Tag Archives: chimps

Ringling – never in style!!! It’s here – BOYCOTT THIS WILD ANIMAL-ABUSING “SHOW” ONE LAST TIME!!!!

The elephants and tigers won! No more Ringling! The final gurgle this weekend…BOYCOTT THE ANIMAL ABUSE! Fuck the nostalgia BS! Stay away! Better yet! Lead a Protest at DCU!

We repost this classic InCity Times cover story written by ICT super scribe Steve Baer. It was written early in the fight for the animals, when we first began to educate you all, when we dreamed for the end and, along with so many regular folks across America, WORKED TO SHUT DOWN ALL CIRCUSES THAT USE WILD ANIMALS!

– Rose T.

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Elephants and Circuses

By Steve Baer

In June 2000, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the Animal Welfare Institute, The Fund for Animals, the Animal Protection Institute, and Tom Rider, a former employee of Ringling Brothers, filed a lawsuit against Ringling Brothers in Federal District court under the Endangered Species Act.

The lawsuit charges that the circus uses a stick with a sharpened metal hook on the end (called a “bullhook” or “ankus”) to repeatedly beat, pull, push, torment and threaten elephants. This type of aggression should be illegal, and is, but only because the recipients of the beatings were highly endangered Asian Elephants. Other animals in the circus, unfortunately, are not given the same level of protection. The intention of the lawsuit was to immediately stop Ringling’s inhumane mistreatment of animals in the circus.

It wasn’t, however, until October 2006, a year after a September 2005 court order by a Federal District judge who announced that he will incarcerate Ringling’s lawyers and executives if they do not turn over critical veterinary documents that Ringling disclosed their internal veterinary records. The records revealed Ringling Brothers severe abuse of the elephants.“[We] hope the spotlight continues to shine on the use of inhumane chains and bullhooks and Ringling’s cruel behind-the-scenes treatment of elephants,” said Nicole Paquette, G e n e r a l C o u n s e l a n d Director of L e g a l Affairs at the Animal Protection Institute.

“ T h e Court has run out of patience for R i n g l i n g Bro t h e r s ’ s t a l l i n g ploys,” added M i c h a e l Markarian, president of The Fund for A n i m a l s . ” This trial will come not a moment too soon, as R i n g l i n g ’s e l e p h a n t s continue to suffer every day from abusive discipline and prolonged chaining.”

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Training

Elephants are not domestic pets. They are wild animals. The same is true of lions, tigers, and bears. To be trained for the circus, an elephant had to have been chained down and had the spirit repeatedly beaten out of him or her by a team of “animal trainers.” The “trainers” use baseball bats, metal pipes, ax handles, metal prods, and sticks. The intention of the “trainers” is to show the elephant who is boss. The elephant, being an emotionally sensitive creature, as well as having a sensitive skin, is known to cry during such sessions. The torment, which doesn’t end for days, leaves behind a mere shell of the former animal. The elephant suffers emotional scars, and often physical scars too.

One “trainer” for a major circus was caught on under cover video saying “You’ve got to make them scream – You’ve got to make them cry!” in reference to how to make an elephant ready for performing in a circus.

According to Henry Ringling North in his book “The Circus Kings,” the big cats are “chained to their pedestals, and ropes are put around their necks to choke them down.” Writes Mr. Ringling North, “They work from fear.” Bears may have their noses broken while being trained to “teach” them to respond to commands, and their paws burned to force them to stand on their hind legs.

Once animals have learned to feel helplessness and have become spiritually drained, they are kept in a state of submission through various mechanisms.

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Animals, such as bears, may be forced into tight fitting muzzles so they will remain subdued and discouraged from protecting themselves. The muzzles interfere with vision and respiration. Similarly, tight collars are employed to make animals more manageable. Others have their teeth removed. Chimpanzees and bears reportedly had their teeth knocked out by a hammer. Animals are declawed, defanged, and/or tranquilized to maintain control over them.

Elephants are forced to perform tricks by being hit with the ankus and electric prods. The ankus has a long handle with a sharp metal hook. It is jabbed into the most sensitive parts of an elephant’s body – under the trunk, behind the ears, around the eyes, inside their mouth, behind the knees, and in the genital region. Elephants are kept in fear, so they can be easily controlled by the circus.

Frequently an elephant will sustain an injury while being forced to perform an unnatural movement, such as balancing on two feet on a stool. Undercover investigators as recently as July 2006, have videotaped trainers beating elephants. Ringling’s own “Animal Behaviorist” in a January 2005 e-mail, recounted to Ringling’s General Manager that she saw an elephant named Lutzi “dripping blood all over the arena floor during the show from being hooked” after a handler “hook[ed] Lutzi under the trunk three times and behind the leg once in an attempt to line her up for the Tmount.” (A “T-mount” is a stunt where two elephants and at least one person stand on the back of a kneeling elephant.)

An elephant cannot always carry his or her weight on two legs, so a torn ligament is not uncommon. If the injuries are left untreated, it can be disastrous for the elephant.

Make no mistake about it, the whips, tight collars, muzzles, electric prods, bull-hooks, and other enslavement tools used during circus acts and training sessions are reminders to you, and to the animals, that they are being forced to perform. Animals do not naturally ride bicycles, stand on their heads, or jump through rings of fire. In contrast to the exciting public relations hype associated with circuses, animals in the circus live a dismal life of domination, confinement, and violent training.

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On The Road

Most circus animals usually live and travel in small, barren transport cages. Their cages are often so small that it is difficult for the animals to turn around. The animals are hauled around the country in poorly ventilated trailers and boxcars for up to 50 weeks a year in all kinds of extreme weather conditions. Animals defecate, urinate, eat, drink and sleep in the same small cramped cages. Access to the basic necessities of food, water, and veterinary care is often inadequate. Tigers and lions who naturally secure a territory of 75 to 2,000 square miles are often forced to live and travel in cages only 4 feet wide by 6 feet long by 5 feet tall.

Circus animals who are not confined to cages may often be chained or tethered almost the whole day. Most circuses routinely chain their elephants, while ungulates such as camels, zebras, and horses are tethered or stalled.

Under sworn testimony to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, witnesses and former circus employees have reported that elephants are normally chained by one front leg and one rear leg. Chains are usually, although not always, long enough to permit the elephant to take a step or two forward or backwards, and to lie down. Elephants are also kept chained in enclosed boxcars where they stand in their own excrement and urine for days unable to move around, smell fresh air, or find intellectual stimulation. Reportedly, circus elephants are confined in this way for 20 or more hours each day. The prolonged standing in wet, unsanitary conditions can lead to physical problems – such as arthritis and life threatening foot problems (foot rot, cracked nails, and infected cuticles) – and psychological problems. In the wild, elephants travel tens of miles each day. The inadequate exercise that elephants enslaved by the circus experience contributes to their decline in health.

In sworn testimony, Tom Rider, a former Ringling Brothers elephant barn-keeper stated, “After three years of working with elephants in the circus, I can tell you that they live in confinement and they are beaten all the time when they don’t perform properly.”

Other former Ringling Brothers employees have spoken out against behind-the-scenes animal cruelty. Former Ringling performer Kelly Tansy commented, “On my very first day with the circus, I witnessed animal cruelty. I saw an elephant being beaten in what appeared to be a disciplinary action. The beating was so severe that the elephant screamed. I have come to realize, through all the circuses that I have worked for, that mistreatment of animals is a standard part of training and is thought to be a ‘necessary’ part of exhibiting them. Additionally, Tansy reports, “I have seen chimps locked in small cages constantly when not performing; elephants chained continuously; and even animals being beaten during performances.”

Animal Psychology

The continual frustration of wild animals who are unable to engage in their instinctive behaviors can lead the animals to some serious psychological problems. Stereotypic actions such as hyper-aggression, apathy, selfmutilation, bar-biting, and pacing are indicative of psychological maladies. Frustrated by the lack of ability to move elephants repeatedly bob their heads and sway back and forth; some repeatedly rattle their chains with their trunks. Both of these actions are signs of neurotic behavior. Animals in the circus are often deprived of food and water to induce them to perform, as well as to prevent untimely defecation while they are in public view.

Even if it was possible to supply circus animals with all their material wants, something vital would still be lacking. What’s lacking is the joy that is associated with simply having the ability to evade being forced to do something.

Under natural conditions, in the wild, elephants have a life span of about 60 years. Elephants are normally migratory, traveling over 4,000 miles a year. Elephants have poor eyesight, but all of their other senses—hearing, smell, taste, and touch—are acute. Their trunk is frequently at work picking up scents of food and danger from the ground and air. Elephants can smell water at great distances and can hear certain sounds more than a mile away. Elephants in the wild dine on a wealth of plant parts—leaves, twigs, bark, shoots, fruit, flowers, roots, tubers, and bulbs.

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Female elephants are among the few mammals, including humans, that live beyond their reproductive years. The typical cow will end her reproductive years at around 45 years old. During this post-reproductive period between 45 and 60 plus years, she assists in the care of the young of other elephants.

Elephants display complex, highly social behavior, living in tightly knit families headed by the oldest females. These elephants remain together for life. The family also defends the young, sick, old, and disabled from predators. Elephants are highly emotional individuals. They express joy, pleasure, and compassion, as well as sadness and grief. Wild elephants have been known to celebrate births of new elephants and to grieve and even shed tears over the death of a family member.

It is a shame and a travesty of morality that for the sake our children’s and our own momentary entertainment we encourage so much distress to come to pass on the families and the young of elephants.

What are we teaching children?

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Circuses use animals to appeal to children and the child nature in adults. Observing animals at the circus, however, teaches children nothing about the natural behaviors of other species. They may learn about the size, shape and color of the animals, but behavior patterns, social interactions, intelligence, hunting instinct, maternal care giving, food gathering and movement patterns are absent. Instead, children are presented with images of either ferocious or stupid animals, whose seemingly only purpose is to amuse humans. The child unconsciously takes home from the circus the feeling that it is acceptable to exploit another being… animal or human.

Dr. Michael W. Fox, a veterinarian, animal behaviorist, and former professor of psychology reveals that “Parents have told [him] that they do not take their children to the circus where there are performing animals because they know intuitively, empathically, that it is wrong.”

Dr. Fox acknowledges that exposing children to “covert animal cruelty and overt domination, control, and exploitation teaches children that it is culturally acceptable, and the norm, to subjugate other sentient beings [humans included] and make them perform unnatural acts.” According to Dr. Fox, “The child’s nascent capacity to empathize with other living beings is certainly… crippled.” Dr. Fox asserts that “To expose and subject sensitive and impressionable children to the wild animal-abusing circus is child abuse.”

Tuberculosis

Protect yourself. A deadly and highly contagious human strain of tuberculosis (Mycobacterium tuberculosis or TB) is infecting and killing captive elephants. TB is an airborne disease that spreads through tiny droplets in the air.

According to Dr. John Lewis of the International Zoo Veterinary Group, “[I]f tuberculosis is diagnosed in an elephant there are clear public health implications as the disease can be spread by close contact with infected animals [and] people.” Circuses routinely allow members of the public to feed, pet, and ride elephants.

TB is difficult to identify in elephants. Elephants are too large to be x-rayed, skin tests are unreliable, and trunk wash cultures only indicate whether the elephant has active TB. Circuses may also intentionally mislabel trunk wash specimens from infected animals using a TBnegative animal as the donor. No test can determine if an elephant is harboring a TB infection. Infected elephants may exhibit no symptoms of TB or may suffer from chronic weight loss, diminished appetite, chronic nasal discharge, coughing, and intolerance to exercise.

An extremely thin elephant, Lota, was diagnosed with tuberculosis in 1996. A photo taken in May 2001 shows a child petting her at a circus. A few months later, this elephant was taken off the road and again given tuberculosis treatment

Most circuses have been cited by the USDA for failure to comply with TB testing requirements for elephants and handlers. The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health has determined that USDA veterinary medical officers and animal care inspectors who conduct elephant inspections may be at risk for TB infection.

Contingency Plans

Two police officers, one a fairly regular looking 5-feet 5-inch tall man and the other a very muscular 6-feet 4- inch tall man, were covering a detail at a circus near Worcester. They were asked by a citizen of the town “If one of the [three] elephants rampage what are you prepared to do.” The shorter police officer motions toward the larger police officer and replies, “I’ll hide behind him!” In truth there isn’t much more most people could do. Once a stressed out elephant rebels against a trainer’s physical dominance, the rampage is nearly impossible to stop without lethal force. In the event that an elephant runs amok, circus personnel cannot protect themselves, nor can they protect the general public.

An elephant who went berserk in Florida in 1992 with five children on her back was shot with more than 50 rounds of ammunition before an officer was located who happened to have armor-piercing bullets specially designed by the military to penetrate steel.Would you want your child on the back of an elephant that is being shot at?

In 1994, a stressed out circus elephant name Tyke could not take the abuse any longer. Her deadly rampage lasted an hour in downtown Honolulu. Department-issued semi-automatic pistols were useless. A zoo veterinarian’s lethal injections had no effect. The police finally located a high-powered counter-sniper rifle and fired three rounds into her heart. Tyke died after having been shot 87 times.

Where Are the Regulating Bodies?

The only federal law regulating the treatment of most wild animals in circuses is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is inadequate and is inconsistently enforced. Circuses that do not comply with the Act are often given several opportunities to remedy violations. The USDA, itself determined that they “cannot ensure the humane care and treatment of animals as required by the AWA.”

According to Dr. Peggy Larson, a former USDA inspector and a veterinarian, “Circus animals are poorly inspected under the USDA Animal Welfare Act.” Dr. Larson stated that USDA veterinarians, who concern themselves primarily with housing and husbandry, do not know how to diagnose diseases in wild animals. And since neither a large animal practitioner nor a small animal veterinarian is equipped to handle elephants or big cats, circus animals are often not treated when they need care. Dr. Larson concluded, “USDA compliance is at best hopelessly ineffective.”

It can not be overstated that the vigilance and help of the public is essential when it comes to identifying and reporting circus animal abuse. If it were not for the help of concerned and compassionate people the truth about Ringling Brothers Circus cruelty and other circuses would still be well hidden and left unchecked.

Many uniformed people see elephants and other circus animals as being something of an American cultural tradition. Often, though, after becoming informed that no circus can possibly provide the right environment or proper care for such creatures, people find it unconscionable to allow an animal circus into town. Over 50 municipalities across the US, from Marin County CA to Weymouth MA prohibit circuses from operating in their community if they have elephants or other wild animals.

Ringling Brothers Circus – The Cruelest Show On Earth Industry Leader

Of all the animal circuses, Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus is the most diabolical and manipulative, not only to the animals, but also to the public.

Ringling Bros. public relations department has been working overtime to deceive the public into believing that animals imprisoned in the circus are “treated like family.” But no amount of misleading propaganda can sanitize the circus’s horrific record of animal neglect and their sabotage of the work of animal advocacy groups.

Since 1993, Ringling Brothers has been cited for more than one hundred deficiencies in animal care during inspections conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). The circus has consistently opposed legislation and regulations to improve the conditions of captive wildlife. In California, for example, Ringling Bros. opposed legislation to limit the time an elephant may be confined in chains in a 24-hour period. Ringling Brothers has been investigated by the USDA as a result of allegations of cruelty to animals made by former circus workers, one of whom testified before Congress about his experiences with the circus. Since late 1998, three former Ringling Brothers employees have stated that the circus’s elephants, including the babies, receive regular beatings. The Ringling Bros. circus has been sued by two animal protection organizations for conducting illegal spying operations.To settle one case out of court, Ringling Bros. agreed to turn over custody of older animals.

Ringling Brothers Circus failed to protect a 4-year old Bengal tiger from being shot to death while he was in his cage; killed a 3-year old elephant through neglect and tried to hide the body; forcibly separated two baby elephants from their mothers by dragging the babies away with rope, resulting in rope burn wounds on the rear legs of the babies; overworked a 15-year old horse to the point of exhaustion and death; drowned a 4-year old elephant; tried to cover-up the death of a 2-year-old lion that dehydrated in a circus train that was traveling with no water break across California’s Mojave Desert on an overly hot day; euthanized an 8-month old elephant who fell from a pedestal breaking his legs that were bound together during training; caused a wild caught sea lion to die in her transport container, and failed to provide adequate ventilation for their tigers resulting in one tiger injuring his eye and breaking his tooth as he attempted to tear open a cage door and escape from the dangerously high temperatures of the trailer.

But the crimes that Ringling Brothers and Barnum & Bailey circus commits extend beyond nonhuman animals. Ken Feld, CEO of Ringling Brothers Circus has been caught performing illegal wiretaps on the public, hiring ex-CIA people to illegally monitor and interfere in peoples’ lives, manipulating public sentiment against animal protection organizations, and using lobbyists and lawyers to defeat legislation which was designed to protect people from harm. Proof of this information is found in “Smith vs. Feld, civil action case number 98-357-A.

In that document Clair E. George, former Central Intelligence Agency deputy director for covert operations states that “Feld had set up a special unit, much like the Watergate ‘plumbers,’ to destroy anyone who threatened the image of the circus as wholesome fun-for-the-whole-family, conscientious custodian of animals. Feld’s main target was People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA).”

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PETA had circulated USDA reports that described horrible conditions at Ringling Brothers circus’s Center for Elephant Conservation in Polk City, Fla. At the Center USDA inspectors found two tightly chained baby elephants with lesions and scars on their legs, evidently caused by constant friction with their restraints. When USDA inspectors asked about the injuries, the elephant handlers told the inspectors that baby elephants were “routinely” chained to forcibly separate them “from their mothers.” The handlers angrily tried to block the inspectors from taking pictures. It was also discovered that about half of the elephants in Ringling Brothers Circus shows in Florida had a form of tuberculosis that was transmittable to human beings.

Animal-Free Circuses

Not all circuses use animals. Good circuses dazzle their audiences solely with skilled human performers who are so talented at their art that they don’t need to enslave animals. Some animalfree circuses that have grown in popularity include Cirque du Soleil, Circus Smirkus, Circus Chimera, Circus Millennia, Cirque Eloize, Circus Oz, The New Pickle Family Circus, and Bindlestiff Family Circus. These animal-free circuses make it possible for families to have fun without causing animal suffering.

The number of cities and towns that are banning the use of animals in circuses is growing. People in many communities are realizing that wild animals don’t belong in the circus because of harm to the animals and the inherent risk to public safety.

You Can Help

Every individual has the power to limit and even stop the use of animals in circuses. Educate others. Most people would not support the circus if they saw animal trainers beating elephants mercilessly with razor sharp bullhooks behind the scenes or knew that tigers were kept in cages only 4’ x 5’ for the majority of their lives. Talk to friends, family, and neighbors about the cruel treatment animals endure under the big top. Encourage them to join you in taking a stand against animal circuses. You can also write letters to urge industry leaders and circus sponsors to avoid bringing animal circuses into town; ask your town to ban live animal acts; encourage legislators to support legislation to end exotic animal acts; request enforcement of animal welfare regulations; and report any perceived violations of state and local animal protection laws to the police and animal control.

If you are interested in helping to stop animal circuses from coming into Massachusetts please contact the Animal Protection Institute at 1-800- 348-7387, or go to www.api4animals.org or www.morebeautifulwild.com

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Four Fast Facts about Animals in the Circus

1. Every major circus that uses animals has been cited for violating the minimal standards of care set forth in the United States Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

2. Animals born in circus “conservation” breeding programs have never been released into the wild.

3. From 1994 to 2005, at least 31 elephants died premature deaths in the circus.

4. Captive elephant and captive feline attacks on humans in the U.S. have resulted in hundreds of injuries, many resulting in death.

Other animal exploiters would be wise to follow Ringling’s example

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Nearly 40 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch.

By Craig Shapiro

The writing on the wall couldn’t have been clearer: protests outside every venue, empty seats inside and a seismic shift in the public’s attitude toward keeping animals in captivity and beating them until they perform. After years of stonewalling, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus finally acknowledged the message. A blatant animal exploiter since its inception almost 150 years ago, it announced this month that it’s going dark in May.

For the animals in the circus, the final show can’t come soon enough. But if Ringling — whose trainers kept elephants in chains and beat them with bullhooks (heavy batons with a sharp steel hook on one end) and will keep whipping lions and tigers until the curtain falls — can acknowledge that the days of abusing animals are coming to an end, how long will it be before other circuses follow suit?

Not long: Cole Bros. Circus folded its tent last year, the Big Apple Circus recently filed for bankruptcy and audiences are sparse at Shriners-sponsored circuses.

The public is rightfully appalled by the horrific abuse that circuses like Carson & Barnes inflict on animals, such as viciously beating elephants until they scream, as well as by the negligence that has allowed elephants to escape and run amok. The U.S. Department of Agriculture filed charges against the circus for two 2014 incidents that put elephants and the public at risk.

In the first, three elephants were on the run for nearly an hour after being frightened by a raucous crowd in Missouri. Two of them were injured. A month later in Pennsylvania, an adult and child got dangerously close to an elephant and took a photo. Carson & Barnes is lucky that this grievous safety violation didn’t result in catastrophe: Elephants who are forced to perform in the circus and spend their lives in chains have been known to snap.

The Kelly Miller Circus has a sordid history of federal Animal Welfare Act violations, including public endangerment and failure to provide veterinary records. The outfit still hauls an aging African elephant named Anna Louise around the country. She was taken from her home and family in Zimbabwe and has spent three decades alone, even though these intelligent, social beings need the companionship of other elephants in order to thrive.

Animal abuse and exploitation aren’t limited to circus tents. Orcas, dolphins and other marine animals imprisoned in SeaWorld’s aquatic circuses are also denied everything that’s natural and important to them. But the abusement park is beginning to see the writing on the wall.

Bowing to public pressure and a ruling by the California Coastal Commission, it ended its orca-breeding program in 2016.

It has said, though, that it will keep holding orcas in tiny concrete tanks, where they could languish for decades — if they live that long — unless they’re released to seaside sanctuaries, where they could swim free, socialize and experience some semblance of a natural life.

Nearly 40 orcas have died on SeaWorld’s watch, including Tilikum, the subject of the lauded documentary Blackfish. His death on January 5, after more than three decades in captivity, moved compassionate people around the world. But the sea change in public opinion isn’t new: The company’s attendance and profits have been tanking for years, and as a result, 320 employees were recently laid off.

It’s high time that Carson & Barnes Circus, the Kelly Miller Circus, SeaWorld and other animal exploiters followed Ringling’s example and did what’s right: Empty the tanks and unlock the cages.

KUDOS to the Worcester City Council for …

… looking to keep elephants, lions and tigers where they belong: wild and free in Africa or India! Not in metal box cars to freeze to death in the winter or to be cooked to death in the summer, not under the big top wearing tutus or jumping through rings of fire. We all know God didn’t create these gorgeous creatures for us to debase. Worcester is on the cutting edge here. Along with Noho, Cambridge, Revere and (next year) ENGLAND. That’s right the UK. Lots of other countries are ending the cruelty – not the circuses. We still wanna see clowns and acrobats come to town … Cirque de Soleil, the Big Apple Circus. Fun shows – but exotic-animal free.  ICT has be pushing and pushing and pushing for this humane move for more than a DECADE. Several years ago our city councilors talked about economic develpment woes. Well, here it is 2013 and Worcester has tons of festivals, fairs, music fests, restaurants, a cool theater, etc, etc. We have a gazillion money-generating shows! We can afford to lose the few bucks if some circuses go away. Most families who come into Worcester to see Ringling don’t do a lot of investing in Woo. They go to the show and then stop by the Pub 99 near the main post office, eat a quick dinner, and jump on the highway and zip home. We doubt there’s a lot of economic spin off from Ringling. Except for Pub 99 – a chain. A chain that doesn’t need the money.

MEN AND WOMEN OF WORCESTER – BE GREAT!

Let’s come together … and do the right thing! Worcester City Council leaders – and we mean LEADERS – Sarai Rivera, Mike Germain, Joe O’Brien and Konnie Lukes – understand the issue. Here’s hoping Ric Rushton, Kate Toomey and George Russell open their hearts …

Please watch these vidoes. Educate yourselves. Learn more. If you would like more info and want to be a part of our movement, please call me at 508.963.8386. Thank YOU!!!

– Rosalie Tirella

No double standard for captive endangered animals

By Julia Gallucci

Those concerned about the present and future conditions of chimpanzees—humankind’s closest genetic relative—have been given reason to feel optimistic: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) recently proposed a rule that would, if adopted, finally close a loophole in the Endangered Species Act (ESA) regulations that has allowed these intelligent and social primates to be bought, sold and traded, then harmed, harassed and wounded in captivity.

An immediate benefit of the rule change, if the ESA is properly enforced, would be that chimpanzees could no longer be torn away from their mothers as babies, physically abused and forced to “perform” in television shows, ads and movies.

On the same day that the FWS announced its proposal (and following a vigorous PETA campaign), authorities in Nye County, Nev., voted unanimously to deny notorious exhibitor Mike Casey a permit to keep four chimpanzees in their county when he is not renting them out for use in TV, films, ads and events. Casey has reportedly kicked and punched chimpanzees, struck them with wooden rods and doused them with hot water.

Undercover investigations have documented that the physical abuse of chimpanzee “actors” is a common practice behind the scenes. Systematic abuse causes animals to become perpetually anxious; indeed, the chimpanzee “grin” so often seen in movies and on television is actually a grimace of fear.

With equitable and meaningful ESA enforcement, chimpanzees would also be spared the pain and misery of being imprisoned in laboratories to endure invasive experiments that offer no benefit to their species—or to our own. As the Institute of Medicine (IOM) declared in 2011, “[M]ost current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”

Following the landmark IOM report, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) formed a committee to reassess its support for the use of chimpanzees in experiments. In addition to echoing the findings of the IOM regarding current experiments, it concluded overall that “research involving chimpanzees has rarely accelerated new discoveries or the advancement of human health for infectious diseases.” Last month, the NIH announced that it will cut funding for most invasive biomedical experiments on chimpanzees and grant sanctuary to at least 310 of the 360 federally owned chimpanzees currently imprisoned in laboratories.

In recent experiments funded and conducted by the NIH, chimpanzees were intentionally infected with malaria and fed upon by thousands of mosquitoes placed on their shaved skin. Baby chimpanzees were exposed to norovirus by injection or by forcing liquid filtered from human stool down their throats and then subjected to months of painful biopsies and other invasive procedures. Norovirus and malaria are two of the many disease areas in which the IOM and NIH have determined that the use of chimpanzees is unnecessary, but the experiments continued simply because they had easy access to them. That’s now going to change.

If the FWS rule is implemented and properly enforced, it would also offer vital leverage to efforts already underway to defend other endangered animals against harm and exploitation. It could herald an end to similarly unjustified exemptions from legal protections for other endangered animals held in captivity, including the improper exclusion of Lolita, the sole captive orca at the Miami Seaquarium, from the ESA listing of Southern Resident orcas. The FWS proposal reinforces the petition submitted by PETA, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Orca Network to the National Marine Fisheries Service calling for Lolita to receive the same protections as the Southern Resident orca family that she was torn from more than 40 years ago. The unjust exclusion from the safeguards against harm and harassment afforded by the ESA has allowed the Miami Seaquarium to hold Lolita in the smallest orca tank in North America.

The ESA must protect all endangered animals equally—whether they are in captivity or their natural environments—and thankfully, the FWS is finally recognizing this.

Animals in Labs, Part 2

Tax dollars thrown away on pointless animal experiments

By Alisa Mullins

A report issued a couple years ago by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Tom Coburn, R-Okla., blasted 100 “questionable,” “mismanaged” and “poorly planned” stimulus-funded projects, including an especially pointless and cruel experiment that the report aptly called “Monkeys Getting High for Science.” The study in question was being conducted at the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center, a Winston Salem, N.C.–based facility that was awarded $71,623 in stimulus funds to feed cocaine to monkeys.

“I think all of [the projects] are waste,” McCain told ABC News. “[S]ome are more egregious than others but all of them are terrible.”

Hooking monkeys on coke definitely falls into the “more egregious” category. Unfortunately, this study is just a drop in the proverbial crack pipe. Wasteful and cruel addiction studies on animals are currently being conducted all over the country—and most are simply slight variations on experiments that have been conducted for years. Often the “results” have been known for years as well. For example, it has already been well established that smoking harms developing human fetuses. But that hasn’t stopped the federal government from funneling more than $10 million to Eliot Spindel of the Oregon National Primate Research Center. Spindel impregnates monkeys and then continuously injects them with nicotine to cause damage to their unborn babies’ lungs. The preterm babies are then cut from their mothers’ bodies and killed so that their organs can be cut out and dissected.

Other experiments on animals could easily be conducted on willing human volunteers.

At Yale University, experimenter Marina Picciotto has squandered nearly $10 million in taxpayer money from the National Institutes of Health for nicotine, amphetamine and cocaine addiction experiments on monkeys, mice and rats. The stated goal of one such experiment was to determine how long one should wait after ingesting nicotine before brain imaging is done.

But rather than using actual human smokers who were enrolled in a clinical study, Picciotto isolated monkeys in cages and fed them nicotine-laced Kool-Aid for eight weeks. One monkey received a dose of nicotine each day that was equal to the amount of nicotine found in 17 packs of cigarettes (far more than even chain-smoking humans consume), and the monkeys had to suffer through the distress and discomfort of nicotine withdrawal.

Some addiction experiments appear to be almost sadistically pointless. At Harvard Medical School’s McLean Hospital, Jack Bergman has conducted federally funded experiments on squirrel monkeys in which they were isolated in steel cages, addicted to methamphetamines and cocaine, strapped in restraint chairs and given electric shocks.

Bergman also wanted to spend another $1.75 million of public money from NASA to blast squirrel monkeys with radiation and then cage them for the rest of their lives to see how it damages their brains and bodies—even though four decades of government-funded radiation experiments on primates have not produced any results that are relevant to humans. A NASA space station engineer who resigned in protest over the experiment says she believes that the agency’s resources would be better spent devising ways to prevent radiation from entering spaceships rather than trying to figure out what to do after it does.

While it is always unethical to confine, poison, mutilate and kill animals for experimentation, it is especially egregious that experimenters are trying to use animals to model addiction, which is in large part caused by social, psychological and even economic factors. Studies on animals can’t resolve these issues.

Furthermore, vast fundamental biological differences between humans and other animals make the results of such experiments difficult if not impossible to extrapolate to humans. Data from mice, rats and monkeys who are trapped in a laboratory and forced into an unnatural and involuntary addiction are of no relevance to humans suffering from drug addictions. Federal tax dollars would be much better spent funding cash-strapped addiction treatment centers and studying drug addictions in humans in a clinical setting rather than torturing animals.

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When ethics and science must not be divided

By Kathy Guillermo

The federal government’s decision late last year to suspend funding for new experiments on chimpanzees, and to re-evaluate all current studies, knocked out a big chunk of the wall that is the species barrier.

Chimpanzees used to be considered “others”—creatures who, despite their human-like qualities, were different enough for experimenters to use in violent and deadly crash tests, to infect with debilitating diseases, and, in a twisted attempt to make them more like us, teach them human sign language. Now the others are us.

The National Institutes of Health based its decision to halt funding for chimpanzee experiments on the conclusions of an expert panel convened by the Institute of Medicine whose express purpose was to examine the scientific validity of using chimpanzees. The committee was comprised primarily of scientists, including some animal experimenters, and determined that “most current biomedical research use of chimpanzees is not necessary.”

But make no mistake: The report and subsequent take-down of the chimpanzee grant gravy train has its roots in compassion.

The question of scientific validity was raised only after the massive outcry over NIH’s decision to return more than 200 retired chimpanzees, many of them elderly, from quasi-retirement in a facility in Alamogordo, N.M., back into prison-like conditions in laboratories for use in infectious disease studies. NIH said they weren’t really retired; they just hadn’t been used for more than 10 years. The contract for their care was nearing its end. Why not just stick them back in isolation cages, infect them with painful, debilitating conditions, stab them with needles, watch their demise and, essentially, use them up until they die?

Because it’s wrong, was the response from the public, animal groups, many scientists and some legislators. Why must these wonderful, sensitive individuals, who have already been subjected to more physical pain and emotional deprivation than any being of any species should have to endure, be returned to the hell they had already miraculously survived? Why must the United States be the only nation on the entire globe, with the exception of tiny Gabon, still to use chimpanzees as though nothing about them mattered but their perceived usefulness as tools?

Last New Year’s Eve, in the face of this outcry, NIH announced that it was suspending the transfer of the chimpanzees (though tragically, at least 14 had already been sent to a laboratory) and had asked the Institute of Medicine to investigate the importance or lack thereof of chimpanzees to research. The committee stated that it would not deal with the ethics of the issue.

But here’s the elephant in the living room: The question was only asked because so many people, indeed so many nations, believe it is unethical to experiment on chimpanzees.

While the committee found that nearly every use of chimpanzees in laboratories today is scientifically unjustifiable, the immorality of the practice was the subtext. At the briefing during which the Institute of Medicine announced its findings, the committee chair bioethicist Jeffrey Kahn of Johns Hopkins University, even stated, “We understand and feel compelled by the moral cost of using chimpanzees in research.”

Chimpanzees are so like us that most people cannot ignore their desire to be free from subjugation.

Like the Berlin Wall, the barriers that separate humans from all the other species, including those who don’t look like us at all, will crumble. Perhaps one day, and I hope not too far from now, the cages and other implements of animal experimentation will, like the Wall that once separated one group of nations from another, be found only in the Smithsonian and other museums.

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University laboratories failing the ‘3 R’s’

By Dr. Alka Chandna

Most of us find it uncomfortable to think about a defenseless animal imprisoned inside a laboratory cage and used in invasive and ultimately lethal experiments. We hope that laws will protect the animal and that the experimenters will take all measures to minimize the animal’s pain and distress.

But here’s the truth: There is only one law in the U.S.—the Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—that provides protection for animals in laboratories. According to multiple federal audits, even this law, which deals mainly with caging and husbandry issues, is not being adequately enforced. Worse, the animals’ last line of defense—oversight committees at laboratories, called “Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees” (IACUCs)—are failing at their jobs as well.

The creation of IACUCs was Congress’ response to massive public outcry over abuse and neglect in laboratories exposed by PETA in the early ’80s. In 1985, Congress amended the AWA to require that every animal facility set up a committee to be responsible for ensuring that experimenters search for alternatives to the use of animals and consider alternatives to painful procedures; that discomfort, distress and pain to animals are avoided or minimized; and that experiments are not being unnecessarily duplicated. In essence, IACUCs must ensure that the “3 R’s” of animal experimentation—reduction of numbers of animals used, refinement of procedures to minimize or avoid pain, and replacement of animals with non-animal models—have been considered.

Animals in laboratories endure lives of deprivation, isolation, stress, trauma and depression even before they are used in any experiment. Implementing the 3 R’s is a minimal provision extended to animals, and IACUCs are legally mandated to ensure that this modicum of humane treatment is applied. But 49 years after the 3 R’s were first articulated in 1959 and 23 years after the implementation of IACUCs, animal experimenters and IACUCs are still failing to take the 3 R’s seriously. Consequently, countless animals have been subjected to unnecessary suffering.

In September 2005, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) published a scathing audit report describing a climate in which laboratories view fines for AWA violations as a “cost of conducting business.” The report notes that at almost one-third of facilities, IACUCs failed to ensure that experimenters considered alternatives to painful procedures. The report cites this failure on the part of IACUCs as being the most frequent AWA violation. The report further documents the failure of IACUCs to ensure that animals receive adequate veterinary care and to ensure that unnecessary or repetitive experiments are not performed on animals.

Inspection reports filed by USDA veterinarians and evidence gathered by PETA through whistleblowers and undercover investigations corroborate these concerns. At Columbia University, the IACUC’s failure to adequately review animal experimentation protocols meant that monkeys and dogs in scientifically questionable studies died slowly in their cages without veterinary care.

At Ohio State University, the failure of the IACUC to question the necessity of using dogs to test the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids means that dogs are forced to run on treadmills until they collapse. They are killed and dissected—even though the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids for humans are already well documented.

At the University of Connecticut, the University of California at San Francisco, the University of Washington and dozens of other universities, experimenters implant coils in monkeys’ eyes and put metal cylinders into holes drilled into the monkeys’ skulls to determine which parts of the brain control eye movement—even though non-invasive techniques can be used on people to obtain human-relevant data.

Each time an IACUC allows a painful procedure when a less painful alternative is available or allows a redundant or useless experiment to proceed, it is not merely an administrative failure but a violation of federal law. Most importantly, these failings mean that animals suffer. There is no excuse for this.

Members of IACUCs should be carefully selected and properly trained to understand their responsibilities under the law and to understand all facets of the 3 R’s. If they don’t perform their responsibilities as they are mandated, they should be held accountable by government agencies and compliance officers at their universities and removed from their positions. Laziness and ignorance have been tolerated for far too long.

Animals in Labs Week, Part 1

Sunday, April 22, marked the beginning of Animals in Labs Week. For more than 10 years InCity Times has tried to enlighten folks about the needless torture of animals, courtesy of the many labs, research institutes and universities throughout the US and the world. So many of these horrific experiments (see below) are unnecessary! So many of the animals (ie chimps) lead deprived, horrific lives for decades – all in the name of industry/science. The cosmetic industry has subjected millions of rabbbits to toxic levels of makeup – pointless “overkill.” Monkeys have been given the AIDS virus and then … at the end of their lives … not even mercifully retired to gentler habitats. Cramped cages, hardened handlers, blood curdling deaths, animals in labs live a kind of hell that we can never imagine. From Harvard University where recently five chimps have died in their research labs, to high school “experiments,” animals in labs suffer … and need your help. Read on to learn more! – Rosalie Tirella

Some animals can use tools? Who cares?

By Kathy Guillermo

Years ago, I had a wonderful companion animal named Angus. He was a remarkable little fellow who loved to greet visitors to my house and snuggle next to me on the sofa. His favorite food was Chinese carry-out, and he went bonkers when he saw the white cardboard containers come out of the plastic bag on the kitchen table. He was loyal and sweet-tempered—probably not so different from your own dog or cat.

Except that Angus wasn’t a dog or cat. He was a rat.

A brown rat with shiny black eyes and a long pink tail. He lived on a table-top in my home, where he never had to be shut in his cage. He liked to cruise around the house perched on my shoulder.

So it was with particular interest that I read a study on rats, which found that rats can be trained to use tools, to understand the tools’ functions and to choose the most appropriate tool when presented with more than one. Before this, the study says, it was thought that only primates and some birds, in addition to humans, were capable of figuring this out.

So here’s my response, and I hope it’s yours too: Who cares?

Should we change the way we view rats because some of them can be taught how to use a little rake to draw food toward themselves? Of course not. We should change our attitude toward rats because they are thinking, feeling, living beings with a sense of humor, an affectionate nature and a capacity for suffering that the human race should stop ignoring.

This study is just the latest in a long line of experiments that should have convinced us of this long ago. Researchers at the University of Berne, Switzerland, announced that rats are influenced by the kindness of strangers. If rats have been assisted by rats they’ve never met before, they are more likely to help other rats in the future. A sort of rodent version of “Pay It Forward.”

Other studies have shown that rats become distressed when they see other rats being electrically shocked. We shouldn’t be surprised—though apparently the experimenters were—that the rats become even more agitated if they know or are related to the rat being shocked.

Scientists with special recording equipment have shown that rats laugh out loud in frequencies that can’t be heard by the human ear. Young rats who are being tickled are the most likely to giggle. Rats have been shown to be altruistic and have risked their own lives to save other rats, especially when the rats in peril are babies.

All of these studies, including the one on tool use, are published in journals, and news releases are sent out, and science bloggers chat online about them, but in the end, what difference does it make to rats? Rats and mice, that other unfairly maligned species, are still used and killed by the tens of millions in U.S. laboratories every year. They are denied even the minimal coverage of the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law offering any sort of protection to animals in laboratories.

So while it may pique the curiosity of some that rats can be taught to use tools, the more interesting result of this and all the studies that came before it is that experimenters apparently can’t be taught to put the results of studies to good use. If experimenters had this ability—the sort of reasoning that should get one from A to B in a logical way—they’d read the evidence that rats can think, learn, feel, laugh, act altruistically and risk their lives for others, and they’d stop caging and hurting them in laboratories. When a person knows that another being can suffer, and yet deliberately sets about causing that suffering, shouldn’t we worry less about which species can use tools, and more about the callousness of some people?

Kathy Guillermo is vice president of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of Monkey Business, The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement. Readers may write to her at: PETA, 501 Front St., Norfolk, VA 23510; www.PETA.org.

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States should give bunnies a break

By Kathy Guillermo

Not so long ago, every pregnancy test performed in a laboratory involved killing a rabbit. Happily, better methods were developed and the old rabbit tests, along with the euphemism, “Did the rabbit die?”—meaning, “Are you pregnant?”—faded into history. The new tests were quicker and easier and represented a big leap forward for lab technicians, as well as for rabbits.

New Jersey and California have embraced a similar kind of progress by passing laws that prohibit product tests on animals when a federally approved alternative exists. Every state should follow suit and mandate the use of available non-animal tests instead of live animals. Every manufacturer—not just those in New Jersey and California—should use the non-animal methods available, whether or not such a law is in place.

Here’s one reason why: Companies have tested chemicals for corrosivity by locking rabbits into full-body restraints and smearing a chemical onto the shaved skin on their backs. A chemical is considered to be “corrosive” if it eats through the skin, burning away several layers of tissue. No painkillers or anesthetics are used. At the end of the test, the rabbit is killed or “recycled” into other tests.

Chemical corrosivity can now be evaluated using a “human skin equivalent” test called Corrositex, approved by federal officials, which uses a protein membrane designed to function like skin. The results are accurate, it’s quick and no one gets hurts.

There are a surprising number of sophisticated non-animal tests now in use and in development. Unlike Corrositex, not all of them have been given the thumbs up by government officials, but that hasn’t stopped scientists here and around the world from recognizing that these new methods are faster, cheaper and a whole lot kinder. PETA has contributed more than $760,000 so far to the development of these superior test methods.

Many researchers also understand that humans differ from animals in their metabolism, biochemistry, physiology, genetic makeup and gene expression and that this means that studies on animals can mislead us. This is most obvious in the pharmaceutical arena. Nine out of 10 drugs that test safe and effective on animals fail in human trials. Adverse reactions to prescription drugs that do make it to market—drugs successfully tested on animals—kill 100,000 people in the U.S. every year, making it one of our country’s leading causes of death.

We don’t have to choose between animals and people. It is really a choice between effective and ineffective science.

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A terrible waste of money and lives

By Kathy Guillermo

Are worms gay? If they are, what does that mean for humans? Such questions may sound entirely irrelevant to anything in our lives, but some scientists, including Erik Jorgensen at the University of Utah, have apparently received money to study these questions. The worms—nematodes, really—are tiny, 1-millimeter-long creatures who live in soil. Most are hermaphrodites, which means that each worm produces both sperm and eggs. The Times of London reported that Jorgensen activated a gene in the hermaphrodite worms’ brains, which apparently convinced them to try to mate with other hermaphrodites rather than just with the male worms.

The conclusion, according to Jorgensen’s quote in the Times: “We cannot say what this means for human sexual orientation, but it raises the possibility that sexual preference is wired in the brain.”

Hey, there’s something no one ever thought of before.

This study serves as a reminder that there are only so many research dollars available, and most of it comes from your taxes. Do you want to foot the bill for experiments that don’t have anything to do with preventing or curing illness? Or for studies that are obviously redundant or pointless? Or for experiments that are so cruel that whatever is learned from them simply isn’t worth the cost?

I’m opposed to using animals for experimentation on ethical grounds, and I also believe—as science frequently shows—that most studies on animals aren’t particularly relevant to humans. But even those who support research on animals should be careful about accepting the experimentation industry’s claim that the use of animals in laboratories will help find cures for Alzheimer’s, AIDS, Parkinson’s, cancer and other diseases that are frightening just to contemplate. Consider first what some experimenters get paid big money to do.

Johns Hopkins University announced that it was attempting to create a “schizophrenic” mouse by inserting a gene from the DNA of a human family with schizophrenic members into a mouse. Yet a diagnosis of schizophrenia hinges on the patient hearing voices that aren’t there and seeing things others don’t see. How exactly does an experimenter know if this is true of mice, even if a gene has been inserted?

At Oregon Health & Science University, experimenter Eliot Spindel injects the fetuses of pregnant monkeys with nicotine and then gives the mothers vitamin supplements to see if that makes it “safer” to smoke while pregnant. Yet we’ve known since 1972 that smoking is harmful to human fetuses. Spindel’s money would have been better spent convincing pregnant women not to smoke.

Under the guise of studying fetal alcohol syndrome, David J. Earnest at Texas A&M Health Science Center examined sleep problems in baby rats who were force-fed alcohol. Perhaps Earnest is unaware that human infants don’t binge-drink after birth.

At universities and primate centers across the country, experimenters are still tearing infant monkeys from their mothers to observe the detachment and psychosis that result from this trauma. These are variations on the dreadful experiments conducted by Harry Harlow more than 40 years ago. How often do we need to prove that taking love and comfort from a baby monkey will destroy the animal’s happiness and ability to cope with life?

I could go on and on—monkeys who have the tops of their skulls removed, electrodes stuck in their brains and wire coils implanted in their eyes to look at the connection between eye movement and the brain; birds whose testicles are sucked out so that experimenters can examine what happens to their songs; cats who have their backs cut open and weights attached to their spinal tissue and are then killed, supposedly to study lower back problems in people. The list seems endless.

These animals are caged for their entire lives, traumatized, physically and emotionally damaged, killed and cut up for experiments that don’t even pretend to be about saving humans. Whether or not you agree with me that it’s unethical to do this to animals for any reason, surely it’s obvious that much experimentation on animals is a terrible waste of money and lives.

Kathy Guillermo is vice president of Laboratory Investigations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and the author of Monkey Business, The Disturbing Case That Launched the Animal Rights Movement.

2011: a surprisingly good year for animals

By Heather Moore

2011 was tough—when people weren’t bemoaning budget cuts, lining up outside job fairs or fretting over the stagnant housing market, they were listening to worrisome news about the war in Afghanistan, political shootings and natural disasters. But things weren’t all bad. There were signs of progress and reasons to be positive, especially when it comes to issues that impact animals. As we head into the new year, let’s reflect upon some of the things that made 2011 memorable for animals.

Eight of the nation’s largest financial institutions, including MetLife, Goldman Sachs, PNC Financial and U.S. Bank, stopped using glue traps after People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) explained that animals who get stuck in them often suffocate and die slowly. The Social Security Administration, Georgia Institute of Technology and Toronto District School Board—the fourth-largest school district in North America—also agreed to use more humane methods of rodent control.

While this is hardly revolutionary, it is indicative of a larger social movement to reform practices that harm animals. Many people are now less likely to accept activities that cause suffering—and it shows in our laws and business practices.

In 2011, West Hollywood became the first city in the U.S. to ban the sale of fur. City council members in Toronto and Irvine, Calif., banned the sale of cats and dogs in pet stores. Rodeos and circuses that feature exotic animals were also prohibited in Irvine, and Fulton County—the most populous municipality in Georgia—banned the use of bullhooks, sharp steel-tipped devices that are commonly used to beat, jab or yank on elephants.

The American Zoological Association (AZA) announced that bullhooks will be forbidden at all AZA-accredited zoos by 2014. The Toronto Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its remaining elephants to a facility that does not use bullhooks. And the U.S. Department of Agriculture slapped Feld Entertainment, the owner of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, which routinely uses bullhooks to “discipline” captive elephants, with a $270,000 fine—the largest settlement of its kind in U.S. history—for repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act.

Also in 2011, eight top advertising agencies pledged never again to feature great apes—who are often torn away from their mothers shortly after birth and beaten in order to force them to perform on cue—in their advertisements. Capital One pulled an ad featuring a chimpanzee and pledged not to use nonhuman primates in its advertisements again. The blockbuster film Rise of the Planet of the Apes featured CGI animation to create realistic-looking apes without exploiting and abusing animals.

U.S. Army officials announced that monkeys will no longer be used in a cruel chemical nerve-agent attack training course at Aberdeen Proving Ground. The University of Michigan, Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City and Naval Medical Center San Diego began using sophisticated simulators instead of live cats for intubation training. And the world’s largest tea-maker, Unilever—maker of Lipton and PG tips—stopped experimenting on pigs and other animals just so that it could make health claims about its tea.

Aspen, Colo., became the first city in the U.S. to launch a comprehensive Meatless Monday campaign—local restaurants, schools, hospitals and businesses are now promoting plant-based meals on Mondays. The board of commissioners in Durham County, N.C., also signed a “Meatless Mondays” resolution, and several more celebrities, including Russell Brand, Eliza Dushku and Ozzy Osbourne, went vegan in 2011. The Rev. Al Sharpton also ditched meat from his diet.

Many of these developments were brought about, at least in part, by PETA, but everyone can bring about change simply by resolving to be kinder, greener and healthier in the coming year. By taking simple steps such as buying cruelty-free products, choosing meatless meals, wearing animal-friendly fashions and enjoying animal-free entertainment, we can all help make 2012 even better than 2011.

Heather Moore is a staff writer for the PETA Foundation.

Worcester City Clerk David Rushford (hog at the municipal trough) and my Christmas gifts …

By Rosalie Tirella
I could write about how I believe Worcester City Councilors Konnie Lukes and Phil Palmeiri are absolutely RIGHT when they say  City Clerk David Rushford needs to get off the city trough and give up all the dough he is making marrying people, as justice of peace in our City Hall – but I won’t. It’s Christmas. 
But I will say this for now since it will come up for a city council vote soon: If Rushford, who makes over $150,000 between his City Clerk job, his Elections Commission job and his private Justice of the Peace business which he is allowed to run out of City Hall  using City Hall space, time etc ,  wants to do the marrying  job on city time using city resources then he should not be allowed to collect the $60 – $100 fee he charges every time he marries a (1) couple. THAT MONEY SHOULD GO TO THE CITY. IT IS A JOB HE IS PERFORMING IN CITY HALL ON CITY TIME.
Doesn’t the guy make enough money? Hasn’t he hogged three jobs all to himself? Does he need to be the justice of peace from hell? I pity his poor clerks this holiday season. They are working for a prima donna – and can’t utter a peeep.
SO: Let’s take Rushford’s windfall – which Rushford won’t disclose to the public (thousands of dollars) – and use his justice of the peace fees to open up a city branch library or run a program for city kids. We hope Worcester follows Boston, whose city coucilors are also pushing for the same reform, when it comes to keeping the “marrying” fees. Let’s hold our city leaders feet to the fire so they do the right thing.
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Here’s my Christmas gift … I read this in the NYTimes recently.  
 InCity Times has been railing against using chimps for medical experiments (most researchers don’t need them to do their research). We wrote story after story about the issue. And now finally – progress.
 Also,  Congress is moving to ban exotic animals in cirucuses.  California is always ahead of the curve – great op/ed in LA Times:
This is exactly what ICTimes has been pushing for …  for YEARS!
Hooray!
So things like this never happen again: Ringling Bros was fined big time for animal abuse/neglect. One violation: Carting away tiger shit in a wheel barrow and then using the same  wheelbarrow to bring the big cats their food.
Pathetic.

Will President Obama allow 60-year-old space program veterans to retire?

By Ingrid Newkirk

New Mexico’s Governor Richardson met with National Institutes of Health (NIH) officials recently in a last-ditch effort to stop NIH from moving 202 “retired” chimpanzees out of Holloman Air Force base and back into invasive experiments. NIH is moving swiftly to transfer the chimpanzees into facilities so substandard that caging conditions within them violate not only everything that we have come to know about what chimpanzees require but also federal law itself. Some of the animals are 60 years old; some are left over from the space program. Gov. Richardson’s visit came on the heels of petitions and pleas by everyone from physicians, veterinarians and primatologists to actors such as Gene Hackman, all of which have been ignored.

It was only a week earlier that Time magazine’s cover story asked the question, “What’s on animals’ minds?” Fifteen years before, as Dr. Jane Goodall mulled over the complex relationships within chimpanzee families, Time had asked, “Do animals think?” Now the question is “What do animals think?” In the case of chimpanzees, who have been taught to use sign boards and even American Sign Language to communicate with their human captors, they think a lot.

The more pressing question is now “What is NIH thinking?” And the answer isn’t befitting our nation’s level of awareness about animals and its commitment to their protection.

In 2001, the U.S. Congress recognized that chimpanzees should be retired from experimentation. “Retirement” has not meant a beachfront condo or a return to the Gombe. Charities have managed to wrest away some chimpanzees, rehabilitate them from a life that, in some cases, consisted of 34 years on a concrete bench in a tiny cell or two decades in a steel cage barely any bigger than the animal’s body, and put them in group care. Continue reading Will President Obama allow 60-year-old space program veterans to retire?

If chimpanzees could talk, what would they say?

By Kathy Guillermo

According to a recent study published in the journal Nature, scientists have discovered that a gene called FOXP2, which is believed to be responsible for the evolution of speech in humans, behaves differently in humans than it does in chimpanzees, our closest living relatives. The gene produces a protein in humans that differs by just two amino acids from chimpanzees’ FOXP2 protein. Think about it—if not for those two amino acids, chimpanzees might be able to talk. If they could speak, what would they say?

Actually, we already know what they would say, thanks to the work of people such as Roger Fouts, a professor at Central Washington University who is famous for teaching chimpanzees American Sign Language (ASL). Fouts’ most famous pupil is Washoe, who was the first nonhuman animal to learn ASL and who, in turn, taught it to her adopted son, Loulis. Washoe spontaneously combined words to describe her experiences and desires, using expressions such as “you me hide” and “listen dog.” She also invented names for her possessions, referring to her doll, for instance, as “Baby Mine.” She was even known to fib and tell jokes. Continue reading If chimpanzees could talk, what would they say?