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Traveling to Philippines to Change One Man’s Life

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Julian and Michael Omidi have long been involved in sponsoring charitable causes that range from standing up to animal abuse to delivering aid to the poor around the world. Aside from donating money and initiating fundraising programs, however, the Omidi brothers also like to go beyond the usual philanthropic efforts. Indeed, in certain exceptional cases, they actually roll up their sleeves and put their skills to directly assist those in need. A remarkable example of their propensity for direct involvement in charitable work took place in the summer of 2013 when Julian and his mother, Cindi, sponsored Michael Omidi’s mission to travel to Philippines and operate on a man suffering from a massive neck lump caused by a thyroid goiter.
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The 20-year-old patient in question had lived with his condition for 10 years. Since his large neck mass set him apart from the rest of people in his village, he found himself alienated from the rest of community, unable to keep a stable job or maintain a romantic relationship. Incapable of supporting himself financially, the man had been living with his aunt and her 6 children since both of his parents had passed away a while ago. For many years, he had been trying unsuccessfully to seek medical care for his condition by applying for various social programs that sometimes covered his doctor visits, but were generally insufficient to provide for any sort of effective treatment.

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When local physicians advised him to undergo tests such as MRI and CT scan, he often found himself unable to follow up on these recommendations. In the absence of adequate medical facilities in his village, the patient’s only option was to travel to the cities in order to have the aforementioned diagnostic procedures done. Unfortunately, not only did he lack the funds to travel, but his social programs did not even cover the tests. Making the mattes worse, local medical facilities required a long wait to undergo the MRI and CT scan, thus delaying the much-needed treatment.

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Upon hearing the patient’s story, Julian and Cindi Omidi promptly gathered the funds to organize a charitable mission and deliver assistance as quickly as possible. To ensure success of the mission, the Omidi family also reached out to Yolanda Abaca, an experienced nurse and philanthropist who helped organize social workers and handled communications with the governor. Her daughter, Maria Abaca, oversaw the surgical details of the medical mission and, working closely with Yolanda, took care of innumerable tasks in preparation for the trip. The success of this mission could not have been possible without their invaluable contributions.

When Dr. Michael Omidi, a renowned plastic surgeon based in the Los Angeles area, arrived in the city of San Miguel, Bulacan Province, to perform an in-person exam, he was greeted with scorching heat. With the temperature outside being as high as 105 degrees, the patient came in wearing a scarf around his neck, immediately raising concerns about the severity of his condition but also attesting to his longstanding plight. Given the urgency of the situation and a limited amount of time at their disposal, Dr. Omidi and his staff quickly made arrangements for a CT scan. In order to guarantee safety of the procedure, they also made a thorough assessment of the facilities at a district hospital and, upon finding them inadequate to handle cases of this magnitude, insisted on access to the university hospital. In order to secure approval, Dr. Omidi convincingly demonstrated that the patient would need blood work, access to intensive care unit, and potent medications to manage the cardiovascular status (e.g., drop the pressure around large vessels, increase the blood pressure, ventilator to manage the airway overnight).

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On the first day of surgery, Dr. Omidi and Dr. Lee Au removed the tumors from the front section of the neck. Following this procedure that took 16 hours, the patient remained in the intensive care unit overnight, intubated on the ventilator. On the second day, the patient was brought back to the operating room and Dr. Omidi spent an additional 8 hours to remove the tumors from the backside of the neck.

In the end, the surgery was a resounding success. All the tumors were removed along with half of the thyroid that was responsible for causing the neck mass. Dr. Omidi and his staff were careful to ensure that there were no injuries to any of the numerous nerves in the head and neck area. The patient recovered well and was sent home 4 days after the surgery.

 

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In the months that followed, the Omidi brothers kept in touch with the patient who has now effectively assimilated back into his community. He no longer has to wear a scarf in the midst of a summer heat to earn acceptance from the townsfolk. The last time we have heard from him, this man has found a girlfriend and is currently studying at the local university to realize his goals of entering the construction industry. His dream is to build a new house for his aunt who lives in an old and rundown shack.

Sometimes, it takes not only financial assistance but also personal commitment and hard work to make a difference in someone’s life. At the end of the day, Julian and Michael Omidi know that helping a fellow human being in need is worth every effort, penny, and time spent.

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The Legacy of Cecil the Lion

EH 7018P  Ernest Hemingway on safari, Africa. January, 1934. Photograph in the Ernest Hemingway Photograph Collection, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston.

Cecil the Lion was known around the world even before he was shot and killed by American dentist Walter Palmer just outside of an animal protection area in Zimbabwe this July. He was part of an Oxford study and a perennial favorite for families visiting for safaris. His tracking collar provided scientists at Oxford a wealth of information about his hunting and roaming habits, giving us a better idea of how these big cats survive in an increasingly hostile area.

The circumstances of his death make the matter even more troubling. Cecil was lured outside of the animal protection area with raw meat attached to the back of a pickup truck. Once he was “fair game,” he was shot with a bow and arrow. Walter Palmer and his guides tracked the wounded animal for more than 40 hours before he was finally killed. In a final act of disgrace, the killers hid Cecil’s radio collar in an attempt to cover up what they’d done. Palmer had paid $50,000 for the hunt.

No amount of indignation is bringing Cecil back, but the hope is that his death could bring much-needed attention to the field of animal rights, specifically with regard to poaching and legal hunting in Africa and around the world.

The president of Zimbabwe didn’t mince words in his response to the killing. Speaking to Zimbabweans in general, he said “Even Cecil the lion is yours. He’s dead, but he was yours to protect and you failed to protect him.” The fact of the matter is that Westerners are willing to pay huge sums for big game hunting, legal or otherwise, and it’s difficult to prevent impoverished locals from jumping at the money.

The outrage wasn’t reserved to the continent of Africa. People all over the world are calling for more concerted conservation efforts. Delta, American, and United airlines all announced that they would stop transporting parts of animals killed in trophy hunts.

It’s a bitter pill to swallow, but perhaps some good can come out of his death. It’s hard to imagine huge, multinational corporations taking such steps if an animal like Cecil had not been killed. And the issue of animal rights, so important to us here at Animal Support, is receiving more attention than ever before.

What we can do is take the anger and outrage and use it as motivation. There are conservation battles going on right here in the United States, specifically with reintroduced wolves in and around Yellowstone National Park, or the red wolves of the Alligator River National Wildlife Refuge in North Carolina, of whom only 100 remain.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that works to help animals in need.  

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Hot Sauce for Longevity?

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Julian Omidi discusses recent findings that suggest eating spicy foods may help you live longer.

Every day there seems to be some miracle cure or other being reported on the news. Today red wine is bad for us, yesterday it can prevent heart disease. Today coffee causes high blood pressure, tomorrow it prevents cancer. There’s “good” fat and “bad” fat, but which is which?

It can be difficult staying abreast of health news with a 24-hour news cycle. The important reports are often buried underneath a pile of interest stories and reports on questionable miracle cures.

A recent report from none other than the Harvard School of Public Health has shown that spicy foods have a variety of active components that are beneficial to human health.

The study took place in China between 2004 and 2008, and included responses from over 500,000 people between the ages of 30 and 70.

Then they reviewed the cases of around 21,000 people who died during a seven year follow-up period. Those who ate spicy foods six or seven times a week were 15% less likely to die a premature death.  Specifically, those who ate spicy food frequently were less likely to die from cancer, heart disease, and respiratory system diseases.

The most common source of spice was fresh or dried chili peppers, which are loaded with a bioactive ingredient called capsaicin that burns fat, fights infection, and stimulate the lungs, kidneys, and heart: all important factors in a person’s long-term health.

Whether these very exciting claims can be nailed down and recorded as scientific fact or not is still up in the air. It’s a study from one area of the world including around half a million people and more information is needed.

Regardless, chili peppers have a high level of phenolic content: chemicals with nutritional and anti-inflammatory qualities. Spicy food has also been shown to protect the stomach lining, boost metabolism, and prevent diabetes.

With all these ancillary health benefits, it’s no wonder people who ate them 6 to 7 days a week lived longer.

Before you go out and buy a bunch of nachos smothered in hot sauce, remember that there are a lot of different kinds of spicy foods out there, and not all of them are good.

To enjoy the health benefits of chili peppers, they should be eaten as part of a nutritious meal. Spicy foods may exacerbate people with digestive disorders, in which case they will do more harm than good.

And remember, most importantly, don’t touch your eyes after handling chili peppers!

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of the Children’s Obesity Fund, No More Poverty, Animal Support, and Civic Duty, all of which are charitable organizations that support a variety of causes in the United States and across the globe.

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Will Going Vegan Save the Animals?

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In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses National Animal Rights Day and the practicality of living vegan.

Besides signifying the last day of May and graduation season, May 30th also marked the fourth anniversary of a fairly new U.S. holiday—National Animal Rights Day(NARD), which was started by the animal rights and conservation-focused non-profit Our Planet Theirs Too.

OPTT is just one of many organizations that promote a vegan lifestyle as indispensable toward furthering their goals of living in harmony with and respecting all animals. In fact, many activists openly criticize those who do not choose to abide by this lifestyle, arguing that animal support should be all-or-nothing when it comes to diet.

However, not everyone has the means to do this. Because of income inequality in the US, those who live close to the poverty level have very few choices in terms of the quality of the food that’s available to them. A single mother who is working a minimum-wage job, for example, cannot afford to drive 20 miles to the nearest organic grocery store and buy an $11.99 jar of vegan, ethically-sourced cashew butter. A vegan, or even vegetarian, lifestyle requires at least some level of financial commitment.

So is it possible to remain actively conscious of animal welfare and still partake in meat and/or animal by-products? The answer may not be all that straightforward. But if going completely vegan would be impractical in the context of your lifestyle, there’s no need for misplaced guilt. The key is to be mindful of what you are choosing to consume, and to always ask questions—for example, do you know where your dinner came from? What about your cashmere sweater? Choose brands that are sustainable, fair-trade, and cruelty free—and this applies to clothing, cleaning supplies, beauty products, and many more types of goods you might not even think of!

For those that do choose to go completely vegan, there are so many resources out there for you to take advantage of, such as recipe/lifestyle blogs, magazines and even cooking shows. Over the past decade, an increasing number of restaurants have started to offer creative vegan options; some even have entirely vegan menus!

I encourage you to spread the word and get even more people involved in National Animal Rights Day; it’s a wonderful endeavor to spread awareness of animal welfare. And remember to live mindfully and treat all beings with respect.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is a philanthropist and co-founder of the non-profit Animal Support.

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Effective Ways to Help the Homeless

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In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses the many ways we can be of assistance to the homeless who live in our communities.

People who want to assist the homeless often wonder if giving pocket change is the best way to approach the situation. Of course, a spare 50 cents or an extra dollar can indeed go a long way for someone who is living on the streets. But are there better ways to help homeless people than giving whatever we find in our pockets?

The experts at JustGive.org offer a useful list of ideas that are usually better than the traditional “Buddy, can you spare a dime,” solution. They suggest the next time you encounter homeless people and you want to help them, consider one or more of the following ideas:

• To begin with, always try to treat homeless people with the same respect you would expect if the roles were reversed.

• Keep a list of homeless shelters on a card or in your device. When you encounter someone who is looking for a place to sleep, direct them to the closest shelter.

• Many people, especially those who live in large cities, carry a bit of nonperishable food with them to give to hungry people they see in the course of the day.

• Yes, it helps to give small amounts of money directly to people who ask for it, but also consider donating to nonprofit organizations that support the homeless in your community. Quite often, just five or 10 dollars can go a long way in the hands of a charitable entity.

• Donate a bag of healthful groceries to your local homeless shelter on a regular basis. This is a doubly smart tactic, as it not only feeds hungry people but cuts the shelter’s food expenses. That way, there’s more money available for beds, job-training programs, etc.

• Volunteer your time at a homeless shelter. Whether you end up serving food, doing maintenance or tutoring children and adults, your talents will be welcome.

Be good to each other, and do what you can for the less fortunate individuals and families who live in your town,
Julian Omidi
Julian Omidi, along with his brother Dr. Michael Omidi and mother Cindy Omidi, are advocates and co-founders of numerous non-profit organizations, including Civic Duty and many others.

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How Children of Veterans are Impacted by Parent’s Service

In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses how children of veterans are impacted upon their return from battle.

Our country is blessed to have men and women willing to fight for our freedoms. America’s veterans are courageous advocates of democracy. However, they also are victims to the traumas of combat. Many of these men and women are also parents. Upon their return, their children may endure psychological impact of war.

Veterans who serve their country are at risk for many possible injuries. Thirty percent of veterans who served in Iraq and Afghanistan are said to have suffered some form of injury. These include injuries both physical as well as psychological. In battle, they could lose an appendage or develop post-traumatic stress disorder. Some veterans even suffer brain damage. All of these take their toll in a significant way.

Losing an appendage could mean losing mobility, which could impact future employment as well as recreational activities. Suffering a brain injury can limit cognitive abilities. Living with PTSD can develop a myriad of conditions that affect the emotional stability of the victim. It is sad when any of these occur. It is more so saddening when it happens to a mother or a father.

Children of injured veterans are significantly impacted by their parent’s return. Their once upbeat and capable parent may become dependent. This could force the child to grow up at an earlier rate than their peers. More responsibility could be placed upon them to help their parent live their daily life.

What’s more, when a parent suffers an emotional disorder from combat, the child is forced to deal with the emotional instability. This can lead to them suffering silently. Children with parents who are injured vet can themselves develop anger issues or anxiety. This loss of childhood can negatively impact their self-esteem.

It is important for us to take care of our veterans but more importantly we keep an eye on their children. Through various organizations, such as the Veteran’s Families United Foundation, it is possible to help these families recover from their injuries. Do your part, if you know children of wounded vets, consider taking on a mentorship role.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is a philanthropist that advocates for children throughout the country.

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Why Adopt a Shelter Animal?

 

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In today’s blog, Julian Omidi, co-founder of Animal Support, discusses the best way to acquire a shelter pet.

With warm weather approaching in numerous parts of the country, many people start thinking of getting a cat or dog as a family pet, the better to frolic in the park with kids, friends and neighbors. Wanting to add an animal to the family is a commendable idea, especially when your new pet comes from a local shelter.

One of the world’s largest, and oldest, animal welfare organizations, the ASPCA, has some sound advice about how to adopt a shelter pet. Here are some of the key things they point out. Be sure to visit the ASPCA website for more detailed information, as well as a resource for all things animal related.

What you might not know…

• About a quarter of dogs and cats you see at shelters are pure-bred animals.
A large number of shelter dogs and cats have already lived a good portion of their lives with human families, so they are anything but ragtag, undisciplined pets.

• Your adoption fee goes a long way toward supporting the good work of the local shelter. And don’t forget that by adopting, you are actually saving an animal’s life!

• Almost all shelter cats and dogs are well-behaved animals that ended up without a home through no fault of their own. Pet owners take animals to shelters for all sorts of reasons, from lack of space after the birth of a baby, to a death in the family.

• The cost of pet adoption is much, much cheaper than acquiring an animal from a private breeder or professional pet store. Plus, shelters usually spay or neuter animals before adopting them out. That’s one less cost to worry about.

• Finally, when you adopt a shelter pet, you can rest assured that your new dog or cat has undergone a thorough physical exam and had all the shots it needs.

Animals bring so much to our lives, why not consider bringing a pet into your home if you have the space and time to care for it. As adults, some of our happiest memories of childhood usually involve the family cat or dog. Visit your local shelter soon, and even if you decide not to adopt, go ahead and make a small donation anyway to support the wonderful work that local shelters do.

Be good to each other (and support your local animal shelter!),
Julian Omidi
Julian Omidi is co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that works to support the rights and health of animals everywhere.

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Are You Properly Caring for Your Heart?

American Heart Month

In today’s blog post, Julian Omidi highlights American Heart Month and gives tips on taking care of you most important muscle.

February is American Heart Month, which is a great opportunity to educate the public about the risks of heart diseases, learn how to prevent it and save lives.

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) – heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure – is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States.  According to The Heart Foundation, approximately 1 million Americans die every year from heart disease, about 1 in every 4 Americans, more than any form of cancer.  In 2008, the disease cost the U.S. an estimated $448.5 billion in healthcare services, medications and lost productivity.  By 2020, heart disease will be the leading cause of death throughout the world.

The disease is 80 percent preventable with education and lifestyle changes.  The main risk factors in heart disease are high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking. To lower the risk of heart disease:

  • Watch your weight
  • Quit smoking and stay away from secondhand smoke
  • Control your cholesterol and blood pressure
  • Limit alcohol use
  • Exercise regularly
  • Eat healthy

For more information visit:

http://www.healthfinder.gov/HealthTopics/Category/health-conditions-and-diseases/heart-health/keep-your-heart-healthy

Throughout the month of February, there will be many events to raise awareness of the disease and promote healthy behaviors.  You can also do your share to spread the word:

  • Wear red on Feb. 6, National Wear Red Day, to raise awareness about heart disease in women.
  • Encourage co-workers, friends and family to make healthy dietary changes.
  • Encourage physical activities in your child’s school.
  • Get an annual physical exam.
  • Participate in community events to raise awareness of heart disease or donate to help find the cure.

American Heart Month - Go red!

(For more on American Heart Month, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.)

Julian, along with his brother, Michael Omidi, and mother, Cindy Omidi, has established a number of charities to help people and animals live better lives.

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Research Finds Helping Coworkers Makes Us Happier at Work

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Julian Omidi discusses an article about how more and more research illustrates the power of altruism, the practice of unselfish concern for or devotion to the welfare of others.

According to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and are less likely to quit their jobs, but the biggest benefit is that those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others. [1]

“More and more research illustrates the power of altruism,” Donald Moynihan, a professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison said in a statement. “Our findings make a simple but profound point about altruism: Helping others makes us happier. Altruism is not a form of martyrdom, but operates for many as part of a healthy psychological reward system.”

The study looked into two large-scale longitudinal studies to make the connection between helping others at work and happiness. Researchers examined the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which surveyed 10,000 Wisconsin high school graduates from the class of 1957. The found that people who said in their mid-30s that helping others in their work was important were apt to report being more satisfied with their lives nearly three decades later. [2]

Researchers also found a link between happiness and helping others at work in cross-national data from the General Social Survey, which includes data from 49 countries around the world.[3]

“It’s exciting that in both tests, our measures of altruism had relatively large effects on happiness,” said professor Moynihan. “Being motivated to help and believing your work makes a difference is associated with greater happiness in our analysis.”

A number of studies have also brought to light the value of friendship in the workplace, suggesting that strong social support can boost an employee’s productivity and make him or her feel more passionate about their work as well as be less likely to quit. [4]

“Camaraderie is more than just having fun,” wrote University of Kentucky management professor Christine M. Riordan in a Harvard Business Review blogs, “We All Need Friends At Work”. “It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in it together. Studies have shown that soldiers form strong bonds during missions in part because they believe in the purpose of the mission, rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team.”[5]

But that’s not all! Healing others may cause a ripple effect that makes not only those who are performing the good acts happier, but may also raise the happiness among other members of the community.

By Julian Omidi

[1] Virtue rewarded: Helping others at work makes people happier 7/29/2013 http://www.news.wisc.edu/21983

[2] Wisconsin Longitudinal Study http://www.ssc.wisc.edu/wlsresearch/

[3] GSS General Social Survey http://www3.norc.org/gss+website/

[4] Why You Should Care About Having Friends At Work 7/17/2013 http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/08/work-relationships_n_3561568.html

[5] We All Need Friends at Work 7/03/2013 http://blogs.hbr.org/2013/07/we-all-need-friends-at-work/

 

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Humanity of Non-Humans: Should They Have Rights?

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Julian Omidi discusses the human qualities of non-humans, as well as the desire by some advocacy groups to have basic legal liberties granted to chimpanzees.

We love to anthropomorphize our pets.  We give them particularly human dispositions and sometimes even attitudes and opinions that they couldn’t possibly have. (Does your Chihuahua really feel stylish in that sweater?)  But even though we place personalities upon animals, animals are independent beings with, some argue, a past, present and future perspective that might entitle them to personhood rights.[1]

It may seem ridiculous to bestow the right to vote or own property on an animal, but some activists are lobbying for chimpanzees’ right to be classified as legal persons.  This right would afford them the ability to be released to sanctuaries and not enclosed in laboratories, zoos or facilities that restrict their natural freedoms.

One lawsuit on behalf of several chimpanzees – one held by a private couple, and four held in Universities and private sanctuaries – argued that personhood rights ought to be bestowed onto chimpanzees.  These rights would be limited to bodily liberty, or the right to not be forced into a captive environment.  The lawsuit, which was filed by Steven M. Wise for the animal advocacy group The Nonhuman Rights Project, was dismissed.  Mr. Wise plans to appeal.

The core of the nonhuman rights argument is the fact that, while we will never really know what a chimpanzee is thinking, they do have a concept of themselves, their circumstances and future.  They are able to recognize their own reflections.  They can plan for future events (they can save food and create tools).  They can strategize for fights with other primate species.

The concept of nonhuman rights poses difficult questions.  Although most of us can agree that scientific and medical experiments on chimpanzees and other primates are brutal, we must nonetheless ask ourselves: What exactly would be the consequences of issuing liberties to chimpanzees?

If the results are the protection of endangered animals and the release of suffering captive animals to sanctuaries, then those would definitely be happy outcomes.  However, since chimpanzees aren’t the only highly intelligent animals in the wild or captivity, why should they be the only nonhumans to be afforded these rights?

Would the capture and training of whales and porpoises for waterpark zoos be prohibited because these water mammals are of exceptional intelligence?  Should we force the owners of parrots, ravens and other intelligent birds to surrender their animals, as well?  Should pigs, probably the most intelligent domesticated animal (and also an animal that has a concept of its past, present and future) no longer be used for food?

There are no easy answers to these questions, certainly.  But there is time enough to debate the philosophical arguments for animal liberties, there is more immediate work that needs to be done.  For the time being, it might be enough to concentrate our efforts on the grossest abuses of animal welfare – poaching, the capture of wild birds, puppy mills, horrible animal warehousing facilities and animal sports.


[1] Gorman, James: Considering the Humanity in Nonhumans New York Times 12/9/2013 http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/science/considering-the-humanity-of-nonhumans.html?_r=0&pagewanted=print

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