Tuesday, June 19, 2012

June 17-23 is Animal Rights Awareness Week

Six Ways to Protect the Rights of All Animals

June 17-23 is Animal Rights Awareness Week. If that conjures pictures in your head of crazy protestors tossing red paint on women wearing fur coats, you're only partially right.

The observance was started in 1999 by a group called In Defense of Animals. They wanted to raise awareness of the rights of all animals to be treated humanely and compassionately, regardless of their function in our society. They included in that not only our beloved companion animals, but farm animals, wildlife, and animals used in medical research or product testing.

1. Know Your Cat Breeder

It would be difficult to find anyone who's in favor of cruelty to animals, but some of our own buying habits may have that end effect. If you bought your cat from a breeder instead of rescuing it from a shelter, did you thoroughly investigate that breeder to make sure all their cats are humanely treated? 

Just last week, there was a news story about a breeder of Savannah cats who had them all seized after authorities found that he was keeping them in his dark basement in unsanitary conditions. That's no way for a cat to live! But when there's money involved (especially the large sums with some exotic breeds), unfortunately, some people begin to view the animals as a mere commodity and not as living, breathing, sentient beings. 

And that's a shame...fortunately, it's also a crime and there are laws in place to deal with such people. If you uncover such practices, report them.

2. Feed Your Cats Humanely

Humane treatment of animals goes beyond our own cats. When you buy your cat's food, do you look at where the meat in it comes from? Because cats are obligate carnivores, we don't have the option of feeding them a vegetarian diet, at least not if we want them to be healthy.

But it stands to reason that if an animal is stressed when slaughtered for food, those stress hormones will remain in the meat from that animal. When our cats (or we) eat that meat, those hormones go into our own bodies. Is it any wonder we're all stressed to the breaking point?

If food animals are sick, or have been pumped full of antibiotics to keep them from getting that way in overcrowded conditions, those things also get into our cats' bodies when they eat that meat. Yucky! Natural meats are far healthier and don't have all those unwanted additives.

Seek out cat foods and meats containing flesh from free-range animals that are humanely slaughtered and you won't have so much of a problem. You'll also enjoy a much lighter conscience.

3. Avoid Buying Fur

Perhaps you've seen those cute little cat figurines covered in soft fur on a gift shop shelf. Are you sure where that fur came from? Sure, the people selling them will tell you it's from rabbits, which are food animals. But how do you know for certain? If they were made in China, there's a very good chance that fur came from actual cats.

Or maybe you've seen a beautiful fur item in the store, for which the origin of the skins is unclear. How do you know that it's not cat fur?

Cats have a rough time of it in China. Although many Chinese people are now keeping cats as pets, any of them that get outside are in danger of being captured by collectors who sell them for meat and fur, stuffing them into overcrowded cages filled with fear and pain on their way to market. These are cats just like your own loving kitty, viewed as commodities by uncaring people out to make a profit off their hides. Remove support for the Chinese cat fur trade by refraining from buying fur products and eliminating the profit motive that fuels it.

4. Avoid Products Tested on Animals

It's nigh on impossible to refrain from buying any products that haven't been tested on animals at some point. And animal testing is essential to develop the drugs and surgical techniques that keep our families -- including our cats -- safe and healthy. So it's a fact of life in our society.

But there has been plenty of unnecessary suffering inflicted on animals over the years to avoid lawsuits from consumers who wanted to make a quick buck off some faceless corporation. An increasing number of companies has brought products to market without any animal testing, and they make some fine products. Support them by looking for those products in stores. 

And please, don't contribute to the corporate fear that drives animal testing by being a part of the frivolous lawsuit problem.

5. No More Homeless Cats

Is your cat spayed or neutered? Every day in America, thousands of healthy, loving cats are euthanized for no other reason than that they have no homes. Not only a tragedy in loss of life, this practice is debilitating for the shelter workers who must end those furry little lives. It's a horrible task, and completely avoidable if pet owners only acted more responsibly.

Most shelters use humane methods of euthanasia, but some shelters in rural areas use the cheapest and easiest means possible, which usually means gassing conscious animals. Are you aware of the euthanasia method used by your local shelter? If you need to advocate for a more humane method, we have a brochure to help you educate your local officials on accepted methods. There's also one on Trap-Neuter-Return method of feral cat colony management that can save many lives. You'll find them both on our Free Downloads page. Feel free to print and use them however needed to educate local officials; we do when we hear of this issue coming up in local communities all over the country. By approaching the issue in a friendly, helpful manner and offering elected officials material that will help them in making such decisions, you can have a positive impact on many cats' lives.

Do you volunteer at your shelter to help animals find homes? Have you adopted animals yourself from the local shelter? For every cat you rescue from a shelter, you save two lives: the cat's you bring home, and the cat who can then take its place in the shelter. And every shelter and rescue group is always looking for more people who can help them achieve their mission by volunteering just a few hours each month, or making donations to help the animals in their care to be a little less frightened and more comfortable.

6. Protect Wildlife From Your Cat

Do you keep your cats indoors? While some people with their own agendas tend to inflate the figures for it, cats who roam outdoors usually do kill some wildlife. If their mothers taught them to hunt, they will have a natural tendency to pursue prey. Make sure that prey is inanimate toy objects and not the birds, squirrels, chipmunks, etc. in your yard.

While some country cats were born and bred to be mousers in barns, city or suburban cats are safer inside...both for themselves and for the wildlife.

So when observing Animal Rights Awareness Week, try to examine your own habits to see if there's anything more you can do to ensure that all animals are treated humanely and with compassion. Our own cats may be treated like royalty, but all animals deserve respect and consideration. Living more consciously doesn't make us freaks. It just makes us humane.

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