Thursday, June 29, 2017

This Independence Day, free pets from fireworks

                                                                     NorthStar Vets 
Dogs may be people’s best friends, but the reverse isn’t always true.  For instance, what best friend would bring her canine buddy to a parade on a scorching hot summer day?  What human pal would force his dog to pick her way through throngs of people at a shad or cranberry festival?

And what kind of person would think for a moment that the family dog would like nothing more than accompanying his humans to the July 4 fireworks show?  Ai-yi-yi!

Such people should know these facts: 
 *    Many animals are extremely frightened and stressed at the sight and sound of fireworks

*     Animal control officers see a 30-60% increase in lost pets each year between July 4-6.

  *   July 5 is one of the busiest days of the year for animal shelters.

"Independence Day" ought to be just that for pets too: a day when they can do what they might wish – and that does not include enduring fireworks.

An excellent flyer (produced by the animal control officer in Lawrence Township, NJ, for the health dept. there) shares the facts above as well as the following tips for easing pets’ 4th of July stress. The first one is most important:

1 – Do not take your pets to fireworks displays.

2 – Designate a “safe space” inside for your pets to retreat to during the July 4 festivities. Keep
      windows and doors shut to prevent escape attempts and cut down on anxiety-causing noise.
      Keep curtains shut to block out bright lights.

3 – Play calm music at low volume to block out some of the outside noise.

4 -- Distract your pets from the fireworks chaos with playtime, a favorite toy and treats.
5 – Double check to make sure your pets are wearing their collars with license and/or ID tags
      with current information. Have your pets microchipped.

It should be noted – and applauded too – that only a few years ago, Lawrence residents could, and 
did, bring their dogs to the July 4 fireworks display. Since then: humane enlightenment: it’s not permitted now!

Here’s very recent news about “the first drug approved by the Food and Drug Administration for canine noise aversion (a term encompassing mild discomfort to phobia).”  It’s now available to care for animals who find noisy events like fireworks and thunder storms disturbing to the point of panic and flight:

Wishes for a happy, and safe for all, 4th of July!     


Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Saluting vegans: major animal lifesavers

"There is no meaningful distinction between eating flesh and eating dairy or other animal products. Animals exploited in the dairy industry live longer than those used for meat, but they are treated worse during their lives, and they end up in the same slaughterhouse after which we consume their flesh anyway. There is probably more suffering in a glass of milk or an ice cream cone than there is in a steak." —  Gary L. Francione, vegan American legal scholar and animal rights advocate  

Brussels sprouts fried rice                           
With that, I’ve learned the truth of the familiar expression: “Pride goeth before a fall” – now amended to “Pride goeth before realizing how many ways (of which meat-avoidance is only one) vegans change their lives, for animals’ sakes.”

In other words, I’m a bare beginner, a raw recruit and hardly a hero at trying to save animals’ lives. Vegans are the ones I admire. Their route is truly tough. But lessening animal suffering and helping animals stay alive are what it’s all about.

Veganism is easier than vegetarianism to understand -- if not to live. Meat, fish, poultry, dairy, eggs, and all other animal-based products, like honey, are entirely given up. Any food or product that makes use of animals is rejected.

This often extends to clothing, medicines, and anything else in which animals or animal products are used. For example, vegans wouldn’t use leather handbags, shoes or belts; cosmetics tested on animals; down comforters; medicine capsules or candy (goodbye, “regular” marshmallows) containing gelatin; silk or woolen clothing or that made with dyes made from insects; or fur coats, of course. 
 Seitan pizza               Wikipedia

One info source had it that vegetarianism is usually a diet, while veganism is a lifestyle. Considering all that the typical vegan does without – animal flesh as well as products tested on or derived from animals -- “lifestyle” seems correct, of necessity. Here’s a simple and welcome summary: Vegans just leave animals alone and let them live their lives, period.

So, I get the why of becoming a vegan, but I wonder about the how of it. Does it happen in “one swell foop”?  Or is it more often a gradual process?  

Indicating that some 16 million people are veggie or vegan, one source reports that “69% said they chose to eat a vegan diet to support the ethical treatment of animals. Forty-five percent say they transitioned into veganism over time.”

If that sounded like a cue, it was!  Time to remind readers about the “Food for Life” starter kit, the free aid available on request from Animal Protection League of NJ.  Just visit the website ( and under the APLNJ logo near the top right, enter your email and click on “Request the Kit” -- then watch for the mail.  

(Note to vegan readers: You could help wannabe vegans by commenting here. How about telling us how you got started, what foods you enjoy – tips and recipes welcome-- and how you feel about veganism.)   


Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Lots of ideas about food to chew on

Whether vegetarians and vegans are seen as a mighty -- or a misguided -- minority depends on who you talk to. In both cases, though, the "minority" part is accurate. 

The best estimate I could find indicates that as of 2015, 5% of the United States population was vegetarian and half of those people were vegan. That represents millions of Americans, yet just a tiny proportion of the whole population. (Maybe those meatless Mondays I criticized a post or two ago are more valuable than I thought.) 

Variations on the theme of vegetarianism make for a complicated name game. For instance, lacto-vegetarians consume dairy products, but not eggs; ovo-vegetarians eat eggs, but not dairy products; and lacto-ovo-vegetarians eat eggs as well as dairy products. There’s also pescetarianism, a vegetarian-like diet that avoids meat and poultry but does include fish. And so on, and on . . .
People become vegetarians or vegans for health, religious, political, ethical or sustainability reasons. But learning about factory farming and the heartless treatment of animals who are purpose-bred for human consumption may be a main motivation – or at least I’d like to think that!  I found it easy to abandon meat after reading Peter Singer’s Animal Liberation decades ago.   

Even though my reading for this post made vegetarianism sound comparatively easy, I’ve been happy for many years to forego meat – and a little bit proud of myself too, to tell the truth. Though I still occasionally miss a small range of meat and seafood items (pepperoni pizza haunts my dreams), I’m OK with that. Merely the thought of the last standing rib roast I saw after a meal, cold and bloody, turns my stomach.

Lacking initiative and/or better information at the time I went cold turkey (oops), I’ve since made peanut butter, pasta and pizza my secrets to vegetarian success. Sure, the edibles on my full food list also include veggies and fruit, but the three Ps are my go-to choices.    

why to & how to 

“Food for Life.”  Its name alone is great. Years ago, I wasn’t aware of this plant-based program of the Animal Protection League of NJ. A pity. I’d know so much more now, and eat so much better. 

I like how “life” is ambiguous, meaning either animals’ lives, saved by such a program, or our lives, bettered by healthy eating. And the “food” part has nothing to do with animals – they eat their food and we eat ours, which is not them. Gratifying. 

A tagline for the program -- spelled out on APL's website -- reads “Helping animals and a healthier you!” The help comes in the form of a starter kit you can request. It promotes the health, humane, environmental and economic benefits of a plant-based diet by providing dietary guidelines, meal planning, nutritional information and delicious plant-based recipes.

Read all about it – and request your kit:

(Up next: veganism)

Show your commenting chops

If you’re a vegetarian of any variety, or if you’re moving in that direction, I invite your comments here. What foods do you rely on for meals? What’s your best summer vegetarian recipe? How has vegetarianism been good for you?


Friday, June 16, 2017

Beware of scruple-free dog breeders -- truly 'the pits'

As far as I know, Wally, the mini pit bull mentioned in the last post, is still looking for a loving home. And now I have more info about him to share, thanks to the person who replied to my query after I met Wally in The Dodo. The specs about this little dog-in-need start off with shocking information that you’ll see below: basically, Wally was bred to look the way he does, presumably with any accompanying handicaps. Sweet, huh? 

To describe such a thing, words come readily to mind: fiendish, despicable, reprehensible, cruel, inhumane, greedy . . .  The only word that’s missing, alas, is “criminal.” Animals are not ours to re-design, even though people have been doing that with dogs forever.

Here’s the new info about Wally – who BTW is now located in Stamford, CT. (That’s a drive of about 1- ½ hours from NYC.) 
The fact that people are actually breeding pit bulls in this day and age is mind blowing. Walk into any shelter and you’ll find numbers of wonderful pits waiting to be adopted. But now breeders have taken it one step further and are breeding a new type of pit, an “exotic pit” that resembles a toad.
Yup, you read it right: a toad. These “exotic pits” are extremely low to the ground with big shoulders and massive heads. Recently Pit Stop welcomed Wally to our family and he is the perfect example of one of these dogs. He was bred to look like a “bad ass,” but due to inbreeding, he has a congenital deformity in his leg. Fortunately, these issues will not stop him from living a long, healthy, regular life, like any other dog.
Standing a foot off the ground, Wally is a happy go lucky guy (estimated to be between 4-5 years old) who loves everyone he meets. He doesn’t have a bad bone in his body -- even though he is missing some. Sweet little Wally was born missing vital bones in his legs, which makes walking 20 feet a strenuous activity. He loves to wrestle around with other dogs, but wears out easily.
This little guy needs a home with a minimal number of stairs and a family looking for a couch potato. He’s house-trained (although he'll need a refresher course in any new home) and crate-trained. He does have some puppy antics (such as eating stray socks), so he needs a loving, patient person to give him a chance. 
To sum up Wally’s pros and not-so-pros . . .
= Built in couch-snuggler (after he takes a running leap to jump on the couch)
= Gets along with cats! (But let’s be honest: on his best day he couldn’t catch a 25-year old 3-legged blind cat. He’s just that slow.)
=  Crate- and house-trained (might need a refresher in a new home)
= Rarely barks

 Not so Pros
= He likes to chew things so it’s best to leave hard, non-stuffed toys around for him. And try to keep your socks off the floor! He doesn’t just chew them, he inhales them.
= Stairs are not his friends. He can do 2-3 to go outside, but Wally is not an apartment dog. What goes up does not come down . . . unless he has a human friend to carry him.
= If you’re picturing your furry friend going out for long walks and hikes, Wally is not for you. A walk down a very short driveway has him putting on the breaks. He prefers a backyard -- much easier on his feet. 
If Wally sounds like your ideal future companion, complete an app at


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It’s that time for (what’s in it?) burgers again

So here we are, back in the season of “fire up the grill!” with more talk than ever about hamburgers, hot dogs and ribs. (sigh!) What’s a poor animal-loving vegan or vegetarian to do?  Any point hoping for bona fide alternative and delicious happy-time food  (in other words, fake meat)?

“Mmm, mmm good” -- or not?  Consider the “Impossible Burger,” made of wheat, coconut oil and potatoes with “heme,” a special ingredient contained in blood that makes it taste, smell and sizzle like a beefburger. Will this eco-vegetarian meat-free invention satisfy traditional meat-eaters?  Its creator, who wants to reduce meat consumption for the sake of global ecosystems, hopes so.

Former Stanford biochemist Patrick Brown, who founded “Impossible Foods” to “disrupt the multibillion-dollar market for ground beef without killing cows,” asserts that “You can have uncompromisingly delicious meat without using animals.” A taste-test of his “Impossible Burger” was reported on last January, and with the formula always being improved, the product is moving forward.

That’s only the latest burger substitute (think the Superiority Burger and the Beyond Burger) as other seekers after meat-free meat already know. My first notion of such a possibility came with Michael Specter’s 2011 New Yorker article, “Test-Tube Burgers,” about meat made in a lab.  For some time after that, I stuck to “veggie (heavy on the black beans) burgers” as recognizable, at least. But “garden burgers” can often sound better than they taste. e belieHe

Meanwhile, still other efforts are underway to end animal slaughter for the world’s sake -- if not for the more basic humane principle that animals’ lives count too, and animals do not live to die for our eating pleasure. One idea that seems lame and tame to me is the “meatless Monday” campaign. Probably the hope is that it will expand to more meat-free meal days, but at this point, chickens, cows and pigs could well say, “Thanks for almost nothing” to the concept.
              Jason Henry, NYTimes, 1-17

Pigs in particular need a respite, in the face of rising demand for pig products, starting with the bacon everyone seems to want to bring home. In response, farmers will simply raise more pigs to slaughter, people with "meat mindsets" will happily pay more and the warped view of animals’ purpose will be nurtured.  

something completely different 

And now comes a blog-content exception for Wally, an exceptional dog in need. I couldn’t begin to cover all the animals who need rescue here, thereby turning this blog into a bulletin board. But I have a wild hope someone will read about him here -- and go get him! (He’s in Ardsley, NY, only 50-some miles north of NYC.)

From The Dodo, here’s the story of Wally, known formally as “Walrus”: 

From a spokesperson for Wally, I learned he stands around a foot off the ground and weighs about 50 pounds.  Besides other dogs, he gets along fine with her adult cat and seemed only intrigued by a kitten he met recently, not aggressive.

Wally’s looking. Are you?


Monday, June 5, 2017

A pig in peril – that’s a job for APLNJ !

Among the many things animal activists do, saving a life must rank as a “biggie,” if not the biggest. How satisfying: to know that because of your efforts, a sentient being is still alive today. 

Not only a sentient being, but a very large one too – about 900 pounds worth. A sizable hog and former resident of Holmdel’s Longstreet Living History Farm, Elmo was not just threatened with slaughter last month, but he had already been transported to the site where it would happen.

That’s how close he came to death. And why?  Basically because he wasn’t needed anymore. He could no longer be bred, so his “job” at Longstreet Farm was gone and he had to go too. 

Today, Elmo is alive and well at Associated Humane Societies in Tinton Falls because of a lifesaving intervention by Animal Protection League of NJ. Organization supporters phoned, wrote and/or went to Longstreet Farm, then to the “living market” (slaughter site) in Marlboro, to save the six-year old pig.

Tipped off to the deadly plan for Elmo only the evening before, APLNJ programs director Janine Motta appealed for help to counter it – and volunteers came through. (All in a day’s work for Motta, with her finger on many pulses around the state and her commitment to animals in need wherever she learns of them.) 
No argument: Alexus, Audra, Laurie, Lorelle, Marissa, Phyllis and Suzanne – who joined Motta for a rescue early the next morning -- were true friends of animals. Despite arriving before the farm opened, they learned Elmo was already en route . . . to death.  At that, half the rescuers hurried to Marlboro.  

Talks that followed led to the park system’s finally agreeing to allow Elmo’s move to a safe place where he won’t be exploited or threatened with death. Next, APL plans to talk with park officials about Longstreet Farm’s practice of breeding animals, only to send the unwanted, older, "useless" animals to slaughter. “Elmo’s scenario” will no doubt occur again to chickens, horses, cows, sheep. . . . 

(BTW, this practice may be common at other NJ living history farms. Why not just show modern people how farming worked long ago, but waive the historical accuracy when it comes to slaughtering the animals who were part of the re-enaction? A tip of the figurative hat – and coverage here—to whoever finds out how many such farms there are in NJ, where live animals are also used – and in jeopardy.)

As Motta said in her follow-up note to APL volunteers: “How many times have you been told ‘You can't save all the animals in the world’? Well, today your actions made a world of difference for this one animal! Thank you.”  

Second the motion.

Steps for publishing comments 

A couple posts ago when I mentioned an easier way to comment here, I erred in referring to “anyone” instead of “anonymous.” Here’s how the whole commenting process works:

If you’ve read a post and have something to say about it, simply scroll down to the end and click on the word “comments.” Then in the box under “Post a comment,” type your message. Next, click “select profile” next to “Comment as,” and you’ll see “Anonymous” as the last option. If you click on it, that’s the only “name” that will show with your comment.

Right above “Anonymous” is “Name/URL” – the 2nd way to comment without identifying yourself any more than you want to. Click “Name/URL,” and fill in any name you wish -- your own, in whole or part, or a made-up name. (Leave URL blank.)

Finally, “Preview” your comment if desired, and click “Publish.” That’s it.  

I hope you'll give commenting another try.