Animal Escape Artists – 5 of the Best

Cover pic LiveScience

Bonnie & Clyde, High Park Zoo Toronto,

Why I Love Loud Women, Especially Loud Vegan Women

“Well behaved women seldom make history”

… Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Dutch-born vegan Nancy Holten is a long time resident in Switzerland. Her kids were born there. She’s raising them there. But because her activism for the animals is “too annoying”, she has had her application for Swiss citizenship turned down for the third time.
Passionate vegans are no strangers to activism backlash. It comes in all shapes and forms, from the prosecution of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Kranjc, and Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project’s incarceration and deportation from Japan, through to violent physical attacks on hunt sabs and vicious bullying in the school yard.
“People were telling me to kill myself by drowning in milk or by cutting myself with a razor blade. One teacher at the school told me I should go to TAFE¹ because I am ‘not a mainstream student’.”

… 16-year-old vegan schoolgirl Kaila Mackay.

More commonly, vegans experience backlash in the form of vitriolic abuse on social media. Unpleasant though that may be, the personal cost to the vegan post-ers is hopefully not as life-changingly prejudicial as being refused citizenship of the country where you’ve lived most of your life. Nancy Holten’s case has to be a first.

Speaking for myself, I was a child of the 50s and the youngest of 3 – a small girl in the shadow of two bigger, stronger, faster, cleverer brothers. In the small island where we lived everyone knew everyone, and you fell over backwards never to give offence. A setting for a golden childhood, but sterile soil for growing gobby girls with the promise of sprouting into loud proud women. It would have taken someone very special, and that very special someone I was not. So on the outside I became exactly what the island community thought I should be, a “well-behaved” girl who kept her maverick thoughts entirely to herself. This little girl had felt to her cost at a young age the angry stamping-on those kind of thoughts invited if she dared to speak them out loud. I never looked like making history.

You could be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ and ‘good’, all acceptable ‘feminine’ qualities. But if you were loud you were clearly none of those things, because being loud was the very antithesis of what was expected of the female of the species.

From then until now I’ve always had problems with my throat and my voice. My daughter puts it down to my having been effectively silenced, unable to ‘speak my truth’.

That was all last century though, before second-wave feminism came along. You would hope that kind of suppressive social pressure is long departed. But apparently not. It seems it’s alive and well in vegan Nancy Holten’s little Swiss town of Gipf-Oberfrick. Nancy however, is not to be silenced.

We’ll let you be an animal activist as long as you’re not too darn active, is what the residents of Gipf-Oberfrick are saying to her. It’s OK if you have views as long as you play nice, keep them to yourself, don’t be loud, absolutely don’t go public, don’t shove them down our throats, and above all don’t be annoying.

And what these good burghers think of her actually does matter, not just because the power of peer pressure is in inverse proportion to the size of a town’s population, but much more specifically, because under Swiss law they all have the right to sign off – or not – on her application for Swiss citizenship. The town’s spokesperson, Urs Treier, says they keep rejecting Holten’s application not because of her opinions but because she makes such a public display of the things she objects to.

Nancy is described as “not the quiet kind”. The local branch president of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, says Holten has “a big mouth” and doesn’t deserve the “gift” of Swiss citizenship. Jeez!

This unstoppable lady has publicly voiced her opinions about piglet racing, hunting, animals in the circus, and horse breeding. But the one that really gets up the townsfolk’s collective nose, is her rant against their cows having cowbells slung around their necks. Is that so terrible? Yes, when you see the size of the bells, as in the pic below. They weigh in at 5kg apiece and rub and burn the cows’ skin. Plus the sound of the ringing must be deafening to the cows at 100 decibels. That is loud.

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The good people of Gipf-Oberfrick’s though view her campaigning as an attack on treasured Swiss tradition:

“The importance of the cow bell is highlighted in Swiss folklore, which reflects a period when a great Trychel, or large cow bell, was a rare and much-coveted item. The legend of the Simmental tells how a young cowherd strays inside a mountain, and is offered by a beautiful woman the choice between a treasure of gold coins, a golden Trychel, or the fairy herself. He chooses the Trychel.”²

But tradition can never be a justification for inflicting harm. In 2016, 200 million women in 30 countries suffered FGM³ because it is ‘traditional’ in their communities. That doesn’t stop it being wrong.

Let’s face it, the crowd, the majority of folk who prefer to do what’s expected and think what they are told to think, will always lash out at someone swimming against the current and threatening to rock their comfortable boat. These ‘loud’ activists are speaking the truth no-one wants to hear like the Old Testament prophets, who were invariably persecuted for their pains.

Speaking out the truth is never without cost to yourself. If you stick your head up above the parapet, nothing is more certain than that you will get it shot off.  What immense courage it takes to stand up and be loud, especially for a woman. But loud vegans’ courage is fuelled by compassion for the suffering, outrage at the injustices humans are inflicting on animals everywhere, and burning passion to see equality, liberation and justice prevail.

Here’s to all loud vegan women. I salute you. Heroes, everyone.


As for Nancy Holten, she knows full well what is at stake, having had her citizenship application turned down twice already. Yet still she refuses to shut up, refuses to stop being “annoying”, refuses to stop ruffling feathers in her little Swiss town. Because the fate of the animals is so very much more important than a few ruffled feathers – more important even than the coveted Swiss citizenship. I hope she finally does get what she wants. Switzerland should be proud to claim as one of its own an amazing person like Nancy who refuses to sacrifice her principles for her own expediency.

Give that loud annoying vegan woman a medal. We need more of her kind.

“Never be bullied into silence.”

… Harvey Fierstein


Postscript
We can’t all be Nancys. I know I’m not. If you are struggling with simply maintaining a veg*n lifestyle, you are not alone. 63% of new vegans polled said they couldn’t hack sticking out from the crowd.
If you are depressed at all the horrors you see, or burned-out from all your activism, you are not alone.
Don’t give up. Awesome help and support is available here. For the sake of the animals, and for your own, please check it out.

 

¹Technical & Further Education

 ²Wiki

³Female genital mutilation

Source: Town Says Animal Activist Can’t Be Swiss Citizen Because She’s ‘Annoying’ | Care2 Causes

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Inauguration Day Special – Animal TrumpAlikes & More

It’s a must-see. Has a life of its own!

Plus, in the pic below, discovered by biologist Vazrick Nazari the very first species to be named after the new president. How do you reckon the little moth’s coiffeur shapes up?

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“The new species is named in honor of Donald J. Trump,” Nazari wrote in a review of the species. “The specific epithet is selected because of the resemblance of the scales of the moth to Mr. Trump’s hairstyle.”

But jokes aside
Nazari continues:“The reason for this choice of name is to bring wider public attention to the need to continue protecting fragile habitats in the U.S. that still contain many undescribed species.”¹
From this day forward, environmental protections, animal welfare regulations, and the Endangered Species Act² are all under threat. Indeed the newly elected GOP majorities on Capitol Hill didn’t even wait for Inauguration Day to begin the dismantling process.
Time for all activists to take our cue from the incredible community at Standing Rock and come together in solidarity for the majestic lands and wildlife of America – and indeed of the world, for the new president’s environmental reach will extend far beyond the United States.

“Trump is a businessman, and that’s all he thinks about … what will make money”

On some of these crucial issues the new president may find himself out of step with his people, even those who shoehorned him into the White House. The results of a Reuters/Ipsos poll for instance, published on Tuesday indicate that 60% of Americans would like to see the Environmental Protection Agency’s powers preserved or strengthened, and the drilling of oil on public lands to hold steady or drop.

“Trump is a businessman, and that’s all he thinks about … what will make money,” said Terry Cox, a 61-year-old resident of Tennessee who voted for the New York real estate mogul in November’s election. “But I’m hopeful there’s a limit to what he can do when it comes to weakening protections for wildlife and the environment.”  Reuters

If you want to know exactly what we’re up against, check this out.

The minute the man was declared winner of the 2016 presidential election, ecowarriors and animalistas, not to mention anti-racists, anti-sexists and human rights activists, set to work devising strategies to thwart his bigoted and planet-unfriendly intentions.

Rebecca Leber for one, wasted no time. On November 22  she published  5 Ways to save the environment in the age of Donald Trump. Her recommendations include “Apply public pressure”, Win the States”, and “Sue the bastards”.

If you want to wo/man the barricades, as I hope you do, against the demolition of all the hard-won environmental,  farmed animal and wildlife successes activists have spent decades giving everything they’ve got to achieve, join forces with the Sierra Club and/or the Center for Biological Diversity. The Center is not going to be caught on the back foot. It’s all ready with a defiant and ambitious 23-point plan for the first 100 days of the new presidency.

You can help straightaway by signing the Center’s Pledge of Resistance to Donald Trump’s Assault on America’s Environment, Democracy and Civil Rights.

And if you are a US citizen make a quick phone call to your senator’s state office to express your opposition to the appointment of climate change denier Scott Pruitt to head up the Environmental Protection Agency. That would be funny if it weren’t so horribly worrying. Pruitt was, in his campaign for the post of Oklahoma’s Attorney General, sponsored by the fossil fuel industry . Details for the phone call here.

Also welcoming your support, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, the Humane Society of the United States, or any of the other many campaigning groups that are on the right side of history.

“No one could make a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could only do a little.” Edmund Burke

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the new President of the USA could take 63 seconds out of his busy schedule to inform himself of the great legacy for the environment and wildlife ex-President Obama has left behind from his years in office?

But sadly, there’s no doubt it would just provide Mr Trump with an aide-memoire of the stuff he’s already pledged to undo.

Video courtesy of NRDC.

EarthJustice thanks Mr Obama here.

We will miss you Barack.

¹ ZME Science

² GOP ready to scrap Endangered Species Protections – Care2

Why a President Trump Could Be a Threat to Animals Everywhere – Huffington Post

Related posts

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife

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New Year New Start

Reminding us of just about everything that really matters in life:

No better way to kick start 2017

Kind to yourself

Kind to others – human and nonhuman

Kind to the planet

Try vegan this Veganuary

What Trump’s Triumph Means for Wildlife – Take Part

We are going to have to work harder than ever for  wildlife and wild places. And for farmed animals. The day after the presidential election my Inbox was bombarded with emails from animal and conservation charities throwing up their hands in horror at the result. Understandably. This authoritative post says it all  – Animalista Untamed

by Richard Conniff for Take Part

Get ready for more drilling, mining, and logging on public lands and an agenda that values preserving wildlife—for hunters.

For people who worry about the nation’s (and the world’s) rapidly dwindling wildlife, the only vaguely good news about Donald Trump’s election might just be that he doesn’t care. This is a guy whose ideas about nature stop at “water hazard” and “sand trap.” Look up his public statements about animals and wildlife on votesmart.com, and the answer that bounces back is “no matching public statements found.” It’s not one of those things he has promised to ban, deport, dismantle, or just plain “schlong.”

More good news (and you may sense that I am stretching here): Trump is not likely to appoint a renegade rancher and grazing-fee deadbeat Cliven Bundy to head the Bureau of Land Management. When Field and Stream magazine asked Trump early this year if he endorsed the Western movement to transfer federal lands to state control (a plank in the Republican platform) he replied: “I don’t like the idea because I want to keep the lands great, and you know what the state is going to do. I mean, are they going to sell if they get into a little bit of trouble? And I don’t think it’s something that should be sold.”

This was no doubt the real estate developer in him talking, but his gut instinct against letting go of land will surely outweigh the party platform. “We have to be great stewards of this land,” Trump added. “This is magnificent land.” Asked if he would continue the long downward trend in budgets for managing public lands, Trump said he’d heard from friends and family that public lands “are not maintained the way they were by any stretch of the imagination. And we’re going to get that changed; we’re going to reverse that.”

This was apparently enough, in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s upset election, for Jamie Rappaport Clark, president of the conservation group Defenders of Wildlife, to suggest that “we share common interests in the protection of America’s wildlife and our great systems of public lands, which provide endless opportunities for outdoor recreation, wildlife observation, and other pursuits that all Americans value.”

Meanwhile, pretty much all others active on wildlife issues were looking as if the floor had just dropped out from under them, plunging them into a pool of frenzied, ravenous Republicans. At the website for the Humane Society, where a pre-election posting warned that a Trump presidency would pose “an immense and critical threat to animals,” an apologetic notice said, “The action alert you are attempting to access is no longer active.”

They have reason to be nervous. Trump has surrounded hinself with political professionals who do not think sweet thoughts about wildlife. Newt Gingrich, for instance, loves animals-but mainly in zoos rather than in inconvenient places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Reince Priebus, a likely choice for Chief of Staff, was part of a Tea Party revolution in Wisconsin that put Gov. Scott Walker in power. Just to give you a  sense of what that could mean for a Trump administration, Scott handed over control of state parks and other lands to the hook-and-bullet set while shutting out biologists and conservationists. Chris Christie? Rudi Giuliani? Let’s just not talk about them.

Trump’s main advisers on wildlife appear to be his sons, Donald Jr. and Eric, and they seem to care only about hunting and fishing. Donald Jr. has publicly expressed a wish to run the Department of the Interior, though his only known qualification for the job is his family name. More likely, as he told Outdoor Life during the campaign, he will help vet the nominees for Interior, “and I will be there to make sure the people who run the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and so on know how much sportsmen do for wildlife and conservation and that, for the sake of us all, they value the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation.”

wolves-64093_960_720You may be stumbling over that Christ-like phrase “for the sake of us all.” But you should really be worrying about the “North American Model.” It’s a code phrase for managing public lands primarily for hunting and fishing and only secondarily, if at all, for nongame species—or for hiking, bird-watching, camping, or other uses. In practice it can mean eradicating wolves because hunters consider them competition for elk or moose. (Donald Jr.: “We need to reduce wolves and rebuild those herds.”) It can mean cutting back funding for songbird habitat and spending it instead on fish stocking.

Like his father, Donald Jr. has opposed selling public lands, mostly because it “may cost sportsmen and women access to the lands.” But he believes states should help govern federal lands, calling shared governance “especially critical when we pursue our idea of energy independence in America. As has been proven in several of our Western States, energy exploration can be done without adverse affects [sic] on wildlife, fisheries or grazing.” (America has come tantalizingly close to energy independence under President Obama—without moving new drilling rigs onto public lands—and there is no evidence for the broad-brush notion that energy exploration is harmless to wildlife.)

Two other major considerations to keep in mind: If Trump goes ahead with his favorite plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, it would cut off vital migratory routes and habitat for jaguars, ocelots, desert bighorn sheep, black bears, and many other species. (It might also impede the flow of fed-up Mexicans heading south.)

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Likewise, trashing the Paris Agreement on climate change, as Trump has promised to do, would gain the United States nothing and risk committing the planet irrevocably to warmer temperatures, extreme weather events, and massively destructive coastal flooding. That doesn’t make sense even from a business perspective, and much less so for wildlife. The first documented extinction of a species by human-caused climate change occurred this year, when the Bramble Cay melomys succumbed to rising sea levels in its South Pacific island home. Thousands of other species also face disruption of their habitat and the likelihood of imminent extinction.

The bottom line is that a Trump administration is likely to be good for mining, drilling, logging, and the hook-and-bullet set. But for wildlife and for Americans at large? We are facing four dangerous years of self-serving gut instinct and reckless indifference to science, with the damage to be measured, as climate activist Bill McKibben put it the other day, “in geologic time.”

If you are feeling as if a Trump victory is the end of the world as we know it, you may just be right.

Nov 11, 2016
Richard Conniff is the author of House of Lost Worlds: Dinosaurs, Dynasties, and the Story of Life on Earth and other books.

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One Lovely Blog Award

A million thanks to the Switch Sisters who together make up owl machine, for nominating Animalista Untamed for the One Lovely Blog Award. And especially for their kind and very generous words about my posts and this blog.

Do go take a look at owl machine. Their specialty is Disney movies, fantasy and kids’ lit, with a little Animal Rights thrown in for good measure. The style is so quirkily entertaining that I find their posts a joy, even when I haven’t seen the movie or read the book myself!

So, as the rules of the Award dictate, I have to say –

Seven Things to Know About Me

1 I’m an islander. I come from the little island of Guernsey in the Channel Isles, a beautiful place to grow up. But I left my island long ago, and I get homesick a lot.

2 I’m a frustrated activist. Would love to be out there with the badger patrols and the Earthlings Experiences, but personal circumstances don’t allow. So I write, share and tweet instead. It is my job.

3 My idea of heaven would be caring for animals in my own animal sanctuary.

4 No, strike that out. My idea of heaven would be a world with no slaughterhouses, no zoos, no trophy hunting, no blood sports, no poaching, no horse- or greyhound racing, no culling of innocent creatures, no fur farms. A world where everyone is vegan, and wildlife habitat is strictly protected. A world where ALL animals – grudgingly even humans – have equal rights.

5 For the last six weeks I’ve been grieving the loss of my beloved rescue girl Holly, who came to me from Manchester Lost Dogs’ Centre 15 years 4 months ago at the age of 7 months. For those whole 15+ years she and I were together every waking second of the day. She even came to work with me. There is nowhere I have been where she wasn’t by my side. I never knew my heart could hurt so much. I love you Hols, and always will – till we’re together again.

6 I’m a grandma. That’s a pretty amazing thing to be. The sweetness of seeing through a small child’s eyes, when they only know the world as kind and good, and every little thing is a cause for wonder.

7 My favourite historic figure is St Francis of Assisi – who else?

Nominations

DirtNKids This is Shannon’s latest and gorgeous post about Autumn. If you love nature, the simple things in life, gardening, nice natural photos and yes, dirt and kids, you will love this blog.

Violet’s Veg*n e-Comics  A fabulous colourful blog of books, comics and poems for kids – and bigger kids like me! I’ve been loving the serialised adventures of intrepid animal-protector Luke Walker. This is a must-visit blog.

Rantings from a Virtual Soapbox Human and animal rights, environmental issues, painstakingly researched and reliable, usually with links for action we can take. Really making a difference.

In the Shadow of the Wolf Another wonderfully researched and reliable blog doing fantastic work for that beautiful but much persecuted creature, the wolf. Join the Tweetstorm for Norway’s wolves now!

And finally –

Here are the rules for accepting your One Lovely Blog Award nomination:

  1. Write a blog post accepting your nomination.
  2. Show the blogger who nominated you how much you love them by thanking them in the post and linking to their blog.
  3. Tell us seven things about yourself.
  4. Nominate other blogs that you think are totally rad.
  5. Let the bloggers you’ve nominated know they’ve received an award.
  6. Post the rules again to let those bloggers know how it works.

 

 

 

Saving Wildlife on the World Wide Web

From the International Fund for Animal Welfare’s CEO, Azzedine Downes

‘The Internet just became a lot friendlier to wildlife, and a lot less friendly to wildlife criminals”

Yesterday we celebrated World Elephant Day with the good news that seven major online tech companies, including eBay, Etsy, Gumtree, Microsoft, Pinterest, Tencent and Yahoo! have united to adopt a new policy framework that will help protect animals from illegal online trade.

This announcement comes at a crucial time for wildlife. Take a moment to digest these shocking figures:

  • Approximately 100,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory between 2010-2012
  • Rhino poaching increased by 9300% in South Africa from 2007-2014
  • Tiger populations have plummeted by 97% in the last century, leaving only approximately 3,900 left in the wild
  • And more than 1 million pangolins have been poached from the wild in the last decade alone

Many of the parts and products from those animals ended up for sale on popular online sites. The new framework will prohibit trade of a wide variety of imperiled wildlife and their parts, making it much easier for customers to know what is and isn’t allowed on these online platforms.

And whilst previously criminals could “shop around” for sites with the most relaxed policies, this latest agreement is a big step toward an industry-wide standard that eliminates the loopholes that that have made it easier for criminals to traffic wildlife online.

With this new policy, these companies put aside their commercial interests to work together to protect wildlife.

We were thrilled to partner with WWF and TRAFFIC on this important project. We’ll continue to work together to monitor progress and make sure that these policy changes accomplish what they’re intended to, but it is incredibly encouraging to see this latest development.

P.S. We have worked for years to make the e-commerce sector a cruelty-free environment, and this announcement is an important step towards that goal.

Read more

Sadly, Yahoo Japan has not joined the other online tech companies in adopting the new policy framework. Sign petition here to ask them to do so now.

trophy_hunting_us_head_0 Please sign Stop the importation of hunting trophies into the UK

 

 

LeopardCat_CWRCRun the 2017 London Marathon for IFAW

 

 

More ways to help

Update

August 21st 2016 Namibia and Zimbabwe have filed petitions to CITES to lift the international ban on the sale of ivory – Focusing on Wildlife

Related posts

Nations of the World Step up for Elephants & Rhinos

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The Art of Compassion for the Animals

Cover picture by Hartmut Kiewert

Dedicated to all you beautiful vegans and animal advocates, wherever you may be. If the animals ran their own Olympics, your places on the podium would be assured. Vegans rock!

animals wildlife badger lemur elephants big cat love compassion happiness health hope
Gemma Crombleholme

Today’s spotlight, lovely people, falls on one of the many vegan projects that deserve gold medals.

It’s the Art of Compassion Project, brainchild of Leigh Sanders, lover of art and animals. South African by birth, artist Leigh lives in Catalonia with her husband where she’s been for the last fourteen years. When she went vegan two years ago, she was so impressed with the support she got from Veganuary, she decided to raise funds for them by creating an art book.

Searching on the net for fellow vegan artists, the response she got from all over the globe was “incredibly overwhelming”, and Leigh soon realised there was potential for something more permanent and ongoing – “to promote equality and compassion for all animals”  – the project’s mission.

“To begin with, I wanted to build a strong international network of vegan artists that all share the same vision–to use their art to spread the vegan message. I also wanted to effectively use the art as a means of touching people’s hearts and opening their mind to living life the vegan way,” she says. “Sometimes we can be surprised just how much a painting, poem or piece of music can affect us. Art speaks to the soul even when the mind doesn’t quite grasp what’s being said.”

Hunting deer fox animals hunter gun protecting hiding
Katharina Rot

As we speak, 75 vegan artists from 18 countries representing every continent (except Antarctica!) are involved with Leigh’s project. There are some familiar names on the list, for instance the brilliant Chantal Poulin Durocher, and you may be able to spot one of gifted Andrew Tilsley’s paintings hanging in the website gallery.

v4_2_origLeigh’s noticed how being involved with the Art of Compassion has had an impact on the artists themselves:

“I have seen how these artists have started feeling more determined and motivated to use their art as a form of activism. This emotion, commitment and enthusiasm is tangible in their work,” she says.

The latest project is a fabulous set of dining out cards, which are on sale now. All proceeds are going to Viva, the charity the Art of Compassion is sponsoring for 2016. On the back of each is the message, “Thank you for offering vegan options”.  And on the other side, these little gems of art. How better to promote veganism (and show we vegans really are nice people!) than with a smile and a thank you?

Another recipient of funds raised by the project is dear to my own heart – Hillside Animal Sanctuary doing incredible work rescuing animals from death and restoring them to health and happiness .

More examples from the Art of Compassion’s website gallery

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on way to slaughterhouse cows man fear terror death blood
Raj Singh Tattal
Farmed animals bleeding blood slaughter death fear
Philip McCulloch-Downes

How can we get involved?

Leigh is always on the lookout for any vegan involved in the arts; visual, music, writers, jewellery designers, fashion designers, photographers, poets, etc. to join the project.

Volunteers with a passion for veganism are also most welcome to get in touch with Leigh via email : leigh@artofcompassionproject.com

“We would really appreciate your support! There are a couple of things you could do; follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and tell your friends about us. You can still buy our 2016 calendar (and get 25 percent off). Join us as a ‘member’–either as an artist or volunteer, there’s more info about that on our website. Finally, support our current projects and keep up to date with events.”

Art of Compassion Project animals charitiesThis is the Art of Compassion Project’s logo designed by Argentinian artist Francisco Atencio and symbolising their mission: To promote equality and compassion for all animals.

Facebook: Art of Compassion project
Twitter: @aocproject
Website: artofcompassion.com

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Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

 A Picture of Compassion – Chantal Poulin Durocher

Jo Frederiks – Artist for the Animals

Ama’s Story

 

Doctor Dog – the Power of Loving Licks

When I read about a team of therapy dogs sent to comfort victims, survivors and families after the tragic Orlando massacre, I felt a warm glow inside. This story had THE biggest feel-good factor. Twelve golden retrievers right there with those in need to offer their therapeutic doggy affection, of which they have oodles and more to spare. The twelve are just a few of the one hundred and twenty dogs the American Lutheran Church has in its Charities K-9 Comfort Dogs team which has been helping human victims through difficult times for the best part of 20 years.

“Just the simple act of talking to the dogs is where the real therapy comes. People dealing with tragedy and grief in their life want somebody to talk to and need someone who will listen to them without any form of judgement – and dogs are the perfect listeners. As the victims tell their stories and let out all their anguish, they can gently stroke the comfort dog and that’s when the healing takes place.”

Tim Hetzner president of the charity explains “The dogs help provide a feeling of security to the victims they visit. Many of the people who stroke the dogs break down, having a moment of vulnerability, which is vital during these devastating situations.”

“Dogs show unconditional love”

Four words that say it all.

The dog’s best-friend status with humans reaches back into the far mists of time, but the first person recorded putting the bf concept into words was 18th century King Frederick of Prussia who apparently described one of his Italian greyhounds as his “best friend”. Wise man. And his contemporary, French philosopher Voltaire wrote that the dog, “C’est le meilleur ami que puisse avoir l’homme” – the best friend man could have.

It’s so true. No-one needs to tell a doggie’s human that they are the most loyal, devoted, loving, trusting, forgiving and patient of creatures. They shower you with excited doggy kisses when you walk through the door. They never get out of bed the wrong side and they’re always happy to see you, which is more than can be said of most humans. They are known to reduce anxiety and depression in their human companions, bring down blood pressure, lower heart rate, relieve symptoms of PTSD, and induce the release of oxytocin, the love hormone, in both human and dog. Dog-love comes with no strings attached.

That’s why they’ve proved so beneficial for the sick, the dying, the traumatised and the lonely. “People dealing with tragedy in their lives need this more than anything: uncomplicated affection.”

golden-retriever-1342252__180Ideally, the dog/human relationship is symbiotic – they get as much out of their relationship with us as we do with them. Which is quite unlike our relationship with most other animals whom generally speaking, we make useful to us, while we are harmful to them in varying degrees.

The Lutheran Church’s comfort dogs are called K-9s, because they are ‘service dogs’ used for a particular task that benefits humans. K-9 service dogs are trained as K-9s so that humans can use them for some specific task they want done, but that may not necessarily be in the canines’ best interests.

They are given a wide variety of tasks to perform in the service of man, and many of those tasks are dangerous: guarding people, property and places; attacking and subduing offenders; searching and rescuing; sniffing for drugs and explosives, for live people and for dead people.

Service K-9s are known as ‘partners’ by their human handlers, and on the whole they are loved and well-cared for, though sadly not always. Their ‘working life’ is however only 6-9 years, and then they are retired – if they are still alive, that is. What happens to them then? The Daily Mail reported that the UK police destroyed at least 84 of their ‘retired’ dogs in the three years leading up to 2013, in spite of a long list of people waiting to adopt them. One was just a pup, only 4 months old. And the Ministry of Defence destroyed 288 service dogs in the ten years to 2013, including two RAF dogs that guarded Prince William, Brus and Blade, who were destroyed just days after he quit the service.

UnknownThe point is, service dogs have no say in their ‘working life’, or what happens to them after, any more than do greyhounds or foxhounds who are just fodder for human ‘sport’, dispensable and replaceable commodities. Yet K-9s are routinely put in harm’s way by their human handlers. They are being used against the best interests of their own lives.* We know all too well from the sad story of beautiful Diesel the French police K-9 (pictured here) who was shot by a terrorist in the aftermath of the Paris attacks, what can happen to these trusting and utterly trustworthy animals. It’s just hypocrisy to award them medals for ‘bravery’, and heap praise on them after they’ve been killed ‘in the line of duty’.

So, as always when it comes to the human/animal interface, it’s still all about humans using animals for human purposes. It comes from an assumption that animals’ lives have little or no intrinsic value, and exist for human use. Those lovely golden retrievers deployed to Orlando are being used by humans for humans. Hopefully, they do benefit from their work themselves, if not as much as the humans on whom they lavish their love. Hopefully they have a good doggy life. Compared with most animals being used by humans, they are privileged. But is it stressful for them being shipped wherever their services are needed, all over the States? Is it stressful for them constantly being taken into strange places to meet strange people? We don’t even know if and how they themselves are affected by the emotional distress of the people they go to heal.

And there is another issue. Have these dogs been bred, or purchased from breeders for this task they have been set to? Judging from their webpage all the Lutheran Church’s comfort dogs are golden retrievers. Are any of them rescue dogs? It seems unlikely. How sad is that, when thousands upon thousands of wonderful loving dogs are languishing in rescue centres, and many get put down because there’s no space.

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I started to have doubts about that warm glow I experienced reading the ‘dog doctors’ heartwarming story. Should they be ‘working’ for us at all? Should they be used, even if in a seemingly benign way? Is it right, or is it wrong? I don’t know.

Post Script 

The very first time dogs were used by the police here in the UK was in the hunt for Jack the Ripper in the 19th century. Sir Charles Warren then Commissioner of the Met, was being savaged in the press for failing over and over again to catch the serial killer. So hoping to silence the hostile press, he made the decision to get two bloodhounds trained up, and use them to track the murderer from the scene of his latest crime. Unluckily for him, it didn’t quite go to plan. Not only did the hounds fail to find the Ripper, one of them, less than lovingly, bit the Commissioner himself. Then both ran off. They had to launch a police search to find their own dogs. Oops! I imagine Sir Charles was less than eager to open the morning papers over his breakfast toast after that little debacle.

*Neck-break police dog Nero home from hospital  German Shepherd Nero jumped over railings in Watford which, unknown to his handler, had a 12ft (3.5m) drop on the other side. His neck was broken in two places. Glad to say, he is recovering well.

Petition to sign: Stop redeploying war dogs for profit

Petition to sign for justice for Totti two year old yellow lab K-9, left in hot car to die by her handler

Support IFAW’s caimpaign for Finn’s Law. Sign message to your MP – Police dog Finn stabbed multiple times in course of duty

Update

30th November 2016 Interesting article about protecting therapy animal welfare, but nothing about their rights. Should Canadian unions take up the cause for working animals? – The Current

Sources and quotes

One Green Planet feature by Lauren Kearney on the K-9 Comfort Dogs

Man’s Best Friend Wiki

Police Dogs Wiki

Charities for retired K-9s

In the UK:

FiresideK9.org

In the US:

Retired Paws

Saveavet for retired military dogs

Mission K9 Rescue for private sector service dogs

Related posts

RIP Diesel

Diesel Makes the News Again

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Half for Us Half for the Animals

Desperate times call for drastic measures – so believes a certain 85 year old Harvard professor. And these surely are desperate times for much of the planet’s wildlife – flora and fauna. The octogenarian’s plan to save them is drastic indeed, in fact utterly astonishing, mind-boggling and totally off-the-wall. It is simply,

 Half-Earth – giving over half of planet Earth to Nature

His critics dismiss his Half-Earth idea as not just drastic, but “truly bizarre, disturbing and dangerous.” 

But is it?  Why should we give over half the Earth? Why this way? Wouldn’t it be bad news for people? Is it even possible?

“Half-Earth: Our Planet’s Fight for Life” is the book in which he spells out his vision. Its author none other than Dr E O Wilson, sociobiologist, biogeographist, naturalist, environmentalist, author, twice winner of the Pulitzer Prize, and generally considered the world’s foremost authority on biodiversity and conservation. So I guess his ideas and opinions are not to be dismissed lightly. Perhaps we need to take a good hard look at those questions and try to find some answers.

Why should we do this?

animal-175033__180Well, that’s an easy one. It’s no news to any of us that right now plants and animals are being snuffed out to extinction at a rate unknown since the asteroid Chickxulub wiped out the dinosaurs. Scientists call this the Anthropocene Age, because never before have human beings had such a profound effect on the planet, one that will end badly for us as well as the rest of life on Earth. A truly earthshakingly terrible prospect, especially when we stop to think that right now our precious planet harbours the only known life in the universe. We need a drastic solution to a cataclysmic problem if we are to save this planet and the life on it.

Why this way?

There are two reasons why we should put our energies into a bold plan such as this, Dr Wilson argues. Firstly, he maintains that people like to see a big goal achieved rather than barely noticeable small incremental steps, which is what we have now in conservation efforts: “They need a victory, not just news that progress is being made. It is human nature to yearn for finality, something achieved by which their anxieties and fears are put to rest.”

Secondly and more importantly, present conservation efforts are doing little to halt the alarming decline in biodiversity. Protecting just 10% of the planet – the course we are on at present – we look to lose half of all species. It’s much too little and soon will be far too late. Whereas protecting 50% of the planet would mean 80% of species saved – more if we focused on the most biodiverse areas.

frog-643480__180It’s all about the species-area curve, conservationists will tell you. The species-area curve is the mathematical relationship between the area of land and the number of species that can be successfully maintained in it. “The principal cause of extinction is habitat loss. With a decrease of habitat, the sustainable number of species in it drops by (roughly) the fourth root of the habitable area.”

Put simply, the larger the area the better Nature’s chances. The species-area curve also means that setting aside a few sizeable chunks of land is very much better in terms of numbers of species saved, than trying to protect lots of small separate habitats.

And the chunks need to join up: “I see a chain of uninterrupted corridors forming, with twists and turns, some of them opening up to become wide enough to accommodate national biodiversity parks, a new kind of park that won’t let species vanish,” Dr Wilson told the journal of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. His vision is for a series of “Long Landscapes”, wildlife corridors running vertically down and horizontally across continents, that will allow species free movement as they adapt to the effects of climate change.

The Yellowstone-to-Yukon conservation initiative running 2,000 miles without break from Wyoming in the mid-west of the US to the Yukon territories in the north west of Canada is a model for the protection he would like to see rolled out worldwide. It’s an entire eco-system in 502,000 square miles of continuous protected land where animals can freely roam.

(Sadly America itself is hardly a model nation when it comes to protecting biodiversity. In spite of being a wealthy country, and one with vast areas only sparsely populated, the US can boast just a pitiful 4% of its landmass protected for biodiversity, less than half the average worldwide.)

So is Half-Earth a “bizarre” and “dangerous” idea?

malachite kingfisher matthew clayton africaWell if we are looking at the biodiversity statistics – and affirm with Dr Wilson that “each species is a masterpiece, a creation assembled with extreme care and genius” – his idea makes total sense. We have so much to lose. Wildlife he says, is facing “a biological holocaust.” It could barely get more apocalyptic than that. For him, as for many of us, safeguarding the wonder that is life on Earth in all its diversity is a moral issue. “In several interviews, he references the need for humanity to develop an ethic that cares about planetary life, and does not place the wants and needs of a single species (Homo sapiens sapiens) above the well-being of all other species.” Truth Out

What kind of a species are we that we treat the rest of life so cheaply? There are those who think that’s the destiny of Earth: we arrived, we’re humanizing the Earth, and it will be the destiny of Earth for us to wipe humans out and most of the rest of biodiversity. But I think the great majority of thoughtful people consider that a morally wrong position to take, and a very dangerous one.

What would be bizarre is an insistence that we continue as we are doing now, or just nudge the goalposts a bit. The Aichi Biodiversity Target set by the Convention on Biological Diversity (with nearly 200 signatory nations) at 17% of protected land areas and 10% of protected ocean by 2020, is “nowhere close to enough” according to the good doctor, to prevent the 6th Extinction.

But his critics, social scientists in the Netherlands Bram Buscher and Robert Fletcher, clearly coming from the very same anthropocentric, the-Earth-exists-for-us standpoint that has brought us to this sorry pass in the first place, judge his Half-Earth vision “disturbing and dangerous.” They are united in their condemnation:“It would entail forcibly herding a drastically reduced human population into increasingly crowded urban areas to be managed in oppressively technocratic ways. They could justifiably claim history backs them up, since indigenous peoples have indeed been moved out of areas newly designated as protected in the past.
So, wouldn’t Half-Earth be bad for people then, especially the indigenous and poor?

amazon-indians-69589__180Dr Wilson wants to keep indigenous people in their own territories. “They are often the best protectors” of their own land, he says. Protected areas would not mean banning people – simply keeping the land undeveloped. He envisages something along the lines of national parks, where development, and activities like hunting and fishing, are not permitted but there is still regulated access.

He points to Gorongosa National Park in Mozambique as a model of how well-managed protected areas actually benefit local people.

“The maintenance and expansion of this magnificent reserve has been enhanced by the improvement of agriculture, health, and education – and new jobs – in buffer zones. The same effect is demonstrable even within industrialised nations.” 

And recent research elsewhere backs him up. Protecting areas in Uganda, Thailand and Costa Rica has indeed improved the lives of locals.

Is setting aside the Half-Earth for Nature even possible?

This is yet another case of all roads leading to Rome! Because once again the answer lies in moving towards a plant-based diet, and so reducing our ecological footprint. And then yes indeed, Half-Earth is an achievable goal. Scientists in the fields of conservation, ecology, environment, climate change, sustainability and indeed human health all agree: if people cut back, or better still, stop eating meat & dairy products altogether, many of the deeply disquieting and serious threats to the future of life on Earth would disappear. It’s not just the animals being eaten that we are killing. By destroying wildlife habitats for livestock farming we are killing the wild animals too.  Currently 40% of the world’s land is used for farming. (Urban development takes up only 3%) A whole three quarters of that farm land is used to grow crops to feed livestock. Freed from this absurdly wasteful use of land, it would not be too great a challenge for humans to find a Half-Earth for Nature.

What is stopping us?

According to Dr Wilson, it’s simple – greed, shortsightedness and above all, ignorance. Formidable obstacles to overcome. Ignorance at least can be remedied. We can start by sharing this, why Planet Earth needs Dr Wilson’s bold idea, and what we can do about it, with as many people as we can reach, especially those who haven’t yet found their way to plant-based eating and living.

But to overcome greed and shortsightedness, it’s hearts that need to change.

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“When people are encouraged to take a close look at the remnants of Nature, in its complexity, beauty, and majesty, and when they understand that the natural environment is the home of their deep history, many become [Half-Earth for Nature’s] most ardent supporters.”

I’m most definitely one.

Want to make a real difference for planet Earth and the life on it? Three important actions we can take:-

1 Sign petition for half for the animals here

2 Free up more land for wildlife by moving towards a plant-based diet and reducing our ecological footprint. Info @

Forks Over Knives   Vegan Society   Vegan Outreach   PETA UK   PETA    Viva!

3 Send your political representatives the Grow Green report, or if in the UK contact your MP here about the Grow Green campaign to transition unsustainable livestock farming to plant protein farming. And share with your friends

 

Related posts

Mountains of Cheese, Oceans of Milk, & What We Can Do About It  “Grow Green” for sustainability, for biodiversity, for the planet

Tiggywinkles, Tigers & Tunnels on the importance of wildlife corridors in conservation

First Mammal Extinction due to Climate Change 

 

Sources

Pulitzer-winning scientist warns wildlife faces a biological holocaust The Independent

Setting Aside half the Earth for Rewinding – The Ethical Dimension  Truth Out

Images courtesy of Focusing on Wildlife

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