For nearly a quarter of a century the Tibetan Antelope (Pantholops hodgsonii), popularly known as the "chiru" has received international protection under the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES). At long last, the United States Department of the Interior is acting to protect this imperiled species as "endangered" under the US Endangered Species Act (ESA) as well.
Monkeypox entered America by way of exotic species imported primarily for the pet trade (see Summer 2003 AWI Quarterly). After more than 70 people contracted the disease and approximately a dozen people required hospitalization including two children who needed intensive care, the federal government temporarily banned import of a small number of exotics who were known to contract monkeypox.
In August 1997, an Alternative Swine Systems Task Force (ASSTF) was created at the University of Minnesota. State legislation had been introduced to fund research on technologies to deal with noxious odors from the state's industrial-style pig farms. Family farm advocates reasoned that if any tax dollars were to be spent on odor research, it was only right that some of them should be devoted to demonstrating pig rearing systems that were already environmentally friendly.
During the last half of the twentieth century, science expanded from being the foundation of technological progress, to becoming a source of guidance for ameliorating the resulting impacts. The marriage of science with public policy holds the promise of enlightened legislation, but only as long as science avoids being corrupted in the process.
It has been estimated that about 70% of the almost six million breeding sows in the US spend three-quarters of their adult lives confined in narrow, two foot by six and one-half foot gestation crates or stalls, and the other one-quarter in equally narrow farrowing crates, constructed to limit their mobility in the presence of their piglets.
Ten years ago I led a delegation to Mexico City to negotiate with the amusement park Reino Aventura to give up Keiko the orca whale to a coalition dedicated to his release. Keiko had just become the most famous whale in the world by starring in Free Willy.
The "Taiping Four" are young gorillas who had the misfortune to be caught up in the international live animal trade. They are now sitting behind the scenes at Taiping Zoo, Malaysia, awaiting a decision on their fate.
In communities across America, animals in shelters are subjected to a life-and-death game of Russian Roulette. Some are reclaimed by their guardians, some are adopted by new loving families, and some are euthanized. It's easy to hide behind intangible statistics: between eight and ten million animals spend time in shelters every year; half of them likely will be killed as a result of insufficient space and financial resources to care for them all.
In mid-October 2003 the Summerlee Foundation teamed up with Earth Island Institute to convene a three day workshop in San Francisco with one focus-ending the international business of taking whales and dolphins from their families to provide human entertainment.
With a brush of (perhaps false) bravado, United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Ann Veneman defiantly declared plans to serve beef at Christmas dinner, while admitting the presence of mad cow disease in the US. Meanwhile, more than 50 countries from Australia to Venezuela have banned imports of American beef.
The United States, continuing to envelop developing countries' domestic markets, just concluded the Central American Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) with El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Costa Rica walked away from the negotiations.
The future is grim indeed for the rarest canid in the world. Fewer than 500 Ethiopian wolves (Canis simensis) cling perilously to life in the East African nation of Ethiopia. These endangered animals, closely resembling the coyote in appearance and size, have long been in decline from human agricultural settlements and diseases such as rabies and canine distemper, which are passed to the wolves by domestic dogs.
I was born in 1951, the same year as AWI. My maternal grandparents had a small farm in tidewater Virginia. At least 80% of what they consumed came from their own land and waters or from their neighbors.