Letter: Using pandemic federal money for hatcheries is a misuse of funds

Letter to the Editor
The Conway Daily Sun
May 13, 2022 

Using pandemic federal money for hatcheries is a misuse of funds

New Hampshire Fish and Game has a fish hatchery problem. It is being sued by the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy organization, for polluting the Merrymeeting River with wastewater from its Powder Mill Fish Hatchery. According to Fish and Game, they cannot keep pollutant levels within EPA limits because the hatcheries, where staff raise millions of fish each year for “put and take” fishing, are old and in disrepair.

Despite taking in millions in fishing license revenue, which is matched by millions from the federal Sport Fishing Restoration Act of 1950, Fish and Game has somehow not managed to maintain and upgrade the hatcheries appropriately.

Recently, Fish and Game saw an opportunity to receive money for its polluting hatcheries in N.H.’s share of the federal American Rescue Plan Act funds. First, the department asked for and received $1 million in federal funds for a study to rebuild Powder Mill Hatchery. Then last month, they were back, asking for and receiving $55 million more to rebuild two other of the six state hatcheries.

Those in power think the unnatural process of farm-raised fishing is so important to New Hampshire that it warrants spending a huge chunk of pandemic recovery funding on it.

We each have an executive councilor who represents us and approved this expenditure. Express your outrage that N.H. fish hatcheries are getting money that should be used for pandemic relief. The hatcheries should be downsized or closed if license sales can’t pay for them.

LINDA DIONNE
Raymond

Letter: Stop animal research

Letter in the Concord Monitor
February 23, 2022

Letter: Stop animal research

A month ago, a truck transporting a hundred macaque monkeys from NY to a quarantine facility in Florida was involved in a traffic accident. The monkeys, packed in wooden boxes, were thrown from the truck. Three escaped. Once found, the three were shot and killed by the police. How the other monkeys fared in the accident was not reported. The monkeys are from the island nation of Mauritius. They were going to a quarantine facility to pre-check for any diseases or viruses they might be carrying before being used for research. The officials who purchased the macaques have not released information about the monkeys that survived the accident. A passerby stopped at the accident out of concern. She looked in one of the boxes, later became ill, and was awaiting test results for monkey-borne diseases.

Have we learned nothing from COVID-19 and other animal-borne diseases that have jumped to humans, such as we also witnessed with Ebola? There are alternatives to using animals in research that are much safer and would cost the taxpayer less money. Imagine how much money it costs to purchase a hundred monkeys, fly them to the U.S. and then house and quarantine them for several months before possibly using them for research. It’s time to stop exploiting, confining, and in most cases torturing animals for research. We need to transition to only non-animal research. If we leave the animals alone, they will leave us alone.

LINDA DIONNE
Raymond

My Turn: Taking stock of NH’s fish hatcheries

Op-Ed in The Concord Monitor
December 26, 2021

My Turn: Taking stock of NH’s fish hatcheries

Every year, the New Hampshire Fish and Game Department raises more than a million fish in concrete tanks and ponds at six fish hatcheries they operate around the state.

Once the fish reach desired size, they are loaded into trucks and driven all over New Hampshire to be deposited into lakes, ponds, rivers and streams. Depending on where a particular water body is located and how easy it is to reach, fish may be pumped in through a tube attached to the tanker truck, hand-carried in nets or buckets, or even flown in by helicopter in some cases.

Fish stocking has been going on in New Hampshire in some form for more than a century. For those who grew up fishing here, the state’s annual stocking routine may seem normal. But for others, the idea of driving around putting fish into lakes and ponds (and this is not unique to New Hampshire) sounds crazy. The obvious question is, why is this necessary? Aren’t there already fish in the lakes, ponds and rivers?

The answer, according to NH Fish and Game Executive Director Scott Mason, is that the mineral makeup of New Hampshire’s water is such that it cannot support populations of fish big enough or plentiful enough to satisfy anglers.

But their solution, raising fish in hatcheries and then trucking them around to favorite fishing spots, is not without problems, and water pollution at the hatcheries is one of them.

When mass-producing animals in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), whether it’s pigs, chickens or in this case, fish, an inevitable side effect is an accumulation of animal waste. Dealing with this waste has been a thorn in the side of the NH Fish and Game for some time.

At the Powder Mill Fish Hatchery in New Durham, wastewater from the operation is discharged directly into the Merrymeeting River, and for years NH Fish and Game exceeded the pollutant levels allowed under its EPA permit. This contributed to harmful cyanobacteria blooms in the river and also landed NH Fish and Game in court.

Seeing an opportunity in the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds, NH Fish and Game recently asked for and was granted $1,000,000 from the recovery fund to address the water pollution problems at the fish hatcheries. The grant will be put toward the planning stages of building a wastewater treatment facility at the Powder Mill Fish Hatchery.

In other words, NH Fish and Game will use federal ARPA funds, which are intended to help states recover economically from the pandemic and build more resilient infrastructures, to solve its pollution problem— a problem that NH Fish and Game is wholly responsible for and should pay for out of its own budget.

There are also technical reasons to disqualify the project. While ARPA funds may indeed be used for “necessary investments in projects that improve wastewater and stormwater infrastructure,” the eligibility requirements, which are the same as for the existing Clean Water State Revolving Fund, state that assistance is available for projects to control “non-point sources” of pollution, whereas the fish hatcheries are “point-source” polluters.

As it is the mission of our organization to help animals, what troubles us most about the grant is not the misuse of funds but that it signifies a long-term commitment to the fish hatcheries and stocking program.

“Everyone understands that these definitely need major investments,” Governor Sununu told the Executive Council before they voted to approve the ARPA grant.

Fish stocking concerns us because the practice interferes with nature and raises animal welfare concerns.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that fish not only experience pain but are also far more sophisticated creatures than once understood. Yet at the hatcheries, fish are crowded into barren tanks with nothing to do but swim in circles.

Once released into water bodies, hatchery fish may be ill-equipped to survive or alternatively may out-compete native fish for food. They may also bring with them diseases and/or parasites that fish raised in crowded conditions commonly endure.

At a time when the public is learning there’s a lot more going on in the minds of fish than we might have realized (consider the popularity of documentaries like My Octopus Teacher and Seaspiracy) New Hampshire is planning a future where fish continue to be treated as expendable objects.

Instead of investing even more money in the fish hatcheries, NH Fish and Game should close them down and redirect the resources toward better managing the state’s water bodies to support native fish.

NH Fish and Game is already doing some of this work and could do more if the bulk of the inland fisheries budget weren’t going toward stocking. Where water bodies have been restored by removing dams to allow streams to run freely, for example, native fish populations have rebounded.

And in contrast to the merry-go-round of stocking, restoration projects are long-term, self-sustaining improvements that benefit not only native fish but also entire aquatic ecosystems.

(Joan O’Brien is a board member for New Hampshire Animal Rights League.)

 

Bull Riding Doesn’t Belong in NH, or Anywhere

Op-Ed in Union Leader
Oct 15, 2021

For those who care about animals and want to protect them from mistreatment, a silver lining of the pandemic was that it kept the Professional Bull Riders (PBR) tour away from Manchester, NH for more than a year. Alas, the tour is returning for two shows at the SNHU Arena in October.

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League opposes bull riding and any other activity where animals are made to perform for our entertainment. Although the PBR refers to the bulls as “animal athletes” and claims that they were born to buck, the bulls, unlike their human riders, do not consent to be there.

Being a PBR bull means being hauled around the country in a trailer, prodded into stalls and chutes, and on performance nights subjected to “a rock concert environment, complete with pulsating music, and explosive pyrotechnics,” as promoters describe it.

In the arena, there are several observable indicators that the bulls experience fear and distress. These include increased “eye white,” which results when the upper eyelid lifts, as well as “diarrhea butt,” an excrement-stained backside.

On event night, life for the bulls goes from just unnatural to downright dangerous. Just before they are let loose into the arena, the flank strap around their mid-section is yanked tight, which aggravates them into bucking harder and over-extending their hind legs as they fight to throw off the rider.

Although portrayed as “beasts” who are impervious to pain, bulls are not machines and often get hurt right along with the riders. Veterinarian and former rodeo performer Peggy Larson explains, “Bucking straps and spurs can cause the bull to buck beyond his normal capacity, and his legs or back may thus be broken.”

The PBR claims to care about the wellbeing of the animals, and yet they subject them to risk of injury over and over again. “In the case of a severe injury, that can’t be repaired through surgery, a bull would be humanely euthanized,” their web site states.

When profitable bulls are worn out or injured so severely that they can no longer perform, they may be retired to life as sperm donors. This allows the industry to continue exploiting the bulls for profit by selling their offspring, semen, or even frozen embryos created in vitro with their sperm. (Google “bucking bull semen and embryos” for an eye-opening look into the mindset of those who treat animals as commodities.)

Remarkably, despite the terrible risk to both the rider and animal, bull riding is marketed as family entertainment. These events may seem like harmless fun, but consider the message they send to both children and adults: it’s okay to dominate and control animals, to force them to perform for our entertainment, and to give little thought to their needs or imagine how they might be suffering.

A number of cities across the country have passed ordinances preventing the use of devices that force bulls and other rodeo animals to perform, including spurs and the flank strap. It is no accident that where these implements are prohibited, bull riding and rodeos disappear.

If you are interested in keeping bull riding out of New Hampshire, please reach out to the NH Animal Rights League.

You can join the NH Animal Rights League outside the SNHU Arena on Friday, Oct, 15 from 6:00 to 7:30PM for a peaceful demonstration against bull riding.

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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