A blog by spcaLA president, Madeline Bernstein

Nov 28, 2011

Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption in the U.S.

UPDATE: President Obama signed budget measure that prohibits using federal inspection funds for the horse slaughtering process.

UPDATE: Opening of slaughter plants in New Mexico and Iowa temporarily stopped by judge to consider the need for environmental studies. Also, the New Mexico Environmental Department declined a request to renew Valley Meat Co.'s (slaughterhouse) waste-water discharge permit.  Robert Redford and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson forming foundation to stop the return to domestic horse slaughter.

UPDATE: Horse slaughter plant to open soon in New Mexico , slaughter ban lifted in Oklahoma after 50 years, and USDA predicts more to follow ...

Horse slaughter plants are legal again in the United States. Restrictions on horse meat processing for human consumption have been lifted.  courtesy of Google Images

In a bipartisan effort, the House of Representatives and the United States Senate approved the Conference Committee report on spending bill H.R. 2112, which among other things, funds the United States Department of Agriculture.  On November 18th, as the country was celebrating Thanksgiving, President Obama signed a law, allowing Americans to kill and eat horses. Essentially, one turkey was pardoned in the presence of worldwide media while in the shadows, buried under pages of fiscal regulation, millions of horses were sentenced to death.

Horse slaughter has been prohibited in the United States as funding for inspections of horses in transit and at slaughter houses was non-existent. This worked because the horse meat cannot be sold for human consumption without such inspections. The House version of the bill retained the de-funding language and the Senate version did not. The conference committee charged with reconciling the two opted to not include it. The result is that it is now legal to slaughter horses for humans to eat.

Notwithstanding that 70% of Americans oppose horse slaughter, that President Obama made a campaign promise to permanently ban horse slaughter and exports of horses for human consumption (horses can be sent to Mexico and Canada), that documentation of animal cruelty, slaughterhouse stench, fluid runoff and negative community impact exists, it is taxpayers that will bear the costs!

Wyoming state representative Sue Wallis and her pro-slaughter group estimate that between 120,000 and 200,000 horses will be killed for human consumption per year and that Oregon, Idaho, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, Georgia and Missouri, are considering opening slaughter plants.

During these trying times, is the only thing that Democrats and Republicans can agree on is that Americans need to eat horses?

Article first published as Obama Legalizes Horse Slaughter for Human Consumption on Technorati.

Nov 22, 2011

He Walked into my Cat-House and Placed iPads on the Floor

A man walked into my cat-house and placed his iPad on the floor.
courtesy spcaLA
The purpose of the visit was to film an episode of a program about cats. They came to spcaLA (not affiliated with any other spca as there is no national/umbrella spca) to film in our luxurious cage free indoor outdoor catteries. Part of the program called for a segment involving cats playing the iPad game - "GameForCats". Essentially, a mouse, butterfly or laser dot moves around the screen and chirps if touched. The cat earns points for each successful touch. 

I could do nothing but cringe as I thought about claws, scratches, spray, and hair  balls, all attacking the iPad. There were, after all, about 20 cats lounging in that area. I couldn't watch.

Then it happened. Groups of cats surrounded the tablet. Some began to swat at the moving targets and some just leaned in their heads and nodded furiously as the others played. One enterprising cat sat on the iPad and racked up zillions of points each time the mouse, butterfly or red dot moved under him. Of course, we began yelling "unfair" and tried to explain to the cat that playing that way could be considered cheating! The cats however, ignored us and continued to pat the iPad when the targets came out from under the offending cat.

Notwithstanding one bossy cat who didn't want to share and caused some hurt feelings the event was quite successful. There was no damage to the iPad and the bruised feelings were quickly addressed and assuaged.

I learned, just in time for the holidays, that an iPad can be the perfect gift for the cat who has everything, and the perfect donation for the cat in a shelter who is homeless and has nothing.

Article first published as My Cat Needs an iPad on Technorati

Nov 18, 2011

What do Penn State, Herman Cain, Wall Street banks, aspca, and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?

What do Penn State, Herman Cain, Wall Street banks, aspca, and the Ku Klux Klan have in common?

Courtesy Google Images
They each embody a story of abuse of power in one form or another. Whether set against a landscape of sexual abuse, sexual harassment, corporate greed, the strong picking on the weak or the majority tormenting the minority - the tales are the same. They are sagas about bullying-plain and simple. Specifically, they represent methods of using superior strength of influence to intimidate and/or force a victim to do what the bully wants. (Paraphrased from the On Line Dictionary)

The bullies prey on our wish to pursue happiness free from conflict and pain by using threats of retaliation, physical harm, loss of job, loss of good reputation and economic clout. Like an ordinary street gang, they conspire with one another to guard their secret handshake and to extort silence from victims so the gang can thrive. In fact, some may thrive so well as to become too big to fail!  For example, fear of losing a job, being labeled a "trouble maker", or being called a slut, might cause a victim of sexual harassment to think twice before complaining. Or, the risk of negative publicity and attendant loss of funding and stature might motivate the trustees of a well-regarded institution to allow the rape and molestation of youngsters to continue unimpeded for a decade. Remaining tight-lipped about the unfettered packaging of mystery financial instruments or the misleading practices of a charitable corporation suggesting that they are an "umbrella" organization, permits the innocent to invest or to donate under false pretenses-which is precisely the point as the purchase or gift might not occur if the truth were known.

Whether cowering behind a corporate veil or a white sheet, those in power rape, steal and overpower those who can neither fight back nor identify the attacker. Sadly, in the Penn State situation, where there were even actual witnesses, they appeared to be ethically impotent and rendered silent by fear or retaliation and exile by the powers that be. In a horrifying development, one of the Penn State victims is being bullied by the students in his high school as punishment for "taking down" the heroes of the college football universe.

Thus, if one looks closely, the twenty four hour news cycle has only one story to report. That is: the Queen of Hearts wants things her way or no way, and that she will own and dominate the planet. Objectors (as identified by her cronies) will be beheaded. Breaking news - a big bully strikes again!

Our constitution defends minority rights, religions, and the right of a single voice to speak against the government. There are laws designed to protect the individual and those weaker and vulnerable to abuse by the reigning clique. 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 a puppy.

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 frail because we can - we are doomed to forever travel in circles powered by the biggest oar in the boat.

Who do I see about this?

Nov 17, 2011

People Power - Give to Local Charities

I am a big believer in the power of the people. Voting, boycotts, consumer power, social activism and philanthropy are all ways to be heard and effect change. The power of one can move mountains when acting in concert with many.  One million people each donating one dollar to the same charity will result in a million dollars for a cause. On "Move Your Money Day" over seven hundred thousand consumers left large, "too big to fail" banks and placed their funds in credit unions and community banks. "Small Business Saturday" is a day where everyone is being asked to make just one purchase from a small business rather than from a large conglomerate.  And of course, Arianna Huffington started a wave of defections from large banks with  the "Move Your Money" initiative.

coutesy google images
The common theme: support your communities and your local businesses. It starts with the power of one. If I am strong and solvent I can care for another. Then we two can help a third and so on. We can then hire one who needs a job, shop in a local store and build up our neighborhood so that it is strong and able to thrive. Strong neighborhoods are the foundations of strong cities and so on and so forth.

Let us add "Give to Local Charities" to the mix.  The resources, new jobs, services and aid to needy victims will boost the local economy thus strengthening the community’s ability to prosper. As an auxiliary benefit one can actually visit the charity, participate in the effort, and confirm that the funds are actually benefitting the area rather than merely assuming so. For example, in the animal welfare industry,  aspca, the New York City spca is not an umbrella organization which funnels funds to other spcas by zip code as is the case with other real national charities like Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. spcas throughout the country are individual legal entities and not chapters of any mother organization.Yet aspca spends tens of millions of dollars annually on television and other fundraising outlets which omit that significant fact. Many consumers are duped and upset upon learning that their donation did not help abused and unwanted animals  in their communities. By the way, to their credit, hsus, began putting such language (that they are not affiliated with local humane societies) on their new television spots to avoid creating a misimpression and thereby attracting misinformed donors. I hope this is a first step in putting meaningful disclaimers on all of their materials.

Finally, many local charities are now shuttered having fallen victim to our horrific economy. Foreclosures, unemployment, and higher prices for everything have impacted people's ability to spare hard earned funds. Yet, it is the not-for-profit community that those in need depend upon as a safety net to provide critical services and fill the gaps left by diminishing government programs and the profit sector. What if we're not there?

Please - vote, shop locally, care, stay active in the community and Give to Local Charities. If you can afford to donate to multiple organizations - please do. If not -  please choose your local organizations.

Nov 3, 2011

Traveling Circus Protection Act Reintroduced to Congress

google images
Originally launched in 2011, H.R.4525, the Traveling Exotic Animal Protection Act (TEAPA), which would amend the Federal Animal Welfare Act to prohibit the use of an exotic or wild animal in an animal act, if, "during the 15-day period preceding such participation, such animal was traveling in a mobile housing facility" simply stalled in congress.

Congressman Jim Moran, (D-Virginia)  reintroduced the bill again and we need a strong showing of support for this effort.  Essentially, this would severely cripple the ability of small traveling circuses to exist and would require major changes to larger outfits like Ringling Brothers. In other words, the circus or exhibit just cannot come into town for one day and move on, but rather, it would have to have longer stays in each place with the additional financing for personnel and accommodations attendant to longer stays.

Animals don't magically appear at theaters, festivals, and fairs. They spend most of their time cooped up, sometimes chained, traveling in trains, trucks and the like. When they are not performing or rehearsing, they are also confined, often in minimal spaces for efficiency, ease of transport and cost concerns. When they are "on", they are contorting themselves and performing unnatural acts for our amusement. These animals are stressed, ill-used, and, as such develop health and behavioral issues often resulting in more confining and training "corrections". This is no life for these exotics and should be an unacceptable form of entertainment for a civilized society.

This bill is much appreciated and long overdue. We must work together to see that it passes.

It also wouldn't hurt to simultaneously encourage your local cities to simply ban circuses using live animals in your communities and to suggest that your schools not consider these acts as positive educational experiences for field trips. 

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