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Summer 2007 - Act•ionLine

Movement Watch

MOVEMENT WATCH is an update on recent and current campaigns in the animal advocacy movement, with brief, rights-based analyses. MOVEMENT WATCH does not provide a full overview of any listed advocacy group’s work. Campaigns and news items are selected for their legal and social significance.

Thanks to our friends at Ánima for providing this document in Spanish on their web site.

Lobsters and the Bottom Line

When Whole Foods Market announced a year ago that the company would no longer sell live lobsters, we published a notice explaining the context:

Live lobsters don't sell well at many groceries, and whether they are stocked is normally a business decision. Moreover, Whole Foods Market has left the future open to the possibility that all phases of the supply chain could be made humane. We might read that to mean that lobsters could be a big seller in some region where Whole Foods opens, and the corporation wants to keep its options open.

This year, Whole Foods opened a branch in Portland, Maine -- taking over a smaller organic food shop, a common tactic for this chain -- and voilà! Selling lobsters can suddenly be humane.

If you believe that one, you might not after hearing the details. The contract with Little Bay Lobster Group, the world's largest year-round lobster processor, involves shipping and displaying lobsters in plastic drop-slots, claws up and tails down. Customers may have them cooked in the store, or buy them live.

Little Bay adopted the drop-slots as a way to preserve lobsters shipped overseas. Craig Rief, the company’s CEO, says isolating lobsters instead of placing them together in crates has reduced the number of lobsters arriving dead and thus of no value to retailers. "The main motivator,” said Rief regarding this practice, is the “bottom line.”1

Rief said displaying them in isolation will also improve the lobsters’ appearance, as “picky customers might not want one with its antennae chewed off by one of its crate-mates.”

Whole Foods Market Advertised as Sponsor for London ’s summer “Veggie Show”

The advocacy group Vegetarians International Voice for Animals (Viva) is advertising Fresh and Wild, the British grocery chain owned by and currently being folded into Whole Foods Market, as a sponsor of the “Incredible Veggie Show” taking place on the last Saturday of June in London. The chain makes substantial profits selling such items as sausages from “humanely treated animals” (see “Crossing the Pond: The ‘Passionate’ Meat and Poultry Providers of Whole Foods Market Arrive in London” in this issue).

Vegetarians International Voice for Animals has also acted as a key endorser of Whole Foods Market’s promise to integrate “Animal Compassion” standards into the multinational chain’s butcher aisles, in order to (as the company words it) “give shoppers peace of mind” when buying meat. If the animals had a voice, it’s doubtful they’d be raising it in support of this collaboration between their advocates and an international meat marketer.

Advocacy Is Meek in the Face of Bush Administration’s Cloning Approval

Advocates barely made a peep about the Bush Administration’s entirely bizarre opinion that the milk and flesh of cloned animals or their offspring ought to be available in grocers’ aisles. A couple of national groups took notice of the action, but presented the meekest form of opposition on the grounds that animal-welfare provisions aren’t in place.

Friends of Animals did submit thoroughly researched comments; needless to say we opposed the cloning approval outright, regardless of the regulatory details. It’s absurd to talk of ensuring the “welfare” of cloned animals and frankly we are shocked that anyone in the advocacy field did so. Many clones are stillborn or born with severely distorted organs, heads or limbs. Cows have died trying to bear grotesquely oversized calves. This horror is to be repeated endlessly as scientists and corporations collaborate to clone more and more kinds of animals, always selecting for the most prolific producers and performers.

Once corporate profits are assured, the entrepreneurs promise, cloning will be offered in the public interest, to stave off extinctions.2 But the notion that cloning could prevent extinctions does not address habitat degradation or other causes of accelerated extinction. And corporations that plan to clone animals for agribusiness are supporting the very industry ruining habitats throughout the world.

Wolfgang's Eat, Love, Live!

In the latest example of the international trend to make people feel better about eating the bodies of exploited and killed animals, Wolfgang Puck touts the new trademark Wolfgang's Eat, Love, Live! : “We feel the quality of the food is better,” boasts Puck, “and our conscience feels better.”

In March, the Los Angeles chef vowed to select “eggs and meat only from animals raised under strict humane standards” and “seafood whose harvest does not endanger the environment or deplete stocks.”3 Promoters of this campaign -- mainly a sanctuary group and an international humane group -- urged us to thank Puck, "the flashiest culinary name yet to join with animal rights groups in the movement to change farming practices." The changes remove “menu items that were especially inhumane” including white veal. Other veal, apparently, is deemed acceptable.

Puck opined that it’s “time for us to see how we treat what we eat."4 But, s aid the Los Angeles Times , “Puck is not embracing the full animal-rights agenda. Puck’s chefs will continue to kill lobsters by slicing them alive, rather than by using stun guns.”5 The message to the people of Los Angeles must be that stun guns and killing, in addition to pink veal, make up the animal-rights agenda.

In a gross contradiction, a farm animal sanctuary claimed “many animals will be spared a terrible fate ,” while diners will continue to dine on slaughtered animals, as Puck nudges up the prices.

Sensing a lucrative new market, Strauss Veal & Lamb International and Marcho Farms, two major veal producers, have announced plans to phase out isolation stalls for calves raised for veal products.6 The calves will still be confined, and the companies don’t say the adjustments will actually improve animal welfare, but Marcho says the new plan acknowledges “consumer perception” and will help “dispel myths” about veal production.7 It’s also expected to reduce industry expenses for antibiotics.8

Randy Strauss, CEO of Strauss Veal & Lamb, has written that “Animal rights are important,” adding, “There are a growing number of people who, if they feel good about what they’re eating, will eat veal.” The new method, says Strauss, holds great potential for the future growth of the veal industry, pointing out that veal consumption rose in Europe as individual stalls were phased out there.9Strauss notes that “pink veal” is cheaper to produce, and tethering calves in stalls, a practice associated with “white veal,” is being “frowned upon” by consumers. What happened to the days when consuming veal itself elicited such frowns?

Post Card From the Balearic Islands

The Balearic Islands, off Spain’s eastern coast, form one of the Autonomous Communities of Spain. The islands’ government has approved a Proposition “No de Ley” (a preliminary proposal; not a law) to support the legal recognition for the interests of nonhuman apes. Proponents suggest this approval, announced in February, could buttress the case for Spain’s national parliament to support a similar proposal.

Last May, the Greens’ representative Deputy Margalida Rosselló presented the Non-Law proposal for a review by the Balearic Parliament. The presentation included scientific arguments, and called for the islands’ government to protect nonhuman great apes from maltreatment, enslavement, torture, death and extinction.

Should preservation of the apes' territory be stepped up, and should this prevent any group of nonhuman primates from being captured and used, animal advocates would of course desire to support this effort. All conscious beings should have the provisions upon which this initiative rests: the rights to life, freedom and protection from torture. Or, as we see it, the simple right to live on their own terms, free of human domination.

The executive director of the Great Ape Project in Spain sees the proposal as a base from which to create a Law of Great Apes. Oddly, a release from Great Ape Project urged that the living conditions for captive apes should be "at least comparable those of companion animals."10 But if apes lack basic rights, that problem isn’t solved by minimum standards for conditions in captivity. The last thing needed is any Law of Great Apes that would further harden into custom the use of apes in captivity by laying down rules regarding the conditions and treatment in labs and other institutional settings.

Pedro Pozas of the Great Ape Project wrote that great apes are “genetic kindred to humanity" and that "[f]or the first time in the world, the great apes are being recognized by a parliament as closely related beings, and for their need of protection."11 In an important sense, we are “closely related” to any animals who are conscious of their life experience. That consciousness should be enough to warrant serious moral consideration.

Activist Urges Animal Control for Pool in Golden Gate Park

The Washington Post recently reported that “10,000 greedy, ill-mannered frogs are now vexing the city of San Francisco.”12 The paper called it a “plague,” explaining that the “feisty African clawed frogs” who appeared in Golden Gate Park's Lily Pond four years ago are “big as a brick and armed with barbs on their hind feet.”

The description presented by the Post was echoed by a surprising source. A spokesperson for California-based Action for Animals urged, "We've got to drain that pond, euthanize those frogs, the tadpoles, the eggs. These things are dangerous and aggressive. They carry a fungus which kills other frogs."

Perhaps it is better to just let “things” be. Were the frogs not considered disposable -- were they not considered things, that is -- people would find an answer that doesn’t entail killing. If indeed such an answer is needed. From the reports we’ve seen to date, neither frogs nor fungus has migrated beyond the artificially created environment of Lily Pond, although the frogs have been there four years. Moreover, the quoted activist speculated both that the first of these frogs could have been dropped into Lily Pond by a research scientist or by a passing heron. If so, is it ethical and wise to re-route the paths of birds and frogs?

The activist added: “Maybe we should just bring in a crocodile. That's a natural way to control frogs." It would be, were the crocodile dropped into the pond by a passing heron.

 

  • 1. Elbert Aull, “ Whole Foods Says 'No Tanks' for Lobsters” – Portland Press Herald (8 Feb. 2007).
  • 2. See, for example, “First Cloned Wolves Claimed by South Korea” – ABC News (26 Mar. 2007; reporting that scientists at Seoul National University claim to have cloned two rare gray wolves.
  • 3. See Kim Severson, “Celebrity Chef Announces Strict Animal-Welfare Policy” – New York Times (22 Mar. 2007).Puck, whom the Times calls “the nation's first celebrity chef,” has restaurants and related companies valued at $360 million.
  • 4. “Celebrity Chef Announces Strict Animal-Welfare Policy” (note 2 above).
  • 5. Corie Brown, “Puck Says It's Time to Hold the Foie Gras” - Los Angeles Times (22 Mar. 2007).
  • 6. The Humane Society of the U.S. press release, “Strauss Veal and Marcho Farms Eliminating Confinement by Crate (22 Feb. 2007).
  • 7. Ohio Farm Bureau Federation, “Changes Underway in Livestock Housing” (6 Mar. 2007).
  • 8. The Humane Society of the U.S. press release, “Strauss Veal and Marcho Farms Eliminating Confinement by Crate (22 Feb. 2007; citing Texas A&M animal scientist Dr. Ted Friend).
  • 9. Bryan Salvage, “Revolutionizing the Veal Industry” - Meat Processing (Dec. 2006).
  • 10. The announcement, dated 5 Mar. 2007, appeared on the Spanish website Malagaes.com.
  • 11. Press announcement circulated by Pedro Pozas (28 Feb. 2007).
  • 12. Jennifer Harper, “ Animal Activists Call for Deaths of Pesky Frogs” – Washington Times (15 Mar. 2007; quoting activist Eric Mills).

Act•ionLine Summer 2007

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