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.
Canadian Activists Abdicate, Ask U.S. Shoppers To Campaign Against Seal Hunt
This year in Newfoundland, tens of thousands of seals have already perished in the largest slaughter of seals in half a century.
In March, the Canadian representative of the Animal Protection Institute urged U.S. shoppers to stop buying Canadian fish products until the seal-hunting policies change, calling such a move “the only kind of impact that will get through to the government” of Canada.
The call for a boycott was most prominently taken up by the Humane Society of the United States, which asked supporters to delay buying Canadian marine animals, including swordfish, cod, lobsters, and snow crabs. The assumption here is that people who care enough to act for the seals were eating cod and other Canadian marine life all along — even though the main excuse for killing seals has been the depletion of cod.
Canadians themselves must organize strong, unequivocal opposition to the hunt in order to get results from their officials. To date, the primary focus has been on international animal welfare groups requesting permission to obtain video footage and measure compliance with humane standards. Canada clarified its Marine Mammal Regulations in early 2003 to require hunters to apply a “blinking test” by touching a seal’s eye to ensure a seal is dead before skinning, and animal welfare groups have spent resources to demonstrate that hunters don’t comply.
At the time of this writing the Canadian authorities appear to be on the verge of announcing a five-year plan, which could mean the slaughter of over a million seals.
Ánima of Argentina Speaks Out for Seals
Ánima is Argentina’s premier animal rights project, founded by lawyer and author Ana María Aboglio. This year, Ánima wants a word with the Canadian prime minister. Ánima says: “The time has come to support an economy that acknowledges the interconnected biocommunity, and the inherent worth of every sentient being.”
Noting that we already have more than enough videos and pictures that prove the inhumane quality of Canada’s seal hunt, Ánima launched a Spanish-language campaign in April together with Friends of Animals, asserting that continued tweaking of the Marine Mammal Regulations are irrelevant, for “Estas matanzas no son sólo crueles. Son inmorales.” (These killings aren’t just cruel. They’re immoral.”)
Outlining key points for Spanish-speakers to tell Canadians and their government, Ánima stated: “The reason that moves us to oppose the seal hunt is the concept that human beings ought to be capable of respecting these animals’ interests in freely enjoying the experience of their own lives.”
Chimpanzee Use: The Animal Welfare Connection
In 2000, the Chimpanzee Health Improvement, Maintenance and Protection (CHIMP) Act assigned federal funds to store laboratory chimpanzees deemed surplus to immediate experimental needs, and mandated a flow of private funds as part of the maintenance money — in effect turning charity groups into indirect supporters of biomedical research on nonhuman great apes.
A newly formed entity, Chimp Haven, won the contract to house chimpanzees released from laboratory protocols, and is now ready to accept the first arrivals.
When the National Institutes of Health posted the proposed regulations in preparation for public commentary, ten animal welfare groups wrote to tell the federal government:
“We ask that DHHS agree to provide any and all chimpanzees retired into the federal sanctuary system with permanent protection from any further research. — We firmly believe that the chimpanzees sent into retirement should be provided permanent protection from further research as was the original intention of the CHIMP Act.”
Permanent protection from further research was not the “original intention of the CHIMP Act.” Such a law would have transferred the titles of the chimpanzees to private sanctuaries. That intent never appeared in the proposed or final law.
Why is this point so important? Because surely activists should want to be aware of the limits of a law when deciding whether to back it. Many advocacy groups ignored or dismissed the problems inherent in the CHIMP Act when it was being designed, and now precious private dollars help to prop up the high-maintenance chimpanzee experimentation field. If the primate protection community cannot or will not see that it took a wrong turn to the extent that it backed this deal, it is destined to repeat the mistake. A prominent blood researcher testified for this law. The reason? Scientists wanted someone else to maintain used chimpanzees, in order to make room for younger research subjects.
The animal welfare community continues in symbiosis with research in many ways. The Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) describes itself as “a non-profit charitable organization founded in 1951 to reduce the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans.” The goal of reducing pain and fear — a negative mission — is a completely different from respecting animals’ interests in freedom. The group’s website devotes much space to articles about primate cage space, lighting, manipulative instruments, and social housing, largely through articles written by AWI primatologist Viktor Reinhardt.
The Primate Foundation of Arizona (PFA) was once considered a sanctuary for cast-off chimpanzees. But it ran into financial trouble, and began leasing chimpanzees to biomedical research. Recently, it agreed to further breeding and experimentation with the University of Texas. By incorporating PFA into the work of the Department of Veterinary Sciences in Bastrop, Texas, researchers “can significantly increase the number of chimpanzees under an experienced, coordinated veterinary care, management, and research program” and “significantly increase the likelihood of satisfying the proposed need for a stable long-term national resource of chimpanzees for biomedical research.” Researchers point out that they can now meet “societal expectations for the humane care and use of chimpanzees” and, with PFA’s help, refine techniques “to increase voluntary cooperation of chimpanzees with numerous research and investigative procedures.” The researchers also state their plans to “improve” chimpanzee genetics.
From Darwin to Dawkins, with a Milk Moustache
An international conference named “From Darwin to Dawkins: The Science and Implications of Animal Sentience” took place in London in March of this year, to “focus on important new scientific discoveries about the sentience of animals and the profound effects these might have on all areas of human life.” The keynote speaker was Jane Goodall.
Also present were representatives of the Farm Animals & Sustainable Agriculture department of the Humane Society of the United States; Temple Grandin, who has worked on McDonald’s welfare standards; and Professor Joy Mench of UC Davis’s Animal Science department, who performs husbandry-related research on chickens and ducks. And there was Ian Duncan, professor of applied ethology at the University of Guelph and holder of the oldest University Chair in Animal Welfare in North America. Duncan “is developing methods of asking farm animals what they feel about the conditions in which they are kept and the procedures to which they are subjected.”
“The study of animal sentience is one of the most exciting and important in the whole of biology,” said Oxford’s Professor Marian Dawkins.“My plea is that, when we make decisions and regulations about animals and campaign for them, the animals’ voices should be heard and heard strongly.”
One might wonder if animals’ voices might really be saying, “What are we doing in a place like this?” but the BBC only heard the voice of Cambridge Professor Donald Broom when it came to an account of training cows to push levers to gain food rewards. Apparently unaware of the irony, Professor Broom said that the experiments prove that “we need to have a certain amount of respect” for cows.
“The handlers don’t have to be really mean and hit the cows,” said Edmund Pajor of Purdue.Pajor’s reason? Cows produce significantly more milk if their handlers don’t shout and push them around.
Conference materials thanked leading British grocery chain Tesco for funding. Tesco sells meat and milk; and in collaboration with the University of Bristol’s veterinary science clinic, Tesco’s Welfare Fellowship provides courses in Animal Welfare and Production Science. According to the university’s Web site, one of the clinic’s most popular training courses developed for the industry is the Animal Welfare Officer course. Since 1993 there have been over 20 such courses at sites across England, Scotland, Ireland, and Spain. “Particularly attractive to the industry” is the “emphasis given to the links between good welfare and good meat quality.” An additional Animal Transport Officer Course details “aspects of commercial and non-commercial animal transport that directly affect animal welfare and subsequent carcass and meat quality.” Successful completion results in a University of Bristol certificate endorsed by the Meat Training Council.
All of this raises the question: Do activists suggest the standards for industry and convince corporations to apply them? Or is it the other way around?
British Pig Sellers Start Welfare Ad War
Britain’s location, with the relative ease of import and export, means heightened competition for farmers. “We have actually seen a decline in the size of the British industry of about 40% in the last five years and an enormous increase in import,” said Mick Sloyan of the British Pig Executive.
So this year, the pig industry plans to launch a public relations effort that capitalizes on its welfare standards.
British shoppers should know, says the Meat and Livestock Commission, that only British farmers are currently prohibited from keeping pregnant pigs in single stalls.
Advocates Praise Gas Chambers
McDonald’s is testing gas chambers to kill the ten million chickens it uses each year in Britain. Gassing, known as “controlled atmosphere killing,” means that chickens are transported into a giant gas chamber where they are knocked out by nitrogen and argon mixed with carbon dioxide. It is said to ensure they are dead before their throats are cut.
Sean Gifford of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals said: “We have been pushing for a switch to gas and welcome this move by McDonald’s.”
The company’s move, explained the Sunday Times, “is part of an attempt by the chain to improve its image that has included the addition of salads to its menu and the removal of supersized portions following criticism that it has contributed to an epidemic of obesity.”
Peter Bradnock, chief executive of the British Poultry Council, notes problems with regular slaughter methods — problems that gas could fix. For example, “when they are electrocuted, their convulsions can break their bones and blood vessels, which damages the meat.”
Welfare groups, when sharing a feel-good mission with big business, often claim that an agreement with a large company can pave the way for industry-wide reform. This is not the case here. Bradnock believes gas will work only for chicken processors in contracts with big companies like McDonald’s, because of the high price tag on gas chambers.
It’s probably safe to say that most people are unaware of that.
In this scenario, the corporation makes a trade-off: It spends money up front, but get less product damage, and becomes the exclusive beneficiary of praise and publicity for its apparent humane enlightenment. Anyone who raises the inconvenient notion of animal rights is waved off as a killjoy. Readers of the Times will not feel threatened by this limited reform. If a change were meaningful, it would be unwelcome to the traditional media — as those who thrive on media attention know.
European Union to “Improve the Image of the Egg Industry”
The Adas corporation, Britain’s largest consultancy firm for agriculture and food, says EU legislation to outlaw conventional cages starting in 2012 will improve the image of the egg industry, bringing benefits for producers.
Andrew Walker, head of Animal Health & Welfare in Adas, said the directive will offer the birds more room to exercise. Costs will rise, but Adas believes that long-term positive economic effects will “far outweigh any negative impacts” as “enriched cages will bring an opportunity for the industry to capitalize on a new and improved image.”
Violent Pornography, Dogfighting, and the Law
This year, a jury found Robert J. Stevens guilty of three counts of selling depictions of animal cruelty — dogfighting videos — under a federal law passed in 1999 but never before tested in court.
The statute was originally motivated by a California campaign to ban crush videos, in which legs, feet, and sometimes spike heels are seen crushing small animals to death for the sexual gratification of viewers. The law allows sentencing of up to 15 years in prison.
After advertising dogfight videos in an underground magazine, Stevens sold some of them, along with scenes of dogs attacking pigs, to undercover agents.
The public defender arguing Stevens’s case claimed that the videos are protected speech under the First Amendment, under an exception to the law for depictions with “serious religious, political, scientific, educational, journalistic, historical or artistic value.” The jury disagreed. But one might ask how such a loophole got into a crush video ban at all.
The provision derives from the traditional list shielding various images of sexual violence from legal penalties. Pornographers have long argued that restrictions on their sales would interfere with freedom of expression; and our legal system, refusing to see the issue as one of civil rights or basic human rights, has generally agreed with them. Social acceptance of discrimination against women has supplied excuses for those who violently discriminate against other animals. Now, filmmakers who add a prayer or a snippet of documentary to images of animal abuse, or artists who use such films, might well evade penalties entirely, regardless of the fate of the animals involved.