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Category: Animal Rights

Starving Malaysian cats spark call for animal-cruelty crackdown

KUALA LUMPUR, Malaysia — Malaysian pet owners and activists who found nearly 300 starving cats caged and soaked in excrement at pet-care centers demanded sterner laws Tuesday against cruelty to animals.

The felines had been left with a company in Malaysia's central Selangor state that was supposed to take care of them while their owners returned to their hometowns for a week to celebrate the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr.

Many owners became worried when they were later unable to contact company representatives. Rescue volunteers broke into the company's two facilities Sunday and discovered the emaciated cats lying in their own feces and urine in cages stacked atop each other.

Activists estimated that at least 12 cats were dead and that dozens more were missing. Police have questioned the company owner and an employee, but no arrests have been made.

The case has energized activists to push for stronger prosecution against people who mistreat animals, said Christine Chin, who heads the Malaysian Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"There is no deterrent in this country for animal cruelty, so the problem just spreads," Chin said.

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Greyhound racing in steep decline in the U.S.

Greyhound racing

For years, fans of greyhound races have faced off against animal welfare activists who say the dogs are kept muzzled in small cages, fed inferior food, injected with steroids and frequently injured at the track. Dog breeders, owners and racing lobbyists counter that the dogs are well-tended and love to run.

Despite their disagreement on conditions for the dogs, there is no disputing this: Greyhound racing is in a steep decline. Racing fans blame the economy and competition from instant gambling like slot machines. Activists say it's time to end the races altogether.

Ten years ago, there were 50 greyhound tracks in 15 states. Today there are just 25 tracks in seven states, with 13 of them in Florida, once considered the hub of dog racing.

Nationally, money bet on greyhound races dropped from $3.5 billion to $1.1 billion between 1991 and 2007, said Gary Thompson, director of corporate communications for Caesars Entertainment in Las Vegas. Caesars owns Bluffs Run Greyhound Park in Council Bluffs, Iowa.

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Iowa agriculture committees approve bill that would limit animal groups' undercover investigations


DES MOINES, Iowa — Angered by repeated releases of secretly filmed videos claiming to show the mistreatment of farm animals, Iowa's agriculture industry is pushing legislation that would make it illegal for animal rights activists to produce and distribute such images.

Agriculture committees in the Iowa House and Senate have approved a bill that would prohibit such recordings and punish people who take agriculture jobs only to gain access to animals to record their treatment. Proposed penalties include fines of up to $7,500 and up to five years in prison. Votes by the full House and Senate have not yet been set.

Doug Farquhar, program director for environmental health at the National Conference of State Legislatures, said Iowa would be the first state to approve such restrictions but Florida is considering similar legislation. The Iowa measure was introduced after a number of groups released videos showing cows being shocked, pigs beaten and chicks ground up alive.

"It's very transparent what agribusiness is attempting to do here," said Bradley Miller, national director of the Humane Farming Assn., a California-based group dedicated to protecting farm animals from abuse. "They're trying to intimidate whistleblowers and put a chill on legitimate anti-cruelty investigations. Clearly the industry feels that it has something to hide or it wouldn't be going to these extreme and absurd lengths."

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Russian authorities appear to drop plan to remove Moscow's stray dogs after outcry

Stray dogs in Moscow

MOSCOW — Moscow's thousands of stray dogs have something to wag their tails about -- animal rights activists say the city has dropped a plan to round up the dogs and ship them to a camp far outside of town.

Animal rights activists and Russian celebrities had been pressuring the city to abandon the plan, which they said would endanger the dogs by placing them in an environment where diseases would run rampant. Some had compared the planned facility to a concentration camp for dogs.

Natalya Yunitsyna, head of the Hope Bringers charity, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the deportation proposal was now off the city's agenda.

"We're very pleased that we've won a small victory here," she said.

Moscow city government was expected to endorse the plan Tuesday but the session's minutes, posted online, do not mention the proposal.

The mayor's press office was unavailable for comment, and city hall officials would not confirm the report.

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Salt Lake City animal-rights activist sentenced in sheepskin-store fire

Walter Edmund Bond DENVER — An animal-rights activist from Salt Lake City who was convicted of setting fire to a Denver-area store that sells products made from sheepskin has been sentenced to five years in prison and ordered to pay $1.2 million in restitution.

Walter Edmund Bond was defiant during Friday's sentencing hearing in Denver. He told Judge Christine Arguello that he wouldn't pay one dollar in restitution and defended his actions.

Arguello warned him that if he didn't pay for the damage to the Sheepskin Factory, he would face even more time behind bars.

The 34-year-old Bond pleaded guilty in November to setting the fire.

He also faces federal charges in Utah for fires at the Salt Lake City Tandy Leather Factory Store and the Tiburon Fine Dining restaurant in Sandy.

UCLA neuroscientist receives threatening package apparently sent by militant animal-rights group
Animal-rights activist admits targeting UCLA researchers

-- Associated Press

Photo: Walter Edmund Bond in a booking mug shot from the Glendale, Colo., Police Department. Credit: Reuters

Vegan diet spotlighted on 'Oprah' episode featuring authors Kathy Freston, Michael Pollan

Oprah Oprah Winfrey is no stranger to eating a vegan diet -- she famously tried a 21-day vegan cleanse in 2008 -- but she recently upped the ante, convincing 378 staffers at her production company to go vegan for a week and documenting the results on Tuesday's "Oprah" episode.

Winfrey's guests included Michael Pollan, the author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma" and an expert on the meat industry, and Kathy Freston, whose new book "Veganist: Lose Weight, Get Healthy, Change the World" is currently Amazon's top seller. Also featured on the program was a segment in which reporter Lisa Ling visited a slaughterhouse.

Freston, whose previous book inspired Winfrey's first foray into the world of veganism, is nothing if not a persuasive advocate for plant-based diets: Journalist John Heilpern, who recently interviewed Freston for Vanity Fair, ended his article by explaining, "I will never become an alfalfa-and-brown-rice man, but since my lunch with Kathy Freston I have decided to give up eating all meat."

Animal-rights activists appeared divided on the episode's merits, with many commenting on Twitter and Facebook that they appreciated the exposure Oprah offered veganism but didn't appreciate the tone of the segment on animal slaughter, which some viewed as downplaying the inherent cruelty of killing animals for food. After the jump, a sample of the chatter from vegans on Twitter.

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South Korea culls animals on huge scale in response to foot-and-mouth disease, avian flu outbreaks

South Korean animal right activists at a memorial rally for animals slaughtered due to foot-and-mouth disease

South Korea's ongoing epidemics of foot-and-mouth disease and avian flu have led the country's government to call for the culling of animals -- pigs and cows because of foot-and-mouth, chickens and ducks because of avian flu, as well as smaller numbers of other animals like goats -- on an enormous scale.

Reports list the number of slaughtered pigs at well over a million; the total number of all animals killed seems to be several million and growing. Worse still, a large percentage of those -- representing virtually all the culled pigs, according to the group Korea Animal Rights Advocates (KARA) -- were buried alive, in part because the country doesn't have enough euthanasia drugs to go around and a large dose is required to kill a pig.

The situation has also led to nightmarish reports about water quality in the affected regions.

According to the Guardian, nearly 70,000 soldiers have been tasked with helping regional forces conduct the livestock culls. Many of the killed animals appeared to be healthy, but came from farms in close proximity to confirmed cases of foot-and-mouth.

One bright spot is that the country, which began to vaccinate large numbers of cows against the disease last month, has recently begun to vaccinate pigs as well. But, KARA cautioned in a statement on its website, "mass vaccination does not include piglets. It is likely that pigs will remain the least protected animals" from the dangers of foot-and-mouth.

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Colombian company cancels planned puppy raffle in response to outcry from animal advocates

CellphonePuppy After animal lovers loudly voiced their opposition, a cellphone provider in Colombia has called off plans to give puppies away to customers in a raffle, The Times' Latin America blog La Plaza reports.

The company, called Comcel, is part of a large telecom empire owned by Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim.

Comcel had previously announced that it would give away 200 purebred puppies -- Labrador retrievers, boxers, pugs, beagles and shih-tzus, according to Bloomberg News -- through the raffle that ends next week. It will now offer debit cards as prizes instead of live animals.

"When people give animals as prizes, they usually don't realize that they might be contributing to the animal homelessness crisis by condoning the breeding of pedigree pups," said Daphna Nachminovitch, a vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, one of the groups that argued against Comcel's puppy raffle. "We want everyone to understand that puppies need and deserve a serious commitment of time, money and love and that many families are unprepared for such a commitment."


-- Lindsay Barnett

Photo: Cachorros de San Luis, Colombia

Spain's state broadcasting network announces it will no longer show bullfights

Bullfighter MADRID — Spain's leading broadcaster said Saturday it will no longer show the country's centuries-old tradition of bullfighting in order to protect children from viewing violence.

Spain's state network, RTVE, lists its new ban on transmitting bullfighting programs under a chapter called "Violence with animals" in its latest stylebook and says it "will not broadcast bullfighting."

One of the reasons given by RTVE is that bullfights "generally coincide with hours protected or specially protected for young viewers."

"Children can view violence exerted over animals with anxiety and we must therefore avoid it by all means," the stylebook says.

Spain has seen a fierce debate over the blood-soaked pageant that has fascinated artists and writers such as Goya, Hemingway and Pablo Picasso.

In July, the influential northeastern region of Catalonia became the second Spanish region to ban bullfighting, joining the Canary Islands, which outlawed the practice in 1991.

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Ohio's outgoing governor issues emergency order banning new dangerous exotic pets in the state


COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio's outgoing governor has ordered a ban on new dangerous pets, in one of the last states to allow them to be owned with few restrictions.

Gov. Ted Strickland signed an emergency executive order Thursday. The ban bars private ownership of any new wild animals and comes after the fatal bear mauling of an animal caretaker in the Cleveland area last summer.

The emergency measure is only valid through March 6, but Strickland's successor, John Kasich, says he supports the ban in concept and the state should let it continue.

Strickland says the order fulfills his end of a deal with animal rights groups and Ohio's agribusiness industry. The agreement had kept the Humane Society of the United States from going to the ballot in November with a measure restricting animal cruelty.


-- Julie Carr Smyth, Associated Press

Photo: Pet alligator? You can't get a new one in Ohio -- or a bear, big cat, ape, crocodile or venomous snake. Credit: Los Angeles Times


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