—  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

 

Unknown artist illustration in Blackie’s Encyclopedia, 1880
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

 

Photo credit: Carl Court  Art by Banksy, Steve Jobs mural at Calais refugee camp, France. 

The Question before us:

What are the potentials and limitations of social analysis of art?

Banksy essay _copyright Diane Walsh _2015

My attempt at inserting Banksy into academic analysis. What fun!

 

Standing up for Perspectivism! DRAFT ESSAY Ontological_Turn_essay_Perspectivism_

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

photo

https://gorillaradioblog.blogspot.com/2015/12/whitewhale-shock-to-system.html

Google Eduardo Kohn, PhD, Anthropologist to learn more about trans-species and multi-species  anthropology.

And, if you have time, read, for example, this Anthropology Essay_(c)Mediageode2015

 

 

 

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.

GA_FGM_UNGeneva May 2015
FGM News update
Elisabeth Wilson, Co-founder of the Global Alliance against FGM (GA-FGM), and Canadian component of this Canadian-German initiative made this announcement today:
“Since May 11, 2015, The United Nations Director General, His Excellency Michael Møller officially supports our awareness campaign against FGM called YES YOU CAN SAY NO-PICTURE IT
You may consult Facebook page (UN Geneva), twitter and flicker accounts and the United Nations official website in New-York for more information.
As you may have already observed there are Canadian First Nations leaders proudly stepping into uncharted territory. In assisting GA-FGM they’ve heard with their heart, their sisters of the southern hemisphere cry for help and responded to it. Even though they themselves by their own tradition are not directly impacted by FGM.
In picture above, UNOG’s DG (middle), the co-founders of the GAFGM,  Holger Postulart and Elizabeth Wilson (right), 2 of GAFGM Goodwill Ambassadors, Captain Christine de St Genois GA-FGM’s Ambassador to the United Nations and Pat “Halfmoon” Bruderer,  GAFGM’s Ambassador in Canada (left). Pat is the first Aboriginal woman to step into the cause.
Also, since Februrary 5, 2015, Great Chief Constant Awashish (PQ), became the first Aboriginal Chief to support the global fight against FGM.
Elisabeth Wilson is the Director of Communications. #GAFGM is Global Alliance Against FGM Website is www.global-alliance-fgm.org

Note: In French, GAFGM is AGFGM Alliance Globale contre les Mutilations génitales féminines

 

May 1, 2015 – Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement here.

The last two weeks of April 2015 saw the ground break in the global fight against Female Genital Mutilation (FGM). The regressive and regrettable article in The Atlantic, entitled ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised‘, is causing a major uproar on Twitter.

From the hidden depths of the #EndFGM twitter movement to the ears of Melinda Gates of the Gates Foundation is an outcry of complaint. Melinda Gates is said to have wholly endorsed Olga Khazan’s article in a misjudged tweet and this is continuing to reverberate across Twitter and perhaps understandably so. FGM survivors (using hashtags #NoFGM #EndFGM) are gobsmacked by The Atlantic publication’s language-usage for a start.

An angry firestorm across twitter explained it was felt that the content of the article was more than questionable. It was believed to have had a hand in glamorizing FGM.

According to the undisputed definition by the World Health Organisation, FGM is all procedures involving partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or injury to the female genital organs for non-therapeutic reasons. (Including the Clitoris and/or inner two labia lips). Artistic rendition here.

All this ‘fuss’ has had the effect of galvanizing efforts on Twitter for a united front which presses for FGM Education specifically in the U.S.

We can find comfort in that the United Nations 2012 Official FGM Resolution is unequivocal. The goal is total eradication of FGM including any and all the efforts to justify it. Spearheading much of the unified response is one of the movers and shakers on the anti-FGM front. Hibo Wardere is a formidable anti-FGM activist based in UK London. She is FGM coordinator for Waltham Forest and a mediator-educator. Integrate Bristol Charity @FGMSilentScream and thousands of others in Europe, the U.S. and Canada also present themselves in solidarity, taking the bull by the horns as the United Nations has done, tackling the practice as an FGM with no excuses.

The Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists @RCObsGyn has issued a statement about their concerns over The Atlantic article (see end of this post for details.

Having covered the subject and worked in the field myself, I too chimed in. Re-coining and revitalizing the term, anthro-apologists, shouting out, saying No to Anthro/Apologists, this very second!  Please see a more detailed discussion here.  Credit: Hilary Burrage FGM not FGC-FC - image credit Hilary Burrage Blog

I join in, challenging any apologist-anthropologist bleating on about the female genital cutting (FGC)/female circumcism (FC) so-called ‘choice’ messaging. It’s Female Genital-Mutilation for goodness sake.

FGM is everyone’s fight. Here is the battle line:

On the damaging and poisonous message that the article-titled ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised’ communicates – The Atlantic was advised to issue a response.

Activists ask directly – Is The Atlantic guilty of a subterfuge in condoning the use of overt apologetic language ‘defending FC’ and by describing the ‘choice’ defense thus participating in the antic?

Is one of the most insidious of human-rights violations when the mainstream media posits the practice of FGM as a ‘choice’ and calls it cutting and circumcism?

In my view, yes. No worst evil than condoning the practice in this sneaky way.

Why did a longstanding, high-currency American publication in Washington DC brazenly publish disinformation? Sheer ignorance or something more sinister?

The UN Resolution against FGM passed in 2012 and the breath of the world-wide movement is moving against justifying slicing off girl’s private parts. Using ‘choice’ rhetoric as means of suggesting, a deeper-understanding, is beyond the pale.

When you click the Twitter share-button for The Atlantic article, it then takes you to this sentence, “What many people don’t understand about [Female Circumcism] sic”. A nuance, noticed by careful watchers concerned about the title of article in the first place; which still remains as ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised despite survivor’s protestations.

Please also read my 2014 article “We are the ones who can’t be ignored” on #GAFGM #AntiFGMGlobal global activists and the migration of FGM on Western soil and my 2013 UN Special Magazine article about the global context of the UN 2012 Resolution, UN Special.

————

Update: Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté is one of the signatories for 2012 UN Resolution. He is Executive Director of Inter-African Committee and a UN Expert. Given his strong diplomatic mediation skills and connections internationally, it made sense that the details of the uproar about The Atlantic article were communicated to him. He agreed to make a formal statement. Dr. Morissanda Kouyate’s statement is also included here below. Since then, The Atlantic responded in agreeing to post a blog re: concerns. Contact @hilaryburrage for more details on what was agreed.

Tweet to The Atlantic - follow up on Dr. Morissanda's statement_May 1-2015 Dr. Morissanda Kouyate _IAC - response to The Atlantic Article _2015

Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists

– @RCObsGyn

Joint statement on story about women choosing to be circumcised

News 23 April 2015

The Intercollegiate FGM Group, along with the International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics (FIGO) and International Confederation of Midwives (ICM) have read the article on why some women choose to be circumcised published on 8 April 2015. We are extremely concerned by the way FGM is treated in the article.

While we welcome new social scientific research into the complex reasons why FGM occurs across societies, since it helps us to better understand the phenomena and thereby enable us to prevent it, articles such as this are retrograde.

This is our collective position:

  • We agree that FGM is child abuse and a severe form of violence against women and girls.
  • We agree that FGM is a violation of the rights of the child and a violation of the rights of women and girls.
  • We agree that the medicalisation of FGM must stop.

We know that in some communities, FGM occurs because it is regarded as a tradition, a rite of passage. On the surface, it may appear that the girls themselves willingly subject themselves to be circumcised, with their families’ blessing.

However, this does not make the practice acceptable. It is wrong to suggest that children can chose to undergo FGM. Many of these girls are underage and therefore they are not in a position to give informed consent to a practice that has lifelong physical and psychological consequences. Similarly, they may be under intense social pressure to have FGM and may also be unaware of what the procedure truly entails and the long term impact on their sexual and reproductive health.

There is no compelling argument to excuse FGM. The long-term physical, psychological and emotional trauma from FGM (not fully addressed in the article, some of which are transgenerational) which healthcare professionals and the women themselves are only too aware of, mean that there are no benefits but significant harm attached to the practice.

Notes – The Intercollegiate FGM Group comprises the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, Royal College of Midwives, Royal College of Nursing, Community Practitioners and Health Visitors Association (CPHVA) and Equality Now.

——

Diane’s suggested links to peruse in conjunction with the above FGM News update

UN 2012 United Nations Official FGM Resolution https://indydianewalsh.files.wordpress.com/2012/12/resolution-unga-english2.pdf

Global context: post by highly respected anti FGM activist Dr. Morissanda Kouyaté, one of the signatories http://www.morissanda.com/mgffgm.htm

Florence Ali now sadly has died; worked with Inter-African Committee with Dr. Kouyté. Highlights the steep uphill battle fighting FGM and the apologists. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/fgm-in-ghana-what-local-african-organisations-are-doing-to-eliminate-female-genital-mutilation-8537898.html

International-migration factor: FGM in Western-countries

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/womens-politics/10980268/FGM-affects-137000-women-in-England-and-Wales-reveals-shocking-new-study.html

(DW coverage)

UN Geneva/New York http://www.unspecial.org/2013/02/change-the-fate-of-girls-it%E2%80%99s-in-our-hands/ covers

U.S.A. context https://indydianewalsh.com/2014/11/17/we-are-the-ones-that-cant-be-ignored/ U.S.A context

University of Geneva first University FGM Chair 2015 http://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/female-genital-mutilation_university-of-geneva-chair-to-fight-fgm/41256858

Canada http://thelasource.com/en/2014/03/03/canadian-artists-at-the-un-say-no-to-fgm/

With special emphasis now on Western soil, the UK is said to be leading the movement: “Tackling FGM in the UK: Intercollegiate recommendations for identifying, recording and reporting” provides overview https://www.rcog.org.uk/globalassets/documents/news/tackingfgmuk.pdf

The strongest leadership we’ve seen to date; the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists allies with FGM activists/survivors. The ill-considered article in The Atlantic  ‘Why Some Women Choose to Get Circumcised gets a response which can’t be ignored. Read statement above or at @RCObsGyn on twitter.

Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (98)

Walkers took to the U.S. Capital to raise awareness about Female Genital Mutilation November 8 2014

By Diane Walsh – Washington DC

A momentous event took place in the U.S. capital city last weekend which I can confidently describe as nothing other than ground-breaking.

A first of its kind in the Washington DC area was this remarkable Walk against Female Genital Mutilation at the Washington Monument hosted by the Global Woman P.E.A.CE Foundation.

Full credit and accolade is due to the G.W.P.F. for the Walk’s bounding success.

Its courageous aim was designed specifically to have Walkers circle the paths around the Washington Monument in an effort to raise profile of the growing problem of FGM on Western soil. Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (89) The evidence of Female Genital Mutilation as the imported but ‘unseen’ underground practice occurring as a result of international migration continues to mount.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation is a well-vetted woman’s rights and peace organization with registered U.S. charity status based in Fairfax, Virginia. With its strong organizational reputation and links to the worldwide movement against FGM the Walk was successful in being able to attract a diverse group of participants from all over U.S. (including Canada) agreeing to participate as Sponsored Walkers.

Walkers raised their own sponsorship and joined in the cause on the freezing cold but sunny Saturday morning, and as one of the proud walkers I can say it was not only an incredible experience but a worthy measure to create globalized action with American leadership. Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (10) I met up with the tightly knit group of international anti-FGM activists who gathered together at the NW corner of the Point to raise needed awareness with specific emphasis on the US situation.

The event urged that immediate action be taken on U.S. soil to ensure complete prevention of FGM. Included in this commitment is the understanding of it never being able to take place in the U.S.

The Walk also emphasized the need to secure the goal of a U.S. commitment to complete eradication worldwide in partnership and solidarity with the 2010 UN resolution against FGM activists. The Walk, itself, on the day of, may have been missed by (a seemingly sleepy) Washington Post who failed to provide coverage of the event despite told told of its global importance. But that’s not to say they can’t make up for it! Washington DC FGM Walk - Nov 8 2014 - GWPF (c) mediageode 2014 with permision (85) The Walk was picked up repeatedly by the international press and news spread on social media with exuberance. Here in this video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fIJBdzv2ISU is one the speakers invited as a key note, Barbara Mhangami. She is a feminist poet and researcher who travelled from Michigan. She, among others, is an example of the shinning talent and commitment of the some of the ‘Activist Walkers’ who sought to promote the G.W.P.F.’s aim to open a Crisis Centre right in DC. Guaranteed preventive action against FGM for girls living in the U.S. and medical provision for women who have undergone FGM, is, key.

More pictures of speakers and walk attendees can be found here.

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E Foundation is committed to real action on the ground. It has now raised leading awareness, publicly, in the U.S. Capital which can’t be denied. The Walk succeeded in pushing strongly against Female Genital Mutilation, focused on exposing incidents of the practice on U.S. soil and at the same time recognizing the importance of working in collaboration and in-solidarity with a global alliance of activists-against-FGM to help build identification and response services to address the problem.

FGM has spread to ‘Western soil’, this is undisputed in Europe. It leaked out just recently that FGM has occurred in the U.S. – and this must not be allowed to go unnoticed and unrecorded.

Information is that family groups have joined with other family groups to raise money to ‘import the cutter’ to perform FGM in secret. No one can argue that this isn’t heinous. Frankly it’s ghastly that it happens in North America at all.

The 2014 Walk again FGM in the U.S. Capital is being recognized worldwide on social media and is beginning to galvanize efforts to put this issue at the top of the U.S. political agenda. 

More information can be found on twitter, using the hashtags #GAFGM later #AntiFGMGlobal and you can follow me @dwalshmedia to learn more about Identification and Response Services, the Global Alliance activists and anti-FGM solidarity groups.

@1GlobalWoman Press Release is copy provided here:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

http://www.globalwomanpeacefoundation.org

GLOBAL WOMAN P.E.A.C.E. FOUNDATION WALK TO END FGM, A GREAT SUCCESS!

November 12, 2014: Fairfax, VA. – Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation (GWPF) was joined by its partners and supporters on Saturday, November 8th on the Washington National Mall to “Walk to End FGM”. 

The day began with music, as the crowd gathered to get outfitted in warm clothing and t-shirts.  Families and their children assembled in the chilly early morning sun but the atmosphere was positive. 

Everyone was there to be a part of a memorable occasion; they were there to participate in the first annual walk to end female genital mutilation (FGM). 

No other organization has ever held a walkathon against the practice of female genital mutilation in Washington, D.C. As the temperature began to rise, 14 teams of walkers lined up after bananas, granola bars, peanuts and water had been distributed to the crowd by many volunteers.

The teams of walkers made their way up Constitution Avenue toward the memorials of World War II, Vietnam Veterans, Lincoln, Korean War, Martin Luther King and the Washington Monument.  The crowd returned with enthusiasm to the National Mall to listen to a series of speakers tell them about female genital mutilation. 

Participants came from as far as Canada, Massachusetts, Florida, Arizona, Indiana, Michigan, Pennsylvania, New York, Richmond, Virginia, Hagerstown, Maryland, etc. CEO and President of IMA World Health, Rick Santos shared stories of violence against women and girls in various countries he had visited.

Dr. Martha Allen, Director of the Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press read a list of FGM survivors and activists around the world, while David Rawls, In-Country Director of Hope 2 Liberia recounted his trips to Liberia where his organization is building a school to help end FGM through education. 

UniteWomen.org’s Board Member, Shannon Fisher told the crowd, “Female genital mutilation has been illegal in the United States since 1996, and transporting girls out of the U.S. for FGM is now punishable by five years in jail. But the procedure is still performed in private, and it has gone largely underground.” 

Vice President and Co-Founder of We Are Woman, Alaina LaTourette talked about the violation of the female body and FGM, while Summer Pearson, Global Woman’s Board Member read a special message from Dr. E. Faye Williams, President and CEO of the National Congress of Black Women, “It is said that the civilization of a nation is determined by the way it treats its women and its children.  By that measure, most nations have a long way to go to be considered civilized.  Certainly no nation that permits mutilation of the genitals of its young girls can be called civilized.  This is one of the worst forms of violence against women.” 

Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, a Public Health Practitioner shared a special poem she and wrote and dedicated to all of the mutilated little girls, “Imagine a girl suddenly thrust onto a mat on a floor, in a hut in the forest, or on an operating table in a doctor’s office.  Imagine the shock, confusion and horror as she watches her mother, aunt and grandmother turn and walk away.” 

The crowd did not expect what came next, when the President of Change Agent Network, Annie Wright took the stage and told her personal story through tears about how her mother died in childbirth as the result of FGM, and she too was taken at 7 years old to the ‘bush’ and was mutilated.  Annie stood tall on the stage and divulged to the public for the first time, “I can stand here today and say that I am a survivor of FGM.  I was told never to tell anyone, and I never told anyone until Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation invited me to their focus group meeting.” Entertainment was provided by local groups, the Liturgical Dance Group and the Chosen Generation Dance Group. 

Media coverage was provided by PressThePresident, BRITE Radio, Loudon Woman Magazine, Diane Walsh and Alexandra Gerard. The program continued with Angela Peabody, President of the host organization reading a speech sent from Liberia by an FGM survivor, Eva Flomo. Flomo wrote, “America, do you want to be labeled as the nation that stood by and watched countless little girls get mutilated or die simply because it doesn’t affect you directly? You lead the free world; make it freer for little girls and women in Africa and other parts of the world actively practicing FGM.” In conclusion, Peabody announced the 3 winning teams. 

The Women’s Institute for Freedom of the Press team took the first prize for raising the most money, the FGM No More team walked away with the 2nd prize, while the BRITE Peace Walkers team took 3rd prize. The proceeds raised from “Walk to End FGM” will help establish a special support center in the Washington, D.C. metro area, expected to open in 2015.  The support center is expected to include a hotline with trained phone counselors, career assistance and capacity building for the girls and women affected by FGM.

— Lydia Sherwood, Presto Public Relations

Global Woman P.E.A.C.E. Foundation is a registered 501c3 non-profit organization with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service.  As such, your donations are tax deductible to the maximum extent required by law.