Friday, January 23, 2009

Liam Neeson Inserts Hoof In Mouth

Actor disses activists trying to stop carriage horse cruelty in NYC

Being an avid fan of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, I was greatly disappointed that tonight’s guest, acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson, spent several minutes mocking the attempts of animal advocates to ban the horse-drawn carriage industry in New York City. Watch the interview here (5th segment).

“I hate how the horse-drawn carriage industry is being attacked nowadays,” he said during the interview segment. “Animal activists, you know, (say) the horses are being treated cruelly because they’re pulling a carriage around half a mile. I mean, these are the fittest, well-fed (sic), best kept horses I’ve ever seen.” And Neesom goes on like this for awhile, raving about how great the horses supposedly have it, and that he knows this because he's visited their luxurious stables and talked to the drivers, and because he’s been “a horse rider and lover for many years.”

A horse lover? Really, Liam? Well, I have to say that willfully denying the overwhelming evidence of tragic suffering endured by equines on the streets of New York City seems a strange way to love horses. And the reason we animal advocates are fighting this infernal industry is not because the horses are “pulling a carriage around half a mile” — to characterize and minimize our valid concerns in this way is offensive to both us and the victims of injustice we are sincerely trying to help. To back up my assertion that New York City's carriage horses are indeed suffering greatly, here are some disturbing facts that Mr. Neesom apparently doesn’t know, or perhaps thinks are irrelevant:

According to an audit by the City Comptroller, the horses used to pull carriages in New York City are subjected to some of the worst conditions of any working animal. In summertime, they are forced to walk on burning asphalt and don't have access to enough fresh water, making heat exhaustion and other more serious problems common. They often trudge along in bumper-to-bumper traffic, breathing exhaust fumes all day long, which causes serious respiratory problems, and constantly walking on hard concrete also contributes to hoof and leg disorders. Horses are often left standing in their own filth due to insufficient drainage systems, and are routinely whipped by drivers to make them move.

In addition, there is no mandatory retirement age for carriage horses, so they can literally be worked to death. Yet most don’t live that long: the average lifespan of a carriage horse in New York City is only 4 years, compared (for example) to 15 years for a mounted Manhattan police horse. This is mostly due to the harsh conditions described above, but also partially because horses are so easily frightened by the loud noises and sudden movements of speeding motor vehicles, and have consequently caused numerous traffic accidents, many of which resulted in horses dying. Finally, when carriage horses are too broken down or injured to work anymore, many are sent to slaughterhouses in Mexico or Canada where they are killed for meat.

It is for these reasons that a coalition of animal advocates has formed behind legislation introduced by Queens Council Member Tony Avella that would finally ban horse-drawn carriages in New York City. “The romanticized idea of enjoying a carriage horse ride through the streets of Manhattan can no longer justify the risk of serious injury or death to these animals or to the public at large,” said Councilman Avella. “It is time to put the horse driven carriage industry out to pasture.”

A Tradition of Exploitation

Back in the late-19th and early-20th centuries, before New York City's streets were paved and teeming with cars, trucks, buses, and motorcycles, the horse-drawn carriage might have been considered an essential form of transportation, sort of like hailing a cab is today. But it’s the 21st century, and carriage horses are now nothing more than an anachronistic tourist attraction in a densely-populated and technologically modernized urban center.

Other major cities around the world — including Paris, London and Toronto — long ago banned horse-drawn carriages from their streets. Yet according to Neesom, we should keep making horses pull carriages in New York City because “they have been there for a hundred years” and “they’re an iconic part of New York.” In a recent letter to the City Council, Neesom also wrote that he is “deeply disturbed by the unnecessary and misguided political and extreme rhetoric against the horse-drawn carriage industry.”

When one considers all the facts, animal advocates are clearly anything but “misguided” and “extreme” in their claims or actions. However, given Neesom's insistence on the matter, I have to wonder: has he researched this issue at all, or is this self-styled “horse lover” just talking out of his ass? I mean, really: how can anyone seriously profess to love horses while actively defending an industry that so egregiously abuses them? Has Neesom no shame, or is he just woefully ignorant? Has he no compassion for suffering animals, or is he merely blind to their misery? For my own and the horses’ sake, I’d very much like to know.

Please attend the City Council Consumer Affairs Committee’s public hearing on Councilman Avella's two bills concerning carriage horses, and consider providing two minutes worth of testimony in support of this humane legislation. The meeting is scheduled to take place on Friday, January 30, 2009, at 10:00 a.m. on the 2nd floor of City Hall.

And if you can’t attend the meeting:

- Please ask Mayor Bloomberg to support the ban on horse-drawn carriages in New York City.

Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg
City Hall
New York, NY 10007
Tel: 311 (outside NYC: 212-NEW-YORK)
Fax: (212) 788-2460

- New York City residents: Also contact your City Council member and politely urge them to support Avalla's proposed ban on horse drawn carriages in New York City.

- Post a comment on The Daily Show Web site expressing your opinion of Neesom's performance.

- The horse-drawn carriage industry is mainly supported by tourists, so when friends and family visit New York City, please don't let them get taken for a ride!

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Critical: Tell Gov. Schwarzenegger NO VET CARE TAX!

Animal guardians should not have to pay “luxury tax” on veterinary visits

My fellow Californians: first the bad news, then the other bad news. Our state faces a $41 billion budget deficit over the next 18 months, and to make matters worse, Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger propounds paying it off by sticking animal guardians with the bill. How? By taxing veterinary care as a “luxury” item — literally equivalent (in the governor’s proposal) to other discretionary activities he now wants to tax like going to an amusement park, attending a sports event, playing golf, having your furniture repaired, or taking your car to a mechanic.

Schwarzenegger's short-sighted solution to solving California's debt crisis by imposing a “sales tax” of up to 10.5% on vet services (including routine checkups, vaccinations and prescription medications) is offensive enough. However, on top of that — adding linguistic insult to economic injury — he also wants to redefine taking a sick or injured animal companion to the vet as an optional extravagance (as opposed to a personal, family or moral obligation) that should be factored into your entertainment and household maintenance expenses. This regressive “Fido Fine” will surely force many financially-strapped guardians to choose between repairing the car and “fixing” the cat.

Terminator Tax

If anyone deserves a break in this tough economy, it’s animal guardians, who account for more than half the state’s population and spend about $2.7 billion a year on vet care. Unemployment is officially over 7% right now, so many people without jobs must (metaphorically) tighten their pets’ belts along with their own. Meanwhile, veterinary care is already too expensive for many families to afford, and the added tax would leave them even less able to provide for their own adopted animal family members, surely forcing some to surrender their animal companions to shelters for lack of funds.

Animal shelters, underfunded as they already are, would also have to pay more for essential veterinary services, including spay and neuter operations that reduce pet homelessness and euthanasia. Many large municipal shelters already spend several million dollars a year on such expenses — and would have to shell out hundreds of thousands more under Schwarzenegger’s plan. Every extra dollar allocated to veterinary care is a dollar taken away from animals who desperately need food, shelter, and every chance they can get to find loving guardians — meaning that shelters would no longer be able to feed, house, and save as many animals.

Arnold and Animals

In the original (1984) Terminator movie, Arnold (the actor) was a cold, murderous cyborg, but in the blockbuster sequel released seven years later, he played a good Terminator — a bodyguard transported back through time who is programmed to protect the life of a vulnerable boy. Similarly, Schwarzenegger (the governor) has also taken on these dual roles when dealing with animal protection issues — alternately playing the callous politico, then the compassionate leader.

For instance, while (at first) he called the proposal to ban the sale and production of foie gras in California “silly,” in the end he changed his tune and signed the bill into law in 2004. That same year, he tried to repeal a law that requires shelters to provide veterinary care for all animals, document and report on the number of animals they manage, and hold animals for a minimum of six days before euthanizing them — that is, until he suddenly rescinded his suggestion under concerted pressure from animal advocates (and his daughter's entreaties). Then again, Schwarzenegger famously appeared in a PETA anti-milk billboard campaign, and won the group’s “Proggy Award” last year for signing a bill to regulate the chaining of dogs.

Governor Schwarzenegger has shown concern for animals, so how can he not see how wrong and unfair it is to make caring people fork over more money for essential and life-saving services — especially when there are so many animal abusers who should be “paying” for their crimes? And so, I give you my plan for enabling California to resolve the budget shortfall and help animals at the same time: ensure that factory farms and slaughterhouses pay the maximum fines any and every time they violate anti-cruelty, environmental, or labor laws. That deficit would probably be paid down in no time if the government actually enforced existing statutes (any accountants out there want to crunch the numbers?) by cracking down on all the agribusiness producers who ignore state laws.

The California legislature could vote on this tax any day now, which you could be paying as soon as February 1st if they pass it, so now is the time to act. Please politely urge Governor Schwarzenegger and your state legislators to take the vet care tax out of the budget proposal, and to instead raise funds for California by collecting fines from factory farms that break laws meant to protect animals, people and the planet.

The easiest way to oppose this unjust tax is to send an automatic email to these elected officials through HSUS’s Humane Alert on this issue. But to have the maximum impact, use this contact info to follow up with postal letters, phone calls, faxes, or personal emails:

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger
State Capitol Building
Sacramento, CA 95814

Phone: 916/445-2841
Fax: 916/445-4633
Email the governor
Please also let your animal-loving family and friends in California know how they can help.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Enemize Me

Can't we all just get along? Apparently, NO!!

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don't hate nothing at all
Except hatred.

There are millions, dear reader, perhaps billions of fellow human beings who absolutely hate and loathe you, along with everyone else who holds different beliefs than they do. Yes, I am sorry to say, not so inexplicably, that they detest sweet, lovable little you, and there is precisely nothing you can do to change that unpleasant fact. No matter who you are or what you believe, whole factions of fanatics, fundamentalists and otherwise seemingly friendly folks think you were Hell-spawned from Hitler himself...unless, of course, they happen to like Der Fuhrer, in which case I'd advise you to back away slowly and avoid direct eye contact if you meet such individuals face-to-face.

Think about it: there are even those who categorically abhor the Dalai Lama (Chinese government officials, for instance) for professing kindness, compassion and a desire for world peace. Yes, vast multitudes of people worldwide absolutely adore the guy as well, and he's certainly tough enough to handle any criticism aimed his way. Yet if even His Holiness has haters talking smack about him, even wishing death upon his head, then we all have to accept that none of us can escape the judgment — fair or unfair — of others.

Now, I have an important question to ask, perhaps the most important question that can be asked at this critical juncture in human history, and since it's such a huge one, I feel sort of unworthy to even bring it up. Nevertheless, instead of awkwardly hemming and hawing any longer I'm just gonna come right out with it, so here's the big question: What good is all this hatred doing us, and can we stop hating one another even though we essentially disagree about who's right and who's wrong, and what the whole point of life really is?

I'm asking this question because I really don't know — but would really like to know — the answer. In fact, I think we desperately need to figure this out as quickly as possible, because our hatred for one another is literally destroying us and our little home planet. This is serious business, so, as one human being to more than six billion others, I humbly and sincerely implore everyone — Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives, Christians and atheists, Israelis and Palestinians, and people of all nations and creeds — to resolve their personal and collective hatreds before it's too late, and our species (along with millions of others) has vanished from the Earth forever.

I mean, come on people — would ya freaking grow up already?! The clock's ticking, and it's way past time to cut the shit and stop killing each other for disagreements over ideas, theories, beliefs, lifestyles, and politics! Let's end the wars over religion, race, imperialism, ancient grievances, and gasoline! We need to respect all forms of sentient life and dismantle the animal death factories where billions are sacrificed at the altar of corporate consumerism! Quit it already with the goddamn hatred and violence, and get over yourselves so we can finally focus on finding real solutions instead of creating more problems!!
And if you don't, I'm gonna come over there and personally kick your ass from here to eternity.

OK, just kidding about that last part, not only because I realize how ironically paradoxical it is to threaten the cessation of violence with yet more violence, but especially because it's an empty threat that I cannot possibly carry out. The fact that I'm redonculously out of shape and have no appreciable fighting skills makes it (and/or me) an even bigger joke. So please, go ahead and feel perfectly free to laugh it up at my expense.

But if, by some awful miracle, I did acquire awesome superpowers, I'd be hard pressed not to mercilessly beat down all you thugs, assassins, torturers, power-mad dictators, and assorted douchebags who are too caught up in your own self-centered trauma-driven drama to feel sympathy for your victims. I'd have to mightily resist the temptation to eradicate your very existence (that's right, using deadly force) because, like you, I'm not nearly as evolved as my hero, the seemingly superhuman Dalai Lama.

I'm certainly not done with this subject yet — not by a long shot — because I still have a lot of anger (and hatred, even) boiling inside of me and it seems everyone else also struggles with these difficult demons on some level and to whatever degree, so there's a lot more to say about it. For the moment, I will leave you with one final thought to ponder, which is this: As passionately convinced as you are that your beliefs are the only correct ones, so are most others equally sure that they alone are right — regardless of what their beliefs actually are.

In fact, those who most violently attack others, in word and/or deed, for being different are typically the most certain and emphatic that what they believe is the unassailably sacred Truth, and are also particularly prone to espousing the most extreme beliefs. Yet any honest and objective assessment of the world as it is leads one to the unavoidable conclusion that reality is far too complex to be encompassed by a single belief system (be it social, cultural, political, spiritual, or otherwise), and that those who believe it is or can be are (strictly speaking) delusional.

So, as an experiment, why not try expanding your parameters by aligning your perceptions (as best you can) with reality? Sure, your consciousness may start to crack, but that is probably a good thing, for encompassing a wider view of the universe yields far richer rewards than confining one's mind to a cage of concrete certainty. You'll also probably notice that the things we all share in common are much greater than the differences which separate us, and that what we hate about others often turns out to be the very parts of ourselves that we're struggling to deny.
If I've managed to blow your mind even a tiny bit, then my work here is done...for now! But I'll be back soon with another exciting episode about anger and hatred as it specifically relates to animal rights activists: that is, why so many people seem to hate us, and why many of us have been unable or unwilling to resolve our anger towards the human race. So, until then, remember to stay cool — and play nice!