In The News

Compassion Beyond Borders, San Jose Mercury News

Andrea Gung has always worked to protect pets, and her retirement four years ago allowed her to take that devotion in a new and international direction.Andrea_Gung Gung formed Duo Duo Animal Welfare Project, an organization whose mission is to stop the illegal dog and cat meat trade in China, specifically in the province of Guangdong.

According to Gung, Guangdong accounts for 40 percent of the dog meat trade and 70 percent of the cat meat trade in China. Although the country has laws that ban restaurants from serving the animals, the Sunnyvale resident believes the government is not doing enough to enforce them. Although she’s always had a special affinity for dogs and cats–for years she and her husband fostered dogs prior to their adoption–she didn’t envision herself crusading against the illegal trade after selling her import business in 2012.

Gung planned to travel the world helping veterinarians spay and neuter pets. She went to China and participated in a veterinarian course to learn spaying and neutering skills. It was there she met Dou Dou, a dog the school used to practice surgeries. Duo Duo was slated to be sold off to a meat market, but Gung adopted the dog and brought it to California. Duo Duo now lives with one of Gung’s friends.

Duo duo Duo Duo was the inspiration for the name of Gung’s nonprofit.

Growing up in Taiwan, Gung says she remembers people eating dogs and always hated what she calls a “back alley” practice. It eventually faded from Taiwanese culture and, for a time, even from her own memory.

“Eating dog became such a taboo thing. It disappeared in Taiwan, and I forgot about it,” Gung said.

Gung’s research has led her to believe most dogs and cats that end up in the illegal meat market for consumption are stolen from homes and farms. She says the implementation of China’s one-child policy contributed to the rise of a pet culture in the country. Pets, as in the United States, are now thought of as siblings to Chinese children.

“This generation has become very affectionate about their pets and animals. A lot of them have lost their cats and dogs to the trade. That’s how they learn about it,” says Gung. “If you live in Beijing and Shanghai and aren’t in an animal [organization], you wouldn’t know about this trade. A lot of kids that grow up there don’t know about this until their pets are stolen.”

Although Gung would like to see the dog meat trade addressed worldwide, she says her organization focuses on China, and specifically the Guangdong province, because of her ties there and California’s relationship to the area.

In 2014, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a sister state agreement with the Guangdong province. The agreement pledged to strengthen ties with the province in trade, technological innovation, clean energy, education and tourism. Gung and her organization are hoping that leaders in California can leverage the relationship to pressure Guangdong to be more aggressive about pursuing the illegal meat trade.

“They eat the most dogs and cats in the world,” Gung says. “For us to become their sister state, we have to get their attention and say, ‘We want you to be compatible with our values. We want to do business, but you have to crack down on the illegal cat and dog trade in your province.’ ”

The Duo Duo project has received support from people in the Bay Area, China and across the globe. Gung says a Dou Dou petition on to stop the Yulin Dog Meat Festival crashed the site’s servers and has gathered more than 2.6 million signatures.

While local Dou Dou volunteers ask the state Legislature to put pressure on Guangdong Province, Gung works with Chinese activists to try and change the minds of people who eat dog and cat meat.

“She is so passionate about this, and she’s put in a substantial amount of her money and time into it,” says Andy Frazer, a Sunnyvale resident and friend of Gung.

Dou Dou has made strides recently by sending volunteers to talk to locals in Guangdong and giving school presentations to deter people from engaging in the black market activity. In one case, Gung was part of a group that threw a Christmas party at an elementary school in China and gave the students animal stickers.

Gung says understanding is needed to change the culture.

“We don’t need to give them our money, maybe a bit of our time. For a little bit of support, we can go a long way. That’s why our slogan is, ‘Compassion beyond borders.’ “

Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

Chinatown’s ivory cost elephant, rhino lives – January 2016

The article “Monkey around in Chinatown” (Page 8F, Jan. 24) extolled the fun
that can be had in strolling through the area. However, I would like to take
this opportunity to remind people, when you see the many ivory carvings in
Chinatown, to think about those who lost their lives for these trinkets.
Elephant and rhino poaching continues to devastate the populations of these
animals. These two species are likely to be extinct in the wild within a
decade if these rates continue and you can make a difference. Refuse to buy
ivory and, if you’re up for it, tell the shopkeeper why.

Ellen Sweeney, Boulder Creek

We Stopped Foie Gras Sales


Foie gras was being sold in the parking lot of the Cupertino Whole Foods Market by a food truck called Pluck.

Foie gras is a product of animal cruelty; it is made by force-feeding birds which inflicts injuries and causes a diseased liver condition in the birds. Some people consider it a delicacy, and it is available in some pricey French restaurants.

On September 29, our friend and long-time animal activist Connie Pugh informed us that she was at the Cupertino Whole Foods Market (CWFM) that evening and found that foie gras was being sold from a food truck in the parking lot.

Food trucks gather in the CWFM parking lot each Tuesday night.  We surveilled the food-truck gathering on several Tuesday nights and found that the Pluck truck was coming every other Tuesday.  On October 13, the Pluck truck was there, but it was not selling foie gras that night.

On October 27, the Pluck truck was there and it WAS selling foie gras, plainly listed on their menu.  We took several photographs.Pluck_foie_2

With assistance from lauren Ornelas, for which we are deeply grateful, we drafted a letter to CWFM’s store manager Scott Sherman.  Lauren is a long-time animal activist, was the leading founder of SCCAA, and is the founder and Director of Food Empowerment Project.  We sent the letter to Sherman via certified mail, return receipt requested.

When we received the letter’s return receipt a few days later, we went to CWFM and talked with Sherman.  He told us that, upon reading our letter, he made a phone call and “told [the Pluck truck] not to come here anymore.”  On Tuesday November 10, we went to CWFM and verified that the Pluck truck was not there.  Two employees of the food-truck operation doubled the confirmation by telling us that the Pluck truck would not be coming to CWFM anymore.

Many thanks to Connie Pugh, lauren Ornelas, and to SCCAA members working together to put a stop to the selling of foie gras in the CWFM parking lot.

Mike Sage

Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

Vegan lifestyle best way to save water – May 24, 2015

The standard water-conservation tips (reduce lawn watering, take shorter showers, etc.) have focused on water use covered by our home water meters, but that’s only a small percentage of California’s water. If we’re serious about saving water, we need to put the focus on the area where the huge amount of wasted water goes — animal agriculture. National Geographic says: “On average, a vegan, a person who doesn’t eat meat or dairy, indirectly consumes nearly 600 gallons of water per day less than a person who eats the average American diet.” Six hundred gallons per day dwarfs all other water-saving methods. Leaders at every level need to lead by personal example of being vegan, and touted water-saving tips need to become truthful by making their No. 1 tip the No. 1 water-saving method: Be vegan.

Mike Sage, Santa Clara


Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

All animal agriculture constitutes abuse – January 15, 2015

Regarding Monday’s “Serving foie gras: Ethical faux pas?” story, whether or not the farming is “responsible,” “humane,” “free range,” “sustainable,” “local” or any other politically correct buzzword, it’s all a smoke screen for animal abuse. What and when wild birds eat is irrelevant compared with those who are confined and then slaughtered at only a fraction of their natural life spans.

We capture, breed, mutilate, confine and/or slaughter animals as if they were commodities, not living, sentient beings. Animal agriculture promotes, and is a reflection of, human violence toward each other as well as other species. Peace begins on your plate.

Ellen Sweeney, Boulder Creek

Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

Egg producers must prepare for new law – December 21, 2014

Imagine being forced to live in a cage for your whole life that’s so restrictive you can’t even lift your arms. Sadly, that’s comparable to the fate of most hens used in the egg industry. Locked in barren metal “battery cages,” the birds can’t extend their wings or do almost anything else that’s natural to them. Thankfully, eight million Californians joined together several years back to pass laws that banned this terrible practice. The law comes into effect on January first, but there are concerns that some egg and grocery companies haven’t bothered to get ready despite having six years to do so. These companies risk angering millions of Californians who care about animal protection. They should get their act together right away.

Mike Sage, Santa Clara

Letter to the editor, Contra Costa Times

Poultry plants’ lax new rules to harm public – August 12, 2014

Deregulation of the $70 billion poultry industry endangers consumer health

With inspector reductions of 40 percent, a handoff of the oversight to the companies themselves, and changes that are voluntary — of course the poultry industry praises the new slaughter inspection system.

Also referred to by some as the “Filthy Chicken Rule,” it is essentially deregulation when poultry consumption has increased ninefold in the last 40 years.

How can this be modernization when poultry, 95 percent of the animals consumed as food in America (more than 8 billion animals), are still NOT covered by the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act? Or when the remaining quality inspectors will inspect 2.33 birds every second?

Currently, food-borne illnesses affect 48 million people and kill 3,000 in the United States every year. One Consumer Reports study found that 10.8 percent of 300 tested birds harbored salmonella, 65.2 percent were positive for E. coli and 97 percent of the breasts tested contained harmful bacteria.

Let’s stop the overconsumption of meat that endangers consumer health. It’s time to consider safer, more ethical, vegetarian food choices.

Judy Lindow, Alamo

Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

Think of all the water used to raise animals – July 28, 2014

It’s thrilling that three-quarters of Californians support mandates to turn off the tap. People want to do what they can to prevent water shortages.

Yes, shorten showers, but know that one pound of beef is about six months’ worth of showers. More than 50% of US water is used for the animals we eat, mostly for grain crops fed to animals.

Compare 2500 gallons of water needed to create one pound of beef or 1000 gallons for one gallon of milk to 31 gallons for a pound of most greens. Someone who consumes no meat and dairy indirectly consumes 600 gallons less water a day than a person eating the average American diet.

Even if the 70 gallons a day average for indoor use is reduced to zero, it is only 12% the savings of a vegan diet.

Policymakers and consumers should consider plant-based diets to address ongoing droughts.

Judy Lindow, Alamo

San Jose Becomes a Meatless Monday City!

Great newSJ Proclamation JPEGs, as the City of San Jose issued an official proclamation, signed by Mayor Chuck Reed and City Councilmembers.

The Proclamation was presented in a City Council ceremony to Kristie Middleton, Judy Lindow, Mike Sage, Steve Shih, and Sherry Shih. Partners who helped in this effort were many: San Jose Cool Cities, South Asian Heart Center, HSUS, PCRM, individuals: like 3 different doctors/dietians, Tzu Chi Foundation, Vegetarian House. SCCAA member Judy Lindow first proposed this project to SCCAA in November 2012. Sierra Club recommended San Jose City Councilmember Ash Kalra, and HSUS got us Kristie Middleton. Councilmember Kalra’s staffmember Stacie Shih was a big help.The effort will now go on as we seek ways to leverage the proclamation to get Meatless Monday programs implemented in the community (school cafeterias, restaurants, etc.). Also, we will proceed to approach other South Bay cities, one by one, to push them to enact their own Meatless Monday resolutions. If you would like to assist in this effort please message SCCAA.


Letter to the editor, San Jose Mercury News

Patsi Hansen, July 23, 2014

How increasingly appalling it is that we allow poor underdeveloped, uneducated countries and the history behind them to dictate our moral standards in the United States.

Running of the bulls is shunned in the very countries who started this heartless and merciless event, but now we allow it in ours? If it is not sadistic enough to the innocent animals that we already allow circus events, horse racing and rodeos, we now search for sane reasoning so California, of all things, can support the running of the bulls, clearly an event similar to those we despise.

It is a cruel spectator sport, only about money and violence, and not one of humanity, compassion, love or of making the world a better place. It encourages hatred, brutality and terrorism, and teaches our children accordingly.


Meat Is the Huge Water Waster

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Stop profiteers, cut back on meat intake

Judy Lindow, September 25, 2013

Consumers must take a stand (Editorial, Sept. 23) to protect their health by not eating, or eating less, meat. Many groups put profits before lives. The buck stops with the consumer who creates the market for meat and perpetuates the current food system. Who else profits? Pharmaceuticals, along with agribusiness. Every year, Americans use 3 million pounds of antibiotics. Nearly 10 times that amount is fed to livestock. Profiteers include food chains that market, package and deliver animal products. The cost? Scientists for the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control warn that, if this continues, we could face epidemics that do not respond to antibiotics. The 23,000 lives lost to antibiotic-resistant infection confirm early predictions. With so many who profit from the status quo, consumers need to play the final card.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Enforcement is critical to shark fin soup ban

Carol Evans, February 23, 2014

The article “Shark fin bust at vendor’s business” caught my eye because I worked to support this law in California. Shark fin soup is considered by many to be a delicacy and a symbol of status. After the fin is cut off, the shark is dropped back in the water to die. Sharks are critical in maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem and are at risk of becoming extinct in our time.

Whether irresponsible behavior and cruelty grow out of tradition, culture or taste, people need to realize that just because something has been around a long time doesn’t make it right. Until then, there needs to be more effective investigation and stronger prosecution of offenders.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Foie gras doughnut is truly disgusting

Michelle Waters, June 6, 2013

I was disgusted to hear that Psycho Donuts will be giving away foie gras this Friday. I have been a customer since they opened, and am a local artist who has shown my work there, but I won’t be supporting them any more. Foie gras has been banned in more than a dozen countries because of the extreme animal abuse inherent in its production. The ducks develop fatty liver disease from being force fed, so that is what consumers of foie gras are eating: diseased fatty livers of tortured animals. Clearly Psycho Donuts is violating the foie gras ban to get attention for their business. Well, their ploy has worked, but perhaps not in the way they had hoped. Anyone who cares about animals won’t be patronizing them.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

World’s grain supply benefits meat-eaters

Ellen Sweeney, May 12, 2013

I wonder if Cecelia Fabos-Becker (Letters, May 5) realizes that nearly 40 percent of the grain that is grown worldwide (particularly in the United States, China and India) goes to feed livestock, according to Cornell University.

In fact, grain fed to European farm animals is grown in Africa, where people are starving.

GMO proponents love to pull at our heartstrings by saying that GMO use will reverse world hunger, but it is a smoke screen.

What will truly help alleviate world hunger, aside from veganism, is in-vitro meat. That way, those who want meat can still have it, while the plant foods that are grown can go to people.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Earth Day good time to start eating less meat

Lisa Towell, April 6, 2013

One of the best ways to help the planet is to eat less meat, and I propose we all start on Earth Day this year.

The chairman of the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007 with Vice President Al Gore, urges everyone to cut back on meat, stating “Give up meat for one day (a week) initially, and decrease it from there.”

Not convinced? Consider the advice of the European Union, whose study, “Behavioral Climate Change Mitigation Options,” concluded that of the various options to slow climate change, the largest potential reduction in greenhouse gas emissions is through reduced meat consumption.

Thankfully, it’s never been easier to eat more meat-free meals. The Bay Area has a wealth of incredible vegetarian options. Join me, starting with meatless Mondays. Together we can save the planet, one delicious bite at a time.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Ringling Bros. opposed to backstage taping

Starr Spera, March 4, 2013

If the circus does not abuse animals, then why would they care if they were being videotaped? (“Ringling Bros. wins federal case filed by two longtime Bay Area animal rights activists,” Page 1B, Feb. 17).

Ringling employees tried to forcibly stop the activists from their videotaping of the backstage treatment of animals. It is astonishing that the jury ruled against the activists.

They are basically saying that not only animal abuse is acceptable, but apparently human abuse is fine as well.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Wardens need to place call to wildlife rescuers

Michelle Waters, December 7, 2012

It seems that, for the state Department of Fish and Game, killing is the first option, rather than a last resort, when faced with mountain lions in developed areas. The situation in Half Moon Bay could have been handled without killing the cubs, who had likely lost their mother. It needs to be made protocol for Fish and Game wardens to call in licensed wildlife rescuers when faced with lions in residential neighborhoods. I live in the Santa Cruz Mountains and value wildlife alive. For that reason, if I ever spot mountain lions around our home, I won’t be calling the Department of Fish and Game to report them. I wish my tax dollars weren’t supporting such barbarism.

Letter to the Editor, Los Altos Town Crier

Animal cruelty has no place at fall festival

Lisa Towell, October 17, 2012

I enjoy visiting the Los Altos Chamber of Commerce’s Fall Festival each October, but this year I was dismayed to see two booths exhibiting cruelty to animals.

One was the “Hermit Crab Throw,” which offered live hermit crabs as prizes. I doubt that many of the winners of these animals have the knowledge and the motivation to care for them properly, so most of the crabs will die in the next few weeks.

A hermit crab is no more appropriate a prize in a carnival game than a puppy or a kitten.

The other booth was selling small creatures (mostly insects and sea animals) encased in blocks of clear plastic. Taking the lives of these animals to make paperweights and key chains is as unnecessary as it is cruel.

Los Altos residents care about animals – just look at how many dogs come downtown with their people every day. Animal cruelty has no place at a festival hosted in our community.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Don’t put ‘terrorist’ label on vegans

Ellen Sweeney, July 4, 2012

As I was reading the foie gras article, my blood pressure was staying relatively normal until I got to the accusation of “vegan terrorists telling me what I can and cannot eat.” Vegans are regular people who have chosen a particular lifestyle which is alien to most Americans and therefore threatening. They are not terrorists. That term is used far too lightly these days.

As for our food being “a question of personal choice,” does that mean that mistreatment of animals is a personal choice? Apparently it is because our animal cruelty laws specifically exempt farm animals. But ask yourself if you would keep a dog in a warehouse full of other dogs, depriving him of the ability to curl up with you on the couch or frolic on the beach, force-feed him until he can barely walk, and then kill him before he reached adulthood just because some chefs were good at making him into a delicious delicacy.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Chefs’ love for foie gras a sad sign for animals

lauren Ornelas, April 7, 2012

After having lived in Santa Clara County for a number of years, I had always felt that I was part of a progressive and intellectual community. Unfortunately, “In California, countdown to foie gras ban begins” (March 29) made me recognize that some things will make even the most intelligent people behave like children. Even more telling is that such an educated bunch would not stop to digest the reality behind foie gras — a delicacy so cruel that its production has been banned in more than a dozen countries.

Most people in this state believe in the protection of animals, which is why Proposition 2 (to ban certain confinements of farmed animals) was passed by more than half the voters in California in 2008. As the founder of an organization working to address the inequity of access to healthy foods in California and elsewhere, I am incredibly saddened that these chefs can’t focus their talents on tackling real food issues.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Restaurateurs should support foie gras ban

Starr Spera, April 2, 2012

I am disgusted that restaurateurs and chefs are still rallying to change the foie gras ban that thousands have fought so diligently to secure. How can anyone consciously spend five minutes to chew and swallow anything knowing that an animal has endured a lifetime of barbaric cruelty? Even though there is no “humane way” to slaughter an animal, renowned chef Wolfgang Puck penned a letter to fellow restaurateurs and food-industry associates urging them to consider and support California’s recent ban on foie gras, citing “Here in California, our own customers understand the need for all animals, including those raised for food, to be treated humanely.”

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Compassion, foie gras don’t go well together

Mike Sage, April 2, 2012

Can self-respecting people attend these orgies of foie gras self-indulgence? Have we entered such a moral twilight that, as in tableaus of some “The Last Days of Pompeii” movie, conscience is a concept not yet revealed to man? If asking for compassion is too big a request, could we just ask for some integrity?

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

The ugly truth about foie gras

Michelle Waters, April 1, 2012

Foie gras (Page A1, March 30) is being banned because there is no way to produce it without extreme cruelty. To produce foie gras, young ducks are confined inside dark sheds and force-fed huge amounts of food several times each day. A worker grabs each duck and thrusts a metal pipe down their throats so that a mixture of corn can be forced into their gullets. It is common for the esophagus to be torn, and for ducks to die during this process. In a few weeks, the ducks become obese and develop hepatic lipidosis, or fatty liver disease.

This is what connoisseurs of foie gras are eating: diseased fatty livers of severely abused ducks. Surely talented chefs are capable of concocting delicacies that don’t involve animal torture.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Don’t celebrate killing of innocent animals

Mary Shoane, March 28, 2012

The article on the “Huntress” (Page 1A, March 27) left me speechless.

A young woman with a big grin after killing a beautiful elk makes me wonder where our values have gone. Do we have nothing better to do in this world but find killing innocent animals an accomplishment to be rewarded? Tiffany Brewer needs to enlist in the Army to “appreciate” what killing is really like.

It is fine to be the hunter, but let her get a feel for what it is like to be the hunted.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

For healthy food, keep the animals healthy

Carol Evans, January 7, 2012

The FDA recently ordered farmers to cut back on doses of antibiotics given their livestock because people are becoming resistant to key antibiotics that can save lives (Page 5A, Jan. 5). The “powerful livestock industry” reportedly argued that the practice is necessary to keep animals healthy.

People need to understand that this is all about factory farming, where most food from cows, pigs, chickens, ducks and geese are produced for our markets. To maximize profit, these animals are raised in cramped, filthy, stressful conditions.

Antibiotics are necessary for them to stay alive — not healthy — until slaughter. Wouldn’t it make more sense to raise healthy animals in humane conditions for those people who choose to eat them?

Letter to the Editor, Los Altos Town Crier

Sharing the planet trumps killing animals

Jennifer Knapp, August 17, 2011

I totally agree with Kay Bushnell’s letter to the editor in response to the Town Crier’s article on gophers (“A ‘hole’ lot of trouble, July 13). I was disappointed and saddened reading the article, which promoted the killing of gophers.

Humans must learn to share. It seems to me that when humans deem another animal to be a pest or a nuisance, the first resort is the murder of that animal. It boggles my mind how humans can so easily justify the killing of one animal (for instance, gophers) yet hold sacred the life of another (for instance, dogs and cats).

Humans, cats, dogs, gophers and all other of earth’s creatures are made of the same blood, bone and flesh, have the same basic needs (as described in Kay’s letter) and deserve to be treated with kindness, respect and consideration.

I implore us to learn to appreciate, rather than kill, each other.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Wild animals still a part of the circus

Ellen Sweeney, August 15, 2011

Thursday’s Eye magazine had a nice picture of Ringling Bros. Circus acrobats. At first glance I was glad to see that captive, wild animals weren’t the main draw. On the other hand, the picture could give people the impression that Ringling doesn’t use wild animals anymore, and nothing could be further from the truth.

Tigers and elephants are still transported on boxcars from one town to another, spending most of their waking hours confined or constrained. It’s no life for a wild animal, whether captive-born or not.

If you do go to the circus, please drop Ringling Brothers a note or email and encourage them to have an elephant- and tiger-free circus.

News Article, The Santa Clara Weekly

Workers for the Wordless

Melissa McKenzie, July, 2011

Nearly everyone has a cause they are passionate about. Causes can range from human rights to political campaigns, environmental issues and green living to mental health and healthcare, but some of the most passionate people speak for those who can’t speak for themselves. Animals, whether they be companion, circus, wildlife or bred for their flesh or fur, are constantly being abused, mistreated, and neglected and most people don’t understand the harsh realities of industries like fur and farming.

In 2008, a major piece of legislation hit California voters – Proposition 2. The measure prohibited the extreme confinement of farm animals. It required farmers to give the animals enough space to turn around freely, lie down, stand up and fully extend their limbs. During this time, a group of people dedicated to bettering the lives of animals tirelessly got the word out about the horrendous conditions farm animals were experiencing. After voters overwhelmingly passed the bill, some of the activists realized there was more that could be done and the Santa Clara County Activists for Animals was born.

“Our organization’s focus is on the issues impacting animals in Santa Clara County – whether that be trying to get a restaurant to stop serving an inherently cruel product (such as foie gras – the product of force feeding a duck until his liver is 10x its normal size), serving free vegan burgers to students at local universities so they can taste how delicious vegan options can be, or tabling to provide information to the public,” said SCCAA coordinator, Lauren Ornelas, through an email.

While not required, most of the members live cruelty-free by adhering to a vegan lifestyle. Vegans, by definition, consume and use no products derived from animals. This includes abstaining from all meat and dairy products, honey, fur, leather, wool, silk, and ingredients like beeswax and gelatin. Many also refuse to use products tested on animals or products produced by companies known for animal testing.

“No one has to be vegan or vegetarian to join SCCAA, but as people who join the group learn more – not only about how animals are raised and killed for food, but also how delicious and healthful vegan foods can be – most start to make changes in their diet,” said Ornelas. “There are some activists that we might only see at fur or circus protests, but everyone is welcome.”

SCCAA has worked with some of the larger, well-known animal welfare groups like the Humane Society of the United States, Vegan Outreach and the San Jose-based Food Empowerment Project. Most recently, SCCAA helped with Mercy for Animals’ Farm to Fridge Tour on June 8 by helping promote Farm to Fridge, a 12-minute video depicting many of the heart wrenching and horrible acts factory farm animals endure and they participated in Mountain View’s Green Kids Conference on June 18.

“Unfortunately, most people have little understanding of how animals in captivity, whether for entertainment or raised for food, suffer at the hands of humans. We believe if most people knew, they would stop participating in these cruelties,” said Ornelas.

“We are lucky to live in a community that seems to understand the plight of animals and so many are sympathetic. The most negativity we receive is at circus protests. Our main goal in leafleting these events is to inform people on how the animals are treated (most animals in circuses only take free steps when they are performing, such as tigers who are usually kept caged). We do not profit from the outreach we do, but those who exploit animals always do so for profit.”

The all-volunteer group, which is free to join, often spends time together outside of activism by organizing social events like movie nights and vegan barbeques. They also hold monthly meetings the third Tuesday of every month. For more information on SCCAA visit or send an email to

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Cheers for Bill to Help Protect Sharks

lauren Ornelas, March 24, 2011

Kudos to Assemblyman Paul Fong, whose bill AB 376 to protect sharks by banning the possession, sale and trade of shark fins passed out of its first committee Tuesday. A big thank you to Assemblywoman Nora Campos for voting in support.

The practice of shark finning, in which the fins are cut off while the animal is still alive and then the shark is thrown back into the ocean to die, is inhumane and threatens the long-term survival of many sharks. Experts estimate that some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in the past 20 years. Current state and federal laws have proven to be ineffective. This bill seeks to protect this very important species.

I hope that all of the legislators follow the lead of Fong and Campos and make sure this bill becomes law.

Op-ed, Sacramento Bee

The Real Meaning of Thanksgiving

Lisa Towell, November 17, 2010

Turkeys are so closely associated with Thanksgiving that some people simply call the holiday “turkey day.” Thanksgiving-themed art features smiling cartoon birds in Pilgrim hats or plump roasted turkeys on platters.

But we never see the real lives of the birds who become our holiday meals. Virtually all of the 45 million turkeys consumed in the U.S. every Thanksgiving live lives of constant suffering.

Cruel conditions on factory farms frequently make the news, but I wanted to see for myself, so I recently visited a typical turkey farm.

I saw thousands of birds crowded into a vast sunless shed, most with missing feathers and raw patches of skin. Nervous and noisy, the birds ran away in fear and trampled each other when I approached. All the birds had been debeaked without being given painkillers. (Debeaking is a procedure in which the sensitive tip of a bird’s beak is cut off to prevent stress-induced fights.) The birds were living in their own accumulated waste, breathing noxious fumes 24 hours a day.

Wild turkeys live close to my home. I’ve watched them forage for food, roost in trees and care for their babies. Farmed turkeys aren’t able to engage in any of this natural behavior. Bored, frustrated and sick, they struggle to stay alive until they are slaughtered at just 5 or 6 months of age.

Turkeys are imprisoned not just in the sheds but also in their own bodies. Genetically manipulated for extremely rapid growth, the birds have heart attacks and are crippled by their own weight when they are just a few months old. Because of high consumer demand for white meat, turkeys are bred to have such large breasts that they can’t even reproduce naturally. Your Thanksgiving turkey is the product of artificial insemination.

At the turkey farm, I saw birds living in unnatural conditions and constant discomfort. What goes on behind the scenes is even worse. Many turkeys will die on the farm, and none of them will be humanely euthanized by a veterinarian. Sick, crippled and slow-growing birds are often beaten to death by factory-farm workers. At the slaughterhouse, many birds’ bones are broken as a result of rough handling. The turkeys move so quickly through the assembly-line slaughter process that some enter the scalding-hot water of the defeathering tanks when they’re alive and still conscious.

I have visited rescued turkeys at animal sanctuaries. Each bird has a unique personality. Friendly and curious, the more outgoing birds approached me and allowed me to stroke their soft heads and necks. These gentle animals are no less worthy of humane treatment than the dogs and cats we share our homes with.

For many people, eating a turkey is an essential part of the Thanksgiving tradition, but is tradition more important than treating animals with compassion? Historical evidence suggests that wild turkeys were eaten at the 1621 harvest celebration in Plymouth Colony – but that feast probably also included eels and acorns, which were commonly eaten by the Pilgrims at the time. Clearly, the definition of “traditional Thanksgiving food” has evolved since then. For everyone who is opposed to cruel treatment of animals, it’s time for another change to the holiday menu. Would it really be so difficult for us to stop eating a food that most people eat only once a year?

My family has a Thanksgiving ritual in which we go around the table sharing things that we are grateful for. Over the years, we have expressed our thankfulness for health, for family and friends gathered together, for financial security and for a delicious dinner. When I stopped eating turkey at Thanksgiving, the essence of the holiday was not lost. Thanksgiving is about the joy of breaking bread with the people I love and the pleasure of a tasty, lovingly prepared meal. And now I am grateful for something else – that by choosing not to eat a turkey, we have spared an animal from lifelong suffering.

Letter to the Editor, Gilroy Dispatch

Dog-dragging case clear: owner should never be near animals

Jayne Steinmetz, September 9, 2010

I grew up in Gilroy and lived in Morgan Hill for several years. I now live in San Jose, and as a concerned citizen, I travel to Morgan Hill to attend court dates involving the Kevin Fifield dog dragging case.

The idea that Keving Fifield should be reunited with Snowflake is outrageous. Several witnesses, including Morgan Hill police officers, saw Fifield drag the elderly, very sick dog down the sidewalk on her side. This man should not be allowed to be around any animal ever again.

The suggestion by anyone that lifting the “stay-away” order is for the sake of Snowflake is an insult to the intelligence of the community, law enforcement and the officers of the court. If Mr. Fifield does not want to stay in a hotel, let him go back to jail.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Circus reveals abuse of animals

Starr Spera, August 23, 2010

Several years ago, I took my 7-year-old niece to see the circus. When we approached the event, we were met with protesters talking about “animal cruelty.” We were curious, but entered the arena anyway. Soon after the circus started, I became disgusted with what I saw. The heartless poking, prodding and whipping of those innocent animals was just horrifying!

Just then, my niece said she wanted to go home because she didn’t like seeing the animals so sad. We left immediately. There are many ways for children to be entertained that are not at the expense of abused animals.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Governor should approve fur labeling

Kyle Wardstrom, August 20, 2010

In recent years, the fur industry has gotten a lot of attention because of the inherent cruelty involved in the process of raising and skinning the animals. Recent legislation (AB 1656) passed by the California Senate would allow consumers to know if the fur is real, the animal of origin and the country of origin. Since the legislation would require that articles under $150 are labeled, this would cover the majority of products bought including popular fur-trimmed and fur-lined products.

Under the current labeling system, the consumer may buy a real fur product when assuming that it’s fake, unintentionally supporting an industry they oppose. We, as a state, need to urge Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to approve this important animal/consumer legislation.

Op-ed, San Jose Mercury News

Opinion: The circus sends kids the wrong message about animals

Sujatha Ramakrishna, August 10, 2010

The circus is coming to town — in Oakland this week, and in San Jose next. For parents who want their children to experience the best of everything in life, the spectacle of wild animals performing amazing tricks seems like thrilling family entertainment. However, attending these events has subtle effects on children that parents should consider.

As a psychiatrist specializing in child development, I have observed directly the relationship between how children treat animals and the way that they eventually treat people. Children who abuse animals are much more likely to be aggressive toward humans. When they become teenagers, they often experience behavioral problems at home and school. As adults, they continue to display violent tendencies and may engage in criminal activities.

When parents take their children to the circus, they indirectly send them the message that animals are objects to be used, and that it is OK to ignore any pain and suffering that the animals might be experiencing. These children may grow up lacking empathy, or the ability to understand the feelings of others. If they are unable to recognize when someone else is in distress, they will have difficulties getting along with people.

On the other hand, children who are taught to treat animals with dignity and respect will also learn to treat humans in this manner, considering the needs of others as well as their own. The development of empathy and the ability to work collaboratively in social settings are key components of emotional intelligence, proved by research studies to be vital for success in school, the workplace, and personal relationships.

Animals such as tigers and elephants are not willing participants in circuses. Unlike domesticated animals, they have not been bred to work and live with humans. On occasion, they have suddenly run amok and attacked spectators. Trainers must utilize whips, chains and hooks to control them. Wild animals that stand on their heads and jump through hoops are performing unnatural acts, under the threat of force.

Children who watch these performances learn that it is acceptable to force another living creature to do something that is stressful, and often even painful, as long as it serves the purpose of entertainment. This mindset will carry over into their relationships with people, and it will not serve them well in life.

Circuses featuring human acrobats are wonderful alternatives to animal shows, and equally delightful for children. For parents who are truly interested in teaching their children about wild animals, watching nature videos is the best option.

For example, observing a group of elephants driving away predators, caring for a youngster, or playing in the mud together is not only entertaining, it is also educational. Elephants are complex, fascinating, and intelligent creatures. They live in extended family systems, with younger generations learning survival skills and appropriate social behaviors from the older ones.

Teaching children to appreciate them for what they are will help them develop empathy and respect for all living things. When we are striving to raise socially responsible and successful citizens in our community, nothing could be more important.

Sujatha Ramakrishna, M.D., of San Jose, is a child psychologist. She wrote this article for this newspaper.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Fast-food firms use toys to sell products

Ryan Frazier, May 2, 2010

The strategy of using toys to sell unhealthy fast-food to kids is fundamentally wrong. In many ways, it’s no different from the tobacco industry using cartoons to get kids hooked on cigarettes. With rates of childhood obesity and diabetes on the rise, the sad reality is that children need to be protected from corporations that do not have their best interests at heart. I am proud of Supervisors Ken Yeager, Liz Kniss and Dave Cortese for taking this issue seriously and setting a precedent for other counties to follow.

Letter to the Editor, San Jose Mercury News

Lawmakers must act to save wildlife

lauren Ornelas, April 23, 2010

Thank you for your article on the withdrawal of the plan to kill more bears (Page B1, April 21). Kudos to Assemblymen Joe Coto and Jim Beall for speaking out against the trophy hunting of bears. I hope that our local senators follow the lead of our Assembly and use their votes to speak out in favor of protecting wildlife – not destroying it.

Letter to the Editor, Los Altos Town Crier

Local retaurants should add vegan options

Jennifer Knapp, April 7, 2010

This letter is in response to Davy Davidson’s letter to the editor (“Los Altos needs green restaurants,” March 23).

I whole heartedly agree with Ms. Davidson that Los Altos needs a vegan restaurant. I have lived in Los Altos for more than eight years, and the restaurants here have always lacked vegan options. A vegan lifestyle is good for us, the animals (which would otherwise be subjected to cruelty and ultimately death) and the planet. If not a pure vegan restaurant, at the very least the current restaurants should consider including more tasty vegan meal options.

I have to travel to Palo Alto, Mountain View and San Jose to find restaurants that are vegan friendly, but I would prefer to support the local Los Altos restaurants.

News article, Spartan Daily (San Jose State University)

100 veggie burgers can’t be wrong

Animal rights groups pass out free veggie burgers outside student union

March 17, 2009

Students got a glimpse of what it’s like to be a vegetarian Monday as 100 veggie burgers where given out in front of the Student Union. The Santa Clara County Activists of Animals, the Food Empowerment Project and students from the Environmental Club gave out veggie burgers and vegan chocolate chip cookies and brownies from the Sun Flour Baking Company to promote a different kind of diet. “I think it’s a really positive event to show people that they can have great food as well as protect the environment and save lives of animals,” said Lauren Ornelas, founder and director for Food Empowerment Project. Ornelas, who has been a vegan for 21 years, said that being a vegan has made her more aware of what she eats and has also allowed her to appreciate diverse ethnic foods.

Ryan Frazier, a former SJSU student and currently with the Santa Clara County Activists of Animals, said if the average person knew what the conditions are like in the factory farms, they would never buy meat products again. “The industry really relies on people not understanding how the animals are kept and it’s really, really horrible condition,” he said. “It’s really sad.” Frazier, who is a vegan, said people have a misconception that being vegan is a difficult thing to do, but said that it’s a very easy thing to do. According to the American Dietetic Association, vegetarian diets are associated with a reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, hypertension, diabetes, lung cancer and kidney disease. Frazier added that, for health reasons, it’s hard to beat a vegetarian diet.

Tony Padilla, a junior animation illustration major, said he is not a vegan but said that this event is great way to reach out to students who are not vegans. Padilla said he couldn’t taste the difference between a meat patty and the veggie burger and would consider going vegan. Steven Stahl, a junior animation major, said he could taste the difference between a veggie burger and a meat burger, but added that it was satisfying. “When you go out to eat a burger you’re expecting meat,” he said. “But when you’re eating a veggie burger you’re expecting vegetables, but it doesn’t taste like vegetables. It tastes more like regular food.”

Three types of veggie burgers, donated by Whole Foods Market, were given out. Fliers from organizations such as Viva! and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals were also handed out to students in hope that they will have a better understanding of what occurs in farm factories.

Onika Drew, a senior public health major, said she went vegan nine years ago because of financial issues. She said that she is from South America and said that when she came to America at 15, she would’ve preferred going vegan because the meat in South America is much fresher. Her parents didn’t allow it. Drew added that this event is a good way to bring awareness of what animals go through in the factory.

For students who missed Monday’s giveaway or are interested in exploring a different diet, there will be another meat-out event at Great America Friday, where the Santa Clara County Activists of Animals and the Food Empowerment Project will be encouraging people across the country to try vegetarianism for 24 hours.