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Veterinarian

Meet The Traveling Veterinarian Who’s Helping Homeless Pets For Free

Stewart is now known as the “Street Vet” in California, as he spends his free time traveling around the golden state in search of homeless people with animals.

Elephant in Camp

Elephant Rejuvenation Camps Spark Animal Rights Debate In India

Akila the elephant is one of India’s biggest celebrities. She spends her days in the Jambukeswarer temple where she performs her daily duties of leading temple processions around the city, gathering water for sacred ceremonies, and dressing in the appropriate outfits for said ceremonies. Elephants who are in captivity in India are often used in spiritual ceremonies, as many aspects of Indian culture and spirituality praise the elephant as a holy being. 

Because of this Akila has definitely gained a major following, and supposedly takes up to one hundred selfies with fans a day. However, even famous elephants deserve a break, and luckily for Akila, once a year many different elephant sanctuaries throughout India bring their elephants to a “rejuvenation camp” where they can take some time off. 

About 2,500 of the 29,000 elephants in India are kept in captivity. India is widely known as one of the original places that would tame the massive mammals for human use, mainly in religious contexts. However, 17 years ago animal rights activists protested the unfair and abusive treatment of elephants by their handlers as a means of “taming” them. As a result, the government now requires that all elephants held in captivity must go away to one of these “rejuvenation camps” for several weeks of rest and relaxation. 

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These camps also allow all captive elephants to interact with one another, and with six-acres of forest land to explore, they have plenty of room and time to do so. The camps are a part of the governments “animal welfare initiatives” and have become a sort of seasonal tradition for elephants and their caretakers. Like a parent sending their child to sleep-away camp every summer, temple caretakers load their elephants into a designated truck and bring them to one of the many camps throughout the southern part of India every year. Each camp costs approximately $200,000 to run, at least the one that Akila goes to does. 

Every elephant is required to have their designated caretaker with them for the duration of their time at the rejuvenation camp. Akila has been accompanied by her temple caretaker, Arjun, every year since 2012 when she first began attending the camps. Once there, Arjun and all the other caretakers play a very important role in ensuring that their elephant counterparts have a fun and relaxing time. This role includes, bathing, feeding Akila a very specific food mix, going for long walks, and receiving tutoring from vets on elephant diet and exercise, according to reports.

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While all of this does sound like that of a spa getaway for elephants, the camps and temple taming practices in general are rooted in years of controversy. Reports state that most of the camps have at least eight watchtowers and one mile of electric fencing surrounding the property. Additionally, the elephants spend a majority of the six weeks that they’re there chained up. 

“Elephants belong in jungles, not temples. A six-week ‘rejuvenation camp’ is like being let out on parole while being sentenced for life imprisonment. Even at these camps, the animals are kept in chains and often in unhygienic conditions. If you must continue with the tradition, temple elephants should be kept in the camps for most of the year – in much better conditions – and taken to the temples only during festivals,” argues Sunish Subramanian, of the Plant and Animals Welfare Society in Mumbai.

The camps themselves have also become flooded by tourists who like to gawk and glare at the elephants like a sort of glorified zoo. An Indian farmers union attempted to petition a court to relocate the camps to a more secluded and open location; claiming that the tight corridors and overwhelming amount of people and animals can cause the elephants to do into distress, which is dangerous for everyone. The union has claimed that 16 people have died at these camps due to an increase in stress within the animals that leads to aggressive behavior. 

The courts rejected the petition, however, animal rights activists continue to fight for an elephant’s right to live in its natural habitat. To learn more about the effort click here.

Yellow Baby Chicks

France Announces Ban On Mass Slaughtering Of Male Chicks

The global farming industry has always been rooted in controversy over the rights of the innocent animals who are forced into harsh, unlivable conditions from birth. It’s never so much about the inevitable death of the animal, but more so the unfathomable torture they endure before it. While rare, there are plenty of organic local farms throughout the world who raise their animals to be killed for food, but ensure that they have a normal farm animal life before the fact. 

In Europe, animal rights are often a hot topic of discussion, as different areas of the continent have stricter restrictions when compared to others. Recently, France made some major moves to ban an archaic and straight up aggressive practice done in the industrialized farming industry. 

The practice involves the slaughtering of male chicks when they’re hatched. What most individuals don’t know about the chicken industry specifically, is that hens are really the cream of the crop when it comes to both meat and egg production (obviously males can’t produce eggs). Because of this, billions of male chicks are slaughtered, in a practice known as “shredding” by farmers, every year around the world. 

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Hens are more profitable than male chicks in the industry because they grow much quicker, can produce eggs, and in general have more meat. So more times than not when male chicks are hatched, industrial farmers throw them right into a shredder, live. It’s also been reported that some also suffocate them in bags, or gas them to death. In France, however, government workers are listening to those concerned with the extremely inhumane practice that takes the lives of billions of innocent chicks every year; so much so that they’ve banned it.  

“Nothing will be like it was before in poultry farming after the end of 2021. We [the French gov.] want to move forward, there’s no going back, the government is committed to it. The aim is to oblige farms to do this by the end of 2021. We need to find a method that works on a large scale. The ministry is going to publish regulatory texts in the next few weeks to move towards the banning of painful practices in farming husbandry,” agriculture minister Didier Guillaume announced this week. 

In addition, Guillaume also announced that part of the “banning of painful practices in farming husbandry,” will include the practice of castrating young male pigs without any anesthetic. 

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While 2021 may seem like a long way off, the logistics of the work that goes into a ban as massive as this surely justifies it. The farming industry is extremely extensive and complex, and banning a practice that’s been in the industry for years upon years is much easier said than done. It requires the creation of new methods for gender population regulation amongst the chicks. In an ideal world, all the unneeded males would simply go to a farm to live out the rest of their days, however, in this world, the humane option is often never the choice. 

Germany is another European country that is in the midst of the same sort of banning issue. In fact, back in 2015, Germany became the first country in the world to announce a ban on the mass killing of all chicks. However, just last year the German courts announced that farmers could continue the slaughtering’s until they figure out how to develop a newer technology that would be considered more humane. 

The technology that the German courts were referring to would allow industrial farmers to determine the sex of a chick while it’s still unhatched, so this way they could simply throw out the eggs containing male embryos before they even develop into a living being, or contribute them to egg collections. 

According to reports, the German government has invested a total of $5.5 million in the technology, which should be ready to use by the end of this year. Once available, the ban on mass killings will be officially enforced in Germany, and the technology will likely be shared amongst its other European counterparts. 

Puppies in cage

Animal Cruelty Is Officially A Federal Crime

Animal cruelty has become a growing problem in this country. Whether it be blatant abuse that comes from the world of illegal pit bull fighting rings, parents dropping their puppy Christmas gifts off at shelters after they turn into an actual dog, or leaving dogs out in the cold during winter because they have a dog house, more people are just getting pets for the sake of getting them and not viewing them as an actual responsibility and companion. When animals end up in kill shelters, they’re more likely to end up in the wrong hands, as the background check process isn’t as extensive, and more animals are left to be killed or subject to abusive behavior, when all they want is a loving home and owner. 

Luckily, this month the government is making more moves to ensure that the animals who do find themselves in a domestic home, aren’t abused and are federally protected from those horrors. This past Monday President Donald Trump signed a bill that states animal cruelty is now a federal crime, and will be punishable as such. 

The specific act is titled the “PACT Act,” which stands for the “Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act.” According to the official bill, the act itself is a “bipartisan initiative that bans the intentional crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating, impalement or other serious harm to living non-human mammals, birds, reptiles, or amphibians. The law also bans ‘animal crush videos,’ meaning any photograph, motion picture film, video or digital recording or electronic image that depicts animal cruelty.”

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The penalty for violating this new federal law will be a hefty fine, decided based on the specifics of each case, up to seven years in federal prison, or potentially both. The National Public Radio reported that the initial bill was introduced by Congressman Ted Deutch and Vern Buchanan of Florida. The bill was pushed to vote through the senate thanks to Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, and Senator Patrick J. Toomey of Pennsylvania. 

Animal cruelty has been an ongoing and growing issue within this country. America already has a whole series of individual state laws against animal cruelty and torture, however, without federal legislation giving a general basis and guideline for these laws, it’s become increasingly more difficult to prosecute specific cases without any major point of reference. 

“PACT makes a statement about American values. Animals are deserving of protection at the highest level,” Kitty Block, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, said in a statement.

“I’m grateful to see the PACT Act finally signed into law. The barbaric torture of animals has no place in a civilized society and should be a crime — and thanks to this new law, now it is. Senator Toomey and I worked together for years to ensure that this kind of despicable torture of animals is forbidden for good, Senator Blumenthal said.

Many individuals who worked on this bill and helped sign it into legislation, including the President, have stated that this has been a long time coming, and animals are long overdue these types of federal protections. As previously mentioned, state’s were responsible for enforcing their own animal cruelty laws, as the only federal regulations before this point were more specifically based on animal fighting rings, and the distribution of videos depicting animal cruelty. Now, with the PACT Act, federal authorities will be able to target and go after animal abusers head on, as the act has granted them federal jurisdiction country-wide. The passing of this act is a win for animal rights activists, and more importantly our countries furry friends who all deserve a loving home, and are now being given a better shot at finding one.

Girl taking selfie with Deer

#StopAnimalSelfies Campaign Calls On Tourists Not To Pose With Wild Animals

Costa Rica is one of the most popular tourist destinations for travelers. Pink sandy beaches, crystal clear blue waters, fancy beach resorts with unlimited South American buffets and beverages, it truly is a vision of paradise. It is also home to many exotic animals, many of which have become part of a growing tourism trend within the past few years. Tourists love to opportunity to pose with these animals for a Instagram worthy picture to let all of their followers know their chilling in paradise with the local sloths, iguanas, parrots, etc. We’ve all seen it, and many of us have even participated; however, now, the Costa Rican Tourism Institute is asking tourists to stop taking photos with these animals in a new campaign they’re calling “#stopanimalselfies,” which is very on brand for the types of individuals taking advantage of the indigenous wildlife photo-ops. 

“Our visitors must know the negative impact caused by selfies and photos showing direct contact with wild animals. Our goal and responsibility as global leaders in environmental issues is to educate and encourage new world ambassadors committed to wildlife protection,”  Pamela Castillo, Vice Minister of Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE), told CNN Travel. 

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MINAE and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute have teamed up together to launch and run this campaign. The campaign is a major call to action for all tourists planning on visiting Costa Rica, and in general for tropical vacationers seeking a picture with their favorite animal. In addition to asking tourists not to pose with wildlife, the two groups are also asking for individuals to pose with stuffed animals of their favorite indigenous species instead and post the photo with the caption “I do not mistreat wild animals for a selfie #stopanimalselfies,” according to CNN.

The reasoning behind this campaign goes beyond just worrying about scaring these animals, and actually has more to do with the health of everyone involved. Many of these animals are wild and are typically caught by the individuals who normally patrol the beaches and resorts with them asking if anyone wants a photo. That means these animals are not used to intense and frequent human interaction. Additionally, the spread of disease is a major concern. Inter-species interactions that are abruptly introduced by force to these animals can cause the exchange of disease from animal to animal, animal to human, or human to animal. A 30 second photo shoot with a sloth can lead to both of you becoming extremely ill within a day. 

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As an alternative, MINAE and the Costa Rican Tourism Institute recommend going through professional animal handlers to have an up close experience with wildlife. One example given by MINAE is visiting the famous Sloth Sanctuary in Limon, right on the Atlantic Coast of Costa Rica. At this sanctuary, visitors can experience an educational journey all about the life of the sloth and while they’re learning they can watch and interact with actual sloths that are kept at the sanctuary for safety purposes, much like animals who are injured and spend their lives at rescue reservations. While you won’t be able to hold the animals, as disease is yet again the number one concern, this is the next best thing. Wildlife sanctuaries are also extremely common and highly popular in Costa Rica for this reason as well, so there’s plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with a bunch of exotic animals without worrying about the well being of both you and the animals. 

This issue goes beyond just Costa Rica. According to CNN Travel, any tourists who visit Maria Island in Australia are asked to sign legal pledges stating that they will not bother or chase any animals in hopes to get a photo, as well as promises that individuals won’t pick up random animals they come across. In Australia this is an especially big problem, as many tourists think that the cute faces of marsupials, such as the Koala Bear, can seem like an invite to just pick them up and pose, however, you wouldn’t just go up to a random child that you thought was cute and pick them up without consent, so don’t do it here either. Overall the message is clear and simple, respect all animals when travelling, no matter how cute or trendy you think it is, remember that these are living things with real emotions, they just can’t express them.

Foie Gras

New York City Bans Foie Gras From All Restaurants And Grocery Stores

New York City will be banning restaurants and grocery stores from selling foie gras beginning in 2022 after a bill was passed this Wednesday, CNN reports. If you don’t know, foie gras is made from the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened through force-feeding the animal corn with a feeding tube. The force feeding process is known as gavage, and is said to be an inhumane practice, hence the ban. Mayor De Blasio confirmed he would be signing off on the passed bill in response to the massive scrutiny the dish has endured throughout the past few years.

“The bill calls the luxury good a force-fed product, and force-feeding an inhumane practice. As a lifelong advocate for animal rights, I am excited that the Council has voted to pass this historic legislation to ban the sale of these specific force-fed animal products,” Councilwoman Carlina Rivera, the prime sponsor of the bill, said in a statement to CNN.

If an individual is caught still distributing or purchasing the dish, they face a civic penalty charge upwards of $2,000. New York City is not the first American city to ban the dish either. Back in 2012 California passed a bill banning the dish, but that decision was later overturned in 2015. The overturn was in response to complaints from farmers and restaurant workers who profited greatly from the distribution of foie gras, however, their victory was short lived as California reinstated the ban in 2018 after a massive backlash from PETA and other animal rights activists during the overturn. 

 

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Chicago had a similar experience when the city banned foie gras in 2006 and later overturned that decision in 2008, which still remains today. The debate has been decades in the making across the country. In France, where the dish originated, foie gras is officially recognized as French Culture, therefore it will never be banned in the country, the United States however is a different story. 

Foie gras supporters and producers defend the decision to keep the dish for similar reasons. It’s been around for decades, it’s classic french cuisine, and holds a high level of cultural value. Additionally, chefs argue that there’s many more inhumane practices occurring in the meat industry that doesn’t have as much focus as this dish. According to CNN, supporters defend the process of force feeding by claiming that it isn’t abusive like people assume. When ducks migrate, they stuff themselves with food in a similar way as to when they are force fed. They also swallow their food whole due to the fact that their esophagi is very stretchable, so being fed via feeding tube supposedly doesn’t harm the animal; depending on forceful it is. 

 

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Critics typically respond with intensely graphic videos of the process that occurs in slaughter house type settings to make this dish happen, to which chefs reply that those videos represent an extreme minority of the production of foie gras as a whole. Typically, chefs will get their fattened duck or goose livers from local farmers to ensure that the meat is of the best quality. Local farms also normally don’t practice inhumane and abusive processes to acquire meat and dairy products, at least compared to factory grade slaughter houses. 

Critics tend to ignore all the defenses of this dish and that’s their prerogative. Force-feeding can lead to liver damage and puncturing of essential digestive organs for the animal, so the argument will always stand. If anything, this debate is just a small piece of the greater puzzle of sustainable farming and animal cruelty. The reality is, there are plenty of locally produced and humane ways of acquiring meat and any other animal-food by products. These more organic options, however, are typically much more expensive and harder to find, compared to just picking up some meat at the grocery store which came from who knows where. The debate is one that’s been going on for years and years, and will most likely continue to go on. One thing is for sure, however, once 2022 hits, you won’t be getting any genuine french cuisine made from a duck liver in New York City.