Autumn 2014

    Issue: Autumn 2014

    Table of Contents

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    • LETTERS

       

       

      HORSES GAIN ALLIES

      I am extremely interested in your articles (past and present) about American mustangs.  As a mustang education coordinator for an equine sanctuary, I would like to share your information with others in the form of your handouts/flyers at special events, booths and tables.

       

      Please send me all you can on the American mustang.

       

      Diane Krammes

      Pine Grove, PA

       

       

       

      Can Humans Redeem Themselves?

      I too pondered David Attenborough’s comment, “If humans disappeared overnight the world would be a better place.”  With a population of over 6 billion, we are far and away the most populous large mammal on the planet.  And we largely serve only ourselves at the expense of most other naturally occurring species and the animals we have domesticated.

      After a few months of finding myself in full agreement with David Attenborough, I thought of the long-term future.  Science tells us that in a few billion years, our sun will expand in size as it nears the end of its life.  As a result our earth will overheat to the point that all life will die.

      Man’s intellect, however, could certainly by that time locate a hospitable planet elsewhere in the universe and possibly transport a Noah’s Ark of plant and animal DNA to it, thereby extending life as we know it beyond the life of Earth.

      So, there is a valuable role humans could play when the time comes.

      Hopefully, way before then, we will have come to our senses and reversed our destructive, greedy, inhumane ways such that there will be something of value to transport to that distant planet. 

       

      George Steiner   

      Via e-mail

       

       

      The Tragedy of Wild Horses

      Good job on going after the endangered species slant for wild horses.  I have been arm wrestling the Bureau of Land Management for years in Nevada and they are just clueless.  National Geographic has articles about wild horses being native and being in Utah thousands of years ago.  The cattle guys and mining and oil guys run the BLM, and it’s just inhumane what they are doing to our wild horses.  There are 50,000 in pens and about 25,000 on the range, and it’s “overpopulated”?  Did you know that there were 2 million wild horses in 1900 and the federal government started letting people poison, shoot and kill as many as they wanted?  Read the book Wild Horse Annie and the Last of the Wild Mustangs by Velma Bronn-Johnston. The killing and unethical treatment has gone on for about 80 years now, but they just keep doing it and lying all the way.  Go get them!  

      Steve Rose

      Via e-mail

      americanmustangadoptions.com

       

       

       Pets Are Family Too

      Stop. Think. Adopt.  The Spring 2014 Action Line article was well written and addresses Americans’ propensity to treat pets as disposable property—to be discarded like yesterday’s trash—particularly when financial problems arise.  It is very distressing to learn pets are being abandoned, discarded or given up because people are experiencing some sort of disruption in their life, whether financial or otherwise.  Pets are family members—we share our home with them, take care of them since they can’t care for themselves, and most importantly, we bond with them.  We would never think of abandoning our children when things don’t go according to plan, so why should our pets face this fate?  I guess it’s easier to ‘remove’ the disruption than to make the necessary changes in one’s lifestyle. 

      I do have one additional thought and that is the article speaks of cat as well as dog adoptions, although one might think otherwise at first glance.  There were three prominent pictures of dogs; it would have been nice if at least one was of a cat.

      Joyce Phillips

      Via e-mail

       

       

      Saving Our Wildlife

      Our wildlife is to be looked at and admired:  not to be eaten!

      It makes me sick that they slaughter our wonderful, beautiful, wild horses for food for Europe.  The way people treat animals makes me very upset.  I would like to treat people the way they mistreat animals.

      Erika Meister

      Ojai, CA

    • By Nicole Rivard

      Nick Jans wrote A Wolf Called Romeo because he wanted others to experience his six-year friendship with a lone black wolf. And because of Jans’ compelling voice, the reader is transported from wherever they are to Mendenhall Lake outside of Juneau, Alaska, skiing and trekking through the wilderness alongside Romeo, trying to understand his wildness as well as his desire to bond with humans and their pets in this Alaskan community. 

      Despite the dark side of human nature—which haunts this tale—and a world that allows fewer and fewer spaces for the wild to exist, Jans weaves a story of hope. Because if the city of Juneau, Alaska and a lone black wolf can set an unprecedented standard for coexistence between two species as conflicted as any on earth, then we all can.

      Once you pick up A Wolf Called Romeo, you won’t be able to put it down.


      In a few heartbeats, the wolf had closed the distance to forty yards. He stood stiff-legged, tail raised above his back, his unblinking stare fixed on us — a dominant posture, less than reassuring.  Then, with a moaning whimper, Dakotah suddenly wrenched free of the two fingers I’d hooked through her collar and bounded straight at the wolf. A tone of desperation sharpening her voice, Sherrie called again and again, but there was no stopping that dog. The Lab skidded to a stop several body lengths short of contact and stood tall, her own tail straight out, and as we watched, mouths open, the wolf lowered his to match. With the two so close, I had my first clear idea of just how large the wolf really was. Dakotah, a stocky, traditional-style female Lab, weighed in at a muscular fifty-six pounds.  The black wolf towered over her, more than double her weight. Just his head and neck matched the size of her torso.

       

      The wolf stepped stiff-legged toward Dakotah, and she answered.  If she heard our calls, she gave no sign. She was locked on and intent, but utterly silent — not at all her normal happy-Lab self. She seemed half-hypnotized. She and the wolf regarded each other, as if each were glimpsing an almost-forgotten face and trying to remember.  This was one of those moments when time seems to hold its breath. I lifted my camera and snapped off a single frame. As if that tiny click had been a finger snap, the world began to move again. The wolf’s stance altered. Ears perked high and held narrow, he bounced forward a body length, bowed on his forelegs, then leaned back and lifted a paw. Dakotah sidled closer and circled, her tail still straight out. The eyes of each were locked on the other. With their noses a foot apart, I pressed the shutter once more.  Again, the sound seemed to break a spell. Dakotah heard Sherrie’s voice at last and bounded back toward us, turning her back, at least for now, on whatever call of the wild she’d just heard. We watched for long minutes with Dakotah softly whining at our sides, staring toward the dark, handsome stranger who stood staring our way and whining back, a high-pitched keening that filled the silence. Half stunned, Sherrie and I murmured back and forth, wondering at what we’d seen and what it meant.

       

      But it was getting dark — time to go. The wolf stood watching our retreat, his tail flagging, then raised his muzzle to the sky in a drawn-out howl, as if crushed. At last he trotted west and faded into the trees. As we walked toward home in the deepening winter evening, the first stars flickered against the curve of space. Behind us, the wolf’s deep cries echoed off the glacier.—Excerpted from A WOLF CALLED ROMEO by Nick Jans. Copyright © 2014 by Nick Jans. Used by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company. All rights reserved.

       

      A Wolf Called Romeo

      By Nick Jans

      July 1, 2014

      267 pages

      Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

      $26

      Available through indiebound.org, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

       

       

       

       

       

       

    • Last Chain on Billie: How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

      By Nicole Rivard

      Last Chain on Billie is to captive elephants what the documentary Blackfish is to captive orcas—a wake-up call to the public that confinement and exploitation of wild animals for entertainment and profit is reprehensible. Furthermore, by choosing to support profit mongers like Ringling Brothers & Barnum and Bailey and SeaWorld when we are planning family outings, we are part of the problem, not the solution. 

      While dark and haunting at times, Last Chain on Billie, which tells the story of how Billie, an emotionally damaged elephant, overcame her past and learned to trust humans again, is also hopeful and inspiring. The book is the work of award-winning journalist Carol Bradley.

      Left in the wild where she belonged, Billie would have spent her life surrounded by her family, free to wander the jungles of Asia. Instead, she was captured as a baby and shipped to America where she arrived in the mid-1950s. Billie spent her first years confined in a tiny zoo yard giving rides to children. At 10, she was sold and groomed for life in the circus, which meant she was subjected to abusive training methods. She performed six days a week, often two performances a day and traveled thousands of miles a year, chained in place in the back of a truck.

      Billie mastered difficult stunts like balancing on her hind legs, walking on her front legs and one-foot handstands, which impressed audiences for 20 long years. But behind the glitz and glam of the circus, she was often abused and neglected. Eventually she rebelled, attacking and injuring a trainer, so she was ordered off the road by a federal inspector. She was then relegated to a stall in a dusty barn for 13 years before fate stepped in.

      In 2006, the U.S. Department of Agriculture removed Billie and 15 other elephants as part of the largest elephant rescue in American history. At the age of 44, Billie arrived at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, where at first, paralyzed by her trust issues, she refused to let anyone remove a chain still clamped around her leg. Most of an elephant’s time outside the circus ring is spent in chains.

      Interspersed throughout Billie’s story are sections that recount the history of elephants in circuses, and it is here where the misery of captive elephants’ lives is revealed. Readers will be horrified by the brutal ways the elephants are captured in the wild and ashamed if they’ve ever seen a circus when they learn the emotional and physical pain that forcing an animal to perform tricks actually causes. And one point  Bradley makes clear in this book—contrary to the image circuses put forth — elephants perform in the ring not because they WANT to, but because they are FORCED to.

      “Many of the stunts placed inordinate pressure on an elephants’ joints and muscles. The only way to persuade an elephant to practice them repeatedly, day in and day out, was to bully her with the threat of retribution if she failed to comply,” writes Bradley. “A trainer for Ringling Bros. testified in court that Ringling stopped teaching its elephants to do one-legged tub stands and perform hind leg walks because they were hobbling the animals at too young an age, causing them to develop arthritis and rupturing their uteruses.”

      During her life in the circus, Billie performed such stunts daily, Bradley points out in her book. But in her new life at the sanctuary, Billie, who turns 52 this year, gets to do whatever she wants. And reading about her becoming comfortable, sometimes even playful is heartwarming. I still can’t get the images Bradley paints of her taking delight in a large blue ball she found at the sanctuary, where staffers frequently found her kicking it around “as if she were a one-elephant soccer team.” And I relish imagining her enjoying her freedom and exploring the landscape and forming bonds with her fellow elephants Liz and Frieda that Bradley writes about.

      Even after I finished the book, I wanted to learn more about Billie and the elephants at the sanctuary, so I visited www.elephants.com. You can even watch Billie on an “elecam.”

      Bradley wrote this book so circuses will get rid of all animal acts entirely so these creatures have the space and freedom they deserve. She believes humans have learned too much about the intelligence and emotional lives of animals to tolerate this archaic practice.

       When you are done with her book, the only thing you will question is the intelligence and emotional lives of humans and why an estimated 600 elephants still remain in circuses and zoos in the United States.

      Last Chain on Billie:  How One Extraordinary Elephant Escaped the Big Top

      By Carol Bradley

      July 22, 2014

      336 pages

      St. Martin’s Press

      $25.99

       

      Available through indiebound.org, amazon.com and barnesandnoble.com.

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