Michael Vick Says He'd Like to Own a Dog Again…
…proclaimed Fox Sports on MSN.
The public, according to an accompanying poll, was not persuaded. Jane Velez-Mitchell, of the CNN show Issues, openly disagreed with the director of a high-profile humane charity who backed Vick’s desire to have a dog in the family home. Velez-Mitchell is spot-on. It’s easy to predict that dog torturers will be eager to use any endorsements Vick gets.
For any readers who don’t know, c ourt papers said Vick played a role in the “execution” of fighting dogs who were hanged, electrocuted, drowned or slammed to death on the ground.
People often say they think of cats and dogs as family. But had Vick’s human family members been tortured or killed, the public response would be unequivocal.
“ Once an animal is placed with Michael Vick t hat animal belongs to Michael Vick,” said New York activist Jim Allen. “ I am constantly told in my law job to favor the client. Here the client is not being favored, but forgotten--subject to chance and uncertainty.”
Melissa Harris-Perry, associate professor of politics and African-American studies at Princeton University, recently wrote about the public response to Vick’s case, observing that some animal advocacy has involved insensitivity to race-based discrimination. This observation underscores the importance of supporting advocacy that takes discrimination between human groups seriously. But it is not (and did not purport to be) a clincher argument for putting another dog at risk.
New York City advocate Ellie Maldonado reminded members of the VeganViews online discussion list about arguments claiming a culture of machismo, not race, brings people to breed and train dogs for the purpose of fighting.
Animals as Spectacles
Activists worldwide are putting pressure on rodeos, bull-riding, and bullfights. Change is slow, but coming. Last December, acting Mayor Demerval Moreira Barbosa Neto signed a city ordinance banning rodeos, bullfights and similar “events involving maltreatment and cruelty against animals” in Nova Friburgo, Rio de Janeiro. Then, in January, Spain 's leading broadcaster (state network RTVE) said it will no longer televise bullfights. The northeast region of Catalonia ended bullfighting last July, after some 180,000 people signed a petition for a ban (and the conservative opposition is now challenging the bullfighting ban in court). Activists around Madrid have collected more than 50,000 signatures.
Matadors want bullfighting managed by Spain’s ministry of culture instead of the interior department. "We feel we are artists,” claims José María Manzanares. The Senate, however, rejected the conservative Popular Party’s motion to declare bullfighting "of cultural interest" and worthy of listing on the United Nations World Heritage list.
French advocates want bullfighting outlawed. The shows are often set up in France to lure Spanish tourists. Each year in southern France, about a thousand bulls are slowly killed before cheering spectators. "In an already extremely violent world,” states a bill introduced into the French parliament last June, “adding violence to violence is disgraceful."
Circuses are also gradually losing their public appeal. Limits or bans on the use of animals in circuses have been adopted in Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Sweden, Singapore, Bolivia, Costa Rica, India and Israel, according to Animal Defenders International , and are under consideration in Brazil, Chile, Norway, Peru and Greece. In Britain, the Captive Animals Protection Society has successfully pushed for a ban on the use of undomesticated animals in circuses; the group ultimately wants to see the end of circuses using any animals at all.
Crush Videos Banned
In December, President Obama signed a ban against pornographic films wherein small animals are stomped to death. Congress banned such videos in 1999, but the Supreme Court, citing free-speech protections, struck the law down. The new, more narrowly crafted law bans sales or distribution of videos that violate cruelty bans by showing animals being burned, drowned, suffocated or impaled. The law subjects interstate sales to fines and imprisonment.
It is good to see this grotesque form of snuff film condemned. The law will, not surprisingly, permit "customary and normal veterinary or agricultural husbandry practices; the slaughter of animals for food; or hunting, trapping, or fishing." And it will not address the problem of domination in pornography; for a nuanced discussion of that, see Catharine MacKinnon’s “Of Mice and Men” essay in the book Women’s Lives – Men’s Laws or Animal Rights: Current Debates and New Directions (the piece appears in both books).
Has Coverage of Factory Farming and Animal Handling Had an Effect?
In December, the TreeHugger website claimed that a new study from Kansas State University shows how increased media coverage of animal handling has led to a decreased demand for meat in the United States.
There’s a little problem of what scientists would call a missing control group. That is: Who knows how much more demand would have decreased had all advocates worked together to advance the case for simple conscientious objection to animal farms? After all, there’s plenty of outstanding food to eat without pressing animals into the process.
No More Veal in Brookline?
Brookline , Massachusetts passed a resolution to disallow veal, according to an excited buzz on Twitter. Dairies require a market for the flesh of male calves; these calves can’t give milk, so they usually become veal. And that’s why I thought this resolution (it’s not a binding law) would be bound to stir up discussions about the connection from veal to dairy products.
Upon further delving, however, it seems that the petitioner for this particular resolution fashioned it against “crated” veal only. All veal can be described as taking babies away from their mothers, killing them, and eating them. Fortunately, we can make 2011 the year of cooking our way to a better culture. Dining With Friends: The Art of North American Vegan Cuisine is out in a new edition, featuring gluten-free desserts along with many other scrumptious offerings.
The Collapse of Israel’s hunting industry
A new bill would protect nearly all animals in Israel instead of a few species. Its passage would ban poison on the ground, prohibit the sale of animal furs, and cancel the licensing process for sport hunting; the only excuses remaining for animal control would be ecological conservation or perceived threats to humans. The Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel commended the bill; and we see it as a reason for optimism in all regions of the world.
The sad part is that free-living animals are so few by the time people are moved to do this. With the pace of encroachment on open spaces, which displaces, concentrates, and ultimately eliminates free-living animals, conservation agencies see little need for hunting. “Whereas hunting was considered a normal activity in the 20th century,” stated Ehud Zion Waldoks in the Jerusalem Post, “in the 21st century preservation of species and habitats has taken precedence.”
Shark Sanctuary in Eastern Indonesia
In a January release, Greenpeace urged “a clear solution” for companies selling tuna and other fish: “stop using wasteful fishing methods.” Sari Tolvanen, Greenpeace International Oceans Campaigner, said: “Consumers need to buy responsibly caught tuna, producers and retailers must ensure their tuna products are sourced sustainably and equitably and all should support the movement for a global network of marine reserves.” The release neglected to mention the good we can do by declaring our stomachs fish-free zones.
Meanwhile, sanctuary has arrived for animals in 17,760 square miles of waters around the Raja Ampat islands in eastern Indonesia, where sharks are threatened with local extinction. Dugongs, turtles and rays, too, are protected (rays die for traditional medicines and for food). R eef bombing and the aquarium fish trade were also banned as of November 2010, reported Agence France-Presse. Some conservationists claimed that this would be good for commerce; but a move that obstructs the aquarium trade and other forms of exploitation is good news for animal rights. It buys time for strong advocacy. Carpe diem, friends at the Vegan Society Indonesia!
Killer Whale Court Win Offers Hope for Many Marine Animals
In a case with implications for all aquatic animals in the area, Canada ’s Federal Court ruled in December that the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) had failed to adequately protect critical habitat of British Columbia’s resident killer whales ( Orcinus orca ). The decision comes at a critical time, as the government considers a proposal for oil supertankers in key habitat.
Killer whales are listed under Canada’s Species at Risk Act. At first, the DFO sought to protect critical habitat using voluntary guidelines and non-binding laws and policies. Ecojustice sued, representing the David Suzuki Foundation, Greenpeace and seven other groups.
The judge, Justice Russell, noted that the DFO was required to issue a recovery strategy for the Killer whales by June 2006, but that DFO bureaucrats tried to edit it repeatedly until finally, in March 2008, the DFO posted it to the public registry. Several months later, the lawsuit began, challenging the DFO-issued guidance to prevent destruction by industrial activity, harmful fish-catching gear, and anchors. The government-issued documents avoided dire human threats to critical habitat, including taking the salmon (the whales’ natural food) and toxic contamination.
“Endangered species,” the judge wrote, “do not have time to wait for DFO to ‘get it right.’”
Interestingly, the judge noted case law under the U.S. Endangered Species Act of 1973, such as that intended to protect the Yellowstone grizzly bear population.
The judge, calling Canadian officials “evasive” about the question, decided that ecosystem features involving acoustics, water quality, and salmon -- more than the seabed, that is -- need enforceable protections. The judge insisted that “if this dispute is not resolved there could be serious collateral consequences for other species in need of protection but lacking champions to bring their cause before the Court.”
The judge also noted that the DFO had tried to “undercut the mandatory prohibitions” of the Species at Risk Act. Under the older Fisheries Act, the government can impair critical habitat, and putting toxins into waters frequented by fish can be done through regulation at the Cabinet’s discretion. The Minister of Fisheries and Oceans has broad discretion to permit harmful sports and commerce under the Fisheries Act. “Parliament recognized that times have changed and that a more coercive approach was necessary for species protection,” stated the court.
Whales, and, by extension, the marine bio-community of British Columbia, effectively won this case. They have what amounts to the right to food and to exist as a community.
The last thing sea animals need is an ocean full of plastic and discarded food containers. In 2010, as reported by Surfline.com, one South Orange County beach clean-up at the pier collected more than 37,000 pieces of polystyrene. Change is coming. Effective July 2011, San Clemente , Calif. , will banish plastic-foam bowls, plates, trays, cups and containers at businesses serving food. Given the cost of cleaning and processing the material, there's no meaningful recycling of foam containers. Other materials, city officials say, are available, though at higher cost. Activists are now pressing to ban plastic bags, as Italy has just done. Congratulazioni!
Freedom Food? Not for Netted Fish or Shot Seals
Animal Concern in Glasgow has urged the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals to oppose an application for a new fish farm near seals in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. Under the Conservation of Seals Act of 1970, seals can be shot to prevent "serious damage" to fish stock or equipment. The RSPCA declined to take a no-kill position for seals at RSPCA Freedom Food endorsed salmon farms. (Yes, the RSPCA endorses salmon farms.)
"I note with great regret that you still allow participating farmers to shoot seals as a last resort,” wrote Animal Concern's John Robins in a letter to the RSPCA's chief executive, observing that the salmon farm and mussel lines would be within yards of seal breeding grounds and a cormorant colony. Of course, the birds and seals would hope to eat the salmon, and the farmers would repel them.
The RSPCA’s Chief Executive, Mark Watts, can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org
A Vital Alliance
In December 2009, the Environmental Law Clinic of the University of Denver’s Sturm College of Law won a reprieve with us -- a stay of the federal proposal to slay most of the deer at Valley Forge National Historical Park.
Our reprieve was temporary. Now we are proceeding to the Third Circuit Court of Appeals, to explain that the National Park Service’s attitude and policy regarding the deer, coyotes and the entire bio-community of Valley Forge Park offend the law and the park’s preservation mission.
As our culture struggles to adapt to a biodiversity crisis, a vital alliance has taken shape between the Denver clinic and our non-profit plaintiffs Friends of Animals and CARE of the Delaware Valley. The clinic brings an ecologically aware context for dialogue in North America about the meaning of animal rights, advancing a dynamic respect for free animals living in habitat. To confront plans and policies involving shooting in national parks, the students learn about the cultural, historical, and economic contexts in which these animal-control plans have arisen.
At the 2010 Animal Law Conference at Lewis & Clark Law School, we explained to students, professors, and animal advocates how we champion those animals deemed useless or detrimental to commercial enterprises and thus especially likely to be ignored.
Our work has, in the past year, been reported in some detail through NBC, Fox News, and the Associated Press, on various blogs and bulletins, and by state Sierra Club chapters. Inquirer writer Tony Wood has noted the way our arguments could be the catalyst that changes Pennsylvania law on the hunting and trapping of predators. Inquirer writer Jeff Gammage, writing for the Washington Post about our case for the Valley Forge deer, connected the policies affecting coyotes in Pennsylvania to those in the west.
Deer, There and Here
Large-scale deer ranches are planned in Scotland, driven by the notion of free-range eco-meat. Scotland's 25 small-scale farmers, who mainly raise red deer, shoot and sell the animals when the deer reach the age of two. Highland Game sells deer steaks and sausages to major supermarkets, and, to meet the demand, imports 15,000 deer carcasses annually from New Zealand.
Between a half-million and a million deer live free in Scotland. Although wolves (considered enemies of the people) were hunted out of existence by about the year 1700, their natural prey, deer, are also on the decline, because of human encroachment and management.
Meanwhile, back in the U.S., a publication printed a letter from a deer-friendly writer who said: "I am not naïve enough to think that we humans would be willing to give up our tyranny over nature. However, I fervently hope we will at least be able to identify with the innate desire in the heart of all creatures to survive as long as possible without pain, to raise their families with a modicum of peace and to live without consta nt fear and suffering."
It’s good to see a letter such as this one in print. To go forward, let us ask: Will we humans ever be willing to give up our tyranny (over each other, as well as other conscious beings and their communities)? It’s not a naïve question. It’s probably the most important one a human could ask. And if we do not, ultimately, do deer and other animals really have a chance?
- “ Michael Vick, Racial History and Animal Rights” - The Nation (30 Dec. 2010).
- To join, see http://groups.google.com/group/veganviews
- See David Chazan, “ Bullfighting Comes Under Attack in France” – BBC (31 Oct. 2010). Available: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/mobile/world-europe-11654609
- “ Wild Animals Can Relax as Hunting May Soon Be Prohibited” (25 Oct. 2010).
- Martin Hickman, “Plan for 'Deer Ranches' in Scotland” ( 12 Oct. 2010).
- Gayle Gray, “ Deer Are Just Trying to Survive” - The Ithaca Journal (Viewpoints; 24 Dec. 2010).