Animals in War – “They Had No Choice”

war-memorial animalsPosted on Facebook by HorseConscious

The Animals in War Memorial in London is a striking tribute to the horses, donkeys, mules and dogs who lost their lives in the wars of the 20th Century. The words read, “Beneath the main heading “Animals in War”, the memorial has two inscriptions:
“This monument is dedicated to all the animals that served and died alongside British and Allied forces in wars and campaigns throughout time.”
The second, smaller inscription simply reads: “They had no choice.”

Humans have used everything from birds to elephants in war.
Humans have used everything from birds to elephants in war.

London June 2011 - The Animals in War Memorial
animals in war
url-1_0 military dolphins
they had no choice
From Scholastic News:

Not all Americans are applauding the military’s use of animals in combat. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has openly criticized what they consider inhumane tactics.
“These animals never enlisted; they know nothing of Iraq or Saddam Hussein, and they probably won’t survive,” says Arathi Jayaram, a spokesman for PETA, an animal rights group. “The military can detect weapons and find wounded troops with some very sophisticated equipment.”
That isn’t always the case, say military officials. Animals have unique gifts—low-light vision, biological sonar, and directional hearing—that can’t be duplicated even with the most-advanced technology.
…”For thousands of years of his history, man has made use of the capabilities of animals—their strength, extraordinary senses, swimming or flying ability,” says Tom LaPuzza, public affairs officer for the U.S. Naval Marine Mammal Program.
Presidential candidate and Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman is so impressed with the military’s heroic canines, he has proposed building a national war dog memorial in Washington, D.C.
“[They] have contributed to the security of our nation and the freedom of our people,” he says. “These are not ordinary dogs, but loyal, spirited, and courageous animals.”

You can contribute to the National Military Working Dogs Teams Memorial fund, or suggest that dolphins and other animals receive acknowledgement as well. The Brits are way ahead of us on this.
Contacts for the memorial:
John Burnam, President :
Larry Chilcoat, Treasurer :
Kristie Dober, Secretary :
Paula Slater, Bronze Sculptor
Sign up for our Newsletter :
World War II & Korean War Dog Handlers, contact us! :

Dolphin Assisted Therapy – Penn and Teller Weigh In (Sunday Funnies)

In her fascinating look at the sometimes bizarre things people do with dolphins, Elizabeth Batt writes that much of what people expect dolphins to be able to do is not grounded in fact:

According to WDC — Whale and Dolphin Conservation, “there is no scientific evidence to prove that the therapy is effective … no official standards or regulation governing the industry and … both people and animals can be exposed to infection and injury when participating in these programs.”
Furthermore, Dr. Lori Marino, a neuroscientist and expert in animal behavior and intelligence on the faculty of Emory University and Scott O. Lilienfeld, concludes in Dolphin-Assisted Therapy: More Flawed Data and More Flawed Conclusions:
“That nearly a decade following our initial review, there remains no compelling evidence that DAT is a legitimate therapy or that it affords any more than fleeting improvements in mood.”

Batt’s article reminded me of Penn and Teller’s take on the subject, and no matter where your personal beliefs fall on dolphin assisted therapy, their point of view is so well sculpted that a laugh is guaranteed. If you are wondering if you really want to watch the whole episode, check out the highlight first:
The full episode:

World Turtle Day – Watch a Video That Inspires Hope

The American Tortoise Rescue started the World Turtle Day in 2000 “as an annual observance to help people celebrate and protect turtles and tortoises and their disappearing habitats around the world…they are rapidly disappearing as a result of the exotic food industry, habitat destruction, global warming and the cruel pet trade,” says founder Susan Telem. The Official Turtle Day occurs on May 23rd every year.
Sea turtles are one of the Earth’s most ancient creatures. The seven species that can be found today (six are found in U.S. waters) have been around for 110 million years, since the time of the dinosaurs, and have figured prominently into human cultures through time.  Now they are at risk of extinction due to human activities.  From NOAA’s Office of Protected Resources:

Major threats to sea turtles in the U.S. include, but are not limited to: destruction and alteration of nesting and foraging habitats; incidental capture in commercial and recreational fisheries; entanglement in marine debris; and vessel strikes. To reduce the incidental capture of sea turtles in commercial fisheries, NOAA Fisheries has enacted regulations to restrict certain U.S. commercial fishing gears (gillnets, longlines, pound nets, and trawls) that have known, significant bycatch of sea turtles. To effectively address all threats to sea turtles, NOAA Fisheries and the USFWS have developed recovery plans to direct research and management efforts for each sea turtle species. More information on threats to sea turtles is available.

Please visit The Sea Turtle Conservancy to learn more about these ancient and endangered animals.

Information on tortoises and pond turtles can be found here.

A bas-relief from Angkor Wat, Cambodia, shows Samudra manthan-Vishnu in the center and his turtle Avatar Kurma below  (Wikipedia Commons)
A bas-relief from Angkor Wat, Cambodia, shows Samudra manthan-Vishnu in the center and his turtle Avatar Kurma below (Wikipedia Commons)

Marineland Conditions for Killer Whale Still Substandard – Video of Kiska the Orca

Courtesy (David Clow photographer)
Courtesy (David Clow photographer)

Alex Louise Dorer, Board Member at Orca Conservancy and Cofounder, President of the Board at Fins and Fluke recently made the long trek from her home in Texas to Ontario, Canada to witness the conditions at Marineland there, and while not surprised,  Alex was unhappy at what she saw. She took these videos to show the isolation and living conditions of Kiska, the lone orca at the amusement park. Usually a very active and highly social species, this lack of companions and stimulation must be depressing for the whale – they don’t spend much time sleeping, so her isolation is compounded at night when the public is not there.

Alex points out that employees are powerless to change the situation, and hopes that people worldwide will help close the doors for good at the amusement park:

Marineland Canada is one of Ontario’s most popular tourist attractions. Until Phil Demers, a Marineland senior trainer, went public (via the Toronto Star) with how Marineland treats its animals, no one really knew about the horrific conditions in which those animals live and die. You can find the Star’s extensive investigation series into what goes on behind-the-scenes at Marineland here.
In response to Demer’s actions, Marineland and its owner, John Holer, fired and sued Christine Santos, who happens to be Demers’ girlfriend. And now Demers has been sued as well, AND he has been threatened with additional legal action as well. Demers and Santos now face crippling legal bills, just to defend themselves, and financial ruin if they can’t muster a legal defense.

Please go to the Fins and Fluke website to see what you can do to help.

Alex Dorer with Ric O'Barry at the opening day protest, Marineland Ontario  2013
Alex Dorer with Ric O’Barry at the opening day protest, Marineland Ontario 2013

Look Out, SeaWorld – the Georgia Aquarium is Ahead of You in the Beluga Game

The Georgia Aquarium appears to be trying to beat SeaWorld at its own game – they have mastered the art of turning animals into circus clowns while pretending to educate, and are adept at lightening the wallets of amusement seeking guests. At their ‘educational’ facility you can swim with their new cash cows, the benign whale sharks ($225) or ‘encounter’ (feed and pet) the belugas and dolphins ($60 – $180). They appeal to children not through the magic of learning but through the magic of fantasy. Will they really get a permit to import more wild belugas for this?

It has been a year since the Georgia Aquarium requested permission to import wild caught belugas – and after boasting of how much better it is for the belugas to be in captivity than returned to their wild homes, the aquarium lost their first attempt at captive breeding right away (in May of 2012) – and they still have not been issued the permit.  It may have something to do with the nearly 8000 comments made by the public on the permit application – the National Marine Fisheries Service is required to consider them all.
Georgia Aquarium chief zoological officer Bill Hurley appears to be talking to an invisible chair (aka Clint Eastwood) while going though rhetorical hoops to explain how valuable the death of the calf was, and no one’s fault, really:

On their website, the aquarium states “As important ambassadors to their species, beluga whales bring marine mammal education to life and inspire millions of people to become involved in their conservation and protection.” The educational tenor of Georgia Aquarium:

“Georgia Aquarium is proud to take a bold step to ensure the care and understanding of belugas in human care and in the wild. We recognize the immense knowledge and education that the study of these animals can provide, and we aim to inspire the public to conserve and protect the species.” Here is a composite of what the aquarium provided to the public in 2011:

Georgia Aquarium’s new Beluga & Friends Interactive Program is a never-before-offered opportunity for an exclusive encounter with Georgia Aquarium’s beloved beluga whales! This inspirational, educational program allows guests to don Aquarium wetsuits and wade into the water to interact with the animals alongside Aquarium beluga whale trainers. Guests will also get a chance to meet some of the other animals that live in the Georgia-Pacific Cold Water Quest gallery. With only eight slots per session, it’s an intimate experience you and your family will never forget.…

The truth? With most US animals too old to reproduce and naturally low survival rates for calves, the captive population is in desperate need of new animals and new genes, but Americans are hesitant to allow amusement parks to destroy natural wild populations of whales and dolphins. The solution for the amusement parks was to help Russians capture wild belugas, then ask to have them imported to the U.S. after the deed was done. Will our government support this? That remains to be seen.
If the permit is granted, the initial distribution of the 18 animals proposed to be imported will be: three to the Georgia Aquarium; Shedd will receive four animals; SW San Antonio, six; SW Orlando, two; and SW San Diego, three. All the whales will be owned by the Georgia Aquarium, so the transfers will be made under breeding loan agreements. Mystic Aquarium won’t receive any, but some animals might be transported there in the future.
For more information, contact Georgia Aquarium Public Relations: Meghann Gibbons Director 404.581.4109 Jessica Fontana Specialist 404.581.4391

“The Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.” Representative John Shimkus, Ill. (Sunday Funnies)

So this is how education prepares children to be leaders of this great country (I couldn’t make this stuff up) – and faced with global problems requiring global solutions, are taught that God is going to wipe us off the planet anyway.
The America Blog has verified that this test is not a joke…
creationist-science-test oat
“Snopes has confirmed that a purported 4th Grade creationist school science test, making its way around the Web, is in fact real, and comes from a South Carolina Christian school.”
549151_624620300884425_1028854091_n oatWith that kind of education, it is no wonder that many people, finally having to accept that climate change is real, are taking the tack that we are doomed anyway, and will all die when God decides it is time…so why bother to change?
Opposing Views writes:
“In their study, titled “End-Times Theology, the Shadow of the Future, and Public Resistance to Addressing Global Climate Change,” David C. Barker of the University of Pittsburgh and David H. Bearce of the University of Colorado argue that citizens who believe in the end of days “often resist policies trading short-term costs for hypothetical long-term benefits.””

“[I]t stands to reason that most nonbelievers would support preserving the Earth for future generations, but that end-times believers would rationally perceive such efforts to be ultimately futile, and hence ill-advised,” Barker and Bearce wrote.
That sentiment is not just confined to average citizens. The chairman of the Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy, Rep. John Shimkus, said in 2010 that he opposed action on climate change because “the Earth will end only when God declares it to be over.”
According to the researchers, the results of the study indicate that the U.S. would probably not be taking any action on climate change when so many of its citizens, particularly Republicans, believed in the impending end of days, Raw Story reported.

There is much I am learning here in Hawaii in a workshop on ocean awareness that often reminds me that this small island in a big ocean is a parable to our small planet in a vast universe and we have to learn to live in balance in the world ecosystem- but it is Sunday Funnies so I’ll just leave you with this:

Local Horse Rescue Offers Alternative to Slaughter

In 2004 this sensitive and kind horse, Dakota, was purchased for fifty cents per pound to prevent her and the foal she carried from being slaughtered. The farmer who owned her had wrung all the use he could from her, and even though she was malnourished and untrained, rather than surrender her for adoption he was determined to get the kill buyer price for her. A horse rescue organization stepped in, located an adopter, and arranged transportation for the horse.
Dr. Zaccardi checked her over, many health problems.
At her new home, a veterinarian treated the mare’s  health issues, but could do nothing for her deflated spirit. “Give her time”, he advised the adopters.
She was turned out to pasture to rest and heal with a small herd of other rescues, and  a month later produced a fiery and energetic little foal. Gradually she gained confidence and trust in people.
It is hard to conceive that six weeks earlier this unborn foal would have met with a violent end in her mother’s womb – but without effective rescue groups that is exactly what would have happened to her, and tens of thousands of other horses as well.
Now the rescue groups are organizing into a larger safety net to help owners keep or place their horses, and hope to make sure that no horse faces brutal slaughter in the future.
It is odd that we have allowed it at all – at what point in American culture did we decide that horses were both companion 135-3571_IMGanimals and commodities?  Would we stand for that with the other animals that share our lives?  Would we take our pregnant dogs and cats somewhere to be shot in the head and their litters cut out – sometimes still alive – from their mothers’ bodies? And eaten? Of course not.
In the intervening years since Dakota was rescued horse slaughter has been in abeyance in this country – though kill buyers just ship the horses to Canada and Mexico.  Pro-slaughter advocates point their fingers at that fact and claim that ultimately horses suffer more with the long transport to countries that may be less regulated.
Because the American public has a tendency to turn a blind eye to the problem of what to do with horses that people can’t or won’t take care of, an opening is left for slaughter advocates to claim that there are no other options.
With the political pressure to reinstate horse slaughter (please see Obama Administration Blocks the Reinstatement of Horse Slaughter) a constant threat, rescue organizations needed to come up with a plan, and they have come up with an elegantly simple solution. Collect fees from breeders, create a fund, and disperse the resources as needed.

Allen Warren (courtesy Kitsap Sun)
Allen Warren (courtesy Kitsap Sun)

A variation on this idea was suggested by Allen Warren of the Horse Harbor Foundation, A Kitsap Peninsula rescue group, when divorce forced Dakota’s owner to find a new home for her and other rescue horses. With his own facilities full of horses needing homes, founder Allen Warren came up with a unique idea tailored to the owner’s situation and within weeks Dakota and two other mares had found a wonderful home.
That kind of flexibility and creativity is basic to the program espoused by Warren and explained in an article he wrote for The Horse:

Horses displaced by the economy over the past few years have forced equine rescue operators such as myself to not only expand our sanctuary capacities but also to find new ways to save many more horses than we have in the past.
Sponsored foster homes and new programs such as in-place rescues to help owners keep and support their horses with feed banks and other financial assistance have vastly expanded our capacity to improve horse welfare. For instance, the Oregon hay bank program alone (which provides owners with enough hay to keep their horses healthy during times of crisis), created and operated by horse rescuers, has kept almost 800 horses in their homes since 2009, and similar efforts are under way in other states.
…The bottom line: America’s equine rescue resource is much greater than previously reported and is capable of doing vastly more if supported by both the commercial equine industry and private horse owners. The equine rescue community could be the answer to the “unwanted horse problem” if given the chance and provided the resources.

Warren details how only rescue organizations which pass the standards of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries will have access to support from funds collected by adding a small fee to horse breed registries. “Since all breed registries and owner organizations are committed to the welfare of their horses, let them simply add $25 to every registration fee dedicated specifically to rehoming and long-term care of horses in need. The five largest registries alone add almost 300,000 horses annually; that’s $7,500,000 a year.”, he writes.
mares in new home cropped
Dakota and companions settling into their new home: Warren and others like him must sleep well at night, knowing how much they do for horses, and for the people forced by circumstance to give them up.

J Pod Orca Whales Are Back – All of Them!

Today (15 May 2013) The Center for Whale Research documented that all of the J pod whales are back in the San Juan Island region, including the oldest matriarch J2 (‘Granny”) who is believed to be around 100 years old.
These Southern Resident orcas spend most of their winter elsewhere, then come back to the San Juans (off the coast of Washington State) to hunt their preferred fish, Chinook Salmon, in the spring and summer months.
This year the Center has a newly redesigned website with enticing membership options, including access to some beautiful photos of the individual whales.

J30 with greatgrandmother j2 and younger sister J37 (Photo by Astrid van Ginneken, Center for Whale Research)
J30 with great-grandmother j2 and younger sister J37 (Photo by Astrid van Ginneken, Center for Whale Research)

Here is the summary from today’s encounter, but you will need to become a member in order to see the photos – and your membership will support a very worthwhile cause. Without the efforts of the Center for Whale Research, we would not be aware of how few orcas have historically lived in the region, hence the Center’s data was fundamental to putting an end to the capture of these orcas for amusement parks. Please support them and join! Center for Whale Research.

Encounter Summary for 5/15/13:
Our encounter began just East of Trial Island with all of J pod plus L87 slowly traveling inshore in a loose group. The whales separated into two main groups as they worked their way down the West side of Discovery Island and East towards San Juan Island. The whales seemed to become quite active along the Discovery Island shoreline as they did many tail lobs, spy hops, and half breaches. As the whales approached the West side of San Juan Island the whales spread out and some whales headed South while the other groups headed North. Our encounter ended just South of Hannah Heights. This is the first time this year that all of J pod has been seen together near San Juan Island.

Mother Killer Whales and Their Babies – Wild versus SeaWorld

A Mother’s Day look at orca moms and their calves, with some questions to ponder.

Wild orca Molly with her mom (Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research)
Wild baby orca Molly learning to hunt fish with her mom (Photo by Ken Balcomb, Center for Whale Research)

Molly will be able to spend her entire life with her wild family.
Captive baby orca Luna learning to beg (Sea World, Kamogawa, Japan)
Captive baby orca Luna learning to beg with her mom (Sea World, Kamogawa, Japan)

Luna will be taken from her mother at some point, this occurs as young as two years old in captivity.
Former trainer Carol Ray recounts what this separation is like for the mother whales (courtesy of The Orca Project):
After Kalina was removed, I stayed and made observations throughout the night. This is one of the worst memories I have from my time there. Her mother, Katina, was not an overly vocal whale but that night I watched her for hours as she stayed floating in one spot, alone, emitting such heart-wrenching vocalizations it truly broke my heart. The other girls, including Katerina (Kalina’s sister, Katina’s other baby at that time) left her alone in her grief even though the gate between their pools was open.

What has this family learned about orcas?

How does this experience compare? What is learned here?

Seaworld claims not only to educate the public, but that captivity keeps the whales safe. Data shows that the whales suffer major health issues and considerably shortened lives in captivity.
When whales are out of the water two things occur immediately: their weight compresses their organs, and they begin to heat up internally.

Temper tantrum? Do you believe that? Even if truly a neurotic behavior and this young whale is not stuck, what does it tell you about her life?

Consider the price animals pay for our entertainment before choosing to take your family to these amusement parks.