No Kill Is Love Tour 2014

October 28, 2014 by  

Thank you to everyone who came to one of the dozens of screenings we had around the country for Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America, including the San Pedro International Film Festival where it won the audience award for best film and the Torchlight Film Program at Florida State University’s College of Motion Picture Arts. The tour took me to Minneapolis, the San Francisco Bay Area, Ft. Lauderdale, Nashville, Cleveland, Sacramento, Denver, New York City, Boston, Pittsburgh, Washington, D.C., Norfolk, Austin, Las Vegas, Phoenix, Atlanta, Charlotte, Northwest Arkansas, Albuquerque, Detroit, Chicago, Modesto, Ithaca, Buffalo, Houston, Los Angeles, and Tallahassee. Many people flew to the screenings and others drove over 8 hours to see it. Many of the cities included an after-party, some had live music, others had red carpets, vegan food, a post-film seminar on building a No Kill community, Q&A, and/or plenty of press.

The tour could not have been possible without the help of a lot of people, including those who sponsored events, who volunteered, who helped to promote it, and so much more. A big, deep, heartfelt thank you to all of you, too many to name.

Thank you to Mike Fry and his team at Animal Ark for making the world premier such a memorable event: a stunning theater, live music, vegan food, red carpet, and more. Thank you as well to the cast and crew including Sagacity Productions, Director Russ Barry, Producer Bonnie Silva, Narrator Don Morrow, Composer Sean Hathaway, the activists we interviewed in the film such as Larry Tucker, Ryan Clinton, Valerie Hayes and many others, the many fine actors like Michael Sayers who played the great Henry Bergh, as well as the entire cast and crew, also too many to name here.

But the ultimate thank you goes to the film’s benefactor, Debi Day. Debi’s philanthropy has enabled educating a wider audience about the myths and misperceptions that lie at the heart of shelter killing and spreading the good news that there is a humane, life-affirming alternative to that killing. Thanks to Debi, this film will serve an important role in reaching new people and moving the No Kill revolution towards its inevitable, and hopefully not too distant, victory. I remain grateful for her kindness, her unique and special contribution to our cause and the potential for animals her assistance helps to be realized.

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All told, over 5,000 people in 27 cities saw the film during the tour. 

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People arriving to the world premier of Redemption in Minneapolis. 

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The Minneapolis premier was a family affair.

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“And that laugh… wrinkles your nose, Touches my foolish heart…” Dancing with my wife at the premier in Minneapolis.

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Without Debi Day’s generosity, the film would not have been possible. Here, Debi Day and Marc Claus arrive at the premier in Minneapolis. 

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Minneapolis premier host Mike Fry and his husband George Hamm celebrate the release of Redemption at the screening’s after party.

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On the red carpet at the San Pedro International Film Festival (SPIFF) in Los Angeles.

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Official Selection: SPIFF.

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Redemption won the audience award for Best Film at SPIFF.

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At the State Theater in Austin, TX, one of the communities featured in the film.

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Receiving a proclamation at the Austin screening from City Council Member Mike Martinez naming August 3 Nathan Winograd Day in the City of Austin for my role in helping it become the largest city in America with at least a 90% save rate.

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Attendees in many cities received a free film companion.

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Some cities were modest in size, but the vast majority saw hundreds of people turn out to see the film. Cities like New York City sold out and many people had to be turned away.

Chicago

Screenings were held in various venues around the country including performing arts centers, universities, and commercial theaters like this one in Chicago.

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At the Ithaca, NY, premier, one of the cities featured in the film.

Denver

A lot of people helped make the tour a reality and a success. Here, I’m with the team of No Kill Colorado who helped bring the film to Denver.

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I met a lot of great people who are working hard to make a lifesaving difference in their communities.

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One of the many four legged attendees, Amazing Grace survived a Georgia gas chamber and became the namesake for “Grace’s Law” which banned gas killing of dogs and cats in Georgia pounds. Here, she gets a belly rub at the Atlanta screening of the film.

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During the tour, I’ve met some really great “people” including Bridget at the Nashville screening. Two legs, two wheels, all heart.

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The tour was kind to all animals. There was plenty of delicious vegan food at many of the events.

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Food on the road can be sketchy, but thanks to No Kill Maricopa County, in Phoenix I was treated to the Big Wac, the best vegan burger in America.

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It was all part of the 2014 No Kill is Love tour. 

While the tour has come to an end, I’ll announce other film festivals in the coming months, I’ve been invited to screen the film for staff at one of the most influential companies in the U.S., attendees of the national No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C., will receive a free copy, and some time in 2015, the film will be available as a DVD for rent/purchase. Stay tuned….

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An Embrace of SNR, With Caveats

October 23, 2014 by  

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For years, No Kill advocates have been promoting TNR (Trap, Neuter, Release*) for what were termed “feral cats,” cats who live outdoors and are not social with humans. Feral means an animal who has changed from being domesticated to being wild or untamed. This is not accurate for many free-living cats who have been born and raised without human contact. Moreover, the term is used to invoke the false notion that these cats are not part of the natural environment and therefore do not belong there. Thankfully, even as TNR has gone mainstream, the term “feral” has fallen into disuse, in favor of the more accurate term “community cat” or “free-living cat.” But at the same time, community cat has come to encompass a larger number of cats than those once deemed “feral.” Whereas “feral” denoted those cats who are not social with humans, “community cat” makes no such distinction. Any cat without a permanent address, social or unsocial with humans, is considered a community or free-living cat. At the same time as the movement has shifted from feral to free-living, therefore, TNR has morphed into SNR (Shelter, Neuter, Release) for these cats, irrespective of their sociability to humans. Should No Kill advocates support SNR for community cats who are social with humans with the same enthusiasm they supported it for feral cats who are not? With caveats.

For most of the history of animal sheltering in the United States, feral cats who ended up in shelters faced an almost certain death sentence. Without a human address, there was no one to reclaim these animals. Fearful of humans, they were not considered candidates for traditional adoption and were not afforded the opportunity. Combined with the misconception that they disproportionately suffer without human caretakers because some claimed they “belong” in homes, the tragic result has been the execution of virtually all healthy and self-sufficient free-living cats in shelters across the nation. Such killing was the status quo until cat lovers began advocating for the alternative of neutering and releasing them back into their habitats.

In a TNR program—an essential component of the No Kill Equation—free-living cats who are not social with humans and end up in the shelter are neutered and released back into their habitats. The shelter also works with local feral cat caregivers who trap the cats for purposes of sterilization and release. Sometimes, these cats have human caretakers who watch over them and feed them. But often, the cats who end up in shelters are like other “wild” animals, thoroughly unsocialized to humans, surviving on their own through instinct and wit and no worse off because of it.

Once in the shelter, sterilization isn’t the most important variable. The most important part of the TNR equation is the “R,” the functional equivalent of adoption. Through TNR, cat advocates have found a life-affirming way to address the dogmas which the animal protection movement itself created and expounded for decades that have been responsible for the mass slaughter of these cats. Right now, TNR is the most humane option for these cats because it assures their safety and buys them a ticket back home.

Today, many No Kill advocates are also promoting what they call SNR for all community cats, including those who are social with people; in other words, friendly cats who are adoption candidates. The reasons to do so can be compelling. First, some of these cats are not lost. They are outside, but they get lost when they are taken to a shelter. Returning them merely returns them home. Even if they were lost when they were picked up, the likelihood of being reunited with their families is greater for cats if they are allowed to remain where they are rather than being admitted to the shelter. In one study, cats were 13 times more likely to be returned home by non-shelter means (such as returning home on their own) than by a call or visit to a shelter. And another study found that people are up to three times more likely to adopt cats as neighborhood strays versus adopting from a shelter. At the same time, the risk of death for street cats in communities has been found to extremely low, with outdoor cats living roughly the same lifespan as indoor pet cats. In other words, the risk of death is lower and the chance of adoption higher for cats on the streets than cats in the shelter. In a study of over 100,000 alley cats, less than one percent of those cats were suffering from debilitating conditions. As such, SNR meets the two goals of a shelter better than impoundment in a shelter does: reclaim by families or adoption into a new home. In addition, SNR saves lives from shelters which have not comprehensively implemented the programs and services of the No Kill Equation. Where the alternative to SNR is death, SNR, of course, is always the preferred outcome.

But admittedly, SNR for friendly community cats isn’t what we did when I ran an animal control shelter. When they were not reclaimed, we found them homes. All of them. Moreover, if the cats are truly lost or abandoned, shelters should not forget that they have a mandate to help reunite families. Since the choice presented—SNR or death—is a false one, breaking up families by simply releasing animals back on the streets without trying to find their existing home is at odds with that mission. This view loses sight of what, in fact, is one of the primary functions and mandates of a taxpayer funded, municipal animal shelter: to provide a safe haven for the lost animals of local people and a place where they can go to find them. And if the family does not show up, if cats are truly without a human home and they are social with people, they should be given one. In fact, the shelter is obligated to find them a loving, new one. That’s their job. In other words, the reason cats are more likely to find their original home or a new one from the streets is because most shelters are run ineffectively and inefficiently, not because people aren’t looking for their cats or homes are not available. Those shelters that do a good job at both have been able to increase—by 20-fold and more—the percentage of cats reclaimed by their families, at the same time that they maintain adoption rates that allow them to save as high as 99% of all cats entering the shelter. If shelters did a better job at being shelters, therefore, not only would they have realized their mission, but SNR would not be the difference between life and death for cats it is today precisely because most shelters are poorly performing.

The bottom line is this: if shelters are going to embrace SNR, rather than guaranteed adoption, shelters should also do several other things: checking for identification, scanning for microchip, reviewing lost cat reports, knocking on doors in the neighborhood, and posting the cat’s photograph online. But that is not what groups like HSUS advocate. It is no surprise that they don’t since they have no experience running a fully functioning, successful shelter and have no idea how to create one. Instead, the only way they know how to save lives isn’t by training shelters to do the job entrusted to them and to do it well, but by telling them that they don’t have to do their jobs at all. By embracing SNR as a first choice, they have found yet another way to do so. Thankfully, this one does not involve killing and so when the choice comes down to SNR or death, SNR should be embraced time and time again. But those do not have to be the only two choices. If we reformed shelters, SNR wouldn’t be the first choice for socialized community cats: redemption and adoption would be. It would and should, however, remain the last, because killing should never be a choice at all.

* While it is popular to use “return” instead of “release,” I believe this is inaccurate unless the term return is considered expansively to include all of the outdoors. If it is not safe to return the cats to the location where they were trapped or picked up, they should be released in another location.

For further reading: The Life of a Wild Cat

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A No Kill Nation By 2005… 2010… 2015… 2020

October 21, 2014 by  

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We’re coming to the tail end of 2014. In two months, 2015 will be upon us. That is the year, according to Maddie’s Fund, that every shelter, in every city, in every county, in every state in the country will be No Kill. In 2015, according to the national organization that promised to “revolutionize the status of companion animals” by infusing “megabucks into every community,” not a single shelter will kill a single healthy or treatable animal. It won’t matter whether the animals are young or old, healthy or sick, unweaned, injured, or traumatized. It won’t matter if they are cats who are not socialized to people or dogs labeled “pit bulls.” Not a single one will be dying anywhere. And we won’t even have had to fight for it. In fact, Maddie’s Fund says we aren’t allowed to stand up and fight for it. That is because “no one wants to kill” and “we all want the same thing” and the shelter director who orders dogs and cats shoved into gas chambers cares as much as you do and the workers who neglect and abuse the animals actually love them. And saying otherwise is just “bash and trash.”

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I don’t need to tell any of you that this is all at best, wishful thinking, and, at its worst, a damn lie. In 2000, shortly after its founding, Maddie’s Fund promised us a No Kill nation by 2005. In 2005, they promised it would happen by 2010. And in 2010, they said 2015. Of course, by the third go around, they stopped guaranteeing it and started to hedge: it became “probable,” they were “bullish” and “optimistic” about it. But the intent was the same: if we wait five years (in New York City, in Los Angeles, and everywhere else), the killing would stop. But here’s the rub: despite 15 years of promises, hundreds of millions of dollars in grants (not all of it for animal causes), and dozens of what they promised would be “game changing” programs that failed to deliver the promised results, they have not created a single No Kill community. Not a single one.

Shelter killing remains the leading cause of death for healthy dogs and cats in the U.S. with millions losing their lives every year. And the reason for that statistic is as shocking as the statistic itself. Most animals are being killed in shelters not because there are too many, too few homes, because people are irresponsible, or because people have failed to sterilize their animals. Animals are dying in shelters for one reason: because people in shelters are killing them.

Maddie’s Fund may be maintaining the delusion that No Kill will happen magically a few months from now or they may be planning their fourth “game changing” announcement that it will happen in yet another five years, in 2020, hoping everyone forgets about their prior claims. I don’t know and I don’t care and neither should you. No Kill is not going to happen by pretending that shelter directors who are thoroughly reconciled to the killing and collectively inject millions of animals with fatal doses of poison in spite of readily available lifesaving alternatives do not want to kill or want the same thing as we do. Nor will they magically wake up on January 1 and say to themselves, “Today is the day I will finally stop killing.”

If you want No Kill in your hometown and your local shelter director refuses to implement common-sense, cost-effective alternatives to killing, you are going to have to do what the people in successful communities across the United States have already done—fight for it. Like they did in Austin. And Reno. And Ithaca. And elsewhere. Regardless of what the “experts” at Maddie’s Fund tell you.

Here’s how: http://bit.ly/RB7B5a

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Redemption Wins Award for Best Film

October 15, 2014 by  

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I am happy to report that Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America won the audience award for best film at the San Pedro International Film Festival. When I first announced that the film was accepted at SPIFF, shelter killing advocates (yes, there are such people) contacted the festival and told them not to show it and if the festival did, they would protest. Of course, you don’t tell a festival that focuses on films to censor films, but logic has never been the naysayers strong suit (if they were logical, they would embrace No Kill). This award proves them wrong and proves what I have said all along: my love for animals and your love for animals is not unique. It resides in most people. And because it resides in most people, our job as activists is to give them the information they need to cut through the misinformation about the “necessity” of killing and to give them the tools they need to help bring that killing to an end. When we do so, we’ll have every single one of them willing to follow us into a more compassionate future for shelter animals.

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A lot of people deserve credit for the award including Sagacity Productions, Director Russ Barry, Producer Bonnie Silva, Narrator Don Morrow, Composer Sean Hathaway, the activists we interviewed like Larry Tucker, Ryan Clinton, Valerie Hayes and many others, the many fine actors like Michael Sayers who played the great Henry Bergh, as well as the entire cast and crew, too many to name here.

But the ultimate credit goes to the film’s benefactor, Debi Day. Debi brings to this cause a powerful combination of qualities: means and generosity. Debi’s philanthropy has enabled educating a wider audience about the myths and misperceptions that lie at the heart of shelter killing and spreading the good news that there is a humane, life-affirming alternative to that killing. Thanks to Debi, this film will serve an important role in reaching new people and moving the No Kill revolution towards its inevitable, and hopefully not too distant, victory. I remain grateful for her kindness, her unique and special contribution to our cause and the potential for animals her assistance helps to be realized. Thank you Debi.

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While Tallahassee, FL is the only city left on the roughly 30-City No Kill is Love 2014 tour, there may be other opportunities to see it. We’ve been invited to do a private screening for the staff at one of the largest companies in the U.S. We’ve been invited to other film festivals. And it will be featured at the No Kill Conference in Washington, D.C. (everyone who attends will also receive a free copy of the film and a companion guide). In addition, there is a chance we may be able to screen it in a few other cities. Finally, once all these events are completed, the film will be available for rent/sale on Amazon. Stay tuned…

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When No Kill Isn’t

October 14, 2014 by  

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As the No Kill movement gets larger and more communities improve rates of lifesaving, we need more rigor in defining what constitutes a No Kill community. Elsewhere, I’ve posted why a 90% rate of lifesaving in and of itself does not actually constitute No Kill. Admittedly, I have been guilty of commingling the two—90% and No Kill—and we shouldn’t.

There are, for example, shelters that save over 90% of the animals—in some cases, well over 90%—but still kill healthy and treatable dogs and cats, including community cats who are not social with people. There are, in fact, communities with save rates approaching 98% who still kill healthy and treatable feral cats. Moreover, some communities use coalition-wide rates which can exceed 90%, irrespective of pound rates which may be lower. They also exclude “owner requested killing” and deaths in kennels as doing so reduces even the coalition-wide save rates below 90%.

In addition, there are shelters that save well over 90% of dogs and cats but either do not take in non-dog and cat species (and they shouldn’t if all they are going to do is kill them, but nonetheless leave these animals with no protections of any kind) or, worse, take in and kill rabbits, guinea pigs, and other animals. In the 1990s, for example, while the San Francisco SPCA was making progress for dogs and cats and helping spearhead a No Kill revolution in this country, there were no programs for rabbits at the SPCA, the species of shelter animal killed in the third largest number in shelters across the country. There were no programs for hamsters, guinea pigs, birds, and other animals who were still being killed in large numbers (as a percentage of their total intakes) at the San Francisco pound. Nor was there a No Kill guarantee for injured but rehabilitatable wild animals brought to the shelter, such as pigeons even though such birds, if unable to be released safely into the wild, should be adopted out as companions rather than killed. In fact, I share my home with two such pigeons. Because the city pound itself was not interested in putting in place programs to save these animals and efforts to get leadership at the San Francisco SPCA to do so were rebuffed, non-dog and cat species continued—and continue to this very day—to die in large numbers in that city. They still continue to die in other cities where the No Kill guarantee does not extend to every species entering those shelters. It can and it should.

All of these communities have called themselves “No Kill” and they aren’t. The penultimate question is always whether the shelter is saving all animals entering the shelter who are healthy and treatable, rigorously defined.

To call a community that still kills healthy and treatable dogs, cats (including community cats who are not social to people), rabbits, guinea pigs, and others “No Kill” without more because they save 90% of dogs and cats is not only misleading, it may in fact be fundamentally dishonest.

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Redemption Comes to Los Angeles

September 10, 2014 by  

Join me on October 11 in Los Angeles for a screening of Redemption, my film about the No Kill revolution in America.

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Redemption is an official selection of the San Pedro International Film Festival. The film will screen on Saturday, October 11. This will be the only Southern California showing. Advanced tickets are required.

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HSUS Celebrates the Killing of Animals

September 1, 2014 by  

And pays people to eat them.

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Nearly 25 years ago when I decided to dedicate my life to the cause of animal rights, I was faced with an important decision: where to focus my attention? Given my concern for all animals, it was a tough choice and one I weighed very carefully. Should I focus on animals used in research? Animals raised and killed for “food”? Animals in captivity? Wild animals? Both then as now, the list of issues needing attention was a long one and as a young law student at Stanford, I focused on all these issues through the campus animal rights group I founded. But several experiences helped me to answer the calling I eventually chose after graduation: working to end the killing of companion animals in American shelters.

First, I was influenced by a mother who was the neighborhood cat lady. Second, I was fortunate to have life-altering experiences working with two local No Kill shelters while attending law school. Third, I was deeply troubled by the animal protection movement’s philosophical embrace of the killing of companion animals. Finally, I was inspired by the legal and societal precedent-setting potential for all animals embodied in the concern and love most Americans already have for companion animals. As a result, I decided to focus most of my time and energy on an issue which I saw almost no other activists with an animal-rights orientation addressing: shelter killing.

Over the last two decades, that is precisely what I have done. As a former director of two of the most successful shelters in the nation and the current Executive Director of the No Kill Advocacy Center, a non-profit organization working to bring an end to the systematic killing of animals in shelters, companion animals are the animals on whom I have focused most of my professional time and energy. But that doesn’t mean I don’t care about the suffering or plight of other animals any less. And that is why I have always lived my life according to a simple ethos: do no harm; a maxim that is reflected in what I eat, what I wear, how I spend my consumer dollars, how I respond to the animals in need who cross my path, and how I am raising my children, among other things. It is also why my wife and I authored All American Vegan, a vegan primer and cookbook that seeks to inspire other No Kill advocates and everyday dog and cat lovers to likewise embrace a compassionate way of eating.

Nonetheless, in spite of these efforts to promote veganism and my long, personal identification as an animal rights activist, some people—often those new to my Facebook page or the cause of No Kill—have certain preconceived notions about who I am or should be, and what I should be allowed to say on my own Facebook page (a form of censorship with which they would no doubt take great offense were similar limitations to be dictated to them about permissible content on their own page). And often, that means not only surprise and frustration but sometimes even anger when I post about other animal related issues that matter deeply to me but do not concern the plight of companion animals.

Sadly, it seems that there will always be a portion of the followers on my page who I cannot please: animal rights activists who accuse me of not caring about other animals beyond dogs and cats simply because I have chosen to focus most of my effort on those animals (a criticism I doubt they would ever make of other animal rights activists focusing exclusively on more traditional animal rights issues such as animal agriculture or fur), and on the flip side, No Kill advocates who attack me for expressing concern about other animals beyond dogs and cats, such as a pit bull advocate who called me an “extremist” for a comment I made on the Facebook page of a No Kill colleague in defense of chickens after other No Kill advocates defended their killing. To the latter group, the fact that I do not wish any animal to experience pain, suffering or a premature death, instead of limiting my compassion to dogs and cats labels me an “extremist.” My response? To thine own self be true.

And that is why when I see the nation’s large, so-called “animal protection” groups—most notably, the HSUS, the ASPCA and AHA—behaving as unethically towards cows and chickens as they have historically behaved towards dogs and cats, I must say so. Not only do the animals these groups are throwing under the bus in deference to those who systematically abuse and kill them deserve a voice, too, but there is value in exposing the hypocrisy and philosophical rot that permeates these corrupt institutions at every level. Often, people want to compartmentalize the malfeasance of these groups: to argue that their different divisions are separate and distinct from one another and that an institutional culture which allows for the thwarting of shelter reform efforts, which defends shelter killing and even celebrates shelter directors who oversee facilities where animals have suffered horrible abuse and senseless deaths, is none-the-less capable of a morally consistent and effective agenda for wild animals, animals abused and killed in agriculture or in other spheres. As several recent campaigns by these groups to promote the lie of “humane” meat clearly demonstrate, not only is this view ill-informed and naïve, but dead wrong.

A couple of weeks ago, Jennifer and I ate at one of the newest locations for a chain of vegan restaurants whose food we absolutely love: Veggie Grill. And like virtually every other time we have eaten at Veggie Grill, we were thrilled to see the restaurant not only packed, but filled with a broad array of people from all possible demographics—old and young, male and female, entire families, businessmen in suits and tattooed hipsters. This popularity is also reflected in the expansion of Veggie Grill which has opened 25 locations since its debut in 2006. With delicious, faux meat sandwiches that mimic the real thing, Veggie Grill is proof positive that if you make it delicious and familiar tasting, vegan food can have tremendously broad appeal, especially among an American public that is becoming increasingly conscious about the animal suffering and killing enabled by their consumer choices.

Perhaps it was this awareness that compelled the pizzeria next door to attempt to compete by advertising itself in two ways. On one side of the door was writing upon the window advertising its wide array of vegetarian offerings. I was happy to see a pizzeria using its meatless options as a possible selling point. But my enthusiasm for the pressure Veggie Grill was obviously placing on the pizzeria was immediately eviscerated when I noted what was written on the other side of the entry door, a statement so oxymoronic as to make my head spin: “cruelty-free meat.”

Although the number of companies that disingenuously refer to their meats, eggs, and dairy products as “humane” has rapidly increased over the last several years, I had yet to encounter such a blatant co-option and misappropriation of that particular term and certainly never before to describe meat. Historically, the term “cruelty-free” has been used to describe products made without animal testing. It was coined by a vegan who never would have imagined it would someday be used to describe animals killed for food. But sadly, as more and more companies scramble to respond to a public that is increasingly weighing the moral implications of their food choices, lies like this are becoming more common. Enabling its spread are corrupt “animal protection” groups such as HSUS, the ASPCA, and the American Humane Association which not only pay lip service to the lie of “humane meat,” but get rich in the process of doing so. There is a lot of money to be made partnering with the people who harm animals, and these groups are feeding at their troughs.

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Case in point: two weeks ago, HSUS unrolled its “Hoofin’ It” campaign, sponsoring a week long event in Denver celebrating the killing and eating of animals. “On Sunday you can get bison; Monday ‘sheep is the star’; Tuesday is pig night; Wednesday it’s cow”.

The catch: HSUS claims they were raised and slaughtered “humanely.” But these claims are untrue by definition. There is no such thing as “humanely” killing an animal who does not want to die, and killing animals is an inherent part of the production of meat, eggs and dairy products, as are confinement, reproductive manipulation, social deprivation, and physical mutilation, all ending with getting their throats slit. Indeed, on the Hoofin’ It website, they boast of some animals being killed—or what they euphemistically call “harvested and processed”—after living only 24-30 months despite a natural lifespan of 25 years. We’re told that the methods they use are important for one primary reason: they make the animals more “delicious.”

 

Not to be outdone, the ASPCA gave money—$50,000 in donations given to them to save animals—to a for-profit company so that they can kill more chickens. And AHA, the long the ignored stepchild of the “big three,” decided to top them all: awarding Foster Farms the American Humane Association’s “Humane Certified” label which now appears on the package of every dead Foster Farms chicken sold in America, in exchange for an undisclosed sum of money and agreement to standards which often do little more than codify cruel industry practices. Like HSUS and the ASPCA, AHA lulls people into a false sense of complacency that supporting a company which abuses and kills millions of animals a year is consistent with a belief in animal protection. And what, exactly, do they mean by “humane”?

  • Does AHA prevent animals from being kept in crowded indoor cages in warehouses? No.
  • Does AHA require chickens to be allowed to go outside, to get fresh air and sunlight, to be able to act in accordance with all of their instincts to ensure their happiness and psychological as well as physical well-being? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit beaks from being cut off? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of masticators—giant machines in which unwanted, live baby chicks are ground up while alive and fully conscious? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit chickens from being hung upside down by the legs and feet (legs and feet that are often suffering from terribly painful joint diseases), being electrically stunned, and having their heads cut off? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the cutting of the teeth of piglets? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit cutting off the tails off pigs? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of electrical shock on cows? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of restraints to forcibly inseminate a cow or a pig? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the use of a gas chamber to kill despite calling it “inhumane to all animals”? No.
  • Does AHA prohibit the castration of newborn calves by a rubber band being placed around their scrotums to cut off blood supply? No.

Finally, under what warped definition of “humane” can a process that ends with animals having their throats slit possibly qualify? The kind where AHA is paid to say it is.

Whether it packaged as “humane meat” or “pet overpopulation,” the idea that killing animals is acceptable if done for the right reasons, by the right people or under the right circumstances are merely different manifestations of the same insidious lie that permeates and hinders the animal protection movement at the beginning of the 21st century: that killing animals who are not suffering can ever be humane. It can’t. It isn’t. And if HSUS, the ASPCA, and AHA are going to claim to speak on behalf of animals and raise money off their plight, then morality and integrity compel them to challenge and stand up to this pernicious idea, not perpetuate it, even if it upsets their donors, their corporate handlers, or the people on their Facebook pages.

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Frankenstein’s Monster

August 29, 2014 by  

Former ASPCA President Becomes Puppy Mill Spokesperson

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Ed Sayres, the former president of the ASPCA, has been hired by the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council, an industry lobbying group that supports puppy mills and fights animal protection legislation to curtail the abuse and sale of puppy mill dogs. They fight efforts to allow people to receive sentimental damages when their companions are negligently, recklessly, or intentionally injured, such as in veterinary malpractice cases. When tainted pet food from China peddled by their members injured and killed animals, they fought efforts to ensure that families were fully compensated and that the industry was rigorously regulated. And they fight efforts to ensure that anti-cruelty enforcement provisions apply to puppy mills. To call them “anti-animal” would be an understatement. In the case of puppy mills, they embody it.

As anyone who has been following my work and therefore my cataloging of Sayres’ malfeasance over the last decade and a half can attest, this news, while sickening, should come as little surprise. As head of the St. Hubert’s Animal Shelter, he killed healthy dogs and cats, as Director of the San Francisco SPCA, he dismantled the programs he inherited from his predecessor that once made that city the safest community for homeless dogs and cats in America, and as head of the ASPCA, among many other sordid things, he,

Sayres current job as a lobbyist for the puppy mill industry merely continues his long tradition of undermining the welfare of animals for a handsome paycheck, with one crucial difference: he no longer has to pretend he actually cares about animals in the process. What a relief that must be for him.

In light of this news, there are many animal lovers who are expressing shock and anger. For those who know little about Sayres’ actual history in this movement beyond reasonable assumptions about what the former President of the nation’s largest animal charity should stand for, this response is understandable. Outrage is certainly called for. But shock? Not if you know his history. Indeed, a little reading about Sayres’ sordid past will resolve any nagging confusion about how he could possibly do such a thing. He is merely behaving as he always has. The most pressing and important question is, How was he allowed to get away with doing the things he did for all those years when he clearly didn’t care about animals?

For not only did Sayres suffer no professional repercussions for his actions (and his breathtaking professional incompetence), he was, in fact, rewarded for them. Not only was he continually promoted to ever more powerful and financially lucrative positions during his career, ending with his tenure as the President of the ASPCA where he took home $550,000 a year, but he continually enjoyed the political cover of other powerful “leaders” in the animal protection movement who time and again came to his defense, treated him as a legitimate colleague, shielded him from accountability, and, in some cases, even did his nefarious bidding. The ASPCA Board of Directors, Best Friends Animal Society, Maddie’s Fund, HSUS staffers, the Mayor’s Alliance for NYC Animals, and many other groups, aware of his betrayals, none-the-less partnered with, defended, gave legitimacy to, or celebrated Ed Sayres, while maligning his critics who had every right to expect better. In the case of Best Friends’ Gregory Castle and Francis Battista, they helped him to defeat legislation that would have saved the lives of tens of thousands of animals a year by calling the supporters of a New York rescue rights bill and asking them to withdraw their support in deference to Sayres’ opposition. Battista went so far as to say he would never support legislation opposed by Sayres, even one that promised to save tens of thousands of animals every year (ever the chameleon, Battista was shamed into doing exactly that one year later).

This sort of behavior which benefited and no doubt emboldened Sayres again and again helps explain exactly how he got away with the things he got away with: those in positions of power within our movement let him get away with it. Nor is Sayres an aberration. He is merely one of many symptoms of the disease that continues to ravage the animal protection movement at the beginning of the 21st century: a failure of authenticity and our movement to stand for inviolate principles rather than the ego- or cash-driven ambitions of those in positions of power. For the fact that Sayres will now use the power and position afforded by his title as the former President of the ASPCA to openly champion the cruel, abusive puppy mill industry, mislead the American public about that industry, and fight efforts to regulate it, we not only have Sayres and his dark, uncaring heart to blame, but his legion of enablers as well. Straight out of a Mary Shelley novel, he is the Frankenstein’s monster of our movement’s own creation, come back to haunt its creator.

What will these other so-called “leaders” of the animal protection movement take away from this teachable moment? Are they wringing their hands or searching their souls? Feigning shock or feeling dirty and complicit? Staying the course or finally recognizing that when a person’s actions show you who they really are, you ought to believe them and act accordingly? In other words, will they now fight rather than defend individuals like Wayne Pacelle who likewise sabotage, rather than further, our cause?

Like Sayres, Wayne Pacelle of HSUS is another “leader” who works against the cause he is paid to promote, another man who sends animals to their needless deaths, who fights shelter reform efforts while celebrating those who harm animals (including rescuing from financial and professional oblivion the infamous animal abuser, Michael Vick, while simultaneously lobbying for his victims to be killed), and who works to defeat rescue rights bills and other animal protection legislation. Like Sayres, Pacelle is another emperor with no clothes, surrounded and enabled by colleagues who refuse to admit to the inconvenient truth about Pacelle for fear of jeopardizing their own ambitions, the animals be damned. Like the movement did with Sayres, will it continue to allow him to take actions that harm animals simply because he works for an organization that calls itself humane?

Here is a short list of some of Pacelle’s more egregious actions:

Read more: The Indictment of Wayne Pacelle

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The Shelter HSUS Loves, Redux

August 26, 2014 by  

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In 2010, 3,984 of the 4,133 cats taken in by the Davidson County, North Carolina shelter—96 percent—were put to death. While dogs fared a little better, eight out of 10 were still killed: 2,846 of the 3,625 they took in, including every dog they deemed a “Pit Bull” or “Pit Bull”-mix as a matter of policy. With an adoption rate of only six percent, they weren’t even trying to save lives, choosing to kill them instead. But it was even worse than that. Although the gas chamber is legal in North Carolina, it is illegal to use it for animals that appear to be 16 weeks or younger, pregnant or near death because it takes sick, younger or older animals longer to absorb the gas, resulting in a slower and more agonizing death. The state also prohibits animals of different species from being put in the gas chamber together. But the employees of the Davidson County shelter did not care. Davidson County has a history of killing kittens and puppies using the gas chamber in violation of North Carolina law. It has a history of killing elderly and sick animals in that manner, which is also illegal.

That same year, shelter employees put a raccoon in the gas chamber with a mother cat and her kitten in order to sadistically watch them fight before they died:

The gas chamber has two windows, one on either side. The raccoon and the adult cat started fighting. Then they turned the gas on. The adult cat got on one corner and the raccoon got on the other, and as soon as they turned on the gas, the kitten started shaking and going into convulsions.

A contractor who was working at the shelter told the County Board that he heard the employees laugh when they did it. He said he was sickened by the incident, as were animal lovers nationwide who condemned the shelter for its cruelty and barbarity. But it did not sicken the Humane Society of the United States. Instead, HSUS gave them an award at a public ceremony, calling the Davidson County facility “A Shelter We Love.”

When asked how that was possible, how HSUS could celebrate a sadistic shelter that tortured animals to death, HSUS claimed they did not take into account how many animals were killed or how they were killed. Instead, they indicated that they were looking to the future and they promised that, with their help, the pound in Davidson County would stop gassing and come into the 21st Century.

In 2014, Davidson County is still killing 6,000 animals every year. And it is still gassing animals. And this month, several of those animals ended up dumped in the middle of a road where people driving by saw them. When confronted by it at a public meeting, the pound director remained defiant: about the killing, about the gassing, about the dead animals littering the public street. She called it a “non-story.” And HSUS? They think it is a non-story, too. You won’t find a word about it on their North Carolina Facebook page.

For further reading:

A “Shelter We Love”

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Nathan Winograd Day

August 5, 2014 by  

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Every dog has his day and mine is August 3. At Sunday’s sold out screening of my film Redemption, Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez read a proclamation declaring August 3 “Nathan Winograd Day” in the City of Austin for my role in helping it become the largest city in America saving better than 90% of shelter animals. The proclamation, signed by Mayor Lee Leffingwell, reads, in part,

We are pleased to recognize Mr. Winograd’s unwavering dedication and commitment to saving the lives of homeless pets, along with his work at the No Kill Advocacy Center, which have inspired Austin and cities throughout the country to dramatically increase shelter lifesaving.

Thank you to the Mayor, thank you to the Council, thank you most especially to Mr. Martinez, Ryan Clinton, Larry Tucker, Lorri Michel, and Dr. Ellen Jefferson, as well as everyone else who fought for a No Kill community and every animal lover making a lifesaving difference in Austin. I am truly honored and so incredibly grateful.

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 The marquee of the State Theater in Austin announces the screening of Redemption.

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Austin City Council Member Mike Martinez presenting the proclamation to a sold out crowd.

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Austin No Kill advocates listen to a question during a Q&A session after the film. From right to left: Ryan Clinton of FixAustin, Dr. Ellen Jefferson of Austin Pets Alive, Larry Tucker, former chair of the Austin Animal Advisory Commission, Council Member Mike Martinez who spearheaded the initiative on the Council, and Nathan Winograd.

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During the afternoon, I visited an Austin Pets Alive offsite adoption venue.

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Puppies with ringworm looking for a loving, new home play in the shade in front of a crowd of onlookers.

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It is all part of the 2014 No Kill is Love tour. Learn more and join me in a city near you.

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