Written by PETA
Liam Neeson's appearance on The Daily Show last night has PETA wondering if one of his horses might have kicked him in the head. What else could explain his bizarre opinions about New York City's carriage horses and what wonderful lives he thinks they have?
"Have you been in these stables?" he asked. "I would move in tomorrow. Seriously." The man has his choice of at least two posh homes—an enormous condo in Manhattan and a sprawling 6,000-square-foot estate in upstate New York—but apparently he would just as soon live here:
It gets better. When Jon Stewart questioned whether the horses would prefer to be free, Liam said, "Everyone thinks cows in the fields would rather be running wild … that's bullsh** … horses don't either."
Oh, Liam, maybe you're right, let me ponder this for a moment … It does seem like horses would prefer to endure the freezing cold and the panicky booms, noisy traffic, and exhaust fumes of the city over living in a lush pasture. And you're right, they probably much prefer the whips, shouting, heavy gear, traces, and lack of water in the troughs as well as the long shifts trudging for hours and pulling strangers in a half-mile circle all day without rest over living a natural life. Makes sense, right?
Jon stood firm, though, and came to the support of horses, adding, "I don't think living on 52nd and 11th is a holiday for a horse."
Written by Christine Doré
We have just learned that Shawn Matthew Lyons, one of the men caught abusing pigs during our investigation of an Iowa pig farm, pleaded guilty to one count of livestock neglect. This charge was filed after authorities reviewed our investigators' video, which showed Lyons beating a pig on the back at least 10 times with a metal gate rod.
According to court records posted today, Lyons has been ordered to pay a fine of $625—the maximum permitted by law—and an additional $250 in court costs and surcharges. Lyons has been placed on probation for six months, during which time he is prohibited from working with any animals. All convicted animal abusers should be barred from contact with animals, and we commend prosecutor Nic Martino for securing this vital sentencing condition.
To our knowledge, Lyons is the first individual ever convicted of abusing or neglecting a factory-farmed pig in Iowa, the nation's top pork-producing state. His conviction sends yet another wake-up call to the pork industry: Cruelty to pigs will not be tolerated by the public or the criminal justice system. And you never know where our undercover investigators will turn up next …
On September 18, 2007, I spent eight hours with Michael Vick at PETA headquarters. He was there to participate in PETA's "Developing Empathy for Animals" course as part of an education process that PETA hoped would ultimately lead Michael to speak out publicly against dogfighting.
In one segment of the course, Michael watched a police training video about the link between violence against animals and violence against humans. It contains graphic footage shot at a dogfight. I watched Michael grimace while watching this footage, in the way that any normal person would. At another point, the video shows a young person hanging a live cat from the ceiling and stabbing the animal to death with a knife. At this point, Michael closed his eyes and turned his head from the screen, seemingly disturbed by what he saw.
Michael also watched a slide-show of photos taken of neglected dogs. He was asked to describe what each animal must have felt in their situation. He aced this part of the course, pointing out that starving dogs living in garbage with heavy, rusty chains around their necks must be "lonely," "sad," and "terrified," and pointed to such indicators as the dogs' tails curled between their legs and their heads bowed in submission. You can see Michael's hand-written responses to the empathy test questions here.
I came away from that meeting encouraged. Even though I felt uncomfortable to be in the same room with a man who had tortured and killed so many animals, Michael seemed like an intelligent and thoughtful person who had made horrible decisions in his life but who regretted the consequences, both for himself and others, and who was genuinely trying to change.
However, despite pledging to become an "ally" in the fight against dogfighting, Michael and his camp have done little more than mouth assurances that he's learned his lesson. Since this meeting, they have only surfaced when Michael has been scheduled for court appearances—until now, when he is asking to get his old job back.
And there is more. Despite the hopes I had for Michael during our meeting, we now know that not only did he lie to the NFL in direct questioning about his activity, he also lied in his lie detector tests after his arrest—something that the recently released USDA report revealed for the first time. We need to know if Michael's post-arrest contrition was part of a flawed human being's genuine growth and development or just part of the machinations of a man with a clinically diagnosable anti-social personality disorder.
Until Michael agrees to submit to a brain scan and psychological evaluation, we have no way of knowing. And until then, PETA will refuse to be a part of a public service announcement that may simply be a public relations ploy from a convicted felon trying to manipulate his way back into the NFL. We hope that the NFL will take the same approach.
Written by Dan Shannon
While America is cozying up to the idea of the Sea Kitten Revolution, apparently some people at Spearfish High School (aka "Sea Kitten High") are just being grumps about the whole thing. I would think they'd have been honored when we suggested that they change the name of their school from Spearfish to Sea Kitten. I mean, it rolls off the tongue so much nicer, and it doesn't promote the hideous abuse of our lil' underwater friends.
The school's sourpuss attitude went to a whole new level when Spearfish students created T-shirts that poke fun at our request for the name change. Pshaw.
Not ones to back down, we got our creative juices flowing and pumped out some very fine "Save the Sea Kittens" shirts, which we shipped off yesterday to Spearfish Principal Steve Morford, along with a letter urging him to provide them as an alternative to students who are sympathetic to the plight of sea kittens.
While the whole name-change request may be a bit tongue-in-cheek (Did you like the line about how it's better to be tongue-in-cheek than have a hook in the mouth? Someone deserves a raise!), our message that our finned friends deserve compassion is certainly serious.
Haters, if you're reading this, just note that all the proud "carnivores" who poked fun at my vegetarian ways when I was in high school are still living in their parents' basement and have gained about 50 pounds each. Best of luck to you.
You probably remember when we unveiled our undercover investigation of Aviagen Turkeys, Inc., right before Thanksgiving. (Those horrifying images are hard to forget.) After seeing our video footage, Aviagen claimed to be working on improvements to its animal welfare policies and promised to fire all workers who were caught violating them.
However, Aviagen has not, to PETA's knowledge, implemented any of PETA's seven recommendations for making its turkeys less miserable. On top of that, we got a call 10 days ago from a whistleblower who let us know that at least three of the workers who were videotaped stomping, kicking, throwing, and maliciously killing turkeys are still being paid to handle live turkeys on Aviagen's farms. I'd really like to say that I'm shocked, but after seeing what happens on Aviagen's dark and dusty factory farms, I don't think there's anything the company could do that would surprise me.
We've pumped a letter out to Aviagen president Jihad Douglas demanding to know why these workers are still on the company's payroll two months after PETA representatives personally provided company officials with our videotape as well as what, if any, steps the company has taken to stop cruelty to animals on its farms. Aviagen, since you seem to have no brilliant plans of your own to stop the abuse of turkeys on your factory farms, I suggest that you implement our seven-point-plan for animal welfare improvements as soon as possible.
Oh, and one more thing: Fire those workers … now!
Written by Liz Graffeo
Ready for a really cool two-fer? Not only do we have a brand spankin' new veggie testimonial from actor Daniela Sea (who plays transman computer tech Moira/Max Sweeney on Showtime's The L Word), but we also have a season DVD of the hit show that we're really itching to give away. But before we scratch that itch, let's take a look-see at Ms. Sea's testimonial:
"Animals are not ours to torture and dominate," says the longtime vegan. Not one to mince words about the meat industry, Daniela gave us the inside scoop about the three things that made her go vegan in this behind-the-scenes Q&A:
Now back to that itch … All you've got to do to get your hot little hands on this primo prize is focus on another "L" word we all like: "lunch." Just send us a comment telling us about your favorite vegetarian lunch by February 1, 2009, and you could be the lucky duck to walk away with a season of The L Word.
Written by Amy Elizabeth
All throughout the inauguration yesterday, our costumed campaigners were mobbed by curious bystanders, including online celebrity "Obama Girl"! While she was shooting her new video, Obama Girl asked members of our crew to dance with her on camera … and of course we said "Yes." So, be on the lookout for that on YouTube—but here's a little sneak-peek to get the party started:
Wearing nifty Ghostbuster-esque backpack dispensers, we served soy hot cocoa to people who made the compassionate decision to forgo fur that day. Baracky Raccoon and his friends also tooled around in fur-free branded pedicabs.
Those rootin' Teutons at PETA Deutschland (that's Germany, for those who don't sprechen the language) are always up to something interesting. Here's one recent example of their work for animals.
Working with the Düsseldorf duck hotline (best duck hotline name ever, don't you think?), PETA Germany campaigner Stefan Bröckling has rescued four swans at the port of Neuss. The birds were sitting at the water's edge, totally exhausted, their feathers covered in what appeared to be cooking oil.
PETA Germany became involved after a Frau Münchs noticed an oily surface on the water and then saw eight swans with very wet-looking feathers—not at all typical for water birds—trying vigorously to groom themselves. And this wasn't the first time: Last year, at least six swans were affected in a similar incident there.
Ms. Münchs contacted local officials who gave her the ol' runaround before someone at the harbormaster's office finally admitted that a broken filter at an oil production company had leaked oil into the water. The office claimed, however, that the oil had since been removed and that they considered the situation to be under control, adding that the oil is supposed to degrade by itself in the bird's feathers.
Nice try, but we'd have to call Stier Scheiße (you will have to look that up) on that old line …
Or, as PETA Germany's Stefan put it: "That's simply wrong; the oil decomposes the protecting layer of fat within water birds' feathers and soaks in deeper and deeper as time passes. The feathers soak up water like a sponge; the swans lose body temperature and die in the end."
Stefan rescued four swans, but one had already died and the three other oiled birds are still missing. PETA Germany is now looking into filing a complaint for cruelty to animals against the oil producers as well as pushing officials to take the dumping of cooking oils more seriously.
It's a good thing that Ms. Münchs was vigilant and blew the whistle. If you want to know more about how to help wildlife, check this out.
Written by Jeff Mackey
Today, PETA sent a letter to the National Football League asking that convicted dogfighter Michael Vick be subjected to a psychological test as well as an MRI brain scan like the one now in use at the Western New Mexico Correctional Facility in order to look for evidence of clinical psychopathy or anti-social personality disorder. Based on the fact that Vick funded and participated in a massive dogfighting operation (playing a direct role in hanging, drowning, or shooting countless dogs—and even slamming dogs to the ground to break their backs), it might seem obvious that there's something wrong with the guy. But whether or not Vick is indeed a clinical psychopath is an important piece of a bigger puzzle.
For the past 18 months, PETA has been meeting with Vick's management and legal teams behind the scenes about having Vick deliver a strong anti-dogfighting TV spot. If Vick is truly remorseful for what he's done, as he's said publically and privately, then a message from him telling people to stop these crimes could get through to dogfighters who relate to him. However, that's a big "if."
The only way to know for sure if Vick can change his ways is for him to submit himself for a brain scan and psychological test. Based on a number of factors—such as the fact that the right side of the hippocampus is larger than the left in 94 percent of captured psychopaths—these tests can help determine if Vick can ever truly understand that dog fighting is a sick, cruel business. Or, they could suggest that he's doomed to repeat mean, violent behavior in the future—whether with dogs or other human beings. And given that Vick plans to be around a lot of kids, to give talks to them, and to be a star in their eyes again, the world deserves to know who he is inside.
Vick's lawyers have run screaming, but unless and until he passes such a test, PETA will not participate in the production of a Michael Vick anti-dogfighting PSA. We hope that the NFL will require such a test as a precondition to even discussing the possibility of Vick's reinstatement. You can click here to add your name to a petition calling on the NFL to stick to its guns and maintain Vick's suspension until he's taken and passed a brain scan and psychological evaluation.
The following is an op-ed from PETA president Ingrid E. Newkirk
Like many who watched President Barack Obama’s inauguration, I wasn’t made in America, but I’m a typical American: I’m from somewhere else.
In my case, I was conceived in Denmark, grew up on the wild, rugged Cornish coast of England and was sent to school in the Orkney Islands, crossing the sea in a light plane. Next stop, France, where we children wore clogs to school, then eight years among the bears in the everlasting snows near Shimla, India, followed by a marriage in Spain during the frightening days of martial law under General Franco. My home is now a medium-sized riverside town in the United States. I’ve been an American for the last 30 years.
America is a melting pot—I can describe the people of this country by talking about the people of Uganda, Uruguay or Utah. Some Americans may move people to tears of joy while others provoke them to react with disgust, but Americans are no better or worse than anyone else. We are all of us preoccupied with our own worries about relationships and children, health and mortality. Some are bursting with love, while others are scarred and filled with hate. Most are a bundle of mixed emotions.
But there are some universal values that transcend all differences and create a bond between people—and animals—such as understanding, helping and sacrifice. Once when I was in India, I saw a homeless woman on a bridge remove a handful of boiled rice from the hem of her skirt, place it on a flat leaf and push it a few inches away from her. A mother street dog appeared, wagging her tail very softly, humbly, her head down in a submissive pose. The woman let the mother dog eat, squatting beside her and guarding her so that she could feel safe while she took her meal.
These values were also present when a plane crashed into the 14th Street Bridge in Washington, D.C., one winter, its wing flaps too frozen to move. People of all nationalities, for it was Washington after all, were caught in their cars on that bridge. News footage showed many people fleeing on foot as best they could. Others leaned over the bridge rail, frantically trying to determine whether there was anything that they could do, anything at all, even shouting encouragement over the wind and the snow to the passengers trying to stay alive in the frigid water below.
When tales were told afterward, it was no surprise that, finding themselves in a cabin filling up with ice water, some people had trampled and shoved aside other passengers in their panic to stay alive. But one man, an American, remained in the river, his body half in, half out of the plane, using his strength to hoist other, less able passengers out of the wreckage. He helped for as long as he could before his fingers and feet froze and he died. I am sure that he did not ask or care where anyone was from.
America is called the “melting pot” because it is home to people of all races, creeds, colors and religions. Yet America is not perfect, and among our citizens, we have the best and the worst and the middling. Within a few generations, the young often forget or even disavow their grandparents’ or earlier ancestors’ migrations, but no one can alter the fact that all of us, even those of us called Native Americans, are from somewhere else. And all of us are, in the ways that truly count, simply residents of this planet with the potential to be compassionate citizens.
Written by Ingrid E. Newkirk
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Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights? Read more.