Wild Birds of New Zealand v. Mean Cats

Everybody knows that cats are evil. But nobody understands this more than the birds of New Zealand, which have been mercilessly hunted down by the ferocious felines. So why do we care? There are a number of endangered birds in New Zealand, a number of which are flightless. Gareth Morgan, a prominent New Zealand economist, has suggested that New Zealand eliminate cats from the country altogether. Morgan claims that one of the country’s greatest assets is its natural resources and wildlife, and that cats are directly to blame for the endangered status of numerous birds. Of course, New Zealand is a nation of cat ladies, with more cats per capita than any other country in the world. Clearly, this sets the stage for a war of epic proportions: bird lovers v. cat ladies. Anybody who has had any experience with the interwebs understands the significance of this event.

Let’s take a step back for a second. Does the government have the power to control species, and perhaps more importantly, should they? This has occurred in the past, but it should be noted that Morgan’s plan doesn’t call for an all out cat killfest-instead, it suggests that the cat population be controlled and monitored. Given that feral cats are blamed for the majority of bird kills in New Zealand, it makes sense that Morgan’s plan emphasizes the spaying and neutering of cats. Some opponents to Morgan’s plan however cite that nature should be allowed to take its course. Unfortunately, over 30 bird species in New Zealand have gone extinct already, and many more are endangered due to the presence of imported cats. It seems to be a fair compromise for New Zealanders to make to preserve the biodiversity that makes New Zealand so special. But maybe that’s just because I’m a dog person.

Pardon Me, Please?

Before you dig into your Thanksgiving turkey (or am I too late?), consider this fun fact: the President of the United States pardons a turkey at an official ceremony in the White House every year and saves it from slaughter.

This tradition started in 1989 with President George H. Bush.  Among the lucky few birds that have been spared are Katie and Zack in 2001 (named after children of the Chairman of the National Turkey Federation),  Marshmallow and Yam in 2005, and Liberty and Peace last Thanksgiving.

The process  is full of pomp.  The turkeys (one for the ceremony and one alternate) are selected at birth and trained to handle loud noises, crowds, and flash photography. They are brought into D.C. via motorcade and stay in a deluxe suite at the W Hotel, feasting on berries, corn, and acorn the night before the event. After their official duty, they are whisked off to Mount Vernon.

All is done in good jest and the holiday spirit, but it raises some “sort of” serious questions:

1. Why pardon turkeys at all?  Does this point to a larger issue about animal cruelty or food (over)consumption? Surely, there’s a reason why we cringe when we see Governor Palin pardoning a turkey while his fellow birds are being butchered in the background::


2. And what about the names? Why Liberty?  Why Peace?  And why was Liberty the chosen bird and Peace the alternate?  Surely it would have been bad taste to name the bird Osama.  But in the name of all things to be pardoned, what about Congress or the Economy? There must be a method to the madness of selecting these select birds—if the act is symbolic, then the names must be as well.

Just some food for thought.  Happy Thanksgiving!

PETA goes explicit (more so than usual)

PETA doesn’t beat around the bush. Rather, it is generally quite outspoken and direct about our questionable animal practices. And it doesn’t shy away from provocative advertising tactics, often with the help from scantily clad women.


But it seems like the folks at PETA are kicking it up a notch. NPR reports that PETA is planning a website that will “feature ‘tantalizing’ videos and photographs” (read: pornography) leading to its usual animal rights messages. Never mind that “tantalizing” summons up images of that medium-rare filet mignon oozing with the last drops of life force, it’s easy to see why this new initiative is questionable. The obvious objection is that using an immorality to promote an ethical viewpoint reeks of hypocrisy. Moreover, from a practical standpoint, this new enticement is bound to be a turn-off for “mainstream” audience, adding further to the perception of PETA as a fringe movement.

But are there really no justifiable reasons to put naked bodies on the line for animal rights? Continue reading “PETA goes explicit (more so than usual)”

As sly as a cow

Disclaimer: I love steak. I’m not just talking the occasional steak every now and then; I’m talking three days a week growing up I enjoyed a Porterhouse and a baked potato. It’s a South Dakota thing.

Problemkuh Yvonne narrt ihre Verfolger
Yvonne, a cow that has lived in the wild since eluding a trip to the slaughterhouse in May, has foiled all attempts to capture her. Now officials say that she’s not to be disturbed.

Now that we have any potential conflicts illuminated, meet Yvonne. Yvonne is German cow who stuck it to the man and ran away moments before she was to be slaughtered. It seems quite ordinary that a cow would get frightened as it is being ushered to its death. What is out of the ordinary is that Yvonne’s escape was successful. Moreover, she wasn’t just able to finagle her way out of the slaughterhouse line; Yvonne has managed to evade:

  • “Hunters on a shoot-to-kill mission (since called off);
  • Search parties of volunteers trying to find the cow before the hunters did;
  • Helicopters using thermal imaging cameras;
  • A reward of 10,000 euros ($14,533), offered by Bild, a German tabloid;
  • Entreaties delivered via animal psychic, who relayed that Yvonne “didn’t feel ready” to return to the world of humans.
  • Bovine lures, including an (allegedly) attractive bull ox, her “sister cow” Waltraud, and Yvonne’s calf, Friesi.” (NPR)

The extreme measures to catch Yvonne came when she almost ran into a police officer on the highway and she was subsequently named a ‘public safety hazard.’ Herein lies my first question: do the police have a right to put a bounty on this cow? If an all out war is declared every time a deer causes a car accident the necessary expansion in government workers is enough to cause the Republican Party to have an aneurism. That simply doesn’t seem like a sensible way of spending federal money.

And then there is the issue of special treatment. The efforts to capture Yvonne quickly caught public attention and a social movement behind the protection of her ensued (Yvonne’s Facebook page). While I’m entirely on Team Yvonne, why should it matter that society has a crush on this cow? If she is worthy of her ‘public safety hazard’ title, then the government ought to protect its citizens and eliminate any risk (or “risk”) Yvonne poses; we have no issue with the government capturing rogue skunks and other less-appealing “risk” critters.

Even if she isn’t a risk, the matter isn’t society’s decision to make. Now that an animal sanctuary has bought her, Yvonne is private property. Just because my dog is infinitely more appealing than my neighbor’s, the neighborhood is not allowed to impose their opinion on my dogs behavior any more so than on the ugly, yappy dog next door.

The third question is simple: at what point should this cow simply be left alone? Clearly she has an uncompromising desire to be free and apparently she is capable of surviving on her own. It’s not like Colonel Gaddafi trying to live out the rest of his years in peace – it’s a cow. She has been paid for. Assuming she isn’t an imposition on society, why can’t she just enjoy her bovine justice? Not a far leap from this question is the foundation to vegetarianism/veganism, but as the disclaimer warned, that’s not an argument I am going to explore.

PETA + Bible = Not a Good Match


This week PETA has taken a new stance in its plight for animal rights that has many people LOLing (sorry, did I overdo the acronyms?).  The latest from the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals is a demand for more “animal friendly” lingo in the New International Version of the Bible.

Continue reading “PETA + Bible = Not a Good Match”

The Death of a Hamster

ChadDDHamsterLast year at June, an angry 19 year old teenager choked and threw a hamster out of the house and killed it instantly, and about three weeks ago, she was arrested and charged with aggravated cruelty to animals and faced up to two years in prison. I was pretty horrified when I first heard of this, and judging from some of the comments I’ve read from various blogs, the public seems indignant at what she has done.

There is probably not much debate on whether her action was humane or not, what I think really is worth talking about is Mark Bittman’s response in the New York Times. Bittman argues that we torture animals everyday in meat factories and we make it okay because we eat the animals (warning: he included some really graphic videos). The fact that a teenager is charged with a federal felony for killing a hamster while industries get away with grinding up 200 million chicks alive in a year is something that really troubles me.

Continue reading “The Death of a Hamster”