25. SIT, FIDO. DOWN. ROLL OVER. GOOD BOY. NOW DIE FOR ME.

Every once in a while, radical animal rights activists commit an act of protest which earns the media attention. But rarely do the media publicize the issues which drive the activists to action.

According to the Congressional Office of Technological Assessment, 17 to 22 million animals are used yearly for testing in research laboratories. Animal rights activists believe the figure is closer to 70 million. Animals have been used to determine what the potential adverse effects would be to humans if exposed to explosives, chemicals, binary poison gases, radiation, infectious bacterial and viral diseases, and, of course, cosmetics.

Dogs, primates, rats, cats, mice, and rabbits are not the only animals being cruelly treated in the U.S. Now the mistreatment of exotic animals is also being reported.

Because the meat of exotic animals, like deer, elk, and buffalo, is leaner than commercial meat and without antibiotics, it has become a popular menu item in trendy East Coast restaurants. Venison consumption jumped from 1,000 pounds a week in 1985 to 4,000 pounds a week in 1986 in New York.

Animals reported slaughtered in 1986 in North America included 9,000 bison, 5,000 caribou, countless thousands of deer, and untold numbers of wild boar, elk, llamas, and water buffalo. Before these animals were killed, many of them lived in stacked cages, barely with enough room to turn around in.

In Australia, three to five million kangaroos are killed yearly. Marian Newman of the International Wildlife Coalition described this slaughter as "one of the most barbaric commercial wildlife massacres in the world." Their hides are typically used for athletic shoes, dress shoes, purses, belts, cattle whips and novelty items. According to Dean Wilkinson, legislative director for Greenpeace, in the U.S., Adidas, Puma, and Florsheim continue to make kangaroo-leather shoes.

In 1987, the corporate owners of three California Bay area pet stores agreed to pay a $150,000 settlement rather than risk a higher jury verdict for having allegedly sold sick animals, beat some animals to death, and practiced veterinarian medicine without a license. Unfortunately this was not an isolated case. Particularly offensive is the exotic bird trade which sees between 50,000 and 100,000 birds enter the U.S. illegally every year. But perhaps the most offensive thing about pet shops is not their greed and cruelty but their superfluousness. With more than 20 million unadopted dogs and cats -- many of them purebreds -- being put to death every year in the nation's tax-supported shelters, why do we need a pet industry?

A nation of people who sometimes seem to care more for their pets than for one another might be tempted to do something about animal cruelty if they knew more about it. The issues that force animal rights activists to take to the streets surely deserve better coverage by our media.

SOURCES:

THE ANIMAL'S AGENDA, "Marsupial Wars -- Australia's Shame," by Peter A. Rawlinson, April 1987, pp 8-14, 48; "The Pentagon's Secret War on Animals," by Holly Metz, June 1987, pp 22-29, 48; "Exotics for Slaughter," by Merritt Clifton, July/August 1987, pp 41-43; "The Pet Shop Scam," by Jack Rosenberg, December 1987, pp 12-15, 19-20.