Sunday, November 18, 2018

To all animals: holiday season wishes


Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene, 2015

by Craig Santos Perez

Thank you, instant mashed potatoes, your bland taste 
makes me feel like an average American. Thank you, 

incarcerated Americans, for filling the labor shortage 
and packing potatoes in Idaho. Thank you, canned 

cranberry sauce, for your gelatinous curves. Thank you, 
Ojibwe tribe in Wisconsin, your lake is now polluted 

with phosphate-laden discharge from nearby cranberry 
bogs. Thank you, crisp green beans, you are my excuse 

for eating apple pie à la mode later. Thank you, indigenous 
migrant workers, for picking the beans in Mexico’s farm belt, 

may your children survive the season. Thank you, NAFTA, 
for making life dirt cheap. Thank you, Butterball Turkey, 

for the word, butterball, which I repeat all day butterball
butterballbutterball because it helps me swallow the bones 

of genocide. Thank you, dark meat, for being so juicy 
(no offense, dry and fragile white meat, you matter too). 

Thank you, 90 million factory-farmed turkeys, for giving 
your lives during the holidays. Thank you, factory-farm 

workers, for clipping turkey toes and beaks so they don’t scratch 
and peck each other in overcrowded, dark sheds. Thank you, 

genetic engineering and antibiotics, for accelerating 
their growth. Thank you, stunning tank, for immobilizing 

most of the turkeys hanging upside down by crippled legs. 
Thank you, stainless steel knives, for your sharpened 

edge and thirst for throat. Thank you, de-feathering 
tank, for your scalding-hot water, for finally killing the last

still-conscious turkeys. Thank you, turkey tails, for feeding 
Pacific Islanders all year round. Thank you, empire of 

slaughter, for never wasting your fatty leftovers. Thank you, 
tryptophan, for the promise of an afternoon nap;

I really need it. Thank you, store-bought stuffing, 
for your ambiguously ethnic flavor, you remind me 

that I’m not an average American. Thank you, gravy, 
for being hot-off-the-boat and the most beautiful 

brown. Thank you, dear readers, for joining me at the table 
of this poem. Please join hands, bow your heads, and repeat

after me: “Let us bless the hands that harvest and butcher 
our food, bless the hands that drive delivery trucks 

and stock grocery shelves, bless the hands that cooked 
and paid for this meal, bless the hands that bind 

our hands and force-feed our endless mouth. 
May we forgive each other and be forgiven.”

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Copyright © 2016 by Craig Santos Perez. “Thanksgiving in the Anthropocene, 2015” originally appeared in Rattle. Reprinted (in https://www.poets.org) with permission of the author. 


(About the poet and the poem: Craig Santos Perez, a native Chamorro from Mongmong, Guam, writes about themes such as Pacific life, immigration, ancestry, colonialism, and diaspora.
Anthropocene: relating to or denoting the current geological age, viewed as the period during which human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and the environment.)


Wishing happy, healthy holidays to all animals!  Will return next month or next year . . . .

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Sunday, November 11, 2018

Mercer county deer ‘massacre’ underway in our backyards



Thanks to a recent letter to the editor in the Times of Trenton (“. . . deer hunt a ‘massacre’”), I learned that a four-month long deer hunt is underway in Mercer County Park, a popular destination where area residents can enjoy myriad activities (typically not including slaughter). 

All deer “management” decisions for the park -- who can kill deer, when and with what weapons -- were reportedly made in August, yet opposition to the hunt seems to be building as more people learn it’s underway right now, close to home.  Wondering how and where hunt plans were publicized, some say they simply didn’t know about it.  They also wonder if and how they might have spoken against the hunt before decisions were made.

(A Mercer County spokesperson indicates that the public was informed of deer management plans “through a variety of communications, including signs that have been posted in the park, a Park Commission press release, social media messages, and a public information meeting held at the park on Oct. 18.” )
  
The Park Commission’s website provides more information on deer management, including a FAQ section that provides reasons and rules for the hunt at Mercer County Park -- and Mercer Meadows (in my own backyard) and Baldpate Mountain, as well.  

Here’s the hunt schedule for Mercer County Parks:

In most cases, hunters will use bows, with firearms permitted at specified times. From sunrise to sunset for five days a week (six, starting in January) through Feb. 16, hunters can “harvest” deer.  They’re required to hunt from elevated tree stands (to “ensure the trajectory of projectiles is downward”); hunting from the ground is not permitted.  

There will be “no hunting activity near active recreation areas,” and the licensed hunters who were selected for this “deer management” activity must abide by a 75-foot safety zone.  Park visitors are advised to wear bright colors and proceed with caution.  (Sounds like lots of fun, doesn’t it?)

Hunters are “asked to cover their harvest with a tarp when transporting in the park to avoid exposure to more sensitive park goers.”  Such delicacy, given that hunters are allowed to bait the deer -- an extremely unsportsmanlike practice -- shoot them and then “dress” the dead deer (oops! “harvest”!) before leaving the park.  
So “management” is one common euphemism for deer population-control-by-death.  The word may suggest deliberative consideration of alternative ways proceed, but that’s not necessarily so.   (The Park Commission website describes the hunt as “the most cost effective and reliable method for controlling deer populations.” [italics added])  And then, as above, “harvest,” an upbeat euphemism for "kill,'' invariably appears.

If you object to deer being “managed” by being killed in Mercer County Park, what can you do about it?  Talk, write, donate.  Repeat.

First, you can sign the Change.org petition against this hunt. Here’s the link: https://www.change.org/p/lucylle-walter-we-oppose-hunting-in-mercer-county-park-nj

Next, with those who may join you once they know, talk up your objections to this mode of “deer management.”  Let the county officials behind the hunt know of your objections.  Here are the people who need to know what you think of a deer hunt in Mercer County Park, as well as Mercer Meadows and Baldpate Mountain (with thanks to MP for specifics):

COUNTY EXECUTIVE
Brian Hughes    bhughes@mercercounty.org

MERCER COUNTY BOARD of CHOSEN FREEHOLDERS
Lucylle Walter, President   lwalter@mercercounty.org
John Camino, VP              jcimino@mercercounty.org
Ann Cannon                      acannon@mercercounty.org
Pasquale Colavita            pcolavita@mercercounty.org
Samuel Frisby                   sfrisby@mercercounty.org
Andrew Koontz                akoontz@mercercounty.org
Nina Melker                      nmelker@mercercounty.org

MERCER COUNTY PARK COMMISSION
Aaron T Watson, Executive Director.             awatson@mercercounty.org
Anthony Cucchi, Superintendent of Parks.   acucchi@mercercounty.org
Joe Pizza, Director of Operations.                   jpizza@mercercounty.org

And finally, write letters to the editor; look for, or organize, tabling, meetings and demos; and speak up on social media.

Take action and keep taking it!

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Sunday, November 4, 2018

One last step: bug the Gov to sign 'Nosey's Law'

 Nosey in sanctuary                                    Save Nosey Now pic
What do you say after Nosey’s Law is approved by NJ’s general assembly -- as happened last week?  Now that the bill has passed in both houses of the legislature, you say, “Sign it into law, please!” to Governor Phil Murphy.  Phone his office (609-292-6000) early and often with that message!

Why?

Because, as specified in the bill’s text, A1923/S1093 would Nosey“prohibit the use of elephants and other wild or exotic animals in a traveling animal act. (“Traveling animal act” means any performance which requires an animal to be transported to or from the location of the performance in a mobile or traveling housing facility,” with “mobile or traveling housing facility” meaning “a vehicle, including a truck, trailer, or railway car, used to transport or house an animal used for performance.”) 

More important yet: “Performance” means any animal act, carnival, circus, display, exhibition, exposition, fair, parade, petting zoo, presentation, public showing, race, ride, trade show, or similar undertaking in which animals perform tricks, give rides, or participate as accompaniments for the entertainment, amusement, or benefit of a live audience.

If this bill is signed into law, New Jersey would become the first state to comprehensively ban wild animal acts in traveling shows/circuses. And that, very simply, is great news for wild or exotic animals, who for too long have been forced into unnatural and inhumane lives of “performance servitude” for the pleasure (and profit!) of humans.

                          Save Nosey Now pic
Originally sponsored by now-retired state Senator Raymond Lesniak, the bill reached then-Governor Chris Christie, who didn’t sign it.  The current sponsor, Assemblyman Raj Mukherji (D-Hudson), says of it: “These are wild, endangered animals, and they should be cared for according to the highest ethical standards to ensure the survival of their species.” 

That’s fine, but I’d have preferred his stopping at “the highest ethical standards.”  Endangered or not, survival of species or not, no animal deserves to live life as an involuntary entertainer -- with all the horrors that involves.

Although the governor can sign the bill at any time in the next 45 days, the sooner the better because it would take effect immediately.  So please phone Gov. Murphy frequently (609-292-6000), saying something like "My name is . . . and I support A1923/S1093, known as "Nosey's Law."  The governor should sign this bill to protect animals, promote public safety and assure responsible entertainment that does not include wild or exotic animals."  
  
(With thanks to the Animal Protection League of NJ and the Humane Society of the US--NJ for ongoing efforts on behalf of Nosey’s Law)  
  
We're ‘never home alone’   

Probably like a lot of kids, I grew up believing that the only good bug in my home was a dead bug, as in “Eek! a thousand-legger/a waterbug/a spider!” -- to be followed by a squashed bug.  I’ve gained knowledge and sensitivity since then, coming to know about sentience and “good” bugs and (with a few key exceptions, like house flies, mosquitoes and ticks), live and let live.  

Today, the idea behind a citizen-science project called “Never Home Alone” is snap it, don’t squash it!  That is, photograph the insect co-residents of our homes to share with Dr. Rob Dunn, a North Carolina applied ecologist who aims to catalog the “spiders, insects and other many-legged creatures that live indoors with us.” 

Dunn's investigations have already turned up myriad species of spiders, including beneficial varieties and even some new ones.  Beyond spiders, think: booklice, beetles, flies, and (gulp!) bedbugs.   

Those still squeamish about sharing quarters with insects should know that use of pesticides   can aid in the evolution of pesticide-resistant cockroaches and bedbugs -- not a nice thought.
Could one picture be worth a thousand squirts?


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Sunday, October 28, 2018

Goodbye, northern white rhinos; hello, Nosey’s Law

                                     Sudan                                        Nova pic 
This is, or rather, this was Sudan, a male northern white rhinoceros, who died on March 22.  At 45 years of age, Sudan was the last male white rhino alive.  He is survived by Najin, his daughter, and Fatu, his granddaughter.

Wild to begin with, Sudan died in captivity at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya.  His rare and endangered status required him to live there for 24/7 protection from poachers, the infamous killers-for-profit of elephants and rhinos for their tusks or horns.

“Rhinoceros”: It’s a funny word that can be hard to spell, referring to a most unusual-looking, even prehistoric-seeming animal.  Once there were more than 30 species of rhino, today’s remaining five (in Africa and Asia) are all endangered.   

After the elephant, the white rhinoceros is the second largest land mammal in the world.  Of the two subspecies, northern and southern, the southern is larger, sometimes weighing over two tons and standing six feet tall.  In spite of their name, both black and white rhinos have gray skin.

False ideas about the medicinal value of their two horns -- made of keratin, like fingernail material -- attract poachers.  Together with war and habitat loss, they have accounted for the extinction of northern white rhinos in the wild.  In 1960 there were some 2,000 of them in east and central African grasslands; by 2008, there were none.  All that remained were zoo animals, including Sudan, captured in 1975.  
  
The Last Three
Around the time Sudan died, an imposing 17-foot tall sculpture was unveiled in NYC.  “The Last Three” represents Sudan and his family, the last surviving northern white rhinos.  In 2017, the sculpture team of Gillie and Marc had vowed to create a work in homage to the white rhinos they had seen at Ol Pejeta Conservancy, in Kenya.  It was installed at Astor Place in the East Village in mid-March this year, and just a few days later, Sudan died.  

And now there are two.  

Symbolic rhinos

Decades ago, before their status became endangered, rhinos were ostensibly the subject of a Broadway play, Rhinoceros, starring Zero Mostel.  And what a play: timely then; timely now for sure.  

One by one, characters in the show turn into rhinoceroses. On stage, while their appearance stays the same, they become part of a conformist mass movement marked by “mob-think.”

One “Everyman” character looks on with horror as those around him turn into monsters. Although he begins to question himself, he ultimately decides to fight “rhinoceritis,” crying “I’m not capitulating!”

This 1959 “absurdist” play by Eugene Ionesco doesn’t seem at all absurd today, does it?

Here’s hoping for Nosey’s Law

Monday at noon, NJ Assembly members will vote on "Nosey's Law" (A1923), the bill that prevents circuses and traveling shows from using exotic species in this state.  Countless advocates and animal protection organizations hope for a decisive “YES” vote.

Named for the African elephant who was abused for decades, Nosey was finally seized by authorities in Alabama and sent to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. There, despite fragile  health, she’s finally living in peace with other African elephants, free from exploitation.  (For Nosey's sad life history, visit http://savenoseynow.org/ )

The bill’s name may sound familiar because both the NJ Senate and Assembly passed it during the last legislative session, but Governor Chris Christie pocket-vetoed it.  Then in June ’18, the Senate voted unanimously for  S1093.  Assuming the Assembly passes the bill, it will land on Governor Phil Murphy’s desk for -- we hope -- signing into law: a boon for elephants, tigers, lions, bears, and other animals forced to perform in traveling circuses.


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Friday, October 19, 2018

NAPs turn up everywhere -- at home & in the wild


The couple’s family consists of two cats and four dogs.  Some of these pets began as fosters, who stayed, and some have special needs.  All six are loving and loved. 
   
When two relatives visited for the first time, Uncle X said, “We’re not animal people, so would you mind putting your pets away?”

What would you say to that? 

No, I don’t know what was said, or done, in response to that request. I was speaking with a new acquaintance who had already wowed me with the story of her family. “Kim” is a health care professional, but much more important, she’s “an animal person.” And like me, she distrusts people who say or behave like not-animal people.  

Talking with Kim caused me to remember the NAPs (not-animal-people) in my life who inevitably disappointed me, or worse.  Compassion, kinship as living beings, appreciation of  beauty, respect for qualities. . .  It’s hard to understand how some human animals can lack such feelings toward (other) animals. They seem somehow incomplete.

Guard against NAPs!

When wrinkles are good

                                   Milinkovitch pic
African elephants of both sexes benefit from their wrinkles! As elephants age, their skin thickens and cracks.  But since they don’t sweat, those skin cracks retain 10 times more moisture than a flat surface, helping elephants to regulate body temperature, deter parasites and retain sun-blocking mud.

This info about keeping cool and staying healthy comes from Michel Milinkovitch, an evolutionary biologist, who used computer modeling and studied elephant skin samples to  reach these conclusions.

. . . and captivity is extra bad

Happy, a 47-year old Asian elephant, has lived alone in the Bronx Zoo for the last 12 years of her 40 year residency there.  Fighting within the captive population had led to their separation, causing Happy’s solitary existence -- painfully far from how wild elephants live.

To date, activists’ efforts have failed to move Happy to an elephant sanctuary where she can make new friends.  That may be so because their campaign has to do with “nonhuman rights” --granting the same legal protections as humans -- a cause that has not yet caught on in the courts.
 
Could Happy ultimately become happier if advocates simply claimed, and proved, inhumane treatment; if they showed that living alone in a zoo bears no resemblance to how an Asian elephant would live in the wild?  That seems like reason enough to me.

Never forget elephants

Tusk-free female                                       Adoo pic
Elephants worldwide are still in jeopardy.  Their tusks feed the unabated desire for ivory trinkets that are more valued than the lives of these iconic, intelligent, highly social creatures. There could yet come a time when elephants no longer live on this planet; isn’t that a fearful thought, especially if human greed and cruelty make it happen?

But as reported in a captivating story about them, some elephants have evolved into tusk-free animals.  If that were to happen widely and quickly enough, could it be an answer, if not the answer? Such an evolutionary change might save elephants. But should it happen that elephants become creatures without tusks?  

For me, anything Natalie Angier writes about is ultra-readable because of this journalist-artist’s diction and wit.  Here, she writes about elephants without tusks. 

Animal holidays

Sorry not to have run this poster earlier, but it’s never too late to walk your dog or put your chubby pet on a diet or love up black dogs (and cats!) or salute the vet tech(s) in your life.  And please remember Halloween on October 31, another important date for animals: it’s a nasty trick to let them eat any “treats.”


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Thursday, October 11, 2018

Of dogs ancient & modern & a governor who broke his promise


“I knew I needed to help it. . . . I didn’t have anything to cut the line,
            so I used my teeth.” --a mailman who rescued a chipmunk
                                    trapped with wire netting wrapped tightly around his neck **


Today, at least for starters, we’re going to the dogs.  No, we won’t take on PetSmart for the numerous fatalities that have occurred after pets were groomed at various PS stores. That sad story calls for more investigation than I can do, and then, with luck, licensure laws for pet groomers and strict supervision and record-keeping in every store -- as well as caring pet parents who ask questions and make their presence felt.

No, this has to do with what I’ll call “native American dogs,” or canines who long inhabited the US, along with Native Americans.  Estimated to have been here for more than 10,000 years, those early dogs, already domesticated, were thought to have traveled here with people who crossed the Bering land bridge.

Then came the Europeans, bringing their own dogs.  And that was the beginning of the end of native American dogs, who left virtually no genetic trace of their existence in modern-day dogs.

Zeus
What happened to those ancient canines? Theories vary: eaten by starving colonists, who may also have killed them to keep their dogs’ bloodlines pure, or felled by infectious diseases -- which made big dents in human populations at the same time. 

In short, as a paper published in Science put it, the 15th century arrival of Europeans in the Americas “didn’t just affect the lives of humans already living here, it also took a devastating toll on their pets.”

I won’t excerpt from my second dog story, this one about Juliet, a beloved family dog.  Instead, I’ll just hope you “read it and weep” for all it says about love. 

Murphy’s bear hunt

Despite protests, demonstrations, billboards and aerial messages, phone calls, letters and in-person appeals, Governor Phil Murphy allowed this week’s bear hunt to proceed.  And some hunters no doubt deem it a huge success: they got their trophies, even if those trophies were helpless bear cubs.

You read it right: killing bear cubs is part of New Jersey’s hunt, a shameful-but-legal activity unique only to this state and Alaska. 

“By failing to protect mother bears with cubs, and even permitting the hunting of black bear cubs themselves, the New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife [DFW] has created an especially unethical, unsporting, unpopular and controversial policy,” according to the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).

This year’s bear hunt will resume for a week in December.  Thanks, Governor Murphy, for permitting a horrible, inhumane pursuit to continue.  At this point, our phone calls to the governor’s office (609-292-6000) should castigate him for allowing bear slaughter on top of reneging on his pledge to stop it!  And there's one more protest to come. . . . 

Well, it beats a peacock
 
Earlier this week in Florida, Frontier Airlines authorized police to remove a passenger with an “emotional support squirrel” when she refused to leave the plane. Although the woman had noted her plan to bring an emotional support animal aboard, squirrels and other rodents don’t qualify for the job, according to Frontier.  

Obviously, airline officials are unaware of the myriad Dodo stories about people who bond with squirrels, opening their hearts and homes to them.  And those of us who covertly feed (unsalted!) peanuts in shells to neighborhood squirrels know just where that woman was coming from.    


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Wednesday, October 3, 2018

True ‘entitlement’ = black bears living free from hunts


Talk about “entitlement”!  Currently all over the media, that word describes the attitude of an unmentionable judicial candidate and those like him, who expect certain (good) things to happen for them just because they’re who they are and from wherever they’re from. 

Phooey!  

Equally wrong is the “entitled” attitude of some hunters, who apparently believe they have the right to kill wildlife -- specifically, New Jersey’s black bears.

A hunter’s letter in last Friday’s Times of Trenton referred to “a very small minority of people” who pushed the governor to close public lands to bear hunters.  Correction: those who oppose bear hunts are a significant majority of NJ’s residents, while hunters, in fact, make up “a very small minority.” 

The letter writer also used the infamous euphemism “harvest” in referring to bears (including cubs and their mothers) who were slaughtered in the past.  Oh, please.  And she grossly exaggerated the safety “risks” of bears, while giving no credence at all to the potential success of using non-lethal means to manage the bear population.  (I say “potential” only because such tools as bear-proof trash cans have not been put into practice on any widespread basis).

Finally, she urged others like her to help “take back our right to hunt bear(sic) on public land.” 

                                                                            Bill Lea pic
Double Phooey! 

New Jersey's bear hunt has always been a trumped(oops)-up trophy hunt. This year, instead of ending the hunt altogether, as he promised to do during his run for governor, Gov. Murphy banned bear hunting on public land only.  His pandering cop-out was an attempt to satisfy both animal advocates and hunters, but obviously, it didn’t work.  Neither side is satisfied -- least of all, if they could vote, our black bears.

All of which is why the Bear Group (“NJ’s official bear protection organization”) of the Animal Protection League of NJ plans two protests this month:  (1) next Monday, October 8, 11 am-1 pm; and (2) the following Saturday, October 13, 11 am-1 pm at the Whittingham Wildlife Management Area, 150 Fredon Springdale Road, Fredon, New Jersey.
  
(For more info: 973-513-3219; info@savenjbears.com;facebook.com/SaveNJBears.)

It’s never too late to hope the governor will see the errors of his ways -- they’re all around him --  and extend his bear hunt ban to private land as well as public.  Our black bears deserve our pouring on the contacts and appeals in every way possible.  Please send your messages and come to the protests!

Call the Governor: 609-292-6000; Tweet: @GovMurphy #savenjbears




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