A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Jul 29, 2010

The unfortunate gunning down of a dairy cow at the fair.

I am sure by now that you heard the story of the stressed pregnant dairy cow that was shot 11 times at the state fair when she escaped her confines. She and her calf did not survive the attack. Why was this soon to be mother at the state fair?  She was brought there to allow children to watch the birth occur live- a tradition at this event.

In other words - she was an exhibit. In the age of technology, virtual simulations, film and probably even video tape, it seems unnecessary and cruel to force a near term, hormonal, uncomfortable and extremely protective cow to undergo the rigors of travel, confinement, crowds, noise and seemingly threatening behavior by onlookers, to give birth on display. I submit to you that the lesson learned by the audience would not be the wonder of birth but rather, that it is perfectly fine to torment a cow. In this case the cow tried to escape and was gunned down. It was then said that the killing was justified because the cow was"nuts". Notwithstanding her instinct to protect herself and her calf, I would further submit that she was not consenting to be in the show and ran.  It hardly seems nutty at all.

There are protests occurring in Sacramento to voice displeasure over this fiasco, but I also wonder:
     Did the way she was killed violate animal cruelty statutes?
     As an exhibition animal she falls under USDA authority as well. Did this conduct violate the Federal Animal Welfare Act?
     Was there a public safety plan for the event that should have been followed in the case of an escape?
     Was protocol in fact followed if there was a plan?

Finally, as a civilized, educated, tech savvy and compassionate people, we must demand an immediate end to this birth on display tradition, use every opportunity and tool within our means to teach children respect for animals, and strive to discover new ways to do the same.

Jul 18, 2010

Yes you can but you may not - about abuse of power

I came across this quote which stopped me in my tracks:
    "When I was in the military, I was given a medal for killing two people, and a discharge   for loving one." (Epitaph of Leonard P. Maltovic)

Against the landscape of the future of "don't ask don't tell" and the issue of same sex marriage surely headed to the United States Supreme Court- I have to sadly say - no matter the outcome - we cannot cure or legislate against bullies. There will always be abuse of power and tyranny over a weaker entity. That is the elixir of the strong - license to trample.

spcaLA is on a mission to protect voiceless and defenseless animals from the infliction of cruelty. A variety of laws exist to protect the disabled, children, elderly, consumers and a host of vulnerable classes weaker than the reigning clique. Our constitution defends minority rights, religions, and the right of a single voice to speak against the government. And still - the large pummel the small, the majority taunts the minority, the big kid throws sand on the little kid and the little kid kicks the puppy.  As if that wasn't bad enough - our system allows the use of these minorities to further the agenda of those in power at the conclusion of which they are discarded.  Leonard P. Maltovic, a decorated Technical Sergeant in the U.S. Air-force during the Vietnam era, was allowed to risk his life for his country until they discharged him as "unfit for military service" when they learned he was a homosexual.  Seriously, does that make sense? He was fit as long as other people didn't know he was gay?

As long as we ravage the environment because we can, exploit and torture animals because we can, subjugate women and children because we can, decimate minority constituencies because we can, and laud power over the weak because we can - we are doomed to forever travel in a circle powered by whichever big wind blows.

We are clearly unable to legislate against every bully or abuser who torments those who are weaker. Could we legislate for truth, justice, respect and equality? Maybe we write a law that strives for the positive and states - "yes you can, but you may not".  Jean de La Fontaine, the French fabulist and poet said:
   "Anyone entrusted with power will abuse it if not also animated with love of truth and virtue, no matter whether he be a prince, or one of the people."

Who do we see about that?

Jul 13, 2010

Where does all the funding go? Where did Haiti's go?

I have been watching a lot of coverage about the 6 month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti and it is awful. Nothing is happening. People are still living on the streets, roads are not built and hurricane season is fast approaching. Where are the funds that were raised to facilitate the recovery? What is going on? Creative accounting? Diverting funds elsewhere? Sham entities? Government corruption?

Disasters can be goldmines for the unscrupulous whether they are charities or government bureaucrats. With every outpouring of generosity there are tales of fraud, fake victims, fine print loopholes and official corruption. There are websites alleging to be those of legitimate organizations, or legitimate organizations trying to benefit from disaster fund-raising who aren't really helping. Confusion, both deliberate and accidental is everywhere. We are a people that always respond to pleas for help, yet how many times can we hear of these disappointments and still continue to give. As one who runs a charity, I can tell you, I am disturbed by this. spcaLA's animals depend upon the kindness of strangers and philanthropic citizens as does any vulnerable group. If those who can give, stop, believing that they are not making a difference, what will happen to those in need?

Rather than souring on giving, research the situation, ask questions and make sure your gift is going to whom and where you so intend. (For example - the animal welfare world has no umbrella organization. Funds to ASPCA and HSUS are not distributed by donor zip-code as is the case with other nonprofit models. There are no chapters. In fact, both have been asked to simply provide meaningful disclosure on their ads to avoid confusion - and both have refused) Rather than getting upset that you gave in response to a commercial that you believed suggested that your gift would be local and thus donated to an organization that did not fulfill your intention - research the charity. Rather than feeling fooled or ripped off that you sent funds and people are still suffering - research the entity responsible for distribution and recovery measures.  Absent a catastrophic occurrence like an earthquake or 911, donating to a local organization that you can visit, talk to, and just see in action is reassuring to the donor.

Often, even a local charity that you know and trust may be providing international relief as well. Giving locally also helps to strengthen the community in which you live. New Yorkers reading this may recall the tag line for Sy Sims clothing - "An educated consumer is our best customer." Ultimately this is the best advice and a policy which ensures satisfaction all around.  It is especially true in these horrid economic times where the philanthropic entities are filling essential financial and service gaps left by the government and for-profit sectors and who desperately need help to keep up with the demand. If the reputable nonprofits fail - there will be no relief. Conversely, the combination of generosity and disaster can add up to a veritable "candy store" for the unprincipled, greedy and the opportunistic.

I sincerely hope that the citizens of Haiti receive the monies meant for them - I hope that this is so for their sakes, and for those in need everywhere.

Jul 7, 2010

Be kind to the hens if you want healthy eggs.

It is so often that doing the right thing for another living thing helps us all. Or-good deeds can produce their own rewards.

Effective January 2015 it will be a misdemeanor to sell eggs in California that are the product of inhumanely confined hens. In other words, the hen must be able to move around, extend her wings, and lie down without touching another hen or the sides of the cage.(AB 1437) This is a derivative consequence of the Prevention of the Farm Cruelty Act (Proposition 2), passed by us in 2008 which goes into effect at the same time. It is interesting to note that the reasons stated in the bill relate to the protection of people! The language states:     "Egg-laying hens subjected to stress are more likely to have higher levels of pathogens in their intestines, and the   conditions increase the likelihood that consumers will be exposed to higher levels of food-borne pathogens. Salmonella is the most commonly diagnosed food-borne illness in the United States."     This is a well known fact which has come up time and again regarding the sale of Easter chicks and duck plague where the release of chicks into our ecosystem, affect the water, where ducks and migratory birds bathe and drink.

This chant of interconnectedness is not one that is illusory, the ravings of a Henny-Penny, or those of a single-minded activist. It is real. So - if you don't care about the humane treatment of animals - care about contracting salmonella - and be kind to them for that reason.