A (trophy animal) picture is worth a thousand (angry, violent) words

 

original

From Huffington Post; click image for article & original photo credit

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

One woman (sporting a Safari Club International cap), one gun, one dead giraffe. One pump-my-ego photo posted and then shared hundreds of times on animal rights Facebook pages, generating thousands of sad or angry comments.

Many–distressingly many–of the responses to these vile, celebratory trophy photos are vile and violent themselves. When the killer is a woman, the comments can also be terribly misogynistic: “Stupid brainless b*tch!” “This fat ugly b*tch should be shot!” “Shoot this b*tch!”  Continue reading

A tar sands skirmish for human & animal rights

megaloadprotest

Facing the monstrous tar sands machinery in Missoula, Montana: the author holds the “Tar sands kill all life” sign. Photo by Chris Lunn; click image for his photo gallery (must be logged in to Facebook)

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

Well I won’t back down, no I won’t back down.
You can stand me up at the gates of hell
But I won’t back down.
~Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers

Nothing says gates of hell like Alberta, Canada’s tar sands, often referred to as the most environmentally-destructive industrial project on earth. Plants, animals, land, people–all are laid to waste, incidental victims of the monstrous, insatiable fossil fuel machine. None will ultimately escape the havoc of climate change when the machine eventually comes home to roost with all of us. One of its many, grasping tentacles has already reached into my own western Montana neighborhood–and will likely return.

Continue reading

Merck Pledges to End Chimpanzee Testing

 

Seth Victor

 

Taking further steps in the right direction, Merck, one of the largest drug producers in the world, announced last month that it is ending research on chimpanzees. Kathleen Conlee, vice president of animal research issues for The HSUS said: “Merck’s new biomedical research policy will save chimpanzees from unnecessary and painful experiments. Merck’s decision, and that of several other pharmaceutical companies, sends a strong message that private industry is moving away from chimpanzee research as the government has.”

 

Merck has made this commitment while simultaneously stating, “The company’s mission is to discover, develop, manufacture and market innovative medicines and vaccines that treat and prevent illness. Animal research is indispensable to this mission.” While that quotation ominously suggests that other animals will continue to be a part of the company’s research, the more hopeful interpretation is that while Merck relies on animal testing under FDA regulations for its drugs and other products, it joins other pharmaceutical companies recognizing that even though chimps might be valuable to this research, their welfare is more important, and other ways to test the products should be utilized.

 

 

 

White tigers: Tragic–not magic

KennytigerKathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Kenny died in 2008. If you didn’t mark his passing (you probably didn’t even know about it), don’t feel bad. Kenny, you see, was not the beautiful white tiger on posters for glitzy magic acts. He wasn’t the star attraction drawing crowds of admirers to the zoo. As the product of unscrupulous white tiger breeding, Kenny’s life and death ran under the radar. It was only through the compassion of a wildlife refuge in Arkansas that he was able to live out his life in comfort and even found a modicum of fame (video)–one of the luckiest of the unlucky. He died at 10 years of age from cancer (source).   Continue reading

Animals of Interest

Nancy Rogowski

ElephantImageA recent edition of the ScienceTimes, a section of the NY Times includes several noteworthy animal articles. Elephants Get the Point of Pointing, by Carl Zimmer writes about a new research lead by Dr. Byrne’s suggesting elephants understand human pointing, a rare gift in the animal kingdom.   Dr. Byrne’s states, “Even our closest relatives, like chimpanzees, don’t seem to get the point of pointing.”  Researchers have done tests, such as putting food in one of two identical containers and then silently point at the one with food.  Primates and most other animals studied fail the test, some have done well, such as domesticated mammals, especially dogs.  These results have prompted researchers to speculate that during domestication animals evolve to become keenly aware of humans.  Dr. Byrne’s began to wonder if elephants would pass the pointing test, so last year one of his students went to Zimbabwe, and for 2 months tested 11 elephants.  The study found that 67.5% of the time elephants could follow the pointing.  Dr. Byrne’s would also like to study the pointing test on whales and dolphins but thinks “they make elephants look easy to work with.”

Think Elephant International, a not-for-profit organization that str

meekratsimage

ives to promote elephant conservation through scientific research and educational programming announced a study on April 17, 2013 co-authored by 12-14 year old students from East Side Middle School in NYC, revealing elephants were not able to recognize visual cues provided by humans, although they were more responsive to voice commends.  The study is a three-year endeavor to mooseimagecreate a comprehensive middle school curriculum that brings elephant into classrooms as a way to educate young people about conservation by getting them directly involved in work with endangered species. This research tested elephant pointing to find food hidden in one of two buckets, and the elephants failed this Continue reading

On Love and Polar Bears

Seth Victor

I’m going to keep this short and let others’ words speak for me.  Gus, the polar bear at the Central Park Zoo in NYC, was euthanized on August 27th. While reading about him, I found this article from 2011 when his companion Ida was euthanized because of liver disease. Diane Ackerman tries to glimpse into the emotions of Gus at that time, and raises many issues we’ve covered on the Blawg. Whether you accept that animals have emotions similar to ours, or believe that such thinking is the product of anthropomorphism, it’s an engaging meditation on the love we feel for animals, and the discouragement of trying to know what they feel. “We witness Gus’s grief and taste our own memories of love, loss and loneliness. Our wild heart goes out to him. Something deep inside us remembers being accompanied by other animals.”

A Response to Jeff and Joe Regarding Our Primary Right

by Carter Dillard

Sincere thanks to Jeff and Joe for their biting critique of the idea of a primary human right that guarantees humans access to wilderness and complete biodiversity. This response, which is geared for the audience of the blog generally, will divide their critique into eight points and respond to each (taking their points a bit out of order), before drawing back to the theme of this blog in order to explain why the right not only survives their appraisal, but can simultaneously satisfy environmental, human, and animal interests.

1. Primary in what sense, and based on what evidence?

Jeff raises a challenge to the idea of a primary right by arguing that the term implies universal acceptance. Because, Jeff argues, many people will reject the value of being alone in the wilderness the right cannot be universal and therefore fails. First, it’s not clear to me that the Tembé would not recognize something like a right to wilderness or the nonhuman, given their historic struggle to preserve the rainforest around them. Second, as Joe notes, whether the Tembé actually recognize the right and underlying value or not does not defeat the right, any more than Hutu leaders’ failure to recognize the universal right of all peoples to be free from genocide, and the GOP’s recent refusal to recognize universal rights for the disabled that trump parental authority, prove that those rights are wrong. As discussed below, this is in part because claiming a right is like saying “you ought to do this,” which cannot be proven wrong with the response “we don’t/won’t do that” (this is simply the difference between an “ought” and an “is”). The responding party might not do the thing or want to do the thing, but perhaps they still ought to. The universality of particular rights derives not from universal acceptance, but from logical arguments that deduce the particular rights from things all humans – because of certain social and biological shared characteristics – will value, whether they admit it or not, see e.g. the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).

Continue reading

Hey Chicago–animal suffering lies behind that scenic splendor

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Dear Chicago:

We need to talk. You can trust me–I’m practically a native daughter. Heck, from my hometown in Indiana, we can look across Lake Michigan and see your skyline (well, on a clear day). I’m a Cubs fan… ’nuff said! But I’ve lived in Montana for going on 14 years now, and if all this doesn’t qualify me to have a frank discussion with you about those tourism ads papering the city…I’m just sayin’.

Well I remember Chicago Tribune columnist Barbara Brotman’s mock hissy fit back in 2010 when Montana’s Office of Tourism started targeting the Windy City. She wrote:

The pictures plastered all over the CTA are bad enough. Majestic mountains, green valleys frosted with white snow, a turquoise glacial lake ringed by pine trees — it’s cruel, dangling that sort of thing in front of Chicago commuters packed glumly into “L” cars.

She went so far as to challenge Chicagoans to fight back with a “Take THAT, Montana” photo campaign (view photos here) wherein Tribune readers were to match Montana’s scenic glory, photo for photo, with their own Land of Lincoln natural splendor.    Continue reading

The wolverine: one gnarly dude…who needs our help

Click image for Gulo gulo natural history

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the stinkiest, snarliest, gnarliest, wildest of them all? Why, Gulo gulo–the amazing wolverine–of course!

And the gnarly little being needs our help within the next few days (5/6/13 deadline). Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll probably never see a wolverine in your lifetime, at least not outside of a zoo–and that’s a hideous thought for any wild animal, but especially for this wide-ranging, endlessly-moving dynamo. But even so–a mere few minutes to help save the wildest of the wild? A bargain at any price! Read on…   Continue reading

Golden eagles die from “snares upon theirs”

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Yesterday we awoke to the news that three golden eagles had been caught in trappers’ snares set in Montana east of the Divide. Two are dead; one requires surgery to remove the cable now embedded in her wing and shoulder. Whoever came upon the bird was carrying cable-cutters (likely the trapper, but this is unknown); that individual cut the cable but provided no assistance to the severely-injured bird. Thankfully, she’s now in the care of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman (visit their Facebook page, which is the source of the accompanying photo).

There is no defense for the use of snares. They are designed for one thing only: to provide animals with a cruel, terrifying, and gruesome death, the wire cable cutting deeper into their bodies as the noose tightens the more they struggle. Continue reading

The lion sleeps tonight–and so should you. List the lion!

Photo from Current Tonight, June 23, 2010Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

This post contains a call to action with an approaching deadline.

It’s a safe bet that when President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, African lions weren’t anywhere on his radar. “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” he wrote in his signing statement on December 28th. “It is a many-faceted treasure…”

Thirty-seven years later in 2011, a coalition led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare petitioned the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list Panthera leo leo under our nation’s ESA (find the petition here).  It lists the usual culprits–loss of habitat and loss of prey due to human activity–as serious threats to lion survival. Throw in human population growth, the bushmeat trade, civil unrest, and desertification, and the King of the Jungle is hurting. Lions have disappeared from 78% of their historic range–which was most of Africa with a few exceptions–very dry deserts and very wet forests.

But why should a foreign species be listed under America’s Endangered Species Act? Continue reading

How do you value an alpha female wolf?

PBS Nature-click

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

When you live in what feels like a war zone–the Northern Rockies states are waging war on their own native wildlife–it’s easy to forget that the act of killing doesn’t rule the roost everywhere. Occasionally something comes along that makes you believe there might be hope (even if it’s not your hope); that at least some place (though not your place), sanity–and maybe even respect for animals–prevails. Today it is this: Costa Rica, one of the planet’s most bio-diverse countries, banned sport hunting on December 10th. Granted, one quarter of Costa Rica’s land is already protected in parks and reserves, so hunting wasn’t a big economic driver to start with. But still. Continue reading

After a while, crocodiles

CROCODYLUS NILOTICUS

Seth Victor                                                 

Just in case you were worried that a python outbreak wasn’t enough, there’s another top predator in southern Florida. This past fall there have been sightings of Nile crocodiles south of Miami. This presents a bit of a conundrum for wildlife supervisors. You see the Nile crocodile is on international threatened lists, and is disappearing in its native habitat. Because Florida, however, is not its native habitat, and because the state already has to manage with non-native snakes eliminating the mammal population, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has authorized a state shoot-to-kill order. Though there are native crocodiles in Florida, the Nile crocodile is known to be fiercer and more deadly, and is one of the few animals left on the planet that still hunts humans.

While Nile crocodiles haven’t reached the infestation levels of the python, they are potentially more problematic in smaller numbers. FWC officers suspect that the crocodiles may have originated from an illegal captive breeding facility, but it is still unknown exactly from where they are coming, or how many there are.

Again we are faced with the same unresolved questions on how to handle non-native species that can drastically alter a habitat. Do we preserve a threatened species, one of the greatest and most resilient in history, or do we hunt down the crocodiles before they make other animals endangered or extinct? Or do we simply pit the pythons and crocs against each other in a winner-take-all showdown on prime time? Either way, it’s hardly an enviable decision for the FWC.

Grizzly psychosis at the zoo: There’s no place like home

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Circling Bear, left (emerging from shadow); Pacing Bear, right

“The animals in this zoo walk in circles.”

The boy, about eight years old, made this observation as he stood inches from a compulsively-circling grizzly, a thick wall of plexiglass between bear and child. He repeated it–now more question than statement–but neither parent responded. “The bear’s gone crazy from captivity,” I ventured in his direction. His mom agreed. “Yes, it’s so sad,” she said. “I feel sorry for them.” Meanwhile, the bear circled and circled while her sister paced a linear route back and forth, back and forth. Meanwhile, a lump was forming in my throat. Continue reading

The Seagull or the Whale?

Seth Victor

Seagulls around Argentina have become too crafty for their own good. Exhibiting behavior straight out of a Hitchcock movie, the gulls have figured out that if they peck at the skin of breaching right whales, they can open wounds on the whales, and then feast every time the cetaceans surface. Apparently this started with a few gulls, but they have spread the word, and now the birds pose a serious threat to the whales’ livelihood, especially the calves. Citing the danger to the whales, the Argentine government is now permitting people to shoot the gulls, and recover their bodies before they are ingested, before the whales migrate to safer seas. Environmentalist are upset with the decision, claiming that is it not the fault of the birds, so much as it is the fault of the open landfills in the area that have attracted them in the first place. Clean up the trash, and the birds will naturally disperse. The issue is also an economic one, as whale watching makes up a significant part of tourism revenue. Continue reading

Should We Leave Certain Species Behind?

Theologia Papadelias

Should we let certain endangered species die out? Scientists have long stated that biodiversity is significant in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but some are taking a seemingly unintuitive view that has been termed conservation triage. Conservation triage focuses resources on animals that can realistically be saved, and giving up on the rest. Those that fall into the too-expensive-to-save category might include the panda and the tiger.

Unfortunately, economic factors must be taken into consideration and some species require more money to save than others. For example, the California condor population saw an increase to 381, with 192 living in the wild, since 1987. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going. But is this program a success or merely a waste of finite resources? Continue reading

Striking the Balance Between Public Health and Wildlife Conservation Policy Concerns in Africa: Why Sustaining Wildlife is a Crucial Element

Jessica Witmer

          Bushmeat hunting is a growing and immediate threat to the future of endangered species in Africa.  While bushmeat may be crucial to the diet of indigenous people in rural areas where other food may not be easily available or affordable, the continuation of bushmeat hunting will ultimately lead to the species extinction.  Bushmeat hunting has already caused the ecological extinction of multiple large animals and it continues to reduce the biological diversity of forest ecosystems.  Decreasing the population of these species at increasing rates is neither beneficial for the ecosystem or for the people whose livelihood depends on the species sustainability.  A recent study from the University of California found that consumption of bushmeat is beneficial to children’s nutrition.  The researchers predicted that “loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia.”  The study also revealed that 20 percent of meat consumed by locals was made up of bushmeat, even though the hunting is illegal.  Continue reading

Republic of Marshall Islands Opens World’s Largest Shark Sanctuary

Gillian Lyons

We all know that sharks hold a certain fascination in the American mind.  I myself cannot drag myself away from the television during the Discovery Channel’s shark week.  What you may not know is that according to the IUCN, up to 30 percent of pelagic shark species (those that live in the “open ocean”) are considered threatened, due at least in part to a large commercial “sharking” industry, an industry which conservation organizations estimate kills 73 million sharks per year.

In an effort to battle the large, lucrative, “sharking” industry, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has recently announced that it was to be home to the largest shark sanctuary in the world.  In the 768,547 square mile sanctuary, commercial hunting for sharks is banned, as is the sale of shark products.  A violation of these bans can result in fines ranging from 25,000-200,000 dollars. Continue reading

Feral cats: The government fix–or the humane fix?

www life with cats.tv

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

October 16th is National Feral Cat Day. That’s just under a month out, but forewarned is forearmed, and if feral cats aren’t on your radar now, perhaps they will be.

Feral cats (also called community cats) weren’t on my radar until my cousin Beth, a feral cat activist in Indiana, e-mailed to ask that I contact federal officials (via an action alert from Best Friends) about the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s role in undermining community trap-neuter-return–or release–(TNR) programs. Continue reading

8.7 million and counting….

Gillian Lyons

A recent New York Times article, published in late August, discussed a new study, which estimated the number of species living on the Earth to be approximately 8.7 million, give or take 1.3 million.  To me, this number seemed astronomical (though I sometimes feel that there are 8.7 million different species of bugs that manage to get into my house every week).

After reading a few articles on the study, something got me thinking.  In one particular article, it is noted that one of the study’s authors feels that population estimate studies are particularly important due currently accelerated rates of extinction, brought about by a host of human activities.  This piqued my curiosity.  With 8.7 million estimated species on the earth, just how do the extinction rates measure up?  I decided to check this out. Continue reading

Elephants in the News…

Gillian Lyons

It’s been an active two weeks for African Elephants in the world news.  Here’s the round-up, both good and bad:

Early last week, NGOs including Elephant Family released a report discussing the soaring illegal ivory trade in China.  According to the report, Chinese demand for ivory has increased dramatically over the past few years due to the country’s recent economic boom.  The report states that the number of ivory items on sale in China has doubled since 2004, and that approximately 90% of all ivory sold in the country has been obtained illegally.   The report, which has received significant attention in the news, has prompted ivory researchers to beseech the Chinese government to tighten enforcement of ivory regulations. Continue reading

Wolves in the northern Rockies: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

ID F&G

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Until the next legal dust-up, the northern Rocky Mountain states have new wolf hunting rules. Bidding farewell to Endangered Species Act protection means the fur will fly and wolves will die. And get this–Montana, the state that attempted to legalize big game spear hunting this past legislative session–is by far showing the most restraint. Wyoming and Idaho? Yikes. Continue reading

Wolverines — Endangered but Not “Endangered”

David Cassuto

And speaking of the Endangered Species Act…

This just in:

After a thorough review of all the available science, the Fish and Wildlife Service has determined that the contiguous United States population of wolverine should be protected under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). However, the rulemaking to propose ESA protections for the wolverine will be delayed while we work on listing proposals for other species in greater need. The wolverine will be added to the list of candidates for ESA protection. As a candidate species, the wolverine will not receive protection under the ESA; however, we will review its status annually and will continue to work with landowners and partners to implement voluntary conservation measures.

The results of status review indicate that climate warming is the primary threat to wolverine. Our evaluation found that the effects of climate warming are serious but so far have not resulted in any detectable population effects to the species. Because the threat of climate warming is not imminent, we will use our resources to work on listing determinations for species at greater risk of extinction.

So, what does this all mean?  It means that the Fish & Wildlife Service, whose finding is quoted above, has determined that wolverines meet the criteria for listing under the Act but that no action will be taken right now because other species are a higher priority.  Continue reading

Wolves, Laws and Parochialism

David Cassuto

I would like to say a few more words about the so-called “State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act and its stated intent to strip wolves of all Endangered Species Act protections.  While I have no reason to assume this bill will pass (are you listening, Congress?), the fact that officials elected to national office could propose such a thing underscores much of what’s wrong with, well, with everything.

As an initial matter, wolves pose little threat to people.  In the 230+ year history of the United States, the number of wolf attacks can probably be counted on one person’s fingers and toes.  The number of fatal attacks is far fewer.  Wolves do, however, sometimes eat livestock.  Since their reintroduction (emphasis on re- introduction because they used to live there until we exterminated them) into the Northern Rockies, ranchers have raised a royal ruckus because they occasionally lose animals to wolves.  Rather than treat this as a cost of doing business, ranchers argue that the wolves’ existence constitutes an unwelcome intrusion into the natural order of things.  This despite the fact that the wolves used to inhabit the region in far greater numbers than the 1700 or so that currently exist there and that ranching (and the factory farming that it supports) has caused widespread damage to the region’s ecosystem.           Continue reading

Which Animals Matter (yet again)?

Seth Victor

To paraphrase the oft quoted excerpt from Animal Farm, all cute and fuzzy animals are equal, but domesticated cute and fuzzy animals are more equal than others. This sentiment was yet again demonstrated over the last week. In one corner, we have human pets, who are mercilessly being tortured for the pleasure of a rather repugnant fetish in crush videos. After U.S. v. Stevens struck down a law aimed a regulating depictions of cruelty, Congress quickly passed a narrower bill that was signed into law by President Obama on Friday. As reported by ALDF, “the more narrowly written law that emerged makes it a crime to sell or distribute videos showing animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury. It exempts depictions of veterinary and husbandry practices, the slaughter of animals for food, as well as depictions of hunting, trapping or fishing.” Hopefully the narrower scope will survive the inevitable legal challenges.

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Bill Would Strip Wolves of ESA Protection — Forever

Apparently still traumatized by their experiences reading Little Red Riding Hood as children, 8 members of Congress  have introduced a bill called the State Sovereignty Wildlife Management Act.  The sole purpose of HR 6485 is to render any listing of wolves as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act legally irrelevant.

You can’t  make this stuff up.

Read an informative post here.

Some Thankful Sea Lions

Gillian Lyons

According to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, since 2008 40 California Sea Lions have been removed from the Bonneville Dam area (which straddles the Columbia River between Oregon and Washington.) 25 of these sea lions were euthanized, 10 were given to aquariums and 5 were captured and subsequently died (of unspecified causes.)  Why was such a charismatic species being systematically removed from the area?  The sea lions feed on spring chinook salmon and steelhead when the fish become stymied by the Dam and such action was needed, the agency claimed, to protect the endangered and threatened fish runs.  Apparently, however, NMFS determined that only those sea lions that were “persistent offenders” and were caught repeatedly eating salmon or steelhead deserved the “removal” sentence, and as of March 2010, the agency had a list of 64 sea lions eligible to be euthanized for such behavior.         Continue reading

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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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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Research Hunts & Conservation Hunts: New Ways to Fetishize Wolf Slaughter

David Cassuto

Not too long ago, I blogged about the duplicity of Japan’s “research” hunting of whales.  The practice is little more than a disingenuous attempt to circumvent the global ban on whale killing by pretending the slaughter has some scientific purpose.  I called on the rest of the world to repudiate such tactics and to hold them up to public scrutiny and scorn.

Then, a few weeks ago, a federal judge in the U.S.  ruled that gray wolf hunts in the Northern Rockies violated the Endangered Species Act.  Guess what then happened:  U.S. wildlife officials proposed a “research hunt” to kill the wolves. Apparently, their idea was that it was okay to kill listed species as long as you claimed a scientific reason for doing so.  You know, just like they do in Japan with the whales. Continue reading

A New & Welcome Chapter in the Wolf Saga

David Cassuto

I’ve blogged a fair bit about the ill-advised delisting of gray wolves as endangered species in the northern Rockies, as well as about the lawsuit that followed.  When last we left the story, the district court had denied a preliminary injunction that would have stopped the wolf hunts that subsequently took place in Montana and Idaho.  The judge did indicate, though, that the plaintiffs had a strong chance of prevailing on the merits (the standard for a preliminary injunction is formidably high, as discussed here).               Continue reading

Help Wanted: Herpetofauna Attorney

David Cassuto

Are you a herpetofauna attorney?  Do you want to be?  Do you know anyone who is?  Or, like me, do you just like saying “herpetofauna attorney?”  In any case, you may be interested in the job listing below with the Center for Biological Diversity

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How About You?

 Seth Victor

I am in San Diego, CA, a legendary city named after majestic sea creatures. I’ve enjoyed some of the great sights, but I would have been remiss not to visit the “World Famous” San Diego Zoo. I did so with some hesitation (and with a certain singer in my head). I was previously under the impression that the San Diego Zoo was more like a wildlife safari, where the people are in the cage moving in the environment. I was disappointed to find out that it is not. The Wild Animal Park of which I was thinking is a totally different place. The zoo is a rather nice zoo. It emphasises its conservation of endangered and threatened species. Zoos, however, are a contentious issue for many in the animal rights world. The question is whether animal exploitation is acceptable when the purpose is to bring the animals closer to humans. That’s a simplistic way of phrasing it, since circuses also bring animals closer to people, but are not something to celebrate. Yet many view the boredom and enclosed lives of animals in zoos just as poorly, arguing that media sources such as documentaries bring animals to life in a way that does not cause them suffering. 

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The Brown Pelican — Another Gulf Casualty

David Cassuto

Pesticides nearly wiped out the brown pelican during the 1960s.  With great care and lots of luck, the species recovered from the brink of extinction.  Now, thanks to BP and our national petroleum addiction, it’s back.

Indian Point Violates the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

From the Finally Smelling the Decaf Desk: NY State’s Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) has ruled that the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant (located just north of NYC) violates the Clean Water Act.  The plant’s cooling technology, which has been obsolete for decades, kills so many fish and contaminates so much water that it cannot be relicensed without a substantial retrofit.  Switching the plant over to modern cooling methods will cost over $1 billion and will require a significant shutdown. 

The plant currently uses “once-through technology.”  This means that it takes in 2.5 billion gallons of water per day– more than twice the average daily consumption of New York City – and turns it into steam, which then cools the reactors.  The hot water is then pumped back into the river.   Continue reading

CITES Folderol Continued

David Cassuto

The banner times at the CITES Meeting continue.  No protection for sharks either.  Earlier in the week, delegates declined to protect several key species of coral.  And, of course, let’s not forget last week´s debacle with the bluefin tuna and the polar bear.   Continue reading

(Another) Bad Week for Polar Bears and Tuna

David Cassuto

It’s been quite a week over at the meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES)Up for discussion was a ban on hunting polar bears and bluefin tuna.  The discussions yielded some predictably (and yet still astonishingly) shortsighted conclusions.

The delegates rejected a ban on polar bear hunting because “hunting is not the most serious threat the polar bear faces” (recall that the bear was listed as endangered last year because of the pressures created by climate change and the consequent loss of icepack).  Here’s a simple logical sequence: Hunting kills bears.  If people stopped hunting them that would be one less thing killing bears.  Unfortunately, this reasoning did not carry the day.  Rather, opponents successfully argued that there is no point to killing fewer bears until we know for certain that we won’t kill them some other way. Follow this reasoning with me if you will.  It is like refusing to treat your compound fracture until you’re certain that there exists a cure for your brain tumor.    Continue reading

Why It’s Not About the Elephants

David Cassuto

Here now, a few words about the Ringling Brothers case.  The suit focused on the treatment of Asian elephants – an endangered species – by the circus.  Much credible evidence suggests that the elephants were mistreated, both by intent (using bullhooks to “train” them) and by the rigors of the circus life, a life which confined them for much of their lives, prevented them from socializing and from moving freely about and generally forced them to live counter to their instincts and nature.  These allegations and others seemed to place the circus in violation of the Endangered Species Act (ESA), whose “Take” provision (Section 9) prohibits the “take” of any endangered species. 16 U.S.C. § 1538(a)(1)(B).

The term “take,” as used in the ESA, includes actions that “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in any such conduct.” 16 U.S.C. § 1532(19). The Fish and Wildlife Service defines “harm” to include any act that “actually kills or injures wildlife,” including actions that “significantly impair[ ] essential behavioral patterns.” 50 C.F.R. § 17.3. “Harass” under the ESA means: an intentional or negligent act or omission which creates the likelihood of injury to wildlife by annoying it to such an extent as to significantly disrupt normal behavioral patterns which include, but are not limited to, breeding, feeding, or sheltering.  In sum, the Supreme Court has made clear that the ESA defines “take”  “in the broadest possible manner  to include every conceivable way in which a person can ‘take’ or attempt to ‘take’ any fish or wildlife.’ “ Babbitt v. Sweet Home Chapter of Cmtys. for a Greater Or.,515 U.S. 687, 704 (1995).

On the face of it, the allegations regarding the treatment of the elephants land squarely within the scope of behavior prohibited by the ESA.  This lawsuit marked the first time the ESA had been invoked to cover the treatment of performing elephants.  I do not here have time to summarize the merits and facts of the case; you can read more about it here and here and elsewhere.  I must focus on the procedural posture of the case since it ultimately proved dispositive.   Continue reading

Desert Rock Power Plant to Be Reassessed in Light of Threat to Fish

David Cassuto


From the Things that Never Would Have Happened Under W Desk:

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has withdrawn its Biological Assessment and the  EPA has also withdrawn the air quality permit they respectively issued last summer for the Desert Rock coal-fired power plant sited for the Navajo Nation in the Four Corners region of New Mexico.  The reason(s): concerns about the impact of heavy metals on two species of endangered fish in the San Juan River.

Sometimes I have to read news like this a few times and remember that the long, savage assault on the natural environment that was 2000-08 has indeed come to a close.  Continue reading

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