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Animals Can Fly in Style, Too

In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses JFK Airport’s plans for an exciting new animal facility.

If you’ve ever had to travel with animals, you probably already know it’s a hassle. However, this may soon be a thing of the past. New York’s JFK airport has announced plans to open a 178,000 square foot facility specifically designed to accommodate animals of all kinds. The rules for traveling with animals generally involve a mandatory quarantine to prevent bringing contagious diseases into the country, and the new facility will be able to shelter animals during this period—hay-lined stalls for cattle and horses, an aviary, and holding pens for smaller animals.

The $48 million facility is to be called The ARK, and will open next year. The ARK will also accommodate specifically to dog owners in collaboration with Paradise 4 Paws, and will include a luxury resort with splashing pools, dog masseuses, flat screen TVs, and “pawdicures.” Cornell University veterinarians will also run a 24-hour clinic in the facility, which caters to all animals.

ARK architect Cliff Bollman claims that their design process “is in collaboration with veterinarians and consultants to help minimize the amount of stress placed on the animal.” The facility is even helpful for owners of animals that do not need to be quarantined, which will be held safely at The Ark until their owner picks them up upon arrival.

The cleverly-named facility is projected to have the capacity to house over 70,000 animals per year. The ARK will be especially popular with owners of animals competing in shows, such as horses, as it is the first luxury animal travel facility of its kind in the world. However, it won’t be cheap: for example, some dog suites may cost their owners upwards of $100 per night.

Hopefully The ARK will open next year with success, and may even pave the way for similar, more affordable facilities in travel hubs around the world.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

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Sixth Mass Extinction is Here, Experts Say

Julian Omidi discusses the ‘sixth extinction’ and how the elimination of species may lead to the end of mankind as we know it.

Mankind may be approaching another extinction event. That’s at least the thoughts of Paul Ehrlich, senior fellow at Stafford Woods Institute for the Environment. What is being known as the ‘sixth extinction’ has Ehrlich and his co-authors calling for the conservation of animals and their habitats. Today, lets look at his work and the potential threat facing our ecosystem.

Recently published in Science Advances, the study shows species are entering extinction at 100 times faster than the normal rate. If continued at this rate, it could take millions of years to recover. The estimate was based on research of fossil records and other extinction counts from a variety of records. Their thoughts, their findings severally underestimate the severity of the situations.

A large contribution to this is humans impact on the environment. This includes introducing invasive species, land clearing and logging, as well as carbon emissions. It is thought the damage to ecosystems by such practices will eliminate the natural benefits for generations to come.

The authors suggest that avoiding this type of event will take rapid change. This would require adding conservation efforts to already endangered species as well as working on reducing climate change and altering their natural habitats for commercial gain.

To change this then, we must go further than protecting animals rights, but also consider the ecosystems that promote biodiversity. We must make a large scale shift of our consciousness towards how we obtain our energy, how we build housing and even how we distribute food. The study makes clear that mankind has the biggest part in the spark of the sixth extinction.

Only time will tell the impact this event could have and our ability to postpone it. It seems that any form of advancement in technology has some negative impact of the Earth’s ecosystem. If we are not careful, the next few generations of mankind may suffer our ignorance.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit that advocates for the well being of animals around the world.

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Animal Tracking in the Serengeti


In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses animal extinction and how we can get involved in stopping it.

Animal extinction is a global issue that doesn’t get discussed enough. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, literally dozens of species are going extinct every day—and it’s mostly our fault. Human activities over the past century have caused a shocking number of consequences for animals, the most significant being global warming and habitat loss. It’s even more important than ever to raise awareness and involvement in order to slow these alarming rates of extinction.

One group found a rather creative way to do this– through photography.

Between June 2010 and May 2013, a research team led by Alexandra Swanson set up over 200 cameras in Serengeti Park of Tanzania. Their goal was to capture the lives of endangered species that would be difficult to photograph in the presence of humans, so the cameras were mounted on trees or other still objects. They incorporated both motion and heat sensors so that when an animal was near, the camera would be triggered automatically.

As a result, more than 1.2 million sets of photos were captured during this time. The research team was obviously quite overwhelmed by the sheer volume of images they’d have to start sorting through, so they asked an online “citizen science” portal called Zooniverse to help.

Here’s how it works: anyone, even without a background in science or zoology, can log on to this website and register to help with the Snapshot Serengeti project—or a number of others, which cover nature, wildlife, climate, humanities, and even space! Zooniverse uses an algorithm to narrow down the species of the animal photographed based on a number of characteristics that the user can select.

With the help of Zooniverse and 28,000 citizen volunteers from all over the world, Swanson’s team was able to make successful identifications of 48 different species as of last week, many of which are classified as endangered. The project is still open, so I encourage you to try making some identifications of your own! It’s a fun way to make a difference and learn about rare species of animals.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

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

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Will Going Vegan Save the Animals?


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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Antibiotics and Animal Welfare


In today’s blog, Julian Omidi discusses the rights of animals in the livestock production sector.

The “five freedoms” of animal welfare

In 1965, the UK government commissioned a report on the welfare of animals being raised as livestock. The results contained a list of five freedoms that all animals should be given when under human control, and was subsequently adopted by animal rights organizations around the world as a constitution of sorts. The freedoms are as follows:

  1. Freedom from Hunger and Thirst
  2. Freedom from Discomfort
  3. Freedom from Pain, Injury, or Disease
  4. Freedom to Express Normal Behavior
  5. Freedom from Fear or Distress

Are big businesses finally coming around to furthering animal rights?

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club issued press releases late last week that have captured the attention of both the media and animal welfare activists: a promise to abide by these five freedoms in order to enforce the humane treatment of farm animals, and improve the sustainability of the resulting food products.

It’s a move that echoes recent statements from the likes of Perdue, Tyson, and McDonalds—to name just a few.

Is this a genuine effort to facilitate a positive change in the retail industry, or just a strategic PR move to shift attention away from questionable labor practices in the past decade? Regardless of intent, at least it’s a step in the right direction. Corporate transparency is certainly one way to hold institutions accountable for what might be happening behind the scenes. This brings to mind countless past animal abuse scandals– and the resulting popularity of documentaries that made attempts to expose them.

One positive result of this decision is a widespread awareness of the harm that human antibiotics have on animals. Your average Joe may not be familiar with the Five Freedoms or the ASPCA, but he sure recognizes the phrases “Save money. Live better” and “I’m lovin’ it.” The initiative for antibiotic-free animals is becoming increasingly relatable for Americans, and I hope to see the trend continue.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is a philanthropist and a co-founder of Animal Support, a nonprofit organization that exists to further animal rights around the world.

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Gallup poll Finds Americans want more Protection for Animals

In today’s entry, Julian Omidi discusses a new Gallop poll that suggests Americans are increasingly favoring equal rights for animals.

Gallup recently released a poll that showed citizens in the US want more protection for animals. The company began asking a series of three statements to rate how people responded in 2003:

  • Animals deserve the same rights as people
  • Animals deserve some protection
  • Animals don’t need much protection

From 2003 to 2015, those that stated “animals don’t need much protection” remained consistent at only 3%. However, the response “animals deserve the same rights as people” has increased over the years. In 2008, those that felt animals should have equal rights as humans was at 25%. That response has increased to 32% making the national opinion a 7% increase. That means, more people believe that animals should have equal rights as humans.

The findings showed that this response crossed gender, age and political orientation. From 2008 to 2015, there was a rise in the number of men, women, democrats, republicans and ages 18 to 50+. Meaning, Americans as a whole want better rights for animals.

The poll also addressed environments where animals should have better treatment. This included amusement parks, research facilities, sporting events as well as others. A majority of the people were either somewhat concerned or very concerned about the treatment of animals in professional settings.

This shift is a small victory in the treatment of animals. It is good to see that Americans are becoming increasingly concerned with the rights of animals. The more the majority opinion can transform, the more likely animals will obtain more protection and better treatment by society as a whole.

If you are concerned about the well-being of animals, do your part. Advocate for better treatment of animals by joining groups, writing your representatives and voicing your stance online. The more we can share information and reach other people the further we can advance the wellness of animals throughout our country and the world.

Be good to each other,

Julian Omidi

Julian Omidi is the co-founder of Animal Support. He advocates for the fair treatment of animals around the world.

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Culling of Kangaroos in Canberra, Australia


Julian Omidi discusses the culling of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra.

Whether it stems from global warming or just unpredictable meteorological phenomena, occasionally, climates will become inhospitable in the form of draughts, floods or freezing weather.  These changes can – and often do – result in the deaths of various species of animals and the overpopulation of others.  When floods of animals overrun their environment because their natural predators have been extinguished, they will starve to death, or spill into human territories.  Recently, the flood of kangaroos in the Australian city of Canberra, and opinions differ strongly over how to handle it.[1]

Should the residents cull the kangaroo population?  Will this prevent the torturous starvation and physical danger of the animals, or is it a cruel solution, not based on science but on the desire to hunt helpless animals?

Canberra is known for its easy proximity to wild kangaroos.  Rather than trek to the outback, tourists can often see a healthy kangaroo population right on the sidewalks.  The ‘roos are on residents’ lawns, in parks and golf courses.  However, human and kangaroo encounters aren’t always peaceable.  Kangaroos can be highly aggressive when frightened, and they have tremendous strength.  Citizens have been beaten and scratched by rogue kangaroos, and the kangaroos will occasionally break into people’s homes.

When animals are driven by hunger and thirst from their natural environments and into neighboring cities, they don’t necessarily behave with caution.  Many are highly stressed, starving and sick.  They will act desperately and aggressively, and are a greater threat than they would be if they were well fed and otherwise healthy.  Seeing a kangaroo in your front yard isn’t always charming; it can be quite dangerous.

Territory and Municipal Services minister Shane Rattenbury, backed by Australian National University professor and conservation expert David Lindenmayer, is advocating culling 1,600 kangaroos in order to stave off over-grazing and save the resources for other small mammals.  The culling would be achieve by shooting, which, while not 100 percent clean and accurate, is nonetheless the most efficient method for killing wild kangaroos.

Australian animal welfare advocates are rallying against this cull, saying that the shooting of over a thousand kangaroos is a deceptively cruel solution.  One reason being that, being marsupials, they carry their young in pouches, which can conceal the offspring from sight.  Once the mother is killed, an underdeveloped joey could die shortly after.  Also, it is very difficult to shoot a kangaroo cleanly, since it is incredibly fast, and tends to spring up and down at the slightest disturbance.

There are no easy solutions to this problem.  It is incredibly difficult for humans to either morally or ethically make decisions best left to nature, so we often, by necessity, defer them in order to offend nobody.  Of course, this strategy fails to address the question, which is more humane: Allowing an overpopulation of animals starve, grow sick and die in agony, or indiscriminately kill them by the thousands?

By Julian Omidi 


[1] Neubauer, Ian Lloyd: Animal-Welfare Groups Hopping Mad Over Canberra’s Kangaroo Cull Time Magazine 5/27/2014 http:// time .com/115385/animal-welfare-australia-canberra-kangaroo-cull/

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Animal Testing for Cosmetics in China


Julian Omidi discusses China’s new initiatives regarding animal testing in cosmetics.

Although historically, China might not exactly have its hands clean when it comes to the safety and well-being of rhinos[1] and elephants, it is beginning to make significant strides in terms of its tolerance of animal testing in cosmetics, something that even the United States government has, as yet, been unable to do in a meaningful way.

Animal testing in cosmetic products has become anathema in the Europe.  The European Union, in fact, enacted a law in 2013 forbidding the sale of animal-tested cosmetics. However, China hasn’t had the same active abhorrence for animal testing that many other nations has, and has only recently begun to question its methods for testing common products.  Until recently, there haven’t been any non-animal related testing procedures for cosmetics firms in China, and imported products that weren’t tested in accordance with their own procedures can’t legally be sold.  However, China’s Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it was beginning its own non-animal testing training program, and in June of 2014 will begin to allow the manufacture and sale of domestic “non-specialized” cosmetics whose ingredients have undergone European Union non-animal safety testing.[2]

Because of China’s regulations regarding the sale of non-animal tested cosmetics, some corporations that had previously abandoned animal testing began to again use animal testing methods to satisfy Chinese official safety standards.  While the new regulations do not yet relax the criteria for imported products, ultimately, if the new standards prove successful, China may open the door to the importation of non-animal tested products from Europe and elsewhere.

However, China’s history of animal testing to the exclusion of all other methods has the scientific and animal welfare community concerned that it may not be able to effectively conduct newer tests.  The new regulations specify that the laboratories will only be able to conduct non-animal tests if they possess the requisite expertise on par with that of the European Union and other established alternative testing laboratories.  Unfortunately, it seems that Chinese laboratories are still far from achieving this standard.

The new regulations are a turnaround from the attitudes expressed by Chinese officials as recently as 2012, when the animal testing standards were broadened to include animal testing on certain over-the-counter skin treatments.

Hopefully, China’s burgeoning acceptance of non-animal cosmetics testing will spark some new regulations in the United States, where cruel and unnecessary animal testing still occurs.  Even though more accurate data can be compiled from cosmetic testing through donated human tissue samples (which is also cheaper and faster), laboratories continue to torture animals for the production of soaps, shampoos and anti-aging creams.  If stopping animal cruelty isn’t enough, shouldn’t the significant monetary savings be an enticement, at least?

By Julian Omidi


[1] Hongqiao, Liu: China’s many roles in the illegal rhino horn trade 12/16/2013 China Dialogue https://www.chinadialogue.net/article/show/single/en/6577-China-s-many-roles-in-the-illegal-rhino-horn-trade?_ga=1.14420276.2043734224.1399942373

[2] Huang, Shaojie: Interest Grows in Animal Testing Alternatives 5/2/2014 New York Times http://sinosphere.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/05/02/interest-grows-in-animal-testing-alternatives/

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Chinese Ivory Trafficker Get Record Fine in Kenyan

Kenyan-ElephantsKenyan authorities arrested and convicted the first ivory trafficker since new smuggling laws were enacted at the end of 2013. Julian Omidi discusses the new ivory trafficking and elephant poaching penalties, as well as the ivory trade itself.

In a blow against illegal wildlife poaching, a Kenyan court sentenced a Chinese ivory trafficker to seven years in prison or 20 million shillings (about $230,000). The trafficker, Tang Yong Jian, was the first conviction under the newest anti-poaching laws in Kenya.

He was apprehended while carrying 7.5 pounds of ivory in a suitcase while on a stopover in Nairobi between Mozambique to China. If he is unable to pay the fine, he will be forced to carry out his seven year prison sentence.[1]

Previously, the trafficking of a relatively small amount of ivory would have resulted in a mere fine, a maximum of $465. Since Kenya passed new laws regarding wildlife poaching, the penalties have become significantly steeper.

In cases of smuggling contraband ivory or rhino horn, the sentence is a minimum of one million shillings or a jail sentence of five years – or both. In cases of killing endangered animals, it is possible to be sentenced to live imprisonment.

The Kenyan Wildlife Service applauds the new penalties for wildlife poaching and ivory smuggling. Wildlife rangers often risked their lives enforcing weak laws that only amounted to small fines to the guilty parties. Now that theses sentences have been strengthened and could result in spending a lifetime behind bars, incidences of trafficking are expected to decline dramatically.

Kenya is home to some of the most famous and expansive wildlife reserves in the world. Much of their tourism revenue comes from wildlife safari tours, which are jeopardized by the illegal ivory trade. The elephant population in Africa is believed to be approximately 500,000, down from more than 1 million in 1980 and 10 million in 1900. In 2012, 22,000 elephants were poached.

Although the ivory trade has been banned in Kenya since 1989, the practice is still widespread. Compared to international poachers, the Kenyan Wildlife Service rangers are wholly outmanned and out gunned. Poachers have evolved since the mid-twentieth century, when they largely travelled on foot and had only machetes and perhaps the odd rifle. Today, they are equipped with military-grade weaponry, and have even been known to use helicopters and shoot down elephants from the sky.

The ivory and rhino horn trade is a business that grosses $10 billion annually. In China, rhino horn is ground into traditional medicines, and ivory jewelry and home accents are highly prized.

Hopefully, the stance taken by Kenyan authorities will be emulated by other nations whose elephants are in danger of being slaughtered for their tusks. If the cost of killing elephants is spending a lifetime in a foreign prison, poaching could very well be a thing of the past. The elephant is the earth’s largest remaining land animal; the fact that it is routinely killed for a vanity item is absolutely abhorrent.

By Julian Omidi

[1] BBC: Chinese ivory smuggler gets record Kenyan fine BBC 1/28/2014 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-25925176


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Humanity of Non-Humans: Should They Have Rights?


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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