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

Endangered Species Act in peril

Here in the Northern Rockies, it’s all wolf, all the time. But larger implications loom for all imperiled species. “Wolves at a Crossroads: 2011 – The Endangered Species Act in Peril” is a comprehensive document on wolves and the concurrent threat to the integrity of the ESA.

Congressional interference stands to weaken the Endangered Species Act, endangering critical protection that has served our nation well for more than 37 years. Next to bald eagles, the recovery of wolves in the American West has the potential to be one of the most celebrated success stories of the ESA and another great stride in preserving our natural heritage. Or, conversely, by allowing legislation to mandate the removal of ESA protections for wolves, our nation stands to set a dangerous new precedent for all endangered species and environmental stewardship.

If wolves can be removed from federal protection by willful misrepresentation of scientific fact, what species will be next?

This report was prepared for and delivered to members of Congress by representatives of Living With Wolves, founded by filmmakers Jim and Jamie Dutcher.

And Another NYSBA-Related Thing

David Cassuto

From the email (h/t Cari Rinker):

The Committee on Animals and the Law is always looking for law students who are interested in making a difference for animals and people. Students can help coordinate our student activities, and actively participate, like our members and volunteers, in our important work. We need assistance with a variety of projects, such as researching humane education issues, outreach, reviewing legislation, and updating our website and other resources. To get a better understanding of what we do, please read our “Making A Difference” Report. You can also find additional information on our website. If interested in becoming a Student Contributor, please contact Deputy Goodwill Ambassador, Amy Eisenberg, at

NY State Bar Assn. Animal Law Writing Competition

David Cassuto

Look alive, law students!


Get the full 411 here.

Idaho wolf “disaster emergency” bill introduced

"Hand over the berries, sis."

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Purple prose…melodrama…not what you expect to find in legislation these days UNLESS it comes from the Northern Rockies and deals with “imported Canadian wolves.” To wit: Idaho’s House Bill 343, introduced to the House for its first reading on 4/4.

The  uncontrolled proliferation of imported wolves on private land has produced a clear and present danger to humans, their pets and livestock, and has altered and hindered historical uses of private and public land, dramatically inhibiting previously safe activities such as walking, picnicking, biking, berry picking, hunting and fishing. The continued uncontrolled presence of gray wolves represents an unfunded mandate, a federal commandeering of  both state and private citizen resources and a government taking that makes private property unusable for the quiet enjoyment of property owners. An emergency existing therefore, it is the intent of the legislature to regulate the presence of Canadian gray wolves in Idaho in order to safeguard the public, wildlife, economy and private property against additional devastation to Idaho’s social culture, economy and natural resources, and to preserve the ability to benefit from private and public property within the state and experience the quiet enjoyment of such property. Continue reading

Miscellaneous for Monday morning

Britain to ban animals from circuses: “Animal Welfare Minister Jim Paice recently told MPs that a new policy was ‘close to completion.'”

Greece follows suit: “The government has suggested an amendment in the law on animal rights that will increase the criminal liability for torturing animals, a media report said. Violators will be jailed.”

This prompts one to ask, Does America care less about animals than other countries?

It’s no secret that some countries take animal welfare/rights more seriously than the United States does, just as some states take animal welfare/rights more seriously than do others.  Imagine receiving a deferred sentence for killing 170 animals through intentional neglect. Or a Christian horse rescue operation suggesting that slaughter (rather than an end to over-breeding) is an appropriate “solution.”   “We may be the only horse rescue operation in the United States that feels that humane harvesting of horses should be part of the solution as long as it is done in a humane manner.”