My childhood dog, Neddy, had manky bald bits and he’d scoot across the lawn on his bum whenever we had company. He was partial to trying to have sex with inappropriate things. But we could dress him up and he’d sigh with martyred forbearance and let us photograph him.
Our cats were called Soft and Stupid, and Hard and Hairy.
Later there was Sophie, and Fergus, and Sam. And of course long-forgotten goldfish who always got flushed. And rats called Romeo and Juliet. Juliet ate Romeo. I think it may have been my fault for forgetting to feed them.
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The euthanasia of pets is a hot topic. Many healthy animals are put down every year for a complex range of reasons. And a fight between people who should be allies – the animal shelters and the animal rescuers who want a ‘no kill’ rule – is making things even more difficult, Miles Heffernan explains.
Australia is a world leader in killing cats and dogs. Investigating this production line of death opens the door to an insidious world of pet welfare, commercial greed, and pious ideology.
For a short time I worked for a large animal shelter. From that part-time job, I have a beautiful pooch called Thaddeus. One of my mates rudely refers to him as my life partner, given his regular attendance at BBQs and birthdays.
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Tabby or not tabby? That is the question.
Another key question in the wake of the tragic death of “Meow” the 17 kilo cat overnight, is why oh why did he have to die so young? It’s not like he brought it on himself. He was just naturally big boned and big whiskered. And big tailed and big furred and big, big tummied.
Vets said Meow died overnight as a result of complications from his morbid obesity. Well, those remarks are just plain catty. “Meow” spent his whole life on the high protein Catkins diet, yet still ballooned out to a catastrophic weight.
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“If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be vegetarian.” So goes a rather weary old dog of a proverb attributed to Paul McCartney.
Admittedly, his sentiment makes me as misty-eyed as the next idealist softie. But in light of the latest abattoir cruelty scandal, I need to have a quiet word with Paul.
“Glass walls” don’t come much clearer than the hidden footage uncovered by the ABC and subsequently splattered across our news last week. You don’t exactly need Windex to see inside the pure barbarism of NSW’s Hawkesbury Valley Meat Processors.
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I want to conduct an experiment. I’ve tried it at home and reckon it’s ready for a bigger venue. The Sydney Opera House would do. Or perhaps the Louisiana Superdome. I want a huge audience and plenty of space in front of the stage. People with sensitive ears be warned, there will be opera. I need divas. I want Wagner and cleavage and buxom plaited blondes.
I want helicopters and Robert Duvall (without the napalm). There will be a monster flower garden planted in front of the stage and when the time comes to bond the divas with their bouquets, an army of florists will prowl the garden. They’ll be picking, snipping and binding the most exquisite and beautiful of the freshest opening blooms.
Here’s what would not happen at my opera.
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By now, you’ve probably heard about Happy Feet, the ailing emperor penguin who was found near New Zealand a few months back. After rehab, Happy Feet was released this week, only to go missing somewhere in southern waters.
Some say he was gobbled by an orca. We think he might’ve been munched by a huge manatee, even though said mammals reside only in the northern hemisphere. Hey, never let the truth get in the way of a good headline.
Dead or alive, Happy Feet has captivated everyone. This is not unusual. Animal stories are always popular in any form of media, especially online. And if you think about it, that says something gently profound about our own humanity.
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Sometimes, you wonder who the real animals are, and what kind of condition they keep themselves in.
On the weekend, I dropped my daughter at a friend’s birthday party at Lennon Brothers Circus. Lennon Brothers is one of the few remaining Australian circuses with animals, and a group of protestors had set up shop out the front.
Never in my life have I encountered such an unruly, rude rabble of misfits, thugs and foaming-at-the-mouth ideologues. Not content to peacefully pursue their aims, they actively victimised the poor helpless children attending the circus with some of the most vile slurs imaginable.
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At our last caucus meeting, I sensed that many of you were concerned about the inappropriate animal welfare outcomes recently shown on the Four Corners program and dissatisfied with my proposed inquiry. By the way, I still have that shoe if someone wants to claim it and my doctor informs me that the bruising will be gone within a week.
I am seeking supply chain assurances of the welfare of cattle - which must be guaranteed for each head of cattle, and for their hooves as well. We do not want to simply protect specific parts of the cattle, but the whole of each cattle because, after all, each cattle is an individual with unique needs, desires, and aspirations, much like any other hard working Australian.
I now realise animal -appropriate welfare is non-negotiable.
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After a maelstrom of mainstream media coverage and social media activism, the federal government has temporarily suspended the export of live cattle to Indonesia. The move follows the ABC’s documentary program Four Corners’ recent exposé of the live export trade in which shocking video footage obtained by Lyn White, director of Animals Australia, revealed cows being tortured to death in a slow and agonising manner.
The distressing images, which depicted barbaric practices that included whipping the cattle, gouging their eyes and slashing their tendons, raised the ire of so many people across the country that Animals Australia’s website collapsed from the sheer volume of traffic on the night the program screened.
Social media networks Facebook and Twitter quickly became campaign tools utilised by meat-eaters and vegans alike who united in protesting the horrendous cruelty inflicted on Australian cattle: within a week, more than 200,000 people had signed lobby group GetUp’s petition calling on the Prime Minister and Agriculture Minister Joe Ludwig to ban the export of live cattle to Indonesia and phase out the live export trade all together within three years, and independent MPs and the Greens introduced private members bills to ban all live exports to the country.
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Talkback radio, that eternally squawking companion, last week carried the more disturbing sound of a grown man weeping.
As the gruff voice melted into tears, I imagined he must be talking about the poor cows we’d seen on Four Corners, half beheaded and in infinite pain. Or the uncertain fate of the asylum seeker children.
Nup. He was upset about Port Adelaide. SA’s poor, crippled football team. It seems we all only have a finite amount of caring in us; we have to limit how much we care and what for, or we would fall apart. Some of us pour all our caring into sport, or plants, or train timetables, and have nothing left afterwards.
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Yesterday, I woke up, dynamited a few fish down the river and shone my magnifying glass on some ants. But the critter toll wasn’t high enough for my sadistic needs, so I tuned into Sky Racing and watched the jumps racing at Warrnambool.
And wouldn’t you know it, a horse was killed in the very first race. Its name was Shine the Armour. It should have been called Polish the Turd, because that’s what racing authorities have done with this sick, brutal so-called sport.
In 2009, after a comprehensive review, it was announced that jumps racing was to be banned in Victoria from 2010 onwards. What happened next quite simply defies all of the logic which normally prevails in public debate in Australia.
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One of the weirdest pieces of television ever screened in Australia showed a Werribee Zoo rhinoceros which, to put it gently, needed a little human handiwork to get it interested in the local female rhino. You can just imagine the zookeeper describing her day at work. “Oh, you know. Fed the zebras, jerked a rhino off. Just the usual.”
But the point of this story is not to mention a great big wank that screened on the ABC. That would hardly be news. It’s to point out that captive breeding programs are a complicated business. Handled professionally, as they are in Werribee, they can be tremendously effective programs. Handled poorly, they can be nothing short of cruel.
Yesterday’s awful amateur video of German polar bear “Knut” dying in captivity has spawned debate on the worthiness of captive breeding programs, and more generally, the role of zoos. (Click on the link only if you have a strong stomach. It’s a lot more graphic than watching a rhinoceros spank the monkey.)
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First things first. Let us pause to salute the salty goodness of crispy rashers a-fryin’ in the pan. As my naughty Jewish friends no doubt say before hoeing into their bacon and eggs, “Mmmm… sacrilicious.”
Second point of order. Let’s recognise Australian Bacon Week, and in particular the push by Australian Pork Limited for us all to consume more of the Aussie stuff. Did you know that 80 per cent of our bacon is imported? Or that some iconic Aussie bacon brands have that sneaky “made from imported and local ingredients” label on the side which MP Amanda Rishworth wrote about so eloquently on The Punch last week?
The answer, according to APL, is to make sure you buy pork products with their somewhat unimaginative pink square logo. This will ensure you are not buying imported pork, most of which comes from the EU, and most of which is Danish. APL say that the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service does not test imported pork for chemical residues and other nasties. The EU also has some pretty dodgy pig farms. And while it is is one of several worldwide jurisdictions phasing out inhumane treatment of farmed pigs, conditions at many Danish farms are still far from pleasant, as this disturbing video shows. The question is: are things much different in Australia?
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You may have seen this photo this morning taken by a photographer from local Melbourne newspaper the Preston Leader.
The common Grey Kangaroo (let’s call him Joey McCutie to personalise the plight of the species) had just been hit by and was laying seriously injured on the tram tracks in Bundoora. Here are the Leader and Herald-Sun stories.
The police officer’s decision to shoot Joey McCutie twice in the head was apparently a pretty sensible decision in light of its injuries, but it has prompted some pretty odd criticism from the RSPCA.
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