“Wildleaks”– A New Way to Combat Poaching and Other Environmental Crimes

Rafael Wolff

victim-of-elephant-poachingThe risks of environmental crime to nature are well known. Greed for profits that can exceed $10-20bn a year according to Interpol” are a menace to species as elephants, rhinos and tigers, for example. The seriousness of these crimes against wildlife, as well as the connections of environmental crimes with terrorism and, as exposed by the Department of States this week, human trafficking, justify all the concerns about them.

One of the best ways to combat environmental crimes is to help the authorities. However, few people know that it is possible to do so Continue reading

What the 2014 Farm Bill means for animals

Seth VictorFarm Bill

Although the Farm Bill is a comprehensive and nuanced piece of legislature that keeps food on our tables, perhaps the most notable part about this year’s version is something that is not in it: the “King Amendment”, a criticized hypocritical measure,  did not make the final cut, due in part to a large outcry against stripping states of their ability to regulate their own agriculture. As The Huffington Post reports, industrial agriculture was checked on several other fronts as well, including measures that would have loosened corporations’ requirements for labeling animal products. It is also now a federal crime to attend or take a child under the age of sixteen to an animal fighting event. There are other very important aspects of the law, such as the reduction of Food Stamps and a drastic curtailing of farm subsidies. Still, when looking at what was at risk directly affecting animals, this one counts as a win.

Human Overpopulation as an Animal Rights Issue

Anika Mohammed

Overpopulation of humans, what does this mean?

anika Generally, people are using resources more rapidly than they can be regenerated. According to the Animal Welfare Institute the affects of overconsumption of resources by humans is currently having adverse effects across the world. Aside from the obvious consequences overpopulation creates for humans, there is a very real and dangerous affect for animals.

What is the affect of overpopulation on animals?

There is no simple answer to this question. The demand created by humans exceeds the available resources, causing these resources to be depleted at a rate that rejuvenation cannot keep up with. An example of this can be seen through the increased demand for food due to overpopulation. For many people, this involves the consumption of meats. This causes an increase in food production, such as grains, that is then used to feed livestock, that is then consumed by humans. In order to meet the demand for these grains and livestock, more land is taken away from wildlife. Therefore, not only are more animals being consumed due to the population growth, more of their habitat is also taken away. Continue reading

Energy Needs v. Endangered Species

Rafael Wolff

The Mekong River is the 12th largest river is the world and runs through China, Burma, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam. This river, asSecond Post Animal Law Image many others in the world, is as important for those countries as it is for the animal life depending on it.

Here we have a good example of that.

According to The Economist, the construction of the first dam in lower Mekong is “in full swing” in Laos. The objective of this huge construction is to provide 1,300 megawatts to Thailand, which will cost $ 3.5 billion. Continue reading

Why the King Amendment is Hypocritical

Seth Victor

Recently Angelique Rivard explained some of the dangers inherent in Rep. Steve King’s amendment to H.R. 6083, the Farm Bill. What makes this amendment maddening is that Mr. King has cited law to support this measure that he would decry as the product of an overreaching government in almost any other circumstance. There is no doubt that Mr. King’s proposal is intended to end state protection for farmed animals; his website proudly declares that he hopes to terminate the efforts of animal rights groups, ensuring “that radical organizations like the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and PETA are prohibited from establishing a patchwork of restrictive state laws aimed at slowly suffocating production agriculture out of existence.”

King has hardly been the darling of animal rights before this foray, as Stephen Colbert nicely summarizes. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Humane Society Legislative Fund and the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund both gave him a 0% rating in 2012. This came after a 2010 statement at a National 4-H Conference that “the HSUS is run by vegetarians with an agenda whose goal is to take meat off everyone’s table in America.” King has also previously voted against broadening the definitions of the Endangered Species Act in 2005 which would have enabled better listing criteria.

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

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.

Myths, More than Traditional Medicine, Driving Rhino Slaughter

 Andrew C. Revkin

x-post from Dot Earth

Rhino horns seized by Customs in Hong Kong

Rhinoceros populations from Asia through Africa are plummeting in the face of burgeoning illicit trade in their horns, much of it driven by myths promoted by criminal smuggling syndicates and targeting the new wealthy in China and Vietnam. The Green blog and Dot Earth have explored these issues, but it’s worth a slightly deeper dive, here provided in a “Your Dot” contribution from Matthew Wilkinson, the founder and editor of the informative Safaritalk blog.

Here’s an excerpt and link to the full essay by Wilkinson, which I’ve posted via Slideshare.net:

Matt Wilkinson: As someone who devotes his days to highlighting wildlife conservation in Africa, when I’m asked to name my greatest concern, without hesitation I say the poaching onslaught devastating rhinoceros populations. With so many pressing problems besetting wildlife and the environment, why this one issue over and above everything else? The answer is shaped by the shocking way in which the rhinos are killed and their horns removed, the widespread myths fueling the recent poaching escalation and the apparent inability of governments to tackle this massive problem with anything approaching competence. Continue reading

Why our modern lifestyle spells disaster

Seth Victor

Do you love your meat? Well, love it or hate it, it may well cause the collapse of our global society. In the latest report confirming the strain factory farming and overconsumption of animal products causes our environment, The Guardian reports that mass food shortages are predicted within the next 40 years if we as a species do not scale back meat consumption. It’s a simple matter of not having enough water to produce the crops necessary to support the animals needed to satisfy current consumption, to say nothing of what another 2 billion human mouths will bring to the table. If we do not scale back, food shortages and water shortages could be a worldwide reality, as well as food price spikes. Continue reading

Existence Value Introduced as an Argument for Standing in ESA Lawsuit

David Cassuto

The National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) has construed the Endangered Species Act to exclude captive populations of  the endangered Southern Resident killer whale population.  This means that these endangered orcas  are deprived of the protections of the statute and can be exploited for profit by commercial operations.  A number of individuals and animal advocacy organizations including the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF), on whose board I sit, brought suit in the Western District of Washington to challenge this interpretation.

To wit:

SHELBY PROIE; KAREN MUNRO;                              Case #3:11-05955-BHS
PATRICIA SYKES; ANIMAL LEGAL
DEFENSE FUND, a non-profit
corporation; and PEOPLE FOR THE
ETHICAL TREATMENT OF ANIMALS,
INC., a non-profit corporation,
Plaintiffs,
v.
NATIONAL MARINE FISHERIES
SERVICE, ERIC C. SCHWAAB, in his
official capacity as Assistant Administrator
for Fisheries of the National Marine
Fisheries Service; and REBECCA M.
BLANK, in her official capacity as the
Acting Secretary of the United States
Department of Commerce,
Defendants.
____ _______________

Last week, ALDF amended its complaint to include a standing claim based on “existence value.”  It declared:

16. ALDF also brings this case on behalf of its members who, on information and belief, place significant and particularized value on the continued existence of Southern Resident killer whales, and whose interests in ensuring that the species continues to exist are injured by
NMFS’s decision to exclude the captive members of the population from the list of endangered species because protecting captive members of a listed species is necessary to ensure that it will not become extinct in the future and can eventually be recovered.

and   Continue reading

The Disappearance of Honey

Theologia Papadelias

Recently, beekeepers have been observing unusually high losses of honey bees. This phenomenon has been termed, “Colony Collapse Disorder” (CCD). The mysterious onset of decline in the honey bee population has been linked with the following causes: viruses, fungi, pathogens, parasites, and pesticides.  Researchers also believe that bees are more susceptible to CCD when they are additionally exposed to stress by commercial beekeepers through seasonal trucking back and forth across the country.

The New York Times article, “Scientists and Soldiers Solve a Bee Mystery,”
described a “major” breakthrough. A group of scientists led by Jerry Bromenshenk, working with the Army’s Edgewood Chemical Biological Center, said in their jointly written paper that a virus and fungus were found in every killed colony the group studied; however, neither agent alone seemed able to devastate a colony.

It was later revealed that Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk was linked with Bayer
CropScience.  Why is this so significant? Dr. Bromenshenk had received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination.  Astonishingly, before receiving this funding, Dr. Bromenshenk had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers in the class action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003, ultimately dropping out and receiving the grant. Dr. Bromenshenk had also acknowledged as much that his company would profit more from finding that a disease, rather than pesticides, was harming bees. Recently, Bayer has come under a great deal of scrutiny for manufacturing and marketing the highly controversial pesticide clothianidin, a next-generation neonicotinoid, a toxic compound to honey bees. Continue reading

Elephant Poaching Increasing in Kenya

Usra Hussain

The Samburu National Reserve located in Kenya has experienced a high rate of elephant poaching this year in comparison to the past 11 years.  Although, elephants do not have any natural predators other than lions, elephants are threatened by human beings.  African and Asian elephants are hunted for their ivory tusks and illegally traded for money. The conservationists of the Samburu National Reserve have been actively fighting poachers in order to protect the elephants in their reserve. However, even with their efforts, the elephants in this reserve are continually being killed for their tusks.

One elephant in particular has been attacked twice for her tusks.  Khadija, an elderly elephant from the Samburu National Reserve has been one of many elephants this year that have been killed by poachers.  She suffered bullet wounds which were treated by an elephant organization, but again Khadija was targeted by poachers again. Unfortunately, she did not survive the second attack, leaving behind 8 orphan children.  Continue reading

The Other Greenhouse “Gas”: Cows & Climate Change

Jillian N. Bittner

You drive to the supermarket in your “green” car, checking your back seat before you leave for your re-usable bags– yet you stand on line about to purchase the packaged beef sitting at the bottom of your cart and do not stop to think twice about the environment? – Perhaps you should.

While the environmental legal community emphasizes the desperate need to harness and reduce CO2 emissions as a way to mitigate the current and impending consequences of greenhouse gases on climate change, the community at large has ignored the impact of a greater culprit – CH4, or rather methane gas.  Animal agriculture accounts not only as a source of CO2, or nitrous oxide (N2O; another potent greenhouse gas), but is the number one source of methane gas worldwide – beating out the effects of vehicles and airplanes combined. But why should the environmental and legal communities be more concerned with CH4? According to the EPA, “methane is about 21 times more powerful at warming the atmosphere than CO2 by weight.”

Cows, and the corresponding beef industry, are the largest contributors of methane gas. Cows produce this effect partly through belching and flatulence as a consequence of their digestive systems, which are characteristic of ruminant animals. Yet CAFOs remain unregulated. Continue reading

Environmentalism & Factory Farming

David Cassuto

Good article in GOOD Magazine on environmentalism and industrial agriculture featuring an interview w/me.

Wolf Delisting Op-ed

David Cassuto

Between Kathleen and me, we’ve taken up a lot of blawgwidth on the wolf issue and yet there’s so much more to be said.  Here’s my bid to bring it into the mainstream media.

Mass Animal Deaths: Nature, Nurture, Conspiracy, or Apocalyspe?

Rosana Escobar Brown

The Red-winged Blackbird deaths on New Year’s Eve 2011 sparked an international debate over trends in mass animal deaths around the globe.  That night, 5,000 birds plummeted to their demise over the Beebe, Arkansas, with low-flying and fireworks cited as the cause.  One report assumed the birds just began “colliding with things” due to poor eyesight.  But this event alone did not coax the controversy; just two days earlier over 100,000 fish were found floating in the Arkansas River a mere miles from Beebe, and three days after the barrage of blackbirds, 500 more birds of mixed breeds fell from the sky in Louisiana.  Reasons provided ranged from disease to power line exposure.

Photo by Liz Condo/The Advocate, via Associated Press

As if these occurrences weren’t enough to incite conspiracy, extraterrestrial, and apocalypse theorists, skeptics began compiling evidence of recent occurrences around the globe.  The more jarring stories include 40,000 Velvet Crabs washing ashore in England, 2 million floating Spot Fish in Maryland’s Chesapeke Bay, a “carpet” of Snapper sans eyes in New Zealand, and 100 tons of mixed fish in Brazil.  These incidents come with varying explanations from researchers, none of which include government conspiracy or “end of days” prophecies.  However, the paranoid public seems alarmed at the phenomenon and is claiming the animals are omens of biblical proportion.  Aptly termed the “Aflockalypse” by online cynics, articles range from claiming Nostradamus predicted this as a sign of the end of days and others point to bible verses and claim this occurred once before in the fall of the Egyptian Empire.  One Google Maps user created a global mapped record of recent mass animal deaths in an attempt to find a pattern, and I must admit that the incidents appear in astonishing numbers. Continue reading

Amidst a Windy Congress, Some Protections for Birds

David Cassuto (also up in GreenLaw)

I’ve blogged before about the dangers to wildlife from wind turbines.   Well, this just in: yesterday, the Department of the Interior released draft guidelines to protect wildlife from wind turbines  while calling on all involved in the industry to rigorously monitor, assess, and incorporate best practices into their designs.

The guidelines look to promote compliance with the Endangered Species Act, Migratory Bird Treaty Act, Bald and Golden Eagle Protection Act, as well as other relevant statutes.  They advocate a tiered approach, including preliminary evaluation or screening, site characterization, pre-construction monitoring and assessments, post construction monitoring and assessments, and research. Continue reading

Do You Know What It Means for a Vegan to Miss New Orleans?

Douglas Doneson

No matter how many cups of Yerba Mate I drink or how many lamps I turn on (or off) to get the right lighting, I can’t focus on my law school work. After living in New Orleans for close to six years my body knows Mardi Gras is approaching. It knows I should be there. Anyone who has been to the New Orleans Mardi Gras knows that once the thought of Mardi Gras comes to mind, so many good memories are recalled and flow throughout the brain.

One memory that always comes to mind is the amazing food New Orleans has to offer.  This is a funny thought for me because I am vegan. I actually stopped eating meat, while working at the Audubon Zoo in New Orleans in 2007. But for some reason when I think about New Orleans, food is always the first thought that come to mind. Not surprisingly, New Orleans has a pretty small selection of vegan restaurants.  One of my favorite qualities of New Orleans, its stagnancy, is also its worst enemy.  Continue reading

Wind, Birds and the Power Grid

David Cassuto

Let’s be clear: Our hero favors alternative energy, including wind power.   However, nothing is all good and wind turbines kill birds.  The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service estimates that more than 400,000 birds are killed each year by blows from the blades of wind turbines.  And as the Department of Energy moves ahead with its (laudable) goal of transitioning the nation’s power supply to 20% wind power, measures must be taken to protect the avians at risk.  According to the American Bird Conservancy, the golden eagle, whooping crane, and the greater sage-grouse—face “especially severe” threats from wind energy and are most at risk from “poorly planned and sited wind projects.”  The American Wind Energy Association disputes the dimensions of the threat, claiming that “A reasonable, conservative estimate is that of every 10,000 human-related bird deaths in the U.S. today, wind plants cause less than one. The
National Academy of Sciences estimated in 2006 that wind energy is responsible for less than 0.003% of (3 of every 100,000) bird deaths caused by human (and feline) activities.”   Continue reading

Some Kangaroo News

David Cassuto

Kangaroos are routinely brutalized and treated as pests in Australia.  This from the email regarding some recent developments:

THINKK, the think tank for kangaroos, based at the University of Technology Sydney and supported by Voiceless, released two reports late last year examining the killing of kangaroos in Australia.

Each year over three million kangaroos are ‘harvested’ and over a million joeys are killed as part of the commercial industry.  This is the largest land-based slaughter of wildlife in the world. Continue reading

EPA Releases Emissions Data on CAFOS — Interpretation to Follow

David Cassuto
Here’s an interesting development: EPA has released data from a national study of emissions from CAFOS  that raise pigs, broiler chickens, cattle, and turkeys.  Of course, we don’t know how interesting it is because the agency has not yet interpreted the data.  If you’re of a number-crunching bent, you can see it all here.

Lewis & Clark Animal Law Clinic: Making Things Happen

Jill Gross

Earlier this week, The Oregonian, the main newspaper in Portland, OR, featured the work of Lewis & Clark Law School’s Animal Law Clinic.  Supervised by Professor Kathy Hessler, students represent non-profit organizations that advocate for animal rights and draft model legislation designed to protect animals.  This clinic, in only its second year of existence, is one of the few animal law clinics in the country.  Just one example of its outstanding legal work is its representation of Farm Sanctuary, an organization that fights for laws to protect farm animals from cruelty.  You can read about the students’ other inspiring accomplishments here.  We certainly need more of these clinics to enhance the legal services available to animal law advocates!

[Thanks to Gwynne Skinner of Williamette Law for bringing this article to the attention of the clinic listserv.]

AALS Animal Law Panel

David Cassuto

Ok, there’s much to catch up on and this will be the first post of several.  Let’s start with the AALS Animal Law Section panel held last Saturday in San Francisco.  The conference in general was quite good.  Despite a labor action at the main conference hotel, which caused many sections (including ours) to be moved at the last minute, and despite the session taking place at O-dark thirty (8:30 a.m.) on a Saturday, the session was well-attended by interested folk, many of whom were new to animal law. Continue reading

Rivers, Agriculture & Climate Change

David Cassuto

I’ll be a visiting professor at  Williams College this coming semester, teaching climate change law & policy as well as environmental law at the Center for Environmental Studies.  So, climate change has very much been on my mind of late.  This is not a new thing, of course.  I’ve blogged frequently about the relationship between animal law & policy and climate change and written more extensively about it elsewhere as well.  In addition, I’ll be talking about CAFOS and climate change as part of the animal law panel  at the American Association of Law Schools (AALS) meeting this weekend.

However, I recently stumbled on a new (to me) aspect of the pernicious relationship between industrial agriculture and climate change: the denitrification of rivers.  Microbes in rivers convert nitrogen to nitrous oxide (as well as an inert gas called dinitrogen).  That nitrous oxide then makes its way into the atmosphere where it becomes a potent greenhouse gas as well as a destroyer of atmospheric ozone.  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

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.

Dowd on Palin

David Cassuto

Maureen Dowd on Palin’s Reality (Show):

The doomed caribou gazed calmly across the Alaska tundra at Caribou Barbie.

The female caribou could easily have escaped, since it took the Wasilla huntress six shots, two rifles and some help from her dad to bag her prey. (Giving credence to Levi Johnston’s contention that she isn’t all that proficient with guns.)

But, inexplicably, the caribou just waited to get gunned down by Sarah Palin, who came across less like a pioneer woman than Private Benjamin with her camo, her French manicured nails, her cap that says (in pink) Girls And Guns, her 72-year-old father and her TLC reality show crew.

Sarah checked her freezer at home before she flew 600 miles to the Arctic, trying to justify her contention that she needs to hunt to eat. Wasn’t it already stocked with those halibuts she clubbed and gutted in an earlier show?

“My dad has taught me that if you want to have wild, organic, healthy food,” she pontificated, “you’re gonna go out there and hunt yourself and fish yourself and you’re gonna fill up your freezer.”

Does Palin really think the average housewife in Ohio who can’t pay her bills is going to load up on ammo, board two different planes, camp out for two nights with a film crew and shoot a caribou so she can feed her family organic food?

It’s amazing that Palin patronized Neiman Marcus during the campaign. Couldn’t she have spun cloth to sew her own clothes?

Hunting seems more sporting with birds — at least they have a better chance to get away. Unless the hunter is Dick Cheney, who would shoot pheasants that were pen-raised and released from a net to make slaughtering them easier.            Continue reading

Finding the Factory Farms

David Cassuto

We’re often told (because it’s true) that 10 billion animals are killed for food in this country every year.  The implications of that number for climate change, water and air pollution, and animal suffering are well-documented and appalling.  But most of us have never seen a factory farm.  Agribusiness counts on the “out of sight, out of mind” effect to keep the population quiescent and, for the most part, the strategy works.

So where are those 10 billion animals?  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

Some Noteworthy Blogs

David Cassuto

From the props desk:

Top 101 Blogs to Inspire You To Protect Endangered Species. Look for us therein.

Happy Meals No More in San Francisco

David Cassuto

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors has voted to prohibit Happy Meals (and their ilk) from having toys until the nutritional content is improved.  The mayor has promised to veto it but the 8-3 margin of passage is veto-proof.  Some skinny:

“Under the proposal, restaurants would be barred from giving away the popular toys unless the meals contain fewer than 600 calories and fewer than 640 milligrams of sodium. In addition, no more than 34 percent of the calories could be derived from fat (less than 10 percent from saturated fat), except for fat found in nuts, seeds, eggs or low-fat cheese. In terms of beverages, fewer than 35 percent of the total calories could come from fat, and fewer than 10 percent from added sweeteners.

And then there are the items that San Francisco’s lawmakers say must be included in the meals: at least a half-cup of fruit and three-quarters a cup of vegetables, except for breakfast meals. Those only must contain a half-cup or more of fruit or vegetables.”    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.   

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

Where Are Our Wild Horses?

Gillian Lyons

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

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

Obama and the Endangered Species Act

Gillian Lyons

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

A Battle Won, Perhaps

Gillian Lyons

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

The Ethics of Veganism, Cont’d

David Cassuto

In keeping with my earlier promise to highlight well-argued pieces on both sides of the veganism debate, here is a piece by former vegan and author George Monbiot, which explains why he has now concluded that meat-eating (not, however, the factory farm system) is ok.  There have been a number of thoughtful responses to Monbiot.  Here is one and here’s another.

Fries, Beer, and the IUCN Colloquium

David Cassuto

Belgium is pretty cool.  Ghent is an absolutely beautiful city, filled with the kind of stunning architecture that one might expect to see in European cities better known for their visual splendor.  And did you know that Ghent was the second-largest city in Europe (behind Paris) for quite a while, quite a while back?  Just up the road is Bruges – a medieval city that was a bustling center of commerce until its harbor silted up 400 or so years ago.  As a result, it still looks much as it did then.  And back then, it looked mighty good.

Let’s see… what else?  The pommes frites – to which I had been looking forward with almost maniacal glee – were not all that.  In my experience (admittedly limited to Ghent), one can do much better on St. Mark’s Place in NYC.

The beer, however.  Oh, the beer.  Oh, it’s good.  It’s good beer.

Continue reading

Legal Protections for Great Apes (or Lack Thereof)

Gillian Lyons

Last week, without much ado (at least from American news sources), the European Union passed a series of directives aimed at reducing the number of animals used in laboratory experiments (for BBC News’ perspective, click here).  Included in those directives was a mandate ending the use of great apes in scientific research, once again showing the EU has one-upped the United States in terms of laws promoting animal welfare.             Continue reading

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,319 other followers