Thursday, July 30, 2015

Appalled and saddened

Cecil the lion (

Wrongful death, two words that barely contain my outrage for the act of cruelty that took the life of Cecil the lion in Africa.

I speak for many in this, I know. Social media is on fire, major newspapers around the world have reported on this tragedy, but in my view, Jane Goodall has summed up the brutal killing best:

“I was shocked and outraged to hear the story of Cecil, Zimbabwe’s much loved lion. Not only is it incomprehensible to me that anyone would want to kill an endangered animal (fewer than 20,000 wild lions in Africa today) but to lure Cecil from the safety of a national park and then to shoot him with a crossbow...? I have no words to express my repugnance. He was not even killed outright, but suffered for hours before finally being shot with a bullet. And his magnificent head severed from his wounded body. And this behaviour is described as a “sport." Only one good thing comes out of this – thousands of people have read the story and have also been shocked. Their eyes opened to the dark side of human nature. Surely they will now be more prepared to fight for the protection of wild animals and the wild places where they live. Therein lies the hope.”

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

Beautiful Bovines

Photographs by Christopher Rimmer 
(click on the photo for a closer view)

I love all animals, and I do mean all. One of the reasons I became a vegetarian is because I love bovines and regard them as sensitive and intelligent creatures. I have long lamented their becoming caught up in the agribusiness machine and wish more people understood their plight. 

Whether called dairy or beef cattle, these animals have been bred to “become more productive” with complete disregard for their quality of life. Sadly, too many suffer brief and miserable existences.

And then there are the beach-loving bulls of Pondoland in South Africa. The photographs by Christopher Rimmer capture the true essence of what cows and bulls are: sentient beings who enjoy hitting the beach as much as we do. I wish all cattle had this quality of life and the freedom to enjoy sun and sea in family herds as nature intended. 

Christopher Rimmer has done a magnificent job of capturing their beauty, dignity and intelligence. See more here.

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Wildlife Is Suffering

A screech owl sat on a perch mending a fractured wing at the New England Wildlife Center. Photo: John Tlumacki 

As I've mentioned in previous posts, this winter has been extremely difficult for wildlife, and another six inches of snow is due tonight.

A recent article in the Boston Globe, Animal Shelters See Large Numbers of Suffering Wildlife by Bella English, confirmed some of my worst fears. The Eastern screech owl pictured here was brought in by a family who noticed that it was up to its neck in snow. 

“His body was frozen. We put him in ICU in an oxygen tank, and on top of a heating pad,” said New England Wildlife Center Executive Director Katrina Bergman. Treated for hypothermia, malnutrition, and a broken wing, he is doing well."

It may not seem like much, but providing a steady supply of bird seed and reporting any injured animals you may come across to your local animal control officer will help wildlife enormously. In the meantime, hurry Spring.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015


Merlin is a free spirit who needs a loving home

February is Adopt-a-Rescued-Rabbit-Month and the House Rabbit Network works hard to  rescue homeless rabbits, find them good indoor homes, and educate the public about rabbits and their care.

Merlin is just one of many bachelors, bachelorettes, couples and trios available for adoption.  

There are many other ways to help rabbits: become a HRN member, volunteer, help raise money or sponsor a rabbit.

Now is a good time to spread the message that rabbits and other animals are not toys. The old time Easter Bunny tradition may seem quaint, but is in fact cruel. Delight children and create new family traditions with chocolate bunnies and and soft stuffed animal bunnies instead.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

On Winter and Wonder

Look forward

In the midst of hardship, it can be easy to lose perspective. As February wends its way into March it is essential to look forward, beyond snow banks and ice dams, fears for the roof over our head, and reckless drivers who refuse to slow down in any weather. 

Yes, unrelenting snowfall can bring out the worst in some people. But not the children. For most, the winter of 2015 will be etched in their memories as a halcyon time, filled with wonder and magic. 

I still cherish the memory of a great blizzard from my own childhood. What about you?

Monday, February 16, 2015

Karma and BP

Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

News that BP posted a net loss of $4.4 billion in the fourth quarter seems to be a case of what goes around comes around

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was one of the worst environmental catastrophes in U.S. history. The pain and suffering endured by people and wildlife was profound, continues to have an impact and can never be undone.

BP waged an effective pr campaign, promising to make amends, and spent millions in advertising dollars to convey themselves as concerned and committed to the cleanup. The reality is that BP cut corners wherever possible and many will never be properly compensated.

A loss of $4.4 billion is no big deal for BP. But the loss of pristine habitat, marine life and family businesses that were built over generations is a very big deal.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Ocean Dumping: Just Say No

Massachusetts coastal areas
Our precious marine life

Mankind is innovative, creative and inventive. So why can’t we come up with a better way to get rid of mega amounts of snow? Using the ocean as a dumping ground is a terrible solution. Our marine environment is already extremely threatened.

Imagine having snow contaminated with road salt, automotive oil, chemical de-icers and other pollutants dumped into your living room?

The record-breaking snowfall has everyone at wit’s end, but we passed laws to prohibit ocean dumping because we know better. Still, current laws do allow some communities to dump snow in the ocean or other bodies of water under emergency conditions. The Ocean Dumping Act needs revision. 

What if the ocean was off-limits? What if we asked a group of scientists and MIT students to work on solving this problem to make it so? An amazing solution may only be a think-tank away.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Gas, Groceries, Snow

Gas-groceries-snow (GGS) is the new regime in Massachusetts and most of New England this winter.  Those of us who work full-time are spending our weekends in GGS mode in an effort to keep up with record snowfall.  And there’s no relief in sight.

Some weather experts are calling this “the new normal” due to the effects of climate change.  Since 2012, scientists have been telling us that storms of all kinds will become more intense.  

Sounding the alarm is one thing, helping us understand our ability to create positive change is another.  Author and activist Bill McKibben is one of the best experts out there.  His calm demeanor and thoughtful perspective are a welcome relief from all the fear mongering.  Read an interview with McKibben in the Earth Island Journal. 

Friday, February 6, 2015

Please Feed the Birds

February is National Bird Feeding Month

This is the fifth and final post in a series on birds (begun Jan 27th) and the people who care about them.

In Massachusetts and most of New England, we are struggling to cope with walls of snow three-feet high.  And more is on the way.

Imagine being a homeless or lost cat or dog in this kind of weather.  And then think about the birds, squirrels, foxes and coyotes who live among us and are struggling more than we are.

How does a bird find food when everything is encased in snow and ice?  How do mice find anything to nibble on or cache when they can’t gain access to their usual food sources?

The good news is that March is only a couple of weeks away, and then we begin a seasonal shift.  You can sense it now.  The light has changed.  Days are growing longer.  Wild male turkeys have begun their mating displays.

Bird seed and suet are a great help through this time of hardship and other animals benefit as well.  Please feed the birds.  

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

When Doves Cry

This is the fourth post in a series on birds (begun Jan 27th) and the people who care about them.

Pandemonium Aviaries founder and author Michele Raffin's fateful encounter with an injured domesticated dove was the beginning of a remarkable journey that revealed the emotional lives of birds. In her book, The Birds of Pandemonium, she explains why doves should never be used at weddings, funerals and other ceremonies. Most people have no idea of the suffering doves experience afterward. 

Domesticated white doves don’t stand a chance in the wild. Their color makes them stand out, and the hawks have an easy time targeting them.

Dove release has become a popular coda to “I do’s.” It’s a pretty sight, but I had never considered the aftermath. Though doves are sent aloft to herald a couple’s upbeat future, the birds can be headed for an ugly fate. Unskilled in finding food, they might starve or end up as an aerial predator’s meal. Some die in traffic or in contact with electrical wires.
Please help raise awareness and protect doves by sharing this information with others. 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

The Birds of Pandemonium

This book is a page-turner

This is the third post in a series on birds (begun Jan 27th) and the people who care about them.

I love birds and when I saw this book at my library, I plucked it from the shelf and thought: this looks interesting.  From the moment I began reading, I found it difficult to put this book down.

Michelle Raffin is more than an avian advocate and preservationist; she is a gifted writer with a natural voice that invites readers in and compels them to stay. The story of how she came to found Pandemonium, dedicated to breeding and caring for avian species, has many twists and turns. Her accounts of birds she has known and loved made me laugh and cry, and recharged my resolve to help protect birds and their habitats.

Please help avian species facing extinction due to the destruction of their natural habitats by making a donation to Pandemonium Aviaries.

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Our “Feathered Primates”

Crows are famous for their intelligence and inventiveness 
Photo: Felix Moll 
This is the second post in a series on birds and the people who care about them.

Corvids ― the family of birds including ravens, crows and magpies ― are highly intelligent. New Caledonian crows, named after the Pacific islands where they live, are renown for their intelligence and inventiveness. They are the only non-primate species known to fashion tools, such as sticks and hooks, which they use to pick out grubs from logs and branches. Read more here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Remembering Bil Gilbert

Bil Gilbert loved crows

This post begins a series on birds and the people who care about them. 

Bil Gilbert passed away on January 27, 2012, but his legacy lives on. His love of nature and all things wild led him to create the American Society of Crows and Ravens (ASCAR) and publish a newsletter called the Corvi Chronicle.  As a member of ASCAR, it was wonderful to be part of a community who appreciated and loved a bird that is and has been much maligned over many centuries. 

But Bil knew better and Corvids are now recognized as one of the most intelligent creatures on earth.  I myself was fortunate to be able to observe crows closely over 25 years as they raised successive generations in a very tall white pine tree in woods behind my house. Theirs truly was a "crows nest." Securely perched among the highest branches, it afforded the birds clear and sweeping views of their territory. Listening to the incredible range of calls between parents and young as they raised their families was a privilege. Sadly, that magnificent tree was toppled during Hurricane Sandy.

Bil led a full and fascinating life. In addition to his work with ASCAR, he was a traveler, naturalist and prolific writer, published in Sports Illustrated, Smithsonian, National Geographic, Audubon, Esquire, Playboy, Time and other publications.  Read more here.

Monday, January 26, 2015

Farming Without Conscience

Photo:  Michael Moss/The New York Times

The New York Times Editorial Board weighed in on Michael Moss's article, which I wrote about in my January 20th post.  Their editorial, "Farming Science, Without the Conscience" appears in today's paper and begins:

You don’t have to be a vegan to be repulsed by an account in The Times revealing the moral depths to which the federal government — working as a handmaiden to industrial agriculture — has sunk in pursuit of cheaper meat and fatter corporate profits. The article by Michael Moss, examines the little-known U.S. Meat Animal Research Center, financed by American taxpayers, which employs the sophisticated tools and scientific expertise of modern animal management — apparently without a conscience. The details Mr. Moss’s article exposes are sickening... 

Read more here.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Baby Eels Rescued

Two million baby eels escaped the plate

Bulgarian customs officials seized two million endangered baby eels hidden in luggage on Friday. According to Reuters, two Chinese traffickers were detained at Sofia airport for trying to smuggle the eels from Madrid to Sofia. They had declared them as "food items."

The European eel is classified as a critically threatened species of fish protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora. Read more here.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Mary Had a Little Lamb

A lamb in a field, abandoned by its mother.  
Photo: Michael Moss

Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Michael Moss is to be commended for his superb reporting on “U.S. Research Lab Lets Livestock Suffer in Quest for Profit” in today’s New York Times. His piece exposes the abuse and suffering farm animals endure at the U.S. Research Lab in Nebraska.

The lives of farm animals are shockingly brief and brutal as it is, yet man devises new and crueler methods to breed them in order to increase  profits.

Here is an excerpt from Moss' piece:

"At a remote research center on the Nebraska plains, scientists are using surgery and breeding techniques to re-engineer the farm animal to fit the needs of the 21st-century meat industry. The potential benefits are huge: animals that produce more offspring, yield more meat and cost less to raise.

There are, however, some complications.

Pigs are having many more piglets — up to 14, instead of the usual eight — but hundreds of those newborns, too frail or crowded to move, are being crushed each year when their mothers roll over. Cows, which normally bear one calf at a time, have been retooled to have twins and triplets, which often emerge weakened or deformed, dying in such numbers that even meat producers have been repulsed.

Then there are the lambs...
Read the rest of the story here. 

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Earth Is Our Garden

Pope Francis to Filipino youth: Care for the environment."  Photo: Philippines News
During his week-long Asian tour, which drew historic crowds, Pope Francis included environmental responsibility as one of his holy missives.  In Manila he said, "As stewards of God’s creation, we are called to make the earth a beautiful garden for the human family.  When we destroy our forests, ravage our soil and pollute our seas, we betray that noble calling."

In one of his strongest statements, the pontiff said: "I don't know if it (human activity) is the only cause, but mostly, in great part, it is man who has slapped nature in the face."

Those of us who understand the urgency of acting to protect our environment were grateful for the Pope's words and hope this is the beginning of real change.

"We are stardust, we are golden, we are billion year old carbon, and we got to get ourselves back to the garden.”

~ from Woodstock by Joni Mitchell


Wednesday, January 14, 2015

A Giant's Fate

A colossus felled

Seeing the great giants cut down for Rockefeller Center and other sites makes me so sad.  These majestic trees have lived longer than some people do, and if left undisturbed would grow for decades more.  Removing them to display for a month is a tragic waste.  Why can't we leave them standing for our children to enjoy?

The tree in the photograph was an 85-year-old Norway Spruce (click on the photo for a closer view).  As you finish reading this post, it has already been turned into mulch.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Curbside Christmas Castoffs

Still alive and cast aside

Talk about a weird tradition: folks look forward to buying or cutting down a Christmas tree and can't wait to decorate it with beautiful ornaments and lights.  But when the holidays are over, too many kick them to the curb.  Some are recycled, too many are not. Another casualty of our throw-away culture.

For me, all trees, including fir, spruce and pine, are living beings that provide habitat, whether grown on farms or in forests.  My policy re: Christmas trees is live and let live – I just offer another perspective and it's green. 

Please recycle your tree, and, if you have room, place it in your backyard to provide shelter and roosting for birds and other creatures. Prop it up against a fence or along the side of a garage and secure it with twine or stakes. Or, place it near feeders for birds to perch in.  Brush and compost piles are also great places to recycle Christmas trees.
More in my next post. 

Saturday, January 10, 2015

Mick Dodge knows how to live

Mick visits the Olympic Peninsula Coast   Photo: Nat Geo

Mick Dodge is at home in the Olympic Peninsula.  Watching him climb trees, plunge into cold rivers, kayak up the coast, and use his physicality to the max is something I appreciate and understand.   

Growing up, I lived to be outdoors. When my mother asked: “Were you jumping off roofs again and how come the front of you is caked in mud?” my standard answer was: “I dunno,  just out playin’.”

I was jumping off roofs, crawling under houses, scaling fences, climbing trees, swinging from branches and doing everything hard-core tomboys do.  Until an accident sidelined me, I still enjoyed climbing onto the roof to clean out the gutters, hoisting slabs of granite, camping, canoeing, hiking, biking and running up hills to push my body as far as it could go. 

I have to sit on the sidelines for a while and mend, but I sure wish I could go back in time and pull a Mick Dodge.