Speciesism: If you aren’t angry, you aren’t paying attention

e5aa073b347532e09aee1b15f6b2414d

Branded sea lions – click image for report

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

If you aren’t angry, it’s possible that you aren’t concerned about speciesism. If you are concerned about speciesism but you’re not angry, you probably aren’t paying attention. Because lordy, speciesism is everywhere and so thoroughly normalized that it’s invisible in plain sight. Once you’ve seen it, though, you can’t un-see it, and then you’re screwed. Because how do you fight an injustice that’s been marketed to us–insidiously, with happy, smiling animals–since birth?

Now I know what you’re thinking–it’s not healthy to live in a state of perpetual, seething anger. And you’re right. That’s why I routinely alternate my seething anger with abject despair. Let’s take a gander at just a few episodes in that wildly-profitable, long-running series, “It’s a Speciesist Life.” But beware: you might end up seeing what others of us can’t un-see, and that changes everything.  Continue reading

The ‘Blackfish Effect’ at Work: Freedom for Orcas from SeaWorld San Diego?

Spencer Lo

Blackfish, an eye-opening documentary about the devastating consequences of keeping orcas in captivity, premiered a little more than a year ago, and since then, the remarkable outrage and debate it inspired has created waves of black lash against SeaWorld, from visible protests of the institution to successful pressures that resulted in embarrassing cancellations of scheduled musical performances. The ‘Blackfish Effect,’ with its growing momentum, will only continue. But how far will it go, and is real, tangible change for captive orcas achievable in the near future? Maybe yes—there is certainly good reason to hope. Continue reading

It’s June! Time to luv-a-turkey, hug-a-kitty, eat-yer-veggies…and panic!

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

June is upon us, and with it comes special day designations that prompt both cheering and jeering from the animal advocacy crowd. Ready? Let’s get start with the big, month-long picture.

June is Turkey Lovers Month! But sadly–and predictably–that “love” is gastronomic in nature, so we suggest lovin’ ‘em in a kinder, gentler manner. You’ve heard the myth that they’re so dumb they’ll drown looking up at the sky in a rainstorm? Huh-uh. “Smart animals with personality and character” is how one scientist describes turkeys. Downer alert: Watch Mercy for Animals’ undercover video filmed at a Butterball facility…no turkey lovers here.

If captive animals make you blue, you won’t be celebrating National Zoo and Aquarium Month.   Continue reading

Why International Trade is not Dolphin Safe

Seth Victor

You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.Dolphins in Net

Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though “harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act (originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.”  This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.

Continue reading

Life’s a beach–or an entangled beak (no more balloon releases!)

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Ocean Conservancy – click image

Michigan City, Indiana is a great hometown–a Great Lakes hometown. Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, we Michigan Cityzens were lucky to grow up basking on warm, “singing sand,” diving into big breakers (with dire warnings of the undertow looming large in childhood), and exploring the wild dunes that would eventually become the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On a recent trip home, I crammed in as many visits as possible to “my” great lake. Even Montana’s Big Sky country can’t quell the frequent longing for that spectacular lakefront, its reeling shorebirds, towering dunes, and waving marram grass. 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

Capitalism and captive marine mammals go hand in flipper

Click image for theme song

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Dillard’s department store has raised my ire. Again.  And again, swimsuits figure in.

The first time–several years ago now–a swimwear sale ad blew me out of the water with its sexualized portrayal of a six-year-old girl. The swimsuit itself was OK…well, except for the two big flowers printed strategically on the chest of the swimsuit top. That, combined with the exotic dancer pose the child was photographed in, and I was e-mailing Corporate Office in a hurry and a fury to suggest that their advertising department sorely needed some awareness-raising and sensitivity training.

This time, a quarter-page ad trumpets “Swim Day,” a swimsuit promotion running in conjunction with Discovery Cove in Orlando. Come in and try on a swimsuit! Register to win the Grand Prize and you could find yourself swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with rays, and hand feeding exotic birds. In the background behind the swimsuit model, four captive dolphins leap from the water in a synchronized stunt. 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

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

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.

Continue reading

The Carp Marches Ever Northward

David Cassuto

The Asian Carp continues its long march to the Great Lakes.  An invasive species that can reach 4 feet long and 100 lbs and consume up to 40% of its bodyweight daily, the carp will wreak havoc on the lakes’ ecosystem if and when it reaches there.  Currently, it’s in both the Mississippi and Illinois rivers and travelling northward.

This situation is generating both panic and inertia.  On the one hand are those who advocate severing all access points between the Mississippi basin and the lakes — arguing that the disastrous consequences of the carp’s reaching the lakes merit the drastic measures.  On the other are those who say that doing so would destroy jobs without guaranteeing that the carp will be prevented from reaching the lake.  It bears noting that the most recent carp find was only 6 miles from Lake Michigan.  This means that the fish may well have already reached the lake and that the parties could be arguing about whether to lock the door behind the intruder.   Continue reading

The Whale Killing Compromise Founders

David Cassuto

The perseverating continues about whether to `compromise´and allow some whaling in exchange for countries like Iceland, Norway and Japan agreeing to slaughter fewer whales in fewer places.  Even some major environmental organizations, including Greenpeace and the World Wildlife Fund, have signed on.  As Stephanie Ernst  points out, there is a dangerous ethical compromise in acquiescing to the killing of some in exchange for the survival of others.     Continue reading

Radioactive Fish

David Cassuto

There have been a number of developments on the agriculture front that I want to discuss but that will have to wait until things settle down around here at least a little bit.  In the meantime, here´s an interesting tidbit from today´s WaPo. 

Apparently, fish in the Connecticut river, in the New Hampshire/Vermont region, are testing positive for strontium-90 — a very dangerous radioactive isotope (it causes bone cancer and leukemia).  Some believe that the contamination comes from the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, which is in the midst of cleaning up its most recent tritium, cesium-137, zinc-65, and cobalt-60 leak.  Others say that it can´t be from Vermont Yankee and is most likely residual buildup from Chernobyl.  Or maybe Indian Point.          Continue reading

Does One Compromise Over Whale Slaughter?

David Cassuto

The hoo-ha is growing over the recent proposal by the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to lift the existing outright ban on whaling in exchange for the scofflaw nations (Japan, Norway & Iceland) ceasing  “scientific whaling” (in the case of Japan) and getting to kill more of some different kinds of whales (in the case of Norway & Iceland).   Scientific whaling is simply the slaughter of whales under the guise of research.  It’s a loophole in the IWC ban that insults the intelligence of anyone who believes that words (like science) ought to have meaning.   Last year, of the 1700 whales killed by the 3 whale-killing countries, roughly half were killed by Japan in the name of “science.”  Even the Japanese recognize the silliness of this approach.   Continue reading

Ocean Acidification and the Clean Water Act

David Cassuto

Great post over at Daily Kos about some tentative steps by EPA to regulate greenhouse gases using the Clean Water Act.  Oceans absorb roughly 1/4 of anthropogenic CO2.  The dissolved CO2 then forms carbonic acid, which lowers the pH of the seawater, which then causes (among other things) mass die-off of coral. 

Coral reefs are home to about 25% of marine species.  When they go, everything goes.  We don’t hear as much about ocean acidification as we should.  Maybe now we will.  In any event, if the agency goes forward with this initiative, we’ll certainly be hearing plenty of caterwauling from the deniers.

Stay tuned.

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

Newsflash: Dolphins are Smart

David Cassuto

This article discusses some recent scientific findings about the intelligence of dolphins and their ability to communicate and learn.  The researchers conclude that “it is morally unacceptable to keep such intelligent animals in amusement parks or to kill them for food or by accident when fishing.”

That’s nice, of course, but one wonders how many more such studies will be required before the obvious becomes too blatant to ignore.  Quite a few, apparently, if  the comments to the piece are any barometer.  My personal favorite:  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

Electrocuting Lobsters

David Cassuto

So here we have a device (which sells for £2,500 — or roughly $4,400) that kills lobsters almost instantly by electrocution rather than forcing them to endure the 3-4 agonizing minutes they typically spend being boiled or roasted alive.  Is this a step forward?  Will it lead to more lobster consumption — a prospect fraught with ethical and environmental complications — or will it simply ease the agony of those already destined for dinner plates?   Continue reading

Are Seahorses Becoming Extinct?

Elisa D’Ortenzio

Today, there are so many threats to the various ecosystems and the animals that live in them that it has become hard to keep track of them all.  One animal that seems to receive little attention is the seahorse, even as many believe the seahorse to be a flagship of endangered marine habitats of the world and indicators of the heath of coral reefs where they live.  The effect of their loss would cause an imbalance in the ecosystem creating lasting detrimental consequences as they are predators of bottom-dwelling organisms.

Seahorses are fish that have fascinated people due to their horse-shaped heads, kangaroo-like pouches, and monkey-like tails.  Still fascinating is that the male seahorses give birth to the offspring.  Every year about 20 million seahorses are harvested live from the world’s oceans.  The future of many species of seahorse are now in question as threats such as pollution, habitat loss and accidental fishing increasingly reduce their populations.  The biggest threat these fish face though, come from the unsustainable harvesting of seahorses for the aquarium trade, curio trade (dried and sold as souvenirs) and for use in traditional medicines.  Millions of seahorses, corals and other marine animals are collected alive and dried as souvenirs and utilized as curios with a high availability in beach resorts and shell shops around the world while the greatest number of harvested seahorses are imported to Asia.  Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,304 other followers