Horse Racing

by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

As a child, I was taken once to a race track. I loved the beautiful horses. Only as an adult did I learn about the cruelty and death caused by racing horses.

Patrick Battuello’s website horseracingwrongs.com provides a wealth of information. For example, he lists racing horse deaths by state. In 2018 there were 98 horses killed racing and training in NYS. And this number is lower than the reality because the Gaming Commission typically only discloses deaths occurring on-site (or occasionally at equine hospitals) and those within 72 hours of injury. And nothing from the many private facilities across the state. He lists all the victims by name, date and type of injury. Here are just a few:

Old Dubai, January 19, Belmont T “fell at the 7/8 pole, suffered fracture to front leg – euthanized on track”

Desert Affair, May 6, Belmont R “suffered a fatal musculoskeletal injury and was euthanized on the track”

The Berber, May 14, Finger Lakes T “catastrophic injury to shoulder – euthanized”

Battuello lists the wrongs of the horse racing industry:

The Pounding of Unformed Bodies: The typical horse does not reach full musculoskeletal maturity till around six; the typical racehorse begins “training” at 18 months and is raced at two – or the rough equivalent of a kindergartner.

The Extreme Confinement: Most active racehorses are kept isolated in small stalls 23 hours a day, making a mockery of the industry claim that their horses are born to run, love to run. No affection, no stimulation – just an existence.

The Commodification: Most racehorses are bought and sold several times over during the course of their “careers” – traded and treated like common Amazon products.

The Drugging and Doping: Racehorses are injected with various drugs – some legal, some not – with a singular goal: to keep them running, even thru pain and injury.

The Whipping: What happens openly at the track would qualify as animal cruelty if done to our pets. What’s more, in what other sport do lashes provide the motivation?

The Killing: Horseracing Wrongs estimates that upward of 2,000 horses die while racing or training on American racetracks annually.

The Slaughtering: Although the industry downplays the extent of the problem, the prevailing wisdom is that most “retired” American racehorses are bled-out and butchered in foreign abattoirs. One final profit on their heads.

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights (PAR). For a free sample of our newsletter, contact PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (8 a.m. – 10 p.m.), people4animalrightscny@gmail.com You can visit our website at www.peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org

How to Be A Good Creature

How to Be A Good Creature: A Memoir in thirteen Animals
by Sy Montgomery, 2018, Houghton, Mifflin, Harcourt

Reviewed by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

How to be a good Creature is an intimate portrait of a woman who forms deep attachments – to humans and a wide variety of other animals. Since the author shares so much of her life, I feel a kinship with her and will refer to her by her first name – Sy.

Sy’s first beloved animal was a strong-willed Scottish terrier, Molly. From Molly, she learned independence, determination and the love of adventure.

Sy’s adventures have taken her to many remote areas around the world, including Australia, Africa, Asia and South America. These were expeditions to do scientific research and to gather material for her several books for adults and children. Her determination was tested by such challenges as ticks, mosquitoes, poisonous snakes, dangerous plants and an arduous uphill trek that left her with hypothermia and altitude sickness. But she persisted and valued each adventure.

She and her husband, Howard Mansfield, rescued a runt piglet, an unloved border collie (and, later, another), and a puppy who is blind in one eye. After many years of a pampered life, Christopher Hogwood (who had grown to be a huge pig) and Tess, their beloved border collie, died within a short time of each other. Sy went into a deep depression but came out of it through her curiosity and open-heartedness regarding other animals.

One of her featured creatures is Clarabelle, a tarantula. Sy and her colleague on a spider expedition discovered Clarabelle on a plant in the building where they were staying. She was a species of tarantula known to be docile, and she readily walked on to Sy’s outstretched palm. Later, they borrowed Clarabelle to teach a lesson to the local children, who had acquired the common human fear and dislike of spiders. Even the girl who had admitted to being afraid of spiders, allowed Clarabelle to walk on her palm. Another whispered: “She is beautiful, this monster!”

Athena and Octavia, octopi at the New England Aquarium, became friends with Sy. Sy describes her first meeting with Athena: “The moment the aquarist opened the heavy lid to her tank, Athena slid over to inspect me. Her dominate eye swiveled in its socket to meet mine, and four or five of her four-foot-long boneless arms, red with excitement, reached toward me from the water. Without hesitation, I plunged my hands and arms into the tank and soon found my skin covered with dozens, then hundreds, of her strong, white, coin-size suckers. An octopus can taste with all its skin, but this sense is most exquisitely honed in the suckers. If a human had begun tasting me so early in our relationship, I would have been alarmed. But this was an earthbound alien – someone who could change color and shape, who could pour her baggy forty-pound body into an opening smaller than an orange, someone with a beak like a parrot and venom like a snake and ink like an old-fashioned pen. Yet clearly, this large, strong, smart marine invertebrate – one more different from a human than any creature I had ever met before – was as interested in me as I was in her.” (pp. 141-142)

Sy considered her family complete with her husband, their animals and their friends – not needing biological children. I got a chuckle from her explanation: “I had never wanted kids of my own, even when I was one. When I discovered, as a child, that I would forever be unable to conceive or bear puppies, I crossed having babies off the list. The Earth was grossly overburdened with humans already.” (p. 55) But Sy enjoys having children as friends. Intrigued by Christopher Hogwood, two girls who lived next door came almost daily to feed, pet and wash him. They became good friends with Sy. Eventually, the children, their mother, Sy and her husband, and the animals became like one family.

I would say that Sy herself has learned well from each creature and is a good creature herself.

This book is easy to read and has charming drawings and interesting photos.

Linda is President of People for Animal Rights. For a sample of our newsletter (which comes out twice-yearly), contact PAR, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., people4animalrightscny@gmail.com. You can visit our website at peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org

Bald Eagles

Let the Bald Eagles Fly
by Gabor Hardy

Today there are plans underway in Onondaga County, state of New York, to build a pathway around the perimeter of Onondaga Lake which is in Syracuse, New York. Much has been constructed and the end is near. However, there is a twist to this story. Basically, this pathway is designed for leisure, exercise, relaxation and overall enjoyment of people everywhere who wish to visit the shores of this wonderful lake. However, there is a barrier to this story that is supposed to have a happy ending. It involves the final completion of a secondary trail that goes onto Murphy’s island – an appendage of Onondaga Lake. This small (one half mile or two) trail is scheduled for construction starting in late spring of 2019.

The problem with these plans is the fact that the proposed trail will be going directly through the habitat or roost area of the bald eagles (there are as many as 35). Eagles are known to have a greater fear of the human form than they have for cars, trains, or airplanes.

Various perspectives are offered; these perspectives translate into many pro and con positions.

Some pro positions are:

A) The freedom of individuals to roam where they want supersedes the needs of bald eagles
B) We need this trail for the benefit of bikers and runners
C) Bald Eagles are tough birds and will adjust
D) No great danger because the trail will be closed for a few months out of the year when the Bald Eagles are roosting
E) We need this trail in order to complete our plan for a pathway leading all around the lake

Con positions:

A) The eagles will permanently leave this area due to human disturbance
B) Murphy’s island is polluted, so why build on it?
C) Even if you close the trail human beings will venture on the pathways – thus creating more expense by hiring security guards
D) Practically all bird experts agree that the pathway is way too close to the Eagle roost
E) Building an observation platform will satisfy those who come to look at Bald Eagles, yet far enough away so that they will not be scared away.
F) Constant disturbance of the Bald Eagles will deplete their reservoir of energy resulting in loss of body weight

There is an important consideration that is often overlooked in discourses concerning animals. It is that animals do not speak, read, or write English or any other human language. We (human people) stand in for their feelings, concerns, and needs. What becomes rather important then – are authentic voices. By an “authentic” voice I mean those individual humans who spend their lives studying the life cycles of these magnificent birds. It is to the “experts” that the legislature, ecological groups, and all other parties who have a vested interest in this trail should look to for answers. It makes sense to give priority to the experts in the field of eagle behavior because most of us have not had the time or the knowledge to study these birds and hear their language.

So, why is this not done? Very often the opinions of experts are ignored, disputed, or taken out of context. Too often the lure of wealth obscures clear thinking as well. If we establish the common ground that bald eagles are worthy of protection, that bald eagles are an endangered species (at least here in Onondaga county), or that Bald Eagles are a distinct asset to this region – then why not err on the side of caution? This county can build a viewing platform or simply not build a trail at all. These two courses of action are a small price to pay because the payoff is significant: the eagles will continue to make their home by the shores of Onondaga Lake.

Bald Eagles are wild creatures. As such, I have no doubt that, if asked, they would say that they prefer solitude and undisturbed areas where they can live and breed. Their habitats at one time encompassed practically the whole USA. Over the years the areas where Bald Eagles can roost has dwindled significantly. Is it not our responsibility … even our moral obligation to give these Bald Eagles a haven of rest? This county should NOT build a trail on Murphy’s Island but should proceed with plans to build a viewing station at the end of the Creekwalk. The viewing station would be close enough to Murphy’s Island to observe the eagles but far enough away to avoid disturbing them. Is it not time to defer to the needs of our wild brethren?

This article was provided by Linda DeStefano and written by Gabor Hardy. Gabor is a member of the board of People for Animal Rights. PAR is one of the organizations helping Save the Bald Eagles of Onondaga Lake. If you want more information about PAR, contact us at PO Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358 or by email at peope4animalrightscny@gmail.com or call us at (315)488-PURR (7877) 08 a.m.-10 p.m. Go to our website at peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

Ziggy Stardust

by Gabor Hardy

A meow worth a thousand words
A paw swipe in the dark
So dumb creatures leave their mark
within solitary hearts

A dingy white kitten arrived one day, yellow eyes blazing
Appearing in a patch of snow, torn fur, and ribs outline
His ears were bleeding with one torn paw

We, in curious wonder, opened up our hearts
willing him to remain

This polished cat, destined to roam
Assured and undefeated, down vacant streets
Backyard alleys and slanted rooftops are the places where he ruled
Like some lord of the hunt, ready to pounce
upon a mice or rat which had strayed across his path

We always thought that every night, he would come home
However, he was on loan
From some Transcendent Being
the Creator of his wild heart

We never dreamed of a time of goodbye,
When a high jump and a soaring heart would
greet us no more, as the days and weeks drift by

Note from Linda DeStefano, President, People for Animal Rights: We urge you to keep your cat inside where she/he will be safe. In this case, the cat was half-wild and a decision was made that he wouldn’t adjust to indoor living. There are many other cases in which a feral (half-wild) cat does adjust well; I had a beloved one who I rescued from outdoors; with patience, she became a happy, affectionate indoor cat.

People for Animal Rights can be reached at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse 13215-0358, people4animalrightscny@gmail.com, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., Our website is peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

Ezekiel… a Poem

by Eileen
Provided by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

Warm, sultry summer day
Sitting pensively in my old back yard
Thinking how my life has traveled through many changes
Good, bad, amazing, Melba toast
Always grateful that I have ridden the waves
And kept my head above the rising tides.

Lost in thought, I felt a presence…
A winged presence in the sky
Looking across the field, soaring towards me
His flight was headed towards songs I softly sang.

Coincidence or gift of the divine
A beautiful creature floating to me, as if deliberate
Ezekiel was the name I gave him….
Ezekiel was his name.

I sang to him as he swirled around my head
Music, melody, he seemed to absorb the sound
This became my amazing communication with a raptor.

Most people do not understand
Only those who saw it happen
This has happened twice, this event of mystery and joy.

I sang to him, to the open field
He came to me, soared to me once again
This time, swirling around my head seven times while I sang my song of love for nature to him.

I held my arms to the sky, myself swirling, singing
As he danced with me…..

How this happened,
This unusual bond of creature and human
From a world beyond, I do not know.

I call Ezekiel with my song
He will return again
People ask if I fear that he will hurt me as he flies close to me
I answer… I am more afraid of you…

Linda DeStefano is President of People for Animal Rights. For more information about animal rights or to connect with Linda, contact People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315) 488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org.

Radioactive: Dogs, Cats and Wildlife

by Linda DeStefano
Translated by Rob English

When nuclear disasters occur, not only people but also nearby animals are contaminated with radioactivity. This has been observed in Chernobyl and in Fukushima. In 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine (then part of the Soviet Union) exploded, contaminating a vast area with radioactivity. Emergency responders died. About 50,000 people evacuated, and most never returned home because the contamination is long-lasting. What of the animals who could not evacuate? Some of the abandoned dogs and cats survived and reproduced. Their descendants are helped today by Clean Futures Fund. The Fund provides veterinary care to these animals and adopts out the dogs, removing radioactive particles from their fur and from inside their bodies. Luckily, most of the dogs live in parts of the zone that are less contaminated – unlike the wild animals that populate the area – perhaps because dogs stay near humans who feed them. Also unlike the wild animals, the dogs do not exhibit any obvious abnormalities. Among the negative impacts for Chernobyl wildlife are tumors, infertility, smaller brains and dwindling populations. Whereas migratory wild animals may spread genetic damage to unaffected populations through breeding, the dogs are evaluated for DNA damage, and are spayed or neutered before being transported to their new homes.

But what about the plants and the wild animals? Organic matter in forests around Chernobyl are taking years or even decades longer than normal to decay. There are reduced population sizes and genetic abnormalities among birds, bees, butterflies, grasshoppers, dragonflies, spiders, and mammals in highly radioactive parts of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Birds are showing an increase in sterility, albinism and cataracts, with abnormal sperm in barn swallows up to 10 times higher for Chernobyl birds as compared to sperm from males living in control areas.

Another nuclear disaster occurred in Fukushima, Japan in March, 2011. After an earthquake and tsunami, the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plants had meltdowns and explosions, contaminating a wide area of land and the Pacific Ocean. About 47,000 people evacuated initially and more later. At least one kind man chose to stay behind to care for the abandoned farm animals. In studying the effects of the contamination, Dr. Timothy Mousseau and his team found that animals and microbes living in contaminated areas are failing to thrive.

Upstate nuclear power plants with the same design as those that failed in Japan could also have meltdowns and explosions because a severe ice storm could make the backup generators useless. Even without a disaster, the nuclear facilities have regular releases of radioactivity and create toxic waste that will last hundreds of thousands of years. And the water they take from Lake Ontario goes through grilles which kill fish. The hot water which is returned to the Lake is also a problem for the animals living in the water.

It is important to quickly move from these dangerous, expensive nuclear facilities in our backyard to energy conservation, energy efficiency and renewable energy (solar, wind, geothermal). Gov. Cuomo is keeping the Fitzpatrick nuclear facility in Oswego open by forcing all ratepayers to subsidize it. That money could instead be used for moving more quickly toward clean energy, which would create more jobs.

Information about transition to a green economy can be found at Allianceforagreeneconomy.org

Linda DeStefano is President of People for Animal Rights. For more information about animal rights or to connect with Linda, contact People for Animal Rights, P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315) 488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m., people4animalrightscny@gmail.com or peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org

How Wildlife Prepares for Winter in CNY

How Wildlife Prepares for Winter in CNY
by Collette Charbonneau
Provided by Linda DeStefano
Translated into Spanish by Rob English

As the summer glow fades until next year, the warm colors of fall begin to appear. Soon, blankets of snow will cover the ground, the trees, and also our cars. As you shuffle from one building to the next, from one heated room to another, do you ever stop to wonder what is happening outside your window?

While you may not hear as many birds at 5am this time of year, those who have chosen to stick around and brave the temperature drop are still out there, hunkering down at night and waking up to a chilly, snowy froth above their heads each morning. They worked hard in the spring to build their nests and raise a new generation. But, most abandon their nests by fall, preferring to create a new nest the following Spring. They must now find ways to survive the winter and often have to get creative with finding an unoccupied bed for the night.

Cardinals are one common winter bird here in Central New York. The male’s bright red color is a welcome sight against the snowy backdrop. Like most birds, they do not sleep in nests during winter months. Walk outside, early in the morning, on a winter’s day and you might find a cardinal sitting deep in an evergreen tree. (These are the trees that keep their green needles all year long). This is the preferred winter home for cardinals.

Leave out your birdfeeder in the winter, well-stocked with sunflower seeds or a mix of seeds from a bag of local songbird food, and you just might see a cardinal, blue jay, or other winter resident in your yard. It is harder for them to find food in the winter so leaving food out for them all year is a good idea. Note: do not do this if you live in an area where black bears have been spotted. This will encourage them to leave their dens early (they can smell the food), which makes it nearly impossible for them to resume their deep sleep until Spring.

So what are those nests we see high in the treetops in the middle of winter? Let me give you a hint… think of the most common mammal seen in rural, suburb, and city neighborhoods.

Squirrels are the opposite of birds. They prefer to sleep in nests in the winter so they can get some relief against the cold, windy nights. They do not use these nests in the spring or summer. In early Spring, squirrel nests are sometimes destroyed by their creators or birds will swoop in and take what they need to make their nests.

Other mammals, including deer, mice, chipmunks, foxes, skunks, and opossums also need to find shelter (dens and burrows provide protection from wind, snow, and ice) and food in the winter. Giving them your patience, and plenty of space, will help ensure they get what they need too. Planting native bushes, shrubs, and nut-producing trees (oak, walnut, hickory, beech) can provide food for these animals too.

While taking steps to help wildlife in the winter shouldn’t turn into a feeding frenzy in your yard, if you are concerned, talk to your local town board or community association about creating a community garden/wildlife-friendly zone where the animals can safely gather foods and find shelter. I encourage you to look out your window, or step out onto the sidewalk one winter’s day, and look at all the wildlife around you. Winter is a time of rest, survival, quiet beauty, and perseverance that will be colorfully rewarded within just a few months.

Collette is on the board of People for Animal Rights (PAR). You can contact PAR at P.O. Box 15358, Syracuse, NY 13215-0358, (315)488-PURR (7877) between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m.,
people4animalrightscny@gmail.com and peopleforanimalrightsofcny.org