Behind the Scenes in the Pet Trade

Posted by on May 6, 2010 | Permalink

Because most people love their animal companions and want to do their best for them, it’s easy to forget that animal companions, too, can be the victims of routine, profit-driven cruelty.

Buying animals can have terrible consequences for cats and dogs in animal shelters, but that’s not the only problem. There is a lot of money to be made from the “pet” trade, and that means that animals are going to suffer, just as they do in factory farming and other industries that consider animals to be sources of profit first and living, feeling beings last.

Last year, a PETA US investigator spent seven months undercover at US Global Exotics, Inc. (USGE), a massive international animal wholesale facility in Texas. We’ve already reported on some of what they found, including the fact that USGE supplied businesses right here in the UK. Because of legal proceedings in the US, PETA US couldn’t reveal the whole story until now – PETA US has posted a full report on the investigation online, and it’s pretty distressing.

At the time of the investigation, USGE was one of the largest US sellers of animals to distributors and pet stores around the world. The company certainly worked on economies of scale: USGE confined tens of thousands of animals to its facility and employed a staff of just three or four people to “care” for them. The PETA US investigation revealed that hamsters, gerbils, hedgehogs, chinchillas, ferrets, snakes, lizards, turtles, tortoises, frogs, wallabies, sloths, anteaters, kinkajous and other animals suffered terribly as a result of continuous, cruel confinement to severely crowded and filthy enclosures. Over and over again, animals at USGE were denied the most basic necessities, including food, water, adequate air and space, humidity, heat, veterinary care, and even a painless end to their misery.

[iframe 502px 382px] PETA US’ video of the seizure, care and rehoming of the more than 26,000 USGE animals

Why? In many cases, simply because it was easier and cheaper to let some animals die than to look after all of them properly. When an outbreak of vesicular disease started killing snakes daily, USGE Vice President Vanessa Shaw said that a veterinarian’s recommended treatment for the animals was “f***ing ludicrous” because of the time and medicine that the treatment would have required, which was minimal. Vanessa and her husband, Jasen Shaw, owned USGE, and they routinely ordered that live animals – including a spotted squirrel whose neck had been so badly wounded that the animal’s jugular vein was exposed and a chinchilla who was bleeding from a prolapsed rectum – be frozen to death.

The great news is that USGE has been shut down. More than 26,000 animals at USGE were rescued, and a federal arrest warrant has been issued for Jasen Shaw. The bad news is that the pet trade is continuing to exploit, harm and kill animals. The message is pretty simple: in industries in which people make money from animals, animals suffer. That’s true whether it’s an orca in an aquarium, a chicken on a factory farm or a chinchilla in a pet shop. And the moral is pretty simple too: never buy an animal.