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.
In case you missed NARN’s letter-writing party on Sunday, it’s not too late to write letters in support of Trans Prisoner Day of Action & Solidarity (Jan. 22). Find names, addresses and more information here.
Another prisoner who could use our support is Nicole Kissane, who was sentenced last week to 21 months in federal prison after a judge accepted her non-cooperating plea agreement.
She and Joseph Buddenburg are animal advocates from California who were indicted in 2015 for alleged conspiracy to violate the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act. They are charged for allegedly releasing thousands of animals from fur farms and destroying breeding records in Idaho, Iowa, Minnesota, Montana, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania.
You can write to Nicole here:
Nicole Kissane #20651-111
San Diego MCC
808 Union Street
San Diego, California 92101
Joseph had already been sentenced to two years in prison. Here’s his address:
Joseph Buddenberg #12746-111
FCI Victorville Medium I
P.O. BOX 3725
ADELANTO, CA 92301
Join us for our next letter-writing party, which will be posted here.
Tilikum, the orca torn from his family near Iceland when he was just two years old, died yesterday at SeaWorld Orlando.
He suffered in captivity for more than 33 years, having food withheld when he did not “perform” correctly. His tank mates scraped his sides with their teeth because they, too, were hungry.
Like all orcas in captivity, Tilikum had a collapsed dorsal fin — a sign, for decades, that he was in distress. His sperm was used to create more orcas in captivity.
Tilikum was the star of the 2013 documentary, “Blackfish,” which showed the world the horror of his living conditions. SeaWorld’s profits and stock price tanked, and the company subsequently said it would stop its “Shamu” shows and stop breeding orcas in captivity.
Hopefully, the lessons from his tragic life will save orcas from future suffering.
Unfortunately, we are not there yet.
Tokitae, popularly known as Lolita, is an orca captured with four family members near Whidbey Island in 1970. She’s the only one surviving.
A judge ruled earlier this year that she will remain at the Miami Seaquarium, despite expert reports that the dolphins with whom Tokitae shares a small tank have scraped their teeth on her skin more than 50 times in one year. She often needs antibiotics and painkillers.
U.S. District Judge Ursula Ungaro decided that did not constitute “grave harm.”
And so Tokitae is not coming home, despite a detailed and feasible plan that’s in place whenever the humans with power over her life choose to free her.
Here’s Judge Ungaro’s email (I think): firstname.lastname@example.org
And email for the Spain-based CEO of Palace Entertainment, which owns the Miami Seaquarium: email@example.com
Dear Mr. Eiroa,
Tilikum’s death this week was another reminder of the graveness of Tokitae/Lolita’s incarceration in Miami.
Although Judge Ungaro decided that dolphins scraping Tokitae’s sides more than 50 times in one year did not constitute grave harm, you have the power to show compassion and send her home.
As you know, there’s a viable and detailed plan for doing just that. Just say the word, and the money will come — from Seattle and elsewhere — to free her.
Please do the right thing before it’s too late.
Photos from Blackfish
I was about to write a post about how the US government was planning to slaughter 45,000 wild horses and burros and provide a call to action.
Good news! After public outrage, the plans have been halted.
It’s a great reminder to speak up for animals. From an article about the decision: “The panel’s recommendation created an uproar among animal rights activists and highlighted the challenges ahead for the U.S. government as it seeks to control the population of wild horses and burros.”
Letters, calls, and petitions DO make a difference. I’ll keep an eye on this issue and post action items if the situation changes.
USDA Wildlife Services has been lethally removing Canada Geese from the Puget Sound area for 14 years. Geese are rounded up from parks and gassed to death or shot.
In 2015 Wildlife Services killed 578 geese in King County and 287 on Lake Washington. Shooting has become their preferred method of killing, but they also conducted two round-ups on Lake Washington where they gassed to death geese and their goslings. The numbers for 2016 will not be available until next year.
In a report to members of the Interlocal Agreement, Wildlife Services stated that they hazed and harassed 3,892 geese in King County. The techniques used included “working dogs, boats, paintballs, and firearms.”
In a decreasing trend, egg addling dropped to just 292 eggs. Clearly, egg addling is not a priority. It is obviously much easier to shoot geese or round them up and gas them instead of addling eggs to prevent their development.
Humane solutions to mitigate conflicts with geese in urban areas exist. In addition to addling, the following are effective: landscape modifications, goose deterrent products and control techniques, automated devices to clean up goose droppings, and education and public outreach on the need to stop feeding waterfowl.
Officials often cite health concerns as a reason to justify the killings. However, according to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW) website, “Canada geese are not considered to be a significant source of any infectious disease transmittable to humans or domestic animals.”
As part of an interlocal agreement to kill geese, several cities are working together, including Bellevue, Kent, Kirkland, Mountlake Terrace, Port of Seattle – Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, Renton, Seattle Parks and Recreation, SeaTac, Tacoma Metro Parks, Tukwila, Woodinville, University of Washington, and Washington State Parks.
If you live in one of these cities listed above, or have connections to UW, please contact officials directly and ask them to stop the killings and opt out of the agreement.
Tell them that killing geese creates a void in the environment, other geese quickly move in, and a new round of killing begins. This creates an endless cycle of killing. The brutal killing of thousands of geese including their newborn goslings is unacceptable. We must do a better job of sharing the earth with wildlife.
Today is International Tiger Day.
Please speak up for baby exotic animals, including tigers, who suffer at roadside zoos. Undercover investigations at roadside zoos has revealed horrible abuse. Roadside zoos are atrocious prisons for wild animals who should be free. Zoos that offer the public to have photo sessions with these dangerous animals are bad for the animals and for people.
The Humane Society of the United States is pushing for new regulations because existing regulations are not effective. We need a complete ban on the commercial use of captive wildlife, many of whom are endangered species.
Follow the link to an HSUS page where you can urge the USDA to adopt regulations completely prohibiting public handling of all big cats, bears, primates and other dangerous wild animals.
Even if you missed NARN’s letter-writing party this week, there’s still a way you can write to advocate for the billions of pigs, cows, chickens and other animals who, every single day, endure a living hell of unspeakable torture:
The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) of 1966 sets minimum standards for animal care and guards against abuse. However, the more than 9 billion farmed animals that die each year and many small animals used in laboratories are excluded.
Two laws are in place for slaughter and transport, but they are full of loopholes and rarely enforced. State anti-cruelty laws also fail farmed animals by exemption, leaving the agricultural industry to self-regulate and put profits before animal stewardship.
No federal law saves farmed animals from having their testicles, tails, horns, beaks and toes cut off without anesthesia or pain management. No federal law prevents male chicks (“byproducts” of the egg industry) from being tossed onto conveyor belts and ground up alive. No federal law stops geese from being force-fed until their organs fail, or chickens from being starved so they’ll start laying eggs again, or fish from being exposed to light 24 hours a day to speed their growth. No federal law saves animals from being confined in spaces so small they can’t turn around, stretch out, extend their wings or lie down comfortably.
NARN and In Defense of Animals invite you to tell your Congressional lawmakers that farmed animals need to be included in the Animal Welfare Act. Feel free to personalize and submit the letter below to:
Dear [Lawmaker name here],
As a voter who cares deeply about animals, I’m asking for an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act (7 U.S.C. 54) to extend legal protections to farmed animals.
Shockingly, there are no laws in place to protect the more than nine billion farmed animals who are slaughtered in the United States every year from abuse and acts of cruelty while they are being bred and raised. Farmed animals, like pigs, fish, sheep, cows and chickens are routinely subjected to painful and barbaric procedures.
As you know, animals are confined in spaces so small they can’t turn around, stretch their limbs or extend their wings, or lie down comfortably. Without anesthesia or pain management of any kind, their testicles, tails, horns, beaks, and toes are cut off. Male chicks in the egg industry are tossed onto conveyor belts and ground up alive. Geese are force fed until their organs fail, while chickens are routinely starved to induce egg laying, and fish are exposed to light 24 hours a day to speed their growth.
Farmed animals are exempt from the AWA and from most state anti-cruelty laws, leaving the agricultural industry to self-regulate and put profits before animal stewardship. While some animals exploited for food are covered under the Humane Methods of Slaughter Act, no federal law regulates how farmed animals are bred and raised.
Recently proposed amendments, such as the amendment concerning captive marine mammals, have sought to address gaps in the Animal Welfare Act. Farmed animals should not and cannot continue to be left vulnerable to acts of cruelty.
Every day, billions of pigs, cows, fish, chickens, and other animals face unspeakable suffering and torture. Please stand up for their welfare and amend the AWA to include standards for the housing and treatment of farmed animals.
The Stop Animal Violence Foundation posted an account on Facebook this week of animal mistreatment at Havasupai in the Grand Canyon by outfitters including REI.
Some quotes from it:
The photos, including of open sores and saddle sores, are posted on Facebook. The witness called some of the outfitters and was told they don’t use pack animals.
Please visit the Facebook page, which includes links to more information about the horses and mules, and follow up with emails to the Havasupai Tribal Council, REI and other outfitters insisting that wranglers stop running them, tied together or not, up and down the canyon. And, for heavens sake, stop packing them with cooler and propane tanks.
REI CEO Jerry Stritzke: firstname.lastname@example.org
REI Chief Information Officer Julie Averill: email@example.com
REI Head of Communications Alex Thompson: firstname.lastname@example.org
Subject: Photos of REI pack animals at the Grand Canyon
I was dismayed to read an eyewitness account of REI coolers and propane canisters being slung on already hurting pack animals at Havasupai in the Grand Canyon. I understand that some outfitters deny they use such animals — but there are photos with this post. It’s a shock to see REI’s name and services associated with this sort of treatment of horses and mules.
Xyz in Seattle or in Washingon State
Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant thinks that — and the fact that his state’s last aquarium was ruined by Hurricane Katrina — makes a new aquarium on the coast a good way to spend $17 million of the damage money the state is getting from BP. “The outdoor water feature includes a dolphin exhibit where visitors could feed and touch the animals,” according to the SunHerald in Biloxi.
Gov. Bryant is wrong.
“I used to work as a dolphin trainer at Marine Life in Gulfport, before it was washed away by Hurricane Katrina. I know first-hand that a new facility for captive dolphins is the last thing Mississippi needs,” according to an online petition to stop the new aquarium.
The public has already made clear that they don’t want to see orcas in captivity. Why would they want to see dolphins?
Please sign the petition above and write to Gov. Bryant letting him know the BP money should go to a more worthy project. Here’s his online contact page.