Sunday, February 26, 2012

Say Neigh to Trail-Riding

Many people-- even those who are vegetarian and opposed to animal testing-- often strongly defend trail-riding and commercial horse-back riding as being fair and humane. This is a very misleading opinion, however, as I am about to show:
  • The horse's physiological makeup was not built to withstand an extra 100-200 pounds, rider and tack, on their back, says Cherry Hill in her book How To Think Like a Horse. The only reason that humans can ride is due to the position of certain ligaments and muscles, but, in my opinion, by no means will the horse be comfortable with it. (Update: I know that Cherry Hill is not advocating against trail-riding in this quote. I am merely drawing logical conclusions based on the facts.)
  • Commercial riding centres do not let their horses roam free; instead, they are kept penned in "standing stalls" that do not allow the horse to turn around. Often the horses only see daylight when they are being ridden.
  • Animals, quite plainly, were not put here on earth for humans to use as their tools. Says Saba Alemayehu on, "I always tell to pony riders and police men/women not to ride the animals needlessly, but some of them think it is something that the animals themselves enjoy to do, which is a lie. Every animal hates being manipulated, exploited, and being made an instrument..."
  • The "tack" that horses are forced to don is anything but humane. Nobody should kid themselves that horses like to have such a painful bit (piece of metal invented for "steering" the horse) in their mouths that they become desensitized to the pain and need a stronger one.
  • Neither should we try to believe that it's okay to whip horses in order to make them go faster. I learned this at a March Break riding camp I attended years ago. The riding instructor had a long whip that she would wave near the poor horses' legs to keep them going. I wasn't sure that it was a whip at first, but the terrorized neighs and startled eyes of the horses confirmed my guess. I was riding a horse who wasn't going as fast as the others, so the instructor handed me a short piece of leather.
"Here, use this," she said.
"What do I do with it?" I asked nervously.
"You-- er-- tap your horse's side."
I very gently "tapped" my horse's side, but nothing changed.
"Harder!" she said.
I hit the horse with a bit more force, but decided that I shouldn't do any more than that. Why would I hurt my horse?
"Come on," she exclaimed. "Horses are big, tough animals-- they won't be able to feel a little hit on their sides!"
She managed to bully me into hitting my poor horse even harder-- remember that I was still pretty young and easily intimidated-- but needless to say, I never went back to a riding stable again!
  • Horse stables very often support conventional breeding practices-- that is, forcing the two horses together. They do this so that the stallion won't hurt the mare, but really, such breeding is one of the worst kinds of abuse that there is!
  • Horses may become exhausted from overworking and providing one ride after another... for days on end.

It's up to you to stop supporting these cruel practices. Firstly, don't go to a trail-riding place yourself. This may mean turning down an invitation from your friends, but it's worth turning them down for once. Secondly, try to explain to people why not to go horse-back riding-- you can tell your friends, parents, grandparents, children (if you have any), teachers, colleagues, etc. Third, spread the word via social networking sites, blogs, posters, etc. The first three people who send an anti-horseback-riding poster that they made to:

get their creations posted on The Animal Rights Action Site next week!
What about bareback riding rescued horses? That's a slightly different story. If you have rescued a pony or horse, riding her must be consentual-- she mustn't refuse, run away, or flatten her ears. Teaching your horse to live in harmony with you is one thing. Forcing your horse to be ridden on the false premise that "he'll like it after a while" or "it's good for him" is another. If you really want your horse to want to be ridden, you'll have to build a close relationship with him first.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Saving Urban Wildlife In Your Own Backyard!

Urban wildlife means animals who live in the city or suburbs. This would include squirrels, birds, chipmunks, rabbits, mice, bats, skunks, raccoons, and even insects! Animals in the city are brave and often tough-- but not necessarily tough enough to survive toxic chemicals, litter, and lack of food. It's hardly fair when we call them "pests"-- who was here first, after all, us or them? I suppose you could even say that us humans are the pests! Either way, we should try to be the least harmful to the native species of our area as possible.
This is one of my favourite ways of helping animals because you can see the effects of your actions right away-- cleaner neighbourhood, less chance of animals being injured or killed. Without further ado, I shall rattle off some of my (and other people's) ideas for saving wildlife in your neighbourhood!
  1. Put window stickers or dangling ornaments on/around your windows to avoid bird collisions. Even a few stickers can do-- it will warn the birds that the impossibly clean window is, indeed, a hard surface. You can purchase some eco-friendly, fair-trade ornaments at Browse around! You might find something interesting. Of course, you can make your own, too-- old Christmas cards, current to-do lists... It's up to you, just do something!
  2. Pick up any garbage you see on the ground. You can either organize a litter clean-up or just grab an elastic or two on your way. Once I saw a chipmunk attempting to stow away some plastic garbage in my backyard. I quickly scared her away and picked up the plastic. She could have suffocated on that bag, or been sickened with toxins, if I hadn't picked it up. My point: every little piece of garbage can make a difference! Tip: You're likely to find a lot of elastic bands around post boxes, since the letters are carried in packs with elastics around them. For some reason, the post people will often just throw them on the ground! So that would be a good place to check, if you're looking for ideas.
  3. Be careful not to spill chemicals (like anti-freeze) on the ground (or down the storm drain!). Since anti-freeze tastes sweet, animals will enjoy lapping it up-- only to suffer fatal consequences later.
  4. Especially during harsh winter months, leave out birdseed and vegetable scraps for the birds, squirrels, and rabbits. It's only fair to share-- and if they don't eat it, it will still be used as fertiliser for your lawn!
  5. Don't try to get rid of the so-called "pest" animals, unless they are literally tearing your house apart or giving you diseases. See my earlier post, "Give Pests a Rest!" for more details.
Living with wildlife can be very interesting, and even amusing at times. You can watch the birds at the birdfeeder and the rabbits in the yard. It's also crucial to remember that reducing your environmental footprint may be the key factor in saving wildlife everywhere. You can see my environment blog, Hug a Tree Today, Seriously, at , to learn more.
Have a good week!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

How To Stop Animal Cruelty Everywhere You Go

Animal cruelty seems to be all around us nowadays-- it doesn't take a trip to a factory farm or circus to confirm the way animals are being senselessly abused. On the streets, some children think it's funny to burn ants with magnifying glasses on hot days; people drag their dogs along without thinking about their pets' happiness; and sometimes teenagers will even throw rocks at cats. At home, dogs are locked in crates while their masters are at work; "pocket pets" and fish are stuck in cages hardly bigger than they are themselves; unwanted goldfish are flushed down the toilet while alive; and dogs and cats, supposedly the joys in our lives, are yelled at for doing things like eating a tasty treat that their owner had prepared for their guests.
It seems hard to know where to start. Since these things can only be eliminated through new legislation and such, there's nothing we can do to stop it.
Or is there?
There is, in fact, a very simple way to help reduce speciesism, or the prejudice against other species. This is practicing respect! It's not just a matter of not harming animals. It is about advocating the respect for other creatures in our daily lives. Here are some examples of what I mean:
  • Refer to animals by he or she instead of it. The pronoun it signifies an inanimate object. Once humans consider animals to be individuals with lives of their own, it will be a lot harder for people to show cruelty. Cruelty, after all, often spawns from thoughtlessness-- not even considering another's point-of-view.

  • When one of your friends is joking about animal cruelty, let them know that it isn't funny and that they shouldn't joke about it.
  • When you actually come into the aquaintance of a non-human animal, do as J. Allen Boone was instructed to do when he was asked to care for the dog celebrity, Strongheart:
    • "I was told what and when to feed my new companion, how to bathe and brush him and what kind of exercise he should have every day. I was advised to treat him exactly as I would an intelligent human being. I was never under any circumstances to 'talk down my nose' at him, to use baby talk with him, or to say anything... that I did not sincerely mean in my heart. The instructions ended with the apparently serious recommendation that I read something worthwhile to him every day." To learn how this all went, I advise you to read his book, Kinship With All Life.
  • Make sure that you don't participate in events that support animal cruelty. For example, a barbeque fundraiser may be raising funds for a good cause, but by helping with setting up/cleaning up/cooking/making posters/etc., you would be supporting animal cruelty at the same time. Veggie-burger-only/veggie-dog-only barbeques are okay, though! If someone asks you why you won't help, try to explain as politely and descriptively as you can. You may not convert them into animal rights activists on the spot, but you will definitely get them thinking about stopping their unconcious cruelty. Another example would be if your friends think it's "fun" to squish/drown ants. Don't be the by-stander. "But I'm not actually doing anything" doesn't cut it. As I have heard from many anti-bullying campaigns in elementary school, "the by-stander is just as bad as the bully."
  • If you see someone who isn't treating their animal properly, offer a suggestion on how to do things better. Don't make it sound like you are attacking them, but give them a "friendly pointer" and ask them to look at it from the animals' point-of-view. If you can, direct them to an animal rights video, organization, or my blog!
  • Remember: children and youth are the future. The atmosphere that young people are raised in will have a profound impact on the world of tomorrow. Humane education is vital to helping kids cultivate compassion. Teach your children (if you have kids) and their friends to be compassionate wherever they go, explaining them why they should boycott circuses, zoos, animal products, etc. This is not "brainwashing" them. It is exactly the same as teaching children to care for their neighbours. If they are taught this, there won't be a need for animal rights activism in years to come-- respect will come naturally!
By the way, I'm not accepting e-mails from my old ecofuzzy e-mail account anymore. Google is changing it's privacy policies. So you'd be better off to post a comment instead, for those of you who want to contact me but don't know me personally. Thanks.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Chimpanzees in Entertainment on Feb 5, 2012

This week I wanted to let you know about's latest advertisement for the Super Bowl on February 5th-- one using chimpanzees as the so-called "actors"!
As the Jane Goodall Institute put it in an e-mail sent to their supporters, "despite CareerBuilder’s best efforts, the use of chimpanzees in entertainment is inherently inhumane." They have started a petition against such cruelty, which can be found at I hope that you can take a few short minutes to sign it!
The use of animals to solely entertain humans is wrong. Animals have the right to decide how to spend their time, instead of being forced to perform tricks and ridiculed.
If you haven't already, I suggest you sign up for Jane Goodall's e-newsletter. It isn't sent around too often-- just enough to keep you informed.
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