November 8, 2012
Public Statement on Pittsburgh Zoo Tragedy
Voices For Animals of Western Pennsylvania laments Sunday’s tragedy, wherein a two-year-old child fell into the wild dog enclosure at the Pittsburgh Zoo and was sadly killed. Much has been said about parental responsibility, but not much has been said about the conditions that allow for accidents like these. Of course fences could be taller, or enclosures better fortified to protect exhibit viewers, but the fundamental state of animal captivity around which zoos are built is an overlooked point of fruitful discussion. It is paramount to remember that the animals who are kept in zoos are wild animals. Even when they are bred into captivity, this does not erase the natural behaviors and abilities that are innate to them and in which they long to engage, such as foraging, stalking and hunting prey, socializing and communicating with others in their family or group, burrowing, roaming large distances, and choosing their own social partners and mates, to name a few. Zoos, with their artificial environments of concrete enclosures and metal bars, cannot even begin to adequately meet these complex physical and psychological interests and needs; these can only be properly met in nature within their actual ecosystems. This means that animals in zoos are severely deprived of having their natural needs met, which takes a great toll on their overall well-being. Having food and water automatically provided to them, and having little else to do or go inside their concrete enclosures, animals in zoos become extremely bored, stressed, frustrated, and neurotic. This was clearly the case with the African wild dogs when they tried to break away from their chronic boredom by escaping from their enclosure only 5 months earlier, temporarily closing the zoo
Are zoos depriving wild animals of so much in order to achieve some greater goal? They tout the need for species conservation efforts, and present themselves as a necessary part of the solution to species decline and habitat loss. However, according to Born Free Foundation, even the “better” zoos put a mere 5-6% of revenues toward this end. Only rarely are animals released into the wild after their duration at a zoo. This results in a “conservation” separated from nature, existing only as an artificial menagerie to be observed from behind glass, concrete, and bars. True conservation means to preserve species within their natural ecosystems where they can interrelate with others of their own species and with other species, living and playing a part in their natural environments. Preserving species of animals as living relics, permanently captive in artificial conditions, makes a mockery of conservation and renders the concept meaningless.
As if the basic premises of zoos weren’t bad enough, accidents and neglect lead to injury and death for animals at their caretakers’ mercy. The Pittsburgh Zoo inadvertently added ozone to an aquarium tank in 2006, killing 10 black-tip reef sharks at once.
This past March, the USDA received a formal complaint against the Pittsburgh Zoo’s International Conservation Center in Somerset, PA, citing prolonged periods of confinement, restricted access to water and lack of stimulating activities for three elephants. Furthermore, zoo confinement creates chronic foot problems for elephants.
In fact, in 2006 the USDA heard testimony on this issue due to elephants dying from sore foot complications in Oregon, Milwaukee, Los Angeles, and at the National Zoo in Washington. This is part of the reason many zoos are deciding to permanently close their elephant exhibits, recognizing that elephants have complex needs that cannot be adequately met in any captive situation. Currently there are 18 zoos that have closed or will close their elephant exhibits, including the San Francisco Zoo, Sacramento Zoo, Chicago’s Lincoln Park Zoo, Alaska Zoo, Philadelphia Zoo, and the Bronx Zoo. The Pittsburgh Zoo, on the other hand, not only has no intention of closing its elephant exhibit, but spent 22 million dollars to create an elephant breeding facility in Somerset.
This is a testament to how little concerned the Pittsburgh Zoo is with the best interests of the animals in their care. http://www.post-gazette.com/stories/news/us/zoo-confinement-gives-elephants-problem-feet-459800/ - ixzz2BVvCfmmy
Zoo environments exploit animals through deprivation and neglect, even to the point of death. As we have unfortunately seen from the tragic but sadly preventable death of a child, witnesses of zoo exhibits aren’t safe either. These regrettable incidents serve as a painful reminder that humans are not in any position to own or control animals who belong in the wild. As long as we arrogantly continue to attempt to dominate wildlife and nature, animals both human and nonhuman stand to lose: fatalities like these will be inevitable. The wild must remain wild, and the consequences of ignoring this are as unrestrainable as nature itself.
PITTSBURGH RABBIT-KILLING WORKSHOP ALERT: UPDATE
The response to Voices For Animals’s rabbit alert has been tremendous! Thank you all for calling, emailing, and posting to Facebook to put a stop to the killing. Knowledge of it has spread so far and wide that many do not know where it originated, and unfortunately some misinformation needs to be cleared up. We regret that we did not initially have all of the information we needed for the most effective action possible, but when lives are at stake, swift action is called for.
We just received some last-minute information that Friday’s rabbit workshop may have been cancelled, and we’ll be confirming this. However, it seems that they will simply wait for the controversy to die down before resuming the workshops again, so please continue to take action to end the slaughter permanently.
If Knotweed’s care for rabbits does not extend beyond their “harvest,” Voices for Animals of Western Pennsylvania personally offers to medically attend to and adopt out the rabbits present on the farm into loving homes where they will be free from the danger of being murdered.
Here are the facts:
A concerned mother and her two children were originally invited to the "rabbit harvest workshop" by one of Knotweed's farmers. She was specifically told that the workshop is open for all ages. While Knotweed attempts to divest itself of responsibility for these rabbits by presenting itself as a produce-only farm, the association is clear.
Another concerned individual found an online blog made by a Knotweed farmer that detailed the rabbit killing process. When he recently went back to revisit the blog however, he found that it had mysteriously disappeared.
The people holding the workshop are Cornelius & Shauna Frantz-Deppe, and they’re holding it on land shared with Knotweed Farm. When we first inquired about the workshop to Knotweed Farm by email, they gave our email address to Cornelius and Shauna, who sent us the following:
The text of the email reads:
We are planning a rabbit date for Friday September 28. However we already have 10 visitors coming, so it may not be a hands on experience, but you are welcome to come. We will meet near the strawbale house and expect to be active from 730am-noon.
Best to you,
Upon a VFA volunteer’s first contact with Knotweed’s listed phone number, Paula Jean, a vegetable project coordinator, admitted to being present for previous rabbit “harvests,” and stated that “Cornelius does a great job with them.” Paula continued on to defend the rabbit-killing workshop, claiming that “Children need to know where their food comes from.” The event scheduled for September 28th is apparently not the first rabbit “harvest” carried out on Knotweed Farm property. Knotweed knows this could be a controversial issue; with no public advertising and the only sign of rabbits being a picture of baby bunnies on their Facebook page, these events seem to be akin to private hunt clubs, conducted in secret by invite only.
Knotweed is a small urban farm with truly positive aspects. One of those is that they provide healthy organic produce to local communities who may not otherwise have access. For instance, in many communities of color, the only cheap and easily accessible food comes from fast food restaurants and processed foods at convenience stores. Cooperative vegetable farms help alleviate these injustices. However, Knotweed’s ties to needless violence are inexcusable. Many are inclined to think that factory farming encompasses all the evil to be found in raising animals for food, but their lives are stolen just the same in order to make “humane meat”. To oppose killing and injustice wherever it may occur should not be misconstrued as “going after the easy target” when it is occurring on a small farm. The truly defenseless individuals are those rabbits who await their deaths without ever having harmed another. It makes no difference to the victims whether their senseless murders are on a large or small scale of production, or how “humanely” they were treated during their lives.
The following letter, composed by a coalition of VFA members, was sent to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette yesterday in response to a recent article commending H.J. Heinz Co. for planning to phase out pig gestation crates. This letter serves as Voices For Animals of Western Pennsylvania’s position statement regarding all animal agriculture:
A recent article commended H.J. Heinz Co. on their decision to cut gestation crates from their supply chain. As gestation crates truly are a cruel aspect of modern pig farming, their being phased out is applauded as a move in the right direction. Yet this raises an interesting question: What is humane agriculture? Much of what we hear is coming from corporations that have a vested interest in keeping steady sales amidst a public who has become increasingly aware of how animals are treated on farms. Terms like “cage free”, “free range”, and “humanely raised” are used to ease the consciences of the well-meaning public who are tricked into buying these higher-priced products stamped with these labels, thinking they are more ethical to eat. Chipotle Mexican Grill boasts that their “naturally raised animals are raised in a humane way”, while Whole Foods advertises their “5-Step Animal Welfare Rating Standards.” They and many companies and organizations like them are adding to this disturbing and increasingly popular notion that animals are somehow being treated humanely when they're killed apart from factory farming. Yet the true definition of humane means “to treat with respect and compassion.” When an individual’s life is violently taken far before his or her time, there is no respect or mercy involved. Don't be fooled by the humane myth. Embracing true compassion and mercy for all sentient beings means embracing a plant-based diet. After all, veganism is simply the acknowledgment that a replaceable and fleeting pleasure isn’t more valuable than someone's life and liberty.
Please contact Cornelius and Shauna Frantz-Deppe, the people who are conducting the rabbit “harvest” workshop, and demand that they end all rabbit-killing workshops they plan in the future. Ask that the rabbits they plan to kill be released to Voices For Animals of Western Pennsylvania’s care:
Since Knotweed is now trying to wash its hands of all responsibility, and Cornelius and Shauna don’t seem to be responding to phone calls, we need to go over their heads and contact the landowners of the farm property (known as Wild Red’s Gardens). They will have the final say in ending the animal slaughter on their land. Please contact the Wild Red’s Gardens landowner, Randa Shannon, and respectfully request that she no longer allow her land to be used for killing rabbits or slaughtering any animals. Tell Ms. Shannon to recommit Wild Red’s Gardens land to be used only for produce production, as it once was, and return fully to the positive work they were doing for the community. Please be very polite in your correspondence with Ms. Shannon as she is a good social justice and community activist and merely leases the farm property out for community use:
RABBIT-KILLING WORKSHOP NEXT FRIDAY!
PLEASE CALL AND EMAIL!
Voices for Animals recently received word from several distraught members of the public that a local urban farm, Knotweed, known for growing organic vegetables, is breeding rabbits on the farm property and plans to hold a “rabbit harvest” next Friday morning, September 28th.
The word harvest, when applied to animals, is merely an attempt to reduce these rabbits to inanimate objects. This is simply a slaughter done under the guise of connecting people with their food source, an otherwise commendable move. Furthermore, we know for a fact that children have been invited to witness the killing firsthand. Paula Jean of Knotweed Urban Farm confirmed that kids “need to know where their food comes from”. We agree that adults and children alike are alienated from their food sources. However a lesson in hands-on violence towards animals can only teach cruelty when we should be teaching compassion and empathy.
There is an increasingly popular idea that animals are somehow respected when they're killed apart from factory farming. It is paramount to remember that it is never respectful to take another individual's life, whether it happens in a large scale or small scale operation. Just because an animal may be treated marginally better on a small farm, does not justify his or her life being stolen.
Please urge the people of Knotweed Urban Farm to keep their focus on the cultivation of plants, and demand that they spare the lives of these rabbits and any other animals they're planning to kill.
Knotweed Urban Farm - 412-496-3982
Cornelius & Shauna Frantz –
On the morning of our scheduled foie gras protest Friday against BRGR/Spoon, we received forwarded emails from VFA members that contained Executive Chef Brian Pekarcik’s response to their requests to remove foie gras from Spoon and BRGR’s menus. Mr. Pekarcik wrote these members that he hadn’t sold foie gras at BRGR or Spoon in months. This was news to us since foie gras was listed on their public menu at both Spoon and BRGR in Cranberry for quite some time, up until that Friday morning. Though we had met in person with Mr. Pekarcik late last year, he felt no need to notify us of this change. We also noticed that about mid-afternoon Friday, there was a sudden change in Spoon’s online menu, so that foie gras was no longer listed. After seeing these emails and the menu change, we decided it would be best to put our protest on hold until we had spoken with Mr. Pekarcik and received more information.
Later in the evening, a VFA representative spoke with Mr. Pekarcik on the phone. Mr. Pekarcik stated that he was in fact not selling foie gras at any of his restaurants and had “not sold it in a couple months”. However, he was combative and stubborn in his refusal to commit to any permanent removal of foie gras from Spoon and BRGR’s menus. When it was made clear to him that we’d resume our campaign if it was offered again, Mr. Pekarcik said we could protest all we wanted, that he’d do what he feels like doing all the same. This is fitting with our past experience with Mr. Pekarcik, that he cannot be trusted. We’ll be keeping a close watch on Spoon and BRGR’s menus. Rest assured, if we receive word that foie gras is again being sold at Spoon/BRGR, we will resume our campaign against them until we receive a permanent commitment.
Whether Mr. Pekarcik wants it or not, we will continue in our work to make Pittsburgh foie gras-free. Thank you to everyone who was going to come out for the protest and we apologize for any inconvenience that may have been caused by the sudden cancelation. Stay tuned for further updates about the next phase of our Foie Gras-Free Pittsburgh campaign!
Another Pittsburgh Restaurant Going Foie Gras-Free!
Perlé Decides to Remove Foie Gras from Menu;
Keep the Ball Rolling-Contact Spoon!
In our last update, we notified you that Bite Bistro had finally removed foie gras from their menu. Unfortunately, Bite Bistro did not have the opportunity to enjoy being a foie gras-free establishment for very long, since they closed their doors and went out of business last week. While we don't wish to celebrate the demise of a local business, we're glad to move ahead with the Foie Gras-Free Pittsburgh campaign.
Recently VFA was notified that the new Big Y Group-owned restaurant, Perlé, located in Market Square downtown, had foie gras on their menu. VFA sent a letter to Perle's Head Chef and the Executive Chef of the Big Y Group, Andrew Hebson, informing them of the cruelty of foie gras production, complete with video footage of the undercover foie gras farm investigations at Hudson Valley Foie Gras and Sonoma Foie Gras, and asked them to remove foie gras from their menu permanently. VFA was very happy to promptly receive the following reply from Mr. Hebson:
I am sorry to hear that your first attempt to contact me was unsuccessful. I assure you we are addressing this issue with urgency. We are developing a replacement recipe for our menu item that contains Foie Gras, and will have our menus reprinted to reflect this change. These changes will be complete by the end of the month. Thank you for taking the time to contact me and I assure you your cause is well received by our organization.
Corporate Executive Chef
Big Y Restaurant Group
We congratulate Perlé on taking this ethical step in the right direction, and have extended our offer of assistance, if welcomed, to help Perlé incorporate vegan options onto their menu. Perlé marks the third Pittsburgh restaurant that has gone foie gras-free in 2012!!
Moving along, you may recall back in May we sent out an alert about the co-owned restaurants Spoon and BRGR. In the alert we explained that despite meeting with the Executive Chef of the restaurants, Brian Pekarcik, and extending a time limit of response for Mr. Pekarcick to “phase out” foie gras from the menus of both of his restaurants, foie gras remains on Spoon’s menu. In fact, following VFA's meeting with Mr. Pekarcik, foie gras has been added to the menu of the newly opened BRGR branch, located in Cranberry.
To read this alert, click here: http://vfaonline.org/alerts/40-farmanimals/178-the-porch-going-foie-gras-free-take-action-on-spoon-a-brgr.html
More than enough time has passed for Mr. Perkarcik to have removed foie gras from all of his restaurants menus, but he has not followed through on his word, and it seems he is simply moving the foie gras from one restaurant to another. It is time to launch a campaign against Spoon and BRGR’s sale of foie gras!! Please email, call, and write to Spoon/BRGR and ask them to make a permanent commitment to end the sale of foie gras at Spoon and both BRGR branches:
Brian Pekarcik, Executive Chef:
Spoon BRGR (Cranberry)
134 South Highland Ave. 20111 RT. 19 & FREEDOM ROAD
Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (CRANBERRY MALL)
412.362.6001 CRANBERRY, PA 16066
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>
Page 1 of 4