Category Archives: euthanasia

Use of Alternative Sources Does Not Solve My Problems with Meat

As an omnivore who has chosen to live without meat because no animal should have to go through our factory farming process just so I can have a sausage, I am constantly on the lookout for alternative options.  Unfortunately, I find tofu about as appealing as Kleenex under most circumstances, and the vegan “replacements” for my formerly favorite foods (hot dogs, hamburgers, chicken strips) don’t so much mimic those foods as taste so completely unlike them as to reinforce how much I miss them.

For example, I can try adding “tofu crumbles” to my spaghetti sauce to remind me of the ground hamburger I used to put in there, but there are three problems: 1) the tofu crumbles cost twice as much as the rest of the ingredients put together; 2) they take time and effort to cook properly; and 3) they do not actually taste like ground beef (or like anything).  I do not need the texture of ground beef in my spaghetti sauce so badly that I must go out and buy tofu crumbles for it.  (Bring on the mushrooms and fresh peppers instead!)

There is a new movement wandering around which is trying to encourage people to eat less beef, poultry and pork by using replacement meat sources instead of removing meat entirely from the diet.  This is supposed to appeal to carnivores because you don’t have to declare yourself a granola-eating vegan (I do not like granola, myself) in order to reduce the amount of beef in your diet: you can remain a dedicated carnivore, and even say you’re doing it for the environment, rather than for the animals, further reducing any appearance of sympathy you might have had.

Perfectly edible even without the "scraps" of mouse meat.  (Source: Vice.com)

Perfectly edible even without the “scraps” of mouse meat. (Source: Vice.com)

Along these lines, a journalist from Vice decided to eat live food from a pet store for a week, one meal a day, to see what replacing traditional meat sources with something less environmentally intensive to raise might do to her diet.  Her actions, including grinding crickets into a replacement pancake flour and the creation of what is essentially a mashed potato casserole with mice in it, remind me strongly of my trying to find alternative meat sources for my spaghetti sauce.  The recipes take additional work and time; the unusual additives don’t add much pleasure to the meal; and in every case there’s a cheaper, faster, vegetarian option available — simply don’t add the alternative meat source.  Hey, look, it’s a perfectly serviceable potato casserole with no mice in it!

….those little guys were raised in a sterile lab, which is more than you can say for your average chicken nugget.”

Plus, well, the mice are often being raised in the same kind of factory farming conditions to which I object with beef, poultry and pigs.  It doesn’t have the same impact on the environment, because mice don’t need the same kind of space or materials that the larger animals do, but it certainly has a similar impact on the mice, which was kind of my problem with meat in the first place.

toilet-fish-tankThe author’s problems with killing the live minnows (You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water.  You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water.  You do not euthanize fish by adding salt to their water!)reminds me that even — and especially — these tiny animals are “slaughtered” for consumption in terrible ways, mostly because they’re too tiny to scream audibly and therefore any method is “painless”.  Mice are generally gassed with CO2, which can be a terrible way to go if performed badly (which it usually is).  This also fails to solve the issues with factory farming that led me to give up carnivory.

Whether they have a smaller impact on the environment or not (they probably do), and whether their handling of them is in some way “better” than our treatment of pigs, cows and chickens (it probably isn’t), I don’t need crickets (or minnows, or mice!) so badly as a source of protein (peanuts! almonds! peas! quinoa! spinach! sunflower seeds! beans!) that I need to kill 50 of them to add texture (and, apparently, an almond or shrimp flavor) to my plate of spaghetti.  I had enough problems using 1/50 of a cow to get the flavor I actually wanted!

How about an option that’s plentiful, cheap, lives naturally in crowded conditions and is easy to obtain?

It’s Okay To Shoot Kittens As Long As We Can’t See

Multiple sources.

Multiple sources.

A sadly tiny blip across the “WTF” radar was the shooting of five kittens by an Ohio policeman named Bob (or Barry) Accorti on June 10, 2013.  The story in brief: homeowner has litter of feral cats in her woodpile; calls police; police send Accorti (a “part-time humane officer”, according to the North Ridgeville, OH, police web site).  The homeowner assumes, and Accorti tells the homeowner specifically, that the cats will be “euthanized” as “the shelters are all full”.  Homeowner pictures “euthanasia” involving the cats being trapped and taken to a shelter and euthanized there.  Accorti, however, conforms to the traditional police method of euthanasia (another link, another link) for “nuisance animals” — and instead shoots the 8-10-week old kittens, right in front of the homeowner and her young children who are watching through the windows.

The department has cleared him of any wrongdoing, concluding that the officer acted as required to remove the nuisance animals and that “research and other animal organizations accept shooting as an acceptable means of euthanasia.”  (Well, yes, they do, but “with conditions” and only in “emergency situations”, requiring that personnel be “highly skilled” and that “pre-euthanasia sedation is recommended” because cats “may be difficult to shoot humanely” (section S1.3.3).)  He was, perhaps, extremely tactless about it, but he did the job he was called to do, and did it in a legally acceptable manner.

Using phrases like “screaming kids” and “helpless kittens“, multiple individuals and organizations are trying to get Accorti punished, somehow, for shooting the kittens.  However, they can’t punish him for shooting the kittens, because shooting kittens is, technically, a viable option, and legal (at least in Ohio) — so instead they’re trying to punish him for shooting the kittens in front of the children.

I am of two minds on this point: I believe we should at least be open and honest about the horrible things we do to animals (only by publicly acknowledging that these things are being done can we stop them being done).  If you’re going to shoot kittens, you should not be able to do it in secret — you should have to do it right out in the open so everybody knows it’s happening, and has ample opportunity to object and/or stop you.  However, I also believe there is a required maturity level juvenile humans should reach before being confronted with concepts like “things die” and “sometimes we cause things to die”, and that the officer was not in a position to dictate whether or not those kids were at that maturity level.  In any case, the officer probably should have at least warned the homeowner before firing, so she could choose whether or not she wanted to educate her children about those ideas at that exact moment.

I think the bigger point, however, is this: if we’re offended and horrified by the shooting of kittens, so much so that we don’t want our children exposed to it, and don’t want to see it ourselves — why don’t we attack, and call to ban, “the shooting of kittens” instead of “the shooting of kittens in front of children“?  Officer Accorti, and his actions, are not the problem here — the problem is that our legal system still regards “gunshot to the head” as a viable method of euthanasia for cats (and a bunch of other animals, including dogs).  If we think that’s so horrible that we’re willing to lynch a guy for doing it, maybe we ought to consider passing legislation prohibiting that method of “euthanasia”.

Sometimes I Know Too Much

Today, on my Facebook feed, amongst the photos of kittens with yarn and puppies adorably chewing their own feet, this photo of a pile of euthanized dogs wandered past:

source unknown

source unknown

It was accompanied by a bland but well-meaning glurge poem in which a dog wonders why it had to die despite solvable behavior problems.  Now, I completely agree that solvable behavior problems are no reason to drop your dog off at the shelter (I believe firmly in Not Shooting The Dog), but the poem, alas, misses the point: the horror of this photo does not lie solely in that there are dead dogs in it.  It lies at least partly in how they died: these poor things are in a gas chamber, and have just been gassed to death, likely with CO2.  This is the view the shelter technician saw upon opening the door afterwards.  (When this image is fed into Google image search, it turns up dozens of articles on gas chambers, and how horrible they are.)

That animals are euthanized at all, because people still view them as property, as a commodity, as something to be “dumped” when they become obnoxious or ill or old or inconvenient, is a terrible thing.  That animals are still “euthanized” by CO2 is an even more terrible thing.  The people spreading this photo are missing a huge opportunity to note that not only did these dogs die because people are occasionally irresponsible morons, they died in a terrible, awful, unbelievably frightening and ugly way.  (Click on that link, which contains video, at your peril.)  They were twice the victims of human carelessness: the first time by the actions of those who landed them in the shelter, and the second by the actions of those who thought “lowest cost” was the primary requirement when choosing a method of humane euthanasia.

This is one of those sad points where I have to give up and flail helplessly at the screen.  The words all mush together into one big AUGH.  I applaud the people trying to spread the word about what we are doing to our companion animals, and can’t fault them for their choice of photo.  I wish that the Machine wasn’t so huge that thinking about one part of it (“convenience dumping” of “excess” animals) didn’t lead to the discovery of another, equally awful part (“euthanasia” of dogs by CO2).  I think what is scaring me the most, right now, though, is that I know enough about the world to glance at this photo and immediately recognize it as a gas chamber rather than a freezer.  I’m glad I know about it — I’d rather know than not — but sometimes I miss the quiet-in-the-head of not knowing this is happening.  It was rather peaceful.

Shelter Stories I

Cairn terrier in shelter cageNearly thirteen years have passed since you were a puppy, and now you are old, mostly blind, and mostly deaf, doddery and pleasant, ready to lie about the house providing doggie ambiance, and retire in a sunbeam.

Today, Mom and Dad put you in the car, and they took you to a strange room full of nervous animals.  Your tail wagged for everyone, even the cats, and the strange humans in the room.  Then someone walked you away from Mom and Dad, picked you up, and put you in a small metal box with a wire front.

Mom and Dad didn’t come back for you.

Since you are old, you will likely not be adopted.  Who wants to adopt an old, blind, deaf dog?  Should you be allowed to compete for scarce adoptive homes against all the young dogs who are also looking for homes?  Would being adopted even be good for you — suddenly moving, after thirteen years, to a new, scary place you can neither properly see or hear?  What is the humane choice for you?*

And what do we say to Mom and Dad, who just dropped you off at the shelter when you got old?  If we make them feel bad about this decision, they will not even bother to bring their next old, blind dog to the shelter for humane euthanasia — they will just open their front door and let the dog walk out, and he or she will become someone else’s problem.  Maybe that dog will make it to a shelter.  Maybe they’ll meet up with a bigger dog, or some angry kids, or the underside of a truck.  Is it better for you that we can at least give you a quiet exit, and treats before you go?

This story repeats itself every day.  I saw it happen yesterday, but it happened again today at a shelter in your town, and it will happen again tomorrow.  The only way to stop this story happening is to work to create people who don’t think it’s appropriate behavior to drop a family member off at the shelter so someone else has to deal with its aging and death.  The first step in that process is spreading the word that this is even happening.


*Note: Here’s a shelter which offers humane euthanasia for older or sick pets as a free service.  I feel this is a good service shelters should not be ashamed to offer, and which people who do not have the $75-100 or so it can cost to euthanize a pet should not be ashamed of using.  I vastly prefer this option to the “let’s let it suffer until it dies on its own” approach.

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!

Online Learning Tool: Animal Ethics Dilemma

While searching Amazon for more books to eat, I found a mention of a free “online learning tool” called Animal Ethics Dilemma.  It presents five case studies (focusing on the use of genetically modified animals, specifically monkeys, in research; the welfare of farmed chickens; euthanasia of aggressive pets; rehabilitation of wildlife; and slaughter plants) and provides various ways to explore the issues presented by these situations.  It encourages the user to  consider various response options to potentially real-world situations.

Overall, it’s well put together.  It does a decent job of introducing five broad areas of animal welfare.  The exploratory answer options tend to be a little fixed — the tool is trying to introduce the user to five (debatable) points of view (“contractarian“, “utilitarian“, “relational“, “animal rights” and “respect for nature“) and, instead of allowing freeform answers, the tool forces you to choose between five fixed answers, each representing one of the categories.  I don’t honestly believe that any one of these viewpoints is entirely right in all situations, but the division helps to simplify the problems a bit for initial interpretation.

You do have to create a username and password to use the thing, but it’s free, and it never asks for any personal information.  It’s designed to let you create a profile of yourself before experiencing the tool, and compare it to a profile of yourself after working with the tool.  It’s interesting, and it’s not preachy.

For what it’s worth, I personally figure as highly “utilitarian” and “animal rights”.

Dog Joins the Monkeysphere

This is just another instance wherein an animal which comes to community attention as an individual (rather than as an anonymous member of a group) suddenly joins the Monkeysphere and becomes worthy of a social bond.

Nobody wanted to adopt an anonymous beagle when he was one of hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats at a shelter in Alabama.  “Hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats” is a huge, vague concept, and it’s hard to form a social bond with, or feel one is personally able to help, “hundreds of unwanted dogs and cats”.  However, once he was brought to national consciousness as an individual dog with a name, people fought over the right to adopt him and a home was almost immediately found.

This is, by the way, why savvy shelters post individual web pages for each animal, with a little story about each, and a name for everybody.  It’s hard to open your heart to “181406M”, but it’s easy to find a soft spot for “Daniel”.

(Daniel, by the way, now has his own blog, and is working to abolish the use of gas chambers for euthanasia of pets in Pennsylvania via Daniel’s Law.  See what you can do when you have a name?)

Letter from an Anonymous Shelter Manager Rings True

This has been traveling around with no reference of source:

“I think our society needs a huge “Wake-up” call. As a shelter manager, I am going to share a little insight with you all…a view from the inside if you will.

First off, all of you breeders/sellers should be made to work in the “back” of an animal shelter for just one day. Maybe if you saw the life drain from a few sad, lost, confused eyes, you would change your mind about breeding and selling to people you don’t even know.”

….click here for the rest.

Speaking as someone who has worked with rescue people, and interviewed (if not worked) and volunteered at multiple animal shelters, I’d just like to second this, and point out that, while the language is a bit emphatic and there may be slight exaggeration for emphasis, the exaggeration is slight.  And the picture of the pile of cats?  Absolutely, 100% true to life, or, rather, true to death.  That’s a full-size walk in freezer, and imagine how many animals the pictured facility must “handle” per year that they needed to purchase such a thing.  And that’s one facility.

Does this piss you off?  Scare you?  Make you want to hug your kitties?  Do something about it.  Donate to your local shelter so it can keep animals longer or pay for kennel cough treatment.  Ask how you can help educate people about adoption and encourage people to adopt.  Above all, don’t get mad at the shelters…they are just dealing, as best they can, with the problem.  They didn’t cause it.  Does this photo, this article, make you sick?  Help your local animal shelter.  Help fix the problem.

Someone Else Can See It

It’s not that the scientists are lying, exactly, about what they’re doing.  It’s not that they’re hiding it, either, really.  Everything they do is written down as a proposal, approved by various subcommittees, recorded as results, and stored in case someone wants to look at it.  The problem is more one of communication:

“Yes, [I found it],” said Arthur.  “Yes, I did.  It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.”

Like the plans to demolish Arthur Dent’s house, the descriptions of what people are doing in laboratory experiments are there — just very, very difficult to find.  Most people don’t bother, or aren’t even aware that there are any descriptions out there to find.

For example, you can find, if you search online, some perfectly ordinary “rodent guillotines“.  You may be able to find a page, as well, explaining why some research animals might need to be euthanized via guillotine (it allows the researchers to collect samples uncontaminated by euthanasia chemicals).  Here’s a page describing research reassuring scientists that decapitation is painless (notice that it’s in response to research saying decapitation isn’t painless, and that it corroborates the original findings, but simply chooses to interpret them differently).  You can find masses of pages describing the euthanasia techniques, including decapitation, used by different facilities (look at all those colleges!  Did you know that your college tuition funded this kind of thing?  Would you have gone to that college if you’d known?)

…how would you know to look for this if you hadn’t worked in one of these facilities?  I wouldn’t have been able to come up with the search terms (“decapitation”, “euthanasia”, “rodent”, and “SOP”, if you’re wondering).  It wouldn’t have occurred to me that this even went on.  What other practices do we just need to know the search terms to find?  (Try “cervical dislocation”, “neonates” and “scissors”, “captive bolt”, “hog stunner”, and finish up with “AVMA guidelines euthanasia” to see the full list.)  It’s not like the information isn’t out there…it’s just that nobody is calling it to our attention.

What triggered this today was a random blog post from someone else mentioning that, hey, we’re not really saying a lot about this, are we?  Has anyone else noticed that people are being really quiet about this?  Why?