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Archive for the ‘animal welfare’ Category

la plata dolphin

If you’ve been online in the past 24 hours, you’ve probably seen this image.

It’s of a young La Plata* dolphin that was plucked from the ocean at Santa Teresita beach in Argentina. Apparently, two were captured, and the beachgoers rushed around to get selfies with them.

As you might expect, one of these poor dolphins died, and its body was left to rot on the beach.

This has resulted in the greatest animal outrage online since that lion was killed in Zimbabwe last summer.

Although one can find rational defenses of limited lion hunting, one does don’t exist in this case.

This is simple human selfishness run amok.

Both of these animals suffered greatly for these selfies, and one died an agonizing death.

It’s just unacceptable.

But media does have some blame in this. The dolphin has been so glamorized that people will often do insane things to have some connection with them.

It’s a shame that this two creatures suffered so much from our love.

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*La Plata dolphins are sometimes called Franciscana dolphins.

 

 

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There is nothing brilliant about the cruelty of a “dancing” Asiatic black bear.

I’m sure there are teachings in Islam against abusing animals, but even if there weren’t, this is disgusting and evil.

 

 

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cecil

The story of Cecil the lion is one I’ve avoided.  I absolutely abhor stories that involve one animal cause celebre, be it Marius the Danish giraffe or some abused dog.

I dislike animal cruelty. I dislike poachers even more.

So you will not be getting any defenses of Dr. Walter Palmer from me.

But we’ve been dealing with poaching in Africa for a long time now, and that is not the part of the story I find disturbing.

What I find disturbing is that social media has turned into a giant lynch mob.

Vox reports:

When an American dentist named Walter Palmer killed a beloved lion named Cecil, the social media platforms that allowed outraged web users to spread the story also enabled them to do more than just fume. It gave them the power to act on their anger, to reach into Palmer’s life and punish him for what he’d done, without having to wait for the wheels of more formal justice to turn.

Web users uncovered Palmer’s personal information, including about his family, and published it online. They went after his business, a private dental practice, posting thousands of negative reviews on Yelp and other sites. The practice has since shut down. Users also went after professional websites that host his profile, leading the sites to remove his information. On Twitter and on his practice’s public Facebook page, people made threats of physical violence.

This should look familiar: It is the same set of tactics that has been used in online harassment campaigns such as the “Gamergate” movement that targeted women in technology, or the seemingly endless online harassment conducted against female journalists. It is a growing trend of internet mob justice, one that often bleeds into real-world harassment with real-world consequences.

It’s actually pretty similar to Gamergate.

This is the mob, and because the mob has projected onto Dr. Palmer the worst possible evil, it is totally okay to be an asshole to bring about justice.

Of course, this also gets mixed in with calls to ban all lion-hunting, and at the risk of getting the same treatment as Palmer, I’m going to say that this is a very short-sighted reaction.

Let’s get some facts on the table first.

Lions are not easy animals to live with. They are huge predators that have killed people, but they also do enjoy eating cattle.

If you’re a poor farmer in Sub-Saharan Africa, you are not going to like lions very much. You’re not going to be sitting by the campfire at night in awe of the roaring lions. You’re not going to be proud that all these Westerners love lions so much that they will raise an internet lynch mob to get someone who poached one.

Instead, you’re probably sitting by the fire with a gun or a spear, hoping that the damned things don’t show up an take a calf.

And you certainly hope they don’t kill your children while they sleep.

Most of the people engaging in the lynch mob who are also excoriating hunting have never lived anywhere near large carnivores. Even those of us who live near black bears in the East Coast honestly don’t have a clue. Black bears are timid creatures that have killed very few people in recorded history of this continent.

We have no clue what it’s like to live with large predators. Predators would be a constant worry for our ancestors living in hunter-gatherer camps, and even in Medieval and Early Modern Europe, predation by wolves was a constant worry.

Most Westerners live in cities, and the city has an insulating affect. Most people have never seen an animal kill anything, unless they see it on television.

And what most people see on television is pretty sanitize. Sir David Attenborough readily admitted that the most gory parts of predatory sequences had to be clipped from his documentaries.

Most Westerners think of lions as being really big cats.

Which is exactly what they are.

However, even a domestic cat can be a fierce predator to a mouse or a songbird.

And when you scale up a cat to the size of a lion, you are the mouse or the songbird.

We have a very distorted view of what lions are about.  The Lion King posits that the lion cub gets presented by the mandrill on top of the big cliff and all the subject animals, which are mostly things that lions eat, are just elated to see their new prince.

In truth, most of these animals would be avoiding a lion with cubs, and in the case of African buffalo, they would be actively seeking out the cub to trample it to death.

It is certainly true that lion numbers have dropped in recent years.

In 1975, there were an estimated 250,000 lions in Africa. There are now 25-30,000.

Were those lions all killed by trophy hunters?

Even if we accept that some were, there is just no way there are that many trophy hunters in the world who would kill that many lions.

No, what really got the lions is that in many countries where they are found populations are on the rise, but the economies are not growing fast enough to keep up with the population growth. Millions of people are being forced to farm and raise stock in the last redoubts of lions, and the lions start to cause problems.

If your’e a poor person living in Africa, you have every reason to want lions dead. Lion poisoning is becoming quite common in Kenya and in other parts of Africa. Poisoning does in entire prides of lions, but it takes care of the problem from the perspective of the poor farmer.

If we Westerners truly value lions, then we have to think of ways to make the lives of people living in those regions better. One way to do this is to create some sort of economic value for lions, and the best way to do this is to allow some limited, managed hunting.

Now, hunting like this can be abused, and it is certainly true that a lot of the money spent on this kind of hunting doesn’t stay in the communities, but it is still enough of a payment to give people incentive to keep lions alive.

Managed hunting, by definition, is not the same kind of hunting that seeks to make animals extinct. It is a kind of hunting that we’d recognize in our own country, especially if we paid some attention to the conservation policies of Theodore Roosevelt. Roosevelt began a conservation revolution in this country. Before his time, we saw wild animals as either commodities or nuisances. When we began to conserve them as game animals, they were seen as creatures with value that extended beyond that animal’s life.

Using this conservation tool, we’ve seen all sorts of species rebound from near extinction. The cougar that was wiped out in the East is making a strong comeback in the West, where it is still hounded with strictly regulated hunting (except in California, where the cougars carry off dogs on a pretty regular basis).

But the US is rich country, and most of Africa is not. Land and resources are being stretched.

If we do want lions to exist, we either say that the lives of Africans don’t matter or we say that we have to use trophy hunting as way of generating funds and adding value to the people who otherwise would be better off without them.

No country in Africa would ever set up such a draconian conservation policy that would deny people the right to graze their cattle on public lands or on private property. They might deny it in a park, but outside the park, they are much more likely to look the other way if a lion gets killed.

Westerners look upon the lion situation with self-righteous ignorance. We can’t be bothered to elect politicians who will actually do a thing about climate change, which is driving extinctions left and right, and we can’t be bothered to stop having children or curbing our rapacious desire for new stuff.

But we can tell the poor nations of Africa that they must save their lions– just don’t ask us to pay for it!

Cecil the lion was named for Cecil Rhodes. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps you’ve heard of the Rhodes Scholar program at Oxford that was funded through his estate. Rhodes was champion of British imperialism and a diamond magnate in Southern Africa. He was instrumental in getting a chunk of southeastern Africa added to the British Empire which were called “the Rhodesias”. Rhodes wound up ruling that region as a part of the British South Africa Company. Yes. It was essentially a corporate colony, which Rhodes as the CEO. The region of  the Rhodesias became a land of white landowners with large numbers of landless native Africans working on the plantations and mines.Southern Rhodesia became independent under the racist regime of Ian Smith. Dylann Roof, the Charleston church shooter, would pose with two flags on his jacket. One of these was Ian Smith’s Rhodesian flag, and Rhodesia, Ian Smith, and Cecil Rhodes have long captured the imagination of white supremacists

So Westerners have named a lion in honor of a brutal imperialist.

The West has grown fat off of Africa. First with the slaves. Then with the gold and the ivory and the diamonds.

And now when the Africans try to live in basket-cases we’ve left behind, we excoriate them for killing lions. We excoriate them for poisoning them, and we excoriate them when they try to raise money for conservation by selling a few tags to trophy hunters.

The West has forgotten what it’s done to Africa.

And the West is now so far removed from that natural world and its processes that it cannot have a reasoned moral discussion about how to best save the African lion.

It’s all turpitude masquerading as morality.

Cecil the lion was a killer. He killed game animals to survive. When took over his pride, he killed his predecessor’s cubs in order to bring the lionesses into estrus again.

He was not Mufasa or Simba.

He was a great cat who lived by the tooth and the claw, and he was magnificent. He lived a life far better than most dogs in North America, who spend their days pacing behind closed fences. He lived, breathed, fought, and fucked.

A poacher killed him, but if a poacher had not, he probably would have been killed an in an even more horrific manner. Male lions don’t rule over their prides forever. Soon or later, another male lion or a coalition of males would have overthrown him, and he would have either been killed by them or died from his wounds. Or he would have starved to death as he tried to eke out an existence on the edge of pride territories.

He may have been already a victim of an overthrow, and maybe that was the reason he was so easily lured out of Hwange National Park so easily.

The poacher may have actually done the old boy a favor.

What irks me most, though, is that we now live in this bizarre world that combines ignorance of wildlife management issues with the disgusting behavior of a lynch mob.

It’s more sound and fury, but this does signify something.

Western man is a totally adrift in this world.

He will either burn us all up or blow us all up, because he’d rather be self-righteous than think critically.

And that scares the hell out of me.

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Scottish terriers by the tail

Crufts always brings about controversies, but this year, I truly do dream of the days when best of breed bulldogs and Clumber spaniels failed mandatory health checks and dog fancy had a collective meltdown all across the worldwide web.

This year, the big controversies have largely been outside the general interests of this blog. There are reports that an Irish setter was poisoned at Crufts, but this is such a serious accusation that I will leave it alone. We don’t know all the facts. If we were dealing with a dog poisoner, then we’re dealing with a vile person.

And I’m not really interested in talking about truly vile people. Individual malevolence is certainly worthy of scorn, but I’m a structuralist. I’m much more interested in the collective evils that plague society, and in this case, I’m interested in the collective problems with the dog fancy.

Crufts didn’t give us much of that this year, but at the Best in Show judging and presentation, two things happened that got large numbers of people riled.

The one I thought would be more consequential was when a PETA activist stormed the floor with a sign that read “Mutts Against Crufts.” If this had been Westminster, I’m pretty sure we would all still be talking about him. I am not a big fan of PETA, and I’m not sure that this publicity stunt really put the purebred dog reform movement in a good light.

But PETA is not interested in having a rational discussion. It is interested in the theater.

Now, the reason I say that this PETA demonstration would have stolen show if this had been Westminster is because it was overshadowed by another scandal.

This scandal never would have raised the slightest bit of attention in the North American dog show world. That’s because this second scandal involved a handling practice that is so common in North American dog shows that most people don’t even notice it.

When terriers are judged in North America, most of the smaller breeds of terrier are lifted up with one hand on the tail and one hand just beneath the jawline.  Supposedly, it is a way of testing to see if the terriers still have their sturdy tails. If a terrier gets in a bad place, it could be useful to be able to grab it by the tail and pull it safety.

You see this everywhere in North American dog shows. I don’t think it’s he worst way to handle a dog like this, but I don’t think the dogs particularly like it. I’m not someone who is prone to picking up dogs in this fashion, so I honestly don’t what the science is behind the welfare issues involved. I am officially agnostic on the issue.

The dog that won Best in Show was a Scottish terrier. This is one of the smaller terrier breeds that is generally lifted up in this fashion at American shows.  The handler of this winning terrier, Rebecca Cross, is an American, and I’m sure she’s done the tail lift scores of times in the show ring.

And no one said thing.

But when she did it at Crufts–in front of all those cameras– uproar quickly ensued!

100,000 people signed an online petition to have the terrier stripped of her win.

This, of course, created outrage among the show set. The claim pretty much goes that lifting them by the tail gives the judge an idea if the terrier has a sturdy enough tail. If this terrier happened to be deep in the ground battling with a whole clan of badgers and the only thing that the owner had to grab was its tail,  then that sturdy tail would be a life saver.

The problem with that claim is that Scottish terriers are actually working earth dogs.

In Scotland, terriers were used more to bolt the badger and the otter than their English counterparts. Both the badger and the otter are now protected species. The rural Scottish culture that created these terriers doesn’t even exist.  The Scottish countryside was once full of crofters.  In the eighteen and nineteenth centuries, the Clearances depopulated the land in much of rural Scotland. The crofters were driven off the land in favor of sheep, grouse moors, and deer stalking grounds.

The working man’s terriers became show dogs, and the general prick-eared terrier from Scotland became the West Highland white, the cairn, the Skye, the Paisley, and the Aberdeen. The Aberdeen type is the basis behind the breed we call the Scottish terrier.

Now, terriers are still widely used in the United Kingdom, even though “terrier work” is quite controversial over there. There are still plenty of working red fells, Patterdales, Lakelands, borders, Plummers, and Jack Russells. There are even working strains of Bedlington terrier, which is a breed that North Americans think is only for the show ring .

But there are no working strains of Scottish terrier. You will not find them anywhere. A lot of Scottish terriers still have the temperament needed for this sort of activity. George W. Bush had a Scottish terrier that loved to dig out armadillos, but no one can honestly say that there is a great demand for an armadillo dog.

And a nine-banded armadillo is nothing like a European badger or otter.

So if no one is really breeding a working Scottish terrier, the entire ritual of picking it up by the tail is just playing make believe.

At the most charitable, it is a hypothetical abstraction. It’s not a real adaptation on a real working dog.

This year’s big controversy, which I’m calling “Tailgate,” is more revealing about the culture of the dog show than it is about welfare concerns.

My guess is that the Kennel Club will make a very strong stand against picking up terriers by the tail at its shows.

And that will be it.

Meanwhile, Scottish terriers will continue to have very high rates of cancer and von Willebrand disease. They will continue to suffer from their own peculiar disorder called “Scottie cramps,” and they will continue to have an average lifespan of about 10 years.

Which, for a terrier, is pretty pathetic.

And it is a shame. This breed does occasionally have a reputation for being a bit surly, but a lot of these dogs are real characters, very sharp and responsive and clever creatures.

They are known for the deep loyalty to their people, and it is a real shame that people have allowed this breed to go so far downhill.

They have come a long way from the badger setts and otter holts, but now they must be looked at more realistically.

Playing pretend about the sturdy tails isn’t helping the discussion at all.

All of this rancorous debate over the ethics of terrier-lifting isn’t going to amount to much.

It’s just going to continue on. One camp will say that it is causing the terriers too much pain and stress, while the other is pretending they are evaluating real working dogs.

There is no real room for a discussion about the issues raised by closed registries and popular sires in this debate, and as this debate rages, much time and energy is being wasted.

Such is the tragic condition of the dog world in 2015.

Side-tracked by Tailgate.

 

 

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Liam Neeson narrates:

Source.

These horses have a five weeks of vacation mandated every year. They have a full retirement plan.

They can’t work when it’s too hot or too cold.

How many human workers in New York have those benefits?

Go to http://www.savenychorsecarriages.com/ for more info.

 

 

 

 

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Another duck has gone broody. She’s very small– Phil’s little sex toy.

IMG_8715

IMG_8716

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Jemima Harrison Neapolitan mastiff

Photo by Jemima Harrison.

The above image comes from a 2011 post on Jemima Harrison’s blog. It is a part of series of photos she took at Crufts, most of which would make any rational person with any sense of empathy wince.  Why is such unnecessary suffering celebrated in the world of dog?

In it she writes:

These pictures were taken today at Crufts.

This should be the moment the Kennel Club realises that if it wants to be seen to have any shred of integrity, self-respect – or humanity – that it has to ban the Neapolitan Mastiff.

This is cruelty.

No ifs. No buts. Ban them. Now.

These dogs were produced by “responsible breeders.” They were “bred to standard,” but when we really think about it, a dog with open loose eyelids, constantly infected skin, and terrible structure suffers far more than any animal that is hunted. The animal that is hunted suffers only in the last seconds of its life– if at all. A dog like these Neapolitan mastiffs suffers through its entire life.

I should note that she is not calling for banning the breed as pit bulls are in the UK. She calling for them to be removed from the Kennel Club’s registry.

I pretty much said the same thing a few days ago. Until saner, more rational people take the helm in this breed, it should not be given any legitimacy by any major breed registry.

When breed registries allow dog breeds to be bred like this, they lose all moral authority.

It is enabling people with absolutely no empathy.

The only difference between these people and dog fighters is that at least dog fighters don’t make up nonsense about how loose skin makes the dogs better in combat. Game-bred pit bulls and even traditional shar pei don’t look like these Neapolitan mastiffs.

The Neapolitan mastiff as we know it now is just one giant flight of fancy. It was created by a Swiss science fiction writer, then mass-produced by Italian con-men trying to sell the “true Italian dog” to ignorant Northern Europeans and North Americans, and finally wrecked under the guise of “breed improvement” as it entered the international dog fancy.

It is perhaps the most pathetic dog story ever told.

Of course, it’s not the only one.

But it is so obviously messed up that any reasonable person can see it.

And it also tells you that by and large, the people who breed this dog in this way are not reasonable people.

They’ve bought into something that defies reason and logic which they will defend against any and all criticism.

It’s a faith-based position.

But it’s a faith-based position that leads to a great deal of suffering– but hey, it’s the only faith-based position that has caused suffering, is it?

 

 

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