Chemically Castrate the Swamp

  Alexis Tomaino

Atrazine wreaks havoc on the sex lives of adult male frogs, emasculating three-quarters of them and turning one in 10 into female. The 75 percent that are chemically castrated are essentially “dead” because of their inability to reproduce in the wild. The 10 percent (or more) that turn from males into females – something not known to occur under natural conditions in amphibians – can successfully mate with male frogs but, because these females are genetically male, all their offspring are male. The impacts of atrazine are most pronounced in frogs because they have highly permeable skin that can easily absorb the chemical. Exposure to atrazine at levels as low as 0.1 parts per billion has been shown to affect the development of sex characteristics in frogs. 

            Based on the evidence that atrazine is an endocrine disruptor to amphibians, the EPA should ban the use of Atrazine.  First, frogs are vital to a healthy ecosystem and their disappearance can disturb an intricate food web with cascading effects felt throughout an entire ecosystem. As tadpoles, they eat algae, helping regulate blooms and reducing the chances of algal contamination. As adults, their consumption of insects helps control populations, including adult mosquitoes and their larvae that can transmit diseases including Dengue fever, Malaria, West Nile fever and Zika.  Frogs are also an important source of food for a variety of animals, including birds, fish, and snakes.  But more fundamentally, frogs have existed for nearly 300 million years and have a right to exist unmolested.  As frogs are currently threatened by disease, pollution, habitat loss, invasive species and climate change, their populations have declined dramatically since the 1950s, and it is believed more than 120 species have already become extinct since 1980s.  Failure of the EPA to take action to protect frogs from the harmful effects of atrazine is tantamount to ignoring its mission to “reduce environmental risks … based on the best available scientific information.”

            Instead the Trump EPA has loosened restrictions on atrazine following the tenure as EPA adviser of Jeff Sands, a former pesticide-industry lobbyist for Syngenta.  Sands’s presence at the EPA drew criticism when the EPA scaled back a $4.8 million fine levied against Syngenta during the Obama years for violating pesticide regulations that resulted in the sickening of farm workers in Hawaii. The Trump EPA settled this case for a tiny fraction of $150,000, though the EPA also ordered Syngenta to spend a minimum of $400,000 to conduct worker training on how to use pesticides. Although Sands has asserted he did not influence these EPA decisions, Sands’s connection to Syngenta muddies the water and is in line with other actions from Trump’s EPA, which has focused on reducing regulatory burdens on industry and easing enforcement actions while bringing industry insiders into the administration to the detriment of the flora and fauna it is charged to protect.  

            Sands’s employment was permitted because of an ethics waiver in which the White House allowed Sands to work on issues he dealt with in the private sector because of “his deep understanding of agricultural issues forged through his previous service with Congress, a trade association and a company.” The waiver allowed him to work on issues that could affect his former industry, the agricultural sector, at large. While the waiver request did not expressly ask that he be exempted from rules prohibiting him from being involved with any agency action that would specifically affect a former employer, there is no evidence of compliance with these rules.  And although Sands’s departure from EPA in 2018 (and has subsequent employment as an adviser for Rep. Ted Yoho (Fla.), a conservative Republican lawmaker who sits on the House Agriculture Committee)  predates the November 2019 atrazine policy change announcement, the swampy smell lingers around the EPA’s decision to sacrifice frogs and promote Syngenta’s business.

NYC Foie Gras Ban

Amy Allen

          

n October 2019, the New York City Council voted to ban force-fed poultry products, like the culinary delicacy, foie gras, French for “fatty liver.” The ban begins in 2022, which gives establishments and the government a three years preparation period. The fines range between $500 and $2,000, depending on the severity of the violation. The ban does not allow any restaurant or food service establishment to “stor[e], maintain, sell, or offer to sell” any foie gras product. Generally, male Moulard ducks, a hybrid between Muscovy and Pekin, are used for foie gras in the United States. This new legislation brought fierce debate between animal rights groups and chefs who have also partnered with foie gras producers.

            The legislation was initially proposed by animal rights groups for the cruel and inhumane practices of force-fed poultry generally used called gavage. This practice involves force feeding live poultry a corn-based mixture, up to four pounds a day, that rapidly expands the poultry’s liver, sometimes so severely that the liver distends into the abdomen. The poultry’s liver can expand nearly 10 times its normal size. Often, the poultry is unable to walk from the distention and will pluck out its own feathers or attack other poultry due to the increased stress put onto its body. In France, gavage is required if a pâté is called foie gras.

            In France, a prominent group of animal activists, L214, tried to sue foie gras producers for animal welfare violations in 2013. The French activist released graphic videos of the conditions the animals are placed under and filed the first ever foie gras lawsuit. Even though the producer was cleared of all charges, several prominent French chefs vowed to stop using foie gras as part of their menu.

            However, other famous chefs continued to support the use of foie gras, such as Anthony Bourdain who famously commented that people were showing the worst aspects of the problem out of context to scare people and that the cultural history was the important aspect of the luxury item. Another prominent New York City restaurant owner, Ken Oringer, argued that city council members were fighting the wrong battle and factory farmed chickens were far worse than foie gras raise poultry. Oringer further agreed with Bourdain that animal rights activists were showing graphic videos to spark outrange that misrepresented the treatment of the animals. In the end, the city council found that force feeding animals was inhumane and a practice that had to be stopped in New York City.

            Several animal rights activist groups have supported the bill due to the cruelty the practice inflicts on the poultry. The groups point to the fact that foie gras is a purely luxury item for cuisine, but it puts poultry through intense and immense stress. A few days after New York City created the ban, Voters For Animal Rights filed law suit against D’Artagnan, Inc. and D’Artagnan, LLC, foie gras producers based in Union, New Jersey. The suit does not seek monetary damages, but injunctive relief against “deceptive marketing and advertising practices” that suggests their foie gras product do not harm animals.

            Hudson Valley Foie Gras, located about 100 miles north of New York City in Sullivan County, one of the largest force-fed poultry producers with over 400 employees, and its manager, Marcus Henley, continually defends the practice and say that the facility properly cares for the poultry. Hudson Valley Foie Gras is one of two businesses in Sullivan County that provide foie gras for most of the United States. Both Hudson Valley Foie Gras and La Belle, the other Sullivan County Foie Gras producer, sell nearly $38 million in foie gras annually and send around a third of their production to New York City. Hudson Valley Foie Gras has said that it will file a lawsuit against the city challenging the ban as unconstitutional. The ban will place a financial burden on the poorest county in New York state where most of the workers are Spanish-speaking immigrants, many of whom rely on the free housing provided by the farm.

Horse Racing: An Elitist Sport or Animal Abuse?

Erika-Marie Kissh

The life of a racehorse is one that even before its conception is planned out and greatly influenced by human beings. Their birth, life, and death, are unnatural and can be seen as out-and-out abuse in every stage of the horses’ life. The main reason why racehorses are forced to live such unnatural lives at the hands of humans is because horse-racing is an extremely lucrative “sport”. The International Federation of Horseracing Authorities estimates that prize money for races worldwide is approximately $3.5 billion dollars a year, and the global industry of horse-race betting makes approximately $116 billion dollars of revenue in a given year.

For thoroughbred racehorses, in particular, their conception and birth is planned out as meticulously as possible to ensure maximum race training time. Mares are forced to Continue reading

PUBLIC CAMPAIGNS IN CHINA LEAD TO AN IVORY BAN: How an NBA player helped end the sale of ivory in China

Keisha Sapphire Holgate

Between 1979 to 1987,illegal poaching of African elephants to obtain their ivory tusks caused a decline of their population from 1.3 million to only 600,000 individuals. Currently, tens of thousands of elephants are killed each year for their ivory. Elephant ivory is aesthetically valued due to certain attributes such as the “durability, the ease with which it can be carved, and its absence of splintering [making it] uniquely suited for a variety of uses”. These properties have made ivory an indicator of social status, with it being used in musical instruments such as piano keys, billiard pool balls, utensils, jewelry, ornamental carvings and other worked ivory items. Many legal sales of ivory include these worked ivory products under the classification as an antique. “Ivory” is often lumped together with materials such as jade, ebony or amber, in terms of the intricate and valued carvings or jewelry they help make. China is the biggest consumer market for jewelry and ornamental products carved from ivory.

After an 1989 international treaty banned ivory, China chose to permit domestic trade, with a licensing system that permitted the import of ivory tusks that were from natural deaths or seized by authorities.  Ivory in the legal Chinese market is also from pre-CITES ivory and includes the 2008 CITES-supported sale that brought in 60,000 metric tons to Continue reading

We Need the KITTEN Act: USDA’s Directive Doesn’t Go Far Enough

Robert Gordon

Toxoplasma gondiiis a parasite that is believed to effect 40 million people in the United States. The U.S. government has been researching it for more than 35 years. It is generally caused by eating undercooked meat that has been contaminated. Most people infected with it will never know that they are hosting a parasite. However, infected humans with weakened immune systems, such as infants, those with autoimmune disorders and the elderly may develop a serious and sometimes fatal sickness known as toxoplasmosis.

One unusual trait about toxoplasma gondiiis that the only known definitive hosts for purposes of sexual reproduction are felines (domestic cats and their relatives). Thus, scientific research often involves cats. In fact, beginning in 1982, the United States Department of Agriculture has infected hundreds of kittens each year with parasite-infected meat to harvest toxoplasma gondiieggs. Some of the cats were even fed dog and cat meat obtained from overseas markets prompting activists to dub the research “kitten cannibalism.” The kittens were then euthanized. Since the program began an estimated Continue reading

A FIGHT FOR THE FETAL PIGS: PUTTING K-12 ANIMAL DISSECTIONS IN THE PAST

Amy O’Brien

We all remember that middle school biology class. The one where the teacher divided us up into pairs, instructed us to put on our safety goggles and plastic gloves, and emerged from the supply closet with bags of fetal pigs soaked in formaldehyde. At this point, some of us ran out of the room crying, while others enthusiastically embraced the opportunity to extract the organs from these lifeless creatures.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated or uncommon scene. In fact, estimates suggest that as many as 10 to 12 million animals are bred and harvested every year for classroom dissections. Recently, animal rights advocates and lawmakers have fought back against the school systems and the scientific community, seeking to change state laws and policies pertaining to classroom dissection.

In response to animal cruelty concerns, some states have enacted “student choice” policies, giving students the option to opt out of dissection in exchange for another educational project. California is one of those states. Under current California law, students with “moral objections” to animal dissection can participate in an “alternative Continue reading

So what’s stopping us from eating our Pets? Cats, dogs, Guinea Pig, and horses.

Katy Alvarado

Well, you wouldn’t eat a member of your family, would you? We build silent bonds with our pets such that they become to form a part of our family. The act of killing our beloved friends and companions that just happen to be of a different species feels so wrong that most would not even think about doing it, let alone consuming the meat. This is because we tend to draw a line between those animals we keep as pets and those animals we consider only as sources of food. The association between animals and food helps to swallow any guilt about killing the animal and makes it a more a necessary process by which we continue to survive. But pets are animals just the same as chickens, cows, and sheep. So setting aside this emotional bias that we have towards our pets, what is stopping us from eating cats, dogs, guinea pigs and horse? As it turns out, very little.

 

While killing your pet and then eating it sounds like first degree murder, the truth of the matter is that up until the end of 2018 if you found yourself in one of the 44 states that only required you to humanely kill your cat or dog, then there was nothing else stopping Continue reading