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Carrot & Stick: October 2008

Marthina McClay, founder of Our Pack, a pit bull rescue group in San Jose, Calif

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Marthina McClay, founder of Our Pack, a pit bull rescue group in San Jose, Calif. McClay rehabilitated a pit bull taken from Michael Vick’s Bad Newz Kennels, a dog-fighting operation run by the former Atlanta Falcons quarterback in Smithfield, Va. The dog, formerly known as Bouncer, now goes by Leo and has left the brutality of dog fighting for a second career as a certified therapy dog. Instead of a choke chain, the 60-pound canine now dons a cute clown collar for his weekly visits to a chemotherapy clinic. Leo is one of 47 dogs rescued from Vick’s operation, and a shining example of how aggressive breeds can be retrained rather than euthanized. Twenty-two of Vick’s dogs now live at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Utah; the others are with smaller groups such as Our Pack.

Senator Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), and other senators who introduced and passed Senate Resolution 440, which deems soil an essential natural resource. According to Brown’s press secretary, Meghan Dubyak, Brown introduced the resolution to raise awareness of this vital material’s significance. “[D]espite soil’s importance to human health, the environment, nutrition, and food, feed, fiber, and fuel production, there is little public awareness of the importance of soil protection,” part of the resolution reads. Senate Resolution 440 coincides with a new exhibit at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History. The show, Dig It! The Secrets of Soil, is a 5,000-square-foot presentation with interactive displays, models, videos, and soil cross sections.

More than 1 million Taiwanese people—including the mayors of the country’s two largest cities, Taipei and Kao-hsiung—who have pledged to stop eating meat. The announcement was made by the Union of NoMeatNoHeat, a consortium of more than 50 pro-vegetarian groups, during a drive to raise awareness about global warming. If the pledge is successful, it will reduce Taiwan’s carbon emissions by roughly 1.5 million tons. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, animal agriculture is one of the top contributors to the world’s most serious environmental problems.


Excel Dairy, a 1,500-cow farm near Thief River Falls, Minn. Excel was found to be emitting hydrogen sulfide (H2S) fumes at more than three times the legal limit. H2S is a by-product of cow manure, and in Minnesota, ambient concentration may not exceed 30 parts per billion more than twice per year at a farm’s property line. Levels as high as 90 ppb have been recorded at Excel. According to Amy Rudolph of the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the odor was so bad that some neighbors evacuated, suffering headaches and nausea. The MPCA and the Minnesota Attorney General’s office have filed suit against the dairy, claiming that Excel employees failed to use even the simplest measures to reduce the noxious gas.

The U.S. Army, for shooting live pigs as a medical exercise for recruits preparing to go to Iraq. The exercise, which took place at Schofield Barracks in Honolulu, involved anesthetizing the pigs, shooting them, then giving them first aid. The Army claims that this is the best available option at the base, but others disagree. Kathy Guillermo, who directs the Laboratory Investigations Department at PETA, says that better, more humane, and more realistic approaches exist, including rotating soldiers through urban trauma/emergency rooms and using sophisticated human simulators designed specifically for combat training. Most medical schools stopped using live animals for trauma training long ago.

The Georgia Aquarium, for its Journey with Gentle Giants program, which allows patrons to swim in a tank with marine life, including whale sharks, the largest living fish. The program began in June and costs $290 for scuba, $190 for snorkeling. But critics say whale sharks may find mingling with people stressful and it may expose them to exotic pathogens—particularly troubling given that two whale sharks at the aquarium died last year, and their causes of death have not been determined. The natural habitat of whale sharks, which can grow to more than 40 feet in length, typically covers hundreds of miles. The Georgia Aquarium is one of just a few worldwide to keep whale sharks in captivity.

—Cynthia Marshall Schuman