Written by PETA
We're disappointed to report that, although the Obamas had publicly expressed their intention to adopt a dog from an animal shelter or rescue group, they have instead accepted a Portuguese water dog as a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy.
Let us be clear: The new first dog, Bo, is not a rescue. While he was returned to the breeder by his first owners, that subtle point is missing from or buried in most news reports and is no doubt lost on the masses of people who will be lining up at pet shops and demanding "Obama puppies." These puppies will eventually lose their appeal, once people get tired of taking care of them, but because most pet shops and many breeders don't take "returns," guess where those unwanted "Obama puppies" are going to end up? At extremely crowded, overworked shelters like D.C.'s Washington Humane Society (WHS).
Speaking of which, the Obamas have promised to make a donation to WHS, which is great, but, as we told the President in a letter we sent today, WHS doesn't need his money as much as it needs his business (i.e., going in and adopting a shelter animal)—and the business of all the people who do what Obama did just because he did it.
The Obamas can't undo their missed opportunity to set a great example for Americans by adopting a shelter dog, but they can still set another important example: They can arrange for the first dog to become the last dog in his lineage by having him neutered. We've offered up our mobile clinic's services for the first "snip" and will let you know if the President takes us up on our offer.
Written by Alisa Mullins
Update: We are glad to report that Bo has been fixed, and we hope that the Obamas will publicly stress the importance of spaying and neutering. We also hope that they will encourage people to adopt mutts—lots of mutts are "hypo-allergenic," and, best of all, saving their lives is also good for your heart.
In 2006, when Barack Obama was an Illinois Senator, he wrote a letter to a group of constituents to thank them for their support of a resolution against the Canadian seal slaughter. He assured them that he would use his seat in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations to support the resolution.
"But Amanda," you may be thinking, "what does a three-year-old resolution have to do with the price of tofu?"
The resolution, S. Res. 33, wasn't just any old resolution. In no uncertain language, it listed a number of reasons why the "cruel and needless" Canadian seal slaughter is "inconsistent with the well-earned international reputation of Canada" and urged the Canadian government to "end the commercial hunt on seals."
In his letter, then-Senator Obama wrote that "the United States should not condone" the slaughter, and vowed, "As a member of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, I will work with my colleagues to ensure that we take the necessary steps to express our outrage with this inhumane measure".
We applaud Obama for taking such a strong stand—and now, PETA Senior Vice President Dan Mathews has written a letter to President Obama asking him to express that same passion now, as president, in an appeal to the Canadian government to stop the seal slaughter.
If you share Obama's outrage, please lend your voice here.
Written by Amanda Schinke
When President Obama appointed Daniel Fried (aka "the Guantanamo Closure Czar") to oversee the closing of the Guantanamo Bay Detention Center, many people let out a sigh of relief. Some would like to close Gitmo's doors and forget about the alleged torture that took place there. But those who forget their history are destined to repeat it, so we've approached Mr. Fried with a better idea.
We've written a letter to Mr. Fried suggesting that, once all of the detainees have been relocated, Gitmo keep its doors open as an "empathy center." The detention center would change its name to the Guantanamo Bay Empathy Exhibit (GBEE) and display our Animal Liberation Project. The GBEE would teach people that—regardless of race, religion, ability, gender, or species—everyone deserves respect and compassion, and it would allow people to explore ways that they can promote nonviolent and non-exploitive relationships with all beings.
We really hope that Mr. Fried takes us up on our offer. With the Senate's proposal to lift the 47-year-old ban on travel to Cuba, now is a great time to show the world that we are willing to learn from our mistakes. After all, if the U.S. and Cuba can break down barriers, shouldn't people be able to do the same with animals?
Written by Shawna Flavell
Well, Michelle Obama has gone and done it: She 'fessed up to People magazine that the first family is leaning toward adopting a Portuguese water dog. To give her credit, she stresses that the family plans to adopt the dog from a shelter or rescue group, but we sure do wish that she'd quit fixating so much on the dog's breed.
Already, the mere mention a few months ago that the Obamas had narrowed their choice to a "Portie" or a Labradoodle has caused a flurry of Google searches for those breeds. I personally know a couple who bought not one but two goldendoodle puppies because anything "doodle" is oh-so-fashionable these days. (This same couple had previously visited an animal shelter and was poised to adopt two homeless mutts until they became wooed by the latest fad, proof of our assertion that breeders kill shelter dogs' chances of finding homes.)
Admittedly, it probably sets a slightly better example to adopt a Portuguese water dog than it would to pick a Labradoodle or a goldendoodle—those breeds are virtually guaranteed to come from puppy mills.
But Portie enthusiasts with a conscience are not terribly happy about getting a nod from the Obamas. As they and PETA's Daphna Nachminovitch point out in this Associated Press article, whenever a breed becomes fashionable, puppy mills jump into the game to satisfy the demand of uninformed people. Only later do these folks realize that, oops, Porties would willingly run several marathons and swim across the English Channel—all before breakfast.
I used to dog-sit for a Portie named Riley. He was a sweetie, just as breeders claim, but he was also hyper, to put it mildly. He had boundless energy and was obsessed with water—if he jumped into the river that runs alongside the PETA dog park, it was almost impossible to coax him out. In the car, he bounced Tigger-like from back seat to front, in between bouts of carsickness. He was the ideal dog for, say, Michael Phelps or a professional surfer—not so ideal for a busy family.
What the Obamas (and lots of other people) don't seem to understand is that you don't have to pre-select a certain breed and then set out to find a dog who meets that criterion. You can go to your local animal shelter, walk down the rows of cages, and pick out a dog of any old breed (or, better yet, mix of breeds), spend some time with him or her, and discover that, yes, this is the dog for you. It's kind of a crazy idea, but I'm hoping it just might catch on.
When President-elect Barack Obama was born, numerous U.S. states would have prohibited his black Kenyan father from marrying his white Kansan mother. The Voting Rights Act was still a few years away, and the Supreme Court's order to desegregate schools was being fought tooth and nail. Look at how far we have come. Who alive then would have believed that just a few short decades later, Americans would elect their first black president?
We have broken through a significant barrier, but we cannot stop there. We must now break down the barrier that prevents us from caring about all the "others" who are "not like us," regardless of race, regardless of gender, and regardless of species.
Prejudice and oppression come about because of a belief that "we" are important and that "they" are not.
In the days of slavery, for example—not so long ago—some people honestly believed that African men did not feel pain as white men do, that African women did not experience maternal love as white women do. And so it was quite acceptable to brand men's faces with a hot iron and to auction off slaves' children and send them vast distances away from their mothers. All evidence was to the contrary, yet highly educated people defied their own eyes, ears, and common sense by denying the facts before them. Society accepted this horrible exploitation, and then, as now, it takes courage to break away from the norm, even when the norm is ugly and wrong.
Today, we have abolished human slavery, at least in theory. But we continue to enslave all the others who happen not to be exactly like us but who, if we are honest with ourselves, show us that they experience maternal love as we do, that if you burn them, they feel the same pain as we do, that they desire freedom from shackles as we do.
In their natural homes, elephants live in complex multigenerational social groups, mourn their dead, and remember friends and relatives from years past. Yet we tear them away from their families, confine them with chains to stinking and squalid boxcars, and beat them into performing ridiculous tricks for our amusement.
Rats are detested, yet even these tiny animals—who are mammals like us—have been found to giggle (in frequencies that can't be heard by the human ear) when they are tickled and will risk their own lives to save other rats, especially when the rats in peril are babies. Although no mouse or rat bankrupted our economy, invaded Iraq, or set poison out for us, we dismiss their feelings as inconsequential and somehow beneath our consideration.
Mother pigs sing to their young while nursing, and newborn piglets run joyfully toward their mothers' voices. On factory farms, a sow spends her entire life surrounded by the cold metal bars of a space so small that she can never turn around or take even two steps. Chickens who are raised for the table fare even worse. Their beaks are seared off with hot blades, and the birds will never enjoy the warmth of a nest or the affectionate nuzzle of a mate.
The time has come to stop thinking of animal rights as distracting or less deserving of our energy than other struggles for social justice. As Martin Luther King Jr. said, "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere." All oppression, prejudice, violence, and cruelty are wrong and must be rejected no matter how novel the idea or how inconvenient the task.
And for those who think that we will never be able to achieve the dream of liberation from oppression, not just for human beings but for all beings, regardless of race or gender or species, I have just three words for you: Yes. We. Can.
Written by Ingrid E. Newkirk
"We have two criteria that have to be reconciled," President-elect Obama said of a "major issue" at his first press conference earlier today. And no, he wasn't talking about the economy or the U.S.' endeavors overseas—he was talking about the much-discussed dog that will soon join the Obama family!
Here's the deal: Malia Obama has allergies and while the President-elect Obama has stated that their "preference is to get a shelter dog," the Obamas aren't sure if they'll find that "hypo-allergenic" dog in a shelter; as President-elect Obama said today, "[a] lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me."
It's great to hear the President-elect speak so highly of mutts! But we understand that the Obamas' concern for Malia might lead them to seek out a specific breed known for possible "hypo-allergenic" qualities.
Fortunately, there's no reason why the Obamas—or anyone, for that matter—can't get the best of both worlds. There are many purebred dogs out there in animal shelters across the country—many of whom even have their own rescue groups! There are also many online resources such as PetFinder that allow the user to search for homeless animals by specific criteria, like location, breed, and even age.
Purebred dogs fall victim to the dog and cat overpopulation crisis just as mutts do, so there's no reason to make the situation worse by buying a puppy from a breeder. Purebred dogs can be found in animal shelters almost everywhere—you just have to know how to look!
PS Mutts are awesome!
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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.