My Turn: It’s not all mint juleps and fancy hats

Op-Ed in Concord Monitor
May 5, 2021

It’s not all mint juleps and fancy hats

When I was a kid, my favorite movie was “Phar Lap,” based on the true story of an Australian racehorse. I loved that movie and that horse. It was tragic and made me cry in heartbreak. A kind boy trains a mistreated horse, and then he wins and wins and wins horse races.

As moving and memorable as that movie was, it never made me particularly curious about the realities of horse racing. I thought jockeys were interesting, and the horses were extraordinary specimens of beauty, strength and agility. I would wonder about the treatment of the horses from time to time, but that was it.

Fast forward to today. Working with the NH Animal Rights League, I volunteered to research the reality of horse racing because of last Saturday’s Kentucky Derby. And here are the facts.

According to The Jockey Club’s Equine Injury Database, nearly 10 horses died every week at American racetracks in 2018. This data is just the ones dying at the tracks. According to the organization Horseracing Wrongs, over 1,000 racehorses died on-site in 2019. That is about 20 a week and does not count deaths from other sites related to horse racing (private training facilities, euthanized on farms, the thousands of “retired” ones sold to slaughter).

Since 2010, state racing officials have tallied more than 1,400 thoroughbred deaths in Pennsylvania alone. That is one state (and the state industry is propped up by $3 billion in government subsidies.)

Although the use of illegal performance-enhancing and pain masking drugs is rampant in horse racing, even if a horse is drug-free, the strain of a 1,200-pound animal storming down the track at 40 mph exerts incredible stress on the horse’s comparatively fragile legs.

Once-great horses can end up in the lowest tier races. “It’s all about the money. You have wealthy owners that get a horse, it earns $1 million, then it’s dumped in a claiming race for a low-end trainer to run the snot out of the horse,” said Lee Midkiff, the part-owner of a Kentucky Derby winner. “Horses are discarded quickly.” (“Betting on Horses Lives,” Philadelphia Inquirer, 3/25)

And it seems horse racing cannot be reformed. Look at the example of Santa Anita in California. They hit the news in 2019 because of the near-weekly deaths of horses at one venue – 49 died between July 2018 and June 2019.

Yet despite the deaths and an extensive investigation, the District Attorney’s task force did not find evidence of criminal animal cruelty or unlawful conduct relating to the equine fatalities at Santa Anita Park. So, business as usual. And that is the problem. Reforming an inherently cruel industry is impossible. Deaths are still happening at Santa Anita as recently as less than a month ago.

Ending horse racing is within our power. Look to greyhound racing for proof of that. Only three states now have greyhound tracks. After a long awareness campaign and the changing of laws by animal rights activists, we have realized that racing dogs for monetary profit is not okay, and the same is true of horses.

Horses have a long history of working for us. They helped plow our fields, pulled our wagons, went to war with us, and even died on our battlefields. Isn’t it time we do something for them?

You can educate yourself and the people in your life. Romanticizing the Kentucky Derby and horseracing is harder to do when you know the facts.

Don’t support the horse racing industry, even indirectly. Racetracks such as Santa Anita Park host many events, making them money. Do not attend any events at racetracks.

Support organizations helping horses and working to end horse racing (horseracingwrongs.org is a great resource), like Live and Let Live Farm in Chichester.

At Saturday’s Kentucky Derby, a horse with the horrible name of “Who Took the Money” was so upset pre-race she flipped to the ground, her rider falling off. Then she ran and desperately tried to escape the track. But there was nowhere to go, and it was heartbreaking to watch. This equine youngster did not sign up for this cruel life. She was scheduled to run in the fifth race but was “scratched” because of this incident.

The trainer of the horse who won the main event at Churchill Downs this year is Bob Baffert, who has over 30 drug violations through the years. Baffert should not be allowed near a racetrack after years of drugging horses, but instead, he is a hall of famer for having won seven Kentucky Derbies.

You will hear none of this from the mainstream media. Just a glamorization of silly-hatted folks drinking mint juleps.

(Emily Murphy is a board member of the NH Animal Rights League.)

Letter to the Editor: Here’s hoping pandemic kills the fur business

Letter to the Editor
Union Leader
December 2, 2020

Here’s hoping pandemic kills off the fur business

It has been a difficult year for businesses, but one business that should fail is the fur business. Noted for its cruelty, it is a business we can do without. It is certainly a business a fur-bearing animal can do without. Whether being intensively confined on a fur farm and anally electrocuted or caught in a body-gripping trap and bashed in the head until dead, the animals will rejoice at the end of these cruel industries if they could. Many of us will rejoice with them and for them.

Fur-free Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, when animal rights activists take to the streets to protest fur will not happen in many areas this year. In NH, the protest that targets trapping has been canceled.

Trappers are an uncaring bunch of people. If you are on social media, you have probably seen the pictures; the smiling trappers squatting just out of reach of the bloody pawed frightened animal. What kind of person thinks this is something to be proud enough of that he would pose for a picture while a living and breathing animal is suffering behind him?

Please keep the animals who suffer and die for fur in your thoughts when you begin to shop. Many retailers have stopped selling fur. If we refuse to buy it, the rest will follow. Be kind, you will never regret it.

LINDA DIONNE
Raymond

Opinion/Letter: Taking turkey’s life unnecessary

Letter to the Editor
Portsmouth Herald
November 19, 2020

To the Editor:

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League would like to respond to Alexander LaCasse’s article in the Portsmouth Herald featuring the Stratham farm where customers are invited to slaughter their own Thanksgiving turkey.

If, to paraphrase the author, the idea of killing your own Thanksgiving turkey is enough to make you consider becoming a vegetarian, we think you’re on the right track. No matter what words are used to describe the slaughter — whether one equates animals to crops and calls it a “harvest” or twists it into a religious ritual and calls it “spiritual” and “sacred” — in the end it is simply the unnecessary taking of a life.

We do acknowledge that the turkeys on the Stratham farm have a much better life and death than the vast majority raised for Thanksgiving (an estimated 45 million, for whom standard agricultural practice includes cutting off the beaks and toes of poults without anesthesia), but if the goal is improved animal welfare, not considering turkeys food would do far more to reduce animal suffering than seeking out a nicer way to kill one bird, once a year.

As a final point, backyard slaughterers employing the knife-braining technique, which is commonly used and imagined humane, should be aware that while this can immobilize the turkey, the bird may only be paralyzed, not unconscious, and thus fully experiencing its death despite being unable to move its muscles.

Members of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League will be celebrating the Thanksgiving holiday with delicious vegan dishes that do not cause animal suffering. Check the freezer section of your grocery store for vegan holiday roasts. Why not make your “new Thanksgiving tradition” a meal that does not cause harm to animals.

James Glover, president
NH Animal Rights League, Inc.

Opinion/Letter: We need to love farm animals as we love our pets

Letter to the Editor
Portsmouth Herald
October 29, 2020

We need to love farm animals as we love our pets

This month, there were wonderful stories in this paper about Bob the injured seagull, Coconuts the lost cat, and Dr. Hunt’s book “Enjoy your Pets; don’t forget to give them a Hug”. The story about Bob the seagull was particularly poignant because most of us know how it feels to be close to an animal, look into their eyes, and pick them up and feel their bodies. It was the beginning of a love story for Alicia. She named the seagull and did all she could to comfort him and try to save his life. And there it is, the aha moment when we see an animal as an individual, a being capable of suffering and we want to protect them.

However, we don’t look into the eyes of the chickens, cows, lambs, and pigs whose bodies and milk products are displayed in huge quantities in our markets. We don’t see the male chicks and calves that are immediately killed because they are not needed as egg layers or milk producers. We don’t hear their cries, nor do we do the killing or the washing and dismembering.

Most people are completely unaware of the reality of what is happening to these animals. Don’t be fooled by the cheese package that shows a mother and her calf almost touching noses. It doesn’t happen. 99% of animal products come from large factory farms where there is unmitigated suffering for millions of animals who are bred into existence to satiate our immense and highly commercialized appetite for animal products. Speed and profit are the goals of factory farms and there is no room for humane treatment.

Speciesism is allowing one’s own interests and desires to override the interests of another species, even if that means the other species suffers. The most routine farming practices would be illegal if perpetrated against cats and dogs yet they have the same feelings and perceptions. I’ll leave it there for everyone to research further… but you need to know that every dollar we spend on animal products supports cruelty and suffering for many individuals that are just like Bob the seagull and Coconuts the cat.

CHERI BACH
Portsmouth

 

Letter to the Postmaster General

This letter was sent in response to an action alert from United Poultry Concerns (Shipping Baby Chicks Through the Mail is Inhumane and Should Be Stopped).

NHARL-logo-rect

October 28, 2020

The Honorable Louis DeJoy
Postmaster General
United States Postal Service
475 L’Enfant Plaza West, SW
Washington, DC 20260

Dear Mr. DeJoy:

With the media reporting on the deaths of thousands of newborn chicks as a result of delays and other issues affecting the United States Postal Service, our organization has heard from a number of people who were shocked to learn that living animals are regularly shipped around the country as if they were inanimate objects.

While incidents of entire shipments of chicks perishing have received public attention, what is still largely hidden from people is that newborn chicks dying in the custody of the United States Postal Service is a common, everyday occurrence.

Mailing chicks may have seemed like a good idea a hundred years ago, but it has grown into a large and callous industry that is out of step with the values of modern society. Shipping live animals through the Postal Service should be prohibited.

We respectfully urge you to review the custom of shipping baby chicks and other small animals with an eye toward ending this inherently cruel practice.

Sincerely,
James Glover, President

NH Animal Rights League, Inc.
P.O. Box 4211
Concord, New Hampshire 03302
nhanimalrights.org

In response, we received the following form letter from a USPS Customer Experience Specialist:

Op-Ed: The problems with bear hunting in NH

Published in the Union Leader on September 14, 2020 — IN CELEBRATION of the start of hunting season, Andy Schafermeyer devoted his September 6 “Adventures Afield” column to advertising different ways to hunt black bears. Bear hunting season in New Hampshire began Sept. 1.

Of the various bear hunting methods covered, perhaps the most egregious is hunting with trained dogs, or “hounding.” Hounding, which Andy describes as “sometimes controversial,” involves using packs of dogs to pursue bears until the exhausted animals either seek refuge in a tree or turn to fight the hounds. (Hounding is also dangerous for the dogs, who can be injured or killed.)

Andy states that most of these “treed” bears are released unharmed (presupposing that the stress of being pursued and potentially separated from dependent young causes no harm), because while the bear is trapped overhead, the hunter has time to “pause and observe.” “A sow, especially one with cubs, can be passed over,” he writes, in an apparent appeal to ethics. But self-restraint is optional. Although the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department discourages killing a mother with cubs, it is not illegal.

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Our Turn: Management of state’s native fish needs reform

By LINDA DIONNE, JAMES GLOVER, JACK HURLEY and SHIMON SHUCHAT
For the Monitor — July 27, 2020

Aug. 1 is Respect for Fish Day, a national day of action to increase appreciation for fish as individuals and essential members of their aquatic ecosystem communities.

Over the past decade a large body of scientific evidence demonstrating that fish are sentient, cognitively complex animals has come forward, and according to the American Veterinary Medical Association fish “should be accorded the same considerations as terrestrial vertebrates in regard to relief from pain.”

Unfortunately, this scientific consensus isn’t reflected in public policy and the welfare and conservation of fish is often neglected. This problem is embodied in the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department’s management of our state’s wild fish populations, particularly its liberal hatchery stocking program and under-protection of native brook trout.

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All Creation Groans

All Creation Groans is about the lives of factory farmed animals.

About the Author

Sr. LUCILLE C. THIBODEAU, p.m., Ph.D., is Writer-in-Residence at Rivier University. A Professor of English, she was President of Rivier from 1997-2001. She earned her Ph.D. from Harvard University in Comparative Literature and is a Fellow of the American Council on Education. A member of the New Hampshire Wildlife Coalition and a board member of Voices of Wildlife in New Hampshire, her current work focuses on ethical, political, and legal issues concerning the treatment of wildlife. She presented the current essay at a conference on the ethics of eating animals at the Oxford Centre for Animal Ethics in July 2016.

This article is copyrighted 2017. The author retains the copyright.

Go Veganic… Gardening, That Is!

With northern New England summers being here and gone like a bird at a picked-over blueberry bush, Granite Staters rush outdoors to make the most of the beautiful weather. As more of us have become concerned about where our food comes from, we’ve taken to turning pieces of yard into vegetable gardens.

If you’d like your garden to be clean and cruelty-free (which I’m sure you do) then consider going veganic. Veganic gardening doesn’t use any slaughterhouse byproducts (blood, bone, fish meal, etc) or animal manures. Instead, plant-based nutrients (vegetable compost) and green manure cover crops such as alfalfa are used as the primary growing medium. It may seem like too much trouble at first, but it’s worth the effort for a couple of reasons.

Much of the animal manure available today comes from factory-farmed animals, and research has shown that the pesticide and steroid residues bio-accumulate in the animal’s waste. To spread that on an organic vegetable garden is contrary to common sense. Also, it’s important (and disturbing) to realize that much of the organic produce available at the supermarket are grown in manure that comes from animals that have been fed antibiotics and steroids.

As Ron Khosla, veganic farmer in New Paltz, NY, explains, “Historically -for thousands of years- farmers relied on green manures. No one had cows and chickens and pigs in the cramped concentrations they do now… And the transport of those waste products has only been made possible by use of heavy trucks and cheap oil for transporting it. The Chinese of thousands of years ago, ancient Romans, English (starting in the 1600s), and even the Hudson Valley farmers of the late 1800s all studied, actively wrote about, and relied heavily on what we now call “veganic” techniques.”

To sum up, the only way to know your vegetable garden is 100% “green” is to go veganic. To learn more, check out goveganic.net. Now go and make your garden grow, inch by inch, row by row, with fertile, plant-based ground!