Turning Down the Ocean: Human-created Noise

Aine Dillon

Many think of the ocean as a place with peaceful sounds. Some even use the sounds of waves to fall asleep. However, not everyone knows that the ocean, under the surface, is actually very loud. Today, the ocean is almost deafening for marine animals. Marine wildlife use their sense of sound as much as land animals. However, human-created noise is polluting the ocean. This noise threatens the survival of many marine animals that use their sense of sound to communicate, avoid predators and find prey. The International Fund for Animal Welfare lists ocean noise as one of the five biggest threats to marine wildlife.

Ocean noise can come from commercial shipping, oil, seismic surveys, cruise ships, naval sonar training, and construction. Over the last 40 years, the Pacific Ocean’s noise level has doubled. Historically, the blue whale could communicate across oceans. Today, the distance they can communicate has decreased by 90% due to Ocean noise.

The American Navy has used sonar to detect enemy submarines. Due to sonar, whales have swam hundreds of miles, rapidly changed their depth, or even breached to escape the sound. In 2003, the Natural Resources Defense Council (“NRDC”) campaigned to ban sonar testing in areas rich in marine biodiversity. The NRDC appealed to the Supreme Court and cited Navy documents that estimated the testing would result in temporary deafness for at least 8,000 and kill 170,000 marine animals and cause permeant injury to 500 whales. In January 2005, 34 whales washed up shore dead along North Carolina close to the offshore Navy sonar training. Many suspected more whales died that did not wash up on shore.

Whales and dolphins make complex vocal communications using clicks, whistles, and squeaks. These communications are used during reproduction, feeding, avoiding predators, and navigation. Noise levels can decrease the distance communications can travel and severely impacts the survival of these animals. Noise can hinder marine wildlife’s ability to hear their group members, protect their young, or hunt for prey. Although these animals can tolerate some noises in the oceans, such as noise from rainfall, storms, or other animals’ communications, they cannot evolve fast enough to compensate for the exponential increases from human-created noise.

The first sign of the impact of ocean noise came after the September 11th attacks. After the attacks, the shipping traffic off the east coast of the United States halted. Scientists studying the North Atlantic right whales observed a sharp decline in stress-related hormones in the whales’ feces. It was the first evidence that ship noise alone contributed to chronic stress in the whales.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sharp decline in many industries that use the oceans. One industry that almost halted completely was the cruise ship industry. Cruise ships can be especially harmful to marine wildlife because of their high speeds, and they travel to many remote and ecologically sensitive areas. Without cruise travel, the ocean noise decreased. This time also allowed scientists to research the impacts of ocean noise by comparing behavior before and after the cruise ships stopped sailing.

Simple changes can quiet the oceans. For example, the noise created by ships directly correlates to the ship’s speed. The faster the ship is traveling, the louder the ship is. Ship design can also create less noise. Further, utilizing shipment routes that avoid endangered species can decrease the likelihood of ocean noise pushing species into extinction. Additionally, slower ships burn less fuel and produce fewer greenhouse gasses, which decreases the environmental costs of ships. Slower ships also decrease the possibility of hitting whales by 50%.

Currently, no international laws regulate ocean noise. However, some cities or ports have taken action. For example, the Port of Vancouver reduced port fees for ships that decreased their noise pollution. Hellenic Trench, Greece has changed its permitted shipping routes to avoid risk to the endangered Mediterranean sperm whales.

To decrease the casualties due to sonar, many animal rights groups have suggested that the Navy decrease the number of testing during peacetime or gradually increase the testing to allow wildlife to flee affected areas. Further, these groups have suggested that the Navy move testing to areas with less rich biodiversity or avoid areas with endangered wildlife.

Consumers can also help. Consumers can try to buy more local goods that have a higher likelihood of coming from shipment on trucks rather than ships. Further, buying in-store instead of buying online can also help. Finally, supporting groups that advocate for laws that limit the amount of ocean noise allowed can also aid in protecting marine wildlife.

Child Custody Approach Used to Resolve Dispute over Ownership of Elephant in India

Megan Edwards

Animals inhabit a peculiar position in the world, particularly with respect to their relationship with people.  On one hand, people have responsibilities and obligations to animals—this is evident from the almost 120 countries worldwide that have some form of basic animal cruelty laws.  On the other hand, animals are considered peoples’ legal property, having a legal status similar to that of a chair.  This reality makes the handling of legal cases involving animals challenging, and oftentimes unsatisfactory. 

But for the Madras High Court in India, “[j]ust solutions to legal issues may sometimes lie outside the formal statutory framework.”  Before the court was a dispute over the ownership of an elephant called Lalitha.  Lalitha was originally purchased in 1988 and was subsequently sold to different people until her current owner, Sheik Mohammed, purchased her in 2000.  Mohammed filed a form with the government to transfer the status of Lalitha’s legal ownership to himself—but the issue was, the sales of Lalitha after her original purchasing in 1988 were illegal.  Mohammed’s requests for ownership transfer were pending until they were rejected in March of 2020. 

Despite the illegal sales, Mohammed petitioned the court to set aside the rejections and to direct the relevant government agency to grant him a certificate of ownership.  Because of the clear illegality of the sales, the court refused to set aside the rejection.  However, the court was not prepared to require Mohammed to surrender Lalitha to the Forest Department. 

The Madras Court relied on reasoning set forth by the Supreme Court in determining how to handle Lalitha’s placement. The Supreme Court of India declared that 5 internationally recognized freedoms for animals established by the guidelines of the World Organization of Animal Health be read into the Prevention of Cruelty to Animal Acts.  These freedoms include: 1) freedom from hunger, thirst and malnutrition; 2) freedom from fear and distress; 3) freedom from physical and thermal discomfort; 4) freedom from pain, injury and disease; and 5) freedom to express normal patterns of behavior.  Relying on these principles, the Madras High Court held that Lalitha is “entitled to express her normal patterns of behavior.”  Lalitha lived with her caretakers for over twenty years and established a close bond with them.  She would have been traumatized if she was forcibly removed from Mohammed’s care.  In a novel turn, the court elected to utilize child custody procedures to handle the custody of Lalitha.  The presiding judge conducted a surprise inspection and found Lalitha to be well cared for, well fed, in good health, and importantly, happy.  The court held that removing her from Mohammed’s care would be “sure to inflict a deep psychological wound” that would not be “in her best interests.”  Despite being denied the legal ownership of Lalitha, Mohammed was allowed to maintain custody.  The court valued what was best for Lalitha over adhering to the processes that deem her property. 

In recent years, similar approaches to determining the custody of animals in divorce proceedings have arisen in the U.S.  Courts have begun to apply a “best interest” approach when it comes to pet custody.  Under this approach, to determine which party would gain custody of a pet, courts have considered factors such as how the individuals care for the pet, the bonds they have with the pet, who brought the pet to the veterinarian and paid the bills, and who does things with the pet such as taking it for walks.  Utilizing these factors, courts have attempted to determine the primary caregiver for the animal, relying on the idea that the person who primarily took care of the animal and had the majority of the caregiving responsibilities for the animal would have the animal’s best interests in mind.

Three states—Illinois, Alaska, and California—have taken steps to establish laws that require courts to consider the “well-being” of the animal when determining custody.  This “best-interest” standard recognizes that animals are sentient beings, not just mere, inanimate items of property.  Suggestions for more widespread use of this standard propose that courts consider facts such as the mental and emotional health of the animal, exercise for the animal, whether other animals or children will be in the household, and the affection and bond between the animal and its caregiver.  Like the Madras Court, these considerations are similar to those granted to children in custody proceeding.

Animals are not inanimate objects, and the law should not treat them as such.  A “best interests” approach to the determination of the custody of an animal, such as what was utilized in Lalitha’s case, is a step towards recognizing animals’ inherent value. 

Vegetarianism As A Tool For Environmental Health

Michael Schwartz

In most cases, when people tell their stories of how they become a vegetarian or a vegan, it comes from the idea of moral vegetarianism. The meaning behind the phrase moral vegetarianism can be interpreted with a plain meaning because its definition is exactly what the expression sounds like. The basis behind the concept is that it is wrong to eat meat and immoral to produce meat. However, the thought behind moral vegetarianism may run deeper than the conclusion of not wanting to eat the meat of beings that were once alive. Moral vegetarianism can now be extended because of the positive environmental effects that take place when a person transitions from being a meat eater into a vegetarian.

            The first affirmation of a green move in a transition of becoming a vegetarian is that it gives each person a tool in combating global warming. Global warming poses one of the most serious threats to the global environment in human history. Yet, by focusing entirely on carbon dioxide emissions, major environmental organizations have failed to account for published data showing that other gases are the main culprits behind the global warming we see today. See “EarthSave Report: A New Global Warming Strategy: How Environmentalists are Overlooking Vegetarianism as the Most Effective Tool Against Climate Change in Our Lifetimes,” Noam Mohr, Aug. 2005: http://earthsave.org/globalwarming.htm (link is external) As a result, they are overlooking the fact that the single most important step an individual can take to reduce global warming [faster than any other means] is to adopt a vegetarian diet.In its 2006 report, the United Nations found that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. “Livestock a major threat to the environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006: http://www.fao.org/newsroom/en/news/2006/1000448/index.html (link is external). According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the FAO projects that global demand for livestock products will increase to 70 percent by 2050. Showing that this is a global hazard that will only be increasing in size.

            Not only is a switch to vegetarianism a help on a personal level in a battle against global warming, but it also may be a helpful solution in the growing problem of deforestation. Nearly 40 percent of the world’s land is already used for agriculture. But these aren’t fields of wheat, lettuce, and tomatoes. Most of that land is used to grow grains to feed livestock or support the livestock themselves. With a likely increase of food production by 70 percent by 2050, in order to feed everyone on the planet without cutting down more forests. That would mean crop yields would have to improve faster than they ever have historically. According to a World Resources Institute report, if Americans swap poultry or pork for one third of their beef consumption, their diet-related land use would go down by almost 15 percent.

            Lastly, turning to vegetarianism would reduce the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, and chemicals that harm animals through the pollution of our waterways. Across the United States, farmers inject and give hormones to animals to increase growth and productivity. A commonly used practice here, these hormones are known to cause several types of cancer and reproductive dysfunction in humans. While U.S. farmers claim that using hormones to promote growth is safe, the European Union has prohibited this practice since 1995. Furthermore, a vegetarian approach would eliminate the harms being done by fish farming. Because of the prevalent problem of parasites, some aquaculture operators are forced to use strong antibiotic drugs to keep the fish alive. Unfortunately, many fish still end up dying prematurely. Furthermore, these drugs enter the food chain through direct consumption of the farmed fish itself and through the highly concentrated feces deposits that contaminate water supplies. Reports indicate that Scottish salmon farms alone have breached pollution limits more than 400 times in the past 3 years. See Sunday Herald. ‘400 breaches of fish farm pollution limits in three years’. 1st October 2006. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4156/is_20061001/ai_n16760726 (link is external).

            With the increasing demand in livestock farming, land for livestock and resources used to help feed these livestock whose only groom is for slaughter, there are two directions being presented. We can either double down on our farming system and increase our environmental harms, or we can slowly transition into new, environmentally-friendly eating habits. This does not mean one will have to turn into a vegetarian overnight, it would be wholly unreasonable to ask for. However, with options of a plant-based lifestyle growing with companies such as Beyond Meat and Impossible Meat reaching fast food chains such as Burger King and Dunkin, the integration of vegetarianism has seemed to already begun. While it may help a moral compass by not eating a being that was once alive, the benefits of turning to vegetarianism is also one that benefits fellow humans on our planet and our ecosystem as a whole.

Keystone Species: The Key to a Healthy Environment

Madison Roberts

            What is an ecosystem? According to National Geographic, “An ecosystem is a geographic area where plants, animals, and other organisms…. work together to form a bubble of life.” While every part of the ecosystem is important, certain species are more integral than others. Without these integral species the ecosystem they reside in would collapse. This species is called a Keystone Species.

            Keystone Species come in all shapes and sizes. They could be plants or animals, and they exist at varying levels in the food chain. However, it is important to note that while a species may be a keystone to one ecosystem, they could cause harm in another ecosystem.  

            The first thing to look at when analyzing a Keystone Species is their type. Generally, there are four recognized types of Keystone Species. These four types are explained by Ian Payton, Michael Fenner, and William Lee in their paper “Keystone Species: the concept and its relevance for conservation management in New Zealand.” They are organisms controlling potential dominants, resource providers, mutualists, and ecosystem engineers. The first type is usually a predator that controls the population level of a species under it. Wolves in relationship to rabbits is a good example of this. The second type is most commonly plants. An example is a fruit tree in the rainforest that provides nourishment for animals during a pinch point where not many other food sources are available. The third type, mutualism, involves the relationship between two animals and how it interacts with the ecosystem. It is easy to understand how two species working together can make both of those species a keystone to an environment by examining the relationship of Bear and salmon in the forests of Alaska. Finally, there are ecosystem engineers. These species literally change the ecosystem when going about their daily life. The best example for this is a beaver that cuts down trees in order to make its home.

For the purposes of this post, we will be focusing on the mutualist and the ecosystem engineer. Bears and salmon are two species crucial to the forests of the Alaska. They are without a doubt Keystone Species and help plants and animals to survive through their interactions together. The way that these two animals impact the ecosystem to such a degree is through their feces. Riparian plants that grow next to a stream with salmon get 18-26 percent of their foliar N from the salmon. Plants with higher foliar N contents are more nutritious and more palatable to the animals that eat them. When a bear consumes salmon, it is consuming the nutrients that the salmon provides. Unlike plants, bears cannot use the nutrients from the salmon that encourages foliar N contents in plants to rise. When the bear is done digesting the salmon for the nutrients that it can use, the bear leaves behind feces that has high foliar N content for plants to absorb into it.  How does this make both the bear and salmon Keystone Species? Without the mutualist interaction between the bear and the salmon that spreads foliar N across riparian forests, there would be significant changes in the ecosystem. It would cause the plants to provide less nutrient benefits to grazers like moose, and in turn cause the moose and other animals to need more food in order to fill that nutritional gap.

            The mutualistic interaction of bears and salmon is a good example of how a Keystone Species can benefit an ecosystem. However, there are also examples of how moving a Keystone Species to a different ecosystem can have disastrous effects. For that reason, the next species to discuss is a well-known ecosystem engineer, the beaver.

            Beavers are stocky brown animals with flat tails that build their nests and get food by chopping down trees and blocking rivers and streams. In North America, the population and actions of beavers are controlled by bears and wolves. This allows the beavers to serve a beneficial role and help enrich the North American ecosystems that they reside in. However, when the Argentinian military decided they should bring beavers to enrich Tierra Del Fuego the consequences turned disastrous. Because beavers have no natural predator in South America’s Patagonia they have been wreaking havoc on the ecosystem since being placed there. Beavers are now an invasive species in South America and their population is between 70,000 and 110,000 in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego. The only way to get rid of the beavers is to hunt them, but beaver pelt and beaver meat are not often used and make it financially inefficient. In addition, researchers have found that the actions of the beavers support the welfare of two other invasive species: the muskrat and the mink. The muskrat resides near stagnant ponds which are created by the beaver dams, and the mink like to prey on the muskrat. Therefore, by bringing a species that is a keystone in one habitat to an ecosystem where it has no predators has resulted in disaster. Currently researchers believe that the ecosystem is in a process of meltdown due to the effects of the beaver.

            Why does this matter? Keystone Species are integral parts of the ecosystem. They can create benefits and cause disasters. However, there is still no clear way of identifying Keystone Species and even the types of species. Even the Keystone Species types listed above are in contention. What complicates matters more is that this lack of scientific certainty on Keystone Species has caused the legal system to disregard them. In the United States, we have laws that are created in effort to preserve species and ecosystems alike. The Endangered Species Protection Act and NEPA are two examples. However, our legal system fails to look at the dangers of not protecting species that are integral to the ecosystems they try to protect. What is the point in saying you may not cause the extinction of an Endangered Species, but at the same time allow the injury or destruction of the population of a species it relies on? By not doing more to protect Keystone Species because of the scientific gap left in their research, the legal system is virtually sitting by and waiting for an environmental disaster like that in Tierra Del Fuego. Instead of sitting by and waiting for the science, legal scholars and legislators should be doing their best to protect Keystone Species before science tells them it is too late.

Title: The Duality of Environmental Concerns and Animal Welfare

Marissa O’Connor

            While both environmental concerns and animal welfare concerns seem to encompass one another, groups respective of the two interests often clash due to competing values and different prioritization. Generally, groups concerned with animal welfare and ethics place the well-being and interests of sentient individuals at the center of their concerns. Conversely, groups primarily concerned with environmental conservation focus on the preservation of biodiversity, entire ecosystems, and nature itself.  Where the wellbeing of individual animals matters less and species, ecosystems, or nature as a whole are emphasized, ethical dilemmas and disagreements may arise. These dilemmas and disagreements are seen quite often when concerning wildlife management practices. Animal activists often claim that their values come second to environmentalist values, instead seen as an emotional response instead of rational since environmentalists opt for values concerning entire ecosystems, and therefore do not give the individual species concern that animal activists do. When in terms of wildlife management, animal activists would claim moral consideration for the species and environmentalists would speak for the entire ecosystem. Wildlife management practices that have the potential to create conflict are population control methods such as introducing predators in an ecosystem and hunting practices. Further, the allowance of recreational hunting practices and the management of invasive species also creates moral conflict.

            Environmentalists, such as Aldo Leopold, have claimed that hunting is an integral component of successful wilderness management. While it is against the interest of the deer to be hunted, it is in the interest of the ecosystem as a whole where overpopulation is occurring. The two competing interests would argue for opposite sides, but still share a common interest: neither want the other to suffer and die. In cases of recreational hunting, or hunting for sustenance, there is once again a moral dilemma. The hunting of whales is highly controversial, even if the species of whale being hunted is not vulnerable. An Inuit hunter once put the dilemma starkly: “The greatest peril in life lies in the fact that human food consists entirely of souls.” Whale hunting does may not damage the environment itself, as it can recover, but does that negate the harm done to the individual? As with Inuits who rely on whale meat as a large portion of their sustenance, deer hunters regularly utilize the entire carcass. Environmentalists would deem this “ethical hunting”, animal activists would claim there is no such thing.

            How wildlife management groups deal with invasive species also sees a great conflict between the two interests. For primary example is the Mute Swan, which is considered an invasive species to North America whose management practices have seen their fair share of disagreements. With a population explosion in the early 2000s, a management plan to curb the rising population of a species once protected by the Migratory Bird Treaty Act. In 2003, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service proposed to “minimize environmental damages attributed to Mute Swans”. This proposal was supported by all thirteen state wildlife agencies, as well as 43 bird conservation and wildlife management organizations. In opposition were ten animal rights organizations and the majority of comments that were submitted by individuals. The proposal included methods of population control such as the act of “egg shaking”, which disrupts the yolk so no embryo may develop. The controversial methods of population control of the Mute Swan bring into the question of when the intervention is necessary, and how do wildlife managers decide when it is?

Environmentalist values do not always take precedent over the values of animal activists, however. There is, what some animal welfare activists consider to be, a “moral panic” over free-ranging and feral cats. In terms of their extremely destructive behaviors to ecosystems, but special prioritization it sees as charismatic species and household pet, the opposing sides conflict on how to mitigate their impact. The ethical dilemma is quite profound, but feral cats need not see any hunting practices enacted on them, a grace that some animal welfare activists think should be extended to additional species.  Where animal rights activists see a win with household cats, environmentalists, and countless birds, lose.

A solution to these dilemmas could be found in a hybrid view that draws upon the establishment of an ethical framework in order to delegate prioritizations and actions. An example of a hybrid view is an approach developed by American philosopher Bryan Norton, who distinguishes animals in three different contexts: wild, domesticated, and mixed. In terms of wild animals, the ethical framework should be concerned with respect to the struggle of wildlife to perpetuate their species. This respect and accounting to the struggle sacrifices the interests of the individual for the whole. Opposite to the framework suggested for domesticated animals who should not be individually sacrificed for the good of the animal populations or species. Regardless of an ethical framework, wildlife still has every opportunity to lose.

U.S. District Court Upholds Constitutionality of San Francisco Fur Ban

Nicolette Merino

In March 2021, The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California dismissed The International Fur Trade Federation’s constitutional challenge to San Francisco’s ban on the sale of fur products without leave to file an amended complaint.

The City’s fur ban legislation is an example of the growing opposition towards animal fur products. San Francisco is among one of multiple cities in California that enacted fur sale bans, which ultimately led to the state of California becoming the first state in the nation to ban fur sales and manufacturing. The City’s fur ban was unanimously approved by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in March 2018 and went into effect on January 1, 2019. The ordinance defines “fur” as “animal skin or part thereof with hair, fleece or fur fibers attached thereto” and prohibits the sale, offer for sale, display for sale, trade, and distribution for monetary or nonmonetary consideration a “fur” product. Violators of the ordinance face civil penalties, which are deposited in the Fish and Game Preservation fund. Despite the ordinance’s attempt to deter the production and sale of animal fur, it expressly excludes cowhide, animal skin “that is to be converted into leather,” as well as for deerskin, sheepskin, and goatskin from its definition of “fur.”

Nevertheless, fur ban legislation is significant in advancing animal welfare as it serves to protect the one hundred million animals that are needless killed each year for their fur. While fur bans are only implemented in a few states, preventing the production of even a small amount of fur products could save the lives of many animals. For example, a statistic from the Human Society reveals that over one hundred animals could be killed for one singular fur coat. Banning the production and sale of animal fur is particularly significant given that these animals are subjected to extremely inhumane practices and treatment. Of the one hundred million animals killed, eighty-five percent come from fur factory farms where they are typically housed in cramped, unsanitary cages for their entire lives before they are skinned alive without painkillers and while fully conscious. The remainder of animals are caught in the wild often through the use of leghold traps where they are left to suffer for long periods of time without food and water. The use of this outdated practice not only negatively impacts animals captured for their fur, but also non-targeted animals, that often fall victim to the traps.

While San Francisco’s fur ban represents a positive step in the advancement and recognition of animal welfare, the ordinance, like most animal welfare legislation, has faced constitutional scrutiny. In 2020, The International Fur Trade Federation filed suit against the city and county of San Francisco arguing that the ordinance violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution by burdening interstate and foreign commerce in fur products. The International Fur Trade Federation represented fur dealers, trappers, designers and retailers in 40 countries. Further, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Humane Society of the United States intervened in the lawsuit in defense of the legislation’s constitutionality.

The March 2021 dismissal followed three previous attempts by the International Fur Trade Federation to amend its complaint. Despite the International Fur Trade Federation’s claim that the ban would result in a loss of forty-five million sales each year, U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s most recent holding reinforced his earlier finding that the ban does not unconstitutionally burdens interstate or international commerce. The International Fur Trade Federation’s most recent complaint contained allegations that, pursuant to the text of the ordinance, the city did not have the power to enforce the fur ban against retailers located in San Francisco who also sell products to San Francisco consumers online. The International Fur Trade Federation requested a court ruling that the ordinance could not be applied to online sales for retailers including Bloomingdale’s, Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue, which have physical locations in San Francisco but also sell products online. Judge Seeborg applied a broad interpretation to the ordinance’s ban on sales, concluding that the ban also included internet sales “where both the buyer and seller are located in San Francisco.” However, he indicated that enforcement would extend only to companies with physical locations in San Francisco.

Baiting Sharks: How Shark Fishing Devastates Dolphin Populations

Emily Lively

Globally, humans slaughter approximately one hundred thousand dolphins annually. Humans kill dolphins for a variety of reasons, including cultural purposes, human consumption, and to eliminate competition for fish. However, a far lesser-known use of dolphin meat accounts for the largest killing of dolphins worldwide.

Currently, seventeen countries slaughter dolphins for use as shark bait. In the 1990s, demand for shark fins drastically increased. Market value for shark fins exceeded that of dolphin meat. Rather than sell their dolphin meat for human consumption, fisheries opted to use it to obtain the more lucrative shark fins.

Fishermen in Peru alone kill approximately 15,000 to 20,000 dolphins each year for use as shark bait. Shark fishermen track pods of dolphins until they are within harpoon range. Once harpooned, the fishermen haul the dolphins onto their boat. Many times the dolphins are skinned alive. Other times, the fishermen beat them to death with clubs before chopping them into pieces.

In 2019, a fleet of four Taiwanese ships killed roughly 70 dolphins during a four-month shark fishing trip. This is from just four of an estimated 1,000 shark fishing vessels in Taiwan, providing another example of the substantial annual depletion rate of dolphin populations by shark fisheries.

Shark fisheries kill an estimated 63 to 273 million sharks each year. Sharks are primarily killed for their fins alone, which are a main ingredient in the popular Asian dish shark-fin soup. Shark finning is a gruesome practice. Fishermen cut off the shark’s fins while it’s still alive. Quote often, fishermen then toss the shark back into the ocean finless. Ultimately, the shark either bleed to death or suffocate from their inability to swim without their fins. “It’s like cutting off your limbs and leaving you to bleed to death,” Rebecca Regnery of Humane Society International described.

Shark-fin soup is considered a status symbol in many Asian countries. The soup itself, however, has no nutritional value. Shark fins actually contain high concentrations of methylmercury, which poses risks to human health. Methylmercury is a neurotoxin that can cause nervous system damage. Methylmercury can also impair neurological development in children.

The killing of dolphins and sharks by shark fisheries is reaching unsustainable levels. Both species are critical to maintaining a healthy ocean and, by extension, the health of the planet as a whole. Dolphins and sharks are apex predators. As their populations decline, fish populations surge. Rising fish populations send ripples down the food chain and lead to the depletion of phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are vital to maintaining the oxygen that humans breathe. Phytoplankton absorb four times the amount of carbon dioxide as the Amazon Rainforest. Additionally, phytoplankton generate fifty percent of the Earth’s oxygen. With the threat of climate change constantly looming, conserving healthy dolphin and shark populations is more important than ever.

Since dolphins are highly migratory species, the conservation of dolphin populations is highly dependent upon international law. Currently, there are no international laws centered around the protection of dolphin species. The International Whaling Commission (“IWC”) is the primary international organization tasked with protecting cetaceans (i.e. whales, dolphins, and porpoises). The IWC, however, only issues binding resolutions regarding the ten “great whale species.” The IWC’s Sub-Committee on Small Cetaceans urged the IWC to amend the International Convention for the Regulation of Whaling (“ICRW”) to include small cetaceans (i.e. dolphins and porpoises) in 1976. Intense pressure from pro-whaling nations, however, kept small cetacean legislation from receiving the required three-fourths majority. As such, dolphins remain unprotected under international law.

Given the important role dolphins play in maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems, the implementation of international legal protections for dolphin species is critical. Relying on countries to enact laws at the national level is not enough. For example, Peru banned dolphin hunts in 1996. Additionally, Peru outlawed dolphin harpoons in 2018. Lack of enforcement, however, allows an upward of 20,000 dolphins to be slaughtered each year. “Yes it is prohibited . . . . Of course, everybody knows about it. But to catch us, the authorities need to come here, search for us, and find use with the dolphins. The likelihood for this to happen is zero.” International laws would put greater pressure on countries to beef up their enforcement procedures, such as monitoring incoming catch at ports.

Shark fisheries kill tens of thousands of dolphins annually, resulting in completely unsustainable population declines. Enactment of legal protections is needed to ensure dolphins roam the oceans for decades to come. For, “[a] world without dolphins . . . isn’t much of a world at all.”

Fur Farming: An Unnecessary and Cruel Industry

Danielle Maffei

Around one hundred million animals are killed annually in the fur trading industry, and they are slaughtered in horribly cruel ways. Animals such as beavers, chinchillas, foxes, minks, rabbits, raccoons and even dogs and cats are purposely bred and slaughtered for their fur in this trading system, and they are confined in small cages, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. Being trapped in these small cages not only subdues their natural behaviors, but also may result in mental distress, where they pace and circle frantically, self-mutilation of biting at their skin, tails and feet and even cannibalism, and fighting with others in their cage.

Furthermore, the manner in how they are slaughtered is inhumane and cruel. The animals are gassed, electrocuted, beaten or have their necks broken or their throats cut. Sometimes these animals wake up and are skinned while still alive and in many facilities, workers do not care to confirm that animals were unconscious before severing their heads, breaking their necks or skinning them. Fur farmers are more concerned about preserving the quality of the fur and doing so in the cheapest way possible, so they use slaughter methods that preserve the fur but cause extreme suffering to these animals.

Additionally, animals are trapped and killed in the wild for their fur. Traps also inflict a significant amount of suffering to these animals, whether they are the intended target or not (pets and endangered species are not prone to these traps). These animals are typically trapped for days when caught, unable to move, seek shelter, food or water, and oftentimes, may inflict more injury to themselves to try and escape. Such traps may include steel-jaw traps, which clamp down on an animal and most times cut to the trapped animal’s bone, Conibear traps, which crush their necks with 90 pounds of pressure per square inch, or water-set traps, which leaves animals like beavers struggling for more than nine minutes before drowning them. When the trappers arrive, they will often stomp or beat these animals to death.

Throughout the world, there has been an acknowledgment that there must be change in order to prevent needless and profound suffering in the fur industry to these animals. Over 15 European countries have recognized that these methods to kill animals in fur trading are cruel and inhumane, and have presented legislation to ban or phase out fur farming. Fur farming has been banned in Austria, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Luxembourg, the Netherlands (fox farm and chinchilla farms are banned and mink farms will be phased out by 2024), Northern Ireland, Republic of Macedonia, Serbia, Slovenia and the United Kingdom.

Further, there has been progress in the United States. In 2018, both San Francisco and Los Angeles banned fur farms. San Francisco was the first major American city to ban fur sales while Los Angeles was the largest city in the United States, and in the world, to ban fur farms. Following the four cities in its state that prohibited fur sales, California became the first state in the United States to ban fur sales, starting in 2023. Shortly after, a city in Massachusetts became the first city outside of California to ban fur. New York state, also recognizing the suffering animals must endure in fur farms, banned electrocution of fur animals. Bills to ban fur sales have also been presented in five states, including Rhode Island, Oregon, Connecticut, Hawaii and New York.

Even fashion retailers, such as Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdales have recognized the needless cruelty of fur farms, and have confirmed they will stop selling products made with animal fur and exotic animal skin. Other top fashion designers, such as Versace, Ralph Lauren and Chanel, have dropped fur from their collections. With these huge retailers and designers banning the sale of fur and exotic animal skin in their stores, they are making a statement to many other fashion businesses and the fashion industry in general that torturing and brutally killing animals for something as needless as fashion is unacceptable.

It is evident that using fur in the industry is inherently cruel, completely unnecessary, avoidable and immoral and for mere human vanity. Fortunately, countries and cities around the world are beginning to understand that fur farming and sales are preventable, and have begun to take action that is needed to stop the inhumane suffering and killings of these innocent animals.

The Link Between Domestic Violence and Animal Cruelty

Gabrielle Scibetta

            With families forced to stay home as the pandemic shut down the nation last March, pet sales and adoptions reached new heights. One month into the stay-at-home order, pet sales increased 34% than the year prior (Shelter Animals Count: The National Database). While many have used this unprecedented time to welcome animals into their home, others have resorted to violence – suggesting home may not be the safest place for everyone. Instances of animal cruelty have worsened since the start of the pandemic (News10: Uptick in Animal Cruelty ).  Accordingly, with more people home, the American Journal of Emergency Medicine confirms increased domestic violence, up 18% in San Antonio, 22% in Portland, Ore.; and 10% in New York City. ( TIME: Domestic Violence COVID-19).

 For nearly two decades, researchers have remained committed to exploring the link between cruelty to animals and abuse of humans (Animal Legal Defense Fund). A spokesperson with the Finger Lakes SPCA revealed that “domestic abuse cases and animal cruelty cases are on the uptick…for people already in an abusive situation, that anger and angst come out and it has manifested into abuse of the animals.” (News10: Uptick in Animal Cruelty ). “The Link,” as it has been termed, demonstrates that those who neglect a family pet – through lack of empathy, mental illness or substance abuse, or by failing to provide the requisite care – display an increased likelihood of neglecting the basic needs of other household dependents. (Humane Society).

            A 7-year study led by Dr. Jacquelyn Campbell deemed pet abuse one of the four indicators of intimate partner violence. (Animal Welfare Institute). Moreover, 85% of women that enter domestic violence shelters report their partner has abused or killed the family pet. (Humane Society). While the initial signs of animal abuse begin as early as childhood, many adults overlook the warnings as an “exploratory age of development.” As such, the problem endures because prompt recognition of the signs is essential to stopping the cycle of violence and preventing harm in the future (National Link Coalition).

(Chart: “Animal abuse is part of an inter-generational cycle of violence” National Link Coalition )

            Since animals cannot speak and are generally confined to the home, it’s more difficult to identify abuse of animals than humans. Some telling signs of animal cruelty include explanations of accidents that don’t fit with the injuries, lack of concern for the animal’s injury, and appearing malnourished. (Animal Law Info). Furthermore, Research has attempted to identify why animal abuse and family violence are linked. Most often, “abusers kill, hurt or threaten animals to exert power over the human victims and to show them what could happen to them” Other reasons include isolation of the victim and children, enforcing submission, perpetuating fear, prevention of leaving, coercing to return, or punishment. (National Link Coalition).

Organizations like the National Link Coalition are dedicated to raising awareness of the link by “encouraging legislators, community agencies, and caring people to take action” to stop the violence (National Link Coalition). Likewise, the Animal Legal Defense Fund advocates for laws that protect animals and punish animal abusers, explaining “both because animals themselves need protection, and because of the link between cruelty to animals and cruelty to humans, violence against animals must be taken seriously under the law.” (Animal Legal Defense Fund). By providing the public with educational resources on the link, others can recognize the signs and help stop the cycle of violence.

Over the years, remarkable legal advancements have been made, with all 50 states establishing felony punishments for animal cruelty. On December 20, 2018, the Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act was signed into law which “establishes a grant program for entities that provide shelter and housing assistance for domestic violence survivors to enable them to better meet the housing needs of survivors with pets.” By offering a financial incentive to shelters that meet the requirements, countless domestic violence survivors and their pet companions can find safety and get the help and services that they need. (Pet and Women Safety Act ). Now, more than 900 women’s shelters have implemented “Safe Havens” programs that provide shelter to pets of domestic violence victims to keep them out of harm’s way. (Safe Havens Mapping Project).

Correspondingly, 10 states have taken a step in the right direction by enacting statutes that recognize forms of animal abuse as domestic violence.  (National Link Coalition). States will continue to progress as District attorneys’ offices are launching specialized units focused on crimes against animals. There are currently 13 units around the United States, with New York at the forefront introducing units in five counties: Albany, Erie, Nassau, Queens, and Staten Island. (Law Enforcement Agencies Ramp Up Efforts to Address Animal Cruelty ).Understanding the link between animal cruelty and domestic violence has allowed federal and state action to recognize the dangers that victims face and implement action to end the violence.  When people and pets can seek safety from their abusers, thousands of lives are saved.

Is Cruelty Free makeup really Cruelty Free?

Madelin Pereira

Is Cruelty-Free makeup really Cruelty-Free?

Makeup is a billion-dollar business. However, some consumers want to make sure that the products that they use are not tested on animals. Worldwide, there are four organizations that give out licenses to brands so that the consumer market can be guaranteed that the products they are using are made without animal testing. Where this can be confusing, is that each organization has standards and criteria that another doesn’t.

For Example, PETA the world-renowned animal rights organization has a list of companies that are not testing their animals. Essentially companies fill out a questionnaire and then submit a legally binding statement of assurance from the CEO stating that their ingredient suppliers do not test on animals at any part of the manufacturing process. They require detailed paperwork to reach compliance. Further there is a recertification process for companies which allows PETA to remove them if they do not fit within their standards.

In comparison, Cruelty-Free International – is a U.K.-based organization that certifies brands producing cosmetics, personal care, household, and cleaning products. This organization makes sure that these brands do all that they can to remove animal testing from their supply chains. You can tell whether a brand or product fulfills their requirements when you see the leaping bunny on the packaging with the world’s Cruelty-Free International below. Originally created to remove the confusion for people who wanted to shop for cruelty-free products. It is important to note that the Leaping Bunny logo represents that there is no animal testing and not that the products are devoid of animal product or byproduct.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is image-5.png

The organization focuses on the product during the manufacturing stage because this is where animal testing would happen. A monitor is implemented to make sure that the brand has not been a party to experiment of animals during the manufacturing of the product, and that there has not been any testing at any time during the manufacturing. This includes the raw materials and the ingredients. Moreover, an audit is done within the first year of its certification and then done on a continual basis every three years.

So, what happens if a company’s product says ‘not tested on animal but doesn’t have this logo in it?

One of the issues, that arises that although companies may claim that their finished cosmetic product is devoid of animal testing, the company may use raw materials or may have contract laboratories that perform the animal testing. Meaning that although the final product has not been tested on animals, the ingredients in the manufacturing process had been tested on animals. If the Cruelty Free International finds this, then they do not allow them to be Leaping Bunny certified. However, what Cruelty Free International does allow is that brand sell to people in China. While one might think that selling in product is not an issue, the main problem comes from their own laws in what they find acceptable for the civilians in their own country.

            In order for products to be sold in China that were manufactured outside of China, there are laws that require the companies to test on animals. That being said, although products being manufactured within China aren’t subject to the requirements for animal testing this means animal testing might be preferred. However, this requirement is not required if the item is sold over the internet in China. This restriction is for items that are physically sold in stores. So, it important to see who is selling physical product in stores to see whether they are actually cruelty free and made without testing on animals.

            In sum, if someone is actively seeking to make sure that the products they are using are devoid of all animal testing it is important to look at who is giving the certification, what is part of their standards and criteria, and then to seek out products with this labeling. And lastly whether they are sold in China and in what manner. While this can be burdensome, this is required to have the peace of mind that the product that’s we are using have not been tested on animals.

            There are an abundance of different avenues one can take to protect animals, one way to do this is by not supporting brands that continue to test on animals.

For a list of cruelty free brands with the Cruelty Free International seal of approval, see here.

Keep Wild Horses Wild

Ruth Toporoff

What was Intended?

There are more than 30,000 wild horses roaming freely on Government owned and managed land in the USA. The BLM manages more than 245 Million acres of US public land across 10 western states, 26.9 million acres are used for the protection of wild horses.

In 1971, Nixon signed a law called The “Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act (.pdf).”(Public Law 92-195). The law unanimously passed by Congress declares wild horses and burros to be “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West.” It stipulates that the BLM and the U.S. Forest Service have the responsibility to manage and “Protect wild free-roaming horses and burros from capture, branding, harassment, or death. Further, the law stated that wild horses and burros were to be considered an integral part of the natural system of the public lands. The BLM was tasked with the management and enforcement of this law. This meant that BLM would be responsible for the thoughtful and humane management of the horses and burros. Additionally, they would have to prevent the overpopulation and overgrazing of the land.

What is actually happening?

Instead of protection, the BLM has grossly mismanaged their authority by implementing cruel and costly practices that are based on many factors that do not include what is in the best interests of the wild herds they are mandated to protect.

Famously inhumane, is the cruel practice called helicopter roundups with “Helicopter Cowboys”, or low flying helicopters that brutally stampede, capture, and remove wild horses and burros by the thousands. The helicopters chase them sometimes over 20 miles while the horses run at full speed, breaking legs, and falling. Some mothers die and get separated from their foals. Once caught and captured, the horses get packed into pens. Wild horses are not used to being so close together leading them to be stressed, frightened, and longing for the millions of acres that they once lived on. The horses who survive this traumatic experience are stockpiled in government holding pens where they will spend the rest of their lives. It they are not adopted or auctioned off then they are sent through the slaughter pipeline to Canada or Mexico where they become meat or pet food.

The largest helicopter cowboy, Cattoor Livestock Roundup, captured over 200,000 wild horses and burros for the BLM. From 2008-2018, the Cattoors have made $20,462,928 through 159 contracts with the BLM. In addition to the cost of capture, there are costs associated with holding and feeding. Estimates indicate that the overall cost to taxpayers for the federal grazing program could be as much as $500 million annually.

The BLM is highly influenced by the commercial livestock industry. While the BLM claims there are 88,000 wild horses on our western public lands, recent Congressional reports state that there are between 700,000 to 1 million domestic cattle that are permitted to graze. Taxpayer-funded livestock grazing is authorized on over 155 million acres of public land where wild horses are completely absent. Wild horses and burros are authorized to roam just 27 million acres of public land.

By the 1990s, the abuses under the BLM’s adoption program were well known. Undercover articles documented how the BLM had falsified records so officials could sell horses to slaughter by the truckload, circumventing the four-horse-per-person limit. There is little evidence that BLM Management priorities were ever developed to protect wild horses and burros as Congress intended. On the contrary, the defining calculations used to establish population limits and the need for roundups are based on a deep-routed prioritization of ranching and other commercial interests on public lands.

Is there a Solution ?

There are solutions. Proven fertility programs exist that also promote healthy ecosystems by protecting predators and strengthening habitats.  

There’s a birth control vaccine called Porcine Zona Pellucida – PZP, it is a perfect solution to this entire issue. Fertility control programs, using the PZP vaccine provide a safe, humane, cost-efficient and effective alternative to the current wild horse management approach of roundup. It’s used in wildlife populations all the time. The horses get darted once a year and then they would not get pregnant.  Despite this, the agency continues to fail to use it on a scale that will make a difference, and has actually reduced the use of PZP since 2011, choosing instead to spend their money on helicopter roundups. PZP costs $30 a year per horse. 

Currently the BLM spends less than 1 percent of its budget on humane fertility control, while spending at least 72 percent to roundup, remove and stockpile horses. Every year, kill buyers funnel more than a hundred thousand wild horses  into the horse-meat trade for slaughter outside of the US.

PZP is used today to successfully manage 20 wild horse populations in the U.S. and has achieved zero population growth in many of them.

Organizations like the American Wild Horse Campaign that have been fighting for years to save America’s wild horses. They and other boots-on-the-ground wild horse advocacy groups have successfully collaborated on fertility control efforts for years, bringing these programs to several areas across the West. They have implemented the world’s largest fertility control program right here in the U.S. on Nevada’s historic Virginia Range. Their volunteer-based, collaborative program is proof that this fertility control model is effective for humanely managing large wild horse populations in expansive habitat areas.

The government owned land is our land – Mine and yours – to treasure and preserve for generations to come. We control its fate, its existence. When polled, over 80 % of the American public all over the USA, say they want to keep wild horses and burros living free on this land. While there are challenges, for years the BLM have made horrific choices in their  management. Instead of putting provisions in place to protect these horses, they have caused increasing harm and trauma to the herds. These horses were supposed to be protected. Instead they are treated in ways that are inhumane, unsustainable, and makes no financial sense whatsoever. The BLM has forsaken their duty to protect the nation’s treasured and magnificent animals.

It’s Time to Take Animals out of our Cosmetics

Kristin Jones

            Despite numerous advances in technology and the availability of alternatives, animals are still suffering and dying to test shampoo, mascara, and other cosmetic products. Animals such as rabbits, mice, guinea pigs, and rats are subject to invasive tests such as rubbing chemicals onto their skin without pain relief and forcing them to swallow large amounts of chemicals to determine the dose that causes death. Not only is testing cosmetics on animals cruel, but it is also unnecessary as there are already thousands of ingredients that have a history of safe use and do not require additional testing that companies can use. Modern technology has also created other methods such as human cell-based tests and sophisticated computer models to replace outdated animal testing. Nearly 50 non-animal testing methods are already available, and they are often faster, less expensive, and more reliable. Not to mention, non-animal tests can more closely mimic how humans respond to cosmetic ingredients and products since animals often react differently than humans when exposed to the same chemicals. In addition, the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), does not even require the use of animal testing to demonstrate that the cosmetics are safer, nor does the Act subject cosmetics to FDA premarket approval.

            Animal testing does not and should not need to continue. In fact, many companies, states, and countries have proven that a world without cosmetic animal testing is possible. Large makeup brands such as Tarte, CoverGirl, and Anastasia Beverly Hills do not test on animals, nor do their suppliers. These cruelty-free companies’ success is proof that cosmetic companies can be safe and successful without causing unnecessary suffering to animals. Some states have also taken it upon themselves to ban the sale of most cosmetics tested on animals. California, Nevada, and Illinois were the first states to take the leap, with all three of their bills going into effect on January 1, 2020. California banned the sale of most cosmetics tested on animals when Governor Jerry Brown signed the California Cruelty-Free Cosmetics Act into law. The ban covers both final products and component ingredients developed using animal testing, but only if they were sold in California or tested on animals after the bill went into effect. Nevada was the second state to ban animal testing for cosmetics. Senator Melanie Schieble authorized Senate Bill 197 to prohibit the sale of cosmetic products for which animal testing was performed. However, the bill does provide exemptions for products requiring federal, state, or foreign requirements of animal testing. The third and most recent state to ban cosmetic testing on animals is Illinois which banned the testing through Senate Bill 241 signed by Governor J.B. Pritzker. However, unlike California and Nevada, Illinois’ new law provides additional incentives for cosmetics companies to invest in non-animal alternatives to help them stay competitive in a changing global market while sparing animals from painful tests.

            Other states have shown an initiative towards banning cosmetic testing on animals as well. For example, New Jersey is considering passing the New Jersey Humane Cosmetics Act, which would prohibit the sale of cosmetic products that have been tested on animals. New Jersey has previously enacted a law to limit product-testing on animals where alternative non-animal tests are available, but the New Jersey Humane Cosmetics Act would take this law one step further. Additional states considering a similar ban include Hawaii, Maryland, New York, and Virginia.

            In order to avoid the inconsistency that results from states choosing whether or not to ban cosmetic animal testing, the United States should sincerely consider enacting the Humane Cosmetics Act. The Act would make it unlawful to use animals for cosmetics testing in the United States and will phase out the sale of cosmetics if the final product or any component was subject to new animal testing. Two-thirds of American voters support such an act as they believe it should not be legally allowed to test cosmetics safety on animals in the United States. In addition, Representative Don Beyer is leading the push to enact the Humane Cosmetics Act in the House of Representatives. Senators Martha McSally and Cory Booker are sponsoring the Senate version. The bill is also endorsed by the Personal Care Products Council, the leading national trade association representing cosmetic and personal care products companies. The bill has been reintroduced in the United States with support from the cosmetic industry in 2019, but there has been minimal progress since then.

            In order to protect animals from the unnecessary suffering that results from cosmetic testing, the United States should take action and pass the Humane Cosmetics Act. Although the thought of such a significant change in the cosmetics industry may seem daunting, more than 30 countries, such as the member states of the EU, India, Israel, Norway, and Switzerland, have already prohibited cosmetic testing on animals. In addition, Turkey, South Korea, and Taiwan have passed laws limiting cosmetic animal testing. The success of the ban on cosmetic animal testing in numerous states and countries around the world proves that it is possible. Thus, the United States should take action to ensure that they return to the forefront of cosmetic safety testing and prevent the suffering of any more animals at the hands of the cosmetics industry.

Animals in Entertainment: A Show at what Cost?

Michael Zavist

            Whether you realize it or not, animals have been used in entertainment for most of our lifetime. Whether in circuses, zoos, television, movies, and other forms of fighting events, animals have always played a role at one point or another. Unfortunately using animals for these purposes can often involve cruelty and mistreatment. Travel, confinement, and forced behavior changes harms these animals. There is also minimal state and federal protection for animals used in entertainment. The Animal Welfare Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act give exemptions to some of the laws protecting these animals all for the sake of “education” and “entertainment.” Is the cost of an animal’s wellbeing worth the brief moments of entertainment for us to enjoy? I think not.

            Containing wild animals in captivity is usually a dangerous idea. Trainers, performers, and people put themselves at risk when these animals are subjected to mistreatment. A wild animal is not the same as a domestic pet that you may have grown up with. These dangers have become a big part of our history and are not simply unheard of stories. Notable examples of this are the SeaWorld incident in Orlando and the death of Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo.

            Animals in captivity are unable to fully exhibit natural tendencies like foraging, socializing, or swimming. Many animals such as polar bears, grizzly bears, and tigers suffer physically and psychologically when confined. Animals, especially large animals, need adequate space to roam, swim and explore. Orcas in the wild exist in tight-knit family groups and can travel over 100 miles in a single day. Captive orcas are kept in small pools for entertainment, in which they cannot dive and must swim circles in shallow tanks. Each entertainment industry subjects their animals to some form of unnatural conditions.

            Zoos remove animals from their natural birthplaces and companions, and confine them in unnatural surroundings. Some Zoos help rehabilitate injured animals and keep them alive when they are unfit to return to the wild. Unfortunately around 33 percent of large, captive-bred carnivores die if they return to the wild according to a team of researchers from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. These animals end up losing their survival skills and are subject to breeding in captivity. Some of us may remember the Netflix documentary Tiger King from just last year. Investigators documented the treatment of tiger cubs born at Tiger Safari. These cubs were subject to mishandling from the public and were consigned to cages after the Tiger Safari was done with them. These cubs ended up dying almost a year into their lives. The cost of these animals’ lives is not worth us being able to witness them outside of their habitats.

            In movies and television animals, although some are now using CGI and animatronics, there are still animals subjected to unnatural conditions for these motion pictures. The 1959 movie, “Ben-Hur,” cost the lives of over 100 horses during its climactic chariot race.  The 2011 movie, “Zookeeper,” a giraffe died as a result of eating a piece of tarp. The 2012 movie, “The Life of Pi,” a tiger reportedly suffered a near-drowning during a scene which being filmed in a water tank. These animals are treated as if they were props and thrown into dangerous scenarios not by their own choice.

            Bullfighting is one of the harsher forms of entertainment. A bull is suddenly thrust into an arena and is repeatedly attacked until it dies. However, the story does not end there. The bull prior to the fight is abused in various ways in order to weaken and disorient them or to make them appear wild and ferocious while not actually making them so. They can have their vision blurred with petroleum jelly, deafened with cotton, horns shaved, deprived of food, and various other tortures. All of this to heavily disable the bull and make sure the “matador” is safe for the fight. On the day of the fight the bull is paraded around and attacked from the matador and his assistants. They continue until the bull can barely stand and then for the finale the matador will stab the bull until it dies. The entire performance is cruel and blatant torture of the animal.

            We are constantly involved with animals in our day to day lives and it is essential that we bring awareness to these cruelties. We should not subject animals to torture and unnatural conditions just so we can be entertained by the tricks we can have them do. Thankfully, treatment of these animals is getting better. The Animal Legal Defense Fund files high profile lawsuits and lobbies and advocates for stronger laws to protect animals used in entertainment. In movies and television, animatronics and CGI are starting to replace animals used in media. In the U.S., there are six states and over 150 localities that have passed various restrictions or bans involving the use of wild animals in circuses and traveling shows. We are taking steps to making these animals lives better and stopping the worst cruelty.

Your Pleasure, Their Pain:The Problem with Central Park’s Horse Drawn Carriages

Gabrielle Scibetta

As an animal protection organization homed in Brooklyn, New York, Voters For Animal Rights (VFAR) sheds light on the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals in New York and lobbies for stronger protections. On December 20, 2020, VFAR published a heartbreaking incident that occurred in Central Park, noting that this is hardly an isolated event. While pulling a carriage of people on a cold, snowy day, a horse by the name of Billy slipped and fell on the ice in Central Park. Rather than caring for the horse and bringing it to rest and recover, the driver allegedly forced the horse to continue pulling the passengers. As such, the VFAR organization is pushing citizens to sign a petition to #BanHorseCarriages and demanding recourse (See Photo Below. See also, https://vfar.org/carriagehorses/ ).

Historically, horse drawn carriages were the primary form of transportation, for both practical and commercial needs. As time progressed, they became a symbol of style and elegance. Nearing the end of the 1800s, motorized transportation was invented and has since taken over as the leading vessel for all travel needs.  Today, horse drawn carriages are used as a form of pleasure, attracting tourists near and far. Parading through Central Park, customers can enjoy a carriage ride and a New York City view, at the expense of a horse or two.

Voters for Animal Rights — Central Park

Until 2018, NYC’s horse drawn carriages were citywide, trotting the busy city roads among cars and busses. However, in response to the years-long controversy surrounding such carriage rides, they were re-located to Central Park – in an effort to reduce potential harm to the animal.  While this was a small victory for animal rights activists, horse and carriage operators were not pleased. In response to the City’s plan to restrict carriage pickup locations to within Central Park, one particular horse and carriage business owner, Giovanni Paliotta, brought suit against Mayor Bill De Blasio and the City of New York. The early-2019 opinion weighed the harms presented, permitting the Mayor and the city to move forward with confining carriage rides to Central Park. (See Paliotta v. De Blasio, 2019 N.Y. Misc. LEXIS 547). 

Unfortunately, such harm still exists in permitting horse drawn carriages, regardless of the location in which they service. The inhumane and cruel treatment horses face to provide trivial human enjoyment is disturbing and sad.  PETA outlines some of the harms that occur by forcing horses to pull oversized carriages in all weather extremes. While the exhaust fumes horses breathe in may cause respiratory ailments, some suffer debilitating leg problems attributed to long hours on hard surfaces. Because of their sensitive and skittish nature, horses have been known to get spooked – injuring themselves and people alike. Moreover, horses have been hit and seriously injured by reckless drivers while laboring the streets for the public’s amusement.

(See https://www.peta.org/issues/animals-in-entertainment/horse-drawn-carriages/ ).

On February 29, 2020, a horse was euthanized after collapsing in Central Park. Prior, on February 4, 2020, a driver lost control of a carriage horse after it stepped on an electrical plate, receiving excruciating shocks. A pedestrian watched as the horse ran several blocks, before crashing into a pole and collapsing. (See https://secure.mediapeta.com/peta/PDF/HDC_Incidents_Factsheet_JO.pdf )  These incidents happen regularly and habitually, such that each should come as no surprise to legislature. State administrators are aware and yet turn a blind eye to these horrific events. Horse drawn carriage rides have actually been banned in cities such as Las Vegas, London, Toronto, Paris, and Beijing, to name a few. New York City neglects to follow suit, despite the ruthless living and working conditions employed right on their very streets. 

The Animal Welfare Act was introduced in 1966 in order to regulate the treatment of animals throughout research and exhibition. However, horses operating carriages are not protected by the Act, leaving local animal-control officials responsible for ensuring their safety. This task falls low on the list of priorities for animal-control officials, allowing major concerns like traffic accidents, heat stroke, dehydration, underfeeding, and copious other threats fly under the radar. The temporary pleasure society reaps from a 20-minute carriage ride hardly amounts to the immense pain and torture these voiceless horses face on a day-to-day basis.

Tiger King and the Push to Pass

Madelin Pereira

The beginning of quarantine can be identified by the rush to binge the latest show “Tiger King” on the streaming site Netflix. A docu-series following mad Joe Exotic, his roadside zoo, and his Big Cats. It shined a light on the issue of Big Cats in captivity and the conditions in which they live in and why this type of legislation is important. The show also drew massive attention to the federal legislative action discussed in the show, Big Cat Public Safety Act. The Big Cat Public Safety Act passed the House in December 2020 and is awaiting further action in the Senate. Originally it was introduced last year by the 116th Congress however it was not passed by the Senate before the legislative session ended. Hopefully given a public push from the series the Senate will pass the bill.

There are approximately 10,000 big cats in the U.S., and more tigers in captivity than there are in the wild according to the International Fund for Animal Welfare. While in captivity they are held in places with little oversight and accountability. Most commonly Big Cats are used in facilities with a pay to play scheme which allows the public to pet and/or take photos with the cubs. This type of operation requires constant breeding in order to make sure that there is a continuous flow of cubs to be able to continue this practice. Once they hit a certain age it is no longer safe to have the cubs with humans to which they are then sold. Moreover, the cubs involved in this practice are typically lacking nutrients that they require as a result of being removed from their mother too early. This can be seen in bone diseases, which lead to the tiger’s inability to walk. To move around, they drag their bodies.

Big Cats could also pose a public safety issue. Private ownership means that regular people without the proper training and knowledge have full ownership of these animals. This can lead to dangerous situations. Particularly because once something happens law enforcement is not trained in how to deal with the problem and their first responsibility is toward their human counterparts. This can be seen in the Zanesville, Ohio incident where a Big Cat owner decided to let his animals loose which required the police department to find all the released cats and to kill them to protect the larger community. Big Cats are wild animals that aren’t meant to be in human captivity and captivity is shown to be dangerous for the humans and the Cat.

The Big Cat Public Safety Act is a bipartisan act meant to limit the enormous amount of big cats found in the United States. The act prohibits all public contact with Big Cats, meaning that all pay for play schemes must be eliminated. Likewise, it seeks to eliminate the commerce found with Big Cats. This means that the act would make it illegal to breed, sell and transport Big Cats.

However, this statute exempts to wildlife sanctuaries, colleges and universities, state-licensed veterinarians, and facilities with a specific license from the Department of Agriculture from complying with this limitation.

The first question then is, what are we going to do with tigers that people privately own? Well, the statute stipulates that people with their own Big Cats are allowed to have them but are required to register the animal and are prohibited from breeding and from having the Big Cat near the public. So, although there will continue to be cats privately owned, they cannot use them for their commercial gain. If there are violators, then there will be a fine of up to $20,000 and could lead to possible imprisonment of up to 5 years.

While some may argue that in order to keep the Big Cats from going extinct it is necessary to continue breeding, this is not the case. They have no conservation value according to the Animal Welfare Institute. This is because of the way that the animals are bred. The breeding practices that the breeders use lead to deformities and health issues that are not found when the Big Cats are in the wild. Moreover, the Big Cats that are bred in the United States cannot be reintroduced into the wild because they do not have the skills to survive and therefore Big Cats have to be transferred in other captive environments until they die.

Although this bill will not stop the captivity of Big Cats, this step will reap large rewards to Big Cats and prevent new cubs from being handled and torture in the same manner again.

Life Inside The Tanks

Emily Lively

Since the early 1960s, approximately 166 orca whales have spent much of, if not all, their lives held captive in concrete tanks at sea parks around the globe. Today, sixty orcas still live in captivity worldwide. Twenty-nine were ripped away from their family pods in the wild, while the remaining thirty-one have never known the world outside their tank walls. But regardless of where their lives began, they all suffer the same fate – a never-ending repetitive routine of performing circus tricks for crowds of adoring humans followed by hours upon hours trapped in tiny, cramped tanks with little to do.

The primary home for most of the captive orcas in the United States is one of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Inc.’s three theme parks, located in Florida, Texas, and California. One of the hallmarks of SeaWorld’s marketing strategy historically was referring to all the orcas performing in its shows as “Shamu” – the name given to the park’s first captive orca. The idea was to immortalize Shamu and, by association, all of their captive orcas. However, behind the curtain, there is a stark contrast between the lifespan of wild orcas and those held in captivity. In the wild, male orcas can live up to 50 to 60 years of age, while females can live up to anywhere from 50 to 100 years. In contrast, few captive orcas have lived beyond the age of 30.

A lower survival rate is not the only thing orcas suffer in captivity. Captive orcas are completely reliant on human trainers for food. There are no fish swimming about their tanks for them to feed on when they grow hungry. Trainers rely on food and playtime as positive training reinforcement. As such, even if unintentional, food deprivation is an integral part of a captive orca’s life. If they want to eat, they have to earn it. To earn their fish, they must perform whatever trick or task their human trainer asks of them.

During performances, orcas are regularly kept in “staging areas.” These staging areas are only 8 feet deep, allowing no range of movement for a roughly 8,000 lbs., 20-foot-long marine mammal. With multiple performances a day, captive orcas can find themselves confined without the ability to move in these staging areas for hours each day.

Even when free of the staging areas, the small concrete tanks pale in comparison to the vast expanse of the ocean. In the wild, orcas swim an average of 40 miles per day in varying directions to both hunt and for exercise. In captivity, when not performing, orcas have little to do but swim in circles. Most end up spending much of their day “logging,” meaning they lie motionless in their pools. This extended lack of activity largely contributes to the collapsing of their dorsal fins – a phenomenon rarely, if ever, seen outside of captivity. The tank designs provide little cover from the sun and intense heat, particularly during Florida and Texas summers. Captive orcas often find themselves dehydrated and sunburnt. Former trainers that have spoken out about their time with captive orcas have said the trainers sometimes needed to go as far as to use black zinc oxide to paint over and cover up sunburns on the orcas.

Orcas are highly intelligent animals, with the second largest brain of any animal. In the wild, their days are filled with socialization, stimulation, hunting, and more. Every day is different. In captivity, their days are repetitive and dull. Out of boredom, captive orcas have been known to peel and eat paint off the tank walls and grind their teeth on the metal gates separating their pools. This behavior leads to an increased risk of bacterial infection and the need for painful dental work. Other orcas are seen regurgitating their food to keep busy. Some have been known to bang their head against the tank walls. On some occasions, captive orcas have rammed so fast into a wall it’s resulted in their death. Marine behaviorists and psychologists who have studied these incidents believe the whales were committing suicide.

The release of the documentary Blackfish in 2013 provided the public with their first inside look into the lives of orcas held in captivity. Substantial public outcry at the ghastly treatment these marine mammals are subjected to led to dwindling ticket sales for SeaWorld. In response to their declining profits and lost sponsorships, SeaWorld pledged to cease its orca breeding program and begin to phase out its theatrical performance involving their captive orcas. Despite this promise, however, many of the orcas remaining in SeaWorld’s care are still young, with decades left to live, and little has been done since to alleviate the stressors of their captivity. In fact, just a year ago in January 2020, SeaWorld introduced its newest orca whale production, Orca Encounter. While the new orca show is marketed as being more educational, it’s clear the only aspect that’s changed from previous productions is the video footage that plays behind the orcas as they perform their tricks. Nearly eight years after their 2013 “pledge,” captive orcas performing circus tricks for the amusement of parkgoers still clearly remains the focal point of SeaWorld parks.

One of the strongest arguments in favor of orcas remaining in captivity is that they have become so reliant on humans that they would be unable to survive in the wild. This is true. Whales in captivity are not accustomed to hunting for their own food or surviving life in the ocean. So, the question becomes: is there an alternative to life in tanks for these orcas if they cannot be returned to the wild?

One possible alternative is a seaside sanctuary. The Whale Sanctuary Project is attempting to create a sea sanctuary that could allow these orcas to retire from their entertainment park life and live in an environment that more closely resembles their natural habitat. The Project’s mission is to provide “a natural environment that maximizes their opportunities for autonomy, exploration, play, rest, and socializing.” Humans would still continue to provide some level of care but would be far less essential to the orcas’ daily lives. They would regain a sense of independence in a far more stimulating and natural environment than a concrete tank.

While no solution is perfect, one thing is abundantly clear. For an animal meant to roam the vast expanse of the world’s oceans, life held captive in a 35 ft by 170 ft concrete tank is hardly a life at all.

For more information on the lives of captive orcas, please see:

  • John Hargrove, BENEATH THE SURFACE: Killer Whales, SeaWorld, And The Truth Beyond Blackfish (2015).
  • David Kirby, DEATH AT SEA-WORLD: Shamu and The Dark Side of Killer Whales in Captivity (2012).
  • The Blackfish film, which can be purchased on iTunes here or on Netflix with a subscription.

Lab to Bun? Could this be the Future for Meat?

Ruth Toporoff

Imagine eating as much meat as you like, without hurting an animal or damaging the environment? Without killing a single animal – you can barbecue a burger that has all the taste and texture you remember from the taste of meat?

Solutions are needed to supply the massive demand for protein. Solutions that do not contribute to animal welfare, that aid in food safety, and diminish the damage to the environment that is done by organizations such as CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations). CAFO’s operate under stressful and crowded conditions leading to the spread of disease and food safety risks. Resolutions are needed to put an end to the horrors of factory farming. Acceptable substitute products are required. What if that solution was not a substitute but in fact was actual meat? Meat that would surpass acceptable and be exceptional, all while not harming animals, circumventing contagious diseases, and not damaging the environment.   

Unlike plant-based meats, cultured meat is a lab-grown meat alternative produced from animal cells. Cell based meat products are cell-for-cell identical to the meat from animals but factory-produced from stem cells rather than from live animals. On August 5th in 2013, Dutch scientist Mark Post, founder of Mosa Meats, presented the first cell-cultured hamburger to the world. It was produced from bovine muscle cells grown in the lab and cost €250,000 ($295,000) to make. They now project a “beef” patty to cost around €9 ($10.62). While it was not perfect, it was an anti-biotic-free, slaughter-free start to a solution to the many problems of CAFO’s abuses.

Mosa Meat’s cell-based hamburger. — Supplied by the Company

The Singapore Food Agency approved the world’s first cultivated meat product for sale in December 2020. Shortly thereafter, “Restaurant 1880” in Singapore marked the first commercial sale of approved cultivated chicken bite by California-based Eats Just.

Why Change is Needed

The billions of animals “living” in cramped, filthy, overcrowded spaces with almost no room to move their antibiotic-fueled bodies create a perfect storm for the next zoonotic disease to emerge and spread. The Pandemic made it clear how animal transmission of disease thru food consumption can bring death to humans and bring down an entire world economy. It has shown how contagious disease can spread from animals to humans with the potential to harm by way of the food system.

Legislation has been ineffective to help protect the animals or enforce proper supervision thereby allowing food processing plants to perform at dangerously low standards that increase the probability of transmission of contagious viruses. The threat of disease is not new as infectious diseases such as salmonella and E. coli exist. Recent pandemic virus threats from swine flu and bird flu almost certainly evolved on chicken and pig factory farms.

Environmental Protection Agency has failed to regulate the environmental impacts. CAFO’s produce more than 1 million tons of manure daily. This waste is stored in large open lagoons which spill over into other water bodies, contaminating and killing fish populations. Consequentially, running off into our major waterways like the Great Lakes and Gulf of Mexico which impact drinking water supplies, aquatic ecosystems, etc. CAFO’s  emit pollutants that contribute to respiratory illnesses and are one of the largest emitters of methane gas emissions in the country. CAFO’s unregulated operations diminish the quality of life in neighboring communities, and often it is those of lower socioeconomic that pay the price. Complicating efforts are the corporations that have a vested interest in keeping the food system profitable above all, and are powerful enough to influence policies, so that  their profits come ahead of people’s and animal’s interests.

But a quiet revolution is taking place in labs, where scientists are working to cultivate meat and seafood grown from cells, with the potential to reduce demand for industrial animal agriculture even further.

How the change happens

Stem cells are taken from the muscle of an animal, usually with a small biopsy under anesthesia, then they are put with nutrients, salts, pH buffers, and growth factor. Next, they are left to multiply. Finessing the technology and getting the cost to an affordable level initially happening at a slower pace, but quicker with the awareness to animal transmitted disease of the Pandemic. With increased investment, products will be ready for market sooner than was ever expected.

Memphis Meats, a Berkeley startup, was founded by cardiologist Dr. Uma Valeti and cell biologist Dr. Genovese in 2015. Memphis Meats uses myosatellite cells to grow meat products, and has produced cultured chicken nuggets and beef meatballs, as well as duck tissue. In January, they raised $161 million by fundraising in the largest funding ever completed by a cultured meat company. This attracted high-profile investors, including Bill Gates and Richard Branson. It also counts meat industry giants Cargill and Tyson Foods among its backers. Additionally,  Artemys Foods,  by biochemist Jess Krieger, who has spent the past six years working in University growing cell-based meat in a lab, Berkeley-based Mission Barns, focusing on creating animal fat, which mixed with other ingredients to make duck sausages, and BlueNalu, developing seafood from fish cells through a process called “cellular aquaculture.”

Cell-based meats is not without its challenges. Without more independent reviews of the scientific data it is hard to establish necessary regulatory framework. While the USDA and FDA reached agreement on over-seeing responsibilities of the packaging, there has been no agreement on how the cell-based products will be labeled. This is a huge issue, as perception by the public is critical. Missouri has already passed legislation banning cell-cultured meat from being called “meat.” Labeling is important, because at the DNA level, this is meat. Regulation is a bigger barrier to entering the marketplace then the technology, which is ready.

One study found that cell-based beef is projected to use 95 % fewer global greenhouse gas emissions, 98 % less land and half as much energy. And since the animal cells are extracted humanely and grown in a facility rather than within the animals themselves, cell-based meat has the potential to all but eliminate animal suffering.

Helping Animals Cross the Road

Melanie Schlosser

All animals succeed by moving throughout our environments. It’s in our nature to seek resources. As people, we get around largely by driving from place to place. Other animals do not have cars, nor can they use roads like we do: instead, they must walk through yards, bolt across highways, and hope that they make it safely to the other side. Along highways, environmental corridors buffer against the backyards of residential streets. They are often tree-lined and lush to keep noise away from people. Sometimes, medians between highway lanes are similarly tree-lined and lush, landscaped with pockets of water and other attractive features. Animals that walk along one corridor might want to cross to the median –essentially another corridor—and get to the other on the far side of the highway. Without a means of safely crossing, millions of animals die by car each year.

As many people look away or cry when seeing an animal killed while crossing a road, communities have come together to petition, pass ordinances, and build structures to help animals make safer journeys across our roads. Constructing wildlife crossings can give animals a fighting chance, protecting them and people in cars from fatal collisions, as well as connecting animal migration routes. Wildlife crossings often camouflage as bridges or tunnels, or overpasses or underpasses. But, building wildlife crossings can be expensive: sometimes, reaching into the multi-millions. However, considering the steep cost of building roadways, filling potholes, and landscaping buffers and medians, it seems fair to similarly invest in the animals that fall victim to our modes of transportation. Wildlife-vehicle collisions cost Americans upwards of eight-billion dollars annually; it is intuitive to prevent animal deaths, driver deaths, and vehicle damage by collectively constructing wildlife crossings through government funding. While there are no hard and fast laws requiring wildlife crossings, it might be in the public interest for state and federal governments to protect its wildlife populations, prevent car damage, and protect car passengers from watching animals die while driving from one place to another.

 While many wildlife crossings are in designing or building phases, many have been established for years. Sometimes, specific animals like panthers are at the heart of a local crossing project. In New Jersey, ‘turtle tunnels’ have helped wood turtles safely travel from winter wetlands to their spring breeding grounds, their habitats being bisected by roads. While designed for turtles, diverse species like snakes, frogs, and raccoons have frequented the tunnels. Through the state’s Division of Fish and Wildlife, the state has committed to growing and maintaining wildlife crossings with its Connecting Habitat Across New Jersey program.

Other projects have worked directly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. In Florida, there are at least sixty wildlife crossings built to protect panthers from collisions with vehicles; the state has found panther deaths have decreased significantly in areas with crossings. prove effective in states like Florida designed primarily to protect panthers. While building crossings above or below existing highways can be expensive, the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission notes that incorporating crossings during the design phase of a roadway can be more cost-effective.

The federal government has gotten involved in state projects, too. The Department of Transportation has initiated several projects in cooperation with state and municipal departments. States like Idaho and Colorado might have wildlife crossings installed over or under busy roads within the next few years. For an example of a project in progress, a project in Idaho started with a collection of data of the number of killed animals along a certain stretch of road and within a certain timeframe. In addition, the seasonal ranges of animal populations and their trails informed where a crossing would be most beneficial. To complete the project, several state and city departments will continue to work alongside the federal government; eventually, an overpass will be built and equipped with cameras. Whether in the form of greened tunnels or bridges, our roads are slowly becoming more friendly to our car-less friends. Wildlife crossings have already proven to reduce wildlife-vehicular collisions, enabling animals to safely move across highways. Overpasses and underpasses are also helping wildlife in more subtle and long-term ways, like through supporting migration patterns and connecting isolated populations from different corridors. Our highways are the arteries of our communities: it’s about time our local, state, and federal governments work to support the movement and health of our animal communities.

The Caribou People

Madison Roberts

Alaska, a state referred to as America’s last frontier, was heavily affected by the relaxed attitude of America’s 45th Presidential Administration. Under former President Trump’s lead, plans like the Coastal Plains Oil and Gas Program were put into motion and finalized. This program allowed a section of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) in Alaska’s northeast to be leased to bidding oil companies for future use. The program was finalized in August of 2020 as one of the administration’s final environmental ruinations.  However, the story does not end with just a loss of environmental resources. Instead, the Coastal Plains Oil and Gas Program could affect so much more, as it could mean an end to the Gwich’in, the Caribou people of Alaska.

            The Gwich’in are one of the northernmost Indian Nation in America and have tribes in northeast Alaska, the northern Yukon, and Northwest Territories in Canada. While Gwich’in directly translates to “people of the land” they often refer to themselves as the caribou people. The reason for this is that 9000 Gwich’in people live along a migratory route for the Porcupine Caribou Herd. The Gwich’in have depended on the Porcupine Caribou Herd for thousands of years, and the herd provides them with food, clothing, and tools. More importantly the herd is a source of their cultural identity and is part of what makes them Gwich’in.

            The migratory route of the Porcupine Caribou Herd spans all across the Yukon and Alaska am dos traveled by 169,000 caribou. However, that route is jeopardized by the Coastal Plains Oil and Gas Program. The reason for this is that these caribou begin their route each spring on the very ground that the program is leasing and selling to bidders for oil drilling. For the caribou and the Gwich’in the coastal plains aren’t ground covering untapped oil. The coastal plains are the caribou birthing place and nursing grounds, a place so integral to Gwich’in and Caribou life that the Gwich’in call it “lizhik Gwats’ an Gwandaii Goodlit” or The Sacred Place Where Life Begins. By opening up the coastal plains to oil drilling and leasing the Trump Administration has placed the lives of the Porcupine Caribou Herd at risk, and in turn the lives of the Gwich’in.

            The Trump Administration faced several challenges during the creation of the programs. The main argument involved the Gwich’in and the environmental strain that the program would place on the Porcupine Caribou Herd. However, many of the arguments given by commentators on the program were overlooked and ignored with the same excuse. That excuse being they were not selling the right to drill for the oil yet. The Administration claimed that by only leasing a right to survey the land, and not allowing that survey to proceed at certain times the caribou would not be affected. However, this leasing right to survey came with a right to do preliminary drilling tests so that oil companies could see if the land did indeed have the expected trove of black gold lurking beneath its surface. The scientists who support opponents of ANWR drilling have found evidence that even the seismic tests that will be used to survey the land could harm the pristine environment. The administration can claim that the leasing in this situation is the final result, but it is apparent that it is only a stepping stone to further disaster.

California’s Bella’s Act took effect this year, closing a loophole to stop puppy and kitten mills for good

Megan Edwards

In 2017, California was the first state to take legislative action to ban the practice of puppy and kitten mills. These operations are generally large-scale commercial breeding facilities designed to sell animals for profit.  The animals are kept in are wildly unsafe and unsanitary conditions.  To produce the maximum amount of puppies and kittens to sell, female animals are impregnated several times a year.  Kept in rusted metal crates, these animals often do not see the light of the day.  Once the breeding animals

cease to be “useful” to the mills, they are usually either abandoned or killed.  Puppy and kitten mills can also harbor dangerous diseases that spread at these facilities and infect the animals.  While disease can run rampant at puppy/kitten mills, the animals generally lack adequate—or any—veterinary care.  The breeders also proliferate unhealthy hereditary conditions in the animals they sell, often passing over to the new pet owners an animal that will cost thousands of dollars in veterinary care.  There are around 10,000 puppy mills in operation in the United States, and over two million puppies from these mills are sold each year. 

California’s AB 485 made it illegal for any pet store operators to sell any dog, cat, or rabbit unless the animal was obtained from a shelter or rescue organization.  Maryland enacted a similar law in 2018 and New York passed a bill to end the retail sale of pets on July 21 of 2020, which was, appropriately, National No Pet Store Puppies Day.  Other cities around the country have passed bans on the retail sale of pets, such as Boston, Philadelphia, and Cook County in Chicago.  While individual states and cities are taking action, the federal government has failed to take any meaningful action to end the suffering of animals in these puppy/kitten mills.  The Animal Welfare Act is the federal legislation designed to regulate animal breeders, but these protections are so minimal and so under-enforced, commercial breeders can continue their inhumane practices essentially unchecked.

In California, breeders and business owners opposed AB 485 on several grounds.  First, these groups argue that rescue and shelter dogs are unregulated—that these shelter dogs come from potentially inhumane and unregulated locations and can harbor zoonotic disease, unlike dogs from inspected and licensed breeders.  Second, these groups argue that this bill takes away consumer choice.  They claim that consumers may be looking for a particular breed and will be forced to look for dogs in unsafe and unregulated markets.  The law is “push[ing] rescue animals on customers who never asked for them.”  These complaints are baseless.  As previously mentioned, the conditions animals are kept in at puppy mills are horrifying, and laws designed to protect these animals are under-enforced.  Additionally, retail pet sale bans don’t impact small, “hobby” breeders, who generally work directly with potential pet owners to ensure their animals will be placed in safe and loving homes.  Pet owners who don’t want a shelter animal “forced” upon them can still seek out designer or pure-bred animals from these avenues. 

Unfortunately, California’s AB 485 was not as successful as its supporters had hoped, as pet store owners in California found a loophole in the law.  An undercover exposé revealed that several puppy mill operations in the Midwest organized 501(c)(3) non-profit “shelters” in order to sell their puppies to California pet stores as “shelter” puppies.  These stores tricked consumers into believing they adopted shelter dogs, while charging thousands of dollars per dog as “adoption fees,” all while keeping puppy mills operational. 

To address this loophole, California Assembly members Gloria (D), O’Donnell (D), Bloom (D), Chiu (D), Boerner Horvath (D), and Waldron (R) sponsored AB 2152.  This bill, known as Bella’s Act, proposed to prohibit the retail sale of all dogs, cats, and rabbits in California.  Instead, pet stores would be able to provide a space for a public animal control agency, rescue group, or shelter to “showcase” their adoptable animals.  This Act also requires that the animals displayed for adoption be sterilized and requires the adoption fees not exceed $500.  The Act was named for a corgi named Bella, who was bred in a puppy mill and sold for thousands of dollars as a “rescue” in San Diego.  Bella experienced several health issues that required thousands of dollars of treatment. 

This Act was a product of the collaboration between several animal welfare organizations, including the San Diego Humane Society, Best Friends, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States, among others.  Assembly member Todd Gloria, a known champion of animal issues, introduced the bill and advocated for it in the most trying of circumstances—during the COVID-19 pandemic, where most every non-essential bill was sidelined in order to address immediate, pandemic-related needs.  However, this bill proved relevant to the state’s health and welfare, as phony rescue groups were bringing potentially sick animals in from across state borders and exposing Californians to transmittable viruses.  Due to the incredible effort of these groups, this bill was signed into law by Governor Newsom on September 18, 2020, and became effective on January 1, 2021.  With this new piece of legislation on the books, the state hopes to make progress toward ending the support for the inhumane puppy mill industry in the state.

Silencing of dogs & cats – Medically

Michelle Mattei

The medical terms for silencing animals are called ventriculocordectomy or vocal cordectomy, and laryngotomy.  It is generally performed on dogs but has occurred on cats as well.  It is also called by such names as; devocalization, debarking, dog muting, demeowing, and bark softening.  This is a barbaric, inhumane procedure to benefit troubled humans.

            The medical procedure performed to achieve this act involves either the removal or cutting the animal’s vocal cords.  There are two surgical approaches to commit this horrible act.  One is cutting into the neck, down through the larynx, called a laryngotomy, where the veterinarian will either sever or remove the vocal cord tissue.  The second approach is called a ventriculocordectomy, where the veterinary goes down through the animal’s mouth to sever or remove the vocal cords.

There are several inherent risks related to these procedures, such as; general anesthesia, post-surgical infection, postoperative pain and discomfort, bleeding, acute airway swelling, respiratory distress, noisy breathing, collapse, increased coughing, webbing, and gagging, significant increase of heat intolerance and compromised airway access.  The lack of barking ability also increases the risk of the dog’s physical safety since it can no longer warn and alert.  This also crosses over to behavioral and psychological issues due to inflicting the inability to communicate verbally.  Overall, these factors lead to a lower quality of life for the victims of these procedures.

            Even when the vocal cord is served, there is the possibility for the animal to regain its ‘voice’ again, only to be put through another operation to remove the vocal cords entirely.  The ‘voice’ of the animal is, in most cases, not totally removed but is replaced with an unnatural sound that is presented as; muffled, wheezing, higher-pitched, rasping, harsher, and screeching.  The ‘voice’ of some of these dogs sound like they are crying out for help in the embedded link.

Who is requesting this procedure to be done?  There are a variety of answers, which are all incomprehensible.  Some breeders recommend this procedure if the potential new owner is concerned with the dog’s purchase due to barking concerns.  Trainers have been known to suggest this procedure with problem dogs that cannot be trained.  Shelters at times turn to this procedure to quiet problem dogs.  Hoarders will use this technique to bring less attention to themselves.  Various institutions where animals are used in experiments make use of this procedure since dogs’ barking have a detrimental effect on the research staff.  Some landlords place devoicing requirements as part of lease conditions to avoid the hassle they will receive from other tenants’ noise complaints.  In other cases, courts will step in and order a dog to be devocalized.

A rational thought such as shouldn’t these procedures be illegal come to mind.  In more than 20 countries, it is unlawful; sadly, there is no Federal statute in the US that makes these procedures illegal.  You would hope that most States would have laws on their books making these reprehensible procedures illegal, but tragically only six States currently offer some marginal protection.  The States of Massachusetts, Maryland, and New Jersey allow this practice if it is determined by a licensed veterinarian to be “medically necessary.”  Pennsylvania allows the procedure with the only stipulation that the procedure is done by a licensed veterinarian utilizing anesthesia.  The Statues in California and Rhode Island are also very weak; they only speak to disallowing the practice if it is a condition in a real estate agreement.

Logic would turn to the veterinary community to speak out against these procedures; they do to some extent.  The American Animal Hospital Association states that it “is opposed to the practice known as debarking, canine devocalization, or vocal cordectomy.  Devocalization for inappropriate and excessive vocalization is often ineffective in achieving the desired results and can deprive canines of performing a normal behavior. Appropriate behavioral modification efforts should be employed that avoid the use of punishment or aversive methods. When deemed necessary, devocalization should only be performed by qualified, licensed veterinarians as a final alternative to relinquishment or euthanasia. Exceptions to this statement would be in the rare case of airway obstruction or laryngeal paralysis, which cannot be addressed through other surgical procedures.”  The American Veterinary Medical Association takes a similar stance.  The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association provides only a Devocalization Fact Sheet.  The six-page fact sheet offers no stance on the procedure; they refer you to discuss your concerns with your licensed veterinarian.  The Devocalization Fact Sheet does make reference to veterinary schools stating that that the “devocalization procedures are not widely included in veterinary medical school curricula.”  You would hope that the Association of American Veterinary Medical Colleges (AVMC) would offer some type of position on devocalization, they do not.  The AVMC also does not provide a stance on ear cropping, cat declawing, or tail docking.


  Dogs do not bark intentionally to annoy humans; they use their bark as their ‘voice’ to communicate various emotions and appeals.  They voice to say “hello” to humans and non-humans and directly to their own kind.  They use their ‘voice’ to ask for help, to alert others that someone else needs help, they alert to danger for themselves and others.  Can their ‘voice’ get annoying at times? Yes, just like when humans do not know when to hold their ‘voice.’ 

There are many viable and proven alternatives to reduce or eliminate unwanted barking rather than the inhumane extreme of devoicing.  Basic training of the dog as well as the human companion can generally resolve the issue.  Other options include; environmental enrichment, exercise, doggy daycare, soundproofing, ultrasonic devices, Thunder Shirts, DAP (Dog Appeasing Pheromones) diffusers, no-bark collars that dispense citronella, and even the use of static shock collars if used appropriately.  There should be no case for devocalization with all these alternatives unless the only other approach offered is euthanasia.

Canine Covid-19 Detectors

Bianca De Leon

For years canines have been trained to use their nose to sniff out cancers, malaria, and other human illnesses. With the increasing rise in Covid-19 cases across the globe as well as the overwhelming desire to restart our economy, canines are now being trained to detect the Covid-19 virus.

Canines have approximately 300 million scent receptors which allow them to detect tiny concentrations of odor. Scientists are using this unique ability to help detect Covid-19 in humans and ultimately stop the spread of this highly contiguous virus. So, what does it take to train a canine to detect Covid-19? Scientists are training canines to smell samples, most often of sweat, in sterile containers, and to sit or paw the floor when the canine detect signs of the infection. Several trials have been conducted

the pandemic began. Trials at airports in the United Arab Emirates, Finland, and Lebanon are using canines to detect the virus in passengers’ sweat samples, which are then tested against conventional Covid-19 tests. These tests are reporting an overwhelming accuracy by the canines. Scientists believe this success is due to the canine’s ability to pick up on a specific scent produced by volatile organic compounds that are generated by catabolites—substances produced by the replication of the virus that escapes the body through sweat. Other trials used saliva and tracheobronchial secretions. In a report by BMC in July 2020, it was reported that after one week of training BMC’s canines, the canines were able to detect the virus using saliva and tracheobronchial secretions, with an overall average detection rate of 94%.

While there are some limitations—one being that the FDA has not approved this method of screening—scientists still believe this is a promising first step in canine Covid-19 detection. So, promising that the Miami Heat just announced that they will be using Covid sniffing dogs to screen fans at games. According to the Heat representatives, fans arriving for the game will be brought to a screening area where a detection dog will walk past each fan. If the dog keeps going, the fan is cleared. But if the dog sits—a sign that the canine has detected the virus—the fan will be denied entry and issued a full refund. If a fan is allergic to or afraid of dogs, the fan can instead take a rapid antigen test.

For many of us—humans—detection dogs represent a glimpse of light and hope as Covid cases total over 99 million worldwide, but what about these detection dogs? As we know by now, Covid is extremely contiguous. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), dogs, as well as other mammals, can become infected with the virus after close contact with a human infected with the virus. Once infected, pets can spread the virus to other animals. Pets can also spread the virus to human, although the risk according the CDC is relatively low. Therefore, the CDC recommends that pet owners treat pets as they would any other human family members—i.e., it is recommended that pets owners not allow pets to interact with people outside of their household to avoid possible exposure to the virus. The CDC also recommends that if a person within their household becomes sick, that person should be isolated from everyone, including the household pet.

While the use of these detection dogs means decreasing the spread of the virus and restarting our economy as demonstrated by the Miami Heat and various airports, what does it mean for detection dogs? For the detection dog to detect the presence of the virus, the dog needs to come into close contact with its target, meaning the detection dog is essentially increasing its possible exposure to this deadly virus. This leads us to many unanswered questions. One question is, are these detection dogs being tested regularly for the virus? An important question especially with the discovery of the new variant—which is said to be more contiguous and more deadly than the previous variant. Another question is, if a dog test positive for the virus, what systems and/or procedures are in place to ensure the dog is properly isolated and receives proper treatment? Pets—like humans—who tested positive for Covid-19, have experienced different symptoms. Some pets have experienced mild illness while others have experienced no symptoms at all. Symptoms or not, one infected detention dog, can infect an entire airport or arena. Furthermore, Finally, if the dog loses its ability to sniff out the virus after contracting the infection—loss of smell and loss of taste being a common symptom of the Covid-19—where does the dog go? What happens to the dog? Obviously, the dog will be out of a job, but will the organization utilizing the detection dog be responsible for finding the dog a loving home similar to the practice employed with retired K9 dogs? One would hope so, as it would be inhumane and unfair for these canines to end up at crowded shelter for doing their job, but I guess only time will tell!

Are Bloodless Bullfights Much Better than Traditional Bullfighting?

Danielle Maffei

While bullfighting is prohibited in a number of countries around the world, there still are some countries that continue practicing this inhumane tradition, such as Spain, France, Portugal, Mexico, Colombia, Venezuela, Peru and Ecuador. Some cities in Spain have banned bullfighting; however, in contrast, there are other Spanish cities such as Valencia and Madrid that have bullfighting schools, which teach children as young as 9 years old the “art” of bullfighting.

In these countries, the bulls stand no chance. The bulls are weakened significantly before the fights with either drugs or having sandbags dropped on their backs. Further, before the fight, their horns are shaved to keep them off balance, and they might have petroleum jelly rubbed into their eyes to worsen their vision. The bulls also have their necks and backs pierced with barbed lances, which impairs the bulls’ ability to lift their heads. During the fight, bullfighters stab them with banderillas (shown in the picture below), or sticks with a sharp point on the end, weakening the bulls even more, until the bulls becomes dizzy from blood loss. Finally, the bullfighter will try to sever the bull’s aorta, which would kill the bull quickly; however, more times than not, the bullfighter misses the aorta, and only maims and tortures the bull even more. If the bull is not killed in the arena, he is dragged out of the arena by his horns and killed later.

Bullfighting is not federally prohibited in America. What is prohibited nationally, however, is killing the bull in the arena as a finale of the bullfight. State statutes address whether certain types of bullfighting is permitted in its jurisdiction. For instance, the California legislature banned bullfighting in 1957; however, the statute included a religious exemption, which permitted bloodless bullfights (not to be confused with the alleged anti-cruel sport, rodeo clowning, which entails rodeo clowns actually riding the bull, as seen in the picture below). Anti-cruelty statutes in Wisconsin and Texas ensure that bloodless bullfights are an exception and are not banned. Other states, such as Rhode Island and Florida, have an explicit ban on bullfights of all forms.

Bulls are supposedly not injured nor killed in bloodless bullfights; thus, supporters contend that this alternative is more humane and cruelty-free. A bloodless bullfight involves a Velcro adaption of the banderilla and placing Velcro on the bull’s back, which causes less harm to the bull because the sharp point is replaced with a Velcro tip. This method has the same visual effect as the banderilla latching onto the bull’s back.

Still, this practice consists of intentionally aggravating and provoking the bull, causing the bull to have significant stress and exhaustion. Even with the Velcro banderilla, the bulls are nevertheless exploited and suffer at the expense of human entertainment. Further, there is most likely unseen abuse toward these bulls outside of the arena, and, although bulls are not killed in the arena, they are typically taken to a slaughterhouse afterward, or they are used again and again in these fights until they are no longer able to participate. When that occurs, they are killed.

In order to avoid animal cruelty altogether in bullfighting, it seems that the best approach is to prohibit bullfighting throughout the nation. It is indisputable that bulls are essentially tortured in these fights, bloodless or not, and the ultimate result for these bulls is inevitably death. Even if, for argument’s sake, the bulls are not slain in the conclusion of their fighting careers, the whole nature of the “sport” encourages violence and aggression toward the bulls and is therefore inhumane.

Moreover, in regards to California’s statutory exemption for religion, it is clear that bullfighting is more of a cultural activity versus a religious one. Bullfighting, according to many supporters, is an “art” and a “tradition,” when, in truth, it is actually a sadistic form of entertainment –– which, if banned, would not violate anyone’s fundamental right of practicing religion. Consequently, bullfighting should not be constitutionally protected. Cockfighting and dog fighting are also viewed as cultural activities, but they are banned in more than half the states throughout the country under anti-cruelty laws, so what difference does it make to ban bullfighting as well? Additionally, why would bullfighting not be included in these anti-cruelty laws to begin with? Each “sport” incites violence and torture and always results in the animals’ unnecessary and cruel deaths.

Such a sport does not belong in America, or any civilized society. There are several traditional activities that have been abandoned, and bullfighting should unquestionably be added to that list. Despite the argument that the bulls are not tortured or killed in the arenas, it is evident that the bulls still undergo violence and are exploited, and the bulls are eventually slaughtered regardless. Therefore, is bloodless bullfighting any better than traditional bullfights? It does not seem so.

Titers – education – viable alternative to over-vaccination

Michelle Mattei

            Titers is a word that some vets embrace, causes eye rolls from others, and for still many, an opportunity to launch into a diatribe akin to a Greek tragedy.  So why is this word causing so much controversy and agita between companion animal parents and some vets?  So let’s start with defining what a titer is.  As a human, we come across this when we apply to attend a university.  Most universities, either by State statute or university policy, ask for proof of vaccination against certain infectious diseases, the most common being MMR – measles, mumps, and rubella (German measles).  The prospective student contacts their pediatrician for a copy of their immunization records to show proof of vaccination.  If the immunization record cannot be located, the prospective student has two choices, get re-vaccinated or go for a titer test.  A titer is a test that requires blood to be drawn and sent for analysis to determine the level of antibodies against specific disease types.  Antibodies are a natural reaction to an antigen.  The body produces an antigen (stimulus) in response to an infection triggered by a virus, bacteria, or a vaccine.  The titer test results will provide evidence if antibodies are present in your system to provide proof of either vaccination or that you contracted a specific infection.  The titers test can be done on non-human animals to show which antibodies appear in their bloodstream.  In either case, if the antibodies are present, there is, in most cases, no need for revaccination. 

Titer tests for non-human animals have been used for several decades.  Still, the recent shift towards the increased use of titers is based on over-vaccination concerns, not only based on the vaccines themselves but also the frequency of boosters vaccinations and the expansion of non-core vaccines for a litany of different diseases.  The traditional core vaccines for dogs have generally been for; Canine rabies virus, Canine distemper virus (CDV), Canine parvovirus (CPV-2), and Canine adenovirus (hepatitis).  Depending on which of many guidelines are offered, Canine parainfluenza (flu) is either consider a core or non-core vaccine.  Non-core vaccines for dogs generally are considered to be; Bordetella bronchiseptica (kennel cough), Lyme disease, Leptospirosis, Coronavirus, and Giardia.

            So why is the titer topic so controversial with some vets?  Well, it depends on your vet, the type of vet you go to, how your vet chooses to interpret the science, and their financial motivation.  If your vet is traditional, they will likely suggest not only the core vaccines but also non-core vaccines based on their own set of beliefs, based on their interpretation of current scientific or non-scientific findings.  A holistic vet will tend to divert away from the vaccine guidelines and suggest the titer

There is yet another group of vets who are employed by large corporations that promote as part of their corporate governance policy or franchise agreement that the vets are required to encourage the use of vaccines both core and noncore, re-vaccination should vaccination be in doubt, and repeated boosters on an annual basis, all to meet their financial targets.  As a non-human animal parent, doesn’t this make you start to wonder and question?

Here are some interesting statistics that should bring additional questions and concerns to mind in your decision-making process.  There is a more extensive list as part of the embedded link.

  • Only ~40% of veterinarians follow the current WSAVA, AVMA, AAHA, CVMA vaccine guidelines
  • They can offer separated vaccine components, rather than give them all together, since the published data show more adverse reactions when multiple vaccines are given
  • Rabies vaccine is often given with other boosters for convenience, when this is ill advised, as Killed, inactivated vaccines like rabies make up 15% of veterinary biologicals used, but 85% of the post-vaccination reactions. Use only thimerosal (mercury) – free rabies vaccines
  • There is no such thing as an ‘up to date’ or ‘due’ vaccination
  • Vaccination may not equate to immunization
  • Giving boosters to immunized animals is unwise, as it introduces unnecessary antigen, adjuvant and preservatives
  • Heavy metal exposure from vaccines is an emerging concern for humans, pets and livestock
  • Half-dose CDV + CPV vaccines in small adult dogs sustained protective serum antibody titers
  • No evidence that annual boosters are necessary; need to lengthen the interval to every 3 yrs
  • Geriatric animals vaccinated only with caution

Just like not all veterinarians are the same when it comes to vaccines and titers, some veterinary schools are taking a more rational stance when it comes to this issue.  The College of Veterinary Medicine at Kansas State University states, “Vaccine titers have been gaining more acceptance over the past few years to reduce the frequency of vaccination. In order to be useful, two criteria need to be met: 1) One needs to be able to detect a measurable immunity (antibody) to a disease in a blood sample, and 2) There needs to have been challenge studies performed to associate protection with that specific titer level. A challenge study shows that animals which have a specified antibody titer did not get sick when exposed to the disease for which the titer was checked.”  Let’s all hope that more veterinary schools will promote this view and the other points stated on the College’s website.

My personal experience was to leave my companion animals veterinary practice after 30 years with them when they attempted to scare me and deter me away from titers.  Our current vet is a blend of traditional when needed as well as holistic.  This article is meant to challenge the old ways and introduce you and your companion animal family and beyond to possible alternatives.

Colorado Combats Animal Cruelty

Kristin Jones

Every year, more than 10 million animals die from abuse in the United States alone. Unfortunately, not all animal abuse cases are reported. Therefore, in reality, this number is likely over 100 million. In addition, of these likely 100 million cases of animal abuse, only a fraction of the offenders are actually prosecuted. This disparity means something needs to change in terms of animal abuse prosecution, and there must be stricter laws to protect these animals from further abuse.

In an attempt to fight against animal cruelty, Colorado Governor Jared Polis signed House Bill 19-1092, also known as Animal Ban For Cruelty to Animals Conviction, which concerns a prohibition on the future ownership of an animal for persons convicted of animal cruelty. The bill prohibits those convicted of aggravated cruelty to animals from owning, possessing, or caring for a pet animal for upwards of five years from the date of their conviction. The bill also allows judges to sentence offenders to complete an anger management program, mental health treatment program, or any other appropriate treatment program designed to address the underlying causative factors for the violation. This aspect of the bill is particularly valuable as some acts of animal cruelty, such as animal hoarding, are strongly linked to mental illness and can respond to treatment. Thus, without treatment, the abuser will likely repeat the behavior.

To date, most states do not have mandatory requirements prohibiting convicted animal abusers from owning or possessing animals. Twenty-one states have permissive possession bans (Alabama, Alaska, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming), which means the court decides whether the defendant should be prohibited from owning or possessing animals. Seventeen states have mandatory possession bans (California, Colorado, Delaware, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and West Virginia) requiring courts to prohibit ownership for a designated period of time. It is crucial for the latter number to increase as possession bans are one of the most effective ways to prevent repeat offenses. These bans restrict the abuser’s access to animals, limiting their pool of potential victims.


Although Colorado’s bill is a great start to keep animals out of the hands of their abusers, there is still significant room for improvement. For example, the prohibition period of three to five years is such a trivial amount of time to forbid an animal abuser from owning a pet. A child abuser can be permanently stripped of their parental rights, but in three to five years, an animal abuser can once again own the very thing that was their victim. Without proof of rehabilitation, who says that the offender will not simply repeat what they have done in the past. Convicted abusers should never be allowed to own an animal again, or they must prove that they have been rehabilitated in order to own one in the future. In addition, the law will be enforced like a restraining order, which would rely on a report that the offender is in possession of an animal or a routine check revealing such. The problem with this is that since courts simply treat this as a violation of a court order, it is often unenforceable.

Other flaws of the bill include the fact that it only protects “pet animals.” This is problematic because about 97% of all abused and killed animals yearly are farm animals. These animals are simply seen as part of business and, as a result, are drugged and confined only to produce more milk and eggs, breed more offspring, and die. Thus, the bill’s limited protection of only “pet animal” leaves those who are most subject to abuse vulnerable to repeated mistreatment by their offender. The bill also does not require the prohibition of animal ownership for those convicted of misdemeanor animal cruelty. This means that it is up to the judge’s discretion on whether or not to forbid the ownership of animals for misdemeanor offenses. Although it does still allow for the prohibition of ownership, required bans would be more effective in keeping animals away from their abusers.

Though there is room for improvement, this is a great start in the fight against animal cruelty as it holds those people responsible for animal abuse accountable for their actions. Other states should follow in Colorado’s footsteps to begin strengthening their law punishing animal abusers.

Poverty and Poaching: can CITES or the Convention on Biological Diversity stop the one of the root causes of the illegal wildlife trade?

Jennifer Timmons

In 2015 the United Nations created Sustainable Development Goal 15.7. That goal specifically addresses the urgent need to end poaching but despite this goal, the illegal wildlife trade is still one of the most profitable illegal enterprise in the world, bringing in up to 23 billion dollars a year. Wildlife trafficking can be done through complex crime syndicates or individuals looking for a quick buck. However, many high value crimes that make news headlines often trace back to an individual shooter who is usually a poor resident of the area where the poaching took place. With no way to make ends meet, these people turn to poaching to feed their families. A rhino poacher approached an investigative journalist and explained how he did not want to poach rhinos because it was so dangerous, but he had no other way to feed his family. The journalist discusses how the communities in his documentary are located on the outskirts of national parks in Africa, where there is very little means to earn a living. (Nick Read, The Traffickers: Killed for a Horn, NETFLIX 2016) It’s seen all over the world, the poorest communities struggle to survive and turn to poaching. Since wildlife trafficking includes so many different players, and usually involves crossing national borders, international agreements are needed to address the pressing issue of poverty threatening wildlife. There needs to be a way to provide aid to hard-to-reach places in developing counties, with a focused on specifically targeting communities with high poaching. Two international agreements come to mind when discussing the illegal wildlife trade, CITES and the Convention on Biological Diversity, but are they up to the task or do they fall short of their duties?

CITES aims to provide protection to all animals (and even plants) that are threatened or endangered. According to World Wildlife Fund, “CITES, which stands for the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, is a global agreement among governments to regulate or ban international trade in species under threat.” CITES is broken in to three trade categories: Appendix 1, Appendix 2, and Appendix 3. Appendix 1 is the most restrictive and includes critically endangered plants and animals. Appendix 1 species are completely prohibited from trade, except for rare cases involving scientific research.  This includes live, dead, and animal parts. According to World Wildlife Fund, CITES is heralded as one of the best tools to combat the illegal wildlife trade with over 183 member Parties regulating more than 35,000 species. However, CITES seems only partially to work by specifically targeting end consumers and not addressing poverty, one of the causes of poaching. CITES does not have a mechanism for developing a means to give alternative jobs to communities who participate in poaching, or addressing the issues of how poaching and poverty have a correlation. An approach is needed within CITES that would be different from a blanket aid package. Its goal should be to specifically seek out communities where poaching is the primary way to make a living, dissect the root causes of poverty (i.e. gangs, lack of public services, etc.), and address those issue.  CITES targets the end market but not the base of the problem. An approach is needed to target both ends of the trafficking cycle and CITES fails to do that.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (TCBD) likewise fails to target communities with high poaching. TCBD is focused on: the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of the components of biological diversity, and the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits arising out of the utilization of genetic resources. TCBD was not necessarily created to deal with poaching and the illegal wildlife trade as mentioned in TRAFFIC’s Briefing on the Scope and Content of the Post2020 Global Biodiversity Framework report, “The Aichi Targets in the [T]CBD’s Strategic Plan to 2020 do not include a target specific to trade in wildlife, despite illegal and unsustainable trade being one of the key drivers of biodiversity loss, and sustainable, well-managed legal wildlife trade having a scope for providing benefits to all from biodiversity and ecosystem services.” However, there is a section in the TCBD called Sustainable Wildlife Management which states that one of its goal is to tackle “Multidisciplinary approaches in sustainable wildlife management, including alternative livelihoods.” This section of the TCBD could easily focus on creating pathways for communities turning to poaching for a living to find alternative livelihoods. Unfortunately, TCBD falls short and has only focused on the bushmeat trade and not poaching as a whole. Another issue as stated by TRAFFIC in the earlier quote, is that there are no targets or benchmarks for meeting the goals. It’s not easy to implement a strategy as complex as providing possibly millions of people with alternative livelihoods with no way of telling if the implementation strategy is even working. In the end, TCBD fails to address poverty and poaching in a wholistic way.

While CITES is what usually comes to mind when discussing the illegal wildlife trade, TCBD has a better section that can address poaching specifically linked to poverty. Currently neither is addressing poverty as a significant factor to poaching, CITES targets the consumer, while TCBD focuses on biodiversity and genetic sharing. However, these are only two of the many international conventions, agreements, and treaties that could possibly address poverty to stop the illegal wildlife trade. Poverty is a complex issue and its causes vary greatly. While not every poaching incident may be directly related to poverty, and a great many aren’t, there is still enough of a correlation to be greatly concerned, especially when many of these people don’t want to be poaching in the first place. One thing is certain both CITES and TCBD do not address the issue. It’s interesting that poverty is not predominant in two conventions that specifically address issues concerning wildlife, when poverty is such a danger to it.

A Proposed Bill in New York Seeks to Prohibit the Shipment of Live Animals by Mail After Recent USPS Delays Reveal Devastating Impacts

Nicolette Merlino

On February 4, 2021, New York Assemblymember Linda B. Rosenthal introduced a bill (A4611) which, if enacted, would amend New York’s agriculture and marketing law to prohibit the shipment of certain “live animals” by postal mail into or within the state of New York and from the state of New York to points outside the State. 

The proposed legislation is a response to the devastating impact that recent USPS setbacks are having on the lives of animals shipped by postal mail. As a result of drastic financial cuts, USPS has recently experienced an elevated level of shipment delays and heightened reports of lost mail. Shipping live animals through the postal system is a common practice in the United States as it is generally a less expensive alternative to other transportation methods. However, recent delays have resulted in some vendors suspending USPS shipments after an increased number of animals arrived dead in the mail. While mail carriers are subject to precautions to ensure the safe delivery of animals, such attempts are clearly inadequate where increased delay is inevitable. For example, in August of 2020, it was reported that thousands of live chicks were being delivered dead in the northeast. In many of the cases, the live chicks were left inside warehouses for up to 75 hours before delivery. According to concerned veterinarians, a major issue with the shipment of birds by postal mail is the inability to regulate the temperature necessary to keep chicks warm. The consequences are especially detrimental to chicks because they are generally shipped when newly hatched. As such, these mailed chicks often spend a critical learning period inside a dark box.

The United States Postal Service has allowed for the shipment of certain live animals since 1918. USPS guidelines designate which animals are considered “legally mailable” subject to the requirement that “proper conditions” are met. According to the USPS website, “mailable animals,” include adult birds and day-old “poultry,” such as chickens, ducks, geese, turkeys, and partridges, other small, harmless cold-blooded animals, like frogs, toads, and baby alligators, as well as certain insects. The United Parcel Service (UPS) similarly permits the shipment of small, harmless cold-blooded animals, all fish, and non-nuisance insects.

While the recent postal crisis has resulted in a spike in the number of animal fatalities, the harmful impacts associated with the practice of transporting animals through the mail are well-established. According to a January 2013 article by Farm Sanctuary, more than one hundred chicks mailed that month from Texas and expected to arrive Alabama traveled close to one thousand miles in the wrong direction as a result of mailing address error. The chicks ended up in Washington D.C., where the package sat unclaimed at a post office until postal workers eventually realized the problem and contacted animal control. A similar event occurred in July of 2015, where a box containing sixteen chicks and mailed from Wisconsin arrived to and remained at a New York post office unclaimed. Despite the fact that the package contained several live chicks, postal workers almost stamped the box “Return to Sender.” Fortunately, in this case, a concerned postal worker the chicks in the box and took them home to care to them. For many animals, however, the result of having to travel back several days to the return address could be the difference between life and death. Notwithstanding the apparent serious consequences, this standard procedure is implemented on all unclaimed packages, including those holding live animals.

            The proposed New York bill defines “live animal” relatively broadly, as meaning “any mammal, bird, reptile, or amphibian.” The ban would prohibit both the shipment of “live animals” out of and into the State of New York. As such, if enacted, the legislation would represent a positive step in the advancement and recognition of animal welfare. However, like much of the legislation enacted for the benefit of animals, potential constitutional issues have emerged. Following the bills proposal, commentators raised possible preemption issues as the law would serve to prohibit practices that would otherwise be legal under Federal law. Specifically, the broad definition of “live animals” would effectively incorporate a large majority of  the “mailable animals,” currently legally shippable under USPS guidelines. Thus, there is a possibility that the proposed bill, if challenged under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution of the United States, would be considered invalid. 

The Case Against Captivity

Marissa O’Connor

Zoos across the nation love to boast about their conservation efforts to save species and market themselves as the 5-star Caribbean island resorts of the animal world. The average person would agree with the notion that captivity means longer lifespans for animals since there are no predators, around-the-clock medical care, and nutritional meals provided. While this may be the case for some smaller, more prey vulnerable species, this is not the case for many keystone species; species that should be a priority for conservation. Marine mammals, elephants, giant pandas, and cheetahs are examples of keystone species that are notoriously difficult to establish effective husbandry for in captivity. Consequentially, these species are the most popular animals that zoos can house and are therefore likely the most miserable.

Marine mammal species, notably dolphins and whales, are species that are especially unsuitable for captivity. Marine mammals often swim up to hundreds of nautical miles a day and have unique, sensitive family structures. The natural environment of marine mammals can never be mimicked in a captive setting and deprives the mammals of the environment they need to be healthy, subsequently, captive marine mammals often show signs of psychological and physical trauma. Killer whales in captivity are infamous for their dorsal fin collapse, which is experienced by all captive male orcas and many females. In the wild, however, dorsal fin collapse is only seen in about one percent of killer whales. Moreover, many marine mammals rely on sonar to communicate and navigate their surroundings. Due to their extremely limited environment, these marine mammals are forced into a perpetual motion of endless circles around their tanks. The human equivalent is, quite literally, solitary confinement.

Moreover, while dolphins and whales are subjected to a life of solitary confinement, aquariums are aware of another ocean behemoth unsuitable for captivity. Despite repeated efforts across the planet, aquariums have never been able to successfully house an adult great white shark. In 2004, the Monterey Bay Aquarium managed to sustain a 4-foot great white shark for a mere 198 days, the longest in record. Before this stint, the longest a great white shark was able to survive in an aquarium was only 16 days. The Monterey Bay Aquarium, until recently, was unable to curve their appetite for displaying a great white shark, and many other aquariums still have “great white exhibition programs”. Knowing the captive stints will likely cause the shark to die, these futile attempts to house great white sharks seek to satisfy human curiosity only, instead of species preservation.

Marine mammals are not the only species to suffer in captivity, elephants are also afflicted. A study published in 2008 in Science Magazine reported that their data suggests that female elephant’s health and overall well-being are so compromised in captivity their lifespans are less than half the median life span of protected populations in Africa and Asia. More specifically, Asian elephant calves are especially compromised and have an unusually high infant mortality rate. In captive African elephants, the median life span was 17 years, in the wild, it is 56. For captive Asian zoo elephants, the median was 19 years, in wild it was almost 42.

Like many other wildlife species, the giant panda’s population has been decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation. Being such a charismatic animal, conservation efforts had no issue devoting vast resources to preserving the population. Giant pandas are often used as the face of conservation, and the World Wildlife Fund sports the giant panda as their mascot. The captive breeding programs have very low success rates, however, and while captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild have helped numerous other species, this is not the case for the giant panda. Conservationists devoted to the giant pandas frequently recognize that captive breeding of pandas will not be successful in saving the species from extinction. Similar to the great white shark, zoos are reluctant to come to the conclusion they are not successful in conserving the giant panda. Some zookeepers have resorted to extreme lengths to restore the natural instincts they stripped from the panda by showing them footage of other pandas mating, and by forced breeding.

Like many other wildlife species, the giant panda’s population has been decreasing due to habitat loss and deforestation. Being such a charismatic animal, conservation efforts had no issue devoting vast resources to preserving the population. Giant pandas are often used as the face of conservation, and the World Wildlife Fund sports the giant panda as their mascot. The captive breeding programs have very low success rates, however, and while captive breeding and reintroduction to the wild have helped numerous other species, this is not the case for the giant panda. Conservationists devoted to the giant pandas frequently recognize that captive breeding of pandas will not be successful in saving the species from extinction. Similar to the great white shark, zoos are reluctant to come to the conclusion they are not successful in conserving the giant panda. Some zookeepers have resorted to extreme lengths to restore the natural instincts they stripped from the panda by showing them footage of other pandas mating, and by forced breeding.

Aside from their notoriety for being difficult to keep in captivity, all of these species are lucrative for zoos to keep on display as conservation efforts, successful or not, attract large amounts of tourists. The reluctance of zoos to end unsuccessful conservation programs directly negates their goal of conservation and causes continuous harm to these species. The case for captivity is usually focused on the improved longevity of lifespans, but what good are longer lifespans if the animal is suffering? Extending the lifespan of a species while depriving it of everything else is not conservation, it is cruelty.

Specific Task Forces to Handle Animal Cruelty: Reasonable Or Not?

Emily Indriolo

            Upon first look for information on horse cruelty I found this post from Equine Advocates. It presents a very interesting theory: specific task forces within police departments to handle animal cruelty. It was surprising because it was something that never came to mind before. Why are there so few specific task forces to handle animal cruelty? It seems like a very good and efficient idea so one would think it would implemented across the country. A quick google search will inform you that not many states have them, let alone counties, and even if they do they don’t seem to be funded very well. So that leaves the question, are animal cruelty task forces a reasonable thing to implement? Or are they just too difficult to achieve and more of a dream than a reality? I would say that I stand somewhere in the middle.

            The post I found from the Equine Advocates website takes a very strong stance. They believe that an animal cruelty task force should be implemented in every county in every state but especially in the ones that have farms. They preface this argument by telling the reader about Skye’s Amendment, a New York State law that makes it a felony to abuse any animal in New York. We are told that the law has helped greatly with training police in the matter of animals and for putting dangerous people behind bars. They believe that stronger animal cruelty laws combined with specific animal cruelty task forces is the way handle the ever-growing issue of animal cruelty. Skye’s Amendment was only implemented in 2010. It took a horse being stabbed eighteen times with a butcher knife until she bled to death for the state to decide that animal cruelty should be a felony. Interestingly, it was surprisingly difficult to actually find the law in question but its actual title is N.Y. Afri. Mkts Law § 353-a. Aggravated cruelty to animals.

            I agree with Equine Advocates that stronger animal cruelty laws and an animal cruelty task force for every county would certainly make drastic changes in the country but I do not think it can realistically happen. I imagine that the sole reason for this is money. As they say, money makes the world go round, but apparently no one wants to use it to protect animals. Just recently, due to the call for action to defund the police in the Summer of 2020, the LAPD cut a portion of their animal cruelty task force and defunded it in general. It is quite clear that money is the biggest motivating factor in the decision to either help or ignore the plight of animals and while our world cares more about money over morals it will probably always be this way.

            However I do believe there can be a happy medium solution. Creating an animal task force for every county, while sounds lovely, is just unrealistic but creating an animal task force for every state is a very reasonable and good place to start. Once there is one there is room for more to grow. As the Equine Advocates post suggests there should be task forces in counties with heavy farm populations. Another thing that could help to move around the money issue is to take volunteers for the task forces. I am sure that many people in every county in the United States care about preventing animal cruelty and would be more than happy to help. Is it really necessary for the task forces to be made up completely of police officers? I don’t think so. I believe they should be made up of people who actually want to help and are not just doing it “because it is their job.” A little expense on training volunteers is nothing compared to having to pay a police officer’s salary every week for the same job. If money really is the issue then this is a good workaround. Although, police officers are the only ones with the power to make arrests but placing one or two on the task force is probably sufficient. Most animal protection teams are run by humane societies rather than the local law enforcement anyway so why not have the team created by law enforcement also have citizen members? It seems to work out well for them.

            Most people are willfully ignorant to the plight of animals. They know but they prefer not to see what is happening to them. If this wall of ignorance is removed then changes may start to happen. If the general public were educated more about animal cruelty they would probably want to help more and then maybe money won’t be such a barrier between humans and helping animals anymore.

Animals Have No Home In The Circus

Michael Schwartz

Humans would not enjoy entertainment at the expense of fellow humans torture and pain, so why should we allow the expense to be paid by the animals we love? In 1941, Disney produced an instant classic in the film Dumbo, which follows the life of an elephant who was taken away from the family he had known to perform as a circus elephant. Originally depicted as a cartoon, to perhaps lessen the depressed nature behind an animals life in a circus ring, the live action film produced in 2019 rings in a truer portrait of a mournful existence. The upbringing, training, and use of animals for the circus is an inhumane and barbaric practice that must be discontinued swiftly and immediately. The treatment which the animals are receiving on a daily basis in no way justifies any monetary or entertainment ends. This is a call for the banning of animal circuses.

            Before any performance takes place, every single animal, whether it be a tiger, elephant, monkey, or any other animal must undergo months of grueling training before they enter the ring. What does this training entail? Let’s start with the case of the elephants in training. A common practice in the field is to use bullhooks on these friendly giants. A bullhook is a long pole that has a sharp hook attached at the end. These hooks dig into the elephant’s sensitive flesh (usually used right behind the ears or ankles) causing extreme pain for the animal. Another cruel tactic used for almost all of the animals is a whip. The skin-crawling lashing is used merely for letting the animals know of what punishment awaits them if they do not quickly learn their stunts or behave in a manner according to the circus’s liking. Though it is not a competition, the most horrific allowance under the Animal Welfare Act is the allowed use of electric prods when training animals. The use of electric prods has drawn the attention of Dr. Temple Grandin, animal behaviourist, in the past. Not only do the electric prods create immense physical pain on contact, but they also “impair the animals’ immune system, stop weight gain, damage rumen function and reduce reproductive ability. Animals that are handled roughly and become excited or frightened will remember their experience and be much harder to handle the next time. Their level of anxiety or stress when entering the handling facility will be higher due to their memory of previous experiences.” The physical abuse circus animals take on a daily basis is well documented, but unfortunately, it is not the only method of torture they are dealing with. Coupling their physical mistreatment with their mental damages, circus animals are constantly left in a state of despair.

   A large percentage of the animals used in the circuses have been captured from their native habitats from very young ages. This theft and displacement places a distinctly different quality of life for all of the animals. Take primates as an example. Baboons, chimpanzees, spider monkeys, and other primates who are taken from their homes and placed into small, cramped cages live a life that is a stark contrast to what they were used to. Primates are widely known for living in close-knit communities, who live, travel, and communicate together, usually in large numbers. What is also known is the physiological horrors that animals must embrace when they are facing captivity. The tight housing of the animals, which is even seen in the off-season of the circuses, lead to unnatural forms of behavior such as repeated head-bobbing, swaying, and pacing. Pacing is when an animal appears to be a “trance” as it continuously moves in the same motion over and over again. What is particularly saddening about this aspect is that the animals once used pacing as a means of stretching, exercising, and enjoying their day. But now, they are forced to barely shift around in their small cages, only furthering their anxieties and reminding them of the freedoms they once had. Another unfortunate habit the animals can develop is sham-chewing, which is the repetitive movement of the jaw, sham-chewing is another self-directed, deprivation stereotype and is commonly shown in sows kept in gestation crates.

In a fight to disband any circuses that benefits off of and continues the use of animals, it is essential to spread the awareness of the ongoings behind the scenes of these spectacles. Though the thought of the treatment of these poor animals brings in emotions of despair, it is encouraging to know that there is a wave of momentum on our side. The use of animals in entertainment has already been restricted or banned in cities across the U.S. and in countries worldwide. For instance, Bolivia, Greece, Israel, Peru, and Sweden have banned the use of all animals in circuses, and Britain has prohibited the use of wild animals in traveling circuses. There are a variety of options for wonderful, animal-free circuses, such as the famous Cirque Du Soleil. The captivation, and training of animals for our entertainment purposes is a barbaric tactic that has been shown to no longer be necessary. With action already being taken, it is vital to continue the momentum and not cease our hope of freeing animals from their torturers.

FDA, Milk up Your Mind

Áine Dillon

Spanning over the last few decades, there has been controversy growing in Europe and the United States about how plant-based milk alternatives can label their products. The debate surrounds which vowel the plant-based milk alternatives can use (milk with an ‘i,’ or mylk with a ‘y’). According to the Department of Agriculture, milk consumption has dropped 37% since 1970, and cow milk sales dropped from $15 billion in 2011to $12 billion in 2016. With the growing popularity and variety of plant-based milks, the cries from the dairy industry seem to be growing louder. The dairy industry is opposed to plant-based milks spelling milk with an ‘i,’ claiming that using the word ‘milk’ implies that the beverage has similar nutritional properties or taste to cow’s milk. However, will changing the vowel used in milk aid consumer knowledge? Or is it a ploy by the dairy industry to weaken their plant-based competitors?

Merriam-Webster defines milk as “a fluid secreted by the mammary glands of females for the nourishment of their young.” Scott Gottlieb, former FDA Commissioner, stated “An almond doesn’t lactate, I will confess.” Using this definition of milk, it is clear that beverages made from almond, soy, cashew or hemp do not fit this definition. However, the dairy industry argues that a consumer may believe that almond milk has the same nutritional value as cow’s milk. What the FDA wants to avoid is having confused parents buying almond milk for their children, thinking that has the same nutritional value of cow’s milk, and the child having life-lasting conditions from being malnourished. Even though research shows that drinking milk is a good source of nutrients for children, there are many other ways to get the same nutrients, and recent studies have concluded that drinking milk is not necessary for children. Even further, many plant-based milks are fortified and contain many of the essential nutrients that cow’s milk offers, although none contain all the nutrients found in milk. 

However, the dairy industry claims that using the word milk implies that the beverage has similar fat, protein, salts, lactose, enzymes, vitamins to cow’s milk. However, simply looking at the nutritional value of the beverage compared to cow’s milk would exclude other milks that come from animals (such as goat’s milk or sheep’s milk). The question becomes if every type of milk (animal or plant-based) has a different nutritional makeup, why exclude the plant-based milks from using the ‘i,’ while allowing animal-based milks to use the ‘i.’ Similar rules by the FDA include defining butter to be dairy-based, therefore excluding oil-based spreads like margarine from using the word butter. However, if a food is not trying to be ‘butter’ then they can use the word. Therefore, peanut butter is still allowed to use the word butter because it is not intimidating butter. 

In 2013, a case was brought to a U.S. District court about the legality of products being labeled as soymilk or almond milk, and if they were misleading. The judge presiding on the case, Judge Samuel Conti, stated “Under plaintiffs’ logic, a reasonable consumer might also believe that veggie bacon contains pork, that flourless chocolate cake contains flour, or that e-books are made out of paper.” The judge concluded soy milk and almond milk are accurate descriptions of what the beverage is and are not misleading. 

Some argue that while labeling plant-based alternatives as milk with an ‘i’ is correct, plant-based alternatives companies should embrace the ‘y’ in mylk. Maybe they can be an indicator for consumers that this beverage does not come at the cost of forced pregnancies and inhumane treatment. Additionally, the change from i to y may not make a difference in sales either as the change most likely will not affect people who already consume non-dairy milks. Over the last 15 years there has been a 300% increase in veganism, and an estimated 70% of the world’s adults are lactose intolerant. Further, more people are aware of the ethical implications of consuming dairy due to the cruel treatment cows endure to produce milk constantly. The ethical, environmental, or dietary reasons for abstaining from drinking milk or consuming milk products will not change, no matter what vowel is used. However, it does enforce the idea that plant-based milk alternatives are lesser, or do not deserve the title of being milk. Further, more changes may come. Vegan butter, ice-cream and cheese might also need to change if the FDA finds milk to only apply to milks from animals. Currently, the FDA does allow for plant-based milk alternatives to use the ‘i,’ but growing concerns from the dairy industry may eliminate that choice. 

Canadian beavers in Patagonia’s forests: environmental ethics and invasive species management

Andrea Galassi

According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute, beavers, the largest rodents in North America, are “one of the few species that significantly modify their environment.” By erecting of watertight dams of sticks woven with reeds, branches and saplings, which are caulked with mud, they diminish the stream erosion and form slow-moving ponds. As we can imagine, these ponds serve as habitat for a wide range of small aquatic life and also provide water and food for much larger animals. However, in some parts of the world, beavers had generated a decrease in the biomass and the volume of the forests, especially those classified, as “protected forests” because of they are associated with watercourses, an impact that is difficult to overcome in a natural way. Such is the case of Patagonian forests in Argentina and Chile.

beaver overpopulation — Tierra del Fuego

Going back in history, in 1946 10 pairs of beavers (Castor Canadensis) were brought from Manitoba to the Argentinian archipelago of Tierra del Fuego in an attempt to bring the fur industry to the area. But what Argentina´s military government ignored was the fact that beavers had no natural predators— like wolves, lynx, or coyotes— in the area in contrast to North America, which is home to bears and wolves. Thus the population swelled over the last 70 years, causing damage to thousands of old-growth trees –like Nothofagus or southern beeches forests- and peat bogs. In addition, the species has a serious impact on the ecosystem services of the turbines, which also have a specific role in basin regulation, in sustaining biodiversity and for their global contribution to carbon sequestration. Moreover, beaver dams –some of which I´ve actually witnessed myself when a recent visit to “Bahia Lapataia”, Tierra del Fuego- are so dominate that researchers can identify them in satellites images.

It was not until the 1990s that the governments of Argentina and Chile began to realize the magnitude of their beaver problem. Even though they tried to encourage recreational and commercial beaver hunting, trained hundreds of locals to trap encouraged restaurants to serve beaver-meat recipes and put a bounty on each beaver they could not reverse the damage because of low fur prices and hunting difficulties. Moreover, according to Alejandro Valenzuela -conservation coordinator for Argentina’s Southern Patagonia National Parks- the program caused more ecological damage than it saved: since beavers are territorial, the movement of a beaver colony from a pond, will allow new beavers will move in, but they won’t use the old dam. Instead, they will build a new dam, felling more trees and creating a larger pond in the process.

After several discussions, in 2008 Argentinian government –in cooperation with the Republic of Chile – began a 10-year mission to exterminate 100,000 beavers with traps and training hunters to eventually eradicate the species. Through the Secretary of Environment and Sustainable Development, the National Government established a Pilot Program in order to provide governance of invasive alien species. In 2019, preliminary results from a pilot project in Esmeralda-Lasifashaj region, which ran from October 2016 to January 2017 and from March to May 2017, were released. The studies show that “eradication was not achieved using the methods and efforts in the first part of the pilot study” [highlighting] “the need for more effort or the application of different techniques or trapping strategies. For example, daily checking of traps may cause the animals to be cautious so, the next step in the Programme will involve exploring alternative trapping methods to reduce disturbance”.

Consequently, at this moment all the efforts are centralized in the eradication and the fact that Argentina and Chile will also have to figure out how to restore the forests that have already been damaged by the beavers. This will be a next step. However, as an Animal Law student there are ethical questions for and against specific actions about the eradication of beavers as non-native specie from Patagonia that necessarily arise here. For instance, are beavers as individual sentient animals opposite to the value (at the species level) of plants and trees in Patagonia, and its ecosystems as well? Furthermore, is killing for conservation justified in order to eradicate invasive species?

Conservation Biology is “a multidisciplinary science that has developed to address the loss of biological diversity.” Its two central goals are “to evaluate human impacts on biological diversity and to develop practical approaches to prevent the extinction of species”. In other words, there is an inherent idea that CB is conformed by both value judgments and ethical decisions. Moreover, in the last few years Ethics and Animal Welfare have been presented an optional and newly born approach: the Compassionate Conservation Approach which aims to safeguard Earth’s biological diversity while retaining a commitment to treating individuals “with respect and concern for their well-being.” Even though there are currently two sides – those who consider killing to be unacceptable in any situation; and those who think it might be acceptable when there’s no other solution- by embracing animal ethics, the Compassionate Conservation Approach offers an interesting viewpoint by bringing the practices and sciences of animal welfare and conservation biology closer together and by envisioning the application of specific ethical arguments to improve the status quo of beavers versus ecosystem in Patagonia. The application of environmental ethics to political decisions can be crucial for understanding and settling our responsibility towards the multiple problems that currently affect our planet.

Border Walls & Climate Change

Alexis Tomaino

Scientists now estimate that “half of all life” is “on the move” in direct response to anthropogenic climate change.  Yet at the very moment when ecological corridors for animal migrations should be safeguarded and prospectively secured because of climate change, more nations are constructing international barriers as a national security tool to impede human migration. Walls erected along international boundaries in the name of national security have unintended but significant consequences for biodiversity: they reduce the area, quality, and connectivity of plant and animal habitats.  And they block the ability of species to migrate and relocate to more suitable habitats.

            Since 1945, the number of large-scale, transnational border walls has increased from seven to 77, most built for the sole purpose of blocking human migration. This is a global crisis: in Africa, a barrier between Somalia and Kenya, made of barbed wire, concrete, and posts is nearing completion and a 1,700-mile sand wall fortified and surrounded by millions of land mines was built by Morocco along disputed, ungoverned territory on its border with Western Sahara. In Asia, Chinese President Xi Jinping has called for an iron wall around the Xinjiang region. In Central America, Ecuador has erected concrete panels along the Peruvian border.  In Europe, a mile-long wall exists at Calais, France funded by the United Kingdom to prevent migrants from accessing the Channel Tunnel and the Baltic States are raising a fence along their eastern frontier. And, in North America, the United States President Donald Trump has pledged to construct a “great wall” (the “Trump Wall”) along the 1,933 mile-long southern border between the United States and Mexico (the “Border”)—and in the process bisect a continent—in response to what he called a national security threat of human migration. 

            Although the construction of Trump Wall has been debated for a variety of reasons including illegal diversion of funds earmarked by Congress to fund the wall, largely absent from such discussions is a meaningful analysis of the devastating impact of such a wall on species’ climate change adaptation.  The border wall not only divides communities where millions of people live, it also cuts through the habitats of more than 1,500 wildlife species, disrupting a fragile and unique web of life in the borderlands. Aside from the physical wall, construction vehicle disturbance as well as lighting and noise pollution will wreak havoc on wildlife and sensitive habitat. Two animals—the ocelot (Leopardus pardalis) and Sonoran pronghorn (Antilocapra americana sonoriensis)— help bring this abstract problem into focus.  What’s undeniable is that the 654 miles of walls and fences already along the Border have cut off, isolated, and reduced populations of these amazing animals. 

A cat with its mouth open

Description automatically generated

            “Drive slowly. Ocelots” signs still pepper the campus of the University of Texas at Rio Grande Valley, located just twenty miles from the Border, harkening to the days when these small, spotted and striped felines roamed broadly throughout the Southwest.  But any actual sighting of ocelots now is a rarity.  Biologists estimate that fewer than 50 remain in the U.S.  Because of these small populations, the Trump Wall would, inter alia, weaken these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico.  Populations with low genetic diversity are poorly suited to adapt to changing environmental conditions, shrinking habitats or new diseases.  Thus, without a concerted relocation plan, the ocelot would become extirpated in the U.S. because the Trump Wall result in the loss of connectivity with other ocelots.  

A herd of zebra standing on top of a dry grass field

Description automatically generated

            Known as the “prairie ghost,” the Sonoran Pronghorn is a small antelope with a reddish-brown coat, white belly, and white and black face with shiny black horns.  These animals are the fastest land animal in North America. Only 400 Sonoran Pronghorn are estimated to remain in the wild with only 160 left in the United States.  In addition to weakening these species’ genetic health by blocking access to suitable mates in Mexico, Sonoran Pronghorn move nomadically in response to changing forage conditions and water availability as a result of sporadic rainfall and are uniquely susceptible to drought conditions that are expected to increase as a result of climate change.  Indeed, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recommends in its 2015 Draft Recovery Plan for Sonoran Pronghorn that the ability to migrate to water sources be preserved.  Because they require large expanses of contiguous habitat to persist in the harsh desert environment, the Trump Wall would almost certainly result in the extinction of the Sonoran Pronghorn.

            The inherent conflict between the use of a Border wall as a “national security” tool to control human migration and the need to protect ecological migration corridors along the Border for species survival and ecosystem health in light of climate change must be resolved in favor of the animals.  Time is of the essence.  The Border is not yet completely walled-off and vital migration corridors still remain.  But to add insult to injury, many of these critical areas are on federal land which makes them the easiest to construct upon because the land is already under federal control.  For example, the Lower Rio Grande Valley includes protected areas home to a vast array of wildlife including endangered and threatened species with ranges not restricted to one country.  Indeed, the primary wildlife conservation strategy has been to link habitat patches that are isolated due to intense agriculture, urbanization, and security fencing, in order to create and maintain a more continuous wildlife corridor for the species that migrate and move among habitat areas. In south Texas alone, the federal government has spent over $80 million in taxpayer money to support piecemeal aggregation of the refuge which today exceeds 90,000 acres. These federal efforts to conserve the rich and diverse biology are imminently threatened by the proposed Border wall. And the eyes of the world are upon us.  The United States should cease construction of the Border Wall and commence a prioritization of animal migration corridors in light of climate change.  If we do not, we have no ability to speak out when others perpetuate the same mistake.

Denver Stops Bullying the Bully Breeds

Emma Campbell

Pit bulls were banned from Denver in 1989. There have been many legal challenges to the law and in 2004, the Colorado state legislature outlawed breed-specific bans. However, this only lasted about a year because the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that dog breeds were a local issue, and therefore the city had a right to ban pit bulls under their home rule authority.

Fast forward to 2020, Denver City Council passed a bill lifting the ban, replacing it with a registration system. Despite this glimmer of hope for the bully breeds the mayor vetoed the bill citing his uncertainty. The City Council had the opportunity to override that veto on February 24th. However, they were unable to get the votes.

When it comes to breed specific laws there is strong support and opposition from the public. There are outspoken members of the community on both sides, which can be seen in Denver as this law has been a topic of discussion. Two important questions to consider is why do these bans garner so much controversy and do they work?

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 4.5 million people are bitten by dogs each year in the United States, 800,000 of them receiving medical attention, half of them being children. So, dog bites can pose a serious health risk. Denver initially implemented the ban because of two very severe attacks, one resulting in the death of a young boy.

However, the issue is very complex and any dog can bite, regardless of its breed. There are many factors that determine a particular dog’s chance of injuring a person, including their individual history, behavior, size, number of dogs involved, and the vulnerability of the person bitten. Breed-specific bans try to simplify a complex social problem and in doing so these laws divert resources away from actually fixing the problem.

The American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA) has highlighted several reasons why breed-specific bans and restrictions are not a responsible approach to dog bite prevention:

  • Breed-specific laws can be difficult to enforce because a dog’s breed cannot always be determined by how it appears. “Pit bulls” are the most frequent targets of breed-specific legislation and they are not even a breed.
  • Breed-specific legislation is discriminatory against responsible owners and their dogs.
  • Breed bans do not address the social issue of irresponsible pet ownership.
  • It is not possible to calculate a bite rate for a breed or to compare rates between breeds because the data reported is often unreliable. This is because:
    • The breed of a biting dog is often not known or is reported inaccurately.
    • The actual number of bites that occur in a community is not known, especially if they don’t result in serious injury.
    • The number of dogs of a particular breed or combination of breeds in a community is not known because it is rare for all dogs in a community to be licensed. For example, Denver City Council noted that approximately only 20% of dog owners have their dog registered with the town.
    • Statistics often do not consider multiple incidents caused by a single animal.
    • Breed popularity changes over time, making comparison of breed-specific bite rates unreliable.

The AVMA also highlights strategies for dog bite prevention:

  • Enforcement of generic, non-breed-specific dangerous dog laws, with an emphasis on chronically irresponsible owners.
  • Enforcement of animal control ordinances such as leash laws, by trained animal care and control officers.
  • Prohibition of dog fighting.
  • Encouraging neutering for dogs not intended for breeding.
  • School-based and adult education programs that teach pet selection strategies, pet care and responsibility, and bite prevention.

The AVMA is not alone. There is a long list of groups from varying points of view that voice concern over the implementation of breed specific bans, like the CDC, Humane Society, American Bar Association, State Farm Insurance, and the United States Department of Justice, just to name a few.

Denver is not alone, there are are various municipalities throughout the United States that have breed specific bans. Also, all military bases exclude pit bulls, rottweilers, doberman pinschers, chow chows, and wolf hybrids. There is no evidence that shows that these bans are successful. It is often argued by ban advocates that there is no evidence that it is not successful, and it is better to be safe than sorry. That may sound good, but the issue is that good dogs and responsible dog owners are punished because of an unwarranted fear. The evidence does show that the way people treat their animals has a direct correlation with how their animal behaves. Instead of worrying about the dog in your neighbor’s yard, you should worry about your neighbor.

“Furever” Home or Hospice? New FDA Regulation Approves Animal Abuse and Allows Labs to put the Abused up for Adoption

Giovanna DiFilippo

Humans have used animals for experimentation in biomedical research as far back as ancient Greco-Roman times. Classic philosophers, including the likes of Aristotle and Erasistratus, recorded their experiments on animals and their writings are some of the first records of animal testing in existence. There is no doubt that animal testing has been widely utilized by experimentalists in biomedical research. Such inquiries have helped humankind to advance many of the medical developments we use today. However, technology is rapidly expanding upon society’s biomedical research and it is no longer necessary for humans to experiment on animals. In fact, many biomedical companies and cosmetics companies that test on animals have been subjected to societal pressure to cease testing on animals. Just last week the Food and Drug Administration publicly announced that it will endorse a policy that allows laboratory animals to be adopted once they are no longer needed for experimental use. Many animal rights activists view this new policy as a victory for laboratory animals, but it only perpetuates the interests of the laboratories in experimenting on these animals.

            According to Cruelty Free International, testing on animals is defined as “any scientific experiment or test in which a live animal is forced to undergo something that is likely to cause them pain and suffering.” The animals are harmed deliberately and not for their own interests, but for the interests of furthering scientific inquiry for the overall benefit of society. Some experiments commonly performed on animals in laboratories include injecting animals with known toxic substances, exposing animals to radiation, performing surgery to purposefully remove vital organs and tissues, and forcing animals to inhale poisonous fumes. The most popular animals used to experiment on in laboratories are by far rats and mice. However, laboratories also use fish, rabbits, guinea pigs, hamsters, farm animals, birds, cats, dogs and nonhuman primates.

            For years the Food and Drug Administration has defended animal testing on the basis that animal testing is essential for some medical devices where nonanimal testing would not be a viable option. However, biomedical technology has advanced enough to where a scientist can now reproduce human tissues and perform accurate experiments on that laboratory created human biological material. Yet the Food and Drug Administration maintains that animal testing reliably measures how much of a drug is absorbed into the blood stream, how a medical product is chemically broken down in the body, the toxicity of a product and how quickly that product is excreted from the body. These justifications do not take into consideration how nonhuman animals are imperfect specimens for predicting how such experiments would affect the human body.

            These laboratories obtain their animals from “class A” dealers and “class B” dealers. “Class A” dealers are those in the business of breeding animals exclusively for their use in these scientific experiments. The “class B” dealers are merely brokers who sell animals to these laboratories after acquiring them from animal shelters. Those animals who survive these abhorrent experiments are typically euthanized by the scientists that experiment on them. This new policy of the Food and Drug Administration to adopt “retired” lab animals as pets is not a new concept. Other agencies, such as the National Institute of Health and the Department of Veteran Affairs, have also supported similar policies of their own encouraging the adoption of retired laboratory dogs. No federal legislation or policy currently exists surrounding this issue.

            Many animal rights activists are celebrating the Food and Drug Administration’s new policy supporting the adoption of laboratory animals after they are no longer needed for experimental use. However, no substantial change was seen when the other agencies, such as the NIH and VA, adopted similar policies. Animals are still going to be tortured relentlessly by scientists in the name of scientific discovery and biomedical research. Animal advocates should not celebrate the recognition that these animals need homes only at the end of their experimental use. Instead, animal advocates should increase their focus on preventing the use of animals for experimental testing in the laboratories. By supporting these weak policies, animal advocates are communicating to the agencies and public that it is permissible to treat the animals as scientific commodities and, only if they survive the horrors of the lab, are they worthy of the privilege of living a healthier life.

            Even the promise of a happy and healthy retirement for laboratory animals is reprehensible. For their entire lives these animals are kept in solitude and abhorrent conditions. Most have no idea what it feels like to live outside of a small wired cage. They have been forced to undergo surgeries, ingest toxic chemicals, inhale poisonous fumes and live in high anxiety environments. Most animals will be untrusting of humans and thus would not be suitable for a family. Some others will become very sick and not survive very long in their adoptive homes.  Pulling the survivors out of these labs is comparable to releasing a cancer patient from their hospital room to live out their final days in hospice; it’s a nicer alternative than dying alone in a tiny cage, but it does not remedy what the laboratories are enabled to do to these animals in the future. It instead allows for more animals to be subject to this torturous life, only to be granted a final few years, months or days in a loving home. Animal activists and advocates alike need to save their celebratory sentiment for a larger purpose and continue the fight for animal liberation from these laboratories that exist to solely torture these vulnerable souls.

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.

The Enduring Battle Over America’s Wild Horses

Ben Pierce

There is a fight going on out west – a fight over how we should treat our wild horses.  On one side is the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”), an agency within the U.S. Department of Interior charged with administering the Wild-Free Roaming Horses and Burros Act of 1971.  This statute “declares that wild free-roaming horses and burros are living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West,” and tasks BLM with managing and protecting wild free roaming horses “as components of the public lands.”  On the other side of the fight is arrayed a multitude of animal protection organizations, such as the Animal Welfare Institute and the American Wild Horse Campaign, that are highly critical of BLM’s treatment of wild horses.

Photo by Christine Mendoza

A recent pair of dueling pieces in the Salt Lake City Tribune shed light on this ongoing battle.  Last month, William Perry Pendley, deputy director for policy and programs for BLM, wrote that wild horses pose an “existential threat to our public lands.”  According to Pendley, when wild horse herds are “left Continue reading

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

McDonald’s is for (Animal) Lovers

Samantha A. Mumola

It is no secret that the United States meat and dairy industries are harmful to animals, our health, and our planet.  Whether it is to slim down, become healthier, save animals’ lives, or reduce toxic waste, more people are adopting vegan and vegetarian diets every yearNo proof exists that humans must consume meat to live; to the contrary, it has been proven that those who live on plant-based diets are less likely to suffer from cancer, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, strokes, cardiovascular disease, and even Alzheimer’s disease.  Besides damaging one’s health, the meat industry also produces vast amounts of pollution and is one of the biggest causes of climate change.  This is all without mentioning the most heartbreaking truth about our society’s obsession with meat: it is an unnecessary waste of sentient animals’ lives.

Meat is especially harmful in the form that most United States citizens are receiving it.  Before a piece of flesh touches your plate, it has already been exposed to antibiotics, hormones, bacteria, ammonia, chlorine, fecal matter, and a host of other toxins that can 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