Thanks, “This American Life”: Break your heart with stories of WWII soldier dogs  »

This American Life
's most recent show is called “Animal Sacrifice,” and its first act features Susan Orlean reporting on World War II soldier dogs, expanded from her book Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend. The U.S. military had a program where they recruited citizens’ pet dogs to serve. Like, one day your dog is performing Houdini-style escapes from every confinement you try to impose on her; the next, she’s flushing enemy soldiers out of caves in the Solomon Islands.

Here’s a training video, starring the cutest little terrier you ever saw.

[Can’t see the video? Watch it on]

In light of the army’s latest findings on canine PTSD, this story is especially heartbreaking. Many of the dogs who weren’t killed in action had such bad PTSD they couldn’t be returned to their civilian families after the war, and so were euthanized. The use of dogs in service continues today, but at least now there are options beyond killing a dog we forced to undergo personality-altering trauma. Still, if we’re going to have robots in war, can we make some to replace the canines? It’s appalling, the sacrifices we ask of dogs, things we have no right to demand of them.

[photo from the national archives via TAL]


Conservation Biologist Thor Hansen explains why feathers matter  »

This week on Fresh Air, Terri Gross interviewed Thor Hanson, a conservation biologist and author of the newly published Feathers: The Evolution of a Natural Miracle. As part of his research, he plucked a dead wren to count its feathers. It had 1,500. A tiny wren, like the Australian white-winged fairy wren in the photo!

In the interview, which you can listen to on NPR, Hanson discusses the biological makeup of feathers, why he thinks birds evolved feathers, and how they adapted them to flight. The first feathered animals might’ve used them primarily for insulation, and now, every single individual flight feather is an airfoil, while being part of the airfoil that is the bird’s wing. Double-airfoil action for maximum flight!

Animals are amazing! So is science!

[white-winged fairy wren photo by David Cook Wildlife Photography, via Flickr]


Paul Shapiro presents: debating ducks, changing climate, and funny felines!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! Yay!

Amazingly, even though they’ve had more than seven years to find an alternative to force-feeding, a small gaggle of foie gras enthusiasts in California are trying to repeal the upcoming July ban on the force-feeding of ducks for foie gras (and the sale of products from force-fed animals). I did a 20-minute debate about this on Southern California’s NPR affiliate yesterday, and an hour-long debate on Northern California’s NPR affiliate today.

Speaking of feeding, as far as what we’re feeding ourselves, the title of the Forbes article says it all: “Eating Less Meat Is World’s Best Chance For Timely Climate Change, Say Experts.” Meatless Monday recipes, anyone?

Some good news: HSUS’s Smithfield exposé video yesterday won a 2012 Webby Award! (The Webbys are kind of like an Oscars of online content.) We’re psyched.

Finally, last week’s video was the double-dutching dog. This week it’s the treadmill-loving cats.


There may now be slightly less bear-murdering in New York state.

NPR reports that New York state, which has allowed the hunting of black bears since governments started making laws regarding wild animal-killing, has just passed the very first regulations on the trade of black bear parts. Wildlife officials don’t want people killing black bears in neighboring states and selling them in New York; poaching bears “has been a problem nationwide for years,” which this law is designed to combat.

Now, anyone selling bear parts in New York must document that the bears whose bodies once held those parts—particularly gallbladders—were killed legally. That shouldn’t be too much of a problem in New York, where permitted hunters can kill black bears, easy peasy. See, they’re not mad about killing bears, they’re mad about killing bears illegally, only for the gallbladders and paws, for use in “Asian medicine.”

Yeah, “Asian medicine.” Remember how in some Asian countries, they farm bears for their bile, and it’s absolutely fucking disgusting? In the U.S., they poach wild bears, take their gallbladders, and leave their bodies. Man we are the BEST at animals, right, humanity?

Listen to the whole story, or read it at NPR. Obviously we hate all bear-killing, but if this law stops the murder of bears exclusively for a few of their parts, it’s not the most objectionable thing. Right?


I was listening to NPR while getting ready for work on Friday morning, as I do, when this story from Planet Money came on, and ugh, you guys. In “Meet Claudia, the High-Tech Cow,” Adam Davidson tells us all about how today’s dairy cows are more machine than animal, their every action carefully monitored, controlled, and adjusted for optimum milk-producing capability.

It’s so gross, you guys! Dairy is absolutely disgusting. As are the extremes of capitalism: ”The free market forced that to happen,” he says. “Because either you were going to make a lot of milk … quickly and efficiently … or you wouldn’t be in business.” Money makes the world go round! And turns cows into literal milk machines! Fuck a living creature, we need cheap milk from perfectly replicated robots. Of course the story says nothing about the cows’ living conditions or quality of life, what with them having none to speak of. To wit: “Claudia,” the cow “Ferrari,” gets a name, while the cows that aren’t as genetically perfect are just numbers.

Technology is great and I am happy if modern science is solving our problems. But when technological advances detract from the value of other creatures’ lives, how valuable is it?


Paul Shapiro presents: Animal News You Can Use!  »

It’s Paul Shapiro’s Animal News You Can Use! Yay!

First, some good news: A bill (H.R. 3798) was introduced in the Congress this week to ban barren battery cages for laying hens, ban starvation molting, require egg producers to label “eggs from caged hens” on their cartons, and more.  You can see a joint statement from major animal protection organizations on why they support this bill, and a joint statement from nearly all of the agribusiness trade groups on why they oppose it. Who would you side with?

I was on NPR’s All Things Considered yesterday talking about the above effort to help laying hens. Check it out.

Some bad news: The U.S. Supreme Court this week struck down portions of a law passed in California shortly after HSUS’s landmark Hallmark/Westland slaughter plant investigation (which led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history). While federal regulations still prohibit the slaughter of adult downer cattle for human consumption, the parts of California’s law prohibiting slaughtering other downer animals are no longer in effect.

Back to good news: Get a coffin, since Florida’s “ag-gag” legislation is now officially dead. However, Iowa is still debating its whistle-blower suppression bill, and similar bills are still pending in other states.

Time has a compelling online video about undercover investigations and these ag-gag bills that you won’t want to miss.

Video of the week: Ever try to teach a pig to sit? Here you go.


The End Dogfighting campaign: the HSUS helps ex-dogfighters with education and looooove   »

Stereotypically, your Vegansaurus loves public radio. We also love dogs, DUH, and pit bulls particularly. Today’s Morning Edition returned that love hundredfold, with a story about personal and canine redemption.

The End Dogfighting campaign began in Chicago in 2006, expanded to Atlanta in 2008, and has just begun in Philadelphia. It “recruits former dogfighters and young, at-risk pit bull owners to take weekly training classes with their pets.” And you know what happens when people take their dogs to quality training classes on a regular basis? MAGIC—or, you know, the humans and animals develop mutual respect and love. According to Chicago program leader Tio Hardiman, “there’s a connection between fighting pit bulls and struggling to live in a violent society…. [K]eeping guys out of the world of dogfighting is good for them, their dogs, their families and the rest of the community.”

They also say that Michael Vick’s “testimony” about his former dogfighting exploits is really helpful, as he shares a socioeconomic background with many of the programs’ participants. Look at multimillionaire, making a difference!

What you need to do, though, is go to NPR and listen to Elizabeth Fiedler’s report—like all dogfighting stories, it’s got some horrific elements, but hearing the people talk about their experiences themselves, while the dogs bark all happily in the background, is way more valuable than reading a description.

[photo of official Vegansaurus mascot and best beloved pit bull Hazel by Laura!]


Radio hour: KQED’s “Forum” featuring Mark Bittman on his new book and his vegan-ish diet!  »

Last Wednesday, we totally missed someone awesome-ish on the radio: Mark Bittman! He hates industrially produced food! And “wholesome” food, namely produce and whole grains. “Plants are clearly more sustainable that processed food or animal products,” he says, with which we obviously agree. To him, “‘Wholesome food’…basically means unprocessed fruits and vegetables—legumes and nuts and grains and seeds.”

He also discusses his views on meat consumption, on quantity and sustainability—he says that “Americans kill 10 billion animals a year, and globally it’s 60 billion.” Bittman doesn’t address the emotional aspect—his turn toward mainly vegan eating was inspired by health and environmental concerns—so we will: MARY MOTHER OF GOD 10 BILLION ANIMALS. Greatest Country in the World.

Michael Krasny, the host, notes that Bittman wasn’t able to update his 1999 cookbook Fish because too many of the 70 species covered are endangered or nearly extinct. Ha ha 11 years later and almost 70 species of fish have become “endangered” or “nearly extinct”! Fishing is so awesome, not at all wasteful or insane.

You should listen to the rest of the interview yourself, it’s great-ish and full of facts. Find loads of Mark Bittman’s veg recipes on his website.

Update: Friend of Vegansaurus and guest writer Vi Zahajszky met Mr. Bittman as part of her clearly very demanding and terrible job at KQED. We are sooo envious.

[photo of paella with tomatoes, plus recipe!, by Flickr user Pabo76]


Clever readers: Use your brains to win prizes from CBC!  »

CBC’s Q program had Jonathan Safran Foer and Anthony “my conjoined twin is my ego” Bourdain on to discuss eating meat; namely, should we humans do it? You can listen to the episode here.

Now they want to know what we think, and they’ve come up with a contest to encourage everyone to be especially smart. The rules are super-simple: Go to the contest page, and post your most persuasive argument for why humans should or should not eat meat, in one sentence or less. That’s it! The winner will receive “some excellent prizes,” notably a copy of Eating Animals, and Q host Jian Ghomeshi will read the winning entry on the air!

The deadline is Thursday, Oct. 7 at 5 p.m. Eastern (2 p.m. Pacific, you forgetful geniuses), and there isn’t any language about having to live in Canada or North America at all to enter or win or anything, so wherever you are, Vegansaurus readers, you really should give it a go! Just one little sentence! Go be brilliant for us.

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