AMONG THE ANIMALS: Groups use different avenues to promote animal rights

By Christie Lagally

Originally printed in City Living

Copyright Pacific Publishing Company

I’m often perplexed why television and radio news do not have regular segments on animals. Sport enthusiasts enjoy coverage from Little League games to the World Series, yet articles on pets and animal welfare scarcely pepper our media landscape.

While a newscast like Monty Python’s “News for Parrots” re-broadcasts every story in terms of how many parrots were involved with this or that incident is only in jest, is it really so strange that we stay up-to-date on the latest news on animals and pets?

The League of Humane Voters (LOHV) of Washington is dedicated to providing knowledge of issues relevant and important to those who care about animals of all kinds.

Governmental change

Originally started in Washington by Mary Chmelik as a local chapter of the national League of Humane Voters, LOHV works diligently to inform citizens of animal-welfare issues before the Washington state Legislature and inform the public on the voting records of candidates running for office. This nonpartisan political action committee (PAC) endorses candidates based on pre-election surveys and past voting records.

In the last two years, Chmelik has seen the difference animal-welfare legislation can make. In 2009, the “Puppy Mill Bill” (Senate Bill 5661) was passed, restricting breeding-dog numbers and requiring full veterinary care and sufficient exercise for all dogs at breeding facilities.

This year, an amendment was passed to tighten the anti-cruelty laws to prevent ownership of certain types of pets after a cruelty conviction.

And, coming in the 2012 session, our Legislature will consider a bill (SB 5649) to prevent chaining dogs indefinitely in an effort to help prevent the tragedy of “backyard dogs.”

For citizens to choose their candidates and advise their representatives wisely, people must know what is being considered (or not considered) in the state Legislature. Hence, LOHV has formed a database of members who receive e-mail updates. Membership is simply a matter of visiting the LOHV website. There is no cost — just the knowledge that your next vote or call to your representative will be in support of issues important for the welfare of animals.

“People can save thousands of animals with just one vote,” Chmelik insists.

Public protests

But while our opportunities for government involvement are still relatively unique in the spectrum of world governance, it certainly is not the only way to change things for animals.

Across the country, the Occupy movement has made it clear that many citizens are unhappy with the actions of large corporations. The Occupy Wall Street quorum in New York produced a list of grievances that included “the torture, confinement and cruel treatment of countless nonhuman animals” committed by large corporations for the production of meat and consumer products.

To organize around this cause locally, the Occupy Seattle protesters have formed an Animal Rights & Environmentalism working group to address what changes should be made to prevent corporate abuse of animals.

Peter Keller, a member of Occupy Seattle, explained that many animal-rights groups have worked to change the behavior of consumers, such as encouraging people to avoid fur or to buy cruelty-free products. But the Occupy movement is different.

“Rather than ask for change among consumers, the Occupy movement is demanding change on the part of corporations,” Keller explained. “Right now, we are educating people on the issues, such as government subsidies that make animal products artificially cheap for the consumer.”

Additionally, the group is educating the public on the degradation of the environment from meat production.

As the working group grows, Occupiers hope to branch out and work for more direct change. To get involved with the Occupy Seattle Animal Rights &

Environmentalism working group, visit the Occupy Seattle website at occupyseattle.org.

A ‘silly’ approach

If helping improve life for animals feels daunting at times, don’t worry — you’re not alone. As it turns out, making a difference can be easy. Kim Sgro, the founder of Power to the Chickens (PTTC), has a way for all people to advocate for animal-welfare concerns from the comfort of their home, office or coffee shop.

“PTTC is an effort to bring the mainstream to animal-welfare causes through lightheartedness and simple reform action,” Sgro said. “One of the main ways we deliver our message is through being silly.”

Check out the chicken-chorus rendition of Snap’s “I’ve Got the Power” on the PTTC homepage ( http://www.powertothechickens.com) and the photos of supporters around the world doing the three-fingered “International PTTC Salute.” Photos have flooded in from near (the Fremont Troll) and far (the Norwegian
Arctic and Zimbabwe). Additionally, this website takes a different approach to alleviate serious animal-welfare problems, ranging from the dolphin hunting in Japan to dwindling bee populations in the United States.

PTTC points you directly to what you can do to make a difference, such as signing petitions or writing letters. It also includes “Good News” updates to show when animal-welfare reform has triumphed globally.

“Part of the intent of Power to the Chickens is to open the door in a nonthreatening way — to teach people from all walks of life how to get involved and open their minds to things they may not have considered before,” Sgro said.

Once the PTTC door is open, the world of creating positive change is available to all who enjoy life and want to make a difference.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY is a freelance pet columnist who manages the website “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org.h

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