Archive for the ‘animal rights’ Category

When I was in the Marais district in Paris, France in February 2014 I ate Tartare at Le Taxi Jaune bistro and accidentally ingested horse meat. I was violently ill for 24 hours and needless to say, mentally discombobulated by the event. How could I have been so foolish and not realize what I was putting in my mouth.  Horrendous experience!

I felt both guilty and betrayed. I unwittingly succumbed to the so-called ‘French-cuisine delicacy’ through falling culprit to the vagueness of the menu-explanation for the international traveller. The incident did have one positive and constructive result. It inspired to make further inquiries into the distasteful topic. Three years onward, the following shares some research adventures in North America.

I have been a train passenger on the northern route from Seattle to Washington DC on a couple of occasions. At one stage on one of my cross-country trips, I was engrossed in the pleasant scenery outside the train-window. As we approached Minnesota my emotions changed near St Cloud. I was horrified to suddenly see dozens of horses crammed into a single pen. It went by so fast  but I am 100% certain of what I saw. The only reason why I was able to see over the fence is because I was in the dining-car which is on the second floor of the train. At moving or standing at ground-level the fence would simply have been too high.  In other words this fence was high enough that no passer-by would ever be able to see just how many horses were contained, crammed in right next to each other. If anyone knew there were horses even there, they might only be able to hear sounds. No one could get close enough to the fence without being detected. So the train-window is really the only possible way the actual numbers of captured horses could be observed.

I can remember it being a horrifying image. My first reaction was that this was a pen of horses destined for slaughter. No empathetic human would let that many horses be crammed in such a small space.

A bit later that same day I had a conversation with a gentleman in the dining-car and he too had been disturbed by the image. He too had seen it. My mistake was that I didn’t take his name as he could have been a second witness.

In speaking further with fellow train travellers, the conundrum (I’ve been told) is this: When horses are destined-for-slaughter ‘the group’ doesn’t tend to be held in one place for long. The gathering spot frequently changes. So just because someone sights dozens of horses in a pen at one particular time doesn’t mean that if you go to that precise location in the future that you will be able to see ‘that same group’ or even a ‘second group’ of horses. Buyers know that the holding and transportation of horses destined-for-slaughter is controversial, and that increasingly animal activists are monitoring the auction houses where physically-compromised horses are being sold.

Buyers also know that it is extremely difficult for state officials to track them. They may own secondary companies such as trucking or moving companies. Enforcing USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) violations proves difficult needless to say. If horses are transferred across international borders, it should be that fuzzy documentation or concealment around transporting blind or injured horses might also be an area requiring red-flagging, especially if misuse of ‘Bute’ may also be at-issue.

I think it is worth going back to this location in Minnesota. The reason is precisely because the state is fertile ground for equine-abuse violations. Minnesota doesn’t prevent horse-slaughter. It is just kept somewhat secret. It’s worth noting;  Minnesota Statutes 2016 (31.621) requires a proper sign informing if the vendor is selling horsemeat in Minnesota. Enforcement is up to the Commissioner. It doesn’t address how the horse becomes horsemeat and what ‘signs’ are required in this instance. There are virtually no obvious enforceable regulations governing the treatment of horses prior to slaughter – including the protocols for the horse during the holding and transfer period prior to slaughter. This is one of the least monitored situations. Horses for slaughter are literally treated like red-meat before they are even dead.

In speaking with the Humane Society in Washington DC in mid-March 2017 it was suggested to me that it may have been a feed-lot. Say the precise address was known it is possible that Animal Cruelty, Rescue and Response Team might be prompted to make further inquiries. If any readers are aware of this site, please do get in touch at mediageode@yahoo.com.

According to an article in the Star Tribune, in 2013, ‘the speak’ from the state Agriculture Department official and from a representative of Von Hanson’s Meats, was that there did not appear to be any horse meat being offered in Minnesota for human consumption. The state seemed to be turning a blind eye because it is commonly known and accepted there was at the time (and still is) evidence of people in the state eating horse. Dr. Nicole Neeser, the state’s meat inspection program manager (in 2013) did not in principle have a problem with horse-meat being eaten in the state, saying…”From what I hear, it’s fairly tasty.” (Source: Star Tribune, Feb. 25, 2013). And if you read Trip Advisor reviews online in Jan. 7 2015, there is speculation that in some Inns horsemeat is making it onto guest/restaurant patrons dinner plates.

Also of concern is what is commonly referred to as the U.S-Mexico and/or U.S.-Canada horsemeat pipeline. Animal activists have zoned in on USDA backtags on U.S. horses travelling to a slaughter house in Mexico, able to be identified by the sign, Pemex  (they claim they’ve seen and collected evidence on this).

All this gave rise for support for HR 113 Safe Act, which asked voters to call their federal representatives asking them to co-sponsor it. I`ve learned that Patrick Meehan (R-PA) U.S. Representative was a co-sponsor of the Safe Act two years ago.

In 2015, the documentary film, “From the Kill Pen” collated various officials speaking out against horse-meat (Source: http://www.killpenmovie.com). Natalie Rosskopf, Administrative Director at the time for ELISA Technologies, Meat Species Testing – raised awareness about what is commonly referred to as ‘Bute’ – ButaJect (Phenylbutazone Injection) 200 mg/ml which, by federal law, restricts use of this drug by or on the order of a licensed veterinarian and is approved by the FDA. Not so regulated is its misuse or overuse. This is something that needs red-flagging.

These are some of the people who are referenced in the film. Potentially they could be of assistance in gathering further evidence. Governor Bill Richardson, former Governor of New Mexico is a lead in the Foundation to Protect New Mexico Wildlife. John Holland is President of Equine Welfare Alliance. Dr. Lester Friedlander, DVM, former USDA Chief Meat Inspector, is a lead in Citizens Against Equine Slaughter.

Also of note is some of the information I’ve gathered on a U.S.-Canada pipeline. Most relevant to me is a legal horsemeat and large wild-game butcher operating in Richelieu Quebec (a region with which I have personal familiarity) – including business ties sourced in Pennsylvania that have been flagged by animal rights groups.

The final issue that must be spotlighted is blended or mixed meat known as adulterated meat, getting into the food supply. This gives rise to the issue of people eating horsemeat unknowingly and unwittingly. This is especially probable when Minnesota state did at one stage (according to the article I sourced above) attempt to make the claim that no horsemeat is readily [if at all] publicly consumed. The facts are that the law clearly allows sale of horsemeat. There would be no way of knowing, or more to the point, being able to prove that horsemeat is only ever being included in pet food.

Many horses destined for slaughter are of course former (discarded) racing horses, lame horses, old or sick horses – deemed to have no monetary value other than what the buyer can get in their being destined for meat. This writer is concerned about is the manner in which these horses are treated at this stage of the ‘economic model’ and the lax attitude of state agencies in Minnesota. The laws on their books re: allowable horse meat sale – with a sign – opens the door to extensive and normalized equine abuse.

Further information:

SAFE Act FAQ final 1-2015

SAFE Act Factsheet 115th Congress

HORSE SLAUGHTER – MYTH FACT 2-25-13 – VP HG edits

mediageode_LOGO_edit_DW_2016_E2E_AN

—  A print version of this interview is available in the Spring 2016 edition of the Lower Island News.  Republished with permission.

 April 19-2016

SeaWorld polishes its marketing message partnering with HSUS

by Diane Walsh

 Washington DC — Lower Island News has had the pleasure of conducting a one-on-one interview with Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society (HSUS) to find out more about their new partnership with SeaWorld announced on national television in April 2016. The announcement came as surprise to many – albeit an excellent surprise. The following Q & A examines the promises that have been made by SeaWorld and the role that HSUS will play in the partnership, in Mr. Pacelle’s own words.

Lower Island News: Can you describe what was the triggering event or culminating set of discussions which led Sea World to adopt this progressive arrangement?

Wayne Pacelle: Former Congressman John Campbell, who was a leader on animal protection issues during his terms in Washington, is a friend of mine. He suggested I talk with SeaWorld’s new CEO Joel Manby and see if we could find common ground. I think Campbell had a sense that as the new person leading SeaWorld, maybe Manby could be the change agent needed there. We decided to pursue discussions with the goal of ending — decisively — the possibility of further breeding of orcas; and addressing a series of other critical animal protection issues. 

We succeeded in this aim and won an agreement to stop breeding orcas and to phase out the undignified and unnatural theatrical performances with the whales. We also reached terms to have SeaWorld redouble its work in rescue and rehabilitation of marine creatures in distress, to invest in advocacy campaigns against whaling, finning, and sealing, and to revamp its food policies. These were terms that far exceeded the expectations of the activists pressing hardest on the SeaWorld front. In short, nobody had any real plan concerning how to stop breeding of the orcas in San Antonio, Orlando, or in Spain, for example, and nobody was really talking about the major step up in rescue and rehabilitation; campaigning against whaling, sealing, and finning; or changing the company’s internal food policies. 

LIN: News of the joint letter to President Obama regarding still-shocking Japanese whaling was equally moving – have you had a response from the office of the President?

 WP: No, but we know that officials at other levels of government with an interest in the issue were encouraged by the joint appeal and are optimistic about this administration taking some steps to apply additional pressure on Japan.  It’s no secret that our whale campaigners have been arguing that the United States needs to reclaim its leadership on this issue.  The International Whaling Commission will meet later this year and that’ll be the real test of the U.S. government’s resolve to do more.

LIN: SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby appears to be willing or at the very least open to assisting with the messaging for sea-hunt and shark finning eradication efforts which are often high-profile campaigns [noticeably affiliated with movie stars, e.g. Pamela Anderson]. News reporting has tended to impress on the idea that there has been some kind of shift in thinking and that Manby has nearly become an ally of the animal-rights movement — Is this overstated or has something major happened?

 WP: These commercial killing activities result in the death of millions of marine creatures every year.   If SeaWorld can give us a shot in the arm in our efforts to fight these terrible practices, then that’s a great development.  With more than 20 million visitors, SeaWorld can educate a lot of people about these subjects.

LIN: Was your book manuscript The Humane Economy  scheduled to be published or did the new arrangement delay or change the timeline in some way?

WP: The discussions with SeaWorld did not delay the publication of The Humane Economy, which came out on April 19.  The original manuscript was quite critical of SeaWorld, reflecting The HSUS’s long record of opposition to keeping orcas in captivity, starting with the hiring of Dr. Naomi Rose in the mid-1990s to lead a campaign against these practices.   It did forecast that SeaWorld had to change.  When I made the agreement with Joel Manby on the set of animal welfare reforms, I did add a postscript so readers would know that my forecast had come true.  There are close to 5000 words in the book on SeaWorld and the shift away from animals in entertainment and spectacle.   The humane economy is forming right before our eyes.

LIN: Readers have understood that the California Coastal Commission has been instrumental in placing pressure to end orca breeding in the state of California, with a state bill. What happens now? Does SeaWorld’s ‘promise’ just simply extinguish the need to do anything more in California state-wide? Will state-government efforts be channelled to Texas and Florida and elsewhere?

 WP: SeaWorld is fortunately looking to drop its lawsuit against the Coastal Commission, and it’s supporting a bill in the state legislature to ban orca breeding.  I doubt the other states will adopt similar statutes, but the key is that the company has publicly committed to ending breeding of orcas.

 LIN: What hold does HSUS have on Sea World other than an honour system?

 WP: The agreement received as much attention as any major animal welfare story in many years.  SeaWorld has declared its intention to chart a new course and has taken some concrete steps.  With each move, SeaWorld tracks more closely toward the values and approaches we support, and it’s difficult to imagine a scenario in which the company would backtrack or renege.  The public attention and scrutiny is so great, and the will to move forward is also strong on the part of SeaWorld’s management.

LIN: SeaWorld’s commitment/promise to end orca breeding is commendable. But given the animal-rights movement have been vilified thus far, is the shift believable?

WP: SeaWorld’s taken some definitive steps forward, advertising its commitment to end commercial whaling and signing the letter to President Obama, and it’s going to take additional steps in a number of areas in the months ahead – steps that will make plain its change of emphasis and its determination to play a positive role in producing reforms that benefit marine and terrestrial animals and their habitats.

LIN: The exhibition of orcas is to end in due course. Is there a date certain and if so, when? What leverage does HSUS have to ensure this promise occurs in the time-frame?

WP: SeaWorld has declared its intention to replace theatrical based performances and instead move toward demonstrations based on showing the natural behaviors of orcas by 2017.  We are looking forward to working with the company as it takes additional steps to associate its business and its brand with animal protection.

LIN: Please permit a few queries rolled together into one here, to enable further reflection. The idea of a research-medical facility where the public could learn science and nature is an outstanding one. A philosophical shift to rescue and provide veterinary aid to injured and distressed marine animals is promising on the face of it.

 However in this scenario, the so-described ‘un-releasable animal’ supposedly becomes the only permissible ‘contained’ animal able to-be-viewed by the public where education, about ongoing threats to orcas in general, can occur. Do you see any issue with this set-up? For instance in terms of the specific plans to revamp SeaWorld’s general setting; which is [performance-oriented at this time].

 Could you foresee any economic and capital forces that might come into play when determining whether an Orca ‘should be freed’? And moreover – what concrete steps could be taken right away, e.g. sea sanctuaries?

 WP: We’ve always viewed tanks and swimming pools as compromised habitats for wide-ranging, enormous animals like orcas, in spite of active veterinary care and proper feeding.  We were involved in the effort about 15 years ago to fund the release of the orca whale Keiko into a sea pen.  Keiko was, however, a wild-caught whale, and his circumstances are somewhat different than the SeaWorld whales. SeaWorld has nearly 30 orcas, with the vast majority captive-born. SeaWorld stopped live-capture of orcas 40 years ago. The sea pen discussion will play out over time, and this agreement did not end that discourse. We are committed to looking at all options to provide the best living environment for wild-caught or captive-bred orcas, and were going to support further investigation and research on whether the orcas can be safely and economically moved from their holding facilities to other settings in the future.

LIN: Can you expand on how HSUS will be involved in getting only sustainably-sourced food (e.g. seafood, free-range chicken/eggs) and additionally vegetarian food-choice sources made available on-site at SeaWorld?

 WP: There are supply chain specialists both within and outside of The HSUS who work on this kind of thing.  We’ll make all of our resources available to SeaWorld to move in this direction and have the company be a model one in terms of the food offerings at its parks.

LIN: News of the promise to protect coral reefs and reduce capture and exhibit of exotic and rare fish is engaging as well. How do you see this develop?

 WP: Most urgently, it would involve support for a campaign to educate consumers in the United States and abroad about the harmful and inhumane collection and trade of coral reef wildlife (in Hawaii and the Indo-Pacific) for the aquarium trade.

LIN: There is no doubt that these promises are impressive, the concern appears to be when and how, and HS becoming a sort of gatekeeper of other animal-rights groups. Quell the resistance – sort of idea. Please assure readers this is not the case.

 WP: There’s nothing that would prevent other groups and parties from reaching out to SeaWorld to discuss issues of concern, or pressing such matters through public campaigns of one kind or another.  But we are social reformers at HSUS, and this is what we do.  We’ve negotiated agreements to advance animal welfare in every sector of the economy, and we’re going to step up this work in the years ahead.

 LIN: The #Blackfish film-effect has been remarkable. It’s likely to have helped embolden the development on no-further Orca-breeding as well as centre the discussion on the plight of those life-long captive Orcas that SeaWorld maintains can’t be released.

 WP: Blackfish was a breakthrough phenomenon in shifting the landscape around orca captivity,  and it’s the primary reason we are where we are now.  We’ve encouraged SeaWorld to keep moving on its agenda of engaging the other issues on which we did agree, and to do more to educate the public about those concerns.

LIN: Thank you for sitting down with us, Wayne!

Readers can visit humanesociety.org/news – @HSUSNews and @humanesociety on twitter.

You can reach Diane Walsh, MA  @dwalshmedia  indydianewalsh.com

 

An academic essay on a more general topic, blogged here because of what it has to say about the uses of the honey bee – including Jake Kosek’s excellent work in the area.

Essay on the subject of the abuse of bees_ copyright_mediageode_2015

 

Standing up for Perspectivism! DRAFT ESSAY Ontological_Turn_essay_Perspectivism_

https://tiddletaddle.wordpress.com/2016/01/03/dolphin-reflections-perspectvism/

photo

The Beluga’s Culture Shock

By Diane Walsh

Seeing the world through the ‘Bubble’— Musings from East Scotland

Culture shock is something usually associated with a human being feeling a sense of alienation or confusion when arriving in a place that is strange and new. It would be no surprise then, if difficulty in adapting cropped up as a culture-shock after-effect.

But what if the concept of culture-shock was applied to, say, placing the Beluga whitewhale in a ‘Bubble’ such as an Aquarium setting — whose ancestors had lived in the Ocean Wide for thousands of years?

Without falling into a debate about anthropomorphism, I would like to us to ‘problematize’ the idea of the ‘strangeness’ of having a huge Whitewhale in, arguably, a fishbowl.

An Arctic and sub-Arctic cetacean, this Whitefish is also occasionally referred to, as the melonhead or sea canary.

I do not wish to be delving too deep into a discussion of Anthropology. If you would like to read more on the topic, ‘Beyond the Human’, Samantha Hurn (2012) researches the idea of animal exploitation, animal-rights theory and the anthropological implications of the evolving cultural ideas and concepts about animal personhood. She asks us to think about our own attitudes towards ‘other’ animals on earth (i.e. other-than-human) and relate this to what it might mean to be human. Perspectivism (e.g. Kohn; Descola; De Castro) asks us to take up seeing the world from the point of view of the ‘other’ in the natural world, while at the same acknowledging our thoughts as being, from a human standpoint (Key words; post-humanist, human exceptionalism).

With this all in mind, try and understand the example I have suggested, of ‘the foreignness’ of the fishbowl (Aquarium) from the perspective of the Beluga.

Granted we can never get into a cetacean’s mind, per se, but we can entertain the idea of ‘seeing the world from the perspective of the ‘Beluga’.

Here is an analogy. We’ve all likely observed the poverty and resignation of people who are on the wrong side of the ‘economic divide’. At times I have been there myself. What if this conceptualization of reality was applied to thinking about the Beluga? ‘Seeing’ the Beluga as being on the wrong side of the ‘divide’— whose fate is unlucky enough to have been captured — whose awesome and glorious natural-habitat nature/subjectivity modified into a mere object of money-making and gawk? Might I be able to force an argument that the Beluga is ‘ecologically impoverished’ i.e. trapped in a container?

Is this the Beluga’s ‘Bubble’ reality? It would be no surprise to see the ‘resignation’ of the Beluga in this scenario. I argue that there doesn’t seem to be a concerted effort to connect the ‘poverty’of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. I mean the poverty of the identity of the Beluga in the Aquarium setting. Is the Beluga not powerless over its fate, resigned to its working conditions?

Applying social theory to an understanding of the captive Beluga might actually prove useful. I could even push for a focus on the idea of ‘discrimination’ against Belugas. Why not? The fate of Beluga has been shown to be ‘poor’. We need to consider Maris’ recent death in Atlanta.

Keeping Belugas in captivity is really more about controlling the population in order to allow money to be made. It is about the circuits of capitalism reaching the Beluga as an object of profit. We don’t hear much of this phenomena at the moment but it underlies much of what is happening. If a Beluga dies, it is always ‘a complete mystery’. Whether it’s Vancouver or Atlanta.

On October 24, 2015, I read, while in Scotland, that “Maris the beluga whale dies suddenly at Georgia Aquarium [emphasis mine] (Source: Faith Karimi, CNN).

We are told that Maris, who was born in the New York Aquarium, in 1994 lived for 10 years at the site in Atlanta and died on October 22, 2015.

It’s well known that Maris had given birth to two babies, both of whom died. The first baby died in 2012 only days after birth, and the second, after less than a month. There are two Belugas left at the Georgia Aquarium – Grayson and Qinu.

Karimi, the reporter from CNN, obtained this quote from PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals). “Maris was denied her freedom her entire life. She was transferred from one facility to another, and her babies died, one after the other. Whether or not she had a physical ailment that went unnoticed, she was killed by captivity, plain and simple.”— PETA senior vice president Lisa Lange.

Okay, we know the drill. Aquariums argue that belugas in captivity (modified, with the phrase ‘belugas in human care’) enable scientists to better comprehend them in the wild. Latest ‘ethical’ research, needless to say, focuses on how ‘underwater sounds’ affect belugas — including the human-created noise-pollution created by industrial or military activity? The Aquarium is a lab, effectively. Biologists from respected universities are involved in this project and do not have to wrestle with any sort of conundrum relating to ethics. It is taken as a given that this is, ‘good’ research – no questions asked.

Karimi continues to explain that “The data can be combined and applied to help conserve and protect wild belugas from threats in their natural habitats”, according to the Georgia Aquarium website.

It’s clear that the Georgia Aquarium has been very careful to maintain the position that Maris, 21, “showed no signs of illness before her death. She ate and interacted normally with Grayson and Qinu, the other two beluga whales at the aquarium.This is a case of sudden, acute animal death. Our animals receive exceptional care, and our dedicated team of experts responded to her within minutes to render aid.”— Dr. Gregory Bossart, Chief Veterinarian at the Georgia Aquarium.

All the public is told is: “An autopsy is underway”.

End of discussion.

What is curious is that only recently we heard of one Beluga death and then another at Vancouver Aquarium in Canada. It would not have been difficult to put a sentence about that. The second one was said to have been due to pneumonia.

Care2care.com reports “In 2012, the aquarium filed a controversial petition to bring 18 wild-caught belugas here from Russia who would be split up at different facilities under breeding and loan agreements. Unfortunately for those supporting the effort, in September a federal judge shut down the effort”. We’re told there’s pressure on “The National Marine Fisheries Service to declare the population of belugas, suffering from captures in Russia, as depleted, under the Marine Mammal Protection Act”.

In the context of another published CNN news article, “SeaWorld can expand its tank but not breed whales, board rules” all eyes are likely now focused on the Georgia Aquarium’s desire to ‘grow’ belugas.

I have reflected briefly on ‘animal/human’ interaction and the assumptions humans make when beginning to use models of observation. I have asked that readers reconsider the idea of Belugas in labs. I suggest here, that there may be a benefit in actually applying human social theory to the fate of the captive Beluga.

I will leave you with this final thought.The light/colour/frequency spectrum experienced by humans, that, compared with the receptors that cetaceans/animals/birds experience, confines us to a uniquely human world. We can never enter the complete experiential world that enables the ‘others’ in the animal kingdoms and the seas, to exist on the same planet. Technology will never enable us to ‘see’ the colours/frequencies that non-humans experience – not even with Hubble style magnification. To that extent we should understand an inherent disability — so is this the anthropological blind leading the blind?

If we see that our ways of seeing are blind to the ways that the Beluga sees — just one ‘animal’ example — we might be able to better understand their deaths in the aquarium setting. To understand if the Beluga and the baby beluga experiences culture-shock in the Aquarium fishbowl, the ‘Bubble’must first be burst.