Consider that more than 90 percent of drugs that test “safe” on animals fail in human studies, and more than half of all approved drugs will be re-labeled or withdrawn because of serious, even fatal, effects in humans; indeed, more than 100,000 people die each year in the U.S. from adverse reactions to approved drugs -- the fifth leading cause of death. Meanwhile, clinical research (working with people who already have a disease) and epidemiological studies (comparing health issues in different populations) help save lives while not exploiting non-human animals.
8. Rabbit fur is NOT a byproduct of meat production. Fur stores may try to mollify their critics by arguing that rabbit fur is merely a byproduct of the rabbit-meat industry. In truth, rabbit meat and rabbit fur come from different breeds slaughtered at different ages and for different purposes. While large breeds, such as the New Zealand White and Californian, are raised for their flesh, the Rex rabbit is especially prized for their plush, soft coats. “Meat” rabbits die young -- about 11 weeks old, when their flesh is still tender. At this age, the rabbit’s fur has not fully developed and is very light and thin. “Fur” rabbits are kept alive longer -- about six months, though in squalid conditions -- and suffer miserable deaths. Most rabbit fur comes from rabbits raised on fur farms, where they spend their lives in tiny wire cages, thus denied their natural instincts to burrow, play and enjoy social bonds. To kill rabbits, farmers smash their skulls or break their necks and then string them up, cut off their heads and peel the skin from their bodies.
You don’t need fur to be fashionable -- just ask Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger and Ralph Lauren, who are among the major designers who have shunned fur. For more insights, check out www.FurIsDead.com and www.RabbitProduction.com.
9. Zoo animals often end up as hunting trophies. Long gone are the days when zoos were the only reasonable place for the public to see exotic animals. The reality now is that zoos are a business, businesses need customers and zoos lure customers by breeding or buying new animals. Older animals must be removed to make room for the new ones; consequently, “retired” or “surplus” animals are frequently sold to brokers, who in turn sell them to breeders, circuses, research facilities, auctions, roadside petting zoos, private parties or hunting ranches. That cuddly lion cub you see today could end up stuffed and mounted a few years from now. According to the Humane Society of the United States, zoos that have sold animals either directly to canned hunts or to dealers who have done business with auctions or hunts include the Kansas City Zoo, the Los Angeles Zoo, the Memphis Zoo, the San Diego Zoo, the San Francisco Zoo and the National Zoo in Washington, DC, to name but a few.
Rather than patronizing zoos, you can support groups that genuinely rescue exotic animals or work to preserve habitats such as the Performing Animal Welfare Society, the Elephant Sanctuary, the International Primate Protection League and the Born Free Foundation. For further details about zoos and canned hunts, visit www.WildlifeProtection.net or www.peta.org/campaigns/ar-zoos.asp
10. Our tax dollars help fund animal abuse. Like it or not, taxpayers subsidize some of the most appalling cruelty to animals, including factory farming practices, vivisection and killing animals on public land. The largest of these subsidies is the Farm Bill (TFB), a comprehensive piece of federal legislation that comes up about every five years. TFB provides billions of dollars in subsidies, much of which goes to agribusinesses producing feed crops, such as corn and soy, which are then fed to farmed animals. In fact, 74 percent of TFB goes to the meat and dairy industries, while about one percent goes to help growers of fruits and vegetables (now you know why healthy foods cost more than fast food). Thanks to subsidized grain, factory farmers make more profit packing animals into feedlots than by letting them graze on real farms.
The fiscal irresponsibility continues with vivisection, which is financed through taxpayer-funded agencies. Vivisection includes toxicity tests of drugs and substances (animal testing), studies of human disease (experimental research on animals) and using animals in medical schools (dissection and practice surgery). The U.S. military also subjects animals to horrific cruelties such as irradiation, burnings, bombings, wounds and decompression sickness -- all in the name of national defense. Not only are these military practices funded by our taxes, but vivisectors receive $7 billion in government grants every year, further bankrolled by taxpayers.
Tax dollars also subsidize a little-known federal agency within the USDA ironically called Wildlife Services (WS). WS spends much of its time killing “pests” -- in general, animals who prey on livestock grazing on public land that has been leased to ranchers for a pittance -- and the number-one pest of the rancher is the coyote. Methods used to kill these animals include aerial gunning, gassing pups in their dens, traps that eject sodium-cyanide into an animal’s mouth, livestock protection collars filled with poison, steel traps and neck, body and leg snares -- all this despite the availability of non-lethal methods and evidence that lethal control is ineffective. Each year, WS kills tens of thousands of coyotes, as well as hundreds or even thousands of wolves, mountain lions, bears, bobcats and other animals, sometimes for eating flowers and pet food, digging in gardens or frightening people.
Sadly, tax dollars are used to underwrite a variety of other animal abuses, including rodeos, foie gras production, trophy hunting of elephants in Africa, battery cages used in egg production, the mink-coat industry and the cruel practice of dog racing, among others. If you object to your taxes being used to subsidize animal abuse, either on a state or federal level, tell your elected officials! They can all be located at www.Congress.org.
These ten spoilers are hardly an inclusive list of what those who profit from animal abuse would love to keep under wraps. Fortunately, we can all do something about these injustices. Your action can be as simple as going vegan, sharing your outrage with others or boycotting a business. Better yet, why not all three? (Note: If you stop patronizing companies that profit from animal cruelty, such as zoos and circuses, please tell them why you are boycotting them.)
Armed with the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors, we can all help make a difference in the lives of the defenseless.
Mark Hawthorne is the author of Striking at the Roots: A Practical Guide to Animal Activism (www.strikingattheroots.com).
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