Friday, May 13


"The group that accredits U.S. zoos and had been reviewing elephant care at the Lincoln Park Zoo expanded its investigation to the entire facility Thursday after learning three monkeys had died this week," according to the Washington Post. "A camel and two gorillas also have died at the zoo since October. The U.S. Department of Agriculture is also investigating, department spokeswoman Amy Spillman said. The zoo and its president, Kevin Bell, have come under intense scrutiny by animal rights groups after a 36-year-old African elephant was euthanized May 1 shortly after being moved to Salt Lake City." The article adds that "Bell offered his resignation Thursday," but it sounds as though it's not expected he'll be taken up on the offer.

UPDATE 5/16: The story of the "troubled" Lincoln Park Zoo is gaining steam, as the zoo only saved a gibbon from death by amputating its arm after the ape broke it reaching through an ill-designed mesh barrier, and hundreds of people continue to protest at the zoo. Meanwhile, this has inspired a predictable "think piece," Have zoos outlived their usefulness? which at least presents the anti-captivity argument via someone other than PETA (as well as PETA). But once again we get this:

    "Zoos are essential for the public," said Eric Peters, an associate professor of ecology and environmental sciences at Chicago State University. "When well-designed and well-executed zoos allow the public to see these animals up close in as natural an environment as possible, that makes people care more about protecting the animals' original environments," he said.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Show me the stats on this. What studies have been done? I've been looking for them and haven't found one study to support this claim. If you know of one, please feel free to send it in. In the meantime, I will continue to maintain that seeing animals in cages reinforces the culture's view that animals are expendable objects put here for our pleasure or diversion. After all, there are zoos all over the place now, and animal habitats are disappearing faster than ever. Man, just imagine how bad it would be if we didn't have zoos to make people care so much!

Thursday, May 12


The spotlight has been on the Lincoln Park Zoo and its elephant woes lately, but it's worth repeating that the problems of captive animals are not related to specific zoos, but to the insitution itself: Time and again the most highly-trained and qualified people are found to be at a loss in maintaining the health of wild animals that are forced into a cruel, unnatural lifestyle - it is "incompetence" in the strict sense, only because competency in keeping caged wild animals happy and healthy is virtually impossible.

The latest example is at the Phoenix zoo, which has launched a probe into whether recent mistakes led to "a series of deaths and health problems with animals." The Arizona Republic reports: "Kris Nelson, a veterinarian whose complaints prompted the review, says dozens of exotic animals died or suffered in recent years due to neglect and misjudgments by managers and caretakers. Nelson compiled a list of more than 30 specimens that purportedly died or fell ill due to improper care and conditions, mostly in the past year. Among her allegations: Baby monkeys died because of negligence, disease killed gazelles due to quarantine failures, and many animals suffered as a result of treatment delays. Nelson, who has been on the Animal Health Committee for four years, said alarms should have gone off seven years ago when a series of blunders killed Ruby, an elephant famous for artworks." It all comes back to the elephants, after all... lest we forget.

Wednesday, May 11


This one slipped by me a few days ago, and doubtless did with a lot of people who needed to see it - Field Packing Company recalled 29,000 pounds of ham products for suspected Listeria contamination. The ham was distributed to California, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Missouri, Minnesota, and Tennessee. You may not have heard about this because once again the recall was announced on... wait for it... a Friday.

Tuesday, May 10


It's a pity not all the members of our species can act on the basic mammalian initiative shown by a stray dog in Kenya: "A newborn baby abandoned in a Kenyan forest was saved by a stray dog who apparently carried her across a busy road and through a barbed wire fence to a shed where the infant was discovered nestled with a litter of puppies, witnesses said Monday." While the meat-eating world depends on clear-line distinctions between humans and animals, the ability to care for others is built into the mammal brain, and the similarity is brought out by this "happy ending" quote from the hospital where the child wound up: "She is now fine. She is warm. She is in a separate room ... with a lady who is also nursing a baby admitted in hospital for treatment. The lady is looking after her as if she is her own child."

Monday, May 9


In another Friday release that mysteriously got swept under the news rug, the USDA has admitted that the "BSE Firewall" does not exist. "There is still a risk, though slight, of mad cow disease in the United States, and it is greatest in the three Northwestern states bordering Canada." Remember when the risk was so small it amounted to "no risk?" How'd we get to particular states with "greatest risk?" Well... "Investigators tracked the animals born in the same herd within a year of the [BSE-]infected cows or born to them, and of those, 29 were shipped to the United States. Investigators were unable to find 11 of those animals; 18 were slaughtered for their meat or killed for other reasons." Interesting that this is coming out now. Are we being softened up for another "discovery?"

UPDATE: Don't know if this answers the previous question, but it's certainly an interesting coincidence: 5/6: Feds probing claims of mad cow violations. Plenty of provovative tidbits, as usual, in this Steve Mitchell story. Some excerpts:

    Investigators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Inspector General's office are looking into allegations that cow brains and other risky materials that could carry mad cow disease might be entering the human food supply in violation of agency policy, United Press International has learned.

    Stanley Painter, chairman of the National Joint Council of Food Inspection Locals... said he had been informed other USDA meat inspectors were aware of cases where employees of meatpacking plants failed to ensure specified risk materials or SRMs -- such as brains and spinal cords -- from cows over 30 months old did not enter the nation's food supply.

    Painter said OIG investigators told him in March they did not have the non-compliance reports and also were having difficulty obtaining them.

    OIG officials have informed Hinchey's [Rep. Maurice Hinchey, D-N.Y.] office they interviewed Painter and also are investigating how the USDA handled his complaints, the aide said, and added Hinchey plans to follow up on this matter.

    Painter said the agency officials asked him questions that suggested they did not understand USDA policies and implied he should have handled the reports of alleged violations by doing things that would have been a breach of official agency procedures.

    Painter said the violations continue to happen and noted he just recently learned of another one. "The potential is there for it to happen all across the country," he said. "It's not just in one location, it's not isolated, because the policy is the same nationwide."