Archive for June, 2013

AMONG THE ANIMALS: WPZ Elephant Task Force considers sanctuaries

Chai the elephant, in her section of the barn stall at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

Chai the elephant, in her section of the barn stall at the Woodland Park Zoo. Photo courtesy of the Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants

By Christie Lagally

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

Published June 25, 2013 in City Living Seattle

Many Seattleites may remember the two-part feature article last December by Seattle Times reporter Michael Berens in which he investigated a failed breeding program and intolerable conditions for elephants (Watoto, Bamboo and Chai) at the Woodland Park Zoo (WPZ) and other zoos. In subsequent coverage, The Seattle Times editorial board wrote, “Chai was subsequently the victim — not too strong a word — of 112 attempts to artificially inseminate her” and “Woodland Park Zoo should get out of the elephant-display business. Send Watoto, Bamboo and Chai to one of the handful of sanctuaries that exist. Let them live out their lives with room to move at will across truly open spaces.”

Councilwomen Sally Bagshaw address the Elephant Task Force on May 29th, 2013 at the Seattle Central Library

Councilwomen Sally Bagshaw address the Elephant Task Force on May 29th, 2013 at the Seattle Central Library

According to Seattle City Councilmember Sally Bagshaw, this article prompted an enormous number of e-mails to her office from folks concerned about the elephants and calls to send them to a sanctuary. Since then, the Zoo board announced a task force to look at the issue. Its second meeting, held this May, covered the topic of sanctuaries, including issues of facility space and breeding policy.

Elephant education

The task force began by hearing from Kristin Vehrs of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the accrediting body for zoos. Vehrs emphasized the AZA requires zoos to have three or more elephants to meet the animals’ social needs. I later learned that at least 20 zoos, including Point Defiance Zoo in Tacoma, have only two or even one lonely elephant, yet maintain their AZA accreditation.

Closer to the topic of sanctuaries, Jackie Bennett of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries introduced its organization as the accrediting body for sanctuaries. The Global Federation works with animal sanctuaries worldwide. Such elephant sanctuaries in the United States are located in warmer, drier climates and have wide-open spaces measured in the hundreds to thousands of acres, in contrast to the divided one acre available to Watoto, Bamboo and Chai.

In a sanctuary, elephants are free-roaming and live in social groups of their choosing. Yet, in Seattle, Bamboo and Watoto are incompatible and are managed so one of them is always kept solitary, which is considered cruel for a female elephant. The WPZ elephants are kept in barn stalls 16 to 17 hours a day for more than half of the year due to our climate.

The task force later heard from representatives of two elephant facilities — the National Elephant Center (NEC) and Riddle Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary (REWS) — about their facilities in Florida and Arkansas, respectively. Nicole Meyer of In Defense of Animals (IDA) clarified for the task force that “true sanctuaries” are those that do not participate in breeding elephants so as not to place more animals into captivity. The Global Federation only accredits sanctuaries that do not breed animals for captivity.

Both NEC and REWS either support zoo-breeding programs or actively pursue breeding of elephants in captivity. In contrast, the Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS) and The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee do not condone captive breeding and allow the animals to live freely in the sanctuary without being managed with bull hooks, according to Meyer.

PAWS representatives were invited to speak but declined in a letter explaining its elephant sanctuary program. The Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee was not asked to present to the task force, according to communications manager Angela Spivey, who confirmed that she was prepared to speak that evening but was not included on the agenda.

This was unfortunate because, in considering the future of Watoto, Bamboo and Chai, it is vital to present the perspective of a sanctuary that does not breed elephants. It is important to ensure that Chai is never subjected to a breeding program again and that she lives in a place where no other elephants experience her past trauma.

Changing mindsets

The question of whether the elephants should be relocated to a sanctuary is quite simply, yes.

Animals evoke deep emotions in us, and many people may feel it would be a loss if Watoto, Bamboo and Chai went to live in a sanctuary. But Berens’ article provided us with knowledge of animal suffering that our community cannot ignore.

I am hopeful that this task force will help us, as a community, to change the mindset that only health exams by zoo veterinarians or compliance with AZA standards can fully inform us about the well-being of elephants.

Many North American zoos are closing their elephant exhibits based on lack of space and research showing that elephants are deeply emotional, self-aware and social beings.

Members of the task force have a wonderful opportunity to help transform the WPZ programs that confine elephants into humane education programs based on the knowledge we have gained that ultimately helped us to see that elephants need to be wild and free.

For more information on the Woodland Park Zoo Elephant Task Force, visit elephanttaskforce.org. For local advocacy information, visit Friends of Woodland Park Zoo Elephants at freewpzelephants.com.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org and is host of Living Humane on KKNW 1150 AM (livinghumane.com).

Also see David Hancock’s article.

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Do you love dogs? It’s time to reconsider eating meat

puppy9When I was a child, I wanted to be a vegetarian because I saw no difference between the life and soul in my dogs eyes and the animals slaughtered for meat on my plate.  And I knew that, in some places, people eat dogs.  Consider this report from the Humane Society International about a dog meat festival in China.

Dogs Bludgeoned to Death at Inhumane Yulin Dog Meat Festival
Letter Urges Chinese Ambassadors to Canada, UK and U.S. to Take Action to End Event

(June 17, 2013) – Humane Society International CEO and President Andrew Rowan, Ph.D., sent letters urging Chinese Ambassadors to the United States, United Kingdom and Canada to work with officials in Yulin, Guangxi province, to end an inhumane annual event known as the Yulin Dog Meat Festival, where tens of thousands of dogs are bludgeoned to death in the streets for meat consumption. As outrage builds worldwide and within China against the event, Rowan sent a letter to the ambassadors on behalf of HSI supporters and members. The letters are also being sent to Yulin and Guangxi officials.

Rowan states: “Millions of animal advocates around the globe, including those in China, are protesting this inhumane, barbaric spectacle which has no place in modern society and where the butchering of tens of thousands of dogs has started and will go on for two weeks. Thousands of dogs are stuffed into and heaped on top of one another in plastic or wire crates, and are sent overland via truck on grueling, sometimes weeks-long journeys; many do not survive. Those that do survive, just barely, are then bludgeoned to death in the streets. In addition to the cruelty, this event is a public health risk because the commercial trade in dogs for meat involves the large-scale transport of dogs across international borders in Asia, and incidence of rabies has been linked to dogs in the trade. We respectfully request that the ambassadors work with Yulin officials, on behalf of all animal advocates, to end it, just as similar events elsewhere in China have been ended.”

HSI works in the region to bring about an end to the trade, where possible, and will co-host later this month the 4th Annual China Companion Animal Protection Symposium to encourage Chinese society to confront the cruelty of the trade in dogs and cats for meat consumption. At least 10 million dogs are believed to be killed for consumption of their meat in China annually, predominantly in South China and Northeast China. Last year, a dog meat festival in Jinhua City, Zhejing province ended after opposition from Chinese animal groups.

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Seattle teach-in on elephant advocacy is this week!

Chai in stall at Woodland Park Zoo

Chai in stall at Woodland Park Zoo

An Elephant Teach In will be offered at Phinney Neighborhood Center on Thursday June 13 from 6-7pm.

This event is free and all are welcome.

Topics include:  comparison between behaviors of wild elephants and the elephants at Woodland Park Zoo; action steps for concerned citizens; resources for further information on elephants in captivity.  The intention is to provide the public with information, resources and advocacy direction.

This is being offered by concerned citizens in the hope of inspiring interest and action on behalf of Chai, Bamboo and Watoto.  For more information, visit the Elephant Teach In site on Facebook

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AMONG THE ANIMALS: ‘Vegging out’ has new meaning in Seattle

Casper at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary (courtesy of Cuenca family)

Casper at Precious Life Animal Sanctuary (courtesy of Cuenca family)

by Christie Lagally

Originally published in City Living Seattle and the Queen Anne News

(c) Pacific Publishing Company

May 30, 2013

The need to be more conscientious about consuming animal products could not be greater than it is today. Factory farming, considerations of personal health and environmental preservation are all excellent reasons to reduce your consumption. So if you have ever considered trying a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it turns out you are in the right part of the world for success.

Recently, Bill Gates spoke publicly about the unsustainability of meat and dairy production as the world population grows. Gates, a leader in promoting human welfare, was offering a solution that one would expect from an activist of animal welfare: “try meat alternatives.”

On his website, GatesNotes.com, Gates presents the argument for plant-based proteins as a genuine opportunity to reduce environmental degradation and address human poverty, noting in an interview that 51 percent of global greenhouse gases come from the mass production of meat, dairy and eggs.

In March, I gleefully watched Justin Timberlake’s “Saturday Night Live” “Veganville” sketch in the hopes that the tofu-costumed, hip-hop artist would remind people that animals suffer in our factory-farming system. Like Gates, Timberlake was an advocate for animals that night. His on-stage arguments about animal suffering were inscrutable, and nowadays many people, like Bill Gates, know that vegetarianism is a sustainable lifestyle — particularly in Seattle, where, instead of ‘Veganville,’ we have Vegan Haven at Northeast 55thStreet and University Way Northeast.

Spreading the word
Earlier this year, the Vegetarians of Washington, a nonprofit education and support group, hosted the 12th-annual Vegfest at the Seattle Exhibition Hall. The group’s president, Amanda Strombom, and vice president, Stewart Rose, told me that it would be the “best Vegfest ever,” and then 17,000 people attended this food festival. Vendors from across the United States gave out vegetarian and vegan samples until folks were stuffed.

Vegetarians of Washington volunteers also work year-round to provide monthly dinning events at the Mount Baker Community Club in Seattle. Dinners feature food from a local restaurant and are a reminder to omnivores and vegetarians alike that reducing meat consumption is an achievable and very tasty goal.

Additionally, Rose and Strombom host classes on vegetarian solutions for personal health, environmental recovery, global hunger and animal suffering. The class includes cooking instruction and tips on eating vegetarian. Vegetarians of Washington has published four books in recent years to guide people on these issues, including “Vegetarian Pacific Northwest” and “The Veg-Feasting Cookbook.”

Luciano and Miranda the sheep (courtesy of the Cuenca family.)

Luciano and Miranda the sheep (courtesy of the Cuenca family.)

Sharing with like-minded folks

Even humane-conscious parents can find kindred spirits in Seattle. One recent Sunday morning, I met Christina and Fernando Cuenca and their son, Luciano, at the The Wayward Vegan Café in the University District for brunch.

The Cuenca family is vegan, and three years ago, they started the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Meetup Group to meet other parents and children who follow a plant-based diet. The Cuencas started the group in 2011, after Luciano was born, because they had questions about navigating the world of conventional food as new vegan parents. Although longtime vegans themselves, the Cuencas hoped to exchange ideas with other parents about raising vegan or vegetarian children.

Luciano and Fernando Cuenca and Donkey Margarita

Luciano and Fernando Cuenca and Donkey Margarita

The Cuencas and other members of their Meetup group plan veg-friendly outings for parents and children. Previous Meetup events include potlucks, camping trips and restaurant meals, all structured to be both kid-friendly and veg-friendly, too.

During my brunch with the Cuencas, 3-year-old Luciano recounted his visit with the Meetup families to Precious Life Animal Sanctuary in Sequim, Wash., just the day before. He told me he met a big cow named Casper and some bunny rabbits and a turkey. The children also met a donkey named Margarita and a sheep named Miranda at the mountain-side farm. The Cuencas were joined by three other families with children ages 2 to 4.

Christina Cuenca explained that group events are a safe place where the kids can meet other kids who are like them, and they can share the same foods as kids like to do. Currently, more than 80 families are members of the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Group, with new members weekly.

Anika Ledhe, founder of Seattle’s VeganScore.com (a source for all things Seattle, vegan and new) reminded me in a recent interview that humans need community to thrive, and being vegan or vegetarian can be isolating regardless of your honorable intentions. Luckily, here in Seattle, good food, motivation, education and especially a genuine supportive community are not far away if you are ready to take the first step toward vegetarian- or veganism.

To connect with the Seattle Area Vegan and Vegetarian Families Group on Meetup, visit www.meetup.com/Seattle-Area-Vegan-and-Vegetarian-Families-Group.

To learn more about the Vegetarians of Washington, visit www.vegofwa.org.

CHRISTIE LAGALLY writes a blog called “Sniffing Out Home: A Search for Animal Welfare Solutions” at http://www.sniffingouthome.org. She also hosts the new “Living Humane” radio talk show on KKNW 1150AM. To comment on this column, write CityLivingEditor@nwlink.com.

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Oh Canada! Poised to lead the way to ban gestation crates

Pigs at the Pigs Peace Sanctuary

Pigs at the Pigs Peace Sanctuary

This just in from the HSUS:

Canada Set to Ban Lifelong Confinement of Pigs in Immobilizing Cages

Progress Draws into Question U.S. Pork Industry’s Animal Welfare Policies

(June 1, 2013) —Canadian pigs would no longer be confined perpetually in gestation crates during pregnancy under a proposal released for public comment by Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council. The plan earned applause from The Humane Society of the United States.

The draft proposes eliminating the confinement of breeding pigs in gestation crates—cages roughly the same size as the animals’ bodies designed to prevent them from even turning around.

“While Canada, the European Union, virtually every major global food retailer and many of the largest pork producers are taking steps to ensure that gestation crates are relegated to the dustbin of history, some U.S. pork industry leaders inexplicably continue to defend this cruel confinement,” said

Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for The HSUS. “We hope The National Pork Board and National Pork Producers Council will shift gears by helping their industry make the transition to higher animal welfare systems that allow pigs to move.”

Gestation crates, currently standard in pork production, have come under fire from veterinarians, family farmers, animal welfare advocates, legislators, scientists, consumers and food retailers. A recent national poll in Canada showed that 84 percent of Canadians support a complete phase out of the gestation crate confinement system. The poll was conducted by Environics Research Group between May 9 and May 18.
Canada’s move follows a European Union ban on continuous gestation crate confinement that went into effect in January 2013, legislation banning gestation crates in nine U.S. states, and public commitments from more than 50 of North America’s largest pork buyers and producers—McDonald’s, Burger King, Costco, Oscar Mayer, Kroger, Smithfield Foods, Hormel Foods and dozens more—to eliminate gestation crates from their supply chains and operations.

The new draft of the Code of Practice will be up for confirmation by the council in 60 days. As the code is currently written, the construction of new gestation crate operations throughout Canada would be prohibited beginning in 2014, and producers would have to replace existing gestation crates with group housing by 2024.

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