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by Jean Hofve, DVM

If you watch the news, you'd be justified in being pretty depressed about the state of the world. Yet there's good reason to hope: the spiritual evolution of mankind is undoubtedly accelerating, and we may soon reach the critical mass needed to enact great changes on our planet.

The great peacemaker Mohandas Gandhi said, "The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way its animals are treated." Not many nations would get a good score if this were the real measure, but the good news is that things are changing—animals are getting more attention, and institutionalized cruelty may be nearing its end, as more people understand—and oppose—how animals are really treated.

Last year's big news centred on the prosecution of NFL quarterback Michael Vick on charges of dogfighting and animal cruelty. Even though both dogfighting and cockfighting are illegal in all 50 of the United States, these blood "sports" are widespread, and thought to be increasing. The spotlight on the Vick case was an opportunity for much-needed public education.

According to the Humane Society of the U.S., scores of animal protection laws were passed in 2007, such as disaster planning for pets, including companion animals in domestic violence protective orders, and banning horse slaughter and Internet hunting. Alaska's wolf bounty program was discontinued, and protection for endangered Canada lynx was expanded.

Things are getting better for what we referred to in vet school as "food animals." My home state, Colorado, passed laws phasing out veal crates and "gestation pens" for pigs. Wolfgang Puck removed foie gras and crated veal from his restaurants' menus; Whole Foods and Raley's grocery stores ended live lobster sales; and Safeway, Wendy's, Burger King, Hardee's and Carl's Jr. recently instituted stronger animal welfare standards for their suppliers.

Pet welfare is improving, too! West Hollywood's ban on cat declawing was allowed to stand by the California Supreme Court. However, the EU and most other "civilized" countries remain light years ahead of the U.S. on this issue, having deemed declawing and other cosmetic pet surgeries cruel and, in many cases, illegal. Keeping dogs chained up has been limited or prohibited in 5 states and dozens of communities; and driving with an unsecured dog in an open pick-up truck is banned in at least 7 states.

Possibly the most influential woman in the world, Oprah Winfrey, recently devoted an entire program to puppy mills. While it's hard to resist "rescuing" that poor little pup in the pet store window, it's virtually certain that it came from a mill and may have serious hidden health and behaviour problems. Worse still, purchasing a puppy from a pet store (or from many newspaper and Internet ads) condemns its parents to living and reproducing—often under horrible conditions—as mere cogs in a profit machine that typically disregards their health and welfare.

What One Person Can Do to Help the Animals

But most of all, pay attention! Humans the world over give little consideration to the needs and feelings of animals—but we can make a big difference by even the smallest improvement in our humane awareness. When we learn more, know better, and then act in accordance with our conscience, each of us stands as an example to untold numbers of people.

Since we started with a quote from the Mahatma, let's end with this powerful thought from Margaret Mead that tells us what we are capable of at our best: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."

Dr. Jean Hofve recently retired from holistic veterinary practice, but still writes and consults on holistic health and nutrition. She is a Medicine Woman of the Mountain Wind Lodge Nemenhah Band and Native American Traditional Organization (Oklevueha Native American Church of Sanpete). She founded SpiritEssence in 1995, which remains the only line of essence formulas for animals created by a veterinarian. For more information on pet health, nutrition, and behaviour, please visit the free article library at www.littlebigcat.com.

Copyright (c) 2008 by Timeless Spirit Magazine. All articles are the copyright of the particular writers and cannot be reprinted without their expressed permission. All rights reserved. International copyright laws prohibit reproduction of or distribution of this page by any means whatsoever, electronic or otherwise, without first obtaining the written permission of the copyright holder. We retain legal counsel to protect our copyrights.

Any advice given is for informational purposes only.

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