Tuesday, October 30, 2007

PMU foal disaster on wheels

On the night of October 27th a double-decker semi truck was involved in what might have been a minor accident involving a pickup truck on a road in Wisconsin. Might have been, if not for the nearly sixty young Belgian Draft Horse foals loaded into the two-level cattle/pig trailer. The driver of the semi was uninjured and the driver of the pickup suffered non-life threatening injuries. The real victims of this accident were the 59 PMU (Pregnant Mare Urine) foals who should not have been on that truck in the first place.
Warning, the images contained in this web page might be hard to view. These horses had to be cut out of the trailer, which had flipped, blocking the doors. Some were already dead. Others severely injured. If you have a weak stomach, you might not want to look. The pictures are here.
At press time it appeared that 45 of the horses were still alive, but I'm unclear about how many will continue to survive, or how many might still succumb to life threatening injuries. To me the real tragedy is not so much this accident, as horrific as it is, but the fact that these foals were brought to such an ill-fated existence in the first place. They can thank the Pregnant Mare Urine industry for that.
For those of you who might wonder what the heck pregnant mare urine is good for, ask the multi-billion dollar drug corporation Wyeth. They use hormones gleaned from the urine of pregnant mares to manufacture hormone replacement drugs for menopausal women such as Premarin and Prempro. How do they do this? Well here's the gist of it. They get a bunch of mares, mostly drafts (larger animal, more water intake...you get the idea) and they turn them out to pasture with a stallion. Now, admitted some of the contracted ranches do make some effort to at least get a nice enough stallion to breed some passable, even really nice babies. But with an estimated 7000 mares still involved in PMU production (It was ten times that at its peak!) do you really think there are homes for 7000 even nice draft cross foals every year in a horse market that is already saturated with such crosses, as well as every other grade horse you can imagine? So anyway, now we have 7000 pregnant mares. Who get tied in a five foot wide stall for the next 10 months, their movement purposely restricted so that they're forced to pee in a cup tied under their tails. Just for comparison, the basic minimum size stall a horse should have as 12 x 12 feet. Remember the article on Factory Farming? Same deal. This sort of restriction should constitute CRUEL CONFINEMENT and be CONDEMNED. The process by which such drugs as Premarin are made creates a by-product which is in fact a living, breathing, feeling creature... a precious little foal. Just like puppies and children, no domestic horse should be born into this world without people waiting to love it. And more than love it CARE FOR IT PROPERLY. I've been a little disappointed in searching for PMU foals on rescue sites and finding many of them to be upwards of 3 years old with no apparently training for any career other than pasture ornament, and no qualifications besides being 'big' and 'flashy paint cross!'
Mind you I am in no way bashing the rescue organizations. If not for them the majority of these horses would have gone the way of those 59 Belgians. With or without the trailer accident, they would have come to a gruesome end.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is that I don't understand how women who might otherwise be emotionally fragile due to low hormone levels can sleep at night knowing that they are taking a prescription drug (which is not the only hormone replacement on the market, and has performed poorly in clinical trials) that is gleaned from the death and suffering of innocent animals, just to avoid hot flashes.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Wolf Awareness Week

Author's Note: Having blogger issues, sorry for no pictures. This article is a repost, and some links may no longer be active. To sign the latest petitions concerning wolves visit the Defenders of Wildlife main page and navigate to the wolf section, or click here to send a letter to your local representative supporting the PAW Act and an end to aerial gunning. First, let me repeat in case anyone has somehow managed to miss the bulletin: There is not a single case of a healthy wild wolf fatally attacking a human being in North America. I'm not even sure we have any actual documented attacks, period. Unlike mountain lions, bears, heck even a really grumpy seal will take a bite out of you. So why does the wolf get such a bad rap? I'll tell you, its a mystery to me. Now the mountain lion, you'll never see him coming. He attacks from ambush, pouncing from a ledge or hiding within sprinting distance on the downwind side of a trail. The mountain lion is solitary, and it seems to placate people to think that when they have a problem with a mountain lion they can just shoot that lion and the problem is gone. But wolves are pack animals. Even taking out the alphas might not solve a problem, if the whole pack has learned an aberrant behaviour, such as killing livestock. And wolves stalk their prey. Maybe that's what people find so disturbing about them. The cunning, the study, the psychological game of cat and mouse that the wolf likes to play. Maybe there's something in the personality of wolves that reminds us of ourselves, and people find that offensive. <-Ain't he go-jus? Whatever it is, its something that the people of North America brought over with them when they came from Europe and Asia. When North America was first settled wolves ranged the entirety of the continent, excluding only the deepest parts of the south. Before they were protected in the 1960's they were trapped and killed nearly to extirpation (or local extinction, as there were still plenty of wild wolves in Canada, Alaska, and parts of Europe) with as much as a 14 dollar bounty on their heads. Early trappers didn't much care what else they killed either, and some used poison laced carrion (usually strychnine) which could kill fifty wolves in one night, not to mention the ravens, coyotes and other scavengers it attracted. Sometimes the poison seeped into the ground and even poisoned the grass, long after the carcass was gone, and deer and elk would die. Long after that the bones of the dead animals might be chewed by another, and it too might die. By the time wolf recovery came around wolves were holding out in a very small population in northern Minnesota, but had been otherwise removed from the lower 48 states. Today helped in part by Defenders of Wildlife's program which reimburses ranchers who lose stock to depredation wolf populations in the two main reintroduction sites in Yellowstone Natl. Park and Idaho are well up, and I'm proud to be a member of their "Adopt a wolf pup" program. I've also adopted a Bison, but though I am heartened that wolves have once again begun hunting their most fearsome natural prey in Yellowstone, I hope my wolf pup and my bison never meet! So what is to stop the Grey Wolf from spreading further? Habitat encroachment for one. Game Hunting for another. In Alaska and Canada its still legal to hunt or trap wolves, but not so in the lower 48. So aside from wolves killed through the 'lethal control' plan which eliminates stock killers and other potential problem animals, wolves have to deal with human hunters sharing their food source. Only to the average human hunter it isn't a food source, is it? Its just a pretty rack of antlers to hang on the wall. I've actually had someone spot my 'adopt a wolf pup sticker' and read me the riot act about how wolves kill elk, which rightfully belong to human hunters. Right buddy. There ARE people who still hunt for food. And for them I'm sorry if Mr. Wolf got there first. But before we go shooting wolves for killing elk, why don't we say...limit hunting licenses for SPORT hunter's first? I mean, my god, what would you poor big game hunters do if you couldn't go out and kill something? Maybe play a video game. Try Deer Hunter. As for those of you out there who appreciate our wolves, I urge you to go to the Defenders of Wildlife's 'take action!' page and help stop them from exterminating wolves in the lower 48, and stop the barbaric aerial gunning in alaska! We still need 100,000 actions for halting aerial gunning to reach our goals!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Hooray for progress!

California Congressman George Miller (D) introduce the PAW (Protect America's Wildlife) Act last week and motivated 14 thousand+ new activists to speak out against Aerial Gunning in Alaska, and generated scads of media coverage on the topic. Defenders of Wildlife has posted several ads and mini-documentaries on their YouTube account exposing the gruesome secrets behind the bloodthirsty sport of aerial gunning.
I'll be honest with you, I couldn't watch the whole video myself. To see those beautiful animals running in fear from something they have no hope of escaping is more than I can bear. I also learned something disturbing from this video...all along I have been assuming that aerial gunners were using high powered rifles to gun the wolves down...not so. The distant blast of a 12 gauge shotgun is often not as potent as a single high caliber bullet. Wounded and frightened, the wolves often run until they bleed to death, or pain and fear wear them out, and the plane lands for the final blow. Then the wolves are dismembered or strung up as trophies.
While I wouldn't like to see even the lowliest toad strung up in such a manner, it pains me to no end to see such magnificent creatures as our wolves treated so poorly.
Help us continue to speak out against aerial gunning, inviting your congressmen to support the PAW Act, and provide crucial funding for Defenders to continue to run their life-saving Anti-Gunning ads.

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Check local laws BEFORE you reach for the shovel!

Just a little heads up for some of ya'll out there who might not be fond of the creepies, crawlies, and slitheries you might find in and around your home. Here in Maryland it is ILLEGAL to kill a snake, without a proper licence. While recently prowling several snake-enthusiast photo groups in order to positively identify this little beauty:I came across a number of photos of snakes mashed flat or beheaded and then photographed, with accompanying text like "OMG, can you tell me what this is?! I found it in my bathroom!"
People in southern states seem to live in fear and think that every snake that pokes its head out of the leaves is a copperhead or a cottonmouth. While I have seen cottonmouths, copperheads, and rattlesnakes all in the wild in a number of places, the over all percentage of snake species are NON-Venomous. In every incidence of mashed and beheaded snakes I saw this proved to be the case. Generally speaking, non-venomous types like rat snakes are more likely to slither into your home than say, a rattlesnake (though I did have one under my front porch one time.) It is usually fairly easy to tell with a reasonable look whether a snake is a poisonous variety or not. Rattlesnakes have rattles, though many non-venomous snakes will vibrate their tail when feeling threatened...trust me, the sound is very different. Pit vipers are recognizable by their heat-sensing 'pits' between eye and snout. Most venomous snakes have distinctly triangular heads with the venom glands obvious bulges in the cheek area. Compare this Black Rat Snake to a Copperhead:
The difference in head and body shape is obvious, and close (But not too close!) inspection reveals the 'pit' just in front of the Copperhead's eye.
There are snakes that mimic the colouration of venomous snakes for protection from predators, such as some variations of king snake, and milk snakes, which resemble the poisonous Coral Snake. If you are unsure whether a snake is poisonous DO NOT TOUCH IT. In fact, its best not to touch any snake. If you have a pest problem with snakes call a reputable local wildlife removal expert, as such individuals will be properly licensed and trained to handle, remove, and relocate any pests including venomous snakes. And don't forget, a snake can be an endangered species too! So don't go chopping their heads off, photographing them (Evidence!) and then bragging about it, because evil people like me will turn you in!
If you are concerned or just curious about snake species in your area, you can contact your state's Department of Natural Resources.
They should be able to provide you with a list of species found in your area, including which are threatened or endangered. And please NEVER pick up a snake unless you know what you are doing! Leave it to the professionals.