Friday, February 22, 2013

Vietnamese Kids Work to Save Animals

Love animals just like you do your own country
When many Americans think of Vietnam, or other Asian countries like China or Korea, they don't likely think of animal lovers. But a group of kids who are part of the Kairos Coalition, an organization founded by former US Marine Robert Lucius, will make you re-think your stereotypes about Asia and animals. They are called Yêu Động Vật, or "Animal Lovers," and they rescue animals, advocate for better treatment for Vietnam's animals, and they have produced these incredible, beautiful, and thought-provoking posters which make Vietnam's citizen's think twice about how animals are treated there.

Who will give me freedom?
Give us light!
Rights to have freedom
Stop: they are our ancestors
We are not food
Mom, what did we do wrong?
Stopping hunting means stopping crime

Rights in pursuit of happiness


Thursday, February 21, 2013

No Duh Part II: Animals Like Picking their Own Partners

In a discovery that should surprise exactly no one in the animal rescue world, animals prefer to choose their own mates over having them chosen for them.

Meghan Martin, left, a research associate at the Oregon Zoo, led a study which showed that female endangered Columbia Basin pygmy rabbits were more likely to breed in captivity when given the opportunity to choose their own mates. Thanks to Martin's study, which was published in Conservation Biology, not only did the rabbits reproduce, but they were successfully reintroduced back to their home in Eastern Washington. Now researchers want to use the same technique to help coax endangered pandas to breed more successfully in captivity, helping that species, too, to survive.

As Joy Gioia of St. Louis House Rabbit Society says, "Uhhhh, they could have just asked House Rabbit Society.  We've known bunnies have preferred [to choose their own] friends for years. That's why we do dates when people want a friend for their bunny.  Nice to see the research shows that, too."

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

No Duh: Dogs Sneak Food When You're Not Looking

As many dog guardians already knew, a new study published in the journal Animal Cognition confirms that dogs are more likely to steal food in the dark, even after they were told not to, when they know there's a better chance that humans can't see what they've done, than when it's light in the room.

That proves that dogs have what is known as a theory of mind. In other words, they understand that humans, or any other animals for that matter, have different feelings, thoughts, or perspectives than they do, and it's up to them to try to figure out what those perspectives are. In the case of food stealing, they know, since they were already told, that they're not supposed to take the food. But since it's dark in the room, and they think that no one can see them taking it, they know there's a good chance they won't get caught. All of that thinking, planning, anticipating, and basing their behavior on what the other person is thinking and seeing and what the other person may or may not do shows the remarkable intelligence--and sneakiness--of the dog.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Horse Power and Horse Meat

In recent weeks, much of Western Europe has been embroiled in a scandal about horse meat being hidden in, or disguised, as beef, or cow meat. Because the English and Irish (but not the French) feel that eating the meat of cows is acceptable, but eating the meat of horses is not, the British in particular were outraged to find out that they have unwittingly been consuming horse meat, thanks to the fraudulent practices of some food suppliers.

Recently, the makers of the Mini Cooper, the British Motor Corporation, took advantage of the scandal in their latest ad, which reads "Beef. With a lot of horses hidden in it."

The ad plays on the well-used convention by which car companies use the term "horsepower" to refer to how much power a car engine has; the more horse power, the stronger the motor. After all, prior to the development of the automobile, horses were humans' primary mode of transportation. It also plays on the idea of "beefed up," to refer to something that has been made bigger, better or more powerful. Both animal metaphors here are used to show that the new Mini Cooper is more powerful than previous versions.

But they also refer, quite explicitly, to the uncomfortable mixing of horse meat and cow meat in the Englishman's roast beef.

Finally, only one animal is actually explicitly named in the ad, or, for that matter, in any of the coverage related to the scandal. The horse, as an animal, is mentioned both in the ad, and in every single story related to the scandal. But cows, on the other hand, are never mentioned. Instead, beef is the term that is used. Cows are already accepted as meat, while horses are not, so horses can still be referred to in their animal form, while cows have lost that most basic privilege. No wonder there's no outrage. 

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Discriminating Animals; Discriminating Against Animals

I just came across this funny macro today about the non-discriminating nature of cats. According to the macro's creator, cats hate you regardless of your ethnicity, gender or sexuality. They are equal opportunity haters!

But the mention of sexuality reminded me of an article I read about just last week which was a much sadder example of how sexuality is still used as a justification for discrimination, but in this case, by a person against a dog.

This American bulldog mix, named Elton by the woman who adopted him, was abandoned at a Tennessee shelter because his previous guardian, an unnamed man, thought he was "gay" because he was seen "hunched over" another male dog. Because the shelter was full, he was about to be euthanized, but one of the shelter workers posted about his plight, and the reason for his surrender, on Facebook, and he was adopted that same day by a woman named Stephanie, and his story went viral. Millions of people read about the lunacy of someone abandoning a dog to die because he was engaging in what is, ultimately, very normal canine behavior.

Not only was this man exposing his ignorance, but intolerance and cruelty of the worst kind. It's too bad that we don't have hate crime legislation that pertains to non-human animals. 

Vinegar Valentines

From about 1840-1940, "vinegar valentines" were given out to neighbors, friends, family members, and enemies alike.  Vinegar valentines worked as an informal social control to warn young people about watching too much television, shame men for being "drunks," and attack women for being too vain.  The selection hosted on Collector's Weekly includes several valentines that clearly intersect humans with the stereotypical characteristics of Nonhuman Animals.

Here a gentleman caller in the 1870s is likened to a snake:

From Collector's Weekly

Here an elderly gentlemen is chastised for making "pretense of being young":

From Collector's Weekly

The "henpecked" husband in the era of women's suffrage:

From Collector's Weekly

Here a woman who "can't snare a man" is deemed socially worthless; failed femininity is linked to companionship with Nonhuman Animals:

From Collector's Weekly

Societal understandings of Nonhuman Animals come through in these valentines:  Other animals are sneaky, vicious  overly proud, or pathetic.  As Joan Dunayer has noted, very few Nonhuman Animal labels are flattering; most act as pejoratives that speak to an underlying disrespect to society's most vulnerable.

And in some cases, they're simply morbid:

From The Urban Housewife

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Pigs in Heaven

This cartoon, by cartoonist Liz Climo, depicts three pigs in heaven, quizzing each other on how they arrived there. Each arrived, predictably, via the form of meat by which they were consumed rather than, as is the case with humans, a car accident, heart attack, or old age. Pigs, of course, very rarely die of old age, as Corey Lee Wrenn noted in this posting.

What's also notable about this cartoon is the idea that these pigs, who died after being consumed as bacon or a McRib sandwich, went to heaven. It's not all that unusual to think of animals going to heaven. While it is true that the official position of the Catholic Church is that animals don't have immortal souls and thus can't go to heaven, a great many animal lovers believe that their pets will indeed join them in the afterlife, either in heaven, or in a special pet heaven known as the Rainbow Bridge, made especially for the souls of beloved dogs, cats, and other pets.

But what of the billions of animals killed for food each year? Neither heaven nor the Bridge appear to accept those animals, and both places would be crowded indeed with the souls of all of the dead livestock; just the chickens alone would take up a massive amount of soul space.

So Climo's cartoon is notable for its representation of heaven as an inclusive place, welcoming to all species, which is rare even among animal lovers.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Monopoly unveils its new token...

And it's a cat!

Most of us remember playing Monopoly as kids, and fighting over the best tokens (who ever wanted the thimble?).  Another terrible token? The iron. At least that's the word of Monopoly fans, who just voted to replace the iron with a cat, which will be available later in the year, and will join the Scottie dog, one of the most popular of the older tokens. Now Monopoly will pit dog lovers against cat lovers to see who is the greediest!