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

All Volunteer Military? Not If You’re a Dolphin

Spencer Lo

Does the United States still conscript people into the military? Yes—the case of military dolphins

Both from a strategic and moral standpoint, it is no surprise that when military action is contemplated, governments tend to favor effective tactics involving the least risk to human lives. Even better are effective tactics involving low risk to all human lives. If the goal of the military action is justified, what could be morally problematic with using such means? These widely held notions likely motivated the U.S. Navy’s recent contemplated use of military dolphins in the ongoing conflict between Iran and United States.

As reported in the New York Times, Iran has threatened to block the Strait of Hormuz, a crucially strategic waterway where 16 million barrels of oil flow through every day, and it can do so in relatively short time by deploying mines. U.S. governmental officials warned that Iran’s threat, if carried out, would cross a “red line” provoking a military response. Should the situation escalate to that point, the U.S. military would need to deal with the problem of how to detect (and then destroy) the mines, for which there is a time tested solution: mine-detecting dolphins. Once detected, the job of destroying the mines falls to human divers. Nonetheless, even though military dolphins operate only in a secondary role, the risk of harm to them is very real; they could accidentally set off live mines and, more seriously, prompt the Iranians to intentionally target them and other dolphins in the area. Still, is there a moral problem here? In addition to the strategic merits of the tactic, wouldn’t the very low risk to humans fully justify using dolphins in this way? Continue reading

Dolphins Dead Following Rave at Swiss Aquarium

Josh Loring

Police are investigating the deaths of two dolphins from a Swiss aquarium.  The dolphins died following a techno rave that was held at the facility earlier this month.  The first dolphin, Shadow, was found dead directly following the event, which led experts to suspect the cause of death was stress related due to the deafening music being played in close proximity.

It has been well documented that loud music is known to bother dolphins and other marine mammals in captivity who navigate by echolocation, which entails bouncing sonar waves off other objects to determine location, shape and distance.  The confined tank walls create an environment where the reverberations from their own sonar cause great stress.  Back in October, Senior Vice President of PETA, Dan Matthews, attended a fundraiser at the Georgia aquarium and witnessed the effect first hand.  While observing beluga whales, he witnessed one “squirming and twisting” more than the others.  He asked one of the aquarium staff members whether the music bothered them, which she replied, “Well, yes.  Especially the males―as soon as the music starts pounding, they go nuts and start attacking the harbor seals in the tanks.”  Continue reading

Thinking About Elephants

Bruce Wagman

I have been thinking about elephants.  The recent disappointing judgment in the hard-fought Ringling Brothers case is really only one reason.  I’ve been involved in a few nonlitigation matters trying to help make life better for elephants in zoos in different states, have visited the elephants at PAWS in California, and have spent many hours watching the amazing interactions and overwhelming magic of hundreds of elephants in several Tanzanian parks.  There are many elephant experiences that stand out in my mind, including on the one hand one long heating-up morning when we spent about two hours watching about 220 elephants of all ages and sizes (as best as we could count) in one spot in Tarangire National Park, and on the other being shocked into outrage when I learned about the crushing pain they suffer by virtue of almost every confinement situation in America, the literal disintegration of their foot bones as they are forced to stand on them, in some of the worst pain one could imagine, without any relief.  When it comes to elephants in zoos and circuses, the news is grim. 

I had to learn the science of elephants for my job, and that requirement is one of the fantastic things about practicing animal law, especially for someone like me.  That is, in order to do a good job, I am compelled to learn not just the law, but often the biology, physiology, psychology and behaviors of whatever species is at the center of the case I am litigating.  For me that is turning work into fun or at least intellectual exploration, which is fun for a law geek like me.  Because there are “cat people” and “dog people” and “chimp people;” and when on safari in Africa some people mainly want to see the big cats; others the birds.  There is an inherent speciesism, just like when we pet a cat and eat a cow, or think it is bad to eat dog because we do not do it, but it is okay to eat a pig because we do.  But I’m a garbage-can animal lover, meaning I love them all.  So when I am in Africa, ask me what I want to see, and I don’t care, as long as it’s wild.  People say warthogs are ugly and I think they are beautiful, perfect.  And when I am home ask if I prefer my dogs or cats, and my response is: “anything nonhuman will do, I love them all.”  So the requirement that I learn about some species or other is just a joy, and something I have done literally dozens of times over the course of my career.  And you really cannot adequately litigate for animals if you don’t understand them – as well as the law.  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

A Victory for “Flipper”

dolphin-01Chris Cuomo

Each year hunters in the western Japanese town of Taiji hunt and kill over 2,000 dolphins by hand.  Activists worldwide have attempted to end this gruesome display of animal cruelty, but have been unsuccessful. Under International Whaling Commission regulations, whaling is banned, but the hunting of dolphins is still permitted.   Apparently Japan has also found a loophole that would allow them to kill whales under the guise of scientific research. Fortunately, through the use of hidden microphones and cameras, it appears that the movie industry has succeeded in giving the public a firsthand account of what actually goes on behind closed doors. The 2009 movie “The Cove” captured on film the true story behind the annual slaughter ritual of dolphin hunting in Taiji.

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Misplaced Activism?

I found the trailer for The Cove the other night while browsing the apple.com/trailers. You can find it here.  I’m encouraged that this is on the front page of the trailers page; it gives me hope that it might been seen by more people than it would if it were advertised only in independent movie houses (though how wide the release will actually be, I am not sure).  Wide exposure appears to be the hope of the film makers, based on their comments in the trailer. The catch is that getting an American audience to pay attention isn’t really the point. Yes, exposure is important, and creating concern is an essential part of the animal rights movement. Unless, however, it goes to the next step, where voters put pressure on Congress to restrict trade with Japan in retaliation for the dolphin hunt, is there much point?

This slaughter already had decent media exposure in 2007 when Hayden Panettiere took part in an attempt to stop an annual dolphin slaughter in Taiji, Wakayama, Japan, the target of The Cove. The Japanese media criticized the event as a condemnation of their culture. It’s a fair point, actually. I don’t support dolphin slaughter, but we as Americans are being rather hypocritical (how unexpected), denouncing the Japanese hunt, but allowing subsistence whaling and pouring tax dollars into factory farming of both mammals and fish. Once again, we are arbitrarily conferring elevated rights to a species because of their intelligence or “cuteness,” while blindly suppressing and torturing the lives of terrestrial farmed animals in this country.

I intend to see The Cove when it is released at the end of next month, and it will probably make me sick with rage. It is rated PG-13 for “disturbing images.” I can only imagine. If nothing else, it will be a great look into the efforts animal rights advocates have to take simply to show what is being done to animals, even if they are not interfering. Whether it will have the impact it hopes to achieve, however, is another story, and I am not sure it will be received well, or even seen, by Japanese audiences, which is where the real exposure is most needed.

–Seth Victor

Dolphin Slaughter in Denmark

From the email:  Thanks to Laura Westra for this translation of the Italian text:

SHAME!  It is Incredible that it should exist! what todo? other than report it and offer these images as far as possible. DENMARK; A SHAME

…pictures….

Although this appears incredible, every year in Denmark this brutal and bloody massacre happens in the Faroe Islands that belong to Denmark.Denmark, supposedly a civilized country, a country that is a member of the European Union…Too few people in the world are aware of this terrible event. The massacre occurs because young men want to demonstrate they have become adults, that they are of age(!!) Noting has been done to stop this barbaric occurrence, against Calderones Dolphins, super inelligent and sociable, who come to people out of curiosity. Send this message far…let’s hope things will change, who knows!
INCREDIBILE CHE POSSA ESISTERE ! che fare, se non denunciare quello che sta accadendo, diffondendo il più possibile queste immagini.

….DANIMARCA :  UNA VERGOGNA

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BENCHE’ QUESTO SEMBRI INCREDIBILE, OGNI ANNO, QUESTO MASSACRO BRUTALE E SANGUINARIO SI RIPRODUCE NELLE ISOLE FEROE, CHE APPARTENGONO ALLA DANIMARCA.  LA DANIMARCA , UN PAESE SUPPOSTO ‘CIVILIZZATO’, MEMBRO DELL’UNIONE EUROPEA. TROPPE POCHE PERSONE AL MONDO CONOSCONO QUESTO AVVENIMENTO ORRIBILE E DEPROVEVOLE CHE SI RIPETE OGNI ANNO. QUESTO MASSACRO SANGUINARIO E’ IL FRUTTO DI GIOVANI UOMINI CHE VI PARTECIPANO PER DIMOSTRARE DI AVER RAGGIUTNO L’ETA’ ADULTA (!!). E’ ASSOLUTAMENTE  INCREDIBILE CHE NON SIA FATTO NIENTE AFFINCHE ‘ QUESTA BARBARIE CESSI. UNA BARBARIE CONTRO I DELFINI CALDERONES, UN DELFINO SUPER INTELLIGENTE E SOCIEVOLE CHE SI AVVICINA ALLA GENTE PER CURIOSITA’.

INVIA QUESTO MESSAGGIO A TUTTI I TUOI CONTATTI. VERGOGNA ALLA DANIMARCA !!! Fate sapere a tutti che in Danimarca massacrano ogni anno i delfini extra-intelligenti e socievoli per una festa così come fosse un carnevale. Solo le persone inutili pensano che tanto non cambia nulla e per questo rifiutano di inviare questo messaggio a tutti.Speriamo che cambierà, chi lo sa!

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INCREDIBILE CHE POSSA ESISTERE ! che fare, se non denunciare quello che sta accadendo, diffondendo il più possibile queste immagini.

….DANIMARCA :  UNA VERGOGNA
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BENCHE’ QUESTO SEMBRI INCREDIBILE, OGNI ANNO, QUESTO MASSACRO BRUTALE E SANGUINARIO SI RIPRODUCE NELLE ISOLE FEROE, CHE APPARTENGONO ALLA DANIMARCA.  LA DANIMARCA , UN PAESE SUPPOSTO ‘CIVILIZZATO’, MEMBRO DELL’UNIONE EUROPEA. TROPPE POCHE PERSONE AL MONDO CONOSCONO QUESTO AVVENIMENTO ORRIBILE E DEPROVEVOLE CHE SI RIPETE OGNI ANNO. QUESTO MASSACRO SANGUINARIO E’ IL FRUTTO DI GIOVANI UOMINI CHE VI PARTECIPANO PER DIMOSTRARE DI AVER RAGGIUTNO L’ETA’ ADULTA (!!). E’ ASSOLUTAMENTE  INCREDIBILE CHE NON SIA FATTO NIENTE AFFINCHE ‘ QUESTA BARBARIE CESSI. UNA BARBARIE CONTRO I DELFINI CALDERONES, UN DELFINO SUPER INTELLIGENTE E SOCIEVOLE CHE SI AVVICINA ALLA GENTE PER CURIOSITA’.

INVIA QUESTO MESSAGGIO A TUTTI I TUOI CONTATTI. VERGOGNA ALLA DANIMARCA !!! Fate sapere a tutti che in Danimarca massacrano ogni anno i delfini extra-intelligenti e socievoli per una festa così come fosse un carnevale. Solo le persone inutili pensano che tanto non cambia nulla e per questo rifiutano di inviare questo messaggio a tutti.Speriamo che cambierà, chi lo sa!

Alberto Kattan — Warrior for the Voiceless

Alberto Kattan was an attorney and an activist in Argentina on behalf of people, animals, and the environment.  During the 1970s, he was kidnapped and tortured by the military junta.  He survived thanks to the personal intervention of then President Carter.  Undaunted, he sued the military government in the 1980s on behalf of dolphins and then penguins.  He also successfully persuaded the courts of Argentina to ban the pesticides 2,4,5-T and 2,4-D (“Agent Orange”).

Kattan said:

· “When you open your eyes it is a commitment.  You can never close them again.”

Alberto Kattan died in 1993 but I just learned about him today.  And for that I thank Professor John Bonine, a pretty inspiring fellow in his own right.

David Cassuto

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