On the Road in Colorado, and a Reminder That Every Life Counts

By on July 1, 2015 with 0 Comments

I’m at a conference in western Colorado, called Curiosity Retreats, which brings in luminaries on a wide array of subject areas to explore big ideas. Among a roster of extraordinary speakers, I was most excited to listen to a talk scheduled yesterday afternoon called “Wonders of the Ocean” by Dr. Sylvia Earle, a National Geographic Society explorer-in-residence and a former chief scientist at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration.

I missed most of Dr. Earle’s talk because my wife Lisa and I had found a distressed baby ground squirrel the day before. She was in the grass in the searing heat on a 95-degree day, and not moving, and she seemed very vulnerable out in the open. We carefully checked on her and we startled her into moving. But she clearly didn’t seem to have her strength or her wits, and though we looked far and wide, we didn’t see any sign of her mom. Perhaps just four weeks old, she needed parental care to survive.

I made a lifeline call to several HSUS wildlife experts for advice on what to do. They reminded me that in these cases there are often no easy answers. After much discussion, we picked up the squirrel, took her inside, and tried to gently hydrate and then nourish her. They recommended we put her back outside before dark, so that her mother might find her, since ground squirrels are active only during the day. We did that, but the baby seemed confused and disorientated. After additional consultation, we picked her up and stowed her away in a box with towels and food and water for the night.

We started searching for wildlife rehabilitation centers, and since we are on the western slope of Colorado, about an hour south of the town of Grand Junction, there were few people to be found doing this work. I am always amazed, though, that there are self-sacrificing animal advocates wherever you go, and sure enough, we found a couple of folks active in the general region. So yesterday, instead of being seated for Dr. Sylvia Earle’s talk, we found a rental car and drove 90 minutes north to the Arrowhead Veterinary Hospital in Fruita, Colo. The veterinary clinic, led by a board member of the Pauline S. Schneegas Wildlife Foundation, was to take care of her last night, and then today, Nanci Limbach, who had named the wildlife center for her animal-loving grandmother, was going to pick up the squirrel and take her to her center, which she runs as a volunteer.

In recent years, Lisa and I have raised some funds for the HSUS Sparrow Fund, to help wildlife and domestic animals in distress, and we pledged to make a donation to this very worthy group from the fund.

After we got back from the three-hour, round-trip drive, I caught the tail end of Dr. Sylvia Earle’s discussion about the oceans. She’s so lucid and passionate, but her message is so sobering. She reminded us that we are experiencing a modern-day crisis in the oceans, affecting enormous numbers of fish, with commercial operators from so many nations competing for high yields and often not seeing what destruction is occurring in their collective work. And while there are some fisheries management authorities within the coastal management zones of nations, there are vast areas of open ocean, far from our shores, that amount to a free-for-all.

In fact, Dr. Earle points out that we just call them “fish” even though there are 25,000 species of them – in the oceans and in fresh water. She says that when we eat chicken, we don’t just say we are eating “bird.” And when we eat beef, we don’t just say we are eating “mammal” and eat any creature we have a hankering for that day.

But that’s essentially what we do with fish – we have long menus of fish species that are sold in stores or served in restaurants, and we know little about the way they were caught, what the status of the species is, or what the incidental effects of industrial-style fishing practices are. She reminded us that for every pound of shrimp caught, there are 10 or even 100 pounds of other fish of so many species caught, too, and they are discarded. She told us about how, within just the last few years, the population of Bluefin tuna has declined by more than 95 percent. She said that global populations of grouper, snapper, and other species have also declined by 90 percent.

We are mining the oceans of life. We don’t think about it because it’s so far away, and we are so disconnected from the process of catching and killing the fish.

It all brought me back to our little squirrel.  Some people may wonder why go to all that effort to save her, given that there’s no ecological importance to investing so much to save her.

But for me, it’s simple: her life matters to her.  She was a vulnerable, suffering creature, and in this case, she was in distress. She needed help.

Dr. Earle reminded her audience of all the marine creatures whose lives we take without even a thought about it. All the suffering, all the by-catch. These are all wild creatures. Dr. Earle said it’s “wet bush meat” – akin to the killing of wildlife animals in Africa for the bush meat trade. It’s a humane issue and an ecological issue, of the highest importance.

The oceans are vast wilderness areas. We are scraping the bottoms of the seas, trawling with huge nets, and setting barbed long lines that are miles long. It’s a wonder there are any fish left. We are killing whales, dolphins, turtles, sea birds, and so many other creatures, in addition to the Atlantic mackerel, halibut, grouper, and other fish that have commercial value and that are the primary targets of these enterprises.

We may not think of fish the way we think of land animals, but they have a purpose and a life, too. Just like we think about a poor squirrel or an opossum in trouble, or a bird who flies into a window and has a head injury, how about those fish?

Every creature matters. I am especially thankful for the tender people who care for them – whether the wildlife rehabilitation facilities in Silt, Colorado, or the luminaries like Dr. Sylvia Earle who remind us about our responsibilities to all creatures great and small.

Help us protect wildlife »

Brazil Steps Forward on Animal Welfare

By on June 30, 2015 with 1 Comment
Brazil Steps Forward on Animal Welfare

Sao Paolo, the largest city in Brazil and in all of the western hemisphere, and a financial and cultural center of South America, has banned the sale of foie gras and the fur products from animals farmed solely for their fur, in yet another victory for animals in the world’s fifth largest country. The state . . . 

Read More »

Will Humanity Rise to the Defense of Elephants?

By on June 29, 2015 with 2 Comments
Will Humanity Rise to the Defense of Elephants?

Yesterday, The New York Times published a Sunday editorial celebrating the latest progress for chimpanzees – an announcement two weeks ago from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that all chimps, including the captives, will be listed as endangered. This announcement, which comes after The HSUS petitioned for it, will have game-changing implications for these great apes . . . 

Read More »

Let Your Workplace Go to the Dogs

By on June 26, 2015 with 4 Comments
Let Your Workplace Go to the Dogs

When I’m not on the road traveling for work, I get to work chauffeur-style – except I’m the driver, and the backseat space goes to Lily, my beagle mix of uncertain age but very certain place in my heart. When I look back from the rearview mirror, she’s typically gazing out the window, or is curled . . . 

Read More »

Animal Rescue Raids in West Virginia Demonstrate Reach of HSUS Programs

By on June 25, 2015 with 1 Comment
Animal Rescue Raids in West Virginia Demonstrate Reach of HSUS Programs

Today, our Animal Rescue Team was on the ground in Jefferson County, West Virginia, to help local law enforcement officials rescue 21 dogs from a suspected dogfighting ring. The dogs were tied up with heavy chains and many bore scars from past fights. It’s been a busy week for our Animal Rescue Team in the . . . 

Read More »

Celebrities as Partners in Our Quest to Shed Light on Animal Abuse Throughout the World

By on June 24, 2015 with 5 Comments
Celebrities as Partners in Our Quest to Shed Light on Animal Abuse Throughout the World

Animal issues are in the headlines more than ever, due to a growing society-wide awareness about the plight of animals. Millions of Americans are committed to doing something about the wide range of problems that plague animals, and one key to galvanizing action is shining a spotlight on cruelty and calling attention to it. In that . . . 

Read More »

Protecting Elephants a Matter of National Security

By on June 23, 2015 with 2 Comments
Protecting Elephants a Matter of National Security

Lawmakers across the country are dawdling as elephants die. In several states, special interests have killed bills this year to crack down on the ivory trade – most recently in Oregon and Hawaii – though California’s anti-ivory trading bill is looking strong and a comprehensive ballot initiative in Washington state – to prohibit trade in the . . . 

Read More »

Yulin Dog Meat Festival Provokes Global Fury

By on June 22, 2015 with 31 Comments
Yulin Dog Meat Festival Provokes Global Fury

For the last two mornings, Adam Parascandola, director of animal protection and crisis response for Humane Society International (HSI), has woken up at 3 a.m. in China to bear witness to one of the most horrific scenes you can imagine: the slaughter of thousands of dogs – and cats – for the Yulin dog meat . . . 

Read More »

Congressional Committee Hits the Mark on U.S. MARC

By on June 19, 2015 with 4 Comments
Congressional Committee Hits the Mark on U.S. MARC

It seems there’s not a day that goes by without major news for animals – whether it is tangible progress in ensuring their protection and well-being, or examples of fierce resistance to continuing abuse. The last 24 hours have been no exception. Yesterday, Pope Francis released a 200-page encyclical that associated Catholicism with animal protection . . . 

Read More »

Pope Francis’s Unreserved Embrace of Animal Protection

By on June 18, 2015 with 21 Comments
Pope Francis’s Unreserved Embrace of Animal Protection

This morning, the Vatican released Pope Francis’s new encyclical on the environment, and it is truly historic. The encyclical, or letter, from the Pope is full of references to animals and calls on all of us to embrace a more humane path. The encyclical is named “Praised Be” (Laudato Si) after St. Francis of Assisi’s Canticle of . . . 

Read More »

Top