A national research watchdog organization has completed a major investigation of the University of Washington, Seattle, and has filed an Official Complaint with the USDA noting numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
Ohio-based Stop Animal Exploitation Now (SAEN) noted that federal law violations include multiple primate escapes, severe animal debilitation, severe limb contracture with skin ulcers, and deaths.
The SAEN investigation uncovered nine primate escapes including one where two escaping primates fought and injured each other requiring euthanasia for one of the monkeys. Nine primates were listed as emaciated or severely debilitated, three primates suffered from severe limb contracture and skin ulcers. Another primate had “linear crush” injuries, requiring amputations.
Overall, the SAEN complaint involves potentially dozens of federal violations connected to at least 22 primates in a period of roughly one year.
“The staff and researchers at the UW appear to be drastically unqualified, substantially inept, and unable to follow even the most basic requirements of animal husbandry,” said Michael A. Budkie, A.H.T., Executive Director, SAEN. “Not only is the UW unable to keep the monkeys in the cages, they are unable to prevent serious injuries during the escapes, some of which required euthanasia.”
View the official complaint as well as the UW records which were uncovered detailing their abuses in this PDF file.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is proposing that chimpanzees in the US be added to the federal endangered species list. The Washington Post published an article that explains the current situation and how changing the listing for captive chimps will help their plight.
Right now, wild chimps are listed as endangered while their captive cousins are listed as only threatened. This differentiation lets people breed, sell, ship, and experiment on captive chimps in the US. Adding captive chimps to the endangered species list would change that and would help chimps in zoos, circuses, and in the entertainment industry.
Changing their status will prevent chimps from being used in invasive medical testing procedures and from being taken across state lines. It would also ban international commerce of chimps.
The Humane Society, Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW, and the Jane Goodall Institute all back the proposal.
Read the press release from Chimpanzee Sanctuary NW.
The US Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public feedback about the issue. Please visit this Humane Society page, add your comments, and sign the petition asking US Fish and Wildlife Service to help all chimpanzees by applying Endangered Species Act protections to captive chimpanzees.
You may have heard that PS 244, Active Learning Elementary School in Queens, NY, adopted meat-free menu in their cafeteria recently. The students led the change at the pre-kindergarten to third-grade school. They were drawn to healthy plant-based options like falafel, spinach wraps and cucumber salad.
Now, the San Diego school district is introducing Meatless Mondays to its kindergarten through 8th grade students. The move was voted in by the board as an attempt to introduce healthy eating to the kids and help curb obesity. Starting this fall, students will get to enjoy meals like tofu and vegetable stir fry, baked potatoes, and grilled vegetable paninis.
From coast to coast, kids are learning about veganism. Let’s hope that these two changes are the start of a healthy, cruelty-free trend.
Are you a student or parent with school-age kids? Why not ask your school to introduce more vegan food in the cafeteria. It’s never to early to start a life-long habit that has a profound effect for people, the environment, and the animals.
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.
Please oppose and defeat H.R. 1731.
Rachel Bjork, Board President
Northwest Animal Rights Network
1037 NE 65th St #174
Seattle, WA 98115
Dave Bemel, President
Action for Animals
P.O. Box 45843
Seattle, WA 98145
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.
Voice of the Orcas – Interview and current event about conservation and activism.
Miami Sea Prison – Information about captive orcas and the fight to release Lolita, the last surviving whale from the L Pod hunt in 1970.
Free Morgan Foundation – The campaign to release Morgan, an orca currently in captivity in The Netherlands.
Marineland Animal Defense – A campaign to end animal captivity at Marineland in Niagara Falls Canada.
We all know this: right now, millions of animals are in pain, scared, hurt, and abused. They will endure this for few weeks or many years before their lives are ended early and violently. They don’t have the luxury of slow moving change, and egads, are we humans slow to catch on. Just like other major social movements throughout history, animals need people to take their voices and feet into the streets to teach, inform, and be advocates. That is what NARN is all about. They need us to stand up, speak out, and get involved. The animals are counting on us. By helping just one person go vegan, you can cancel out the suffering of as many as another 100 fish and fauna each year. If you could help 5 people, that would be 500+ earthlings!
We at NARN are so happy that Farm Animal Rights Movement (FARM) is bringing their North American Tour to Seattle. Their 10 Billion Lives van tours colleges and music festivals paying folks $1 to watch a 4 minute movie that highlights the inherently inhumane nature of animal agriculture and encourages viewers to start on a path toward a vegan diet. Well 80% of viewers commit to eating less animal products.
After folks watch the video they need other great vegans around to talk to, to answer questions. You can also give them some follow up literature to read. You can be the support network or the role model that they need to stop hurting animals.
“Every volunteer makes a HUGE difference in the success of the events. You can encourage more viewers by simply holding a sign or talk to people after they’ve watched the video and inspire them to put their compassion into action. For many viewers it’s a life changing experience.”
According to FARM, through video outreach they inspire young people to reflect deeply on their food choices and take action to create a more compassionate future for animals. They also talk about the health benefits of eliminating animal products as well as the environmental connections between factory farming and pollution, fossil fuel use, deforestation, water use, greenhouse gas emissions etc. But they need our help at the University of Washington June 3rd – 6th from 9:30am-3:30pm. They will also be at the Warped Tour music festival June 15th from 11:30am-5:30pm. You can volunteer to help. Just email Scheduling [at] 10billiontour.org or visit www.10billiontour.org.
If you aren’t sure how, go to the NARN Animal Activism 201: Psychology of Change the day before, Sunday June 2, 2013. We’ll get brave together.