VegNews’ Great Hypocrisy

July 31, 2015 by  

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Cecil, with lioness. Photo by Brent Stapelkamp.

Dear Ryan Ritchie, Senior Editor of VegNews,

As you posted a public letter to people on Facebook, we are posting a letter to you. This letter is in response to your statement criticizing the outpouring of concern and outrage people have over the killing of Cecil the lion in Zimbabwe.

As you know, the poacher Walter Palmer and his guides “tied a dead animal to the back of their vehicle and scented an area just outside Hwange National Park to lure the lion out of the protected area at night.”  Although Cecil “was wearing a GPS collar and being monitored by researchers from Oxford University,” he was shot with a bow after following “the scent out of the park and onto private property where Palmer lay in wait.” After Cecil fled in terror, “Palmer and his guides tracked the injured lion for 2 days and finally killed him with a rifle.” Palmer then “tried to destroy Cecil’s tracking collar, cut off his head and skinned him, leaving the headless, skinless remains to rot.”

The mass condemnation and calls for prosecution, from all corners of the U.S. and abroad, have been swift and loud. This condemnation is essential to placing enough pressure on public officials to ensure the crime is met with the response such brutality deserves. It should be welcomed and embraced, not discouraged. But instead of supporting those calls, you write, “could you please stop posting links to stories about Cecil, the 13-year-old lion killed in Zimbabwe by a Minnesotan dentist?” You then go on to scold people for doing so, saying, “Simply put: if you feel anger for what happened to Cecil but continue to eat/wear animal products, you are being a hypocrite.” In berating them again for showing concern for Cecil, you tell them, “Ask yourself why you’re reposting and commenting on Cecil’s vicious, needless death. Then ask yourself how you’re any different than the dentist who killed him.”

As ethical vegans and animal advocates of 25 years, we find your statement detrimental to the progress of our cause. (Learn more about us here and here) How does the fact that some people eat meat make it counterproductive to the cause of animal rights for them to express outrage over the cruel killing of a lion? Unfortunately, this argument is somewhat typical within some in the animal rights community today.

An assumption is often made within the animal rights community that those who do not embrace a vegan diet are incapable of authentically speaking about what might be in the best interest of the animals they do not eat, such as lions, a non-sequitur. In essence, arguments are summarily dismissed not on the basis of their objective truth, the weight of the evidence, or any other measurable criteria, but, instead, on the perceived quality of the character of the person advocating the position, a logical fallacy known as the ad hominem attack. While we, too, believe it is unethical to eat animals, we also recognize that doing so does not render a person incapable of discerning or advocating an objective truth. Moreover, in calling the people on Facebook hypocrites for opposing the killing of lions while eating meat, you are engaging in the very double standard of which you are accusing others: suggesting that one form of animal killing, under certain circumstances, has no right to be criticized. If anyone is enabling harm to animals with their arguments, it’s you. The meat eaters who condemn the killing of Cecil are our allies in Cecil’s cause, and their demands for prosecution in no way harm the rights of other animals. Yet in your misguided defense of animals raised for food expressed as an admonition of others to stop condemning Cecil’s death, you are, in fact, undermining the prosecution of Cecil’s killers.

Moreover, in calling the people on Facebook hypocrites for opposing the killing of lions while eating meat, you are engaging in the very double standard of which you are accusing others: suggesting that one form of animal killing, under certain circumstances, has no right to be criticized. If anyone is enabling harm to animals with their arguments, it’s you.

As people dedicated to furthering the rights of all animals, we find the anger that people have about Cecil’s killing good news. Imagine if instead of being upset to learn that Cecil was shot with a bow, suffered for two days, then shot with a rifle and beheaded, people couldn’t care less. How would that be a good thing for animals? It is, in fact, the public’s anger that has driven calls for prosecution, shut down the poacher’s dental practice, caused the U.S. Dept. of Fish & Game to offer assistance in prosecuting the poacher Walter Palmer to the Zimbabwean government, and renewed calls for an end to “big game” hunting.

Isn’t evidence of concern something we can build on to help animals being killed in other contexts? Indeed, operating under the paradigm of activism you suggest would render all progress for animals impossible. History teaches us that change occurs incrementally, as one success builds upon another, by bringing into sharper relief persistent hypocrisies that defy newly won, evolving values. We recognize the immense potential for all animals embodied in the concern people already have for animals like Cecil. If we can leverage that concern, we can build on it through time, by exposing the tension inherent in protecting one group but not another, just like the human rights movement has done.

Consider that during the American Revolution, many of the men who fought for independence and democracy were slave-owning, racist, sexist, meat-eating homophobes. While the people who fought to end slavery believed in democracy, many were sexist and ate animals. While many of the those who fought for women’s suffrage believed in democracy and opposed slavery, some were no doubt homophobic and while there was a strong vegetarian ethic among some suffragists, many also ate animals. Today, while many people who fight for marriage equality believe in democracy, oppose slavery and believe in women’s rights, they also eat animals. Animal rights remains the final frontier, enabled by evolving mores and greater respect for individual rights made possible by all the causes that preceded it. What would we be doing today if the founding fathers stated that no one was allowed to fight in the American Revolution unless they were vegan, feminist, emancipationists who supported marriage equality? We’d be singing “God Save the Queen” instead of the National Anthem.

If we can establish rights for animals where people are already in support—such as hunting—we can eventually leverage that success for other animals, too. The fact that so many people already want to see that happen, are so outraged by the willful infliction of harm upon a lion, that’s good news. That’s progress. As a vegan and animal activist who claims to want widespread veganism, you are sabotaging your claimed values, your cause, and the animals when you tell people they shouldn’t respond with outrage when lions are harmed. Of course they should.

Consider that while many of the people who criticize the killing of Cecile no doubt eat animals, and that is undeniably tragic, they are not, like VegNews, an organization that claims to represent the cause of rights for all animals. No inherent tension with prior statements in support of universal animal rights is violated by their expressed concern for Cecil. However, the same cannot be said about VegNews.

While VegNews claims to be an organization that stands for the rights of all animals, a claim substantiated by the very nature of your criticism of those who condemn the killing of Cecil, VegNews has continually engaged in the very hypocrisy of which it accuses others: behaving in a manner that violates a larger, professed ideal.

In the last 12 years, PETA has systematically put to death 31,250 animals including healthy puppies and kittens. They steal beloved animals who had a home in order to illegally put them to death. They fight shelter reform legislation which would have saved tens of thousands of animals. They round up and kill community cats and fight efforts to save them. They defend even abusive shelters. And they argue that dogs and cats—in fact, all animals—do not deserve the “right to life,” claiming that people have a right to kill them as long as that killing is done through an overdose of barbiturates. They make no secret of their anti-animal rights views, and their killing is a matter of verifiable public record.

Despite all this killing and all of this betrayal of the cause of animal rights, what organization can PETA count on to turn a blind eye to their atrocities and sing their praises time and time again?

VegNews.

Ryan, in your letter to Facebook friends, you write:

Simply put: if you feel anger for what happened to Cecil but continue to eat/wear animal products, you are being a hypocrite. Put your money where your keyboard is and do something about it. Stop eating meat. Stop consuming dairy. Stop wearing leather. And stop supporting companies that produce these things.

To which we say:

Simply put: if you feel anger about what happens to animals raised for food because you claim it violates the inherent rights of all animals but continue to promote and support an organization—PETA—that also kills animals, you are being a hypocrite. Stand up for what you profess to believe in. Stop supporting people who inject thousands of animals a year with a fatal dose of poison. Stop supporting people who steal beloved companion animals and kill them. Stop creating the political climate that portrays animal killers as heroes and encourages your subscribers to support PETA, thereby enabling and funding more killing and more thwarting of animal rights. Or stand up for what is right by resigning from a magazine that does these things with your cooperation and consent.

Physician, heal thyself.

Nathan & Jennifer Winograd

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The Jewels in Oakland’s Crown

July 20, 2015 by  

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Over 400,000 trees in the Oakland and Berkeley hills and surrounding corridors will fall to the chainsaw, including Eucalyptus, Monterey Pine, Monterey Cypress, and Acacia. Habitat for owls, squirrels, raccoons, and many other animals will simply be wiped out and thousands of gallons of toxic herbicides made by Dow and Monsanto—including those found to be toxic to wildlife, cancerous to humans, to destroy the kidneys and liver of dogs, and when cruelly tested on animals, resulted in rats being born with their brains outside of their skulls—will be applied in wildlife habitat, near people’s homes, in dog parks and other recreational corridors. Why? To satisfy the personal prejudices of native plant ideologues who believe these trees don’t belong here and thus want to turn forests which provide habitat to hundreds of thousands of animals into “grassland with islands of shrub.” Although all four species of trees are scheduled for clear-cutting, proponents of deforestation hold out a special hatred of Eucalyptus. The San Francisco Chronicle recently ran a hit piece, vilifying Eucalyptus. The article is ignorant in its conclusions, arrogant in scope, and a great disservice to Oakland’s citizens, residents of the hills, the wild animals who make the Eucalyptus groves their homes, the dog walkers, cyclists, hikers, and others who seek out the majesty and beauty of the trees to recreate, and to the great historical legacy of men like Joaquin Miller who planted them and Robert Sibley who bequeathed them in perpetuity for future generations.

Click here to read “The Jewels in Oakland’s Crown: In Defense of Eucalyptus Trees,” the article by my wife and I in The Huffington Post.

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How To Be a Superhero for Animals

July 14, 2015 by  

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There are many ways to help save the lives of animals in shelters. The newest guide from the No Kill Advocacy Center, “How to Be a Superhero for Shelter Animals,” offers you 10 powerful ideas. When others won’t save animals; you can always, Do It Yourself!

To view, download, or print the FREE guide, click here.

The No Kill Advocacy Center is big on empowering the grassroots. For some inspirational ideas and resources to help you, visit the Superhero page of the website by clicking here.

Want to get inspired? Watch a film of ordinary people doing extraordinary things and ending the killing of animals in their community by clicking here.

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Michigan 2014

July 2, 2015 by  

What An “Average” State Shows us About Sheltering in the U.S.

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Tsubuki, one of the little critters available for adoption at the Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter. UPAWS has made Marquette, MI, a No Kill community.

Michigan’s 2014 statistics were released yesterday for reporting shelters. In many communities, lifesaving is up, up, up. There are new communities saving 95% or better of the animals and a fair number of cities saving 97%, 98%, even 99%.

Chippewa County, for example, saved 98% of dogs and 98% of cats in 2014 and adopted out the one pig who ended up at the shelter. As I have said before, pigs are people, too. The City of Madison Heights saved 99% of dogs, 98% of cats, and all the ferrets. Midland County saved 99% of dogs and 98% of cats. Alger County saved 100% of dogs and 99% of cats. The Upper Peninsula Animal Welfare Shelter (UPAWS) which serves Marquette is one of the shelters highlighted in my documentary film, Redemption, about the No Kill revolution in America. It saved 100% of rabbits, 100% of guinea pigs, 98% of dogs, 98% of cats, and 94% of “pocket pets.”

Tragically, some “shelters” don’t deserve the name. Detroit Animal Control killed over 70% of all dogs and cats and the majority of other species. Kalamazoo County Animal Services killed more cats than they took in: taking in 1,378 and killing 1,391. They certainly do not, as their name falsely implies, provide any real “services” to cats or the people who love them.

Like other aspects of American society, shelters in Michigan are broken down into camps: the “haves” and “have nots” and some in the middle. But the difference between those succeeding and those that are failing isn’t about money; it is about their commitment to saving lives. Those that want to are saving animals in record numbers. Those that don’t are killing. Many are just “average” shelters killing an “average” number of animals, which is, given the still low industry standard, a lot of animals (compared to the best performing shelters, though admittedly better than it has been historically). How to change that? And what would it take?

Michigan shelters are saving about 6.5 of every 10 animals. They need to save three more to end the killing of healthy and treatable animals. By implementing the programs and services of the No Kill Equation, they would be able to increase reclaims, save “feral” cats, and reduce impounds by keeping animals with their responsible caretakers. Then they can focus on adopting out the remainder. How many more? They just need to reach less than 1/2 of 1% of Michigan residents. It is theirs for the taking.

For those shelters that do not want to change, the same way every social movement in American history has and does: 1. Advocacy 2. Legislation 3. Litigation.

Some other items of note:

  • None of the reporting shelters sold live animals for research. (The practice of shelters doing so should be banned nationwide.)
  • The vast majority of reporting shelters do not seem to provide any sheltering services to rabbits, guinea pigs, ferrets, and other non-dog/cat species. Only 36 of the 132 reporting agencies (27%) took in any animals besides dogs and cats and many of those only took in one or a few. It is worth noting that when you look at the overall numbers killed, perhaps the rabbits and others are the unwitting lucky ones. The reporting shelters killed 17,950 dogs and 24,623 cats, compared to 706 non-dog/cat species. We need to first reform shelters to make them the save havens they should and can be. Of course, while I have long maintained that “shelters” should not take in animals if all they are going to do is kill them, that need not be the choice.

In the next few days, Michigan should also report totals, including the percentage of shelters which reported as the overall number of reports is down (somewhere in the neighborhood of 66% of shelters by my back of the envelope calculations). About 132 agencies reported, which is less than the roughly 165 or so that reported in years past and represented about 83-84% of the total. When the comprehensive tally comes out, it will give us a better grasp of what progress Michigan has made, how many animals are still losing their lives, and what it would take to end the killing altogether.

In the meantime, here are the rough/preliminary numbers I came up with based on what was already released: Michigan’s reporting agencies took in about 58,550 dogs and killed 17,950, a save rate of 70%. They took in 63,706 cats and killed 24,623, a save rate of 61%. They took in 2,400 other animals and killed 706, a save rate of 70%. Overall, the save rate was 65%, about the national average.

The data for individual communities will be crunched and updated to saving90.org and will include not just dogs and cats, but all animals who entered the shelters because ferrets, pigs, rabbits, and other animals matter, too.

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PETA Joins Hunters in New York to Declare Open Season on Cats

June 30, 2015 by  

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PETA has once again shown its true colors, this time aligning itself with a hunting organization in order to promote the round up and killing of community cats. As New York State legislators this week were debating whether to provide funding for sterilizing “feral” cats in lieu of killing, two groups came out in opposition: the New York Sportsmen’s Advisory Council and PETA. One wants to hunt down and kill animals and PETA, well, they also want to hunt down and kill animals. The only difference is one shoots; the other injects with poison.

Since its inception, PETA has advocated for the round up and killing of homeless cats. In 1995, for example, over the objections of cat lovers pushing for a sterilization program, the Mayor of Miami Beach pushed a plan to trap and kill cats. PETA sent a letter to the Mayor applauding his decision. The Mayor, however, had also decided that kittens would be turned over to a rescue group for socialization and adoption. But PETA took issue with this part of the plan, arguing that all the cats, including the kittens, should be taken to animal control and “euthanized by sodium pentobarbital injection.”

More recently, the Pima County, AZ, Board of Supervisors were voting last year on whether or not to reduce the killing of “feral” cats by implementing TNR at the shelter. As the local news reported, “Saving thousands of cats from being euthanized every year sounds like a good idea, but a well-known animal rights group is completely against it.” PETA told legislators that the cats were better dead then fed and urged them to continue rounding up and killing them.

When they are not advocating that community cats should be killed, they are killing them themselves. In 2014, PETA took in 1,605 cats at its Virginia headquarters and killed 1,536 (a kill rate of 96%). They transferred another 43 to kill shelters where they were either killed or displaced others who were killed. That would put the cat kill rate as high as 98%. They found homes for only 16, an adoption rate of 1%.

Thankfully, New York legislators ignored PETA. They voted 188 to 11 to pass the bill and send it to the Governor. Pima Supervisors also ignored PETA, embracing sterilization in lieu of killing. As to PETA killing animals themselves? Virginia lawmakers voted 130 to 3 (over PETA’s objections) to require private shelters, which PETA claims to be, to work to find homes for cats.

Please note: I do not criticize PETA because of what they are thought to stand for (animal rights), but because of what they actually do stand for (animal killing). I criticize them because they “do not advocate right to life for animals” (as Ingrid Newkirk herself has written), because they kill over 90% of the animals they take in, including healthy puppies and kittens, and because they also advocate that they be killed by others.

In the early 1990s, I was living in Wheaton, Maryland, a stone’s throw from PETA headquarters, before they relocated to Norfolk, Virginia. Because I love animals, am vegan, and did not want to see them killed, exploited, or abused, I became a PETA volunteer. And then one day, my roommate, a former PETA employee, found a dog in need of a home. We called him Ray. I asked her why we didn’t just take Ray to PETA. Surely, PETA, with its millions of dollars and millions of animal loving members, would find him a home. But she said no, that was a very bad idea, because PETA would just kill him. That is when I did what anyone who truly loves animals would have done, I walked away from them. It is what another PETA intern also did when he saw puppies and kittens in the kill room. He quit in disgust.

Learn more by clicking here.

Learn why by clicking here.

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They Did It; So Can You

June 27, 2015 by  

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In 2010, operating under the old adage that if you want something done right, do it yourself, a group of Alameda, CA, shelter volunteers banded together and told the City that they could not only run the shelter better (i.e., save more lives), they could save the City money in the process. They submitted a bid to run the shelter and got the contract. After 126 years of running the shelter, the City turned it over to the volunteers. In 2014, the shelter saved 92% of cats and 98% of dogs. You can read the inspiring story by clicking here. In Palm Springs, CA, under similar circumstances, the shelter now saves 95% of the animals. And in Petaluma, CA, a similar group saved 94% in 2013 and claims an even higher save rate in 2014 (See saving90.org).

“We figured out how to save over 97% of ALL our animals in an open admission city pound. By doing so, we have tons of donations, tons of volunteers, and tons of happy adopters. We run out of animals! In my experience, animal advocates arguing that we ‘have to kill’ animals (followed by the usual excuses…) is false… Kill shelters are on the way out. Modern, high achieving shelters are going to make sure of that.”

They are part of a growing number of shelters—run by newly formed groups—that wanted the shelter run right and decided to do it themselves. They have rejected the excuses of why ending the killing of animals is impossible, of why things have to be done the same way year after year, of why there is no choice but to accept the deadly results. And they are not alone. Similar examples exist in other states.

You can do it, too. Here are sample copies of their bids to take over the shelter for you to use and modify:

Other approaches to saving lives in the local shelter include waging a political campaign for reform, passing a law that requires shelters to save more lives, or making sure that the person running the shelter is compassionate, effective, and hard working.

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Pigs are people, too

June 26, 2015 by  

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Our little piggy boy, Oswald.

We like to call our dog Oswald our little “piggy boy.” It is a term of endearment, but it looks like it is also scientifically accurate according to a recent article in the International Journal of Comparative Pyschology.

Emory University Professors determined that pigs are “gregarious” by nature, “highly social,” have a “robust memory,” can retrieve a frisbee, play with a ball, sit, fetch, and jump when asked, and are highly motivated by food. In other words, they are just like dogs.

The authors also noted that pigs can play video games. Not really. But they do like to play and can move a modified joystick (no easy undertaking given the lack of opposable thumbs) and are aware that it impacts what is happening on a screen. And that makes them smarter than dogs.

In “Dogs Are People, Too,” a recent article in the New York Times, Dr. Gregory Berns indicated that “dogs have a level of sentience comparable to that of a human child.” And this, he writes, “suggests a rethinking of how we treat dogs.” Accordingly, Dr. Berns posits that the law should not regard dogs as property, but as legal persons, and that puppy mills, vivisection and dog racing should be banned. His research also demands that it should be illegal for “shelters” to kill them.

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The latest review of the literature suggests that similar treatment for pigs is warranted. If dogs are people and pigs are dogs, then pigs are people, too. Some other findings:

  • Pigs are optimistic and agreeable;
  • They prefer familiar individuals of both the pig and human variety to strangers;
  • They can read human facial cues;
  • They are empathetic (they are sensitive to the experience of others);
  • They are altruistic (can make decisions based on empathy);
  • They have unique personality traits that overlap that of humans; and, not surprisingly,
  • They think more popcorn is better than less popcorn!

The article, “Thinking Pigs: A Comparative Review of Cognition, Emotion, and Personality in Sus domesticus,” can be found by clicking here.

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AHA’s Great Betrayals

June 24, 2015 by  

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A horse injured while filming for a movie. AHA certified that “no animals were harmed” even when they have been killed.

How do Americans feel about animals? In a national survey, 96% of Americans—almost every single person surveyed—said we have a moral duty to protect animals and should have strong laws to do so. Three out of four Americans believe it should be illegal for shelters to kill healthy and treatable animals. Specialization and advancements in the field of veterinary medicine have been driven by a population of Americans willing to spend and do whatever it takes to save the lives of the animals they love. In fact, spending on our animal companions is the seventh largest sector of the retail economy, showing steady annual increases even in the face of economic uncertainty. And giving to animal related causes continues to be a fast growing segment in American philanthropy.

And while we have a long, long way to go with regards to non-companion animals, in the last two decades the number of vegetarians has vastly increased. And with greater consumer demand has come more choices—more vegetarian restaurants and more natural food stores that surpass traditional supermarkets in terms of selection. According to a food-industry magazine, “Product innovation, media attention, and buyer demand are creating strong growth for the vegetarian foods market, and more companies are trying to profit from meat, egg, and dairy alternatives.” In fact, sales of ready-made vegetarian products are a billion-dollar industry in the U.S., and more Americans are eating soy-based meat substitutes than ever before.

In turn, our concern for animals has made some organizations very, very rich, but too often the animals no better off. By emotionally manipulating people with heart-wrenching commercials and appeals, Americans continue donating to the large national “animal protection” organizations in spite of their many failures. It is a great betrayal and perhaps none so wide ranging as that of the corrupt American Humane Association. They not only betray dogs and cats. They not only betray horses and other animals being used in movies. They also betray the billions of animals killed every year in factory farms. And they do this all for money.

How to Become an AHA Certified Killer of Dogs, Cat, & Other Companion Animals

The American Humane Association bills itself as “the nation’s ‘voice’ for the protection of animals.” And it claims that,

One of the important ways American Humane helps protect animals is by educating and training people how to provide the best animal care possible. Throughout the year, we host trainings nationwide for animal welfare professionals and for all people who love animals and want to make a difference in their well-being.

What kind of training does AHA provide for those who might want to “make a difference” in the “well-being” of animals? By teaching people to kill them. “Whether you’ve never performed euthanasia or have years of experience with it,” says AHA, everyone is welcome—including those who will use the knowledge to kill healthy and treatable animals. AHA holds the workshops at regressive shelters across the country—so there are plenty of animals on hand to kill. And even though it is not the job of an “animal protection” group to teach people how to kill, at this workshop, not only will AHA teach you how to kill real animals, not only will they “catch you up” on the “latest techniques and drugs,” they’ll teach you how to kill animals in a variety of ways, too. And what happens if you have a moment of clarity about what is actually happening—about how an organization that claims to be about helping animals is teaching you with precise detail how to kill them—and your conscience protests? What then? Not to worry. AHA will soothe your guilt by teaching you how to smother your compassion. With “an entire section” of the conference devoted to dealing with “the unique stress felt by those who perform euthanasia,” they’ll lull you back into a state of complacency and assure you that you are, in fact, a hero for helping create that pile of dead dogs and cats. They’ll teach you to regard any empathy you might have felt for your victims not as a plea from your better nature to reject killing, but as a pesky case of what they call “compassion stress.”

Learn more by clicking here.

Complicit in Animal Cruelty of Horses & Other Animals Used in Movies

“From being the protectors of animals they’ve become complicit to animal cruelty.” That is how a criminal prosecutor describes the American Humane Association which will sell out the animals for the almighty dollar. Movies where animals were injured and killed received an AHA certification that “no animals were harmed.” In one movie, 27 animals were killed, but AHA looked the other way. In another case, after an animal nearly drowned, the AHA inspector wrote: “I think this goes without saying but DON’T MENTION IT TO ANYONE, ESPECIALLY THE OFFICE! I have downplayed the f— out of it.”

Learn more by clicking here.

Calling Abuse of Animals on Farms “Humane”

For an undisclosed sum of money, American Humane Association is paid by companies like Foster Farms to label their factory farms and slaughterhouses as “humane.” But undercover videos show that at Foster Farms, workers throw bins of live baby chicks onto the ground. They show the bodies of chickens that were boiled alive after missing an automatic knife that’s supposed to slit their necks. They show live birds being slammed upside-down into shackles. They show workers burning the beaks and toes from baby turkeys.

When Foster Farms slits the throats of millions of chickens every year or puts live, baby male chicks into a giant grinder because they don’t lay eggs or grow fast enough to provide maximum profitability to the industry, AHA does not condemn it. Instead, they give it their seal of approval.

The exposé on abuse of chickens is here.

The exposé on abuse of turkeys is here.

Learn more by clicking here.

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Redemption

June 15, 2015 by  

A film by Nathan Winograd. Now available on DVD.

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Shelter killing is the leading cause of death of healthy dogs and cats in the United States. It doesn’t have to be.

This is the story of animal sheltering, which was born of compassion and then lost its way. It is the story of the No Kill movement, which says we can and must stop the killing. It is about heroes and villains, betrayal and redemption. And it is about a social movement as noble and just as those that have come before. But most of all, it is a story about believing in the community and trusting in the power of compassion.

To purchase, click here.

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The companion book to the award-winning film contains information about the activists and communities highlighted in the movie, the cast and crew, the No Kill philosophy, the film’s transcript, what you can do, and more.

To purchase the companion book, click here.

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A Call to Investigate PETA

May 29, 2015 by  

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The Hon. Gregory D. Underwood
Commonwealth’s Attorney
800 E. City Hall Avenue Suite 600
Norfolk, VA 23510

Dear Mr. Underwood,

Virginia law, § 19.2-191(2), empowers the state’s commonwealth attorney to order a grand jury to “investigate and report on any condition that involves or tends to promote criminal activity, either in the community or by any governmental authority, agency or official thereof.” I am writing to ask that such a panel be convened to investigate the actions of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which is based in Norfolk.

This past October, two employees for PETA stole Maya, a beloved family’s dog off her porch in order to put her to death. Knowing that no one was around—not only because they knew the schedules of the family, but because they paid local children money to leave the area—one of the employees went onto the property and stole Maya. In addition to violating the larceny statute, Virginia law requires dogs to be held for five days before they can be killed by shelters. It also requires private shelters like PETA to notify the municipal animal control shelter of any “stray” dogs they take in. PETA did neither. Within hours, Maya was dead. PETA had killed her with a lethal dose of poison.

Maya’s killing was not the first time that PETA employees have been arrested over their taking and killing of animals. In a North Carolina criminal trial against two different employees, jurors heard similar testimony. That case would prove even more sordid than Maya’s. In Ahoskie, North Carolina, police were dispatched to a Piggly Wiggly Supermarket after officials there noticed a strong odor coming from the supermarket dumpster and, upon investigation, discovered the body of an animal in a trash bag. As police rummaged through the dumpster, they found the bodies of 21 dead dogs in garbage bags. Two weeks later, 17 dogs and three cats were discovered in the same dumpster. After a surveillance operation, detectives witnessed two PETA employees in a white van—similar to the one used to steal Maya—dumping 16 more bodies into the dumpster. The employees were arrested. Inside the van were boxes of trash bags, PETA manuals, and a tackle box containing syringes, needles and bottles of a liquid substance, later determined to be the drug used to kill animals. They also discovered the bodies of eight more dogs and 12 cats, including a mother cat and her two kittens picked up just minutes earlier from a local veterinarian after PETA promised they would have no trouble finding them a home.

At trial, the PETA staff who killed the animals admitted to doing so and further admitted that the animals were healthy, calling them “adorable” and “perfect.” But the fact that they were healthy did not spare any of the animals the needle—nor did the fact that they promised the people they received the animals from that they would find them homes. They were doing the job PETA paid them to do; and that job was to acquire and kill animals.

Since that time, a former employee has come forward with even more damning evidence showing that PETA not only has a history of lying to the public to acquire animals for the purpose of killing them, but abusing its ability to possess and use the controlled substance used to kill animals. Explaining that killing healthy animals at PETA was not an anomaly but rather “standard operating procedure” Heather Harper-Troje, the wife of a U.S. diplomat who is serving at the American embassy in Honduras and one-time PETA field worker, publically uncovered the inner workings at PETA. “I know from firsthand experience that the PETA leadership has no problem lying,” she wrote. “I was told regularly to not enter animals into the log, or to euthanize off site in order to prevent animals from even entering the building. I was told regularly to greatly overestimate the weight of animals whose euthanasia we recorded in order to account for what would have otherwise been missing ‘blue juice’ (the chemical used to euthanize), because that allowed us to euthanize animals off the books. I was told regularly to say whatever I had to say in order to get people to surrender animals to me, lying was not only acceptable, it was encouraged.” The purpose of seizing these animals, according to Harper-Troje, was “to euthanize the[m] immediately.”

For Maya, PETA’s crime resulted in her death. For her family, it has led to immense heartbreak. Maya lived with a nine-year-old girl who, according to the family’s spokesperson, was utterly devastated by her killing. But the agencies tasked with protecting dogs like Maya and the people who love them have turned a blind eye. Although two PETA employees were arrested and charged with larceny by the Accomack County sheriff, the Commonwealth attorney refused to prosecute. Despite video evidence that they stole Maya and an admission that they killed her, the prosecutor claimed he could not prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. Despite clear evidence that PETA has violated the law on multiple occasions, the Virginia Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services refuses to pull PETA’s “shelter” license, choosing instead to fine it a mere $500, a fraction of the $52 million it took in last year. Despite calls for investigations by state senators, county attorneys, national organizations, and the Virginia Federation of Humane Societies which says PETA is operating to “the great detriment of animals in the Commonwealth;” despite violating the law, lying to people, stealing pets, and killing them, PETA continues operating as before, unapologetically killing thousands of defenseless animals ever year.

Ironically, it is the very double standard between humans and non-humans that most people erroneously believe PETA exists to overcome that has allowed PETA to get away with the harms they have inflicted with virtual impunity. And it is the perception that they exist to protect, rather than imperil, animals which causes reluctance on the part of public officials tasked with oversight, even with compelling evidence that PETA has a history of stealing owned pets and putting them to death in violation of law, lying to or misleading people when they take their animals and put them to death, and other illegal conduct. To continue to ignore that threat and danger—to continue to allow them to operate outside the bounds of our common values and law and to do so with impunity—puts other animals at risk and is a recipe for future regret.

Very truly yours,

Nathan J. Winograd

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