Animal rights Halloween hazards: Candy corn, chocolate milk, and squid ink pasta with baby octopus

Ghostly octopus: 10 incredibly strange cephalopods – click image

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Ever notice how those “scariest animal” lists that appear around Halloween (bats! spiders! snakes! sharks!) always omit the most truly frightening candidate–Homo sapiens? I mean, what could be scarier than realizing you’re of the same species as the callous, wolf-killing Idahoan who twirls his gun and revels in his self-congratulatory “John Wayne sh*t” while he films the animal suffering in death throes?!? Yikes.   Continue reading

Harming animals to help humans: When charity isn’t charitable redux

Impala and friend – click image

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Can the act of killing an animal in Africa help addicted, teen mothers in Montana? Sadly, yes. That’s just the crazy, speciesist world we live in–the one created by us, for us.

Though humans today and forever have found divisions–think race, religion, country, tribe–over which to oppress and kill each other, one thing that unites us categorically is our species, particularly in relation to other animals. It’s us against them, or us over them–the human animal lording it over all “lower” animals. Except for those who have value to us as “pets,” the idea of noblesse oblige doesn’t cross species lines. What some of us recognize as brutal, self-serving exploitation of the other animal nations is seen, by many others, as the natural, beneficial order of things. Ain’t that how it goes with the privileged class?!?    Continue reading

A tale of two wildlife babies–and human motives for good and bad

Photo: Four Rivers Fishing Co. via AP

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

A newborn moose calf. A fast-moving river swollen with spring runoff. But for the presence of humans willing to intervene–a fishing outfitter and his client–the calf’s probable drowning in Montana’s Big Hole River would have passed unnoticed. Mom Moose–she herself struggled against the current–would have spent frantic moments scouring the riverbank. And because grief is not the exclusive domain of Homo sapiens, it can’t be said, categorically, that she would not have grieved the loss of her little one.  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

Departures, arrivals, & taxidermy: Welcome to our neck of the woods

AP photo – R. Millage

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

In these troubled times, we’ve come to expect the steely-eyed gaze of TSA screeners and security personnel following us in every airport, everywhere. But what you might find shocking is the glassy-eyed gaze you’ll get from wild animals when you visit Missoula, Montana’s international airport. Rest assured, they won’t charge, butt, or trample if you forget to put your 3-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer in your quart Ziploc. Firmly affixed to the wall as trophies, they are present simply to say (albeit wordlessly), “Welcome to Montana, pardner.” Continue reading for further details on this eternally-mute welcoming committee–after a few words about the all-too-prevalent attitude (let’s call it speciesist) that recruited them for the job.    Continue reading

All things are connected: Finding truth in a fake speech

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

“What is man without the beasts? If all the beasts are gone, man would die from a great loneliness of spirit. For whatever happens to the beasts, soon happens to man. All things are connected.”

Never did a phony speech ring so true. By now we all know (don’t we?) that these words–and that whole web of life riff–come from a fake speech attributed to Suquamish chief Seattle. Its falsified provenance has been exposed many times over, but its staying power persists on posters, T-shirts, bumper stickers, garden plaques (I have one, a gift), in a children’s book–and in hearts. We want to believe that a seer, wise and eloquent (which Seattle was for a fact), speaks to us so poignantly about the strong bond between all species: our irrevocable connection, our shared fate. That a mid-19th-century visionary addressed us directly in the early 1970s–just when our environmental movement was taking off (imagine that!)–and continues speaking ever more urgently in these rapidly-warming, species-depleting 21st-century days. 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

Empathy override begins early with gigging and plinking

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Hunting season starts with a bang…and ends with a long, relieved sigh such as we breathed one-half hour after sunset on Sunday. Animal advocates–probably pretty much everywhere, but definitely here in Montana–hunker down, grit our teeth, avoid favorite hikes in the wilds, avoid the newspaper, and count down the days until the elk and deer–and this year, wolf–slaughter ends.

October 18th & 19th, the two days prior to the deer and elk season opener, were designated Youth Hunting Days (deer hunting only for kids 12 to 15, though some aged 11 can participate depending on birth date) and coincide with the state’s no-school teachers’ professional development days. Kids 12 to 17 purchasing their first hunting license don’t actually have to raid their piggy banks–the license is given to them, a gift from the state, perhaps in a bid to cultivate youth ambassadors  for hunting’s declining numbers. (See a previous discussion of youth hunting elsewhere at Animal Blawg.)

Conventional wisdom maintains that small kids feel a natural bond with animals, but some research indicates that empathy for animals increases starting in 2nd grade and ethical concerns starting in 8th grade. Continue reading

Speciesism in three uneasy pieces

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

I don’t read the morning paper anymore so much as I confront it. What will it be today–a romantic, river-runs-through-it feature on catch-and-release fly fishing? Gloating trophy shots of dudes in hunter orange and the ungulates they conquered with high-powered rifles? Another guest opinion column defending trapping as a management tool for a renewable resource? (Or, in the case of wolves, as suppression of unwanted competition for the aforementioned ungulates?)

Maybe a photo of a child clinging to a sheep in a mutton bustin’ contest? An article on taxidermy, horse racing at the fairgrounds, or a feature on  the derring-do of bullfighters? (You used to know them as rodeo clowns, but they’ve come up in the world.) A full-page ad for a local ammo manufacturer featuring teenage girls and their African safari kills? Ice fishing tourney stats? No matter the season, there’s always a reason for animal exploitation–and someone willing to talk about it, someone ready to report it, and someone eager to read about it.

Within four days recently, a trio of items appeared in the paper to perfectly illustrate the speciesism that so naturally saturates the human experience. Whether for entertainment, convenience, or greed and entitlement, we human animals are a speciesist species. 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

Of Easter hams and meatless fish

Google Images

Kathleen Stachowski
Other Nations

‘Tis the Easter season. This is apparent thanks to the frequency with which supermarket advertising circulars appear, each and every one featuring the dead, sliced body of a pig front and center. How else to celebrate the Season of Renewed Life?

Indeed. Let’s sit down to a meal of flesh from an intelligent, sentient being who was brought into the world to suffer a hideous, hellish life and die a cruel, industrial death solely to grace our tables as we give thanks to the Lord of compassion for His sacrifice born of love…and the miracle of Easter. Amen!

If Jesus ate meat at the Last Supper, it would have been lamb. Jewish Passover traditions call for lamb, and so do most European traditions. But, in north Europe pigs were always important. Hams, from pigs slaughtered in the winter, then salted and smoked were ready to eat in the spring-before fresh meats were available. This is especially true in North America where lamb was never an important meat.  ~Food Historian Bruce Kraig, WLS-TV Chicago

Lambs all over North America must wipe their woolly brows in relief every Easter: Whew, dodged a bullet! But I digress. Continue reading

Harming animals to help humans: when charity isn’t charitable

Pigs in gestation crates: http://www.all-creatures.org/

Kathleen Stachowski    Other Nations

There’s something terribly uncomfortable about commenting on people and groups doing charitable, humanitarian work where animal exploitation figures in–even if only remotely or tangentially. It feels like badmouthing Santa or ripping on Mother T. Because oppression of other animal species is so thoroughly woven into the fabric of our lives, it’s considered normal or merely goes unrecognized. You know from the get-go that your comments will be perceived as criticism. The nuances of the discussion will be lost. The defensive accusation, “You care more about animals than people,” will come blasting your way to shut down further discussion. Some things shouldn’t be questioned. Period. Continue reading

Sexism, ageism, speciesism: To fight one -ism, must we embrace others?

Would you card this woman?

Kathleen Stachowski     Other Nations

It was sheer curiosity that drove me to it. Honest! Saw a link, clicked, ended up at PETA Prime scoping out the “Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50″ contest. As a vegan over 50–and a curious one at that–it made perfect sense to check it out. Perfect sense, and who’s abashedly defensive?!? Ha ha.

But what is PETA Prime, I wondered–AARP for animal rights activists? The Baby Boomers’ PETA? Although any mention of age is hard to find, the model at the top of the page has laugh lines and silver hair, and at the “about” page there’s this: “Let’s celebrate the wise people we have become and learn to make kind choices together.” Ah, yes, “the wise people we have become.” Collecting all that wisdom took us around the block a time or two.

Continue reading

Steamed and boiled alive: Sentience won’t save crabs

NOAA photo

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

I’m steamed. Simmering. Approaching a boil. Turning red. Feeling crabby as all get-out.

Over what, you ask? Over crabs. Yeah, those funky, scuttling crustaceans. Not that I ever felt much affinity for crabs. They and their brethren seemed so alien–so lacking in mammalian familiarity (claws! shells! eye stalks!)–that it was hard to muster much of a connection. But that was then. Continue reading

Greed

Seth Victor

            Thank goodness we live in a world of endless and unlimited resources. If it weren’t for that, I might be worried about the way we are treating the earth.  Man, if I were to suddenly find out that the populations humans recklessly destroy were unable to immediately regenerate, I think that would be a very inconvenient truth.

            Assuming for a horrid second that this hypothetical world is grossly similar our own, hunting and fishing in this world represent the sin of greed. Let me begin by clarifying that I am aware of the arguments for sustainable hunting, both for the survival of the hunter, and the population stability of the prey. I am ignoring these arguments for now. My brief response is that starvation is not a reality faced by most hunters I know, as they still supplement their diets with CAFO-produced meat, and the overpopulation of deer and black bears, at least here in New Jersey, could be easily solved by the reintroduction of natural predators (wolves) and stronger regulations against sprawling subdivisions (like the one I guiltily live in), respectively.    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

Survey Says: 100% Mercury Contaminated Fish

David Cassuto

In case you were thinking of celebrating the efficacy of the Clean Air Act and/or the Clean Water Act, consider this: a recent study by the U.S. Geological Service revealed mercury contamination in 100% of the fish tested from 291 freshwater streams in the United States. 

That is not a typo. 

Every single one of the fish sampled was contaminated by mercury, a potent neurotoxin.  Over a quarter contained levels exceeding what the EPA considers to be safe.  Some of the highest concentrations of mercury appeared in fish taken from coastal “blackwater” streams of North and South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Louisiana — undeveloped, wooded areas  — areas where people looking for clean air and water might look to go.  Apparently, such characteristics facilitate the conversion of mercury from its inorganic form in the atmosphere to a more toxic organic form, methylmercury, which accounts for at least 95 percent of the mercury found in fish.

All this might make you wonder where all that mercury comes from.  Answer: coal-fired power plants (and mining).     Continue reading

The Animated Fried Fish: The Latest Development in Animal Cruelty

Irina Knopp

Tired of those boring fish in the lake and that bland fried fillet you had at the local fast food restaurant? Well come on down to China and combine the two! Get the fun of torturing a live fish with the satisfaction of getting to eat it at the same time!

Sarcastic venting aside, a video has been circulating Youtube depicting a fish that was fried alive. The fish remains living for a few minutes after it is put on the plate. In the background you can hear the people at the table giggling as they poke the fish that is desperately gasping for air (or asking for someone to put it out of its misery?).   Continue reading

“One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, No Fish”

Jennifer Church

This Monday, the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), the international body that sets annual tuna fishing limits, announced a reduction in the fishing quota of the Bluefin Tuna.  However, most scientists agree that the reduction does not go far enough to save bluefin tuna from near extinction. The EU, US and Japan have decided to limit the 2010 catch quotas to 13,500 tons.  Catches were lowered from 28,500 tons to 22,000 this year. Scientists say that is still 7,000 tons over what they would advise.

A single bluefin tuna can sell for $100,000 and is traditionally used for sashimi.  Overall, it’s a billion dollar global business that is driven by an appetite for tuna, especially in Japan.  The bluefin population is less than a fifth of what it was in the 1970s, making it one of the most threatened fish in the sea.  Illegal overharvesting is the main cause of the bluefin’s sharp population decline.  Many scientists urged the ICCAT to accept nothing less than a fishing quota of zero, however the commission has never reduced the allowable catch by as much as scientists recommended (See the blog post written last year regarding this very issue.)  Now many fear the species is inevitably headed toward extinction.

Continue reading

Fish Feel Pain; Now What?

fishhookGuest blogger: Elaine Hsaio

One of the most common arguments for not eating meat is animal suffering, but this rationale all too often stops short at recognizing the pain of other beings.  Common example: pescatarianism.  Fish don’t feel pain or experience suffering, so we can continue to eat fish despite having given up meat because big brown cow eyes and screaming pigs break our hearts.  A recent study published by Applied Animal Behaviour Science, indicates that not only do fish feel pain, but physical experiences of pain actually alter their future behaviors:

http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0506-hance_fishpain.html

So, if fish feel pain, does that change things?

Maybe a few pescatarians might reconsider their position, but those looking to continue justifying their dietary choices tend to respond with the question – What about plants, do they feel pain?  Touche, so become a Jain.  More power to you if you have that kind of discipline and are lucky enough to live in an environment that’s still healthy enough to sustain you.  Or can transcend geopolitical borders to follow migratory seasonal harvests, but few on this planet hold such golden passports.

So if that’s too difficult, then consider what’s necessary.  From what I understand, homo sapiens have (one of) the most diverse diets on this planet (we can consume a greater variety of things than most other species for our energy and subsistence).  And supposedly we have consciousness, civilization and free(ish) will.  So, I can choose what to subsist off of….and I know that I can obtain my sustenance – vitamins, proteins, all that good stuff – from a solely flora-based diet.  Not true of a fauna-based diet.  Oftentimes, it is also possible to harvest from plants in a way that you can’t from animals, i.e. you can take parts without killing the whole.  Many of those parts would separate of their own means anyway, maybe to nourish the Earth….or maybe to nourish me.

Either way, plant or animal, food needs to be rethought….we are over 6.7 billion mouths to feed and growing.  Malthus bodes mal….

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