The illegal ivory trade starts with the slaughter of elephants, continues with wildlife traffickers smuggling ivory across international borders and ends with the under-the-counter sale of carvings, signature stamps and trinkets, in marketplaces in Asia and online.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare is working to cut the supply chain at all its major touch points by training rangers in anti-poaching techniques, lobbying politicians to take action to block the sale of ivory, collaborating with customs and law enforcement authorities to arrest black-market sellers and reducing consumer demand through out the world, especially China, one of the largest consumers of wildlife products including ivory.
“My ‘agenda’ is that the wild horses be managed according to the law and that they’re managed humanely.It is to look for protection for these horses within the limits of the law, and to get as much information as possible out to the public.”
By Jonathan Arkin
THE WILD HORSE: READY FOR ITS CLOSEUP
In the song Wild Horses, released by the Rolling Stones in 1971, Mick Jagger sings of a love gone astray and laments: “I have my freedom…but don’t have much time.” In an ironic and cruel coincidence, a piece of legislation born that very same year – and grossly misapplied since – has marked for time the very freedom of those wild horses Jagger longed to “ride some day.”
Wild horses, the iconic symbol of the American spirit and soul, are rapidly disappearing from their lands, in a controversy/debacle of monumental proportions. At center stage is The Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM), pitted squarely against the wild horse advocacy community.The BLM is the government agency that administers America’s public lands –all 253 million acres of it.Free roaming horses and burros roam the public lands in ten western states and are federally protected by the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, which mandates that they be “managed in a thriving ecological balance with the land and as part of the natural landscape.”Within this language lies the conflict.
The 1971 law technically designates the public land as "multi-use", which means it can be allocated for livestock grazing, for the wild horses and burros, and for other uses, including oil and gas drilling, and mineral mining.It is the responsibility of the BLM to determine the “thriving ecological balance”, and to manage the “excess” free roaming animals in a humane manner, either through adoption, euthanasia, or other methods.
THE CONTROVERSY: LAND MANAGEMENT, PRIVATE INTERESTS AND ANIMAL PROTECTION
At the heart of the controversy are the closely linked issues of land management, private interests and animal protection: The BLM, directed by the U.S. Congress to protect the wild horses via the Wild Free Roaming Horse and Burro Act of 1971, stands accused by advocacy groups of instead, decimating their numbers through management methods which are held by the advocates to be both inhumane and illegal.
The American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign, a coalition of 40 prominent advocacy organizations states on its website: “From over 2 million in the 1800s, America’s wild horse population has dwindled to fewer than 33,000. There are now more wild horses in government holding pens than remain in the wild, with many of the remaining herds managed at population levels that do not guarantee their long-term survival. Still, the round-ups continue.”
The public outcry has not gone unheard: A 2009 amendment to the 1971 Act, the Restore Our American Mustangs Act (ROAm), which would have approved standards of performance and accountability was proposed, and died in Committee.
In 2010, two major advocacy organizations, The Equine Welfare Alliance andThe Cloud Foundation, reported that 54 members of Congress sent a strong letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar “urging a halt to BLM roundups, citing concern about the trauma, injuries and deaths caused in the helicopter stampedes and raising questions about BLM’s “flawed” and “unsustainable” wild horse management policy.”
Advocates say that the BLM is firmly in the pocket of the mining and ranching interests and is in clear violation of the federal law.They have initiated a spate of lawsuits against the BLM, which challenge the methodology of the roundups, the First Amendment rights of reporters to document the abuses, as well as the government methods for numbers control — castration management issues– all of which they claim, have been “trampled” by the special interests.
LAURA LEIGH: A LIFE DEVOTED TO SAVING THE WILD HORSES
One, advocate, Laura Leigh, is devoting her life to documenting the plight of the wild horses; she has taken it upon herself to patrol the plains of Nevada, living out of her truck, in an effort to stop the clock from signaling the end of the wild horse on our prairies.According to Leigh, she has traveled to six states and has witnessed more roundups and management areas in the last two years than any other person including government personnel.She has a special focus on Nevada , which she now calls home.
“The bottom line is a beating heart – the symbol of American freedom is the wild horse,” Leigh said. “If we can’t protect the symbol, what good is that Act?It’s a reflection on all the other policies! If we don’t have their best interests at heart, where do we have our (own) best interests?
For the past several years, Leigh, now a Vice President of the Wild Horse Freedom Federation, has made it her business to document the treatment of wild horses by private interests, to create a library about the work of advocates and to write her blog,Wild Horse Education, which holds an extensive photo and video gallery that details her work.
And on January 26, 2012, she went to court as plaintiff in a landmark federal court case that, for the first time in four decades, brought the inhumane roundup treatment of horses into the courtroom, and actually scored a big win for the advocacy community.The decision by the presiding judge left the matter “in the hands of Congress", but he also left the door open to continue to address the issue – roundup by roundup.
Leigh is quick to point out that she is simply devoted, but not confrontational, as much as she loves the animals that take up nearly all of her time to protect. “I’m not an activist, I’m an advocate,” she said. “I don’t break the law. I’m not aggressive. And I’m one of those hands-on learners.In order for me to fully comprehend an issue, I (have to) live it. I’ve been essentially living on my truck on the range for a about a year now. I call it my world.”
THE HORSE AND THE HUMAN: A MILLENNIUM OF SYMBIOSIS AND COOPERATION
It is no secret that domesticated wild horses dramatically influenced human development all over this planet, and Leigh is not alone in recognizing the contributions these animals have made to agriculture, travel, even warfare when necessary.
“[Steven Spielberg’s 2012 film] War Horse is bringing lots of attention to this matter,” Leigh said. They fought in World War I and World War II.Our West would not be what it is today if it weren’t for our wild horses. Freedom and family – that’s what we stand for as Americans. And the wild horses symbolize that.”
In fact, horses have complex social structures in the wild, which are indicative of their high level of intelligence.There are older horses which look out for the welfare of the herd; there is a lead mare who selects the safest trails to follow and one or two stallions that stay with and protect the herd.They care for their young, and communicate as a unit.Each individual understands its place and its role in the herd hierarchy.
Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education
Mother with foal
“They are wired to each other for survival,” Leigh says, of the horses’ survival instincts and their relationship with the open range. “They will fight for their freedom and fight for their family, yet they are so at peace with their surroundings. It’s so peaceful being out there with them. It’s the only place where you can finish a thought.”
Leigh may work alone on the prairie, but she is joined by prominent figures in the fight for maintaining dignity for horses, both wild and raised.
Russ Bensley, a former CBS News executive who raised horses for 18 years, attests to the familial “wiring” that Leigh says is essential to understanding the equine need for a peaceful, unmolested environment.
“They obviously do form friendships and bonds with each other, and there’s a great bonding between them and their offspring,” said Bensley, who refers to himself as a “stable hand” who chanced upon the equine world via his wife. “The horses form bonds with other horses and will be mournful if their friends disappear or die, just as they form bonds with the people who take care of them. They have emotions that are not all that different from human emotions. They fall in love. They form friendships. And, they miss each other if they are separated or if one of them disappears.”
Bensley agrees that governmental efforts to relocate them forcibly have resulted in situations that are fraught with emotional turmoil for the horses.
In California, Nevada and other states of the American West, wild horses roam free and, in the past, have been generally left alone to live and procreate – as are eagles, buffalo, and other formerly hunted animals – but there are also massive exceptions to this treatment.
And that is precisely what Laura Leigh has been trying to bring to the public’s attention.
But first, a little background.
QUESTIONS OVER THE ORIGIN OF THE HORSES FUELS THE MISCONCEPTION THAT THEY ARE NOT INDIGENOUS TO THE LAND
Wild horses, also called mustangs, were reintroduced to North America by the Spanish during their 16th Century colonization efforts, but it is debatable whether the horse had ever really disappeared from the continent entirely. It is known through taphonomic studies and fossil records that mustangs were hunted nearly to extinction by early humans in the Americas.
But there is also a strong countervailing belief that underpins ranching and hunting interest groups as well as the BLM philosophy, that these horses are descended from domesticated stock brought by the Spanish, and that they are therefore, an invasive species, or feral, and non native.It is this belief that is one of the weapons of choice in the hands of anti-equine interest groups that seek to remove them from their natural habitat.
“These people see the profit in pulling horses off the range,” Leigh said. “That’s where the whole feral issue gets its impetus. People see mustangs as this scruffy range pony and they’re not that at all.”
“Any other animal with those kinds of numbers would be on the endangered species list.We’re going to lose our wild horses, except for what we call showcase herds in a range breeding program. It’s amazing how many people don’t know.”
LAND MANAGEMENT POLICY FAVORS DEVELOPERS, NOT THE HORSES
The Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971originally sought to protect “from capture, branding, harassment, or death” those wild equines found on America’s public lands.It is a prime example of a law with its heart in the right place, but which has been manipulated such that the net outcome no longer resembles the original intent.
Photo copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education
Sweat soaked horses after roundup
“The problem”, says Leigh, is that the implementation of this protective law has been flawed, and therefore, the Department of the Interior – which is the governmental agency charged with administering it, has dulled the parameters of its enforcement.”
“The FLPMA(The Federal Land Policy and Management Act which governs the management of the land administered by the BLM), she says, is the more sinister threat.“It allowed private developers to take control of the land on which the wild horses live.The idea that "multiple use" is "fair use" does not occur and special interests get priority treatment.”
But, she adds, it’s not only about the slaughter.It’s really about management of public lands, and the transfer of the land from public to private hands.That, says Leigh is what is disrupting the movement and welfare of the wild herds.After horses are removed from public land, it becomes a domestic issue and horse slaughter is then easier to commit while public eyes are turned away”.
“HOW DOES A HORSE THAT SERVES MAN END UP IN A PACKING PLANT?”
But it was, fact, the horse slaughter issue that drew Leigh to balance equine advocacy with a desire to create visual art as her grown children headed off to college. The story of how she came to advocate tirelessly for horses still breaks her heart.
“I come into this role through the horse slaughter issue,” recounted Leigh. “Many years ago, I went into a packing plant [where horses are ‘processed’ into materials after being slaughtered], to save a mustang. They refused. These people had to deliver a certain number of pounds of horse. I had to leave the mustang behind. And it haunted me. How does a horse that serves man end up in a packing plant?
Leigh could be considered the spiritual descendant of her ‘predecessor’ on the plains, a Nevada woman named Velma B. Johnston – who was better known as “Wild Horse Annie.” Johnston, until her death in 1977, also tried to bring the private roundups into the public eye, scoring a coup with legislation to make illegal the use of aircraft and motor vehicles a ‘tool’ in such roundups.
“In 1971 the Wild Horse Act was signed into law, and we’ve never had management on the range as detailed in that Act.Now, the whole program is upside down to help out the private interests…so the horses are the first to go.”
Johnston’s own introduction to the mustangs’ plight came very similarly to Leigh’s, when Johnston witnessed a bloody roundup of mustangs headed to a packing plant for slaughter. That was in 1950.
POLICY INFLUENCED BY PRIVATE INTERESTS THREATENS THE FUTURE OF THE WILD HERDS
Since that time, says Leigh, the West has been in the process of industrialization and the roundups are largely happening on public land. Butland management is supported by powerful lobbies, which horse advocates say, encourage a lack of management and oversight where convenient.
“In 1971 the Wild Horse Act was signed into law, and we’ve never had management on the range as detailed in that Act.Now, the whole program is upside down to help out the private interests…so the horses are the first to go. The grazing areas get smaller and smaller, because the issue turns to water, and other resources.
“Any other animal with those kinds of numbers would be on the endangered species list.We’re going to lose our wild horses, except for what we call showcase herds in a range breeding program.It’s amazing how many people don’t know.”
THE HERD MANAGEMENT AREA (HMA):INACURATE BOUNDARY LINES LEAD TO MASSIVELY SHRINKING BOUNDARY AREAS
According to Laura, there isn’t a lot of hard data available that maps the movement of wild horses.However, the data that does exist is a sobering collection of maps that show the gradual and steady evaporation of the lands once allocated to horses and their seasonal movements. These areas, say Leigh, are drying up like an arid riverbed.
“When the Wild Horses Act was passed, there were boundary lines for herd areas,” said Leigh of the Herd Management Areas (HMAs) that were set up in concert with the legislation. “Horses were to be managed where they were originally found. But because it (the Act) didn’t take seasonal range [movement] into account, the boundary lines were inaccurate. Now it’s too hard to manage, too many new homes have been built. The BLM has been shrinking the original boundary lines – and have removed about 21 million acres which had been part of their range.
As Leigh attends one roundup alert after another, she reflects on her interactions with the men who control the new HMAs on the range – and what she is able to see and document without hassle.
“I’ve established relationships with a number of them…some relationships are better than others,” she said. “I’m out there all the time, they’ve gotten to know me over time, and I’ve gotten to know them as well. There’s a joke that there’s a field manager out there with whom I’ve spent so much time with that it’s …. more time than I’ve ever spent with any other man.
I’ve also met some armed men at roadblocks preventing me from seeing what is happening to horses. They’re there to stop me from getting anything on film that might make the public angry.”
TENSIONS WITH RANCHERS AND A FIRST AMENDMENT LAWSUIT
Leigh’s activities have brought on frictions with ranchers who bristle at her attempts to document the abuse and mistreatment of animals. “This,” she says, “is a similar problem to those facing reporters in autocratic societies.
“There Is a First Amendment infringement as it pertains to wild horses,” Leigh added. “It could set precedent in any issue in which the press has to report on activities of the federal government.It is absurd for them to place restrictions on what we are able to see.If it starts with the way horses are loaded on the range, where will it end – freedom of the press issues?”
“They put tarps up at the sites where they process the horses,” said Leigh, describing one of her many battles with access to the lands where mistreatment occurs. “I capturedimages of that and they then shut down access.”
“I’ve also met some armed men at roadblocks preventing me from seeing what is happening to horses. They’re there to stop me from getting anything on film that might make the public angry.”
Last year the The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press filed a First Amendment amicus briefon behalf of Leigh’s organizations, Wild Horse Education and Wild Horse Freedom Federation.The suit urged a federal court of appeals to order a federal trial court to reconsider a decision made regarding the First Amendment rights of reporters to photograph the roundup of horses on federal land.Other reporters have also signed onto the pending lawsuit.
Indeed, television news anchors Dan Rather and Wolf Blitzer are on the steering committee of the Reporters Committee for the Free Press – amicus. Their work can be found here: (http://www.rcfp.org/).
“They put tarps up at the sites where they process the horses,” said Leigh, describing one of her many battles with access to the lands where mistreatment occurs. “I captured images of that and they then shut down access.”
Leigh claims that the Bureau of Land Management is also guilty of discriminatory access – a practice of allowing some, but not all, members of the press to view controversial activities (in this case, roundups with the alleged use of electric prods and other tools that she says traumatize the horses). This, she says, is a violation of the First Amendment and her access to several areas, she adds, has been limited since she took pictures of one such roundup.
THE CASE FOR WILD HORSES: A FEDERAL LAWSUIT TO SET PROTOCOL FOR HUMANE TREATMENT OF HORSES
Another important court case for Leigh occurred on January 26 in Reno, Nevada –and a federal case to boot.
Leigh with her legal team
“Although the act to protect wild horses was passed 40 years ago, and the main issue was humane management, there’s no protocol for what that treatment is,” Leigh said of her reason for pursuing legal action in Nevada.
In her first action, Leigh was granted a Temporary Restraining Order upon a BLM pilot after she witnessed the pilot hitting a horse with the skids of the chopper. Her Complaint initiated an investigation within BLM, which admitted to inappropriate conduct.
Her discussion of the Judge's decision and her big win for the horses is documented in the video clip below. Football fans will like this, especially.
Video copyright Laura Leigh/ Wild Horse Education
In a subsequent action, Leigh attempted to broaden the BLM program scope to force a protocol for humane care.
“The BLM released a record of misconduct (on the roundup methods). They’ve made a lot of noise in the press about making changes and improvements, but there’s still no protocolor system of reprimand for violations of humane treatment.So, nothing’s changed on the ground. Roundup protocol change has not changed one iota.”
THE HUMANE CONTROL OF NUMBERS HAS A LONG WAY TO GO
It would be remiss not to mention that there have been government attempts to humanely control the numbers of mustangs – through domestication and adoption, chemical contraception, and competitive mustang taming procedures – but these methods have had mixed results.The main problem, say some horse professionals, is in how nature’s delicate balance gets disrupted.
“We have no data on this, says Leigh.None.Right now you’ll see births occurring out of season, and that is a consequence of chemical birth control. So you have foals born in the middle of January, in the cold, and their chances of survival are slim.”
"….mainstream media needs to know that this is more than the ‘cowboy’ issue. And we have not been able to break that wall. The people who are on the other side of the issue have no other horse in the race"
“I think it’s beneficial to control the size of the herd,” said Bensley, adding a warning that spaying and neutering on a large scale might invite conditions bordering on the inhumane. “Contraception sounds like a useful idea, but I don’t know how it could be practically done. Assuming there was a useful contraceptive, how would it be administered? I believe the government article [linked below] (http://www.fort.usgs.gov/wildhorsepopulations/contraception.asp) mentions injection. How do you round up huge numbers of wild horses and inject them? That seems unlikely. If there was some way of spraying their habitat with a chemical that was otherwise benign that might be an option, but I question whether such a chemical exists.”
Another option for population control – a castration of 200 stallions in Eastern Nevada, has unleashed a huge response from the advocacy community, which, claiming it is a scientifically untested and permanent solution, filed a lawsuit the block the plan.To date, the BLM has agreed to postpone the plan pending a court ruling on the matter.
As to Sanctuaries, Leigh states, “Sanctuary is a great option for animals that have been removed from public land and have no place to go,” she said.But sanctuaries don’t address the issue of management on the range. ….this is addressing the symptoms without looking at the core problem.
Janice Eddy-Languein, who works as a stable manager in Chatsworth, California, cautions against confining herds to small areas and forcing them to stay in small areas. She describes how a “bunch of hillbilly horses” can easily fall to rampant inbreeding and how that affects the herd’s overall health and potency.
“With small herds, some of the horses have things wrong with them,” she said. “If they inbreed, they become funky, sometimes crippled. If there’s no feed, they’ll die. (Or) they can overpopulate an area, then if there’s no feed to support the numbers of horses there, what’s going to happen? Then it’s survival of the fittest.”
FUNDING PROGRAMS ARE ESSENTIAL TO SUPPORT THE WILD HORSES
Indeed, when the plains buffaloes were nearly eradicated in the middle of the 1800s due to excessive hunting, private people brought some of them in and took care of them. Languein suggests that a similar program be set up to protect the mustang.
“They’re very hardy horses,” Eddy-Languein said. “They’ve lived out on the range. They know how to survive. But get some kind of funding to get out there and feed them during the winter, maybe someone who [gets paid to] monitor them (so they won’t bother the cattle feed). There are things the people want to do for them, but I don’t know where the funds would come from. Maybe like ‘Adopt a highway.’ Adopt a mustang? Adopt a mustang herd?”
ADOPTION ROUNDUPS ARE MORE ADVANTAGEOUS TO THE RANCHERS THAN TO THE HORSES
Languein added that adoption roundups have proven to be more advantageous to the ranchers than the horses“They do the wild horse roundups, even bringing them into Pierce College [in the San Fernando Valley], where you can adopt the mustangs. This is part of a program too to find homes for the mustangs, which are freeze branded to identify them.”
Languein objects to this branding – even as some advocates, including Leigh, say it helps them “track” wild horses under observation – but again, the lack of clear protocol in this program allows some to dispose of the horses in deplorable ways.
“At one point the mustangs still belonged to the government, you had to hang onto them for a year, and they could not be sold or killed,” explained Languein.(After that, you could) “even send them to those meatpacking warehouses and glue factories.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO TO HELP LEIGH WITH HER ADVOCACY FOR WILD HORSES?
Leigh says with some regret that because her work reaches a limited audience with a specialized interest, that public donations have not been forthcoming.
“Money doesn’t flow into this, at least not as often as you would think,” she said. “The average donation that comes into Wild Horses Education is about 20 bucks. I remember one donation for $14. A girl from Michigan sent four dollars from cupcake sales and her mom kicked in the 10 dollars.
Recently Leigh joined forces with the Wild Horse Freedom Federation,in the hopes of setting up a research library that will be the information resource she envisioned from the beginning.But she continues to work solo as well.
“Working alone has its challenges,” Leigh said, “but it is really neat to represent the public and to have no other agenda.
My ‘agenda’ is that the wild horses be managed according to the law and that they’re managed humanely.It is to look for protection for these horses within the limits of the law, and to get as much information as possible out to the public.The little girl in Michigan [who sent in her $14] has a voice and she believes her voice matters, that I am keeping an eye on the horses for her.
Wild Horse Education is my data and documentation machine. Donations keep me in the field. Wild Horse Freedom Federation pays the attorneys on my cases and other lawsuits pending. All donations of any size, are welcomed.
WE NEED TO GET THE ISSUE INTO THE PUBLIC CONVERSATION
With so many influential people in the country attuned to the plight of these intelligent, sensitive creatures, the issues are clear.But what remains to be answered is, how does someone not yet involved get involved?
“There are so many things that could be done,” Leigh said. “Just google‘wild horses,’ ‘Freedom Federation.’ The primary thing we can do is to get the issue into the public conversation. Many people don’t know there are wild horses out there. They can write to their representatives; (elected officials) want to hear from their constituencies.If the only person who communications with them is a private profiteer then that’s how the politician will vote.
MORE THAN A COWBOY ISSUE: IT’S A BATTLE FOR RESOURCES
But Leigh returns to the issue of the original legislation – the 1971 Act- and the valuesthat so divide pro-horse advocates and the developers who are either opposed to or ambivalent to their plight.
“The bottom line is a beating heart – the symbol of American freedom is the wild horse,” Leigh said. “If we can’t protect the symbol, what good is that Act?It’s a reflection on all the other policies! If we don’t have their best interests at heart, where do we have our (own) best interests? It begs some pretty big questions.”
And as she prepares for her next battle – another photographic documentation attempt at an undisclosed location in the wilds of Nevada, Leigh reflects on that conflict of interest: the conflict of interest that tragically has the magnificent beast of burden, warfare and friendship caught in its crosshairs.
“Politically, the division – in my opinion – is based on resources,” Leigh said. “The BLM are people who have a vested interest in the profit drive from the ranchers, miners, hunting lobbies.
But mainstream media needs to know that this is more than the ‘cowboy’ issue. And we have not been able to break that wall. The people who are on the other side of the issue have no other horse in the race.”
Jonathan Arkin is a graduate of the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, and is currently a writer living in southern California.
The policy detailed in the FLPMA gave the BLM wide latitude to determine the use of the land. Specifically, it directed the BLM to manage the land under principles of “multiple use” and “sustained yield”, and to regulate the use of land (with conditions) in such a manner as “to permit individuals to utilize public lands for habitation, cultivation, and the development of small trade or manufacturing concerns”. It defined “multiple use” as “ the management of the public lands and their various resource values so that they are utilized in the combination that will best meet the present and future needs of the American people”.
Last year we featured an interview with Dr. Elliot Katz, President and Founder of In Defense of Animals, an international animal protection organization dedicated to ending the abuse and exploitation of animals all over the world. In the feature, we described Katz as a hero and a trailblazer for his dedication over the last 30 years, to speaking out for animals in the face of formidable challenges, and for his unwavering efforts to recalibrate the prevailing public (and legal) mindset regarding animals– from the view that they are mere objects and things, to an acknowledgement and acceptance that they are sentient beings deserving of our respect and compassion. This latter philosophy describes the essence of In Defense of Animals, and is articulated through one of its centerpiece programs, The Guardian Campaign.
A SEISMIC SHIFT IN THE WAY WE VIEW AND UNDERSTAND ANIMALS
While none of the above has changed, we are featuring Dr. Katz again, this time, to spotlight the visionary Guardian Campaign.The Guardian Campaign is a program which we feel is one of the most compelling out there in animal protection –it is a program with the potential to create a seismic shift in the way we view and understand animals, and ultimately to reduce the incidence of animal cruelty throughout the country.
THE GUARDIAN CAMPAIGN EXPLAINED
In a nutshell, The Guardian Campaign is an international effort which aims to instill a sense of respect, responsibility and compassion for the animals with which we share our lives and our planet. The way it works is through a switch-out of one word which defines our relationship with animals: "Owners" are out. "Guardians" are in. Rather than "owners", we must be the "Guardians" of animals in our midst.
The term "Guardian" speaks volumes. It suggests a protective posture. It implicitly acknowledges that animals are living, breathing sentient beings that have highly evolved emotional systems with the ability to feel love, joy, pain, fear, loss, depression. It challenges us to remember that animals are not mere property, objects or things that can be bought and sold at will, dumped, abused, exploited and killed when they are no longer useful.
The term "Guardian" opens up new vistas of possibility for our relationship with other species. As Guardians, as protectors, we accept an inherent responsibility and make an unspoken promise to treat them with compassion and respect, and to make decisions on their behalf that will enhance their lives.
THE POTENTIAL TO REDUCE CRUELTY AND ABANDONMENT, REDEFINE THE BOUNDARIES OF OUR COMPASSION FOR ANIMALS
The IDA Guardian Campaign is an idea whose time has come.This campaign not only has the potential to significantly reduce animal cruelty and abandonment, but also to redefine the boundaries, to expand the definition of compassion, and to rewrite the script for treatment of animals in a way that has not been accomplished before.
This is more than a good start. It is the beginning of a sea change that can sweep the country, change the lives of the animals we love, and in the process, our own as well.
DR. ELLIOT KATZ: HOW I BECAME AN ANIMAL GUARDIAN
The following is excerpted from a presentation given by Katz, at the First International Equine Conference, held in September of this year (2011). In this talk, he references horses (equines), but the context applies to all animals.
I’d like to start first, with some dictionary definitions:
Ownership: the legal right to possession of a thing;
Owner: A person who owns something; a person who has legal ownership of a property and has the right to use it and control it.
Thing: an object that one need not, cannot, or does not wish to give a name;
Object: a material thing that can be seen and touched
Property: a thing or thing belonging to someone.
Guardian:One that guards, watches over and protects ; A defender, protector.
Killer Buyer: purchasing for the sole purpose of sending the horse to a slaughter house
Killer Buyer: a person who buys a horse for performance value only, without the desire or commitment to provide the horse a lifetime of respect, compassion and care.
My name is Dr. Elliot Katz, I am a veterinarian, the founder and President Emeritus of In Defense of Animals. I am an advocate for the rights, welfare and habitats of our fellow beings, be they individuals of our own species, collectively referred to as human beings, or individuals of other species, collectively referred to as “animals.”
We are all here today because of the plight and needs of one particular species, the Equine, more commonly referred to as the horse–a being that is worshipped and appreciated by millions for their beauty, strength, intelligence, and speed, (and) exploited and abused by millions for their beauty, strength, intelligence and speed.
Like you, I am one of the millions of people who desire to protect them from exploitation, cruelty, abuse and early deaths by those who would do them harm in the name of work, amusement sport and food. I have a term for people like us. That term is Guardian, “one that guards, watches over, and protects.” Though you and I are referred to as “owners” under the current law, to me, each and every one of you is a Guardian, or you wouldn’t be here today, to better learn how to protect and advocate for the untold number of horses who are being killed in slaughter houses or are being exploited, used and abused for profit and greed, or are suffering at the hands of uncaring and callous “owners.”
From the time I was a child, impressed by the closeness and bond that existed between people and their animal companions, consciously or unconsciously, I became a guardian towards individuals of other species. As there were no horses running loose on the beaches and sand dunes of Long Island, NY, my pastimes involved the rescuing of abandoned or lost dogs on those very same beaches and sand dunes, in addition to throwing back the many starfish that had washed ashore after a storm had passed.
At age eight or nine, I vowed to become a veterinarian after a little dog I had rescued gave birth to six puppies—six puppies that died one by one from Distemper, all developing pneumonia, all dying from encephalitis, despite the fact that my father and I took them to a local veterinarian in an attempt to save their lives.
Attempting to protect and save, to minister to the needs of other species, starting with animal companions became my life’s work. At the time, I never realized that I had become an animal guardian.
When I entered veterinary school and was exposed to the role veterinarians played in slaughter houses, as well as the terrible cruelties of veterinary education, I started to become aware of what a different kind of veterinarian I was to become—as I was almost dismissed from Cornell’s College of Veterinary Medicine for refusing to mutilate, before killing, perfectly healthy and adoptable dogs from the local shelter, as my classmates did, apparently having no problem doing so at the time.
In 1983 I founded In Defense of Animals, (IDA) an international animal protection organization whose mission it is to protect the rights, welfare and habitats of other species, to raise their status beyond that of mere property, objects, commodities and things.
I am very proud of the many victories and accomplishments of IDA. For we have been at the forefront of the fight to make the world a more just and compassionate place for all our fellow beings.
This is typical elephant behavior in the wild. Notice the family size and their response, when the infant falls into the water hole. Notice also the texture of the savanna and its suitability for the elephants' feet and weight.
Each time you take an elephant ride as a tourist seeking an indigenous experience, your dollars are perpetuating the untold suffering of an elephant.
Elephants are are highly intelligent, highly social animals that exhibit human-like behaviors : they care for their young, they are protective of one another, they (famously) grieve for days over the bodies of their dead. They live in matriarchal communities in which the females stay together for life. They can roam up to 30 miles a day. Moreover, they are essential to their ecosystems – among other things, their dung carries seeds which cultivate the flora in the savannahs.
Tragically, these peaceful gentle giants (vegetarians) are treated barbarically by humans for exploitive purposes: They are cruelly taken captive, separated from their relatives, and "broken" by humans who work them unnaturally in logging camps, or use them as spectacles in parades, circuses or in tourist ride attractions.
This is a bull hook, the instrument used (liberally) to "break" and manipulate elephants for use on safari rides, and for other forms of entertainment. Photo courtesy How I Became an Elephant
Most zoo conditions are inhumane environments for elephants. Listen to this radio spot: it refers to pending decisions in the Auckland Zoo — but information is applicable to zoos in general
Worst, are the circuses, which often pull nursing calves away from their mothers, and use cruel methods to prepare them for their shows. Circus visitors have no idea of how these gentle animals are "trained" to perform for the big tent. Do not patronize circuses that use animal acts. A list of those circuses can be found in this link: http://www.bornfreeusa.org/facts.php?more=1&p=425
Billie, the elephant, shown in the video above, has been consigned permanently to the Los Angeles Zoo, despite public efforts to have him moved to a sanctuary.
But there is still time to help other elephants in desperate need:
TO SUPPRESS ALL FORMS OF CRUELTY TO ANIMALS IN CAPTIVITY
"…after years of undercover investigations and campaigning throughout South America, ADI has secured the world’s strongest ban on animals in circuses in Bolivia. Then, working with the Bolivian government, we raided every circus and rescued every animal. A total of 29 lions were airlifted from squalid conditions in Bolivian circuses to sanctuaries in California and Colorado. It was an amazing feat! ADI will provide for their lifelong care in their beautiful new habitats where these prides are finally living like lions."
Matt Rossell, Campaigns Director for the recently opened U.S. office of Animal Defenders International (ADI), is passionately describing Operation Lion Ark, ADI’s latest dramatic rescue in which 25 Bolivian circus lions were airlifted to a new life of freedom in Colorado.
“This was a part of our massive ‘Stop Circus Suffering’campaign where, after years of undercover investigations and campaigning throughout South America, ADI has secured the world’s strongest ban on animals in circuses in Bolivia. Then, working with the Bolivian government, we raided every circus and rescued every animal. A total of 29 lions were airlifted from squalid conditions in Bolivian circuses to sanctuaries in California and Colorado. It was an amazing feat!ADI will provide for their lifelong care in their beautiful new habitats where these prides are finally living like lions.
‘Break the Chain’ is a U.S. based ADI campaign, launched last October, to empower grassroots animal advocates to educate their communities and push for legislation to protect circus animals. To this end, ADI is partnering with local animal advocacy organizations to arrange publicity and educational outreach across the United States.Rossell is at the helm of the U.S. operation, based in Los Angeles.
ADI CREATES COMPREHENSIVE CAMPAIGNS TO END ANIMAL SUFFERING
Founded in 1990, ADI is an international organization, with offices headquartered in London, U.K., and satellite offices in Los Angeles and South America.Their stated mission is to educate, create awareness, and promote the interest of humanity in the cause of justice, and the suppression of all forms of cruelty to animals; wherever possible to alleviate suffering, and to conserve and protect animals and the environment.
A visit to the ADI websitereveals the breadth and depth of their purview, with major campaigns focused on use of animals in laboratory experiments, animals in entertainment, the fur trade, and more.Their approach is comprehensive – and self contained.Says, ADI’s President, Jan Creamer, “ We work at all levels, from start to finish of a campaign – from undercover investigations to scientific and economic research, publication of technical reports, through to public education, to drafting and securing legislative protection for animals. We use our own photographs, video and research, and produce publications in-house. Our total production approach saves money and increases our outreach.”
Ringling Brothers Circus opening night – Los Angeles
Notice the large red gash above the elephant's ear. What will it take to stop this abuse?
A BRILLIANT TRIUMVIRATE FOR COMPASSIONATE ANIMAL PROTECTION: ADI, THE NATIONAL ANTI-VIVISECTION SOCIETY (NAVS) AND THE LORD DOWDING FUND FOR HUMANE RESEARCH (LDF)
In fact, ADI is one of three unique organizations that operate under the same corporate umbrella.The ADI ‘s rescue campaigns are deeply grounded in scientific and medical research, which they advance on the global stage with the support of, and in concert with, the work of theNational Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS), and the Lord Dowding Fund for Humane Research (LDF).All three organizations share the same management team, though only ADI is a 501(c)(3) not for profit organization.
Founded in 1875, and based in the U.K., the National Anti-Vivisection Society (NAVS) is the world’s first and leading anti-vivisection group, working to expose the cruelty and futility of animal experiments all over the world.Its humanitarian mission is outlined in full on it’s website.
The Lord Dowding Fund was founded almost a century later, in 1973, as a cutting edge research funding arm within NAVS.Its mission is to advance non-animal scientific and medical research, i.e., research which will lead to the adoption of non-animal research methodologies, which will lead to replacement of animals used in education and training contexts and which will promote research to demonstrate that use of animals in research is harmful.
The LDF website states that to date, about $3 million in LDF grant money (about 2 million pounds sterling) has been awarded to researchers working in fields ranging from microsurgery, toxicity testing of dental fillings, breast and lung cancer, product safety testing, Parkinson’s disease, schizophrenia, cot deaths (SIDS), cataracts, kidney research, cell culture, computer-aided drug design, biotechnology, brain damage, computer teaching packages which replace the use of animals in education of students at school and university level.
LDF publishes a journal called New Science which highlights developments in research conducted without animals and features the work of their own grantees and other new developments in the field of non-animal research.
WHAT ABOUT THE USE OF ANIMALS IN SCIENTIFIC EXPERIMENTS
Notwithstanding the superlative work done by NAVS and LDF, the subject of animal testing is highly charged, even for many die-hard animal advocates, and is worth an additional note here.While it’s easy (a no-brainer) to inveigh against the use of animals for testing cosmetics, household products, or for high school and university biology experiments, for some people the issue can become more complicated when we talk about our long term heath and treatment of disease.So often, the public is willing to close their eyes to the pain and suffering inflicted on animals in exchange for an attempt, based on unreliable science, to increase our longevity.And what, the reader might ask, are the viable alternatives?What really is the best way to develop effective drugs for diseases which are the scourge of our lifetime – cancer, Alzheimer’s, heart failure, anti-rejection drugs for transplants or even simple antibiotics?
A research subject
Rossell, who worked undercover for two years in the Oregon National Primate Research Center, has plenty of personal experience with animal research. His response was enlightening. “People “get” that bad things happen to animals in labs, but they don’t understand the extent to which these experiments aren’t necessary or don’t work.The companies that profit from animal research want the public to believe that animal research works, that it is viable.But the model is clearly flawed.(Too often)…we see that drugs tested on animals and deemed, due to this testing to be safe in, are later pulled from the market because they go on to show harmful side effects in humans–sometimes even resulting in death. Animals are often used as models for diseases that don’t even occur naturally in the animal being experimented on, so similar conditions are created in the laboratory. Drugs, experimental treatments and agents react differently in every species, and this fact is at the heart of the fundamental flaw in animal research.”
In fact, the scientific publications support the observations from undercover work.For example, discussion of “species differences” which Rossell touched on above, is relevant in this context.Historically, for many scientists and regulatory bodies, the testing of drugs on mice, rats, monkeys, dogs, and other animals was accepted.NAVS and LDF argue that the biology of non human animals is different to that of humans, and that non human animals respond differently to drugs and other substances than do humans.Therefore, animal testing is unreliable and can’t be predictive for humans. This, they claim, is not only a waste of animal lives, but it represents a danger to human health.
The bottom line is that animals – sentient, living beings — are forced to endure needless suffering and too often, an excruciating death for little or no return.NAVS and LDF argue strongly that these animal lives have inherent value, and that there are better, more humane ways to conduct medical research, without the use of animals.
Rossell continues, “The question about alternatives to animal testing might be better stated: why don’t we put more of our limited research resources into alternative non-animal methodologies that get better results?In the U.S. there is a lot of inertia toward change – we don’t have a (legislative) mandate for alternatives.ADI has and will continue to work for legislation and public policy change toward better and more humane science.
WORKING TO BAN THE USE OF ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES, WORLDWIDE
Exposure of circus cruelty worldwide is a major element of the work of ADI, and an area in which they have had great success.Their international work has resulted in the closure of circuses and in the introduction of laws which ban the use of animals in circuses on a country-wide basis, globally.
In all their rescues, undercover work provides vital evidence for negotiating with legislators, and is a part of what gives the campaigns their “teeth”.
“Our studies have concluded that life for animals in circuses is one of deprivation and suffering – they are deprived of everything that makes their life fulfilling. Circus animals are taken away from their family groups, forced to do tricks that they do not want to do; forced to live in tiny, barren cages where they have to eat, sleep, and defecate all in the same space, or spend a large part of their day tied on short ropes. These animal care practices are common throughout the industry, worldwide. In addition, circus animals are frequently kicked, punched, whipped and beaten to make them obey.
Adds Rossell, “We also exposed the abuse of the last elephant forced to perform in a UK circus.We secured video footage of her being severely beaten — this made headlines all over the country and reinvigorated the campaign to get wild animals out of circuses in UK.The public is now (famously) on board with this view.We want to bring that momentum here to the US.”
ROSSELL’S BACKGROUND IN DEEP COVER
Rossell, himself, is no stranger to the subject of animal advocate investigations, and has spent a large part of his career working undercover in research labs, various factory farms and even once ran away with the circus to document animal abuse.
His life changed, literally overnight, when working a stint as a security guard at Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska.Quite by accident, he came upon a litter of kittens crying piteously after undergoing brain surgery without anesthetic.“Most of the surgeries were botched….the lucky ones died.”, he said.But this experience led me in a new direction.I began working with national animal protection groups doing investigative work.I spent time on the kill floor of a slaughterhouse, I’ve been on all kinds of factory farms, a veal farm and industrial factory farms for turkeys. I worked for four months during the pelting season on an Illinois fox farm.If people knew the truth, they would never consider wearing fur of any kind.The only escape for these foxes from their miserable lives—going mad, running back and forth in tiny wire cages—was death by anal electrocution, which is the standard method for killing foxes in the industry. It is not even illegal, and all this suffering is just for the sake of human vanity.
“It was very difficult, emotionally,” Rossell admits, “to work undercover in these environments.But one of the most healing experiences for me occurred after working at the fox farm.The farmer I worked for paid me in fox pups because he thought I wanted to start my own fur farm.So my wife and I erected a huge enclosure to acclimate them to open space.This was the first time in 15 generations that these animals were able to live naturally.We could see clearly that these were not domesticated animals.The first night we released them into the enclosure, they dug a den, and began to behave in every way like wild foxes.There were a lot of challenges in rehabilitating them – but at the end of the summer we cut them loose and gave them their freedom.”
"If people knew the truth, they would never consider wearing fur of any kind"–Matt Rossell
CAUTION: EXTREMELY DISTURBING CONTENTS: NOT FOR CHILDREN
ANIMAL DEFENDERS U.S.A.: FOCUS ON ‘BREAKING THE CHAIN’
For the moment, however, Rossell is focused on building a grassroots constituency in the U.S. with the “Break the Chain” campaign, and in educating the public about what happens to animals used by the Hollywood entertainment community and in circuses nationwide.
“We recently released footage of Tai, the elephant that appeared alongside Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson in the film, Water for Elephants, ….(we showed that she was) beaten and electro shocked during training, despite the fact that everyone involved went out of their way to stress that she was trained with kindness and positive reinforcement.
The movie industry was very quick to respond that they were unaware – the American Humane Association was on set and awarded the film a ‘no animals were harmed’ disclaimer. We aren’t pointing fingers at the actors and movie makers – everyone was given false assurances that there was no abuse, and the abuse happened far away from the set at the compound where Tai and four other elephants live in Perris, California. We are saying the way to avoid colluding in this cruelty is to boycott films with animal actors.
HOLLYWOOD HAS AN OBLIGATION NOT TO GIVE FALSE ASSURANCES
“The movie industry has the obligation not to give the public false assurances that the animals they use have not been abused. In other words, they can no longer in good conscience state that animals were not harmed in the making of the film.”
Rossell continues, “The terrible truth is that elephants and other animals are routinely trained using pain, punishment and the fear of the next violent training session.. They are shocked with stun guns to get them to perform headstands and other demeaning tricks. The bullhook is a weapon that is used to hit and ‘hook’elephants in sensitive areas– elephants don’t forget and they learn to fear the bullhook –which the trainers always carry as a reminder to make the animals cooperate on the movie set or while performing in the ring.
Part of the ongoing campaign we’re working on now is to educate the movie-goers that there is no way to monitor the animals before they arrive on set and so the best solution for the compassionate public, is to avoid movies and entertainment that use animals. Similarly unacceptable, abusive and often violent training tactics have been routinely observed by ADI and other organizations as standard practices across the entertainment industry.
Protesting the Ringling Brothers Circus at Staples Center, Los Angeles
ADI’s overall goal here is to effect positive change within the entertainment industry through legislation and education, and eventually to end the use of animals in circuses and other forms of entertainment.
Says Rossell, “ Now, working with grassroots groups across the United States, ADI is raising public awareness about the hardships that these animals endure day in and day out in the traveling circus. Through undercover investigations, we expose the suffering, and then we bring the campaign to the streets to change attitudes. Compassionate people vote with their pocketbook, and choose humane entertainment that doesn’t support animal cruelty.
“ADI has a 20-year history rescuing animals and securing lasting protectionfor them by changing public policy and passing laws. But we are new here in the U.S., so we encourage people who care about animals to get involved, to go to our website, to sign up for the monthly e-news alerts, and help us make a difference for animals.
Rossell has a degree in special education and says he loves to teach. He is often invited to lecture at schools, at all grade levels, and, schedule permitting, is available to make guest presentations in classrooms in Los Angeles. “Creating a more humane world depends on educating and empowering young people. That is the way we will effect long term change for people and animals.”
We want to create a world in which wild animals are not treated cruelly for human entertainment or fashion and at the end of the day where they remain protected where they belong, in the wild.
Trailer from the 1966 film, Born Free
There is hardly a school child since the late1960’s, that hasn’t seen or heard about the iconic mega hit film, Born Free, the emotional true life story of Elsa, an orphaned lion cub, lovingly raised by renowned wildlife conservationists, Joy and George Adamson, before she was successfully released back into the wild.
Elsa became a part of our culture. She gave us our first real glimpse into the personality of a wild animal1, and we all fell in love with her. We laughed and cried with the Adamsons, as they slowly acclimated her to her future life as a wild lioness. We knew she belonged in the wild. Yet, our hearts were broken when she finally had to leave the family that had loved her – the family that made the excruciating but essential decision to set her free rather than condemn her to life in a zoo.
Actors Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers, who played the roles of Joy and George Adamson in the film, were profoundly changed by their experience as Elsa’s “parents”. Both became dedicated wildlife conservationists and ultimately established the Born Free Foundation, now a global wildlife protection agency based in West Sussex, United Kingdom. Their son, Will Travers, who readily acknowledges that Elsa and her legacy are a part of his DNA, is CEO of the organization.
Born Free Founder, Virginia McKenna, and CEO, Will Travers
Born Free Foundation is founded on a model of compassionate conservation, which derives directly from the McKenna-Travers experience working with the Adamsons. It’s all about the animal as an individual, sentient being, with a distinct personality, and the now, well-documented ability to feel many emotions that mirror our own – emotions like love, fear, sadness, anger and grief.
“The essential message of the organization today”, says Travers, “is that individual animals matter. That is the overriding lesson I learned from my parents. When we talk about conservation we must remember that populations of animals are made up of individuals that feel, individuals that have many of the same characteristics that human beings have.”
This concept of compassionate conservation is the heart and soul of the organization. It is the jet fuel that powers the mission and underscores every campaign it supports. It sets a clear guideline for human behavior toward wild animals: In a word, we don’t own them. Like Elsa, they ultimately belong to the wild, where they have lives, families and destinies that are shaped by their own environment, by the law of the jungle, the survival of the fittest.
It is not for us, as humans, to take them forcibly from their natural habitat, to slaughter them for their body parts or to exploit them cruelly and unnaturally as entertainment in zoos or circuses. As it is our responsibility to keep animals safe from human intervention in the wild, it must be our responsibility to make sure that wild animals in captivity are treated as humanely as possible.
THE BORN FREE MESSAGE: WILD ANIMALS BELONG IN THE WILD AND NOT IN ZOOS, CIRCUSES OR PRIVATE HOMES
Lonely monkey kept as a pet
The Born Free mission, then, is driven by the tenet that wild animals belong in the wild, and not in zoos, circuses or in private homes. To this end, it works to advocate at the policy level for legislation that will keep wild animals of all species safe in the wild, to relieve the suffering of wild animals in captivity, to rescue and provide sanctuary for individual animals, and to assist indigenous populations with strategies that allow them to live in harmony with the wild animals in their communities.
BORN FREE USA
Born Free USA was created in 2002, by Travers’ friend and colleague, Adam Roberts, to bring the Born Free message of “compassionate conservation” to the United States. From his WashingtonD.C. office, Roberts, now Executive Vice President, works to promote and raise funds for the animal protection programs that are both geographically and culturally more specific to the United States, that drive the mission of the organization. Those programs include campaigns on behalf of animals in zoos and circuses, against the trapping and fur trade, wildlife trafficking in bear gall bladders and lion parts, and to prohibit the keeping of exotic animals as “pets”.
Action Now+Network talked with Travers and Roberts about the Born Free USA programs, and about their vision for the future of compassionate conservation of wildlife, here and abroad.
Adam, how did you come to Born Free USA?
Adam: Well, Will and I had met back in about 1993 working on wildlife trade issues. Will was with Born Free Foundation and I was with another organization here in Washington, DC. We quickly became friends and trusted colleagues, and we worked very closely together to stop the trade in elephant ivory and tiger bone and rhino horn and bear gall bladders – some of the big international wildlife trade issues.
Over the next 5 years or so we began to talk about the need for a "Born Free" here inAmerica. We felt that there weren’t enough animal protection organizations doing the necessary work to build compassionate conservation into the American psyche.
It’s not just about conserving animals based on numbers or just about animal rights. We felt there needed to be a blending of the issues to create a focus on the fact that individual animals matter as well as concern for the species as a whole. We really wanted to bring that "Born Free" message to the American public.
So, in 2002 I set up "Born Free USA" for Will, as a volunteer, just because we were friends and I really believed in the mission and the message. In 2005 I came on full-time, "Born Free USA" was properly staffed and ready to go, and we've been driving it forward ever since.
Bear pen in front yard of a home
In 2007 we actually merged with another organization, the Animal Protection Institute, headquartered in Sacramento.
How do the U.S. and the U.K. offices work together?
Adam: TheU.S.and theU.K.offices are incredibly compatible in terms of mission. We both work on animals in entertainment whether it's zoos or circuses, we both work on wildlife trade issues such as the ones I mentioned earlier, but there are some issues that we deal with in America that are more prominent here than in Europe.
Adam: The American black bear is a species that's found here, so that's something that distinguishes us from the UK. The trade in bear gall bladders is a signature campaign of ours – we’re trying to stop people from poaching American bears and then cutting open their abdomens and taking the gall bladders.
We also have a major campaign against the use of steel-jaw leg hold traps to catch fur bearing animals, like raccoons or foxes. These arehorrible, barbaric, bone-crushing traps. I've been in this business for twenty years and it's incredibly hard to stop. That's why it's so important that "Born Free" exists with the strong presence it has.
THE CAMPAIGN FOR ANIMALS IN ZOOS AND CIRCUSES
Another signature campaign is on wild animals used in zoos and circuses. How do you operate and what do you do? What is your message?
Adam: Well fundamentally, the message is that wild animals are not here to entertain us and that they shouldn't be kept captive for human amusement. That includes animals that are both in zoos and circuses. We’re working hard to make sure these animals are not subjected to these exploitive situations and that while they are held in captivity, they, at least, receive the most humane care possible.
Of course, in some situations such as elephants in zoos, we don’t believe it’s possible, but we work to make sure that the smaller roadside zoos, that are clearly not meeting the welfare needs of the animals, are shut down as a priority.
We also work with legislators at the local, state and the federal level to enact laws that protect animals from various forms of captive cruelty.
Were you part of the lawsuit that was brought against Ringling Brothers?
Adam: Yes, we were. The Animal Protection Institute had joined that lawsuit so when we merged with them we took ownership of it.
Unfortunately, that lawsuit was thrown out on a technicality. Are there plans to resurrect it, in any way?
Adam: Yes, this case was brought against Ringling Brothers Circus under the Endangered Species Act for violating the law with respect to the mistreatment of captive elephants. But we have appealed that and we're hoping this year the Appeals Court will resolve the matter for us.
What we're really asking for, more than anything else, is that there is a ruling on the merits of the case.
We presented a body of evidence to show how cruel these practices are, and we actually had the Chairman of the Ringling Brothers parent company admit that elephants are hit with bull hooks, but there was never a determination about whether or not that was a legal violation. That’s really what we're looking for. We want the judge to decide on the merits of the case, which in our estimation concludes that the way these animals are treated in circuses is, in fact, not only cruel, but a violation of the law.
Will: Just to expand on this point, we also want to emphasize the broader point that it is important for the law to be good in the first place, to be strong and effectively applied.
There are thousands of zoos, menageries and dreadful roadside facilities that have a USDA license, so this tells us that the standards are woefully low.
We face exactly the same situation in Europe where we have a "European Zoos Directive" which applies to all 4,000 zoos across the European Union. We are in the process of concluding a survey of two hundred zoos across 20 of the different member States, including the UK, France, Spain, etc. of the European Union and the evidence that we're turning up is that, so far, not one single country is applying the legislation effectively.
THERE IS OVERWHELMING PUBLIC SUPPORT IN THE U.K. TO BAN THE USE OF WILD ANIMALS IN CIRCUSES
Hasn’t the U.K. decided to ban the use of elephants in circuses?
Will:I wish that were the case, but the jury is still out.We're very hopeful that the U.K. government, after years and years of persistant and highly-principled lobbyingby many groups including "Born Free", RSPCA (Royal Society for Prevention of Cruelty to Animals), and others, that the UK government would come to that conclusion.
In fact, at the beginning of 2010, the previous administration sent out a consultation (survey)to the public asking them for their views. Over 10,000 people responded, which for the UK is a lot of people – 94.6% favored ending the use of wild animals in circuses. So basically five out of one hundred (5%) people want animals to be in the circuses and 95 out of 100 (95%) say no. The current administration describes itself as ‘listening government’ so I certainly hope they're listening to that message.
Elephant forced to learn massage
We only have four circuses in the country with wild animals now. There are about forty wild animals in those circuses and I've been to some shows in the last twelve months where in the 700 and 800 seat arenas there were maybe ninety people. Wild animal circuses are no longer a commercially viable operation. They are running on empty. The tank is out of gas and the writing's on the wall. They need to wrap it up so we can all move on to a more humane future.
Adam, you probably have a perspective on where the American public is at with animal zoos and circuses in the U.S.
Adam: I think it's a tough one here simply because of the number of people in the country and the long history that we have with both zoos and circuses. I think for us there is definitely a public policy and legislative component to it all.
We have to educate lawmakers that circuses don't have to have wild animals. We have model legislation available for all legislators to use, whether they want to establish a local city ordinance or a statewide law that either prohibits the use of wild animals in circuses or restricts the use of wild animals in circuses.
Bears kept in tiny facility without any natural stimulation
I think the way we need to address this is with young people– showing them that zoos and circuses do not represent entertainment based on real values, on real conservation. (These facilities are not where wild animals should be kept. It’s all about teaching children that we have to have a healthy respect for wild life and protect them where they live.
Do you have programs that reach out to the schools?
Adam: Yes, we're increasingly trying to get our message out into schools by dealing directly with teachers and providing them materials free of charge. We do have that kind of outreach.
Will: Yes. If children aren’t exposed to the true stories about how animals really live in the wild and why we need to conserve species and their natural habitats, then they actually are only exposed to one dimension of the story and they have nothing to compare it to. They may well believe, in all innocence, that what they are looking at in a zoo or circus is ok. And it isn't ok. The public sees a person of authority and of professional learning, with perhaps a degree or Ph.D., that may run a zoo, and they wonder how this can be so wrong
Will: And I'll give you an example of how we got our priorities very confused.
I work a lot with the Kenya Wildlife Service in Kenya. It's the statutory body responsible for Kenya's wildlife across the whole country, particularly in all the protected areas like the National Parks and Reserves and they're responsible for about six million acres. They have 4,000 individual staff in the organization. In those protected areas there are around 35,000 wild elephants, maybe 1,000 wild rhino, maybe 2,000 wild lions and, of course, all the other species, the antelopes, giraffes and the hippos and everything else – all the birds and all the bugs and all the trees. They're' responsible for all of that. They carry out their function every year for a budget of around 45 million U.S. dollars.
The Los Angeles Zoo has just built a new elephant enclosure. It's about 7 acres. To the best of my knowledge it has four elephants in it. And the elephants share about 3.8 of those acres and the cost of building that new enclosure was about 42 million dollars.
.. I just look at that situation and I think "my goodness, what could we do for the protection of elephants, and in fact for the protection and conservation of so many species if that kind of money was available to my friends in Kenya, or in Mali, or Sierra Leone, or in the 20 different African countries we work in? What could we do with a fraction of that kind of money?”
We have our priorities wrong and it isn't always about building some high-tech concrete monstrosity in the middle of a downtown area of a major urban center in the U.K. or in the U.S.A. That isn't necessarily helping animals or educating people. We have to think differently and think smarter.
But there are ways in which we do occasionally work together with zoos, and exotic pets is one of those examples.
THE CAMPAIGN AGAINST EXOTIC PETS
Can you describe your program that advocates against keeping exotic pets?
Adam: We have a huge campaign to stop the trade in exotic animals as pets. People who keep tigers in their backyards or primates as pets is not something that's exclusive to the United States, but it is much more prominent here.
There are some zoos and zoo industry representatives that have supported us in that effort. They are taking a leadership role because from their perspective, they don't think wild animals should be in private hands. They feel that a zoo is fine– and we can agree to disagree on that– but we are united in our perspective that wild animals don't belong with any member of the general public that thinks they're ‘cute’ or ‘cuddly’.
The issue of exotic pets raises a whole host of problems, the most significant of which, from our perspective, is the animal welfare problem.
Oftentimes, these animals are hurt, they're harmed, they're manipulated, they're caged, they're treated very badly in order to be kept in captivity. Whether it's cutting off nails or filing down teeth or chaining animals, most are treated cruelly in order to keep them in captive conditions.
But beyond that there is a very serious risk to people because these animals are wild and can hurt people if they come in contact with them – which they do.
And then there's also a risk of invasive species being released. For example, in Florida, you have people that keep large snakes. When they get so big that the owners can’t keep them anymore, they release them into the Everglades where these animals establish viable wild populations and compete for habitat with indigenous wildlife.
So there's really a spectrum of issues, from animal welfare to human welfare to the welfare of native wildlife. This is something that we at Born Free USA are working very hard to change.
This is really a signature campaign of ours. We try and educate the public about the hazards of keeping exotic animals as pets. We’re also working very hard to change the laws to make it more difficult, if not impossible for certain species to be kept.
We had success back in 2003, when the US congress passed legislation called the Captive Wildlife Safety Act which prohibits the interstate transportation of big cats: lions, tigers, leopards, cheetahs, or hybrids thereof, if they are intended to be kept as pets.
I know for a fact that that law works to deter people from trading these animals. We've had sanctuaries that keep big cats tell us that after that law was passed the number of animals needing their rescue declined significantly.
Now we're working to add non-human primates to that list of prohibited species that can be moved between states for personal ownership as pets, because we know that primates don’t make good pets.
“Born Free” knows all too well the hazards of the exotic pet trade, especially with respect to non-human primates because we have our own sanctuary for about 500 non-human primates down in Texas. A number of those animals have come to us because they were unwanted pets, owned by a person who, for whatever reason, was no longer able to keep them. And when they have no place to go, these animals often end up on our doorstep.
It’s very hard for us. Animals come to us not just coming to us from people’s homes but from biomedical research laboratories or roadside zoos and other places. At the end of the day, we take these animals in and support them whenever possible. We have to rely on the goodwill from folks around the country to make donations and support their ongoing care but we have to take the animals in because the alternatives are horrendous – a tragic life in a substandard facility or a premature and unnecessary death. We prefer to give these animals a peaceful retirement and so we take them in.
We did pass the bill to add primates to that list of species protected from the pet trade a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, it was held up in the U.S. Senate, and now we have to start over again. But we think that we'll succeed, ultimately, in getting that legislation passed.
THE BORN FREE PRIMATE SANCTUARY
Can you talk about your Primate Sanctuary?
Adam: We have the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, which is outside of San Antonio Texas and we've got 500 animals there, including vervet monkeys, macaques, and baboons that live on nearly 200 acres so they have great space – including a 50 acre enclosure where many of them can actually swim and jump in ponds and climb trees and really act like monkeys should.
This accreditation is important so that people will know the difference between a sanctuary that has met standards and is doing good work, as opposed to someone who is breeding tigers in his backyard, and calling himself a sanctuary. We want to provide the gold standard for what a sanctuary should look like.
The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee, the Born Free USA Primate Sanctuary, are just two of the examples of sanctuaries that really can guarantee a significant quality of life.
Will: Just to add to what Adam said, and he told the story extremely well. There is one other important point. Unless the legislation is changed, we will always be handling the fallout of a situation that’s out of control. And we can’t, and the sanctuaries can’t. Not even the GFAS accredited sanctuaries can forever accommodate and take in animals while the government stands idly by and takes no action against the individuals who keep these animals – the individuals who keep bears, lions, tigers, primates or chimpanzees as pets. Then, if anything goes wrong, the humane movement has to scurry around and pick up the pieces.
The dynamic has to change, and there has to be responsible legislation, properly enforced so that maybe, in my lifetime and hopefully in Adam's lifetime, we’ll see an end to the keeping of exotic animals as pets and also, a winding down for the need for sanctuaries.
What are the avenues for the public to get involved?
Adam: We have an Action Alert Network that people can sign up for through our website where they can get frequent emails from us. These alerts will let them know what they can do on a national level, or opportunities for involvement at the local level, in their own town. It might be something like writing to a restaurant to get them to stop selling lion meat, or writing to their United States Senators about a piece of legislation on exotic pets.
There is a lot of information about this on our website.
Let’s talk about the cartels – wildlife trafficking, and slaughtering animals for their parts. There is an enormous black market that has ballooned out of control.
How has Born Free been advocating against wildlife trafficking?
Adam: We’re heavily involved in the global treaty that governs the international movement of wild animals. It’s called "CITES" the Convention on International Trade and Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora.
This is a convention that was signed in Washington, D.C. in 1973 and now has more than 170 countries that participate. It regulates trade in certain species internationally so that endangered species can be protected and certain animals and animal parts cannot be traded commercially.
There are all kinds of regulations that govern trade – not only trade in elephant ivory, but trade in elephant hair, elephant leather, — all parts of the elephant are covered by the Treaty. It also bans trade in tiger bones and tiger parts, internationally.
There's also an international ban on the trade in whale meat. So CITES has some pretty tremendous opportunities to provide animal protection but at the same time individual nations need to adopt stronger domestic measures to implement CITES, or to actually expand on CITES. For the US, that's the Endangered Species Act.
Our Endangered Species Act not only implements the Convention, but also provides a greater level of protection for some species that are listed under it. And that's why we petitioned the US Department of Interior to place the African lion on the endangered species list as an endangered species, and thereby provide an additional layer of protection.
The U.S. is the #1 importer of lion parts
If we succeed in placing them on the endangered species list here, the US will no longer be an open market for lion parts. That’s incredibly important because, according to the data, the US is now the biggest international consumer of lion parts.
Adam: Yes — the U.S. is the biggest consumer of lion parts, both as trophies from trophy hunts, but also for commercial products. And what we've seen is a tremendous decline in the population of African lions. Since 1980, the population of African lions have been cut in half, from about 76,000 to between roughly 40,000 and a devastating 23,000 today. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of lion parts being imported into America. In fact there were twice as many lion parts commercially imported into this country in 2008 as there were in 1999.
What we’re saying is that it isn’t sustainable, and the only solution right now is to put the lion on the Endangered Species Act and to stop this hemorrhaging of lions coming out of Africa at a pace of 600 trophies a year.
Will: This is also exemplified in the ivory trade.
The original international ban on the trade of ivory came in 1989 and I was actually at the CITES meeting in Switzerland where that decision was made. In the four or five years immediately after the ban it seemed that the number of elephants being poached was going down, that the price of ivory on the black market (because it was all illegal) was going down, way down to maybe $10 a kilo. So, even the poor poacher manipulated by a cartel would not risk his or her life if they were going to make $10, $20, $30– it just wasn't worth the risk.
Unfortunately since the mid 1990s, to the present day, there's been an erosion of that ban. There have been a number of so-called one-off sales of significant amounts of ivory – like the recent sale of 100 tons of ivory from stockpiles from certain countries – and the approval of Japan and China as favored trading nations for ivory.
The British government actually wrote me about the approval of China as an approved trading nation for ivory. They said "well the reason we think it's a good idea is because we think it'll meet the demand. And if we can meet the demand, there will be less poaching, and there will be less animal trade. We will satiate the market. It will satisfy the buyers."
And the truth is that it's going in exactly in the opposite direction. The level of poaching is at devastatingly high levels right now. The amount of ivory that's being seized is huge. The price of illegal ivory is now running at around $1500 U.S. per kilo. That’s about $700 a pound. African poachers are very willing to risk their lives if they think that they can get $700 for just a pound of raw ivory.
That’s why we need to take responsibility. Governments need to take responsibility. If the US is the biggest single importer of lion trophies, the US has a responsibility to address that issue. If the UK government approved China for a trading nation of the ivory, the UK needs to take responsibility for the fact that it made that decision.
And we as consumers, we also have responsibilities. We choose what we buy and therefore we influence what is sold.
Adam: And there's one other aspect of how we can fight these black markets. We can do this not only through legislation and not only through international Treaties, but through public pressure as well. Because if people stop buying these products, when people stop buying ivory, the price goes down, poaching decreases and elephants’ lives are saved
SUPPORT OF WILDLIFE LAW ENFORCEMENT ON THE GROUND
We’re also heavily involved in supporting wildlife law enforcement on the ground, in the country where the wildlife lives. That’s incredibly important because the poachers and the profiteers in these wildlife products are backed by incredibly powerful and well-funded people who can give them all of the resources they need.
They are not only paid to kill wild animals and get the parts and export them out of the country for all they're worth, but they're also putting people's lives on the line. The park rangers who live with wildlife and have to protect the wildlife can't compete because they're under-funded. So you have very small wildlife departments without vehicles, fuel, equipment, training – they even have a hard time raising the funds to get a computer for their office so they can track poaching incidents.
These are things we take for granted, but the people on the ground who are protecting wild animals from the poachers really need our support. And so we try and help in any way we can, whether it's equipping these wildlife departments with laptops or funding de-snaring operations to go out in Kenya. We have teams operating in Kenya that actually remove wire snares that have been set by poachers trying to catch wild animals.
So these are all the different ways that we are actually on the ground in country where, together with our supporters, we try and stop the poaching before it happens. Or at the very least, we support the people that can apprehend the poachers and make sure they're prosecuted fully.
What makes Born Free USA different than other animal protection organizations out there? What make your operation unique?
Adam: We focus very much on protecting wildlife and protecting wild animals in captivity. And while we care very much about animals in biomedical research laboratories or factory farms, we appreciate that there are some great groups out there with the specific expertise and abilities to deal with those issues, so that we can really streamline our efforts and craft our mission to focus on protecting the greatest number of animals that fall into the category of wildlife protection.
In addition, we really do try and focus on individual animals – it's not just some philosophical or a policy exercise. We’re trying to stop people buying primates as ‘pets’, but at the same time we want to make sure that we can actually protect and care for any primates that are confiscated from the pet trade.
We want to bring the concept of Compassionate Conservation, the protection of both individuals and species, to everything we do. I think we have a real grasp on the interplay between sound science, strong policy and direct animal care than some other organizations might not have.
What are the most important things that you want the public to know about Born Free?
Adam: I would say that we can't do this without the public support and so, obviously, working in all of the areas we're involved in is great but if we don’t have public support, we won’t be able to do this work anymore. So the more people that learn about what we're doing and how we're doing it and are willing to embrace our vision, embrace our mission, the more work we can do for animals.
Second, that we’re an international operation. We not just in Washington and in California but all across the country, in Canada, and at our primate sanctuary in Texas, and indeed everywhere in the world where wild animals are in peril.
Will: I would say the other thing is that there are lots of serious issues, huge issues, lots of terrible things that go on with animals, but we also like to have a bit of fun when we do things as well.
For example, this September, we are going to be holding a fashion show down in California in the Los Angeles area.
It’s all fur-free fashion, with different young designers around the country participating. This is a runway event, and it’s going to be great! We'll have a whole host of people there but one of the judges who'll be helping us choose the winners is Elizabeth Emmanuel who is a friend of mine – she designed Princess Diana's wedding gown years ago!
What is your ultimate vision for Born Free?
Adam: Well, the vision is really to keep wildlife in the wild. We want to create a world in which wild animals are not treated cruelly for human entertainment or fashion and at the end of the day where they remain protected where they belong, in the wild.
Will: I was asked recently, by somebody who was interviewing me, "Don't you just get disheartened? Don't you kind of look at the huge mountain of issues and become discouraged and just kind of want to give up?"
And I think the answer to that is that is it goes back to the individual. If we can help reduce the suffering of one animal – a primate by giving him a home in our Sanctuary, or if we can save one elephant’s life from poachers by supporting the law enforcement agency, or if we can change the way that an animal is being kept in a circus or a zoo, or if we can persuade one person not to buy an exotic animal as a pet, or one legislator to take up our cause and make a difference in their state, we will have accomplished part of our goal.
Every single one of those battles is winnable and when you win it gives you the energy; it puts fuel in the tank for the next battle. Adam's been doing it for 20 years, I've been doing it for 27 years and we still have the stomach for the fight. I hope compassionate people everywhere will join us!
A CONVERSATION WITH ANIMAL PROTECTION HERO AND TRAILBLAZER,
FOUNDER AND PRESIDENT, ELLIOT M. KATZ, DVM
Our mission is to end animal exploitation, cruelty, and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals, as well as to raise their status beyond mere property, commodities, objects or things.
By Jonathan Arkin
Albert Schweitzer and St. Francis of Assisi may not be on the layperson’s shortlist of animal rights activists, but the forward-thinking pair ranks high on the scale for the multifaceted organization In Defense of Animals (IDA) and its founding president, Dr. Elliot Katz.
For Katz and his influential animal advocacy organization, Schweitzer the humanist and St. Francis the missionary are two individuals among many who personify IDA’s mission.
A MISSION INSPIRED BY GREAT THINKERS
TO CREATE A MORE COMPASSIONATE WORLD
“I have devoted the latter part of my life doing everything in my power to change the way people see and act towards other species.” said Katz, who emerged from veterinary college at Cornell University with a mission. Many great people have inspired me throughout the years, such as St. Francis of Assisi and his powerful message. 'Not to hurt our humble brethern is our first duty to them, but to stop there, is not enough. We have a higher mission, to be of service to them wherever they require it.'.
As Founder and President of IDA, Katz has embraced the daring insights and ideas of several great thinkers to fashion a credo of his own – one that drives society into a more responsible and humane way of thinking. “Our mission is to end animal exploitation, cruelty and abuse by protecting and advocating for the rights, welfare, and habitats of animals, as well asto raise their status beyond mere property, objects, commodities and things.”
IDA PROGRAMS: A WORLDWIDE REACH
With programs and campaigns underway in Cameroon, Africa (where IDA operates its chimpanzee sanctuary), South Korea (working in concert with South Korean organizations), and ambulance services, veterinary clinics, and educational outreach in Mumbai, India, with more local efforts in Grenada, Mississippi (a 64-acre sanctuary for abused and abandoned animals), and with staff in locations from Colorado to Oregon to New York to Pennsylvania to California – IDA has emerged as one of the most progressive independent charities in America. The mission is not only to rescue, advocate for, and provide sanctuary and veterinary care, but also to instill a deeper and more profound consciousness about other species, in captivity and in the wild.
And while expressing a great deal of respect for other animal-rights groups, Katz believes IDA is unique.
Feeding time for 140 resident dogs in Mumbai, India
IDA’S SIX DISTINCT PROGRAMS: ANIMAL PROTECTION, ADVOCACY, RESCUE, SANCTUARY, HABITAT PROTECTION AND VETERINARY CARE
“To a great extent, it’s because I am a veterinarian that I try to be available, as best as funds will allow, to deal with and be supportive of issues others have taken on,” said Katz, defining what differentiates his organization. “We not only protect the rights of animals, but we are also an advocacy and a welfare organization as we give sanctuary to animals, and work to protect their habitats. That enables us to look at the broad picture. We do our best not to turn our backs on animals in need. When funds are available, we do everything in our power to help. Most recently, we helped animal victims in such disaster-stricken areas as Haiti, Chile, Brazil, and Australia.
ONE VETERINARIAN’S “HORRIFIC” INTRODUCTION TO THE UNETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS
The long, compassionate road to action began in Ithaca, New York, when Katz was attending Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine, and found himself wrestling with the moral dilemmas of veterinary education.
“I saw adoptable dogs from shelters being mutilated and killed by inexperienced veterinary students being forced to do surgical procedures on animals, and teachers showing little or no regard for the dogs who were being mutilated. Katz said. “That’s how veterinary school started for me. The suffering and mutilation of healthy adoptable dogs was horrible. There was no sense of compassion or caring. What a bleak message it sent to the veterinarians of the future. Veterinary college in those days was a horror show, week after week. Any student who cared deeply about dogs or cats was seen as weird and strange. Veterinarians who went into small animal practice were looked down upon as simply doing it for the money.
Despite threats of expulsion, Katz refused to take part in the cruel surgical practice labs.
THE DEFINING MOMENT FOR KATZ AND ULTIMATELY FOR IDA : A CAMPUS VETERINARIAN UNDER ATTACK FOR REFUSING TO CLOSE HIS EYES TO THE GROSS IRRESPONSIBILITY AND TO THE RAMPANT ANIMAL CRUELTY TAKING PLACE IN THE RESEARCH LABORATORIES OF THE UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA, BERKELEY CAMPUS.
It was this unique story, however, that unfolded on the West Coast, where Katz lived with his family, which led to his defining moment, one that would launch him into activism and, ultimately, the founding of In Defense of Animals. Katz describes the beginning:
THE (FOUNDING) PRINCIPLE OF “REVERENCE FOR LIFE:” SCHWEITZER’S IDEOLOGY COURSING THROUGH THE IDA CAMPAIGNS
One of the chimpanzees at Sanaga-Yong Chimpanzee Rescue Center in Cameroon, Africa
“I have incorporated the ideas of St. Francis, and I’ve also embraced the vision of Albert Schweitzer – that “the thinking man (person) must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition or surrounded by a halo,” Katz said.
Dr. Jane Goodall, Cesar Chavez, Mahatma Gandhi, Rosa Parks, Dr. Martin Luther King, and Professor J.B. Neilands are but a few of the individuals that ignite the imagination of Dr. Katz and his ongoing fight for a better world.
THE CENTRAL MISSION OF IDA: TO CHANGE THE WAY HUMANS VIEW AND TREAT OTHER ANIMALS, REPLACING THE TERM "OWNER" WITH THE TERM, "GUARDIAN"
“Our goal: to change the way society views animals – that animals should be viewed as sentient beings who deserve to be treated respectfully and responsibly. The Guardian campaign expresses the core principles of the organization’s mission.
The central tenet of the Guardian campaign is that animals should not be viewed as mere commodities, property, objects, or things to be exploited, abused, abandoned, or killed at an “owner’s” whim. This shift in the relationship between humans and other animals will lead to a more humane, protective, respectful, and responsible relationship with the beings with whom we share our homes, our lives, our planet.
A lucky puppy rescued from a local puppy mill, now happily living at Hope Animal Sanctuary
CHILDREN WHO LEARN RESPONSIBILITY, COMPASSION AND RESPECT FOR ANIMALS ARE MORE LIKELY TO BECOME COMPASSIONATE ADULTS
To quote Edwin Sayres, President of the ASPCA:
“The term ‘guardian accurately describes the relationship of perpetual care that is needed to teach children respect, compassion and kindness for domestic pets. Studies show that children who learn compassion and respect for animals have a better chance at becoming compassionate adults and responsible community members, and are less likely to behave violently towards others.”
Hope Animal Sanctuary Director, Doll Staney and rescued friends
The idea of acting as a guardian is reflected in IDA’s print and online publication, Guardians, says Katz, and in its “inspirational and motivational stories about individuals who are making a difference for animals. Guardians features informative articles about the plight of animals, the galvanizing work of activists, and ways that [we] can help animals in [our] own communities and around the world.”
Rodney, cast out because he is blind – now happily munching grass at the Hope Animal Sanctuary
WORKING TOWARD A NEW DEFINITION OF THE WORD “ANIMAL” – TO MEAN A SENTIENT, EMOTIONAL BEING THAT NEEDS AND DESERVES OUR PROTECTION
"If the Guardian campaign is successful, it will forever change the concept of "animal" from a "thing" that humans must control and dominate to a sentient being who deserves to be treated responsibly, with compassion and respect.
"In addition to all the thousands of lives that IDA has saved, if I have had some small part in a paradigm shift as to how we relate to other species, then I will feel I have lived a life worth living."
Hope Animal Sanctuary in Mississippi
THE ULIMTATE GOAL: A “HANDS-ON” APPROACH TO RAISE AWARENESS AND IMPLEMENT PRACTICES THAT CREATE A MORE JUST AND COMPASSIONATE WORLD
Katz is excited about IDA’s scope and reaching out to even more animals in need; in fact, he has coined an expression to support the marriage of IDA maxims and its wide net of activity: Thinking AND doing.
“It’s the thinking and actually doing…putting into practice the ideas that will ultimately make a difference for the beings with whom we share our world. It’s the ‘doing’ that will make me feel that together, we have fulfilled a dream of making the world a more peaceful, just, and considerate place,” Katz said. “It boils down to ‘hands-on’ action: it’s the hands-on rescue; it’s campaigning to stop animal cruelty in laboratories, fur and factory farms, puppy mills, circuses and zoos; it’s raising awareness to those who don’t know or think about the daily cruelty and suffering; it’s calling for people to think and act as the guardians, the advocates, the protectors of animals.
While the Guardian campaign, one of many undertaken by IDA (see below), will continue as the central voice of advocacy and rescue work for IDA staff and volunteers, Katz offered a word of inspiration:.
Paraphrasing Harriet Beecher Stowe, “It is a matter of taking the side of the weak against the strong, something the best people have always done.”
These days, with the ever-increasing interest in animal rights and vegan lifestyles, Katz is pleased with the part he and the IDA staff have played, and continue to play, in saving lives and changing minds.
More lucky puppy mill rescues
VOLUNTEERS ARE ALWAYS WELCOME: “THERE IS A PLACE FOR EVERYBODY”
In reaching out to an intended audience of animal lovers, institutions, and the curious, Katz says that IDA can also attract interested parties to become involved as volunteers. “Every person, whatever skills he or she possesses are welcome,” said Katz. “Our programs are so broad, there’s a place for everybody. Our magazine, our Web site, our weekly e-newsletter, our blogs are full of suggestions on how to participate—from making donations to writing letters, to making phone calls, to attending protests, the list goes on and on. Volunteering allows one to be part of something larger than oneself.
“The simplest way to get involved is to receive our free weekly e-newsletter, to contact us, fill out a form, and simply ask, ‘How can I help?’ or tell us how you would like to help. Simply changing what you eat or what you wear will help bring about a more compassionate world, but there is much more you can do than that, such as educating others by distributing our literature or attending international days of protest and education.”
In addition to promoting the Guardian Campaign, which is working to shift both the legal and conscious definitions of "animal" in our daily life, IDA continues it's work as an international watchdog and advocacy organization, ready to speak out against animal exploitation and cruelty everywhere in the world. Information on major campaigns can be found at the links below:
“Everyone can make a difference –even small things can make a big difference.
Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.
Juliette West’s animal activist journey began at the tender age of eight, when she asked her family and friends to make donations to the local animal shelter in lieu of – – gifts for her birthday. Little did she know that six years later, that path would lead her to a starring role in Tim Gorski’s documentary film, “How I Became An Elephant”, which screened to a rapt crowd of over 400 at the Hollywood Activist Film Festival at the Egyptian Theater on December 2, 2010.
Without giving away too much of the story, the film centers on Juliette’s quest to rescue a badly injured female elephant from a forced breeding camp in Thailand, and transport her to the famed Elephant Nature Park sanctuary, to live out her life in peace. In Thailand, and in other parts of Asia, elephants are used extensively for work and entertainment, and most famously, appear once a year at an “Elephant Roundup”, a public display where they thrill the crowds with elaborate circus tricks and rides. The manner in which the elephants are “tamed” for these spectacles is a large part of the story. By the end of the film, we learn a lot about elephants, what life is like for captive elephants in Thailand – and just why it is so important that elephants remain free and wild.
Buy why elephants? What led to Juliette’s passion for elephants?
Billy the elephant at the LA Zoo was her first inspiration. When she was 12, Juliette heard about the movement to retire Billy, the lone elephant resident of the Los Angeles Zoo elephant to the PAWS (Performing Animal Welfare Society) sanctuary. Billy was suffering from arthritis and foot disease due to the substandard enclosure in which he was kept. He was also lonely and cramped in a small enclosure where he rocked back and forth in a rhythm called stereotypies which signals extreme mental distress. Stereotypies is commonly seen in captive elephants– in zoos, and especially in circuses. It is never seen in the wild where elephants live freely with their families and roam up to 20 miles per day.
Juliette began to educate herself on elephants – how they live in the wild, what they need to live successfully in captivity. She wrote to City Council members and to friends on Billy’s behalf, asking for their support. She went to visit the PAWS Sanctuary, as well as to the Oakland and Oregon Zoos to see the conditions in which the elephants lived. These fateful trips led to important meetings: the first, with Oregon Zoo Deputy Director, Mike Keele, a leading U.S. expert on Asian elephants; and the second, with film producer Michael Tobias, who was impressed with Juliette’s passion and determination. Tobias called Tim Gorski, a documentary filmmaker and anoutspoken animal advocate to meetJuliette.
Within months, Juliette found herself at the Annual Animal Rights Conference, taking place in Los Angeles. There, she met Tim Gorski, who was speaking at the conference. Gorski was looking for a way to bring his message about elephant conservation to a younger group of people. Juliette proved to be the perfect spokesperson.
Juliette, in person, is articulate and self possessed far beyond her years. She spoke with Action Now+Network about her role in the film, and the message she hopes we will take from it.
Action Now+Network: What was the most challenging thing about making the film?
Juliette West: This was my first time on camera, and it was difficult – I had to learn how to relax in front of the camera. I had to leave school for two weeks, when we went to Thailand, and it was an adjustment.
A.N.N: What do you hope this film will accomplish?
JW: I would like people to understand the history behind the safari tours and circuses –the elephants don’t just appear there willingly doing these awful stunts. Elephants don’t normally balance on their head. I want people to stop and think before they take an elephant ride – what had to happen to this wild elephant, to get it to perform or to carry someone on its back. How much beating did it take to become so submissive and lose its spirit? I hope it (the film) will educate people about what is happening in Thailand –about how the elephants are “tamed” for the safari tours – about the abuse that occurs.
When I went to the Elephant Nature Park, the sanctuary, it was heartbreaking to see some of the rescued and retired elephants there. They had been so abused. One elephant had a broken back. The elephant we saved in the film had a broken hip from a forced breeding program.
ANN: What do you see yourself doing in the future?
JW: My hope is to become an activist in some way, an animal rights activist. I’d like to open people’s eyes as to what is happening behind the scenes when they go to a circus – what their money is supporting.
ANN: What is the one thing you’d like readers to know about your experience?
JW: I’d like people to know that everyone can make a difference – and that even small things can make a big difference. Just passing on a circus ticket will be a big help for the elephants.
For more information on Juliette and “How I Became An Elephant”, see the following links:
ELEPHANTS ARE BRUTALLY SLAUGHTERED BY POACHERS FOR THEIR IVORY.
CONSUMERS: YOU CAN HELP SAVE THESE PEACEFUL, GENTLE ANIMALS.
BOYCOTT ALL IVORY SALES.
EACH PURCHASE OF IVORY PROPELS THE POACHING TRADE.
IVORY AND BUSH MEAT SALES KEEP POACHERS IN BUSINESS.
HERE'S WHAT YOU CAN DO TO INTERCEPT THE BUSH MEAT TRADE:
Ken Bernhard and Bill Clark, Chief of Interpol Wildlife Crimes unit, are raising money for a DNA Forensics Lab to be headquartered at the Kenyan Wildlife Service.
A DNA Forensics lab will identify poached bush meat sold in local Kenyan storefronts.
Contributions for the DNA Forensics lab can be made to The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation (Lindgergh Foundation), with designations to the Aviation Green Investment Program-DNA Forensics Lab.
Using animals in circuses is an unnecessary and inhumane practice that's harmful to both the animals and the public. Unlike the human performers who choose to work in circuses, exotic animals are forced to take part in the show. They are involuntary actors in a degrading, unnatural spectacle.
While many people associate the circus with "safe, wholesome, family fun" — an association promoted aggressively by the circus PR machine — the truth is much darker. Government inspection reports reveal ongoing mistreatment of animals in circuses, as well as failures to provide the basic minimal standards of care required by law. Animals used in circuses have been injured and killed, and have injured and killed humans.