Monthly Archives: February 2013

Keep Calm And Flashmob!

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keep-calm-and-flash-mob-8Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

What I love about the flashmobs is that they are planted by a seed and are typically organic and truly amateur in nature.  Yet they are also characteristic of a combination of military efficiency, complete anonymity, rapid communication and organization by internet. Normally, they occur without a specific purpose other than to be short-lived and fun and sometimes even baffling, with the purpose being left up to the interpretation of the viewers.

We’ve all seen video of the Hallelujah chorus at the food mall court, the no-pants subway ride, or the flashmob that gathered to cheer on a little boy on a carousel.  But unlike the typical flashmob, horse advocates today held their own single-issue mobilization which took place on talk show host Craig Ferguson’s Facebook page.   If you thought flashmobs were viral, you’ll never believe what one Facebook member was able to accomplish with a simple but creative idea, a Facebook group, and proactive friends and friends of friends.

Last Friday, Craig Ferguson presented a comedy routine to express his dislike for horse meat being found in burgers. He started out making name tags for all stage staff. He also made a name tag for “Secretariat” his show mascot.  Secretariat’s badge said “NOT BURGER MEAT.”late-show-craig-ferguson

Of course, this Craigy Ferg skit was in response to the great 2013 horsemeat scandal, where Europe is now collectively gagging after discovering the  massive introduction of horsemeat into the food chain now spreading throughout the world.  Major supermarket chains were found to be selling beef products that contained horse meat. Burger King sourced thousands of burgers from the same Irish beef supplier, and Findus “beef” lasagna was found to contain 100% horse meat.

gangnamst1Horse lovers response to the issue of horse slaughter was enough to make a cowboy’s head spin when hundreds of  horse lovers “mobbed” the Facebook page to say “neigh” to horsemeat.  I stopped counting at 300 pics, which galloped past our goal of 100 photos.  I’m sure we left more than a few clueless onlookers gaping in the background on Ferguson’s Facebook page.  Be sure to visit the page and “like” our photos.  And please remember to thank Craig Ferguson (and like his Facebook page) for indulging our Facebook Flashmob!

Well done horse lovers!

Finally,  I’d like to add that we’ve had a successful event – like a true flashmob we must now go quietly into the night.  Mr. Ferguson and his staff have been more than kind in permitting our 400+ posts,  and we don’t want his staff to have to put on the show tunes as a signal that our event is over!  Anyway,  we have tried to reciprocate that kindness new Facebook “likes”,  Twitter followers,  and I’m sure new viewers!  I count myself among those….Thanks to everyone!

The Disquieting Truth About Drug Exposures in Horsemeat

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laboratory-011Written by:  Heather Clemenceau

The most recent news surfacing today is that Nestlé, one of the largest food companies in the world, has now been entangled in the EU horsemeat scandal.  Major supermarket chains Tesco and Aldi were found to be selling beef products that contained horse meat. Burger King sourced thousands of burgers from the same Irish beef supplier, Silvercrest, and Findus “beef” lasagna was found to contain 100% horse meat.

Liffey Meats in Ireland and Dalepak in Yorkshire have both been fingered as well.  Silvercrest and Dalepak are both subsidiaries of ABP Food Group, one of the largest beef processors in Europe.   Huge blocks of frozen meat in cold storage in Northern Ireland – Freeza Foods, which had been quarantined by officials suspicious of its labelling and state of packaging, were found to contain 80% horse.

There is now evidence that both Polish and Italian mafia gangs are running multimillion-dollar scams to substitute horsemeat for beef during food production. There are claims that vets and other officials working within slaughterhouses and food production plants are intimidated into signing off meat as beef when it is in fact cheaper alternatives such as pork or horse.

europe-crisisWhat this multi-level fraud has done is remove informed consent from the public – people believed they were paying for and consuming beef products.  The public also had no idea that they were at risk for consuming minute quantities of veterinary drug phenylbutazone(“bute”) as a result of massive quantities of horsemeat of unknown origin entering the food chain.

The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has announced that there are at least eight known cases of horse carcasses that tested positive for phenylbutazone in the EU out of 206 samples.  British Environment Minister David Heath told the House of Commons that of these eight horses, “three may have entered the food chain in France. The remaining five have not gone into the food chain.”

Phenylbutazone or “bute” was at one time marketed for humans use under the trade name of butazolidin.  It was a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory (NSAID) used for arthritis and other inflammatory ailments that worked by inhibiting an

Butazolidin

Butazolidin – trade name for the human version of the drug phenylbutazone

enzyme that synthesizes chemical mediators called prostaglandins.  It was ultimately withdrawn by the FDA for causing a wide range of serious side-effects including blood dyscrasias which damage the bone marrow.  It remains however, on the market for treatment for horses and is an effective anti-inflammatory.  It is also prohibited in the food chain as residues of bute and its metabolite, oxyphenbutazone are not known to have safe limits.

Horse welfare advocates and the inadvertent consumers of horse meat have been repeatedly reassured by various government agencies and horse slaughter proponents that any residues of bute or its metabolite are harmless.  We know that the pro-slaughters aren’t relying on science when they tell us this, but what about government agencies?   On what do they base this reassurance?

Professor Tim Morris, veterinary surgeon and Vice Chair of the British Horse Industry Confederation, said:

“It is important to note that the levels of Bute in horsemeat, even if it is found, will be very low, and greatly below the doses following medical treatment in people that have been associated with occasional rare adverse reactions; therefore whilst this is unacceptable the actual risk to consumers is very small.”

Professor Peter Lees, Emeritus Professor of Veterinary Pharmacology, Royal Veterinary College, wrote that:

“The main toxicity concern in humans is that some people developed (very rarely – 1 in 30,000 to 1 in 50,000 persons) an anaemia which was life threatening, when the drug was used clinically in humans. This occurred when the drug was used therapeutically in humans at a dose rate of some 2 to 6 mg/kg, similar to the current dose for the horse of 4.4 mg/kg.”

The question is whether the presence of bute in horsemeat can present a risk to human health even in small amounts.  In the above noted tests, the highest amount of bute found in a horse carcass was 1.9 mg.  If a human had been taking butazolidin in the 50s, they might have taken 200-400 mg a day in total, if we compare it to the current-day dosage of Tylenol or Advil.  Obviously, we would have to consume a significant amount of contaminated horsemeat in order to reach the level of a therapeutic drug dosage.

9601_fig1What is not clear, despite reassurances, is the level that is necessary for the average person to consume in order to experience a toxic effect.  The basis for determining toxicity levels to inform public policy decisions has been the dose-response relationship, which is central to defining “safe” and “hazardous” levels and dosages for drugs, potential pollutants, and other substances to which humans are exposed.

If a therapeutic does of butazolidin was once considered “safe” at 200-400 mg, then how do we know that some individuals are safe at 1.9 mg?  If butazolidin was withdrawn from the market as being unsafe for some people at that dosage, we don’t know whether sensitive individuals may have experienced toxicity at lower levels as well.  What about drug interactions?  There is an acknowledged interaction between phenylbutazone and the anticoagulant drug warfarin, and patients taking warfarin can suffer severe gastrointestinal bleeding if they also take phenylbutazone.  This complicates arguments about safety of bute in horsemeat.  Bute also metabolizes to oxyphenbutazone,  which has been shown to have similar toxicity.  Have any of these horse carcasses been tested for oxyphenbutazone?  Both bute and oxyphenbutazone bind to human serum albumin (HSA) as does warfarin and so they “compete” with each other.  For more information on this interaction, please read this study by the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Western Australia.

Indian vultures poisoned by diclofenac after eating scavenging livestock treated with the drug

Indian vultures poisoned by diclofenac after scavenging livestock treated with the drug

If it still seems as though a negligible trace of bute in meat might not be enough to cause harm,  there is an analogous cautionary tale of another NSAID – diclofenac, which was also used in human medicine for decades,  and was recently introduced for veterinary use in India.  Obviously, the dynamics are not the same, but vultures appear to have been exposed to the drug while scavenging livestock carcasses, their main food source, and this has accounted for death by renal failure of many vultures examined in a three-year study by the scientific journal Nature.  Further investigation showed that diclofenac was fatal to vultures at 10 percent of the recommended dose. Tissue residues in livestock treated at the labelled dose rate were sufficient to cause death in vultures. These findings confirmed that diclofenac is the primary cause of the Asian vulture decline.

“As few as one in 760 carcasses containing diclofenac at a dose lethal to vultures would be sufficient to cause the observed decline in vulture numbers (30% per year). Clearly, even small-scale usage of the drug can have catastrophic consequences.”

The traceability issues with this untraceable horse/donkey meat also bears some similarity to the problem of kangaroo meat diverted into the human food chain in Australia.  Kangaroo meat is often obtained from animals that were shot with machine guns via helicopters and therefore not slaughtered humanely and not bled by conventional standards either.  Possibly also introduced into the food chain dubiously as well.

The ability to treat horses with bute is very important for their welfare.  The EU scandal has also revealed that the passporting system there is subject to fraud, despite strict rules regarding the regulation of medicines.  The fault lies not with horse owners but with individuals or organizations who are motivated by greed and willing to manipulate the system, allow their controls to fail, or commit outright fraud.

Food safety laws are clear.  Companies that produce, trade or sell food or food ingredients are legally obligated to implement a quality assurance system called Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point house-of-cards(HACCP), which maximizes food safety by minimizing chemical, physical and microbiological hazards.  There is something wrong with a food system whereby the food animal must sit on a feedlot for six months in order that veterinary drugs “degrade,” and 100% of the “raw material” must pass a negative test before they can enter the food chain.

In the final analysis, no one is really in a position to make broad statements about the safety of this horse/donkey meat.  Conrad Brunk,  the co-chair of the 2001 Royal Society of Canada Expert Panel on the Future of Food Biotechnology, wrote that:

“When it comes to human and environmental safety there should be clear evidence of the absence of risks;  the mere absence of evidence is not enough.”  This is the essence of the precautionary principle, which states that “when an activity raises threats of harm to human health or the environment,  precautionary measures should be taken even if some cause-and-effect relationships are not fully established scientifically.”bute  - High res

Artist for the Ocean – Bob Timmons, at Disgraceland to Benefit Refuge RR for Horses

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Written by: Heather Clemenceau

Bob Timmons’ work depicts the plight of the mysterious and diverse marine animals.  For this show on February 16th, Bob,  a grass-roots animal rights advocate,  created several works of art specifically for the Valentine’s theme,  “To My Bloody Valentine.” 20% of sales benefited Refuge RR for Horses, a registered, charitable organization which rescues, rehabilitates and provides permanent homes for abused, neglected and/or abandoned horses, as well as horses who are no longer serviceable. Along with their equine residents, the Refuge also provides sanctuary to a variety of other animals: sheep, goats, pigs, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cats. Donations have been critical to the Refuge, in order to end nearly 2 years of water delivery at huge costs (trucking water costs approximately $40,000 /year) and enable them to finally drill a new well at a cost of $22,000.

Historically, we thought that we could never take too much out of, or put too much waste into, the oceans. The open oceans have become a free-for-all, hardly regulated or policed. International laws to protect them are drastically inadequate to address threats like large-scale commercial fishing, which sweeps life out of the seas at unprecedented rates – often only to discard the unusable “bycatch.” Tragically, that discarded bycatch includes thousands of severely injured or slain sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals annually.

Two thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by the oceans, and this vast ecosystem harbours the greatest amount of our biodiversity. Most of the oxygen we bob3are breathing was made by miniscule algae and bacteria – phytoplankton, which provides half of the food on which all the animals on this planet depend.  Photosynthesis by phytoplankton removes carbon dioxide from the air and produces oxygen (remember your high school photosynthesis equation!)  From shrimp to whale, almost every creature living in the oceans relies on phytoplankton, as do we.  As it has been in decline for at least 50 years due to rising water temperatures, it now threatens the food base of much of the biosphere.  If the ocean is altered in a way that doesn’t favour marine species, we have very little to fall back on.  Having a wide biodiversity of species is rather comparable to a diverse stock portfolio – you are somewhat insulated from the poor performance of a few stocks.

According to the foremost authoritative compilation of living things at risk – the so-called Red List maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, globally, 1,851 species of fish – or 5 percent of  fish species are deemed at risk of extinction.  Currently, only 0.8% of the world’s oceans are protected in marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks.  These protected areas  encompass an area of approximately 2.85 million km2, representing:

0.8% of the world’s 361 million km2 of ocean

2.0% of the 147 million km2 of ocean under national jurisdiction

Of the global marine area that is protected, only 300,000km2 – i.e. just under 10% of the global MPA area – is a marine reserve (‘no-take’ MPA)

And these scant “protected” areas must continually be defended – Greenpeace has compiled two different blacklists of Illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) vessels, companies, and countries that commercially fish illegally.

Shelley Grainger of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition,  with Bob Timmons

Shelley Grainger of the Canadian Horse Defence Coalition, with Bob Timmons

Bob’s artwork is hanging at Disgraceland until April 1st, 2013, so go and check it out at 965 Bloor Street West, Toronto, Ontario.  Prints are available at Bob’s store here.  Find Refuge RR for Horses on Facebook  and please consider a tax deductable donation to Refuge RR here.

“The affinities of all the beings of the same class have sometimes been represented by a great tree… As buds give rise by growth to fresh buds, and these if vigorous, branch out and overtop on all sides many a feebler branch, so by generation I believe it has been with the great Tree of Life, which fills with its dead and broken branches the crust of the earth, and covers the surface with its ever branching and beautiful ramifications.”

Charles Darwin, 1859

Sixth-Mass-Extinction

The Sixth Extinction is the mass extinction of species during the present Holocene epoch (since around 10,000 BC). The Red List provides just a tiny insight into the true number of species in trouble. The vast majority of living things that share our planet remain undiscovered or have been so poorly studied that we have no idea whether their populations are healthy, or approaching their demise.

The Case For Freeing Limba

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Mustic ElephantsWritten by:  Kimberly Spiegel

Reprinted with permission

This letter was originally written by Kimberly to Michael Hackenberger,  the owner of the Bowmanville Zoo.  In Defense of Animals (IDA) has accused the independent facility, which is located about 75 km east of Toronto, of imposing a “cruel sentence” on its only elephant, a 50-year-old female named Limba, whose existence the group describes as “[a] miserable, lonely life.”

Dear Mr. Hackenberger,

I’m glad that we spoke the other day. I think it’s really important to start a civil dialogue on these issues between animal rights activists and zoos. I only regret that I could not remember all the details of Limba’s case and the details of your zoo the day we spoke, but I have done much research since then and spent a couple days thinking of an appropriate follow-up response to our discussion.

First of all, it is sad people who support non-violence and love of animals would say hateful things to you. That is not constructive and gets us nowhere. According to Gary Francione, professor at Rutgers University: “The animal rights position is the ultimate rejection of violence. It is the ultimate affirmation of peace. I see the animal rights movement as the logical progression of the peace movement, which seeks to end conflict between humans. The animal rights movement ideally seeks to take that a step further and to end conflict between humans and nonhumans.” The root of the issue among animal rights people is that we don’t see animals as property and that they aren’t ours to do whatever we like with them, no matter how well-intentioned one might be. Your zoo is unique from other zoos because your primary focus seems to be the use of your animals in film, television, circuses, fairs, children’s parties, and other events. Indeed one might think from your long CV that your zoo is merely a front for your animal actor business. As quoted in your CV “Bowmanville Zoo is one of the largest suppliers of trained animals for the feature film and television industry…. Maintaining the largest stable of trained movie and television animals in Canada, the Bowmanville Zoo brings cutting edge operant conditioning techniques and behavioral modification to the animals under its stewardship.” Your CV lists 22 feature films (4 with elephants), 80 television movies and series (26 with elephants), and 58 commercial credits (23 with elephants).

It is no secret you use your animals for profit, and I understand that it may be what pays for the maintenance of the zoo and the animal’s food, but other reputable zoos do not do this. The point is we feel it is wrong to make animals behave in ways that can only be induced by “operant conditioning” and “behavior modification.”

Obviously, you are forcing animals to do things that they would never do in the wild. In addition, because of the cold winter months in Canada, Limba must be kept inside in a small barn alone for a very long period of time, which is very unnatural as elephants normally walk many miles a day with their family group, in a warm African climate. At her age, we do not believe she should be subject to regular long travel, cold weather, a small enclosure, or being forced to act in an unnatural way and she should be allowed to retire and enjoy the remaining years of her life in a sanctuary.

Limba promotes the MS Walk

Limba promotes the MS Walk

Limba’s sad state that I referred to in my first email is that at her advanced age she is still being used for circus acts and other events. It is evident from a recent video online and the Circus Mondo website that Limba is still being made to perform in Circus Mondo. I just don’t understand this desire to train animals to make them do things that are such unnatural behaviors for them, such as mount a stand and lift her legs into the air as I saw in the video. My opinion is it is merely for profit and drawing in crowds. Yet what kind of people would want to see this sort of animal exploitation I wonder. This does not teach children about elephants or why we should care about them and protect their wild habitats. It teaches them that exploitation of animals is acceptable in our society. It makes no sense that you would even use that argument about conservation of elephants and that you donate $50,000 toward their conservation, and then use your only elephant as a circus performer.

Using animals in circuses is profoundly wrong and all around the world community attitudes are demanding that animal circuses be ended. Many countries have already banned nationwide the use of wild animals in circuses: Bolivia, Peru, Israel, Signapore, Greece, Austria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Hungary, Costa Rica, and Paraguay. Dozens of other nations have also enacted local bans for certain cities or districts. North America is sadly lagging behind the rest of the world in empathy. Canada has local bans on the use of animals in circuses in 27 municipal jurisdictions including Vancouver. There is an obvious trend here, more and more people are waking up to the fact that animals do not belong in circus acts and it is only a matter of time before it is banned worldwide. The world’s most successful circus, Cirque de Soleil, was started by a street performer and musician, Guy Laliberté. It made him a multi-billionaire. And what is so special about his circus? It has no captive animals, just talented, attractive, healthy, fit, strong and artistic human beings.

And from your own country as reported in the Halifax News in April last year: “The Nova Scotia Department of Natural Resources is allowing Circus Mondo to perform, but is prohibiting the performance of Limba, the circus’s Asian elephant. According to the DNR, it is inhumane to transport a lone elephant and for the second year in a row, they are not allowing Limba into the province.” Now those are people who care about her welfare and recognize that elephants belong in groups. Animal welfare specialist Dr. Paul Rees of Salford University looked at the records of 200 zoos worldwide. In 2006, 69 percent of Asian elephants and 80 percent of African elephants in the world’s zoos were still being kept in groups of four or fewer. Both British and American animal welfare groups recommend elephants are kept in larger groups of seven or more that better reflects the natural habitat in the wild. Rees said “In the wild, elephant social structure is complex and, although the average group size is around 12, they can also live in even larger extended family units. Contact with members of their own species is crucial for the animals to develop normal behaviour patterns and friendships. Small group sizes in zoos may prevent this from happening.

There is no good reason for a zoo to keep just one elephant. In an awful lot of zoos around the world elephants are unable to comply with recommendations that elephants are kept in larger groups. I am absolutely convinced this is not a good thing.” He continued to say that elephants kept in small groups can display “abnormal behaviour” such as swaying on the spot or pacing in circles that suggests the animals are unhappy. Limba is totally without contact with members of her own species. Do you think this is fair? If so I dare you to try living without any contact with your own species and then see how you feel about it. In an article published online on January 16 it stated “At the behest of CAZA, Bill Peters said the zoo is in the midst of preparing a plan to acquire “companion animals for Limba.” I’m assuming this doesn’t mean other elephants.

An article quoted you as saying when Limba was brought to the zoo there were five other elephants, and as you told me on the phone the other elephants rejected her. As someone who is so knowledgeable about elephants, I’m sure you know Asian elephant females live in matriarchial groups with other females only, so by the information of elephants that have been at your zoo, I see there is only one elephant that she could have bonded with appropriately – Lisa. As you are quoted in the article saying Limba didn’t do well in the herd, well isn’t that a possible result of mixing two elephant species together and then different genders, which all would normally be four separate groups in the wild? In addition, it is my understanding that when elephants are forced to share small spaces, they don’t always get along. San Antonio Zoo Elephant Voices co-director Dr. Joyce Poole, who has been studying elephant behavior in Africa and Asia for more than 30 years, reviewed a video of two of their elephants, Lucky and Queenie, and observed: “Lucky is being terrorized by Queenie. This kind of persistent bullying is not seen in the wild, because elephants have other activities with which to occupy themselves, and because they can remove themselves from conflict, if need be. In my

Limba is forced to give rides

Limba is forced to give rides

opinion, the primary cause of this undesirable situation is that the elephants have too little space.” Limba might very well thrive and be able to make friends at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, without the pressure of a confined space that causes conflict among elephants. I think it is very selfish of you to not give her this opportunity to see if it even will work for her.

Your view that Limba is well-treated and well-loved, as you have stated, is a total matter of perception and requires that love is defined. To me, the definition of love is that condition in which the happiness of another being is essential to your own. It means to look out for the best interests of another and to not infringe upon its free will in any way. In this case, it would mean not exploiting animals in the entertainment industry or making them do anything that is unnatural to their normal wild animal behavior. The issue is not necessarily about abuse, although we put animals in situations that can and frequently does lead to their mistreatment which is irresponsible of us and immoral. Might does not mean right, just because we can exert power over others, does not mean we should. Animal rights also stem to larger issues. We feel control, violence, and oppression of animals is a societal ill and can only be cured by their total abolition. We equate it to abolition of slavery in the US. Abolition was only ethical once all the slaves could be free. It wasn’t enough for just the northern states to be free.

Animals just do not belong stuck in our world irrespective of how well we treat them. Humans have no business continuing to bring these creatures into a world in which they simply do not fit. I don’t doubt that Limba has accepted you and your family as her family, but what choice did she have? Elephants are social, loving creatures that live in family groups and she needed someone to love and you were her only choice, but she doesn’t belong with your family, she belongs with members of her own species. It cannot be said to be free will when there is an absence of choice.

As you know, elephants that have been forced to perform in circuses have killed people, and then they must be shot and killed themselves, such as in 1994 an elephant named Tyke killed her trainer and injured 12 people at a circus performing in Honolulu, then was shot to death (shot over 100 times). Animal behavior can change unexpectedly as these animals may eventually snap from years of stress and mistreatment and hurt people. Even if your animal is treated completely humanely, people see Limba in Circus Mondo and might think it is ok to go to other circuses such as Ringling Brothers which repeatedly abuse and seriously mistreat their elephants, so you are contributing to the perpetuation of this form of entertainment that allows animals to be abused.

I was able to obtain the history of elephants kept at your zoo online. You have had 6 elephant deaths, 5 of which were wild caught for this industry.

Asian elephants:

1) Lisa 1988, euthanized 1990 due to foot problems, age 32, 2 years at your zoo
2) Tony 1995, dead 1999 cause of death unknown???, age 27 years, 4 years at your zoo
3) Ceasar 2001, dead 2006, cause of death unown??? Age 19, 5 years at your zoo
4) Vance 1988, dead 2008, euthanized due to leg problems, age 37, 20 years at your zoo

African elephants:

1) Sheba 1984, dead 2011, euthanized for unknown reasons???, age 36, 8-10 years at your zoo
2) Angus 1986, dead 2006, cause of death unknown???, age 27, 20 years at your zoo

Limba is seen here promoting the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in Toronto, by handing out flowers

Limba is seen here promoting the Grand Cru Culinary Wine Festival in Toronto, by handing out flowers

I’m sure you are aware of the study of elephant lifespans from the University of Guelph published in Science in 2008 which found that wild African elephant females lived to be a median age of 56 and that Asian elephants could live to be at least 42 years (working timber elephant data, no data on wild elephants). The study also found that zoo elephants of both African and Asian species tended to die at much younger ages than either wild African elephants or working Asian elephants. The researchers said the median lifespan for elephants that died in European zoos between 1960 and 2005 was only 17 years for the African species and 19 years for the Asian animals. Stress, lack of exercise and obesity were thought to be largely responsible for the shorter lifespan of the zoo elephants. Median lifespan is 29.5 for your deceased Asian elephants and 32 for the Africans, considerably shorter than wild elephants.
Limba, age 49, arrived 1989, has outlived all your other elephants which is hopefully a sign of her being well cared for. Yet I wonder about the unlisted causes of death of 4 of your 6 elephants.

You also told me on the phone you did not believe the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would be a better place for her because they have had a death of a keeper and because of tuberculosis that killed some of their elephants. Your elephant Tony was from the same Hawthorne herd as the others who died of TB at the Elephant Sanctuary and I wonder if he died of that also? I don’t know how long you have been director, but in 1988 Tarra was relocated from the Bowmanville Zoo to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee and she is still alive and well. As for the death of the keeper by Winkie, it was known that that elephant had behavioral problems and it was certainly an unfortunate incident. But your zoo is responsible for a lion who knocked over and broke four ribs of Gitanjali Kolanad, so these things can happen when working with animals, their behavior is totally unpredictable and anyone who has ever worked with animals knows that.

Limba is likely at greater health risks from standing on hard surfaces in cold weather with little movement for long periods of time at your zoo than she ever would be at the Elephant Sanctuary. From a Seattle Times article “The Times did a first-of-its-kind analysis of 390 elephant fatalities at accredited U.S. zoos for the past 50 years. It found that most of the elephants died from injury or disease linked to conditions of their captivity, from chronic foot problems caused by standing on hard surfaces to musculoskeletal disorders from inactivity caused by being penned or chained for days and weeks at a time.” It appears two of your own elephants died from foot and leg problems, and the other 4 unreported causes of death possibly fit into one of these categories. This is truly a disgrace that most elephants die because of being in captivity. How is sentencing them to die in a prison essentially considered caring for their well being?

The median age for the Asian elephants living at the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee is 47 and the median age of those who have passed is 48, whereas at your zoo the median age at death of Asian elephants is 29.5, a 20 year difference which is quite significant. I believe the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee would be a better habitat for Limba because she would have much more space to roam around. Your whole zoo is only 42 acres, the Elephant Sanctuary of Tennessee is 2,700 acres. Limba would obviously have much more space for exercise, more than she has had since being stolen from the wild. Elephants in the wild are used to traveling many miles a day. I think she deserves a chance to really be an elephant and to try to get integrated with the other group of female Asian elephants at the Tennessee Elephant Sanctuary.

David Hancock who was director of Woodland Park Zoo from 1976 to 1984 said, “Elephants don’t thrive in zoos. We didn’t understand elephants very well in the 1970s or ’80s. But there is overwhelming scientific evidence today that shows the

Many people are disturbed to see elephants performing unnatural and undignified acts

Many people are disturbed to see elephants performing unnatural and undignified acts

harmful impact of captivity.” Animals are often prevented from doing most of the things that are natural and important to them, like running, foraging, choosing a partner, and being with others of their own kind. Zoos teach people that it is acceptable to interfere with animals and keep them locked up in captivity, where they are bored, cramped, lonely, deprived of all control over their lives, and far from their natural homes.

You mentioned that zoos are important for education and conservation purposes. I would argue that seeing an animal in captivity as it exhibits behaviors of stress and boredom while living in a sterile environment is much less educational than, for example, watching a National Geographic video of animals filmed in the wild. In addition, conservation efforts aren’t always successful. Benjamin Beck, former associate director of biological programs at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., found that in the last century, only 16 of 145 reintroduction programs worldwide ever actually restored any animal populations to the wild. Of those, most were carried out by government agencies, not zoos. Most zoo animals released in the wild don’t survive. This is because zoos don’t provide the right environment for a successful captive breeding project. The animals would need to live in habitats resembling their natural ones, especially in terms of climate and fauna. Zoos spend huge amounts of money on their breeding programs, even though breeding animals in captivity isn’t the best way to help in conservation.

It is at least 50 times more expensive to maintain elephants in zoos than to protect equivalent numbers of elephants in the wild. Using the money for conservation programs in the wild – by creating more protected reserves for instance – will not only allow the animals to live in their natural habitat, it also helps balance whole ecosystems. Zoos that do breed animals do so because it gains them a lot of publicity and attract huge amounts of people. David Hancock estimates that less than 3 percent of the budget of accredited zoos in the AZA goes toward conservation efforts. At the same time, they point to the billions of dollars spent every year on hi-tech exhibits and marketing efforts to lure visitors. Zoos main interest is always to make money and baby animals are their most powerful marketing tool. And even if there was a huge asset to saving endangered species from zoos, your zoo in particular does not contribute to this – so how can you defend it specifically on those grounds? Elephants in particular are not being bred for reintroduction to the wild – that will never happen because of the high infant mortality rate.

I believe you also stated Limba had higher cortisol levels while children were riding her, but cortisol is released in response to stress – so was that just a blatant lie or did I misunderstand? In case I misheard you and you actually said she had lower cortisol levels while carrying children around, it is still not a scientifically valid reason to keep her without comparable data of what her cortisol levels would be living amongst her family or other elephants that might act as a surrogate family in a more appropriate natural environment. I haven’t seen the data myself to even know the truth and I’m not inclined to just take your word for it. Right now you are her surrogate family, but she doesn’t belong in the human world. You have been quoted as saying “I’ve never made any secret of the fact if an elephant behaves inappropriately I will discipline it. It’s like spanking a child.” Can you discipline from a place of love? This is a controversial issue even among human parents who might physically or verbally discipline their children. This is quite a concern for me because the only reason you would need to discipline her is if she is trying to just be an elephant and not performing how you want her to perform. She is not a child, she is an elephant, and treating her as anything but is nonsensical and shows the lack of respect and understanding you truly have for non-human animals. You wouldn’t treat your sons like elephants would you?

Animals used in circuses are unwilling participants in a show that jeopardizes their health and mental well-being and the lives of human spectators and performers. Circuses force animals to perform tricks that have nothing to do with how these magnificent creatures behave in the wild.

Animals used in circuses are unwilling participants in a show that jeopardizes their health and mental well-being and the lives of human spectators and performers. Circuses force animals to perform tricks that have nothing to do with how these magnificent creatures behave in the wild.

You also mentioned on the phone if people have a problem with how Limba is treated that they should take it up with OSPCA or CAZA and some animal rights people in Canada have stated there are serious problems with both organizations and that they couldn’t be relied upon. It was stated that they would call the OSPCA if they were at all credible and cared about something other than money, and that they are a dysfunctional organization lacking in transparency. Some evidence that they may not be reputable is that they are a registered charity yet will not release their salary amounts to the public. Another has said that CAZA is a club that is there to create an illusion of oversight and keep people without vested interests at arm’s length and they do not enforce even minimum standards and simply overlook anyone that fails to meet them.

People who speak out for animals such as myself, do so from the perspective that animals are equal to humans in their ability to feel, to suffer, and have equal rights to freedom and the exercising of their free will. When we see that an animal is no longer able to have freedom or at least to have its unnatural state diminished, we speak out, out of compassion. I see the sacredness in all life, and I would never desire to exert power and control over another living thing. But you do. What does that say about you? Power is always veiled by ideas that are thought to be good. A whole ideology is then built around such an idea, making it a worldview that appears as striving for what is good, while in essence, you are trying to control life – both in yourself and in others. FEEL the energy of wanting to control things. Is that a loving energy? Often, that energy poses as love, as the good and the true, but power always conceals itself in this way so it is easier for people to accept. Power does not show its face openly; power seduces through thought.

I became a biologist to protect wild places for animals, it is an absolute irony to me when zoos say they are working to promote conservation all the while keeping animals out of the wild. I can maybe see the benefit of captive breeding programs to reintroduce wildlife populations in decline, but since so few have been successful it is potentially just a waste of money that could be diverted to protecting other species in the wild that have better chances. Extinctions will be inevitable. The idea of just having animals in captivity to “educate” people about them is a total fallacy.

I did not develop my love of nature and wildlife from zoos. I developed it by actually spending time in nature, by connecting with it. In my own backyard I was lucky enough to live in a rural area and have this opportunity to observe birds, frogs, salamanders, mammals, and turtles. I went canoeing, hiking, and camping as a child. I developed such a profound love for nature that I have dedicated my life to protecting it in its most natural state. I understand not all children have these opportunities when they live in urban areas, but bringing children to zoos perpetuates the myth that this promotes conservation when all it promotes is the fact that we can exert our power over “lesser beings.” They are not lesser, they are equal. I can see the value in having unreleasable, injured native animals captive for educational purposes, but not exotic animals. It is morally wrong and unjustifiable to take perfectly healthy animals from their mothers at a young age from the wild, which inevitably damages their psyche for life. Then especially to turn them into circus performers, that is abhorrent.

What is really disturbing is that wild elephants are still being captured for zoos, 6 elephant calves were just captured from the wild in Zimbabwe and may be sold to Chinese zoos. Four have already been sent to Chinese zoos recently and one has since died. This is unacceptable that this continues! Zoos do not promote conservation, they promote the exploitation and the view that an animal is property and we should be allowed to do what we want with them. They are not property, they are not somethings, they are someones. What we really want to see is an end to exotic animals in captivity and used for performing in circuses and film. There are not natural for animals and are felephantsorced into these situations by their owners which they are totally at the mercy of because animals are defined as property. Certain animals that require large amounts of space such as elephants should not be kept in zoos if the proper environment can never be provided for. There is enough evidence that elephants do not thrive in the usually too small zoo enclosures.

As we discussed, Africa has its problems with extreme poverty that leads people to poach elephants for ivory to feed their families. It is a sad state of the world when rich countries like the US and Canada spend millions of dollars on many forms of mindless entertainment and many things they don’t need instead of helping those in need in poorer countries when it might actually stop poaching. I think we can agree that there are many things about our society that need to change, but sending Limba to a sanctuary is one thing that you can actually do to make it just a little bit better, for her and for the message you will be sending to the world that she is loved and deserves to retire and enjoy for a little while a real elephant’s life. I don’t think I know more than you, but sometimes seeing things through another’s eyes is beneficial.

Scandal Stokes Curiosity: Is There Horsemeat In Imported US Beef Products?

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horse-meat1Written By:  Jaime Cowan

Package Photos By:  Jaime Cowan

In June of 2012, I moved from a small town to Topeka, Kansas.  That meant I had to find new, local places to do my regular shopping.   I have not eaten meat in almost a year.  But I live with my mother and she does eat meat, and for the time being, so do my daughters.  But during one of the first visits to the store my mother frequents, I noticed something in the meat cooler that gave me serious cause for concern.

Sent after a pound of hamburger, I found myself shuffling through the packages looking for one that did not read Canada/Mexico on its labeling.  Of course the fear of meat imported from Canada and/or Mexico stems from the fear (and paranoia, according to others) that maybe those countries could in some way or another, let the tainted meat of horses they inhumanely slaughter, seep into the meat they prepare and market for export.  In my opinion, if a company is killing and selling animals they know have a reputation for containing banned substances, and they sell these products without concern for the potential illnesses their product could cause their consumers, then who can guarantee their honesty in any other regard? The following photos are taken from a Dillon’s store clearly showing the labels for the country of “origin.”   “The label shall list all countries contained therein or that may be reasonably contained therein in any order.”

meat package1

Country of Origin is “USA/Canada/Mexico”

It’s possible that this package actually contains beef from all three countries, and it might also contain beef from just two countries; perhaps Mexico and Canada. It’s also possible that this package actually contains beef sourced only from Mexico but was produced in a US plant that typically also sources raw materials from Canada and the US for other products. Unfortunately, the consumer still won’t know the country of origin from such a label. Ground beef may be sourced from different countries to be processed in one US plant and the label need only reflect the countries from which the company typically sourced its raw materials for products over the past few months.”

I also found a list of Mexican plants approved to export meat to the United States.  Of course,  Mexico also slaughters horses and I wonder what guarantees are made to ensure we receive only beef?  And if there are any assurances made,  are they worth more than the paper they’re printed on?

Here is an explanation of the labeling process and the requirements that are supposed to be met in order for import/export.  Of course, as we all are seeing unfold in the UK, these requirements can exist, but there is really no guarantee they are being completely complied with unless every piece of meat is inspected.

meat package 2 - Copy

Country of Origin is “USA/Canada/Mexico”

When visiting the website of Kroger/Dillon’s we see that there are many links to importation and other info containing product origination that are dead or inactive. This made me even more suspicious.  I was unable to find any information with regards to the origin of their meat products other than the most generic information.  Plenty of other information is provided though.  I believe the origin of products that we eat is very important and should be available for consumers to have access to, especially with the meat scandal actively taking place overseas.

I agree with  B.J. Rickard. During his regular live internet broadcast called “Stall13” via his website The World of Horses, he questioned why more people, including the “hot rod information sources” aka big news companies here in the United States, are not questioning the contents of the meat sold on the shelves of grocery stores nationwide.  We are obviously accepting meats imported from countries that slaughter horses,  so why isn’t the imported meat here being audited or DNA tested?   Maybe it is known that if meat is inspected and found to have a trace of any animal other then what is listed, the reputation and reliability of the U.S. meat inspection and food safety would be in shambles.  “It is only about money, and nothing else.”

meat package 4

Another Product of Unknown Origin

Now that the dangers of horse meat are being discussed in mainstream news articles and brought to everyone’s attention, why is it even a consideration to legalize horse slaughter in the State of Oklahoma (For Export Only)?  What kind of government would allow the slaughter, sale and export of a product (animal, pet) that is so dangerous, unregulated and inhumane that consumption of it is not even allowed in its own state?  It just further confirms the belief that the government officials suggesting such ideas are nothing other than selfish, irresponsible and dishonest.  In my opinion they are recklessly participating in an act of agro-terrorism by slaughtering companion animals for food.

All of my horses have been given a medication from this list in the last 3 months. They are also given regular dewormers.  Any horse that has been given a medication or product from this list is automatically banned from entering the food chain.  In October of 2010 and March of 2011, my horse Rhapsody was given Banamine as well as being on a regular deworming schedule.  She had multiple drugs in her system, but was illegally and fraudulently sold to a horse auction owner, who in turn sold her to a kill buyer to be shipped to Mexico.  Documents were forged and falsified, stating that she had no banned substances in her body.   If you are unsure of your stance on horse slaughter, please take the time to read and educate yourself

meat package 3I am not so concerned for myself, but for the lives of my children, my horses and the rest of the world that places trust in the food system. It takes a special type of idiot to condone the preparation of a food source that they personally do not dare eat.   I have sent my faxes and made my phone calls and will continue to do so.

We’ve presented a loud and unified voice in other states,  and now we must stop the process taking place in Oklahoma, where slaughter would be legalized for horses both wild and domestic.  Please read the following sources of information and take action now!  Oppose SB375 and HB1999. Vote NO to Legalizing Horse Slaughter and Horse Meat Consumption in Oklahoma and Vote NO on the Export of Horse Meat to Outside Entities including other U.S. States or Foreign Countries.

Wild Horse Protection on Facebook

Oppose Horse Slaughter In Oklahoma on Facebook

50 Shades of Black and Blue

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high fashion hermesWritten by:  Heather Clemenceau

The discovery of Farida Khan, a notoriously abusive equestrian from Bangladesh, has surprised and disgusted the internet equestrian community. Several videos from her Facebook page went viral and prompted new pages calling for investigation into her animal handling practices.  She’s been reported to just about every agency imaginable,  including Stop-Crush.  While at first many of us were dismayed by her apparent lack of riding skills and overt cruelty towards her horses, it was soon realized that there was a seedy subtext at hand.  That’s because Farida deliberately whips her horses as sexual stimulation for a fetishistic audience, who urge her to “draw blood” and change the colour of her horse from “gray to red.”  You can check out her YouTube channel (under a fake name) here. Caution – I would say that most scenes depicted here are NSFW!

“Oh yes it definitely hurts them a lot and I enjoy seeing them suffering for my pleasure. Whipping and kicking is the best thing I like when I am astride it gives me a nice Farida Khan whippingfeel and its such a wonderful feeling to control such a beast.”

With very little effort it’s possible for one to discover that there exists an entire subculture where horses are either beaten into compliance with whips and spurs or ridden and stroked provocatively.  I knew about the “pony” fetish, where adults dress up as horses complete with bridles and saddles.  But the pony fetish is hardly something to get bent over, since it’s enjoyed by consenting adults and apparently no animals are involved.

Several of Farida’s “hard riding” videos are featured on the Horse Women Facebook page and clips4all website which I reviewed, just so you don’t have to!  There are the whipping and spurring videos that many of us have seen and condemned,  as well as videos of adult women riding mini horses while jerking on the reins and hitting them with crops.  The commentary that goes along reveals that the hitting of these small animals is designed to appeal to some sort of sadistic tendency in the viewer.  Clearly, these videos make us uncomfortable, in part, because they are designed to arouse and remind their audience that beating an animal is titillating.  But what’s also curious is that many of the people who favourited Farida’s horse abuse videos also have favourited classical dressage videos on YouTube as well.  They seem particularly drawn to Piaffe training.

Farida Khan Whipping 2Don’t get me wrong – I’m utterly disgusted by the whipping and excessive spur usage even if there is no sexualization of the practice.  But I also wonder what it is about regular dressage that attracts these same people to watch and favourite videos of Olympic, USEF, and WEG performances?  Farida Khan attracts a niche audience, and she brags about her dislike of horses and cruel treatment towards them.  She hits them multiple times for absolutely no reason, jerks on the bit, and turns them sharply as part of “training sessions.”  But if you want to see “accepted” torture of horses you don’t have to watch fetish videos.

Most horse owners would never abuse their horses, even out of ignorance.  But watch a few equestrian events and you can see whipping and spurring, along with horrendous combo bits or multiple apparatuses used on horses that are designed to force compliance or cause pain.  What is often accepted as “horsemanship” is often abuse that should not be permissible.

Thanks in part to  investigations by the Humane Society of the United States, the soring of Tennessee Walker horses —the intentional infliction of pain to their feet and legs to produce an exaggerated gait known as the “Big

Tennessee Walker Horse - Highly Artificial "Big Lick" Movement

Tennessee Walker Horse – Highly Artificial “Big Lick” Movement

Lick,”  has received international attention.  With H.R. 6388, the Horse Protection Act Amendments of 2012,  it is hoped that we can end the failed system of industry self-policing, ban the use of certain devices associated with soring, strengthen penalties, and hold accountable all those involved in this cruel practice.  An HSUS undercover investigation documented the prevalent use of caustic chemicals to sore horses and led to a 52-count indictment of Jackie McConnell, who pleaded guilty to one count of felony conspiracy to violate the Horse Protection Act, and three of his associates. In September, a federal court sentenced him to three years of probation and a $75,000 fine.  McConnell also faces prosecution for violations of the Tennessee animal cruelty statute.

Thanks to the Olympics, two other forms of horse abuse have been getting attention.  If you watched the 2012 Modern Pentathlon you know that competitors had to shoot, fence, run, swim, and ride a horse that they had never ridden before.  Because they have to do so much, you know they aren’t going to be particularly great at any of these sports, even though the competition must be gruelling.  These pentathletes certainly aren’t deliberately hurting their horses,  but virtually every rider in the modern pentathlon displayed all the polish of someone who learned to ride three months ago in a crash

The Modern Pentathlon "Couch Potato" Seat

The Modern Pentathlon “Couch Potato” Seat.  At least he stayed the course and is here looking towards the next jump.

course – emphasis on “crash.”  I recall seeing maybe one competent rider who could utilize aids other than the “Holy Shit Brakes,” or the “Save Me Jesus” seat.  These riders choke up on the horse and give zero release – on one occasion causing the horse to flip over backwards – both riders and horses were lucky there were no serious injuries.  Non-abuse is supposed to be a core tenet of riding, and the pentathlon was sheer abuse for many of these horses, who appeared quite competent on their own and should have been allowed to complete the course sans rider.  So give me the ancient pentathlon of discus throwing, javelin, long jump, running, and wrestling over this torture. Riding a horse correctly with proper aids is not easy,  as demonstrated by the fact that these fairly well-rounded,  athletic competitors do not universally manage to achieve good results.

In the dressage world,  Austrian FEI rider Ulrike Prunthaller has been given a nine month ban from competition and a 4,000 euro fine for the application of “painful and illegal training methods” to her horses. Her coach Friedrich Atschko is fined 5,000 euro for conscientiously supporting these methods. The pair was cleared of the charges that they injured their horses with screws, nails, stones and other unwanted artefacts,  due to a lack of evidence.  Such training methods are to be loathed, they give the horses significant pain, suffering and fear.  It can hardly be said that these two were not aware that they were causing suffering.

Rollkur/hyperflexion is another form of abusive submission horses are being subjected to in dressage. Exaggerated flexion of a horse’s poll and neck became popularized in dressage in theRollkur - Clearly the horse is not comfortable! 1980s when Nicole Uphoff of Germany used it as a training technique with her horse. The rider whose name has become most closely associated with the method is  Anky van Grunsven. What makes this particularly abusive is that, at the Olympic level, the competitors UNDERSTAND the anatomy of the horse and they enforce rollkur (or “Low,  Deep,  Round”) anyway.  And if they don’t do it in competition,  they’ve been seen doing it in practice,  away from the arena proper.  Even some of the riders not using rollkur were seen digging in with spurs upon entering the arena for their tests and on through their rides.  The FEI (Fédération Equestre Internationale) and all its associated federations enforce their own rules and standards when it comes to rollkur,  or not!

Abusive training technique - horse's mouth open, clearly in pain

Abusive training technique – head pressed against the wall,  and the horse’s mouth open, tucked-up and clearly in pain

German veterinarian Dr. Gerd Heuschmann, working with German Olympic dressage champion Klaus Balkenhol, created headlines when they publicized the findings of Heuschmann’s anatomical and biomechanical studies of hyperflexion. Heuschmann said that hyperflexion not only fails to develop the proper musculature for upper-level dressage, but the exaggerated flexion can also restrict the horse’s airway. Heuschmann published a book, Tug of War: Classical Versus “Modern” Dressage, detailing his findings and arguing against the practice of hyperflexion. Unfortunately it seems as though rollkur has made it’s way into the Western Pleasure world as well,  where it’s still not humane.

What makes rollkur especially cruel is that it closely resembles, to me, images of

Stress positions are designed to be exhaustingly uncomfortable without being clear "torture."

Stress positions are designed to be exhaustingly uncomfortable without being clear “torture.”

prisoner abuse and torture from the infamous Abu Ghraib prison in occupied Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. They demonstrate extreme examples of a technique broadly defined as “stress positions,” which are designed to “soften-up” prisoners prior to interrogation. Here, prisoners are being forced to artificially lower their heads and adopt unnatural positions of their spines, similar to horses in rollkur.

We must stop seeing a horse as an adversary that must be “broken.”  It seems today lavish gaits,tricks and precision are what is rewarded in competition rather than the quality of the training, the willingness of the horse,  or the dedication to the sport by the rider. Most of us have done something questionable or ill-advised with regard to our horses, or we may have seen a trainer do something that didn’t rough handlingseem right but we didn’t know at the time why it was wrongIf anyone in any equestrian discipline uses some of these techniques on horses with the full knowledge that we are causing them pain or distress, then we are little better than sadist Farida Khan.  Use of the whips, extreme bits,  and harsh spurs are the  surest indicators that all other training has either been neglected, rushed, or poorly executed.  “Hard Riding” is just another type of willful abuse – the reason for it hardly matters.  The horse does not know why we abuse him or for what purpose, only that we do.

The video below is disturbing in that a mini-pony is being abused and exhausted.  The Napoleon Riding Cult has been charged with animal abuse in the Netherlands.

Show Me The Monkey!

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Sculpted by Hugo Rheinhold and first publicly exhibited in 1893 at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, this sculpture both amuses and intrigues. As the monkey contemplates a human skull, he rests on a pile of books--one of which is by Darwin, the naturalist whose theory about evolution is legendary.

Sculpted by Hugo Rheinhold and first publicly exhibited in 1893 at the Great Berlin Art Exhibition, this sculpture both amuses and intrigues. As the chimpanzee contemplates a human skull, he rests on a pile of books–one of which is by Darwin, the naturalist whose theory about evolution is legendary. Technically,  a chimpanzee is not a monkey – the genus Pan is part of the subfamily Hominidae, to which humans also belong,

Written By:  Heather Clemenceau

As most everyone knows, the hearing to establish where Darwin the IKEA monkey lives (at least until the scheduled trial in May) has come and gone.  While Superior Court Justice Brown found that the plaintiff, Darwin’s former owner Yasmin Nakhuda had “credibility issues,” the court of public opinion also played out on Facebook pages supporting Nakhuda and private ownership of exotics.

The hearing itself was prone to the odd verbal blunder or embarrassment that might have prompted a chuckle or two, but many of the Facebook posts  made by exotic animal collectors,  conspiracy theorists,  or other perpetually misguided individuals amused,  entertained,  and exasperated many observers.

While it’s hard not to laugh at the delirious craziness and massive cognitive errors in many comments or posts, many other posts clearly constitute harassment against the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary and its supporters.

The Debate Beginsmonkey_makeup

In late December, the “Darling Darwin Monkey” page is created on Facebook and immediately attracts people who both support and decry exotic ownership in varying degrees.  “Monkey Mom” leaves most of the arguing up her supporters, some of whom were banned from the Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary’s own Facebook page.  Judging by the hysterical shrieks seen on the DDM page, I totally get why they were kicked to the curb.

I realize that lawyers are not biologists, nor do they know anything about the scientific method, so I won’t be too hard on the plaintiff’s lawyer Ted Charney.  Mr. Charney began his opening remarks at the hearing by somewhat likening Darwin, the monkey, to his namesake,  “scientist” Charles Darwin,  who,  according to him,  “invented evolution.”  What Darwin  – a naturalist – actually provided in The Origin of Species, was the theory for how evolution could occur through purely natural forces – “natural selection,” which he posited drove evolution.

The Debate Continues

Nothing travels faster than the speed of light, with the possible exception of a conspiracy theory or logical fallacy, which obey their own special laws.  So when it looks like someone who is armed with facts is about to upset a cherished applecart on the DDM Facebook page, there is only one thing to do – move the goalposts.  The phrase evokes an image of the goal posts in the endzone of a football game which are slowly moved to the back of the endzone as one team threatens to score.  Behind this Facebook squabbling there has been some serious goalpost maneuvering, in an effort to redefine exactly what constitutes “proof.”  One of the best examples of this in action occurs during the discussion of the donated plants in the monkey habitats, where it was constantly claimed  that the plants weren’t actually donated,  or weren’t valued at $3,000, were never placed in the habitats, or just didn’t exist.   Each time proof was provided the goalpost was moved back further in an attempt to confound the truth.

howler monkeysThe Debate Gets Ridiculous

The Facebook page in question continued to offer a veritable treasure chest of “wisdom” in refuting the truth.  It’s a place where no good deed goes unpunished and common sense is not so common.

People making the following types of comments/actions are truly in a race for the bottom.  Check out their “field guide” for dealing with the intellectually honest:

  1. Always make sure to bring minor children into arguments with adults with the blessing of the parent, and then have the kid protest that he’s only a kid when adults call him on his statements.

  2. When adults argue with children in response to the above, insist that arguing with a child is bullying, but if they pre-emptively block that child, call them on it because  “he has a right to be heard.”

  3. Be sure to file a copyright claim against any company or individual selling (Charles) Darwin merchandise!

  4. Do claim that IKEA is at fault for calling Toronto Animal Services to collect Darwin from the parking lot, because we know they should have simply just captured him and instructed shoppers to “claim their stylishly dressed primate at customer service.”

  5. Blame IKEA customers themselves, for they should have put their fears about unknown animals aside and just picked Darwin up and then waited around for his owner to return from shopping. It’s not as though they have anything better to do on a Saturday anyway.

  6. Be sure to let everyone know that a Japanese macaque, who lives in cold climates part of the year, is “cold” because he’s growing a coat.

  7. Don’t forget to compare Canada to Nazi Germany.

  8. Vent your frustration all over Facebook if you see a picture of Darwin alone, but make sure to let everyone know that under no circumstances should he be introduced to another monkey.

  9. Remember to toss out the conspiracy theory that plaintiff Nakhuda’s email was hacked by Sherri Delaney and that’s how emails to/from Lisa Whiteaker were “intercepted.”

  10. Tell Story Book supporters that they must prove their point with supporting documentation, and then tell them not to rely on everything they read.  Then lose the documentation they provide and ask for more.

  11. Make sure everyone knows that the monkeys are simultaneously too hot and too cold in their habitats at Story Book.

  12. Take active steps to harass the sanctuary and express incredulity when people ask why it looks like a fortress with security guards at the front gate.

  13. Complain about monkeys in cages but continue to support exotic animal breeders.

  14. Petition to ask the OSPCA to inspect the property – and once it does, make sure everyone knows that that’s just not good enough.

  15. Bitch that there was not enough enrichment at the sanctuary, and then whine that food being hidden and painting for monkeys is cruel and unusual punishment and exploitation.

  16. Phone in a complaint to the local Fire Department, and when they pass the sanctuary, hint that the Fire Department is either incompetent or in cahoots with the sanctuary.

  17. Keep up the pressure on the logical members of the group by continuing to make shrill accusations about Story Book and Darwin’s “B” status.  Ignore the fact that a high percentage of monkeys are Herp B positive and blissfully disregard Story Book’s own statement that Darwin was tested (by them) and found to be negative.

  18. When it is pointed out that a monkey has been stewing in its own shitty diaper, be sure to make comments about someone’s hair in retaliation.

  19. Lambast Story Book for fundraising whilst simultaneously complaining that they operate on a shoe-string budget.

  20. Harass Story Book’s fundraising partners and sponsors.

  21. Give everyone the false impression that Story Book is illegal/unlicensed while not batting an eye at the prospect of unlicensed, illegal pets.

  22. Criticize Story Book’s founder for not being stylish enough in court, but suggest that she’s spending the charity’s money in high end Toronto department stores.

  23. Set up a poorly thought-out Facebook page to gather recruits to “Free all 24 primates at Story Book Farm Primate Sanctuary,” and when confronted about its mission,  hurriedly take it down.

  24. Be sure to toss in a few claims that someone threatened to rape and murder you for good measure.

  25. Use children to tell Story Book supporters that they are being “investigated.”

tinfoil hatThe Verdict

Justice Brown ultimately rendered his opinion that Darwin should remain at Story Book, in the absence of convincing evidence to the contrary.  The judge heard no evidence of wrongdoing or neglect from the plaintiffs counsel Charney against Story Book, and was not convinced by “expert” testimony that Darwin’s relationship with his owner would be irretrievably damaged.  Nakhuda and her son refused to stand when the judge left the courtroom. There were a few statements made either in closing arguments or interviews after-the-fact that should be filed under the category “too good not to report.”

  1. She doesn’t go around smacking the monkey.”  Statement by plaintiff counsel Ted Charney.  What an unfortunate choice of words.  Truly.
  2. Darwin is not a wild animal, he is a domesticated animal; he was wearing a coat and a diaper.”  Plaintiff’s counsel  Ted Charney.  It’s not appropriate to keep the most stylishly-attired animal in the house if he is biting a twelve-year old.
  3. I speak macaque.”  The defendant’s lawyer,  Kevin Toyne scoffed at the “expert” characterization, deriding as ridiculous Ms. Peggy Rice’s claim that she could “speak macaque.”

Unfortunately it seems as though the media circus is far from over.  A quick Google seach shows that “IKEA monkey” often outranks legitimate IKEA social media comments and websites.  Monkey ownersdrunk_as_monkey from across the US and Canada,  who see this as a “right to own” issue and who have no familiarity with by-laws in Toronto or the Kawarthas, are still harassing this sanctuary.  Sanctuaries are run by hard working people, who hold down jobs outside of the sanctuary, and much of their operating funds come from donations.

The idea that any rescue is looking for additional animals to feed just to spitefully keep animals away from “responsible owners” deserves ridicule.  Story Book played no role in Darwin’s arrival at the sanctuary and without them there would be fewer options for monkeys who retire from research,  or are surrendered by roadside zoos or private owners.

chimp-painterAfter witnessing the dirty tricks campaign against Story Book, I can perhaps co-sign a Stanford geneticist’s study that suggests that human cognition is in decline.  Despite evidence of some humans acting like neanderthals,  we still live in a civilized society.  Every civilized society must strive to insure that the innocent aren’t punished along with the “guilty.” Protecting the innocent from unjust harm as a result of wrongful accusations is a hallmark of a civilized society.  Much of what I’ve seen posted on Facebook pages and handed out to journalists is quite actionable in the tort system, should any of the maligned animal activists choose to make a case for defamation.  And however strongly we feel the instinct to mother wild animals, it is rarely the right response.  To that end,  laws around the world are slowly beginning to reflect the fact that monkeys don’t make good pets.

Please support Story Book Farm on Facebook.

“Rosencrantz: I don’t believe in it anyway.
Guildenstern: What?
Rosencrantz: England.
Guildenstern: Just a conspiracy of cartographers, then? ”

monkey mom love