Cecil the Lion: Will U.S. Laws Hold Trophy Killer Accountable

All around the world, people are outraged by the trophy killing of Cecil the lion, and not simply because he suffered needlessly for days, or because lions are charismatic animals, or even because a rich white American killed a much-loved member of a national park halfway around the world in the African nation of Zimbabwe. Why has Cecil reached our hearts when so many other animals are poached (and, animal advocates remind us, so many other animals suffer every day)? Why is everyone – from animal advocates to hunters to talk show hosts to the New York Times and the Guardian – so horrified by this brutal killing? The answer lies in freedom.

Screen Shot 2015-07-29 at 3.38.44 PMCecil, a 13-year old lion, lived safe in Hwange National Park in Zimbabwe under legal protection. But he was unfairly lured out of his refuge, tricked by poachers who tied a dead animal carcass to the back of a truck. Father to many cubs (who will likely now die), Cecil was an easy target while eating. Minnesota dentist and trophy-hunter Walter James Palmer then shot Cecil with an arrow. But Cecil suffered for 40 hours before he was tracked down, killed with a rifle, beheaded, and skinned. His body was left to rot in the sun.

His head—with its distinctive (and incriminating for the trophy-killer) black mane is missing, as is the now notorious Walter Palmer. Cecil wore a GPS tracking collar, as part of an Oxford University research project. Ironically, Oxford’s study challenges the ridiculous notion that killing animals incentivizes the public to conserve them (and conserve them for more killing, i.e. “hunting”). So it is simply beyond reason to believe Palmer didn’t notice that collar when he shot Cecil, twice, once using a crossbow scope and 40 hours later using a rifle scope, or when Palmer later skinned and decapitated the lion. Palmer is a marksman with at least 43 large game animals on his killing resume (according to the Safari Club International, who has now revoked Palmer’s membership), including a rhino, a lion previous to Cecil, a cougar, a leopard, a polar bear, and an illegally killed black bear (for which he Palmer was convicted). Damage to Cecil’s collar suggests Continue reading

Lawsuit to Stop Kaporos Torture

David Cassuto

I could not be more proud of my former  student and research assistant, Jessica Astrof, for leading the legal battle on this!

The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos along with 20 additional plaintiffs filed a lawsuit in the New York Supreme Court New York to issue an injunction against Hasidic rabbis and synagogues in Brooklyn from participating in “Kaporos,” a highly controversial religious custom which involves the confinement, torture and barbaric slaughter of kaporosmore than 50,000 chickens on public streets every year during the week preceding the Jewish holiday Yom Kippur. The case also names the NYPD, NYC Department of Health and the City of New York for failing to enforce city health laws and animal cruelty laws, among others. The Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos was formed in New York City in 2010 as a project of, and under the umbrella of, United Poultry Concerns, founded by Karen Davis, Ph.D. Kaporos using live chickens is also practiced in other cities throughout the U.S. and Canada, including Los Angeles. See 2014 Brooklyn Kaporos video here: http://bit.ly/1gsvAmw.

PLAINTIFFS

The 21 plaintiffs are a group of individuals and residents of the subject locations who have endured the inconvenience, nuisance, filth, stench, public health risk and emotional trauma involved in Kaporos for years. Each plaintiff is gravely concerned about the health risks in their community, the contaminants on the streets and sidewalks and the emotional trauma caused by the bloody animal violence they are forced to witness. 

WHAT IS KAPOROS

Kaporos is allegedly a ritual of atonement practiced by Hasidic Jews as part of the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. The ritual involves practitioners grasping live chickens by their wings and swinging them above the practitioners’ heads. The purpose of this act, followed by the slaughter, is allegedly to transfer the practitioners’ sins and punishment to the birds, allegedly absolving the participants of their sins. In order to conduct the slaughter of the birds, Kaporos involves the erection of make-shift slaughterhouses on the public streets and sidewalks of the City of New York.  Dead chickens, half dead chickens, chicken blood, chicken feathers, chicken urine, chicken feces, other toxins and garbage such as used latex gloves and filthy tarps consume the public streets.  There is no oversight and no remedy for cleanup.  Plaintiffs maintain that operating such illegal public slaughterhouses causes and creates a public nuisance, a public health risk, a public health hazard and a dangerous condition.   Continue reading

Corporate Moves Create Tipping Point in Animal Welfare?

Carrie A. Scrufari, Esq.

“Look at the world around you. It may seem like an immovable, implacable place. It is not. With the slightest push – in just the right place – it can be tipped.”  -Malcolm Gladwell, The Tipping PointDay_old_chick_black_backgroundIn May, Walmart announced that its food suppliers should adhere to greater animal welfare standards.  This announcement received wide support from animal rights groups, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) endorsed Walmart’s move.  Following suit, General Mills announced yesterday that it would commit to sourcing 100% of its eggs from cage-free facilities. General Mills released a statement proclaiming that it would “commit to working toward 100 percent cage free eggs for our U.S. operations.”  Although Walmart and General Mills’ announcements signal a significant turning of the tide with respect to animal welfare and a tipping point in terms of the market power that can be wielded to encourage stronger animal welfare standards, they fall short of what is necessary to implement timely, lasting, and meaningful reforms.

Walmart’s plan relies on voluntary compliance from its suppliers and does not contain any hard deadlines or timelines specifying when suppliers should meet these new animal welfare standards.  Walmart could – and likely will – receive positive press for its decision to prioritize animal welfare without actually ensuring its suppliers are complying with the new policy (which involve limiting prophylactic antibiotic use and eliminating the use of gestation crates for pigs and battery cages for egg-laying hens).  Similarly, General Mills has not committed to a time line for achieving its 100% cage free egg supply, Continue reading

The Gluttony of Fishing: How Endangered Species Remain Unprotected if They’re Tasty

Megan Kelly

The Bluefin tuna has been on the endangered list for several years. Despite that, there is nothing in place to prevent them from being hunted and eaten. There are no catch limits, so fishermen feel no need to hold back on catching obscene numbers of endangered tuna. A single Bluefin tuna can sell for nearly $2 million. Such profits are of much greater concern to the fishermen than preserving the species. As such, the population has decreased substantially from being continuously hunted while no one seems to care that they are dangerously near extinction.

Hunting the Bluefin harms not only the species, but also the rest of the ecosystem. Because the Bluefin are natural predators, they serve as a major source of population control. They have few predators themselves, so as their population decreases, there will be a natural increase in the smaller animals that the Bluefin eats. Such overpopulation of the Bluefin’s prey can cause other species to become endangered, as an increase in one part of the food chain can mean serious danger to those one step below it. You can learn more about the Bluefin tuna here.

We can only hope the fisherman who profit from the Bluefin tuna will eventually realize their mistake. Because they’ve made such a point to catch as many as they can, they have caught more than Fishy Piccan be sustained naturally. They have even hunted baby tuna, which were unable to reproduce. By doing that, the fishermen have almost guaranteed that there will be a substantial population decrease, as the adults have been caught and the young ones with the unused ability to reproduce, have been served on plates as well. While this limit in the population will increase the boon one fish can bring, it will make fishing a more competitive field. This will mean that fishing for these tuna will no longer mean Continue reading

Quite the Trophy: The Truth Behind Trophy Hunting and Conservation

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Lena Cavallo

This past March, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved the request to import “trophies” of two American hunters  These “trophies” will be the remains of two dead black rhinos after a scheduled hunt in Namibia.  Black rhinos are listed as critically endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Therefore, approving such a request requires that the import will enhance the species’ survival.  Since 2003, Namibia has enforced the Black Rhino Conservation Strategy which authorizes the killing of five male rhinos annually to stimulate population growth.  When considering the request, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service experienced an “unprecedented” level of public involvement.

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Rhinos are not the only animals targeted in these trophy hunts. All megafauna of the African ecosystem are available for the hunt. The African lion population has been in a serious decline, prompting individuals and organizations to demand that the species be listed as endangered under the kendall-jones-huntingESA. Studies have shown that trophy hunting is a direct cause to this decline, albeit not the only cause.

Trophy hunting has come under severe criticism by environmentalists, animal rights activists, and the general public.  Trophy hunters, like those involved in Continue reading

Poaching Tigers – An indicator that society is not well (or Hate the Poaching, Not the Poacher)

Elizabeth Smith

poaching-tiger pelts            Tigers have captured the hearts of millions and are one of the lucky species about whom society has decided has decided to care. They fall into the category of “charismatic megafauna” alongside pandas, elephants, and polar bears. To get into that category is exceptionally rare. For most species, not enough people care about their plight to result in a change of circumstances for the species. Ironically, even though tigers are plastered on the cover of the gifts World Wildlife Fund gives to members, on shirts, jewelry, and a whole host of other things, the tigers still face a very real danger that has yet to be solved. Siberian Tigers are in particular danger.

Although Vladimir Putin claims to want to save the tigers, Continue reading

Lethal Science: Japanese Whale “Research” Set to Continue

Nathan Morgan

In spite of the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) Japanese Whaling1opposition, Japan has announced, several times, their plans to resume the “taking” of minke whales in the Antarctic for scientific research later this year. Japanese Whale Hunting Negotiator Joji Morishita declared again on June 22, that Japan plans to continue its lethal research of minke whales with or without IWC approval. Morishita was quoted as calling potential international enforcement on these issues “environmental imperialism.” The IWC, back in 1982, imposed the international moratorium on commercial whaling. Since the IWC is a voluntary international commission, nations may choose whether they will or will not abide by its rule. Japan opposed the moratorium, Continue reading

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