Species Decline and the 10th Convention on Biological Diversity

Gillian Lyons

In 2007, the United Nations General Assembly, recognizing that human activity was causing a highly accelerated rate of species extinctions, and expressing concern that such mass extinctions could have far reaching social, economic, environmental and cultural impacts passed G.A. Resolution 61/203.  This resolution reaffirmed a target date, 2010, set at the 2002 World Summit on Sustainable Development, by which time a significant reduction in rate of loss of biodiversity should have been achieved.  2010, as the target date, was named the International Year of Biodiversity.    

           Now that it is 2010, it can easily be seen that this goal has not been achieved. Arguably, species, such as the West African Black Rhinoceros pictured above, are disappearing from the Earth at a faster rate than they were when the resolution was passed. The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, in its Global Biodiversity Outlook publication, itself notes that while setting the 2010 goal spurred some 170 countries into creating biodiversity strategies, the goal of reducing the rate of extinctions is far from being met due to economic and political pressures. In fact, the publication acknowledges that continuing species extinctions far above historic rates will continue into the century.   

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Sexual Abuse of Animals, Bodily Integrity and Property Rights

Bridget Crawford

The New York Daily News reports here that a Long Beach (New York) man twice sexually assaulted a dog:

[The accused] entered the apartment in the house he owned and sexually assaulted the male dog, a 23-pound Shiba Inu named Snowball, prosecutors said.

They said the tenants called authorities after seeing the latest assault Thursday.

The other assault took place Oct. 12. * * * Snowball was examined at a nearby animal hospital and showed signs of trauma, including injuries to his legs consistent with being roughly restrained.

According to another news report (here), the accused man “used to own the dog but gave it to his tenants, who contacted authorities after reportedly walking in on [the accused] sexually abusing the dog in their own apartment.”  Did the tenants contact authorities only after the second incident?  Why did they turn a blind eye to abuse of any kind?   Continue reading

Polar Bears — The New Canary

David Cassuto

Long ago, miners used canaries to measure the build up of toxic gases in the mines where they were working.  If the canary died, it was time to head out because the air was dangerous.  We don’t use canaries in mines anymore.  Now we use polar bears in the Arctic.  The threat to the bear serves as a monitoring mechanism of sorts for the global threat from carbon emissions in the atmosphere.

As you may recall, the impending demise of polar bears due to habitat destruction attributed to global warming generated some hooha not too long ago.  W’s Interior Secretary, Dirk Kempthorne, hemmed and hawed for as long as possible before finally declaring the bear a “threatened” species under the Endangered Species Act.  That designation would normally require federal action to address the cause (global warming) of the bear’s habitat.  However, the Bushies propounded a rule – later embraced by the Obama Administration, excluding carbon emissions from regulation under the ESA.  That made the bear’s victory (such as it was) pyrrhic at best.  Nonetheless, in the heady optimism of the time, many (including me) felt that it was perhaps better to wait for a statute explicitly aimed at mitigating national emissions rather than to use the blunt instrument of the ESA to accomplish a very complex regulatory act.

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Where Are Our Wild Horses?

Gillian Lyons

 When contemplating American Icons, mustangs inevitably come to mind.  In fact, in the Wild Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act, Congress stated that wild free-roaming horses are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West, which contribute to the diversity of life forms within the Nation and enrich the lives of the American people. Unfortunately, the Bureau of Land Management is currently removing, via controlled round-ups, this symbol of the American spirit from their habitats throughout the western United States. Two such round-ups currently in the news are occurring in Colorado and Wyoming (a round-up that aims to remove 2,000 horses from rangelands).  After these round-ups, BLM plans to either auction captured horses or to house them in government owned corrals.

 According to the Bureau of Land Management’s Director, Bob Abbey, the reason for these round-ups is that the Western rangeland is currently home to 38,400 free-roaming population horses and burros, which exceeds by nearly 12,000 the number of horses and burros that the BLM has determined can exist in balance with other public rangeland resources and uses.  Animal welfare organizations, however, disagree with these calculations and policies, and claimed in a unified letter signed by 120 organizations that: Continue reading

NYU Launches Animal Studies Initiative

David Cassuto

Oh to be young again.  NYU is launching an Animal Studies Initiative.  NYU students will soon be able to minor in animal studies and the initiative will also create opportunities for interdisciplinary courses, conferences and other research projects.  Professor Dale Jamieson, who heads NYU’s Environmental Studies Program and has written much that needs to be read in the animal studies arena, will head the program.  He notes:

The interdisciplinary field of Animal Studies has developed rapidly over the past two decades, opening up new areas of research both within and between many existing academic fields.  Animal Studies addresses questions about the uniqueness of human beings with respect to other animals, the moral status of animals and their cultural meanings, and the roles they play in our imagination and arts.

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Obama and the Endangered Species Act

Gillian Lyons

During his campaign, Obama’s campaign spokesman noted that,  “as president, Senator Obama will fight to maintain the strong protections of the Endangered Species Act.”  Just a few months after taking office, this statement rang true, when the Obama administration reversed the Bush administration’s eleventh-hour regulation which circumvented Endangered Species Act mandates by allowing federal agencies to make their own determination as to whether their projects would harm endangered species, without having to consult with the Fish and Wildlife Service or the National Marine Fisheries Service.  According to Carl Pope, former executive director of the Sierra Club, this move by the Obama administration brought science back into the Endangered Species decision-making process, and numerous environmental groups hailed the move as a major protective step for threatened species.   Continue reading

Sex, Animal Abuse, and the Internet

Seth Victor

In Long Island, New York last Tuesday,  the Suffolk County Legislature unanimously approved a bill, sponsored by legislator Jon Cooper, creating the nation’s first registry for people convicted of animal abuse. The online registry operates in a similar fashion to the online registration required for sex offenders under Megan’s Laws. Anyone convicted of animal cruelty will be required to submit and keep updated their name, address, and photograph to the publicly searchable database for five years following their conviction. Convicted abusers will have to pay $50 annually for the cost of the registry, and those who do not face a $1,000 fine and one year imprisonment.

Mr. Cooper is quoted stating, “We know the correlation between animal abuse and domestic violence…Almost every serial killer starts out by torturing animals, so in a strange sense we could end up protecting the lives of people.” In acknowledging the link between animal abuse and domestic violence, a relationship of which many people are not aware, Mr. Cooper illustrates how animal protection laws can serve both human and animal interests.

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James Coolidge Carter on The Rapaciousness of Humanity

David Cassuto

James Coolidge Carter was arguably the preeminent appellate advocate of his time (he lived from 1828-1905 and was at the height of his fame at the end of the 19th century.  A Mugwump, he had strong principled views on the human condition and a tenacious belief in the beauty of the economic order.  The system’s fucntioning required the best of human traits to prevail in the never-ending battle between good and evil.  Yet, Coolidge was remarkably skeptical of the innate goodness of humanity, writing:

The brute cares only for the wants of his body, and when these are satisfied he lies down contented . . . . But the desires of man have no such limitations.  However much he may acquire, he is still greedy for more, and is never satisfied.

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Compassionate Children’s Literature

From the email:

For immediate release:

A Morning of Compassionate Children’s Literature
with Farm Sanctuary
at the Community Bookstore of Park Slope
BROOKLYN, NY (October 9, 2010)—The Community Bookstore of Park Slope is pleased to host “A Morning of Compassionate Children’s Literature with Farm Sanctuary.” The event takes place Sunday, October 17th at 11am and is free and open to the public. (Address: 143 Seventh Avenue, Brooklyn, NY—between Carroll Street and Garfield Street).    Continue reading

Football, Pit Bulls, and Regaining Trust: A book review of Jim Gorant’s The Lost Dogs

Stephen Iannacone

In July of 2007, after months of investigating, Michael Vick and three others were charged with the federal crime of operating an interstate dog fighting ring known as “Bad Newz Kennels.”  Initially, Vick maintained that he only funded the dog fighting ring.  However, as further details were released over the course of the investigation, he eventually confessed and publicly apologized for his actions.  Every sports fan, animal advocate, and legal aficionado knows the result of this case.  However, very few of us know the amount of effort that went into building a case against Vick, collecting the evidence, attempting to rehabilitate the pit bulls that authorities were able to rescue, and finding these pit bulls new and loving homes.

Jim Gorant, a senior editor at Sports Illustrated, does a remarkable job of presenting these facts in his book The Lost Dogs.  The book leaves you feeling sickened that a man like Vick could be playing football again after a mere 19 months in prison, but also feeling revitalized to learn that so many of the pit bulls have survived what they were forced to endure.  Gorant pays credit where it is due: to the investigators who managed to obtain a near impossible warrant and eventually indicted Vick; to the shelters that helped care for the pit bulls after they were rescued; to the many people who assisted in rehabilitating the pit bulls; and to the pit bulls themselves.  Gorant reveals the true side of not only the Vick dogs, but also an entire breed.  Plainly stated, pit bulls are discriminated against, especially in the media.  This book takes a step in the right direction, clearing the name of a misunderstood and mislabeled breed.   Continue reading

Humans, Animals, Theology, Books

David Cassuto

Looking for a 10 Best list of books on the Theology of Human/Animal Relationships?  Look no further.  It’s here.

A Battle Won, Perhaps

Gillian Lyons

Following up on last week’s post, on Monday, September 27th Jon Kyl (R-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Richard Burr (R-NC) introduced legislation, an amendment to H.R. 5566, which will prohibit the sale of crush videos, meaning any film, video, or recording that depicts live animals being crushed, drowned, suffocated or impaled in a manner that would violate a criminal prohibition under Federal or State law. The good news is that a day later, on September 28th, this legislation was met with unanimous approval by the entire Senate.  While the legislation will now need to be reapproved by the House (which is very likely, due to the original H.R. 5566’s 416 Ayes to 3 Nays), this is a big step in infusing strength back into 18 U.S.C. § 48 after the Supreme Court’s decision in United States v. Stevens.  Continue reading

Mmmm, Meat Paste

David Cassuto

Whoa!  So this is what becomes Slim Jims, McNuggets, hot dogs, etc.  Get the full 411 here.

Mechanically Separated Chicken, from Fooducate, via Early Onset of Night

Dietary Guidelines — The Politics of Health

David Cassuto

From the Cynicism Desk:

The USDA is preparing to unveil  its most recent revision of its much maligned dietary guidelines.  Come December, we’ll see to what new levels of obfuscation and avoidance the good folks at USDA can aspire.  The lobbying is already ferocious.  According to the WaPo:

In public comments, the meat lobby has opposed strict warnings on sodium that could cast a negative light on lunch meats. The milk lobby has expressed concerns about warnings to cut back on added sugars, lest chocolate- and strawberry-flavored milks fall from favor. Several members of the Massachusetts congressional delegation also weighed in against added-sugar restrictions in defense of the cranberry.

Of course, amid all this self-interested carrying-on it’s hard to place the blame for the ever more incoherent guidelines solely on the Agency.  Elected officials are terrified of demanding anything that might be considered anti-meat or processed food.  Indeed, George McGovern arguably lost his job (as a senator) for recommending that Americans consume less red meat.  His comments generated a mad frenzy within in the cattle industry and he lost his seat in 1980 (he represented South Dakota). Traumatized by McGovernGate, the guidelines set what at the time was the gold standard for doublespeak by recommending that we eat “meat, poultry and fish that will reduce saturated-fat intake.”   Continue reading

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