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Saturday, July 26, 2003

Aquarium's Dolphin Plans Under Attack

Here is an ethical connundrum, a pinpoint mess which speaks to the disjoint between human desires and animal lives. On the one hand, the aquarium has a sole dolphin Spinnaker -- which is bad for Spinnaker because dolphins are group oriented and extremely social beings...and they also rely upon one another in particular as they get older and of diminishing health. On the other hand, performing tricks in the confines of an aquarium's theme park tank is hardly the life a dolphin needs or deserves and while places like aquariums often make appeals to the over-riding educative concerns that legitimate the capture and use of other species, its not clear how jumping through hoops for fish educates the public as to the real needs of dolphins and how humanity is desecrating and making extinct those very needs.

It may be best if dolphins like Spinnaker were all removed to dolphin sanctuaries, where it was not possible to release them back into the sea. But, then again, the further transportation of species such as dolphins comes with its own high risks -- it isn't easy to move large sea mammals over land or air, when they belong in and require water.

To this effect, read more about the horrendous exportation of 200 dolphins from the war-torn Solomon Islands to complete a business deal (yes: dolphins are BIG business at up to $30,000/each) with Mexico. As Karen at DawnWatch noted, remember this the next time you, your family, or friends visit a place that offers the thrill of swimming with our cetacean friends...where did they come from and what did it take to get them there?

Via: CBC

The animal rights group that led the fight against whales at the Vancouver Aquarium is now turning its attention to dolphins.

The group – Coalition for No Whales in Captivity – is asking the Vancouver Park Board to ban the importation of any more dolphins.

The Aquarium says it wants to get a companion for Spinnaker – the sole dolphin at the Stanley Park facility.

But coalition spokesperson Annelise Sorg says bringing in more dolphins would only perpetuate what she calls "the water circus."

"People…think that because the belugas and the dolphins have a permanent smile on their faces, people seem to think these animals are happy.

"Nothing could be further from the truth. If you don't do the show, you don't get fed."

Sorg says she's optimistic the Park Board will go along with her request to ban the importation of all whales and dolphins.

"We have five COPE commissioners and two NPA commissioners on the board now, which makes it a dolphin-friendly park board," she says.

LINK: Coalition background on dolphin fight

LINK: Vancouver Aquarium

INTERVIEW: The Early Edition's Rick Cluff speaks with Richard O'Barry of the World Society of Protection of Animals and John Nightingale of the Vancouver Aquarium. (Real Audio, runs 10:58)

Posted by Richard
7/26/2003 10:33:33 AM | PermaLink

Friday, July 25, 2003

Whale DNA Study Makes Waves: Shows That Whales Were More Plentiful Historically Than Previously Imagined 


Challenging conventional wisdom about how many whales once roamed the seas, geneticists reported Thursday having used whale DNA to calculate that prewhaling numbers were far greater than what whaling logs indicate. Reported in this week's issue of the journal Science, the study could become a key weapon in the battle over whether to lift a ban on commercial whaling. The new estimates are certain to anger pro-whaling countries such as Japan, Norway and Iceland. If stocks were really much larger in the past, new hunts could be delayed until populations build closer to historic levels. But the estimates also upend scientific tradition.

Also see:
Gene study reveals missing whales
Whales May Have Been More Plentiful
Whales study could thwart hunts
Whale estimates too low in the past
Early Whale Population Undercounted, Study Says
New Study Warns Whale Populations Too Low for Hunting

Posted by Richard
7/25/2003 11:31:38 AM | PermaLink

Forest Destruction Threatens Asian Biodiversity

Via: Ananova

Scientists say a fifth of south-east Asia's plants and animals could disappear over the next century with the destruction of tropical forests.

Researchers have made the prediction after studying a "snapshot" of the impending ecological disaster in Singapore.

The island is typical of the region and has been studied for more than a century.

A team of Australian-led scientists used records and surveys to uncover local extinctions during the past 183 years.

The journal Nature reports that during this time, habitats of terrestrial and freshwater species have shrunk by 95%.

Forest reserves comprising just 0.25% of Singapore's total land mass are now home to more than half its remaining native species.

Butterflies, fish, birds and mammals were worst hit by extinctions.

But the scientists said there could be even higher losses among plants, crustaceans, amphibians and reptiles.

The data was used to predict what might happen to other habitats in south-east Asia over the next 100 years.

According to the forecast, between 13% and 42% of plant and animal species could vanish. At least half these losses would represent global extinctions.

The scientists, led by Barry Brook from the Northern Territory University in Darwin, Australia, wrote: "Tropical forests represent half the Earth's major reservoir of terrestrial biodiversity, yet these biomes are now gravely imperilled by anthropogenic change, including deforestation and habitat degradation."

Only large-scale conservation efforts could turn the tide and slow down the rate of extinction in south-east Asia, they said.

Posted by Richard
7/25/2003 08:01:44 AM | PermaLink

Thursday, July 24, 2003

Orthodox Leader Blesses Green Agenda

See also this BBC story from June.

Via: Christian Science Monitor

From a most unlikely quarter, the global environmental movement has gained a new leader, one with hundreds of millions of potential followers. Last month, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew I, the spiritual leader of the world's 250 million Orthodox Christians, led fellow clerics in blessing the Baltic Sea from the deck of a cruise ship. He was accompanied by nearly 200 scientists, political leaders, and journalists huddled together against the chilly Nordic night.

'To protect the oceans is to do God's work,' the Orthodox leader later said, in a speech calling for the establishment of marine protected areas and an end to overfishing. 'To harm them, even if we are ignorant of the harm we cause, is to diminish His divine creation.' [...]

Recently, [Bartholomew's] chief theologian, Metropolitan John of Pergamon, took things a step further, declaring that humans must not simply act as stewards of the environment, but as 'priests of creation,' embracing nature rather than simply managing it 'The human being is almost by its very constitution the link between creation and God,' he explained. 'We are part of nature.'

'This is historic, unique, unprecedented, and critically important,' says Mary Evelyn Tucker, a historian of religion at Bucknell University in Lewisburg, Pa. 'Orthodoxy sees the whole natural world as a sacred entity, and that makes our work within nature sacred if done within limits and boundaries.'

Posted by Richard
7/24/2003 09:35:08 AM | PermaLink

Rodeo Focus Of Animal Cruelty Investigation

Visit PETA's and then click through on the story below to vote on whether rodeo's treat animals humanely.


Organizers of the Valley Center Rodeo are the focus of a animal cruelty investigation, 10News reported.

The rodeo was held in May and the crime allegedly occurred during the bull riding competition.

Home video apparently reveals a device being used to shock the animals into performing better.

The video was obtained exclusively by 10News and shows a man jabbing at a bull several times in the chute with some sort of electrical device.

"It delivers between five- and six-thousand volts of electricity to the animal," animal rights activist Pat Vinet said.

Vinet is a volunteer for a group called Showing Animals Respect And Kindness (SHARK).

"I feel angry. I feel nothing but contempt for these people," she added.

Vinet said she felt the animals' pain as she videotaped the competition.

"If you take this device and you put it to some piece of metal with paint on it, sparks fly and eats the paint right off the surface. It's painful stuff. It hurts," Vinet said.

Vinet said she has seen similar incidents at six rodeos in Southern California during the last year.

"They do their level best to keep the American public thinking this is just good clean wholesome fun. It's nothing remotely (like) that," she said.

Valley Center Rodeo organizers told 10News that a subcontractor based in Riverside brought in the animals and that person was also responsible for handling the bulls during the event.

Gina Mitchell from the Valley Center Rodeo issued the following statement to 10News.

"They knew nothing about it and as animal lovers, don't condone any type of abuse to animals. They're very sorry and it breaks their heart to think it happened."

The San Diego Humane Society, which is heading the investigation, said even if organizers were not aware that the device was being used, that may not clear them of any wrongdoing.

"The law provides that management is responsible if something like this were to take place," Humane Society spokeswoman Gigi Bacon Theberge said.

She also said it may take a while before any charges are filed in the case, 10News reported.

Posted by Richard
7/24/2003 09:25:34 AM | PermaLink

Wednesday, July 23, 2003

Congress to Bikers: Get a Car

A nation of mis-placed can be different if we make it so.

Via: Salon

For every bike commuter who proudly pedals to work under the mantra "one less car," Congress has a message for you: Get back on the highway where you belong, burning fossil fuel like a real American. That goes for you, too, you traffic-hazard pedestrians. Fresh out of subcommittee, a new congressional transportation appropriations bill will entirely eliminate some $600 million worth of annual federal funding for bike paths, walkways and other such transportation niceties in fiscal year 2004. Defenders of the bill argue that, in light of huge federal deficits, something has to go, but for bike activists and environmentalists who have been pushing for decades for alternatives to driving, the cuts are a giant step backward.

Posted by Richard
7/23/2003 11:08:35 AM | PermaLink

Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Masked and Anonymous

What does Bob Dylan have to do with the Vegan Blog? Well, more than you will probably ever know (unless you know the author). In this case, however, my wife and I just returned from the Los Angeles premier of Bob's new film -- which he wrote and stars in amongst an all-star cast of cameos. While I read some bad press about the film, it is now much clearer why this might be the case: one, it would help if you have a brain, a soul, and a political conscience if you watch this film; two, it would help if you were interested in Bob and were able to catch the endless number of self-references and puns which are written into the script; and three, the media is not portrayed in a very friendly manner (despite the journalist's name being Tom Friend)...but as the film's ending reveals, Bob doesn't kill the press, he just takes the rap.

This film is an absolute gem and a must for Bob cats of all ages. The film works as a masterful autobiography set to the stage, the camera, and most importantly the microphone. A sort of epic allegory for the psychic, political, economic, and religious drama of the history that is encapsulated by the bookends of the civil rights struggle, the Vietnam war, and Dylan's first film Don't Look Back on the one hand and the anti-globalization, social justice and animal rights revolution, along with the Bush/Blair Terror War on the other, Masked and Anonymous does look back -- revealing a great deal, even as it cloaks and denies. Everything in this film is complicated, dialectical, and contradictory -- but the fight for liberation is real and its nice to see Bob take the shades off, put the cuffs on, and signal that as long as the fight is on, the carnival is rolling, and there is a place in the world for a juke-joint blues singer, he'll show up and do the best he can to entertain the troops.

Val Kilmer gets the line "masked and anonymous" in the film, where he plays a reformed animal wrangler who finds humanity ugly and confused and pulls a white rabbit out of his mad hat. In the end, he shares a sort of fool's wisdom with the Dylan character Jack Fate -- life is just a pantomime, all the world's a stage, and people are mostly cruel b/c they can't see their real home ("ecology" comes from the Greek word Oikos which means "home"). In the end, its all religion but not the kind you find in the church...its rather the little things that are most sacred in a world of chaos. Divine insight is fleeting and quick -- all the rest is just manipulation and dogma.

Thanks Bob for a wonderful testament and a fun night out at the art house!

Posted by Richard
7/22/2003 10:43:24 PM | PermaLink

Monday, July 21, 2003

On the Sad Lives and Abandonment of Captive Parrots

Via: DawnWatch

There is a beautifully researched and written, heartbreaking article in the Sunday, July 20, Los Angeles Times Magazine (page 25). "Plenty to Squawk About," by Mira Tweti (really) discusses the problem of abandoned parrots, and the sadness of the lives of captive parrots -- now a crisis, since exotic birds emerged as the fastest-growing pet choice in the last decade.

The article tells us that parrots, "though smart and affectionate -- make terrible pets." They do poorly in cages and "many end up obese and with serious behavioral problems such as screaming, biting, and self-mutilation by plucking out their feathers."

Yet both Petco and PetsMart sell them. The article details complaints against Petco for its treatment of animals. For example: "Many complaints about Petco from current and former employees across the country have recounted the same alarming practice: being ordered to put sick animals in the store freezer to kill them rather than have them humanely euthanized, as is the law."

Vicky Guldbech, captain of animal-control services in San Francisco, who wrote many of the citations against Petco, is quoted: "We have pictures of a freezer packed with animals that would blow your mind. There were boxes of animals lined up inside the door. It was disgusting."

We learn that the Wild Bird Conservation Act of 1992 closed the gates to the majority of the 450,000 exotic birds a year that had been imported for decades, but opened the market for breeders, producing its own dire consequences:

"Never allowed to flock, fly or freely roam trees again, many of the millions of wild parrots brought stateside before 1992 have been living out a bleak existence as captive breeders. Paired off in barren cages, often warehoused without sunlight, each passing year of their many decades-long lives is marked by watching their newly hatched young taken for the pet trade....The babies are taken as their parents fight to stop the breeders, some of whom wear protective gear to bar the parent birds' onslaught."

Tweti tells us about California Bill AB 202, sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Corbett (D-San Leandro), which would prevent the sale of unweaned birds in pet shops. Petco opposes the bill. It has been heavily amended: "Originally written to preclude pet stores from having unweaned birds on the premises, AB 202 has now been heavily amended to allow shops to have them but not sell them until they are weaned."

Yet it could still do much to hamper the trade. You can find out how to support this bill on the API website.

Focusing on the sad lives of most captive birds, Tweti quotes James Serpell, director of the Center for the Interaction of Animals and Society at the University of Pennsylvania: "For every parrot out there with a good and responsible keeper, there are perhaps hundreds that lead miserable lives; largely unloved and unwanted, kept for their curiosity value or because they were just too expensive to throw away. Most people have no idea what a huge practical and emotional investment these birds demand. They buy them because they look exotic or cute, but have no intention of becoming their partners in life."

Tweti adds, "Many birds end up abused or neglected when owners try to inhibit their natural, wild behaviors. They are kept under covers (birds will usually stay quiet in the dark), hidden away in garages, closets or back rooms. They are generally passed around to different family members or friends until, finally, they end up in an avian rescue center."

We learn that PetsMart is financing two parallel studies to examine why bird owners relinquish their birds, and how many rescue centers there actually are and how many birds they have taken in. The company, which no longer sells dogs and cats, is considering changing its policy on birds. A store executive is quoted: "I will tell you because of the legacy of this company, that we will do the right thing based on the information that we see. As a company, any pet that doesn't get placed and remain in a loving home troubles us."

Tweti writes, "Indeed, a national online petition is being circulated to halt live animal sales at the chain."

You can sign it at:

Tweti describes an infuriating article in Oprah Winfrey's magazine:

"In last December's issue of Oprah Winfrey's magazine, there was a lush home décor layout featuring a Moroccan-style living room adorned with deep jewel-toned silk pillows and palm fronds. The description read: 'A few exotic accents add to the enchantment: palms, brass trays, a bird in a gilded cage.' The bird was listed as if it were one more accessory and shown in an otherwise empty Taj Mahal-shaped cage at the back of the room."

Tweti tells us, "Unfortunately, most birds live their entire lives in the cage they were brought home in from the pet shop."

She quotes a bird "owner" who says that you wouldn't keep a porpoise in a bath tub but the equivalent is done to birds all the time. Tweti adds, "Most of this is lost on the millions of people who think having a caged bird is a good idea."

She ends the article with a sad quote provided by Frank Levine, co-founder of Parrot's first. He was manning a rescue booth. A couple came with a cage about 18 inches-by-18 inches wanting to take home a macaw, a bird that can be 3 feet long from head to tail. Levine explained to the couple that the cage was much too small. Levine recalls, "The husband says to me, 'That's OK, the tail will poke through.'"

To read the article, click here.

Posted by Richard
7/21/2003 03:36:58 PM | PermaLink

Rising Transportation Costs Hurt Working Families:House Subcommittee Plan Would Slash Affordable Transportation Options

Via: EMS

A new report shows that America's families are increasingly spending more of their family income on transportation costs. This comes as the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on Transportation and Treasury is poised to slash funding for affordable transportation options and to steer more money into car-only projects.

Published by the Surface Transportation Policy Project (STPP), the new report will be released on Tuesday, July 22 at 10 a.m. at  Also this Tuesday, STPP and other affordable transportation advocates will take part in a 1 p.m. press teleconference.

See also this factsheet on Transportation and the Environment by Transact.

Posted by Richard
7/21/2003 09:46:38 AM | PermaLink

Sunday, July 20, 2003

Flash Critique of Kraft

This is great...

Via: EarthSave

FLASH PRESENTATION: Be Part of the Kraft Experiment! Oops! You probably already are.

Posted by Richard
7/20/2003 10:03:02 AM | PermaLink