Animal Inventory Blog

Keeping track of animals in popular culture.

Archive for August, 2009

Public Health and Agriculture: An Ongoing Debate

Posted by lisagbrown on August 28, 2009

pig-factory-farmsFor 2 1/2 years, a highly diverse group of experts from the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production (PCIFAP) (a project from the Pew Charitable Trusts and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health) studied the practices of industrial farm agriculture, and came to the conclusion that the abundant use of antibiotics in farm animals has a detrimental impact on both humans and animals. Recent health scares like the Swine Flu and various salmonella outbreaks have forced the general public to look at how their food is produced, and most people seem to agree: there are fundamental problems with our agricultural system.  Americans are growing smarter about how their food is made. Time Magazine’s recent article Getting Real About the High Price of Cheap Food, the documentary Food, Inc and the success of similarly themed media suggest an increasing concern among consumers about what they are putting into their bodies and how it is made, not to mention the welfare of the animals that are sacrificed in the process. In response, the Obama administration is taking steps to reform the industrial farming industry, with a proposed banning of unnecessary antibiotics in farm animals.

All of this sounds like significant progress, except for a fly in the ointment: the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) recently published a response to the PCIFAP’s report, and makes the claim that antibiotic use in farm animals poses a possible risk, not a probable risk. The AVMA says  “We are concerned the Pew’s fear-invoking assertions are going to have an equivalent outcome to the ‘Y2K’ crisis that never happened on January 1, 2000.” They further go on to claim that the Pew’s report contains “major deviations from science and reality.” The AVMA sarcastically calls the Pew Commission’s report “grandiose” and accuses the panel of experts of being biased. With language that borders on slanderous, and a tone that is — at best — unprofessional, the AVMA takes on the Pew’s report as if it were an indictment of the practice of veterinary medicine itself. It most certainly is not, but it leads one to wonder why the AVMA is taking this so personally.

HSUS Vegetarian Eating Guide05I don’t think this will have much of an impact on the movement towards healthier, more sustainable and more humanely raised food. But I DO think that this will impact the way Americans view the AVMA. People who live with animals look to their vets as a source of knowledge and compassion about animals, and it is likely that most people assume the AVMA represents the overarching ideals of their own vets. Sadly, the notion that the AVMA represents the interests of animal lovers and individual vets appears to be as outdated as the AVMA’s perspective on industrial farming. And as a result, many veterinarians are actively and loudly voicing their disapproval of the AVMA’s stance.

With its response, the AVMA believes that it is revealing inadequacies in the Pew’s report, but I believe that it has unintentionally revealed something altogether different. What is now clear is that, rather than looking out for the health and well-being of humans and other animals, the organization is protecting the interests of big agribusiness — an industry that acquires its antibiotics from … veterinarians who work for the lucrative agribusiness. By framing their response as a rebuttal rather than a companion report, they come off looking like a lobbying group on behalf of industrial farm agriculture. Ultimately, if the AVMA’s response gains more attention, I suspect that they will have a PR nightmare on their hands. Shouldn’t an organization that has a mission to “improve animal and human health and advance the veterinary medical profession” want to distance itself from an industry that contributes to significant animal suffering and endangers the environment and human health?

Click here to read the Pew’s report and the AVMA’s response in full and to visit Center for a Livable Future. While there, please also read a fantastic response to the AVMA by Ralph Loglisci.

 *Update* 08/31/09 Please view this insightful response from Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society of the United States entitled “Talk Back: Veterinary Conflict of Interest” , who highlights the AVMA’s inherent conflict of interest in its criticism of the Pew’s report. Pacelle also posts responses by individual veterinarians, whose criticism of the AVMA is especially heartening, and supports my belief that the AVMA does not represent the ideals of the average veterinarian. (Also see Pacelle’s original posting, AVMA: Off course from veterinarian’s oath.)

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Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Barack Obama, Ethics, Food Animals, Human-Animal Studies, Public Policy | 1 Comment »

Animals on the Internet

Posted by lisagbrown on August 27, 2009

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Animals are everywhere on the internet, and it seems that every day there are more and more viral stories, videos and photos about animals! In order to accomodate the rapid influx of news and links, I’ve started a Facebook page where I can quickly post these items when I don’t have time to write a blog entry. Here’s a sampling of what you’ve been missing, if you’re not a fan of Animal Inventory on Facebook!

  • Monkey Herds Goats; Farmer Approves: An amazing National Geographic video of a monkey in India that herds goats! She has received no training, and does it on a completely voluntary basis — she was set free by the people who tended to some wounds she had gotten in the wild, but has chosen to stay with them and herd their goats!
  • Green Porno: Isabella Rossellini and Sundance channel team up to create very short films about the reproductive habits of marine animals. GREEN PORNO is scientifically accurate yet extremely entertaining.
  • Chimp Outtakes: Adorable outtakes from footage shot by the Jane Goodall Institute of the chimps in Gombi.
  • Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me: The NPR news quiz show hosts an episode that’s all about animals!

And there’s so much more! Articles about: a giraffe and an ostrich that are best friends, how Barry White might help sharks mate, an elephant and a dolphin getting prosthetic limbs. Introductions to cool artists who are inspired by animals, like Jen Mastre’s pencil sea urchin sculptures.  Plus I’ve begun highlighting the animal-related work of Animal Inventory’s fans themselves, an astonishingly talented and prolific group of people: for example, the comics of Nick Abadzis, the artwork of Jessica Joslin, the writing of Leslie Irvine.

There’s much more to come. Don’t miss out on your daily dose of Animal Inventory on Facebook!

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Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Comics, Conservation, Film, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Primates, Public Policy, Representations | Leave a Comment »

Japan’s Dolphin Massacre: The Cove in Taiji

Posted by lisagbrown on August 7, 2009

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Dolphins have been massacred by the thousands in the town of Taiji, Japan, but until now, not many people knew about it. Thanks to the dedicated team behind the new movie, The Cove, the cruel, ongoing practice of dolphin slaughtering has been exposed. The horrifying truth is that most people in Japan don’t even know this is happening in their own country and — even worse — they don’t know that some of the fish they eat is dolphin meat. They are purposefully being deceived in order to sustain a lucrative and dishonest industry that provides “show” dolphins to aquariums and “swim-with-dolphins” programs worldwide.

As the film opens, director Louis Psihoyos explains, “we tried to do this film legally.” With this one line, Psihoyos sets up the espionage, intrigue and drama of a film that has Hitchcock-worthy, rapid-fire pacing. The Cove stands as a meticulous documentary whose important contribution to animal welfare is only outshone by its contribution to the medium of guerrilla-style documentary film-making. This is storytelling at its most profound, where structure and content intertwine seamlessly to create a narrative that is as exciting as it is informative.

The Cove traces the story of Ric O’Barry, the dolphin trainer for the 1960’s television show Flipper, who feels responsible for contributing to the captivity of dolphins. During brief interludes, O’Barry shares his profound attachment to Kathy, one of the dolphins who played Flipper. She brought him to a greater understanding of why these beings ought not to be in captivity. O’Barry’s perspective is integrated with information from scientists, divers and others who share personal and professional knowledge, creating a holistic portrait of dolphins as sentient, self-aware beings whose suffering is unjustifiable.

As is the case with most thrillers, there are good guys and bad guys, corrupt government schemers, and a genuine danger of being caught. All these pieces provide the framework, but the dolphins and their plight remain at the heart of every wrenching scene, giving the drama a pulsating urgency that fictional thrillers lack.

I’ve heard that some people are fearful of seeing the film because they think they won’t be able to handle the upsetting nature of its content. I hope to dissuade people of this fear. It’s true that there are things that happen in this movie that are incredibly sad to see and even worse to think about, but it would be such a disservice to yourself — and the dophins — if you allow this fear to overtake you. This film won’t destroy you. It doesn’t show you anything you can’t handle. But it will provoke attention and outrage, and it will very likely incite you to take action. In the same way that Al Gore’s Inconvenient Truth inspired moviegoers to go beyond the passive experience of movies — and participate in the experience long after the film has ended — The Cove will inspire everyday people to champion on behalf of the dolphins.

What is happening in Taiji deserves scrutiny. It warrants our attention. And it needs to end.

To take action, visit www.takepart.com/thecove

To find a screening in your city, visit The Cove‘s website

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Dolphins performing in Taiji.                                                                                      The filmmakers with two covert filming tools.

Posted in Animal Behavior, Animal Welfare, Animals, Art, Conservation, Ethics, Film, Fish, Food Animals, Human-Animal Bond, Human-Animal Studies, Public Policy, Representations | 1 Comment »

An Inventory of Animal Inventory

Posted by lisagbrown on August 1, 2009

This entry marks the 100th posting since the start of Animal Inventory. And, with appropriate synchronicity, this 100th entry also marks — nearly to the day — the two-year anniversary of Animal Inventory’s very first post (August 5, 2007).

When I first started Animal Inventory, my audience was mostly family and friends. I averaged about 20 hits per month. Yet over the past two short years, Animal Inventory’s readership has grown at an amazing rate. Last July 2008 (one year after its inception) Animal Inventory had 700 readers that month. To mark Animal Inventory’s first anniversary I, along with local producer Hannah Pillemer, launched Animal Inventory TV, a Web show that honors the unique relationships between people and animals. The show (currently on hiatus) has had a viewership thus far of nearly 6000 views for the three inaugural episodes.

But nothing could have prepared me for the rapid growth over the last year. Readership has continued to increase steadily with each passing month and for July 2009 ALONE, Animal Inventory had more than 4800 visitors. That’s a 650% increase since July 2008’s 700 visitors! What’s more, many readers take the time to explore the blog, clicking on past postings, the recommended list, and my bio. On the average day, Animal Inventory receives between 150-250 visitors, an average that rises when a new post goes up. In addition to visitors from every corner of the United States, the blog has had visitors from England, Austria, Mexico, Sri Lanka, Slovakia, Vietnam, Canada, Norway, Belgium, France, South Africa, Australia, Switzerland, Hungary and Brazil — and this list represents today, August 1st, alone! Over the course of the last two years, visitors have come from too many countries to name, and have requested translations from Google Translate in many different languages.

I am sharing this information with you simply because I am astonished — and so pleased — with the growth of Animal Inventory. I started this blog with very simple and humble expectations — namely, to organize my thoughts about the subject of animals in popular culture. I hoped that some animal studies scholars and general animal lovers might read it on occasion, but I never could have anticipated the loyalty of my readers, the professional friendships that would arise as a result of the blog, and the positive feedback I would get from varying animal-related communities and individual animal lovers.

Forthcoming…

Animal Inventory continues to be one of my most fulfilling projects. I’ve got a few plans for the future to keep the site and it’s contents fresh and informative. Here are just a few:

  • I’m currently seeking a designer to help create a unique and identifiable logo that matches the theme of the blog. If you or someone you know might be interested, don’t hesitate to get in touch.
  • Relatedly, I’m considering doing a website redesign to make the blog a bit sleeker, more user-friendly, and more up-to-date.
  • I’m thinking about publishing a collection of Animal Inventory’s most popular entries in book format.

And finally, I have just launched Animal Inventory’s Facebook page. This page will enable me to post links to artists, news and content that may be of interest to Animal Inventory readers — even when I don’t have time to write a full blog posting. This will bring all the best of animals in pop culture — right to your Facebook news feed. Plus, you’ll be the first to know when there’s a new posting on the blog. Simply click the link below and click “become a fan” to start receiving Animal Inventory updates:

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And, as always, thank you so very much for reading Animal Inventory.

Posted in Animals, Art, Human-Animal Studies, Representations | 3 Comments »