Opposing Cruelty: Dolphin Slaughter Protest 9/3/08

Orcas: Vanishing Icons of the Pacific Northwest

Photo: Christopher Michel, Creative Commons

Photo: Christopher Michel, Creative Commons

By Molly Jordan

When you think about Orcas in the context of Animal Rights, there are a few individuals who immediately come to mind. Regardless of when you joined the movement, undoubtedly you have heard of the captive Orca at Miami Seaquarium, Lolita—or Tokitae, as she was originally named, which is a native Coast Salish greeting meaning “nice day, pretty colors.” She has spent nearly half a century living in abysmal conditions in captivity despite decades of activism, outreach, demands, and sea sanctuary plans to bring her home. If you’re like me, “Free Lolita” has been part of your activism toolkit for as long as you’ve been involved with speaking on behalf of captive cetaceans worldwide. Tilikum became a household name when in 2010 he killed a trainer at SeaWorld in Florida and then again in 2013 upon the release of the documentary film Blackfish, which exposed to the world many of the evils of captivity for these incredibly intelligent, social creatures. If you haven’t seen this powerful film, please find a friend with Netflix and watch it. It will give you a great overview of why captivity is so cruel.

Something the film touches on is the story of how Tilikum came to be in captivity and the dark history of the captive era in Washington State. n conversations about Orcas and other marine mammals, I’m often struck by people’s assumption that if they are living free in the wild and are protected from being hunted, they are safe. Tragically, this is far from the actual truth. While the Nnorthern and Ssouthern Rresident killer whale populations are now somewhat protected from human greed within U.S. and Canadian waters, we are still at significant risk of losing these iconic pods within our lifetime.

The Pacific Northwest observes June as Orca Awareness Month and offers educational opportunities to learn more about our Southern Resident killer whales (SRKW) and the three challenges they are facing today: toxic waters, lack of food supply, and ocean noise.

The SRKW are often cited as some of the most contaminated marine mammals in the world, because of human activities that pollute the Salish Sea. Contaminants in Puget Sound come from agricultural runoff, litter, pesticides, marine debris, and other sources. Fish absorb contaminants, which are then passed on to Orcas and other marine life who eat these fish (and to humans who consume fish). Scientists have speculated contaminates have been a factor in the decline of live calf births among female killer whales of reproductive age, most notably with the recent death of Lulu, one of the only remaining whales left in the United Kingdom resident pod. Without healthy reproductive females bearing healthy calves, the chance that these pods will survive long term is dismal. The toxic environment also could be a contributing factor to the fact that  almost all calves born during the Orca baby boom are males. There hasn’t been a surviving calf birthed in K-Pod since 2011.

One of the most critical dangers facing our SRKW right now is an extreme lack of their preferred species of salmon:chinook. Both the Northern and Southern Resident killer whale populations are unique fish-eating mammals. While our neighborhood whales eat a small variety of other salmon species, they depend on healthy chinook salmon runs for more than  80 percent of their diet, and thus for their survival. These residents should not be confused with their thriving mammal-eating relatives who regularly inhabit our waters and who are often referred to as Bigg’s killer whales or “transients.”

Overfishing is a global problem that tremendously affects our local SRKW. Lack of healthy and abundant fish stocks in the ocean leads to the whales slowly starving, more in some years than others. Another literal barrier preventing healthy chinook salmon runs in the PNW are the intact Lower Snake River Dams. One organization, Dam Sense, is working solely on bringing down these dams. It has an abundance of information about why this is crucial to the survival of the Chinook salmon and the SRKW. I saw a screening of the film Dam Nation, and it really opened my eyes to how severe an issue this is for ecosystems around the country. Bringing down the dams is just one way to help, along with not consuming salmon, and educating the people in your life about these issues.

Marine life worldwide and right here at home also face oceanic noise pollution. I was in a workshop last year where I saw the film Sonic Sea. The main takeaway, outside of the startling statistics about shipping traffic, is the simple fact that while oceanic noise pollution is a dreadful modern experience for marine life, it is also human caused and can be reversed simply by stopping the action that makes the noise. Unlike pollutants which can live in an environment well beyond our lifetimes, noise can be reduced and eliminated in marine environments by taking the cause of the noise out of the ocean! This is easier said than done, but it is possible to make even small contributions if you engage in marine vessel travel. Lime Kiln State Park has been noted as the best place to see Orcas in the wild from the shore – and believe me, it is! I have been mega fortunate to have seen them twice in just three short years of calling Washington State home, and it has truly been a magical experience. These sightings have involved several days of picnics and patience as you wait and see if that day will be the day they choose to swim by. Sadly, the ocean noise in the Salish Sea becomes all too apparent when your relaxing day on the bluffs is interrupted by the constant and annoying vessel noise from passing boats and container ships. If they are that loud and annoying to our human ears on land, just imagine what it is like for those whales who call these  waterways home.

When advocating for animals, I try to learn about the specific motivations and history behind how a mainstream practice came to be (you can apply this to learning about human-based oppressions, too). When you sit down to comb through any of the materials I have presented here, I encourage you to follow the money trail to understand how, even decades after the last Orca was captured in Washington State, human greed and global commerce continue to contribute to the demise of these stunning creatures. A few of the books I recommend as a starting point are Puget Sound Whales for Sale, The Lost Whale, and Into Great Silence. They will all break your heart in various ways, but I have been endlessly inspired to learn more and do more on behalf of those who still need our voice. None of us can individually save the world, but we can all do small things every day to make this planet better. Now, more than ever, it’s important to help our fellow humans and nonhuman animals in whatever big or small way we can to ease the burden or struggle of those with whom we share this world.

When I moved to Washington State, I was happy to have so many tremendous resources available that are working toward the ultimate survival of these beloved whales. I have been able to hear some pretty amazing speakers and to meet others working on behalf of these whales and other marine life. Attending lectures also offers the opportunity to ask these organizations how they are crossing the intersections with other human- and animal-based oppressions. We know, as animal advocates, that much of our work crosses the boundaries of single issues. Having dialogue with caring individuals can help us bridge the gap between caring about iconic species like Orcas and caring about animals deemed unworthy of any protections, like chickens.

Some of my favorite organizations are: Orca Network, The Center for Whale Research, Cascadia Research Collective, The Whale Trail, The American Cetacean Society Puget Sound Chapter, and even Washington State Ferries! The M/V Tokitae is a ferry named in honour of our beloved whale who was stolen from her mother, Ocean Sun, in Puget Sound over 46 years ago. On the ferry walls is educational information regarding her capture and subsequent life of captivity as the lone Orca more commonly known as Lolita, so every single passenger riding that ferry can learn about her tragic plight.

I encourage you to do your own research and find organizations that align with your individual interests and ethics and learn more about the great work being done on behalf of humans and nonhuman animals in Washington State, the Pacific Northwest, and beyond. Thank you to Northwest Animal Rights Network for providing a platform to share this information.

Other organizations that may be of interest are: Wild Whales, OrcaLab, the Orca Project, Orca Conservancy, Seal Sitters, the SeaDoc Society, Southern Resident Killer Whale Chinook Salmon Initiative (SRKWCSI), Orca Salmon Alliance, The Whale , and the Langley Whale Center.

For more information regarding Northern and Southern Resident killer whale protections in Washington State and British Columbia as they pertain to our respective governments, please visit:

 

Circus Cats Need Our Help

Tomorrow is National Animal Rights Day — see you at Westlake! — but today is a day for helping the tigers. After going to Seattle Farmed Animal Save’s Vigil at the Enumclaw Live Animal Auction at 11 a.m., I’m headed to nearby Orting to protest the Culpepper & Merriweather Circus, which uses tigers in its show. Dammit.

Which brings me to today’s online action: The Animal Legal Defense Fund reported that Ringing Brothers applied for a permit through the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to export its big cats (eight endangered tigers, six lions and a leopard) to a circus in Germany.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife is taking public comments — here’s the form.

And here’s a sample message:

The life of an animal held captive for entertainment is undeniably cruel. I was relieved to learn that Ringling Brothers would end its animals’ grueling cycle of confinement, chaining and forced performance.

Sadly, it appears that Ringling would rather make money on the transfer of its long-suffering cats — eight endangered tigers, six lions, and a leopard — back to more of the same in Germany.

After years of service in the circus, these cats should be allowed to live out their lives at a reputable sanctuary where they can experience the space, habitats, and peace they need and deserve.

Please make sure these threatened species are treated better than Ringling wants to.

Please Support These Bills to Limit Animal Trapping

Two bills in Congress would put limits on cruel animal trapping:

It’s also expected that the Limiting Inhumane Federal Trapping (LIFT) for Public Safety Act, which would ban traps on federal lands managed by the Department of the Interior and Wildlife Services, will be reintroduced.

Please call your representatives and urge them to support these bills.

The executive director of the Oregon nonprofit Predator Defense recounts a story in this Dodo post about a coyote he once found in a trap set by Wildlife Services, a branch of the USDA that kills tens of thousands of coyotes every year — including 76,963 coyotes in 2016 — by trapping, shooting, snaring and poisoning them. The coyote who Brooks Fahy found had been trapped for at least a week and was drinking water from melted snow next to him and eating small animals that someone — apparently his mate — had brought to him.

Sadly, the coyote was in too much pain to live and had to be euthanized. Fahy has seen animals who broke teeth trying to get out of traps, among many other horrors — but this is the animal he remembers most. The coyote died in 1992. Last year, 19,000 of the coyotes the government killed were caught — and often died — in leg traps.

Traps are cruel, bone-crushing torture devices. Animals suffer with agony in their legs, necks and other body parts for unconscionable lengths of time.

There are unintentional victims, too, including humans: “We have seen it happen too many times: a mountain lion cub caught in a leghold trap; a dog who breaks her teeth to the gum line in her panic to free herself from a trap; a boy rushed to the ER with a Conibear trap on his arm; a young man getting ensnared in a Conibear trap set near a park playground. These traps are cruel, archaic and terrifyingly indiscriminate, and they can be found anywhere,” Jennifer Place, a program associate at Born Free USA who specializes in trapping issues, told The Dodo.

 

Senate Votes Tomorrow on Wildlife Refuge Hunting Bill

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 issuebut 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

House Votes to Turn Wildlife Refuges Into Game Farms; Time to Call Senators

Shame. The House of Representatives voted Thursday 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 this legislation in the Senate. (Here’s a fact sheet from the Humane Society of the United States.)

Sen. Patty Murray: 202-224-2621

Sen. Maria Cantwell: 202-224-3441

 

URGENT: House Votes Thursday on Aerial Shooting of Grizzlies

Photo: Frank van Manen/USGS Link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

It’s time to put animals atop your agenda for calls to Congress.

Congressman Don Young of Alaska has proposed House Joint Resolution 69 to stop the repeal of a ban on aerial hunting and other cruel practices. It would restore the practice of shooting grizzlies from airplanes in the National Wildlife Refuges of Alaska.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service last August finalized a rule prohibiting this cruel form of hunting.

If it passes the House, it’s likely to pass the Senate and be signed by the President.

Please call now to make sure HJRes 69 is stopped! Phone calls are most effective.

Pramila Jayapal is the representative for Seattle: 202-225-3106.

To find your rep: http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

Here’s a fact sheet compiled by the Humane Society of the U.S.

Photo: Frank van Manen/USGS<br />
Link to license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Best Way to Stop the Dolphin Hunt: Don’t Visit Marine Parks

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.

Dolphin_slaughter_in_Taiji_Japan

Photo: VanessaNYC07 at Wikimedia Commons

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.

Rest in Peace, Tilikum. We Are Sorry. FREE Lolita/Tokitae!

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.

tilikumLike 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.

healthy-orcas

Here’s Judge Ungaro’s email (I think): ursula_ungaro@flsd.uscourts.gov

And email for the Spain-based CEO of Palace Entertainment, which owns the Miami Seaquarium: feiroa@palaceentertainment.com

Sample email:

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.

Thank you,

 

Photos from Blackfish

Canada Goose hurts animals with fur and plumage

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Photo: USEPA

Turkey butchering season has hardly passed, and already the down coat industry is warming up for an onslaught of holiday orders.

Although the vast majority of consumers say they dislike the use of fur, the company Canada Goose continues to use fur from trapped coyotes in its coats. It also fills the coats with plumage from geese that are killed for meat, in some cases having their throats slit while they’re alive.

Even the “ethical” trapping that Canada Goose brags about using allows coyotes to languish for 24 to 72 hours. In that time, mother coyotes sometimes chew through their limbs to escape. The traps also do not ensure a quick or painless end when the trapper returns.

“Humane” traps: No right way to do the wrong thing.

Despite Canada Goose’s claim that fur is the “only” choice for the hard, hard winters its customers endure, modern fabrics mean that warmer coats are available without killing animals. Synthetic materials also hold up to wet, humid weather.

Please tell Dani Reiss, CEO of Canada Goose, that it’s inhumane and completely unnecessary to use fur and plumage in his products — and that you’ll be spreading the word about the old-fashioned butchering still carried out for his company’s products.

Here’s his email: dreiss@canada-goose.com. And here’s Canada Goose’s Facebook page.

Invite Mr. Reiss to come on into the 21st century, where we can let the coyotes keep their fur, and geese their plumage — and muscles.

Tell regulators to breach Snake River dams for orcas and salmon

gorgeNow is the time to push wildlife officials to use the permission they already have from a 2002 environmental impact statement that allows them to breach four dams on the lower Snake River. Those breaches would have a tremendous positive impact on salmon and orca populations in the Northwest.

Comments on the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement are being taken now — and the Snake River is part of that system.

Please comment here, encouraging them not to wait to breach these four dams. Salmon and orca need this help now.

Here are politicians to contact as well — you can just copy and paste your comment from the EIS page — and here’s an encouraging story about the sockeye, chinook and trout already making their way back to an upper watershed following the demolition of a dam blocking the Elwha River.