A captured whale is butchered in Japan in 2001.
On Monday, the United Nation's International Court of Justice confirmed what we all already knew: Japan's "scientific" whaling is a cover-up for their commercial whaling and violates the international ban on commercial whaling.
Japan has been commercially hunting whales for nearly 30 years under the guise of scientific research. While this judgment is long overdue, and it's great news that an international tribunal ruled against Japan on this, the door is open for Japan and other countries to kill whales in the name of science if they come up with a rigorous scientific plan and stick to it.
Leave it to me to find the cloud that goes with every silver lining.
Learn more about the court's decision here, and learn more about the commercial whaling that is going on in Iceland and Norway.
Koichi Kamoshida / Getty Images
Animal rights activist and MIT Ph.D. candidate Ryan Shapiro has filed a lawsuit against the National Security Agency, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Defense Intelligence Agency for their failure to respond to his Freedom of Information Act requests. Shapiro is working on his dissertation, titled, "Bodies at War: Animals, Science, and National Security in the United States," which examines how animal rights activists are marginalized under the guise of national security. As part of his dissertation research, Shapiro has filed approximately 700 FOIA requests with the FBI. The law gives government agencies 20 days to respond to FOIA requests, but the FBI is asking a court for seven years to decide whether to release the documents, ironically citing national security concerns.
Shapiro's complaint was filed in the US District Court, District of Columbia, and asks for the court to declare that the agencies' failure to respond is illegal, rule that Shapiro is entitled to expedited processing of his FOIA request, and award costs and fees related to the litigation.
Shapiro explained in an interview with Democracy Now how animal activists have been treated as terrorists, even though one FBI agent found that "most of the animal rights people are also strict advocates of nonviolence against human persons." Shapiro's interview also discusses the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act and the dangers of ag-gag laws.
Regarding government transparency, Shapiro states:
Democracy cannot meaningfully exist without an informed citizenry, and such a citizenry is impossible without broad public access to information about the operations of government. Secrecy is a cancer on the body of democracy . . . We are all familiar with the security-oriented signage instructing us to 'See something, Say something.' In the interest of promoting a fuller conception of national security, I add, 'See something, Leak something.' The viability of our democracy may depend upon it.
Photo by Stephanie Crumley
Pigeon injured in a Pennsylvania pigeon shoot, 2010.
Ducks Unlimited, a hunting organization, has canceled their March 20 pigeon shoot fundraiser that was scheduled to kill 2,000 birds, after pressure from animal advocates. Following an online campaign by SHowing Animals Respect and Kindness (SHARK) asking people to contact the organizers, Matt Coffey, senior communications specialist for Ducks Unlimited, wrote to SHARK in an email, "We have policies in place holding our staff and local volunteers to high ethical and moral standards, and do not condone wanton waste of wildlife or other animals. To avoid the potential for wanton waste, the event committee has decided to change the live pigeon event to a sporting clays shoot."
To be accurate, this was actually a "phigeon shoot." That's not a typo. Phigeon = pheasant + pigeon. Organizers planned to stick pheasant tail feathers under the skin of the pigeons before releasing the pigeons. Just for fun.
While the idea of ethical hunting seems like an oxymoron to animal rights advocates, there are some practices that hunters find more unethical than others, including canned hunting, baiting, and hunting of stocked animals. Pigeon shoots are the worst of canned hunting and stocked animals combined. The disoriented birds are launched into the air and flap wildly as hunters try to shoot them out of the air. It's not hunting; it's target practice.
SHARK writes in an email to supporters:
This is an astounding turn of events; for 20 years Ducks Unlimited has been holding these "phigeon shoots," where innocent pigeons have sharp pheasant tail feathers forced into their backs, and yet within one day, and working together, we all were able to stop this vicious shoot. This is the power of your activism at work - everyone who called and spoke out helped save not only 2.000 pigeons whose horrific deaths were just two days away, but perhaps tens of thousands of pigeons in the years to come.
Learn more about pigeon shoots.
Photo by Stuart Chaifetz, SHARK
An undercover investigation at a British animal testing lab reveals how kittens and puppies are killed and cut up by workers; and breeding female dogs are killed after all of their puppies have been taken away and destroyed. Labs find it easier to kill them than to find homes for them. A disturbing and graphic video shows staff administering the lethal injections, cutting open small puppies, and disemboweling them so that their organs can be studied.
The BUAV (formerly known as the British Union for the Abolition of Vivisection) conducted an eight-month investigation at a facility owned by US pharmaceutical company Merck Sharp & Dohme (MSD), and found that puppies, often only four to six weeks old, are taken from their mothers and killed as part of the company's research on animal vaccines. In some cases, the animals struggle to get away and yelp in pain. According to BUAV:
Pregnant beagles were delivered to the laboratory. After giving birth, they were allowed to remain with their puppies for just a few weeks. Most had their puppies cruelly taken away to be used in tests when they were only around 5 weeks old. Once their puppies had been removed, the nursing mothers were killed, sometimes within minutes. These trusting dogs were seen as nothing more than breeding machines to provide puppies to be used in experiments. The company had no system for finding homes for them; most were simply discarded. Some of the puppies could also have been released but shockingly this rarely happened because it was easier for the laboratory to kill them.
The animals killed also included rabbits and chickens. Comments on the Daily Mail article are overwhelmingly pro-animal, and the few pro-vivisection comments have been voted down by readers. Home Office minister, Norman Baker, has called for a full report on the lab's activities.
In the European Union, the testing of cosmetics on animals has been banned since last year, but vivisection for medical and scientific purposes is still legal. In the UK, the government has pledged to ban the testing of household products, but the ban has yet to be enacted. In the United States, there is no such ban, although a bill has been introduced.
What you can do: BUAV is asking the public to sign an online petition that asks MSD to "stop testing on and killing puppies, kittens and other young animals" and "research and adopt alternative approaches to animal testing in the development of animal vaccines." If you are a UK resident, you can also urge your MP reduce the number of animals used in experiments and sign Early Day Motion 1127.
H/T to Sarah for sending me the link to the Daily Mail article.
Congressman Jim Moran (D, VA) has introduced the Humane Cosmetics Act, H.R. 4148, to prohibit cosmetics testing on animals in the United States and phase out the sale of imported cosmetics that were tested on animals. In the United States, no law requires cosmetics to be tested on animals unless they contain a new chemical. Cruelty-free companies use ingredients that are already known to be safe.
Your action is urgently needed - please call your federal legislators today.
The U.S. federal sportmen's heritage bills have been reintroduced, and one has already passed the House. The Sportsmen's Heritage And Recreational Enhancement (SHARE) Act, H.R. 3590, contains a number of dangerous provisions, including opening nearly all federal wild lands for hunting, allowing the importation of polar bear trophies, and exempting lead shot and lead fishing equipment from EPA regulation. A similar bill, the Bipartisan Sportsmen's Act, S.1996, is also pending. The purpose is to promote recreational hunting at the expense of wildlife and the environment.
The Obama administration opposes some measures, but instead of threatening to veto the bill, they say they look forward to working with Congress on a hunting & fishing bill that addresses their concerns.
What you can do: Contact your federal legislators, and ask them to oppose S.1996 and HR.3590. You can look up your U.S. Representative on the House of Representatives website, while your senators can be found on the official Senate website. A personal communication is always best, but if you're short on time, you can use this webform from the National Anti-Vivisection Society.
Image ©Doris Lin 2010, licensed to About.com, Inc.
After tens of thousands of comments on their swan-killing plan that would have exterminated the species in New York state by 2025, the NY Department of Environmental Conservation says they will revise the plan. According to the Times Beacon Record, the DEC plans to draft a new proposal and hold another public comment period this spring.
(Update: After tens of thousands of public comments, the NY DEC plans to issue a revised proposal this spring.)
You have until Friday, February 21 to speak up for New York's swans. The state of New York is considering a proposal to wipe out the state's mute swan population by 2025, including shooting the birds, "euthanasia," chemical or surgical sterilization, destruction of nests, and oiling and addling of eggs. The animals were brought to the US from Eurasia for ornamental purposes in the 19th century. The state's Department of Environmental Conservation says they want the birds gone because they are "invasive" and cause "aggressive behavior towards people, destruction of submerged aquatic vegetation, displacement of native wildlife species, degradation of water quality, and potential hazards to aviation."
The NJ State Legislature will soon consider S.687, a bill known as the "Bear Smart Bill," which would ban bear baiting and mandate bear-resistant garbage cans in bear habitat. In an action alert, the League of Humane Voters NJ (of which I am the legal director) wrote:
- Seventy-four percent of New Jersey voters from all parts of the state prefer that the state use non-lethal means to resolve human-bear encounters (Mason-Dixon poll, 2010). Deliberate and inadvertent feeding by humans leads to encounters and property damage, alterations in black bear behavior, foraging habits, reproductive rate, physical size, distribution, and numbers.
- New Jersey is far behind the curve in living with bears in a socially responsible manner. In the U.S., the governments of Teton County, Wyoming; Teton County, Idaho; Eagle County, Colorado, Aspen, Colorado; and Juneau, Alaska, and many more have already required bear resistant bins and dumpsters. Aspen officials advise that the ordinances are in place "to ensure your safety and the safety of our wildlife. When wildlife has access to trash, it brings them closer to our homes, creating a potentially dangerous situation for animals and people."
- Public officials in "bear areas" in western states are promoting these programs. The programs are not controversial. Senator Lesniak is filling a void in New Jersey by promoting this responsible, practical, public safety approach and non-lethal solutions desired by New Jersey voters.
- Generally, haulers purchase the bins and distribute to customers, or customers may purchase the bins themselves. Haulers may charge a small surcharge and over a period of years net a profit. Townships may do the same. Approved bins are available that are compatible with single-driver systems.
- Waste Management, the largest hauler in the United States, routinely works with required Bear Smart or Bear Aware trash programs.
Because baiting and unsecured garbage both lead to more bears being killed, the Bear Smart bill will help save lives.
What you can do: Please contact your senator today or tomorrow to support S.687. Even though your senator's office is likely closed today because of the snow, you can leave a voice mail message or send an email. To look up your state senator and get his or her contact information, check out the NJ State Legislature website.
The 2104 Olympics will take place in Sochi, Russia, with opening ceremonies on February 7. The games have not been without controversy, with most of the attention focused on Russia's oppressive and discriminatory policies against gays and lesbians. In a less-publicized controversy, Russia is exterminating stray cats and dogs throughout Sochi, to prepare for the games. According to a press release from Care2, Alexei Sorokin, director general of pest control firm Basya Services, said that his company has been contracted to carry out the "catching and disposing" of dogs, but declined to say how the dogs are killed, or how many are killed. However, Russian animal activist Yulia Krasova brought a suffering dog to the vet, who told her "there is a 100% guarantee the dog was poisoned." Authorities claim that all dogs are rounded up and checked out by a vet, and healthy dogs are released. Animal advocates around the world are not buying it. The killings have apparently been going on for months, but suddenly escalated in December.
What you can do: Care2 is asking people to sign a petition to Vladimir Putin, President of Russia, urging a stop to the massacre.