Category Archives: Animal Issues

Saint Francis, a lamb and a trout

By Daniel Paden

When most of us hear “Saint Francis,” we think “of Assisi.” And that’s exactly how the other Saint Francis would want it.

Saint Francis of Paola, whose feast day is April 2, was devoted to living a humble life and wanted nothing more than to be the “least in the household of God.” But, as is often the case when we humans try to write our own destinies, God had other plans. He bestowed on Francis the gifts of prophecy, healing and miracle-working. And much like the better-known Francis his parents named him after, Francis of Paola didn’t reserve his God-given talents just for humans. He knew that he was to be a healer of all creation.

Francis was born in 1416 in Paola in the Italian region of Calabria. As a young boy, he studied at the Franciscan friary of San Marco. But at just 15, he asked his parents’ permission to become a hermit, living in a cave and devoting himself to prayer, humility, poverty, chastity and nonviolence. In keeping with those tenets — and in an expansion of Lenten fasting — he refused to kill and eat animals or anything made from their milk or eggs. He knew that animals’ lives were precious to God, that they possessed souls and that they continued to exist after departing this life.

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God rewarded Francis richly, and as friends and family members came to visit him and bring him food, word of his abilities spread. Soon people of faith were coming to join him, so he built a church and the friary of the Hermits of Saint Francis of Assisi was born. He later changed their name to the “Minims,” owing to their desire to be the “least of all the faithful.” In addition to the traditional vows of poverty, chastity and obedience, they each took a fourth vow of nonviolence and, like Francis, refused to eat animals or anything that caused them to suffer. The Minims were some of the earliest Catholic ethical vegans.

Francis performed many miracles, healing the sick, walking on water and raising the dead — including animals who had been killed for food. On one occasion, some hungry men caught and slaughtered Francis’ gentle pet lamb, Martinello, roasting and eating him. When Francis discovered what had happened, he looked into the fire at the lamb’s bones and fleece and called, “Martinello, come out!” The lamb jumped out, unharmed and bleating happily.

On another occasion, a priest who had held a service at the monastery saw a trout swimming in a nearby pond. Francis was fond of the little fish and had named her Antonella. But to the priest, she was just a meal. He caught Antonella, took her home and threw her into a frying pan. When Francis found out, he asked a fellow parishioner to go retrieve the fish. This annoyed the priest, who threw the cooked Antonella on the ground, shattering her body. Nevertheless, the messenger gathered up the pieces and took them to Francis, who placed them in the pond and prayed, “Antonella, in the name of Charity, return to life.” And there she was, whole again and darting through the water.

Francis was widely respected, and the Minims rapidly grew to include friars, nuns and laypeople. As a new monastery was built, even nobles hauled stones to help with the construction. When King Louis XI of France realized that his time on Earth was coming to an end, he asked to see Francis, hoping for a miracle. Francis did not heal him but did stay with him through his death and became a close friend and adviser to his heir, Charles VIII.

On Good Friday, April 2, 1507, Francis died at age 91. He was canonized in 1519. And his teachings of humility, charity and nonviolence are still applicable today. Every one of us has the God-given ability to be a protector of all of His creation.
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The war in Ukraine isn’t just a catastrophe for humans

By Ingrid Newkirk

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Ingrid is president/founder of PETA. She’s changed the way we all view companion animals, farm animals and wild animals – locally and globally.

Animals don’t wage war, yet they — along with innocent civilians — are often among those most affected by battle. The events unfolding in Ukraine bear this out.

Last month a team from PETA Germany was at the Polish and Romanian borders with Ukraine, helping as many animals as they could to reach safety. That’s where they met a cat named Crimsee. Her worried guardian had tucked the cat under her jacket and carried her on foot more than 37 miles in the bitter cold to escape the war zone. The poor woman was so exhausted that she could barely stand, but now she and Crimsee are safe and receiving support from PETA Germany.

PETA Germany’s team also responded to a call for help about several dogs who were crossing the border with their human guardians and needed urgent care. All involved were debilitated and frightened, but they, too, received the assistance they needed.

In an undertaking fraught with obstacles, PETA Germany has coordinated the delivery of blankets and 44,000 pounds of dog and cat food. Stores in Ukraine are closed, and supplies are almost exhausted, so the group is doing everything in its power to move urgently needed goods into the country to provide relief. With hundreds of thousands of people on the move — many with their beloved animal companions and little else — and with lots of red tape at the border, the task is daunting.

Some refugees don’t even have the comfort of their animal companions, because they were forced to make the heartbreaking choice either to stay in the war zone or to cross the border to safety, leaving their dogs, cats and other animal family members behind to starve or die in some other horrible way. It is wrong, but in war, that’s reality.

At first, health restrictions made it nearly impossible for Ukrainian residents to enter other countries with their animal companions. Unless animals were microchipped or tattooed and vaccinated against rabies, they weren’t allowed to cross the border into the European Union or the United Kingdom. But PETA pleaded for a policy change on humanitarian grounds, and now Poland, Romania, Lithuania, Mexico, Hungary, India and other countries — though still not the U.K. or Germany — have relaxed those requirements. PETA will keep pushing all the holdout countries to allow people to take refuge with their animal companions, who face death if left behind.

Dogs and cats have no political affiliation, and they don’t start wars. They love unconditionally. Humans created this crisis, and we must not turn our backs on animals in the midst of it. If you wish to help animals suffering as a result of war and other disasters, please consider making a gift to PETA’s Global Compassion Fund, which has supported lifesaving rescue work around the world, from the current war in Ukraine and floods in Australia and the devastating earthquake in Mexico in 2017 to the eruption of Taal volcano in the Philippines and the explosion in Beirut in 2020. Animals need all the friends they can get at the best of times.

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Upending the sexist status quo to benefit all females

By Michelle Kretzer

Would you intervene if a female were being sexually assaulted? What if she were of a different race? Nationality? Religious group? Political affiliation? … Species?

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Cows and other female factory farm animals are forcibly impregnated by owners. Frightened, often impregnated via mechanical means … Is this RAPE? photos: Peta

If you stopped saying “yes” when you came to “species,” ask yourself why it’s OK to sexually abuse a female who didn’t happen to be born human. Isn’t that like saying men have the right to abuse women because they’re superior?

There was a time when most men believed that women shouldn’t be allowed to vote. “They’re just women. They don’t have the same brains as us,” they said. Similarly, they claimed that God created women to serve men. Now, the same argument is often wielded as an excuse for exploiting other species. When Mary Wollstonecraft published A Vindication of the Rights of Woman in 1792, Cambridge philosopher Thomas Taylor quickly issued a parody called A Vindication of the Rights of Brutes to make her seem ridiculous — if we start believing that women are individuals, what’s next? Treating animals like individuals, too? The horror!

Thankfully, nowadays it’s getting harder for people to get away with excuses like “But they’re just animals.” We know from science, experience and our own common sense that female animals feel pain and sorrow, love their young and experience loneliness and distress. Yet, every year in the U.S., billions of female animals are confined against their will, sexually assaulted and forcibly impregnated to serve human desires. Breeders and puppy mills do it. Marine parks do it. The horse-racing industry does it, too. Mother cows are restrained and impregnated to keep them producing milk. Chickens are held in cramped wire cages, their reproductive cycles manipulated to force them to produce more eggs. Farm workers observe and touch female pigs’ genitals to decide when they’ll shove a tube of semen into their vaginas.

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Pigs are as intelligent as dogs. They, like the dogs in horrific puppy mills, are forcibly impregnated.

Those in power have always cited inconsequential differences to justify their own preferential treatment and their right to decide what happens to those who are not in power. And decide they have.

Among the many atrocities committed by Christopher Columbus and his men, Spanish soldiers tore Native Caribbean women’s infants from their breasts and bashed their tiny heads against the rocks. PETA investigations have shown that workers on pig farms commonly kill unwanted “runts” by slamming their heads into the floor, often in view of their helpless mothers. Doctors used to experiment on enslaved Black women’s reproductive systems — without anesthetics — claiming that they couldn’t feel pain. Today, we do the same thing to female primates, mice, rats, dogs, cats and other animals. After Tiger King’s Bhagavan “Doc” Antle gained notoriety for exploiting big cats and forcing them to have babies to fuel his cub-petting enterprise, numerous women accused him of sexual and physical abuse and psychological torture — when most of them were underage girls.

When some forms of abuse and oppression are allowed to continue, it’s easier for other forms to flourish as well.

We no longer believe the lie of white supremacy or male supremacy. We must also dispel the lie of human supremacy.

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Race horses, too!

On this International Women’s Day and throughout Women’s History Month, let’s reflect not just on the biases against our own gender but also on our own biases against other species — and decide to show solidarity with all exploited females. To everyone who opposes sexism: Take a stand, not just against the oppression of human females, but against the oppression of females of all species. Because choosing kindness to animals is not just an act of compassion. It’s a powerful rebuke of injustice.

50 years of racing dogs to death

By Jennifer O’Connor

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Boycott sponsors of the race. Urge them to pull out! Photos: PETA

Right now, we have vaccines globally available to combat a worldwide pandemic, yet less than 100 years ago, in 1925, it was dogs pulling sleds along an Alaska mail route who delivered an emergency supply of serum to quell a diphtheria outbreak in Nome. We’ve come so far in such a short period of time — how did that same lifesaving route become the Iditarod trail of death over the last half-century?

For the dogs forced to race about 100 miles a day for 10 days, the Iditarod has always been a matter of life or death. No records were kept in the early days of the Iditarod, but before the start of the 1997 race, the Anchorage Daily News reported that “as many as 34 dogs died in the first two races.” What has been documented is that more than 150 dogs have died in the Iditarod. The leading cause of death for dogs on the trail is aspiration pneumonia — caused by inhaling their own vomit. Up to half of the dogs who start the race don’t finish it, and during last year’s race, nearly 200 dogs were pulled off the trail because of exhaustion, illness, injury or other causes, leaving the remaining ones to have to work even harder.

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The dogs are subjected to biting winds, blinding snowstorms and sub-zero temperatures, and they risk falling through treacherous ice into the frigid water. Even though the race can take up to two weeks, the official rules require that the dogs be allowed only 40 hours of rest — in total. Most states have laws that prohibit overdriving or overworking animals, but Alaska does not.

And there’s no respite off the trail. Most dogs live — if you can even call it that — on short chains with inadequate shelter. Exposés of dog-sledding operations owned by Iditarod mushers documented that arthritic, crippled and injured dogs were denied veterinary care; chained dogs had worn-down, raw, bloody paw pads from frantically running in tight circles around the plastic barrels that were their only “protection” from below-freezing temperatures; and dogs were dragged and injured, even killed, during training. Dogs who aren’t fast runners or who simply aren’t inclined to participate are discarded like defective equipment.

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A brutal race…many dogs die!

Look how far we’ve come since that 1925 serum delivery. Cockfighting and dogfighting have been outlawed in all 50 states. Circuses exploiting animals have dwindled to a paltry few — even the now-defunct Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus was forced to recognize what it called a public “mood shift.” Greyhound racing is all but extinct. Attendance at horseracing tracks has plummeted. Stabbing bulls to death in bullfighting arenas is overwhelmingly condemned.

Exploiting animals for humans’ pleasure and pursuits, including in the Iditarod, is intolerable. And it’s not just the public that thinks so. Corporate America is taking notice of consumer trends, and numerous companies have cut ties with the race. Teachers are realizing that “adopting” a musher does not convey an appropriate message to their students.

There’s nothing noble about racing dogs to death. Basic morality calls for denouncing the Iditarod and demanding that it be brought to an end.
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Sled dogs should not be exploited!!!

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Dairy farmer or dystopian villain?

By Rebecca Libauskas

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Truth is stranger than fiction: A Turkish dairy farmer is using virtual reality technology to trick cows into thinking that they’re outside in order to make them happy enough to produce more milk. But why aren’t the cows out grazing in green pastures in the first place? This twisted plot is comparable to the Matrix films, in which humans are trapped in a computer-generated world so that machines can steal their body heat. But cows shouldn’t have to wait to be rescued by a “chosen one” — we can all have an impact on cow welfare by ditching dairy for humane, eco-friendly milk made from plants.

This farmer isn’t the first one to create a dystopian dairy hellscape with virtual reality — proving that cows don’t like being packed tightly together in filthy, stinking sheds while standing in their own excrement. Without providing any pain relief, farmers often remove cows’ horns using guillotine dehorners, sharp wires, hot irons or caustic chemicals. And a study by the dairy industry found that nearly 50% of cows are lame by the time that they’re killed. This is because of a lifetime of standing on concrete in intensive confinement.

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Cows are sweet animals … factory farms abuse them …

Because cows don’t produce milk without a pregnancy, rape is another horrifying violation that cows endure—there’s no other way to describe being forcibly and involuntarily inseminated. The resulting babies are then stolen from their mothers within hours or days of birth so that we can take their mother’s milk. This separation is extremely traumatic, and cows have been observed crying for days afterward. One farmer’s neighbor called the police, concerned about the cows’ loud, agonized cries when their calves were taken away from them.

Ditching dairy can also save the planet: During digestion, cows produce harmful greenhouse gases. Methane and nitrous oxide emissions from animal agriculture are at their highest levels, contributing to the climate catastrophe — what UN Secretary-General António Guterres calls a “code red for humanity.” Countless scientific studies confirm that choosing vegan foods, including plant-derived milk, reduces our emissions of greenhouse gases while preserving forests, keeping waterways clean and supporting biodiversity. An Oxford Martin School study found that if all of us went vegan, we could reduce food-related greenhouse-gas emissions by two-thirds by 2050 while saving many lives and avoiding significant climate-related damages.

Exploiting cows for their milk significantly depletes freshwater resources, requiring a whopping 30 to 50 gallons of water per day—72% more water than is used to produce soy milk. In fact, all types of vegan milk are better for the planet than dairy milk. A study by researchers at the University of Oxford revealed that making dairy milk creates almost three times more greenhouse-gas emissions than any vegan milk option, and it requires nine times more land.

But instead of switching their operations to vegan milk, some farmers have tried head-scratching methods of reducing their emissions and environmental destruction. From adding seaweed to cattle feed to potty-training cows, the dairy and meat industries’ desperate efforts miss the point: We are much better off without meat and dairy.

Virtual reality can’t be substituted for a life of freedom and green pastures, and it’s not the direction that farmers should be taking. With the demand for vegan milk, cheese, yogurt and ice cream at an all-time high, and in light of the climate catastrophe, dairy farmers should stop milking cows to death and make the conscientious shift to milk made from plants.

Was Abraham Lincoln the first animal rights president?

By Jennifer O’Connor

President Abraham Lincoln is one of the most honorable men ever to have served in office. Of course, he’s known for the Emancipation Proclamation and many other lasting decisions, but many may not know of his animal rights leanings — even back in the 1800s.

Young Lincoln’s affinity for animals was likely sparked by a pig who became his constant companion. The boy was just 6 years old when his family acquired a piglet, and the two quickly became best friends. …

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Did you know that when he was a little boy, Abraham Lincoln had a pet piglet? photos: PETA

… They played together, roamed the woods, enjoyed games of hide-and-seek and simply delighted in each other’s company.

As he recounted in his own words in Ferdinand C. Iglehart’s anthology The Speaking Oak, Lincoln’s “heart got as heavy as lead” when he overheard his father say he planned to kill the now full-size hog. The young boy slipped out and took the pig to the forest in a desperate attempt to hide him. But he said that he knew “all hope was gone” when he discovered that his angry father had found the pig, returned him to the pen and slaughtered him.

“I saw the hog, dressed, hanging from a pole … and I began to blubber. I could not stand it, and went back into the woods again, where I found some nuts that stayed my appetite till night, when I returned home. They never could get me to take a bit of the meat … it made me sad and sick to even look at it.”

Fast-forward many years. In 1861, King Mongkut of Thailand (then called “Siam”) thought he was being generous when he offered President Abraham Lincoln a pair of elephants who would lead a life of servitude thousands of miles away from their natural homeland.

Ever the diplomat, Lincoln politely declined the king’s offer, stating that the U.S. used steam engines and would have no use for enslaved elephants. “[S]team on land, as well as on water, has been our best and most efficient agent of transportation in internal commerce,” he wrote in his 1862 letter to King Mongkut. Not letting it go at that, the keenly intelligent Lincoln also knew that the climate in the U.S. was unsuitable for elephants, who thrive in a tropical habitat. In an early example of “blaming the weather,” Lincoln told the king that the country “does not reach a latitude so low as to favor the multiplication of the elephant.”

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As president, Lincoln turned down two elephants that were offered to him/the United States. He believed our climate would be detrimental to the animals, and he did not want the elephants to live lives of servitude.

Regrettably, many others with far fewer scruples had no such reservations. Just a few years after Lincoln put the kibosh on elephants as gifts, Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus launched its mercenary business using elephants and other animals — a deadly tradition that would last nearly 150 years before the circus finally went dark in 2017. Many other circuses also took to exploiting animals and, like Ringling, most have rightfully been relegated to the history books.

Even 150 years ago, Lincoln recognized that animals are individuals with wants and needs entirely independent of humans. In acts both large and small, he made a difference.

Shouldn’t we all strive to be a little more like Lincoln?

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The last thing the world needs is another dog breed!

By Teresa Chagrin

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Jett and Lilac, Rose’s all-American mutts, playing in the snow this winter. Never buy your dog or pup from a breeder or pet store – adopt! Rose adopted her pups from local animal shelters. Jett’s been her sweet companion for 15 years! Lilac 6 years! pic: R.T.

The unfortunate addition of two more dog breeds by the American Kennel Club (AKC) is being reported as breezily as if it were an announcement for a new car or smartphone. But dogs aren’t fad objects. They’re living, feeling beings — and driving up demand for “purebreds” has dire consequences for dogs.

Many people who think they need the latest breed acquire dogs on a whim, only to abandon or neglect them when they discover that they bark, shed, need to go for walks, make messes and require daily care and attention, as all dogs do.

PETA’s fieldworkers regularly encounter dogs — including purebreds — who were obtained without much, if any, thought about the care and commitment they require. Many have been banished to a lonely, miserable existence in a crate, on a chain or in a backyard pen — where they have no choice but to eat, sleep and relieve themselves on the same minuscule patch of dirt, day after day, through all weather extremes.

When they found Murphy, he barely even looked like a dog. Trapped inside a filthy wire cage in a dark hallway, he had been neglected for so long that his tiny 7-pound frame was engulfed in two pounds of severely matted fur caked with waste. Winnie, a 15-pound Lhasa apso, was kept in a filthy outdoor pen and, like Murphy, was also covered with tight, painful mats. PETA was able to get Murphy and Winnie surrendered, groomed and adopted into homes where they’re now treated with love and respect. But not all dogs are that lucky.

Some 70 million homeless dogs and cats are fighting just to survive. They’re starving on the streets, drinking from puddles contaminated with motor oil, getting hit by cars, languishing with untreated injuries and contagious diseases, and succumbing to weather extremes. Others are waiting in shelters for a loving family that may never appear.

There are simply not enough responsible homes available for all the animals who already exist — yet breeders and puppy mills are all too happy to cash in on the demand for “new” breeds by churning out more litters. This spells misery for dogs who are caged in factory farm conditions at breeding mills, where they are bred repeatedly; denied exercise, socialization and veterinary care; and often driven mad from the intense confinement and deprivation.

It also means that many purebreds endure a lifetime of debilitating health problems because they’ve been bred to conform to harmful AKC “breed standards.” Dachshunds’ elongated spines can cause debilitating back problems, for example, and bulldogs’ and pugs’ unnaturally flattened faces and short airways leave them struggling to fetch a ball, walk or even breathe. The newly added breeds are reportedly prone to bone fractures, patellar luxation (dislocated kneecaps), hip and elbow dysplasia, epilepsy and cataracts.

The greedy breeding industry couldn’t care less about dogs’ health, well-being or even their lives. It’s up to people who do care to refuse to support an industry that treats dogs like items to produce, sell and discard — by never buying animals from breeders or pet stores. If you’re ready to give a dog a lifetime of love and care, please visit your local shelter and adopt a companion who will take first place in your heart.
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Hunting and the big myth: Why you can’t ‘conserve’ species by killing them

By Michelle Kretzer

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Hunters cause much suffering and do nothing positive to regulate deer, duck, geese, wolf or bear populations (as they claim). Also: for every animal they kill, one gets away, wounded … the end is bloody and horrific.

Even though less than 4% of the U.S. population hunts, most of us have heard the familiar lines that hunters recite to make their bloody pastime sound more palatable. Their stories have more holes in them than their victims do. Despite hunters’ assertions that their gory hobby reduces “overpopulation” and “starvation,” research shows that they actually cause both.

Take the case of deer, the most commonly hunted animal in North America, for instance. Deer reproduce based on food and habitat availability, so when both are plentiful, reproduction increases and deer have more twins. This is what happens when hunters snuff out a significant number of them — food and habitat are in greater supply, meaning … more deer.

Adding to the notion of “overpopulation” are wildlife management agencies, which are partially funded by hunting fees and have a financial interest in keeping the 4% happy.

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Nature regulates itself …

Officials routinely kill natural predators, including wolves, bears and coyotes, in order to ensure that there will be plenty of targets. Just look at the war on wolves playing out across the country. In the latest chapter, 20 of Yellowstone’s iconic gray wolves were shot after venturing just beyond its protected borders, as reported by the Associated Press. Park officials told the AP they were concerned about wolves being lured out with bait — and that the death toll would rise. Only about 94 wolves remain. It’s a devastating blow to animals who mate for life and live in close-knit families.

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Gray wolves

Unlike natural predators, who keep populations healthy by preying on the sickest and weakest, hunters go after the largest animals — the ones they want to brag about shooting. After these strong, healthy members of the herd have been killed, animals who depended on them for survival often have difficulty finding food and putting on enough weight to make it through winter.

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Bear cub

Hunters also use chronic wasting disease (CWD) — which afflicts deer and elk and is similar to mad cow — as an excuse for eradicating these species. However, disease-tracking data show that CWD is often spread when captive-bred animals are shuffled from state to state to become hunting targets. A recent Penn State study also found that hunters were likely spreading the virus that causes COVID-19 to deer, potentially creating a reservoir for the disease to mutate. Of the white-tailed deer they examined in Iowa, 80% tested positive.

One topic you won’t hear hunters discussing is how many animals they injure but fail to kill.

Estimates by the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department, members of the Maine BowHunters Alliance and other groups put the “wound rate” for bowhunting at an astounding 50%.

An article in Bowhunter Magazine admitted, “It is disquieting to know that we probably wound one deer for every animal harvested.” A piece in Western Bowhunter admonished, “Don’t talk to anyone about wounding animals, especially in public places or among non-hunters.”

So how do hunters “conserve” wildlife? It seems even they have trouble answering that question. Hunter Tess Talley, under fire for killing a rare black giraffe in South Africa, appeared on CBS This Morning to defend “conservation hunting.” Host Tony Dokoupil asked, “The money from ‘conservation hunting,’ as you describe it, is a paltry sum compared to wildlife tourism. So the argument isn’t the strongest. … The conservation part doesn’t add up.” Struggling, Talley finally responded, “It’s tough, it’s a science, it’s really hard. I’m not a conservationist — I’m a hunter.”

This seasoned hunter, given a national platform and plenty of time to prepare, couldn’t offer one rational defense of hunting as “conservation.” Because there isn’t one.

Resolving to get healthy in 2022? Include your pets, too!

By Lindsay Pollard-Post

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Jett. He’s 15 but gets his fun runs in daily. When it’s very cold out (below freezing, like today), because he’s geriatric, outdoor time is brief. photo: R.T.

Getting healthy and fit in the new year is an admirable resolution. But while we’re doing downward dogs and cat stretches, what are our dogs and cats doing? More than likely, they’re just waiting — staring at the wall and wishing they could enjoy a little exercise, too.

Staying active is just as important for our animal companions as it is for us, but they don’t have the luxury of going to the gym or out for a walk or run when they feel like it. They depend on us to give them opportunities and encouragement to get moving.

Letting animals become “chonky” isn’t cute or kind. Obesity reduces the length and quality of their lives: Obese cats are at least three times as likely to develop type 2 diabetes, and obese cats and dogs face increased risks of kidney and heart disease, osteoarthritis and many types of cancer, among other serious health problems.

If you have an animal friend who could stand to shed a few pounds, work with your veterinarian to rule out health conditions that may cause weight gain and to create a safe weight-loss plan. This is especially important for cats, who can suffer a life-threatening liver condition called hepatic lipidosis if their calorie intake is reduced too drastically.

If your animals’ current “workout” consists of walking from the couch to the food bowl, it’s time to step it up. For dogs, daily walks are a must. Jaunts around the neighborhood or park are excellent exercise (for the one holding the leash, too!), and they provide pups with much-needed mental stimulation and social outlets. Sniffing the “news” on trees and hydrants and greeting other friendly dogs and humans along the way might be the highlight of their day.

And it’s their walk, so let dogs set the pace (and choose the route, when possible). Be patient while they sniff to their heart’s content, and always use a comfortable nylon harness—not a painful choke or prong collar, which can injure a dog’s necks.

Get your pup’s heart pumping with other fun activities, too, like chasing Frisbees or balls in a fenced area, romping at a dog park or swimming (under your constant supervision). Never confine your dog to a crate, which is terribly cruel psychologically and can cause their muscles to atrophy. If you have to go out to work, give them a good walk (30 minutes or so) before you leave, and let them have the run of the house while you’re away. Puppy-proof if you have mischievous dogs (put fragile or dangerous items out of reach). Leave them plenty of chew toys and arrange for a trusted person to take them for a mid-day walk if you can’t come home on your lunch break.

Getting cats active may take a bit more creativity, but it’s well worth the effort. As PETA president Ingrid Newkirk observes in her new book, 250 Vital Things Your Cat Wants You to Know, “Cats are thoughtful, clever, and innovative. … They need things to play with, to figure out, and to think about, or they will go quietly nuts, just as you would.”

Interactive wand-type toys that you dangle and drag along the floor or furniture are a great way to ensure that kitties get their cardio, as are motorized balls, remote-controlled mice and laser pointers. Paper bags (with the handles removed), cardboard boxes, packing paper and rolled-up balls of foil can also provide hours of free fun and exercise for cats. Aim for at least two 10- to 15-minute play sessions daily, preferably at dawn and dusk, when cats are most active. Keep things interesting by rotating toys weekly and sprinkling them with catnip.

Keeping cats indoors is vital to protecting them from contagious diseases, speeding cars, predators on four legs and two, poisons and countless other dangers. So make your kitties’ home their castle and encourage them to jump, climb, stretch and explore with multistory cat trees, scratching posts, perches and tunnels. They can also enjoy fresh air and outdoor exercise in a securely enclosed “catio” or on a leash with a form-fitting harness, under your watchful eye.

Here’s to a happy, healthy 2022 — for you and your animal companions.

❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

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New year, new vegan: Let’s confront the ‘meat paradox’ in 2022

By Rebecca Libauskas

Do you shout, “Cows!” when driving past a field of grazing cows? It’s hard not to smile at the sight of a grassy pasture dotted with bovines. But most of those cows don’t have joyful lives, and none of them are killed “humanely.”

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Let’s not kid ourselves … Photos: PETA

There have even been recorded cases of cows crying — letting out high-pitched moos and shedding tears — before slaughter.

No compassionate person wants to think of these animals being shot in the head, hung upside down and bled out just to be chopped up and eaten on a bun. But it’s important to acknowledge reality and explore our uncomfortable feelings about eating animals. Feelings are like a lighthouse in the fog: They can lead us to the solid ground of truth. So as we enter 2022, let’s look in the mirror and confront the “meat paradox.”

The meat paradox is an internal struggle: People care about animals, yet they pay the meat industry to abuse and kill them. Illustrating this disconnect, a Gallup poll found that about one in three Americans believed animals should be given the same rights as humans. But over 90% of people eat animals. And Americans, in particular, eat more meat per capita than any other country, according to the World Economic Forum.

A recent review paper published in the Social Psychological Bulletin uncovered the mental gymnastics that some meat-eaters perform in order to deal with their cognitive dissonance. The review looked at self-soothing strategies that people use to respond to triggers — things that bring to mind the contradiction of eating meat while caring about animals.

One way they dull their guilty feelings is to pretend that the animals they admire grazing in the field don’t end up on their plates. Processed meat makes it somewhat easier to keep compassion and disgust at bay. Words matter, too: Calling meat “steak” instead of “dead slab of cow” makes it easier to swallow. Someone I know posted on social media that it was hard for her to take the pig she raised from a piglet to be “processed.” She was distancing herself from the truth and shielded her heart from guilt by using the word “processed” instead of calling the procedure what it really is: slaughter.

To appease our consciences, many meat companies falsely label their products “humane.” But no matter how pleasant the packaging may appear, everything taken from animals is a result of cruel exploitation. Most animal-derived foods — including “humane” meat, eggs, milk and cheese — come from farms at which vast numbers of animals are crammed into tightly packed sheds or feedlots to maximize profit. In 2021, a PETA investigator recorded workers punching, throwing and stomping on turkeys at a so-called “humane” farm.

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Inhumane …

Another way we soothe ourselves is to deny that animals feel pain and understand what is happening to them. But animals do feel pain and are aware of what is happening to them. Pigs, for example, are brilliant, sensitive beings who want to live free from suffering. They are terrified by the sights and smells of the slaughterhouse and will scream and fight to save their own lives.

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Pig, abused, dead, at an American factory farm.

Just as mirrors shatter, the illusion can, too, at any time. It only takes a child asking, “Where do chicken nuggets come from?” to make us confront the violent origins of our food. We can learn from children’s innate empathy for animals: In a new study, 70% of children said that it wasn’t OK to eat pigs and cows.

Our “aha” moment can also come from looking into the eyes of the cats or dogs who share our hearts and homes. We know our animal companions are intelligent and have unique personalities and the desire to live. So how can we love and care for one species but kill another? How do we resolve the meat paradox? The answer is clear: Go vegan.

Not only does every vegan spare nearly 200 animals a year, ditching animal-derived “products” also helps mitigate the climate crisis and improves our health. According to the United Nations, a global shift toward vegan eating is necessary to combat the worst effects of the climate crisis. And vegan foods support a healthy body and offer protection against many diseases.

As we begin this new year, let’s all lean into those gut feelings and make a change that will save animals — as well as the planet, our health and our conscience. Let’s align our hearts and minds and go vegan. Are you in?