Monday, March 28, 2011

The Tragedy of Animal Hoarding

It was almost a year ago that my beloved cat Scotch died. My precious cat, so dear to me, was put down following an illness on March 31, 2010. God, I still miss her terribly.

The day she died, I read an article about a man named Larry Kruger, a cat hoarder from Pensacola, Florida. It shocked me to read that animal control officers found 161 cats crammed into his home, including some dead ones and many that were in such a terrible condition they had to be euthanized. County deputies also found eight dead cats in his freezer.

My rage got the best of me when I read about Kruger. I wrote on this Blog that I wanted to "beat the living daylights out of him." My emotions, I confess, swept me away the day I held my dear Scotch down while she was being injected with a chemical that took her life away.

Months after I wrote the post, somebody posted on this Blog objecting to it, saying that Larry actually helped a lot of cats after Hurricane Katrina, including many that were ill and homeless. "For you to express a desire to inflict harm on a person because of your ignorance demonstrates what a small person you truly are," wrote the poster.

Now that I'm over my burning rage, perhaps I'm willing to concede that Kruger may have meant well by hoarding all of those cats.

And there is another piece of the puzzle that I was overlooking at the time. And that's this: Animal hoarding, without question, is a form of mental illness.

So says an article on BusinessWeek's Website. The article began by telling a grim story about animal control authorities raiding a house in rural North Carolina, only to find hundreds of animals living in filth and squalor. As the article noted:

More than 400 animals -- 17 species in all, ranging from ducks and rabbits to dogs and cats -- had been living in squalor with a middle-aged couple claiming to be animal rescuers. Yet these would-be saviors provided little, if any, food, water, or medical care. "Every section of the property inspected was just more deplorable and just more hideous than the last one," recalled Shelley Swaim, an animal welfare inspector for the state, who was on the scene that day three years ago.

The article cited a statistic from the California-based Animal Legal Defense Fund saying that 250,000 animals are the victims of unintentional abuse that comes with animal hoarding.

Many of the hoarders mean well. They accumulate animals over time. Often, they don't see their actions as "hoarding." In their eyes, they're creating safe "sanctuaries" for the animals. They often see themselves as crusaders on behalf of animals. But, as the BusinessWeek article points out, "Some of these hoarders suffer from significant mental health issues, and the phenomenon is as much a people problem as a pet problem."

Another highlight from the BusinessWeek article:

What separates animal hoarding from other types of cruelty is that the chronic neglect usually is unintentional. The vast majority of hoarders love the animals and try to care for them, but often have very limited insight into the nature and extent of their problem, explained hoarding expert Gail Steketee, a professor and dean at Boston University School of Social Work. "This is one of the more disturbing aspects of their behavior," she said. "They can look at a group of animals who are sick and emaciated and declare that they are taking good care of them."

Later in the article, Steketee adds: "It is a sad situation because they [the hoarders] began with the best of intentions and have failed to meet these. They deserve our concern, not our wrath, unless they are among the few who are actively cruel toward animals."

So when I got outraged at Kruger, it seems that perhaps my "wrath" (as Steketee calls it) was premature.

There is also a fine line between those humane souls who take lots of animals into their homes - in a way that is meant to help as many as possible - and hoarders who've taken on too many.

In Middletown, Ohio, for example, a couple has opened their house to about two dozen animals, and they've agreed to be the focus of an episode of Animal Planet's Confessions: Animal Hoarders. Among the residents of the home, which is on the verge of being foreclosed, are "11 goats, five cats, four bulldogs and a Shetland pony." (Source)

This couple is definitely not alone. A glance at headlines on Google News from across North America tells the story:

I could go on - and on, and on, and on - but you get the picture.

The question arises: Is it possible to feel sympathy for the hoarders without condoning their methods or celebrating their obvious mental health issues?

I remember when I was searching for another cat to adopt after Scotch died I went online to a website called PetFinder to search for one. What I found were thousands and thousands and thousands of cats - all within a relatively short drive of where I live - who needed homes.

I found myself scrolling down - cat after cat after cat after cat after cat after cat after cat went down my screen. Calicos, Siamese, Tabby cats, black cats, American Shorthairs, American Wirehairs, Persians, Ragamuffins, Tortoiseshell cats, spotted cats, white cats, wide-eyed cats, narrow-eyed cats, fluffy cats, fat cats, long cats, mischievous looking cats, scared looking cats, cats that are brothers and sisters and hate to be separated and really ought to go to the same home.

What I saw, in short, broke my heart. I wanted to give all of them homes. I knew I couldn't. And I knew a lot of those precious faces would end up in a shelter getting euthanized.

So many cats, so many dogs, so many bunnies and birds and guinea pigs and other companion animals end up going to the same place. The black specter of death hangs low over their heads.

Who doesn't want to take them all in? Who wouldn't wish to provide a safe haven for all of these beautiful creatures? Who wouldn't want to compensate for the fact that we, as a human race - collectively - have failed these millions and millions of sentient beings?

When I think of the issue in these terms, I begin to understand the Larry Krugers of this world.

But then we cannot forget the poor animals that are rounded up in these raids on the homes of hoarders. Many are dying or dead. Many are emaciated. Many are suffering from diarrhea. Animals, packed into a house by the dozens, by the hundreds, with no room to move, consigned to a cramped tomb, left to die slowly.

What kind of alternative is that to our wasteful, throw-away, inhumane social order? Answer: Hardly a palatable one.

I no longer want to find Kruger and beat the living daylights out of him. To be honest, I'm not sure I ever really did. I was sad. I was hurt. I missed my Scotch. And I read about those other cats living in filth, some on the verge of dying, some already dead. Is it any wonder I found myself filled with rage?

Instead of seeing animal hoarders as malevolent monsters, in need of a serious ass-kicking, it is probably more appropriate - and healthier - to see them as the sick and twisted products of a society that is also, in many ways, itself diseased. A society that often places little value on the sanctity of life. A society - indeed, a world - where the lives of animals are typically reduced to stark number-crunching, and even companion animals are frequently consigned to cold and dark and disorienting concrete and stainless steel cages before they're injected with a substance that ends their short existences.

Vegan questions put to music...

Here's a video that's both enjoyable and amusing, titled "Vegan Myths Debunked." It's performed by Jonathan and Ivory. In a very fun way, it addresses lots of myths and falsehoods surrounding the vegan lifestyle. And the music is actually quite catchy. After the video ended, the music kept playing and replaying in my mind, over and over again, in the same sort of way that those old Schoolhouse Rock videos from the 1970s would stick with me long after I was finished watching them. If you get a chance, watch the video and see what I mean. In three short minutes, Jonathan and Ivory manage to tackle a lot of issues. They do it in a way that's fun and inclusive, not in a dead-serious manner. Our struggle could use more wonderfully creative and vibrant souls like these two.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Helping the Humans and Animals of Japan

Such a monumental tragedy, what happened in Japan. Words cannot express. To be hit by the deadly double blow of a colossal earthquake and a tsunami on March 11 is bad enough. Throw in a nuclear crisis and you have a thoroughly traumatized nation.

There are plenty of opportunities to donate to humans and animals in Japan. Red Cross, UNICEF and the Mennonite Central Committee are all wonderful ways of helping people. And believe me, they need our help. Whatever you can spare - $5, $10, $20, $50, $100 or more - every little bit helps.

Lots of agencies are also working around the clock to help animals in Japan. A Facebook group for Japan Earthquake Animal Rescue and Support is collecting donations. The Japanese organization known as the Animal Refuge Kansai is also doing a lot to help offer shelter and care for Japan's devastated and homeless animals. The Animal Miracle Foundation & Network has also been providing critical assistance in hard-hit areas. Finally, the groups World Vets and the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) are two other very worthwhile organizations that need our support.

It is amazing how far a little bit of money goes with these groups. Whether the recipients are human beings or animals - ideally both - a small donation makes a big difference.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Work of Saints: The Catskill Animal Sanctuary

The Catskill Animal Sanctuary in New York state is one of many animal sanctuaries across North America - indeed, around the world - helping abused and neglected animals. This video, from GrassrootsDotOrg, introduces viewers to Kathy Stevens, the director of the sanctuary. She discusses the sanctuary's mission and the importance of a vegan diet as a means of helping these beautiful animals.

This is also a prime opportunity to see the animals at the Catskill Animal Sanctuary. That's why I'm posting the videos from Catskill's YouTube Page below. One look at these amazing beings and you'll agree that they - and all animals - have a right to live a happy life, out in the open, free of cages, without the constant threat of death hovering over their heads.

Sadly, one of the animals in a video posted below, a hen named Ivory, passed away earlier this month, on March 5. But in her short life, Ivory enjoyed a level of freedom and security that the overwhelming majority of chickens will never know. In a place like the Catskill Animal Sanctuary, where each and every life counts, Ivory will be sorely missed.

What becomes immediately apparent as you're watching these videos is how spirited and breathtakingly beautiful and free these animals are. They radiate happiness. Their spirits haven't been crushed. We see the animals of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary living life to the fullest in these videos.

Bless the Catskill Animal Sanctuary - and all of the happy and healthy safe havens - for giving animals a second chance at life. I can't help but feel that if omnivores could see these animals - really see them in their day-to-day lives - that most would stop eating meat and all other animal products right away. The folks who run these animal sanctuaries really, truly are doing the work of saints.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

1984 May've Been 27 Years Ago, But We Still Have to Beware of Big Brother

In Iowa, the Republican-dominated state House of Representatives passed a bill yesterday making it a criminal offense to apply for a job on a farm with the intention of videotaping and exposing acts of farm animal abuse

The bill passed 66-27. Next the bill goes to the Senate for final approval, then to the desk of the Iowa's governor, Terry Branstad, to be signed into law. (Source) According to the Iowa Independent, the bill
would specifically target individuals who approach crop or animal facilities — excluding animal shelters, pet shops and commercial kennels — for the purpose of making audio or visual recordings. An individual found guilty of creating such a record, or of distributing such a record, could face felony charges and be subject to civil proceedings.

Sadly, Iowa is not alone. Other states are passing legislation imposing stiff penalties on videotaping whistleblowers. In Florida, a similarly draconian piece of legislation was introduced in the state senate. The author of SB 1246, Senator Jim Norman, proposed in his bill
[a] person who photographs, video records, or otherwise produces images or pictorial records, digital or otherwise, at or of a farm or other property where legitimate agriculture operations are being conducted without the written consent of the owner, or an authorized representative of the owner, commits a felony of the first degree. (Source)
There is no question that these bills being introduced across the United States are aimed at scaring away animal rights activists who have gone into factory farms to film the often horrendous treatment of animals in these massive and impersonal facilities. Thanks to developments in digital technology over the past decade, it is easier than ever to smuggle cameras - which are now cheaper than ever - into these massive death houses where the violence and mayhem are occurring.

It is not surprising that elected officials in states heavily dependent on agriculture - backed by powerful factory farming interests - are scrambling to pass laws forbidding undercover video filming. In recent years, documentaries such as Death on a Factory Farm and Earthlings have converted countless individuals over to veganism. In fact, one could argue - as I often have - that these kinds of films are the best recruiting tools out there.

Film footage doesn't lie. Paul McCartney was right when he said remarked that everybody (or damn near everybody) would be vegetarians if slaughterhouses had glass walls. Somebody very close to me, who was writing an article about a pig slaughtering facility, told me the first question the owners asked her was whether she was a vegetarian or vegan. At the time, she wasn't. Had she said yes, the alarm bells would've gone off and she never would've gotten inside.

That's what makes these anti-whistleblower laws now being introduced before state legislatures so sinister. Take away the right of the people to discover the truth and you've nudged the nation closer to the nightmarish society envisioned by George Orwell in his novel 1984. Orwell understood that the most profound and meaningful power of the state was its ability to sever access to the truth. Joseph Stalin understood this when he airbrushed his opponents out of photographs after he had them murdered. The Nazis understood this when they kept their conference on the "final solution" a secret at Wannsee in January 1942. And those who wish to slaughter animals by the billions, with impunity, also fully grasp this principle.

Hilarious Debate: Should Animals Be Doing More for Animal Rights?

The animal rights debate is usually so serious and weighty, and what often gets lost is any humor. That's why I've posted this hilarious video from the Onion called, "Should Animals Be Doing More for Animal Rights?" Check it out - it's not long (only about two minutes). There were several moments when I almost fell out of my chair laughing. The entire panel seems to agree that animals should be doing more to fight for their rights. The silly commentary is a terrific spoof on these inane Sunday-morning talk shows. Sadly, I can see the real-deal Talking Head Pundits saying similar things on "legit" programs. So this spoof, actually, isn't very far off.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Why We Fight

Every war involves propaganda, even the war for the rights of animals.

Big corporations that make animal products have been under assault from both Animal Rights and Animal Welfare groups. Not long ago, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) produced a stark video about leading pork producer Smithfield Foods. The video, called Undercover at Smithfield Foods (click here to see it), is a damning indictment of how the huge corporation treats its pigs. The first half of the video is shocking and heart-wrenching. Sadly, the second half is a plea for improving conditions in pork production, rather than a desperately needed argument on behalf of ending all forms of animal exploitation.

Now, Smithfield has fired back with a propaganda video called "Taking the Mystery out of Pork Production at Smithfield Foods" (included above). Please take out a little time to watch it. If we're going to challenge the likes of Smithfield Foods, it's crucial to first hear and consider their arguments. The video isn't very long - nine minutes and fifty-nine seconds - and it is interesting to see the company putting a positive spin on pork production.

This pro-pork propaganda is not always easy to watch, for totally different reasons than videos of brutality and slaughter. For starters, it depicts the pigs as being well cared for and seemingly happy with their lot in life. At one point, Dr. Mary Battrell, a North Carolina-based veterinarian who takes care of Smithfield's pigs (and is seen in the video holding a piglet), assures viewers that the pigs have "the best care that we can make available to them."

Everything in the video is portrayed as idyllic, from the rolling green pastures surrounding the "climate-controlled facilities" to the inside of the buildings where the pigs are kept, which are bright and airy. The video shows Smithfield using "green" (i.e., environmentally friendly) methods to take care of their pigs, and Dr. Battrell tells the audience that pigs are not injected with any sort of hormones. The pigs shown in the video appear happy and carefree and full of spunk. Dr. Temple Grandin turns up as a talking head in the video, commenting at the beginning about being happy that she was asked to appear in it.

In the end, the video - not surprisingly - is a spirited defense of Smithfield.

Which takes us back to the HSUS video, insisting that Smithfield treated its pigs horribly. One might pose the question: Which one is correct? But that is not the question that ought to be posed.

The question that we ought to be asking is: Do human beings have the right, even under the best and most idyllic of circumstances, to transform sentient beings into food?

The problem with Animal Welfare arguments is that they rest on the assumption that getting rid of the worst abuses and excesses will finally lead to a more just and tolerable situation for animals. Really, all that does is pacify the consumer of animal products - lulling them with a false sense of justice that everything is fine, that animals are being protected, that it's OK to consume animal products.

We can sit here and tick off all the horrible ways that pigs are treated in most factory farms. Their tails are "docked" - or hacked off - without pain killers. They are cramped together into dark spaces. They live short lives full of noise and anxiety and stench, only to have their throats severed. This picture here, taken of a pig farm in North Carolina by University of North Carolina epidemiology professor Steven Wing, shows what sometimes happens to pigs at these kinds of facilities. The rest are cut up into meat and sent off to market.

But it's not enough to talk about the appalling conditions in many pig farms, because there will always be some state-of-the-art facilities where pigs are treated better.

What needs to be said is that no matter how clean, no matter how sanitized, no matter how bright and sunny and surrounded by rolling green hills these pig farms may be, the violence they perpetuate against sentient beings is always unjust. The end result is death - violent death - whether the facilities are pleasant or horrific.

Alas, the Humane Society - as wonderful and heroic as it often is - missed a golden opportunity to make that statement in its video showing the appalling conditions at a Smithfield facility. The HSUS video even praises Maxwell Foods and Cargill for being "gestation crate free."

Which is why Smithfield's response - in the form of a cheery and optimistic "Morning-in-America"-type video - represents an effective, although hokey, counter-argument.

They wouldn't have such an easy time responding to a more principled Animal Rights position. Being voices for the voiceless requires that we adopt that position and argue it over and over and over again, until we're blue in the face.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Why Justice for Ferdinand is so Imporant

In Manchester, United Kingdom, a beautiful cat named Ferdinand (pictured left) was found dead and horribly mutilated on January 11, 2011. Many of his body parts had been cut off and stolen, and his remains were in ghastly shape.

What a heartbreaking find for his grief-stricken family. As an owner of two cats and someone who has had many other cats in the past, I cannot imagine the anguish the poor family endured when they found Ferdinand.

If you're on Facebook, I strongly encourage you to "Like" the group Justice for Ferdinand. This wonderful Facebook group has grown to more than 1,700 members and counting, with new people joining regularly. It was founded by Ferdinand's family, but has grown into a wonderful network of kindred spirits who have rallied around the Manchester family that suffered from this agonizing loss.

I would also ask that you take a moment to visit their Website, Justice for Ferdinand.

Ferdinand's family has created an online petition to bring the issue of cat mutilation to the attention of the public. The petition simply states:
Mutilation And Theft Of Deceased Domestic Animal Body Parts To Consistently Constitute A Criminal Offence In UK Law
You can find the petition on the Justice for Ferdinand website or Facebook page. This is a very important petition to sign. Even if you don't live in the UK, please - please - take a moment to sign it. I'm Canadian and I didn't hesitate for a second to add my name to the growing list.

This case is about much more than outlawing the theft of domestic animal body parts in a particular part of the UK where such monstrosities are allowed to go unpunished. It is about keeping alive the memory of a cat who lived a wonderful life and met an unthinkable fate.

And it is about taking a stand against the monsters in any society, whether they're in the UK, Canada, the United States or any other part of the world where animals suffer from violence at the hands of cruel sadists.

Don't think for a moment that the death of Ferdinand was an isolated case.

Several of the citizens of Sacramento, California, for example, could easily understand the grief that Ferdinand's family has experienced. Last year, numerous cats in Sacramento's Rosemont neighbourhood were found mutilated. When the death toll reached nine cats in July, a local animal welfare group posted a $3,000 reward for the culprits. (Source)

That same month, a rash of horrible cat deaths occurred in Edmonton, Alberta. (Source) The situation got to be so tense in Edmonton that all cat owners were urged by the Humane Society not to let their cats outdoors.

The previous year, a teenager went around two suburbs of Miami, mutilating more than a dozen cats before his reign of terror was brought to a halt. The disturbed 18-year-old stayed in jail briefly before being released by a judge. (Source) A similar wave of cat killings and mutilations swept across Houston for about year in 2008 and 2009. (Source)

What makes Ferdinand's story stand out as so poignant is that his family has very effectively used the social networking website Facebook to publicize his case and win support for the passage of stricter laws in the UK.

Their petition is gaining more and more signatures each day. At last report, the number of signers shot past the 1,300 mark and was fast on its way to 1,400. What a great tribute to Ferdinand that so many people are so moved by his case that they add their names amongst the countless others who are taking a stand against the horrors of cat abuse.

May we all learn an important lesson from Ferdinand's tragedy - and from the spirited and encouraging public response that arose in his name. None of this will bring Ferdinand back. But it marks the first of many steps toward creating strict punishments against the vile sickos who think they can murder and mutilate cats and get away with it.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Here's a New Slogan for the National Pork Board: Go Vegan: Be Inspired

The Des Moines, Iowa-based National Pork Board has come up with a new slogan: "Pork: Be Inspired." As The Los Angeles Times noted:
The Des Moines-based industry group, which unveiled that tasty little morsel Friday, is getting ready to throw some hefty cash behind its marketing makeover -- to the tune of more than $11 million for an advertising campaign that will include print, TV and online ads.
The National Pork Board is going all out, leaving no stone unturned, bombarding the American public with its campaign to promote "the other white meat." Their website,, notes:
The new, fully integrated campaign features an updated look and feel, along with a new consumer target: the more than 82 million Americans whoalready cook, eat and love pork. Moving from a functional to a more emotional positioning, the campaign voice is proud, energetic, approachable and unapologetically optimistic about the unique attributes of the world's most popular protein.

What those 82 million Americans really need to know is that their dietary choices are causing enormous amounts of suffering. They are perpetuating a system based on violence and mass murder. The victims are beautiful, intelligent, sentient beings who are ripped away from their families at a young age, placed in a stark and cold environment, force-fed and butchered in the prime of life.

What those 82 million Americans - and all other people elsewhere in the world who eat pork - must realize is that billions of pigs live the last months and weeks of their lives in fear and anxiety, and their lives are cut short by a brutal and impersonal and profit-driven system.

I've posted a video (above) that is extremely hard to watch. It is a film of South Koreans burying pigs alive, which the government there has been doing since the fall due to an epidemic of foot and mouth disease. The South Korean government had the opportunity to vaccinate the pigs, which would have prevented them from getting foot and mouth disease. But vaccinations cost money, and the bottom line for those who slaughter these precious beings is money. Money, money, money.

The mass murders of innocent pigs in South Korea is but the latest outrage committed against these extraordinary creatures. Even as I write this, sentient beings are being buried by the thousands - ultimately, more than a million to date - and the last thing they ever experience is being packed into a huge, open pit with their fellow pigs and then having tons of dirt dumped over them as they scream in terror.

This evil action is the ultimate manifestation of pigs being reduced to commodities, to figures on a profit and loss statement.

That's what the 82 million Americans being targeted by the National Pork Board - and all the other people who eat pork in all of the other countries of the world - need to hear.

If you really want to be inspired, go vegan. There is a story about the brilliant novelist Franz Kafka (pictured left) visiting an aquarium in Berlin shortly after he became a vegetarian. Kakfa peered through the glass at the extraordinary beings swimming gracefully in the water. He smiled and said, "Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore."

Feel the beauty of those words. Now I can look at you in peace; I don't eat you anymore.

The optimist in me likes to hope that if those 82 million people could spend time with pigs, see their dignity and their love for life and their yearning to be free, they would say the same thing that Kafka said in that Berlin aquarium a hundred years ago when he finally set himself free.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Justin Bieber: Friend to the Animals...

Time to sing the praises of Justin Bieber.

The young Canadian pop icon (from nearby Stratford, Ontario), who just celebrated his seventeenth birthday on March 1, is doing a lot to help animals.

Not only has he done ads for PETA encouraging compassion toward animals, he recently appeared on an episode of Ellen and auctioned a lock of his hair on eBay for $40,688. At Ellen's suggestion, Bieber donated the money to a wonderful farm sanctuary called Gentle Barn.

If you aren't familiar with Gentle Barn, please visit their website. Situated in Santa Clarita, California, north of the San Fernando Valley, Gentle Barn provides a loving home for more than 120 farm animals who were abused and neglected in their past lives.

Check out their website and you'll see inspiring scenes of kindness and compassion. An array of animals - pigs, sheep, chickens, horses, cows, donkeys, turkeys, llamas, dogs, cats - enjoy wide open spaces where they are loved and protected and receive the best care imaginable.

Sanctuaries like the Gentle Barn are so inspiring because they show us a different way of interacting with animals. Stories of animal neglect and abuse are rampant on Google News and in other news outlets. Each day brings more headlines of neglected animals, factory farm fires, packed shelters having to euthanize animals.

So when Justin Bieber's generous donation to the Gentle Barn made headlines, it was like a breath of fresh air.

Like it or not, celebrities such as Bieber have an enormous impact. When his fans - probably most of them youths - see his acts of compassion and care toward animals, they're going to become more aware of groups like the Gentle Barn that do what little good they can to counteract the horrific treatment of animals around the world.

I may not be a huge fan of Bieber's music. And Lord knows my hairline is much to receding to ever imitate his legendary haircut. But I applaud his work. He has good values. He is a wonderful example to his millions and millions of young fans. It's amazing how one little lock of hair can help so many deserving and beautiful beings.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Required Reading: Gary Francione's piece "And What About the Four Other Dogs?"... What a Masterpiece!

Anyone who has been following this Blog knows that I'm a huge Gary Francione fan and that his work has had (and continues to have) an enormous impact on my thinking. Even on those rare occasions when I do not entirely see eye to eye with what he says, I always respect his views 100 percent. He is a great thinker, an inspiring figure and just an all-around wonderful person.

I was completely blown away by his Blog Entry today on his Website Animal Rights: The Abolitionist Approach titled "And What About the Four Other Dogs?" Please, please, please take a minute to read this extraordinary piece. This truly is one of the best examples of writing I have ever read on the subject of animal rights, period.

Read it and you'll see what I mean. In this piece, Francione does what he does best: Cuts right through the bullshit and gets to the heart of the matter. In this case, he is writing about a little puppy who became famous across North America because he was one of five dogs who was euthanized by animal control authorities in Sulphur, Oklahoma. Amazingly, this beautiful puppy (pictured above) somehow survived being euthanized and actually emerged from the ordeal in perfect shape. When the story generated headlines, it triggered an avalanche of public support for the puppy in the form of donations and offers to adopt him. He has become something of a canine celebrity following his ordeal.

Francione's beautiful piece takes to task a public and a culture that celebrates animals who somehow - usually quite miraculously - manage to "escape" death, whether it's in factory farms (usually by getting loose and running away) or in this case, when a puppy somehow didn't die from an injection that should've been lethal. These animals are often singled out as "mircale animals" and they win the public sympathy by being portrayed as plucky and lucky. Meantime, the thousands, millions - ultimately billions - of animals that are killed, day in and day out, are forgotten, relegated to mass graves or the meat section of the super market.

I cannot recommend this piece by Gary Francione (pictured right) enthusiastically enough. It is Francione at his best: Brilliant, right to the point, and full of humanity.