Monthly Archives: May 2012

Orangutan Prostitution Appalling, but Thankfully Not “Common”

Orangutan.  Photo courtesy Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

Orangutan. Photo courtesy Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation.

Another horrible thing wandered across my radar today, under the lively title “Orangutans being used as prostitutes!!”  The attached text (which was written by a random Facebook friend, not a journalist) implied that hundreds of orangutans are being snatched from the trees and used as prostitutes in villages in Borneo.  It included a link to a Care2 petition begging everyone to stop the orangutan prostitution industry.

So, some quick research.  There’s a bunch of stories on this floating about, and they all seem to reference this story, written on October 3, 2007 by Jack Adams of the online magazine Vice, which appears to be something of a news outlet but whose main-page stories (as of 5/27/12) also include articles like “If You Don’t Like The Spurs, You’re A Wall-Eyed Moron” and “Dave Hill Wrote Some Stupid Book“.  The orangutan story is extremely short (9 paragraphs, including the introduction) and does not go into a lot of detail.  It also does not in any way imply that orangutan prostitution happens outside of this one incident.

The interview is with Michele Desilets, director of the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation, founded in 1991.  The BOSF web site does not mention Pony or prostitution at all.  Neither does Michele Desilet’s Facebook page.  You would think that if orangutan prostitution was a huge industry (or even an industry at all), there would be mention somewhere.  Instead, we have a tweet from Michele personally (dated April 2012, and directed at someone else who was researching the petition site’s allegation): “The case of Pony the orangutan was the only case we have ever come across of this type.  It is NOT common.”

Is the use of animals of any kind (and, arguably, of humans) in a brothel an unforgivable atrocity?  Yes.  Is it terrible that this happened (and it does seem to have happened), and that the perpetrators won’t be punished (there are no laws forbidding this kind of behavior in Indonesia)?  Yes.  Is this a sad, sad example of how low some people will sink?  Yes.  Are hundreds of orangutans being captured for use in Indonesian brothels?  No.

What is really threatening orangutans?  Habitat loss due to deforestation, related to the palm oil industry.  Want to help stop the idiocy?  Don’t just sign an online petition — get out there and donate some money, try to reduce your use of products containing palm oil, (here’s a handy wallet card!) or, at the very least, Facebook or tweet about the Borneo Orangutan Survival Foundation (or the animal support group of your choice), and get people angry about a problem that actually exists.

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470,000 Die, Receive Brief Mention In Local Paper

Just a little something I noticed today….

An egg farm near Roggen, Colorado, owned by Boulder Valley Poultry, burned to the ground on April 30.  The extremely brief article (which matches other, extremely brief articles in other papers) declares the event an accident, and winds up by reassuring consumers that their supply of eggs is unlikely to be affected.

Oh, yeah, and 470,000 hens died.  In two barns.

What an interesting, unremarked, casual aside.  These aren’t unbelievably huge buildings.  235,000 chickens in each one?  To give each chicken one square foot of floor space in an open-floor plan (an extremely minimal investment), the barns would need to be 100 ft x 2,350 ft (almost half a mile long).  How densely were these chickens packed?

Also, “many local producers have agreed to step up production”.  How do you do that, I wonder?

Horrible but Responsible

Foal photo by Taliesin, morguefile.comI read with mixed feelings an article from the Toronto Sun (which appears to be the original source) about the results of a decision ending provincial funding for the area’s harness racing industry.  The article is a tad suspect, because no sources are really named — “a number of sources”, including “an area horseperson, who asked not to be identified”, are quoted as saying “an unknown number” of foals are being euthanized “moments after birth” because breeders are facing an unanticipated, severe economic downturn.

Apparently, the Ontario Lottery and Gaming Commission has decided to stop funding harness racing (and, it appears, other equestrian activities) with a portion of the annual revenue it gets from slot machines.  The Commission will instead be funneling the monies into funding things like hospitals and schools.  The Canadian equine world is not pleased about this, and neither are a lot of people involved in the gaming industry.

Knowing this, the article looks less like “news” and more like a desperate effort to smear those responsible for the shutdown.  I’m interested that they’re not saying, “People are losing jobs!” but “These poor baby horses are being killed!”  This smacks of some media person trying to pull on heartstrings.  It is likely true that someone, somewhere, may be euthanizing some of their herd due to the economic slam.  However, since horse slaughter is legal in Canada, it is much more likely that a breeder finding themselves with extra horses and no money will simply sell the unwanted animals by the pound for slaughter — a much more profitable enterprise than paying a vet for chemical euthanasia and disposal.  Thus I seriously doubt this story — no dates, no names, no sources, no traceable facts — just a lot of people suddenly terrified that the decision is putting people out of a job is funding necessary government programs might result in someone killing baby ponies!

Honestly, if I heard that a breeder was humanely euthanizing their suddenly unwanted foals rather than trying to, say, sell them for slaughter, give them away for free on Craigslist, or just passively neglecting them to death (please don’t make me find links to examples — I assure you there are plenty), I would be amazed that the breeder was taking such responsibility for the animals under their care.  Sure, I’d be happier if they were finding loving homes for the horses, but, in a world of awful realities, there just aren’t enough homes for everybody.  I’d so much rather the breeders took responsibility for making sure the babies under their care never got given to an inappropriate home, sent to slaughter or allowed to slowly starve to death.

The world is really messed up when I read a story (however journalistically dubious) about baby ponies (often accompanied by heart-wrenching photos of adorable, fuzzy baby horses presumably being menaced by this scourge) being euthanized because their owners are threatened by sudden economic crisis, and immediately think, What responsible owners!  Good for them not letting the poor things rot or selling them for meat!