More troubling news out of greyhound racing

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The troubling news out of greyhound racing continues to mount – this past week from Arizona to West Virginia.

The dog races at the Tucson Greyhound Park were scrapped Wednesday, after three trainers tested positive for drugs and a kennel operator refused to take a drug test the day before.

And over in West Virginia, what is being called a “small outbreak of kennel cough” has put the Wheeling Island racetrack under quarantine. I just have to wonder what the insiders consider a small outbreak.


Hen battery cages debated

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Two editorials hit the Pack News Wire this morning, crossing the vast canyon of the animal welfare debate. One rightfully calls for new, more humane practices within the egg-production industry. The other uses scare tactics and wild clams and pricing predictions and financial mumbo-jumbo – and everything but concern for the chickens packed into tiny cages for the entire span of their lives.

First, lets go to Mindy Patterson’s editorial posted on American Thinker website. Her thoughts really don’t match up at all with logical thinking, but I guess warped thinking is some sort of thinking. Patterson is speaking out strongly against US Senate Bill S. 3239, which would require more space for hens – by 2029.

Before I get to Patterson’s rant, I have to say that the obvious injustice in an otherwise forward step to more humane practices on factory farms is the length of time that hens will continue to suffer. Why 17 years? A kid born today could be getting ready for high school graduation in 2029. But still, the supporters of inhumane practices on factory farms are crying that is too much?

In the middle of her scare-tactic tirade, she claims the “regulations may seem reasonable on the surface,” but it’s all a plot by the Humane Society of the US to push for “cleverly crafted laws.” So for that side, even if it’s reasonable, if it’s pushed by the HSUS, it’s wrong?

And she throws this one at the readers: “HSUS’ goal is to provide relief to chickens, not provide food for humans.” And her point is what? – How dare a Humane Society try to end the torture of chickens? It’s like saying – ‘Weight Watchers goal is to help people loose weight, not provide donuts and sodas for overweight people.’ Oh the horrors.

She wraps up the editorial by quoting Henry Kissenger with,  “If you control the food supply, you control the people.”  And calls the move for more humane practices on factory farms – “food tyranny.” I hope the SNL writers are reading this.

Thankfully, we have folks like Tim Vande Bunte on the other side of the debate. In his editorial posted Friday on out of Michigan, he calls for the new legislation to be enacted, to provide “enriched colony housing which will provide hens with nearly double the amount of space.” And he notes the new rules would provide “perches, nesting boxes and scratching areas that allow the hens to express natural behaviors.”
He cites a report that notes better housing for hens reduces the mortality rates and increases production. And get this, Vande Bunte represents Konos Inc., a family-owned egg producer since 1946.
He notes the new standards are supported by the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Consumer Federation of America and the United Egg Producers.
Would Patterson accuse the United Egg Producers of “food tyranny?”

Any egg producers who use battery cages and are now fighting against new, humane regulations got themselves into this mess. If it is going to cost them money to modify their facilities, they should consider that they should have never gone to battery cages in the first place.


Foie gras: Come on … is anything too much for some people?

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While those on the side of compassion continue to speak out for the improved treatment of animals and to protect them from cruelty, a few folks on the other side keep coming up with different ways to torture animals – mostly in the name of profit.

Foie gras (translated from French to English as ‘fatty liver’) is hitting the headlines more of late. The so-called menu item is created by stuffing a pipe down the esophagus of ducks, to force feed them into having a fatty liver.

The reality is our society will continue to consume meat, for at the least the foreseeable future. Thankfully, there is a movement – fueled by animal-welfare advocates – to improve the conditions for animals on farms. But the effort has been slow to advance, as too many defenders of the inhumane practices fight against treating animals with at least a little compassion.

But even more troubling is some of the more recent practices developed by the factory farming industry. So somebody decided a fat duck liver tastes good. And in response to this revelation, an extremely cruel method of fattening up the liver moved to the top of list of the methods of ‘production.’

Our society has advanced in many positive ways over the last several decades. Where some people in the middle of the last century were considered to be second-class citizens, the push for equal rights changed much of that.

But factory farming has taken a wide, sweeping turn in the wrong direction over the last several decades. And it’s hard to understand how, in 2012, some of these practices are considered acceptable at all.

I think, with all of the vast menu options available at restaurants all over the country, we can do without new developments such as foie gras, if it means another species of animal will added to the list of those who suffer every day.

Where does it stop? How much is too much? Where do we, as a society, draw the line – at least when it comes the fancy items on the menu?

The Associated Press reports a ban on foie gras will go into place in California on July 1. Back in 2004, the California legislature gave the industry seven years to develop a cruelty-free method of producing the product. It didn’t happen and sadly, a group of chefs has launched an effort to overturn the ban.

Topics: Factory farming, seal slaughter, kangaroo slaughter – and greed

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What led to current state of factory farming? – Greed. What prompts the annual seal slaughter in Canada and the similar kangaroo slaughter in Australia? – Greed – And then there is the unfortunate market for the products from these mass slaughters.

A new Whole Foods just opened in my hometown. My wife and I roamed through the store over the weekend and I found a section with meat products from animals raised as free-roaming. This – for the most part – is the way it used to be, before factory farming took over the industry.

For the sake of massive profit – pigs, cows, turkeys and chickens, etc are crammed into tiny cages for the entire span of their entire lives. It’s horrible. Why can’t the animals at least be free to roam before their deaths? Why can’t they live free of cruelty at least until the time of their deaths?

The response to these questions from the supporters of factory farms always turns to the cost of production and the increased price on the shelves. It’s always about money. They can’t help it. It’s money and profit and pricing and sales. All things are excusable because finances always come first in the era of factory farming.

Employees need better working conditions? Employees need a raise? – Can’t be done. After all, the CEO needs another multimillion-dollar bonus. The record profit margin must be maintained. The vice-president in charge of what-ever is only making $1.2 million; hardly enough to maintain homes in California and Florida. And have you checked how much it takes to fill the gas tank on a yacht lately?

The employees don’t need a raise. The price of house-brand macaroni and cheese is still pretty cheap in the grocery store. They can eat that every day. After all – they’re only workers. If they want more, they can get a fourth job. What are they doing in the overnight hours anyway – sleeping? That’s pretty lazy.

And for the animals; if they weren’t crammed into crates 24/7, they’d be wandering around outside doing nothing. They can’t read or watch TV and they aren’t allowed in the mall, so what kind of life could they lead?

This is the philosophy of the universally greedy.

US Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) introduced a bill last week that could improve the housing for hens on factory farms – in this case, in mass-production egg farms. The bill is endorsed by the United Egg Producers  and the Humane Society of the United States. It doubles the size of the cages most hens are crammed into today – for at least 124 square inches for each hen.

An editorial this week on the Chicago Tribune website noted the following – “” Major chains like Costco and Wal-Mart already insist on cage-free eggs for their private brands. Food companies General Mills and Kraft are shifting in that direction. Burger King has announced that within five years it will switch to all cage-free eggs. “”

Slowly but surely, progress is being made toward more humane conditions. But there is a long way to go and other facets of the factory farming industry might not be so willing to change their ways.

I referenced the annual seal slaughter and kangaroo slaughter above. Lesli Bisgould, a Canadian animal rights lawyer is making a connection between the two very similar atrocities, on separate continents.

An estimated 90 million kangaroos have been killed in Australia over the last two decades.

Bisgould, reportedly the first lawyer in Canada with a focus in animal rights, has been challenging the Canadian seal hunts and questioning the justifications for the slaughter. I haven’t handed out one these of late, but Bisgould is hereby awarded a Pack of Humane Justice Award.

Topics: Factory farming, lab animals

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A protest was held Sunday near the Children’s Hospital in Philadelphia, Pa. The Philly Dawg blog reports it was part of the National Day of Mourning for Animals in Laboratories.

The writer reports – “” A U.S. Department of Agriculture inspection report found that employees at Children’s Hospital inaccurately mixed formula for lambs who were languishing likely from lack of nutrition. The lambs had to be euthanized as a result, the report said. “”

The University of Pennsylvania was warned last year by the USDA about the treatment of animals at its lab.

A bill working its way through the US Senate would amend the Egg Products Inspection Act, to modify rules for the housing of hens. It would double the space for hens.

The Dot Earth blog on the New York Times website notes the National Pork Producers Council is saying this bill “would set a dangerous precedent for allowing federal bureaucrats to regulate on-farm production practices.”

The NPPC is of course WRONG. – The dangerous precedent was set – for animals and consumers – when too many factory farms started abusing animals.

After one pit bull is struck and killed by a car, another lays by her side

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A tragic photo of two pit bulls is drawing a lot of attention on the Internet. A female pit bull was apparently struck and killed by a car along a Phoenix, Ariz. road. A male pit bull who was with her, remained by her side, for reportedly 14 hours. Someone from a nearby business did put out food and water for the male dog.

There has been, of course, a bit of outrage that the pair was there for so long before someone actually arrived to save the surviving and grieving dog and take away the body of his fallen companion.
And what about the individual who struck the dog with their car? Why didn’t they stop, to help the dogs or at least report the incident.

But this story also offers more evidence, as sad as it is, for self-awareness in animals. Some might wrongly consider this merely instinctive behavior. They can give it whatever terminology they choose, but it does show a state of consciousness in dogs.

And here we have a pit bull showing compassion for other dog. Once again, the rule of thumb is – no bad dogs, just the bad people who try to raise bad dogs.

Pack Line Headlines: Horse trainer suspended; Class B dog and cat dealers under fire

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The Associated Press has reported Doug O’Neill, the trainer of race horse I’ll Have Another, has been suspended 45 days by the California Horse Racing Board. O’Neill has denied direct involvement in giving horses performance-enhancing substances, but the rules apparent hold the trainer ultimately responsible.

The AP story also included this tidbit – “” It was O’Neill’s third total carbon dioxide violation in California and fourth in his career. In 2010, he was suspended and fined for a similar offense involving one of his horses that ran in the Illinois Derby at Hawthorne Race Course in suburban Chicago. “”

The American Anti-Vivisection Society is claiming the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is “falling far short” of a goal to protect dogs and cats from abuse at the hands of research labs.

The AAVS reports – “” Most recently, AAVS has learned that R&R Research, a random source Class B dealer with multiple Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations, has been awarded a new license by the USDA. “”

The USDA should be the enforcement arm for the AWA. But the AAVS explains that in “2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report detailing USDA’s failure to effectively manage random source Class B dealers.

Once again, we see the existing regulations and the enforcement of animal-welfare laws are very, very weak. Just the phrase “Class B dealer” should be cause for alarm.

Guilty verdict in NC puppy mill case, but the punishment doesn’t fit the crime

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The operator of a Jones County, NC puppy mill has been found guilty of 38 counts of animal cruelty. But the couple who operated the mill were sentenced to just two years probation and are only prevented from having animals for two years.

Each time the North Carolina state legislature has debated new bills to regulate dog breeding, the pro-puppy mill side claims the laws on the books are good enough. This case and others like it offer proof that the state’s laws and the level of punishment for offenders is VERY weak.

This is my home state, so it is especially troubling to me. Sadly, I don’t know what it must take for courts in so many states to really hand out a stiff penalty for a violent crime, drunk driving or cruelty to animals. Our criminal justice system is broken – badly broken.  And because criminals know they’ll only get a slap on the wrist, they will continue to commit crimes such as this.

The Wake County SPCA posted photos of the puppy mill in question on its Facebook page.

So we can see the conditions at the mill and we can relate it to the extremely weak punishment the couple received. And yet, WRAL reports their lawyer plans to file an appeal.

There is a very good reason why opponents battle back against better regulation on puppy mills and stiffer penalties for animal cruelty. They want the slap-on-the-wrist system to continue and they know exactly what regular inspections of breeding facilities like this would uncover.


Greyhound racing news from Florida to England

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Regular readers will recall the story of Petey, the racing greyhound who escaped from the back of transport vehicle in Florida, after an altercation with another dog. He was fortunately found by a kind person and is under the care of University of Florida veterinary hospital and a greyhound rescue organization – Gold Coast Greyhound Adoptions.

Freeway Petey is recovering from severe injuries, as reported by the Gainesville Sun. His medical bills are mounting but donations are pouring in and the man who found him wants to adopt him.

As it turns out, he is lucky. Racing greyhounds are killed for merely breaking a leg on the track. For others, they are sent to rescue groups with untreated breaks.

Dog racing is in a steep decline in the US. I’m hoping very soon the Florida legislature will finally remove the legal requirements for a minimum number of races each year. An outright ban would be great, but decoupling the racing from the casinos would be a big step.

In England, the effort to educate the public about the horrors of dog racing has a longer distance to travel.

A proposal to bulldoze Walthamstow stadium in favor of a housing project is being opposed by the pro-racing crowd. The London Evening Standard reports Cabinet minister Iain Duncan Smith has launched a last-ditch effort to save the stadium and bring back dog racing.

Smith is quoted as saying, “… the vast majority of my constituents and local residents are passionately opposed to the scheme and want to see the return of greyhound racing.” I would hope that by now – in 2012 – only a small percentage of people anywhere are still uninformed about the cruelty of dog racing.

But when it comes to civil rights for people or when it comes to protecting animals from cruelty, it’s not about what the majority wants. It is about what is right.

The article notes the mayor can only block the proposal to replace the track with housing on “on strict planning grounds, including that the national heritage would be harmed.” Smith claims this is case for the greyhound track. No one should consider exploiting and killing greyhounds a “national heritage.”

Hero dog; hero soldier

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Lilly the hero pit bull is back at home: Lilly, the dog who pulled her collapsed guardian off a train track earlier this month in Massachusetts, is back home and recovering from her injuries.

And it is important to note that Lilly is a dog rescued from a local shelter. This offers another piece of the ever-growing mountain of evidence that rescued dogs are the greatest ‘breed’ of dog on the planet. reports – “” Her front right leg was amputated and she went through surgery to fix her pelvis and a badly injured left hind leg. The doctors implanted steel plates to repair Lilly’s fractured pelvis and support her left leg. “”

America soldier reunited with Afghan dog he rescued: A U.S. staff sergeant serving in Afghanistan rescued a dog from a fighting ring and has now been reunited with Bodhi back in the United States.

And the New York Daily News also reports this bit of very positive news:

“” A spokeswoman for The Puppy Rescue Mission, a nonprofit dedicated to helping soldiers save puppies from war zones, said that more and more soldiers have called for their help in bringing home man’s best friend.

She said the group has rescued 300 dogs since the mission began in April of 2010, and gets around three to five requests per week. “”