Founders of American Tortoise Rescue continue to advocate, rescue tortoises, turtles
From Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies Articles Archive

FROM American Tortoise Rescue
May 2020

Hoping that the coronavirus pandemic will bring an end to the cruelty to turtles, tortoises and all other animals in live animal meat markets.

Susan Tellem
American Tortoise Rescue co-founder Susan Tellem of Malibu poses for a photo with Tank the tortoise, practicing social distancing while still advocating for tortoises and turtles.

Article by Suzanne Guldimann, Freelance Reporter, Malibu Surside News
May 1, 2020

Longtime Malibu residents and animal activists Susan Tellem and Marshall Thompson are hoping that the coronavirus pandemic will bring an end to the cruelty and health hazards generated by live animal meat markets, also known as “wet” markets.

The Thompsons are co-founders of American Tortoise Rescue. For 30 years, the husband-and-wife team have rescued and advocated for tortoises and turtles. The rescue suffered devastating losses in 2018, when the Thompsons’ Malibu home, which is also home to dozens of rescued animals, burned in the Woolsey Fire. Fortunately, the tortoise enclosures were fireproof, and many of the animals survived.

They are still in the process of rebuilding, but they aren’t letting the fire or the coronavirus pandemic get in the way of their campaign to save turtles and tortoises, and raise awareness of the challenges these increasing threatened species face. They see the coronavirus disaster as an opportunity to fight for change and new protections.

COVID-19 is thought to have originated in the wet markets of Wuhan, China, where live animals of all kinds are sold for human consumption, including wildlife and exotic and endangered species. China, however, isn’t the only place were live animal meat markets flourish.

“Most people don’t realize that live markets exist throughout the United States, killing thousands of turtles,” Susan Tellem told the Malibu Surfside News.

There is a global push to end the trade in wildlife that is thought to have caused the coronavirus pandemic to spread from animal species to humans. A bipartisan group of nearly 70 United States congressional leaders recently signed a letter calling for an end to the trade and consumption of wild animals. Activists like the Thompsons want to see domestic live animal meat markets shut down as well.

California State Senator Henry Stern has been working on legislation to end the sale of wild animals at California’s live animal food markets.

“We need to stop the brutal trade in exotic and endangered wildlife once and for all,” Stern said.

“Whether it’s a pangolin being sold for faulty medicine, a white Bengal tiger being enslaved for entertainment, or a black rhino “trophy” used to satisfy some misguided hunter‘s ego, California must put an end to wildlife trafficking.”

Stern is sponsoring SB 1175, which would ban imports and sales of live wild animals that pose zoonotic disease transmission risk, as occurred in the Wuhan wet markets, as well as “trophy hunted” endangered species like lions, elephants, and rhinos.

Tellem points out that wildlife isn’t the only problem at the markets, which in California, sell sheep, goats, rabbits, chickens, turkeys, pigeons, quail, turtles, frogs and other animals.

“Turtles and other animals for sale are treated cruelly and butchered horribly,” Tellem told the Surfside News. “Many diseases have started with humans eating these animals. Diseases such as E. coli, salmonella and pasturella — all potentially fatal in humans, plus cases of giardia, blood parasites, and even one case of malaria have been revealed [in market animal necropsies], as well as other diseases transmittable to humans.”

Tellem said that turtles are stacked four and five deep without food or water at the markets, and are butchered while fully conscious.

“It breaks our hearts to see them suffer like this,” she said.

Tellem is asking the community to take part in the campaign to ban the trade. The American Tortoise Rescue has a petition and is raising funds for a matching grant to push for change. It is one of dozens of animal protection and legislation advocacy organizations adding their voices to the push for change, the list include including PETA, Social Compassion in Legislation, the Humane Society, and more.

“Out of the negative, positive change can come,” Tellem said.

It is World Turtle Day on May 23, and American Tortoise Rescue is raising funds with a special commemorative T-shirt this year.

“Donations are welcome,” Tellem said.

In addition to funds to keep the nonprofit going, the resident turtles and tortoises at the rescue are happy to accept donations of fruit and vegetables — foods like lettuce, cucumbers, squash and bananas are always welcome. Paper towels are also needed.

Return to: Animal Rights/Vegan Activist Strategies
Read more at COVID-19/Coronavirus Articles Directory