and not doing research on the needs and personalities of the breed," Shain said. "History is proof that when people purchase dogs based on looks alone, the animal ultimately ends up being given away to a shelter, adding to the over 4 million homeless dogs already in shelters. If you have done your research and have your heart set on a particular breed, one of four dogs in shelters is a purebred - some even hybrids."
Proponents of hybrids, however, argue that the dogs' lineage can be easily traced and that their characteristics and appearance are much more predictable than those of pound puppies.
"From a veterinarian's standpoint, the major reasons dogs are brought to animal shelters are because they have gotten too big, because the owners didn't realize how much work a puppy or young adult dog would take and because of behavioral issues," Tobias said. "If folks want to guarantee what type, size and personality of dog they want to get, their best option is to adopt an adult dog from a rescue agency or animal shelter that knows the animals and can match it with the potential owner."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Hawaii Makes Major Steps and Signs into Law Two Laws to Help Abused Companion Animals

Yes, they’re not as strong as most would like to see, but they lead in the right direction. Please read on to learn more.

Article:

2 animal rights laws signed on pet holiday

http://starbulletin.com/2006/06/24/news/story10.html

By Leila Fujimori
lfujimori@starbulletin.com

Gov. Linda Lingle signed two animal rights bills into law yesterday during Take Your Pet to Work Day.

Act 239 (Senate Bill 2924, Conference Draft 1) allows a law enforcement officer with a search warrant to enter property where an animal is believed to be abused or neglected to allow the animal to be provided with food, water and emergency medical care.

The court also can seize the animal and place it in a recognized shelter or organization to ensure it receives proper care.

The new law also provides for a hearing process that allows an animal cruelty prevention organization to ask the court for the forfeiture of the animal before any criminal conviction of its owner.

The owner can avoid forfeiture of the animal by posting a security bond (for the animal's care) or by showing the court that alternative care for the animal has been made.

Act 238 (SB 2930, House Draft 1) aims to reimburse organizations charged with caring for impounded animals.

Under the law, if an owner were ordered to surrender an animal to a care facility, the court could allow the caregiver to seek reimbursement from the owner for reasonable costs to care, feed and house the animal.

In one case, the Hawaiian Humane Society incurred several hundred thousand dollars' worth of costs to care for 69 abused animals but was never reimbursed. The owner was later allowed to sell the dogs.

"For many people our pets are beloved members of our families," said the governor, who owns two cats: a stray she found in Hilo and another adopted from the humane society.

Beluga Sturgeon Hearty to Have Survived from Prehistoric Times but Now on the Brink of Extinction Due to the Insatiable Appetite of Wealthy for Caviar

I’ve never seen the interest in eating fish eggs. Even more, I simply can’t understand why eggs from one species would somehow be more valuable than from another.


A few facts from the article below:

Beluga, whose roe is reputedly the world's most expensive delicacy, is the most threatened species of sturgeon. And the population in the Caspian _ which provides 90 percent of beluga caviar _ "got hammered very fast," said Phaedra Doukakis, a Pew Institute research scientist.
Beluga, the largest fish in the Caspian, can live over 100 years and grow to nearly 20 feet. But these days few survive longer than 20 years.
In Kazakhstan, one of the five nations ringing the Caspian, Akhat Nimatov, director of a state-run sturgeon hatchery that works with the Pew Institute, said the beluga population has declined 70 percent over the past 15 years.
He said fishermen were catching on average one egg-bearing female to seven males. The males are either thrown back into the sea or sold for their flesh.
Article:

Scientists Hope to Save Caspian Beluga

http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/world/3999428.html

By BAGILA BUKHARBAYEVA Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

ABOARD THE NEPTUNE ON THE CASPIAN SEA — Three men struggle to lift a squirming, 6 1/2-foot gray fish with a pointy nose and jagged spine and spill it into the Caspian's green water. Off it swims with two others, all trailing satellite receivers wired to their dorsal fins.

Thus begins a pilot study that scientists hope will yield valuable information about a species of sturgeon hearty enough to have survived from prehistoric times but now on the brink of extinction due to the insatiable appetite of the well-to-do for caviar.

If the three beluga sturgeon can avoid poachers' nets and their data be successfully retrieved, the University of Miami's Pew Institute for Ocean Science will tag more of the fish for the first comprehensive study of the beluga population in this Central Asian sea.

A worldwide study released by the Pew Institute last year said most major sturgeon fisheries are catching 85 percent less fish than at their peak in the late 1970s. It called for a total ban on fishing for most endangered species and reducing fishing pressure on others.

Beluga, whose roe is reputedly the world's most expensive delicacy, is the most threatened species of sturgeon. And the population in the Caspian _ which provides 90 percent of beluga caviar _ "got hammered very fast," said Phaedra Doukakis, a Pew Institute research scientist.

"The peak and decline was very rapid," she said.

There is no reliable estimate of how many Caspian beluga remain.

According to the Pew Institute, they numbered around 375,000 in 2001, with just 55,000 of them adults.

That year, scientists from Russia and Iran _ the countries that benefit most from the beluga caviar trade _ came up with a figure of 9.3 million. In 2002, they estimated more than 11 million.

Doukakis dismissed those figures as "a fantasy." Scientists widely criticized the estimates and Russia and Iran have not issued any numbers since.

Beluga, the largest fish in the Caspian, can live over 100 years and grow to nearly 20 feet. But these days few survive longer than 20 years.

In Kazakhstan, one of the five nations ringing the Caspian, Akhat Nimatov, director of a state-run sturgeon hatchery that works with the Pew Institute, said the beluga population has declined 70 percent over the past 15 years.

He said fishermen were catching on average one egg-bearing female to seven males. The males are either thrown back into the sea or sold for their flesh.

The U.N. Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, which sets sturgeon fishing quotas each year, imposed a ban on taking sturgeon and exporting caviar from the Caspian this year after the surrounding states failed to submit a convincing plan to protect the fish.

The Persian species concentrated in Iranian waters was exempted from the ban because it is not endangered.

Doukakis said the ban would not help because the treaty, known as CITES, has no tools to implement its rules and because "there seem to be enough outlets for illegal trade or a big enough domestic market."

The caviar trade is so lucrative it makes poaching hard to resist and control. One female beluga produces up to 17 percent of her total weight in caviar. A pound of beluga caviar costs an average $2,700 in Europe and North America.

The damage from legal fishing is also significant. The Caspian sturgeon was first put under heavy pressure during the Soviet era. But the 1991 Soviet collapse didn't make things better as the emergence of three more states on the Caspian shores _ Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan _ has meant fragmented regulation.

Another serious concern for sturgeon stocks is environmental stress from the oil boom in the northern Caspian, an area where sturgeon migrate in summer to fatten in shallow waters and spawn in Kazakhstan's and Russia's Ural and Volga Rivers.

With the Soviet collapse, Western companies have moved in to work those oil and natural gas fields, which are the third-largest untapped reserves in the world.

The globe's biggest oil project now under way is in the northern Caspian, where an international consortium, Agip KCO, is preparing to start commercial oil production at the giant Kashagan field in Kazakh territorial waters.

Agip KCO is the main sponsor of the Pew Institute's Caspian sturgeon research with a grant of "a few hundred thousand dollars," Doukakis said.

The satellite tags, which have been in use for about 10 years for tracking other fish species, will be gathering data on the beluga's migration habits and information on the depth and light level where it travels.

The microphone-shaped, 7-inch tags _ costing $3,400 each _ are attached at the Kazakh state hatchery in Atyrau, where beluga that have been caught are brought to lay eggs and then freed again.

The tags are programmed to drop off the fish, one after another, at three-month intervals. The tag floats to the surface and transmits its data to a satellite.

The data could help define the beluga's preferred areas, which could then be turned into protected zones, said Daniel Erickson of the New York-based Wildlife Conservation Society, an expert on satellite tagging. It will also define beluga habitat in relation to oil drilling.

"I'm thrilled," Doukakis said. "Now we have to sit and wait."

For Two And A Half Thousand Dollars, Wellington Zoo in New Zealand Rents Out Cheetahs for Parties

I won’t even waste my time to state how ridiculous this is.

Article:

Cheetah rental upsets animal rights campaigners

http://www.radionz.co.nz/news/latest/
200606251329/14865914

Posted at 1:29pm on 25 Jun 2006

Animal rights campaigners are up in arms over a scheme being run by Wellington Zoo, which allows people to rent its cheetahs for special events.

For two and a half thousand dollars, the zoo hires out the big cats for an "off-site cheetah encounter", billing the opportunity on its website as a "unique option for functions, educational sessions and other events."

Campaign director of Save Animals from Exploitation, Hans Kriek says it is akin to turning the animals into circus performers, and poses a safety risk.

For First Time in Decades, Japan and Its Pro-Whaling Allies Now Hold the Majority of Votes at the International Whaling Commission: Last Way to Help

This is from a different group. Please read on and act:

WDCS e-newsletter – we urgently need your help to protect whales.

Yesterday, we witnessed a huge blow for the conservation of whales, as pro-whaling nations re-took control of the International Whaling Commission.

For the first time in decades, Japan and its pro-whaling allies now hold the majority of votes at the International Whaling Commission (IWC), the international body that regulates whaling. Yesterday, they won a vote in favour of the “St Kitts and Nevis Declaration”, which states that the current ban on commercial whaling is unnecessary, that whales are out-competing humans for fish and that conservation groups are a threat to governments.

The ban on commercial whaling was brought into effect 20 years ago to save whales decimated by decades of unregulated and unsustainable whaling. It is now dangerously close to being overturned. With pro-whaling nations now holding the majority of votes, the IWC will quickly be driven to abandon important conservation and welfare measures.





Not only is whaling incurably inhumane, it has been proved to be impossible to regulate. The IWC’s previous attempts to control commercial whaling under a pro-whaling majority were so disastrous that some populations have still not recovered from the slaughter.

This is a wake up call for the world to take back the IWC and protect whales before it is too late!

The vote was close, with 33 votes in favour and 32 against. All member states of the European Union opposed the statement except Denmark which voted in favour. Denmark’s vote tipped the majority in favour of the whalers.

You can help the world’s whales at this crucial time!

Send a protest e-mail to the Prime Minister of Denmark calling on him to retract his country’s vote.

http://uk.wdcs.org/go/N060619whaling1

Please adopt a whale.

http://uk.wdcs.org/go/N060619aaw


Or donate to our campaign.

http://uk.wdcs.org/go/N060619donate

Friday, June 23, 2006

Man Will Start a Eight-Day Cycle to Raise as Much as Possible for a Charity to Help Asia Moon Bears: What are Moon Bears and How Can You Help?

Free and happy Moon Bear


Not so free and not so happy Moon Bear in very small cage


This is an amazing action. Truly getting off your couch and doing something.

If you would like to sponsor Leon you can do so by logging onto his website www.justgiving.com/leonmoore or call 07989 607770.


What are Asiatic Moon Bears and why are they in need of help?

Below you will find a synopsis that will explain Moon Bears and why they are in need of help. This comes from http://www.animalsasia.org/index.php?module=2&menupos=7&lg=en

Please visit this page and this group – Animals Asia – to find out more about this horrible issue.

And again, if you would like to sponsor Leon you can do so by logging onto his website www.justgiving.com/leonmoore or call 07989 607770.


“In countries across Asia, thousands of bears live a life of torture on bear farms, so that their bile can be extracted and used in Traditional Medicine to cure ailments ranging from headaches to hemorrhoids. Bears are confined in cages which vary from agonizingly tiny "crush" cages to larger pens, all of which cause terrible physical and mental suffering. But their torment does not end there.....the bears are subjected to painful methods of bile extraction which involve crude surgery to implant a steel catheter into the abdomen or the creation of a permanent hole in the abdomen known as the "free-dripping" technique. Many bears die as a result of the unsanitary surgery and those that survive spend the rest of their lives suffering in pain and deprivation. Whilst the methods of farming bears for their bile vary across Asia and are continually 'evolving', ALL of them are incredibly cruel and totally unacceptable.”


Article:

Leon pedals for bear bid

http://www.thisiswiltshire.co.uk/


By Kevin Burchall

AN ANIMAL rights campaigner is set to embark on the toughest fundraising challenge of his life in an effort to help the plight of bears in the Far East.

Leon Moore, 30, of Marlowe Avenue, Park North, will start a gruelling eight-day cycle from John O'Groats to Lands End on Monday and hopes to raise as much cash as possible for the charity Asia Bears.

Leon, a doorman for a nightclub in Bristol, said: "The route I'm cycling is about 950 miles in total and I plan to do it in eight days.

"The charity is raising money for the Moon Bears, which are bears that are kept on farms in Asia.
continued...

"The bears are caged up in crush cages so they cannot move and they are kept in those cages for their whole lives.

"They have 18-inch tubes put in their stomachs, which extract their bile to be used in medicines. I read about the bears and I was so appalled I had to do something about it."

Leon has previously raised money to stamp out cruelty to monkeys, but his latest fundraising idea is by far the most gruelling both physically and personally.

"I've done fundraising for whole days, but never anything this big," he said.

"I don't normally cycle, but I've been out on the bike for the last seven months every day.

"I basically do between two and four hours training a day on the push bike and I think I underestimated how hard it was going to be.

"I didn't realise how much it was going to take out of me, but it has also put a big strain on my relationship.

"I've literally been coming home from work, going straight out on the bike and then going to bed at about 7pm every night because I'm so knackered."

But Leon's partner, 36-year-old Sarah Powell, has proved to be a tower of strength to him.

"Sarah is going to drive a van, which has been donated by Stuart Boyer of M4 Self Drive, while I complete the bike ride just to make sure I'm safe and sound," Leon said.

"I'll be doing something like 100 miles a day, but I'm sure it will be worth it once I've finished."

If you would like to sponsor Leon you can do so by logging onto his website www.justgiving.com/leonmoore or call 07989 607770.

Jane Goodall and Researchers Send Letter to Federal Officials to Oppose Yerkes' Proposal to Do Aids-Related Research on Sooty Mangabeys

It’s unbelievable that research groups are still wasting resources on AIDs research on other primates. As it states here, these primates are “…natural carriers of a form of the AIDS virus but don't get sick from it.” So, in other words, no benefit to doing the research.

In addition, these primates are listed as endangered! So, with these points stated, it seems just a strange situation in which resources and lives are wasted.

Article:

AIDS research on monkey group questioned

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060622/

ap_on_sc/research_monkeys_1

By MIKE STOBBE, Associated Press Writer Thu Jun 22, 2:00 PM ET

ATLANTA - Primate expert Jane Goodall and 18 other researchers sent a letter to federal officials urging them to oppose an Atlanta research center's proposal to do
AIDS-related research on sooty mangabey monkeys.

The letter urges the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to reject a request by the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, according to a copy filed with the government.

Scientists at the research center have nurtured a group of the primates, which are natural carriers of a form of the AIDS virus but don't get sick from it, since the late 1960s. But federal officials listed them as endangered in 1988, leaving the center with the world's largest collection of captive sooties but little hope of scientific benefit.

Yerkes officials are proposing helping conserve sooties in the African wild in exchange for permission to do AIDS-related research on captive sooties.

Federal officials have said such a trade-off has never before been permitted. In a letter dated June 19, Goodall and others say they hope it never is.

The letter, provided to the Associated Press by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, said approving such a deal "could open the floodgates to future permit applications premised on allowing entities to kill or otherwise harm endangered species in exchange for making financial contributions to conservation programs."

Goodall could not be reached for comment, but her involvement was confirmed by a spokeswoman with the Jane Goodall Institute for Wildlife Research, Education and Conservation.

PETA, the New England Anti-Vivisection Society and eight other advocacy groups also submitted comments opposing the research center's application.

British-born Goodall began studying chimpanzees in Tanzania in 1960. Her studies have helped revolutionize humanity's understanding of chimps.

Last year, Yerkes, which is part of Emory University, began providing up to $30,000 a year to a primatologist's conservation and research of sooties in the Tai National Park Reserve in Ivory Coast, West Africa.

In July, the center wrote Fish & Wildlife seeking the right to conduct research on the Yerkes sooties "given our contribution to sooty mangabey conservation."

Tim Van Norman, the Fish & Wildlife official to whom the letter was addressed, could not be reached for comment.

A Yerkes spokeswoman declined to comment. She said Fish & Wildlife held a public comment period on the research center's application that ran from May 18 until June 19.

Group Asks Merriam-Webster to Rewrite Definition of “Circus” to Convey Truth: Captive Animals Forced to Perform Tricks Under Threat of Punishment

A very interesting and brilliant idea that makes great sense. After all, words are extremely powerful and the truth is beyond important.

In essence, here is what PETA is asking the dictionary to use:

PETA’s proposal defines a circus as a “spectacle that relies on captive animals” who are “forced to perform tricks under the constant threat of punishment.” It also wants the definition to say that “modern circuses include only willing human performers.”

Article:

PETA goes wild - Wants dictionary to jump through hoops

http://news.bostonherald.com/local
Regional/view.bg?articleid=145098

By Dave Wedge
Boston Herald Chief Enterprise Reporter
Friday, June 23, 2006 - Updated: 08:27 AM EST

PETA activists are cracking the whip on Springfield-based Merriam-Webster, demanding that the definition of “circus” be rewritten to label the big top as cruel to “captive” animal performers.

The dictionary currently defines a circus as “an arena often covered by a tent and used for variety shows, usually including feats of physical skill, wild animal acts, and performances by clowns.”

But People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals - known for caging naked women to protest the wearing of fur and protesting the living conditions of pet store iguanas - wants a new entry.

PETA’s proposal defines a circus as a “spectacle that relies on captive animals” who are “forced to perform tricks under the constant threat of punishment.” It also wants the definition to say that “modern circuses include only willing human performers.”

The dictionary publishing company couldn’t be reached last night, but, in a letter to Merriam-Webster provided to the Herald, PETA points out that “whips, chains, muzzles, and bullhooks are the standard tools used to train and constantly control animals used in circuses.”

“The sight of these weapons makes the animals perform out of sheer terror,” the letter states.

The letter also refers to undercover investigations that have revealed squalid conditions for circus animals as well as animals being mercilessly beaten by trainers. PETA says attendance is down at traditional shows like Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus while crowds at human-based performances like Cirque Du Soleil are at an all-time high. A Ringling spokesman did not return a call.

“People who use your dictionary deserve an accurate description of this cruel business, and we hope that you’ll consider our suggestion,” the PETA letter states.

Circuses that feature trained animals are banned in six countries and more than 300 U.S. cities and towns, including Revere. A pending State House bill to prohibit exotic animals in Massachusetts circuses is expected to go to a Senate vote this year.

“As more and more people become aware of the cruelty and violence that goes on behind the scenes at circuses, we felt the definition needed to be updated,” said PETA spokesman Matthew Rice.

Merriam-Webster routinely updates definitions, frequently considering public input.

Groups Seek to Ban Foie Gras Production in New York, One of the Leading U.S. Producing States: What is Foie Gras and Why is it Bad?

A great move.

What is foie gras and why is it bad?

Foie gras (translated literally from French as "fatty liver" and pronounced 'fwah grah') is produced by cruel and inhumane farming practices. At just a few months old, ducks are confined inside dark sheds and force-fed enormous amounts of food several times a day. A farm worker grabs each duck and, one by one, thrusts a metal pipe down their throats so that a mixture of corn can be forced directly into their gullets. In just a matter of weeks, the ducks become grossly overweight and their livers expand up to 10 times their normal size.

As a result, ducks raised for foie gras have difficulty standing, walking, and even breathing. Many of them die before the end of the force-feeding cycle, and the mortality rate for ducks raised on foie gras farms is among the highest in the farming industry. Necropsies performed on foie gras ducks have shown extreme obesity, impaction of undigested food in the esophagus, lacerations in the throat, and a proliferation of bacterial and fungal growth in their upper digestive tracts.

More information on foie gras can be found at:
http://www.nofoiegras.org/

Article:

Humane Society seeks foie gras production ban

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20060621/od_
uk_nm/oukoe_uk_food_foiegras_1

Wed Jun 21, 7:59 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Animal rights groups on Wednesday sought to ban foie gras production in New York, one of the leading U.S. producing states, arguing that overfeeding birds to fatten their livers makes the animals sick.
ADVERTISEMENT

The Humane Society of the United States filed a formal action with the New York U.S. State
Department of Agriculture and Markets to stop the practice under a state law that makes it illegal to produce food from diseased animals.

"It's illegal for farmers to intentionally make their animals sick and then sell them at market as if nothing were wrong," said Carter Dillard of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society, with other animal rights groups, filed 900 pages of documents arguing that ducks and geese are force-fed for weeks until their livers become fattened.

Originally a French delicacy, foie gras means literally "fat liver."

According to the Humane Society, California and more than a dozen countries have already banned the production of foie gras, and Chicago recently banned its sale because of animal welfare concerns.

The Illegal Trade of Animal Parts Goes On: Seven Arrested In Delhi, India for Selling Body Parts of Animals

Why print this story? Well, to remind all that this practice is alive and well.


Here’s more on the issue of illegal wildlife trade:
http://geari.blogspot.com/2006/02/selfish-
wealthy-drive-illegal-trade-in_02.html

Article:

Seven arrested for selling body parts of animals

http://www.newkerala.com/news3.php?action=
fullnews&id=11749

New Delhi, June 20: Five women and two men were arrested today for allegedly selling body parts of animals in the historic Jama Masjid area of Central Delhi and recovered 93 deer must and 50 porcupine wings, police said.

The major seizure also includes 31 lion teeths, 15 owl paws, four tortoise shells, one Barasimha horn and a dead owl, and arrested the seven while trying to allegedly sell them at Jama Masjid area, they said.

The five women arrested were from Kalyanpuri of North East Delhi and were identified as Bhundi (60), Naina (60), Kevanti (60), Rampyari (40) and Saranga (40).

The arrested men were Mohammed Saleem, a resident of Daryaganj in Central Delhi and Ganesh Dutt of New Usmanpuri, they added.

Cases were registered against the accused under relevant sections of the Wild Life Act.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Test Tube or Lab-Grown Meat Nears Dinner Table: Benefits Are Obvious

The essence of why many believe in this is this:

“The advantage, he says, is you avoid the inefficiencies and bottlenecks of conventional meat production. No more feed grain production and processing, breeders, hatcheries, grow-out, slaughter or processing facilities.”

"To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue," says Matheny. "With cultured meat, there's no body to support; you're only building the meat that eventually gets eaten."


Article:

Test Tube Meat Nears Dinner Table

http://www.commondreams.org/headlines06/0621-03.htm

by Lakshmi Sandhana


What if the next burger you ate was created in a warm, nutrient-enriched soup swirling within a bioreactor?

Edible, lab-grown ground chuck that smells and tastes just like the real thing might take a place next to Quorn at supermarkets in just a few years, thanks to some determined meat researchers. Scientists routinely grow small quantities of muscle cells in petri dishes for experiments, but now for the first time a concentrated effort is under way to mass-produce meat in this manner.

Henk Haagsman, a professor of meat sciences at Utrecht University, and his Dutch colleagues are working on growing artificial pork meat out of pig stem cells. They hope to grow a form of minced meat suitable for burgers, sausages and pizza toppings within the next few years.

Currently involved in identifying the type of stem cells that will multiply the most to create larger quantities of meat within a bioreactor, the team hopes to have concrete results by 2009. The 2 million euro ($2.5 million) Dutch-government-funded project began in April 2005. The work is one arm of a worldwide research effort focused on growing meat from cell cultures on an industrial scale.

"All of the technology exists today to make ground meat products in vitro," says Paul Kosnik, vice president of engineering at Tissue Genesis in Hawaii. Kosnik is growing scaffold-free, self-assembled muscle. "We believe the goal of a processed meat product is attainable in the next five years if funding is available and the R&D is pursued aggressively."

A single cell could theoretically produce enough meat to feed the world's population for a year. But the challenge lies in figuring out how to grow it on a large scale. Jason Matheny, a University of Maryland doctoral student and a director of New Harvest, a nonprofit organization that funds research on in vitro meat, believes the easiest way to create edible tissue is to grow "meat sheets," which are layers of animal muscle and fat cells stretched out over large flat sheets made of either edible or removable material. The meat can then be ground up or stacked or rolled to get a thicker cut.

"You'd need a bunch of industrial-size bioreactors," says Matheny. "One to produce the growth media, one to produce cells, and one that produces the meat sheets. The whole operation could be under one roof."

The advantage, he says, is you avoid the inefficiencies and bottlenecks of conventional meat production. No more feed grain production and processing, breeders, hatcheries, grow-out, slaughter or processing facilities.

"To produce the meat we eat now, 75 (percent) to 95 percent of what we feed an animal is lost because of metabolism and inedible structures like skeleton or neurological tissue," says Matheny. "With cultured meat, there's no body to support; you're only building the meat that eventually gets eaten."

The sheets would be less than 1 mm thick and take a few weeks to grow. But the real issue is the expense. If cultivated with nutrient solutions that are currently used for biomedical applications, the cost of producing one pound of in vitro meat runs anywhere from $1,000 to $10,000.

Matheny believes in vitro meat can compete with conventional meat by using nutrients from plant or fungal sources, which could bring the cost down to about $1 per pound.

If successful, artificially grown meat could be tailored to be far healthier than any type of farm-grown meat. It's possible to stuff if full of heart-friendly omega-3 fatty acids, adjust the protein or texture to suit individual taste preferences and screen it for food-borne diseases.

But will it really catch on? The Food and Drug Administration has already barred food products involving cloned animals from the market until their safety has been tested. There's also the yuck factor.

"Cultured meat isn't natural, but neither is yogurt," says Matheny. "And neither, for that matter, is most of the meat we eat. Cramming 10,000 chickens in a metal shed and dosing them full of antibiotics isn't natural. I view cultured meat like hydroponic vegetables. The end product is the same, but the process used to make it is different. Consumers accept hydroponic vegetables. Would they accept hydroponic meat?"

Taste is another unknown variable. Real meat is more than just cells; it has blood vessels, connective tissue, fat, etc. To get a similar arrangement of cells, lab-grown meat will have to be exercised and stretched the way a real live animal's flesh would.

Kosnik is working on a way to create muscle grown without scaffolds by culturing the right combination of cells in a 3-D environment with mechanical anchors so that the cells develop into long fibers similar to real muscle.

The technology to grow a juicy steak, however, is still a decade or so away. No one has yet figured out how to grow blood vessels within tissue.

"In the meantime, we can use existing technologies to satisfy the demand for ground meat, which is about half of the meat we eat (and a $127 billion global market)," says Matheny.

South Africa's Proposals to Clamp Down On "Canned Hunting", Or the Killing of Captive Animals Useless Unless Laws Are Clear and Properly Enforced

As I suspected – the proposals to more closely regulate canned, or captive “hunting” really were just pr. No guidelines have been set and really, because it’s such a huge money making entity, not much will be done.

What is canned hunting?

Essentially, it’s the largest form of rich guy cowardice on Earth. Basically, rich people pay lots to go to enclosed ranches that let you kill trapped animals. Basically, back-slappin, easy hunting.

Here’s a definition from
http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/stop_canned_hunts/

“Canned hunting operations, also referred to as "shooting preserves" or "game ranches," are private trophy hunting facilities that offer their customers the opportunity to kill exotic and native animals that are trapped within enclosures.”

Who Are the Victims?

The animals killed in canned hunts may come from private breeders, animal dealers, or even zoos. These animals are frequently hand-raised and bottle fed, so they have lost their natural fear of people. In many facilities, the animals expect to be fed at regular times by familiar people—and the shooters will be there waiting for them.

More on canned hunting can be found here:
http://www.hsus.org/wildlife/stop_canned_hunts/


Article:

South African hunting laws need more clarity: animal rights group

http://news.yahoo.com/news?tmpl=story&cid=2627&ncid=
2627&e=30&u=/afp/20060619/sc_afp/safricaenvironmentlaw_
060619133246

Mon Jun 19, 10:30 AM ET

JOHANNESBURG (AFP) - South Africa's proposals to clamp down on "canned hunting", or the killing of captive animals, will be useless unless the laws are clear and properly enforced, an animal welfare group has said.
ADVERTISEMENT

"All the bills and laws in the world will not stop the scourge of captive hunting and the loopholes will be exploited," said Neil Greenwood, spokesman for the southern Africa chapter of the International Fund for Animal Welfare.

Greenwood was speaking as the deadline closed for public comment on government proposals to regulate captive hunting, which brings in some 25 billion rand (four billion dollars, 3.2 billion euros) a year in South Africa, drawing game hunters from Europe and the United States.

He said a major drawback was that the distance from which an animal could be killed or the dimensions of the hunting area were not spelt out.

"No minimum dimensions have been given, which then creates a situation that becomes subjective to interpretation about the specific measurement of the area in which an animal can be hunted and from what distance," he told AFP.

Greenwood also said the proposed laws needed to be implemented effectively.

"It's all very well to make suggestions but we need to know how the government plans to enforce all of this," he said.

The proposals were unveiled by Environmental Affairs Minister Marthinus van Schalkwyk in May to bring in "integrity and best practices."

Citing examples where rhinos had been killed with crossbows or bows and arrows, he had said, adding that hunting should be conducted along "fair chase" principles pitting the hunter's wits against those of the animal.

South Africa has become one of the hunting world's greatest draws, attracting some 9,500 foreign hunters every year, the Professional Hunters' Association of South Africa estimated last year.

Some 9,000 privately owned ranches employ about 70,000 people to cater to foreign hunters who come to hunt animals including Africa's "Big Five" -- lions, leopards, buffalo, elephant and rhino.

Britain Heads Towards Ban of Bearskin Hats Worn By Red-Coated Soldiers Who Guard the Country's Royal Palaces

I’m surprised this has made it this far. This truly has turned into a movement. When you have complacent lawmakers involved you know it has a chance of making it.

Article:

Brit guards' bearskin hats may be banned

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20060620/

ap_on_re_eu/britain_royal_bearskin_1

By KATIE FRETLAND, Associated Press Writer Tue Jun 20, 7:34 PM ET

LONDON - A British lawmaker is gathering support for his call to ban the towering bearskin hats worn for almost 200 years by the red-coated soldiers who guard the country's royal palaces.

The motion, introduced by Labour party lawmaker Chris Mullin in March, declares the hats made from the fur of Canadian black bears "have no military significance and involve unnecessary cruelty."

Conservative lawmaker Ann Widdecombe has now urged her party to support the motion aimed at replacing the bearskins with artificial substitutes.

"Black bears, who are intelligent and curious animals, are slaughtered in Canada so that their skins may be used for ceremonial hats," Widdecombe wrote in a letter to her party colleagues on Thursday.

Widdecombe's letter was obtained by The Associated Press on Tuesday.

So far, 180 of 646 lawmakers in the House of Commons have signed the motion.

On Sunday, about 100 animal rights activists staged a naked demonstration in London to protest against the hats.

The royal guards who wear the foot-tall black bearskin hats, bright red tunics and white gloves are one of the most recognizable symbols of Britian. Tourists flock to Buckingham Palace, the queen's London home, to watch the traditional Changing of the Guard ceremony.

An army spokesman said officials have been searching for an alternative and have tested a false fur that was hot and tended to matte in rainy weather, durable and rich bearskin is preferred.

The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity in line with department policy, said the army also strives to repair instead of replace its 2,500 hats.

"Not a single bear is killed (solely) to make a bearskin hat," the army spokesman said. "Both governments in the United States and Canada have policies to keep the bear population under control."

Canadian black bears are not an endangered species.

The Defense Ministry buys 50 to 100 bearskin pelts a year to outfit its five regiments wearing them. One complete bearskin hat costs $1,197 and can last up to 40 years.

DVD ''Hood Fights, Vol. 2, The Art Of The Pit'', Which Glorifies Pit Bull Fighting Pulled From Shelves of Major Stores

Sadly, Amazon.com Inc., Circuit City Stores Inc. and Best Buy Co. Inc. and Netflix all had it available for sale. It was only after the HSUS got involved did they decide to pull it.

Article:

Dog-fight DVD provokes outcry
Circuit City, Best Buy, Amazon pull 'Hood Fights 2'

http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/
montereyherald/news/state/14867020.htm
By MICHAEL LIEDTKE
Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - A DVD featuring pit bull fights has unleashed protests against the distributor as well as online merchants peddling the video, which may break federal laws against animal cruelty.

Amazon.com Inc., Circuit City Stores Inc. and Best Buy Co. Inc. said they would pull the video, ''Hood Fights, Vol. 2, The Art of The Pit'' from their Web sites.

As of late Tuesday, the DVD was still being sold on online auctioneer eBay Inc.

"Hood Fights 2" contains scenes of men brawling, but the pit bull sequences have provoked the loudest outcry.

The Humane Society of United States asked U.S. Attorney Roger Roper III in Dallas to investigate whether "Hood Fights 2" violates a federal law against interstate or foreign commerce profiting from the depiction of animal cruelty. The DVD was released in April by a Texas-based Web site, streetheatdvd.com

"Hood Fights 2" ''shows a series of staged matches in which trained fighting dogs suffer bloody, debilitating injuries for the apparent amusement of spectators,'' the Humane Society's Ann Chynoweth wrote in a June 13 letter to Roper.

Kathy Colvin, a spokeswoman for Roper, declined to say whether the U.S. attorney had opened an investigation.

Internet records list streetheatdvd.com's owner as 50/50 Entertainment and Glenn Hudson. Efforts to reach Hudson for comment were unsuccessful.

The Humane Society sent letters of protest to Amazon.com, Best Buy, Circuit City and Netflix Inc., which runs the Web's largest rental service.

Los Gatos-based Netflix removed "Hood Fights" from its library during the past week after customer complaints prompted a review of the objectionable content, said company spokesman Steve Swasey.

''We treated it like we would pornography,'' Swasey said. Netflix doesn't rent pornography to its nearly 5 million subscribers.

Until the AP's inquiry, Amazon.com's Web site had indicated it planned to reorder more copies of "Hood Fight 2."

Amazon.com spokeswoman Patty Smith said listings for "Hood Fights 2" were supplied by three distributors.

Circuit City spokesman Jim Babb said the Richmond, Va.-based retailer wasn't aware "Hood Fights 2" contained pit bull fights until the inquiry.

''When you have more than 300,000 items listed (on the Web site), it's hard to monitor everything,'' said Babb, who emphasized Hood Fights was never sold in Circuit City's brick-and-mortar stores.

Minneapolis-based Best Buy decided late Tuesday that it was inappropriate to continue selling "Hood Fights 2."

''We share in the concerns about issues related to violence against animals,'' said company spokesman Jay Musolf.

Ebay spokesman Hani Durzy said the auction site planned to review Hood Fights 2 and will pull the listing if the company believes the video breaks any laws.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Children Who Live or Attend School Near Large-Scale Livestock Farms - Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations - May Be At A Higher Risk for Asthma

Not surprising finding as CAFOs produce huge amounts of pollution as any confined operation would.

Interesting study. Please read on.


Article:

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations Near Schools May Pose Asthma Risk

http://www.newswise.com/p/articles/view/521406/


Newswise — Children who attend school near large-scale livestock farms known as concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) may be at a higher risk for asthma, according to a new study by University of Iowa researchers.

The study, led by Joel Kline, M.D., professor of internal medicine in the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, appears in the June issue of Chest, the peer-reviewed journal of the American College of Chest Physicians.

"Previous research has shown increased rates of asthma among children living in rural areas of Iowa and the United States," said Kline, who also is deputy director of the Environmental Health Sciences Research Center (EHSRC) in the UI College of Public Health, which helped fund the study. "Given that CAFOs release inflammatory substances that can affect the health of workers at these facilities and the air quality of nearby communities, we were interested in whether there was a connection between CAFOs and increased rates of asthma among kids in rural areas."

Researchers surveyed the parents of kindergarten through fifth-grade students attending two Iowa elementary schools to compare the prevalence of asthma among students. The "study" school was located a half-mile from a CAFO in northeast Iowa; the "control" school was in east-central Iowa, more than 10 miles away from any CAFO (generally classified as a livestock facility that houses more than 3,500 animals). Sixty-one participants responded from the study school, and 248 participants responded from the control school.

Study results indicated a significant difference in the prevalence of physician-diagnosed asthma between the two schools: 12 children (19.7 percent) from the study school located near a CAFO and 18 children (7.3 percent) from the control school. The overall rate of physician-diagnosed asthma reported for Iowa is around 6.7 percent, the study authors noted.

Using the broadest definition of asthma (physician diagnosis, asthma-like symptoms or asthma medication use) the prevalence rate was 24.6 percent at the study school, compared to 11.7 percent at the control school.

Although results showed that children in the study school located near a CAFO were more likely to have a parent who smoked, which is a risk factor for asthma, the significance of parental smoking diminished when analyzed with other variables such as pet ownership, age and residence in a rural area or on a farm.

Kline stressed caution in considering the study results showing the difference in asthma diagnoses between the two schools. "Since different physicians were diagnosing asthma among the two groups, it's possible that one group may have been more or less likely to receive an asthma diagnosis for similar symptoms," he said.

What the study suggests, he added, is more research on the health effects of CAFOs.

"This is such a trigger issue in Iowa and other agricultural states, so we need to look at these results with caution," Kline said. "More study is needed on the effect of these environments on the community, not just on workers at these facilities or people who are more directly exposed."

Co-author on the Chest article was Sigurdur Sigurdarson, M.D., at the Research Center for Occupational Health and Working Life at the University of Iceland, who received his training at the UI.

In addition to the EHSRC in the UI College of Public Health, the study was supported by a grant from the National Institutes of Health.

Group Asks That Federal Authorities Investigate the Treatment and Death of 48-Year-Old Asian Elephant – Gita - At the Los Angeles Zoo

This issue is in relation to the female elephant Gita who was found dead at the Los Angeles zoo. It is commonly held now that it was captivity that lead to her death as she was forced to stand on concrete and hard surfaces. Over time, an animal this size will suffer from this type of treatment. Eventfully, her legs gave out and then poisoning occurred due to circulation issues. I’m sure she was in severe pain when it occurred. You can read more about her death here: http://geari.blogspot.com/2006/06/animal-
rights-group-holds-los-angeles.html

Here’s a summation of this issue:

“The female elephant named Gita died Saturday morning. She was found sitting with her back legs tucked under her. She had arthritis and a history of foot problems, including surgery last year to remove portions of a toe from her left front foot.

''They knew her feet were rotting away. They knew she had severe arthritis. And yet they made public statements saying everything was healed, she was cured,'' said Bill Dyer of In Defense of Animals. ''They lied to the mayor, they lied to the City Council.''


Article:

Probe of elephant's death sought

http://www.montereyherald.com/mld/
montereyherald/news/state/14866997.htm

LOS ANGELES (AP) - Federal authorities should investigate the treatment and death of a 48-year-old Asian elephant at the Los Angeles Zoo, animal rights activists said Tuesday.

Representatives from In Defense of Animals called for the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate and said they believe the zoo violated the Animal Welfare Act.

The female elephant named Gita died Saturday morning. She was found sitting with her back legs tucked under her. She had arthritis and a history of foot problems, including surgery last year to remove portions of a toe from her left front foot.

''They knew her feet were rotting away. They knew she had severe arthritis. And yet they made public statements saying everything was healed, she was cured,'' said Bill Dyer of In Defense of Animals. ''They lied to the mayor, they lied to the City Council.''

Zoo officials have not announced the results from a necropsy on the 8,000-pound animal. Pathologists at the California Animal Health & Food Safety Laboratory System in San Bernardino have said results are at least two weeks away.

Zoo officials have maintained that they never mistreated Gita or other elephants at the zoo.

But the group's complaint to the USDA alleges that zoo personnel saw Gita's condition early during the night before her death but left her without care for at least five hours.

A phone message left for the zoo's spokesman Tuesday was not returned.

Zoo officials said the average life span of an Asian elephant in a zoo is 42 years. Activists said they live until 65 or 70 in their natural habitats.

Earlier this year, the City Council approved a $39 million, 3.5-acre exhibit that will house the two surviving elephants, a 45-year-old African female named Ruby and a 21-year-old Asian bull named Billy.

Whole Foods and Safeway Suspend the Selling of Live Lobsters

A good article the brushes on the issue of having live lobsters in a store. I’ve always found it strange to have them living like that. We’ll see if the other chain stores follow.

Article:

Demise of grocery-store lobsters renews animal welfare debate

http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/0619/p02s01-ussc.html

By Patrik Jonsson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor

ATLANTA – Unceremoniously, Whole Foods Markets, the largest natural-foods chain in the world, pulled its lobsters from their tanks last week and boiled them all. For the influential grocer, it was the final lobsterbake.

After an eight-month inquiry, Whole Foods decided that keeping live lobsters in tanks for long periods does not jibe with its stated values promoting the proper care and welfare of food animals.

PAT WELLENBACH/AP/FILE

Ethicists and marketers see the decision as a bold move - one sure to spark more discussion among grocers about the merits and demerits of the lobster tank, which has been the target of a Lobster Liberation campaign by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Safeway, with some 1,700 stores in the US and Canada, last month became the first grocer to drain its tanks and stop selling live lobsters.

To be sure, elimination of the costly tanks - which take up space, require salt water, and need a pumping system to circulate the water - can help the bottom line, marketing experts say. But critics say Whole Foods, which prides itself on providing a shopping "experience" that brings shoppers closer to food producers, has in fact taken a step in the opposite direction with its lobster policy. It's one more sign, they say, that squeamish Americans don't want to think about animals that are the source of their food.

"This is the end of an era, because the lobster is pretty much the last significant animal that [individuals] still have to kill [themselves] before [they] eat it," says Trevor Corson, author of "The Secret Life of Lobsters."

Live lobsters in tanks have long been a draw for stores - part entertainment, part epicurean adventure.

But PETA and others have objected to tank conditions. Wholesalers sometimes keep lobsters in tanks for months before shipping them to grocers and restaurants, in an effort to draw higher prices for the heavy-clawed crustaceans. Grocers have been known to raise water temperatures, so that lobsters will become more active - and more interesting to watch.

In select stores, including several here in Atlanta, Whole Foods experimented with "lobster condos" - stacked pieces of PVC pipe for privacy - in tanks to improve living conditions.

"Over the years, we've had people say, 'You know, you shouldn't have lobsters,' and others say, 'Wow, I love those lobsters, they're so fun to look at,' " says Margaret Wittenberg, vice president of quality control at Whole Foods. "In the end, the chink in the armor was the length of time it was out of its natural environment."

Many in the scientific community say tank living is not torturous for lobsters. One of the simplest beasts in the kingdom, the lobster quickly becomes socialized to crowded conditions, and is accustomed to fluctuating water temperatures, which occur in the wild. Their main sense, smell, soon dulls in holding tanks.

"I have a serious problem with anyone who's ever had a hamburger complaining about lobsters," Mr. Corson says. "The scientists who study lobsters all take them home and eat them."

What's more, Corson says, Whole Foods is failing to capitalize on one of its missions: connecting consumers to producers. Several Maine lobstermen are now printing their websites on lobsters' claw bands, so that buyers can go online and read a bio of the fisherman who caught their dinner. Such an opportunity for fisherman-consumer bonding is now lost by a chain that purports to value that connection, says Corson. "Whatever moral benefit we get from not having to deal with lobsters in our kitchens, we lose a larger awareness of where our food comes from," he says.

Lobsterman John Bear of Orr's Island, Maine, says the real issue is how people react to the lobster they are about to consume. Actress Mary Tyler Moore, on behalf of PETA, crashed a lobsterbake in Maine several years ago "and was run out of town," Mr. Bear says. But her point may resonate with many Americans.

What's more, most Maine lobsters already are sent to Canadian processors, where high-tech, high-pressure steamers cook and flash-freeze the meat. Such "fresh-frozen" product will now be available at Whole Foods.

"You may soon have to come to Maine for a live lobster," says Bear.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Who Belongs In The Zoo? It May Be That Some Animals Just Can't Be Kept Humanely In Captivity

Surprised that Time did this type of article. It does an excellent job of exposing just how unnatural zoos are. For example, as the quote below says, Elephants in Detroit’s harsh winters. Gee, surprisingly, Elephants, from Africa, don’t do well in biting cold. Here are a couple paragraphs to sum up the article below:


“But the reform movement, say critics, didn't go far enough, and those natural-looking habitats are just an illusion created to enhance the visitors' experience. "From the animals' point of view," says Hancocks, "they are not better than they were when they were in cages. It's all done for theatrics."

“One key consideration was Detroit's harsh winters. Although elephants can tolerate cold weather, standing on snow and ice increases the risk of slipping and falling. The only alternative was to have the animals spend most of the winter months indoors, where hard concrete led to foot problems and boredom. Many zoos, like the one in San Diego, have phased out certain species, like the moose, that do better in other climates. "Bringing cold-weather animals into the warm Southern California climate is a bad business decision and a waste of precious resources," says Larry Killmar, the zoo's deputy director of collections.”

Article:

Who Belongs in the Zoo?

IT MAY BE THAT SOME ANIMALS JUST CAN'T BE KEPT HUMANELY IN CAPTI VITY. ZOOS MAY HAVE TO REINVENT THEMSELVES--ONCE AGAIN

http://www.time.com/time/archive/preview/
0,10987,1202920,00.html

By MICHAEL D. LEMONICK

Jun. 19, 2006
Standing alone in a small enclosure, a 21-year-old Asian bull elephant named Billy seems oblivious to the two dozen schoolchildren who press against a chain-link fence to get a closer look. He bobs his massive head up and down and transfers his considerable weight from one side to the other. His trunk unfurls toward the blue plastic cylinder that has been provided for him to play with. Occasionally Billy lumbers over to another part of the yard--his massive gray body, wrinkled skin and billowy, fanlike ears intimidating yet at the same time irresistible. Some of the kids have never been this close to a real, live elephant, and their gasps and laughter convey the consensus: he's cool!

But to animal-rights activists, animal-behavior experts and even some zoo officials, Billy's situation is very uncool. In the wild, elephants roam as much as 30 miles a day, snacking on lush foliage, bathing in water holes and interacting socially with other elephants in groups of up to 20. At the Los Angeles Zoo, Billy has had just under an acre on which to roam. After a $39 million upgrade scheduled for completion in 2009, he will share 3.7 acres (about three football fields) with two companions.

That's generous by today's standards, but critics say it's still too little to give an elephant adequate exercise. Living in such confinement, elephants are prone to arthritis, foot problems and even premature death. Billy's head bobbing, they contend, is typical of elephants in distress and probably results from an inadequate physical environment. "I've come to the conclusion after many years that it is simply not possible for zoos to meet the needs of elephants," asserts David Hancocks, an outspoken zoo consultant and former director of the Woodland Park Zoo in Seattle.

He's not alone. Over the past five years, major zoos across the country--San Francisco, Chicago, Detroit, Philadelphia, the Bronx Zoo in New York City--have quietly made the decision to stop exhibiting elephants altogether, some as soon as they can find homes for the animals and others after the deaths of the ones they have. For zookeepers, it's a continuation of a reform movement that began a generation ago and swept through most major U.S. zoos. The old concrete-and-steel cages that resembled prisons for animals are mostly gone. In fact, the cages themselves are mostly gone. The barriers between people and animals today consist largely of moats and unobtrusive ramparts that give the exhibits the feel of miniature wild habitats.

But the reform movement, say critics, didn't go far enough, and those natural-looking habitats are just an illusion created to enhance the visitors' experience. "From the animals' point of view," says Hancocks, "they are not better than they were when they were in cages. It's all done for theatrics."

Hancocks goes further than most zoo professionals would, but there is growing agreement that zoos are on the verge of yet another wave of transformation. This time the question is whether some animals--not just elephants but also giraffes, bears and others--belong in zoos at all. "On the one hand," says Ron Kagan, executive director of the Detroit Zoological Society, "people want to see the signature animals like elephants, gorillas and giraffes. But we believe that the American public wants us to create facilities for these animals only if we can provide them with a good life." It was that calculus that last year led Kagan to eliminate an elephant exhibit on humane grounds.

One key consideration was Detroit's harsh winters. Although elephants can tolerate cold weather, standing on snow and ice increases the risk of slipping and falling. The only alternative was to have the animals spend most of the winter months indoors, where hard concrete led to foot problems and boredom. Many zoos, like the one in San Diego, have phased out certain species, like the moose, that do better in other climates. "Bringing cold-weather animals into the warm Southern California climate is a bad business decision and a waste of precious resources," says Larry Killmar, the zoo's deputy director of collections.

That's part of a national trend. Zoo directors routinely phase out species that don't thrive in the local environment. The ultimate example: the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, outside Tucson, which houses 300 animal species and 1,200 kinds of plants on 21 acres of desert. Unlike conventional zoos, the museum doesn't even try to take on species that are not native to the area because its mission is not to give visitors a snapshot of wildlife everywhere but to give the full story of a single ecology. "It has a completely different mind-set than most zoos," says Hancocks.

The largest zoos can't really afford to adopt that approach. The San Diego Zoo, for example, draws some 3 million visitors a year and like many big city zoos is a major contributor to the local economy. Zoo officials consider it part of their mission to inspire visitors to care about wildlife and the habitats that nurture it. "We're trying to engage people emotionally," says Andy Baker, senior vice president for animal programs at the Philadelphia Zoo, the nation's oldest. "It's much less about natural history and life cycle these days and more about empathy."

That being the case, Philadelphia, like most major zoos, is not about to transform itself into a place that shows only native fauna--black bears, raccoons, wild turkeys and chipmunks, say. Indeed, the institution has just opened up Big Cat Falls, a flashy exhibition showcasing lions, pumas, jaguars, leopards and tigers. Although the exhibit has drawn fire from animal activists, many experts believe that those animals can do fine in captivity, since even in the wild they spend much of their time sitting around digesting their last meal. Hancocks, for one, thinks gorillas and other primates can reasonably be kept in zoos. "If you can give them an intellectual environment," he says, "so they are using their minds and manipulating their fingers, they can be satisfied."

Bears, however, are a different story. Many experts believe they don't belong in zoos at all. They're too curious and exploratory to be satisfied by an artificial environment. But it's not clear what you do with a bear that's already in captivity. Animal-rights activists have long complained about the highly ritualized, seemingly neurotic behavior of Gus, the polar bear in New York City's Central Park Zoo. "Though Gus is perfectly healthy, people tell us to send him back," says Alison Powers, communications director of the Wildlife Conservation Society, Central Park's parent institution. "But Gus wasn't ripped out of the Arctic. He came from Ohio. He wouldn't stand a chance in the wild."

Many animal-behavior experts also oppose zoo confinement for giraffes, gazelles and other animals designed by evolution to run freely across miles of savannah. "What you see in zoos is just completely unnatural," says Marc Bekoff, an animal behaviorist at the University of Colorado. But most of all, Bekoff and his colleagues oppose the constraints imposed on elephants. "The only place I have seen truly happy elephants in captivity," says Hancocks, "is in the two elephant sanctuaries in the U.S. [in Tennessee and California]. Once you've seen how wonderful their lives are there, you realize whatever zoos do is doomed to be inadequate."

Hancocks' solution? A few national zoos in appropriate climates that tourists from all over the country can visit. "There are two Disney parks," he says. "That's enough for America's children. Similarly, two really good spots for elephants in the country would be sufficient."

A model for what such a spot might look like--and one that animal-behavior experts routinely cite with approval--is the zoo in Oakland, Calif., where four elephants live on 6 acres. "Our philosophy is to just let the elephants be elephants as much as possible," says executive director Joel Parrott. "That means giving them space, not dominating them, and working with them in ways that do not use physical discipline." The animals spend their days socializing, taking dust baths, swimming, eating and wallowing in the mud.

Like Parrott, Baker does not buy the idea that elephants can't be housed humanely--only that his facility doesn't have the money to do so. "I think there's still a huge amount we don't know about what animals need and want," he says. "Could we reach the point someday where we as a community say, We don't think this is a good species to keep in a zoo environment?" That option is always open. But given the pleasure zoos provide--especially for those kids pressed up against the chain-link fence--it's not one to be taken lightly.

—With reporting by Reported by Jeanne McDowell/ Los Angeles, David Bjerklie/ New York

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