Tag Archives: animal rights

Animal rights group to monitor Wisconsin bear hunters despite new law

An animal rights  group plans to monitor bear hunters in Wisconsin in the first test of the state’s new hunter harassment law.

Rod Coronado, the founder of group Wolf Patrol, told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that members will document bear hunting activity in the Chequamegon-Nicolet National Forest.

“Our goal is to help law enforcement and record illegal activity,” Coronado said. “Our goal isn’t to harass hunters, but we won’t hesitate to exercise our constitutional rights.”

This year’s bear hunting season is the first to include increased protections for hunters, anglers and trappers under legislation signed in April by Gov. Scott Walker. Starting Wednesday, hunters are allowed to use dogs to hunt bears.

Coronado said the “Right to Hunt Act” impinges on the rights of non-hunting citizens to engage with the public land. He said he believes the law would be deemed unconstitutional if challenged in court.

“A bear hunter’s right isn’t greater than any other person’s right,” Coronado said. “We have as much right to be in the public forest as they do.”

Wisconsin Bear Hunters’ Association president Carl Schoettel said the law will make it easier to enforce harassment by Wolf Patrol and cut back on dangerous encounters.

“We are against anything they try to do to prevent constitutionally protected hunting activity,” Schoettel said.

The law expands protections to hunters during training, scouting and baiting activities. It prohibits actions such as remaining in a hunter’s sight to obstruct and photographing, recording or confronting a hunter more than twice with the intention to interfere.

Department of Natural Resources chief warden Todd Schaller said first offenses are a civil citation with a fine up to $500. If a person violates the law two or more times within five years, he or she would face a maximum fine of $10,000 and a sentence of up to nine months


PETA brings ‘Not a Dairy Queen’ to Dairy State for Pride

PETA will take a new outreach campaign that promotes vegan eating to LGBT Pride celebrations this summer, including this weekend’s PrideFest in Milwaukee.

An announcement from the animal rights group said the campaign stars gay vegan icon Alan Cumming sporting PETA’s new pink T-shirt that reads, “Not a Dairy Queen.”

Volunteers wearing the pink shirts will give PrideFest Milwaukee event participants free postcards bearing Alan’s image, which “have information on the back about the cruelty common in the dairy trade as well as the many health benefits of a diet free of all animal-derived food and ingredients.”

PETA said other notable gay vegetarians include Ellen DeGeneres, Boy George, Joan Jett and RuPaul’s Drag Race winner Sharon Needles, who starred in another pro-vegan campaign for the nonprofit.

State Republicans ban protesters from getting too close to hunters

The state Assembly has approved a bill that would prohibit people from bothering hunters in the woods, even though the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that states can’t place such a restriction on anti-choice activists outside abortion clinics.

The Assembly passed the bill on a voice vote April 11 with no debate. The Senate passed the bill on a voice vote last month. The measure now goes to Gov. Scott Walker. 

The bill’s Republican authors say concerns about hunter harassment have grown since the Wolf Patrol, a group of animal rights activists, followed and filmed wolf hunters in Wisconsin and Montana in 2014.

The bill would expand the definition of interference with a hunter to include remaining in a hunter’s sight and photographing or confronting a hunter more than twice with the intention to interfere. The bill is SB 338.

The law could face legal challenges. In 2014, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously in McCullen v. Coakley that setting limits on where anti-abortion protesters can stand and what they can say violates their Constitutional right to free speech.

Ringling to retire all circus elephants in May

The Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus is ending its elephant acts a year and a half early, and will retire all of its touring elephants in May.

The move comes amid increasing scrutiny of circus elephant acts with local governments passing “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances in response to concerns over animal cruelty.

The circus’s parent company, Feld Entertainment, told The Associated Press exclusively that all of the iconic elephants will be permanently retired to the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, located between Orlando and Tampa.

The company announced in March that it would retire the full herd to the center by 2018. But once officials began planning details, they realized “we could actually do this a lot sooner” because building the new structures to house the retiring elephants didn’t take as long as they originally thought, said Alana Feld, Ringling’s executive vice president and show producer. It costs about $65,000 yearly to care for each elephant, Feld said.

Eleven elephants currently tour with the circus.

“They’ll be joining the rest of the herd,” Feld said. She’s part of the family that owns Feld Entertainment, which owns the largest herd of Asian elephants in North America. In addition to the elephants still touring, 29 of the animals are on the property now, and two are on breeding loans to zoos, Feld said.

Animal rights groups on Monday applauded Ringling’s new timeline and announcement.

“Like the elephants themselves, it had outsized importance because of the symbolic value of the enterprise,” wrote Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Ringling had been one of the biggest defenders of this kind of archaic animal exploitation, and the imminent end of its traveling elephant acts signaled that even one of the most tough-minded and hardened animal-use companies now recognized that the world is changing and it had to adapt.”

Elephant acts have been showcased by Ringling for more than a century and have often been featured on its posters.

But because so many cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it became difficult to organize tours of three traveling circuses to 115 cities each year, Feld Entertainment CEO Kenneth Feld said last year. Fighting legislation in each jurisdiction is expensive, he said.

Los Angeles and Oakland prohibited the use of bull-hooks by elephant trainers and handlers last April. The city of Asheville, North Carolina, also nixed wild or exotic animals from performing in the municipally owned, 7,600-seat U.S. Cellular Center.

Ringling’s new show will begin in July without the giant pachyderms.

“We’re looking at a lot of new ways of doing things,” Feld said.

She said the retired elephants at the CEC will also be part of cancer research.

Cancer is much less common in elephants than in humans, even though the big animals’ bodies have many more cells. That’s a paradox known among scientists, and now researchers think they may have an explanation — one they say might someday lead to new ways to protect people from cancer.

Compared with just one copy in humans, elephants’ cells contain 20 copies of a major cancer-suppressing gene, two teams of scientists reported in October. The gene helps damaged cells repair themselves or self-destruct when exposed to cancer-causing substances.

The findings aren’t proof that those extra p53 genes make elephants cancer-resistant, but if future research confirms it, scientists could try to develop drugs for humans that would mimic the effect.

Dr. Joshua Schiffman, a pediatric cancer specialist at the University of Utah, is one of the researchers trying to find clues in the blood samples of some of the Ringling elephants.

“There’s so much to be learned from their DNA,” Feld said.

Animal rights activists have long alleged that circuses have mistreated elephants.

In 2014, Feld Entertainment won $25.2 million in settlements from a number of animal-rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States, ending a 14-year legal battle over allegations that Ringling circus employees mistreated elephants.

On Monday, Ingrid Newkirk, the president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, called on Ringling to end all animal acts and that “vigilance will be needed to determine how they are treated” at the Florida sanctuary.

Elephants have been a symbol of the Ringling circus for decades. P.T. Barnum brought an Asian elephant named Jumbo to America in 1882.

PETA: Witness reports minks gassed en masse on Wisconsin fur farm

An expose released this week by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, based on an eyewitness report, says a fur farm in Wisconsin killed animals en masse by pumping carbon monoxide into a metal drum.

The PETA report focused on Dillenburg Fur Farm, LLC in Wisconsin and referred to the business as “the nation’s top producer of mink fur.”

The report said workers grabbed minks by their tails and “stuffed as many as 30 of them at a time into a metal drum with carbon monoxide crudely pumped in by a running engine in order to gas them.”

The witness’ account said one mink that survived a mass gassing had its neck broken by a worker and another struggled for 20 minutes while being gassed before dying.

PETA also said cages were sprayed with a high-pressure washer while the minks were inside and the loud pressure-washer engine caused them to jump, pace and frantically bob their heads in circles.

PETA encouraged people to sign its petition to go fur-free: “I want to help end cruelty to animals by pledging to be fur-free. By signing my name, I pledge not to support this cruel industry.”

Idaho appeals ruling against state’s ‘ag-gag’ law

The state of Idaho is appealing a federal court’s decision to overturn the state’s “ag-gag” law.

The law makes it a crime to videotape agriculture operations. Idaho lawmakers passed the law in 2014 after the state’s $2.5 billion dairy industry complained that videos of weak, dying cows being beaten and stomped on at a southern Idaho dairy unfairly hurt their business.

The vicious brutality caught on video sparked a consumer backlash, as did the images of sickly, terrified cows covered with ulcers and feces being prodded with electrical rods into slaughter tunnels.

The Los Angeles-based animal rights group Mercy For Animals released the videos, shot in 2012 at Bettencourt Dairy.

Similar conditions have been documented in other states, including Wisconsin. Republican “pro-business” legislators in Wisconsin, Kentucky, Tennessee and other states have either passed or tried to pass legislation similar to Utah’s in order to protect companies from public exposure of the squalid, brutal conditions under which animals are kept in factory farms/

A federal court invalidated Utah’s law in August, holding that it violates the First Amendment.

The state appealed that ruling to the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The picture shown here is known as a “death pile.” After being crammed into spaces so small they can’t move and loaded with steroids, hormones and anibiotics to make them grow, factory farm animals end up in piles like this before their parts are butchered and sold in shiny cellophane-wrapped packages on supermarket shelves. Their short lives are lived amid conditions of unimaginable brutality and squalor.

GOP pushes law to protect armed hunters from animal rights activists with cameras

Wisconsin hunters testified before two legislative committees today about their fears of animal rights activists harming them or their dogs.

The testimony came in support of a Republican-backed bill designed to outlaw the Wolf Patrol, a group of animal rights activists who followed and filmed wolf hunters in Wisconsin and Montana in 2014 looking for illegal activity.

Although the federal government placed Great Lakes wolves back on the endangered species list in December, ending Wisconsin’s wolf hunts for the moment, bear hunters now fear the Wolf Patrol will target them for harassment.

The Senate and Assembly’s sporting heritage committees held separate hearings on the measure. Dozens of people showed up to speak, many dressed in camouflage and Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association sweatshirts.

“I don’t want someone waiting at the end of my cabin driveway waiting to follow me around,” Robyn Prince, a Clear Lake bear hunter, told the Senate committee. “This is not OK. They’re taking it above and beyond.”

The bill’s primary Assembly sponsor, Rep. Adam Jarchow, R-Balsam Lake, said he’s heard horrible stories about activists making noise while standing in front of bait piles placed by hunters to lure unsuspecting animals within close reach to be killed. He complained that activists have said mean things about hunters online, but he couldn’t cite instances in which activists were convicted of committing violent acts against hunters.

Wisconsin law already prohibits interfering with a hunting, fishing or trapping-associated activity. The bill would add scouting, dog training and baiting and feeding as hunting activities. It also would expand the definition of interference to include engaging in a number of activities more than twice with intent to impede or interfere with a hunter, including remaining in a hunter’s visual proximity, photographing a hunter, using a drone to photograph a hunter and confronting a hunter.

A first offense would be punishable by a $500 fine. A second offense within five years would be punishable by up $1,000 in fines and 90 days in jail. Subsequent offenses would be punishable by up to $10,000 in fines and nine months in jail.

Opponents argued that the state’s existing stalking laws should protect hunters. They insisted that prohibiting people from observing and taking pictures of hunters on public land would be unconstitutional and could have a chilling effect on the Department of Natural Resources’ tip hotline, which citizens use to report illegal hunting.

Patricia Randolph of Wisconsin Wildlife Ethic-Vote Our Wildlife, which works to educate lawmakers about wildlife abuse, told the Assembly committee that the bill creates a double standard. People can’t photograph hunters but hunters can photograph and bask in the glory of their kills with impunity, she said.

“This is the kind of hell this legislation protects,” Randolph said. “You want us to just stand by idly and just watch you guys kill everything? I don’t think so.”

Wolf Patrol issued a statement Wednesday evening saying no one has presented any evidence the organization has impeded or interfered with hunting or trapping. Hunters and lawmakers are trying to foster fear of the group to justify legislation that criminalizes monitoring activities on public lands, the organization said.

The hearings came less than a week after Jarchow and Moulton introduced the proposal, but its prospects look unclear. Myranda Tanck, a spokeswoman for Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald, R-Juneau, said Fitzgerald will review the measure but it won’t come to the floor in that chamber before the fall floor session ends next week.

Rep. Al Ott, R-Forest Junction, chairman of the Assembly sporting heritage committee, said the panel may vote on the measure next month after the fall floor session ends. A spokeswoman for Assembly Speaker Robin Vos, R-Rochester, had no immediate comment.

Show horse found slaughtered in Florida

Just days ago, the nearly 1,300-pound, powerful jumping horse with a shiny chestnut coat named Phedras de Blondel arrived at his new home in the United States, a farm owned by a champion rider in Florida.

On Oct. 25, his owner discovered a horrific scene near his stall: the 12-year-old gelding had been slaughtered and butchered, most likely for his meat. Only his head and neck were left intact. Now, detectives are trying to find the perpetrators.

“What they did to this horse had nothing to do with his value,” Debbie Stephens, who owns the 27-acre ranch in Palmetto, said earlier this week. She would not disclose the price she paid for the horse, but show horses can sell for tens of thousands of dollars. “It’s one of the cruelest things that could happen to any horse. This just turned my life around.”

Stephens is a veteran show jumper and holds the women’s high jump record of 7 feet, 8 inches. Her husband was a co-designer of the show jumping courses for the 2008 Olympic Games in China.

The couple and others have raised more than $18,000 toward a reward they hope will lead to an arrest. Manatee County Sheriff’s deputies say that’s what it will take to crack the case.

Horse meat is illegal in Florida, but a black market for it exists, said Nick Atwood, a spokesman for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. During the 2010 Florida Legislative Session, he said, a bill passed that strengthened the state’s restrictions on the sale of horse meat for human consumption. It is now illegal in Florida to sell, purchase, distribute, transport or possess horse meat unless “it is clearly stamped, marked, or described as horse meat for human consumption.”

There are currently no U.S. slaughterhouses that process horse meat, however, making it difficult to obtain legally.

While eating horse meat is generally taboo in the U.S., it is common in dishes in some Caribbean and European countries. Atwood said there are some people living in the U.S. willing to pay top dollar.

It’s not the first time horses have been targeted for meat in Florida. In July, animal rescue officials said a competitive show horse named “Smart Amanda Whiz” was slaughtered for its meat in Hialeah. And earlier this month, officials in Palm Beach County raided three slaughterhouses accused of illegally selling horse meat.

“The horses are slaughtered horribly,” Atwood said. “There’s no illusion of humane slaughter.”

That’s the case with Phedras, said Stephens, who said the horse was friendly and probably went with his killers willingly. She said he was likely still alive when they began to butcher him.

She said probably more than one person was involved in the slaughter because the horse was so big.

The horse was probably targeted because of his size, officials said.

“It could be the suspects scoped out this ranch,” said Dave Bristow, a spokesman from the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office. The ranch is not far from the interstate.

Stephens said she’s reinforcing her ranch to protect the other 50 horses that live on the property — and she’s planning to raise more money for the reward and speak out about the problem of illegal horse slaughter. Florida is a popular state for show horses, and she wants to protect other animals and owners.

“This can happen to anyone’s horse,” she said.

Florida bear hunt ends after 295 kills in two days

After just two days, Florida has ended its controversial black bear hunt because a higher than expected number of bears had been killed.

Wildlife authorities said late Sunday that 295 bears were slaughtered overall, nearing the official limit of 320. Officials said they did not want to risk going over that quota by allowing another day of hunting.

The first such hunt Florida has seen in 21 years drew heavy criticism from animal rights activists. At a June press conference, members of the Sierra Club, Humane Society of the United States, the Center for Biological Diversity and the League of Women Voters called upon Gov. Rick Scott to intervene and stop the hunt, deriding it as a “trophy hunt.”

But the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission said the bears have become a nuisance and threatened safety. Laura Bevan, southern regional director of the Humane Society of the United States disagreed.

“We are talking about sending trophy hunters into the woods to kill bears that are not creating the issue that the commission says it’s seeking to fix,” Bevan was quoted as saying. “There have been incidents in Florida between bears and people. Three of those were mother bears with their cubs which were disturbed while they were eating human garbage. The other one was a few doors down from where someone was feeding bears openly. So the problem is the bears that are in the garbage in our neighborhoods. It’s not the bears that are in the woods.”

Wildlife officials had already shut down hunting in designated central and east Panhandle regions of Florida after the first day Saturday. The statement late Sunday said additional North and South units were closed to hunting after the second day, meaning hunting had ended in all four “bear management units” were it was allowed.

The controversial hunt was approved by the FWC earlier this year after much debate. In the end, commission members said the black bear population had grown to 3,500 — up from a few hundred in the 1970s.blac

Bear permits were available from Aug. 3 to Oct. 23. During that period 3,778 were sold at a cost of $100 each.

The number of permits could well outnumber the bears in the state, which wildlife officials have estimated at more than 3,000.

Killer of Cecil the lion and Caitlyn Jenner are most offensive 2015 Halloween costumes

The Halloween wars focused on pop culture costum ses have heated up early this year. Petitions and social media outrage are already flying over a blood-spattered dentist’s smock paired with a Cecil-like lion head, along with a replica of Caitlyn Jenner’s cream-colored corset set she wore for her joyful coming out on the cover of Vanity Fair.

But exactly how do the latest examples in the costume clashes for a holiday with a long, bawdy history differ from always off-base behavior like blackface, ala Julianne Hough, or Prince Harry’s turn as a non-Halloween Nazi?

Is the rule of “too soon” at play? Has the digital age spawned an overly politically correct genie with no immediate plans to be stuffed back in the bottle?

Richard Lachmann, a professor at the University at Albany who includes Halloween in his sociology of culture course, said costumes seem to be more provocative every year, with equally amped-up backlash. And there’s always a base of people who feel it’s an “irreligious pagan holiday to begin with and are ready to be upset,” he said.

Throw in a heavy dose of gore, loaded parody and ultra-sexy costumes, Lachmann added, and Halloween is now a free-for-all debate on decency and where the never-OK line belongs. But is there a line at all?

“It seems like there isn’t,” he said. “The point for adults is to be provocative, to do something that breaks the lines of what’s considered acceptable.”

The fashion and lifestyle site Refinery29 is one of many online voices decrying Jenner costumes and accessories, calling out one seller of a “Unisex Miss-ter Olympic Wig” that costs $14.99, in a recent update to a running attempt to take down the gear. Why?

Because as the writer, Liz Black, said in her post: “Every Halloween, there always seems to be a need for articles that explain why you shouldn’t dress up in a costume that mocks another marginalized culture.”

At least four online sellers are hawking Jenner stuff, including one of the largest retailers, Spirit Halloween, but opponents have seen little satisfaction as the companies declare it’s all in fun.

“At Spirit Halloween, we create a wide range of costumes that are often based on celebrities, public figures, heroes and superheroes,” said a statement from Lisa Barr, Spirit’s senior director of marketing and creative. “Caitlyn Jenner is all of the above and our exclusive Caitlyn-inspired costume reflects just that.”

Spirit’s version goes for $49.99. The wig? Sold separately at $16.99 a pop.

Anytimecostumes.com went with a cartoonish, beefy dude in a brown wig to show off its “Call me Caitlyn Unisex Adult Costume” with a sash declaring just that, lest you not realize who it’s supposed to be. It comes with a bustier and white shorty shorts for $74.99. Is it worth blackface-level anger?

Lachmann’s not convinced.

“With blackface there’s a link to the whole history of violence against African-Americans,” he said, echoing Black’s train of thought on what many in the trans community regularly face. “Certainly people can try to convince others that it’s not a good idea to wear a certain costume.”

That’s exactly what animal rights activist Doreen Harley in Indianapolis set out to do in a dustup with Johnathon Weeks, owner in Palm Springs, California, of Costumeish.com. He came up with the “Lion Killer Dentist” costume based on Walter Palmer, the Minnesota dentist who generated a world of wrath when he and his hunting party killed the beloved Cecil in Zimbabwe.

Weeks recently put the costume on sale for $59.99, upping the price to $99.99. Harley took to Facebook and Twitter to protest, and she started an online campaign to have Weeks pull the costume. She now has a promise from Weeks to donate his profits from the dentist’s smock, lion head and bloody surgical gloves to a wildlife organization.

“When I saw the costume, that disturbed me that someone was trying to make a profit off of this incredibly disturbing story,” Harley said.

Does she consider Caitlyn Jenner costumes equally insensitive and disturbing?

“I have friends and family that are gay, transgender, lesbian. It does offend me. It’s almost like mocking someone. It is offensive to that community. I’m more passionate, I guess, toward animal rights. I have to pick and choose my battles and I’m choosing the Cecil the lion battle right now.”

She wouldn’t say whether she believes the Cecil costume reaches that never-OK line, such as blackface: “I think adults get to decide what they want to wear for Halloween. “This is the one that stood out for me.”

The lion-hunting dentist is just one of about 14,000 costumes Weeks sells at Costumeish and a larger site, Brandsonsale.com. So far he has sold 50 bloody dentist costumes. Weeks plans a reverse take on Cecil with a lion suit that comes with a severed human head, and possibly another costume with extra-large trousers and little kids sticking out one side for people looking to dress as Jared Fogle, the fallen Subway pitchman who faces charges of paying for sex with minors and possessing child pornography.

“We bring to market what people want,” Weeks said. “We all need to chill out. We’ve got the PC police everywhere. We have pregnant nun costumes nobody talks about. We have Jesus costumes nobody talks about. We live in a society that’s so sensitive to these things.”

But even Weeks has a line.

“I still won’t make twin tower costumes. … I get requests for that all the time,” he said. “The tragedy that happened with the TV reporters who were killed, that would be way off-limits. Anybody who wanted to dress up as them would be disgusting.”