Category Archives: Issues

Obama Administration Nixes Importation of Beluga Whales

beluga-Pt-Defiance_robin_angliss_300The Obama administration has just done an unreservedly good thing: turned down Georgia Aquarium’s application to import 18 beluga whales from Russia for public display at its own facility in Atlanta and at partner facilities, including SeaWorld of Florida, SeaWorld of Texas, SeaWorld of California and Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, found that importing these animals would contravene the Marine Mammal Protection Act, and that beluga populations had to be protected from the continued depletion of live captures. The rejection gave the following reasons:

  • NOAA Fisheries is unable to determine whether or not the proposed importation, by itself or in combination with other activities, would have a significant adverse impact on the Sakhalin-Amur beluga whale stock, the population that these whales are taken from;
  • NOAA Fisheries determined that the requested import will likely result in the taking of marine mammals beyond those authorized by the permit [i.e. it would encourage further live capture hunts];
  • NOAA Fisheries determined that five of the beluga whales proposed for import, estimated to be approximately 1½ years old at the time of capture, were potentially still nursing and not yet independent.

Beluga whales are highly social, playful animals that live and migrate in groups of ten to several hundred in the arctic and subarctic waters of Russia, Greenland and North America. Beluga whales face a number of threats including ship strikes, pollution, noise, habitat destruction and entanglement in fishing gear — in addition to live capture. Beluga hunts, like orca hunts, drive the whales into nets and rely on mother-child bonds to capture entire pods. In captivity belugas, like orcas, have greatly reduced lifespans.

Had this importation permit been issued, it would have been seen as a U.S endorsement of the cruel and unsustainable live capture industry. This decision effectively discourages the industry by closing off the U.S. as a market.

Btw…NOAA received close to TEN THOUSAND letters and emails during its 60-day public hearing period on this proposed beluga whale importation last year. If you were one of those who wrote in…see what you did. If you were not…see what you can do next time :-)

 

Puget Sound Orcas to Retain Protection

The distinct population group of orcas who spend their summers in Puget Sound are to remain protected under the Endangered Species Act, NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) announced last week. California farmers had petitioned to delist the orcas because of the water restrictions to protect Sacramento River salmon, eaten by the orcas. NOAA spent a year reviewing the petition and finally rejected it, saying the Puget Sound orcas — who have their own food source, customs and language and do not interbreed with others — were most definitely a threatened subgroup.

About 80 orcas in three pods spend most of the year in the area, down from over 100 in the 1990s. They are enormously popular with tourists, and already suffer from shipping, pollution, noise and declining food.

And now also from the lawyers who plan to continue their fight to strip them of protection.

 

Giant Pacific Octopus Receives Protection

 

This month the Washington State Wildlife Commission voted unanimously to set aside seven protected areas for  the hitherto-unprotected Giant Pacific Octopus: Redondo Beach in Des Moines; Three Tree Point in Burien; Seacrest Park Coves 1, 2, and 3 (in West Seattle); an area adjacent to the Les Davis Fishing Pier in Tacoma; the Alki Beach Junk Yard in West Seattle; the Days Island Wall in Tacoma; and Deception Pass north of Oak Harbor. The new rules will take effect this fall.
This was set in motion when two so-called ‘sport fishermen’ caught such an octopus in West Seattle last October and dragged it on land, still alive, where they proceeded to beat it in front of onlookers and finally threw it in their truck.
If you were one of the people outraged by this, and who made your outrage known, then this is your doing — good for you. The fact that the protection is not 100% doubtlessly has to do with the fact that the ‘sport fishermen’ weighed in on the decision.

Protect Washington's Wolf Plan and Save Wolves

From the Center for Biological Diversity

Action: Please tell the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission not to expand wolf killing but instead focus on making the 2011 plan law.

You can sign an online petition or contact the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission at (360) 902-2267 or commission@dfw.wa.gov.

Here’s the scoop:

Washington’s wolves are making a comeback. After an extensive, five-year public process, a state Wolf Conservation and Management Plan was developed to help the wolves. Instead of making the wolf plan legally enforceable, the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission is considering proposals to increase cases where wolves can be killed and when compensation is paid after wolf predation on domestic animals. The parts of the plan that protect wolves aren’t being considered, and a meeting has been planned for Aug. 2 to make a decision on the proposed changes.

Please tell the Washington Fish and Wildlife Commission not to expand wolf killing but instead focus on making the 2011 plan law. If you can, join the Center’s West Coast Wolf Organizer, Amaroq Weiss, at the hearing in Olympia on Friday, Aug. 2 and speak up for wolves in person.

Stand up for the wolf plan and for Washington’s wolves and reject these unjustified, one-sided proposals.

India: Dolphins "Non-Human Persons"

 

India has become the first country on earth to officially recognize that dolphins are “non-human persons”.  As you know, the country’s Ministry of Environment and Forests banned dolphin captivity earlier this year, calling it “morally unacceptable” due to their high intelligence and sensitivity.

“They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations..” — Henry Beston

 

 

Defeat the King Amendment to the Farm Bill

The Farm Bill is still making news. The revamped Bill recently approved by the House still includes the highly controversial King Amendment. House-Senate negotiators are now working to resolve the differences between their bills. The King Amendment, named after Representative Steve King of Iowa (who proposed it), claims to protect interstate commerce. In reality, it’s designed to undermine animal welfare laws enacted by individual states.

Please take a moment to call the four leaders of the House-Senate Farm Bill Conference Committee to ask them to remove the King Amendment from the final Farm Bill.
  • Sen. Thad Cochran: 202-224-5054
  • Rep. Frank Lucas: 202-225-5565
  • Rep. Collin Peterson: 202-225-2165
  • Sen. Debbie Stabenow: 202-224-4822
According to the 10th Amendment to the Constitution, states should be able to ban the sale of agricultural products if they are not produced in a manner approved by that state. Please help us defeat the dangerous and unconstitutional King Amendment to the 2013 Farm Bill.
More info at In Defense of Animals.

First Ag-Gag Challenge Filed

This week (Monday 22 July) marked the first lawsuit against ag-gag laws. The Animal Legal Defense Fund, PETA, environmental journalist Will Potter and animal rights activist Amy Meyer filed a civil lawsuit on Monday contesting the constitutionality of a Utah law that bans recording at an agricultural facility without the owner’s consent. In February of this year, Meyer became the first person charged under an ag-gag law, after she filmed a downed cow at a slaughterhouse while standing on a public sidewalk. Charges were later dropped.

The lawsuit alleges that the Utah law violates the Constitution, as it singles out certain types of speech for less protection under the First Amendment. It would also single out certain types of investigative reporting as illegal. Although its primary purpose is to put a lid on political debate over factory farming by preventing the public from finding out about the inherent animal cruelty, it could also impact food safety measures and apply to the filming of unsafe working conditions or bad employment practices.

A total of 8 states now have ag-gag laws. Proponents argue that this is a private property issue. They are right, of course. At issue is their private property: money.

 

Vote NO for the Zoo Levy

If you live in King County, you should have received your ballots and voter’s guide for the upcoming primary and special election on August 6. Among the city council, mayor, and other public official positions up for your vote, there are a few measures on the ballot. One that deserves some special consideration is King County Proposition No. 1, which we at the NARN board encourage you to vote NO.

vote-cartoon1

Proposition 1 is a levy meant to provide funding for King County-operated parks  and recreational facilities. It also provides 7% of the levy collection to be earmarked for the Woodland Park Zoological Society. According to the figures provided by King County, they estimate that $4.2 million per year would support the Woodland Park Zoo. Using the last budget figures provided by the Zoo — a projected operating cost of $32.9 million — the levy would contribute roughly 1/8 of its budget.

Now, anyone familiar with our Friends of the Woodland Park Zoo Elephants campaign, or have seen the critical Seattle Times expose of the Zoo, knows that the zoo has stubbornly refused to release their elephants to a sanctuary when all evidence has pointed to the fact that the Zoo is incapable of providing the basic necessities for elephants.

While any visit to any zoo will feature a vast array of bored, lonely, listless animals cooped up for the entertainment of people, elephants like Bamboo, Chai, and Watoto at the WPZ pose particular problems that zoos aren’t able to address. Elephants are very social creatures, forming life-time bonds with parents, offspring, friends, relatives in the wild, but are separated when they are captured in the wild or taken from their families as babies when born in captivity; they require the space that only freedom provides, sometimes walking as many as 50 miles a day, with home ranges in the hundreds of square miles. Zoos are cramped and lonely places for them, with indoor facilities measured in feet, not miles, and an outdoor range of one half to three acres. And owing to the cold and wet climates of much of the US (including here in the Pacific Northwest), compared to the hot and dry climates of their habitat in Asia and Africa, this means that elephants like the ones in Woodland Park spend a majority of their time indoors.

Zoos will do just about anything to avoid having to admit that they may not be able to adequately care for an animal, and Woodland Park Zoo is no exception. Despite the increased public concern that the WPZ is not the right place for elephants, they steadfastly refuse to budge on the issue. They, like any other zoo, do not want to admit that any information that comes out about the conditions can actually force a zoo to release an animal to a sanctuary. That is why they continually whitewash the obvious concerns, and why the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), the governing body of the zoo industry, refuses to acknowledge the existence of a natural-habitat refuge like the Elephant Sanctuary of Hohenwald, Tennesee. To do so would be a fatal admission that an animal would be healthier and happier while living elsewhere.

While zoos insist their main focus is education and conservation, animals on display merely serve as profit-making attractions; their “conservation” programs arguably serves to actually diminish the population of animals in the wild, as fertile females are taken from their natural habitat to provide baby animals for zoos which attract more paying visitors. And even their captive breeding programs are largely unsuccessful; Chai of the Woodland Park Zoo, for example, has undergone 112 attempts to forcibly impregnate her, even against recommendations to not do so since she has the elephant herpes virus. She has had numerous miscarriages, and her last birth, a female elephant named Hansa, died at the age of 6 in 2007 of the herpes virus that was passed onto her.

While claims are made by zoos like Woodland Park of the value of their education and conservation programs, a study funded by the AZA  “Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter: Assessing the Impact of a Visit to a Zoo or Aquarium,” reports that there was no statistically significant change in “overall knowledge”. Instead, social scientists found that zoo visits actually “reinforced” and “supported” the pre-existing attitude and values of guests. (1) Their claims of “conservation” is meaningless as animals bred in zoos are never released, and will never be released, to replenish the ones lost in the wild, and animals in captivity have up to half the life expectancy of those in their natural habitats.

Zoos like the Woodland Park Zoo are poor investments of public money, so you can show your disapproval by voting NO for King County Proposition 1. Obviously a concern about this levy is its primary funding for the county-operated parks and other outdoor areas, and it is hard to vote against the continued maintenance of our valuable green space–particularly since such levies are now the primary source of funding for the King County parks and recreation division; the King County general fund support for that division was eliminated as of 2011. This levy is meant to continue funding after the expiration of the 2008-2013 voter-approved operations and maintenance levy, of which approximately 70% of the operating budget of the parks was provided.

Parks levies enjoy popular support–each one regarding park operations and maintenance (from both King County and Seattle) brought to the voters have passed. The last levy proposed by King County in 2007, Proposition No. 2 – Open Space, Regional Trails, and Woodland Park Zoo levy, passed 59-41%. With such popular support, this levy stands a very high probability of passing, but through your vote of NO, the margin of support will diminish, and we can then demonstrate the public concern about using our money to fund failed education and conservation programs of the Woodland Park Zoo. In the unlikely event of this levy failing to pass, we can as citizens of King County then provide that as proof of our unwillingness of using public funds for the Zoo, and we can demand instead a levy for the parks that does not provide allocations to the Zoo.

Don’t forget to mail in your ballet by August 6, and to vote NO on King County Proposition No. 1. Thank you.

(1) “Why Zoos and Aquariums Matter: Assessing the Impact of a Visit to a Zoo or Aquarium,” (Falk, Rienhard, Vernon, Bronnenkant, et al., 2007, p. 10).

No Seriously — A Bullfighting School in California

It is pompously called the California Academy of Tauromaquia. You can see it online here: http://www.bullfightschool.com/. Calling bullfighting a “misunderstood science”, the poorly-written description claims the bullfighting school offers adventure and “entry to an exciting lifestyle.” Blood is so conspicuously absent even in the few photographs of bulls already wounded by banderillas that photoshopping must have taken place. While it is unlikely that this school will train any world-class toreador, you never know what creeps who go there in the first place are going to do in their spare time, and bullfighting must not be glorified in ANY way, or gain a foothold in this country. We have enough to fight already.
So if it makes you feel better, you can leave comments on their website at  bullfightschool@gmail.com, but more importantly, drop the following decision-making San Diego city officials a line:
Mayor Bob Filner                                                                                                                    City Administration Building                                                                                                202 C St., 11th Floor                                                                                                          San Diego, CA 92101                                                                                                        Phone: (619) 236-6330                                                                                                        Fax: (619) 236-7228BobFilner@sandiego.gov
Joe Terzi
CEO San Diego Tourism Authority                                                                                    San Diego Tourism Authority                                                                                             750 B Street, Suite 1500                                                                                                   San Diego, CA 92101                                                                                                   Phone: (619) 236-1212
Jerry Sanders
President San Diego Chamber of Commerce
Emerald Plaza
402 West Broadway, Suite 1000
San Diego, CA 92101
Tel: 619.544.1300
webinfo@sdchamber.org
Tell these people it is a blemish on the city to have a school that glorifies animal abuse, and that you will most definitely not be vacationing there. Remember, paper letters are great, calls are great, emails are good. All three are wonderful. And bullfighting has to be one of the very bloodiest of a world full of bloody “sports”.

New York Gets Animal Abuser Registry

Sounds like a no-brainer, but it is a first: the New York Senate has passed a bill requiring convicted animal abusers, like convicted sex offenders, to register with the appropriate criminal justice department. In addition, those convicted of torture have to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and are banned from ever owning a pet again. I am glad it is clear to at least one state that animal torture isn’t a merely a momentary lapse in the judgement of otherwise good people — like giving someone the finger in traffic after a bad day at work.
Now, the names and addresses of convicted animal abuses in New York will be made readily accessible to the public — meaning, just for example, that shelters can check the registry before finalizing to an adoption. This bill is on its way to the NY Assembly, where it will be sponsored by Jim Tedisco, the same man behind NY’s original 1997 ‘Buster’s Law” making animal abuse a felony. (I could tell you about Buster but I won’t.)
Considering that it is no easy feat to be convicted of animal abuse to begin with, and that there is a high rate of recidivism (partly because it’s so EASY), let’s hope NY’s registry is just the beginning. Michigan and California are also considering animal abuser registries, but an attempt to pass a similar law earlier this year in Maryland failed, largely due to the efforts of the PIJAC (Pet Industry Joint Advisory Committee), which claimed that keeping animals out of the hands of psychos would make life too hard for pet retailers.