Friday, January 20, 2017

Successes to report this week!

What an incredible year it's been. Our movement continues to grow, allowing us to provide FREE year-round sports training and competition to more than 25,000  Special Olympics New Jersey athletes. Thank YOU, athletes, for giving your all, and thank you to every donor, coach, volunteer, sponsor and family member for helping make 2016 such a fantastic year for Special Olympics New Jersey!
Watch the video for a look back at some of the highlights from this incredible year!
Oceana Victory: No Oil Drilling in the Atlantic

United Arab Emirates Bans Big Cats as Pets — What Is the U.S. Waiting For? It is a great day for big cats who have long being bought and sold as pets and status symbols — but only for some of them. A newly enacted law in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) has finally put a long-awaited ban on the ownership and sale of big cats like tigers, cheetahs, leopards, and more as pets. This is a huge victory for big cats who have long been mistreated and neglected by owners who do not have the capacity to care for an animal whose rightful home is the wild.
Exotic pet ownership has long been an issue in the UAE, where it was not uncommon to see sights such as cheetahs running through the streets of Abu Dhabi and tigers being transported in cars.  According to Dr. Elsayed Mohammad, regional director at the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “the big problem [with exotic pet ownership UAE] is driven by kids, teenagers. When we worked with kids before, we noticed that almost 100 percent of the kids had exotic pets at least once in their lives.” Instead of cats and dogs, it is common for children in the UAE to grow up with big cats.

In 2011, the problem with exotic pet ownership was so bad that the city of Ajman issued a local order that banned the keeping of exotic animals in private homes. All violators were fined $2,700, but it is likely that this was not enough to deter the wealthy who kept these animals as pets. Thankfully, the federal government of the UAE recently stepped in to put a stop to the reckless sale and ownership of these wild animals.

According to the International Fund for Animal Welfare, “UAE’s newly established restrictions are founded upon the principle that unpredictable, wild animals are simply not suited to be pets—they threaten public safety, and they often suffer at the hands of private owners who are not equipped to care for them.” Thanks to recent legislation, we will hopefully see a drop in the volume of wild animals whose lives are being bartered just so that somebody can say they live side-by-side with a dangerous animal.

Along with feelings of celebration, this recent move by the UAE government makes us wonder: when will the United States government finally put their foot down on this issue? As this point in time, there are more tigers living in U.S. backyards than in the wild. It is completely legal to keep big cats as pets in 20 states and seven of those states don’t even require a permit. Not to mention, the legality of keeping a big cat as a pet in the U.S. has a huge loophole — should the cat’s guardian claim that they exhibit their “pet,” they can obtain a license to do so through the USDA. While the USDA is required to monitor the conditions under which these animals are kept, they hardly have the manpower to keep track of the big cats, as that same branch is also required to look into living conditions for pet stores, slaughterhouses, laboratories, and other facilities that hold animals.

Due to this, big cats in the U.S. hardly stand a chance and tragically, many of them suffer from neglect. After all, with such lax rules around exotic pet ownership, many who purchase them do not realize how much care – and money – they require. The ignorance of big cat owners is just one piece of a very broken system — it is a problem that we could work to resolve if the U.S. federal government banned the ownership of big cats. Lead image source: Norrapat Teapnarin/Shutterstock

India Bans the Import of Reptile Skins and Exotic Furs. India has been in the news often over the past few months, and much of the news has been good. An innovative entrepreneur in the capital region of Delhi invented an affordable, 100 percent biodegradable “plastic” bag to reduce the nation’s pollution. A coal-burning plant in Tamil Nadu has discovered a way turn the  carbon dioxide it produces into baking soda, and they announced that it recorded zero emissions for the year – pretty cool right?

Animal rights activists also received good news from the sub-continent when the Directorate General of Foreign Trade announced a national ban on the importation of mink, fox, and chinchilla fur/leather as well as reptile skins. According to Humane Society of the United States’ CEO, Wayne Pacelle, India’s appetite for exotic furs and reptile skins has been increasing steadily as the country’s wealth increases. The market for reptile skin increased 1800 percent from 2014-2016 and the demand for exotic furs rose 700 percent during that time.  The Humane Society International/India, who lobbied the government for this ban, states that the new policy will save the lives of tens of thousands of animals every year. So the recent import ban marks a significant shift in policy for the nation . . . at least superficially.

While the nation is no longer importing “exotic” leather and furs, the country’s internal leather industry is consistently in the top eight largest national industries every year. For the 2015-2016 fiscal year, India’s leather exports totaled 5.92 billion dollars while domestic leather sales accounted for another 6 billion dollars in sales. According to the India Brand Equity Foundation, “The Indian leather industry accounts for around 12.9 percent of the world’s leather production of hides/skins. The country ranks second in terms of footwear and leather garments production in the world.” Despite these massive numbers, Inda’s leather industry shrunk by 10 percent in the past year – some attribute this decline to the fact that India’s leather industry has lost its edge.  The industry has recorded a consistently shrinking market share over the past few years, but there is no arguing the size and influence of their annual leather exports.

Now a cynic might say that India’s ban on exotic leather and reptile skins was not a move towards a more empathetic form of capitalism and conservation, but rather, was an attempt to protect its national leather markets. But we like to look at the glass half full, banning imports is one positive step toward tackling the harmful industry. However, India still has a long way to go before it weans itself away from the cruel leather industry.

One of the best ways that we can help pressure the Indian leather industry, and the global leather industry, to end its horrific practices is refusing to buy products that contain leather. There are a myriad of sustainable, cruelty-free options on the market today that can replace leather. So many in fact, that it is completely irresponsible and (dare we say) intentionally cruel to support an industry that slaughters animals to make clothing and supports the animal agriculture industry. So help the fashion industry join the 21st-century by boycotting leather products – and remember that even though a black leather jacket looks cool – it’s not cool to be cruel.

France Passes Bill Ordering Cameras in All Slaughterhouses. 

France has just made history. In response to growing public outcry against slaughterhouse cruelty, hygiene concerns, and safety violations revealed in footage released by French animal rights group L214, the French National Assembly passed a bill for mandatory cameras in all French slaughterhouses. The bill passed 28 to 4, signaling a major change in the way both the public and officials view the animal agriculture industry. The bill will go into full effect in 2018 if it clears the Senate vote, but there will first be a trial run in July 2017.  Starting in the summer, 263 French slaughterhouses will have cameras placed in areas where all animals are “moved, held, immobilized, stunned and killed.” While those concerned with animal rights have a reason to celebrate, this is more than just a victory for animals in France — it is a victory for slaughterhouse workers, too, who are routinely exploited by the animal agriculture industry. This move mirror’s Israel’s recent decision to install cameras in their slaughterhouses.

The higher ups in the French animal agriculture industry made their thoughts on the bill very clear. Some of those in the industry have responded to the government’s apparent attack on the industry by “dumping truckloads of manure in front of ministries, blocking traffic with trucks, burning tires, and hanging [dead] pigs from highway overpasses.” French Minister of Agriculture Stephane LeFoll invoked “respect for slaughterhouse workers” as one of the key reasons for why this bill should not go live in the near future. But, is it really about respect for slaughterhouse workers, or is the French animal agriculture industry already sweating bullets about the expected blowback when what happens behind the doors of slaughterhouses is no longer kept behind closed doors?

In the United States, factory farm jobs have one of the largest turnover rates in the country, ranging from 95 to 100 percent annually. 70 percent of workers suffer from respiratory conditions and there is little job security for workers, most of whom come from low-income and non-English-speaking families, leaving them with little choice of where they can find steady employment. Tyson Foods became infamous for routinely denying its workers bathroom breaks, resulting in many employees wearing diapers. On top of that, they have failed to provide adequate care to injured workers and have been routinely fined by the federal government for failing to pay workers overtime. So, we’re not really buying LeFoll’s “respect for slaughterhouse workers” argument.

LeFoll’s other argument against cameras in French slaughterhouses is a “farmers’ crisis.” According to an article on Medium, French “agriculture unions are pushing for further government relief for ‘Made in France’ meat and dairy products while they battle waning meat sales.” We can understand why the animal agriculture industry has a reason to be afraid of being under constant scrutiny by the federal government. Recent undercover investigations by L214 have exposed widespread abuse in slaughterhouses, revealing footage of “animals being tormented, brutalized and butchered by callous workers while still alive.” Under this new bill, any violations will incur a penalty of “6 to 12 months of prison and fines from 7500 to 20,000 Euros ($8000 to $21,000)” … and the cameras won’t be monitored by the federal government, which like the United States, subsidizes the meat and dairy industry. When the new law goes into effect, slaughterhouse footage will be overseen by an independent commission and a national slaughterhouse ethics committee. They’re right to be afraid.

Lucky for anyone who finds that what happens behind slaughterhouses unsavory, there has never been a better time to give plant-based protein a try. Vegan options are popping up in grocery stores and restaurants everywhere, and plant-based meats are becoming more and more like “the real thing.”

After 133 Years, Ringling Bros. Circus To Close.
PETA's community accomplished more for all animals in 2016 than the one that you're part of:
  • Our exposé of Darlynn's Darlins Rescue Ranch, Inc.—a hoarding facility in Florida that was keeping animals in deplorable conditions—helped bring about 282 cruelty-to-animals charges, the seizure of 197 animals, and a ban on animal ownership for the owners of the facility.

  • Following discussions with PETA's scientists, Health Canada stated that it would end its requirement that yearlong tests be conducted by industry on dogs to study the effects of pesticides.

  • We ripped the lid off the ostrich-slaughter industry and persuaded Global Brands Group to ban ostrich skin and feathers from its controlled brands, including Juicy Couture, Jones New York, and many others.

  • Together, we helped persuade SeaWorld to end its orca-breeding program, a victory that means the current generation of orcas imprisoned in SeaWorld's tanks will be the last.
Each of these landmark victories—and the many others, big and small, that made an impact on animals' lives last year—have one thing in common: They couldn't have happened without the help of caring people who support our work.

And everything we're working toward in 2017 can't happen without the resources provided by PETA members.

We're looking for 25,000 PETA supporters to step up today—please become a member by January 31. This is your chance to be part of something life-changing in 2017.

Join PETA as a member right now and make a positive impact for all animals this year.

The very best thing about being a PETA member is knowing that you're helping to save animals' lives. But the benefits don't stop there. As a 2017 member, you're also entitled to the following:

  • A personalized PETA membership card so that you can proudly show your commitment to helping animals, wherever you go

  • A free year's subscription to Animal Times, our lively magazine packed full of the latest news in animal rights, delicious vegan recipes, and tips for how to stop animal suffering in your own community

  • A 10 percent discount on our catalog merchandise, including fun T-shirts, hoodies, cookbooks, and more—all of which are 100 percent cruelty-free
Become a PETA member right now by giving just $16 or more.

Together, we scored many victories for animals in 2016. But as long as others continue to endure cruelty, neglect, and exploitation, we must do more.

Supporters like you know that we're relentless in our work to end the barbaric treatment of animals because we have to be. As long as a frightened dog is confined to a tiny cage and subjected to painful experiments … as long as a lonely elephant is chained and beaten into performing silly tricks … as long as a mother pig is left to suffer in squalor before a terrifying death in a slaughterhouse … we will not rest.

PETA and our members must always be there to expose abuse, alleviate suffering, and demand change for the future—but we can't do these things without your help.

Give now—it's the best thing you'll do to help animals all day. 

Victory For Horses! USDA Finally Outlaws Painful Practice of ‘Soring’.The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has finally made major changes to the Horse Protection Act by outlawing the practice of “soring.”  Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the organization which played a large role in passing this legislation, describes soring as “the intentional infliction of pain on the legs and hooves of show Tennessee walking horses and related breeds, to force them to perform the artificial, pain-based ‘Big Lick’ gait.” Stacks, pads, chains, chemicals, and other devices and practices are used on horses at shows, auctions, and sales in order to force the horse to walk in a way that is visually appealing for competition – to the great pain of the animals.  Thankfully, this cruelty will finally come to an end.

For decades, walking horses have been subjected to the practices of soring, which often starts with applying caustic chemicals such as concoctions containing mustard oil, along with camphor, methyl paraben, methyl salicylate, and hydrocarbons (all prohibited by the USDA) above the horse’s hooves, then covering it with plastic wrap. The burns cause the horse pain, which is commonly amplified by wrapping metal chains around their foot. Though these substances are prohibited, investigations by HSUS have revealed that the use of chemicals is alive and well. The pain from soring causes the horse to adopt an abnormal gait that is considered desirable for auctions and shows. Other practices of soring include trimming hooves too short and the use of stacks (platform shoes that force horses to stand at an abnormal angle).

This victory was a long time coming. According to HSUS, Congress passed the Horse Protection Act in the 1970s, “with the intent of banning this cruel practice.” However, due to underfunding and lack of organization, the USDA has allowed the horse industry to appoint “insiders” as inspectors for signs of soring. Over the years, the HSUS has carried out many undercover investigations that revealed the cruel practices behind the show horse industry.

While this organization was performing undercover investigations, Tawnee Preisner, founder of Horse Plus Humane Society in Tennessee, worked hard to rescued horses scarred by soring and sharing their stories, particularly the story of Skywalks Magical Dream. The story of this horse caught the attention of numerous local TV stations and The Tennessean, the largest newspaper in the state.

We are so glad the hard work of all these parties has paid off and finally, this abhorrent practice can be put to rest. Not only is this moment a major victory for the activists who have long fought for the lives of these animals, it is an inspiration for activists everywhere. Never give up fighting for what is right.

Preisner has stated that she will “take any of these horses [whose] owners will not keep them” now that soring is illegal. To donate to Horse Plus Humane Society and help the many horses who will be sent to slaughter because they are no longer considered profitable, click here.

To learn more about the Humane Society of the United States, visit their official website.

ASPCA 2016 An Incredible Year for the ASPCA: Looking Back at 2016

The results are in! 2016 marked our 150th year of saving lives, and we want to reflect on some of the amazing accomplishments the ASPCA achieved for animals. Read more about what you helped make possible in 2016.