Tag Archives: animal welfare

Rock band fighting for sea turtles with clothing line

Mexican rock band Mana is expanding its fight to save endangered sea turtles with a clothing line.

The band, known for its environmental activism, is stepping into the fashion industry with Ritos del Sol, a line of ecofriendly jeans and T-shirts for men and women.

A percentage of each sale will be donated to the group’s Selva Negra Foundation, the nonprofit it created in 1995 to raise awareness and take real action to save endangered species and help underserved communities around the world. It offers four lines — Selva Negra, Cosmos, Laberinto de Concreto and Inframundo — with designs that go from abstract prints inspired in flora and fauna to skulls and a skeleton’s ribs.

The musicians said the idea was presented to them a couple years ago by the designers at a Puebla, Mexico clothing factory owned by a cousin of vocalist Fher.

“The clothing that he makes uses 25 percent of the water that the factories normally use in Mexico,” Fher said. “They are also good to their employees, it’s fair trade, and they work in indigenous communities not only in Puebla but in Oaxaca.”

Drummer Alex Gonzalez said band members weren’t initially convinced because “it’s not that easy to launch a clothing line and we have seen other bands and other artists (doing it) and some of them have done well, other not so much.

“But more than a business for the band, we wanted for it to be a positive idea and proposal so that when people would buy the clothes they would know that they are doing something beneficial for the environment,” he added. “So Fher came up with this idea of supporting the sea turtles that we have in Mexico.”

All four band members were involved in the designs of the T-shirts.

“At the end of the day, it had to be clothing that we wanted to use, both on and offstage,” Gonzalez said.


On the Web




The band, known for its environmental activism, is stepping into the fashion industry with Ritos del Sol, a line of ecofriendly jeans and T-shirts for men and women.
The band, known for its environmental activism, is stepping into the fashion industry with Ritos del Sol, a line of ecofriendly jeans and T-shirts for men and women.

Spain’s top court overturns local ban on bullfighting

Spain’s top court overruled a local ban against bullfighting in the powerful northeastern region of Catalonia, saying it violated a national law protecting the much-disputed spectacle.

The Constitutional Court ruled that Catalan authorities generally could regulate such public spectacles, and even outlaw them, but in this case the national parliament’s ruling that bullfighting is part of Spain’s heritage must prevail.

Catalonia banned bullfighting in 2010. The decision was part of the growing movement against bullfighting but it was also seen as another step in the Catalan government’s push to break away from Spain.

The ban had little practical effect as Catalonia had only one functioning bullring — in its capital, Barcelona — but neither is the court decision likely to greatly change things.

“There’ll be no bullfights in Catalonia regardless of what the Constitutional Court says,” Catalan Land Minister Josep Rulls said.

The World Animal Protection group described the decision as “outrageous,” adding that “cultural heritage does not justify an activity that relies on animal torture and indefensible levels of suffering.”

But the Fighting Bull Foundation of breeders, matadors, ring workers, aficionados and event organizers welcomed the news, warning that attempts to prevent bullfights in Catalonia would now be illegal.

Catalonia’s last bullfight was in 2011 before the region’s ban took effect.

The court ruling followed a challenge to the ban by the conservative Popular Party headed by acting Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy.

Catalonia said it banned bullfighting to protect the animals but it continues to allow popular events featuring the chasing and taunting of bulls with flaming balls of wax or fireworks affixed to their horns.

Bullfighting and bull-related events in summer festivals remain immensely popular throughout Spain although animal rights groups have gained some ground in their campaigns.

Catalonia, with a population of 7.5 million, is a wealthy region with its own language and a large degree of self-rule. Its current government is pushing to hold an independence referendum and secede from Spain in 2017. Spain has said it will not allow either.

WashU stops intubation training using cats, ending practice in US

Washington University in St. Louis said that it has stopped using sedated cats to train medical students how to insert breathing tubes down babies’ throats, effectively ending the practice in the U.S.

The university’s School of Medicine said in a statement that after a “significant investment” in its simulation center, it will now provide neonatal intubation training using only mannequins and advanced simulators, effective immediately.

The school said improvements in simulators made the change possible. Cats currently at the university are being adopted by employees of the medical center.

“In the 25-plus years the university has relied on cats in teaching this procedure, none was harmed during training,” the statement read.

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a medical ethics nonprofit, applauded the decision, saying the practice was cruel to animals and unnecessary for students. The group said it was the last of the 198 U.S. pediatrics programs still using cats.

“The best way to teach emergency airway intervention is on human-relevant training methods. I commend Washington University for switching to modern methods,” said Dr. John Pippin, director of academic affairs for the Physicians Committee.

Washington University’s use of cats has drawn criticism in recent years, with critics contending that the animals suffer pain and injuries ranging from cracked teeth to punctured lungs. Protests broke out in 2013 after an undercover video of the university’s training in pediatric advanced life support was released by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The video shows a trainee putting tubes down the throat of a sedated cat, sometimes struggling to get it right. However, the medical school continued using sedated cats in other training programs prior to Monday’ announcement.

But university officials have said the lab consistently met federal Animal Welfare Act standards, including passing an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture soon after the PETA video.

Other teaching labs have used simulators for years, but Washington University previously cited research indicating that pediatric doctors in training only succeed in 20 percent to 35 percent of their initial attempts to intubate infants, justifying the need for animals in training.

The program previously used ferrets, too, but university spokeswoman Judy Martin said ferrets have not been used for many years.

Arkansas fest drops 6 turkeys from plane, 1 dies

Six live turkeys were dropped from a small plane as part of a northwestern Arkansas community’s annual tradition, with one of the six apparently dying when it hit the ground.

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reports that about 400 people attended the Turkey Trot festival in Yellville, which is about 90 miles north of Little Rock.

The turkeys initially dropped straight down for a while before most got their bearings and glided to a landing.

Festivalgoers took off after the birds trying to catch them.

Animal-welfare groups have condemned the tradition, which has been going on for about 50 years. However, no protesters were seen at this year’s event.

Turkeys can fly, but usually at less than 100 feet. They’re dropped from about 500 feet.

Sixty-six-year-old Barb Klug of Bull Shoals said she planned to serve the dead turkey for Thanksgiving dinner.

Global wildlife meeting approves ban on trade in pangolins

The pangolin is described as the most heavily trafficked mammal in the world. The nocturnal, ant-eating animal got a much-needed boost this week at a U.N. wildlife conference that approved a ban on trade in all eight species of Asian and African pangolins.

The small creature is heavily poached for its meat and scales that are used in traditional medicine in parts of Asia. There is also a market for pangolin products in Africa.

Delegates approved a ban on trade in seven pangolin species by consensus at a meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora, or CITES.

Debate on trade in one of the Asian species of pangolin went to a vote, and only Indonesia objected. China, a major consumer of pangolins, as well as Oman, Japan, Namibia and Madagascar, abstained.

The pangolin decision is expected to be approved at a plenary session next week.

The meeting of CITES, which regulates wildlife trade, ends Oct. 5. About 180 countries are participating in the conference.

CITES previously required controls on any trade in Asian pangolins in an effort to ensure their survival. The new decision effectively prohibits virtually all commercial trade, allowing it only in what CITES calls “exceptional circumstances.”

Pangolins are the most “heavily trafficked mammal in the world,” said Colman O’Criodain, an expert with the WWF conservation group. He said the next step is for countries to implement the ban on trade, as well as move against illegal trafficking in pangolins.

More than one million pangolins have been slaughtered in the past decade, according to some estimates.

Pangolin scales are made of keratin, a protein also found in human fingernails.

Nearly 20 tons of pangolin scales were seized from illegal shipments originating from Africa between 2013 and this year, according to U.S. officials. They said the scales came from as many as 39,000 pangolins.

The CITES meeting seeks to protect “iconic” species such as the lion and elephant, but it also debates the survival of lesser-known species such as the pangolin, said Dan Ashe, director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

“There are literally dozens to hundreds of species being considered here that you or I would probably not even recognize,” Ashe said in an interview with The Associated Press. “That’s the magic of this convention.”

Film questions brutal Canadian tradition of clubbing baby seals to death

It’s a hard movie to watch: Hunters clubbing baby seals to death and bloodying the otherwise pristine ice of the Canadian Arctic.

But for the Cape Cod-based International Fund for Animal Welfare, Huntwatch, a new documentary about the fight to end commercial seal hunts, is a story that needs to be told.

The film, which premieres next month on Discovery, very nearly was doomed to oblivion. It includes grainy footage that had languished for nearly five decades in the basement of the group’s global headquarters in Yarmouth Port, Massachusetts.

“We really just want people to watch the film, look at all sides of the issue, and decide if this hunt still should be happening,” said IFAW spokeswoman Kerry Branon, a co-producer on the film.

Indigenous people still harvest seals for food in Canada, but the bloody slaughters chronicled in Huntwatch involve white hunters looking to cash in on the pelts of young harp seals.

Despite long-standing bans on the trade in fur and other seal products strictly enforced by the U.S., the European Union and much of the rest of the world, Canada still subsidizes the shockingly brutal annual hunt. Animal rights groups are still pressuring the Canadian government to phase out the practice, which was the Cape Cod organization’s founding campaign.

Canada’s Department of Fisheries and Oceans won’t budge, spokesman Frank Stanek told The Associated Press.

“The government of Canada believes in the sustainable use of a renewable resource such as the harp seal,” Stanek said, calling the harvest “an important economic and cultural activity.” He said officials are “committed to maintaining (the few) existing markets for Canadian seal products and supporting the development of potential new markets.”

IFAW’s Richard Moos, who co-produced the film with Branon, said the seal slaughter ought to have ceased for good many decades ago for the same reason that ended whaling at the turn of the 19th century: There’s no longer a viable market for it.

But old traditions, even gory ones that reflect Middle Age sensibilities more than modern ones, die hard.

Huntwatch is directed by renowned animal rights activist Brant Backlund and narrated by actor Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian. It was screened earlier this year at film festivals in New York; Boulder, Colorado; Newport Beach, California; and Middlebury, Vermont.

Discovery and Lionsgate plan to distribute it internationally, starting with a limited theatrical run in New York City and Los Angeles and its premier on Discovery at 10 p.m. EDT on Sept. 22.

“From the get-go, I wanted to make sure the film didn’t feel like a one-sided propaganda piece,” Backlund said in a statement. “The Canadian seal hunt is a very complicated issue with no easy answer.”

Another challenge: Toning down the gore.

“Some of the footage in our archive is incredibly disturbing, so we had to find a way to make the film watchable,” he said. “We worked very hard at finding lighter moments and human drama, trying to focus in on the characters to tell the story of their experiences around the seal hunt.”

Huntwatch was culled from more than 3,000 film reels, tapes and photographs in various formats dating to 1969 that documented the Canadian hunts. Branon and Moos found much of it in the cellar around 2009 as they were consolidating their archives on Cape Cod.

“We want to start a conversation,” Moos said. “Things are changing. People are waking up.”

Online: https://vimeo.com/136239742

Rob Gillies contributed from Toronto.


Animal welfare activists spar with Utah over ‘ag-gag’ law

Utah’s law banning secret filming of agricultural facilities is unconstitutional and should be struck down just as Idaho’s measure was last year, argue animal welfare activists in a new court filing.

The so-called “ag-gag” law, passed in 2012, has a chilling effect on groups trying to expose unsafe and illegal practices at slaughterhouses and factory farms, said attorneys for a group of plaintiffs that include the Animal Legal Defense Team and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Utah state officials defend the ag-gag law in their own filing, saying it doesn’t violate any constitutional protections and still allows for filming from public places and for whistleblowers to report abuses. The state argues that ag-gag promotes workplace safety by barring unskilled undercover operatives from slaughterhouses and meatpacking plants.

“These illegal acts cannot be justified by the plaintiffs’ bare desire to get a story they want to tell,” wrote Kyle Kaiser of the Utah attorney general’s office.

The dueling court filings come 10 months after a federal judge ruled that Idaho’s similar law was unconstitutional, giving animal rights activists across the country hope that the decision will pave the way to overturn similar laws in other states.

U.S. District Court Judge B. Lynn Winmill found that the Idaho law violated the First Amendment, writing in the August 2015 ruling that audio and visual can vindicate a whistleblower who otherwise might not be believed.

Utah’s ag-gag law was passed amid a wave of such laws being considered around the country. Eight other states have passed some sort of law against such surreptitious filming.

No ruling is expected anytime soon in Utah’s case, which was filed nearly three years ago.

One of the plaintiffs, Amy Meyer, was arrested under the misdemeanor statute for filming a front-end loader dumping a sick cow outside a Draper slaughterhouse in 2013. Charges against her were dropped because she recorded the scene from a public street.

Society needs people like Meyer because relying on slaughterhouses and meatpacking plant employees turning whistleblowers isn’t reliable, said PETA attorney Matthew Strugar writing the brief on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Many of these workers are undocumented or otherwise disenfranchised and are not aware of whistleblower protections,” he wrote.

Strugar argues that the measure was motivated by animosity, saying Utah’s “legislative history oozes with disdain for animal protection groups.”

The state said legislators aren’t concerned with the animal welfare groups, but rather people who go onto private property and risking the safety and security of operations underway.

“There is no broad-reaching right to enter private property illegally or under false pretenses, even if the interloper has (in his mind) a noble pursuit of doing so,” wrote Kaisel for the state.

Media groups have also joined the lawsuit, saying the law violates the First Amendment. The plaintiffs say they have three journalism experts who can testify that undercover investigations are part of the country’s “rich and celebrated journalistic history.”

“Much valuable journalism has emerged from investigations that employed subterfuge to expose wrong,” Strugar writes.


New York proposal to ban declawing cats sparks debate

For many decades, declawing cats has been a routine veterinary procedure, but this is no simple pedicure.

There’s anesthesia, pain medication and the amputation of the cat’s toes back to the first knuckle.

New York’s first-in-the-nation legislative proposal to ban the declawing of cats has sparked a heated debate among veterinarians and cat lovers alike, with some insisting it’s inhumane and others saying it should be allowed as a last resort for felines that won’t stop scratching furniture, carpets and their owners.

“None of us love the procedure,” said Richard Goldstein, a veterinarian at New York City’s Animal Medical Center and a former faculty member at Cornell University’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “But when the alternative is condemning the cat to a shelter or to death? That’s why we do it.”

The state and national veterinary organizations that say they oppose a ban on declawing do so because it’s often the only way for cats with behavioral problems to keep from being abandoned or euthanized, they say. Such medical decisions should be left to the professionals and cat owners, not lawmakers, they add.

It’s the reality of the procedure itself that has raised the backs of opponents. Unlike human nails, a cat’s claws are attached to bone, so declawing a feline requires a veterinarian to slice through tendon and nerves to remove the last segment of bone in a cat’s toes.

“It’s amputation. It is the equivalent of taking a cigar cutter and cutting the end joint off,” said Jenner Conrad, a California veterinarian who traveled to Albany this past week to lobby lawmakers for the proposed ban.

Brooklyn elementary school principal Lisa Fernandez said she declawed her own cat before she knew what it entailed. Students at her school are now participating in a lobbying campaign to urge lawmakers to support the ban.

“When I found out what it was, I was horrified,” said Fernandez.

The debate comes as Americans’ feelings about their four-legged friends continue to evolve. Another bill in New York’s Legislature would remove sales taxes on pet food, and lawmakers here voted last year to allow dogs to join their human companions on the patios of restaurants. Several states have now banned surgeries which remove a dog’s vocal cords. And all 50 states now have statutes making severe animal cruelty a felony.

“There’s a rising tide of social concern about animal welfare,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. “We’ve proven that the American public is deeply concerned about the welfare of animals, the ones that live with them and the ones used for food production.”

Australia, Britain and several European countries already ban cat declawing. It’s also illegal in Los Angeles and some other California cities. Estimates are that about a quarter of all household cats will be declawed in their lifetimes _ though vets that spoke to the AP say it’s becoming less and less common.

At the Animal Haven shelter in lower Manhattan, associate director Kendra Mara said about 10 percent of the cats up for adoption are declawed. Some of the felines who have the procedure resort to biting instead, and some avoid using the litter box because the litter can aggravate their wounds.

“It’s never an easy adoption,” she said. “There’s always the need to work on the behavior issue.”

Manhattan resident Brian Gari, one of several cat owners interviewed by the AP, inherited his 10-year-old cat Kiki when his father passed away and declawed her because “he put his furniture in front of the welfare of the cat.” Gari said Kiki has problems using the litterbox, forcing him to put her into a room lined with newspapers.

“It’s a total nightmare. I have to work around the situation,” he said. “She’s very sweet though. But she’s completely screwed up.”

Vets who spoke to the AP said cat owners increasingly turn to alternatives — scratching posts, regular clippings or small caps that go over a cat’s nails.

The New York State Veterinary Medical Society, however, remains opposed to a full ban. President Susan Wylegala said the number of declawings at her Buffalo-area practice is less than 50 percent of what it was just three years ago.

“We’re seeing it in significantly lower numbers because vets are educating clients on the alternatives that are available,” she said. “It needs to remain that last option.”