Hey Chicago–animal suffering lies behind that scenic splendor

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Dear Chicago:

We need to talk. You can trust me–I’m practically a native daughter. Heck, from my hometown in Indiana, we can look across Lake Michigan and see your skyline (well, on a clear day). I’m a Cubs fan… ’nuff said! But I’ve lived in Montana for going on 14 years now, and if all this doesn’t qualify me to have a frank discussion with you about those tourism ads papering the city…I’m just sayin’.

Well I remember Chicago Tribune columnist Barbara Brotman’s mock hissy fit back in 2010 when Montana’s Office of Tourism started targeting the Windy City. She wrote:

The pictures plastered all over the CTA are bad enough. Majestic mountains, green valleys frosted with white snow, a turquoise glacial lake ringed by pine trees — it’s cruel, dangling that sort of thing in front of Chicago commuters packed glumly into “L” cars.

She went so far as to challenge Chicagoans to fight back with a “Take THAT, Montana” photo campaign (view photos here) wherein Tribune readers were to match Montana’s scenic glory, photo for photo, with their own Land of Lincoln natural splendor.    Continue reading

The wolverine: one gnarly dude…who needs our help

Click image for Gulo gulo natural history

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Mirror, mirror, on the wall, who’s the stinkiest, snarliest, gnarliest, wildest of them all? Why, Gulo gulo–the amazing wolverine–of course!

And the gnarly little being needs our help within the next few days (5/6/13 deadline). Unless you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll probably never see a wolverine in your lifetime, at least not outside of a zoo–and that’s a hideous thought for any wild animal, but especially for this wide-ranging, endlessly-moving dynamo. But even so–a mere few minutes to help save the wildest of the wild? A bargain at any price! Read on…   Continue reading

Departures, arrivals, & taxidermy: Welcome to our neck of the woods

AP photo – R. Millage

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

In these troubled times, we’ve come to expect the steely-eyed gaze of TSA screeners and security personnel following us in every airport, everywhere. But what you might find shocking is the glassy-eyed gaze you’ll get from wild animals when you visit Missoula, Montana’s international airport. Rest assured, they won’t charge, butt, or trample if you forget to put your 3-ounce bottle of hand sanitizer in your quart Ziploc. Firmly affixed to the wall as trophies, they are present simply to say (albeit wordlessly), “Welcome to Montana, pardner.” Continue reading for further details on this eternally-mute welcoming committee–after a few words about the all-too-prevalent attitude (let’s call it speciesist) that recruited them for the job.    Continue reading

Animals Are Biggest Losers in Sequestration

Seth Victor

As reported by Mother Jones, there is a lovely outcome to the government’s sequestering: “The Food Safety and Inspection Service’s budget would be slashed by $51 million. This would result in a furlough of as much as 15 days for all employees, including 8,400 meat inspectors, as well as a loss of 2 billion pounds of meat, between 2.8 and 3.3 billion pounds of poultry, and over 200 million pounds of egg products. Meat shortages may also lead to price increases, leading to a domino effect on restaurants, grocers, and small businesses. There are also concerns that food safety ‘could be compromised by the illegal selling and distribution of uninspected meat, poultry, and egg products.'”

Or, as author Lemony Snicket might phrase it, “The news reported that there was going to be a loss, a word that here means ’13 million cows and over a billion chickens were killed for no use at all, because a bunch of people were busy fighting over other things, like how much money they could spend on themselves.'”

Spectating at dogfights: Still legal thanks to…rodeo?

Kathleen Stachowski      Other Nations

Can you think of one animal species with whom you’d willingly trade places? Me neither. It’s a bum rap to be a nonhuman animal in a speciesist world, and here in Montana, brutality toward animals is a way of life. Just ask the bobcat thrashing in a trap, the calf viciously clotheslined by the neck in a rodeo roping event, or any coyote who’s the object of a killing contest. “We’re at your mercy,” they might tell us, “and mercy went missing a long time ago.”

On Valentine’s Day, the 200th wolf was killed in the state-sanctioned slaughter (track here), designed to reduce–by projectile and by trap–a population of 600-some animals–even along national park boundaries.   Continue reading

Golden eagles die from “snares upon theirs”

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Yesterday we awoke to the news that three golden eagles had been caught in trappers’ snares set in Montana east of the Divide. Two are dead; one requires surgery to remove the cable now embedded in her wing and shoulder. Whoever came upon the bird was carrying cable-cutters (likely the trapper, but this is unknown); that individual cut the cable but provided no assistance to the severely-injured bird. Thankfully, she’s now in the care of the Montana Raptor Conservation Center in Bozeman (visit their Facebook page, which is the source of the accompanying photo).

There is no defense for the use of snares. They are designed for one thing only: to provide animals with a cruel, terrifying, and gruesome death, the wire cable cutting deeper into their bodies as the noose tightens the more they struggle. Continue reading

The lion sleeps tonight–and so should you. List the lion!

Photo from Current Tonight, June 23, 2010Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

This post contains a call to action with an approaching deadline.

It’s a safe bet that when President Richard Nixon signed the Endangered Species Act in 1973, African lions weren’t anywhere on his radar. “Nothing is more priceless and more worthy of preservation than the rich array of animal life with which our country has been blessed,” he wrote in his signing statement on December 28th. “It is a many-faceted treasure…”

Thirty-seven years later in 2011, a coalition led by the International Fund for Animal Welfare petitioned the U.S. Secretary of the Interior to list Panthera leo leo under our nation’s ESA (find the petition here).  It lists the usual culprits–loss of habitat and loss of prey due to human activity–as serious threats to lion survival. Throw in human population growth, the bushmeat trade, civil unrest, and desertification, and the King of the Jungle is hurting. Lions have disappeared from 78% of their historic range–which was most of Africa with a few exceptions–very dry deserts and very wet forests.

But why should a foreign species be listed under America’s Endangered Species Act? Continue reading

How do you value an alpha female wolf?

PBS Nature-click

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

When you live in what feels like a war zone–the Northern Rockies states are waging war on their own native wildlife–it’s easy to forget that the act of killing doesn’t rule the roost everywhere. Occasionally something comes along that makes you believe there might be hope (even if it’s not your hope); that at least some place (though not your place), sanity–and maybe even respect for animals–prevails. Today it is this: Costa Rica, one of the planet’s most bio-diverse countries, banned sport hunting on December 10th. Granted, one quarter of Costa Rica’s land is already protected in parks and reserves, so hunting wasn’t a big economic driver to start with. But still. Continue reading

Sheep (and ranchers) Find No Home on the Range

SHEEP-1-popup

Seth Victor

From the tone of the NY Times article, John Bartmann doesn’t sound like a bad man. Though some readers might demonize him because he is involved in animal farming, this isn’t the CEO of a major industrial producer, and it would be inaccurate to lump him in under the same heading. I expect Mr. Bartmann knows a thing or two about sheep husbandry, and likely has his own grievances with the CAFO industry. Still, his plight is indicative of the complicated issues surrounding modern farming, and is not free from critique. The decline of the modern rancher, especially in the drought of 2012, highlights many of the problems with food in the United States, through both animal and environmental perspectives. 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.

Grizzly psychosis at the zoo: There’s no place like home

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Circling Bear, left (emerging from shadow); Pacing Bear, right

“The animals in this zoo walk in circles.”

The boy, about eight years old, made this observation as he stood inches from a compulsively-circling grizzly, a thick wall of plexiglass between bear and child. He repeated it–now more question than statement–but neither parent responded. “The bear’s gone crazy from captivity,” I ventured in his direction. His mom agreed. “Yes, it’s so sad,” she said. “I feel sorry for them.” Meanwhile, the bear circled and circled while her sister paced a linear route back and forth, back and forth. Meanwhile, a lump was forming in my throat. Continue reading

Life’s a beach–or an entangled beak (no more balloon releases!)

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Ocean Conservancy – click image

Michigan City, Indiana is a great hometown–a Great Lakes hometown. Located on the southern tip of Lake Michigan, we Michigan Cityzens were lucky to grow up basking on warm, “singing sand,” diving into big breakers (with dire warnings of the undertow looming large in childhood), and exploring the wild dunes that would eventually become the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. On a recent trip home, I crammed in as many visits as possible to “my” great lake. Even Montana’s Big Sky country can’t quell the frequent longing for that spectacular lakefront, its reeling shorebirds, towering dunes, and waving marram grass. Continue reading

The Seagull or the Whale?

Seth Victor

Seagulls around Argentina have become too crafty for their own good. Exhibiting behavior straight out of a Hitchcock movie, the gulls have figured out that if they peck at the skin of breaching right whales, they can open wounds on the whales, and then feast every time the cetaceans surface. Apparently this started with a few gulls, but they have spread the word, and now the birds pose a serious threat to the whales’ livelihood, especially the calves. Citing the danger to the whales, the Argentine government is now permitting people to shoot the gulls, and recover their bodies before they are ingested, before the whales migrate to safer seas. Environmentalist are upset with the decision, claiming that is it not the fault of the birds, so much as it is the fault of the open landfills in the area that have attracted them in the first place. Clean up the trash, and the birds will naturally disperse. The issue is also an economic one, as whale watching makes up a significant part of tourism revenue. Continue reading

Speciesism in three uneasy pieces

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

I don’t read the morning paper anymore so much as I confront it. What will it be today–a romantic, river-runs-through-it feature on catch-and-release fly fishing? Gloating trophy shots of dudes in hunter orange and the ungulates they conquered with high-powered rifles? Another guest opinion column defending trapping as a management tool for a renewable resource? (Or, in the case of wolves, as suppression of unwanted competition for the aforementioned ungulates?)

Maybe a photo of a child clinging to a sheep in a mutton bustin’ contest? An article on taxidermy, horse racing at the fairgrounds, or a feature on  the derring-do of bullfighters? (You used to know them as rodeo clowns, but they’ve come up in the world.) A full-page ad for a local ammo manufacturer featuring teenage girls and their African safari kills? Ice fishing tourney stats? No matter the season, there’s always a reason for animal exploitation–and someone willing to talk about it, someone ready to report it, and someone eager to read about it.

Within four days recently, a trio of items appeared in the paper to perfectly illustrate the speciesism that so naturally saturates the human experience. Whether for entertainment, convenience, or greed and entitlement, we human animals are a speciesist species. Continue reading

The animal rights movement: “A beast to be slain”

rightsofanimals.edublogs.org

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Western Montana’s Bitterroot Valley in Ravalli County is known for its stunning mountain scenery and its oft-stunning conservatism. Deep-canyoned east-west drainages rising toward the Idaho divide serve as a gateway to the 1,340,587-acre Selway-Bitterroot Wilderness. The valley’s politics often serve as a gateway to extremism. Guns? Lordy. Militia? In the works. A hunters’ group, hoping to encourage more dead wolves (the only good kind), offered prize money for photos of wolves killed in districts where hunting quotas hadn’t been met. The county planning board (subdivisions and all that –yawn- stuff) hosted an expert on Agenda 21, a U.N. plan to steal our freedom and our property, destroy the Constitution, use environmentalism to create a one-world government, and relocate most Montanans to urban areas like Seattle.  In a recent Bitterroot Memorial Day parade–Memorial Day, mind you–a pickup towed an outhouse labeled “Obama Presidential Library.” You get the picture.

And so it was, driven by curiosity, that a public seminar titled “The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement” caused me to give up half of a recent Saturday and head up the valley. Continue reading

Capitalism and captive marine mammals go hand in flipper

Click image for theme song

Kathleen Stachowski Other Nations

Dillard’s department store has raised my ire. Again.  And again, swimsuits figure in.

The first time–several years ago now–a swimwear sale ad blew me out of the water with its sexualized portrayal of a six-year-old girl. The swimsuit itself was OK…well, except for the two big flowers printed strategically on the chest of the swimsuit top. That, combined with the exotic dancer pose the child was photographed in, and I was e-mailing Corporate Office in a hurry and a fury to suggest that their advertising department sorely needed some awareness-raising and sensitivity training.

This time, a quarter-page ad trumpets “Swim Day,” a swimsuit promotion running in conjunction with Discovery Cove in Orlando. Come in and try on a swimsuit! Register to win the Grand Prize and you could find yourself swimming with dolphins, snorkeling with rays, and hand feeding exotic birds. In the background behind the swimsuit model, four captive dolphins leap from the water in a synchronized stunt. Continue reading

Now is the winter of our (predator) discontent

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

Ah, the Northern Rockies. Soaring mountains. Rushing streams. Beargrass and aspens. Mountain bluebirds. Deep forests, wide open prairies, abundant native wildlife. What’s not to love?

Well, it depends on whom you ask.

“I want them to open their (expletive) eyes,” said Toby Bridges, founder of Lobo Watch (Sportsmen against wolves–united we stand!). Bridges wants Missoula County to follow Ravalli County’s lead in drafting a wolf “management” policy.

“If enough counties cry (expletive) on this, at least you’re going to get their (expletive) attention. I’m going to keep throwing gallons of gasoline on this fire and it’s going to get hot.”   Read more: Missoulian Continue reading

Should We Leave Certain Species Behind?

Theologia Papadelias

Should we let certain endangered species die out? Scientists have long stated that biodiversity is significant in maintaining a healthy ecosystem, but some are taking a seemingly unintuitive view that has been termed conservation triage. Conservation triage focuses resources on animals that can realistically be saved, and giving up on the rest. Those that fall into the too-expensive-to-save category might include the panda and the tiger.

Unfortunately, economic factors must be taken into consideration and some species require more money to save than others. For example, the California condor population saw an increase to 381, with 192 living in the wild, since 1987. An ongoing monitoring and maintenance program that costs more than $4 million a year helps keep them going. But is this program a success or merely a waste of finite resources? Continue reading

Striking the Balance Between Public Health and Wildlife Conservation Policy Concerns in Africa: Why Sustaining Wildlife is a Crucial Element

Jessica Witmer

          Bushmeat hunting is a growing and immediate threat to the future of endangered species in Africa.  While bushmeat may be crucial to the diet of indigenous people in rural areas where other food may not be easily available or affordable, the continuation of bushmeat hunting will ultimately lead to the species extinction.  Bushmeat hunting has already caused the ecological extinction of multiple large animals and it continues to reduce the biological diversity of forest ecosystems.  Decreasing the population of these species at increasing rates is neither beneficial for the ecosystem or for the people whose livelihood depends on the species sustainability.  A recent study from the University of California found that consumption of bushmeat is beneficial to children’s nutrition.  The researchers predicted that “loss of access to wildlife as a source of food – either through stricter enforcement of conservation laws or depletion of resources – would lead to a 29 percent jump in the number of children suffering from anemia.”  The study also revealed that 20 percent of meat consumed by locals was made up of bushmeat, even though the hunting is illegal.  Continue reading

Republic of Marshall Islands Opens World’s Largest Shark Sanctuary

Gillian Lyons

We all know that sharks hold a certain fascination in the American mind.  I myself cannot drag myself away from the television during the Discovery Channel’s shark week.  What you may not know is that according to the IUCN, up to 30 percent of pelagic shark species (those that live in the “open ocean”) are considered threatened, due at least in part to a large commercial “sharking” industry, an industry which conservation organizations estimate kills 73 million sharks per year.

In an effort to battle the large, lucrative, “sharking” industry, the Republic of the Marshall Islands has recently announced that it was to be home to the largest shark sanctuary in the world.  In the 768,547 square mile sanctuary, commercial hunting for sharks is banned, as is the sale of shark products.  A violation of these bans can result in fines ranging from 25,000-200,000 dollars. Continue reading

Feral cats: The government fix–or the humane fix?

www life with cats.tv

Kathleen Stachowski   Other Nations

October 16th is National Feral Cat Day. That’s just under a month out, but forewarned is forearmed, and if feral cats aren’t on your radar now, perhaps they will be.

Feral cats (also called community cats) weren’t on my radar until my cousin Beth, a feral cat activist in Indiana, e-mailed to ask that I contact federal officials (via an action alert from Best Friends) about the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service’s role in undermining community trap-neuter-return–or release–(TNR) programs. 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

8.7 million and counting….

Gillian Lyons

A recent New York Times article, published in late August, discussed a new study, which estimated the number of species living on the Earth to be approximately 8.7 million, give or take 1.3 million.  To me, this number seemed astronomical (though I sometimes feel that there are 8.7 million different species of bugs that manage to get into my house every week).

After reading a few articles on the study, something got me thinking.  In one particular article, it is noted that one of the study’s authors feels that population estimate studies are particularly important due currently accelerated rates of extinction, brought about by a host of human activities.  This piqued my curiosity.  With 8.7 million estimated species on the earth, just how do the extinction rates measure up?  I decided to check this out. Continue reading

Elephants in the News…

Gillian Lyons

It’s been an active two weeks for African Elephants in the world news.  Here’s the round-up, both good and bad:

Early last week, NGOs including Elephant Family released a report discussing the soaring illegal ivory trade in China.  According to the report, Chinese demand for ivory has increased dramatically over the past few years due to the country’s recent economic boom.  The report states that the number of ivory items on sale in China has doubled since 2004, and that approximately 90% of all ivory sold in the country has been obtained illegally.   The report, which has received significant attention in the news, has prompted ivory researchers to beseech the Chinese government to tighten enforcement of ivory regulations. Continue reading

Wolves in the northern Rockies: It ain’t over ’til it’s over

ID F&G

Kathleen Stachowski  Other Nations

Until the next legal dust-up, the northern Rocky Mountain states have new wolf hunting rules. Bidding farewell to Endangered Species Act protection means the fur will fly and wolves will die. And get this–Montana, the state that attempted to legalize big game spear hunting this past legislative session–is by far showing the most restraint. Wyoming and Idaho? Yikes. Continue reading

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

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.

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

Which Animals Matter (yet again)?

Seth Victor

To paraphrase the oft quoted excerpt from Animal Farm, all cute and fuzzy animals are equal, but domesticated cute and fuzzy animals are more equal than others. This sentiment was yet again demonstrated over the last week. In one corner, we have human pets, who are mercilessly being tortured for the pleasure of a rather repugnant fetish in crush videos. After U.S. v. Stevens struck down a law aimed a regulating depictions of cruelty, Congress quickly passed a narrower bill that was signed into law by President Obama on Friday. As reported by ALDF, “the more narrowly written law that emerged makes it a crime to sell or distribute videos showing animals being intentionally crushed, burned, drowned, suffocated, impaled, or otherwise subjected to serious bodily injury. It exempts depictions of veterinary and husbandry practices, the slaughter of animals for food, as well as depictions of hunting, trapping or fishing.” Hopefully the narrower scope will survive the inevitable legal challenges.

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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.

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

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.   

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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.

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Brasilia and Now Ghent (Belgium) — Still Talking Climate Change & Agriculture

David Cassuto

So here I am on a plane again – this time to Belgium on my way to the Colloquium of the IUCN Academy of Environmental Law, which is taking place in Ghent.  I’m back in steerage this time; no business class for our hero.  I swore I would never go back but here I am.

Amidst all the hubbub, I need to recap my time in Brasilia even as I head for Europe.  Brasilia was a very interesting time and I once more want to reiterate my gratitude to the U.S. State Department for making my time in Brazil so rich and rewarding and for taking such good care of me.  This was my first time in Brazil’s capital and I enjoyed it – from the stunning architecture to the fact that the city is laid out like an airplane.  In addition to speaking at private university (entirely successful and well-attended), I lectured also to a government think tank called IPEA.  There, I encountered probing questions from a very informed audience.  When I mentioned the idea of treating meat consumption as a luxury for purposes of regulating and taxing carbon emissions, one of my hosts asked what I thought of the idea of a “meat cap.”  Not only is it an intriguing notion about which I need to think more, but so much do I love the term that even if it were a completely wacky idea, I would probably support it anyway.                    Continue reading