LETTER 1 – Cat Tale Inspiring
It was inspiring to read about the SoNo cats. I took care of a feral colony of five – Casey, Cookie, Spike, Minnie and Ebony, for five years.
One day a neighborhood resident decided that the cats were worthless and secretly trapped and dispatched them to various locations.
The local authorities could not/would not press charges against this person.
I still think of them every day.
Darlene Pallay – Mollica
LETTER 2 – CORRECTION
Spring 2010's article “Polar Bears in Trouble” had a critical typo. It says:
Nature writer Marybeth Holleman describes what's happening to the environment: “Sea ice loss has resulted mainly from elevated Arctic air temperatures, greater solar insulation and heat retention in open water, and incursions of warm waters into the Arctic Ocean basin.”
“Greater solar insulation” should be “Greater solar insolation.” Insolation refers to the amount of sunlight reaching an area; insulation refers to the resistance to heat (or current) flow. Polar bears could use some insulation from the insolation!
David Kanter, Hughesville, MD
Marybeth Holleman, writing from Anchorage, agrees with our careful reader: it should indeed be “insolation.” Many thanks to David Kanter for the note. – Eds.
Environmentally-friendly fashion is a concept that’s been promoted for almost two decades now, but the term “fashion” was used loosely. Eco options were limited to a beige T-shirt on a side rack, generally emblazoned with a message congratulating the wearer on his or her morality, and vegan footwear was a choice between foam flip-flops and jelly shoes. Careerwear, on-trend clothing, or anything aside from what you would wear on the weekend didn’t exist.
Finally we’re starting to see a shift in socially-conscious shopping. Designer Stella McCartney started a movement at the highest ranks of the fashion world with her eponymous fur- and leather-free line launched in 2001. Though the brand is not completely animal friendly—some of the pieces are still made with wool and silk—McCartney infiltrated a tightly-knit industry whose patrons still have little problem wrapping dead animals around them, while still competing aesthetically with little issue. The line also offers an eco collection each season, a reminder that cruelty-free and environmentally-friendly are not always synonymous terms.
The brutality of animal treatment, as well as their exploitation, for the purpose of garment manufacturing is no longer a dirty secret — it has long been exposed and documented. Types of torture include the mulesing of sheep, which involves cutting a portion of sheep’s hindquarters off in order to prevent flystrike disease; boiling and steaming live silk warms; the gassing and anal electrocution of minks and foxes; not to mention the day-to-day misery of life on a factory farm. However, even clothing that is cruelty free can have devastating effects on wildlife, not to mention other local populations. Pesticides, bleaching chemicals, metal-containing dyes, and carbon emissions from factories enter the air, soil, and water, contaminating both food and drink.
Synthetic materials such as PVC, Nylon, and polyester, are not biodegradable and can release toxins into the environment from the manufacturing process through disposal. Cotton, though a natural fiber, uses more pesticides than any other crop when not grown organically. Both synthetics and cotton blends often use chemicals such as formaldehyde, sulfuric acid, and chlorine during production.
Some vegan brands are now making a larger commitment to the environment as well as to animals. Neuaura, a vegan footwear line, produces in a Brazilian factory that recycles all material wastes and uses water-based adhesives instead toxic alternatives. In addition, Neuaura will be creating an eco-friendly line for spring 2011, in large part because the materials have now become more affordable and accessible as their production has increased.
Bahar Shahpar, an independent fashion director for channels like the Planet Green and Sundance, didn’t realize until she started researching for her own self-named fashion line how toxic each step of the textile industry could be. She relies on sustainable or recycled materials and dyes and designs patterns so the least amount of material will become scraps, which she then reuses for stuffing. She also produces almost her entire collection within New York City, which cuts down on carbon emissions of transportation. Even when marketing, she uses 100% post-consumer waste paper and soy-based ink.
Brands such as Bahar, Neuaura, and Stella McCartney owe part of their success to the fact that they don’t skimp on design or quality. Companies such as Jaan J., a vegan tie retailer, know that one of the best ways to expand their customer base is to hook shoppers on the look and feel of their products as much as on business practices. Jaan J. attracts shoppers who would otherwise wear silk ties, but like the selection or the company’s customization services. The price is also attractive—most of the microfiber satin ties run around $34, about half of the price of silk ties of similar quality.
Animal-friendly clothing that forgoes expensive materials such as silk and leather are often more affordable, but eco-friendly clothing generally runs on the opposite side of the spectrum. Although the industry is changing, organic or sustainable manufacturing is still not run on as large of a scale as conventional fabrics, so suppliers must charge more for them. Organic cotton, for example, requires more labor as a result of not using herbicides and pesticides—part of the attraction for growers who use the poisons.
That’s one of the reasons the collaborations between Loomstate and Target last year, and the previous year’s Rogan for Target, both made with 100% organic cotton, were all the more impressive. It proved that when eco-friendly products are put in front of a mass market at an affordable price, they can be successful.
Of course, purchasing high-quality items, even when they’re more expensive, can help to ensure a longer wear life, which keeps them out of the landfill. Your best solution is to keep a wardrobe of well-edited, classic basics in your closet such as organic-cotton jeans and T-shirts, wool-free blazers, vegan boots, and canvas sandals. Each season you can replace items that are worn-out, donating them to secondhand stores to get more use out of them. Then you can update with a few new eco-and animal-friendly accessories to change up your whole look. An unexpected benefit is all of the time you’ll save in the morning trying to find an outfit.
It’s consumer demand that has had the most impact on increased production in the eco- and animal-friendly industry, in turn giving shoppers a larger selection at a more affordable price. By purchasing animal- and eco-friendly brands, and contacting both designers and retailers to let them know that you want them, you can ensure that even more stylish options will be available in the future.
Fabrics to look for
Organic cotton: Cotton grown without herbicides or pesticides
Linen: Crisp fabric made from flax fibers
Tencil: Silky material from Word pulp cellulose
Soy silk: Cashmere-type fibers made from soybeans
Bamboo: Soft cotton-like fabric
Hemp: Sturdy biodegradable fiber
Recycled materials: Discarded plastics and other materials
Bahar Shahpar, Edun, Good Society, Stewart + Brown, Loomstate
Lara Miller, Linda Loudermilk, Deborah Lindquist, Habitude
Olsen Haus, Cri de Coeur, Simple Shoes
A recent study conducted by the National Pet Alliance reveals the sad truth about the exponential expansion of feral cat colonies. (Feral cats are the ones who live outside and cannot be brought into a clinic without first being trapped.) The six-year study suggests that a single unspayed cat who is lucky enough to live 12 years could have 3,200 babies – if we count the kittens of those offspring who, in turn, survive to reproductive age. 1
Friends of Animals is no stranger to this reality. We have advocated low-cost sterilization resources since our inception in 1957, and our certificates are used both for cats in homes and by feral cat caregivers (supporting the vital feral-cat support offered by New Jersey’s Lawyers in Defense of Animals). In order to better understand the process involved in community-wide Trap-Neuter-Return efforts, I recently volunteered at a clinic on the other coast – this one organized by Tri-Valley Fix Our Ferals of Danville, California.
Tri-Valley Fix Our Ferals, started by Kim Shaefer, is in its fifth year, and has sterilized nearly 1,700 feral cats. Kim has worked at multiple animal hospitals through college and beyond, but quit her paid positions in 2002 to volunteer full time for the original Fix Our Ferals of Alameda and Contra Costa County. Although efforts to humanely monitor and care for feral cats were improving, Kim noticed many Bay Area communities lacking resources and information, and thus incorporated her own non-profit feral cat organization in 2005, based on the model set forth by the original group.
The vast majority of trap-neuter-return efforts are volunteer-run, and Tri-Valley Fix Our Ferals is no exception. When an emergency call came out from the volunteer coordinator of the Hayward animal shelter, I responded. On April 25 th I arrived, coffee in hand, at the clinic graciously made available by the East Bay SPCA. I assumed I’d be assigned some mundane task…
But a volunteer guided me to a pre-prep table where I would administer antibiotics and pain medication to aid post-surgery healing. Handling these cats, already under anesthesia, was surreal; under any other circumstances these cats wouldn’t let me within 30 yards of them, as evidenced by many filthy coats and scars. My coffee went cold amidst the bustle.
Kim and Doretta, the main volunteer outreach coordinators, could not have done a better job of bringing together volunteer veterinarians and people who care, people from all walks of life willing to contribute to this important cause. Together they efficiently sterilized and vaccinated each cat, and treated them all for fleas and minor ailments, such as abscesses and gum disease.
You can help the Tri-Valley Fix Our Feral program. Go to http://tri-valleyfixourferals.org/ to see how.
The plight of feral cats is the unfortunate result of failure to spay and neuter. Individuals in every community are responsible for the well-being of domesticated animals. Please get involved in your community and be part of the effort to vastly reduce, and ultimately eliminate, the fear, suffering, and deaths of abandoned cats and their offspring.
To find a low-cost neuter clinic near you, visit our website at http://friendsofanimals.org and use our convenient zip code feature under the “Programs: Spaying and Neutering Certificate Information” link (or phone us at 1-800-321-PETS for guidance on the vets’ locations).
- 1. Cheryl Cornacchia, “ One Unspayed Cat: 3,200 Kittens” – Montreal Gazette (2 May 2010).
We’ve all heard the cry of raw food enthusiasts: “Cooking kills the enzymes!”
But what does that mean? I barely know what an enzyme is, let alone if I am degrading something in my broccoli when I steam it.
I do have a good friend who’s really into raw foods, who claims her boundless energy and good health are 100% attributable to lots and lots (and I mean lots) of salad eating. I will admit it: Her 40-year-old skin is amazing. But is it raw organic kale — or good genes? How do we know if raw food claims really hold up?
Brenda Davis and Vesanto Melina to the rescue. The two diet experts separated the sprouted wheat from the chaff in their previous book Becoming Vegan, which is already a classic. Now, with Becoming Raw, the pair describes the benefits and pitfalls of a raw food vegan diet by completely relying on science. The authors clearly enjoy raw food, but they aren’t raw foodists, and they seek not so much to convert as to educate and empower.
A section of the book is devoted to the various schools of thought related to enzymes. The reader will find that the antioxidant activity of raw versus cooked plant foods varies. Some foods (leafy greens and broccoli, for example) have a higher antioxidant content raw, while other foods (carrots and sweet potatoes) can be enhanced through the cooking process. Sometimes it’s a mixed bag. Cooking might enhance one nutrient in a vegetable yet diminish others. Becoming Raw reveals the true complexity of nutrition.
The book is practically criticism-proof, as it covers every imaginable facet of raw cuisine in a complex yet comprehensible way. The last sections of the book offer raw food menus designed to be nutritionally adequate and satisfying. Reading this book will probably not win you over to raw food, though, if you’re not there now; that’s how balanced and fair the writing is. It’s important to eat raw, uncooked food on a regular basis, but I don’t think a case is made to eat that way exclusively.
The depth, complexity and scope of Becoming Raw might not make it an entertaining read (is that even possible when it comes to nutrition?), but it’s clearly a work of impressive thoroughness. And if you’re wondering, like I was, whether sprouted flax seed and greens are the fountain of youth, well, pick up a copy of this book. And help yourself to a big salad and a green smoothie while you read.
Ginger Kathrens is an Emmy Award-winning producer, cinematographer, writer and editor as well as an award-winning author; Kathrens is also the founder and executive director of The Cloud Foundation, which is dedicated to the preservation of wild horses living on public lands. Her documentaries on the free-roaming horse called Cloud are an extraordinary — indeed unique — chronicle of an animal’s natural life from birth.
The Cloud Foundation and Friends of Animals sponsored The March for Mustangs on March 25 in Washington, D.C., where Kathrens was a speaker. This interview occurred by phone on April 14.
FoA: When did you decide to become a documentary filmmaker?
GK: I was always drawn to movies, ever since I was a kid. To my parents’ aggravation, I would spend a lot of time watching old movies.
Feature films were really what I was drawn to, and I worked on one feature when I was in my early 20’s. When I started my own business in Colorado Springs, I had to do anything and everything to try to make a living: commercials, public service announcements… The Olympic committee moved there and I started doing projects related to that; I did their official film, a short subject with the skater Scott Hamilton, a swimming series, and a boxing film.
I found that I was better at longer formats as opposed to 30 second commercials; I found it a lot more fun, and that I had some natural story-telling ability. But it wasn’t until [PBS narrator and producer] Marty Stouffer asked me to write a script for him for his Wild America television series that I was able to combine my love of nature and wildlife with my skills as a filmmaker. That elevated my productions out of the ordinary, and certainly made them way above average. That was in 1987, and I have been doing television documentaries ever since.
FoA: You are known in the animal advocacy community for your documentaries about Cloud, a wild horse whose entire life you’ve documented. How did this series of films come about?
GK: I started working for Marty Stouffer as a writer, and as a researcher and editor, too; it wasn’t until 1993, when I won an Emmy Award for a film I had both produced and shot called “Spirits of the Rainforest,” that Marty actually allowed me to shoot for Wild America.
“Spirits of the Rainforest” was a multi award-winning movie made for The Discovery Channel, and when Marty saw it, he just loved it. He realized I had skills beyond editing and writing.
He always wanted to do a film about mustangs. He called me in November 1993, and asked me to shoot a program about wild horses for him. I was really, really pleased that he asked me to shoot, but I was also worried because he thought I knew a lot about horses and I didn’t. My thought was: “How am I going to create a whole documentary about animals that only stand around in a field and graze all day?”
FoA: What is it that inspires you about wild horses now?
GK: A year into my filming “Year of the Mustang” for Marty, Cloud came tottering out from behind the trees in front of my camera. I had no idea at that time that I was going to end up doing a film, let alone a series of films, about one wild horse.
Cloud’s father and the mares became my teachers, taking pity on this completely ignorant filmmaker wandering around in their wilderness home. Every time I would be out there in this beautiful area of the Montana-Wyoming border, they would appear. A year into my filming Cloud was born. That was in 1995; it wasn’t until 1999 that I had the idea to make a film about Cloud.
From the first time I came to the range, I was educated on what it meant to be a wild horse. I learned about their rich communication, and the social order of wild horses; they reminded me of wolves, initially.
The father is there 365 days a year; it’s his job to keep the family together and protect the family. The lead mare will tell them when it’s time to go to water, that a storm is coming and it’s time to head into the trees, or when it’s time to drop downhill because of snow. The lead mare guides the family in their day-to-day activities.
The communication is so subtle and intricate. I just came to love, respect and appreciate their love of family — and their joy at being wild and free.
FoA: Many people in the United States don’t even know wild horses exist — much less that they are under siege by the government. Why is this?
I think the Bureau of Land Management wants it that way. I think it’s been a plan to make wild horses an invisible ingredient on public land.
And when they did talk about wild horses, they would refer to them as “feral,” which is a politically charged term for an animal that was once tame that has gone wild.
Then on the other hand, the BLM is required to offer them for adoption; and when they offered them for adoption they had a real hard time of it because they’d tried to make them invisible, and talked about them as though they are worthless animals. They’ve done no eco-tourism, no signage along roads…if people could see them roaming free, they would love them. If you love them, you want to preserve that which you love and understand. By keeping them in the background, and not letting people know anything about them, it’s been an effective way to remove them without any public outcry.
FoA: How many wild horses live in the United States currently? How many live free, and how many have been captured and corralled by the Bureau of Land Management?
GK: We don’t know how many wild horses are roaming free right now. That’s one thing we are asking for, an independent census. The BLM would have us believe there are over 30,000 and yet the best statistical review that’s been done would indicate as few as 15,000. We know that the government is indicating that 36,000 wild horses are currently being housed in corrals and pasture. There are more wild horses in captivity on the taxpayer dime than there are living free.
In 1971, the Wild Horse and Burro Act was passed unanimously by Congress to preserve mustangs. The BLM was put in charge of managing them.
The BLM was a livestock and oil and gas extractive user management organization; then they had a wildlife species foisted upon them. They have always tried to work their way around their duties to legally protect them. In 1974, it was reported that there were 54,000 wild horses on public lands, and they identified the 303 herd areas where horses and burros were found. There are only 186 herds now. And look how many horses are on the range compared to 1974. You can see how far we’ve backslid under the reign of the BLM.
FoA: The Bureau of Land Management officials suggest that they’re saving starving horses. Isn’t their real concern for animal agribusiness — the attitude that free-roaming horses and burros get in the way of grazing cows?
GK: The short answer to that is “yes.” The competition over limited resources in the arid west has always been the major reason that wild horses have been treated so badly.
Livestock permittees on public land pay a pittance, $1.35 for a cow-and-calf pair per month. Hence the moniker for this: welfare ranching. If the cattle were really paying their way for being on federal land, without losing money, then the government would have to charge over $9 for a cow-and-calf pair per month of grazing.
Most of the land is controlled by corporations, not individual ranchers. It’s been a decades-long money drain. Just to administer the program costs approximately $144 million per year. And yet the revenues from public lands grazing are only around $21 million. The program loses about $123 million per year.
And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. One of the ways the BLM gets rid of horses is to say they are starving, and that they have to be rescued; they are devouring the land and destroying the landscape and resources is the claim. But there are millions of head of cattle, and there are only a few thousand mustangs. It’s just a method of devaluing the horse and getting rid of a species native to North America.
They are a return native species; they returned to a finished form to North America, where they had been absent for some 7,000 years. In geologic time, it would be less than a heart beat. The reason they were so successful is that they returned to an ecosystem in which they had evolved.
FoA: And they are especially beneficial to the soil and ecology of the West?
GK: Yes, yes, you’re right. They have a post-gastric digestive system, and they process their food very rapidly, not as thoroughly as a ruminant, like a cow or a goat or a pronghorn or a deer or an elk; so they’re really one of the only grazers and browsers that don’t digest all their food. They can, in effect, re-seed their environment.
They also evolved to require a lot of exercise, to work that food through their system properly. They don’t do a lot of standing around; they go into the water holes and they drink and then move on. Cows defecate in the water — whereas I’ve never seen a wild horse poop in their water source. We call them “the green horses” because have so many benefits to the land.
FoA: Watching the round-ups on film is excruciating. Can you describe how the Bureau of Land Management captures them? And once they are captured, what kind of conditions do they live in?
GK: Helicopters are employed for nearly all of the round-up — and, yes, it’s really difficult to watch. They run the horses over rugged terrain for 10 miles or more. And sometimes they do it in the dead of winter.
Frequently the animals die during the course of the round-ups or as a result of running too far, too fast; sometimes the young foals’ feet can’t hold up. Recently at least two Calico wild horse foals had their hooves separate from their legs, which is unthinkably cruel.
When the horses are brought in, if they are young and adoptable, they are put into feedlot style enclosures. Even some of the long-term holding facilities are feedlots. Most horses over the age of 10 are placed in privately run pastures in Kansas and Oklahoma. The public is not allowed to view the horses in these long term facilities on private land. Even some of the short-term feedlot facilities are off limits for public viewing except on rare occasions. So as far as what the conditions truly are, we can’t monitor that. We can’t know for sure and we can’t verify how many horses are really being warehoused by BLM.
FoA: Why are politicians so reluctant to support measures to put an end to this?
The livestock industry has a powerful lobbying organization — even though there are probably only a few thousand members of the National Cattlemen’s Association [now the National Cattlemen's Beef Association] . They tend to hold a lot of sway over Western politicians.
Animals on public lands have suffered as a result. Not just wild horses and burros, but the predators too. Livestock permittees demand that any predator that might kill a calf of a sheep on public land be eradicated. The taxpayers foot this multi-million dollar program too. This is just disgraceful, and, of course, leads to an imbalance in the wild horse herds.
So where we can keep our hands off, and let nature take care of itself, it can work quite handily. When we interfere, things tend to get all mucked up.
FoA: Senator Mary Landrieu (D-LA) supports an end to wild horse round ups, and is supposedly going to introduce a new bill or amendment. Can you tell us more?
GK: Senator Landrieu is going to introduce legislation that will either be a new Wild Horse and Burro Act or it will be an amended version of ROAM (Restore Our American Mustangs); that legislation that passed the House is now in a Senate committee, and it’s stalled there.
I don’t know what the senator is planning on doing, whether she’s planning on striking what’s causing it to be stalled and simply introduce ROAM part II, or whether it will be a completely new piece of legislation. But the purpose of it is to RE-protect, as some people say, our wild horses, and allow for the release of some of these horses that are costing the taxpayers an arm and a leg, particularly the short-term horses; that’s what I am recommending. The land is still there, and those short-term horses need to be identified and they need to be sent back home. I think the public would like to see the gates opened up and see these beautiful animals go free.
How can supporters of Friends of Animals get involved?
They should contact their senators and congressional representatives. Even if they don’t live in a state that has wild horses, they need to express to their elected officials that they very much value the wild horses and burros on public land.
Certainly the BLM’s management is a fiscal train-wreck. It is costing hundreds of millions of dollars per year unnecessarily. Not only is it costing the horses their freedom and families, it’s costing taxpayers a lot of money. Explain that you vote, you pay taxes, and you don’t want your tax money used in this way.
For those who haven’t seen your riveting Cloud documentaries, where are they available?
The three books I’ve written about Cloud and the three movies are available on The Cloud Foundation website [www.TheCloudFoundation.org]. You can purchase them for a donation to The Cloud Foundation to support our efforts. Our goal is to educate the public and the media about the beauty and wonder of wild horses — and the legal right of wild horses to occupy their legally designated homes on the range.
What’s next for you?
Hard to say, isn’t it? There’s something to be said for working on feature films as opposed to documentary films; feature films have scripts! And you have a beginning and end!
You can’t write the script for a documentary like this, because by the time you write it or think you can predict what’s going to happen, it turns out totally different. That was certainly the case with my last documentary, Cloud: Challenge of the Stallions. Who in the world would have predicted that Shaman would raise Cloud’s son, and then Cloud would raise Shaman’s son; and they kept them with them for four years, which is way longer than most stallions keep their growing, maturing sons with them; and both of those sons, at exactly the same time of year, would turn on their fathers to try to take away their mares? It’s has Shakespearian overtones.
What You Can Do
Please contact your senators and representatives and urge them to get involved on behalf of the autonomy of free-roaming equids.
To contact the Senate:
The Honorable (Name)
United States Senate
Washington , DC 20510
To contact the House of Representatives:
The Honorable (Name)
The House of Representatives
Washington , DC 20515
Secretary Ken Salazar
Department of the Interior
1849 C Street, N.W.
Washington DC 20240
E-Mail : firstname.lastname@example.org
BLM Director Bob Abbey
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C Street, N.W. Room 5661
Washington DC 20240