Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Palm Oil Free Valentine's Day!

Your shampoo, your ice cream, your margarine, your lipstick -- all contain palm oil. Demand is still growing, as are oil palm plantations... but at what price to tropical forests and the biodiversity found there?   

A message from Patti Ragan and The Center for Great Apes:


Are you planning to give a gift of Valentine's Day candy?  You really never know what you're getting in that box of chocolates unless you read that label and check the ingredients for palm oil. Palm kernel oil is produced mainly in Southeast Asia where millions of acres of irreplaceable rainforest are destroyed each year to establish palm oil plantations. Hundreds of orangutans are killed each year as a result of the palm oil business, so please avoid buying products containing palm kernel oil. This special rainforest habitat is not only the last home to orangutans... but to many other endangered animals as well.

You can help. Take the time to make sure that the product you buy with Palm Oil is on the list of RSPO members. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil


Saturday, January 28, 2012

Pony Skin Foals

While I was in Florida, I received this letter from one of my readers:

“My name is Elle, and I absolutely loved your book, the Outside of a Horse! I was wondering if you could let me know where you obtained the statistics in your Author's Note? The statistics about the number of foals born annually (and being killed to avoid the stud fee), and the deaths per every 1,000 starts are the stats I am specifically interested in. I am writing a paper on how to improve the horse racing industry, and I would like to include the appalling statistics of cruelty to help persuade readers. Thanks so much!”

The statistic—about foals being killed to avoid a stud fee—came from a very well-known, downright famous writer friend of mine. Her sister worked in the racing industry and told her about “standing foal,” the practice of deeming a newborn foal unsuitable, by racing standards, and killing it before it stands, thus avoiding the stud fee. I found my notes from that interview, but deemed them too “word of mouth” since I couldn’t re-locate the online site I used to confirm the practice. Lucky me (and you), I came across another, just as despicable.
Using a nurse mare is a common practice in the thoroughbred industry, partly because horse racing rules dictate that mares have to be bred by live cover. (Not artificially inseminated.) This has created an industry of nurse mare farms that breed mares, and replace their newborn foals with expensive, thoroughbred foals to nurse. This frees the thoroughbred mare to be shipped for re-breeding or, if she’s racing, right back to the track.

What happens to the nurse mare’s foal? They are left to die, shot or clubbed to death, or fattened up, and at age six months, can legally be sent to slaughter. (There are YouTube videos of this, if you can stomach watching.) The meat of young horses is prized in many countries, such as Japan. (Tempted to cast stones; we eat veal.)
This is just one of the rescue groups dedicated to saving as many of these ‘by-product” foals as they can.  http://www.mountainviewrescue.com/NMF.htm

A pony skin foal is another name for a nurse mare foal born so a mare can provide milk to a thoroughbred foal born for racing, or for show. The nurse mare industry is huge, but I couldn't find any statistics on how many foals are produced, and killed annually. A lucky few are rescued, some are sold at auction, others are killed on the spot with a bullet or a club. Whether they end up on a dinner plate in Japan, as dog food, or are killed and skinned for high-end leather products, the nurse mare industry is a disgrace.

And here’s a site with more info on nurse mares

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And are you proud of your genuine shell Cordovan leather couch, or in your car? Most leathers come from cows, but Cordovan comes from horses. It improves with wear and polishing, and is tough as a horse’s butt.
Do you take the Premarin brand of hormone replacement? Pregnant Mare Urine. The fate is the same for their foals, unless a filly is born. She might be permitted to live and follow her mother into the "pee line" where the hormone rich urine is collected during the last six months of pregnancy. Six months tied in a stall, standing in your own feces, with a bag and hose attached to your ureatha.

And for Elle's paper, here is the site that tracks racetracks deaths. http://www.horsedeathwatch.com/


Sunday, January 22, 2012

The Real Reason for my trip to Florida

I'm just home from 2 weeks in Florida. Each time someone asks what I was doing there, I've answered--taking a houseboat out into the Everglades. That was to be the highlight of the trip, but it was two days of the two weeks--an excuse to go. What I was really doing was traveling across country to see, and be with, if only for a day or two, the people I love most in the world.

My women friends:
Jane Kelsey Phinney, 1962. 
Judy Rowe McCully, 1967.
Kathy DeLorenzo, 1970-ish
Janice Grimes, 1981
Joanne Mansell, 1981
Johanna Moran, 1983-ish (I didn't get to see her this trip.)
Kathie Graham, 1980-ish
Teresa Sholars, 1992
Norma Watkins, 1993

Why didn't I just say this was the reason for going? Because it didn't occur to me, not until this morning when I read Emily Rapp's essay on the power of female friendship. Memories of all the joy, laughter, heartbreak, births and deaths that I've shared with these friends nearly overwhelmed me, and it made me realize that what I really wanted to do in Florida was to hug and laugh, and drink a little wine, with the most important people in my life.

http://therumpus.net/2012/01/transformation-and-transcendence-the-power-of-female-friendship/#more-95368  by Emily Rapp

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Guest Blog: Jeannie Stickle on Cat Communication.

I'm back, and after 2 weeks in Florida, I'd like to curl up in a sink, too. It's not Florida. The weather was perfect (To me that means cool to downright cold) and I got to see many of my friends, some of whom I haven't seen in way too long. It's the flying there and back that I HATE.

While I was away, I got this blog post from my friend, Jeannie Stickle. It made me homesick for my coast and my cats. She said I could share with you. Enjoy.

Solomon in the sink

Cat Communication

I had to sneak out of the house today. I slipped on my rubber boots, and trudged through our long grass on the back side of our fence to avoid our cat, Solomon. Well, I didn’t actually have to sneak out but Solomon has developed the habit of following us on our walks to the headlands. I’ve seen enough signs of missing cats in our neighborhood to know I’d rather have him stay safely within our fenced yard. He started this new habit over the holidays when our family took a long walk near the ocean. At the time, he was enjoying all the togetherness and didn’t want to miss out. At first he followed some distance behind but soon he was leading the way.


Solomon enjoying the view

Our cat is approaching 15 years, so he’s rather old for a cat. He’s never been too excited about exercise and he was panting like a dog before we got home. (We tried to carry him back but he would have none of that.) This made me think of how important relationships are to all creatures. Solomon was making a sacrifice to keep the family together. He can’t communicate using words, but he communicated through his actions. And when you think of it, we humans also communicate volumes to the people around us through our actions. Research has long shown that the majority of our communication is nonverbal. That includes body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, gestures, eye contact, posture, and proximity to others. Some children, especially those on the autism spectrum, need help with this area of communication so they can develop and grow in their relationships with others. Many adults, as well, need reminders about to use nonverbal cues effectively.

And that brings me back to my excursions through the long grass behind our home.  I wonder what my body language was communicating to the neighbors when they saw me sneaking around the back fence?

Jeanette W. Stickel

I am a licensed speech-language pathologist and have worked in this field for over thirty years. I can’t imagine a better profession – I love this job! For the last twenty years, I’ve been employed in public schools. Previous to that, I worked in speech clinics in California, Alaska and Guam. During my clinical years, I provided in-home speech therapy and parent education to children 0-3 and their families. I authored Talking Time, a book of speech and language activities for young children. Originally published by Speech Bin as a resource for professionals, I recently revised and released a second edition for use by parents, grandparents and other care-givers. I am also a member of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and write stories for children. Currently, I am creating books to encourage pre-reading skills, while giving children practice in pronouncing specific sounds. Thank you for visiting my blog!


Sunday, January 1, 2012

A New Year's Wish

Dear Friends,

Baby River Otter
When I started this blog 5 months ago, I wondered what I would find to write about. That probably sounds odd coming from a 'writer' but maintaining a blog is different from working on a novel. So in a conversation with Susan Bono, who helped me set this up, I bemoaned my ability to think of anything to say on any regular basis. She asked a really simple question: "What do you care most about?"

Any one of the nearly 5000 people who have since read this blog could tell me that, but I said, "Well, I don't know. I do save all the animal pictures and stories people send me, and I'd like to publish some of the letters I get from kids."


So all I've really done is recycle. 
(And steal from Google images.)

Apparently, a lot of you are willing to take a moment to wallow with me in my affection for animals: the joy they take in life, and the concern we share for their plights. They, like us, are emotional beings, capable of love, grief, joy, and pain. My goal has always been to try to expose that to the kids who read my books--allow them to connect with nature and the beings with whom we share this planet, as I did when I was a child.

People ask why my novels are categorized as books for teens when so many adults read them. I don't know. We are a species who needs to put things in recognizable boxes. We are human; they are not being the ultimate crate we've stuffed full with the rest of the planet's species. So, here is my New Year's wish for you. May you be given the gift of experiencing life like this animal and this child playing together, and may you never let the glass we see each other through turn to stone.


I'm going out of town for a couple weeks. If I can figure out how to blog from afar, I will. Otherwise, HAPPY NEW YEAR
     Thank you my friends.