Advocacy
Page Two

Learn the truth about the misery that puppy mills breed. Find out what you can do.

Page One   Page Two

  Puppies Bred in Disgusting Conditions

  The Dirt On Dairy

  Fur Farm Fallacy

  Unweaned Birds: Hidden Victims

Adopting A Companion Animal

Animals In The Circus

 

"The question is not,
Can they reason? nor
Can they talk? but,
Can they suffer?"

Jeremy Bentham

 

Adopting a Companion Animal

Adopting a cat or dog is not a decision that should be taken lightly. Anyone considering adopting a companion animal should seriously consider the lifelong commitment involved. Don't forget that dogs may live 12 to 15 years and cats even longer -- 15 to 18 years or more.

Do some research about various breeds and species, so you know which ones are best suited to your lifestyle. Evaluate your budget before adopting. Veterinary care (even for a healthy animal: yearly wellness exams, vaccinations, and flea and heartworm control products), obedience classes, pet food, grooming supplies, bedding, litter, and toys add up to a lot more than you might think.

Once you have made a well-informed decision to adopt a companion animal, visit your local animal control shelter or humane society first. Even if you are looking for a specific breed, you may be able to find it at your local shelter. You can also adopt from a breed rescue group. Rescue groups exist for virtually every breed of dog and cat. Your humane society or animal control agency can provide you with a list of rescue groups in your area, and many groups also have web sites on the Internet -- or call API for more information.

Remember that puppies and kittens find homes more easily than older animals, so please consider adopting an adolescent or adult. Mature animals are often house- or litter-box trained, and they may have had some training, or at least have learned some manners. You can avoid the destructive behavior associated with teething. And, you can tell what type of disposition the animal has, since his personality is already fully developed.

Many shelters and humane societies now require surgical sterilization prior to adoption. This strict policy is gradually helping to reduce pet overpopulation, and in the last few years we are finally seeing a decline in the number of healthy, adoptable animals being euthanized. If your new companion is not already sterilized, do make arrangements for the surgery as soon as possible.

Please do not purchase your companion animal from a pet store, backyard breeder, Internet site, auction, or newspaper ad. Instead, save a life by adopting from a local shelter or breed rescue group. Contrary to what you may have heard, even older dogs can learn at least one new trick -- being your loving and loyal companion.

The Problems with Purebreds

Purebreds are man-made, "designer" dogs and cats. Mating animals with similar genetics and bloodlines increases the chance that their offspring will inherit the specific traits that are standard for that breed's appearance. However, to produce the diverse looks of cats and dogs that we see today, the health and well-being of the animals themselves have been largely ignored.

Purebred animals often suffer from genetically-based health problems, which range from annoying to life-threatening. Basset Hounds, Dachshunds, and other short-legged dogs with long bodies often have back problems. Many Maine Coon cats die at a young age from severe heart disease. The female Bulldog's pelvis is too small to give birth normally -- all puppies must be delivered by cesarian section. Persian cats often have difficulty breathing and chronic eye discharges. Giant breed dogs, like Great Pyrenees, Irish Wolfhounds, and Great Danes, are prone to bone cancer as well as heart disease. Hip dysplasia -- and the pain and disability that go along with it -- has a significant genetic component.

Temperament and behavior problems may also result from breeding for a certain look without regard to other traits that may accompany those looks. For instance, Labrador and Golden Retrievers used to be known for their calm, placid dispositions, which were perfect for households with small children. Today, many retrievers are "hyperactive" and can even pose a danger to children because of their unpredictability. (Of course, not all breeders are irresponsible. Dedicated hobby breeders do stop breeding a certain bloodline when they see that their animal's offspring have undesirable genetic traits.)

Pet Stores, Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders

Most dogs sold in pet stores, at auctions, through multiple breed newspaper ads, or over the Internet come from "puppy mills," where dogs are bred solely for profit. These dogs spend their entire lives in tiny cages, often with wire floors that hurt and deform their feet. Many times these cages are stacked on top of each other, so that urine and feces from animals in the top cages fall through onto the animals below. A typical mill keeps dozens of breeds and hundreds of dogs. There are also "kitten mills"where cats endure the same deplorable conditions (as well as ferret, rabbit, and rodent "mills," where these animals are produced in large numbers).

Dogs in puppy mills receive little, if any, veterinary care. The females are repeatedly bred, and become so fatigued from being pregnant and delivering and caring for their pups that they no longer have the energy to clean themselves. Their coats become matted and filthy, they are depressed and malnourished, and many die young.

The puppies of these pitiful, neglected dogs are usually in poor health from birth. They are often abruptly weaned and sent off to pet stores when only four to six weeks old. These young pups are crammed several to a crate with little or no food or water, and shipped long distances by truck to pet stores throughout the United States. Often these puppies arrive at pet stores weak and sick, and many die in transit. Those that survive are sold at exorbitant prices regardless of their physical condition. Since they receive so little attention at the mill, they are poorly socialized, and many develop behavior problems, such as fear biting and house-soiling.

"Backyard breeders" often sell to pet stores, or by advertising in local newspapers. Backyard breeders are people who keep a few females to breed in order to sell the offspring. Although backyard breeders may breed and keep a smaller number of dogs than a puppy mill, most do it mainly for financial gain, while ignoring the overall health and disposition of the dogs that they are breeding.

A special problem occurs with breeds that experience a burst of fame due to television or movie exposure, like Dalmatians and Jack Russell Terriers. These dogs are quickly mass-bred to take advantage of the wave of popularity, even though these breeds may not be suitable for many homes. Thousands of them will spend their lives ignored, abused, or chained in a yard, be abandoned on the street or in the countryside to die of starvation, injury, or exposure to the elements, or be surrendered to shelters -- all because of undesirable traits or behaviors, even though these may be quite normal for the breed.

Changing the way we adopt companion animals, and being more responsible about how we care for them, is the best solution.


Pet Overpopulation

An estimated 58 million dogs and 66 million cats live in households in the United States. For every cat with a home, a cat lives homeless on the streets. Because irresponsible people -- accidentally or intentionally -- allow their animals to reproduce, an estimated 8-12 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year in hope of finding a permanent, loving home. However, about 55% of dogs and 76% of cats entering shelters are euthanized (killed). More than SEVEN MILLION animals are euthanized at shelters each year. Most of the animals killed are healthy, happy, adoptable animals. Their only crime is that they are strays, homeless, or unwanted -- by-products of the serious problem of overpopulation.

Even if you want a special breed, always adopt rather than purchase. Twenty-five percent of animals entering shelters are purebreds, and there are many purebred rescue groups, so there is a good chance you can get the animal you want and save a life at the same time. And, of course, please, always spay and neuter your companion animals!


(Published October 2000) Animal Protection Institute

For more information and links on this subject, see Puppy Mills Breed Misery.

 

Animals in the Circus -- Dying to Entertain You

Performing captive wildlife -- elephants, lions, tigers, bears, baboons, monkeys, camels, llamas - all endure years of physical and psychological pain and suffering in traveling acts to "entertain" an uninformed audience.

No Life For Animals

Animals used in the circus and other traveling acts travel thousands of miles each year without water, in railroad cars or trucks not air-conditioned in summer or heated in winter. Elephants are forced to stand in their own waste, chained in place for up to 100 hours while being transported from one performance to another. These performing animals do not receive the proper care, nutrition, and environmental enrichment required for their well-being

Elephants suffer terribly while being used for human "entertainment." Elephants have three basic needs -- live vegetation for food, family relationships, and freedom of movement -- all of which are denied in the circus setting. In captivity, baby elephants are wrenched from their mother at one year of age and are trained with abusive domineering methods.

Perhaps as the result of the ongoing stress and abuse they endure, there have been 29 premature deaths of elephants used in the circus since 1994. One of the most recent was the death of Kenny, a 3-year-old baby Asian elephant with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, who died after being forced to perform three times while obviously ill. Although Ringling Bros. was charged with violating the Animal Welfare Act by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the government agency charged with overseeing circuses, the case was settled out of court without Ringling admitting or denying guilt in Kenny's death.

Compare the existence of captive elephants to those left in the wild. Elephants in the wild live as long as 70 years! Wild elephants live in herds and have a large extended family with strong social bonds. Baby elephants stay very close to their mothers for the first three years of their lives, and the females remain with their extended families throughout their lifetime. They roam up to 25 miles a day foraging for food and water. They take dust baths and find comfort during hot weather by wading in water and standing in the shade.

Large exotic cats used in the circus don't fare any better. In the wild, large cats roam for miles each day; they hunt for food, sleep in the sun and lead a fairly solitary existence. Exotic cats used in the circus are allowed none of these behaviors. They live and travel in small cages in close confinement with other cats. They have little room to move around and are never provided with any environmental enrichment.

Training By Intimidation

Elephant training is almost always based on fear and intimidation; trainers must break the spirit of these magnificent animals in order to control them. It is not uncommon for an elephant to be tied down and beaten for days at a time while being trained to "perform." During their training and throughout their lives in captivity elephants are beaten with clubs, shocked with electric prods, stabbed with sharp (ankus) hooks and whipped.

Cats used in the circus are also trained by inherently cruel and dominating methods to force them to perform tricks that are unnatural and undignified. Exotic cats are often whipped, choked, and beaten during their training sessions. To force a cat, such as a tiger, to stand on her hind legs, her front paws are often burned with cigarette lighters. To make the cats used in the circus run "enthusiastically" into the circus arena, they are often prodded with pipes or frightened by loud noises to make them appear excited to perform.

Striking Back

It is no wonder that out of frustration and rage elephants used in circuses have been responsible for 43 human deaths worldwide since 1990. Denied their natural behaviors, and stressed by being kept in close quarters and being forced to constantly perform inane tricks, captive cats also strike back against those responsible for their confinement. There have been more than 75 documented human attacks by felines since 1990. In one recent case, Arnie, a tiger performing with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, mauled and nearly killed his trainer. After the incident, Arnie was shot five times and killed while locked in a cage by the brother of the injured trainer.

No Spotless Record

No traveling animal act, regardless of size or appearance, is capable of handling exotic wildlife in a humane manner. Federal USDA inspection records of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus show more than 100 instances of substandard animal keeping between 1992 and 1997. Although such a record of non-compliant items is not rare, citations are seldom issued. Each year only approximately a dozen of the 2,000+ licensed animal exhibitors in the U.S. are cited, and just one or two may have their license suspended or revoked by the USDA. Fines are frequently suspended.

Despite poor enforcement of animal welfare laws to protect animals in circuses, hope is on the horizon. A movement is underway to restrict or ban traveling animal acts at the local and state level. Traveling acts using animals have been banned in a number of cities in Australia and Canada. Several towns in the U.S. have prohibited animal acts and a few large cities are considering bans. Bills restricting circuses have been introduced in several state legislatures in recent years, and in 1999 legislation was introduced in Congress to prohibit the use of elephants in circuses and for rides.

What You Can Do:

  • Do not patronize any form of entertainment that uses animals.
  • Tell your friends and family to boycott all animal circuses and other animal acts. Instead support one of the growing number of circuses that do not use animals.
  • Do not allow elephant rides or other animal acts to be used for fundraising purposes in your community. Contact the event sponsors and urge them to promote humane, animal-free circuses instead.
  • Support legislation to protect captive exotic animals.
  • If you witness animal cruelty at an event, document it in writing and/or with photographs or videotape and report it to your local humane society and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA):

    USDA Animal Care
    4700 River Road, Unit 84
    Riverdale, MD 20737-1234
    301-734-4981
    Fax 301-734-4978

Animal Protection Institute 4/18/00

 

Unweaned Birds: Hidden Victims

Young, unweaned birds are routinely removed from their parents at or shortly after hatching to be artificially reared by humans. This practice gained popularity under the faulty assumption that it was the best way to ensure that birds became "tame" and bonded with their human caregivers. The sad truth is that hand-rearing has meant misery for countless generations of birds.

Hand-feeding, especially in the hands of inexperienced individuals, often leads to tragic complications, including infection, aspiration pneumonia (caused by food entering the lungs), burned or punctured crops (caused by forceful feeding or food that is too hot), malnutrition, or even death. Birds who are artificially reared are also more likely to develop behavioral problems such as excessive screaming, feather plucking, self-mutilation, and aggression.

Unfortunately, many people still mistakenly believe that hand-feeding a bird guarantees a good "pet." In some instances, this is because bird breeders and pet shop employees who are unaware of the risks of artificial rearing dispense inaccurate information. But the bird industry also perpetuates the "hand-fed" myth for self-serving reasons, since the practice helps facilitate mass-scale breeding. Separating young birds from their parents increases production by encouraging the adult birds to produce more babies and, therefore, more "merchandise."

While fifteen states prohibit the sale of some unweaned animals, most limit the restrictions to puppies and kittens (some states also prohibit the sale of rabbits, chickens, and ducks under a certain age). Currently, no states address the sale of unweaned companion birds, despite the serious animal welfare and consumer protection concerns associated with the practice.

Taken from an article by Monica Engebretson in Animal Issues, Fall 2003.
Click here to for more information on this subject.

 

The Fur Farm Fallacy

Upon hearing the word "farm," most people imagine an picturesque scene: green hills, red barns, contented animals lazing in the sun.

But life (and death) on a fur "farm" is anything but idyllic for the foxes, mink, and other animals imprisoned there. Also disingenuously referred to as fur "ranches," these facilities are more akin to industrialized torture camps.

Animal advocates have had tremendous success in educating the public about the horrors involved in the trapping of wild animals for the fur trade. Graphic images of foxes and other furbearing mammals fighting desperately to free themselves from the steel jaws of traps are indelibly etched on many people's minds. Few would deny the cruelty of setting strangulation snares or body-gripping traps to capture animals in forests and fields.

By contrast, many people still mistakenly believe that animals raised for their fur are treated more humanely than those trapped in the wild. A recent study conducted for the International Association of Fish & Wildlife Agencies indicated that most respondents objected to trapping animals to make fur products and voiced a preference for furs from fur farms.

Such survey results are pleasing to the fur industry, which for years has worked to popularize products from what it calls "ranch-raised" animals. Fur trade propagandists work hard to sell the idea that animals on fur farms live "the good life." But nothing could be farther from the truth.

Not Old McDonald's Farm

On fur farms, animals such as foxes, mink, ferrets, and sables (an animal in the weasel family) spend their entire lives stacked on top of one other in barren cages with nothing beneath their feet but wire mesh. Those in the topmost cages are marginally more fortunate; they do not have feces falling into their food and water from animals imprisoned above. In many cases, multiple animals are forced to share a single, tiny cage. They may have no protection from wind, rain, or snow, save a roof on an "open" shed.

Studies have shown that as many as 85 percent of the animals confined in these facilities develop behavioral abnormalities such as rocking, head-bobbing, and self-mutilation due to boredom, anxiety, and the inability to meet their instinctual needs. A mink who, in the wild, would forage and roam for miles, might spend her days frantically pacing her cage, stopping only to bite repeatedly at her own tail.

Fur farms inflict such terrible psychological trauma on animals that in one study of vixen (female foxes), half of the kit loss that occurred prior to weaning was attributed to infanticidal behaviors, primarily mothers eating their young. Such behavior rarely occurs in wild populations. Diseases harbored in filthy pens and disorders caused by genetic manipulation are also seen in animals on fur farms.

If life on a fur farm is cruel, death there is equally so. After suffering through years of confinement, animals are killed and skinned for their pelts. Killing methods are typically cheap, crude, and performed in such a way so as not to damage the animal's fur; there is no such thing as humane "euthanasia" on a fur farm.

On U.S. fur farms, one of the most frequently used methods of killing animals is electrocution: the "farmer" puts a metal clamp in an animal's mouth, a metal rod in the anus, and sends a high-voltage current surging through the body. Sometimes the power surge forces the rod out of the anus, so the procedure must be repeated to kill the animal. Other commonly-employed techniques include homemade gas chambers, such as a box hooked up to a tractor exhaust pipe; lethal injection of various chemicals that kill through paralysis, which can result in immobilized animals being skinned alive; and neck breaking.

More than 36 million animals die on fur farms around the world each year. Thirty-one million (or about 90 percent) of these animals are mink. Foxes account for another 4.5 million, while chinchillas, sable, ferret (usually marketed as "fitch"), coypus (an aquatic mammal also known as "nutria"), and raccoon dogs (not to be confused with the North American raccoon), account for most of the remaining half-million animals. Due to the recent drop in pelt prices for mink and fox, some of U.S. fur farms have attempted to "diversify" by raising bobcat, coyote, raccoon, and beavers, along with coypus and rabbits -- all in equally abhorrent conditions.

A Lawless Industry

Some countries, including England, Scotland, and Wales, have recently outlawed fur farms. During debates about fur farms in the United Kingdom in December 2000, government minister Elliot Morley stated:

Fur farming is not consistent with the proper value and respect for animal life. This is a moral issue that goes beyond welfare considerations. In the 21st century, animals should not be killed just for the business of stripping their skins off their backs ... In a modern society there should be room for Government to make ethical decisions and it is right and proper for the Government to have introduced this ban.

Unfortunately, the U.S. government seems not to agree with this assessment. In fact, no federal laws regulate how the animals on the nearly 400 fur farms in operation in the U.S. are to be housed, cared for, or killed.

Even with the handful of countries banning or restricting fur farming, globally, fur-farm production is increasing, particularly in Asia. This phenomenon can be traced the increased marketing and public acceptance of fur trim. Today, male minks and foxes are killed almost exclusively for use in fur-trimmed accessories such as hats, jacket collars, and ruffs -- proof that, despite what some apologists claim, fur trim is not a byproduct of the larger fur trade.

Just because animals are raised for their fur in confined and controlled settings doesn't reduce their intense pain and suffering. It is essential that animal advocates fight myths propagated by fur-farm proponents.

For more information about this topic, visit API's newest website, www.BanCruelTraps.com, where you can find extensive information about the fur trade.


Be a Caring Consumer

Sometimes, well-meaning shoppers purchase items containing fur in the mistaken belief that the fur is fake. Part of this confusion stems from a loophole in U.S. labeling law that prevents consumers from easily accessing product information, and that the fur industry lobbied hard to keep in place.

In 2000, after an international investigation into the widespread slaughter of dogs and cats for the fur trade, Congress passed the Dog and Cat Protection Act, which made the import, export, transport, or sale of dog and cat fur illegal in the U.S. Unfortunately, the law left in place an earlier loophole that only those fur items valued at more than $150 dollars must be labeled as real and identify the species of origin. This causes tremendous uncertainty in the marketplace, since it can be difficult even for retailers to differentiate real fur from faux.

The following guidelines may be helpful for consumers who want to ensure that their purchases are indeed fur-free:

  • fake fur
    • feels coarser than fur from animals;
    • contains hairs that are all the same length and color (real fur usually contains layers of hair of different lengths and textures);
    • and is mounted on a base that can easily be perforated by a pin, whereas genuine fur remains attached to the animal's skin.

Save animals -- shop smart!

From an article by Shari Lasniak in Animal Issues, Fall 2003.
Click here for more information.

 

The Dirt on Dairy

Dairy products are detrimental to your health and to the environment. The suffering inflicted upon the cows and their calves is horrendous. Please read the following article by Monica Engebretson to find out the facts:

A Dairy Diary

The modern-day dairy cow suffers greatly during her unnaturally short life. Her home is most often an overcrowded dirt lot, where she may be forced to stand in fetid pools of mud, urine, and manure. Fed from a trough, she rarely, if ever, sees a pasture.

Each year she is forcefully inseminated so that she will conceive and give birth -- a prerequisite for lactation. Her calf will be taken from her within hours of delivery; for days, she may bellow frantically in search of her baby. During her ten-month lactation period, machines will drain her of ten to twenty times the amount of milk her calf would suckle.

If her calf is male, he will probably be thrown in a truck and sent to auction soon after he is born. If he survives this ordeal, he is likely sold to a veal operation. For the duration of his short life, he will be confined to a tiny crate that prevents almost all movement. He will be fed a meager, iron-poor diet so that his flesh will remain pale, the way "fine diners" prefer. A female calf will not fare much better. In most cases, she will remain on the farm to replace her mother or some other worn-out milk producer.

A dairy cow might be injected with a variety of substances that then make their way into the human food supply. She may receive injections of synthetic hormones that increase her milk supply by an additional 30 percent. As a result, she will be chronically hungry and prone to mastitis -- a painful udder infection that afflicts up to 75 percent of dairy cows. She will probably also receive large doses of antibiotics before she is butchered.

A cow who becomes ill in modern dairy operations often suffers greatly before she is noticed and treated (or killed). According to Bill Bickert, an agricultural engineer at Michigan State University, "The large-scale dairy can result in a lack of attention to detail when it comes to procedures and individual cow care." Dairy expert John Kirk, DVM, of the University of California at Davis, stated in a lecture last year that the at least 20 to 25 percent of cows in dairy herds experience painful lameness.

After years of cycling through continuous pregnancies, births, and lactations, a cow's milk production will begin an irreversible decline and she will be "culled" from the herd. In California today, the average productive life for a dairy cow is a mere 2.4 lactations (starting at age 2) before she is sent to slaughter, even though she has a potential lifespan of 20 or more years. Nearly 15 percent of all beef consumed in the U.S. consists of the bodies of slaughtered dairy cows.

Mega-Dairies, Mega-Destruction

Not only are modern-day dairy practices inhumane to animals, they are dangerous to the planet. Large dairies containing many thousands of cows are increasingly common and are particularly hazardous to the environment.

"Mega-dairies" are becoming the norm in California, which leads the nation in dairy production. In 2000, the state's 2,195 dairies churned out 32 billion gallons of milk, or about 18 percent of the U.S.'s supply. Because the cost of land in California is generally very high, most dairies located there keep the maximum number of cows in the minimum amount of space. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), between 1993 and 1998, the average number of cows per dairy in California nearly doubled; in 2000, the state had 1.5 million dairy cows. The environmental havoc mega-dairies have wreaked in California should serve as warning to other states not yet as severely impacted, since the growth of large operations there merely reflects a national trend toward more concentrated operations.

The EPA defines "large" dairies as those housing 700 or more cows, but many "mega-dairies" confine several thousand animals in a small area. These operations are a common point source of both water and air pollution, which fall unevenly across the region in which the dairies operate. The EPA's 2002 Progress Report for the Pacific Southwest Region illustrates the damaging effects of the waste produced at large-scale dairy operations. According to the report, "each cow produces about 120 pounds of wet manure per day." A 1,000-cow dairy will produce the same amount of waste as a city of 20,000 people, with no sewage treatment.

These outsized quantities of manure can contaminate rivers and groundwater supplies, including sources of drinking water for humans. Water pollution from dairies occurs in a number of different ways, from slow continuous leaking of manure-laced runoff into groundwater, to untimely rain after the application of manure to a field, to breaks or overflows in "lagoons" built to hold vast amounts of waste. According to the EPA, dairy waste pollutes waters with "nutrients (e.g., nitrate, phosphorous), organic matter, sediments ... heavy metals, hormones, antibiotics and ammonia" deadly to fish and aquatic ecosystems. The EPA also warns of "public health threats" caused by microorganisms in animal wastes, such as E. coli, salmonella, and cryptosporidium, which, when they enter the human drinking water supply, can cause serious illness or death. In 1998, the California Water Resources Control Board listed the water quality of 9 rivers and 49 ground water basins in the state as impaired by waste from animal operations, particularly dairies.

Pollution is not the only impact on local water supplies. Dairy farms are also intensive users of water. For example, The Heritage Dairy, a hotly-contested 6,000-cow facility recently given permission to operate in Dixon, CA (see sidebar) will consume approximately 9 million gallons of well water each year. With droughts and development already putting water supplies in jeopardy, the country can ill afford to pump vast quantities of this resource into the ballooning dairy industry.

The Air We Breathe

Of all environmental impacts created by mega-dairies, air pollution generally imposes the most immediate problem for the community. Dairy workers and those living near dairies frequently report adverse health effects from exposure to animal waste. People who experience prolonged exposure to dairy-related pollutants are vulnerable to respiratory illness, lung inflammation, and asthma, according to the EPA. The agency also states that "odorous and potentially toxic gases, such as sulfur dioxide, produced by the decomposition of animal wastes, may also cause nausea, headaches, and throat and eye irritation." Recently, three men at two different dairies in California died when they were overcome by toxic fumes from liquefied manure, fell into manure holding tanks, and drowned.

Dairy facilities also contribute to other air quality problems by introducing dust, smog, and greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. For example, manure lagoons are a major source of methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to global warming. According to the EPA, the world's livestock herds and waste lagoons comprise the largest source (30 percent) of human-induced emissions of methane.

Emissions from dairies and other animal feeding operations also play a role in the formation of ozone (smog) and other pollutants that pose a danger to public health and that are regulated by the Clean Air Act. High ozone levels can also reduce crop yields and make plants more vulnerable to disease. In California's Central Valley, a largely agricultural region in which ozone and particular matter often exceed national health standards, state projections show that animal waste is on track to become one of the largest sources of smog within the next three years.

Dust and dried manure particles kicked up by cows on crowded feedlots also contribute to air pollution. According to a May 15, 2002 article in the Los Angeles Times, the particulates in cow excrement carried downwind from dairies in Chino contribute to "some of the worst particle air pollution in the nation." Moreover, in the American Lung Association's May 2001 report on air pollution, California counties receiving a grade of "F" for air quality included all the major dairy-producing counties: Fresno (105 dairies), Kern (33 dairies), Kings (151 dairies), Madera (46 dairies), Merced (313 dairies), Riverside (109 dairies), Sacramento (55 dairies), San Bernardino (193 dairies), San Joaquin (151 dairies), Stanislaus (305 dairies), and Tulare (236 dairies) (1998 dairy statistics from the California Department of Agriculture).

Until 2002, factory farms were exempt from clean air requirements in California because of a long-standing legal loophole that was closed only after community groups, including Medical Alliance for Healthy Air, Communities for a Better Environment, and the Natural Resources Defense Council, filed suit. A recent study by the National Academy of Sciences (NAS), however, reveals that regulation of air quality problems arising from factory farms is a tricky endeavor. According to the NAS, "Because the Clean Air Act and its regulations generally rely on objective measures of pollutants, the regulatory process has not been effective in controlling odors, which are difficult to measure objectively." In other words, permitting mega-dairies and other industrial-sized farms under the Clean Air Act will do little to protect the community (including humans, wildlife, and domestic animals) from air quality problems associated with factory farming.

Ironically, while communities suffer from the impacts of industrial-sized dairies, and cows suffer from the effects of overcrowding and forced milk stimulation, the dairy industry itself is experiencing economic hardship due to overproduction: Because supplies are abundant, farmers receive lower prices for the milk they produce. State and federal subsidies, which encourage even greater milk output, only exacerbate the problem -- at the taxpayers' expense.

In California, for example, the state plans to pay dairy farmers up to $45 million over a 12-month period in the form of agricultural subsidies. Even some in the dairy industry point out the illogic of using tax dollars to pay farmers for overproduction. Rachel Kaldor, Executive Director of the Dairy Institute in Sacramento, told The Sacramento Bee earlier this year, "We have so much extra milk right now ... and we know as sure as the sun will rise tomorrow that when you give dairymen or anyone else more money for their product, they will make more." It's a costly, destructive cycle that shows no sign of slowing.

Healthier Humans

Fortunately, not only do numerous dairy alternatives exist, they are increasing in popularity -- and for good reason. Research shows that dairy products supply about one-third of the saturated fat found in the typical American diet; saturated fat raises "bad" cholesterol levels in the blood more than other forms of fat. Residues from the hormones and antibiotics fed to many dairy cows also threaten human health. Further, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Genetics, between 30 million and 50 million North Americans, including 75 percent of African-Americans and 90 percent of Asian-Americans, are lactose intolerant and frequently experience nausea, cramps, bloating, gas, and diarrhea after ingesting dairy foods.

Despite the dairy industry's attempts to peddle the image of milk and milk-based products as "health foods," the truth is, a dairy-free diet may be a better bet, nutritionally speaking.

"But what about calcium?" is a question commonly posed to those who choose not to eat dairy. Although the public largely associates calcium with dairy this essentially nutrient is actually present in many non-dairy products, such as leafy green vegetables, fortified orange juice and soy beverages, dried figs, and enriched wheat flour. In fact, the calcium in leafy greens (with the exception of spinach and collard greens) is often more plentiful and better absorbed than the calcium in dairy products, and contains no cholesterol or saturated fat. Additionally, unlike dairy foods, vegetables contain beneficial phytochemicals and are loaded with fiber.

Moreover, while dairy products do contain calcium, there is no evidence that milk consumption prevents osteoporosis, as the milk industry often implies. In fact, documented evidence now suggests that the opposite may be true.

A 1998 study published by the Journal of the American Dietetic Association revealed that vegan women did not have lower bone density than vegetarian women despite the fact that the vegan women consumed no dairy products and had lower intakes of calcium. The reason for this may be that reducing calcium loss is more important than levels of calcium intake. Diets high in protein, particularly animal protein, appear to increase the loss of calcium through the urine and lead to a weakening of the bones.

Another recent study (in which two API staff participated) further supports the benefits of a dairy-free diet. Researchers at the University of California at Davis, exploring the relationship between osteoporosis and diet, compared women who eat both animal and plant foods to women who only eat plant-derived foods. Their results indicated that rates of bone resorption -- in which calcium is leached from bones into the bloodstream -- were the same in the omnivore women and the vegan women. Bone formation rates, however, were significantly lower in the women who ate animal products, indicating a possible association between omnivorous diets and lower bone densities.

Dairy products also appear to increase vulnerability to cancer. According to a study published in the July 16, 2003 edition of the Journal of the National Cancer Institute found that premenopausal women aged 26-46 who eat red meat and high-fat dairy foods, such as cheese, may be at greater risk for breast cancer than those whose fats come primarily from plant sources.

This is not the first time that animal products have been implicated in contributing to certain cancers. A report published in the January 2001 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linked eating meat with certain cancers and found colon cancer to be most strongly correlated with a meat-heavy diet. A 1997 report by the American Institute for Cancer Research and the world Cancer Research Fund concluded that vegetarians have decreased rates of several kinds of cancer, due to their larger intake of plant foods.

If we choose to listen, there is a clear message to be heard in the results of these health studies, in the suffering of the cows exploited in dairy production, and in the environmental harm dairies cause to our air, soil, and water: For the sake of animals, people, and the planet, don't buy dairy!

If you would like more information on healthy and humane nutrition, request a copy of API's "Going Veggie: A Beginner's Guide," or visit www.ChooseVeggie.com.


Community Fights Mega-dairy Invasion

When a 6,000-cow mega-dairy was allowed to move in next door to the small town of Dixon, CA, without an environmental review or public input, API sprang into action. API joined forces with Viva!, Animal Place, The Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, and local residents to form the Citizen Action Group Against Mega Dairies. This grassroots coalition demanded that the local government and planning commission listen to the community concerns about the environment, property values, human health, and animal welfare.

Many California dairy producers have learned the value of doing business in counties that have no experience with industrial-sized dairies. When land prices or regulatory burdens increase in one area, many dairies opt to pack up and move to a location with cheaper land and minimal or nonexistent regulations.

Such was the case in Dixon, a town targeted by two companies experiencing environmental challenges in other California locales. First, in the spring of 2002, The Heritage Dairy, a 6,000-cow operation, relocated to Dixon from Ontario, in southern California. Soon afterward, the Zysling Dairy submitted an application for another 6,000-cow dairy, after facing environmental challenges in Tulare County, CA.

Members of the Citizens Group protested to county and city officials, testified at hearings, and alerted the media about the mega-dairies. This public outcry led to more intense scrutiny of the Zysling Dairy, which subsequently withdrew its permit request. After a public workshop conducted at the request of the Citizen Group, county officials are now considering a moratorium on large dairies in the county until studies are done to determine whether the impacts of such facilities can be mitigated.

By joining stakeholders together to educate the public, lobby decision-makers, and voice residents' concerns, the Citizens Group can serve as an inspiration for other communities challenging the presence of mega-dairies and other dangerous businesses in their area.

This article was featured in API's magazine Animal Issues in the fall of 2003.

 

The following is a transcript from a report on KPRC TV, Houston, Texas, November 19, 2003
Unfortunately, this situation is not unique, and it is happening all over the U.S. Please consider adopting instead of buying a pet. For information on adopting breed specific animals, click here.

Puppies Bred In 'Disgusting' Conditions

Prospective Dog Owners Should Check Out Breeders

Some call them puppies for profit. Others accuse them of contributing to dog shelter overcrowding. They are large-scale puppy breeders, sometimes housing hundreds of dogs and puppies.

But the News2Houston Investigators found that some are not only huge, but also unhealthy, and you could have bought a puppy there and not even know it.

News2Houston undercover cameras found a large puppy breeding facility about an hour northwest of Houston.

 

When News2Houston went in with the Houston Humane Society, they found more than 70 dogs, caged inside and out, and some chained up all across the property.

Many of the dogs and puppies were living in their own waste, and cramped crates housed several animals at a time.

"It was just heartbreaking," said Carolyn Kendrick, who rescued a dog from the facility.

After seeing a newspaper ad, Kendrick drove a friend to find a puppy there and could not believe what she saw.

Soon, Kendrick and dog-groomer Theresa Murders went back to rescue several dogs, including Penny the poodle.

"It was in very bad condition. It smelled badly of urine. You could tell it had been kept in pretty bad conditions," Murders said.

Penny the dog went to the vet with a serious bladder infection. She had spent so much time in a cage, she was scared to even be touched.

"It's possible this dog might have died had she not gotten some medical attention," Kendrick said.

The owners are elderly and did provide food and water to most dogs, according to officials. But they either could not or did not keep the place clean or organized, police said.

They weren't only selling puppies to people who visited, but they said other breeders and pet stores went there to buy puppies.

"These are poor conditions from the beginning of a dog's life. And then they're being adopted out to a family that has no idea the way the animal is being raised," said Sgt. Mark Timmers, Houston's animal cruelty investigator.

Timmers said that is a concern with large-scale breeders. Many times, those animals are sold at pet stores and flea markets or just on the side of the road, away from where the animals are bred.

Veterinarians warn, unless you see where the puppies have been raised, you never know what condition of animal you may be buying.

"You don't know where they're coming from. You don't know their disease status. Are they sick? Will they get sick?" said Dr. Tim Harkness, a veterinarian.

Harkness also worries about the condition of the dogs used for breeding. He said a single breeding dog could have hundreds of puppies in her lifetime -- most of that time spent living in a small cage, rarely getting out.

News2Houston also took their cameras to a large-scale breeder north of Houston.

"How many dogs you think you have here?" News2Houston asked.

"Oh, about 250 or so," the facility's owner said.

At that location, the dogs live in specialized "in and out" trailers that are clean.

And while vets say there are good breeders who sell healthy pets, there's no statewide regulations or inspectors to regulate the number of dogs or check out conditions of most breeders.

"These puppies you buy off the side of the road or at a pet store, they don't require anything. All they want is money and that's just what they get," Harkness said.

"The only regulation you have are the people watching the dogs themselves," Timmers said.

Meanwhile, Penny the poodle is improving. And even though the puppy breeder was not charged with a crime, after News2Houston visited, many of the dogs were confiscated.

But vets ask, "Who knows how many unsuspecting people now have puppies from this place -- puppies who already have had health problems or will have in years to come?"

Many times, sick puppies and breeding dogs end up at shelters like the Houston Humane Society. Some are so sick they have to be euthanized, but many are nursed back to health and ready to make good pets.

The Humane Society suggests that you find a puppy there or from a breeder you have personally checked out

Tips To Finding A Good Breeder:
From The Houston Humane Society

  • Reputable breeders usually keep the dogs in the home as part of the family, not outside in kennels.
  • They should show you where the dogs spend their time.
  • Good breeders usually only breed one or two types of dogs.
  • Purebred papers do not guarantee anything, including the health of the puppy.

Online Resources:

Page One   Page Two

"We are compelled by the commandment of love contained in our hearts and thought, and proclaimed by Jesus, to give rein to our natural sympathy for animals. We are also compelled to help them and spare them suffering."
Albert Schweitzer

 

 

{Home} {Pet Health} {Pet Safety} {Pet Fun} {Handy Hints} {Miscellaneous} {Advocacy} {Links} {Product Alerts}