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Tag: crop

The Grapes of George (and other crops)

I’m not sure who’s behind it, but in the flatlands of eastern Washington — before the westbound traveler gets to the far more magnificent side of the state — someone has decided to label the crops.

“Crop names in fence lines next 14 miles,” reads a sign on Interstate 90, somewhere west of Moses Lake and east of a town named George.

I like this idea. For one thing, it turns a fairly boring drive into a learning experience. For another, possibly, it makes people a little more aware of/involved in the place they’re at — as opposed to the text they’re sending, the video game they’re playing, or the cell phone on which they’re blabbing.

It’s kind of like a picture book for kids: Here is the field corn, here is the alfalfa. You don’t even have to turn the page, just your head. On your left, potatoes; on your right, peppermint. Here is a field of … wheat. Here is a field of … grapes (wrathless variety, it appeared). Here is some Timothy. Timothy? (It’s a kind of hay.)

For 14 miles, on both sides of the highway, I got a lesson in agriculture — thanks to, I’d guess, the state or some agricultural commission. I wanted to learn more about crops, including why every state seems to package its hay differently. But the lesson came to an end; and as I progressed west, instead of crop signs, the only ones I saw in the fence lines — not counting those of politicians — said “For Sale.”

It struck me as a good idea, though, all this labeling and identifying — one that, if carried to extremes, could both create jobs and lead to a more informed public.

In addition to crop identifiers, why not farm animal identifiers: Sheep, goats, cows, llamas? Tree identifiers that would help us differentiate between our birch and our aspen? Factory identifiers that tell us what’s being made inside that big building? A much needed explanation of what silos (a) hold and (b) are for? The American public would get a better understanding of the importance of farming, and everything else we take for granted.

(Label this idea satire, but only kind of.)

Of course we don’t want drivers reading signs so much that they neglect their driving, but it’s nice to see signs that inform, instead of those that merely advertise, or give harsh orders — as if we were dogs or something: “No this … No that … Stay in lane … Right lane must exit … ”

I’m tired, too, of the signs that scare us: Dangerous Crosswinds Ahead, Watch for Ice, High Accident Area, Gas: $3.15.

We tend to readily identify dangers, we profusely post rules, we slap advertising everywhere — so why not label the run of the mill good stuff, like cows and creeks, steaming bowls of oatmeal and doers of good deeds?

My label-everything-on-earth plan could help the economy. Think of all the jobs. Think of the stimulus. We would need more signmakers, more sign putter-uppers, more sign repairers, more sign changers — for when the crops are rotated, or the landscape changes.

Maybe knowing what’s what would help us appreciate our Earth a little more, teach us to better “live in the moment.” Or maybe not. In any event, here’s the one I want to see:

A sign that the economy is improving.

Docking, cropping and other acts of barbarism

According to the American Kennel Club’s breed standards, a Doberman pinscher should have a docked tail and “cropped and erect” ears — an appearance (above right) of “alertness,” albeit one achieved through surgery, rubber bands, tape and splints.

The altered appearance of the Doberman is one we’ve seen so often that we’ve come to accept it as normal, even though an unalderated Doberman (above left) has floppy ears and a whip-like tail.

Why do we do it — not just to the Doberman, but about 50 other breeds that are still commonly docked and cropped?

Mainly because of the aforementioned standards, based on traditions — barbaric, silly traditions, but traditions all the same.

Docking Dobermans goes all the way back to the man who created them, Louis Dobermann, who mixed a handful of breeds in hopes of coming up with a medium-sized guard dog. Being guards, they needed to look alert. Hence, the tail docking and ear cropping.

With breed standards under fire — primarily those that have led to inbreeding and genetic health defects among some breeds — the practice of docking tails and cropping ears should be re-examined, too 

The American Veterinary Medical Association, which had long recommended against docking and cropping for cosmetic purposes, came down harder on the practice in a new policy adopted last year, calling for them both to removed from breed standards.

The AKC, in response to the AVMA policy change, said that “mislabeling these procedures as ‘cosmetic’ is a severe mischaracterization that connotes a lack of respect and knowledge of history and the function of purebred dogs … These breed characteristics are procedures performed to insure the safety of dogs that on a daily basis perform heroic roles with Homeland Security, serve in the U.S. Military and at Police Departments protecting tens of thousands of communities throughout our nation as well as competing in the field.”

That high and mighty stance came close to painting those who might oppose docking and cropping as unpatriotic. I’m pretty sure letting dogs keep their tails is not going to compromise national security, or lead to more crime.

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AVMA comes out against cropping, docking

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has come out more strongly against tail docking and ear-cropping — when done for purely cosmetic purposes.

The revised policy “encourages the elimination of ear cropping and tail docking from breed standards.”

The AVMA said the change was based on a review of scientific literature and available data, an assessment of the practical experience of veterinarians, and deliberations by the AVMA Animal Welfare Committee.

“For many years the AVMA has acknowledged that ear cropping and tail docking of dogs for cosmetic purposes are not medically indicated nor of benefit to our canine patients,” explains Dr. Ron DeHaven, chief executive officer of the AVMA. “Our latest policy revision doesn’t represent a change in perspective, but, rather, makes that perspective clear with a stronger statement.”

In recommending policy revisions, the committee was careful to distinguish ear cropping and tail docking performed for cosmetic reasons from procedures performed for therapeutic or preventive purposes. “If it can be responsibly demonstrated that the purpose of performing the procedure is to protect the health and welfare of the dog, then of course the Association would support the appropriate surgery,” said Dr. DeHaven.

The AVMA, established in 1863, is a not-for-profit association representing more than 76,000 veterinarians.