Thursday, June 24, 2010

Source of Lion Meat for Lion Burger Served by Cameron Selogie at Restaurant Il Vinaio in Mesa, Arizona: From Man Guilty of Selling Illegal Tiger Meat

Truth of Horrifying Source of Lion Meat for Lion Burger Served by Cameron Selogie at His Restaurant “Il Vinaio” in Mesa, Arizona: From Man Guilty of Selling Illegal Tiger & Leopard Meat

First, thank you to the authors for doing their research. We all deserve the truth.

I’ll cut to the chase on this one. I’ve pasted in paragraphs from the article below that sums up the horrifying reality of this situation: that Cameron Selogie, owner of the Restaurant Il Vinaio in Mesa, Arizona purchased Lion meat whose original source was from Richard Czimer of Czimer's Game & Sea Foods, a man convicted of selling meat from federally protected tigers and leopards. He did six months of time.

All I can say is read on and, if you’re in Arizona, then it’s obvious to NEVER patronize Il Vinaio in Mesa, Arizona. I’ll let you let them know yourself, as I’m sure you can find his number.

Here are the key excerpts from the story below:

“So where's this supposed African lion farm in Illinois? Well, here's one clue: When the meat arrived at Il Vinaio on Tuesday evening, Selogie said it came in packaging with the name "Czimer's Game & Sea Foods." Czimer isn't a free-range farm. It's a butcher shop located just outside of Chicago in Homer Glen, Ill.”

“Czimer's proprietor, Richard Czimer, sells an array of wild game, like not-uncommon pheasants, quail, ducks, venison, buffalo, but also camel, llama, and yes, lion. And Czimer told CNNMoney.com that he gets that lion from another man, who he wouldn't name, who runs a "skinning operation":
"This man buys and sells animals for the skin, and when I need something and he has ability to get it, I will bargain for the meat. It's a byproduct," he said.”

“Czimer's exotic-meat dealings have landed him in hot water before. Back in 2003, Chicago newspapers covered his conviction and six-month prison sentence for selling meat from federally protected tigers and leopards. Czimer admitted to purchasing the carcasses of 16 tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger -- a tiger-lion hybrid -- which were skinned, butchered and sold as "lion meat," for a profit of more than $38,000.”

Article:

Lion Burger Served For World Cup: Purveyor Has Done Time For Tiger & Leopard Meat

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/06/23/lion-burger-world-cup-spe_n_623581.html

The internet has been bubbling all day long on word of a restaurant in Mesa, Arizona serving a World Cup-inspired Lion Burger. The tale was first brought to use by the British tabloids, of all places (here are the Telegraph, the Sun, and the Daily Telegraph, which probably had the first "roar" pun of the day with "Lion burgers hit roar nerve").

The story is this:

During one of the restaurant's Wine-Pairing dinners, where they serve wine with other uncommon meats such as wild boar, customers heard about the availability of lion meat and seemed interested in trying it. [Owner Cameron] Selogie was inspired by the FIFA World Cup's location and decided to serve the meat to coincide with the games.


The restaurant advertised their decision through their e-mail newsletter club to keep the attention to a minimum, but one member and animal activist, Susan Cooper, spread the word. -- azcentral.com

Since then, Selogie has been bombarded by emails and phone calls, and even an alleged bomb threat, from animal rights activists and other upset citizens, to which Selogie has responded:

"In Africa they do eat lions, so I assume if it's OK for Africans to eat lions then it should be OK for us." Mr Selogie added: "We thought that since the World Cup was in Africa that the lion burger might be interesting for some of our more adventurous customers." The meat is from a lion that was raised at a free range farm in Illinois, which is regulated by the US Department of Agriculture.

USDA spokesman Jim Brownlee confirmed that while lion is served infrequently, "he knew of no prohibitions against it."

But CNNMoney.com dug into Selogie's Illinois-sourced lion meat, and stumbled on what they called, "the mysterious world of back-alley exotic meat purveyance." They write:

Selogie said he bought the meat through a Phoenix distributor, Gourmet Imports-Wild Game -- a one-man operation owned by Rick Worrilow. Selogie says he did his research, and was told that the meat came from a free-range farm in Illinois that is regulated by the United States Department of Agriculture.


Meanwhile, Worrilow, who essentially serves as a middleman between farms, meat processors and restaurants, also said the meat came from a completely legal plant in Illinois. And even though he didn't know the name of that plant, Worrilow said he was confident that the meat was inspected by federal regulators.
Story continues below

So where's this supposed African lion farm in Illinois? Well, here's one clue: When the meat arrived at Il Vinaio on Tuesday evening, Selogie said it came in packaging with the name "Czimer's Game & Sea Foods." Czimer isn't a free-range farm. It's a butcher shop located just outside of Chicago in Homer Glen, Ill.

Czimer's proprietor, Richard Czimer, sells an array of wild game, like not-uncommon pheasants, quail, ducks, venison, buffalo, but also camel, llama, and yes, lion. And Czimer told CNNMoney.com that he gets that lion from another man, who he wouldn't name, who runs a "skinning operation":

"This man buys and sells animals for the skin, and when I need something and he has ability to get it, I will bargain for the meat. It's a byproduct," he said.


And where does that mystery man get the lions? "I wouldn't have any idea," said Czimer, who operates a small retail store in addition to his wholesale business. "He has his sources, and I do not infringe on his business, just as he does not infringe on mine." (emphasis added)

And just when you think it can't get any worse, it does:

Czimer's exotic-meat dealings have landed him in hot water before. Back in 2003, Chicago newspapers covered his conviction and six-month prison sentence for selling meat from federally protected tigers and leopards. Czimer admitted to purchasing the carcasses of 16 tigers, four lions, two mountain lions and one liger -- a tiger-lion hybrid -- which were skinned, butchered and sold as "lion meat," for a profit of more than $38,000. (emphasis added)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Incredible Article Asks “Why?” in Relation to Animal Abuse: A Look at Physiological / Genetic, Psychological and Societal or Family / Social Issues

This is an absolutely incredible article that attempts to asks “why?” in relation to animal abuse. It touches on physiological, psychological and societal or family / social issues. What is clear (no matter the physiological / genetic issues) is that abuse to non-human animals and abuse toward kids or humans in general is almost ALWAYS linked. So, if animal abuse is occurring, then it’s highly likely that if there are any kids in the house, that they are being abused too.

I’ve pasted in a few paragraphs that I thought were compelling from the full article below. This gives you a sense of what the article proves and discusses.

“A lot of the work I do involves not just talking to vets but reaching out to law enforcement to make them more knowledgeable on these matters, to make them understand, for example, that things like sexual assault of children and animals are linked. They are similar victims.”

“They asked me to perform a necropsy,” Merck told me. “It turns out the dog was paralyzed from having been beaten so often. I reported what I found. Police went to the woman’s house to make an arrest. They found a badly bruised boy. And just like that both parents are being hauled off for child abuse. So there was a classic case of the system working like it should.”

“Along with possible early abuse or genetic and biological components, Lockwood also spoke of the frequent association between environment and acts of violence, how poverty often creates the sense of persecution and injustice that makes some people feel justified in striking back in order to gain the sense of power and control they otherwise lack.”

Article:

The Animal-Cruelty Syndrome

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/13/magazine/13dogfighting-t.html?ref=magazine&pagewanted=all

By CHARLES SIEBERT

Published: June 7, 2010

On a late May afternoon last year in southwest Baltimore, a 2-year-old female pit bull terrier was doused in gasoline and set alight. A young city policewoman on her regular patrol of the neighborhood of boarded-up row houses and redbrick housing developments turned her squad car onto the 1600 block of Presbury Street and saw a cloud of black smoke rising from the burning dog. She hopped out, ran past idle onlookers and managed to put out the flames with her sweater. The dog, subsequently named Phoenix, survived for four days with burns over 95 percent of her body, but soon began to succumb to kidney failure and had to be euthanized.

It was only a matter of hours before the story, made vivid by harrowing video footage of the wounded dog, was disseminated nationwide in newspapers, TV and radio newscasts and countless Web sites. An initial $1,000 reward for the capture of the culprits would soon climb to $26,000 as people around the country followed Phoenix’s struggle for life. A gathering of people in Venice Beach, Calif., held a candlelight vigil for her. A month later, the mayor of Baltimore, Sheila Dixon, announced the creation of the Anti-Animal-Abuse Task Force to work in concert with city officials, local law enforcement and animal rights and animal-control groups to find ways to better prevent, investigate and prosecute such crimes.

The scale, speed and intensity of the response were striking. The subject of animal abuse, especially the abuse of pit bulls in dog-fighting activities, has achieved a higher profile after the 2007 arrest of the N.F.L. star Michael Vick for operating an illegal interstate dog-fighting operation in Surry County, Va. But the beleaguered pit bull is merely the most publicized victim of a phenomenon that a growing number of professionals — including police officers, prosecutors, psychologists, social workers, animal-control officers, veterinarians and dogcatchers — are now addressing with a newfound vigor: wanton cruelty toward animals. Before 1990, only six states had felony provisions in their animal-­cruelty laws; now 46 do. Two years ago, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals formed the nation’s first Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation Unit, a rolling veterinary hospital and forensic lab that travels around the country helping traditional law-enforcement agencies follow the evidentiary trails of wounded or dead animals back to their abusers.

In addition to a growing sensitivity to the rights of animals, another significant reason for the increased attention to animal cruelty is a mounting body of evidence about the link between such acts and serious crimes of more narrowly human concern, including illegal firearms possession, drug trafficking, gambling, spousal and child abuse, rape and homicide. In the world of law enforcement — and in the larger world that our laws were designed to shape — animal-cruelty issues were long considered a peripheral concern and the province of local A.S.P.C.A. and Humane Society organizations; offenses as removed and distinct from the work of enforcing the human penal code as we humans have deemed ourselves to be from animals. But that illusory distinction is rapidly fading.

“With traditional law enforcement,” Sgt. David Hunt, a dog-fighting expert with the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office in Columbus, Ohio, told me, “the attitude has been that we have enough stuff on our plate, let the others worry about Fluffy and Muffy. But I’m starting to see a shift in that mentality now.” Hunt has traveled to 24 states around the country in order to teach law-enforcement personnel about the dog-fighting underworld, often stressing the link between activities like dog fighting and domestic violence. “You have to sell it to them in such a way that it’s not a Fluffy-Muffy issue,” he said of teaching police officers about animal-abuse issues. “It’s part of a larger nexus of crimes and the psyche behind them.”

The connection between animal abuse and other criminal behaviors was recognized, of course, long before the evolution of the social sciences and institutions with which we now address such behaviors. In his famous series of 1751 engravings, “The Four Stages of Cruelty,” William Hogarth traced the life path of the fictional Tom Nero: Stage 1 depicts Tom as a boy, torturing a dog; Stage 4 shows Tom’s body, fresh from the gallows where he was hanged for murder, being dissected in an anatomical theater. And animal cruelty has long been recognized as a signature pathology of the most serious violent offenders. As a boy, Jeffrey Dahmer impaled the heads of cats and dogs on sticks; Theodore Bundy, implicated in the murders of some three dozen people, told of watching his grandfather torture animals; David Berkowitz, the “Son of Sam,” poisoned his mother’s parakeet.

But the intuitions that informed the narrative arc of Tom Nero are now being borne out by empirical research. A paper published in a psychiatry journal in 2004, “A Study of Firesetting and Animal Cruelty in Children: Family Influences and Adolescent Outcomes,” found that over a 10-year period, 6-to-12-year-old children who were described as being cruel to animals were more than twice as likely as other children in the study to be reported to juvenile authorities for a violent offense. In an October 2005 paper published in Journal of Community Health, a team of researchers conducting a study over seven years in 11 metropolitan areas determined that pet abuse was one of five factors that predicted who would begin other abusive behaviors. In a 1995 study, nearly a third of pet-owning victims of domestic abuse, meanwhile, reported that one or more of their children had killed or harmed a pet.

The link between animal abuse and interpersonal violence is becoming so well established that many U.S. communities now cross-train social-service and animal-control agencies in how to recognize signs of animal abuse as possible indicators of other abusive behaviors. In Illinois and several other states, new laws mandate that veterinarians notify the police if their suspicions are aroused by the condition of the animals they treat. The state of California recently added Humane Society and animal-control officers to the list of professionals bound by law to report suspected child abuse and is now considering a bill in the State Legislature that would list animal abusers on the same type of online registry as sex offenders and arsonists.

When I spoke recently with Stacy Wolf, vice president and chief legal counsel of the A.S.P.C.A.’s Humane Law Enforcement department, which focuses on the criminal investigation of animal-cruelty cases in New York City, she drew a comparison between the emerging mindfulness about animal cruelty and the changing attitudes toward domestic abuse in the 1980s. “It really has only been in recent years that there’s been more free and accurate reporting with respect to animal cruelty, just like 30 years ago domestic violence was not something that was commonly reported,” she said. “Clearly every act of violence committed against an animal is not a sign that somebody is going to hurt a person. But when there’s a pattern of abusive behavior in a family scenario, then everyone from animal-control to family advocates to the court system needs to consider all vulnerable victims, including animals, and understand that violence is violence.”

It isn’t clear whether Phoenix was used for dog fighting. Subsequent examinations of her body did find — along with evidence that gasoline had been poured down her throat — a number of bite wounds. Veterinarians, however, said that those could have been self-inflicted in the course of Phoenix’s frenzied attempts to fight off the flames. But prosecutors also later claimed that Phoenix’s accused assailants, 17-year-old twin brothers named Tremayne and Travers Johnson, of a nearby block of Pulaski Street, were using a vacant neighborhood home for the keeping of pit bulls and other ganglike activities.

The Johnson twins have pleaded not guilty. According to court documents, both suspects, said to be members of the 1600 Boys gang, were identified by a witness as running out of the alley where the dog was set alight. “There was some gang-style graffiti found in that abandoned building,” Randall Lockwood, the A.S.P.C.A.’s senior vice president for forensic sciences and anticruelty projects, and a member of the new Anti-Animal-Abuse Task Force in Baltimore, told me at the A.S.P.C.A.’s Midtown Manhattan offices in December. “There was also dog feces on the premises. Unfortunately, nobody bothered collecting the feces to see if it was from Phoenix.”

Along with the need to track the physical evidence of animal cruelty there is the deeper and more complex challenge of trying to parse its underlying causes and ultimate ramifications. As a graduate student in psychology, Lockwood had an interest in human-animal interactions and the role of animals and education in the development of empathy in children. This inevitably led him to consider the flip side of the equation: the origins of cruelty to animals and what such behavior might indicate about an individual’s capacity for empathy and his or her possible future behavior.

Back in the early 1980s, Lockwood was asked to work on behalf of New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services with a team of investigators looking into the treatment of animals in middle-class American households that had been identified as having issues of child abuse. They interviewed all the members of each family as well as the social workers who were assigned to them. The researchers’ expectation going in was that such families would have relatively few pets given their unstable and volatile environments. They found, however, not only that these families owned far more pets than other households in the same community but also that few of the animals were older than 2.

“There was a very high turnover of pets in these families,” Lockwood told me. “Pets dying or being discarded or running away. We discovered that in homes where there was domestic violence or physical abuse of children, the incidence of animal cruelty was close to 90 percent. The most common pattern was that the abusive parent had used animal cruelty as a way of controlling the behaviors of others in the home. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what links things like animal cruelty and child abuse and domestic violence. And one of the things is the need for power and control. Animal abuse is basically a power-and-control crime.”

The dynamic of animal abuse in the context of domestic violence is a particularly insidious one. As a pet becomes an increasingly vital member of the family, the threat of violence to that pet becomes a strikingly powerful intimidating force for the abuser: an effective way for a petty potentate to keep the subjects of his perceived realm in his thrall. In 2005, Lockwood wrote a paper, “Cruelty Toward Cats: Changing Perspectives,” which underscores this dynamic of animal cruelty as a means to overcome powerlessness and gain control over others. Cats, Lockwood found, are more commonly victims of abuse than dogs because dogs are, by their very nature, more obedient and eager to please, whereas cats are nearly impossible to control. “You can get a dog to obey you even if you’re not particularly nice to it,” Lockwood told me. “With a cat you can be very nice, and it’s probably going to ignore you, and if you’re mean to it, it may retaliate.”

Whatever the particular intimidation tactics used, their effectiveness is indisputable. In an often-cited 1997 survey of 48 of the largest shelters in the United States for victims of domestic violence and child abuse, more than 85 percent of the shelters said that women who came in reported incidents of animal abuse; 63 percent of the shelters said that children who came in reported the same. In a separate study, a quarter of battered women reported that they had delayed leaving abusive relationships for the shelter out of fear for the well-being of the family pet. In response, a number of shelters across the country have developed “safe haven” programs that offer refuges for abused pets as well as people, in order that both can be freed from the cycle of intimidation and violence.

What cannot be so easily monitored or ameliorated, however, is the corrosive effect that witnessing such acts has on children and their development. More than 70 percent of U.S. households with young children have pets. In a study from the 1980s, 7-to-10-year-old children named on average two pets when listing the 10 most important individuals in their lives. When asked to “whom do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret,” nearly half of 5-year-old children in another study mentioned their pets. One way to think of what animal abuse does to a child might simply be to consider all the positive associations and life lessons that come from a child’s closeness to a pet — right down to eventually receiving their first and perhaps most gentle experiences of death as a natural part of life — and then flipping them so that all those lessons and associations turn negative.

In a 2000 article for AV Magazine, a publication of the American Anti-Vivisection Society, titled, “Wounded Hearts: Animal Abuse and Child Abuse,” Lockwood recounts an interview he conducted for the New Jersey Division of Youth and Family Services in the early 1980s. He describes showing to “a perky 7-year-old boy” a simple drawing of a boy and a dog, playing ball inside a house and a broken lamp on the floor beside them. Lockwood asked the 7-year-old — a child who had witnessed his brother being beaten by their father, who was “reportedly responsible for the ‘disappearance’ of several family pets” — to describe what would happen next in the story of the boy in the picture. “He grew still and sullen,” Lockwood writes, “and shook his head slowly. ‘That’s it,’ he said in a matter-of-fact tone, ‘They’re all going to die.’ ”

Children who have witnessed such abuse or been victimized themselves frequently engage in what are known as “abuse reactive” behaviors, Lockwood said, re-enacting what has been done to them either with younger siblings or with pets. Such children are also often driven to suppress their own feelings of kindness and tenderness toward a pet because they can’t bear the pain caused by their own empathy for the abused animal. In an even further perversion of an individual’s healthy empathic development, children who witness the family pet being abused have been known to kill the pet themselves in order to at least have some control over what they see as the animal’s inevitable fate. Those caught in such a vicious abuse-reactive cycle will not only continue to expose the animals they love to suffering merely to prove that they themselves can no longer be hurt, but they are also given to testing the boundaries of their own desensitization through various acts of self-mutilation. In short, such children can only achieve a sense of safety and empowerment by inflicting pain and suffering on themselves and others.

In March I paid a visit to the newly established Veterinary Forensics Medicine Sciences program at the University of Florida, Gainesville. Directed by Melinda Merck, a veterinarian who serves as the A.S.P.C.A.’s senior director of veterinary forensics and as the “captain” of its new mobile C.S.I. unit, the program is the first of its kind at a major U.S. university. As animal abuse has become an increasingly recognized fixture in the context of other crimes and their prosecution, it is also starting to require the same kinds of sophisticated investigative techniques brought to bear on those other crimes.

Veterinary forensic students at the University of Florida are being trained in the same way that traditional crime-scene investigators are, taking courses in a wide range of topics: crime-scene processing; forensic entomology (determining the time of an animal’s injury or death by the types of insects around them); bloodstain-pattern and bite-mark analysis; buried-remains excavation; and forensic osteology (the study of bones and bone fragments).

“I love being around bones,” Merck proclaimed as she led me into the university’s C. A. Pound Human Identification Laboratory, a sprawling, brashly lighted array of human skeletal remains arranged in meticulous piecemeal patterns on rows of shiny metal tables. “I find bones fascinating. There is a lot of information in them.” Merck, who testifies at animal-cruelty trials across the country, conducted the forensic osteology on the dog remains recovered from the mass graves on Michael Vick’s Virginia property in 2007.

The lab is one of the busiest of its kind in the world, enlisted for countless crime-scene investigations and archaeological digs and to help identify the victims of disasters, including those of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Hurricane Katrina. The fact that one of the examining tables and adjacent bone-boiling and cleansing units have now been assigned to Merck for her own animal-forensic work and course instruction speaks volumes about the shifting perspective toward animal-cruelty crimes. “We have a really cool thing going on here,” Merck told me. “We have the collaborative effort of a lot of big-wig forensic specialists down here with years of experience.”

She led me over to her examining table. Set at one end was what she called “my box of evidence,” a picnic-cooler-size plastic container that held the excavated remains from a mass grave, part of an investigation she is conducting into a suspected dog-fighting operation in Georgia. “In most of our cases of animal cruelty, the bodies are not fresh,” she said. “They’re decomposed. They’re discarded. They’re hidden. And so the advanced post-mortem stage is where we really need to be experts.”

Merck’s 2006 book, “Forensic Investigation of Animal Cruelty: A Guide for Veterinary and Law Enforcement Professionals,” which she wrote with Randall Lockwood and Leslie Sinclair of Shelter Veterinary Services in Columbia, Md., contains a daunting list of the grisly things human beings do to animals: thermal injuries (immolation, baking, microwaving); blunt-force trauma; sharp-force and projectile injuries; asphyxiation; drowning; poisoning; ritual murders; and sexual assault. Merck spared no details in discussing such horrors over the course of a veterinary-forensics lecture I attended earlier that day, held in a conference room at a hotel near the university as part of a four-day seminar. Even Merck’s seasoned audience of out-of-town vets, A.S.P.C.A. disaster-response and investigative-team workers, community-outreach personnel and the chief legal counsel for New York City’s Humane Law Enforcement department could be heard gasping into their coffee mugs as Merck annotated, one after the next, screen-projected slides of stark brutality: blood-drenched dog-fighting pits; bludgeoned, internally hemorrhaging pets; bruised and mutilated canine sexual organs; a heavily duct-taped, paint-coated puppy and the fur-lined, nail-scraped oven walls from which the puppy struggled vainly to escape.

Those whose compassion compels them to confront and combat daily its utter absence are, of necessity, often forced to affect a passionless pose. Merck proceeded through her seminar with clinical speed and precision through a series of signature forensic cases. One of the first pivoted around the mystery of a missing Pomeranian whose owners were convinced had been stolen from their backyard. Merck called up the slide of a tiny skeleton she had rendered in her corner of the lab from remains found in a vacant lot not far from the Pomeranian owners’ home. It looked like a wingless bat, the delicate brace of ribs bearing tiny symmetrical snaps on each side.

“What could have caused these,” Merck asked, pointing her red laser at the breaks. “What could make a dog disappear so fast?”

“Man!” someone called out to bursts of laughter.

“What else,” Merck said, smiling.

“A bird of prey!”

“Yep,” Merck nodded. “Most likely a hawk. These two breaks are where the bird’s talons grabbed hold of the dog. This is why forensic osteology is so important, and yet there’s nothing in our standard veterinary training that teaches us how to look at bones properly.”

Merck soon proceeded to the case of the puppy found four years ago in the oven of a ransacked community center in Atlanta. An outraged local prosecutor called Merck about the case and then showed up at her vet clinic one day with the dog’s remains. “She brings me the puppy, and this . . . ,” Merck said, the slide behind her now sapping the room’s air, “is what she brings me.”

Step by step, from the outer paint to the unraveled layers of duct tape to the dog’s abraded nails and paws to the hem of an old T-shirt that was used as a leash, Merck’s detailed forensic analysis of the victim and of the crime scene would be used to assemble a timeline of events. Ultimately, her analysis would help seal the conviction of two teenage brothers on multiple charges, including burglary, animal cruelty and — because the brothers had shown a number of children at the community center what they had done and then threatened them with their lives if they told anyone — additional charges of child abuse and terroristic threats.

The most common dynamic behind the cases cited that morning was that of a man abusing a family pet to gain control over, or exact revenge against, other family members. Merck told of one puppy found buried in the backyard of a house. As Merck tells it, the dog belonged to the female friend of a woman who had recently left the man with whom she and her two children from a previous marriage were living. She and her children had moved in with the friend, someone who the man decided was keeping him and his estranged partner from reuniting. The girlfriend’s pet, therefore, became for him the optimum vehicle for expressing his rage against both women.

“He tortured the puppy when the two women weren’t home,” Merck told me after her lecture that day. “He also tried to make two of the kids participate just to make it more heinous. So along with the animal cruelty, of course, we had child abuse.”

Merck has made it her mission to urge other vets to report and investigate suspected cases of animal abuse, incorporating a few cautionary tales of her own into her lectures to point up the often dire consequences of failing to do so. One involved a man from Hillsborough County in Florida who was arrested for murdering his girlfriend, her daughter and son and their German shepherd. He had previously been arrested (but not convicted) for killing cats. In another story Merck tells, one related to her by a New York City prosecutor, a woman reported coming home to find her boyfriend sexually molesting her Labrador retriever, but the case never went to trial.

“My point on that one,” Merck told me, “is that no one took precautions to preserve the evidence on the dog. And once it comes down to a he-said-she-said type of situation, you’re lost. These types of cases are difficult enough even when we have all the evidence, in part because it’s very hard for investigators and prosecutors to even consider that someone would do things like this. It’s so disturbing and offensive, they don’t know what to do about it. A lot of the work I do involves not just talking to vets but reaching out to law enforcement to make them more knowledgeable on these matters, to make them understand, for example, that things like sexual assault of children and animals are linked. They are similar victims.”

On our way back to the hotel for an afternoon lecture on forensic entomology, Merck made a little detour to show me the A.S.P.C.A.’s new mobile C.S.I. unit, parked in a side lot of the vet school’s farm-animal compound. Twenty-six-feet long, with its own climate-control, generator, examination room and surgical suite, digital microscope, X-ray machine, sexual-assault kit and anesthesia-oxygen machine, it is essentially a giant emergency room on wheels, allowing Merck and her crew to examine and care for animals at suspected crime scenes and to efficiently analyze and process evidence to ensure its integrity.

The van was an important part of the largest dog-fighting raid in American history last year, in which more than 400 dogs were rescued and 26 people from six states arrested. “We had two forensic teams on board for that,” Merck said. “We had to hit 25 different crime scenes in one day. We hit the first one at 7 a.m., and we finished up at around 6 a.m. the following morning.”

When I asked Merck if she thought incidents of animal cruelty were on the rise or if it was that we are now being more vigilant about them, she said that it is probably more the latter. “We’re more aware now,” she said, “but there is also more of a support system for responding to these incidents. When I started out as a vet 20 years ago, I was one of the few who would call if I got a suspicious case, and that was when such things were still a misdemeanor and it wasn’t law enforcement involved. It was animal control taking care of nuisance animals. Now with veterinarians I tell them you cannot not report, because you don’t know if what you’re seeing on the animal isn’t the proverbial tip of the iceberg.”

Merck then recalled for me a personal experience she most likes to relate in classes and seminars, what she’s dubbed “the tale of the good Samaritan and the savvy vet.” An Atlanta contractor pulled up to a house one morning where he was to perform some work. As he got out of his truck, he heard a dog screaming from the house next door, went over to investigate and saw through an open garage door a dog dragging its back legs and a woman standing beside it. The woman instantly began pleading to the contractor that the dog needed to be euthanized, but she said she couldn’t afford the vet bills. The contractor offered to take the dog to his vet, who, upon examining the dog, agreed that it was too debilitated to be saved. He then told the contractor that there was something suspicious about the case and that he was going to report it to animal services for whom Merck worked at the time as a consultant outside of her daily vet practice.

“They asked me to perform a necropsy,” Merck told me. “It turns out the dog was paralyzed from having been beaten so often. I reported what I found. Police went to the woman’s house to make an arrest. They found a badly bruised boy. And just like that both parents are being hauled off for child abuse. So there was a classic case of the system working like it should.”

Last November, Lockwoodwas asked to testify at the pretrial hearing in which a judge ruled that Tremayne and Travers Johnson would be tried as adults for the burning of Phoenix in Baltimore last year. Lockwood looked at dozens of pictures of Phoenix in order to select which images to present to A.S.P.C.A. staff members. “I could only find one that wasn’t overwhelmingly disturbing,” he told me. “It’s where she’s so bundled up in gauze and bandages you can’t really see anything. It’s easy to empathize with burns because we’ve all been burned, and even if it’s only minor, you realize how painful that is.”

The matter of empathy, of course, goes to the heart of most of our inquiries into the nature of cruel acts and their possible causes. There seems to be little doubt anymore about the notion that a person’s capacity for empathy can be eroded; that someone can have, as Lockwood put it to me, “their empathy beaten or starved out of them.” To date, little is known about the Johnson twins’ background beyond the fact that they both reportedly have chronic truancy issues and previous probation violations and were recently involved with a gang. Along with possible early abuse or genetic and biological components, Lockwood also spoke of the frequent association between environment and acts of violence, how poverty often creates the sense of persecution and injustice that makes some people feel justified in striking back in order to gain the sense of power and control they otherwise lack.

“What I have the most trouble relating to,” Lockwood told me, “and the Phoenix kids might be indicative of this sort of thing, is the kind of cruelty that happens just out of boredom. I’ve had quite a few cases where I ask a kid, Why did you blow up that frog or set fire to that cat? and they don’t respond with answers like ‘I hate cats’ or ‘I didn’t see that as a living thing.’ Their answer is ‘We were bored.’ And then you have to ask yourself, Well, what about alternative pathways to alleviating this boredom? I have difficulty grasping what would be the payoff for setting fire to a dog.”

Neuroscientists are now beginning to get a fix on the physical underpinnings of empathy. A research team at the University of Chicago headed by Jean Decety, a neuroscientist who specializes in the mechanisms behind empathy and emotional self-regulation, has performed fMRI scans on 16-to-18-year-old boys with aggressive-conduct disorder and on another group of similarly aged boys who exhibited no unusual signs of aggression.

Each group was shown videos of people enduring both accidental pain, like stubbing a toe, and intentionally inflicted pain, like being punched in the arm. In the scans, both groups displayed a similar activation of their empathic neural circuitry, and in some cases, the boys with conduct disorder exhibited considerably more activity than those in the control group. But what really caught the attention of the researchers was the fact that when viewing the videos of intentionally inflicted pain, the aggressive-disorder teenagers displayed extremely heightened activity in the part of our brain known as the reward center, which is activated when we feel sensations of pleasure. They also displayed, unlike the control group, no activity at all in those neuronal regions involved in moral reasoning and self-regulation.

“We’re really just beginning to have an inkling of the neurophysiology of empathy,” Lockwood told me. “I think empathy is essentially innate, but I also think empathy can be learned, and I know it can be destroyed. That’s why having a better understanding of the neurophysiology will really help us. Just doing a social intervention on a person doesn’t do any good if you’re not aware of certain physiological deficits. As I heard someone put it at a recent lecture I attended, that would be like an orthopedist telling someone with a broken arm to lift weights. It won’t do anything until the arm is set, and it actually might make things worse. I try to understand who the kids are who seem beyond reach, who seem to have truly impaired systems of empathy. And then I ask, Can that be restored?”

It turns out that just as recent brain-imaging studies have begun to reveal the physical evidence of empathy’s erosion, they are now also beginning to show definitive signs of its cultivation as well. A group of researchers led by Richard Davidson, a professor of psychiatry and psychology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison, published a study in a March 2008 edition of the Public Library of Science One, showing that the mere act of thinking compassionate thoughts caused significant activity and physical changes in the brain’s empathic pathways. “People are not just stuck at their respective set points,” Davidson has said of the study’s results. “We can take advantage of our brain’s plasticity and train it to enhance these qualities. . . . I think this can be one of the tools we use to teach emotional regulation to kids who are at an age where they’re vulnerable to going seriously off track.”

To date, one of the most promising methods for healing those whose empathic pathways have been stunted by things like repeated exposure to animal cruelty is, poetically enough, having such victims work with animals. Kids who tend to be completely unresponsive to human counselors and who generally shun physical and emotional closeness with people often find themselves talking openly to, often crying in front of, a horse — a creature that can often be just as strong-willed and unpredictable as they are and yet in no way judgmental, except, of course, for a natural aversion to loud, aggressive human behaviors.

Equine-therapy programs, for example, are now helping an increasing number of teenagers who have severe emotional and behavioral issues, as well as children with autism and Asperger’s syndrome. At Aspen Ranch in Loa, Utah, troubled teenagers are being paired off with wild mustangs that have been adopted from the Bureau of Land Management, each species ultimately managing to temper the other, a dynamic that has also proved very effective in teaching patience and empathy to prisoners in correctional facilities. In the Los Angeles suburb of Compton, there is a youth equestrian program called the Compton Junior Posse. Teenagers clean stables, groom horses and then ride them in amateur equestrian events across Southern California. There are now bovine- and elephant-assisted therapy programs as well.

For Lockwood, animal-therapy programs draw on the same issues of power and control that can give rise to animal cruelty, but elegantly reverse them to more enlightened ends. “When you get an 80-pound kid controlling a 1,000-pound horse,” he said, “or a kid teaching a dog to obey you and to do tricks, that’s getting a sense of power and control in a positive way. We all have within us the agents of entropy, especially as kids. It’s easier to delight in knocking things down and blowing stuff up. Watch kids in a park and you see them throw rocks at birds to get a whole cloud of them to scatter. But to lure animals in and teach them to take food from your hand or to obey commands, that’s a slower process. Part of the whole enculturation and socialization process is learning that it’s also cool and empowering to build something. To do something constructive.”

Charles Siebert, a contributing writer, is the author, most recently, of “The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals.”

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Oscar-Winning Documentary "The Cove," Exposes the Truth of the Horror of the Annual Dolphin Hunt / Slaughter in Japan: As a Result, Japan Bans Film

Leave it to Japan to not only be cruel, but to attempt to hide their cruelty. They do it with whaling, so why not do it with murdering Dolphins? Sick and sad.

Article:

Japan dolphin hunt film triggers censorship debate
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/as_japan_dolphin_hunt_movie




By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press Writer Jay Alabaster, Associated Press Writer – Thu Jun 10, 7:54 am ET

TOKYO – Controversy over "The Cove," an Oscar-winning documentary about the annual dolphin hunt in a Japanese village, has widened into a debate over free speech in the country.
Three theaters last week canceled showings of the movie after they were swamped with angry phone calls and threatened with noisy protests by nationalist groups. It was banned on a U.S. military base in Japan as too controversial, and 23 other theaters are still deciding whether to show the film, according to Japanese distributor Unplugged.

After the cancellations, a group of Japanese journalists, academics and film directors signed a letter urging the theaters not to back down and saying the issue "underlines the weakness of freedom of speech in Japan." Freedom of speech is guaranteed in Japan's constitution, but many

Japanese are wary of unruly demonstrations.
Nationalist groups, known for blasting slogans from truck convoys and handheld loudspeakers, often use the threat of protests as leverage. (Two years ago, angry phone calls led several theaters to cancel "Yasukuni," a movie about a Japanese war shrine that honors fallen soldiers, including executed leaders convicted as war criminals.) Below is a trailer for "The Cove":


On Wednesday, over 600 people crammed into a civic hall in Tokyo for a rare chance to see "The Cove," with lines forming hours before the doors opened and viewers spilling out into the lobby to watch via a video feed. Outside of small private showings, it was the first time the movie has been screened in Japan since October, when it was shown at the Tokyo International Film Festival.
The event had originally been planned to discuss the movie, which shows bloody scenes of a dolphin slaughter filmed by hidden cameras and portrays local fishermen as rough goons. But instead the event focused on the theater cancellations, reflecting the changing debate around the film.

"Protesters only threatened to do bad things, and then theaters got scared and pulled out," said Hiroyuki Shinoda, chief editor of "Tsukuru" magazine, which organized the showing.
Shinoda, who signed the protest letter last week, urged those present to contact theaters and ask that the movie be shown.
Ric O'Barry, a former trainer for the "Flipper" TV show who is the central character of "The Cove," made a surprise appearance at the screening. He is now a dolphin activist, but on Wednesday talked instead about freedom of speech and the large number of awards the movie has won.

"Those awards are given for entertainment value, and for that reason alone the Japanese people should be able to see it and make up their own mind," he said. It won best documentary at the Academy Awards this year.
Outside the hall, about two dozen police and plainclothes officers were on duty, but no protests took place, although a few people quietly handed out flyers calling for the movie to be banned. One flyer linked the movie with Sea Shepherd, an anti-whaling group that clashes with Japan's whaling fleet each year.
"Freedom of expression doesn't need to be recognized for a movie made by terrorists," it read.

"The Cove" includes an interview with Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson. It is presented as the first documentary from The Oceanic Preservation Society, a group headed by Director Louie Psihoyos that lists Sea Shepherd as a partner.
Various right-wing groups consider the movie to be anti-Japanese, saying that dolphin hunts occur in other parts of the world and that any portrayal of animals being slaughtered for food would be bloody and unpleasant to watch.
The groups have led noisy protests outside of Unplugged's headquarters and the home of its president.

In Taiji, the small village where the hunt occurs, the local government and fishing cooperative defend dolphin hunting as a local custom with a long history. The mostly bottlenose dolphins killed in the hunt are not endangered, and hunts are also carried out in other parts of Japan — although very few Japanese have ever eaten dolphin meat.
A Japanese scientist and Taiji lawmaker who appear in the film say they agreed to do so without knowing it would be about the dolphin hunt, which Psihoyos has said is not true.
In the version of "The Cove" shown Tuesday and intended for release in Japan, disclaimers have been added saying those interviewed in the movie are not protesting or supporting dolphin issues. Unlike the U.S. version, the faces of most Japanese are blurred out.
A Japanese message states that data presented in the movie were gathered by and are the responsibility of the film's creators. The movie cites information about mercury levels in dolphins and falsely labeled dolphin meat that has been challenged by government officials.

New Documentary “Skin Trade” Shows the Horrors of Fur: Debuts in California with Celebrity Help

I look forward to this one and very happy to see that those in positions of privilege are helping to put an end to the unnecessary practice of using fur in clothing.

Article:

Anti-fur documentary 'Skin Trade' debuts with celebrity support in Westwood

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/alltherage/2010/06/antifur-documentary-skin-trade-debuts-in-westwood-with-celebrity-support.html


June 11, 2010 | 8:22 am

"Skin Trade," a new independent documentary lambasting the fur industry and those who condone its practices, had its Los Angeles premiere Thursday night at the Majestic Crest Theater in Westwood.

The film, directed by Shannon Keith, an animal rights attorney and founder of the nonprofit organization Animal Rescue, Media & Education (ARME), strives to answer the question of why fur is still a part of modern fashion — despite the well-documented cruelties of fur farming.

"I just could not believe that people were still wearing fur," Keith said before the screening. "I knew it was high time to make this film because these animals are being tortured alive -- it's not a pretty thing."

And neither is the documentary, which shows graphic, disturbing footage of animals being tortured (in traps, by electrocution and even via fatal beatings) between interviews with a number of notable anti-fur activists, including Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-Ohio), environmental attorney Jan Schlichtmann, designer Todd Oldham, PETA President Ingrid Newkirk, Overstock.com chief executive Patrick Byrne (who chooses not to sell fur on his website) and actor-activists including Alexandra Paul, James Cromwell and Jorja Fox.

In fact, there is so much abuse shown in the film, watching it — at least for me — became an exercise in self-editing. I had to cover my eyes numerous times just to give my senses a break from the brutal imagery (even so, I found myself tearing up a few times).

But then, showing horrific footage from mink farms is par for the course for animal rights organizations including PETA and the Animal Liberation Front. What makes "Skin Trade" a little different is its willingness to call out the fur industry's cagey public relations tactics.

For example, in recent years the industry has been referring to itself as "green," because skins and pelts are technically biodegradable. But in reality, making fur requires an enormous amount of toxic chemicals. "It's anything but green," actor and green activist Ed Begley Jr. says in the film. "That, for me, is green-washing."

The film also takes on the idea of fur as a status symbol. "These hip-hop stars, they're not enamored with fur," said anti-fur activist and former NBA player John Salley. "They're literally putting on an image, and the image is 'I've made it.'"

Cromwell, who starred in "Babe," one of the most famous animal movies of all time, boils the future of fur down to a simple equation. "We have a choice," he said. "The question is, 'Will human beings make the choice?' Just choose. Choose, and it ends."
-- Emili Vesilind

Band Subculture and their AR Group Subculture Animal Friends Produce Comic “Floyd” to Educate Kids About What Pets Need

Great idea. I still see backyard dogs that probably started off as a present and now live alone in the yard. Very sad.

As stated below:

“Using funds from sponsors and benefit concerts, Subculture Animal Friends produced 3,500 DVDs and booklets telling the story of Floyd as he travels through a typical Maltese village with his loving owner Roger and encounters neglected and abandoned animals.
In the booklet, children are told how the animals ended up in their particular situation and what action is eventually taken to improve their lives.
"Since it is for young children, I created a happy ending for all the animals," said author Mrs Micallef, who prefers rock to punk music.
"The aim is to teach children that pets need love, time and dedication, and if you cannot offer a pet these things you shouldn't get one. We hope children will go home and pass the message onto their parents."”

Article:

Campaigners unleash cartoon dog Floyd on schoolchildren

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20100613/local/campaigners-unleash-cartoon-dog-floyd-on-schoolchildren

Patrick Cooke

Animal rights supporters linked to punk band Subculture have a new weapon in their fight against animal cruelty - a cute cartoon dog called Floyd.

Named after Pink Floyd, the cartoon dog is spearheading a drive by Subculture Animal Friends - a campaign group derived from Subculture and made up of vocalist/guitarist Ray Schembri, drummer Ray Micallef, his wife Carmen and daughter Karen, and artist Charlotte Bellizzi - to raise awareness of animal rights among primary schoolchildren and their parents.

Using funds from sponsors and benefit concerts, Subculture Animal Friends produced 3,500 DVDs and booklets telling the story of Floyd as he travels through a typical Maltese village with his loving owner Roger and encounters neglected and abandoned animals.
In the booklet, children are told how the animals ended up in their particular situation and what action is eventually taken to improve their lives.

"Since it is for young children, I created a happy ending for all the animals," said author Mrs Micallef, who prefers rock to punk music.
"The aim is to teach children that pets need love, time and dedication, and if you cannot offer a pet these things you shouldn't get one. We hope children will go home and pass the message onto their parents."

The booklet also contains information about the importance of neutering and spraying pets, and lists the contact details of the Animal Welfare Department.

Permission was granted by the Education Ministry for the group to distribute the DVDs and booklets to Year 4 students in all state primary schools, and they have done this enthusiastically since the initiative was launched on May 7 in front of 400 schoolchildren and invited guests at the Metanoia Theatre in Luqa.

All the DVDs and booklets have now been distributed, except for a few which will be given to Puttinu Cares and the Inspire Foundation.
"We had a good response and could see from the children's faces that they liked to receive the books and DVDs. We hope this initiative will have long-term benefits for animal welfare in Malta," Mr Micallef said.

The booklets and DVDs were distributed for free, though children were asked to donate a can of pet food which Subculture Animal Friends will allocate to local animal sanctuaries.
Although children were not obliged to donate a can of food, judging by the boxes piled up near the entrance of the Micallefs' home in Paola when The Sunday Times visited, many of them happily did so.

Artwork for the cartoon and booklet was done by Ms Bellizzi and the cartoon was narrated in Maltese by Mr Schembri.

Some of the ideas for the project were raised by the Micallefs' nine-year-old daughter Karen, which helped ensure it is suitable for the target audience.
Background music in the DVD comes from Subculture and Mr Micallef's former band Lord Adder.

While some parents may be surprised to learn of the link between punk music and animal welfare, Mr Schembri pointed out that punk music has a long history of activism, and Subculture have always been vociferous in their support of animal rights.

"A lot of punk bands are involved with animal rights and do benefit gigs; that has been the case since early crust punk emerged in the late 1970s. A broad range of bands, not only punk, have helped us with benefit gigs in the past and I'm sure they will in the future," he said.
In fact, some of the funding for the Floyd initiative came from Subkult Fest, a three-day fundraising concert in Paceville in December 2008 involving 15 local bands from genres as diverse as death metal and acoustic rock.
Further funding came from nine local councils and pet food company Royal Canin.

Malaysia Considering Shutting Down Controversial British-Funded Animal Testing Lab - the Progenix Research Lab

As stated below, “campaigners have accused the Progenix Research lab, which uses monkeys, dogs, rodents and rabbits for toxicology testing, of poisoning the animals to death.

Veterinary Services director Abdul Aziz Jamaludin said the company will be ordered to shut down if his department finds animals were subject to abuse, the Sunday Star newspaper reported. "If animal testing cannot be conducted in the United States or Europe, I see no reason why they should be allowed here," Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying.”

Article:

Malaysia probes British-funded animal testing lab

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5izAOCwlwbJpPXBWqvrU45RMour5Q

(AFP) – 15 hours ago

KUALA LUMPUR — Malaysia is considering shutting down a controversial British-funded animal testing lab if there is evidence of cruelty there, the goverment's top veterinary official said on Sunday.

Animal rights campaigners have accused the Progenix Research lab, which uses monkeys, dogs, rodents and rabbits for toxicology testing, of poisoning the animals to death.

Veterinary Services director Abdul Aziz Jamaludin said the company will be ordered to shut down if his department finds animals were subject to abuse, the Sunday Star newspaper reported.

"If animal testing cannot be conducted in the United States or Europe, I see no reason why they should be allowed here," Abdul Aziz was quoted as saying.

Abdul Aziz said animal welfare laws in Malaysia -- which is bidding to become a major biotech hub in Southeast Asia -- were not as stringent as those in developed nations.

But he said there were laws to prosecute those who treated animals badly, and added that research companies should use tissue culture rather than animals to conduct tests for drugs and cosmetics.

"I have got a report (on the animal laboratory) I will act on it tomorrow when I return," he told AFP from Beijing.

The British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection (BUAV), condemned the facility, which is based in the northern state of Penang and run by the Britain-based Alpha Biologics.

"We are extremely concerned that a UK company has an animal laboratory in Malaysia," said Sarah Kite, its director of special projects.

"These animals are being cruelly used for toxicity testing in a country where there is no legislation governing their welfare," she said in a statement. "Animals are quite literally poisoned to death."

Company officials could not be reached for comment, but the Progenix website said it was committed to the "ethical use of animals in research only when there is no suitable non-animal alternative."

P. Ramasamy, Penang state's deputy chief minister, told AFP that the local government opposes animal abuse, adding: "If there is any evidence of cruelty, we will enforce the laws."

Last month a local Malaysian leader drew criticism from campaigners for saying that God had created animals to be used by man, amid controversy over an Indian drug company's plans to build an animal testing facility in the country.




Save the Lives of Montana Wolves: Ask Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to Reject Increased Wolf Hunting and Base Wolf Management on Sound Science

As stated at the site, "The state of Montana recently announced plans to increase its wolf hunting quota for 2010. The proposal outlines several updates to the previous standards: an extended hunting season, lowered restrictions on weaponry, and lifted hunting bans in certain areas.

However, increased hunting of these magnificent animals— wildlife we fought so hard to restore to their homes in the Northern Rockies and Greater Yellowstone— is premature and risks the very future of wolves in the region.There is simply no reason to allow more wolves to be killed than already are each year. Sign the petion below asking Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer to reject increased wolf hunting and base wolf management on sound science— not placating vocal anti-wolf groups."

Please visit http://www.theanimalrescuesite.com/clickToGive/campaign.faces?siteId=3&campaign=MontanaWolves&origin=ARS_FACE_FAN_ADGROUP_TAKEACTION_MONTANAWOLVES

and sign the petition.

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