The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has opened what it calls “a robust, transparent public process” over proposed changes to the Endangered Species Act, a law that aims to recover “our most imperiled species to the point they no longer need federal protection.”
Curious that Fish & Wildlife considers what it’s doing “robust” and “transparent.” You would think from reading its summation and an accompanying press release that the proposed changes were good for animals. To the contrary. The first clue that something is not robust and transparent comes from the press release: “The Trump Administration is dedicated to being a good neighbor and being a better partner with the communities in which we operate.”
This is an administration that has nominated a Dow Chemical lawyer to oversee the Superfund program, worked hard to open Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling, and foisted the U.S. Army Corp of Engineer to evaluate a prospective gold mine near Bristol Bay over the objections of Alaska’s governor.
Also curious thaty NOAA Assistant Administrator for Fisheries Chris Oliver says the changes are meant to bring “clarity and consistency” to the Endangered Species Act.
NPR’s Nate Rott highlights two of the changes: “The first would end the practice of treating threatened species the same as endangered. This proposal says that threatened species could still get some of those protections as endangered, but it would be determined on a case-by-case basis. It won’t be de facto anymore. The second would allow the economic consequences of a species’ protection to be taken into consideration during a listing. The decision would still ultimately be determined by the best available science, but the cost of that would also be considered.”
Costs and economic consequences balanced against wildlife.
Rott interviewed Collin O’Mara, head of the National Wildlife Federation, who said, “One out of every three wildlife species in this country is either at risk or vulnerable to extinction in the coming century. We have a crisis that we need – that needs solutions. Like, the status quo is basically just managing decline of specie populations that we all care about.”
O’Mara would like to see more resources put into helping wildlife before they’re threatened or endangered, Rott said.
That sounds smart. Let’s do that instead. Here’s where you can comment on the administration’s proposed changes, until September 24.
Here’s a sample comment:
Your summation and press release indicate this would be good for wildlife, while instead it would be good for business. You need to drop this plan and instead (not in addition, but rather instead) work on more and better ways to help wildlife before it’s threatened and/or endangered.
Here’s how public employees with integrity behave: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2016/11/21/resisting-trump-from-inside-the-government
Bonnie Anderson and Diane Weinstein will never forget the day they found a little American coot being strangled by fishing line off a dock on a small lake in their community. One end of the line was caught under the dock and the other end was around the bird’s neck so that it could not swim away.
There have been other incidents — a grebe tangled in fishing line found along a major road, a female mallard dangling by a wing that was caught in fishing line from a tree. “We were finally able to cut the line, but she went underwater and never came up. We think she became further entangled under the water,” Bonnie said.
They’re heartbreaking stories from one community — and they are, unfortunately, not alone.
With spring comes fishing season, and that means more wildlife and pets can be entangled in fishing line.
Dr. John Huckabee, a veterinarian at PAWS in Lynnwood, treats animals hurt by the fishing line around Green Lake and elsewhere — even from people’s yards, where they sometimes hang ornaments with the line. Songbirds and owls get them wrapped around their necks.
“All too frequently, it causes a tourniquet effect around a leg, a toe, a foot, sometimes around wings,” Dr. Huckabee said. “The line is very strong and when, say, a gull gets it wrapped around a wing, it can cut through skin of the wing and render them flightless. They can experience tourniquet necrosis and amputation of the limb.”
He testified last year in Olympia on behalf of legislation that Bonnie and Diane spearheaded — an effort to establish a statewide monofilament fishing line recovery and recycling program.
A story that came up during testimony was of a harbor seal pup whom PAWS had rehabilitated and released with a flipper tag and a satellite transmitter to track her location. The transmitter signal disappeared following several weeks of movement throughout Puget Sound, and the pup’s whereabouts were a mystery — until a diver found the seal entangled in fishing line and drowned under the Edmonds fishing pier.
The line is transparent in water and ensnares birds, mammals, fish and reptiles. Even pets are affected, with vets having to retrieve fishing line and hooks from their stomachs.
“Carelessly discarded monofilament fishing line takes a terrible toll on wildlife,” Bonnie said. “They suffer prolonged and painful deaths when their bodies or extremities become entangled. This often results in slow strangulation, starvation, loss of limbs or infections.
She and Diane began their project four years ago in a presentation to their homeowners association’s board of directors. They agreed to place a fishing line collection bin on the dock where the little American coot had struggled. A sign explains the need to protect wildlife and properly dispose of fishing line.
Their next step was reaching out to state officials. State Sen. Mark Mullett was interested, and they worked with him to draft the bill for which Dr. Huckabee testified. The bill didn’t make it to a vote, but Sen. Mullett got funding for the program. At the same time Bonnie and Diane found success at city and county levels. The Department of Natural Resources also has been very helpful, they said.
By the end of 2017, fishing line collection bins were installed at 93 Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) water access locations, 18 piers and ports, 25 state parks, 42 city and county parks, including 19 King County locations. Approximately 42,000 feet of monofilament fishing line has been removed from bins at the WDFW locations.
Bonnie said the state of Florida pioneered this type of program, which also is in effect in 38 states.
The city of Edmonds in Washington recently installed five boxes on its deep-water fishing pier.
“We wanted to find a way to highlight the problem, and when Bonnie approached us and then provided all the plans for how to make the bins, it made it really easy for us to call attention to the fact that these plastic products people use for fishing really need to be kept out of the marine ecosystem,” said Jennifer Leach, who runs the Edmonds Beach Ranger Program.
People are putting their fishing line in the bins — along with coffee cups and Coke bottles and cigarette butts, she said.
As vegans, we don’t fish and so are not leaving fishing line in the water. But we can help by contacting our communities’ parks, piers and recreation centers to ask them to install recycling bins for fishing line. In the interim, those organizations can ask people to pick up line and put it in covered receptacles. It’s important that they be covered, so that birds will not try to use the line for nesting material.
“It has to be recycled,” Bonnie said. “If it’s put in the trash, before it is covered at landfills wildlife can become entangled and birds can carry it off.
Bonnie designed decals explaining that putting the line in the trash isn’t the best solution.
She has requested the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to post the fishing line recycling program and bin locations on their website. This will help to promote the program and responsible disposal of fishing line.
As the Humane Society of the United States recently pointed out, the FBI wants to prosecute animal abusers as felons — and has the authority to do so in all 50 states, but not for crimes that occur on interstates, in stores that sell animals across state lines or in federal facilities and parks.
Congress is considering a bill — the bipartisan Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture (PACT) Act — that would make it a federal crime to commit malicious cruelty to an animal on federal property or during interstate commerce.
Please call your lawmakers — in Seattle, that’s Rep. Pramila Jayapal at (202) 225-3106, Sen. Maria Cantwell at (202) 224-3441 and Sen. Patty Murray at (202) 224-2621 — to ask them to co-sponsor H.R. 1494/S. 654, the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act. Encourage them to get it passed quickly, as well.
Olympic National Park officials will host four open houses regarding the fate of the peninsula’s hundreds of mountain goats. There’s one at the Everett Public Library’s auditorium at 5 p.m. on Aug. 16 and at Seattle Public Library’s Douglass-Truth Branch at 5 p.m. on Aug. 17.
It’s called the “Draft Mountain Goat Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement.” (Someday I’d love to see an EIS regarding humans!). Concerns about the goats are ecological — the Olympic Mountains are not their traditional territory — and involve safety, following the 2010 killing of a hiker by a mountain goat. Moving and killing the goats appear to be the main options, with no mention of contraception, just as officials ignored that option when they planned to kill hundreds of goats in the Olympics in the ’90s.
The comment period is open until Sept. 29, but please don’t wait to comment. Thank you!
Photo by Wingchi Poon (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/User:Wingchi) Creative Commons license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/
Millions of newborn chicks and ducklings are being sent through the mail as if they were inanimate objects. Barely a day old, they are packed in dark boxes without food or water and sent across the country on harrowing trips that can last up to 72 hours.
Farm Sanctuary has rescued a number of animals, including a beautiful chicken called Tofu, who were shipped this way. It recently rescued three ducklings at a post office, because the man who ordered them was too sick to pick them up. The ducklings had traveled from Iowa to California — across a desert by truck — sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur wrote in an email to supporters. They would have stayed in the box without food, water or care if Farm Sanctuary had not stepped in to help. The sanctuary, which named those sweethearts Dominga, Carrera, and Pavarotti, is now asking people to sign its petition for the U.S. Postal Service to ban shipments of live animals.
You can also contact Postmaster General Megan Brennan via her media contact, Toni Delancey, at firstname.lastname@example.org and 202-268-3118. Here’s a sample message:
Dear Postmaster General Brennan,
Day-old chicks and ducklings are shipped around the country without food or water for up to 72 hours. As you know, many arrive dead.
You have the power to ban the shipment of live animals by mail. Please do everything you can to stop this abuse.
Here’s Tofu’s story:
Kristina Giovanetti is the founder of Seattle Farmed Animal Save, a nonprofit that’s part of The Save Movement, a global effort that started in December 2010 with Toronto Pig Save. The idea is to bear witness to animals sent to slaughter in our own communities. Kris has been holding personal vigils at the Enumclaw Sales Pavilion’s live animal auction for about a year and invites everyone to join her.
The next vigil is from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, July 15. As the Facebook invitation says, “We are a grassroots, love-based, and peaceful organization. We believe in non-violence and the transformational power of compassion. We follow a Tolstoyian perspective in that we do not believe in turning away from suffering, but instead moving closer to it.” It’s a heart-wrenching experience to watch roosters, geese, rabbits and others struggle and cry out as they are auctioned. There are almost always day-old dairy calves, piglets, lambs and baby goats — and once a month, they auction horses that are sold for slaughter.
It’s also powerful to stand on the road outside the pavilion with signs reminding people that animals don’t belong to us, encouraging them to go vegan, and to honk for the pigs. A surprising number of people honk! A lot yell for us to “get a job,” too, which is puzzling and good for a laugh.
Here’s a Q&A with Kris about The Save Movement in Seattle:
What moved you to start a branch of The Save Movement here?
In June 2016, I attended an all-day vigil in Toronto with Anita, the founder of The Save Movement. We spent 16 hours bearing witness outside pig, cow, and chicken slaughterhouses. The pigs deeply affected me – looking into their eyes, you can really see the fear, you can sense their suffering in a profound way.
Pigs are very much like dogs and to lock eyes with them, to reach out and stroke them in an attempt to provide a moment of comfort and then watch the truck turn into the slaughterhouse where you know they will be brutally killed just moments later is a life changing event.
That day in Toronto I became an activist.
When did you start going to the Enumclaw Live Animal Auction? What have you seen there?
When I returned home, I immediately started looking for places near me to connect with the animals and share their stories. My first trip to the auction barn in Enumclaw was in July 2016.
I’ve seen so many horrible things there – the chickens are transported in cardboard boxes with a few air holes punched in the sides. There is a stone-faced woman who always works the birds. She reaches in, pins their wings behind their back and yanks them out of the box. The birds are screaming, literally screaming as she holds them high and waves them around in the air for a few seconds as the auctioneer works the crowd and finally sells them for 3 to maybe 9 dollars. Then the woman shoves the screaming and terrified bird back into the box, head first.
The day-old male dairy calves always stay with me, in my mind, for days after I see them. They still have umbilical cords dangling from their bellies and look absolutely bewildered. They have no idea they are being sold to become veal calves and will spend the next few weeks chained to a crate and will then be killed.
This place sells lambs and baby goats, too. The babies are always very hard to see. But I think the spent dairy cows are the most heartbreaking of all. They are absolutely skin and bones – it looks like they haven’t been fed for weeks. Their bodies are emaciated and they have large, swollen udders. But it’s the look in their eyes and the way they hang their head that just rips my heart out. These sweet, gentle beings have been impregnated over and over again, and have had their calves stolen from them every single time. Their bodies have been exploited and pushed absolutely to the breaking point. And when their milk production begins to wane, the farmers stop feeding them, then sell them to slaughter to become cheap hamburger meat. It’s absolutely gut-wrenching to see them.
What does it mean to you to bear witness as these animals are sold? What is the power of bearing witness?
Bearing witness is being present in the face of injustice and trying to help. When we bear witness we become the situation – we connect with our entire body and mind. And from that, action arises. The purpose of bearing witness is to provide love and compassion to these animals, to share their stories, to show the reality of animal agriculture, raising awareness to the public, and helping people make the connection. People need to understand what goes on so they will make the decision to stop supporting it.
How do people react to the protest? What do you think of the calls to “get a job”?
We get about an equal number of supportive people and angry people, and a lot of people just pass by with no visible or audible reaction. The supportive people will honk in a friendly manner and give a thumbs up. The angry people show us their middle finger and yell at us. The comment to “get a job” is so curious to me because we hear it all the time, and I’ve heard it at vigils all over the world. I think what they are really saying is that we should do something constructive with our time.
Are there also slaughterhouses near Seattle? Where are they, and what do you know about them?
Yes, there are two slaughterhouses within an hour of Seattle that we have investigated and will be holding vigils at. Both of them are north of the city, around Stanwood and Mt Vernon. The Draper Valley chicken slaughterhouse kills more than 800,000 chickens each week.
Do you plan to have vigils at the slaughterhouses, too?
Absolutely! We are learning the truck schedules and will be starting vigils up there very soon.
If you happen to be in Europe this fall, she’ll also be speaking in Luxembourg in September at the International Animal Rights Conference.
I’m reposting this from a month ago, because the Senate votes on it tomorrow. It already passed the House.
The House of Representatives voted last month to allow the stuff of wildlife snuff films to happen in Alaska’s 16 wildlife refuges: The denning of wolf pups, the killing of hibernating bears, the spotting of grizzly bears from aircraft and then shooting them after landing, and the trapping of grizzly bears and black bears with steel-jawed leghold traps and snares.
Talk about turning back the clock — and turning the refuges into “game farms,” as retired Arctic National Wildlife biologist Fran Mauer put it.
Top scientists had backed a ban on those practices last year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, saying such killing would not increase moose and caribou numbers.
Don Young, the Alaskan representative who proposed this unsound legislation, said on the House floor that he has killed wolves in their dens. Bizarrely, he also argued that denning and hunting from the air don’t occur. Hmmm.
And he called it a states rights issue — but these are federal refuges.
Five Democrats voted with the Republican majority: Henry Cuellar, Vicente Gonzalez and Filemon Vela of Texas, Ron Kind of Wisconsin, and Collin Peterson of Minnesota.
Ten Republicans opposed the killing, including Dave Reichert of Washington. Here’s his number, if you’d like to thank him (it was House Joint Resolution 69): 202-225-7761.
And here are numbers for Washington’s Senators. Please ask them to block Senate Joint Resolution 18:
Sen. Patty Murray: 202-224-2621
Sen. Maria Cantwell: 202-224-3441
The USDA last week removed from its website much of the information it used to make publicly available regarding animal welfare, including inspection records for zoos, laboratories and commercial breeders.
The agency said it’s the result of a year-long review and that the action was intended to protect certain personal information, according to the Huffington Post.
“Going forward, APHIS [the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service] will remove from its website inspection reports, regulatory correspondence, research facility annual reports, and enforcement records that have not received final adjudication,” it said.
It’s as though the USDA forgot that it operates in a democracy that’s upheld by transparency and public records.
Here’s a list of things you can do personally to help protect animals in the wake of this decision. It’s particularly important to let legislators know that the USDA’s action needs to be reversed.
Here are a few numbers I’ve kept handy lately:
Sen. Patty Murray: 202-224-2621
Sen. Maria Cantwell: 202-224-3441
Rep. Pramila Jayapal (for Seattle): 202-225-3106
When dolphin hunters in Taiji, Japan, last week captured a pod of hundreds of bottlenose dolphins and separated about 80 young ones from their mothers, one mother fought frantically to stay with her baby in a video that made news around the world.
While some dolphins are caught for meat — the modern-day version of a whale-hunting tradition in Taiji — that is not where the big money is. The non-traditional driver of the hunt is dolphins sold for “entertainment.”
A dolphin sold for meat brings in hundreds of dollars. Untrained dolphins sold to marine parks garner $10,000 each, according to The Dodo. By that math, Taiji made at least $3 million from about 300 dolphins it sold alive in the late 2010 to early 2011 hunting season, and maybe $1 million on the nearly 2,000 dolphins it sold for meat.
To its huge credit, the Japanese Assocation of Zoos and Aquariums banned the buying and selling of dolphins from the Taiji hunt in 2015. It was a brave move, made under threat of expulsion from the World Association of Zoos and Aquariums, National Geographic reported.
However, that does not mean the end of suffering for dolphins, even in Japan. The marine parks could breed dolphins, like their counterparts in the United States have bred orcas and other animals. Taiji’s mayor has also said that, if hunting is banned, the city may rope off its infamous cove (site of the Oscar-winning documentary, “The Cove”) and breed dolphins there.
The only real way to make headway against the dolphin hunt — and captive breeding — is to stop visiting marine parks. If people are forced to look at how their own behavior leads directly to suffering, that will do more to save these beautiful, brilliant, compassionate animals than any amount of shaming of Japan.
How much will it cost this time? SNBL USA has been slapped on the wrist for primate mistreatment before, in 2006 for a paltry $36,852 and in 2009 for an even more paltry $12,937.
Now the USDA has filed a nine-page complaint detailing the deaths of 38 primates in the company’s lab and breeding facility in Everett, north of Seattle, The Seattle Times reports. The “gravity of the violations… is great,” according to the complaint.
That list of horrors highlights the importance of stopping research on primates and other animals, whose torment frequently produces no more useful medical information than tests that do not involve animals.
It also calls to mind the expanded animal research capabilities of the University of Washington’s new underground research lab, currently under construction.
And just to put icing on that nightmare cake, check out the photo the paper ran below the primate death story. Zoos and animal testing: Really, really outdated and cruel.