Is it too soon for another rant?

Okay folks, I know it’s early for yet another rant but I can’t help myself.  This latest “shake my head moment” is brought to you courtesy of a news article that just crossed my desk.

Remember the entry I just posted about a zoo’s worth?  And the one prior to that about the fiasco at the Copenhagen Zoo?  Well, it just gets better and better.  Apparently a zoo in Switzerland recently euthanized a healthy brown bear cub to make a point that “nature is cruel.”   I’m including the article below (click on the photo). In addition to making a point, the zoo also claims that the mother has rejected the cub and the father mauled the cub’s sibling and since they were allowing nature to take its course, they decided to euthanize the cub because with all things equal, it would surely die in the wild.

Now, I may be wrong (I’m wrong a lot), but from what I remember of documentary shows on brown bears, the parents do not raise a cub together. In fact, the only time brown bears co-habitat (usually) is when a mother is with her cub or cubs. So if they’re so concerned about the natural order of things, why is the male in with the female and cubs in the first place? It should just be the mother and her cubs. The male’s absence would surely negate any worry over mauling, right? Not to mention the female is probably depressed and rejected the cub because 1) her other cub just died a horrible death and 2) she’s living in an unnatural habitat with an unnatural family unit.

Here’s the kicker.  This zoo, which is so determined to do things naturally, hand-raised the parents of this cub.  Hand-raised. Because that’s soooo natural.  Why couldn’t they do the same for the cub? Simply remove it from the family unit where it was at risk and hand-raise it. They obviously have the experience and capability (as proven by the cub’s parents). Well, that’s where the “let’s make a point that nature is cruel” philosophy comes in.

Yep. Makes sense to me.

Click for news article

Click for news article

 

 

 

Another Rant — or What is a Zoo’s Worth?

For someone who walks around with animal well-being on the brain all day it should come as no surprise that the concept of a zoo stirs up some strong emotions. Most of us have fond memories of going to the zoo on a school trip and seeing some of the most amazing animals the world has to offer. I know that I’ve always loved the zoo. Never did we consider the conditions the animals were being kept in, the possible struggle they feel being kept in a small pen when their DNA is screaming for acres of open land, or the lack of social stimulation they have by restricting their interactions with others of their species.

Through one prism a zoo is just like a prison. The only difference is that the animals didn’t do anything to be there. They’re not convicted felons, arsonists, thieves, and rapists. And yet I feel like they’re treated similarly to an extent. Many zoos around the world are poorly maintained and these innocent animals suffer for it.  A prime example of course is the Copenhagen Zoo. The brilliant officials running that place thought it was best to kill a giraffe simply because they had over-bred/inbred their giraffe family.  The giraffe’s genes were too similar to the other giraffes in the breeding program therefore it wouldn’t be wise to continue mashing those chromosomes together. This was not the giraffe’s fault. It did not ask to be the child of a small gene pool. Regardless, it was punished as if it did make the choice to be incompatible. A cruel and pointless death of a perfectly healthy creature.

Likewise, the very same zoo mismanaged their lion pride and killed four healthy lions (two older males and two cubs) to bring in one younger male who was apparently ready to knock up a lioness immediately and would’ve killed the cubs in no time. I’m guessing the idea to perhaps…oh I don’t know…separate the cubs and new male just didn’t cross the officials’ minds.  Or even better, leave their pride as it was, intact.  But it came down to money and the cubs’ lives simply were not profitable. Sadly, this zoo is not an exception to the rule.  Copenhagen is just one of the only ones to get caught.

elephants at Philly Zoo

elephants at Philly Zoo

Breeding aside, the everyday lives the animals endure are something of a concern as well. Giving a polar bear a pool of water big enough to fit maybe two of them is not the equivalent of being “free.”  It’s not even the illusion of freedom. Do you know how far a polar bear can swim? How far zebras and elephants can walk? It’s in their nature to roam and the zoo puts a tight lid on that. Nothing about the way they live is natural. Their food is handed to them. Their mates are introduced at specific times. They’re constantly surrounded by people pointing and yelling at them. And we wonder why they pace in circles all day long.

polar bear at Philly Zoo

polar bear at Philly Zoo

Zoo advocates can easily say that they may be getting the best, most nutritious food available. That the animals are never in danger of being hunted. That by taking them out of nature they are essentially given a life free of stress. But it’s a known fact that animals in captivity (especially larger animals) get depressed and while their lifespan may be longer I have reservations regarding it being more pleasant. In some instances the depression and/or lack of activity leads to chronic illness.  So while they live a long life, is a life in captivity a fair exchange for a few more years?  It’s hard to say.

leopard at Philly Zoo

leopard at Philly Zoo

On the other hand, some zoos have excellent programs focusing on saving endangered species. Other zoos take in wounded animals that would have died if left in the wild. For example, the San Francisco zoo houses two bald eagles, both of which were found near the brink of death (one is missing its right wing) but are now basking in the California sunshine rather than turning into compost. There is a zoo in Virginia that is strictly a rescue zoo taking in animals that have been injured and subsequently rehabilitated.  It’s a small zoo, but hey, the animals in their care would otherwise be dead because they certainly wouldn’t make it on their own in the wild.

Zoos also give children the chance to see exotic animals up close, hopefully creating a stronger bond (and therefore empathy) between human and animal that might carry over into a growing affinity for participating in conservation efforts….an extremely important cause. Plus, if not for a zoo, where else would most kids get the chance to see a hippo in real life?

In a perfect world we would have wild-life sanctuaries or nature preserves for all the endangered species but let’s face it, that’s never going to happen. Actually, in a perfect world, there would be no endangered species because we, as humans, wouldn’t have continually destroyed the habitat of so many fellow creatures (but that’s a rant for another day).  In lieu of wide-spread sanctuaries or nature preserves, if a zoo is truly well run, well maintained and well-managed maybe it’s a good thing.

I’m not going to lie, I enjoy going to the zoo. Certain ones anyway. Unfortunately there are too many zoos that aren’t kept up to the standards I think they should be held to. I feel they need to be strictly monitored but even so, even if the animals are ensured safety by living in this fake habitat; is that worth the cost of their freedom? Ask yourself this: If you could check into a hotel for the rest of your life, all food is paid for, no charge, but you could never leave (hmm…that reminds me of a song), would that be a fair deal? Oh, and people can look in your windows whenever they want. Sound good? No? So then what’s the cost of your freedom? It’s a difficult question.  I certainly don’t have the answer to it.

penguins at Philly Zoo

penguins at Philly Zoo

FB Cleavage (Or with friends like these, who needs enemies)

Riddle me this: What would you do if you were clowning around on the internet, maybe visiting the very popular site Reddit, and saw a picture of yourself posted with lewd comments about you from strangers across the country? The picture itself may not be lewd. It might be a shot of when you were at a baseball game wearing a t-shirt of your favorite team. All that you know is that you did not put that picture on the site and you do not know any of the people who have leered at it. Spoilers: this site gets all of its material from so-called “friends” on Facebook.

Sounds like make-believe, right? You shouldn’t have to worry about anything like that happening because, c’mon, has our society really sunk that low? Oh wait, yes, yes it has. The Huffington Post wrote a report a while back (but I just happened about it recently) about a new page on Reddit called “Facebook Cleavage.”  Its creepiness is very simple. As the name implies it’s a page where anyone with Internet access can view women – most of whom are sporting  various degrees of cleavage or have on short shorts, are maybe just have pigtails, or possibly wearing roller skates, all of the strange and sometimes incomprehensible tropes that men supposedly find desirable – at their leisure and sans consequence. Oh, but it gets better.

These women are not models. Or at least that appears to be the primary goal of the site. I’d venture to say that most of them (upwards of 99.9% of them) don’t even have a clue that their picture is even on this page. How gross is that? What makes it even worse is that if you go to the site you won’t be inundated by images of models laying seductively on the beach in string bikinis or bending over the hood of a car with garden hoses in their hands. No, these are just regular pictures of women on vacation, taking selfies, partying with friends, in a restaurant, wherever. Yes, they’re sexy.  That’s the point.

In short, this page only exists to objectify women who, in all likelihood, don’t even know their photos are on the site. And before you even go there — no, it’s not the woman’s fault for posting a photo of herself in a bikini or taking a selfie shot that exposes her cleavage or god forbid that photo of her and her friends at a party.  It’s one thing when a woman decides to post a photo to her Facebook wall. That’s her choice.  It certainly doesn’t mean anyone and everyone should be able to then steal it and post it willy-nilly wherever they want. But that’s exactly what’s happening.  What I can only assume are mostly guys are now stealing those photos and plastering them on a page meant only to soothe voyeuristic tendencies.

Obviously the pictures can only be posted by friends of the girls (or whoever might be privy to their Facebook timeline), but what kind of “friend” does this? Okay, so did I mention the creepy factor behind this whole venture? If not, now is a good time to bring up the “ick” factor of having these kinds of friends.

The page, in a terribly transparent attempt at decency, has a set of five rules but even that goes down in flames pretty quickly. They are as follows:

1. Find sexy pictures of your hot Facebook friends. Upload the pictures to imgur.com, and submit them here.

2. Doesn’t have to be cleavage. Any sexy pic will do.

3. Don’t post pics that don’t come from Facebook. You will be banned.

4. Only post people of age. Underage posts will be removed. And user banned. Report underage posts to the mods.

5. Please don’t mention real names.

Notice that none of these rules have anything whatsoever to do with getting permission from the girl before you post. Apparently, that’s not anything to be concerned about. I mean really, why would it be?

I have no idea how much traffic this page gets (I’m sure it’s a lot), but just the mere fact that it exists is enough to make me shake my head.  And again, it really makes me wonder just what kind of person would look at their friend’s Facebook photos and decide, “Hey, I know! I’ll steal this private photo of my friend and post it for everyone on the internet to see and ogle!”  With friends like that, who the hell needs enemies?

Altruism…maybe, maybe not

Ever since that horrible day in American history known as 9/11 there has been a noticeable and dramatic increase in the government asking the public to keep their eyes on their neighbors. Homeland Security and related agencies – transportation authorities, hospitality services, etc. – have been drilling into our heads over and over if you see something that doesn’t look right, make a call. Let someone know about that bag that’s been left behind. Call someone over about the ticking you hear in a nearby backpack. And that’s all well and good. The idea that we’re all looking out for each other is rather comforting.

But when does it go too far? When does a genuine concern over something you witness turn into a subconscious desire to bring someone else down?  Turning in drug dealers is great. If you notice that supposedly “abandoned” house at the end of the block getting visitors in and out at all hours of the night, please call the cops and see if they can find out what the blackout curtains are for. That’s fine by me, but this is a slippery slope that some people are just all too willing to slide down. It seems that some people feel it’s their civic duty to keep an eye and thumb on everything going down in their neighborhood.  Those are the ones who slid alllll the way down that slippery slope and gleefully landed in the sludge at the bottom.

Stalking someone simply because they have on a hoodie or calling the police or the local HOA because someone has parked their car on their own grass? (worth repeating…on their own grass). Not exactly what I would call looking out for the safety of the neighborhood. That’s just being a jerk. More examples? A hawk-eyed neighbor sees a mother having a simple birthday party for her kids in her backyard (paper plates, Dixie cups, a sparse amount of balloons, white paper napkins, home-made Duncan Hines cake) and reports her because they think that’s a misappropriation of her food stamp funds. Oh come on, they can’t use the food stamps to have fun people!!

Or someone sees the kids and Mom at a cheap matinée show and that must mean they’re living the high life and can obviously make some cuts to truly earn those government funds. Never mind that the mom might be working two jobs. Never mind the budgeting she does every evening in the hopes of finding an extra dollar here and there. Never mind that she might not have bought a new pair of shoes from Payless for herself in over two years. I figure if you can’t see into her home life, it’s best to reserve judgment and just let her be happy the few moments that she can. If she were chartering jets for the kids to go to school or is a regular at the Apple store buying stacks of iPads, maybe you should pick up the phone. But giving her kids a carton of Neapolitan ice cream isn’t what I would call an offensive use of money.

Then there are the people who receive disability or SSI benefits from the government. Some healthy individuals out there actually think that to be sick you must always look sick too. The symptoms of MS or PTSD or Lupus or Cancer (to name a few) can often be masked, but they’re real and viable and crippling afflictions. Yet without a visible limp or missing limb they are deemed unworthy of receiving assistance thereby filling some people with this uncontrollable need to call someone, anyone, to make sure that this atrocity is immediately halted.

It’s bad enough when strangers report other strangers out of anger or jealousy, but it happens amongst friends and neighbors too. It’s as if one person claiming they need financial help and the judgment by their “friend” that they don’t is an insult that can only be corrected by turning them in. The “friend” sneaks around taking pictures of the afflicted neighbor not hobbling down the sidewalk, or lifting a grocery bag that looks heavy. Notes are taken and an unofficial record of their activity is compiled through the help of some nifty new binoculars…all in the effort of making a strong claim that their side of the story is the correct one and the neighbor should cease receiving help immediately.  All I can think of is “wouldn’t their time be better spent elsewhere??”  I mean if they truly want to make the world a better place, couldn’t they use that energy to volunteer at a shelter or a community “clean-up” or I don’t know….actually helping their less fortunate neighbors?

I realize that welfare and disability fraud are unfair acts that ultimately cost all of the taxpayers (personally I think the hand-outs corporations get are a lot worse). And I know there are those who abuse the system. However, I question the motives of people who look for a reason to turn someone in and then claim they’re just doing their civic duty.  Especially when it’s a neighbor or worse yet, someone you previously called friend. Is this altruism in action?  Not likely.  More like spite.  Spite because for some reason they don’t like seeing a person receiving the assistance. Spite because as the unofficial neighborhood protector they feel like nothing should happen unless it’s approved by them. And when it comes to community affairs (like parking your car in your own yard or painting your house a certain color), what purpose could there be to turn this person in?  Certainly not altruistic.

 

what "neighborhood watch" looks like at my house

what “neighborhood watch” looks like at my house

E-Voyeurism at its Best…or Rather, Worst?

Sorry folks, time for a bit of a rant.  But hey, it has been a while! Soooo, this entry is about an issue that has been annoying me for some time now.  Maybe it’s me.  Maybe I’m behind the times (See? I admit it!).  But back in the good ol’ days voyeurs (a.k.a. creepers) had to put in some real elbow grease to leer over the private lives of others. There was no Facebook, no Google Images, no online profiles, smart searches, or mutual friends. If a voyeur wanted to drool over some stranger, they had to break out a Kodak Instamatic, hide in some bushes, and wait til the right moment. Not so much anymore.  It’s actually become disgustingly easy to accomplish.

I understand that online “stalking” is a common if not accepted new activity. Employers search for job applicants to make sure their FB page doesn’t have pictures of them doing body shots in Cabo or twerking at a wet t-shirt contest. They have to cover the company’s bottom line and that’s understandable. Or if a woman tells her friend she’s going out on an OKCupid date and can’t decide if the guy is a possible creep or not. That friend can do some online investigative work to see if the DJ with the soul patch is good people or a potential future “person of interest” in a sexual misconduct investigation.

So for research purposes the online check-up of people has its functions. Unfortunately, it doesn’t end there. This is the internet in case you’ve forgotten. This is the home of trolls, creepers, and shady individuals. In my opinion the stalking has simply gone too far. I’ve come to see just how far some men will go to check out pictures that they really have no business putting so much work into uncovering.

I’m not talking about slowly scrolling through pictures of celebrities. Men are visual creatures and lusting over a low-cut top Scarlett Johansson just wore on the red carpet I can understand, especially if it’s done discreetly and in moderation. It’s just who men are. It’s in their wonderfully twisted DNA. What I’m more concerned about is when men go on Facebook to check out friends of their friends or their family member’s friend, or even their friends’ wives in order to feed their lecherous appetite.

Like, as an example, Random Creepy Guy is at his son’s college graduation where he meets his son’s 20-year old bottle blonde girlfriend. When Creepy Guy gets home he goes on FB, goes to his son’s page, clicks on the girlfriend’s page, checks out whatever photos he can (oh, bikini pics with sorority sisters over spring break!), then starts clicking on the pages of her friends to see what pictures they might have public for his viewing. So in the end he’s feeding on images of strangers that he only found through a loose connection. They’re not Victoria’s Secret models who are paid to have people they don’t know look at them. And they’re not posting lewd photos that one would expect to garner attention. They’re just regular women. If you told them that a man they never met searched for them online and was checking out that shot of them in a pair of jean shorts and spaghetti strap pink top that was snapped at their nephew’s birthday party, wouldn’t that just be flat-out weird?

I’m a fan of moderation in just about everything. Diet, drinking, cursing…whatever. Even porn I can sort of understand since the “actors” (hahahaha) know they’ll be watched and are compensated for it. But this ogling of real-life strangers using the internet as a tool, I can’t condone any of it, especially after seeing how addicted some men can get to the salacious practice. They even go so far as to find out the name of a neighbor so they can eventually have access to their girlfriend’s Facebook information. A fake community friendship all with the strategic purpose of possibly leering at photos of a pretty girl who visits next door.

And it doesn’t stop there either. If Facebook doesn’t automatically give a treasure trove of tight-shirt pics, I’ve seen men up the ante quite considerably. Going through Advanced Searches. Name searches on Google.  Possibly going to the person’s alma mater’s page to gain info on their new married name or place of employment. Some men go through an exhaustive amount of time and energy scouring the internet to find any morsel of information on the pretty girl walking her dog down the street and might be named Betty.

Imagine what they might accomplish if they put that energy elsewhere!

I’m not naïve. I realize that Facebook is inherently a voyeuristic activity…but to me, since these are real people, wives of friends, friends of family members, and friends of friends, this degree of voyeurism borders on being flat-out perverse. I mean, I wonder if they’d have that same mind-set (of it being okay) if their viewing pleasures were public?

I’m certainly not advocating for voyeurs to go back to taking Polaroids of random girls at concerts (something else I’ve seen done which, yup, still creepy).  I see the allure of Facebook stalking because it is just so damn easy, but I wish these people would just consider more seriously what they’re doing. It’s the equivalent of hunkering down in the nook of a tree at midnight to see into someone’s bedroom. Just because it’s the internet (so you don’t have to don that black ski mask and wear latex gloves) doesn’t make it alright.

creeper

City Folk Gone Wild

In case my blog has gone viral and you’re a dedicated follower hanging on my every word whenever you get some free time from your glorious job in Paris (a girl can dream right!?),  I should let you know that I live on the Eastern Shore of the US in a very agricultural environment. No bustling metropolises in sight. Instead, it’s farmland for as far as the eye can see and vast fields of corn, corn, and more corn. My area’s claim to fame:  Silver Queen corn. Please, no autographs yet. Let me get through this blog first.

As you probably know by now, unless you’re new to this insanely popular piece of online literature I’ve been slaving over, I’m sort of into animal rights. Some may call me an animal rights “freak.”  I prefer the term “advocate,” thank you very much.  Hey, someone has to look out for these defenseless creatures; otherwise, humans will just keep on killing.

Whoops, this is about to turn into a rant…. which this is not.   Let me compose myself.  Breathe.  Okay, better.  So… local farmers of recent past generations have sold off part of their farms, most likely just to make ends meet and not lose everything.   That’s why the Eastern Shore is sort of a patchwork of rural farmland with neighboring urban areas and new housing developments popping up at a more rapid rate each year. The wildlife is still all around and all too often humans tend to think the idea of sharing is ridiculous, so we just shoot whatever we don’t want around. A simple solution for the morally void.

Now geese are a problem at planting time for these farmers.  BUT I’m very pleased to say that the farmers here use “goose cannons” to keep roaming (and hungry) Canadian geese off their crops.  It’s something they’ve always done, and it’s such a better solution than filling them full of shotgun shrapnel. The cannons are a stroke of humane genius. They don’t hurt the geese at all; the noise just scares them away.  A dull echoing boom about every 15 minutes and that’s it. It sounds very much like a distant military base testing experimental weaponry (I know because we have one of those too). To be honest, I personally don’t even notice the noise anymore.  Most of the people around here don’t notice the noise…it just becomes part of the background.

So it seems like a nice agreement has been worked out with no violence involved. Case closed. Well, hold on now. In just the past year the new residents in these lovely housing developments have begun complaining to the police about the cannons making too much noise. Their idea of getting away from city life and moving to the country didn’t include these cannons so they’re just going to have to go. The ironic part is the cannons are an integral part of an agricultural area – and an agricultural area is where these complainers wanted to move to.  Not to mention that this is a way of life for the farmers in question…these are not hobby farms.

working farm

working farm — a common sight here

What’s even more ironic – the “city folk” move here to get away from the city. They want to see farms and green and wildlife out their door.  More than likely, they came from a cacophonous location filled with police sirens, ambulances, honking car horns and people galore because they wanted to get away to a rural area in which to raise their kids or simply to have a more low-key, rural existence.    I know that was my purpose for moving here (you see, I’m an urban transplant myself).

But what do a select entitled few do as soon as they get here?  Complain about the fact that it’s an agricultural area with farmland.  Wait…What!?  Did they not realize these are working farms?  Did they not realize that the people on the working farms have to make a living?  Or more importantly, that these working farms were here first?

farmer

loading silver queen corn

The craziest part is that the cannons aren’t exploding 24/7 year round. They’re only switched on during specific planting times. Just suck it up, city folk, and please understand that when you buy into an area, you’re not just buying the structure you’ll live in, but you’re buying the experience. You’re buying the community, the heritage, the customs. I understand wanting to be comfortable in your environment, hence the exodus to the serene rural country, but please understand that some changes, while good for you, can affect another’s life in a big way. Please remember to keep some perspective and realize that a dull, echoing “boom” isn’t the end of the world.

Lad of Sunnybank

As I’m sure most of you are aware, I kinda like animals. Shocking, right? Someone call the paper, we have a breaking story: Wendy is a Fan of Animals. I know, I know, old news. But recently, on my weekly trip to the library, I came across a book I hadn’t seen in years.  And this unexpected trip down memory lane prompted the realization that this deep, undying appreciation for animals has been a part of me, woven into my DNA one might say, ever since childhood. You see, this love didn’t come when I was a teenager and had to dissect a pig in Biology class nor did it develop after some terribly traumatic experience forced me to re-think my stance on animal protection. It has, apparently, just always been there.

How do I know? One word: Lad. When I was a kid I loved this one book about a dog named Lad — written by Albert Payson Terhune way back in the day (1929). Lad of Sunnybank. Maybe you’ve heard of it. There were several books in Terhune’s series about the dogs of Sunnybank, but this one was my favorite.  All of them were about pretty much the same thing: Lad the Collie goes on adventures, protects the estate, and spreads his canine loyalty and kindness to others in typical Collie fashion. Very heartwarming stuff and based on a real dog (even better, right!?).

Lad of Sunnybank

Lad of Sunnybank

In one of the stories, Lad finds a baby raccoon alone and hurt in the woods and takes it home to the Mistress (because she was the go-to person in times of need). The raccoon (whom the Mistress names Ramses) is tended to and rehabilitates under the care of the Mistress and Lad (aww!). Lad protects the raccoon whenever trouble rears its ugly head. Hey, it’s a kid’s story, what do you want? Pretty basic stuff here but I loved it.

Just like any story, Sunnybank had a villain. It was the next door neighbor who thought Ramses was a pest and decided that he must be done away with by any means necessary (insert evil mmmwhahahaha laugh here). Now, when I say next door neighbor, I don’t mean in an urban sprawl kind of way where your neighbor is like right there in your backyard…no, we’re talking rural, miles wide estate kind of way.  But still.  His neighbor having a pet raccoon apparently just annoyed this guy to no end. So what does he do? He puts crushed shards of glass in some chopped meat and sets it out in the woods for Ramses to find.

A little Raccoon 101 for some of you (something the evil neighbor apparently wasn’t privy to): raccoons are quite fastidious and often clean (or “douse”) their food before eating it, vigorously rubbing it between their paws or washing it in water to get off dirt and whatnot. That’s exactly what Ramses did…and it ended up cutting his hands to ribbons.

A raccoon we will call Ramses

A raccoon we will call Ramses

The whole idea just gave me a sickening ache in my stomach. Not the gore or blood so much as the cruelty. The idea that someone could hurt another living thing so badly pulled at a part of my heart unlike anything else. Add to that the confusion on the part of the animal. Ramses had no idea why all of a sudden he was bleeding, in pain, punished. There was only confusion…massive confusion… as he stared at his hands and tried to understand the reason behind pain. I think of this when I come across any story of abused animals. They have no clue why these terrible things are happening. They’re just trying to live, to eat, to be.

Even as an adult the story of Ramses disturbs me.  Maybe because I know too many real-life stories that are just as bad and worse. Seeing this book and remembering Ramses served to remind me that long before getting into the line of work I’m in now, back when I was that little girl reading Sunnybank for the first time, the thought of abused animals held a special place within me and my love for animals has only grown as the years go on.

This is Lad -- to find out more about the dogs of Sunnybank, click the photo

The real-life Lad — to find out more about the dogs of Sunnybank, click the photo

Zoo Blues

Yes, I realize I’m on another rant…I try not to rant too terribly often but in this case, I simply couldn’t help myself.   I get annoyed enough when someone dumps the cell phone they bought three months ago for $500 just to drop another couple hundred dollars to upgrade to the newest one. Is the new version really that much better than what you had? Or are you just trying to look cool by having the latest and greatest?

So imagine my shock when I recently heard of a Copenhagen Zoo doing pretty much the same thing. Very small, minor, trivial differences. Such as, instead of iPhones that they’re getting rid of, it’s a family of four perfectly healthy lions. Yes, you read that correctly. The zoo euthanized four lions in one fell swoop. Now these lions did not team up to kill their handlers and therefore had to be put down. They aren’t housing a biological pathogen that could wipe out all of Denmark. They do not have 666 tattooed on the back of their manes. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with them at all.

So why off them as if they’re yesterday’s news? Because, according to the zoo, they are yesterday’s news. Apparently this lovely quartet of endangered animals was given the boot to make room for one new young male lion the zoo scored. The zoo tried to offload the cubs (oh, how humane) but no one took them in (so they say), so what else were they supposed to do? Slice and dice time, kiddos! Sorry!

The carcass of Marius, a male giraffe, is eaten by lions at Copenhagen Zoo, after he was put down to prevent inbreeding. Photo: AP

(Photo Credit: AP) Click photo for news story.

What’s most messed up about this whole thing is the math involved. The new lion coming in was basically procured to mate with two lionesses who reached breeding age in 2012. So, wait? What? The zoo killed four lions so that they could bring in one lion to hopefully make more lions? Maybe the adults in the family unit were past their prime (which is questionable since they had two young cubs in the pride…I mean just where did those come from??) but I still don’t get how killing two perfectly healthy cubs for one male is sound arithmetic. Sure we all like 2-for-1 sales, but this one seems a bit backwards to me. It just sounds like gambling to me. Sure the new male will probably be successful at pumping out some kids of his own, but if you already have two, why tempt fate? That’s like winning $1,000 at craps then instead of walking out of the casino you keep playing because you can’t help but feed the greed.

The zoo claims that in nature, this new male lion would surely kill off the cubs (because they are not his offspring).  That may be true.  But and it’s a pretty big “but,” that would only happen if he bested the other dominant male and became the dominant male himself.  The zoo never allowed this natural process to take place – they simply got rid of the competition by killing off the two resident male lions. And rather than segregate the cubs until they reach maturity, well, they just killed them off too.  You know.  To be safe.  To allow natural selection to do its thing.

This zoo has been doing awesome lately. It’s the same zoo that killed a healthy two-year old giraffe (named Marius) because he “didn’t fit in the zoo’s breeding program.”  Forget the fact that they obviously bred him into surplus.  I mean why breed a species in your care if you’re just going to kill it?  That makes a lot of sense. Oh, and it gets worse. After they made the decision to kill Marius (after having several offers from other sanctuaries to take him), they actually thought it would be a good idea to make his death and dissection public…so it all took place in gory, graphic detail in front of zoo visitors, many of whom were children.  Don’t even get me started on the parents who thought it would be a good idea for the kids to see a giraffe shot with a captive bolt, chopped up and fed to lions.  Oh wait.  These are the same lions they just euthanized.  How wonderful. It’s come full circle.

I mean, hey – let’s pack up the kids, honey! We’re going to Denmark! This zoo sounds like it knows exactly what it’s doing. Fair warning though, Little Jonny, if I see a cuter kid than you I might have to put you down so I can upgrade. That’s apparently fair game there.

Strangeland

Sometimes I think I live on an alien world; an odd, foreign landscape sculpted by unearthly tides and weather conditions. I don’t think this is a far off thought either. Not that I actually believe I’ve been whisked away a la Wizard of Oz and dropped onto another planet. But if you were to take a look at the wetlands near my neighborhood you might cock your head to the side and see the resemblance to the Riddick movies. I put some pictures below to help strengthen my case.

The wetlands on the Eastern Shore where I live are protected.  There are stretches of wetlands all over the place, some small, some large.  All that’s left of this particular area of wetlands is what you see in these photos…just a very small patch surrounded by farmland. These are not your mom and pop type farms with geese being chased by pigs in the front yard and cows getting milked by some sweet ol’ Meemaw. These are the industrial suckers; farms that grow corn in bulk either to sell to large manufacturers or to grocery store chains.

Pretty bland scenery outside of the wetlands, but this little parcel of protected land more than makes up for it visually on its own. In winter when it’s all iced over or summer when it’s deep into a drought, this bit of wetlands looks like something out of a crazy sci-fi movie. There are incongruous lumps of grass that rise and fall out of the earth and dead trees vaulting up over my head. If I had to sum up the way it looks in one word I’d feel pretty confident going with “bizarre.”  The photos I was able to capture on my cell phone simply don’t do it justice.

Wetlands final 1

wetlands in winter 2

As I mentioned previously, these wetlands are supposed to be protected. While no loggers are in there actively sawing down the trees and no one’s pumping water from the ground or building apartments on the site, I have a sneaking suspicion that runoff from the farms just a stone’s throw away has been seeping into the earth slowly polluting this miniature self-contained biome. It’s obvious that the water is going bad and the trees are dead, which is terribly sad. Although I understand the need for the industrialized farms, how they provide food to many and all, watching the slow decline of a once beautiful and entertainingly unique little spot of land is still quite disheartening. These wetlands were once home to a menagerie of wildlife — bald eagles, herons, cranes, and other beautiful species were frequent visitors. They’re gone now, at least from this place.  I’m sure the poisoned water and the dead trees don’t have the same appeal they once had as a thriving ecosystem. At least I have these pictures to share and look back on when I want to be reminded of my own little piece of alien life here on earth.

Wetlands final 2

wetlands in winter

When is exposing a crime a crime?

When is a crime not a crime? When you don’t get caught? Sort of like if a tree falls in a forest and no one’s around. Does it make a sound? Maybe, maybe not. If someone commits a crime but there are no witnesses, is it still a crime? Maybe, maybe not. At least that’s what the owners and operators of slaughterhouses, factory farms, and feedlots across the nation are hoping. You see, all too often animal advocacy investigators come meddling into “Big Ag’s” affairs and have the audacity to videotape the cruel, abusive, and illegal behavior they witness and then share it with the public. I know, awful, right!?  “Big Ag” would have you believe, and indeed have gotten legislators to believe, that exposing a crime should be a crime.

These agricultural business owners (or “Big Ag” as they are sometimes called) make their money by exploiting animals for profit.  Too often efficiency and bottom line turn into atrocious cruelty and inhumane treatment.  And it turns out that when people see video of dead baby pigs being ground up and fed back to their own mothers and cows with festering sores wrapped up in gestation crates it hurts profits. So, obviously, these owners can’t have that news getting out. I mean, if the American people were to see the sinister torture these businesses are inflicting on their livestock they might not get that big contract from that major fast food joint that should be coming through just about any day now.

So how does one stop the slippery activities of these devious animal advocates? Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Ag-Gag Law!  I won’t get into the technicalities, but the long and short of it is that this law would make photographing or videotaping cruelty or abuse to livestock illegal. That way, instead of having to stop the criminal behavior of the abusers, the documentation of the crimes would itself be a crime. Now that’s what I call getting ahead of the storm. To stop the abuse and follow the laws would throw the whole “Big Ag” system out of whack and take a super long time to implement.  The genius Ag-Gag law does away with the pesky need for reform and instead punishes those who are trying to shine a light on rampant animal atrocities.

The latest state pushing this bill through into law is Idaho. Even though the great people of Idaho are against the legislation, “Big Ag” proponents crammed it down their throats like legislative foie gras. So now the animals of Idaho have no voice but, lo and behold, the “Big Ag” businesses have found a way to keep their wallets fat. Of course if you ask the owners of these businesses they’ll say they’re not breaking the law to begin with. My question is simple:  if they’re not breaking the law why would they care if someone comes in to document what they’re doing? Shouldn’t that negate the need for the Ag-Gag Law?

Lock up the advocates and let the abusers go free. Is that the America we live in? Doesn’t it sound like some sort of Bizarro universe? I mean, don’t you want to know what’s in your food? Or how that food made it to your grocery store or better yet, to your table?  If you don’t, I highly suggest you Google “cruelty with animals raised for food.” Read a couple of those stories and you might just change your wonderful ignorance-is-bliss tune.

How the Ag-Gag Law works