It’s time again for another blood sport bath. Every summer from July 6th to 14th, the San Fermin Festival takes place in Pamplona, Spain. It’s a festival honoring Saint Fermin, a 3rd Century Roman who converted to Christianity.
Sadly, the festival revolves around the running of the bulls. Every morning bulls are forced onto slippery cobblestone streets filled with thousands of crazed revelers. As fireworks and explosives go off, the terrified animals run through a cordoned off section that creates a chute of sorts. The route leads to a bull ring, where they will be tortured and killed.
The festival is steeped in tradition related to transporting bulls to market. Today, it attracts mainly tourists, who think running among terrified animals makes them macho. It’s not brave or masculine. It’s shameful.
Many Spaniards oppose this cruelty. This year, animal rights activists from PETA UK and Spain’s Anima Naturalis joined forces to demonstrate against the barbaric practice. They stood in coffins (representing the 48 bulls that will be killed during the festival) to protest.
The San Fermin festival attracts thousands of tourists to watch the bull runs. Bull fighting is actually on the decline but tourism keeps it alive. When travelling, stay far away from bull fights and other forms of cruelty and vote with your dollar. Spain is a beautiful country so enjoy the scenery, hospitality, dance, art, architecture, nature and beaches instead.
City officials of Morro Bay, CA, have voted not to renew the lease of the 50-year-old Morro Bay Aquarium. In the ocean, harbor seals can dive more than 650 feet and stay underwater for 10 minutes at a time. Sea lions are social animals by nature, and form colonies, where they live and play together and can swim at a rate of 7 mph. For decades, the sea lions, seals, and fish at the Morro Bay Aquarium have been imprisoned in barren concrete cells only a few feet wide and a few feet deep. During the last three years alone, the facility received sixteen citations for not meeting even the minimum federal standards of care (goodness knows hardly stringent) — including failing to feed a significantly underweight sea lion properly and putting a harbor seal in a 20-inch deep pool.
According to PETA, who was instrumental in the closure, “The Morro Bay Aquarium’s barren, shallow display tanks deprive seals and sea lions of everything that they need to survive and thrive, including room to swim, depth to dive, and the companionship of their families.” According to the aquarium owner, Bertha Tyler, “They want to do something that is not the truth. They are selling stories that are not sold because I know our animals have lived here a long time. We have one that’s Maggie. She is 28 years old and we also have had them live to 32 years old but they don’t say that.”
Don’t Let Congress Eliminate State Animal Protection Laws: Stop Dangerous Farm Bill from Advancing
We urgently need your help.
Last night, leaders from the United States House of Representatives refused to allow debate on pro-animal amendments to the Farm Bill, while allowing the dangerous King Amendment to slide through.
If enacted, the King Amendment would nullify the few state laws that do provide protection to farmed animals, such as laws banning cruel crates and cages, prohibiting the force-feeding of ducks, and forbidding horse slaughter and shark finning. This amendment also threatens laws governing environmental protection, worker safety, and more.
All of our hard-fought victories could be lost.
The King Amendment and the rest of the Farm Bill will be voted on by the House later tonight and tomorrow. We need your help to speak out immediately against this dangerous legislation, which will have devastating consequences if enacted.
What You Can Do:
Please contact your US representatives as soon as possible and urge them to vote “NO” on the Farm Bill. Representatives receive a lot of emails, so personalizing your message will make it stand out.
Thank you for getting active to help our country’s farmed animals!
In order to address your message to the appropriate recipient, we need to identify where you are.
Please look up and use your full nine-digit zip for the best results.
Today letters were hand-delivered to the Washington State offices of U.S. Senators Ed Murray and Maria Cantwell (both D-WA), as well as U.S. Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA), urging them to oppose The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 (H.R. 1731/S. 820). Green Vegans, NARN, Action for Animals, and United Poultry Concerns were signatories to the letters. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013 would condemn egg-laying hens to confinement in battery cages forever, and would prohibit any future challenge by state law or public vote. This bill has provisions that would fare even worse for hens than the similar bill that failed to pass last year.
Below is the text of the letter delivered to Congressman Dermott–the letters to Senators Cantwell and Murray are exactly the same except for the substitution of “S. 820″ for any mention of “H.R. 1731.”
Dear Congressman McDermott,
H.R. 1731, the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2013, is a far worse bill than proposed in 2012. Though the bill amends an Act that addresses itself entirely to the quality of table eggs and concerns about maintaining public health, the H.R. 1731 amendments take on an entirely new subject: changes in the housing of hens who produce table eggs. Though this letter does not cover all the flaws and threats of the bill, these are our major concerns. We oppose this bill in its entirety and ask you to oppose it for the following reasons.
First, no person, organization, or state government may improve the welfare and treatment of egg-laying hens if it differs from the inadequacies of the Act. There is no sunset language in this bill. According to the proposed bill, no person, agency, or act of Washington State government could implement science-based improvements based on studies of animal behavior before or after 2029 when the bill comes into full implementation: Requirements within the scope of this Act with respect to minimum floor space allotments or enrichments for egg-laying hens housed in commercial egg production which are in addition to or different than those made under this Act may not be imposed by any State or local jurisdiction [Section 4(b)(c) of the bill]. H.R. 1731 will disenfranchise your constituents from this matter—completely. We hope this issue alone, the disenfranchisement of the people of Washington State, will move you to oppose this misleading bill.
Second, H.R. 1731 removed important definitions and deadlines. It currently states: “(a) The term ‘adequate environmental enrichments’ means adequate perch space, dust bathing or scratching areas, and nest space, as defined by the Secretary of Agriculture, based on the best available science, including the most recent studies available at the time that the Secretary defines the term.” The deadline schedule for the Secretary of Agriculture to define “adequate environmental enrichments” has been deleted from the 2013 version of the bill. The deleted section from 2012 read, “The Secretary shall issue regulations defining this term not later than January 1, 2017, and the final regulations shall go into effect on December 31, 2018.” The number of nesting spaces serves as an example of the need for clearly defined implementation. Research demonstrates that the lack of nesting opportunity is extremely stressful to the hen as it is one of several innate behavioral needs. Yet the Secretary is not required to specify any interior changes to cages excepting square inches per hen, itself a gross denial of the hens’ basic needs.
Third, the 2012 version of the bill used the word “must” consistently as the implementing mandate, as in “must provide environmental enrichment”; the 2013 bill (the “Amendments”) replaces “must” with “shall” throughout. We believe “must” was replaced with “shall” to further weaken the minimal, humane-washing changes it proposes. Going to the U.S. Federal Register Website, “Drafting Legal Documents / Principles of Clear Writing / Section 3” you will see they believe it correct to, “use ‘must’ instead of ‘shall’” because: “shall imposes an obligation to act, but may be confused with prediction of future action” while “must imposes obligation, indicates a necessity to act”. The plain English use of “must” in the 2012 bill is obvious when compared to “shall” in the 2013 bill. That change must be opposed along with the bill.
Fourth, cruel practices will continue under this bill: burning off the sensitive tips of beaks ensures a lifetime of pain and suffering—in addition to disabling the hens’ ability to groom their feathers and pick off lice; the wholesale slaughter of male chicks at birth, often by suffocation or grinding while alive, will continue because they do not lay eggs; female chicks will never experience the enriched experience of bonding with a mother hen; the maximum space allowed in caged confinement when the bill is fully implemented in 2029 is one square foot for the larger brown variety of hens; yet the overwhelming number of hens used in the US egg industry are the smaller white leghorn variety. They will theoretically receive a maximum of only 124 square inches per hen, or fourteen percent less than one square foot. After enduring this bill’s impacts, not a single hen will be spared from a life of deprivation before slaughter.
Fifth, there are no criminal penalties for violating the provisions of this bill. If the Secretary of Agriculture finds noncompliance, he submits reports to various committees. Eggs without carton labels describing how the hens were raised “shall” not be part of commerce. Eggs coming from covered sources that do not provide the “enrichment” and tiny space allocations less than those as scheduled in the Act as amended by H.R. 1731 are prohibited from commerce. But, again, there are no provisions for penalties, confiscations, fines, or any other impediment that would stop that commerce even after a notice, if any, was given.
Sixth, these amendments apply to egg-laying hens, but the Act they are being appended to is about egg handling and grading to maintain public health. We do not see any specific provisions that hen cages can be inspected and reported, only the facilities where eggs are “handled”. In addition, there are no appropriations to pay for the compliance inspections, reporting, and enforcement, if any.
Seventh, H.R. 1731 does not include over 56 million commercial egg-laying hens who are “in production” in any given month. This is multiplied over the course of every year as the egg-laying hens are killed and replaced when productivity declines. “All layers in the United States on April 1, 2013 totaled 348 million…. The 348 million layers consisted of 292 million layers producing table or market type eggs, 53.0 million layers producing broiler-type hatching eggs, and 3.11 million layers producing egg-type hatching eggs.” (USDA, Cornell, 2013). S.802 only covers table eggs. In addition, all flocks of less than 3,000 hens are excluded from this bill. Why should any hen be denied consideration by the proponents of the ill-conceived H.R. 1731?
Eighth, this bill does not protect human workers or hens from ammonia. The 2012 amendments allowed 25 ppm of ammonia in the air in egg-layer housing but the 2013 version adds an allowance for temporary increases for unusual conditions. At 25ppm, “Marked eye, skin, and respiratory irritation” occurs in humans. National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Recommended Exposure Limit (REL). However, “temporary” is not defined in the proposed legislation regarding permissible ammonia levels over 25ppm and is therefore of unspecified duration. How long is “temporary” and what are “unusual conditions”?
Chickens exposed to 20 parts per million of ammonia for 42 days are susceptible to pulmonary congestion, swelling, and hemorrhage. Studies documenting the destructive effects of atmospheric ammonia on chickens and turkeys are referenced in: Carlile, Fiona S. 1984. Ammonia in Poultry Houses: A Literature Review. World’s Poultry Science Journal 40: 99-113.
Ammonia is not the only toxic gas in the chicken houses, and these other toxic gases are not addressed in the proposed legislation: nitrous oxide, CO2, hydrogen sulfide, methane. Chickens need three times more air volume than humans per kilogram of body weight to meet their oxygen requirements. The toxic gases in the houses added to the airborne debris (feathers, dander, organic dust, insecticides, microbes) are as cruel as cages. This toxic waste environment is also detrimental to ecosystems and contributes to global warming.
Congressman McDermott, we ask you to make certain this bill does not pass out of committee, and should it progress to the House and Senate conference committee for resolution, please oppose it there. Remember those of us who are dedicated to ending the real suffering of the hens NOT covered by these amendments. If H.R. 1731 passes, we will be denied our advocacy and hope for ending animal abuse. We, your constituents, and national organizations who specialize in chickens and farmed animal advocacy, oppose it.
So…the first nationwide shark fin ban in Asia has just been adopted in the country of Brunei, on the island of Borneo. Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah made the decree that officially bans the catch and landing of all shark species from the waters of Brunei and their domestic sale, as well as banning the importation and trade of shark products. Admittedly Brunei has the population of Portland, OR, but it IS the 5th-richest country in the world.
Canada’s National Farm Animal Care Council has drafted a Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Pigs, which has been released for 60-day public comment. This consultation period may still resolve remaining issues with the Code, including some confinement during pregnancy and a long phase-out period. A recent national poll showed that 84% of Canadians support a complete phase out of these confinement systems.
In April, the Retail Council of Canada and eight of Canada’s largest retailers (including Walmart Canada, Costco Canada, and Safeway Canada) committed to sourcing fresh pork products from gestation crate-free suppliers over the next nine years. Two of the three largest pork producers in Canada—Olymel and Maple Leaf Foods—have already announced that they will shift away from gestation crates within the next 4-9 years. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest pork producer, also announced a similar policy within the next four years (Even though it has just been purchased by China?)
The new Code of Practice will take effect in 2014, at which time the construction of new gestation crates would be prohibited. Pork producers would have to eliminate the lifelong confinement of pigs in gestation crates and house them instead in groups by 2024.
Nine US states and the European Union have passed laws against the use of gestation crates. More than 50 of North America’s largest pork buyers, including McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s, and Tim Hortons have committed to eliminating gestation crates from their supply chains within the next 2-9 years.
Blackfish reveals the complicated life of Tilikum, an orca born in the wild off the coast of Iceland. As a young whale, Tilikum was forcibly separated from his mother and sent to perform at a marine park in Victoria BC. He’s been in captivity since 1983 and is currently confined at SeaWorld in Florida.
The documentary reveals the frustrations Tilikum has endured and how he’s been picked on by other whales in his pool, cooped up in a dark “garage” of sorts during off seasons, and forced to perform year in and year out.
Out of his frustrations, grew an aggression that wild orcas don’t display toward humans. Tilikum has killed three people, two of which were trainers.
The movie shows the horrors of wild capture and captive breeding. It documents the unnatural acts orcas are forces to perform in front of clueless audiences. The charade SeaWorld conducts is shameful. They lead people into believing these beautiful whales somehow enjoy their time in captivity and are safe and happy.
On the contrary, an orca’s life in captivity is extremely short. They live on average for 9 years from the time they are captives–regardless of how old they were when they entered captivity. In the wild, male orcas can live about 60 years; females up to 100.
Orcas, also called killer whales, live in family units called pods. Each pod speaks a different “language.” They live with or near their pod for their whole lives and travel about 100 miles a day. They are extremely social and have highly developed emotions. To see families separated and grief-stricken and captive whales isolated in concrete pools was heartbreaking. But the film is an important movie to watch.
Blackfish will be released in NY and LA later this summer, and more widely after that. CNN Documentaries is distributing the film on TV in the fall.
It’s a terrific resource and the things you’ll learn apply to all captive marine animals. Sadly, SeaWorld is one of the better marine parks. There are many more orcas who languish is worse conditions, including many at Canada’s Marineland.
What to do
First of all, never go to a marine park like SeaWorld or Marineland. Ask your friends not to go and talk to schools about canceling field trips to marine parks. Marine parks exist for one reason, and one reason alone: making money. Vote with your dollars and spend your time and money somewhere else.
Look at the websites below for information about how to help. Two orcas, Morgan and Lolita, are great candidates for release.
Blackfish website – Information about the movie, including the trailer and upcoming screenings.
Orca Network – Information about whales in the Pacific Northwest, creating safe whale habitats, and the Free Lolita campaign.
Right now — now, not later — please call your Representative in the U.S. Congress and ask that she or he demand to strip the King Amendment from the Farm Bill. The King Amendment would overturn every voter-approved animal welfare ballot measure relating to agriculture – Prop 2 in CA (veal and gestation crates, battery cages), Prop 6 in CA (the sale of horses for slaughter), Prop 204 in AZ (veal and gestation crates), and Amendment 10 in Florida (gestation crates). It could also void six other state bans on gestation crates, horse slaughter bans in a half-dozen other states, the comprehensive animal welfare standards adopted by the Ohio Livestock Care Standards Board, and other anti-downer laws and animal protection laws designed to shield farm animals from abuse. Under this amendment, we would have no state laws for agricultural facilities relating to worker rights, animal welfare, environmental protection, or public health.
During his ten years (HOW? WHY?!) in Congress, the Republican Steve King from Iowa has attempted to block all animal welfare laws. He favors killing horses for human consumption, killing American bison in Yellowstone National Park, and trophy killing of polar bears, even though they are an endangered species. He opposes every bill against dogfighting and cockfighting. He even opposed including pets in disaster planning.
Please make a brief, polite phone call to your U.S. Representative. Just say, “Hi, I’m calling to ask that Representative NAME oppose the King Amendment to the Farm Bill, which slashes protections for animals and violates state’s rights.” If the person you speak with doesn’t know your representative’s position, please leave your name and phone number, and ask for a call back. Send a follow-up email saying the same thing.
I can only say again, this is HUGE. I can’t think of any other piece of legislation that has the potential to cause such suffering for so many.
The Rotten Egg Bill has reared its ugly head again. Senator Maria Cantwell has just signed on as a cosponsor of the EGG PRODUCTS INSPECTION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2013 (S.820), which would condemn egg-laying hens to confinement in battery cages forever, and would prohibit any future challenge by state law or public vote. This bill does nothing but benefit the animal abusers. It will do nothing to help the birds; in fact, it will do just the opposite. Please urge Senator Cantwell to withdraw her sponsorship and ask Senator Patty Murray to vote NO
[Ed: You can read more about our official position in opposition to it when it was introduced last year here. And as detailed below, this year's bill is even worse than the one that failed last year.]
United Poultry Concerns opposes the EGG PRODUCTS INSPECTION ACT AMENDMENTS OF 2013. We oppose legislation that benefits egg producers and legally condemns hens to living in cages. With Congress set to consider the Farm Bill shortly, please notify your U.S. Senators and Representatives that you oppose the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Urge them to oppose this legislation and briefly and clearly explain your reason.
Call Senators and/or Representatives at (202) 224-3121.
Before you read further, please watch “Normal and Natural,” a short video by Edgar’s Mission in Australia.
“This legislation puts cages in place, puts them in law. That’s a huge cave-in . . .” – Joe Miller, attorney for Rose Acre Farms Battery Cage Hen Operation, 2nd largest egg producer in the U.S., 2013.
Facts: The Egg Bill would legalize and legitimize cages for hens
What is an enriched cage?
Helping Hens or Benefiting Their Abusers?
What Should I Do?
In “Agreement Raises Flags for Egg-Laying Hens” published in 2012, United Poultry Concerns reviewed the effort by animal advocates to ban cages for egg-laying hens in Europe and the United States. In 2011, a pact between The Humane Society of the United States and United Egg Producers frustrated this effort, which also failed in the European Union when a law went into effect January 1, 2012 banning conventional barren battery cages while legalizing “enriched” or “furnished” battery cage systems for hens in the EU.
Following suit, the alliance between HSUS and UEP led to legislation before Congress in 2012. The Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012 (The “Egg Bill”) sought to legalize cages for egg-laying hens, prevent voters from initiating ballots to ban cages in their own state, and prohibit states from passing stronger welfare laws than those set in the Egg Bill.
Last year’s bills failed but are once again before Congress. Under the terms of the 2013 Egg Bill sponsored by Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California and Rep. Curt Schrader of Oregon, barren battery cages would be phased out over a 20-year period and replaced by “enriched” cages as the dominant housing system for hens in the United States.
The Egg Bill would legalize and legitimize cages for hens
Since cages are the cheapest way to mass-produce billions of eggs for consumers, the majority of the 280 million hens in U.S. facilities will continue to be caged in long windowless buildings just as they are now, under the proposed law.
This year’s Egg Bill is even worse than last year’s: one of the worst exemptions allows the toxic excretory ammonia levels of 25 parts per million in confined-hen buildings to reach even higher levels of toxicity to accommodate egg industry “emergencies” of unspecified duration. The toxic ammonia the Egg Bill permits constitutes animal cruelty even without cages.
Basically it’s still a battery cage, the birds living behind bars on metal grid flooring, the cages stacked up in tiers, many thousands of hens to a building. Compared to the old-style cage, there’s mandatory additional floor space per hen measuring roughly the size of a postcard, bringing the entire minimum space per hen to 750 square centimeters (116 square inches), little more than a sheet of paper.
The cages must include a perch, a “nest” box and a scratch pad. The term “nest box” sounds comforting, Clare says. “But in the enriched cage context it is simply a curtained area, behind which the hen finds the same sloping cage floor, the metal grid now covered in matting of some kind. Not a wisp of straw, no soft material with which to arrange her nest. Some of the enriched colony cages I saw held up to 60 hens. Gleaming metal cages stretched away into the distance, and there was that familiar unending clamor of frustrated hens’ voices.”
Helping Hens or Benefiting Their Abusers?
Under the terms of the Egg Bill, the majority of hens will remain in cages. They will be locked into a federal law administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture which doesn’t even enforce the 55-year-old “Humane Slaughter Act,” from which birds are excluded.
At most, brown hens, being slightly larger than the white hens who represent the majority of egg-laying hens in the United States, may within 20 years get a maximum of 144 square inches apiece, or one square foot of living space per hen. The white hens will max out at 124 square inches per hen, well below a square foot, even though a hen needs a minimum 1.5 square foot, or 216 square inches, merely to engage in minimal “normal behavior.”
Whether the Egg Bill would ban starvation molting of hens is a question. The ammonia cave-in and the cage cave-in show how capitulation to egg industry economics and “emergencies” will likely influence the bill as it moves through the legislative process to its final, eviscerated form.
The claim that the proposed legislation would ban inhumane methods of “euthanasia” is totally false. Spent hens are just piles of garbage – a costly nuisance – to egg producers, to be gotten rid of any old way. Like the male chicks of the egg industry who are trashed as soon as they are born, their sisters are a waste product to this industry as soon as they lay fewer eggs. Gassing hens to death with CO2 in metal boxes is NOT EUTHANASIA!
What Should I Do?
United Poultry Concerns opposes the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. We oppose legislation that benefits egg producers and legally condemns hens to living in cages. With Congress set to consider the Farm Bill shortly, please notify your U.S. Senators and Representatives that you oppose the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments. Call them at (202) 224-3121. Urge them to oppose this legislation and briefly and clearly explain your reason.
Yesterday, The Seattle Times published an editorial opinion piece by David Hancocks, former director of Woodland Park Zoo. His message: Elephants at the zoo are suffering. These complex social creatures cannot have even their basic needs met in a zoo environment.
Thanks to The Seattle Times and letters from the people of Seattle, the plight of Watoto, Chai, and Bamboo is getting attention from decision-makers.
Unlike their wild counterparts, elephants in captivity do not thrive. Their lifespans are shorter, their natural social bonds are severed, and they are deprived of the enriched environments they need to keep physically and psychologically well.
Elephants are active animals and travel miles and miles every day. In Woodland Park zoo, they have a measly acre to pace in—when they’re let outside.
The elephants at Woodland Park Zoo deserve to be released to a sanctuary. The wheels are in motion. Public opinion is changing and people are siding with the elephants. It’s time, in the words of Mr. Hancocks, to “do what’s best for the elephants.”