Category Archives: Animal Rights

Please Do Not French Kiss the Giraffe

“Giraffic Park” at the 2015 Rochester (NH) Fair.

This is what I learned from my recent visit to the Rochester Fair: Mouth-to-mouth, human-to-giraffe contact is so common that it warrants the professional printing of signs to warn the public.

The dire warning begs the question – Just who are these people who want to have a “Lady and the Tramp” moment with a wild animal they just met seconds earlier?


In any case, I’m squeamish about having a giant tongue cover even my hand in giraffe saliva, so I’m leaving the feeding to others.

But record-breaking carrot sales aside, I do wonder why the carnival just won’t let these majestic animals eat without having to touch all those dirty human hands. Who knows where they’ve been.

(On a somewhat related note, here’s a fascinating Slate commentary arguing that zoo lions and tigers should be fed animal carcasses instead of processed meat.)

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Pamela Lee pulls a Wile E. Coyote

Pam Anderson's pro-veggie campaign in Israel reads "Every Living Thing Has the Same Organs."

After going all biblical outside Tel Aviv’s Buddha Burgers vegetarian restaurant last year, Pamela Lee Anderson was recently back in Israel to promote her provocative anti-meat pin-up posters for PETA.

Surely this isn’t PETA’s intent, but the first thing I think of when I see Ms. Anderson’s labeled body parts is the classic Looney Tunes cartoon in which Wile E. Coyote reveals an anatomical chart of the Road Runner explaining the bird’s different flavors.

Wile E. Coyote prepares a slide presentation to explain the culinary appeal of the Road Runner. Had he made this presentation today, he likely would have used Microsoft PowerPoint.

The 1965 film is called “Zip Zip Hooray” and as a Culture Schlock exclusive, you are about to learn the 19 distinct flavors of the Road Runner. You won’t find this information transcribed anywhere else on the Web. Not on YouTube, not on Wikipedia, not on Epicurious. It’s just one of those extra services we provide for our readers.

So to bring you up to speed — Beep! Beep! — the Coyote is in hot pursuit of the Road Runner when he suddenly stops and addresses the questions from two little boys watching the action on TV. Wile E. Coyote breaks through the so-called “Fourth Wall” and explains that the Road Runner is an exquisite melange (my words, not his) of flavors.

Love the British spelling of licorice!

For the record, here are the 19 Different Flavors of the Road Runner:

1. Banana (Head Crest)
2. Asparagus (Head Crest)
3. Papaya (Head Crest)
4. Liquorice (Head Crest)
5. Vanilla (Head Crest)
6. Sponge Cake (Beak)
7. Celery (Neck)
8. Candied Yam (Tail)
9. Caramel (Tail)
10. Salami (Windpipe)
11. Tamale (Chest)
12. Chop Suey (Tail)
13. Noodle (Abdomen)
14. Pork Chop (Thigh)
15. Wisconsin Cheddar Cheese (Knee)
16. Double Martini (Calf)
17. Bratwurst (Ankles)
18. Yorkshire Pudding (Heel)
19. Pistachio (Foot)

We’re a PG-rated site, so we’ll leave the Different Flavors of Pamela Lee Anderson for other researchers.  Even if you’ve seen “Zip Zip Hooray,” it’s well worth watching again!

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Is this photogenic python getting a raw deal?

Meet Maine's Most Sociable Snake

This snake involuntarily raises money for charity at York’s Wild Kingdom Zoo in Maine.

People fork over a $5 modeling fee — I couldn’t resist — with the proceeds going to some Costa Rican wildlife reserve that rescues injured monkeys.

The indignity of it all: This snake doesn’t even get to help his fellow snakes!

Adding to the insulting environment is the Purell dispenser, which tourists use to sterilize themselves from snake germs — right in front of him.

A popular photo-op

For the record, this handsome creature is an Albino Burmese Python. The Constrictors Unlimited pet store says these animals have a very “gentle and deliberate temperament.” But according to the influential Reptiles Alive blog, this python species will sometimes attack and eat alligators. They are now reportedly slithering all over Southern Florida because too many people are abandoning them as pets.

If you’ve ever taken any goofy pictures like this, please consider submitting them to my Tacky Tourist Photos blog, which also collects humorous costume photo booth snapshots and any other offbeat travel mementos.

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Elephants to Disney: Can you spare a frickin’ Snapple?


Disney’s environmentalist propaganda offensive, the movie “Earth,” serves up phenomenal how-did-they-get-that footage and delivers on its rated G promise to not sensationalize the endless murder sprees in the wild kingdom.

Plus, not a single polar bear or sperm whale drops the F-bomb.

Nevertheless, I find two scenes hauntingly disturbing:

1. ELEPHANTS SUCKING ON DUST — We see a mommy and baby elephant trudge through a drought-ravaged corridor of Africa.  Making the lack of water even worse are the clouds of dust that line their throats, thick enough to make the movie audience cough.

I know the camera crews thought they were being responsible documentarians by refusing to alter the story, but couldn’t they occasionally spare a bottle of frickin’ Snapple or spring water?  Inconsiderate bastards.

2. PACIFIST WALRUSES — Picture the scene… one famished and scrawny polar bear arrives on an island filled with fat and brawny walruses. The polar bear lunges, at nursing home speed, at the yummy walrus children.

How do the fully-armed (well, tusked) walruses respond? Most of them run away. A few of them scrape their daggers into the bear’s fur, but mostly you see tails. it’s a slow-motion chase to nowhere because the bear tires of running for food, and tires of simply living.

Although the walruses lucked out with a weak enemy, their parenting behavior and overall self-esteem is absolutely disgraceful. You could arm these walruses with fully-stocked F-16s and Apache helicopters and they would use them to fly away from the bear.

Honestly, the “Earth” storylines were no more compelling than the average nature documentary on the Discovery Channel. But all the drama in these kind of films is artificially constructed anyhow.

Spoiler Alert! Here’s what happens in the movie…  Animals are born, they eat, they look for more things to eat, they move around some more, and then they die.

There, I just saved you nine bucks a head.

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Costa Rican Sloth Adventure: Parking Lot Security in Paradise


THE WORKING STIFF — By Darren Garnick
“Parking Lot Security in Paradise”
The Boston Herald — December 6, 2006
Sometimes being named “Employee of the Month” and getting a “kudos” in the company newsletter just isn’t good enough.

I have no idea how a Costa Rican hotel parking lot attendant was
honored after I originally reported his act of heroism, but some kind
of international award is now warranted. At the risk of sounding like
Gwyneth Paltrow, security guards in Latin America are much
more intelligent and civilized
than their counterparts in
the United States.

My wife and I recently stayed at the “Si Como No” Resort near the Manuel Antonio wildlife preserve. The rainforest-based hotel, which has the most customer-service friendly name you can imagine (“Yes, Why
Not?” is supposed to be the staff’s response to any request), earned
hearty praise in Jimmy Buffett’s travel memoir “A Pirate Looks At

Buffett, naturally, focused his prose on the spirited bartenders in
Margaritaville. He never had the pleasure of meeting William Lee, the
mustachioed Zen master with SEGURIDAD printed on his khakis.


After carrying our bags up to our room (nothing against busboys, but they can carry my suitcase when I’m in a nursing home), we returned to our car to find a most unexpected visitor. A three-toed tree sloth was crawling in the gravel lot near the rear bumper — and we feared it was about to become exotic road kill.

We had seen these creatures before, through a wildlife guide’s power
binoculars, hanging from Cecropia trees 150 feet in the air. Our guide told us they can sleep up to 19 to 22 hours a day and only come down to the ground once a week to defecate. Lucky us.

From far away, tree sloths look like giant fur balls. Up close in a
parking lot, they look like experimental Muppets fresh from the Jim
Henson lab. Although their elongated arms and legs are capped with
Freddy Krueger razor claws, these cuddly creatures appear to be always smirking. But it’s a disarming welcoming smile; not a sadistic “I’m gonna slash your tires” smile.

The tree sloth was crawling toward me in slow motion, like he was
overacting in a movie scene about a dehydrated guy searching for water in the desert. At maximum speed, he can travel up to five feet per minute, so those deadly claws posed no threat to my parking lot photo shoot.

After sufficient gawking, I found a nearby security guard, Mr. Lee,
hoping he could radio the front desk for a wildlife expert. Without
hesitation, the guard grabbed a five-foot-long stick from a wood pile and extended it within clawing distance of the sloth. The animal
initially ignored the offering, first crawling underneath and around
the branch and making no effort to hold on.

Due to its whimsical facial expressions and trance-like movements, the sloth has attained an almost mystical status in Costa Rica. Some
travel writers have likened their hypnotic motion to practicing Tai

A more impatient security guard might have slammed his stick down and told the front desk that his job responsibilities don’t include wildlife rescue. But Mr. Lee’s upbeat customer service attitude even extended to the sloth. He watched the creature tentatively grab the branch with one arm and then eventually cling with all fours like a kid on the monkey bars.

The guard then carried his sloth-on-a-stick down three flights of
stairs to the edge of the jungle. This time, the animal immediately
understood his rescuer’s intent. He dug his claws into the nearest
tree and shimmied (slowly) up to safety.

My wife and I gave Mr. Lee a standing ovation, but we got the
impression that he didn’t think his actions were anything special.
Maybe all the parking lot security guys down there double as wildlife
experts. Maybe that was the third three-toed tree sloth he rescued
that week.

Doesn’t matter to me. The “Si Como No” has an employee recognition program awarding deserving nominees a complimentary weekend at any one of their sister resorts. On behalf of the Latin American tree sloth community, and tree sloth fans across the world, here’s hoping that William Lee is thanked with a free week’s vacation.

Darren Garnick’s “Working Stiff” column runs every Wednesday in the Boston Herald. For an extra dose, check out The Working Stiff blog.



By the way, if you are looking for a tour operator or guides in Costa Rica, these guys are the absolute best! Tell them Darren sent you….

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Filed under Animal Rights, Darren's Archive Vault, Sloth Adventures, Travel Gems

Fish Pedicures Now BANNED in NH


Just got word that New Hampshire, the state that doesn’t care if you wear a motorcycle helmet or not, just cracked down on fish pedicures.

The offbeat, controversial beauty craze, which has been sweeping the nation since the summer, uses chin chin fish (also called “doctor fish,” or massage fish”) to nibble on dead, scaly skin in place of a pumice stone.

The New Hampshire Board of Barbering, Cosmetology, and Esthetics ruled on Nov. 3 that in the context of fish pedicures, the fish are considered to be nail salon tools and must be subject to sanitization.

Of course, sanitizing fish the same way you sterilize a nail file means killing the fish. Here’s the state licensing agency’s official statement posted on its Web site:

“The Board has determined that fish cannot be utilized as an implement when used in the care for the skin therefore, falls under the sanitation and disinfection administrative rules of the Board. Those rules require that all implements be sanitized and disinfected before and after services on each client. If sanitation or disinfection cannot be achieved, the implement must be disposed of after a service on each client.”

Seems like there is some wiggle room here — that a salon could use fish but would have to “dispose” of each group of fish after their first use as pedicure implements. That solution wouldn’t necessarily mean the cruel act of throwing the fish away, but perhaps exiling them forever to a retirement tank.

But I’m splitting fins here because at $4 a fish, it’s simply unaffordable to spend $400 in aquarium overhead per pedicure, let alone the logistics of handling overpopulation in that golden retirement tank.

Cosmetology board administrator Lynda Elliott says Kim’s Spa & Nails in Derry — the first salon in New England to offer fish pedicures — has been formally notified that they can no longer offer the service.

“The board’s job is to protect the consumer,” says Elliott. “Fish can carry all sorts of parasites and bacteria.”

The state licensing agency says it is concerned with diseases getting passed from fish-to-customer and customer-to-customer with the fish as the transmitter.

“Let’s say one customer has foot fungus and a fish nibbles on it. If 10 other people put their feet in with the same fish, I don’t want to end up with your foot fungus,” Elliott says.

“Also, these chin chins start growing teeth when they get older. They could start drawing blood,” she says.

Yikes. Didn’t know about the teeth part. Lucky I was nibbled by the baby fish.

There isn’t tons of consumer information available on Chinese chin chins, but this prominent Malaysian fish spa offers a side-by-side comparison with therapeutic Garra Rufa fish from Turkey. They claim that older chin chins will peel your skin off and feast on healthy human skin when the scaly stuff is gone.

Kim’s Spa had been planning to also introduce Garra Rufa fish, which have been widely acclaimed for their effective treatment of eczema, psoriasis and other skin ailments. That’s now on hold. The adult Turkish fish apparently have no teeth.

“It’s heartbreaking,” says Delores Nichols, director of spa services at the New Hampshire salon, “This was something we all were looking forward to doing. And we’re hopeful that the fish pedicures will be back.”

According to Nichols, only 20 people had tried the fish treatment before the state intervened.

She adds that Kim’s Spa is now gathering testimony from scientists about the hygienic safety of chin chin pedicures. The salon intends to appeal the state’s ban at the next cosmetology board meeting on Dec. 8.

As for the 500 chin chins who are potentially out of work, Nichols says they are acting hyperactive.

“Everytime we walk near the tank, the fish swarm to where we are,” she says. “They will jump out of the water toward my hands.”

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Filed under Animal Rights, Fashion, fish pedicures

Are fish pedicures cruel to the fish?

Fish pedicure photo courtesy of

Fish pedicure photo courtesy of

Despite producing some of the most heartless, insensitive and tacky advertising campaigns, I’m glad that the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) group is around. In a world where baby seals are still clubbed to death and rabbits are injected in the eyeballs, PETA’s radicalism keeps animal abuse issues in the public eye.

So I’m wondering, was I in any way exploiting dozens of lovable chin chins when I recently plunged my feet in their tank for a fish pedicure?

Nope, says Scott Dowd, a freshwater biologist at Boston’s New England Aquarium. These kind of fish would normally eat dead skin (of other fish) in the wild and are not in any danger of overeating.

“They’re pretty much on an all-protein Atkins Diet,” he told me during an interview for a Boston Herald story. “Fish bellies can expand quite a bit. Their digestive systems process the best stuff first. If new food comes along, they poop out the partially digested food to make room for the new food.”

Dowd maintains “there is nothing cruel or inhumane about using these fish in this way.”

“These fish are only limited by the amount of people willing to let themselves be grazed,” he says. “And it’s fair to say that if these fish are the lifeblood of a spa operation, then the owners will do everything they can to take care of them.”

I once experienced a similar revelation while on an extended dogsledding expedition with the Voyageur Outward Bound School in Minnesota.

My initial instincts told me that chaining dogs to hundreds of pounds of camping equipment was pretty heartless stuff. Until I met these dogs. They are like triathletes who feel unfulfilled if they are not pulling 15 times their weight. Trying to walk them on a leash posed significant challenges to avoid being dragged around like a rag doll.

And the law of the dogsledders is that the dogs always eat first.

PETA, of course, remains unconvinced. They’re not fans of leashes — and it’s only a matter of time before they start harnessing leather straps on random pedestrians to make their point (followed by the typical post-media buzz PETA apology).

The organization also considers fish tanks and aquariums to be a “death sentence” for the fish. That’s whether or not the fish are working as pedicurists or just hanging out.

ANIMAL RIGHTS POSTSCRIPT:The fact that the Rev. Al Sharpton, the shameless racial riot inciter, is endorsing PETA’s “Kentucky Fried Cruelty” campaign does not boost its credibility. They should stick with Pamela Anderson and Elizabeth Berkley’s lettuce bras.



Like heartwarming stories about animals who don’t consider dead skin to be a delicacy? Experience our “Dramatic sloth rescue in parking lot paradise.”

Love to contemplate the political clout of the nail care industry? Scrutinize our investigative report, “Did pro-Obama manicures sway the 2008 election?” or review the foreign impact: “The mysterious connection between Soviet spies and nail polish.”

What’s it like to be lunch? Read the gripping first-person account, “My First Fish Pedicure,” a story that may force you to re-evaluate your relationship with your feet — and the people you love the most.


Filed under Animal Rights, Fashion, fish pedicures