Friday, June 18, 2010

'The Animal Cruelty Syndrome', or: The NY Times follows up

**TRIGGER WARNING**: The article discussed here contains some graphic and heartbreaking descriptions of animal abuse. I found it hard to read. If you think this will trigger you, I advise you not to link to it. The extracts below do not contain these descriptions. 

In March the NY Times reported that an increasing number of US States were passing legislation to bar convicted animal abusers from owning or coming into contact with pets, and to mandate child or spousal abuse officers and animal control officers to share information and report to each other when they find something wrong.

Today the NY Times has published an extended piece titled 'The Animal Cruelty Syndrome', which discusses the growing recognition that animal cruelty is part of a constellation of behaviours endemic to abusive households, gang activity and the psychologically disturbed. 

The article is by Charles Siebert, a contributing writer, who is the author of “The Wauchula Woods Accord: Toward a New Understanding of Animals.” The article is well-written, empathetic and unflinching - I think I'd like to read this book. 

I'll try to do a more in-depth discussion when I'm not, say, at work, but for now here are some extracts. 

Back in the early 1980s, Lockwood was asked to work on behalf of New Jersey’s Division of Youth and Family Services with a team of investigators looking into the treatment of animals in middle-class American households that had been identified as having issues of child abuse. They interviewed all the members of each family as well as the social workers who were assigned to them. The researchers’ expectation going in was that such families would have relatively few pets given their unstable and volatile environments. They found, however, not only that these families owned far more pets than other households in the same community but also that few of the animals were older than 2.
“There was a very high turnover of pets in these families,” Lockwood told me. “Pets dying or being discarded or running away. We discovered that in homes where there was domestic violence or physical abuse of children, the incidence of animal cruelty was close to 90 percent. The most common pattern was that the abusive parent had used animal cruelty as a way of controlling the behaviors of others in the home. I’ve spent a lot of time looking at what links things like animal cruelty and child abuse and domestic violence. And one of the things is the need for power and control. Animal abuse is basically a power-and-control crime.”
In a separate study, a quarter of battered women reported that they had delayed leaving abusive relationships for the shelter out of fear for the well-being of the family pet. In response, a number of shelters across the country have developed “safe haven” programs that offer refuges for abused pets as well as people, in order that both can be freed from the cycle of intimidation and violence. 
What cannot be so easily monitored or ameliorated, however, is the corrosive effect that witnessing such acts has on children and their development. More than 70 percent of U.S. households with young children have pets. In a study from the 1980s, 7-to-10-year-old children named on average two pets when listing the 10 most important individuals in their lives. When asked to “whom do you turn to when you are feeling sad, angry, happy or wanting to share a secret,” nearly half of 5-year-old children in another study mentioned their pets. One way to think of what animal abuse does to a child might simply be to consider all the positive associations and life lessons that come from a child’s closeness to a pet — right down to eventually receiving their first and perhaps most gentle experiences of death as a natural part of life — and then flipping them so that all those lessons and associations turn negative. 
To date, one of the most promising methods for healing those whose empathic pathways have been stunted by things like repeated exposure to animal cruelty is, poetically enough, having such victims work with animals. Kids who tend to be completely unresponsive to human counselors and who generally shun physical and emotional closeness with people often find themselves talking openly to, often crying in front of, a horse — a creature that can often be just as strong-willed and unpredictable as they are and yet in no way judgmental, except, of course, for a natural aversion to loud, aggressive human behaviors. 

Friday, June 11, 2010

A victory for Tasmania and pigs, or: a change for Australia

Well that's good news! I'd like to think it was my letter, but I assume it was a critical mass ...

Dear Rachel,
Today marks an extraordinary day for pigs. It’s days like these that we are reminded that with hard work and persistence, comes results. In this case — the first state-based commitment to phase out one of the cruellest practices in Australia...
This historic development would never have been possible without the support of Animals Australia’s members. Thank You. Animals Australia relies entirely on public donations. Please give generously to support our ongoing efforts to free animals from needless cruelty.
Newspaper advertisements
ABOVE: Animals Australia in conjunction with Brightside Farm Sanctuary recently placed a series of high impact print advertisements in three state-wide newspapers, bringing Minister Green face to face with the animals he had the opportunity to help.
been busy!
TIP: Visit, or our Facebook page to see other recent campaign initiatives.
Following a state-wide newspaper advertising blitz by Animals Australia and Brightside Farm Sanctuary, Tasmania's Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green announced in parliament today (June 10th 2010) that he will ban cruel sow stalls in the state!
Pigs are among the most intelligent species on the planet, and yet have been subjected to one of the cruellest practices ever inflicted on animals in Australia. 'Sow stalls' are typically used in factory farming operations across the country to confine and isolate mother pigs during pregnancy. The national Code of Practice permits these animals to be confined in tiny crates, unable even to turn around for months on end, denying them exercise and any quality of life. As a result, pigs suffer painful physical ailments and even depression.
Recently the Tasmanian Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) recognised the unacceptable cruelty permitted by the flawed national code, and recommended to Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green that Tasmania take a leading role to become the first state to outlaw the cruel practice of confining sows in stalls. Animals Australia’s representative on the AWAC provided crucial input on the scientific and ethical arguments against confining sows in tiny stalls.
Despite heavy lobbying from Australia's intensive pork industry, Minister Green has accepted this recommendation, encouraged by a flood of supportive letters and e-mails from thousands of caring Animals Australia supporters.
This significant development, along with the recent announcement by Australia's largest piggery to voluntarily phase out sow stalls, could never have happened without Animals Australia's investigations, media exposés, and high profile public awareness campaigns.
Consistent with international precedents, the Tasmanian government will implement a phase out of sow stalls with a total ban in 2017. Therefore it is crucial that Animals Australia continues to highlight to consumers in Tasmania and throughout Australia that they have the power to help these animals right now by refusing to purchase factory farmed products. In addition, we will be lobbying other state governments to follow the precedent established in Tasmania.
Please help us maintain our high impact campaigns on behalf of animals. Hope is finally on the horizon for these intelligent animals thanks to the committed support of our members. You can help us bring about change even sooner by donating today.
Become a donor
Thank you for being a voice for animals,

Lyn White
Animals Australia Communication Director
P.S. If you have friends who love animals please tell them about Animals Australia. Our small team of campaigners ensure that animals in need get maximum value out of every precious dollar donated to us. With greater support, more important outcomes like this will become possible.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Things that made me teary this morning, or: Blood sports even for the smallest of creatures

Under this article from today's Guardian, is this comment, which just makes my heart break.

6 Jun 2010, 2:17AM
The cruelty does not begin or end with bullfights in Spain. At 'ferias' I have been to you can pay a Euro to throw stones at a rabbit nailed to a plank; I have seen donkeys stabbed to death in the town square in Mijas on Easter parades (there is of course the infamous traddition of throwing a donkey or a horse from the bell tower as well), and in Malaga they regularily have bullfights for children where the 'matador', dressed a bit like Ronald McDonald, invites the children to join him in hacking a bull calf to death in the ring, to much merriment of the assembled parents. And if you are too lazy to participate in the stabbing, taunting and torturing yourself, you can always watch the children's bullfighting programme on Saturday morning: 'Toros para todos.'
What a lovely country. Let's all go there and pay our respects their ancient and noble traditions, shall we?
It's not right. It will never be right. Culture and tradition be damned.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Anatomy of a birthday weekend, or: My fourth decade

Miss T for Miss Thirty. 

Friday 4 June 2010


A party at work with artwork from Miss Erin's two girls, the Misses Kira and Breanna. Breanna has even drawn directions for how to throw a surprise party. The coolest! 

The beautiful bangle from the girls at work - perfect.

A lovely brooch from Arts Victoria from Miss Veronica, who I have been friends with since were were in Form 7D together in 1993, and we now work on the same floor. 
A dinner of the best food in the world: A on VT.

Saturday 5 June 2010 - the day of days
My present from my parents and myself - a white gold pendant from Canturi. I love that you can't really tell if it's modern or Art Deco. I've been lusting for years and decided if I couldn't justify it now, it would languish forever on my list of "things that I shoulda-woulda-coulda". It's for the granddaughters.

Out for breakfast at Soulfoods.

Mr Lovaah Lovaah.

And then off to Buzz's present for me ...
Designed by Buzz with art direction from Miss T, executed by Tammy at Eternal Instinct. It's new and still healing so the colours will brighten. I think I may get the pink enpinkened a little if it stays paler. You can never go hot enough with pink.
(and I have some information on vegan ink which I'll share later). 

Lunch from La Panella - vausage roll.


That's SammyOne Puppykins' nose trying to get at my Whittaker's. 

Dinner at Enlightened Cuisine with the fam, Mr and Mrs T and Miss T Junior, and the Esteemed Grandfather Mr R, and Buzz. Best dish, as before: 5 spice tofu.

And after (not snapped): drinks for Miss Leia Jade's birthday. 

Sunday 6 June 2010
Sunday morning - Camberwell market felafel. 

Thoughtful and generous Dinosaur Designs necklace from Mr and Mrs T's neighbours, the lovely Ms Marisa who has known me since before I was born, and family Mr Ric, Master Dante and Miss Allegra. Beeyootiful and so undeserved.

Miss T Jnr outdoes herself with baked New York cheesecake via Carla.  Eaten while visiting the Esteemed Grandmother Mrs R. Do not attempt more than once slice.

Homemade Sunday night dinner with Mr and Mrs Buzz with TV, SammyPuppins and the love of my life. 

Thank you everyone.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Tasmania could lead the way, or: banning sow stalls

I received the following email from Animals Australia. My response is below, and I urge you to do the same. This is an ooprtunity for one state to forge ahead in making positive changes to the welfare of pigs - someone must be first. 

Dear Rachel,
I'm writing to you today to share with you some wonderfully hopeful news, and also to ask for a small favour on behalf of thousands of needy animals.

Your critical support of our campaign to end factory farming has helped create the groundswell that has made it possible for the first Australian state government to consider a legislative ban on the use of sow stalls.

As you may know, the 'sow stall' represents one of the cruellest practices ever inflicted on pigs in Australia. Already banned in the U.K. and in parts of Europe, these cruel concrete and metal crates imprison mother pigs so severely that they cannot even turn around. Here in Australia, laws currently permit pregnant sows to be left in this debilitating state for months at a time.
In an incredibly positive move, Tasmania’s Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) recently recommended that Tasmania become the first state to ban the use of sow stalls on the basis of unacceptable cruelty. The decision to accept the recommendation now rests with one man: Primary Industries Minister Bryan Green.

The pig industry is hard at work lobbying Minister Green to ignore science that clearly reveals how pigs suffer physically and emotionally inside stalls. They would rather continue the practice of confining pigs in stalls indefinitely. So who will speak up for the pigs?

Animals Australia in collaboration with Tasmanian-based member society Brightside Farm Sanctuary have responded in force by placing a series of 18 high-impact ads across three state-wide newspapers that will bring the Tasmanian Primary Industries Minister face to face with the very animals he has the opportunity to help. You can view the ads here.

Right now it is critical that Minister Green be reminded that all caring Australians are appalled by animal cruelty and will enthusiastically support a ban on cruel sow stalls — which brings me to that favour I wanted to ask you...

You can help us bring about this important outcome by sending a personal e-mail to Minister Green to urge him to accept AWAC's recommendation to ban sow stalls in Tasmania. Your message need only be a few short lines. His address is:
Thank you dearly for your ongoing support. A few minutes of your time today could help end a lifetime of suffering for animals.

For the pigs, 
Lyn White

Dear Minister,

I write to urge you to accept the recommendation of Tasmania's Animal Welfare Advisory Committee (AWAC) that Tasmania ban the use of sow stalls on the basis of unacceptable cruelty.

The United Kingdom and Europe have also recognised that the confinement of pregnant sows in a conrete and metal crate for months at a time without room to turn around constitutes severe cruelty.

It is scientifically well established that pigs are animals with significant levels of intelligence and emotion, much the same as that of a dog. Their technical classification as farm animals is insufficient justification to allow treatment of them that we would not accept if applied to domestic animals and our pets. 

The pig industry will attempt to reduce the severity of suffering experienced by sows, and present economic arguments to continue current practices. I strongly urge you to consider instead the moral imperative that each of us bears to uphold acceptable standards of welfare for animals under our care. 

I hope very much that Tasmania will lead the nation in banning this unecessary, cruel and inhumane practice.

Yours faithfully,
Miss T