Monday, January 4, 2016

2016: The Glass Half Full for the Animals of Our World and Continuing to Fill


Moving forward: The Geese of Central Park
Raccoon siblings.
A once doomed shelter dog, living the happy life.
 
There is a familiar riddle which asks the question:
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"If an 8 ounce glass contains 4 ounces of water, is the glass half empty or half full?"
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It seems the answer depends on whether water is being added to the glass or if existing water is slowly leaking or evaporating out.
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Regarding current circumstances for animals in our world, it is possible to perceive both circumstances occurring simultaneously -- the real question being which force is stronger and happening more, as nothing ultimately remains the same?
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This writing is not to focus on specific incidents impacting animals over the course of 2015, but rather to look at prevailing trends and changes in human attitudes towards the other creatures sharing our planet.
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"Leakage" from the metaphoric glass can be seen in the fact that thousands of species of our world are in peril and facing extinction; something referred to as the, "Sixth Great Mass Extinction."  http://www.truth-out.org/opinion/item/34228-a-wild-liberty-the-sixth-mass-extinction
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But water added to the glass can be perceived by our greater human attention and focus on the issue of extinction and global climate change -- something reaching as far as the Vatican and attention of leaders the world over. Such is evidenced in the recent UN conference on climate change and ultimate agreement among world leaders. http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/12/world/global-climate-change-conference-vote/
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Public awareness of endangered species and the impacts of illegal poaching and over-hunting of them rose to fever pitch in 2015 with the world outrage expressed over the poaching of much known and beloved lion, Cecil, in Zimbabwe by American dentist, Walter Palmer. http://www.zmescience.com/science/biology/cecil-lions-endangered-species-act-0432423/  Palmer was ultimately tagged, "The most hated man in America" -- a situation that later resulted in most airlines banning the importation of endangered animal "trophies" and changes in US law finally recognizing lions as an endangered species.
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More water being added to the glass.
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Nevertheless, water continues to seep out, particularly with human reliance on animal agriculture; a situation that results in the raising and slaughtering of billions of sentient creatures each year. Not only is the intensive confinement (i.e. "factory farming") of billions of chickens, turkeys, pigs, cows and other animals each year unsustainable and contributing greatly to the impacts of climate change and environmental destruction, but it is also extremely cruel to the animals and in fact, tantamount to tyranny of them. http://www.newsweek.com/chatham-house-report-global-appetite-meat-causing-dangerous-climate-change-402453
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But, even with this most catastrophic and barbaric of issues impacting animals, it appears more water is being added to the glass than what is spilling out.
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Most of this (again) is seen in evolving human attitude.
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One only need look as far as supermarket shelves and cases to note the tremendous rise and consumer demand in recent years for non-animal alternatives to meat and dairy, as well as public demand for "free range" and more "humanely raised" animal products.
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Personally speaking, when I transitioned to vegetarianism in 1977, virtually no such non-meat (or "free range") alternatives existed and certainly none were to be found in supermarkets and restaurants. These days, such industries are growing exponentially and more are being added every year.
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Thanks to the Internet with its easy access to information, as well as focus of the Animal Protection Movement in recent years on factory farming, the general public is becoming far more aware and is finally demanding change and non-animal (or, at the very least, "free range") options.
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Another animal issue seeing dramatic (and postive) change in the past few decades is our treatment and attitudes towards companion cats and dogs.
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When I first started doing animal rescues from the New York City pound system in the early 1990's (at first, ASPCA and later, Animal Care and Control), there was only one other known animal rescue group working with them. "Euthanasia" numbers were in the tens of thousands each year with the overwhelming majority of cats and dogs entering the shelter system, only to exit in a plastic bag.
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The situation was grim, overwhelming and demoralizing to say the very least.
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But, it has changed dramatically in recent years due to focus and increases in rescues, spay/neuter, adoptions and education.  
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While not yet "no kill," the New York City shelter system, as well as many throughout the country have become low kill.
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This is due in large part to the writings of Nathan Winograd (a leader in the No Kill advocacy movement) as well as increasing information on proper care and responsibility towards cats and dogs and implementation of programs like "Trap/Neuter and Release" for feral cats.  (TNR)https://www.facebook.com/nathanwinograd/photos/a.159167054107547.34833.159092957448290/1088545787836331/?type=3&theater
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It is also necessary in pointing out some of the many positive changes for animals in recent years to give credit to all the dedicated and hard working people producing nature documentaries for movies and television, writing nature and animal blogs, erecting animal-focused Facebook pages and of course, writing books. This is not even to mention the countless and unacknowledged souls venturing out day and night and in all kinds of weather to feed (or in some cases, rescue) needy strays or suffering wildlife.
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All of these individual actions add water to the glass.
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Some reading these musings will no doubt ask, "What about continuing slaughter of marine mammals?" "What about the proliferation of dog and cock fighting?" "What about the scourges of canned hunting, trophy hunting, trapping of wildlife and government programs of wildlife and wild horse slaughter?
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For sure, there is gaping crack in the glass, where water continues to leak and bleed out.
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But, at least in the United States, hunting is down and continuing to fall out of favor with the young. Laws are constantly being strengthened to better address animal cruelty and abuse issues. Rangers and other agents of law enforcement patrol our parks and forests to apprehend illegal poachers and ensure wildlife laws and regulations are being followed and enforced. Arrests are occurring more frequently in the egregious cruelties of dog and cock fighting and one state, Tennessee, has recently become the first in the nation to create a special registry for convicted animal abusers.  http://abc13.com/1144460/
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It may not always be noticeable to the consciousness or naked eye, but slowly, the pendulum is swinging in favor of greater human appreciation, caring and responsibility towards the other sentient beings of our planet.
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And perhaps nowhere has this change been more personally observed and appreciated than in the local attitudes towards Canada geese and other wildlife in our parks.
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I recall only a few years ago, an older couple passing a grazing goose family in Central Park one day and the woman angrily remarking to her husband, "Tch, I don't know why the park doesn't do something about those disgusting birds!"
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Such disturbing image and hateful words have since been replaced by thousands of other images of people taking photos and special delight with the geese and other animals of the park, as well as many others actually looking after the animals' welfare.
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The changes have been slow and subtle, but they are inexorable.
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They are changes in human attitude.
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We need now to plug up existing cracks, while continuing to add water.
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But, there is no doubt about it:
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The glass is half full for animals now and will continue to rise in 2016 -- as long as we keep our commitment and dedication to keep adding the water of life to it.  -- PCA
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