Temple Grandin to speak at Columbus benefit for dog laws

Dr. Temple Grandin, the animal scientist both renowned and controversial for redesigning slaughterhouses using insights gained from her autism, will speak in Columbus next Tuesday. Hers will be the keynote speech in a fundraiser to benefit dog-protective measures in Ohio.

Grandin has bewitched audiences–and inspired a film starring Clare Danes–with the blunt way in which she describes her ideas about animals, autism, and the importance of supporting “all kinds of minds.”  Click below for a sample.

For this event, Grandin will discuss her understanding of the inner lives of non-human animals—including the dogs confined within Ohio’s intensive “puppy mill” breeding operations. Continue reading

Call for Conference Papers: “Thinking About Animals”

A dog sleeping at a train station in northern Chile.


From Brock University in Ontario, Canada:

“The Department of Sociology at Brock University is issuing a Call for Papers for a conference on ‘Thinking About Animals’ to be held March 31 and April 1, 2011 at Brock University, St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada.

This two-day conference will explore a variety of issues concerning the current and historical situation of nonhuman animals and interactions with humans. Continue reading

“The Elephant in the Living Room” opens Friday for 1 week

Tim Harrison is a police officer in Oakwood, Ohio, who captures escaped wild pets across Ohio and runs the advocacy group Outreach for Animals.  Terry Brumfield of Piketon hand-raised two lions in his home, one of whom made headlines in 2007 after escaping and chasing cars down US-23.

Both men have devoted their adult lives to non-humans, yet they fall on opposite sides of a controversy over how we should relate to wild animals.  They are subjects of a new documentary by filmmaker Mike Webber, who spent a year exploring the wild subculture of Americans who keep wild exotic animals as pets.

Terry Brumfield of Piketon, OH, who was in a fatal train accident this September, with one of the lions he raised from infancy. Photo courtesy of Michael Webber.

Twenty-one states including Ohio have no prohibitions on keeping wild animals in private homes.  But the rest have at least partial bans, and there are people everywhere who strongly believe that wild animals should be left in the wild.  As a result, the nation-wide community of people who buy, sell, and own wild exotic animals does not welcome outside scrutiny.

I asked Webber a few questions about his experience of making The Elephant in the Living Room, which opens at The Rave in Westchester this Friday. Continue reading

Chile is for Animal Lovers

Those bound for South America this winter may enjoy dropping ın on two family-run sanctuaries in Chile: a desert hummingbird haven near Arica, and a small-town monkey refuge outside Santiago.

Centro de Prımates Peñaflor

Humans are the only primates native to Chile but–as in the U.S.–some keep illegally-imported exotic cousins as pets.  When a boy knocked on the Almazán-Lopez family’s door in 1994, offering to sell a monkey he carried in a box, the family’s four children thought the animal looked miserable, and convinced their parents to buy him.

Three capuchin monkeys peer out of their enclosure.

They named the monkey Cristobal and learned to care for him, relying in part on the experience of Carlos Almazán, 63, a pediatrician. As word got around their community, the family began to receive other monkeys in need.
Continue reading

What lies beneath egg labels

John Clark Jr. of Lucky John Slow Market on Woodburn Ave., with his wife Beverly, their son Daewon, and a dozen eggs from Fishbach Farms.

“Ethical Eggs.” “All-Natural.” “Cage-Free.”  Are the approval stamps on egg cartons just marketing claims jostling for space on our grocery bills?  Or can they tell us something about the lives of hens?

This week’s half-billion-egg recall has brought egg production under sharper scrutiny, amid an already swelling river of documentary studies and social movements critiquing animal food production.  Last spring, Slow Food International opened a Cincinnati branch and hundreds packed into a lecture by food policy writer Michael Pollan at Xavier U.  Just two months later, the novelist Jonathan Safran Foer surprised readers with a sweeping work of journalism and family history, “Eating Animals,” which includes a critique of Pollan’s arguments.  In 2009 and 2010, stakeholders and experts convened for the city’s first two Regional Food Congresses, to discuss “the Cincinnati food system, its programs and practices, and to create a vision for change.”  And this spring, over 500,000 Ohioans signed a petition in support of a referendum which would require that all of the state’s laying hens, veal calves, and pregnant pigs be given enough room in their cages to turn in a full circle and stretch their limbs.
Continue reading

Governor Clinches Last-Minute Animal Welfare Deal; Humane Society Suspends Referendum

As of Wednesday, times are changing for animals on Ohio’s farms, kennels, and fighting rings—too quickly for industrial farmers and breeders, and too slowly for animal protection workers.

Heralding an abrupt change of focus for both communities, Governor Ted Strickland brokered an eleventh-hour agreement between the Ohio Farm Bureau (OFB) and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), on eight major animal welfare issues.
Continue reading

Farmers and Advocates to Discuss Humane Farm Bill at Xavier

Farmers and animal advocates will give Cincinnatians plenty to chew on in the coming week, during two public discussions of Ohio’s proposed farm animal cruelty prevention bill.  By requiring that pigs, chickens, and veal calves have enough space to stretch their limbs, the bill would require the state’s industrial mega-farms to operate more like the small, traditional animal farms which they have squeezed to a small corner of their market.  Aimed at protecting animals, the bill would likely reduce the competitive disadvantage at which these small farms find themselves.  In the long run, farmers and “slow food” enthusiasts hope it might keep small-scale farming viable for younger generations.

Gene Baur, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, will speak Saturday afternoon about his work and Ohio’s bill.
Continue reading

“Animals built to move should be allowed to move.”

Volunteers Jan Hughes and Jamie Williams of Warren County, gathering signatures at Findlay Market; photo courtesy of K. Kil

One signature at a time, volunteers across Ohio are working to reverse the direction of the state’s rapidly-industrializing animal farming system. They have until June 31 to gather 600,000 voter signatures, in support of a November referendum that would crack down upon the most inhumane elements of industrial confinement and slaughter.

They call the main goal of the bill modest: to provide every laying hen, pregnant sow, and calf, with enough space to stand up, lay down, turn in a full circle, and extend his or her limbs.
Continue reading

Ohio’s new humane farming bill: What’s it about?

Young cows await the auction pen at White's Livestock Auction in Indiana; a rooster looks on.

A proposed constitutional amendment that defines minimum welfare standards for Ohio’s farm animals, has been cleared by Attorney General Richard Cordray to move toward November’s ballot.  The bill is sponsored by Ohioans for Humane Farms, a coalition of local and national humane societies, consumer safety groups, and others.  The organization’s supporters have until June 30 to gather 402,275 valid Ohio signatures, for the amendment to appear on November’s ballot.

If the bill passes, Ohio’s still-unformed Livestock Care Standards Board will be required to enforce these regulations:
Continue reading

Four Ways to Value a Goose

Animal policy lessons from Flight 1549

A gaggle of Canada geese crosses a path in Cincinnati's Sharon Woods. Photo courtesy of Konstantin Vasserman.

A gaggle of Canada geese crosses a path in Cincinnati’s Sharon Woods. Photo courtesy: Konstantin Vasserman.

A year ago today, the celebrated level heads of US Air Flight 1549’s captain and crew brought Americans together around a rare and villain-free moment of heroism. The plane had flown from New York’s La Guardia Airport into a flock of geese, lost the use of both engines, and landed safely on the Hudson River, saving 155 lives.

But the near-disaster shook the waters of animal policy-makers.  Representatives of ecology, animal protection, and hunting interests, long at odds over how human cities should treat geese, lobbed opposing arguments through the media for months.

Today, the accident’s lingering fallout reveals the vastly different ways of seeing geese that underlie those arguments, and make it hard for people to find common ground around wild animals.

An old problem

After the accident, New York City officials were quick to declare their commitment to preventing future goose airstrikes.

“Lives are at stake here,” said Queens City Councilman David Weprin. “We cannot afford to wait until another accident occurs.”

But the city faced the task of somehow cracking down on a problem they had already been battling for years: large birds sharing New York City’s airways.  Despite the use of techniques both lethal (shooting and gassing), and non-lethal (harassment and abortive “egg-addling”) to keep geese away from airports, the number of wildlife airstrikes increased from 1,759 in 1990 to 7,666 in 2007.

Continue reading