Category: People

Yet another incredible hero!

The wonderful, inspiring story of what Janey Lowes is doing for dogs in need.

Janey Lowes loving a strteet dog in Sri Lanka
Janey Lowes caring for a street dog in Sri Lanka.

More accurately what Janey Lowes and a whole team are doing for the street dogs of Sri Lanka.

Jean and I saw this story featured on the BBC News website.

The English vet saving Sri Lanka’s street dogs

22 January 2017 Last updated at 00:17 GMT

A vet has left behind her home in England to care for Sri Lanka’s street dogs.

Janey Lowes from Barnard Castle, County Durham, has spent the past two years caring for the neglected animals.

There are about three million street dogs on the island – about 60% of puppies born on the street do not survive to adulthood.

The 28-year-old set up charity WECare Worldwide to raise money to buy the equipment needed to treat the animals and to set up her own clinic in Talalla.

I am pleased that the video clip that was included in the BBC News story has found its way to YouTube.

Inevitably the charity WECare Worldwide has its own website: the home page is here. Then you can read on the charity’s ‘About’ page: (Note: CNVR is the acronym standing for catch-neuter-vaccinate-release.)

CNVR

CNVR is carried out as it is the most humane way to reduce roaming dog populations and reduce the number of unwanted puppies that are dumped on the streets at a very young age. It also allows the females that would inevitably spend their whole lives pregnant to only have to worry about number one when thinking about limited food resources and shelter options, which transforms their lives.

Vaccinating the dog population against Rabies is the most effective way to eliminate the disease in the human population. As an island nation, eradication of Rabies in the near future is a very real possibility and will change the future of both animals and humans here, allowing improved relationships between the two.

CNVR is the backbone of everything we are trying to achieve in Sri Lanka.

But that’s only one part of what they do. Again, as the website sets out:

 

We focus on 3 main areas here in Sri Lanka.

  • CNVR (catch-neuter-vaccinate-release)
  • Treatment of sick and injured animals
  • Education and training

 

I shall be making contact with the charity very soon .

Not only to pass on our respect and admiration for what she has accomplished but to see if there are other ways we can help them in what they are doing. I use the word ‘we’ to cover not only Jean and me but also all of you who are close to this blog and who, so frequently, show how much love you have for dogs!

WECare Worldwide will help by providing free veterinary treatment, alongside love, compassion and respectful care of the Ceylon dogs, who make up such a huge part of Sri Lankan heritage and culture, both in the past and the current day.

Tensions abound in many societies.

Reader alert: This has nothing to do with dogs!

Then as soon as I started to write today’s post (as of yesterday afternoon) I realised the error in my sub-title. For one might argue that this does have a connection with how our dogs behave as a cohesive group. But I’m going to be ‘an arse’ (‘ass’ in American speak) and ask you to hold out until the end of today’s post to read the ‘doggie’ connection. (Note that today’s post is Part One. Part Two continues tomorrow.)

american-gridlock_0I am in the middle of reading American Gridlock written by H. Woody Brock and published in 2012. Here’s an extract of what the book is about, courtesy of Amazon:

A sensible solution to getting our economy back on track

Pessimism is ubiquitous throughout the Western World as the pressing issues of massive debt, high unemployment, and anemic economic growth divide the populace into warring political camps. Right-and Left-wing ideologues talk past each other, with neither side admitting the other has any good ideas. In American Gridlock, leading economist and political theorist H. Woody Brock bridges the Left/Right divide, illuminating a clear path out of our economic quagmire.

Arguing from first principles and with rigorous logic, Brock demonstrates that the choice before us is not between free market capitalism and a government-driven economy. Rather, the solution to our problems will require enactment of constructive policies that allow “true” capitalism to flourish even as they incorporate social policies that help those who truly need it.

Brock demonstrates how deductive logic (as opposed to ideologically driven data analysis) can transform the way we think about these problems and lead us to new and different solutions that cross the ideological divide. Drawing on new theories such as game theory and the economics of uncertainty that are based upon deductive logic, Brock reveals fresh ideas for tackling issues central to the 2012 U.S, Presidential election and to the nation’s long-run future:

It greatly influenced me and I sat down and wrote an essay. Mainly to clarify my own thinking ahead of a meeting last Saturday of our local Freethinkers Group where the topic was “Ideas for Improving our Democratic Processes”. The “our” being the US democratic process but just as valid for many other countries.

I first set out to see if there was a clear, unambiguous definition of what a democratic society is. Surprise, surprise there isn’t one. Very quickly I came up with three:

The first:

A democracy by definition is government through elected representatives. It is a form of society which favours equal rights, freedom of speech and a fair trial and tolerates the views of minorities. Civics and Citizenship website

The second:

A DEMOCRACY IS a society in which all adults have easily accessible, meaningful, and effective ways:

(a) to participate in the decision-making processes of every organization that makes decisions or takes actions that affect them, and;

(b) to hold other individuals, and those in these organizations who are responsible for making decisions and taking actions, fully accountable if their decisions or actions violate fundamental human rights, or are dishonest, unethical, unfair, secretive, inefficient, unrepresentative, unresponsive or irresponsible;

(c) so that all organizations in the society are citizen-owned, citizen-controlled, and citizen-driven, and all individuals and organizations are held accountable for wrongdoing. Democracy Watch website

And the third:

Better democracy, everywhere.

The Democratic Society (Demsoc) works for more and better democracy, where people and institutions have the desire, opportunity and confidence to participate together.

We work to create opportunities for people to become involved in the decisions that affect their lives and for them to have the skills to do this effectively. We support governments, parliaments and any organisation that wants to involve citizens in decision making to be transparent, open and welcoming of participation. We actively support spaces, places and processes to make this happen. Democratic Society website.

I went on to say in my essay:

Yes, there is some harmony between all three definitions but there are also significant differences in tone and language.

I am sure many of you are familiar with the book by H. Woody Brock American Gridlock. I started reading it a few days ago and cannot now put it down.

For the core message of the book is that we, as in society, must distinguish between inductive and deductive reasoning. Let me use the definitions as found on the Live Science website.

Deductive reasoning

Deductive reasoning is a basic form of valid reasoning. Deductive reasoning, or deduction, starts out with a general statement, or hypothesis, and examines the possibilities to reach a specific, logical conclusion, according to the University of California. The scientific method uses deduction to test hypotheses and theories. “In deductive inference, we hold a theory and based on it we make a prediction of its consequences. That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct. We go from the general — the theory — to the specific — the observations,” said Dr. Sylvia Wassertheil-Smoller, a researcher and professor emerita at Albert Einstein College of Medicine.

In deductive reasoning, if something is true of a class of things in general, it is also true for all members of that class. For example, “All men are mortal. Harold is a man. Therefore, Harold is mortal.” For deductive reasoning to be sound, the hypothesis must be correct. It is assumed that the premises, “All men are mortal” and “Harold is a man” are true. Therefore, the conclusion is logical and true.

That is, we predict what the observations should be if the theory were correct.

Let that really work it’s way through your consciousness. It’s an idea that is rooted in the great scientists and philosophers of many thousands of years ago. Think of Euclid, the Greek Socratic philosopher who founded the Megarian school of philosophy. He was a pupil of Socrates in the late 5th century BCE, and was present at his death. (I cheated and looked it up.)

It was Euclid who through Euclidian geometry came to understand the principles of angles and straight lines; as in the shortest distance between two points.

Moving on:

Inductive reasoning

Inductive reasoning is the opposite of deductive reasoning. Inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations. “In inductive inference, we go from the specific to the general. We make many observations, discern a pattern, make a generalization, and infer an explanation or a theory,” Wassertheil-Smoller told Live Science. “In science there is a constant interplay between inductive inference (based on observations) and deductive inference (based on theory), until we get closer and closer to the ‘truth,’ which we can only approach but not ascertain with complete certainty.”

Even if all of the premises are true in a statement, inductive reasoning allows for the conclusion to be false. Here’s an example: “Harold is a grandfather. Harold is bald. Therefore, all grandfathers are bald.” The conclusion does not follow logically from the statements.

Inductive reasoning has its place in the scientific method. Scientists use it to form hypotheses and theories. Deductive reasoning allows them to apply the theories to specific situations.

Now for some of you this side trip into reasoning may have seen more like a complete departure. But the point is that, as American Gridlock makes so powerfully: There are two main problems to be solved if this nation is to get back on track. First, win-win policy solutions must be identified for the five real-world problems addressed in Chapters 2 through 6. Second, the Dialogue of the Deaf must come to an end, policy gridlock with it, and these solutions must be implemented. (Pages 7-8)

I closed my essay by setting out the following proposition:

Until we have a clear, universally acknowledged definition of what a democratic society is then it is impossible and utterly futile to debate the various processes including what is the best process for American society.

Is this relevant to the world outside the USA? You bet it is. For better or for worse, what the USA does today the rest of the world does soon thereafter.

And as you will see in Part Two that comes tomorrow democratising the economy is key.

For when we look at the way that dogs, and wolves, operate as a pack in the wild there are only three animals with status:

  • The alpha female who has first choice of the male dogs for mating purposes and makes the decision, as and when necessary, to move her pack to a new territory,
  • The beta dog, always a male, whose role is to keep the pack running smoothly as a cohesive group and not letting squabbles get out of hand, and,
  • The omega dog, that can be of either gender, whose role is to keep the pack happy.

All the other animals in the pack of around fifty are of equal status and work for the benefit of the pack. Now that is something we should learn from dogs!

When tensions rise.

For both humans and, in consequence, for those dogs close to us.

Effectively, the whole of the New Year has been a tad challenging here in Merlin, OR. For even before the snows arrived early on in January, leading to power outages and frozen pipes, the local weather service was warning of unusually severe storms. Indeed, more than once we have heard locals speaking of this looking like a one-hundred-year-storm.

So it was inevitable that there were some anxious periods. Plus the challenging weather may not be not fully behind us. For this is the current (Sunday 18:00 PST) weather warning:

HYDROLOGIC OUTLOOK
NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MEDFORD, OR
134 PM PST SUN JAN 15 2017

…Flood Potential Outlook for main stem river flooding, snow melt flooding, and quick rises on rivers and streams in the following counties…in California…Siskiyou…and in Oregon…Coos… Curry…Douglas…Jackson…Josephine…

A strong atmospheric river event is expected to arrive in Southern Oregon and Northern California by Wednesday. While models have trended towards a faster progression of the front, and therefore lesser rainfall amounts, this event may still produce high snow levels, periods of heavy rain, and significant melting of lower level snow-pack Wednesday and into Thursday. With the extensive snow-pack, saturated soils and high river levels, there is a potential for flooding and rapid rises along main stem rivers and small creeks and streams. Urban areas may also experience high water from blocked culverts and runoff.

Continue to monitor forecasts for any updates as this potentially hazardous situation develops.

Anyone who has a dog (or several) in their lives will know how our anxiety is so quickly picked up by our dogs. Ergo, looking after our dogs, as in keeping them relaxed, is really important.

Now read this article that was published over on the Care2 site. I am republishing here for all you good people.

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Eight Natural Remedies for Dog Anxiety

1279022-largeA Care2 favorite by Becky Striepe    About Becky

The rights and wrongs of hunting!

The philosophy of hunting in terms of it being ‘right’ or ‘wrong’.

Anyone who comes here for more than a couple of visits will know that both Jean and I are opposed to hunting completely. Period!

That’s not surprising as there have been a number of posts over the years describing how we feed the wild deer. Here’s three more photographs that haven’t previously been shared with you.

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p1150179But, of course, the opinions of Jean and me are not, and should not be, the rule for the wider population of this part of Oregon.

All I would ask is that there is a proper, mature discussion as to the pros and cons of hunting wild animals in this, the twenty-first century.

All of which leads me to a recent essay posted on The Conversation site and republished here within the terms of that site.

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Is hunting moral? A philosopher unpacks the question

January 4, 2017 8.37pm EST

by
Three generations of a Wisconsin family with a nine-point buck. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr, CC BY-ND
Three generations of a Wisconsin family with a nine-point buck. Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources/Flickr, CC BY-ND

Every year as daylight dwindles and trees go bare, debates arise over the morality of hunting. Hunters see the act of stalking and killing deer, ducks, moose and other quarry as humane, necessary and natural, and thus as ethical. Critics respond that hunting is a cruel and useless act that one should be ashamed to carry out.

As a nonhunter, I cannot say anything about what it feels like to shoot or trap an animal. But as a student of philosophy and ethics, I think philosophy can help us clarify, systematize and evaluate the arguments on both sides. And a better sense of the arguments can help us talk to people with whom we disagree.

Three rationales for hunting

One central question is why people choose to hunt. Environmental philosopher Gary Varner identifies three types of hunting: therapeutic, subsistence and sport. Each type is distinguished by the purpose it is meant to serve.

Therapeutic hunting involves intentionally killing wild animals in order to conserve another species or an entire ecosystem. In one example, Project Isabella, conservation groups hired marksmen to eradicate thousands of feral goats from several Galapagos islands between 1997 and 2006. The goats were overgrazing the islands, threatening the survival of endangered Galapagos tortoises and other species.

Subsistence hunting is intentionally killing wild animals to supply nourishment and material resources for humans. Agreements that allow Native American tribes to hunt whales are justified, in part, by the subsistence value the animals have for the people who hunt them.

 Crawford Patkotak, center, leads a prayer after his crew landed a bowhead whale near Barrow, Alaska. Both revered and hunted by the Inupiat, the bowhead whale serves a symbol of tradition, as well as a staple of food. AP Photo/Gregory Bull
Crawford Patkotak, center, leads a prayer after his crew landed a bowhead whale near Barrow, Alaska. Both revered and hunted by the Inupiat, the bowhead whale serves a symbol of tradition, as well as a staple of food. AP Photo/Gregory Bull

In contrast, sport hunting refers to intentionally killing wild animals for enjoyment or fulfillment. Hunters who go after deer because they find the experience exhilarating, or because they want antlers to mount on the wall, are sport hunters.

These categories are not mutually exclusive. A hunter who stalks deer because he or she enjoys the experience and wants decorative antlers may also intend to consume the meat, make pants from the hide and help control local deer populations. The distinctions matter because objections to hunting can change depending on the type of hunting.

What bothers people about hunting: Harm, necessity and character

Critics often argue that hunting is immoral because it requires intentionally inflicting harm on innocent creatures. Even people who are not comfortable extending legal rights to beasts should acknowledge that many animals are sentient – that is, they have the capacity to suffer. If it is wrong to inflict unwanted pain and death on a sentient being, then it is wrong to hunt. I call this position “the objection from harm.”

If sound, the objection from harm would require advocates to oppose all three types of hunting, unless it can be shown that greater harm will befall the animal in question if it is not hunted – for example, if it will be doomed to slow winter starvation. Whether a hunter’s goal is a healthy ecosystem, a nutritious dinner or a personally fulfilling experience, the hunted animal experiences the same harm.

But if inflicting unwanted harm is necessarily wrong, then the source of the harm is irrelevant. Logically, anyone who commits to this position should also oppose predation among animals. When a lion kills a gazelle, it causes as much unwanted harm to the gazelle as any hunter would – far more, in fact.

 Lions attack a water buffalo in Tanzania. Oliver Dodd/Wikipedia, CC BY
Lions attack a water buffalo in Tanzania. Oliver Dodd/Wikipedia, CC BY

Few people are willing to go this far. Instead, many critics propose what I call the “objection from unnecessary harm”: it is bad when a hunter shoots a lion, but not when a lion mauls a gazelle, because the lion needs to kill to survive.

Today it is hard to argue that human hunting is strictly necessary in the same way that hunting is necessary for animals. The objection from necessary harm holds that hunting is morally permissible only if it is necessary for the hunter’s survival. “Necessary” could refer to nutritional or ecological need, which would provide moral cover for subsistence and therapeutic hunting. But sport hunting, almost by definition, cannot be defended this way.

Sport hunting also is vulnerable to another critique that I call “the objection from character.” This argument holds that an act is contemptible not only because of the harm it produces, but because of what it reveals about the actor. Many observers find the derivation of pleasure from hunting to be morally repugnant.

In 2015, American dentist Walter Palmer found this out after his African trophy hunt resulted in the death of Cecil the lion. Killing Cecil did no significant ecological damage, and even without human intervention, only one in eight male lions survives to adulthood. It would seem that disgust with Palmer was at least as much a reaction to the person he was perceived to be – someone who pays money to kill majestic creatures – as to the harm he had done.

The hunters I know don’t put much stock in “the objection from character.” First, they point out that one can kill without having hunted and hunt without having killed. Indeed, some unlucky hunters go season after season without taking an animal. Second, they tell me that when a kill does occur, they feel a somber union with and respect for the natural world, not pleasure. Nonetheless, on some level the sport hunter enjoys the experience, and this is the heart of the objection.

Is hunting natural?

In discussions about the morality of hunting, someone inevitably asserts that hunting is a natural activity since all preindustrial human societies engage in it to some degree, and therefore hunting can’t be immoral. But the concept of naturalness is unhelpful and ultimately irrelevant.

A very old moral idea, dating back to the Stoics of ancient Greece, urges us to strive to live in accordance with nature and do that which is natural. Belief in a connection between goodness and naturalness persists today in our use of the word “natural” to market products and lifestyles – often in highly misleading ways. Things that are natural are supposed to be good for us, but also morally good.

Setting aside the challenge of defining “nature” and “natural,” it is dangerous to assume that a thing is virtuous or morally permissible just because it is natural. HIV, earthquakes, Alzheimer’s disease and post-partum depression are all natural. And as The Onion has satirically noted, behaviors including rape, infanticide and the policy of might-makes-right are all present in the natural world.

Head-Smashed-In Buffalo Jump, a UNESCO World Heritage Site in Alberta, Canada, commemorates a place where indigenous peoples of the North American Plains killed buffalo for more than 6,000 years by driving them over a cliff.

Hard conversations

There are many other moral questions associated with hunting. Does it matter whether hunters use bullets, arrows or snares? Is preserving a cultural tradition enough to justify hunting? And is it possible to oppose hunting while still eating farm-raised meat?

As a starting point, though, if you find yourself having one of these debates, first identify what kind of hunting you’re discussing. If your interlocutor objects to hunting, try to discover the basis for their objection. And I believe you should keep nature out of it.

Finally, try to argue with someone who takes a fundamentally different view. Confirmation bias – the unintentional act of confirming the beliefs we already have – is hard to overcome. The only antidote I know of is rational discourse with people whose confirmation bias runs contrary to my own.

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This is a very important essay from Joshua. Well done, that man!

I will just leave you all with this further image.

Two young stags keeping it together. (xxx)
Two young stags keeping it together. (Taken here at home in July, 2016.)

Best wishes to each of you; irrespective of your view on hunting!

Dogs, Goodness and People.

This makes my heart sing!

We woke yesterday on the first day of the New Year to a classic Winter’s scene: Snow!

Ben and Ranger enjoying a winter's breakfast.
Ben and Ranger enjoying a winter’s breakfast.

Not long after we were washed and dressed I let the dogs out. Typically, while all of them were quick to return to the warmth of the house, Brandy went off on one of his ‘walkabouts’. It was probably the first time he had seen snow.

Twenty minutes later, I started walking down our driveway (just visible in the photograph above running alongside the far tree line) because I knew that Brandy had walked down to the (closed) front gate to check everything out.

I saw Brandy coming back up the driveway and called to him. He looked up, wagged his tail, and I then crouched down holding my arms apart. Brandy started a wonderful, bouncy run that continued until he came right up to me and he then buried his wonderful, furry head between my thighs.

We walked together back to the house and went inside. As we walked together I was aware of a feeling of joyous happiness, a magic that was flowing from the way that Brandy chose to relate to me.

It really did make my heart sing and as I write these words some three hours later I hope you can pick up the gift of goodness that dogs, and so many other animals, offer us humans.

Plus, it couldn’t make a better introduction to a story that was published on the Care2 site on December 31st.

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Meet the Arizona Deputy Who Saved a Dog’s Life – Twice!

3197435-largeBy: Laura Goldman  December 31, 2016

 About Laura

On his way to a call Dec. 17, Deputy Brian Bowling came across a dog stumbling down the middle of an Arizona road.

The pit bull mix named Ginger had been shot in the head by a neighbor who said he felt threatened after the dog dug a hole under her backyard’s fence and wandered into his yard.

Ginger was alive, but not for long.

“She was bleeding profusely from her head and neck,” Bowling told ABC15. In addition to being a deputy with the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office, Bowling also happens to be a trained paramedic and a veteran who served in Afghanistan. He knew he had to act quickly.

“I had a little flashback, because we had seen military working dogs over there who were blown up by IEDs and shot, and that’s what went through my head,” he told ABC15. “I thought I had to do anything to save its life.”

When he approached Ginger to move her out of traffic, Bowling wasn’t sure how the injured dog would react. “But instead of running away from me or trying to bite me, she ran right up to me and started wagging her tail,” he told FOX 10. She then tried to climb up into the driver’s seat of his patrol car.

Bowling applied combat gauze to her wound, helping to stop the bleeding, and rushed her to a local emergency animal hospital.

His quick actions saved Ginger’s life. She was also fortunate that the bullet bounced off her skull instead of penetrating it.

deputy_brian_bowling_saved_pit_bull_twice
Ginger and her hero, Deputy Brian Bowling. Photo credit: YouTube

Foster Mom Couldn’t Afford the Surgery

But Ginger’s luck seemed to be running out. When her foster mom, Hailey Miller, was told Ginger still needed surgery that would cost thousands of dollars, she made the difficult decision to have the dog euthanized. “If I had [the money], I wouldn’t even hesitate,” she told ABC 15.

Just as Bowling had saved Ginger from dying in the middle of the road, he decided he would save her from being put down.

“It just didn’t seem right for a dog that survived so much to die because the owner didn’t have the money to pay for it,” he told ABC15. He paid for her surgery himself, putting it on his credit card.

Miller, who runs the Miller Mutt Motel & Sanctuary pet rescue, was overwhelmed by the deputy’s generosity.

“If this man has this kind of empathy and love for a dog, imagine what he has for people and the rest of the world,” she told ABC 15. “There is such a lesson that can be learned from him.”

Ginger is recovering, Miller wrote on Facebook. She’s now able to walk and eat, and is “so sweet as usual.”

To reimburse Bowling, Miller has launched a GoFundMe campaign that has raised over $6,000.

“It is my Christmas wish that with the help of all animal lovers around the world, I can pay this deputy back,” Miller wrote. “Any remaining funds will go toward law enforcement charities, animal rescues and future rescue dogs that are always coming through my rotating door. Of course the officer will be involved in choosing these charities!”

With so many heartbreaking reports about police officers shooting pet dogs, it’s heartening to know there are compassionate law enforcement officers like Bowling out there who truly do care about animals.

Photo credit: YouTube

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Deputy Brian Bowling, I, and many, many others, salute you for the goodness you have in your heart.

Let 2017 be the year that promotes the goodness in people.

Resolutions

In twenty-four hours time it will be January 1st, 2017.

I saw the following recently on the Care2 website and thought that at many levels it would make a wonderful closing post for 2016.

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Seven New Year’s Resolutions to Protect Animals in 2017

3197109-largeBy: s.e. smith December 29, 2016

We’re about to turn over a new leaf on a new year — something I think we’re all pretty excited about — and it’s a good time to sit back, take stock, and think about what we want to do for ourselves, and the world, in 2017.

New year’s resolutions don’t have to be big and fancy, and sometimes they work best when they’re small and manageable, so I rounded up seven totally free ways you can help animals next year, from something you can do weekly (like writing letters) to bigger projects (like fostering animals).

1) Keep an eagle eye on upcoming animal-related legislation.

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Photo credit: Anthony

Chances are that there’s some animal-related regulation coming your way in 2017 on the local, state and even federal level. This includes laws and ordinances as well as rules, regulations and executive orders. You can make a big difference by weighing in on these issues — sometimes, surprisingly few members of the public comment!

You can take advantage of resources for animal welfare groups and sites like Care2 to keep track of big upcoming government actions. You may want to call or write to support legislation, to ask that it be more robust, or to oppose it, depending on the contents. For legislation, you need to contact your elected official to explain how you feel and provide a concrete action to take, like “Please cosponsor this bill” or “please vote against this bill.” Rules and regulations are opened to public comment by the agencies making them, allowing you to speak at public meetings or submit written comments.

The Federal Register is a great place to search for upcoming regulations — it’s a little bit intimidating at first, but don’t let that put you off!

2) Don’t be sheepish — speak up about nonlethal solutions to predators and pests.

Photo credit: Lennart Tange
Photo credit: Lennart Tange

No matter where you live, there’s probably a battle brewing over feral cats, mountain lions, raccoons, coyotes, skunks, alligators, or someone else from the non-human world who’s getting squeezed by human incursion into its habitat. Historically, many areas have favored a lethal response to animals deemed “pests.” You can change that — and you already are, across the country. When you see animals on the agenda, speak up to request investigation into a nonlethal solution to a problem.

For example, maybe a feral cat colony is causing controversy in the community. You can talk about how responsible colony management should control numbers and limit annoying smells. You could also discuss how research shows that TNR can be more effective at long-term colony management than just trapping and removing cats — in Florida, they found that doing this just allowed other predators to move in, creating an even bigger headache!

Come backed with research and evidence, rather than emotion. You can look to advocacy groups for their data, but also explore scientific papers, and see how other municipalities are dealing with the same problem, because they may have tips to share.

3) Lend a paw at a local animal welfare organizations.

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Photo credit: Chris Perriman

Animal welfare groups can always use volunteer help. At the shelter, they don’t just need a hand with cuddling cats, walking dogs, and handling other species. They need all kinds of help, from more boring stuff like cleaning and filing to web design, social media management, legal counseling, accounting, event planning, and much more. Even something as simple as taking your camera (or your photography class) to the shelter once a week to photograph everyone who’s looking for a home can make a huge difference. It turns out that great shelter photos save lives!

Advocacy groups that don’t run shelters or don’t have one in your area also need help. Lots of mundane office stuff is time consuming, and volunteers can make it go more smoothly, whether you’re stuffing envelopes or answering phones. If you have special training or skills, offer those too, especially if you’re willing to get into a long-term relationship with the group. Pro-bono legal services, for example, are incredibly valuable. Your graphic design skills could help them relaunch an impressive, gorgeous website. You get the idea!

4) Don’t duck the issues — teach youth about animal welfare issues.

Photo credit: Danny Chapman
Photo credit: Danny Chapman

Many kids love animals, and the best time to hit people with humane messages is when they’re young. Some organizations actually offer humane educator training to help people learn about how to communicate with children about animal welfare issues. Humane educators can lead classes and mentor kids in the community, whether they’re taking people on bird walks and teaching them about ecology or working with kids who are learning to ride horses to teach them how to handle their mounts respectfully and kindly.

If you already are an educator, consider working humane topics into your curriculum. If you’re not, look into what might be required to teach classes at a community center, mentor students in programs like 4-H and FFA, lead educational sessions at a local museum (another great volunteer opportunity!), or come into classrooms with presentations. You may need some training and a background check to work with youth, but once you’re squared away, you can establish lasting relationships with teachers and schools to introduce humane coursework to the classroom and beyond.

5) You’ve goat mail — or at least, someone will after you write a letter on behalf of animals!

Photo credit: Holly Occhipinti
Photo credit: Holly Occhipinti

Once a week — or every two weeks, or once a month — resolve to sit down and write a letter. It doesn’t have to be an epic, and you can establish a template, but pick a specific person to target, and go to town. Maybe you want to write a letter-to-the-editor once a month about an animal issue in your community that you’re concerned about. Perhaps you want to write a letter to a corporation to ask them to stop, or start, a practice related to animals — like dropping animal testing, or introducing tougher humane standards to the supply chain.

Keep your letter concise, polite and actionable. Explain why you’re writing, the basis for your concern, the solution you’re recommending and why. You can appeal to issues like cost efficiency, making your town more attractive for visitors, compassion for animals (that’s why we’re here, after all!), falling in line with industry-wide practices, setting an example for others, or any number of other things. Present a clear case for what you’re arguing so that the person reading your letter is moved to act, and has something to bring to other people while trying to convince them to get involved.

6) Be a mother hen — foster somebody in need.

Photo credit: normanack
Photo credit: normanack

If you can’t adopt more animals or don’t have room for a full-time friend in your life, consider fostering. Fostering saves lives, getting animals who can’t handle shelter stress or who need a little extra care to a safe place where they can unwind and grow into themselves. Some shelters have foster programs, and many animal welfare groups do — some run almost entirely on fosters, in fact!

Generally, participants in a foster program are provided with food, medication and veterinary expenses to keep things low-key for you. If you have a spare room, fostering can be a great fit for your life, although watch out for foster fail! (When that kitten you swore you were just fostering is still lying on the living room rug ten years later, you are definitely a victim of foster fail.)

When fostering, be honest about what you can and cannot take on: For example, if you have a barn, you might be able to handle horses and sheep, but not notoriously mischievous and curious goats. You might not be able to take a kitten who needs constant feeding, or a dog that has aggression issues.

That said, if you can stretch your comfort zone, do. Some animals need a little extra care because they’ve had a hard life. That makes them vulnerable to euthanasia, and a foster can make all the difference. Things like giving animals fluids or medications, managing diapers, or handling other vet stuff might sound scary, but it’s pretty easy to get the hang of it.

7) Don’t have a cow — on your plate or anywhere else.

Photo credit: Nicolas Vigier
Photo credit: Nicolas Vigier

We saved the easiest for last, because chances are that you’re already well on your way with this one. When it comes to what you eat, consider cutting animal products — or at least meat — out of your life. You’ll save a ton of suffering, and also, a ton of money, if you’re trying to cut back in 2017.

If you can’t cut animal products out entirely, consider moderating: Meatless Mondays are popular, for example! Something else that really works for me is a soup exchange — a group of us make huge batches of vegan soup and share them out once a month, so there’s always a go-to vegan meal hanging out in my fridge or freezer when I need it!

While you’re at it, think about what you wear and use, too. Leather is an obvious source of animal suffering, but some people also like to avoid fibers like wool and cashmere (cashmere also comes with a big environmental price tag). You’d also be surprised by where animal products sneak in, from bodycare products to that goop you waterproof your shoes with. (No really. Go look.)

And, of course, cutting animal testing out of your life is valuable too. Growing numbers of cosmetics are produced without the use of animal testing, though it’s always a good idea to independently verify to see if a company is skirting labeling conventions. For example, some companies say “made without animal testing” because they don’t test ingredients on animals, but third party contractors do. Ugh!

If you take medication, you’re caught in the animal testing trap — but it’s worth writing the manufacturer, as well as the FDA, which governs drug testing, to push for alternatives to animal testing so that you have cruelty free options for your health care needs.

You can also make your preference for cruelty free medical supplies clear to your health care providers as well, as they may be able to recommend alternatives if they’re aware that this is a concern for you. (For example, some sutures are made from animal products, which is weird and creepy, and pig valves are used in some valve replacement surgeries. Gross, right?)

Photo credit: Tracy

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All that is required from me is to hope that every one of you has a peaceful and healthy New Year.

If there’s any doubt ….

…. there’s no doubt!

My title and sub-title comes from commercial aviation. It’s one aspect of the safety culture that safely the millions of passengers who embark on a commercial flight each year. (IATA estimate that it will be 3.6 billion in 2016.) In other words, if the flight crew have even an inkling of an issue with the aircraft while in flight they will make an immediate decision to land.

Why I chose this title will become clearer as you read on.

The end of the Second World War so far as Europe was concerned came on May 8th, 1945. In other words: VE Day. London was not a pretty sight in 1945.

Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London.
Toni Frissell’s famous image of an abandoned boy clutching a stuffed animal in the rubble of 1945 London. (Image taken from this website page.)

What’s the relevance of May 8th, 1945 to me? Well exactly six months, to the day, before VE Day yours truly was born in Acton which was just six miles West of Marble Arch in the centre of London.

It has been a family legend that when VE Day was announced my mother looked at her six-month-old baby son and announced that he was going to live! For those first six months of my life in London were very dangerous. From that same website page where that photograph above came from one can read (my emphasis):

Nazi Germany continued to bomb London up until 1945 using a variety of delivery methods including V-1 and V-2 rockets. In total 1,115 V-2s were fired at the United Kingdom. The vast majority of them were aimed at London, though about 40 targeted (and missed) Norwich. They killed an estimated 2,754 people in London with another 6,523 injured.

I have very clear mental images of playing in and around bomb sites near our home right up to 1953 when there was a real push to clear the sites away ahead of the Queen’s Coronation on June 2nd, 1953.

German V-2 bomb damage on Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home
German V-2 bomb damage on houses in Uppingham Avenue, Stanmore, just a few miles from home. The bomb exploded on March 16th, 1945.

So what’s this all about and why do I see it as relevant to today’s world? Stay with me for a little longer.

Yesterday, Patrice Ayme left a comment to my Private Power post. He opened that comment by saying:

With all due respect, and abundant apologies for the daring image, we can’t write exclusively about dogs, lest we want to finish as dog food. As Paul is suggesting. Indeed I view seriousness in global inquiry as a basic moral duty.

Imagine Jews worrying just about dogs, while Auschwitz was being built; it’s arguably what happened, said Hannah Arendt (I’m paraphrasing; she was hated for it, though…) Some will scoff, but Kim in Korea is building one new H bomb every 5 weeks… One single H bomb, in the ‘right’ place, can kill more than Auschwitz.

On December 27th, Patrice published a post under the title of Isaac Asimov’s Foundation Trilogy. It started:

In the Real World, Foundations Saved Civilization Before:

The combination of imperial collapse followed by re-birth from Foundations within happened several times already, for real.

Civilizations collapsing into Dark Ages from the actions of dozens of millions of people occurred more than once. And then very small groups arose, often within the collapsing empire, and imposed new ways of thinking which enabled civilization to restart.

After I read his post I left a question as a comment: “Are you saying that our present civilization is on the point of collapse?”

Patrice replied:

Well, we are certainly tottering at the edge:
http://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/world-war-three-by-mistake
Playing Russian roulette works only that long. Unfortunately demoncrats did not care.

I then went across to that article carried by The New Yorker. It was an article written by Eric Schlosser, author of the book Command and Control: Nuclear Weapons, the Damascus Accident, and the Illusion of Safety and a producer of the documentary Command and Control from 2016.

It’s a long article but an extremely important read. Here are some of the key extracts:

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World War Three, by Mistake

Harsh political rhetoric, combined with the vulnerability of the nuclear command-and-control system, has made the risk of global catastrophe greater than ever.

 A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY
A dilemma has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one? PHOTOGRAPH BY ANDY CROSS / THE DENVER POST VIA GETTY

On June 3, 1980, at about two-thirty in the morning, computers at the National Military Command Center, beneath the Pentagon, at the headquarters of the North American Air Defense Command (NORAD), deep within Cheyenne Mountain, Colorado, and at Site R, the Pentagon’s alternate command post center hidden inside Raven Rock Mountain, Pennsylvania, issued an urgent warning: the Soviet Union had just launched a nuclear attack on the United States. The Soviets had recently invaded Afghanistan, and the animosity between the two superpowers was greater than at any other time since the Cuban Missile Crisis.

U.S. Air Force ballistic-missile crews removed their launch keys from the safes, bomber crews ran to their planes, fighter planes took off to search the skies, and the Federal Aviation Administration prepared to order every airborne commercial airliner to land.

President Jimmy Carter’s national-security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski, was asleep in Washington, D.C., when the phone rang. His military aide, General William Odom, was calling to inform him that two hundred and twenty missiles launched from Soviet submarines were heading toward the United States. Brzezinski told Odom to get confirmation of the attack. A retaliatory strike would have to be ordered quickly; Washington might be destroyed within minutes. Odom called back and offered a correction: twenty-two hundred Soviet missiles had been launched.

Brzezinski decided not to wake up his wife, preferring that she die in her sleep. As he prepared to call Carter and recommend an American counterattack, the phone rang for a third time. Odom apologized—it was a false alarm. An investigation later found that a defective computer chip in a communications device at NORAD headquarters had generated the erroneous warning. The chip cost forty-six cents.

[Two paragraphs later]

My book “Command and Control” explores how the systems devised to govern the use of nuclear weapons, like all complex technological systems, are inherently flawed. They are designed, built, installed, maintained, and operated by human beings. But the failure of a nuclear command-and-control system can have consequences far more serious than the crash of an online dating site from too much traffic or flight delays caused by a software glitch. Millions of people, perhaps hundreds of millions, could be annihilated inadvertently. “Command and Control” focusses on near-catastrophic errors and accidents in the arms race between the United States and the Soviet Union that ended in 1991. The danger never went away. Today, the odds of a nuclear war being started by mistake are low—and yet the risk is growing, as the United States and Russia drift toward a new cold war. The other day, Senator John McCain called Vladimir Putin, the President of the Russian Federation, “a thug, a bully, and a murderer,” adding that anyone who “describes him as anything else is lying.” Other members of Congress have attacked Putin for trying to influence the Presidential election.  On Thursday, Putin warned that Russia would “strengthen the military potential of strategic nuclear forces,” and President-elect Donald Trump has responded with a vow to expand America’s nuclear arsenal.  “Let it be an arms race,” Trump told one of the co-hosts of MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”

The harsh rhetoric on both sides increases the danger of miscalculations and mistakes, as do other factors. Close encounters between the military aircraft of the United States and Russia have become routine, creating the potential for an unintended conflict. Many of the nuclear-weapon systems on both sides are aging and obsolete. The personnel who operate those systems often suffer from poor morale and poor training. None of their senior officers has firsthand experience making decisions during an actual nuclear crisis. And today’s command-and-control systems must contend with threats that barely existed during the Cold War: malware, spyware, worms, bugs, viruses, corrupted firmware, logic bombs, Trojan horses, and all the other modern tools of cyber warfare. The greatest danger is posed not by any technological innovation but by a dilemma that has haunted nuclear strategy since the first detonation of an atomic bomb: How do you prevent a nuclear attack while preserving the ability to launch one?

[Going to the closing paragraph]

Every technology embodies the values of the age in which it was created. When the atomic bomb was being developed in the mid-nineteen-forties, the destruction of cities and the deliberate targeting of civilians was just another military tactic. It was championed as a means to victory. The Geneva Conventions later classified those practices as war crimes—and yet nuclear weapons have no other real use. They threaten and endanger noncombatants for the sake of deterrence. Conventional weapons can now be employed to destroy every kind of military target, and twenty-first-century warfare puts an emphasis on precision strikes, cyberweapons, and minimizing civilian casualties. As a technology, nuclear weapons have become obsolete. What worries me most isn’t the possibility of a cyberattack, a technical glitch, or a misunderstanding starting a nuclear war sometime next week. My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world. These machines have been carefully and ingeniously designed to kill us. Complacency increases the odds that, some day, they will. The “Titanic Effect” is a term used by software designers to explain how things can quietly go wrong in a complex technological system: the safer you assume the system to be, the more dangerous it is becoming.

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My greatest concern is the lack of public awareness about this existential threat, the absence of a vigorous public debate about the nuclear-war plans of Russia and the United States, the silent consent to the roughly fifteen thousand nuclear weapons in the world.

Is there a dog angle to all of this? You bet! For dogs as well as people are all innocents caught up in the madness of war.

nd sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944
A policeman offering sympathy to a now homeless man, who returned home from walking his dog to find his house destroyed and wife killed by a V1 flying bomb. London 1944. (The dog is just below the Policeman’s left shin.)

Now do you see why I entitled today’s post If there’s any doubt. there’s no doubt.

For if we were the flightcrew of the good ship Earth we would be urgently looking for a diversion airfield upon which to land; and land now!

Wherever you are in the world, whatever you are doing, if you share the concern expressed so clearly by Patrice don’t do nothing. Even if all you do is to send a message on one of the social media apps that’s far better than doing nothing. All that evil requires to succeed is for good people to do nothing!

For I haven’t a clue as to when and how my life will come to an end but, as sure as hell, I would prefer that it isn’t six months to the day after the start of World War III.

Especially if that war came about as a mistake!

Private power.

The power of corporations must never be permitted to override democratic choice.

The main thrust in yesterday’s post was a plea by , Lecturer on Anthropology, University of Colorado, Denver for our natural lands to be given the legal status of a person. Here’s how Prof. Colwell concluded his essay (my emphasis):

In New Zealand, the Te Urewera Act offers a higher level of protection, empowering a board to be the land’s guardian. The Te Urewera Act, though, does not remove its connection to humans. With a permit, people can hunt, fish, farm and more. The public still has access to the forest. One section of the law even allows Te Urewera to be mined.

Te Urewera teaches us that acknowledging cultural views of places as living does not mean ending the relationship between humans and nature, but reordering it – recognizing nature’s intrinsic worth and respecting indigenous philosophies.

In the U.S. and elsewhere, I believe we can do better to align our legal system with the cultural expressions of the people it serves. For instance, the U.S. Congress could amend the NHPA or the American Indian Religious Freedom Act to acknowledge the deep cultural connection between tribes and natural places, and afford better protections for sacred landscapes like New Mexico’s Mount Taylor.

Until then, it says much about us when companies are considered people before nature is.

Chip Colwell was alerting us, as in humanity, that our natural resources are way, way too important for them to be considered corporate assets.

The days between a Christmas Day and a New Year’s Day are frequently a time for introspection; well they are for me! A few days to reflect on what did or did not work in the year just coming to an end and to find some clarity about the important issues for the new year.

That mood of introspection, of reflection, seems to be creeping into my blog posts this last week of 2016. For following Chip Colwell comes George Monbiot and an essay he published on the 6th December, 2016, that is republished here with Mr. Monbiot’s very kind permission.

Regarding the power of corporations there are strong echoes between Prof. Colwell and Mr. Monbiot.

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The Golden Arches Theory of Decline

Why is there a worldwide revolt against politics as usual? Because corporate globalisation has crushed democratic choice.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian, 6th December 2016

A wave of revulsion rolls around the world. Approval ratings for incumbent leaders are everywhere collapsing. Symbols, slogans and sensation trump facts and nuanced argument. One in six Americans now believes that military rule would be a good idea. From all this I draw the following, peculiar conclusion: no country with a McDonald’s can remain a democracy.

Twenty years ago, the New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman proposed his “golden arches theory of conflict prevention”. This holds that “no two countries that both have McDonald’s have ever fought a war against each other since they each got their McDonald’s”.

Friedman’s was one of several end-of-history narratives suggesting that global capitalism would lead to permanent peace. He claimed that it might create “a tip-over point at which a country, by integrating with the global economy, opening itself up to foreign investment and empowering its consumers, permanently restricts its capacity for troublemaking and promotes gradual democratization and widening peace.” He didn’t mean that McDonald’s ends war, but that its arrival in a nation symbolised the transition.

In using McDonalds as shorthand for the forces tearing democracy apart, I am, like him, writing figuratively. I do not mean that the presence of the burger chain itself is the cause of the decline of open, democratic societies (though it has played its part in Britain, using our defamation laws against its critics). Nor do I mean that countries hosting McDonald’s will necessarily mutate into dictatorships.

What I mean is that, under the onslaught of the placeless, transnational capital McDonald’s exemplifies, democracy as a living system withers and dies. The old forms and forums still exist – parliaments and congresses remain standing – but the power they once contained seeps away, re-emerging where we can no longer reach it.

The political power that should belong to us has flitted into confidential meetings with the lobbyists and donors who establish the limits of debate and action. It has slipped into the dictats of the IMF and the European Central Bank, which respond not to the people but to the financial sector. It has been transported, under armed guard, into the icy fastness of Davos, where Mr Friedman finds himself so warmly welcomed (even when he’s talking cobblers).

Above all, the power that should belong to the people is being crushed by international treaty. Contracts such as NAFTA, CETA, the proposed TransPacific Partnership and Trade in Services Agreement and the failed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership are crafted behind closed doors in discussions dominated by corporate lobbyists. They are able to slip in clauses that no informed electorate would ever approve, such as the establishment of opaque offshore tribunals, through which corporations can bypass national courts, challenge national laws and demand compensation for the results of democratic decisions.

These treaties limit the scope of politics, prevent states from changing social outcomes and drive down labour rights, consumer protection, financial regulation and the quality of neighbourhoods. They make a mockery of sovereignty. Anyone who forgets that striking them down was one of Donald Trump’s main promises will fail to understand why people were prepared to risk so much in electing him.

At the national level too, the McDonalds model destroys meaningful democracy. Democracy depends on a reciprocal sense of belief, trust and belonging: the conviction that you belong to the nation and the nation belongs to you. The McDonalds model, by rooting out attachment, could not have been better designed to erase that perception.

As Tom Wolfe observes in his novel A Man in Full, “the only way you could tell you were leaving one community and entering another was when the franchise chains started repeating and you spotted another 7-Eleven, another Wendy’s, another Costco, another Home Depot.” The alienation and anomie this destruction of place promotes are enhanced by the casualisation of labour and a spirit-crushing regime of monitoring, quantification and assessment (at which McDonald’s happens to excel). Public health disasters contribute to the sense of rupture. After falling for decades, for example, death rates among middle-aged white Americans are now rising. Among the likely causes are obesity and diabetes, opioid addiction and liver failure, diseases whose vectors are corporations.

Corporations, released from democratic constraints, drive us towards climate breakdown, an urgent threat to global peace. McDonald’s has done more than its fair share: beef production is among the most powerful causes of climate change.

In his book The Globalisation Paradox, the Harvard economist Dani Rodrik describes a political trilemma. Democracy, national sovereignty and hyperglobalisation, he argues, are mutually incompatible. You cannot have all three at once. McDonalisation crowds out domestic politics. Incoherent and dangerous as it often is, the global backlash against mainstream politicians is, at heart, an attempt to reassert national sovereignty against the forces of undemocratic globalisation.

An article about the history of the Democratic party by Matt Stoller in The Atlantic reminds us that a similar choice was articulated by the great American jurist Louis Brandeis. “We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.” In 1936, the congressman Wright Patman managed to pass a bill against the concentration of corporate power. Among his targets was A&P, the giant chainstore of his day, that was hollowing out towns, destroying local retailers and turning “independent tradesmen into clerks”.

In 1938, President Roosevelt warned that “the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism.” The Democrats saw concentrated corporate power as a form of dictatorship. They broke up giant banks and businesses and chained the chainstores. What Roosevelt, Brandeis and Patman knew has been forgotten by those in power, including powerful journalists. But not by the victims of this system.

One of the answers to Trump, Putin, Orban, Erdogan, Salvini, Duterte, Le Pen, Farage and the politics they represent is to rescue democracy from transnational corporations. It is to defend the crucial political unit that’s under assault by banks, monopolies and chainstores: community. It is to recognise that there is no greater hazard to peace between nations than a corporate model which crushes democratic choice.

http://www.monbiot.com

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It’s very easy to pick out from Mr. Monbiot’s essay what the theme should be for 2017, and beyond. What each and every one of us who cares about the future and understands the huge changes that have to take place if our grandchildren are to have a viable future.

It was that compelling quotation by Louis Brandeis:

We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.

It’s as simple as that!