Golden years

Well, today’s donation choice is a no-brainer.

Earlier this year, NIH announced that over 113 chimpanzees at the New Iberia Primate Research Center would be retired from biomedical research.  It was welcome news, but the timing of the retirement was up in the air, as was the chimpanzees’ ultimate retirement destination.  In fact, only 10 of the chimpanzees were definitely headed to a sanctuary; the remaining 103 were to be transferred to the Texas Biomedical Research Institute.  That seems a dubious “retirement” for research chimpanzees.

Today came the exciting news that NIH has agreed to transfer all 113 chimpanzees to Chimp Haven, in Keithville, Louisiana.

To accommodate the retirees, Chimp Haven will have to raise $2.3 million to build additional enclosures ($5 million, if you include funding for lifetime care).  They’ve got a promise of $500,000 from The Humane Society of the United States, and another $100,000 from the New England Anti-Vivisection Society.  But that leaves $1.7 million to raise!

So Chimp Haven is the star of today’s Advent Giving Calendar.  Please join me in donating to their Road to Chimp Haven campaign.

(Update, 1/4/13: I just noticed that Chimp Haven has an Amazon Wishlist, too.  And has received only ONE six-pack of the 20 requested six-packs of sugar-free Hershey Chocolate Syrup?!  I’m taking steps to correct this travesty immediately.)

Something fishy

CohoSalmon_FlickrCreativeCommons_SoggydanDanBennett_BY_3.jpg
Photo credit, FlickrCommons/Dan Bennett.

During the last two years, I fell in love with salmon.  Not the way most people fall in love with salmon — poached, grilled, etc. (although I’ve been there, too).  I fell in love with the magnificent creature that is spawned in a small, woodsy stream, navigates increasingly treacherous rivers to spend a few years at sea, and then finds its way back to its natal stream to die.  Yes, I’m talking about a fish.  But what a fish!  Seriously, watch this PBS/Nature special, “Salmon: Running the Gauntlet,” which turned out to be one of the most-watched Nature specials ever (the full episode can be watched at that link).

And read “Grace Behind Glass,” a wonderful essay in High Country News, by Ana Maria Spagna.   This part always gets me a little misty-eyed:

A digital ticker above the emergency exit lists the number of each species that passes through the dam. So far today the video monitor has counted 238 chinook, 242 steelhead, 28 sockeye, three lamprey. The miracle, I realize, is not just that the fish survive, but that they’re shepherded past this dangerous place. By biologists, engineers, activists, judges and ratepayers. We’ve made mistakes, God knows. No surprise there. The surprise is that, despite rancor and derision, despite terrorist protections and antiquated facilities, despite our ignorance, even, about why salmon runs swell or deplete, we can still, collectively, decide to spend $107 million to try to get juvenile fish downstream. Just so they can come back up. What hard-wired instinct is this? In a world of such weight and trouble, to care for a creature shorter than my shin.

Most people close to me expected me to write mostly about gorillas and chimpanzees when I tackled interspecies justice in my dissertation.  But when it came down to picking a good animal to “think with,” it turned out to be fish, and I zeroed in on salmon.  One of the carrots I dangled in front of myself through the long writing process is that I would start volunteering with SPAWN (Salmon Protection and Watershed Network) one or two Saturdays/month when I finished.  Although I finished several months ago, I haven’t yet freed up the Saturdays – but I will!  In the meantime, I will tell you that this organization does great work, protecting and restoring coho salmon habitat, and training citizens to do the same.  And between now and December 31, your membership contributions will be matched and thus doubled.  As I said in the last entry, I love a matching donation campaign.

(Almost forgot to mention: for some truly gorgeous salmon images, check out Todd Mintz’s incredible photos of a sockeye salmon run in British Columbia.)

Animals’ Advent

animals christmas
For a sample of this creaturely cantata, click the Youtube link below.

I confessed at the beginning of this Advent “calendar” project that I can be quite Scroogey about Christmas.  But I do have at least one tradition: every year since 1986 when it was first released, I listen to Jimmy Webb’s “The Animals’ Christmas,” featuring Art Garfunkel and Amy Grant.  I am not ashamed to admit it: I love this CD.

I hope that one of my gifts to animals this year is that I finally go all-the-way vegan.  Yes, the Better Half and I have been talking about it for years.  And we get so close to the goal.  But then someone waves a little Cowgirl Creamery “Red Hawk” or Harley Farms pesto- or sundried-tomato- or cranberry goat cheese under our noses, and we discover that we are masters of the art of rationalization.

So 2013 is our year.

Meanwhile, there are things we can all do.

  1. Last February, an industrial chicken producer left 50,000 chickens to starve to death at a “farm” outside of Turlock, CA.  Most were indeed dead or so weakened they had to be euthanized.  But several thousand were cleared to be placed with rescue groups or sanctuaries.  Animal Place in Grass Valley, CA took almost all of these birds, cared for them, and worked throughout the year to place them all in permanent homes or sanctuaries.  The last five hens went to a new home today.  Animal Place is not a particularly big-budget group, and they do good work with what they have.  Donate here.
  2. If you lean toward the other coast, check out the Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Saugerties, NY, instead.  CAS rescues abused and neglected farm animals, and offers educational programs about “the devastating impacts of agribusiness and institutionalized cruelty on animals, people, and the planet.”  Donate here.
  3. Sasha Farm is the largest farm animal sanctuary in the Midwest, but it operates on a shoestring budget.  The terrible drought this past year reduced the amount of hay available, and at least doubled the price.  Help them feed over 250 animals by donating to their Hay Drive.
  4. Right across the bridge, in San Rafael, CA, the Humane Farming Association is working hard to stop the egg industry’s outrageous effort to make egg cages a national standard that could never be challenged by voter initiatives such as California’s Proposition 2.  HFA’s lobbying division, Humane Farming Action Fund, has been actively and effectively lobbying against factory farming since 1991.  My friend J. thinks of HFA every time she sees a nativity scene: “…imagine the holy family crammed into a factory farm stall!”  Well, that’s an image.  Donate here.
  5. The Farm Animal Sanctuary probably has a bit more name-recognition than these other groups, and I was featuring the others for that reason.  But I’m a sucker for a good matching-gift opportunity, and they have one: donate by December 17 and your donation will be doubled.

That’s FIVE organizations you can donate to (and I don’t work for any of them)!  This is my way of making up for a few missed days of Advent-posting.  Imagine you forgot to pull open the doors on your Advent calendar over a busy weekend, and you get to open several at once to catch up.

Now, feast your eyes on the awesomeness that is Amy Grant’s 1986 hair and parachute pants.  Then close your eyes and listen to “Carol of the Birds,” from the aforementioned “The Animals’ Christmas” (seriously – close your eyes, because the sound appears to lag behind the video and will start to drive you to distraction).

Killing them softly

(This entry is cross-posted at TheMoralMindfield, but you won’t see it there until that blog “goes public” next month.  TheMoralMindfield will be maintained by students in Ethics and Social Theory at the Graduate Theological Union.  We’ve got good writers and many interests, and it should be a great site.  I’ll let you know when it’s open for business.)

(Update: it’s open for business!)

An article in Friday’s (10/22/10) NY Times reports that two “premium chicken producers” are planning to switch to a more humane slaughtering method.  The new method will use carbon dioxide gas to “gently render the birds unconscious before they are hung by their feet to have their throats slit, sparing them the potential suffering associated with conventional slaughter methods.”

The producers – Bell & Evans, and Mary’s Chickens – want to tout this change, perhaps on their packaging and advertising, but it raises a delicate issue: how do you tell consumers about your more humane chicken-slaughtering methods without prompting consumers to reflect on the slaughtering of chickens?  This is, as the article notes, “a marketing challenge.”  “’Most of the time, people don’t want to think about how the animal was killed,’ said David Pitman, whose family owns Mary’s Chickens.”

They want to eat the animal (in fact, the average U.S. consumer eats 54% more pounds of animal per year today than he/she did 60 years ago), but they don’t want to think about how it was killed.  This is a disconnect worth probing.  Continue reading “Killing them softly”

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