unofficial holidays related to animals

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June 13 is National Pigeon Day

Today is National Pigeon Day. It honors Cher Ami, a carrier pigeon that valiantly completed its World War I mission to deliver military intelligence to the U.S. Army in France, even after being shot and suffering a partially severed limb. It succumbed to its injuries several months later on June 13, 1919.

Ami was posthumously awarded the French Croix de Guerre medal for heroism in combat. The U.S. chose to honor the bird by stuffing it and putting it on display in the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. (It is no longer on public view but is kept in storage as part of its permanent collection.)

Cher Ami

With Cher Ami’s sacrifice in mind, New York Bird Club founder Anna Dove (née Augusta Kugelmas) created National Pigeon Day in 2008. In an interview, she told the New York Times, “We are trying to do for pigeons what Martin Luther King did for his people.”

Dove submitted the first celebration to the Kids’ Activities section of New York Magazine:

“We’re trying to promote a positive image. There’s such negativity for no reason. They’re harmless, defenseless. They can’t attack; their beak is very soft.”

“Kids will learn cool pigeon facts…as they nibble on pigeon-shape cookies, view pigeon-inspired children’s art, and take part in a candlelight prayer service.” (Dove worries there might not even be urban pigeons in five years.)

We’re sure Miss Dove is gratified to know that her efforts have successfully averted pigeon extinction. We’re a bit concerned about awakening our children’s carnivorous instincts by feeding them sugar-laden representations of the birds we mean to save. We certainly hope they’re gluten-free to promote, you know, freedom.

Meanwhile, [Dove] urges all New York families to “carry a bit of bread crumbs in your bag, a few seeds to show kindness and respect. The pigeon isn’t a threat or an enemy. It goes along with quality of life to show kindness and compassion to all living things.” That’s a lovely lesson for the children.

Yes, littering is a great lesson. Here’s a better one. Give a cookie to a homeless person and let him drop the crumbs that will feed our feathered friends and that other European import, the Norway rat.

Like pigeons, rats fastidiously clean themselves and only become vermin-infested disease vectors because of their squalid living conditions. But will rats ever get their own holiday? No, and not just because they aren’t cute enough, but because it’s a stupid idea.

national pigeon day

The second annual National Pigeon Day, on June 13, 2009, attracted authors, performers, and activists. Charles Patterson read from his book, Eternal Treblinka: Our Treatment of Animals and the Holocaust. Amos Latteier, whose public art projects have included a telephone-operated karaoke protest song, a 500-pound potato battery, and a chainsaw-powered walking machine, delivered a PowerPoint lecture about his construction of a pigeon condo.

Ted Enik and Enid Crow performed a humorous puppet play about the downfall of an arrogant politician determined to rid his city of pigeons to impress his seven-year-old ornithophobic daughter. The Vivian Girls, best known for college-radio hit “Kitten Lemonade Stand,” performed “Pigeons on Parade” and “Pigeon Goes to a Party” to a rapt audience.

The parks department agreed to let the club host its gathering without a permit but stressed that the feeding of the wild birds or animals was illegal. That led to this awkward statement on the National Pigeon Day blog:

Samples of high-quality bird feed and grit will be given out courtesy of Gail at The Pigeon Store; however, please respect Central Park rules and regulations: Feeding of birds and other wildlife prohibited, and please do not litter.

Dove had tangled with the city before. In 2003, she was arrested for assault after throwing birdseed in the face of a Parks Department volunteer, Carol McCabe, who told her city rules prohibit feeding in public parks. McCabe’s eye was scratched, requiring medical attention. She obtained a restraining order, worried that Dove was “a little kooky.”

According to Andrew Blechman, author of Pigeons: The Fascinating Saga of the World’s Most Revered and Reviled Creature, Dove (then Kuglemas) said the volunteer was “a bitch with Mafioso ties” and that she’d thrown the seed at the woman to protect herself. McCabe later dropped the charges and Dove founded the New York Bird Club to fight institutional pigeon prejudice, which eventually led to National Pigeon Day.

Cher Ami poster national pigeon day magick sandwich photo cheramipigeonposter.png

The third annual National Pigeon Day celebration clashed with the Puerto Rican Day parade, also scheduled on June 13, 2010. Lack of a permit meant that the pigeons’ special day had to be moved to June 19. Racial bias? Perhaps. Dove petitioned the government to ratify June 13 as National Pigeon Day. To date, her effort has proven unsuccessful.

Dove had been a victim of prejudice a few months before, in February 2010, when enraged retired schoolteacher Arthur Schwartz snatched a bag of birdseed from her hands and threw it over a fence. He initially fled the scene but later explained he’d become upset that rats were being fed as well.

She filed charges against Schwartz, who she said poked and shoved her, telling the New York Post, “The guy was violent, I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a weapon next time.” Six years later, we see no evidence that he served any time for the assault.

Dove had high hopes that Woody Allen would finally attend National Pigeon Day and apologize for referring to pigeons as “rats with wings.” Since 2008, she had circulated a message urging members of her New York Bird Club and other bird lovers to pressure him to show up.  Here is an excerpt of that directive:

For nearly 30 years this “racial slur” has and is presently being perpetuated by the media who use it to ridicule and degrade pigeons so that they have no respect in our society and, therefore, are treated with contempt and hatred by the general public.

Despite publishing contact information for his agent, manager, and publicist, none of her followers were able to coerce Mr. Allen into making an appearance.

He’s hardly the only pigeon hater to attract negative attention. In 2007, after Brooklyn Councilman Simcha Felder proposed fining pigeon feeders $1,000, Council Speaker Christine Quinn said she had “no love” for “flying rats.” (She also said she wouldn’t allow her personal feelings to interfere with her professional judgment, which sounds pretty reasonable to us.)

Urban Wildlife Coalition founder Johana Clearfield wrote Quinn, slamming her as “clueless,” since “pigeons have nothing in common with rats, and calling her comment an “epithet . . . much like the n-word.”

Felder claimed the feeding ban was aimed at minimizing pigeon excrement, which damages city infrastructure with its ammonia and uric acid. Each pigeon drops an average of 25 pounds of poop per year. That’s a lot of crap. But bird boosters weren’t buying his story. They held a rally at City Hall against the proposed ban, carrying signs that said things like, “Have you known anybody killed by a pigeon?”

No, we’ve never known someone killed by a pigeon. (But we also don’t know anyone killed by a feral cockroach. That’s just one more creature too ugly to get its own day.) Demonstrators argued that pigeons teach children an appreciation for living things. Don’t the millions of people in New York City count as living things?

And when City Council member James Oddo suggested birth control, approved by PETA and the Humane Society, to combat corrosion, clean up the Staten Island Ferry terminal and keep maggot-ridden poop from raining down from the ceiling panels, the pigeon groupies came down on him like, well, poop from a ceiling. Joanna Tierno, the moderator of a pigeon Internet site, told a reporter:

It’s just a horrible idea just to kill off all these innocent animals, and for what reason? You can’t help but remember the Holocaust. Jews were killed because people didn’t want to look at them anymore.

Innolytics, the medication’s manufacturer, received an award in 2010 from The U.S. Humane Society for its work to reduce animal suffering and advance animal welfare. The ASPCA and PETA also support humane alternatives to lethal bird control.

In the past several years, the Pigeon Day blog has fallen silent, and New York Bird Club’s website has disappeared. An International Pigeon Day Facebook event lasted only one year; Timeout London’s 2012 listing of National Pigeon Appreciation Day turned out to be a hoax asking pub crawlers to share their beers with pigeons, but only if they were Stella Artois or better.

Anna Dove’s trail has run cold except for allegations made in 2013 that she used aliases including Cher Ami to set up Facebook, Twitter and Blogspot accounts as “The Yogi Whisperer” to impersonate Dechen Karl Thurman, Uma Thurman’s brother, and “harass people in his professional and personal life.” The post asked victims to come forward so that evidence could be consolidated against the “mentally disturbed individual.”

While pigeons deserve fair treatment, activists who equate the birds’ suffering to that of Jews during the Holocaust, compare their description as “flying rats” to the n-word, and describe themselves as freedom fighters on par with a leader assassinated for his efforts to attain racial equality, are, to put it mildly, delusional.

We’re going to give PETA, unlikely voice of reason, the last word:

There are people who buy heavy bags of bird seed and walk around New York City, London, and other cities dropping huge piles of it on to public sidewalks and in parks. Naturally, pigeons flock there to eat, and then breed. These people think they are helping, but in reality, they are doing more harm than good….

Have you ever considered asking your local park or city to put up signs discouraging the feeding of pigeons? Have you supported or opposed a local ordinance that would establish mandatory guidelines for feral cat colony management? Can we—who care about and advocate for animals—stop letting irrational impulses dictate our actions toward them?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves.

To gain another perspective, read this hilarious 2010 interview” of some feisty New York pigeons eager to share their opinions and drop some truth on a few heads in Central Park and on the steps of City Hall.

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

May 23 is World Turtle Day

world turtle dayToday is World Turtle Day, a holiday created in 2000 by non-profit organization American Tortoise Rescue (ATR) to celebrate turtles and tortoises and to protect their habitats.

Susan Tellem and her husband Marshall have rescued and re-homed more than 3,000 turtles since cofounding ATR in 1990. Ten years later, they started World Turtle Day because, as Susan told the Huffington Post, “Turtles are not as popular as cats and dogs, so interest, awareness and understanding is pretty slim. This day is a good way to educate people about how to care for turtles, and to learn what danger they’re in and how to be more aware of what they need.”

The oldest turtle fossil found to date was unearthed in 2007 in China’s Guizhou province. Discovered in rocks of the late Triassic Period, it is estimated to have lived 220 million years ago, during the age of the dinosaurs. It is considered a transitional creature, an aquatic turtle that had armor solely on its underbelly and a mouth full of teeth, earning it the name Odontochelys semitestacea (“toothed turtle with half-shell”). By comparison, human evolution dates back a mere 2.5 million years.

While researching the connection between dinosaurs and turtles, we noticed several groups that assert the planet is, in reality, only six thousand years old. Here, one website explains how it knows fossil records have been faked:

According to evolutionists, the dinosaurs “ruled the Earth” for 140 million years, dying out about 65 million years ago. However, scientists do not dig up anything labeled with those ages. They only uncover dead dinosaurs (i.e., their bones), and their bones do not have labels attached telling how old they are. The idea of millions of years of evolution is just the evolutionists’ story about the past. No scientist was there to see the dinosaurs live through this supposed dinosaur age. In fact, there is no proof whatsoever that the world and its fossil layers are millions of years old. No scientist observed dinosaurs die. Scientists only find the bones in the here and now, and because many of them are evolutionists, they try to fit the story of the dinosaurs into their view.

The contention that fossils were not buried with labels must be correct since they died before the existence of tombstones and Post-It notes (or did they?). If a person digs into a garbage dump and finds a ham sandwich ten feet down, mightn’t he surmise, even without the benefit of scientific instrumentation, that it is older than the one his mom made for him that morning, in spite of the fact that he has unearthed it in “the here and now?”

It’s also a fact that no scientist has observed a dinosaur live or die. The logic is indisputable. We’ll go on record and say that no one alive today has ever hung out with Abraham Lincoln. Very few of us have met Stephen King. Yet most of us are pretty sure of their existence, even though they aren’t mentioned in the Bible. (We don’t want spoil the surprise, but one of them is working on a new book right now!)

But we digress. Turtles and tortoises are remarkable animals. Both are cold-blooded, breathe air and lay eggs on land. Generally speaking, tortoises live on land, are poor swimmers and have stumpy feet suited to walking very slowly on land. Turtles spend their time in the water and have streamlined bodies and webbed feet or flippers they are unable to retract.

The illegal pet trade puts tortoises at risk; transportation stresses them and many die during shipment from Russia or other far-flung locations. To combat this problem and reduce the demand for illegal imports, ART urges people to refrain from buying them at pet stores and adopt instead from one of the country’s many turtle rescue groups. Petfinder is an excellent resource, too.

All sea turtle species are listed as endangered or threatened under the Endangered Species Act, mainly due to bycatch, accidental capture in fishermen’s nets and trawls. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) studies aquatic environments, works to reduce bycatch and develops recovery plans with the goal of increasing sea turtle numbers until they can be removed from the list.

In the meantime, everyone can help by keeping the beach free of litter and watching out when boating in an area where turtles live. If you find a tortoise in the middle of the road, carry it to safety and be sure to point it in the direction it was headed. Otherwise, it will instinctively turn around and walk back into danger.

If you find a turtle and can’t release it into the wild, soak it in tepid water and put it in a box with a lid. Keep it away from pets, children and stressful noises; contact an organization like ATR to help you care for it until a pet rescue group can secure it.

If you’d like to learn more about these fascinating creatures, check out National Geographic‘s article about a newly-discovered giant Galápagos tortoise; Live Science‘s turtle facts; and Mother Nature Network‘s post about 19 weird and wonderful turtle and tortoise species.

Have a happy World Turtle Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 30 is Bugs Bunny Day

Today is Bugs Bunny Day. On April 30, 1938, Bugs made his debut in a cartoon called “Porky’s Hare Hunt,” entertaining movie theater audiences awaiting the feature presentation.

As a young performer wet behind the floppy ears, much of his film work was uncredited. He sometimes appeared under the stage name “Happy Rabbit.”

Bugs finally shared his true identity in the credits of January 1941’s tour de force, “Elmer’s Pet Rabbit,” perhaps at the urging of his costar, Elmer Fudd.

While his appearance has “evolved” over the years, Bugs has always denied the rumors of plastic surgery, Botox and fillers. He attributes his agelessness to a healthy diet, long hops on the beach and his judicious use of lighthearted ridicule.

bugs bunny day

You go, Bugs! We love you! Happy Bugs Bunny Day!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays

April 27 is Matanzas Mule Day

matanzas mule day

visual approximation

Today is Matanzas Mule Day. While Mule Appreciation Day (October 26) honors mules in general, today’s holiday is dedicated to one special mule.

On April 27, 1898, during the Spanish-American War, the U.S. Navy fired upon the coastal town of Matanzas, on Cuba’s northern shore. When the smoke cleared, the villagers discovered one casualty: a mule.

Perhaps to express their outrage at the attack, they held a funeral for the mule and buried it with full military honors. (Of course, we can’t discount the possibility that they just really loved that mule.) Word of the memorial spread, along with disbelief.

On August 5, 1898, the New York Times printed an eyewitness account given to the London Globe. Chief Officer Smails of the Myrtledene, a steamship in the area to pick up sugarcane, confirmed the story and reported that he had attended the funeral at the invitation of a Spanish dockworker. He described the scene:

“Altogether there were about 200 persons present, including many distinguished officers. They all walked in mournful procession to the final resting place of the ill-fated animal, a band rendering melancholy music all the while. The authorities were also present to give the obsequies an official aspect. At the grave more appropriate music was played, and eloquent addresses were made by Spanish officers….Then the signal for lowering the carcass into the earth was given. The body went down enveloped in the Spanish flag, amid a volley of musketry!”

The Times article concludes with three unattributed verses one could reasonably assume were an ode to a fallen comrade.

They marshaled men of every rank,
They summoned muffled guns to roll,
They called the merchant from the bank,
They caused the Church’s bell to toll.

And slowly to his grave they passed,
Obeying every martial rule,
And there with tears they took a last,
Long look at that bombarded mule.

Wrapped in the flag he served so well.
Amid a cloud of smoke he sank;
“The Slain” – by tons of shot and shell –
Went under with a round of blank.

We’re fairly sure it wasn’t sung at the funeral. In fact, since it would have been written in Spanish, that’s either an excellent translation—complete with rhyming—or the newspaper of record was having fun heaping ridicule on a small town and, by extension, the enemy.

May you have a better Matanzas Mule Day than the mule did!

Copyright © 2017 Worldwide Weird Holidays