Saturday, April 28, 2012

Le Printemps Vite

Eastern Comma butterflies sip nectar from a viburnum flower

This spring is marching along at a very fast clip. Rains from a week ago prompted a dizzying array of trees and shrubs to burst into bloom at the same time, causing pollen levels to skyrocket. Everything seems to be growing at warp speed; the viburnum flowers pictured here are at peak bloom nearly three weeks ahead of schedule. 

These two Eastern Comma (Polygonia comma) butterflies could not be more delighted or delightful. Click on the photo for a closer view.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Debra White Founder of Winslow Animal Farm Sanctuary

I have been writing about some outstanding and courageous individuals working to make this planet a better place for all living beings. I call them Unsung Heroes for Our Times because, one day at a time, these folks are quietly making a difference and I hope they will inspire you to do the same.

Debra White is the founder and president of Winslow Farm Sanctuary in Norton, Massachusetts. Debra worked three jobs for more than 15 years to make her childhood dream of creating a sanctuary for animals a reality. She saves neglected and abandoned animals and others slated to be slaughtered or sent to factory farms. Winslow is a “rescue and stay-for-life” sanctuary, home to 300 rescued animals, including horses, sheep, llamas, alpacas, goats, peacocks, chickens, ducks, geese, donkeys, mules, pheasants, cats, dogs, and even emus.

To walk among the animals that reside there is to step into a world of peace and contentment. The animals are free to mingle, roam, trot, prance, and waddle about. Ponies and goats wander up to greet visitors, and it’s all quite a contrast to the abuse, neglect, and “cage stress” the animals have experienced.

Debra's rescue efforts have attracted national attention. The Associated Press featured Winslow Farm in 2004, and the September 2010 issue of Ladies’ Home Journal ran a story on the close friendship between “Waterford the pig” and two farm cats who play tug-of-war with the pig.

In addition to its day-to-day mission of saving animals, Winslow Farm also hosts tours, monthly special events, and visits by some 3,000 visitors a year. Now with a staff of six and 35 volunteers, running the farm commands Debra’s full-time attention, and she describes herself as “CEO, bottle washer, and stall mucker.”

Athena, one of Winslow’s many sheep, fell off a slaughter truck and lived on the median of I-495 for two years. She survived on tree bark and anything else she could forage before she was found and given a permanent residence at Winslow. She is still scared of people, but she’s a lot better.

Winslow Farm needs $200,000 annually to operate the sanctuary for the hundreds of rescued animals that live on its 62 acres. For more information or to donate contact Debra White at Winslow Animal Sanctuary at

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Brian Ross and His Team Expose Abuse at Factory Farms

ABC Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross

This post continues my series on Unsung Heroes for Our Times and I have to acknowledge Brian Ross as one of my heroes in the world of journalism. I have been following his career for many years and there is simply no one else like him. He has certainly earned his reputation as one of the most honored and respected journalists in the country. Dogged, determined and dedicated, "Ross's investigative reports have exposed corruption at all levels of government, led to changes in domestic laws and prompted reforms abroad."

Ross and his team often go undercover to expose abuse and in the past couple of years they have filed some exceptional reports on the horrific practices at factory farms. Again, Ross does not hesitate to blaze a trail into territory where few have cared or dared to go. His willingness to investigate and do multiple segments on factory farming has shocked viewers and sounded alarms, calling attention to the inhumane treatment of farm animals, food safety and a focus on profits over public health.

In his latest story, Ross and his investigative team worked with the Humane Society of the United States to expose Pennsylvania-based Kreider Farms "egg factory" facilities. Some of what they uncovered included, "injured and dead hens, including mummified bird carcasses" inside the same cages as live hens who lay eggs for human consumption as well as chickens who had their heads, legs or wings trapped in cage wires and feeding machinery.

Factory farms are now being reported on in the mainstream news thanks to Chief Investigative Correspondent Brian Ross. As he and his team continue to expose abuse, corruption and cruelty, you can help institute change by using your power as a consumer. Refuse to support factory farming. Buy eggs from chickens that are allowed free range, indoors and out.

One of the best things you can do for your overall health is eat more vegetarian meals. If you want to continue eating meat but would like to be certain that the animals are raised with kindness and respect, look for certified humanely raised and handled labeling. Learn more here.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Unsung Heroes for Our Times: Farm Sanctuary's Susie Coston

Susie Coston, National Shelter Director for Farm Sanctuary

Many of us have heard a clarion call and we are doing what we can to combat climate change, the use of toxic chemicals, habitat loss, factory farming, pet overpopulation and more. In early March I began a series of posts I call Unsung Heroes for Our Times to call attention to some courageous individuals who are doing what they can to make this planet a better place. I continue now with Susie Coston, National Shelter Director for Farm Sanctuary, a remarkable organization that works to protect farm animals from cruelty, inspire change in the way society views and treats farm animals and promote compassionate living.

Susie Coston is an animal advocate dedicated to changing the lives of farm animals. She is also a gifted writer with the ability to infuse her words with truth and power. Her stories about the lives of farm animals are filled with joy, sorrow, freedom and beauty, and they stir the hearts and minds of readers, many of whom are moved to participate in advancing Farm Sanctuary's mission. I highly recommend Susie's blog, Sanctuary Tails.
"Animals who are exploited on factory farms are among the most abused creatures on the planet," says Farm Sanctuary Founder Gene Bauer. But few people are aware of their suffering. In bringing the stories of farm animals to the public, Susie has greatly increased awareness and helped consumers become humane change agents.

About Agribusiness: Agribusiness is a big and powerful machine focused solely on profits. You can learn more about these large scale, industrial operations here. Agribusiness includes fresh produce growing/packing/shipping, aquaculture, growing trees and ornamental plants. Megafarms are sited in remote locations, away from the public eye, because operators don't want you and me to see their abhorrent practices, which in addition to the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals, can also include the fouling of air and water through unsound waste management.

On factory farms living beings like cows, chickens and pigs are regarded as “products” to be churned out. Unseen, unheard and unknown, they suffer a short, brutal existence. Those who spin perception to promote what agribusiness does attempt to portray their cruel and relentless production operations as a way to keep food prices in check for consumers and even as a viable solution to world hunger.

Ironically, the truth is that the way these animals are raised ― fed a steady diet of antibiotic laced and often genetically engineered feed, without ever seeing sunlight or feeling grass beneath their feet ― causes them to become extremely unhealthy “food” for us to consume.

Susie Coston understands the needs of farm animals and they need her. For her tireless work in rescuing farm animals from the horrors of agribusiness, and for restoring spirit to those animals who have almost given up, Susie helps spread the message that farm animals are sentient individuals that deserve to be treated with respect, dignity and kindness. For all these reasons Susie Coston is an Unsung Hero for Our Times.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Foster Homes Needed

Neponset Valley Humane Society needs more foster homes

This beautiful cat was rescued from the streets and placed in a loving home thanks to the efforts of Judy Ambrose, Executive Director of the Neponset Valley Humane Society (NVHS) in Norwood, Massachusetts. NVHS is an all volunteer organization and does not have a shelter. The staff do an amazing job fostering animals in private homes and Judy works constantly to establish new foster homes to accommodate the growing numbers of animals in need.

Every new foster home means one more animal can be rescued and given a second chance at life. Currently, NVHS focuses on cats, but also helps rabbits, guinea pigs, and whenever possible, dogs. NVHS works to save hundreds of animals and make certain that hundreds more are spayed and neutered through low cost programs. Ending the severe problem of pet overpopulation is one of their core missions.

Under Judy’s careful management, all funds donated to the Neponset Valley Humane Society go directly to the animals. The NVHS is saving lives each and every day and as a result many animals have been spared terrible suffering and are living in loving homes where they are valued as precious companions.

Dedicated families and individuals willing to foster cats are what makes rescue possible. You can help: Become a foster home for a needy cat; sponsor cats that need special care; or make a donation to support a program of your choice. Visit NVHS to learn more. If you are interested in providing a foster home, please email Judy at