Last time Friends of Animals reported to our members about the Mute Swan, it was with good news: The Maryland Department of Natural Resources agreed to the request by U.S. Fish and Wildlife to surrender their permit to shoot Mute Swans until a Draft Environmental Assessment was completed, due to public pressure from FoA and litigation.
That success quickly turned sour when the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service and the Atlantic Flyway Council, a committee made up of the Fish and Wildlife departments of 17 states, released a chilling document urging the elimination of 67% of the existing Mute Swan population throughout those states. Nine states' Fish and Wildlife departments in the Atlantic Flyway region have agreed with this document, supporting not only the shooting of Mute Swans, but also the establishment of a hunting season (North Carolina, Maryland, New York, Rhode Island, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Virginia and Delaware). Four states (Maine, Connecticut, South Carolina and Idaho) support swan shooting although not a hunting season. Of these states, many have suggested that a proposed upper limit of swans that could be shot would not be high enough; they want to shoot more. Several other states have yet to weigh in, but seem to be making movements towards or have already begun the process for eradication of their populations of Mute Swans.
Most recently, The Atlantic Flyway Council and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service okayed the plan to “shoot 3,100 Mute Swans annually in the Atlantic Flyway for the next ten years”. The killing of more than 30,000 Mute Swans went from a proposition on paper to approved policy in little over a month, due to an abbreviated commentary period and a diligence on the part of the Fish and Wildlife Service to get it passed quickly.
Friends of Animals has made the case to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that Mute Swans should be left to live in peace, and our sound scientific and ethical arguments can be viewed online at www.friendsofanimals.org/swandea.htm, a document written to counter the arguments and dubious science that U.S Fish and Wildlife and the Atlantic Flyway Council presented. Their document can be viewed in its entirety online.
In brief, Fish and Wildlife's main arguments for the killing of Mute Swans have been that Mutes, with their rapidly expanding populations, displace other water birds and contribute to the degradation of local ecologies because they eat large quantities of grasses necessary for a healthy aquatic ecosystem. Mute Swans are considered an “exotic” species — one state likened them to the snakehead fish and the nutria — and this leaves them especially vulnerable to attack by wildlife agents.
No official environmental impact statement has been made concerning the Mute Swan. Data about what Mutes eat, how much they eat, and, most importantly, their impact on the ecology of a given wetland, has not been studied. The killing of thousands of birds appears, therefore, to be an idea based upon convenience.
In many waterways, including the Chesapeake Bay, the ecology of the area has definitely declined. But the problem is not Mute Swans: It's us. Our commercial developments on wetlands, destructive fishing techniques, and the farm-produced nitrogen runoff that clouds the water and sickens plants — these things make up the real problem with our waterways. Fish and Wildlife even agrees; in their official statement, they write, “While we do not disagree that pollution and other anthropogenic factors are largely responsible for long-term declines…in the Chesapeake Bay, that argument is irrelevant.” Apparently the (disputed) harm that other creatures pose toward the environment is punishable by death, but the harm that humans cause is irrelevant; this opinion is what the U.S. Fish and Wildlife bases it’s decisions upon.
The Mute Swans' impact on other birds, Fish and Wildlife’s document asserts, includes aggressive territorialism and the smashing of other ground nesting birds' eggs with their feet. Using individual reports and unpublished information, Fish and Wildlife deems the Mute Swan 'aggressive' towards other wildlife and people in several areas of the report. Yet anyone who has lived around Mute Swans knows they are excellent parents and will defend their nests and young, as do most healthy animals. Education on how to interact with swans and other wildlife is a humane step in the direction of coexisting with the animals we share this planet with, and is preferential to shooting schemes that encourage ignorance and abuse.
Reference to the 'exploding' population and estimates made of the swans' future population are also dubious. Swan populations have increased, but to extrapolate these numbers into the future as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife has done ignores natural population dynamics, including disease, severe winters, predation, and natural factors of carrying capacity in a given habitat. Only humans constantly move beyond the carrying capacity of our land — to the continual detriment of other animals. There is irony in the human urge to dictate other animals' populations when we seem quite unable to manage our own.
As nine out of the 17 states listed in the Draft Environmental Assessment from Fish and Wildlife have not only supported swan killing, but also a hunting season on the swans, it seems that the motivation behind the plan was always to institute a hunting season on the Mute Swan. The step-wise process begins with swan ‘population control’ and ends with a hunting season once the public accepts the former.
From the beginning, the language within the Fish and Wildlife document indicated intentions to hunt. In several places, Mute Swans were listed as a “resource”. This illustrates the Fish and Wildlife Service's basic myopic view of the Mute Swan. The swan is not permitted to be a living animal that nurtures offspring, partners monogamously, or grows old. It is a “resource” for hunters and the U.S Fish and Wildlife Service. A hunting columnist exemplified this attitude in The Day (New London, CT), suggesting that the best way to control Mute Swan populations is to hunt and eat them.
Some wildlife groups (see sidebar) have supported the shooting of the mute swans in the name of protecting other bird species, and some have supported egg addling schemes, or pinioning of birds. The latter two swan management techniques are also problematic. Egg addling — coating eggs with oil or otherwise rendering eggs unhatchable – inevitably leads to the death of parent birds as they try to protect their young. The Fish and Wildlife Service calls for the addling of over 1,700 nests in the Northeast, in addition to shooting the birds. Pinioning, which restricts movement by cutting wings so the birds cannot fly, thwarts the natural activities of the birds, and can be painful.
Minimizing human impact on the environment will surely do more for our waterways than the shooting of Mute Swans will. Using the Mute Swan as a scapegoat will not improve our environment, but will only make the shooting death of one more animal acceptable in our society.
Write to the governor in your state and contact the commissioner of the Fish and Wildlife Department or it’s equivalent (see contacts below) and let them know that you oppose the mistreatment and shooting of Mute Swans in your state.
The following state wildlife agencies support Mute Swan shooting to control population and the establishment of a Mute Swan hunting season:
Governor Robert L. Ehrlich, Jr.
100 State Circle
Annapolis, MD 21401-1925
C. Ronald Franks, Secretary
Maryland Department of Natural Resources
580 Taylor Ave
Annapolis, Maryland 21401 Telephone: (410) 260-8100
Fax (410) 260-8111
Governor Edward G. Rendell
225 Main Capitol Building
Harrisburg, PA 17120
Telephone: (717) 787-2500
Fax: (717) 772-8284
Vernon Ross, Director
Pennsylvania Game Commission
2001 Elmerton Avenue
Harrisburg, Pennsylvania 17110-9797
Telephone: (717) 787-3633
Fax: (717) 772-0502
Governor Mark R. Warner
State Capitol, 3rd Floor
Richmond, Virginia 23219
Telephone: (804) 786-2211
Fax: (804) 371-6351
William L. Woodfin, Jr, Director
Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries
4010 West Broad Street
Richmond, VA 23230
Telephone: (804) 367-1000
Fax: (804) 367-0405
Governor Ruth Ann Minner
150 William Penn Street
Dover, DE 19901
Telephone: (302) 744-4101
Fax: (302) 739-2775
Lloyd Alexander, Director
Delaware Division of Fish and Wildlife
89 Kings HWY
Dover, DE 19901
Telephone: (302) 739-5295
Fax: (302) 739-6157
Governor George E. Pataki
Albany NY, 12224
Phone: (518) 474-8390
Fax: (518) 474-1513
Erin M. Crotty, Commissioner
New York Department of Environmental Conservation
Albany, NY 12233-1011
Telephone: (518) 402-8540
Fax: (518) 402-8541
Governor Mike Easley
Office of the Governor
Raleigh, NC 27699-0301
Telephone: (919) 733-4240
Fax: (919) 733-2120
Charles Fullwood, Director
North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission
Raleigh NC 27699-1701
PHONE (919) 733-3391
FAX (919) 733-7083
Goveror Bob Wise
1900 Kanawha Boulevard, E.
Charleston, WV 25305
Fax 1-304 342-7025
Ed Hamrick, Director
West Virginia Division of Natural Resources
Building 3, Room 669
Charleston WV 25305
Telephone: (304) 558-2754
Fax: (304) 558-2768
Governor James Douglas
109 State Street, Pavilion
Montpelier, VT 05663
Telephone (802) 828-3333
Fax (802) 828-3339
Wayne Laroche, Commissioner
Vermont Dept. of Fish and Wildlife
10 South Building
103 South Main Street
Waterbury, Vermont 05671-0501
Fax: (802) 241-3295
Governor Donald L. Carcieri
Office of the Governor
State House, Room 115
Providence RI 02903
Telephone (401) 222-2080
Fax (401) 222-8096
John Stolgitis, Chief
Department of Environmental Management
Division of Fish and Wildlife
Stedman Government Center
4808 Tower Hill Road
Wakefield, RI 02879
Phone: (401) 789-8906
Fax: (401) 783-4460
The following state wildlife agencies support Mute Swan shooting:
Governor John Rowland
210 Capitol Avenue
Hartford, CT 06106
Telephone: (860) 566-4840
Fax (860) 524-7396
Dale May, Director
Connecticut Department of Environmental Protection, Wildlife Division
79 Elm Street
Hartford, CT 06106-5127
Phone: (860) 424-3011
Fax (860) 424 4078
Governor John Baldacci
State House Station #1
Augusta, ME 04330
Telephone: (207) 287-3531
Fax: (207) 287-1034
Roland D. Martin, Commissioner
Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife
284 State Street
41 State House Station
Augusta, ME 04333-0041
Governor Mark Sanford
Office of the Governor
P.O. Box 12267
Columbia, SC 29211
John Frampton, Director
South Carolina Dept.of Natural Resources
P O Box 167
Columbia, SC 29202
Telephone: (803) 734-4007
Fax (803) 734-6310
Governor Dirk Kempthorne
Office of the Governor
700 West Jefferson
Boise, Idaho 83702
Telephone (208) 334-2100
Fax (208) 334-2175
Steven Huffaker, Director
Idaho Department of Fish and Game
600 S. Walnut
P.O. Box 25, Boise, ID 83707
Telephone: (208) 334-3700
Fax: (208) 334-2114
The following did not submit comments to Fish and Wildlife’s document but have Mute Swan populations in their states:
Governor James McGreevey
P.O. Box 001
125 West State St.
Trenton, NJ 08625
Telephone: (609) 292-6000
Fax: (609) 292-3454
Bradley M. Campbell, Commissioner
New Jersey Dept. of Environmental Protection
P.O. Box 402
401 E. State St.
Trenton, NJ 08625
Telephone: (609) 292-2885
Fax: (609) 292-7695
Governor Mitt Romney
Boston, MA 02133
Phone: (617) 725-4005
Fax: (617) 727-9725
Wayne MacCallum, Director
Division of Fisheries & Wildlife
Field Headquarters, 1 Rabbit Hill Rd
Westborough, MA 01581
Telephone: (508) 792-7270
Fax: (508) 792-7275
Governor Craig Benson 25 Capitol Street
Concord, NH 03301
Telephone: (603) 271-2121
Fax: (603) 271-7680
Lee Perry, Director
New Hampshire Fish and Game Department
11 Hazen Drive
Concord, NH 03301
Telephone: (603) 271-3511
Fax: (603) 271-1438
It's not only those state and federal agents whose offices are supported by hunters and fishers that are pro-swan killing; there are plenty of animal and environmental groups that want to get rid of the Mute Swans as well. Defenders of Wildlife, the National Audubon Society, the American Bird Conservancy and more, (see below) have expressed that they support the Mute Swan shooting. If you are a member of one of these organizations, let their leadership know where you stand on the Mute Swan issue and encourage them to do some more research into the issues behind their support of this murderous policy.
The following national organizations supported Mute Swan shooting:
American Bird Conservancy
Defenders of Wildlife
Safari Club International
Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen
Hunters for the Hungry
National Audubon Society
The Waterbird Society (Smithsonian Institute, Natural History Museum)
Izaack Walton League of America
Wildlife Management Institute
Audubon Naturalist Society of Central Atlantic States
South River Federation
Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen
The Ornithological Council
The following state organizations or regional chapters supported Mute Swan shooting:
Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology (NY)
Maryland Ornithological Society (MD)
Cooper Ornithological Society (IA)
Massachusetts Audubon (MA)
Audubon Pennsylvania (PA)
DelMarva Ornithological Society (DE)
New Jersey Audubon (NJ)
Tennessee Ornithological Society (TN)
Madison Audubon Council (WI)
Wisconsin Audubon Council (WI)
Green Rock Audubon Society (WI)
Archbold Biological Station (FL)
Audubon Pennsylvania (PA)
Illinois Audubon Society (IL)
Riveredge Bird Club (WI)
Chappie Rapids Audubon (WI)
Atlanta Audubon (GA)
Georgia Ornithological Society (GA)
Appearances, as we all know, incline to deceive us. Take stromatolites. Lackluster clumps, column-, dome-, or sphere-shaped, none taller than a city fire hydrant, solid as rock or maybe a hardened gumball, they appear to just sit for a living.
But look deeper and you see layered homes to, and the bodies of, bacteria, with photosynthesizing blue-green cyanobacteria atop photosynthesizing purple bacteria atop countless additional microbes, most of whom live off the produce or bodily remains of those above, the whole shebang, a complex collective.
Stromatolites represent the oldest, and the ancestors of all contemporary, life on Earth. Getting their start 3.6 billion years ago, give or take a few hundred million years, they bulked as the biggest kid on the block, forming vast reefs in the Proterozoic oceans. Their heyday ended 600 million years ago, but they hang on today in several watery locations, (most famously in western Australia, where 3000-year-olds reside), the only beings to have survived the five major, and ten lesser, extinctions recorded in Earth’s ledger of life.
As monuments to Ancestor Number One, stromatolites deserve a certain nod of the head, a tip of the hat at least. But there’s more to their story, and our debt to them, greater. As some of the world’s first photosynthesizers, cyanobacteria created free oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere, without which no oxygen-breathing animal — no beetle, turtle, tyrannosaur, or animal rights activist — could ever have come to be. What’s more, by removing greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, they kept things cool enough to prevent the loss of Earth’s water to the far beyond. The implications of this act concern not only the seawater coursing through our veins but also the slipping and sliding of the continents, which could not occur were it not for the lubricating effects of water. Bacteria therefore gave us a leg — and the ground — to stand on.
They also call us home. Not simply between our teeth, under our fingernails, or inside our intestines, they are part of our very cells. A couple or three billion years ago free-living bacteria jumped into a nucleated cell (or were ingested by it without being digested), got comfortable and stayed, eventually to wear the name “mitochondria.” Yes, they are the powerhouses that nestle inside the cell but outside its nucleus, the prime movers in the conversion of food to energy, energy that drives nearly all cell activities.
Without them, we would die almost instantly, and even though mitochondria have their own DNA and metabolism, they’d do the same without us. We are, therefore, consortia, each interdependent member of which is a different organism with its own genome.
The lessons here are several. Besides reinforcing the old chestnut about judging a book by its cover, stromatolites demonstrate against neoDarwinian pronouncements on conflict and competition as biological imperatives, since they show us by example that lasting strength comes of cooperation. Even more important, bacteria-are-us blurs all biological boundaries. The taxonomic distinction of species as a scientifically delimited entity, for example, goes up in smoke, and with it the very idea of an isolated and elevated status, which is to say all human pretensions to exceptionalism.
One might expect animal rights advocates to take these lessons to heart and take them in hand to build the case for better treatment of nonhumans. Yet some self-described animal rights organizations do the opposite. An example is the effort, enthusiastically pursued by one organization in particular, to parade (in posters, calendars and sundry live photo ops) certain animal-friendly female performing artists and models — and the fleshy parts thereof — with the apparent goal of turning hearts by turning heads. It is by no means incidental that these subjects emphasize their genitalia. Indeed, that is precisely the lure meant to attract a crowd, success being measured by the count of craning necks.
Whether for or against, one must agree this is a case of objectifying women, of reducing them to a circumscribed body, or more precisely, body parts. In its defense, the chief spokesperson for the organization most committed to it offers (Orwell fans, hold onto your hats), “sex is fun.”
One hesitates to spoil the witless gaiety that lofts our spokesperson happily above harsh earthly matters, but the untoward consequences of sexual objectification, where they fail to prick the conscience, at least claw hard at the shins. Note: sexual objectification devalues an already-demeaned group (females), demands aesthetic totalitarianism (which diminishes all who fail to meet its standards), and politically legitimates all other kinds of objectification (making it impossible — if one hopes to be consistent — to condemn the turning of, say, animals into hors d’oeuvres).
Finally, objectification, by definition, fixes tangible boundaries that separate one entity from another — the antithesis of life-as-a-seamless web. Hollywood-style sexual objectification carries this reductionism to even narrower extremes. It traces a hierarchical line within another, a body within a body (the sexually ideal form within the human species). It then purports to speak on human sexuality, and expects us to play along. (It’s fun, remember.)
Which returns us to stromatolites. Among much else, bacteria are life’s great innovators, and their list of inventions includes sex: Although they reproduce by budding or dividing in two, opportunity or need has ever induced them to simply pull in some DNA from other nearby bacteria (even dead ones) or enlist the help of viruses to take in their genes (or those of other bacteria) in a sexual exchange that results in new bacteria without need of reproduction per se.
The exchange of genetic riches among bacteria both affirms their freedom and assures their survival through the deepest sort of cooperation, one necessarily free of any hint of hierarchy. Of course, it is not, to be clear, their sexual behavior that defines their freedom (liberation is never a simple matter of libido, unrestrained or otherwise), but rather their egalitarianism.
We likely shall never match bacteria in their complete disregard of hierarchy, but coming close is worth the effort. Who (nonhuman or human), after all, would not be better off without our destructive self-delusion of biological exceptionalism and its vacuous spin-off, our eagerness to identify people in sexual terms? We cannot hope to rid ourselves of either, however, so long as we parade people as sex objects. Animal rights advocates who join that parade because it appears to help the cause deceive themselves into believing justice can be gotten piecemeal or, worse, by trading off one group against another. It cannot work that way, of course, because justice, like life itself, is indivisible.
—William Mannetti is president and co-founder of Animal Rights Front, an all-volunteer, activist organization based in Connecticut.
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.
The Shape of the Movement
July, 2002: The “U.S. Animal Rights Hall of Fame” dinner. Cattle-rancher-turned-vegetarian Howard Lyman stands in the McLean Hilton’s banquet room, introducing Miss World USA 2000: “There have been a number of speakers at this conference who have alluded to the shape of the movement,” says Lyman, turning to Natasha Allas. “I would like to introduce you as the ideal shape of the movement.”
As the presentation continues, Charlotte Ross, a celebrity who once posed nude for an anti-fur advertisement, walks off-stage. Lyman turns to the audience and asks: “Is there a bit of a doubt in your mind about the shape of the movement?”
A handful of diners heads for the hallway. One quietly returns to the banquet, approaches Lyman’s table, and explains that the remarks have offended some people. Lyman waves the messenger away.
Minutes later, a few conference attendees materialize on stage. They interrupt the normally scheduled events to read a message denouncing sexist conduct. 1 Outraged at the impromptu declaration, some observers in turn denounce these “thought police” who would reduce the movement to “nothing but marginalized left-wingers.” 2 Alex Hershaft, chair of Animal Rights 2002, would add that it was “inappropriate to come to an animal rights conference and bring another agenda.” And then he banished them. 3
Missing the Irony
And thus it was that, at a conference designed to teach activism, a positive example of activism was quashed by the people who thought they were the teachers.
But the conference chair experienced AR 2002 as a personal wound:
“[T]his was a thoroughly discussed, collective, deliberate act of self-indulgence, disrespect, and offense to the MC, to me, to the conference, and to the participants by six intelligent individuals who knew full well the devastating consequences of their action and apparently just didn’t give a damn. Three of them had been given speaking engagements at the conference. Two had been close associates of mine. That really hurt. To this date, not one has expressed any regrets to me over their action.”4
Hershaft could not comprehend why such intelligent individuals would fail to be enlightened when he told the audience: “I want to assure everybody that all rumors to the effect that the MC is a sexist pig are totally unfounded. He is not. He adores his wife and he adores women.” Hershaft later explained Lyman’s comments as products of a “jocular” mood.
Hershaft later established an Internet “Memories Board” to encourage attendees to reminisce about AR 2002. Almost immediately, one subscriber complained of the conference’s “misogynistic atmosphere” and stated: “We will continue to fight for the animals, but we can no longer do it with this organization or the men who dominated the conference.” 5 Hershaft responded by banning Barbara Chang from attending AR 2003, and admonished other participants to ignore Chang’s messages. 6 Within days of opening the forum, Hershaft announced: “I must regretfully announce that individuals who repeatedly disrupt the rules and purpose of this Board will be banned from Animal Rights 2003.” 7 Lamenting participants who “hold hate,” Hershaft closed the Memories Board. 8
Hershaft acknowledged his “dictatorial” approach to running the conference, but justified that by observing that conference fees continued to flow into his Farm Animal Reform Movement. 9 Several of the banned people insisted upon being admitted to AR 2003. And although Hershaft banned the current executive director of EarthSave International, another representative of EarthSave nevertheless appeared at AR 2003 as a workshop host. 10 Furthermore, although Hershaft banned a representative of In Defense of Animals, that group never interrupted its sponsorship of the conference. Oddest of all, key speakers for this year’s conference included at least three people associated with the group Feminists for Animal Rights, and another from an ecofeminist group of Boston. Thus, when answering criticisms about banning people, FARM’s “conference management” could and did defend the conference against allegations of sexism by pointing out that sessions on feminism were, after all, a scheduled part of the conference.
In any case, Hershaft maintained, Ross or Allas themselves were not upset by Howard Lyman’s manner of referring to them. Stated Hershaft:“I doubt very much they will be offended. After all, their careers are built on their shapely figures.” 11 The statement exposes a kernel of truth. Priscilla Feral observed the irony in the persistence of feminists in continuing their “co-dependent relationship” with the conference, given that “if one attends an event in which a beauty contest winner is presented as such, then one might well expect that sexist remarks and conduct would ensue.” 12
One Year Later
Looking at “the shape of the movement” today shows not only a need for improvement, but indicates that this conference can hardly claim to represent a social movement at all. 13 The more recent conference, AR 2003, was defended by its attendees for having a few rap sessions and custom-made badges that say the animal movement has no room for sexism. Can we say we actually understand the meaning of that statement, if we do not know what sexism is? The alphabetically-ordered list of AR 2003 presenters began with the name “Carol Adams (Author, Sexual Politics of Meat)”, followed immediately by “Natasha Allas (Former Miss World USA).”
Since 1968, the annual beauty contest has drawn specific criticism for its meat market atmosphere. Moreover, a movement comprised mainly of women cannot afford to disable its majority. Standards for “ideal shapes” have disabled millions of women in many ways, from compelling attention to frivolous, appearance-related minutiae, to inducing eating disorders, to creating the self-doubt that causes women to avoid central roles, to be so commonly deprived of recognition for the work they do, and to be ignored when the benefit of their advice would be invaluable. A vibrant movement would be one in which beauty — for all people — is the self-confidence we create through individual form and style, not a label awarded as a prize for conformity. The AR 2003 conference not only misses that point; it thwarts it.
Carol Adams has, numerous times over the years, made the point that she sees her role, in part, as spontaneously critiquing the structure of the conference. The structure has hardly turned to egalitarianism. The U.S. Hall of Fame, featured in the awards banquet discussed above, was established in the year 2000. Each one of the award’s Election Committee members — conference Chair Alex Hershaft and authors Howard Lyman and Jim Mason — had already received the award by 2001. 14
The awards banquet is a celebrity gala, for which attendees traditionally pay a special fee. Only conference “presenters” may vote, and those individuals are people Hershaft endorses. No requirement ensures that such people have animal rights knowledge. The 2003 list of presenters included a horse breeding and training expert, a zoo director, several television personalities, the co-designer of an “invasiveness scale” to measure stress felt by laboratory animals, and a writer for Meat Processing Magazine, as well as the winner of a beauty pageant.
This mutual back-patting enterprise known as the Hall of Fame drew criticism for its tendency to elevate already-known writers, celebrities, and heads of organizations. But rather than discontinue the showpiece event, the conference tacked on a “grass roots” award — with the annual honoree to be selected by three people: Hershaft, Lyman, and Mason.
That people from the feminist community continue to allow the use of their names in the publicity for the conference is troubling for additional reasons. One of the perennial speakers, Peter Singer, recently penned an essay for an electronic sex magazine. The article, named “Heavy Petting,” has been interpreted as condoning men’s use of animals as sex objects. Some acts of bestiality, opined Singer, “are clearly wrong, and should remain crimes. Some men use hens as a sexual object…This is usually fatal to the hen…” Singer added: “But sex with animals does not always involve cruelty” — and maintained that “occasionally mutually satisfying activities may develop.” 15
When a few rumblings over the essay threatened a public controversy in the months leading up to AR 2001, Hershaft spoke for Singer, saying: “We both feel that it is time to stop beating up on one another and go back to work for the animals.” 16 Notably, virtually no one in the popular animal protection discussion groups observed that Singer’s essay, and not its critics, was causing disunity.
“What I find terribly disturbing is the malice and vitriol that has been injected into some of the presentations and our propensity to gang up on one of our own who has strayed from the narrow path of political correctness, regardless of his or her past contributions to our movement.”
In conclusion, Hershaft commanded: “These fratricidal assaults must stop and they must stop now!” 17 Nonsense. It must be made clear that an animal rights movement will not accept intellectual tolerance for sexual abuse of women or animals. We too, seek unity. But we seek a principled unity.
People for the Unethical Treatment of Women
In February 2003, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PeTA) paid $25,000 to sponsor a New York show for fashion designers Gaelyn and Cianfarani. 18 The duo’s latex garments, reported Reuters, “more than hinted at bondage and sado-masochism.” 19 Indeed, Genevieve Gaelyn’s fashion career began six years ago at Stormy Leather, “San Francisco’s Premiere Fetish Authority” for leather corsets, collars and leashes, whips and harnesses. 20 Gaelyn’s fire and rubber fashion shows have appeared at New York’s “Black & Blue Ball,” which advertises itself as “[i]nspired by the well attended slave auctions at Paddles” (a New York bondage club of the early 1990’s) with the purpose of offering an “evening of entertainment for the New York City Fetish Scene.”
In bondage and sado-masochism — a lifestyle known by the acronym BDSM, for bondage, domination, sadism, and masochism — dominating partners may force “submissives” to do humiliating things, and generally assert themselves as a “higher power” in relationships. Common themes include role-playing as animal and trainer or slave and master. Typical activities include whippings, obsessions with bodily emissions, and foot fetishes. Although roles are not sex-specific, “forced feminization” is a standard category of a fetish activity. Because no established pattern humiliates people by forcing them to be masculine, stereotypes regarding female submissiveness remain intact. Some sado-masochism (S&M) participants derive pleasure from seeing others injured: One of the most notorious, if rare, variations is the “crush video” — film packaged as fetish erotica showing small animals being tortured and trampled under stiletto-clad feet.
Writer Jack Nichols quotes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who once said that unconditional love “will have the final word in reality.” In contrast, writes Nichols, “S&M sets up strict conditions — scenes — before it gets started. If these are not present, S&M goes elsewhere looking for its specific sexual object, its fantasy fix.” 21 The feminist movement observed that what we encourage in our personal lives and fantasies will affect the larger political sphere. S&M, even where consensual, both reflects and perpetuates the concept of domination which we find at the root of human slavery, of child abuse, of women’s oppression, and of animal exploitation.
A Cheap Shock Tactic with a Twist
Fur Trim. Unattractive. Over that caption, PeTA issued a photo of a woman’s genital area with pubic hair sticking out of narrow bikini briefs. Galen Sherwin, President of the National Organization for Women-NYC, wrote in outrage: 22 “This ad basically says that women’s natural state is unattractive — hardly an original point, as that is what women are told in one form or another by countless ads for beauty products, accessories, and clothing lines. It also resorts to a crotch shot to make its point — a cheap shock tactic with a twist that adds insult to injury.”
Newkirk sniffed back: “Please stop this knee-jerk, reactionary rubbish. There are a ton of women out here, including longtime feminists like me, who don’t appreciate being ‘spoken for’ in this repressive way. We can use our bodies for pleasure, profit, and politics if we want.”
Newkirk evidently feels that the advertising is acceptable because the models chose to participate. 23 Thus does PeTA capitulate to commercial norms which play on stereotypical notions of the difference between the sexes, combined with the idea that women enjoy their own sexual objectification.
Sexism in animal advocacy did not spring up overnight. PeTA has deliberately cultivated it over a period of years. Geov Parrish writes that PeTA has always had an “unsettling habit of pushing the envelope in inappropriate ways in order to draw attention to its issues, and of exploiting and mistreating its young, often female staffers and volunteers.” 24 Parrish reproves PeTA for a television slot in which a man fatally beats a woman to take her fur coat, crudely subtitled “What if you were killed for your coat?” Another PeTA advertisement features Playboy Playmate Kimberley Conrad Hefner in an unbuttoned Uncle Sam outfit, captioned “I want YOU to go vegetarian” and distributed to U.S. soldiers around the world. Yet another advertisement shows a young, naked woman in a classroom, partly turned to the chalkboard on which she repeatedly writes “I’d rather go naked than wear fur.” PeTA brags that the model, Lolita star Dominique Swain, is “the youngest star ever to pose au natural for PeTA’s anti-fur campaign.”
Geov Parrish comments:
“It’s more than a little surreal to have the country’s best-known animal rights group seemingly endorsing male violence in virtually all its forms: militarism, male violence against women, objectification of women, even, with the use of a naked actress associated with Lolita, statutory rape, in the service of ostensibly encouraging people not to commit violence against animals. It’s also extraordinarily discrediting, not just to PETA, but to the entire animal rights movement…The ads lend unfortunate credence to the long-standing, often spurious rap against animal rights activists, that they care more about animals than people.”
Not surprisingly, PeTA’s attention-seeking gimmicks have inspired the most ludicrous and demeaning headlines. The Canadian press proclaimed: “Baywatch babe bares all for PETA.”25 The continual stream of sexism is coupled with pure inanity: In the latest advertising campaign, model Carré Otis wears mermaid fins “and nothing else” in a new billboard in Nova Scotia, in order to “inspire people to relate to sea animals.” 26
Lettuce Entertain Serious Thought
Nudity itself is not sexism. Certain uses of nudity, however, turn women’s sexuality into a commodity. Sex sells — that is, thin, shaven bodies of “babes” sell. The Playboy model of cosmeticized nudity presents women in a way that communicates sexual availability. And justifying the most obnoxious tactics if used “for the animals,” PeTA has promoted this model for years. As early as 1994, Patti Davis, child of Ronald Reagan, agreed to donate half her fee from a Playboy spread to PeTA — and posed with Hugh Hefner’s dog. 27 In 1995 PeTA campaign director Dan Matthews promoted organ donation with Kimberley Conrad Hefner and the slogan “Some People Need You Inside Them,” making the Chicago Tribune quotables with the remark “Just because we’re soft-hearted doesn’t mean we can’t be soft-core.” 28
More recently, PeTA dispatched a pair of Playboy models “wearing nothing but strategically placed lettuce leaves” to promote vegetarianism to members of the U.S. Congress — offensive on several levels, as the campaign implies that Congress is (a) male; (b) likely to be persuaded to do something if offered the sight of Playboy models; and (c) appropriately confronted in such a manner. The Washington Times could not resist goading it all on:
“PETA for once is offering, well, a feast: Playboy playmates Julie McCullough and Kari Kennell, serving vegetarian ‘Not Dogs’ to promote what they call a healthy and humane diet (Independence Avenue entrance, boys).”
PeTA’s Dan Matthews summed up PeTA’s style most concisely, telling the Times: “Playboy is helping us put the ‘T & A’ in PETA.” 29
Surely, the animal rights movement can do better than that.
- 1. Reference: message from Alex Hershaft to AR 2002 Memories Board at http://www.vegsource.com/armemories/.
- 2. See Marc Morano, “Feminists Battle ‘Animal Rights’ Activists Over Alleged Sexism” — Cybercast News Service News (previously called the Conservative News Service; 16 July 2002). A number of similar statements appeared on the AR 2002 Memories Board.
- 3. Hershaft announced: “We banned several people who were deliberately disruptive… from next year’s conference.” See Marc Morano, “Feminists Battle ‘Animal Rights’ Activists Over Alleged Sexism” (above).
- 4. Message from Alex Hershaft to the Memories Board: “Sexism and Disruption at AR2002” (posted 9 July 2002).
- 5. In a conference primarily attended by women, one attendee noted, men delivered most of the presentations and five out of six keynote speeches.
- 6. Message from Alex Hershaft to the Memories Board: “Barbara Chang has been banned from AR2003” (10 July 2002). Barbara Chang’s existence remains a mystery: Chang could not be located for comment during the writing of this article; moreover, no one interviewed for this article who was present at AR 2002 could recall meeting Chang.
- 7. Message from Alex Hershaft to the Memories Board: “Disruptive Behavior on the Board” (posted 10 July 2002).
- 8. Message from Alex Hershaft to the Memories Board: “This Board Is Now Closed” (posted 18 July 2002).
- 9. Message from Alex Hershaft to the Memories Board: “Purpose of this Board and Dictatorship” (posted 9 July 2002).
- 10. The “Animal Rights 2003” presenters’ list included Suzanne Elliot, EarthSave International. Until January of 2002, Howard Lyman was the president of EarthSave.
- 11. See Marc Morano, “Feminists Battle ‘Animal Rights’ Activists Over Alleged Sexism”(above).
- 12. Priscilla Feral, “Real News for AR2003 Attendees” (posted on AR-News on 26 June 2003). This is not to say that Natasha Allas should be excluded from participating in conferences. The problem is that Allas was distinguished expressly for having won a beauty pageant.
- 13. This year’s conference, Animal Rights 2003, was held in July in McLean, Virginia. Animal Rights 2003 West took place in August at the Westin Hotel in Los Angeles. The two conferences are sponsored by the Farm Animal Reform Movement in collaboration with the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Animal Legal Defense Fund, Animals Voice, Animal Protection Institute, Farm Sanctuary, Fund For Animals, In Defense of Animals, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, United Poultry Concerns, Vegetarian Times, Wildlife Land Trust, and several other groups.
- 14. “AR 2002 Hall of Fame nominations” – Posting by Peter Muller to AR-News (5 June 2002).
- 15. Peter Singer, “Heavy Petting” (book review and commentary), Nerve.com http://www.nerve.com/Opinions/Singer/heavyPetting/main.asp (copyright 2001 by Peter Singer and Nerve.com, Inc.; visited 8 July 2003).
- 16. “A Statement By Peter Singer” (open message from the Farm Animal Reform Movement dated 13 April 2001).
- 17. Alex Hershaft, “We Have Met the Enemy” (open letter dated 13 April 2001).
- 18. Tina Cassidy, “New York Fashion Week: Anti-Fur Group Stages a Show with Appeal” – The Boston Globe (12 Feb. 2003).
- 19. Ellen Wulfhorst, Anti-fur Activists Stage New York Fashion Show” – Reuters (11 Feb. 2003).
- 20. AVN, The Adult Entertainment Monthly (March 2000); current Kleptomaniac catalogue.
- 21. Jack Nichols, “Camille Paglia: What’s She Really Saying?” – Greenwich Village Gazette, Vol. 6, No. 26 (10 Aug. 2001).
- 22. Galen Sherwin, “Is This Ad Sexist?” – Ms. Magazine (April/May 2000).
- 23. Newkirk adds that she as well as men have participated in naked stunts. In July 2003, for example, several men and women removed their clothing during a protest against the running of bulls in Pamplona, Spain. BBC News, “Naked protest at Spain bull run” (5 July 2003). Such mixed events are the exceptions; moreover, male participants display their natural bodies without the emphasis on marketed sexuality.
- 24. Geov Parrish, “Treating women like meat: How PETA is missing the forest for the trees in its sexist campaigns”- WorkingForChange (20 March 2002) http://www.workingforchange.com/article.cfm?ItemID=12999 (visited 16 June 2003).
- 25. Article by David Serviette, The Ottawa Citizen (13 July 2002). The subtitle was “New ad targets butcher trade.”
- 26. PeTA E-News (4 July 2003).
- 27. See Gary L Francione, Rain without Thunder: The Ideology of the Animal Rights Movement (Temple University Press, 1996) at 75.
- 28. The Chicago Tribune, “Perspective: Quotables” (21 Aug. 1995).
- 29. John McCaslin, “Inside the Beltway: Lettuce Entertain You”- The Washington Times (19 July 2000).
For almost two years, Friends of Animals has been investigating and reporting on concerns about whether The Nature Conservancy (TNC) is really the kind of friend of animals that most people expect it to be. It seems reasonable to presume that an organization that purports to conserve nature is one that protects the animals who live there. But reason is not always the best guide when it comes to animal exploitation and the money that can be made from it.
Readers of Act•ion Line will recall that since 2001, FoA has been looking into practices that can only be considered an affront to nature and the individuals – both human and nonhuman – who try to live in harmony with it. Among the activities that we uncovered were widespread hunting, in addition to fishing, snaring and ranching, on land under TNC’s “protection.” Rather than merely conserving nature for nature’s sake, TNC actually invites people to visit animals at home and kill them.
Hunting is bad enough when it is done on private property or government controlled land, but the offense is even greater when it is permitted by a non-profit whose very mandate is to protect nature, and which banks on the public trust, enjoying important tax and other financial benefits intended to support its mission.
We first told you about a deer hunt that TNC authorized in Devil’s Den Preserve in Connecticut. The hunt was organized secretly, but when FoA learned of it, we sent two teams to conduct a non-violent protest. They could not stop the hunt but they did manage to delay it. In the preserve’s 35-year history, deer-hunting had never been permitted and the deer who lived there had become accustomed to the presence of peaceful human hikers. As we said then, it must have been like shooting puppies in a pet shop.
Once word got out about the hunt, TNC tried to defend itself in the way such acts are often defended: they blamed the victims, alleging that the deer were overpopulated and destroying vegetation. The many fallacies of these claims were described in our article.
As we carried on with our investigation, we found numerous other locations where hunting is encouraged among the (now) near 7 million acres controlled by TNC in the U.S. and Canada. While this was a clear abuse of the trust that many of its members extended to TNC, in anticipation that it would protect animals on their own land, it was not the only abuse. In the same article, we cited a series of shady financial deals in which TNC was implicated, including land swap that brought them significant public monies.
In a later two-part expose, we described the permissive, if inconsistent, approach taken to hunting, fishing and ranching by many TNC state chapters and subsidiaries. Consumptive activities were found to be permitted, to varying degrees, for different reasons, in many of them. The mere variety of justifications brings those justifications themselves into question, for it comes to seem that almost any excuse will do.
The “worldwide organization” policy sent to us by several state chapters listed conditions under which hunting would be permitted on its lands – including the encouragement of respect for human practices, and the facilitation of land-transfers to benefit conservation. Oregon’s chapter gave hunting permits as rewards to hunters who fulfill a volunteer-work requirement on a TNC preserve. A spokesperson for North Carolina’s chapter was quoted saying that TNC positively encourages hunting as a management technique.
And there was more. We reported on TNC’s involvement in projects that promote hunting to young people. It also helped to develop an exhibit at the Fort Worth Zoo, including the portions on hunting and ranching. TNC is a full partner in the Conservation Beef Company.
Recently, the Washington Post found a host of other problems. In a series of nine articles that appeared between May 3 and 6, 2003, the Post found, for example, that:
- TNC’s focus has shifted from science to fundraising;
- TNC is a “whirring marketing machine that has poured millions into building and protecting the organization’s image;”
- The 2002 compensation and benefits package of TNC’s president totaled more than $400,000, even though TNC reported it as being significantly less;
- TNC has “logged forests, engineered a $64 million deal paving the way for opulent houses on fragile grasslands and drilled for natural gas under the last breeding ground of an endangered bird species;” and
- TNC’s governing board and advisory council now include executives and directors from oil companies, chemical producers, auto manufacturers, mining concerns, logging operations and coal-burning electric utilities.
Why do such things go on? How can a “conservation” organization engage in such notorious behaviour? Well, money talks. That phrase is a cliche for a reason – it is often true. Hunters pay to indulge the pleasure they get from killing others, whether by way of license fee or volunteer work exchange programs. Hunters wield significant power by way of their lobby groups and they have control, disproportionate to their numbers, over many state wildlife agencies. And the land deals speak for themselves.
That is perhaps an explanation of their problem, albeit simplistically described. But what is ours? How does a society let such an organization permit and profit from the deaths of the very animals it is supposed to be protecting?
One problem seems to be that it takes time before people really believe the situation could be as bad as critics claim. That must be part of the explanation for how many animal rights concerns are summarily dismissed as “fanatic” or “extreme”. It strikes most people as inconceivable that the iniquities we bring to the public realm for discussion could be real, or that the people society tends to view as its heroes – conservationists, farmers, medical researchers, Shriners – could actually be doing the hurtful things we ascribe to them. The problem is compounded by the fact that our society tends to keep its members so occupied with concerns about jobs and mortgage payments and affordable daycare that the time needed to reflect on important subjects, think critically about what those with power tell us to believe, and make informed decisions about right and wrong, becomes a luxury many people think they can’t afford.
The truth is that we – though disappointed and angry – should not be surprised by this discovery. Big money is usually good at hiding its dirty roots. And the Nature Conservancy is not the only organization to take advantage of the public trust that comes with words like “nature” and “conservation” – others, like World Wildlife Fund (WWF), do the same. WWF has recently been the subject of criticism by Friends of Animals and others for its support of the annual seal hunt in Canada.
That hunt, already the largest commercial hunt for wildlife in the world, is growing. This year, the Canadian government announced an increase in the “total allowable catch” for harp seals, up to 350,000 for 2003 and the following two years. If the number wasn’t staggering enough, we note that the seals don’t even live in Canada. They only pass by its eastern coast in the spring, in the course of their migration. They stop to rest on Canadian shores and ice floes for about six weeks, just long enough for mothers to deliver and nurse their babies, then mate before continuing their long journey north.
To send in an army of hunters to slaughter as many seals as possible at their most vulnerable time is disgraceful. Yet, WWF supports the “new management approach” for seals, focussing on abstract ideas about “sustainability” of the seal “population” while ignoring the individual seals who make up that population. Email complaints to the organization prompted it to respond that WWF’s focus is on conservation and not on animal welfare issues.
To make matters even more confusing, animal researchers are starting “animal welfare” groups (invoking the antiquated claim that animal use is necessary but should be done humanely, whatever that might mean) and hunters call their lobby groups “conservation organizations.” There can be no accident in their choice of words, the English language offers plenty of options. These organizations use words or terms that are vague enough to attract the attention of members of the public who care about animals, when in reality, they mean something quite different than what those words imply.
In an increasingly frantic society, where we are kept too busy to have much time for re-examining our own ideas and challenging corporate messaging, words like “nature” and “conserve,” “welfare” and “humane,” all have immediate appeal. But our job, as people who wish to liberate animals from human exploitation, is to be smarter than that. We must see through the tired, old rationalizations used by those who make money when animals are hurt; their arguments fall, like a blood-soaked house of cards, when caring people dare to question.
There’s a secret hiding in all those reports about the health benefits of wine-drinking. While not for everybody, studies have shown that moderate (1-2 glasses a day) wine consumption can be beneficial to health by lowering the risk of skin cancer, stroke, and heart attack, improving good cholesterol, and even preventing osteoporosis. Though these benefits have also been shown to occur with consumption of other foods and drinks, a glass of wine with the evening meal is a traditional part of many diets around the world. The secret that few people know is that most wines are not vegan and plenty are not even vegetarian.
What could be in wine that would make it so antithetical to vegan or vegetarian lifestyles? After all, it’s just crushed grapes, isn’t it? Unfortunately, like most food products, wine is processed, and part of the chain of events that eventually gets it to your table includes fining, the process by which wine is filtered, to clear it of cloud-causing sediments. This includes using isinglass from fish in (mostly German) white wines and gelatin in red wines, casein (a milk protein), to soften the taste, and egg whites to brighten red wines. Even animal blood has been used (and still is, though not commonly) in some Mediterranean countries, though it is outlawed in the United States and France.
Kosher wines won’t contain casein or animal blood, so they are vegetarian, but not necessarily vegan. There are a few different organizations that certify wine and other food products as kosher, and while some eschew egg whites, others will certify a wine as kosher as long as all of the egg whites were removed from the final product.
However, there is more than one way to ‘fine the wine.’ Bentonite, a natural, inert clay powder, can be used to affect the same process. And some very patient vintners even let the wine’s sediments settle out naturally. The ingredient list of a wine won’t include kind of clarifier is used, because it’s removed from the final product. There are also human-made fining agents, but these are not allowed in organic wines, and oftentimes the same vineyards that care about avoiding animal products in their wine also care about the environmental impact of their grape farming and go organic. After all, as Herman Weimer, a winegrower from upstate New York says, “When you go organic, the songbirds and ladybugs return to the vineyard.” However, certainly not all organic wines are vegan, and farming practices like rodent control vary from vineyard to vineyard.
What’s an animal-loving wine drinker to do? Gladly, there are plenty of vegan and organic wine varieties out there. One clue that a wine may be vegan is if hasn’t been fined. You might be able to see some sediment floating around in the wine or on the label it might say that it’s “unfiltered” or “unfined.” However, as Donna Binder, co-owner and wine buyer of Counter vegan restaurant reports, “Unfiltered doesn’t necessarily mean unfined.” She adds, “Vegan wine is an emerging market, but there is no third-party certification like with organic products. It’s complicated, since sometimes one vintage from a winery will be fined and the next won’t be. The only way to really know is to contact the winery yourself,” which is what she does when purchasing wines for the restaurant. You can call the vineyard, check the Internet, or ask your local wine seller to do some research for you. Since most wine stores’ selections are limited by available space, they are usually happy to special-order requests, and perhaps you can encourage them to learn about this new wine market.
Some wine companies (especially European-based vineyards), mark their wines vegetarian (V) or vegan (VG) on the label, but not all wineries use this kind of voluntary classification. And there are a number of wineries cropping up that offer only vegan wines, like Guy Brossard, who makes a fresh and fruity white Muscadet, and Movia, who makes a Cabernet, a Pinot Noir, and a varietal blend of red grapes called Veliko Rosso and a white blend of three Pinots, named Turno.
And you don’t have to miss your after-dinner drink or wedding toast either. There are vegan sparkling wines, like the Method Champenoise by Guy Brossard, and ports, like the Counter’s house port, Ribera Del Duero.
With just a little research, you’ll be able to turn up a new favorite wine, port or sparkling wine that will be healthy for you, the planet and the animals.