To Cat Communication International, a telephone service provider in Roanoke, VA, for promoting a meat-free workplace and offering free vegetarian meals to employees in what they call their “Vegetaria.” The company encouraged thought and debate on the subject through a memo to employees, which contained the following:
“We at CCI are committed to promoting an end to cruelty towards animals. Approximately 10 billion animals, not including fish, are killed each year to satisfy the needs of American meat eaters. In his or her lifetime, each vegetarian will save the lives of 6,308 animals by not consuming them.”
To Budget Rental Cars, for promoting alternative energy sources by offering hybrid automobiles, which operate on electricity as well as gasoline. The development of hybrid automobiles leads the Apollo Alliance ten-point plan for Good Jobs and Energy Independence, which was endorsed by Ralph Nader. Consumers are now offered an affordable rental option that will reduce the use of fossil fuels. Alternatives such as the hybrid automobile must become accessible to minimize human encroachment and protect unspoiled lands such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
To Inditex, a Spanish fashion chain which includes brands such as Zara and Massimo Dutti, for announcing that they are removing fur from the shelves of all store locations in the 54 nations in which they operate by Jan. 1, 2005. Inditex CEO José María Castellano Ríos told the BBC, “The measure is one step further in our commitment to respect the animals and environment surrounding us.”
To the city of Seattle, for abandoning a program in which geese were rounded up from city parks and gassed. This year, no geese were killed as the city used volunteers with dogs and laser guns to deter geese from taking up residence in five parks. While the Department of Agriculture Wildlife Services has called for a return to the goose-killing program, the Seattle Post Intelligencer reported that the non-lethal program has worked out well, referring to a significant decrease in goose droppings as “good news for the geese.”
To actor Harrison Ford, for protecting elk and other animals by posting his Wyoming ranch against hunting.
While Wyoming state officials are targeting the Fall Creek elk herd, Ford has created a safe haven. Ranch Manager John Kelly told the Concord Monitor that Ford “doesn’t want any hunting to take place on his property.”
To Ann Taylor, a national retail clothing chain which has reintroduced fur to its catalog. After years of not selling fur, they are now offering a line of rabbit and raccoon fur jackets, vests and hats in their stores and catalogs.
The company responded to our request for the removal of fur from the stores, writing, “As a fashion retailer, Ann Taylor recognizes that our clients expect and demand a variety of options that meet their individual needs and fashion preferences. In the end, we know that we may not be able to please all of our clients.”
Ann Taylor Stores
J. Patrick Spainhour, Chairman and CEO
100 Ann Taylor Dr.
P.O. Box 571650
Taylorsville, UT 84157-1650
Tel: (800) 342-5266
Fax: (800) 232-9266
To the National Education Association, for their partnership with Atkins Nutritionals, the low-carb diet program, which is based on high levels of meat and dairy consumption. The agreement would grant the company marketing access to students as Atkins distributes materials on childhood obesity. The plan is opposed by the Partnership for Essential Nutrients, a coalition of consumer, nutrition and public health groups. Dr. Barbara Moore, a partnership member and president of Shape-up America, stated in a news release, “I find it particularly insidious now when the company may be experiencing financial woes that it has begun to target school children.”
As Dr. John McDougall of the McDougall Wellness Center puts it, “Populations following high-carbohydrate, low-fat, lower-protein diets, like those from traditional Asian and African countries are trim for a lifetime and avoid all the diseases common to people who follow the Western diet. The Atkins diet is simply an exaggeration of the unhealthy Western diet to a level that makes people sufficiently ill to lose their appetite.”
Reg Weaver, President
National Education Association
1201 16th Street, NW Washington, DC 20036-3290
To Organic Style Magazine, which accepts advertising for Chicken Noodle Soup and other products that exploit and consume animals, rhapsodizes about the so-called green eating of organic organ meat, but refuses FoA’s paid advertising that encourages readers to shun fur.
Editor, Organic Style Magazine
733 Third Avenue, 15th Floor
New York, NY 10017-3204
Telephone: (212) 573-0553
Fax: (212) 573-0219
To the NBC television show “Scrubs” for the Sept. 21 episode which featured a man who catches squirrels in a sack and kills them. Friends of Animals wrote to NBC President Jeff Zucker, asking, “With all of the routine violence these days… might you summon the decency to stop finding amusement in the deaths of animals?”
Jeff Zucker, President
3000 W Alameda Ave
Burbank, CA 91523-0002
Telephone: (818) 840-4444
Fax: (818) 840-3247
July 9-10, 2005, New York City
Join Friends of Animals at our forthcoming conference. We’ll be addressing the foundations of the movement and how they can guide the activism of the future.
A variety of topics and workshops will be available, yet all will explore the principles which are the bedrock of the movement. The connecting thread is living respectfully on a planet which is home to so many.
Mainstreamer or innovator? Strategies of and for the next generation.
Welfare and authority: The rise of intimidation tactics in animal protectionism.
Current legal issues of interest to activists.
Feminism, Ecology, and Untangling the Threads of Domination
Treading lightly on the earth.
Heterosexism, the concept of male violence, and hunting.
Animal rights and the dairy business. Replacing anti-cruelty standards with respect. Of Mice and Men: Catharine MacKinnon’s feminist fragment on animal rights. Guardianship and control.
Is a focus on the victim healthful or harmful?
Cycles of domestication and rescue.
Cuisine for liberation. Food and environmental justice. The pure vegetarian diet: Current knowledge about health and healing.
Classic recipes: Replacing eggs, creams and cheeses. Raw food: How to prepare and enjoy it.
Conceiving and achieving a vegan festival.
Details about talks, demonstrations, workshops, and interactive gatherings will be announced in FoA’s Spring 2005 issue.
For more information as the date approaches, phone: 203-656-1522. Those who have Internet connections are invited to e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit our Web site for further details: http://www.friendsofanimals.org
The Friends of Animals 2005 Animal Rights Conference will be held in New York City on 9-10 July 2005. Save the Dates.
New York City offers distinctive dining opportunities around every corner. And the June 2004 opening of Pure Food and Wine, an organic raw vegan restaurant, was a delightful surprise for those who thought that they’d seen and tried them all.
Restaurateur Jeffrey Chodorow partnered with chefs Matthew Kenney and Sarma Melngailis in creating a dining experience that is at once inventive and enlightening. A restaurant with no oven might be inconceivable to many, yet pulling out the gas lines was one of the first steps in kitchen-building at Pure Food and Wine.
The restaurant’s raw cuisine makes use of fresh organic vegetables and fruits, sprouted grains, nuts, seeds and herbs. The dishes, all prepared at heat below 118 degrees F., creatively employ blenders, dehydrators, and marinades. “The prep is enormously time-consuming, as each item is assembled by hand when ordered,” says Melngailis, “and the ingredients always have to be perfect.”
Candles and outdoor lanterns light up the night for al fresco dining, and wooden benches topped with plush, crimson cushions surround the tree-lined garden. From a small bar in the corner of the garden, one might look out upon the lively crowd of diners, or gaze up at the unobstructed view of the Manhattan sky.
For the winter months now upon us, there is the subtly-lit dining room, warmed by Brazilian wood panels and deep vermilion walls. Dark, wooden tables and the signature red hemp cushions lend a Zen-like atmosphere, and a wall of pictures of joyfully waddling ducks will soothe busy New Yorkers and sight-seers alike.
The menu promises “organic ingredients and handcrafted flavors that rejuvenate the body, mind and planet” — a promise matched by the refreshing beauty of the dishes. To start off with the spicy Thai Lettuce Wrap with tamarind chili sauce, mango, Napa cabbage, ginger and cashews is to enjoy a work of edible art. Fresh and vivacious, its crisp, green lettuce jauntily encloses a creamy Napa cabbage filling blended with a tangy, slightly sweet tamarind chili sauce. An equally impressive appetizer is the Tart of Lobster Mushroom, Asparagus and Fava Bean with Orange Zest, prepared with a touch of cardamom in a crisp chayote crust. Then, the main course. Red Beet Ravioli with cashew cheese filling, tarragon and pistachio is a satisfying choice — vibrant and beautiful with its paper-thin, magenta ravioli shells artfully arranged and decorated with a zigzag of yellow pepper purée.
For dessert, your host might recommend the Dark Chocolate Ganache Tart, served with black mint ice cream. Ganache is a French term referring to a smooth mixture of chopped chocolate and heavy cream; this version, however, is purely vegetarian. The intensity of the chocolate is perfectly balanced by the mint ice cream, which is refreshingly smooth, clean and tangy.
Pure Food and Wine, with its peaceful and elegant ambience, its exquisite food, its accommodating staff, and the noble vision of its creators, is a welcome addition to New York’s fine dining scene. Enjoy a meal at this restaurant and see for yourself: Purity can be a luxurious experience.
Pure Food and Wine
54 Irving Place, New York, NY 10003
Pure Food and Wine is open seven days a week
Sunday-Wednesday 5:30pm-11:00pm; Thursday-Saturday 5:30pm-12:00am
65-seat Dining Room
Pure Food and Take Away
Located just around the corner from the restaurant, this casual version offers many signature dishes from the main restaurant’s menu, in addition to smoothies, juices, snacks, and homemade ice creams. The tiny shop also sells books, products and ingredients relating to raw foods.
125 ½ E. 17th St., between Irving Place and 3rd Ave.
Open seven days a week from 11:00am-11:00pm
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.
McDonald’s Wins Rights to Vegetarian Society Logo
Customers at British McDonald’s restaurants will now see a “Vegetarian Society Approved” badge on the same menu that offers Big Macs and Chicken McNuggets. In October, the international media announced that McDonald’s had prevailed upon the Vegetarian Society (not connected with the Vegan Society) to allow the burger giant to improve its public relations by displaying the Vegetarian Society’s badge.
McDonald’s will pay the Vegetarian Society an undisclosed fee for access to the trademark.
Ironically, as a writer from the MediaGuardian pointed out, the Vegetarian Society’s website quotes Alexander Pope as saying: “Nothing can be more shocking and horrid than one of our kitchens sprinkled with blood and abounding with the cries of expiring victims or with the limbs of dead animals scattered or hung up here and there.”1
Presumably, Vegetarian Society leaders know that McDonald’s is the world’s largest cause of expiring cows, and the second largest user of the limbs of dead chickens.2
When interviewed in news reports, those leaders cited the availability of such items as a new garden salad and yoghurt, acknowledged that the embattled fast food chain would be likely to gain positive publicity from gaining access to the logo, but defended the collaboration on the grounds that the Society prefers not to be “a vegetarian elite.” Unfortunately, they are assisting the elites who control a huge percentage of the world’s food market. On a given day, the number of people worldwide eating at McDonald’s exceeds the entire population of Spain.3 The deal with McDonald’s will make it harder for the independent, truly vegetarian co-ops and restaurants to survive.
The surreal history between the Vegetarian Society and McDonald’s goes back 15 years. The Society is one of many recipients of threatening letters from the burger giant which, over the years, has become miffed at numerous daily newspapers, television stations, various green groups, animal rights groups, small businesses, and employee advocates.4
In 1990, the Vegetarian Society published an interview which connected McDonald’s with tropical rainforest destruction. (The interviewee says to “tell them the truth behind the façade of Ronald McDonald’s. Tell them about the animals thrashing as their throats are cut. Tell them about the destruction of the rainforests.”)
The home of the Happy Meal was unhappy with this negative publicity. The McDonald’s Corporation of Oakbrook, Illinois, along with McDonald’s Restaurants Limited in Britain, sent a libel threat to the magazine at issue, Greenscene. The multinational denied having a destructive impact on rainforests. The company brought up its “support for the conservation of wildlife and natural resources throughout the world” and invoked the World Wildlife Fund to back its position.5
The Vegetarian Society invited McDonald’s to take part in an open debate over the issue in Greenscene; McDonald’s declined. Concerned about the financial pressure of legal fees, the Society ultimately issued a public apology.
Other McDonald’s PR Initiatives
Hoping to counter the threat of a ban on advertising its burgers and fried foods to children, McDonald’s has just launched a health-conscious campaign for children.6 In contrast with the theme of most of its advertising, the corporation’s latest campaign will remind younger viewers to keep fit, eat fruits and vegetables, and “not to have too many treats,” in a series of two-minute television commercials featuring Ronald McDonald and dancing, cartoonish YumChums.7
Other public relations initiatives undertaken in recent years by McDonald’s include a partnership with the Center for Environmental Leadership in Business, a division of Conservation International. The company also points to increased efforts to save water and to recycle its paper and cardboard.
Not everyone is appeased by the company’s moves. The Australian Ronald McDonald walked off the job in August 2004 over the company’s use of genetically modified chicken feed.8According to Greenpeace, genetically engineered crops the U.S. and Argentina have meant increased chemical use, lower yields, herbicide resistant weeds and contamination of conventional crops. And Simon Harris, campaign director for the U.S.- based Organic Consumers Association, has observed that “McDonald’s represents the face of global corporatization. The company looks at the environment and at communities as resources to be extracted.”9
PeTA Wants the Government to Regulate Fur Farms
In August of 2004, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals “fired off a letter to the U.S. Department of Agriculture demanding that it begin protecting animals” raised for fur by including chinchillas, foxes, minks, and raccoons used in fur under the provisions of federal Animal Welfare Act.10 The group also asked the Michigan Agriculture Department to regulate killing on fur farms.
PeTA’s Mary Beth Sweetland wrote to a USDA regional Animal Care division director regarding a Michigan company, Okes Chinchillas. PeTA’s letter states, in part:
The enclosed video shows Robin Ouderkirk giving instructions on how to kill chinchillas by electrocution and cervical dislocation (neck-breaking). As you can see from the video, the animals are electrocuted from head to tail instead of through the brain, as is required in order to be humane.
The letter added that neck-breaking “may not be an appropriate killing method because of the size of the chinchillas.” Citing a report from a national veterinary panel, PeTA writes that “electrocution is not recommended for animals as small as chinchillas, and they are not mentioned under the report’s cervical-dislocation section, but they are mentioned under the section on carbon-monoxide poisoning.” PeTA concludes that gassing is the acceptable means of killing animals used for fur or other purposes, whereas “the Ouderkirks’ use of both electrocution techniques and cervical dislocation is improper.”
As the federal Animal Welfare Act expands, it codifies ever more forms of exploitation of other animals. Logically, the federal government or the government of any state could not “begin protecting” mammals by hardening the commodification of these animals into law. Moreover, a definition of “protecting” other animals that’s broad enough to include the regulation of killing them is peculiar indeed.
Fashion Industry Trumpets Resurgence of Fur
The past year has seen a resurgence of fur on fashion models around the world. Global fur sales have increased steadily in recent years, from $8.2 billion in 1998-99 to $11.3 billion in 2002-03, with the year-end totals for 2004 expected to rise for the sixth consecutive year.11 A substantial part of the trend involves cheap clothes marketed to young people through the outlet stores.12
How did it happen? To counter the negative image of furs of the late 1980’s, the world’s largest producer of fashion furs set up an educational hub outside Copenhagen. The producer is SAGA, the marketing division for Scandinavian fur traders; its courses on using fur as a “fashion fabric” have drawn thousands of designers. SAGA press releases are now the indicators of which designers will be showing fur. Meanwhile, fur trade associations have issued chains of releases heralding the donning of fur by celebrities such as Naomi Campbell and Kate Moss.
“Fur has become fashionable again and women will wear anything that’s fashionable,” said Richard D. North, a fellow of Britain’s Institute of Economic Affairs. Much real fur now looks like fake fur — a factor cited in a recent Sydney Morning Herald report as helping real fur to return.13
Minks and foxes line the SAGA institute’s halls, in rows of cages. The minks are gassed and the foxes are anally electrocuted. Richard North is unmoved. “They are treated better than farm animals,” North has stated. “They are not moved to their slaughter. They are killed quickly in situ.”
Although “better than farm animals” is hardly a glowing endorsement for the quality of these animals’ lives, North’s words contain a kernel of truth. People are unlikely to stop wearing the skins of other animals as long as it is acceptable to eat other animals. Given that reality, Friends of Animals campaigns are addressing both issues in creative advertising, editorial, and letter-writing initiatives, complementing peaceful yet high-profile protests. Friends of Animals representatives also meet with fashion house managers (most recently Prada in New York) to let them know that activism for ethical standards in clothing is alive and well.
The Zara Chain Promises to Stop Fur Sales (Again)
There are some hopeful signs for international anti-fur advocacy. Britain has phased out its fur farms, and the Canadian company Aldo stopped selling fur in British stores in 2003. Given London’s reputation as a fashion trend-setter, the impact of such decisions has international impact.
In autumn 2004, Inditex Group’s retail chain Zara — which, despite the global recession, opened over 360 new stores in 2003 — withdrew fur products from all its stores. The announcement came just three days before a planned international day of action against the company’s use of fur.14
In 2001, Inditex had decided to use only rabbit skins, and pledged that all fur and leather sold in its stores would come from animals raised on “humanitarian” farms “and under no circumstance from animals sacrificed exclusively for the exploitation of their skins.”15 In early September 2004, one of the company’s directors acknowledged that “some of our products contain fur, but only rabbit fur, a by-product of the food industry.”16 By the end of the same month, Inditex pledged to drop fur altogether.
The firm wrote an open letter to customers explaining its decision.17 “The measure is one step further in our commitment to respect the animals and environment surrounding us,” chief executive José María Castellano Ríos wrote. How refreshing to see the word “respect” rather than the more common use of rhetoric about “protecting” other animals.
All Zara stores, throughout a total of 54 nations, will take fur off the shelves by New Year’s Day 2005, never to sell fur again, according to the open letter. The end of U.S., British, and Scandinavian sales was scheduled in September 2004, but activists should be alert. Inditex has ditched fur in Britain before, following a campaign in 2003, but was slow to take it off the shelves, and reintroduced it by early 2004.18
Fashion entrepreneurs Amancio Ortega Gaona and Rosalia Mera founded Spanish textile company Inditex in 1985. Ortega, who currently chairs the company, is now the richest person in Spain, with a net worth reported at $9.2 billion.19
- 1. Cited by Stephen Brook, “Vegetarian Society Backs McDonald’s Products,” The MediaGuardian (1 Oct. 2004) http://media.guardian.co.uk/site/story/0,14173,1316818,00.html.
- 2. McSpotlight (from submissions in the McLibel case), “Rearing and Slaughter of Animals,” http://www.mcspotlight.org/case/pretrial/defence/animals.html (citing McDonald’s promotional materials).
- 3. Eleanor Ringel Gillespie, “‘Super Size’ Message Clear Despite Clowning,” The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (20 May 2004).
- 4. See McSpotlight, “Other McLibels,” http://www.mcspotlight.org/company/other_mclibels/.
- 5. See McSpotlight, “Other McLibels: Vegetarian Society,” http://www.mcspotlight.org/company/other_mclibels/veg_soc.html.
- 6. Hilary Marshall, “McDonald’s Tries to Deflect Critics,” The Scotsman (22 Jun. 2004).
- 7. McDonald’s Press Release: “YumChums Spring Into Action” (1 Aug. 2004).
- 8. Greenpeace New Zealand: “Ronald McDonald Quits Over GE Chicken Feed” (21 Apr. 2004) http://www.greenpeace.org.nz/news/news_main.asp?offset=10&PRID=680.
- 9. Sandra Guy, “OCA Challenges McDonald’s Greenwashing: McDonald’s Issues Report on Social Responsibility,” Chicago Sun Times (17 Apr. 2002). OCA is a grass-roots non-profit focused on promoting a sustainable food system.
- 10. Quoting People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals’ Web site. A scanned copy of the letter appears on the Internet at http://www.peta.org/feat/Chinchilla/page/chinchilla2.pdf.
- 11. Valerie Lawson, “Fur Starts To Fly,” Sydney Morning Herald (4 Oct. 2004), citing the British Fur Trade Association.
- 12. Valerie Lawson, “Fur Starts To Fly,” Sydney Morning Herald (4 Oct. 2004).
- 13. Valerie Lawson, “Fur Starts To Fly,” Sydney Morning Herald (4 Oct. 2004).
- 14. “Zara Chain Takes Fur Off Shelves,” BBC News (23 Sep. 2004). The first international protest was set for Saturday 25th September 2004. Zara store opening figures are cited in “World’s Richest People,” Forbes (2004).
- 15. Lara Bradley, “Zara Drops Fur in Advance of Protest,” Sunday Independent (Ireland; 3 Oct. 2004).
- 16. Laura Craik, Fashion Editor, “Fur and Against,” Evening Standard (London, 2 Sep. 2004) (quoting Mike Shearwood, managing director of Zara UK).
- 17. The open letter to customers is dated 22 Sep. 2004 and a scanned copy currently appears on the London Animal Action Web site. See http://www.londonanimalaction.org.uk/zara/images/Carta-pieles-1.pdf.
- 18. “Zara Chain Takes Fur Off Shelves,” BBC News (23 Sep. 2004).
- 19. “World’s Richest People,” Forbes (2004).
Alaska is beginning the second winter of an all-out, open-ended, almost-anything-goes campaign to kill thousands of wolves across vast areas of he state. The effort is characterized by deception, bad science, and poor public policy. It also disregards basic ethical standards.
State officials are relying on a questionable provision of the federal Airborne Hunting Act to allow shotgunning of wolves from low, slow-flying airplanes. Citing state law, they are also allowing “land-and-shoot” killing: The pilot makes a quick ski landing near wolves after pursuing them into open terrain, then jumps out of the airplane and shoots the wolves with a semi-automatic carbine as they try to flee through the snow. At least 147 wolves were killed with these aerial methods last winter. Hundreds more are scheduled to be killed this winter and in each of an unspecified number of subsequent winters.
But this is only the formal, above-board phase of control. Each year, so-called sport and subsistence hunters and trappers kill an additional 1,000-2,000 wolves in Alaska, under regulations designed almost solely to maximize the number killed. Hunters and trappers are allowed to kill wolves for about nine months a year in most areas, either without limit or with “limits” of 5-10 wolves or more each. They can kill pups and adults with dependent pups, including during much of the denning season. They can kill them even when the pelts are worthless for any human use. They can chase them down with high-speed snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles. They can use baits to entice them into areas filled with dozens of wire snares hidden in brush, where some die painful deaths quickly but others die for days or longer. They can use airplanes and helicopters to gain access to even the remotest areas and, once there, can coordinate their ground and aerial killing activities via radio communication.
Hunters, trappers, and others can also legally organize to promote wolf killing by paying private bounties, as the Alaska Trappers Association did with a $400 per wolf bounty in the mid-late 1990s to kill half the wolves in the upper Tanana-Fortymile region. The state itself conducts free wolf snaring and trapping clinics to promote more killing, for example as it did a few years ago in native villages along the remote Koyukuk River. The following year, that area’s wolf kill almost tripled, from 50 to 135.
Over the past few years, the policy-making state Board of Game has added and liberalized many of these measures – not only in the 30,000-35,000 square miles thus far designated for direct aerial and land-and-shoot killing, but also across additional tens of thousands of square miles. The Board of Game’s federal counterpart in Alaska, the Federal Subsistence Board, allows much the same on virtually all of the lands that Congress added to the national park and national wildlife refuge systems under the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act of 1980. Within about half of Denali National Park and Preserve, for example, it is legal for “subsistence” hunters to kill 10 wolves each — pups as well as adults – even during late summer and fall when there is no possible subsistence use of a wolf. Trappers have no limit at all.
When all of these largely hidden forms of control are added to the direct aerial and land-and-shoot killing, the truthful control-related total kill comes closer to 1,500-2,000 wolves per year than just the few hundred that are usually identified. Limited resources will restrict the current efforts to stop this killing largely to the formal, airplane-assisted phases. It is still important to identify all of it, however, so the formal control is viewed in proper perspective and proponents understand that their free pass on the rest has expired.
All of these control efforts are aimed at producing more moose and, to a lesser extent, caribou for hunters. And all of them represent bad science, at multiple levels. For most of the areas, especially in Game Management Unit 13 northeast of Anchorage and the middle Kuskokwim River region of Game Management Unit 19 in southwest Alaska, there is only sketchy, anecdotal information on the numbers of moose present despite claims of low populations and poor hunting success. Moose numbers are extremely difficult to estimate in the brushy habitats they use. Without formal censusing procedures, even the most experienced observers, including biologists, can completely misjudge their numbers and trends.
In Game Management Unit 13, the scant census information argues more strongly that moose numbers are too high from a pro-hunting standpoint. In Game Management Unit 20A south of Fairbanks, major de facto wolf control measures remain in place even as state biologists claim there are too many moose and have opened the area to heavier hunting specifically to reduce moose numbers. In the McGrath (upper Kuskokwim River) area of Game Management Unit 19, the state’s estimate of moose numbers is already where the state wanted it to be, and hunter success remains relatively high. But wolf control is proceeding anyway because the locals think they should be able to get most of the moose they want in just a small, easily accessible portion of the area. In Game Management Unit 16 north of Anchorage, there is good census evidence of a moose decline. But stopping moose hunting for a reasonable period could easily be enough to reverse this decline.
In all of these areas and others, biologists continue to ignore a critical lesson supposedly learned decades ago. It is not possible to prevent the heavy hunting that causes long term moose declines in the presence of natural predation without knowing how many moose are present and how many the hunters are killing. In most areas of Alaska, at least one of these key pieces of information is still missing and in many areas both are missing, primarily because the biologists in charge still do not understand the importance of obtaining all of it. Wolves and bears should not again be forced to pay the price for this recurring incompetence, if good census data ever show that more of the alleged moose declines are real.
What continues to drive wolf (and bear) control more than anything is the much discredited notion of “maximum sustained yield.” It is an old cornerstone of wildlife management and the mantra of the field biologists who initiate most control proposals. Simply put, they think it should be possible to keep moose and caribou numbers in each management area at relatively high, stable levels for ongoing high hunter “harvests,” by manipulating natural predation and other variables. They try to smooth out the ups and downs of population change to fulfill this objective.
But nature works in almost the opposite way. Things are organized as systems at multiple interacting scales. Systems and their parts — such as moose and caribou populations and subpopulations — change over time with much variability due to internal behavior (shifts within and between stable states, cycles, compound cycles, chaos) and external influences.
Many scientists now recognize that trying to replace these highly variable natural patterns of change with artificially high, stable conditions to generate high, constant yields causes a system to lose resilience over time. The system becomes less able to absorb unpredictable, uncontrollable major natural and human-caused disruptions and thus more likely to shift unnaturally into long term states with undesirable and unforeseen consequences for almost everyone. In other words, the biologists and others who think they can keep moose and caribou numbers high and stable via predator control and other manipulations are doing some potentially dangerous wishful-thinking, not science.
Ironically, this represents anything but adherence to the sustained-yield management requirement of the Alaska Constitution that wolf control proponents so often cite as support for their cause. True sustainability recognizes the importance of natural system processes. Maximum sustained yield, command-and-control management does not.
Almost as much of a scientific failing is the view of many wildlife biologists that wolves can be killed in large numbers with no biological problem simply because their high reproductive rates and dispersal capabilities enable them to restore their populations quickly. In reality, not all heavily hunted wolf populations have recovered quickly; some haven’t recovered at all. Wolves feature two unusual evolutionary strategies among vertebrates: cooperative breeding and cooperative hunting. These strategies do not operate though populations. They operate primarily through sophisticated interactions and interdependencies within family groups, especially extended families. This kind of social structure can be shredded by even light or moderate killing when key individuals are lost. Its most fundamental adaptations are in stark contrast to the adaptations of species with long evolutionary histories as prey. This alone should be enough to convince any good zoologist that there is no biological rationale for “harvesting” wolves, let alone the massive killing now underway for control purposes.
Poor public policy
Some Alaskans like to brag that we have the most enlightened public process in the country for formulating wildlife policies. In reality, the process is backward and undemocratic. Decisions are made by a citizen Board of Game whose seven members are appointed by the governor for three-year terms that can be renewed. Even though only about 14 percent of Alaskans hold a hunting or trapping license, rarely are any non-hunters or non-trappers appointed. The board seldom gives fair consideration to the values of the majority of Alaskans who don’t hunt, trap, or want predator control. This is especially true for the current board, which is opening the wolf-killing floodgates for moose and caribou hunters as few others have done before.
There are highly qualified scientists in Alaska who disagree with state biologists over predator control and related matters. But state statutes specify that the board does not have to consider any scientific input other than from the Department of Fish and Game, whose biologists usually initiate most predator control proposals and enjoy almost unlimited input throughout each 1-2-week-long board meeting. Independent, dissenting scientists (including me) are allowed only five minutes of testimony.
Wolves feature high intelligence, expressiveness, and unusual emotional depth, characteristics that enable them to maintain their sophisticated, family-based social bonds as cooperative breeders and cooperative hunters. They are not rows of corn to be mowed down willy-nilly because they will grow back. Recognizing this ethical standard would probably do more than anything to signify Alaska’s emergence from its current dark ages of wildlife management.
Gordon Haber, Ph.D., is an independent wildlife scientist who has been studying wolves and wolf-prey systems in Alaska since 1966. Friends of Animals provides the funding for his research.
Editor’s note: Friends of Animals opposes hunting in all its forms.