Dear Johnny Weir,
A recent New York Times article, discussed your quest for the gold medal at the Vancouver Olympics. The author mentioned your outfit had a “touch of fox” on the shoulders, and, despite your third place showing at the United States Figure Skating Championships on Sunday, you thought your outfit “looked pretty.”
Please consider that there's nothing pretty about the fox that suffered and died to trim your outfit. The beautiful fox was likely anally electrocuted, or may have had its head bashed in, only to serve as decoration for someone's performance.
If you buy fur, no matter what size piece, or which animal it comes from, you're supporting an industry that has no respect for animals.
You say that you want to bring an “artistic style” to the Olympics, stating that “everyone can do jumps.” But, as past Olympic champions have shown us, style isn’t everything. In addition to skill, you must also have a sense of decorum in order to bring home the gold. And projecting a conscientious view of the planet's animals is a starting point.
While you may believe that wearing fur is a “personal choice,” kindly know that the animals you wear had no such choice. The fur doesn’t magically slide off these beautiful beings. Their nightmare begins in the cramped cages they spend their lives in, where they are forced to lay in their own feces, and ends with first cut in their anuses. Or maybe some animals you wear were caught in leghold traps, and struggled in vain to gnaw off their legs? Either way, there is nothing glamorous or pretty about cruelty they endured. And, it can't be morally justified either.
Friends of Animals urges you, for the sake of humanity, your Olympic ambitions and the hopes of all Americans this winter, to stop wearing the skins of animals. Instead, wow the judges with amazing performances. In the end, nobody cares what a figure skater wears. You will only be judged on your performance and the strength of your character.
President of Friends of Animals
Facing Lawsuit by Friends of Animals and CARE, Federal Officials Let the Deer Be
Sharpshooters had been expected to go in at night with rifles and silencers sometime between November 2009 and March 2010, but faced with a lawsuit from Friends of Animals and CARE of the Delaware Valley, National Park Service officials have called off the long-planned and highly controversial deer kill at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
“It's a victory,” Michael Harris of Denver University told the Philadelphia Inquirer.1
A federal judge is scheduled to rule on our lawsuit after May. Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Bernstein told the Associated Press that another deer kill could now not occur until November 2010 at the earliest.
With the support of people who are rallying for the deer, legal work is being undertaken pro bono by the Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Denver. We argue that the Park Service’s White-tailed Deer Management Plan violates the National Environmental Policy Act, the Organic Act and Valley Forge enabling legislation. Additionally, our suit charges that shooting the deer endangers the public — the two counties that include the 3,400-acre park, about 18 miles northwest of downtown Philadelphia, are home to more than a million residents — and ignores local laws. And we plan to keep working until the Park Service’s illegal deer-control plan is set aside for good.
Our lawsuit, filed last November in U.S. District Court in Pennsylvania, is led by Assistant Professor Michael Harris and Fellow Kevin Lynch, with research provided by student-attorneys Anthony Basile, Alyson Gould and Robert Westfall. It is filed in the name of Friends of Animals and Pennsylvania-based Compassion for Animals, Respect for the Environment (CARE), and based on the comments the two groups submitted for the public record in early 2009.
Speaking to the press, Professor Harris summed up the case: “For the National Park Service to enter Valley Forge National Historical Park in the cover of winter to slay white-tailed deer is not only an appalling twist on the park’s history, it is another sign that the service has abandoned its century-old mission to strive for parks in which conservation of nature is paramount.”
We further assert that the Park Service’s plan to administer birth control to deer is environmentally unsound. I t’s also invasive and disrespectful to the deer.
Animal rights means defending free-living animals' interest in staying that way. Contraceptives shouldn’t be used, then, on free-living animals.
Even if one does not accept the premise of animal rights, the belief that these substances comprise a humane alternative to guns is incorrect. At this time, no hormonal or other type of pharmaceutical birth control is formally approved for free-living animals, and the drugs are considered experimental. Deer are killed for these experiments– “humanely” killed, the research literature assures us.2 But a humane view of the deer would not permit this intrusion on their lives and bodies. Some of the dead deer have had granular abscesses around the entry point of the drug, and in a few cases bone marrow fat disintegration. The way the deer interact as communities also changes when the pharmaceuticals are imposed on them.
“I’m not sure which is worse, shooting deer or wreaking havoc on their social and reproductive interactions by imposing birth control on them,” says Allison Memmo Geiger, president of CARE.
While the Philadelphia Inquirer and other papers state that the deer lack natural predators, and therefore need us to control their numbers somehow, the media largely omit three countervailing facts:
- The deer actually appear to be “overpopulated” because malls and roads are expanded and more houses are being built, thus concentrating the deer into smaller areas.
- Deer aren’t really everywhere; they congregate where nourishment and leafy cover is available.
- To the extent that they lack natural predators this is because the state of Pennsylvania treats our native predators — bobcats and coyotes — as hunting and trapping targets. Why don’t the state and federal officials try working together to encourage respect for coyotes in and around Valley Forge, rather than pressing the ultimate disrespect on deer?
The federal plan had called for sharpshooters to fire silencer-equipped rifles, mostly at night, at deer lured to areas baited with apples and grain. Baiting deer and introducing unusual food to their highly sensitive digestive tracts could be enough to kill them. With the bullets flying, park officials envisioned the death of at least 1,500 deer in four years — 500 this past winter, 500 in the coming winter, and between 250 and 300 each in the third and fourth years. That would eradicate more than 85 percent of the deer community at Valley Forge.
Respecting Nature’s Balance
The deer population peaked at 1,398 in 2003, according to park officials. They admit that the number has declined. Today they claim the population is between 1,023 and 1,275 (officials have offered both numbers at different times to the Inquirer). Officials want only about 165 to 185 deer to remain after a four-year bloodbath. Chemical birth control would be imposed on those survivors, if one of the experimental substances proves viable in the opinion of park officials.
It’s pretty well known that this violent plan was devised to appease local property owners who are annoyed at the sight of deer standing around roadsides or eating from their gardens. A few others resent the park’s no-hunting policy and hope the acceptance of guns in the park makes it possible for hunting to be introduced.
But d ecisions under the National Environmental Policy Act cannot be based simply on seizing upon the apparently easiest answer to a perceived problem, or catering to local complaints. Wiping out deer is not the answer to the decline of plant life in a sprawling, concrete-covered suburb.
Park officials say deer eat so many plants and saplings that the forest cannot regenerate. But the park study that blamed deer for ruined vegetation was flawed, and the law is meant to protect the deer as well as the plants. The suit by Friends of Animals and CARE asserts, in short, that the natural balance and interactions of deer are to be respected and the park’s natural status quo preserved.
Our legal challenge names Mike Caldwell, superintendent of Valley Forge National Historical Park, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, and the National Park Service, its director, and the director of the service’s Northeast Region.
The plan to kill deer at Valley Forge has provoked enormous controversy. Some see deer as a welcome part of the park scenery. Others see them as four-legged nuisances that devour neighborhood gardens and run into backyards and onto highways, putting people and cars in danger. –Jeff Gammage, The Philadelphia Inquirer, 24 Dec. 2009 ”
Anyone who has visited the p ark in recent years knows its administrators have introduced quite a bit of artificial landscaping and construction. Some changes in landscaping would likely be helpful. So would patience on the part of people who are fortunate enough to live in areas where free-living animals abound. Most important, it’s time to stop casting free animals as villains.
Run a computer search for Valley Forge National Historical Park and you’ll find many tourist-oriented concepts: biking, boating, horseback riding, driving, boating, hiking, concerts and bus routes. An official park website states: “The park is surrounded by residential, commercial and industrial developments of Montgomery and Chester Counties on all sides, thus it is an oasis for native wildlife.”3 How disturbing that government officials, who ought to know better, would use federal environmental law in an attempt to ensure that this “oasis” ejects indigenous animals who dare to occupy the few wooded areas left there.
What You Can Do
Encourage friends and relatives to join Friends of Animals. People in Pennsylvania and the Delaware Valley should also consider joining CARE. A groundswell of public support will strengthen us in the months ahead.
Encourage respect for deer and other free-living animals in your community. And do take time to impart to young people the importance of respecting animals who inhabit the land, air and waters that surround us. In a few years, some of these young people will be government officials and decision-makers.
Remember: this is a federal park. It’s critical that voices are raised by people all over the country and internationally. Write op-eds based on the argument above to newspapers to support the case brought through Denver University’s Environmental Law Clinic for the plaintiffs Friends of Animals and CARE. If you have a website or attend local advocacy meetings, talk about this with the people in your midst.
Congratulate yourself. The deer of Valley Forge live free today, because of the members and supporters of Friends of Animals and CARE of the Delaware Valley!
- 1. Jeff Gammage, “Valle Forge Deer Shoot Postponed” – Philadelphia Inquirer (24 Dec. 2009).
- 2. Paul D. Curtis et al., “Pathophysiology of White-tailed Deer Vaccinated With Porcine Zona Pellucida Immunocontraceptive,” Vaccine (Vol. 25, 11 April 2007); available:
- 3. National Park Service, “ Valley Forge: Nature & Science”; available: http://www.nps.gov/vafo/naturescience/index.htm (as visited 28 Jan. 2009).
Cheers to the Ritz-Carlton Central Park for cancelling its “Central Park Fairytale”— a horse carriage package deal being marketed to guests. After being alerted by Friends of Animals and the Coalition to Ban Horse-Drawn Carriages in New York City, the hotel stopped promoting the tour and vowed to eschew carriage rides in the future. Regardless of the treatment they receive or the conditions in which they are housed, horses don’t belong on city streets. If you are planning a special occasion or trip to New York City, keep the Ritz-Carlton in mind.
50 Central Park South
New York , NY 10019 USA
Phone: (212) 308-9100
Fax: (212) 207-8831
Cheers to the City of San Francisco for becoming the first major city in the United States to ban the declawing of cats. The legislation was introduced by Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who argued that the procedure was a “form of animal cruelty.” Contact your own city council members to encourage more bans — citing San Francisco’s successful and intelligent decision.
Jeers to Runner’s World magazine for praising the consumption of animal products in their January 2010 issue. The article “Not Guilty” by Ashley Gartland praises the vitamin and mineral content of meat and dairy without mentioning that runners — indeed, anyone — would benefit from obtaining these nutrients from plant-based sources. Tell Runners’s World to highlight the myriad benefits of a plant-based diet in a future issue. Contact them at:
400 South 10th Street
Emmaus , PA 18098
An online contact form can be found at: http://www.runnersworld.com/cda/contactus/
Jeers to country music singer Miranda Lambert , who claims, in Rolling Stone magazine, to be “addicted” to something deadly: hunting and fishing. Let Lambert know that taking the life of an animal is unnecessary, violent and unethical. All conscious beings should have the right to live free from human interference.
360 Artist Agency
c/o Miranda Lambert
209 10 th Avenue -Cummings Station-South
Nashville , TN 37203
Phone: (615) 360-0911
Jeers to A A Gill , the restaurant critic and features writer for The Sunday Times, who flippantly admits to killing a baboon in Africa while on safari — jokingly referring to himself as a “recreational primate killer.” But what’s funny about that? Contact Gill and The Sunday Times and let them know that sadistic killing indicates a psychological imbalance; The Sunday Times shouldn’t be in the business of promoting killing — not anyone — for the fun of it.
The Sunday Times
1 Pennington Street
London E1 9XN
Phone: 020-7782 5000
You’ve heard about rooftop gardens. But have you heard of rooftop cats? Sally Luciano and Toni Kororos are ready to introduce you to the concept. They’ve built five outdoor cat shelters, all kept clean with fresh hay, and one is on the rooftop of an abandoned factory building.
For more than seven years, this exceptionally diligent duo has been immersed in a carefully maintained trap-neuter-return feral cat project in the SoNo section of Norwalk, Connecticut. They’ve been trapping, spaying, neutering and providing veterinary care and food for a colony of six feral cats. And they’ve managed to successfully introduce five former colony cats into their own home.
Now, the SoNo Rooftop Cats could use our help. Sally and Toni have shared their story with us to broaden the community that cares about them, and help them continue their caregiving work. You might have already guessed it: The abandoned building housing their rooftop shelter is set to be demolished soon. Sally and Toni will be forced to relocate cats.
Meet the Caregivers
Sally has been rescuing dogs, cats and other animals since she was in her twenties. Toni — described by Sally as a “cat whisperer” because of her special bond with the cats — is also a life-long rescuer. The story of SoNo Cats begins with a kitten who would be named Paint.
Sally was gazing through the window of her loft apartment on a windy, late-September day. She spotted a caramel-hued kitten on the roof of an abandoned factory. The young animal fearlessly chased a piece of paper from rooftop to rooftop. Sally noticed a splash of paint on the kitten's face — perhaps from a freshly painted railroad bridge nearby. Sally called Toni over to the window so they could both watch this remarkable cat jumping around the rooftops. Then, they decided to act.
Food and water in hand, Sally went outside to attract the kitten. But Paint, dancing from rooftop to rooftop, had other plans in mind. So Sally and Toni left food and water out every day, checked the local newspapers and asked around, trying to find out if anyone had lost a cat. Eventually they found that Paint was part of a feral colony of five cats living in the abandoned buildings next to the railroad tracks and an adjacent parking lot.
Sally and Toni resolved to educate themselves as much as they could about feral cats and spaying and neutering so they could help the colony they'd discovered outside—and strike at the root of the problem. They knew they'd need help getting started, so they tried enlisting friends to join them in their mission. They connected with Sheila, a volunteer with the local Norwalk animal rescue group PAWS. Shelia was instrumental in designing traps to catch the colony so that Sally and Toni were able to have all of the cats sterilized over the next few months.
The next step was building the shelters for the cats. After finding a website that offered designs for feral cat shelters, Sally and Toni built four wooden shelters that feature heavy, removable roofs made of shingles. They filled the newly built shelters with hay and placed them in wooded areas hidden from the public and traffic. A friend donated the largest shelter: a fiberglass igloo that was originally designed for dogs, and is big enough to house the entire colony. This igloo was placed on top of the smaller roof of the abandoned building so Sally and Toni could better position it during harsh weather.
In their third year of caring for the colony, Toni was feeding the cats and discovered four black kittens peeking out from inside one of the shelters. The mother of these kittens was from another feral colony on the other side of the railroad tracks, and she'd come to the safe haven of the shelters to give birth. She succeeded, but died shortly after — hit by a train.
Sally and Toni called their loyal friend Sheila to trap and sterilize the four young cats. They now had nine cats in the colony to care for.
Over time, Sally and Toni noticed that a few of the cats had become somewhat trusting of them, allowing them to pet them at times, and even on a few occasions jumping into their car. One morning, one of the little black cats approached Sally, and she saw that he was missing his tail and bleeding. Sally called Toni and Shelia for help in saving the injured cat. Toni called to him, and easily caught him. The cat's spinal cord was not injured, and the veterinarian was able to save him. The $2,000 vet bill was covered by donations, matched by the group PAWS. This cat — named Stubbie the Motorboat Man, owing to his tailless physique, and because he purrs so loudly — now lives indoors. Sally says, “You would never know that he was a feral cat. He wants to be held like a baby all the time.”
A few years later, Sally and Toni became aware of two unneutered intruders, who had started harassing and fighting with the colony they cared for. Paint went missing for weeks, until one day Sally heard a cry from one of the abandoned factory buildings. Paint had become emaciated and weak, as a result of the bullying and attacks.
Toni was able to simply pick up the very weak Paint and place her in a carrier. Now Paint is a permanent part of the family, and Stubbie is content to have a former colony mate living inside with them.
Recently, another seriously injured cat was brought to the home of another PAWS volunteer and getting veterinary help with an infection. Sally and Toni are prepared to adopt her after a full recuperation. Each cat who comes into their home is first given clearance by a veterinarian and has the necessary vaccines. It takes months, and much patience, for them to acclimate the ferals to indoor life. But it’s worth it for each cat who comes in and has a safe place for life.
They have used a very large dog kennel with a soft sleeping blanket at one end and litter pan at the other. Sally explains how her indoor cats would cruise by the crate and check out the new cats very cautiously: “To help reduce the new cats' stress level, we played soft music and called their name softly often.” By the third month of this process, they would open the door. So far, each time, the process has gone well, and everyone now gets along nicely at home.
Sally and Toni answered some questions about the work they do, and how you can help them to continue doing it:
Q:What are some of the most challenging things you and Toni have dealt with, and what are some of the most rewarding?
A: Trying to find volunteers to assist us for trap, neuter and return is challenging. The environment is very dangerous with a busy parking lot; an abandoned factory soon to be imploded, and railroad tracks. Now, we need to relocate the cats. There are six cats outside in the colony now. We currently have four, but soon to be five, inside.
Keeping these cats alive and safe all of these years is very rewarding, and so was meeting Shelia and Ilono of PAWS. Without their help this never would have evolved. They both restored our faith in kind-hearted people.
Q: What advice do you have for people who have feral cats in their community, but don't know what steps to take or what to do about it?
A: Seek out every rescue organization and volunteer agency in your community. Often times they don't return calls, but you have to keep calling. Network and talk to your vet.
Make a plan and follow through. These cats need safe shelter, and to be spayed and neutered, to stop the colonies from growing. Feed them at the same time in the same location, as it makes trapping easier. Try to find homes or placement when they are young. Educate anyone who doesn't understand the importance of spaying and neutering. Find a veterinarian who agrees and who will work with you.
Q: What is the most important thing you'd like people to learn from your project and efforts?
A: Not to walk away from a stray and abandoned animal. They are struggling and suffering. Someone needs to stop and care.
An ideal answer for feral cats who need to be moved from their current location would be if a land-owner with experience rescuing cats and in possession of a cat fence would offer assistance in providing a refuge.
Readers can get in touch and support the SoNo Rooftop Cats project by contacting Sally Luciano at:
Email address: email@example.com
125 Washington Street #304 L South Norwalk CT. 06854
Friends of Animals operates a nationwide, low-cost spay neuter program. Check our website to find a participating vet near you. Some of our participating vets can accommodate services for feral cats. Check with the vets listed in your area to make arrangements.
Dolphins are intelligent, gregarious creatures who are often seen swimming in groups in the wild. Their friendly nature and trainability, however, have put them in a precarious position.
Bottlenose dolphins are heavily sought-after by aquariums for their novelty and profitability. So it should surprise no one that the world’s largest aquarium has set its sights on introducing a “swim-with-dolphins” program.
As we speak, the Georgia Aquarium is expanding its swim program by bringing in four dolphins, courtesy of the Dolphin Conservation Center at Marineland in St. Augustine, Florida. The ambitious, $110-million dollar construction project, sponsored by Home Depot, is scheduled to open its doors in November 2010.
Home Depot’s owner, Bernie Marcus, has a lot invested in the Georgia Aquarium. If it weren’t for Marcus, the Georgia Aquarium may have never even existed. It opened as the world’s largest aquarium in 2005 — debt-free, thanks to Marcus.
While dolphin and other swim-with programs are billed as educational, once-in-a-lifetime experiences, the truth for the dolphins is a far cry from this family-friendly image.
Environmental educator Zach McKenna explains: “Many swim-with programs will have the public believe that the captive animals serve a higher scientific purpose. These programs call themselves ‘conservation centers,’ when in reality the only science undertaken is that which will keep the animals alive and the forced artificial insemination of female dolphins for future profits.”1
A Dubious Distinction
The Georgia Aquarium has the dubious distinction of being the only institution outside of Asia to display whale sharks. In 2007, two of the whale sharks, billed to tourists as “Atlanta Attractions,” died of diseases at the Georgia Aquarium. Undaunted, the Georgia Aquarium invited people into the sharks’ space with its “Swim With Gentle Giants” attraction the following year.2
Jacques Cousteau’s son Jean-Michel Cousteau questioned the swim-with-the sharks idea, given that the aquarium was not completely sure why the animals succumbed to fatal diseases the year before. 3
Zach McKenna has similar questions.
“The swim-with profiteers have become very good at justifying the captivity of their animals,” McKenna states. “Many participants I have spoken to admit feelings of guilt and regret, during and after the experience, a sense that the forced experience violates the will and spirit of the animals.”
According to SeaWorld, which has its own swim-with programs, dolphins can travel up to 100 miles a day and often dive hundreds of feet below the water’s surface. Yet when confined in aquarium pools, they are forced swim unnaturally in small, shallow circles.
Tail-walking, hoop diving and playing with objects are all unnatural behaviors in the wild. Although bottlenose dolphins are exceptionally intelligent animals, they do not just learn these tricks themselves. Dolphins and other marine animals are often starved in order to get them to respond. Those who don’t are offered meager rations and placed in isolation as punishment. There is no room for slackers in this business and the animals learn quickly who is in control.
Dolphins are also extremely social beings who live in large groups — or would, if we’d let them be.
McKenna observes, “The reasons dolphins inspire intense emotion in humans involve their cognitive behaviors and social structures. To incarcerate dolphins for the sake of human entertainment destroys that connection for the sake of profit.”
Experts believe that female dolphins, in order to spare the offspring, will not conceive in captivity, and that they rarely give birth to twins in the wild. But thanks to forced inseminations and heavy doses of hormones, it has now become the norm for dolphins to give birth to twins in captivity. The support system naturally found between free female dolphins in the wild during labor is replaced by human monitoring and intrusion. Even the loving bond between mother and child, which includes a full 18 months of nursing, is often broken.
Profit-driven aquariums and swim-with programs may separate mothers from their offspring prematurely and sell them off to the highest bidder. When the swim-with dolphins are not made to entertain tourists, they are kept isolated in holding tanks, away from their peers and social connections.
Thinking of Visiting? Think Twice.
Most dolphins confined in swim-with programs outside of the United States are caught in the wild. Dolphin trapping is an extremely traumatizing and bloody event. Oftentimes, dozens, if not hundreds, of dolphins are forced into nets. Most of the dolphins are killed for their meat, while a few survivors are sold for the entertainment industry.
McKenna concludes, “If the participants in swim-with programs had any idea about the murderous global dolphin industry they were supporting, the good feelings would fade immediately.”
Many aquarium-based zoos will tell you that dolphins are better off in enclosed areas, safe from the dangers posed to them in the wild. Dolphins have few predators, however; their biggest threat is the human.
Aquariums will also pretend that having the option to interact with marine animals benefits both people and the animals, giving humans a better insight into their behavior. But interacting with animals confined in tanks benefits no one except those who profit from them.