Archive for January 2014

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The TPP, or Trans-Pacific Partnership, is the newest trade agreement being proposed and “fast-tracked” here in the U.S. The TPP is an agreement with 11 countries in Asia and Latin America that proposes major changes in property rights of intellectual property and the enforcement of infractions regarding them. It appears to be quite complicated (at least to me who is a non-attorney) and basically requires the signatory countries “to adopt heightened copyright protection that advances the agenda of the US entertainment and pharmaceutical industries agendas, but omits the flexibilities and exceptions that protect Internet users and technology innovators.”

Now that alone is concerning to me, but as this is an animal rights blog, I will leave it to others to explain why the TPP is bad for jobs and for anyone trying to make a decent wage.

So what DOES the TPP have to do with animals?

Well for one thing, the other signatory countries present issues regarding their treatment of animals. The other countries are Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam. Some of these countries have abysmal records of animal abuse on a systemic level, particularly in the food and research areas (not that the U.S. necessarily has a lot to be proud of). We only have to look at the world outrage over the confinement, torture, and slaughter in Taiji, Japan, of hundreds (it will be thousands before the season is over) of dolphins and whales so that the captive marine mammal entertainment industry can have more victims for their grotesque “theme parks.” In addition, as stated above, this agreement is a financial blockbuster for the pharmaceutical industry, a major abuser and killer of animals worldwide. The TPP does not appear to deal with either of these major issues as a condition of passage.

The other major concern with the TPP regarding animals is the disgusting crime of shark finning. As many know, shark finning is the obscene practice of removing a live shark from the water, slicing off its fins WHILE STILL ALIVE AND CONSCIOUS, and tossing its tortured, disfigured body back into the ocean (shark “meat” is not nearly as profitable as the fins). These sharks, of course, will not survive, dying by asphyxiation (since they cannot swim and move water over their gills to breathe), blood loss, or predation. No doubt the suffering of these sharks is unimaginable. Currently, it is estimated that 100 million sharks each year are killed in this horrific fashion. Shark fin soup is a delicacy in some places, which is responsible for much of the demand.

Sharks are vertebrates. They have the same basic nervous system and limb structure (in their case fins) as any other vertebrate. Their capacity to feel pain and suffering is the same as any vertebrate. The horrific suffering that they endure before their deaths is almost unimaginable. In addition to the massive suffering inflicted on the individual sharks, there is the issue of their conservation and ability to continue living in their environments. There are 18 species of sharks listed as endangered by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN). At the rate of killing, sharks could be eliminated from the oceans in 10-20 years.

So back to the TPP. In March of 2013, some steps had been taken at a meeting in Bangkok to outlaw this brutal practice. A positive step to be sure. And some countries and cities are taking it upon themselves to ban shark fin products in their jurisdictions. But the news regarding the TPP is not good. The latest draft of the TPP does not include any language to ban shark finning. It merely “acknowledges commitments” previously made. In other words, nice-sounding phrasing which essentially does nothing to bind any of the participating countries to any prohibition on finning. To put in perspective, according to Michael Brune of the Sierra Club, “If the environment chapter is finalized as written in this leaked document, President Obama’s environmental trade record would be worse than George W. Bush’s.”

So what can we do?

1. If in the U.S., write to your congressional representatives and senators and voice your disapproval with this blatant pandering to international niceness and urge them NOT to put their seal of approval on any agreement which doesn’t include specific and enforceable prohibitions on shark finning (or, urge them not to approve it at all if that is your position). If in another of the signatory countries, follow the normal protocol for expressing disapproval with your government’s decisions, where appropriate.

2. Get the word out in whatever way you do – social media, email, telling your friends, families, and coworkers, however you choose to – speak out and inform as many people as possible of this travesty against our environment and its inhabitants.

3. Sign and share a petition to ban shark finning.

The omission of any clearly worded shark protection from the TPP is part of the attempt to fast-track it – bickering over wording and dealing with countries that do not want to stop this hideous practice would take time, and apparently time is not something the administration or congress want. They want to move this along as quickly as possible. But this appeasement of a brutal and obscene crime against sharks and the environment cannot be allowed to pass. It will be yet another blow to environmental conservation efforts and humane treatment of animals and another win for powerful, environment-killing corporate power.

Let’s try and stop it.

Photo of great white shark from 4freephotos.com

rhino-1-1276102050rNRLAs most everyone knows by now, a hunting club has auctioned off a trophy hunting permit to kill a black rhino in the country of Namibia. Wildlife officials there say that the money will go to protecting rhinos and their habitat and that the rhino chosen to be killed by the shooter (I refuse to use the term “hunter” in this context since it is basically a slaughter) is an older male past typical breeding age. I won’t begin to try and understand the political, financial, and logistical challenges of conserving wildlife and their habitat in far away lands (far away to me, as I am in the U.S.). But since other countries such as Botswana and Zambia have banned trophy hunting, and countries such as Kenya have extremely tough penalties for poaching wildlife, it is certainly conceivable that kill-free conservation efforts could be successful. Botswana, for example, has decided to switch the focus from killing to viewing, ending trophy hunting in favor of a more developed ecotourism program. Kenya has possible life sentences for poachers and also focuses on tourism to bring in much needed dollars.

Different countries have different approaches to trying to save their precious wildlife and habitat, but trophy hunting can’t be one of them. While it is well known that people will spend tens of thousands of dollars for a guided “hunt” (i.e., slaughter), the countries hosting them fear that photographers, nature lovers, and other tourists won’t necessarily lay out that kind of money for a trip to their country. Simply put, we must prove them wrong. Killing what should be a protected species can not be a true conservation strategy. Not in this century, not with all that we know about the importance of biological diversity and habitat protection. Not with all that we know about the sentient, sensitive, and intelligent nature of many of these magnificent animals. Not with the real risk of generations of people growing up in the future having to look only at photos of lions, leopards, and rhinos. This can’t be the answer.

What I find most despicable about this whole thing is the glee with which the “hunting” club is celebrating this auction of a kill permit. One person presented the winning bid of $350,000. That person, presumably, will travel to the country and enjoy his killing of this rhino. I am curious – does he actually think he is helping the species? Because he/she can do that by donating the money and NOT killing the rhino. And what kind of “hunting” feat is it when the animal to be killed has been preselected, will be older, and will likely be in a cordoned off area, not truly able to even escape his fate? What does it say about us as a species when people compete with large sums of money for the privilege of shooting a confined, elderly animal just for the pleasure of it?

This obscene practice of trophy hunting has to stop. It is, country by country. But it needs to move along with haste. We need to support in whatever way we can the conservation efforts of the countries fortunate enough to be the residence of these beautiful creatures. We need to speak out and petition against this brutal practice of wealthy, privileged people buying rights to kill animals that normally are protected and against whom the killing could be considered a crime if done by a person without the money to buy such an activity. Once again, the image of money dangling overhead by an extremely small minority of people is an attempt to control others and an attempt to do what is clearly wrong by calling it right. This contorted logic and destruction of the world’s precious ecological habitats and inhabitants needs to be defeated. Conservation can be accomplished without selling the blood of the species we are trying to save.

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Due to various life events, it has been a while since I have put up any new content (apologies for that). I normally like to address one topic in depth, but since there are about a million topics swirling around in my head, I will mention a few of them now. Some I might go into in a later post, some maybe not. But here’s a bit of what I’ve been thinking about:

1. What are the ethics of giving and receiving gifts (especially food gifts) between vegans and non-vegans? I try and give only vegan and/or cruelty free gifts even when I know the recipient might really enjoy a sausage from Hickory Farms, for example. But I always keep the recipient in mind and try and get a gift that they will really like, just not something based on an animal’s death. When I receive a gift, I have no problem returning/exchanging it (a wool sweater, for example), or passing it along to someone else if it is a food item. I wonder how much this is an issue in families, particularly at holiday time.

2. Speaking of gifts, I saw an article in a local paper about giving live animals as gifts. It was a syndicated article, and I have no memory of where it came from. But the gist of the article was that it is not a good idea to give live animals as gifts, a premise I wholeheartedly support. But it was the beginning paragraph of the article that appalled me. The author was talking about being out shopping and seeing a dog/cat in a pet store and being inclined to an impulse purchase. Is he/she kidding me?? Millions of healthy animals are still being killed in shelters because of a lack of space and homes, and there are still people BUYING animals from pet stores? I didn’t think you could even sell live animals at pet stores anymore (and that needs to stop forthwith). Hey folks, how about adopting? Saving a life? And that goes for breeders, too. They still want to sell their $500 puppies to a person with that much to spend, meanwhile perfectly nice, sweet shepherds, goldies, and too many cats to count are being killed. Shame on all of them.

3. A 12 year old girl was among those arrested at the US Thanksgiving day parade. A group of protesters wanted to stop the Sea World float – understandable. To me it’s akin to having a slaughterhouse float or a vivisection lab float. What was interesting to me is that shortly afterwards, Sea World put out a letter calling the protesters “extremists” and basically attempting to portray them as fringe lunatics. As many others have written and as I have on this blog and on twitter, it appears the days of Sea World and other such institutions are numbered. Word is out about the appalling tactics of capture, abuse, and, in the case of Taiji (which rounds up dolphins for marine mammal parks), slaughter. Sea World is losing its grip on this because the facts are coming out, so they are attempting to portray anyone speaking the truth as a non-mainstream wacko. I guess it sucks to be them as people realize that captivity, exploitation, and abuse are not very entertaining.

4. There have been too many cases lately of cows being left out in the elements and dying of exposure. The most recent one was a local case of a farmer who had left newly born calves out at night – in the high winds, blowing snow, and below zero wind chills that have plagued much of the northern US in recent days. If this had been done to a dog or cat, criminal charges might be pending. But since someone has decided that animals to be killed for food do not get the same protection, nothing will happen. Let’s all remember though that cows have the same nervous system, sensitivity, and capability of suffering as dogs. I guess it is easier for those who profit off of their deaths to imagine that somehow the rules of science get suspended when it is for something that they want. Or perhaps they simply don’t care.