Monday, March 11, 2013

Save the Seals!

The Humane Society of the United States reports the Canadian Commercial seal hunt is responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of harp baby seals each year. When you look at a picture of a baby seal, it is hard to imagined how any human being could beat him or her to death with a club. Unfortunately, because of the high price of their fur, Canadian fisherman hunt baby seals during their off-season. As a result of the seal fur trade, one million baby seals have died in the last five years. Besides not purchasing coats made from baby seal fur, there are many ways you can be active and become a voice for the seals.

The HSUS states by boycotting Canadian seafood, you can make a statement to the Canadian government that it is unacceptable for them to allow fisherman to hunt baby seals. The hunting of the seals is subsidized by the Canadian government, and by avoiding purchasing seafood from the fishing industry you are sending a message that you will not support an industry that hunts innocent baby seals. Sign The HSUS petition and pledge to boycott Canadian seafood.  

 In addition to not purchasing the Canadian seafood, urge businesses in your area to never buy or sell Canadian seafood. The HSUS has a petition to help you get started. So far 5,500 grocery chains and restaurants have already agreed to shift some or all of their seafood purchasing away from Canada until the commercial seal hunt is ended for good. Download the free Protect Seals App to find businesses near you that have boycotted Canadian seafood. By supporting businesses that boycott the Canadian fishing industry, you are saving seals.

Many seals are killed when they are just two months old, and have never even got to experience a life on Earth. As fisherman club the harp baby seals, mothers must watch an agony, unable to protect their children. According to HarpSeals.Org, 40% of the baby seals are skinned alive. The method used to hunt the baby seals, which is mostly clubbing, often leaves the seals unconscious, rather than dead. Thousands of baby seals die a slow, and painful death as a result of the seal hunt.

                       Warning Video Contains Extremely Graphic Footage

Dozens of celebrities and famous chiefs have taken a stand to save the seals. Chef for Seals has thousands of chefs have told the Canadian government they will not purchase seafood from the country until the seal hunt ends. Famous photographer Nigel Barker has taken dozens of photos of seals to raise awareness of the campaign. Will you join the thousands of celebrities, chefs and activists by joining the Protect the Sealscampaign

Be Cruelty-Free Week

As you flip through a magazine all the advertisements for makeup and hair products lure you in, you want to buy them. Even after years of being a vegan I sometimes am tempted to buy Maybelline lip gloss or Herbal Essence shampoo. But as nice as these products look, what goes on to produce them is not something any animal lover should be okay with. The Humane Societyof the United States claims that thousands of mice, guinea pigs, rats, and rabbits suffer and die each year in the U.S. as a result of animal testing. These animals are exposed to chemicals, and forced to either eat of have the chemicals rubbed on their skin.

Animal testing is not required by the FDA, and there are many other modern, and humane, ways to test chemicals for products. Many companies already have stopped testing on animals. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals has an online cruelty-free guide where you can search for products and companies that have pledged never to test on animals. PETA also has a list of companies that DO test on animals, so you can know which ones to specifically stay away from. 

Animals tested for cosmetic products are kept in laboratories, and feel a great deal of stress and anxiety. Remember, when an animal is not in his or her natural habitat, they will not be very happy. Laboratory workers do not look at the animals as individual creatures with feelings, resulting in neglect. During and after experiments it is rare for pain relief to be administered to the animals, resulting in hours of suffering and pain.
Other countries have recognized animal testing as inhumane. Recently, the European Union banned cosmetics with animal-tested ingredients. This is a huge victory for animals because it sets an example for the United States. Now all across Europe all cosmetics sold will be cruelty-free, which will save thousands of animals each year. The European Union is comprised of 27 countries, making it the largest cruelty-free market in the world.

I struggled at first to find products that were cruelty-free, and found myself grabbing everything I used to buy and frowning when I could not find something on the bottle stating it is not tested on animals. So for those looking for some ideas, here are some of my favorite cosmetic products, which are cruelty-free, affordable and can be found at most stores that sell cosmetics.

Origins Checks and Balance face wash changed my life. I had acne from middle school until I found this product two years ago.

Kiss My Face Big Body Conditioner is one of my favorite conditioners of all times. It is affordable, found in most grocery stores, and smells incredible.

Stilla's Major Major Mascara is one of the best on the market. It gives you movie star lashes, and never clumps. Urban Decay is another brand I would recommend for mascara as well as excellent eye liner

Today marks the first day of The HSUS “Be Cruelty-Free Week.” Join The HSUS in pledging to support the end of animal testing.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Famous Voices for Animals

Leonardo DiCaprio
When most people think of Leonardo DiCaprio, they think of his good looks and his talent as an actor. But DiCaprio is also a dedicated animal activist, who has worked with many organizations to protect wildlife. Recently DiCaprio worked with the WWF and Avaaz to get signatures for a petition to the Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra to ban the ivory trade. Thanks to DiCaprio and many other activists, the petition got 1.5 millions signatures, and Prime Minister Shinawatra pledged to end elephant poaching. According to the WWF, Thailand to the largest unregulated ivory market in the world, and tens of thousands of elephants are poached each year for their ivory. DiCaprio is involved in the WWF campaign “Hands Off My Parts” campaign, that raises awareness on the amount of animals killed for their body parts. The campaign reports the demand for ivory is high in China, and people purchase it for decoration, as well as for medical purposes. DiCaprio has been active in other campaigns as well. In 1998 the actor launched the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, which works to protect sharks, and the animals in the artic. To keep up with his latest work, go to DiCaprio’s Facebook.


Pop singer Ke$ha has also done remarkable work for animals. Later this month at The Humane Society of the United States Genesis AwardsGala, Ke$ha will be awarded the Wyler Award. This award is given to a celebrity who increases awareness of animal issues via the media. The pop icon has frequently spoken out about animal cruelty, and promotes kindness to animals. Ke$ha is also the Humane Society International’s first global ambassador for animals. Even in her early days of fame Ke$ha was involved in animal advocacy. In 2011, she teamed up with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals for their “Save the Seals” campaign. Each month the singer highlights an animal issue on her website. By taking action and being a face for animals, Ke$ha is a an important voice for the animals.

Russell Simmons 
Hip hip icon Russell Simmons is also a huge supporter of animal rights. Simmons has been vegan since 1998, and encourages others to cut meat out of their diet. The hip hop legend has done a lot of work with PETA, and the organization named him the 2011 Person of the Year. He received this award as a result of his hard work, including writing a letter to KFC’s CEO, urging him to improve conditions for the chickens. Simmons also has his own vegan clothing line, Argylecultre. Simmons also works with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, and participated in a PSA for the organization. Having Simmons be a voice for animals has helped others realize the importance of speaking up for animals and treating all animals with compassion.

Who are some of your favorite famous animal advocates? Leave a comment below!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Horse Slaughter in the US

Recently there has been a lot of talk in the media about the possibility of horse meat being sold in the food market in the United States. Earlier this week news came out that horse meat was found in beef product in Europe, and people began to panic, wondering if the same could happen in America. The New York Times reported the U.S. Department of Agriculture inspects all meat being brought into the country, and it is currently illegal to sell products containing meat from horses. Currently horses are not slaughtered for meat in the United States, but now the news is reporting a possibility of horse meat being introduced to the food market. Because many people have experienced riding and being around horses, this topic has resulted in a lot of controversy.

I do not support the slaughtering of any animal for food, horses included. It does surprise me that people can see eating a cow as ethical, while eating a horse is inhumane. Though slaughtering cows and horses are both cruel in my eyes, introducing horse meat to the food market in the United States would result in more animals being considered food, thus more animals killed each year. ABC News reports Valley Meat Company, a plant in New Mexico, is in the process of having its application for horse slaughter approved by the USDA. Most people are just now realizing Obama removed the ban for horse slaughter in the United States in 2011, making it so it is likely Valley Meat’s application will go through, and horses will be slaughtered in the country.

In a recent press release The Humane Society of the United States president and CEO Wayne Pacelle said, “Slaughtering horses for human consumption is archaic, inhumane, and unsafe, given the medicine chest of drugs often administered to horses and prohibited for human consumption.” The HSUS claims the drugs administered to hoses makes the meat unsafe to eat, and is a puts people’s health at risk. Even individuals who do not believe horse slaughter is inhumane should be concerned about the risks of the drugs administered to the horses that are in the meat.

If the Valley Meat application is approved, horse slaughter will begin to grow in popularity in the country. Even if many Americans do not purchase the meat, it will be exported to other countries. There is a lot of profit to be made in this new industry. Horses are extremely intelligent and loyal creatures, and the abuse and neglect that will occur in slaughter houses in the United States will be very tragic. Supporting groups such as The Humane Society of the United States will help prevent these slaughterhouses from opening. To get more information, read The HSUS Facts on Horse Slaughter

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Circus is in Town

Today as I am driving to work, I hear an advertisement on the radio that the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is coming to Washington D.C. in a couple weeks. The lady on the commercial sounded so excited, apparently the theme this year is dragons. To me, circuses are so obviously cruel I forget how people can actually talk about them like they are a fun and something to be enjoyed. Even as a child, I remember my mother becoming upset about the circus, and she would not let me go because she said they were inhumane. Thanks to her, and my own sense of morale, I have always boycotted circuses, and urge those around me not to attend. Unfortunately, year after year, they continue to come to town. I always feel extreme sadness about the fact people still pay to attend circuses.

The animal rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has repeatedly exposed the abuse and neglect animals in the circus endure. Although the lights and the tricks cleverly disguise what is going on, the animals performing in the circus are not actually having a good time. According to PETA, the animals are trained these tricks using cruel methods. Even though it is denied, there is evidence Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus continues to use bull hooks and other methods that cause pain to get the animals to learn tricks. Some people think animal activists are exaggerating and inflating what the animals experience, however, most accounts come from former circus employees themselves.

I have had conversations with people who still believe circus is a lot of fun, and I think this perception is a result of a lack of understanding about the needs of animals. Research on elephants show circuses are not a suitable environment for their needs, because they enjoy roaming miles each day in the wild. Other circus animals such as tigers also do not thrive in circuses because they do not meet their primal needs. A life in captivity will never fully meet the natural needs of these wild animals.

Many people are completely oblivious to the harsh living conditions animals in the circus experience. Animals in the circus live a life on the road, which means hours in train cars and chains as they are transported from city to city. No matter how much the circus claims to be fun for the animals, no living being can enjoy being trapped in a small, dark box car, sometimes forced to stand in their own waste for long periods of time. As long as the circus exists, it will be cruel. The animals will never choose to perform, so there will always be force to get them to do the tricks that are dubbed entertaining.

Why do you think so many people still go to the circus, even though there is so much documentation on the cruel conditions the animals face? What have you done to help circus animals? If the circus is coming to you soon, check out page on steps to take. 

Monday, February 18, 2013

Animals in the Entertainment Industry: No Happy Ending

When most people watch movies and television shows with animals in them, they forget to consider how the animals they see are treated in the name of entertainment. Even I am sometimes guilty of this, because when I get into a good movie, I tend to forget that the animals I see are being forced to perform. A couple months ago I went to see The Hobbit with my family. Right after I saw the movie, I discovered many animals had died from neglect during the filming of the movie. Next time I see a preview with live animals in it, I will do more research on the production of the film.

The recent death of Pat Derby, co- founder of Performing Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), reminded me how poorly the entertainment industry treats animals. Derby started out as an animal trainer, and was involved in the training of animals on the sets of the popular TV shows “Flipper” and “Lassie.” After witnessing firsthand the abuse and neglect performing animals faced, Derby left the animal entertainment industry and went on to advocate for performing animals. Derby created animal sanctuaries that offer refuge to animals that have experience abuse in the entertainment industry. She also developed a model for training elephants without bullhooks or weapons.

I think a good rule of thumb is, if an animal is not in his or her natural habitat, then there is a good chance this animal is experiencing cruelty. Dolphins for example, although they look happy and playful at the aquarium and SeaWorld, the performing industry is not a good life for them. Dolphins are extremely intelligent, and they need large amounts of space and interaction with many other dolphins to lead fulfilling life. For more information on dolphins click here.

Those who go to see animals perform do not want them to experience cruelty, in fact, a lot of people who go to see animals at SeaWorld or at the circus claim to LOVE animals. Those in charge of these productions claim that after people see an animal perform, they will gain an appreciation for the entire species. The truth is, if you really care about animals, you want what is best for them, even if that means less excitement for you.  

There are some movies that have use technology to created realistic animals. The movie Golden Compass is a good example. By supporting movies that use visual effects for creating animals, you are saving animals from being forced into the entertainment industry. So next time you think of going to the circus, find an animal sanctuary near your hometown that offers animals a more peaceful and happy life. 

Simply Vegan: Ways to Enjoy a Vegan Lifestyle

When I first decided to go vegan a few years ago, my friends and family repeatedly questioned the choice. Many were concerned for my health, and questioned how I could get by without ever eating my favorite foods again. Although I was already vegetarian, dairy and eggs were a big part of my diet, and people wondered how I could be willing to stop eating all the foods that I loved. However, after I found out about the cruelty cows and chickens faced in factory farms in order to produce milk and eggs, I knew I could never really enjoy eating animal products again. For me, going vegan felt like the right thing to do, but in the beginning it was not an easy transition. Here are some recommendations for those new to the vegan diet, or those who have struggled and are looking for some tips.

My first recommendation for those planning to go vegan is do a lot of research on what vegans should eat. I believe my lack of research is what made me an unhealthy vegan in the beginning, and it hurt my chance of convincing those around me to join the cause. I just tried to take out dairy and eggs from the foods I already ate. This lead to just plain spaghetti, lots of dull salads, and veggie burgers on the regular. I did not really enjoy this food, and those around me could tell and felt sorry for me. One of the most important things for a vegan is to enjoy the food you eat! If those around you see you enjoying your meals, and can see how healthy you are, they are more likely to want to eat vegan.

Finally, after getting unbearably bored with my bland vegan diet, I started to do research on vegan cooking. There are many cookbooks available, but I mostly used the internet. The online recipe resource Foodgawker has a vegan category with thousands of inspirational dishes. I now enjoy a wide range of delicious meals, such as curries, stir fries, hearty soups and more. I also now know more about vegan protein substitutes, such as tempeh, seitan and tofu.

Another recommendation is to stay calm and positive when people ask you about your diet. And trust me, this conversation will happen all the time, so you should be prepared to explain it well. When I first started to respond to people about my diet, I turned into a deranged preacher who started to get very emotional about the animal abuse and the injustice, to the point I just scared people away. One tip is when someone first asks you why you are vegan, before preaching, ask them how much they know about veganism. This is a good starting point for you to understand their mindset, and find out what makes sense to them. 

Remember to keep it simple. When someone asks why you are vegan, they are usually just pointing out it is not normal, not looking for a 20 minute lecture. I always say I am vegan for the animals, for the planet and for my health. And then if they seem open to it, I go into more detail about the lifestyle. Always remember to never get angry at people when talking about veganism, you cannot change everyone.