Eagle Post

On one covert video, farm workers illegally burn the ankles of Tennessee walking horses with chemicals. Another captures workers in Wyoming punching and kicking pigs and flinging piglets into the air. Moreover, at one of the country’s largest egg suppliers, a video shows hens caged alongside rotting bird corpses, while workers burn and snap off the beaks of young chicks.

Each video – all shot in the last two years by undercover animal rights activists — drew a swift response. Federal prosecutors in Tennessee charged the horse trainer and other workers, who have pleaded guilty, with violating the federal US Horse Protection Act. Local authorities in Wyoming charged nine farm employees with cruelty to animals. In addition, the egg supplier, which operates in Iowa and other states, lost one of its biggest customers, McDonald’s, which said the video played a part in its decision.

However, a dozen or so state legislatures have had a different reaction: They proposed or enacted bills that would make it illegal to covertly videotape livestock farms, or apply for a job at one without disclosing ties to animal rights groups. They have also drafted measures to require such videos to be given to the authorities almost immediately, which activists say would thwart any meaningful undercover investigation of large factory farms.

Some of the legislation appears inspired by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a business advocacy group with hundreds of state representatives from farm states as members. The group creates model bills, drafted by lobbyists and lawmakers that in the past have included such things as “stand your ground” gun laws and tighter voter identification rules. Continue reading Eagle Post

Eagle Post: January 2013

As the National Institutes of Health (NIH) reduces its use of chimpanzees in invasive biomedical research, it is moving more chimps to retirement homes. But the agency could face a problem in paying for their continuing support. At the beginning of 2013, the NIH announced that it would move 113 chimpanzees it owns from the New Iberia Research Center in Louisiana to Chimp Haven, the national chimpanzee sanctuary, also in Louisiana. The sanctuary is set in 200 acres of pine woods in Keithville and is currently home to 132 chimps that live in more natural surroundings and social conditions than those available at research institutes. Chimps live in a variety of cages and enclosures, including concrete-walled play yards of about a quarter of an acre, open to the sky, and two forested habitats, one four acres and the other five, bounded by a moat and fences.

Biomedical research on chimps helped produce a vaccine for hepatitis B. Another vaccine is aimed at hepatitis C, which infects 170 million people worldwide. Nevertheless, there has long been an outcry against the research as cruel and unnecessary. As it is, the United States is one of only two countries that conduct invasive research on chimpanzees. The other is the African nation of Gabon.

Using captive chimpanzees for research in the US dates to the 1920s, when Robert Yerkes, a Yale psychology professor, began to bring them into the country. During the 1950s, the Air Force bred chimps for the space program, starting with 65 caught in the wild. Chimps were also bred for AIDS research in the 1980s, which met a dead end. By the mid-1970s, support for preservation of threatened species had grown, and the importing of wild-caught chimps was prohibited. Continue reading Eagle Post: January 2013

Eagle Post

In what sport do competitors at times lie down in the middle of the course, unmotivated and bemused? The answer is cat agility tournaments, a competition in which cats run through a miniature obstacle course crammed with hurdles and tunnels. The phenomenon of cat agility contests started about 10 years ago when two couples involved in cat shows were at dinner and started talking about the tricks their cats did. They modified selected dog agility obstacles and showed them to their cats. From that chance meeting, International Cat Agility Tournaments (ICAT) was born. In 2004, cat shows began featuring agility contests, and they are now a fixture on the cat show circuit. As promoted on their website (catagility.com), ICAT is devoted to “creating a new category of cat competition in which cats negotiate an obstacle course designed to display their speed, coordination, beauty of movement, physical conditioning, intelligence, training, and the quality and depth of their relationship with their owner, who trains with them and guides them through the course.” Continue reading Eagle Post

Human violence and animal cruelty

The First Stage of Cruelty.

The “First Stage of Cruelty” shows the Tom (his name is scribbled on the wall) with other boys. They are teasing and tormenting cats and dogs. Tom is torturing a dog.

Animal cruelty, especially the abuse of pit bulls in dog-fighting activities, has achieved a higher profile after the 2007 arrest of the National Football League star Michael Vick for running an illegal interstate dog-fighting business in Virginia. However, the pit bull is only the most publicized victim of a phenomenon that is now being addressed with a newborn vitality in the US: wanton cruelty toward animals. Before 1990, only six US states had criminal acts listed in their animal-cruelty laws; now 46 states do. In 2008, the ASPCA created the first Mobile Animal Crime Scene Investigation Unit, a veterinary hospital and forensic laboratory on wheels that travels around the country helping traditional law-enforcement agencies follow the evidence from dead or wounded animals back to their inflictors. Another significant reason for the increased attention to animal cruelty is a mounting body of evidence that a link exists between violent crimes such as wife and child abuse, rape and murder and animal cruelty. Under US federal and state laws, animal-cruelty issues were considered a peripheral concern and the province of local ASPCA and Humane Society organizations. However, that distinction is rapidly vanishing

The connection between animal abuse and such diverse problems as links between crime and human nature, and the behavioral manifestations of children who are likely to be violent as adults was recognized long ago. William Hogarth’s “The Four Stages of Cruelty” (1751) traces the life of the fictional Tom Nero. The first stage shows Tom torturing a dog. At the second stage, we see Tom beating his fallen horse. At the Third Stage, we reach “Cruelty in Perfection”, where Tom has murdered Ann Gill. Finally, in the “Reward of Cruelty,” Tom’s corpse, fresh from the gallows, is dissected at Surgeons Hall Continue reading Human violence and animal cruelty