Sunday, May 30, 2010

Animal Exploiters To Blame for Canine Influenza

Canine influenza, an isolated disease just seven years ago, can now be found in 30 U.S. states.

And animal exploiters are to blame.

The disease began as equine influenza, or flu in horses. But because the greyhound-racing industry in Florida fed contaminated horse meat to the dogs, equine influenza crossed the species barrier and formed canine influenza. The virus was first reported in March 2003 in Florida, according to a pamphlet by Intervet/Schering-Plough Animal Health, makers of a canine-influenza vaccine. (Other sites say it was first discovered in 2004, but all agree it was discovered at a greyhound-racing facility in Florida.)

I learned this yesterday from my veterinarian.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention back up this claim.
The H3N8 equine influenza virus has been known to exist in horses for more than 40 years. In 2004, however, cases of an unknown respiratory illness in dogs (initially greyhounds) were reported. An investigation showed that this respiratory illness was caused by the equine influenza A H3N8 virus. Scientists believe that this virus jumped species (from horses to dogs) and has now adapted to cause illness in dogs and spread efficiently among dogs. This is now considered a new dog-specific lineage of H3N8. In September of 2005, this virus was identified by experts as "a newly emerging pathogen in the dog population" in the United States.
If "H3N8" sounds confusing, think of "H1N1," the swine flu.

When I heard that the disease was created at a greyhound track and was now in 30 states, I assumed greyhound rescuers had inadvertently spread the disease. But it looks like the track owners themselves did. I don't know the intricacies of greyhound racing, but perhaps the owners shuffle dogs to and from different tracks.
From June to August of 2004, outbreaks of respiratory disease were reported at 14 tracks in 6 states (Florida, Texas, Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Kansas). Between January and May of 2005, outbreaks occurred at 20 tracks in 11 states (Florida, Texas, Arkansas, Arizona, West Virginia, Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts).
The virus is spread through direct contact of dogs (licking or nuzzling each other), through coughing or sneezing and through contaminated surfaces, clothing or hands.

According to the American Veterinary Medical Association, 80 percent of infected dogs will show signs of symptoms, such as coughing, a nasal discharge and a low fever. Some dogs will exhibit more severe symptoms, such as a high fever and respiratory problems. My vet said 8 percent of dogs die from the disease.

I don't mean for this post to be an advertisement for Intervet/Schering-Plough. I opted to get the canine-influenza vaccine for one of my dogs, the only one I had brought in yesterday. But I'm neither advocating for or against it. Please discuss it with your vet.

This post is important, though, because canine influenza is just one more newly created disease that animal agribusiness has forced us to be concerned about. Mad cow, avian flu and swine flu are others. Not to mention the other diseases that eating high-fat, cholesterol-filled meat and dairy cause: cancer, heart disease, stroke, diabetes, etc.

(Image courtesy of Vegaplanet.)

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Visit With Nature

Keith and I spent some time surrounded by nature this afternoon.

We strolled through McKinley Woods in Channahon (IL). If the president of the Forest Preserve District of Will County gets his way, this is one area gunmen will be allowed to murder deer.

What's neat about this area is that on one side of the path is the Illinois & Michigan Canal and on the other is the Illinois River.
We saw six squirrels chasing each other, an egret flying along the canal and lots of dragonflies and minnows. We even heard what Keith thinks was a bullfrog. I'd never heard one before. He sounded like a cow with a deep voice.

We also saw many bicyclists and a few fellow walkers. As unseen frogs plopped into the water as we passed, I felt like I was intruding on the animals' home. But I'm sure they're used to having visitors, and as long as we respect them and their home, then it should be fine.

Hopefully people with guns will not be allowed entrance.

(Photos courtesy of Keithy.)

Friday, May 28, 2010

Abuse on Dairy Farm No Anomaly

In the aftermath of Mercy For Animals' recent undercover video at a dairy farm, some people are wondering if abuse in animal agribusiness is the norm. Perhaps, they'd like to believe, it's an anomaly.

Here's what Mercy For Animals says about it:
Although many of the abuses documented at Conklin Dairy Farms are sadistic in nature, numerous MFA undercover investigations at dairy farms, pig farms, egg farms, hatcheries and slaughterhouses have revealed that violence and abuse to farmed animals – whether malicious or institutionalized – runs rampant nationwide.
You can search "Digging Through the Dirt" for "undercover investigations" and see for yourself the kinds of abuse this organization and others have revealed: chickens living with mummified corpses of other chickens, pigs being hanged by a forklift, sick cows being pushed by a forklift for transport to slaughter.

But let's pretend for a minute that all farmed animals have an idyllic life -- playing outside with their friends; exploring on their own; not being castrated, dehorned, de-tailed, branded. You get the idea.

Even if they lived this way (which they don't), they are still murdered. No farmed animals in agribusiness get to live their normal lifespan. Far from it. Why are they murdered? One word: MONEY.

These murders take place every day. In fact, 10 billion land animals are killed each year in the United States for their flesh (or because they don't produce enough milk or eggs to be profitable). It's a common, everyday occurrence.

But sometimes their murders make headlines. Such is the case with a story Business Week reported yesterday. Although instead of referring to it as murder, it's called "culling" or "herd reduction."
U.S. dairy farmers plan another round of herd reductions in a bid to bolster milk prices, according to the National Milk Producers Federation.

The number of animals targeted for slaughter wasn't specified. In the nine previous culls since the summer of 2003, more than 480,000 dairy cows were sent to processors, a federation official said.
Cows, pigs, chickens ... they're commodities to agribusiness. They're inventory that they need to liquidate. These animals aren't valued for who they are, only for how much money they can bring in. As I told a dog rescuer yesterday, farmed animals are like breeder dogs at a puppy mill -- only they're treated far worse.

(Photo of an employee at Conklin Dairy Farms stomping on a calf's neck courtesy of Mercy For Animals.)

Bumper Stickers an Easy Way to Advocate for Animals

After having it for 11 years, I finally sold my Saturn a few months ago -- and with it, my two animal-advocacy bumper stickers.

My new car has felt naked without a message on its back end. So today I've added one.

I had searched the Internet for one to purchase but didn't find any I liked enough. One of my previous stickers was from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. It gave a phone number for a free vegetarian starter kit. The other was one I designed myself on, and it urged people to adopt from shelters and rescues instead of supporting puppy mills.

This time I again turned to Zazzle and designed my own. It's pictured above.

Most of you probably no the value of bumper stickers in advocating for animals and likely have a few yourself. But those of you who don't should consider it. It's an easy way to spread your message. Once you purchase one and stick it on your car, you don't have to do anything else. Think of all the time you spend in your car and how many people will see the back of it. I even park my car in my driveway now -- the garage has stuff in it -- so it sits as a 24/7 message.

When I had my Saturn, I once noticed a passenger in the car behind me taking a picture of one of my stickers. And three girls stopped to look at my bumper stickers as they passed my house one day.

Most of the bumper stickers I see on my way to work are pro-hunting and anti-abortion. It's time we animal lovers made our numbers known on the streets.

(Image courtesy of Sorry for all the white space.)

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Dairy Employee Charged with Misdemeanors

Police have arrested one of the employees apparently seen abusing cows on an undercover video by Mercy For Animals.

Billy Joe Gregg, 25, was arrested by the Union County Sheriff's Department this morning, after they were called to the Conklin Dairy Farm in Plain City, Ohio, to be on hand while Gregg was fired.

According to Sheriff Chief Deputy Tom Morgan, Gregg has been charged with a dozen counts of cruelty to animals, which is only a misdemeanor punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $750.

MFA, a Chicago-based animal-advocacy group, released its undercover video this morning. It shows an employee or employees punching calves, kicking cows' udders and poking cows with a pitchfork.

The video also allegedly shows the owner of the farm, Gary Conklin, kicking a sick cow in the neck.

If Gregg is, in fact, the person who can be seen the most on the video, his actions are inexcusable and he should be facing more than misdemeanors. However, he's a scapegoat.

That kind of behavior likely would have been seen by supervisors and possibly by Conklin himself. Judging by Conklin's own behavior in the video, he condoned such cruelty and should also be held accountable.

In an interview with ABN radio, "Ohio's voice for agriculture," Morgan wouldn't comment on whether the department was pursuing other "suspects."

According to a news story yesterday, Mercy For Animals had been in touch with the county prosecutor before the video went public.
The Chicago-based organization said it has met with prosecutors and is pushing for criminal charges against employees of the facility.
So I don't understand why Gregg hadn't been arrested before this morning. The only thing that would have changed is public outrage.

More Industry Response

Despite those in animal agribusiness condemning the actions in the video, ag supporters also blame animal activists.

In his interview with the chief deputy, Andy Vance seemed to blame activists for going public with the cruelty.
When you look at the public nature of this and the high profile that, I guess, the Internet and some of the activist groups who are involved have brought to bear, I'm guessing that this has put some additional strain on your department and your staff and deputies trying to not only investigate this case but also do your everyday job of protecting the community and the county of Union.
Morgan's response was that "We've got our day to day operations to take care of, and this has been a drain on our manpower."

Well, sorry for the inconvenience. Perhaps you should blame Conklin and the culture of violence at his facility.

Vance isn't the only one blaming us activists. The Web site AgWired, "News from the world of agribusiness," calls us out directly.
This is a group of militant vegans with an agenda so it is good to question their credibility and motivation.
We all have an agenda. Even the animal-agribusiness people. Perhaps especially the animal-agribusiness people. They make their living by exploiting animals. If I were going to question anyone's credibility and motivation, it'd be those who benefit financially.

Sure, Mercy For Animals may get some extra donations in light of this video. But it won't be anywhere near the money that agribusiness rakes in. And people like me who are blogging about the MFA video won't see any money. We do it -- and the people at MFA do it -- because we care about animals. We're not so myopic as to view animals as objects. We can see their pain. We know they don't deserve to be imprisoned and murdered. That's our motivation.

We will continue fighting until they are free. That's our agenda.

(Photo of rescued calves, courtesy of Farm Sanctuary.)

Dairy Owner Kicks Sick Cow; Employees Punch Calves

The people at the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom think that mud and fallen branches constitute animal cruelty.

So I imagine David Martosko is scurrying to write pieces condemning the abuse that Mercy For Animals has uncovered on a dairy farm in Ohio. Right?

Chicago-based MFA today released footage of its undercover investigation at Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio.

During a four-week investigation between April and May, MFA's investigator documented farm workers:

  • Violently punching young calves in the face, body slamming them to the ground, and pulling and throwing them by their ears
  • Routinely using pitchforks to stab cows in the face, legs and stomach
  • Kicking "downed" cows (those too injured to stand) in the face and neck – abuse carried out and encouraged by the farm's owner [emphasis mine]
  • Maliciously beating restrained cows in the face with crowbars – some attacks involving over 40 blows to the head
  • Twisting cows' tails until the bones snapped
  • Punching cows' udders
  • Bragging about stabbing, dragging, shooting, breaking bones, and beating cows and calves to death
Wow. I wrote the beginning of this post without having seen the video. And now that I watched all 3 minutes and 43 seconds of it, I'm stunned. I can't believe people treat animals like that. Watching it, I wondered what kind of videos we would have seen in the days of U.S. slavery if the technology had been available. Black people were property back then, just as these cows are.

Industry Response

As I predicted in yesterday's post, the agribusiness industry is responding like it always does after the release of an animal-cruelty video. They're trying to distance themselves from the abuse while criticizing the undercover investigator.

After being shown kicking a sick cow, Gary Conklin, the owner of the facility, had the audacity to say that he cares about his animals.
"As fourth-generation farmers, our family takes the care of our cows and calves very seriously."

On his blog Troy Hadrick, who raises cows and then sends them to be killed for their flesh, first cautions people not to believe everything they see on the Internet, as if somehow this cruelty could be staged.

He then blames the undercover investigator for not coming forward immediately to put an end to the abuse. These investigators don't like this abuse, but they need to record it in order for changes to be made across the industry.

Finally, he condemns Conklin but qualifies it with "if these allegations of abuse are found to be true." The dude's on tape kicking a cow, for Christ's sake.

Ray Prock Jr., who owns a dairy farm in California, also blames the investigator. The criticism takes up one-third of the short post on his blog.
I firmly believe that the right thing to do when anyone observes another person abusing an animal they should immediately stop what they are doing and confront the person or report it to their supervisor if that is not effective then make contact with someone in a regulatory capacity. An employee who blatantly abusesan animal observes another employee doing the same without taking the appropriate action should be immediately terminated.

But animal abuse, animal cruelty is inherent in this industry. It's the norm.

If you still haven't gone vegan, please watch this video. If you're scared that it'll be too hard to watch it, then go vegan without watching it. If you can't stand to see what your money is supporting, then you shouldn't be supporting it.

CCF Scrapes Bottom of Barrel in Undercover Video

Before I write about Mercy For Animals' most recent undercover investigation, about which they held a press conference today, I wanted to write about a different undercover probe.

This one is by the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom.

I was hesitant to write about this because this blog could easily turn into a tennis match between the CCF and The Humane Society of the United States, recording the lobbing of accusations as the CCF tries to discredit The HSUS and the latter fights back.

And, of course, the CCF's accusations are just red herrings. But this most recent red herring, in light of MFA's video today, was too good to pass up.

The CCF has obtained footage shot at the HSUS-run Duchess Sanctuary in Douglas County, Ore. It's home to "about 200 formerly abused, abandoned, neglected and homeless horses."

The headline of the press release on the CCF's Web site is "Watchdog Group's Investigation Exposes Unacceptable Conditions at HSUS Horse Sanctuary." I'll wait a minute while you finish laughing at the CCF calling itself a "watchdog group."

So what "unacceptable conditions" are shown on the video? Are horses being beaten? Are they stuck in cages so small they can't turn around? Are they living with decomposing corpses of fellow horses? After all, these types of animal abuse are routinely seen in undercover videos shot by animal-advocacy groups.

But the video doesn't show any of this. It does, though, show muddy ground and some fallen tree branches.

That's it. That's all the CCF has. I'm actually surprised they didn't bash The HSUS for the overcast weather. How dare The HSUS have horses outside when it's cloudy!

If this is animal abuse, then what could we call agribusiness's routine treatment of animals? Those animals are tortured, forcibly impregnated, separated from their families and murdered.

If the CCF is outraged at the conditions on their video, perhaps they should sever ties with the corporations and organizations who actually commit animal abuse.

Martosko, Berman, if you're reading this, check out my next post. I'll show you what true animal cruelty looks like. Not that you don't already know what you and your organization support.

(Photo of Violet, a horse taken in my Duchess Sanctuary, courtesy of The Fund for Animals.)

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Mercy For Animals To Release Undercover Video

Mercy For Animals will go public with its newest undercover investigation Wednesday.

An employee of Conklin Dairy Farms in Plain City, Ohio, secretly videotaped animal cruelty for four weeks, beginning in April.
[MFA] says [the video] shows dairy farm workers beating cows in the face with crowbars, stabbing them with pitchforks, breaking their tails, and punching, throwing, and kicking calves.
Nathan Runkle founded MFA while he was growing up in Ohio. The organization's headquarters are now in Chicago.

This investigation will hopefully help the efforts of the animal initiative that will be on Ohio's ballot in November.

If passed, the proposal, set into motion by The Humane Society of the United States and Farm Sanctuary, would require the Livestock Care Standards Board (made up of people who profit from animal exploitation) to enact modest changes: banning veal and gestation crates and battery cages; not allowing "downer" cows (cows so sick they cannot stand) into the human food supply; and requiring humane methods of euthanasia.

It's a modest proposal, but animal agribusiness is against it.

The video will be released at a press conference at 11 a.m. tomorrow in Dayton.

I'm feeling a bit psychic today, so here's my prediction for how agribusiness will respond to the video tomorrow:
  • This is an isolated incident. Ninety-nine percent of farmers take good care of their animals. They have to to ensure they produce a good product.
  • We need to continue to tell our story, to show the public that these are bad actors.
  • The employees weren't following proper animal-care guidelines. They've since been fired.
  • The worker who shot the video is just as responsible because he (or she) should have gone to management at the first signs of animal abuse.
  • Mercy For Animals is just trying to ramp up support for the HSUS ballot initiative. They don't really care about the animals.

Unfortunately, though, animal abuse in agribusiness is the norm.

The best way to combat it is to go vegan.

(Photo of Dylan, who isn't related to the MFA investigation, courtesy of Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary.)

Thursday, May 20, 2010

BP's Attempt at Greenwashing Backfires

A new aquarium exhibit in California is set to open today.

Ironically it's called the BP Sea Otter Habitat.

Four years ago British Petroleum (now known by the innocuous -- at least until the recent oil spill -- initials BP) donated $1 million to the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, Calif. In return it got its name on the new sea otter exhibit. For BP $1 million is a small price to pay for the benefits of greenwashing.

Everyone loves cute little sea otters, so having its name on the exhibit would lead to positive connotations of a company that cares about animals and the environment.

But the recent oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico painted that greenwashing black. After all, oily sea otters are synonymous with the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill off the coast of Alaska, a disaster BP doesn't want its oil-rig explosion compared to.

Fortunately for sea otters, they don't live in the Gulf of Mexico. But BP's 582-page document "Regional Oil Spill Response Plan — Gulf of Mexico" claims they and other cold-water mammals live in the gulf.
In a section titled "Sensitive Biological & Human-Use Resources," the plan lists "seals, sea otters and walruses" as animals that could be impacted by a Gulf of Mexico spill — even though no such animals live in the Gulf.
(Of course, many other animals do live there.)

The plan doesn't mention what to do in the event a deep-water well can't be shut off. It does, though, tell people what to say to the news media in the event of an oil spill.

Gotta present a pretty face, regardless how environmentally disastrous your actions.

KFC Opts for Pinkwashing

I'm sure most of you have already heard about this, but since we're on the subject of dubious public relations, I figured I'd mention KFC.

Kentucky Fried Chicken has teamed up with Susan G. Komen for the Cure, a an organization that supposedly fights cancer.

But diet plays a large role in preventing cancer -- a low-fat, plant-based diet, that is. And "The China Study" revealed that animal protein can trigger cancer.

So why would Susan G. Komen partner with KFC?
Corporate relationships must have a meaningful mission-related benefit to the general public or to particular constituencies of Susan G. Komen for the Cure.
That's from the Komen Web site. Apparently deceiving the public in order to raise money is a mission-related benefit.

If you haven't checked out John Robbins' piece about this at The Huffington Post, you'll want to. Here's an excerpt:
Pardon me for being cynical, but I have to ask, if Komen is going to partner with KFC, why not take it a step further and partner with a cigarette company? They could sell pink packages of cigarettes, donating a few cents from each pack while claiming "each pack you smoke brings us closer to the day cancer is vanquished forever."
If only corporations would act in the best interest of consumers, animals and the environment. Then they wouldn't have to engage in PR deception.

Edit: Check out Andy Stepanian's piece at The Huffington Post about BP's public-relations efforts along the Gulf Coast.

(Sea otters caught in Alaska's 1989 oil spill, courtesy of Anchorage Daily News.
KFC given the finger, courtesy of peta2flickr.)

Monday, May 17, 2010

Palin, Other Hunters on Heartless Power Trip

Former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin criticized animal-rights activists Friday at a National Rifle Association convention in Charlotte, N.C.
Palin ridiculed efforts to limit hunting in Alaska.

"I have bad news for those groups," she said. "Bambi's mother is dinner - even in L.A.

"Where do those people think their venison comes from? The deer didn't die of natural causes. It wasn't road kill."
Does this woman even have a heart?

When I worked in central Illinois, my boss brought in homemade chili for us one weekend ... venison chili. He was a hunter. At that point I was a meat-eater, I had never heard the phrase "animal rights," and the idea of going vegetarian hadn't even occurred to me. But there was no way I was going to eat chili made from a deer.

I'd seen "Bambi" as a child, and the horror and sadness I felt because of the hunters in that film have stayed with me. Yes, I know it was hypocritical of me to turn my nose up at the thought of eating deer while I continued to eat chickens, cows, pigs, etc.

I'll never understand, though, how someone could come within feet of a beautiful, living animal and then murder him or her. And they're so proud of it.

On my way to work this morning I passed a black pickup truck with the license plate BUKDEER. The truck had bow-hunting decals on its back window, and the tailgate was painted green camouflage. Painted over that, in red letters, was "People Eating Tasty Animals." This phrase is used by juvenile animal exploiters who think it's funny to rename PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals).

What kind of person publicizes their love for killing innocent creatures?

As I've said before, behavior like this negates the argument that hunters kill to protect animals. Hunters who favor deer hunting in Will County (IL) forest preserves contend hunting is necessary to prevent deer from starving to death, that they'd be doing a public service.

But it's clear that these murderers just get off on killing. Like Palin's desire for the limelight, murdering animals is a power trip.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Push for Deer Hunting Turns Into a Family Affair

Last night's meeting of the Will County (IL) forest preserve board was a family affair, with two of the president's relatives supporting him in an effort to get hunting -- both bow and shotgun -- into the preserves.

Despite what an April story said, no board voted last night on the issue of whether to allow hunting of white-tailed deer.

However, some hunters did gather at last night's meeting. They urged the board to put bow hunting back on the table. The operations committee on May 6 voted unanimously not to consider bow hunting. Shotgun hunting and sharpshooters, though, are still being considered.

Among the people at the meeting was Cass Wennlund, a (former?) relative of mine. He's either separated from or divorced from one of my cousins. (A second cousin once removed or a third cousin -- you get the idea.)

I had no idea he favored hunting, although I'm not surprised. One of his sons shares his name with a type of gun.

I also didn't know that he is Cory Singer's brother-in-law. Singer (R-Frankfort), a Will County Board member and the president of the forest preserve board, appears to be the person leading the push for deer hunting.

Wennlund, a lawyer from Mokena, is the son of former state Rep. Larry Wennlund, who also favors hunting and is Singer's father-in-law. The senior Wennlund's views were expressed via another Mokena lawyer and a member of the National Rifle Association.
"I want to make sure this organization goes in the right direction when harvesting deer," said Ed Ronkowski.
Note to Ronkowski: Plants are harvested. Deer are animals capable of feeling pain and joy. Don't diminish them by using a euphemism to hide the fact that they'd be murdered.

Ronkowski wants the board to take a page from the Boy Scouts.
Ronkowski told board members that the Rainbow Council Boy Scouts of America owns property on North Winterbottom Road in Morris. Because there are too many deer, it has allowed bow hunters who pay a $1,000 fee to hunt on the property.


"I would ask this board to go in the direction of the Boy Scouts and allow hunting and allow bow hunting," Ronkowski said.
While I obviously don't support what the Boy Scouts have done (not to mention what this teaches boys), that is private land. It's not paid for by taxpayers, nor is it called a "preserve."

A vote on the fate of the deer isn't expected until June or July.

(Photo courtesy of the Chicago Sun-Times.)

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

HSUS Gets MADD, Files Ethics Complaint Against Berman

The Humane Society of the United States has joined Mothers Against Drunk Driving in filing an ethics complaint against Rick Berman and his American Beverage Institute.

They contend that the ABI violated New York law by not registering and reporting its lobbying efforts.
ABI spent more than $70,000 to purchase and publish advertisements to influence and defeat pending legislation intended to make roadways safer by cracking down on recidivism by convicted DWI offenders.
But The HSUS advocates on behalf of animals. So why would it care about the lobbying of the American Beverage Institute?

Because the ABI is owned by Berman, who also owns the Center for Consumer Freedom, which is hell bent on slinging mud at The HSUS.

So The HSUS is fighting back -- albeit more professionally and with fewer cringe-inducing puns than David Martosko and the CCF.
"Rick Berman has for years been running a commercial public relations operation and masquerading as a nonprofit organization," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. "Now, it appears that he is violating the law by failing to disclose to New York authorities his lobbying efforts to protect drunk drivers."
It really is a shame that Berman is allowed to profit from his co-called non-profit groups. He uses their status to get tax breaks and to appeal to people's trust. Non-profits are good, right? They have altruistic motivations. Right?
Berman's corporate front groups play down the dangers of drunken driving and secondhand smoke, argue obesity is not a public health issue, defend the cruelest forms of animal abuse, and seek to depress workers' rights and prevent minimum wage increases — all under the guise of "public interest" advocacy, and without disclosing the identity of industry clients on whose behalf they speak.
The press release about the ethics complaint claims that, according to the most-recent tax filings, 92% of the money the CCF took in from its unnamed sources got funneled into Berman's for-profit PR business, Berman and Company.

(Photo of Rick Berman courtesy of "Forces of Ronald.")

Deer an Excuse to Implement Hunting Program?

The tagline at the top of the home page for the Forest Preserve District of Will County (IL) reads, "Bringing People and Nature Together."

But I doubt deer hunting is what they had in mind when they chose that slogan.

Nevertheless, as I wrote last week, the forest preserve board of commissioners and the Will County Board (which appear to contain the same people) are considering allowing the murder of white-tailed deer.

The proposal is being pushed by some members of the forest preserve board, with the president likely leading the charge.
Forest Preserve District President Cory Singer, R-Frankfort, is perhaps the biggest proponent of [bow and shotgun hunting].
I've been told by someone in the know that "some [higher-up] just wants to get a hunting program started."

A Will County Board member seems to have suspicions about the motivation for hunting, too. Kathleen Konicki e-mailed me in response to an e-mail I sent to county board members, urging them to vote no on the hunting proposal.
[T]he forest preserve has extensive holdings in my area, and there has been no evidence or complaints from adjoining landowners indicative of over-population. Frankly, at this point, I don't feel any action is warranted. I feel blind-sided by this sudden claim of overpopulation and resource devastation. [...] There was no mention of such problems, until [forest preserve] President Singer took office.


Bottom-line, I do not share President Singer's enthusiasm for this program nor his sense of urgency to implement it.
At the operations committee meeting May 5 Walter Krzak, a veterinarian from New Lenox, "noted that the forest preserve district's study of the situation seemed skewed toward hunting."

His sister, Alice Krzak, also of New Lenox and also a veterinarian, "attended one of the public forums and noticed something about them: 'I felt (the meeting) was definitely pro hunting.'"

While the operations committee unanimously (0-10) shot down the proposal for bow hunting last week, their decision may only be a recommendation. A newspaper story said that the full board of commissioners will make the final decision. But Konicki, in her e-mail, said bow hunting "has been taken off the table and is no longer being considered."

According to the forest preserve's Web site, the committee said that "culling needed to be managed as a conservation program, not as a recreational program." Yet they voted 6-4 in favor of considering shotgun hunting. They also voted 9-0-1 in favor of considering using sharpshooters.

After learning about the votes, bow hunters aired their frustration in bow-hunting forums like
Ill be damned if the sharp shooters are going to be the one having all the fun.
Regardless what hunting proponents may say, this statement reveals the true reason they hunt: It's fun.

It's a time to socialize, to exert one's manliness, to have control over something in their lives.

They call hunting a "sport." Recreation, fun, excitement ... all of those are inherent in sports.

Yet they defend hunting by saying the deer would suffer and starve without them. They portray it as mercy killing. In response to my e-mail Michael Wisniewski, a Will County Board member and treasurer of the forest preserve, didn't bother with a salutation. Instead he went right into his mercy-killing defense.
should we let the deer starve to death ?

Get diseases from malnutrition ? Perhaps an infection that wastes the entire herd?
I do support mercy killing. If my dog is suffering from a disease, is in pain and has a horrible quality of life, I would likely take him to the veterinarian to be euthanized. But I won't be smiling, laughing, high-fiving my friends. Nor will I have someone take my picture, with me propping up my dead dog, proud for having just ended his life.

You can contact the Forest Preserve District of Will County by using this online form.

Monday, May 10, 2010

'Peaceable Kingdom' Shows Animals As Individuals

It was fitting for Evanston's (IL) "Talking Pictures Festival" to show "Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home" on Mother's Day, for much of this documentary centered on the bond between mother and child.

Although the bond was not between human mother and child, the love between goats, between cows, between chickens was the same.

"Peaceable Kingdom" features a few people who were once animal farmers and who have since come to see animals as unique, feeling individuals, as beings not deserving of suffering and murder.

After a goat was separated from her baby following a hoarding situation, she'd stand outside each new transport truck that brought goats to a sanctuary, calling to a baby she hoped was inside. Finally mother and baby were reunited.

We also saw footage of farmers dragging calves by one leg while their mothers called after them in confusion.

And we viewed a chicken in a sanctuary who taught her chick how to scratch at the hay on the floor. Who picked up corn and gave it to her baby. Who protected her young one underneath her feathery body.

This is the second edition, if you will, of "Peaceable Kingdom." The film's producers were unhappy with aspects of the first film and have made numerous changes. I had seen the first version and didn't feel like I was watching a re-run.

But the newer film does contain the most memorable scene, for me, from the first. A scene in which former dairy farmer Harold Brown is talking about an interaction he had with a cow named Snickers. When Brown saw Snickers a year after meeting him, Snickers ran to him and literally and figuratively nudged his heart.

Brown, who is traveling the country with this film, spoke afterward. I had seen him speak at the Animal Rights Conference in 2008 and was impressed with his articulate nature and with his knowledge. Yesterday was no different.

He said vegetarians and vegans are sometimes referred to as "food nannies" -- thanks, CCF -- wanting to tell people what to eat. But he asked if people really had free choice to decide what to eat. He cited the number of television advertisements that tout food containing animal products.
"We've got to stop being consumers and become citizens."
He said we need to employ critical thinking and ask ourselves what it is that we're supporting.

One member of the audience asked Brown if Michael Pollan had seen the film. Brown's response? "I don't know, but I'm gonna make damn sure he does."

I wish the movie would have ended with a plea to go vegan and a Website where viewers could learn more. Instead, though, I feel like people will be moved by the movie and want to do something, but won't know what to do. Or they may think they should at least go vegetarian but won't have any resources to support them.

I was happy to know that some omnivores were in attendance, but I think some missed the point of the movie. While Brown summed it up perfectly during his Q&A, some of the questions were too focused on eating organic or bashing factory farms, as if "organic" or "humanely raised" animals don't suffer the same cruel fate as others.

Of farmed animals, Brown said, "We are our brothers' keepers. [...] They aren't here for us; we're here for them."

(Movie clip and photo courtesy of Tribe of Heart.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Urge County Board to Vote NO on Deer Hunting

The Will County (Illinois) Board will vote Thursday on whether to allow deer hunting in county forest preserves.
The Will County Board will decide at its May 13 meeting whether to allow the program - that may include sharpshooting and public hunting with bows and shotguns. If approved, hunting would begin this fall.
Preserves would be closed to the public -- the tax-paying public, mind you -- while these jackasses get off on killing innocent animals.

Unfortunately hunters -- including at least one on the county board -- have come out in full force in favor of this proposal. In fact, I heard that one board member wanted to kill only male deer. (The males have the antlers, showpieces for one's wall.) But it's the females one must target if they want to reduce the population.
Kenneth Sanderson, of Crest Hill, said: "It needs to be done, and it needs to be done by hunters, not sharpshooters. I'm all for anything that will open more ground for hunting. I just bought my son his first bow. This would be a golden opportunity for him while providing a public service."
Well, thank God for this guy, providing a public service and spending quality bonding time with his son.
Killing is fun for these people.
You have to cull the deer, and archery is a better way to do it," said Nelson Mack, a New Lenox bow hunter. "This is better than going up to Wisconsin."
It's like a stay-cation. How cool is that!

For the past decade Will County, the county in which I grew up and currently live, has been one of the fastest-growing in the country. And local officials love that.

But this suburban sprawl has encroached on the homes of animals. And now county officials claim there are too many deer, using the same argument: If we don't kill them, they'll starve.

Yet the board hasn't looked into other less expensive, more humane options. They simply want to kill.

They'd never condone killing people because our numbers are out of control. But deer feel the same pain as people.
The Bradley family, of Homer Glen, were against any form of hunting.

"I live in the woods. I feel like I live with them," Laura Bradley said. "The only aim that should be taken at a deer is through a camera lens. It's not that there are [more] deer, but less acreage. It's not their fault."
Unfortunately, the plan to allow deer hunting was decided long before it became public -- despite what board members have told the media.
Public hunting was proposed after weighing other options such as repellents, fencing, trapping and relocating, fertility control and reintroduction of predators.
But we still have a small chance to change the minds of board members. Please e-mail the members of the Will County Board and urge them to vote NO on deer hunting. Even if you don't live in Will County, please make your voices heard.

Will County Board e-mail addresses:;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;;

(Photo courtesy of
Second photo courtesy of Looks like your dog, doesn't he?)

Earthly Affair's Style Eco-Friendly, Down to Earth

The invitations for my and Keith's wedding ceremony arrived the other day, and I couldn't be happier.

I researched a lot of invitation companies online, looking for eco-friendly ones. (Yes, it would have been more eco-friendly to simply send e-mail invitations -- and I did think about doing that -- but I decided to go with paper invitations. 100% recycled invitations, though. And no response cards.)

I chose a company, Earthly Affair, based in Georgia. Jennifer Stambolsky at Earthly Affair was fantastic to work with. She responded promptly to my questions and was friendly -- especially throughout the first stage, where customers are allowed to make as many changes to the invitations as they want.

I like the concern for the planet that Earthly Affair shows. It's not a gimmick or an after-thought, like it is with some companies. From their home page:
At Earthly Affair, we strive to give you the most original and unique eco-friendly wedding invitations created in the most earth friendly way possible. With 100% recycled paper, earth friendly printing methods, an eco equipped studio, and carbon free shipping, we consider our environmental impact just as important as your satisfaction.
It also makes me feel good to know that I'm helping a blossoming entrepreneur. Stombolsky created Earthly Affair after she "noticed a lack of truly environmentally friendly and stylish invitations for today's modern bride" while planning her own wedding.

I'm glad she did.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Martosko As Phony As the CCF

I love children.

And I regularly pay people to kill them.

What? You're saying if I truly loved children, I wouldn't advocate their murder? Hmmm. Yes, I suppose that's true.

Yet David Martosko of the deceptively named Center for Consumer Freedom begins his profile on a CCF blog with this:
I love animals.
It'd be a nice sentiment if it weren't a crock of shit.

Martosko advocates on behalf of animal agribusiness, where 10 billion animals are murdered in the U.S. each year. Animal lover? Clearly not.

Martosko's profile is like the CCF itself. It seems to make sense on first glance. Freedom and personal responsibility are worthwhile, logical causes. But if you dig deeper, you find that the CCF -- and thus Martosko -- are paid for by corporations that have a financial interest in squashing regulations and bills that would help animals and our environment -- and people.

In fact, the CCF was created in 1995 with $600,000 from Philip Morris. The organization's goal was to boost the image of the tobacco industry. To fight regulations against smoking through public perception.

Of course, that failed. Since then the CCF has gone to bat for the alcohol and payday loan industries. It's also sought to give unions and healthcare reform black eyes.

And, of course, there's animal agribusiness. The Humane Society of the United States has become a huge threat to that industry, successfully passing state ballot initiatives to ban confining crates and cages.

The HSUS has to be stopped.

So in February the CCF created, with Martosko at the reins, to criticize the organization.

Now I know that some animal advocates aren't too fond of The HSUS. My overall opinion, though, is that if animal agribusiness is scared shitless of The HSUS, then it's doing something right.

And for the record, while I wouldn't go so far as to say I love children, I also don't pay for or advocate their deaths.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Lab Assistant Penned 1773 Animal-Rights Poem

In 1773 Anna Barbauld, a lab assistant in what would soon become the United States of America, wrote a poem about the plight of a mouse being used as a test subject.
"There's this extraordinary moment," says historian Richard Holmes. It's 1773. "[Dr. Joseph] Priestley packs up for the day, and he leaves that next mouse in a cage on his desk for the next morning. He will put it [in a breathing tank] and remove the oxygen, and the mouse will almost certainly die. And Anna Barbauld, who's cleaning up, she just looks at the mouse, and she thinks, wait a minute, wait a minute ... and she sits down and writes a poem."

Holmes says Anna folded what she wrote into a square, jammed it between the bars of the mouse's cage, and left it for Priestley.
It begins:
OH ! hear a pensive captive's prayer,
For liberty that sighs;
And never let thine heart be shut
Against the prisoner's cries.

For here forlorn and sad I sit,
Within the wiry grate;
And tremble at th' approaching morn,
Which brings impending fate.
Southern California Public Radio's Web site notes that the actress who read the poem on the radio broke down while doing so. Unfortunately, although the site says people can listen to the poem, I can't find a way to do that.

But you can read "The Mouse's Petition" in its entirety here. (It's credited to Anna Laetitia Aikin on this site. I don't know the reason for the discrepancy.)