AWI Quarterly

Ivory of the Sea?

 

Many conservationists argued that the downlisting of certain populations of African elephants to allow an "experimental" sale of ivory would set a dangerous precedent that CITES Parties would use to open up trade in other listed species. This blueprint has been followed in Cuba's proposal to downlist Hawksbill sea turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) from Appendix I to Appendix II to sell its stockpiled turtle shell to Japan in a one-time sale and to allow further annual sales of up to 500 sea turtles a year.

Allowing trade in sea turtle shells is as grievous an error as allowing trade in ivory. This is especially true when one acknowledges that sea turtles are shared wildlife with great ecotourism value for a number of nations. Although the proposal calls for downlisting the "Caribbean population of Hawksbill Turtles… inhabiting Cuban waters," there is clearly no definitive Cuban population of a migratory marine species such as turtles. For example, the species' distribution includes the waters of the Seychelles, a nation that burned two and a half tonnes of confiscated sea turtle shell in 1998 in a clear message of defiance toward those who would profit by killing these animals and selling their parts.

The IUCN considers Hawksbills to be "critically endangered."  Anne Meylan of the Florida Marine Research Institute and Marydele Donnelly of the IUCN / SSC Marine Turtle Specialist Group, wrote in an article in Chelonian Conservation and Biology that "Of all the species of marine turtles, the hawksbill has endured the longest and most sustained history of exploitation," and that "individual populations from around the world will continue to disappear under the current regime of exploitation…" CITES Parties would send a very clear and exceedingly dangerous message to the world if they mistakenly open up trade in parts of "critically endangered" wildlife such as hawksbills

 

A Deadly Experiment Gone Wrong

"Thereafter, under experimental quotas for raw ivory not exceeding 25.3 tonnes (Botswana), 13.8 tonnes (Namibia) and 20 tonnes (Zimbabwe), raw ivory may be exported to Japan…"

— Annotation accompanying the 1997 downlisting of three African elephant populations

An "experiment" is generally defined as "any action or process undertaken to discover something not yet known." When the CITES Parties voted to open an "experimental" ivory trade from Botswana, Namibia and Zimbabwe in 1997, the outcome was easily deduced. Before all African elephants were placed on CITES Appendix I and international commercial ivory trade was prohibited, the continent's elephants were decimated, from approximately 1.3 million to about 600,000. With the 1989 ban, populations stabilized, poaching dropped dramatically, and ivory smuggling routes and the global market all but dried up. After this remarkable success, CITES Parties turned back the clock on elephant conservation and took a giant risk with the protection of these majestic creatures.

However, there is an opportunity at COP 11 for Parties to make amends for their grievous error by voting for Kenya's and India's proposal to put all elephants back on Appendix I. As Dr. Klaus Töpfer, Executive Director of the United Nations

Environment Programme, told the Associated Press (AP), "If there was a total ban, it (poaching) would be easier to control."

In 1997, AWI and other organizations warned that reopening the ivory trade, even on limited basis, would cause barbaric elephant poaching to escalate. At a press conference in Washington, D.C., Nehemiah Rotich, Director of the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), warned that the elephant poaching "holocaust is coming back again" and that he hasn't seen poaching of this magnitude in the last 10 years. A January 2000 KWS press release grimly notes: "In 1999, KWS seized over 2,000 kg of ivory from illegal dealers, this was four times the average for the previous 6 years." In a letter to European Union nations urging support for the uplisting proposal, Director Rotich added: "Elephant poaching for ivory has also increased five fold in our elephant stronghold, the Tsavo National Park where thirty percent of our elephants occur." New images of massacred elephants, brutally cut down by poachers' bullets and their faces sawed off for the coveted ivory, bring back horrific images from decades past.

But Kenya is not alone in bearing the painful burdens of the renewed ivory trade. In October 1999, a consultative meeting among African elephant range states (including the Asian elephant range state of India) was held in Amboseli, Kenya. The meeting's Proceedings note that most Parties reported "insignificant" elephant poaching in their countries when elephants were on Appendix I and that "there has been a notable increase in illegal hunting" since the 1997 downlisting. Congo, for instance, reported an "incredible upsurge in illegal killing of elephants," and Cameroon reported "seizures of large quantities [of ivory] confiscated from diplomats." In India, 222 poached elephant carcasses were discovered between 1997 and the 1999 consultative meeting. A majority of African elephant range states attending the consultative meeting supports the effort to put all elephants back on Appendix I.

Zimbabwe, which (with Namibia and Botswana) now proposes to expand its ivory exports further, has witnessed increased elephant poaching since the ban was relaxed.  Panafrican News Agency reported on December 8, 1999 that "Zimbabwean wildlife officials" suspected that poachers from Zambia "had killed more than 80 elephants in the country's game parks in 1999 alone."

So what happens to the ivory from these poached elephants? It's a worldwide free for all. In February 2000, Portuguese officials uncovered "around 375 pounds of ivory, including 24 elephant tusks and seven statues" allegedly smuggled from Angola (AP). On September 18, 1999 two tons of ivory was seized in Dubai Airport, "one of the largest ivory seizures since the ban on trade in ivory was implemented," according to KWS. The accompanying table, "REPORTED IVORY SEIZURES SINCE JUNE 1997" shows how this illegal activity has grown again. KWS Director Rotich contends that the traditional ivory smuggling routes have been reopened.

Without a market, all this ivory is worthless. Japan, a major lobbying force behind the evisceration of the ivory ban, is an enormous ivory market. Despite the overwhelming evidence of elephant poaching and ivory smuggling, Japan's CITES position on elephants leading to COP 11 is that the "experimental trade of ivory in 1999 did not create any problem."

There is a tremendous opportunity for illegal ivory smuggling into Japan and sale on the Japanese market, even with the new amendments to Japan's laws regarding domestic management of ivory. Once it gets into Japan and is carved into signature stamps called hankos it is almost impossible to ascertain whether the ivory is from the legal shipment authorized by CITES or from an illegally smuggled consignment. As Kenya's and India's proposal notes, "although certification seals are available for attachment to carvings 'recognised as having been produced from legally obtained tusks,' and there is a penalty for affixing a seal to a carving other than the one for which it was issued, it is neither mandatory for such seals to be affixed nor illegal to sell a carving without a seal. Thus, though the certification system can be used to identify a legal carving by a dealer wishing to do so, it would appear to be of little or no use in preventing the sale of illegally-acquired ivory on the Japanese retail market."

Since 1997, elephant poaching has increased substantially across Africa and illegal ivory seizures have occurred with greater frequency across the globe.  The ivory experiment has failed - again. We must restore the rational reverence for elephants embodied in the Appendix I listing of all African and Asian elephants and the complete ban on the global trade in elephant ivory.

KWS Director Rotich tells of an ecotourism group whose vehicle was held up for some time while a small herd of elephants crossed before them. When one wildlife watcher asked the guide why they were waiting so long the guide responded, because the elephants have the Right of Way. And so it should be.  

Chart on Reported Ivory Seizures Since June 1997

In Monstrous 20,000 Cow-Factory Farms

By Chris Bedford

American's small family dairy farms face extinction. The farm gate price of milk has dropped to below 1978 levels, as a result of market manipulation by large dairy cooperatives which function like giant agribusiness corporations.

As a consequence, many family dairy farmers may be forced into bankruptcy this year. The U.S. Department of Labor predicts farm employment losses will exceed 175,000 in the next five years. And this estimate was released before the current crisis. The impacts from this potential loss for rural communities, the environment and animal welfare are devastating.

The same industrialization of food production that has transformed poultry and hog raising is rapidly transforming dairy production. In dairy factory operations, farmers become factory workers, environmentally destructive amounts of manure are produced, animals are confined for most their lives and output is pushed through processes that can damage human and animal health. Milk production is artificially stimulated through injections of a recombinant Bovine Growth Hormone (rBGH) also known as Bovine Somatotropin (BST). BST use can painfully injure lactating cows by draining calcium from bones and tissues, causing ulcers along their backbone and disfiguring swelling of leg joints (see page 6 of AWI Quarterly, Vol.48 No.2). BST has also been implicated in human health problems by causing increased production of another bovine hormone called IGF-1 (Insulin Growth Factor 1). IGF-1 has been proven to increase risk for uterine and breast cancer and heart disease in women. Both BST and IGF-1 are not destroyed by the 15-second pasteurization process used on most commercial milk. FDA approval of Monsanto's version of BST, known by the trade name of Posilac, was based on pasteurization tests of 30 minutes or more, not 15 seconds.

Traditionally, milk has been produced by small, family dairy farms milking 30-100 cows at any one time. Although many of these small farmers experimented in the mid-1990s with (BST) they abandoned the product after seeing what it did to their cows.

"It just wore my neighbors' cows out," said dairy farmer, George Donnon of Rising Sun, Maryland who never used Posilac. "It increased production some during the first lactation. But it didn't work after that. And it caused some serious physical problems for the animals." The dairy factory operations are the principal consumers of Posilac/BST. Heifers are given the drug during their first lactation — forcing them to produce milk for two years or more — increasing per cow output by approximately 15%. After this first artificially extended lactation, the cows are so worn out that they have to be sold for meat. Small family dairy farmers typically keep their cows for five or six lactations.

"Use of BST divides the large operations from the small family farmer," said Eddie Boyer, a dairy farmer from New Oxford, Pennsylvania. "A family farmer cares about his cows. He calls them to the milking parlor by name. He wants to extend their productive lives as long as he can." Ironically, BST use and the expansion of dairy factory operations is behind much of the current crisis facing small family dairy farms. The construction of giant BST-dependent dairy factories, milking 20,000 cows or more, in the desert areas of California, Arizona and Idaho has produced large amounts of cheese at artificially low prices. These new dairy factories create environmental problems/disasters wherever they operate — often spilling millions of gallons of manure into scarce and vulnerable arid land water supplies. Since dairy factories externalize so much of the real environmental impacts, production costs are lower than on family farms. Cheese produced by these dairy factory operations is unloading large dairy cooperatives like Dairy Farmers of America and Land O'Lakes on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange.

Cheese traded on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange sets the price of all milk sold in the United States through a series of Milk Marketing Orders issued by the federal government. By dumping subsidized, dairy factory produced cheese in Chicago, large dairy cooperatives can drive down the farmgate price of milk — reaping huge windfall profits while impoverishing the small farmers who are members of the coops. In 1978, when farmgate milk prices were higher than they are now, consumers paid a $1.20 for a gallon of fresh milk. Today that same gallon of milk costs almost $3.

"Someone is making money producing milk," said Fred LeClair, a dairy farmer from Watertown, New York. "It's just not us. Right now, I lose about $6 for every hundred pounds of milk I produce (11.6 gallons = 100 lbs). I don't know any business that can operate long at these kinds of prices."

Some believe the current low prices are an effort by large cooperatives to "rationalize" milk production, make it more "efficient", by driving small producers out-of-business. Large dairy factory operations are protected through special premiums paid by processors and by low-interest loans unavailable to small dairy farmers. "It is time to draw a line between small farmers like myself and large corporate operations," said George Donnon. "Our interests are different. I want to maintain our way of life without having to get bigger. If I get a higher price for my milk, I will milk fewer cows, not more. And that's good for me and the environment, and the cows."

Human Population 6,000,000,000 and Growing

 

The world has reached a population of six billion, meaning the number of the globe's inhabitants has doubled in less than 40 years.

It took all of human history for the planetary population to reach one billion in 1804, but then little more than 150 years to reach three billion in 1960. Now there's twice the number.

While the world adds another 3,500 humans every 20 minutes it loses an entire plant or animal species in that same time — or about 27,000 species a year.

Despite a gradual slowing in the overall growth rate, world population is still increasing by 78 million a year-the equivalent of adding a city almost the size of San Francisco every three days.

The number of people on the planet Earth is now...

Whales Threatened by Japan and Norway

By Ben White

Japan has proposed the downlisting of the Antarctic population of minke whales, one North Pacific population of minke whales, and one North Pacific population of gray whales. Norway has proposed the downlisting of the Northeast Atlantic and the North Atlantic Central minke whale populations. Downlisting would remove the whales from Appendix I, which prohibits all commercial trade, and place them on Appendix II, which allows limited trade.

The Secretariat of CITES recommends rejection of all the whale downlisting proposals.

Final authority for all whaling matters is now in the hands of the International Whaling Commission (IWC), which has an indefinite moratorium in place forbidding all commercial whaling and the sale of whale products between countries. The downlisting effort at CITES is spurred by Norway and Japan's frustration at their inability to defeat the IWC moratorium. They are hoping for a friendlier reception from CITES in order to execute an "end run" around the IWC prohibition. They will need more than two thirds of the countries present at CITES to vote in favor of the downlisting for it to succeed. The position of the United States is that any decision on international sale of whale meat, whether or not it is cloaked in the temporary guise of a "zero quota", should remain the responsibility of the IWC, not CITES.

The Polish Resistance

By Tom Garrett

John Steinbeck once wrote that family farmers are "the soul and the guts of this nation or of any other nation."

This can be nowhere truer than in Poland. Since Polish peasants armed with scythes overran Russian artillery at Raclawice during the Kosciuszko uprising of 1793, Poland's most stubborn defenders have been found in the countryside. In the 19th Century, under leaders such as Jacob Szulic, the Polish peasantry threw off serfdom. Their obdurate resistance halted Stalinist attempts, between 1949-54, to consolidate Polish agriculture into state farms. Poland emerged from Communism in 1990 with 80% of its farmland still in private hands and well over a quarter of the population engaged in farming.

Today, having survived Communism, Poland's peasants, standing athwart the juggernaut of corporate globalization, face a far more implacable enemy. The worldwide crash in grain and hog prices, compounded by a flood of cheap imports from the European Union's highly subsidized agriculture, has left Poland's farmers in a desperate plight, creating what Andrew Nagorski, writing in Newsweek International, calls "a bumper crop of despair." Far from coming to Polish farmers' defense, the country's deeply unpopular coalition government has capitulated to E.U. demands to "modernize" Polish agriculture as a price for admission. Agricultural Minister Artur Balasz has announced that the number of Polish farms, in accordance with E.U. requirements, must be reduced from two million to 800,000 by 2003. How will 1.2 million farm families be removed from the land in three years? The answer, beyond the screen of persiflage, seems brutally simple: To maintain an economic climate in which "weaker" farmers cannot survive economically.

As Polish farms suffer what farm wife Ewa Blieska, quoted in Newsweek, calls a "slow death," the great transnational agribusiness corporations, like vultures settling beside a wounded animal, are entering the country. Chicken factories similar to those that swept the U.S. in the 1960s are taking root in western Poland, pushing out peasant producers. Early last year (see AWI Fall-Winter Quarterly) the world's largest "pork production"

company began a drive to take over pork production in Poland. Ignoring warnings by the farm unions, Smithfield is moving aggressively to bring the vertically integrated system that has destroyed family agriculture in states such as Virginia (where Smithfield now owns 95% of all hogs raised) and North Carolina, to Poland. Smithfield Chief counsel Richard Poulson, predicts that Animex, Smithfield's Polish subsidiary, will become Europe's largest pork production company with sales in excess of one billion dollars annually.

In Poland, where virtually every farm — no matter how small — raises a few pigs, the corporate drive poises a dagger at the heart of private farming. For pigs, and for the cause of animal welfare, the implications are horrifying. Today, most of Poland's 18 million pigs are raised in the traditional, relatively humane way, in pastures or on straw, able to interact socially and carry out normal motor patterns. If corporate hog factories supplant family farms, the lives of sows, imprisoned wretchedly in steel crates, will become a parabola of misery and the ghastly American syndrome — miasmic "lagoons", dumpsters overflowing with bloated carcasses-will spread across eastern and central Europe. If it cannot be stopped in Poland, there is no chance of stopping it in countries like Belarus (where Smithfield is rumored to be negotiating) and the Ukraine.

On January 17, Agnes Van Volkenburgh, "Slaughterhouse" author Gail Eisnitz and I arrived in Warsaw for the Congress of Peasant-National Bloc, an alliance of Samoobrona with independent trade unions and small political parties, and for the opening of Andrzej Lepper's counterattack against Smithfield. The following morning, we walked through a gathering crowd into the monumental Kongressa Hall of Warsaw's huge, Stalinist era Palace of Culture and Science and were seated in the front row. While folk troupes from the Carpathian and Bieszczady Mountains performed on the stage, thousands of delegates to the Congress — peasants from across Poland, coal miners in black uniforms, pensioners, military veterans aligned with General Tadeuzs Wilicki's National Front — took their seats. We stood for the Polish National Anthem, which begins "While we live Poland shall not die". Then Lepper rose to speak. After a blistering attack on economic policies that have led to 14% unemployment and a fire sale of state owned assets to foreigners, he turned to the plight of Poland's peasants. He dwelled movingly on animal welfare, contrasting peasant farming where each farm animal is named and newborn young are brought into family homes in cold weather, with the mass, mindless cruelty of industrial agriculture. Our turn came after a recess. Agnes spoke briefly and eloquently, gaining thunderous applause. With Agnes translating, I explained what has happened to family farming in America and what lies in store for Poland if Smithfield is allowed to take over. Gail then recounted the appalling situation in American slaughterhouses.

We spent January 19th in Warsaw, meeting government officials and environmentalists. Before dawn on the 20th we joined Andrzej Lepper for a trip to northwestern Poland, lunching with agricultural bankers and touring a small slaughterhouse en route. In Czluchow, the town's meeting hall was packed with hundreds of farmers waiting for Lepper. The farmers heard Lepper out. Then, for two hours, angry, desperate, sometimes despairing, they poured forth their troubles. There was much talk about hog factories since a Danish firm, Poldanor, has a permit to build a 300,000 feeder pig complex not far away.

January 21 dawned with snow and sleet. We drove westward on roads lined with Lombardy poplar through a part of Poland that was once German territory and had witnessed still another trail of tears when the German population was driven out in 1945. In late morning, we reached the ancient city of Szczecin, on the Odra River which forms today's German border and pulled up in front of the Smithfield owned AGRYF slaughterhouse. Farmers carrying Samoobrona signs were waiting, the press had arrived. Lepper led us to the entrance where a row of faces peered through the glass. At this point, the manager, acting out his own version of Polish bravado, came outside without a coat and stood for an hour in the bitter wind, shivering violently and arguing, before the press, with the infuriated farmers. The problem, it seemed, was that AGRYF, true to the attitude of its corporate masters, was refusing to buy small lots of hogs because they "lacked uniformity". Lepper finally heard enough. "Listen well" he said. "If there is any more of this I am coming back to shut you down."

The next stop was in downtown Szczecin where we met with the local farmers cooperative (which has a minority interest in the Agury plant) to discuss the Smithfield takeover. Then, in a cold, sleeting rain, we went to see a hog factory left over from Communist times at a state farm 20 miles or so outside the city. We passed the workers' quarters, a five story apartment building positioned, incongruously, in a muddy field. But when we reached the hog factory the gates were padlocked and the sole person in attendance was the office manager. Word had come earlier in the day, she said, for the crew to lock everything and leave. The basic operational features, open cesspools and spray fields, seemed similar to U.S. hog factories. "In the summertime the smell hereabout is almost unendurable" one of the farmers said. "As for dead hogs, they dump them in a sump in the woods. The flies practically darken the sun." The last stop in Szczecin was to call on Marian Jurczyk, a towering figure of the anti-communist resistance and bitter rival of Lech Walesa, at the twilight of his political career. Jurczyk, receiving us in his imposing office, announced that he would resign as Mayor of Szczecin the following week.

Six inches of snow fell in the night. We left before dawn, driving south through a hushed and peaceful countryside. Morning revealed the Odra valley and a sweep of marshlands and floodplain forests. The tracts of forest and open space in northwestern Poland, contrasting with the patchwork of small farms often found elsewhere, are a legacy of numerous landed estates which, with the expulsion of their German owners, remained intact as state farms. We stopped for lunch at an ecotourism resort maintained by one of Lepper's supporters. Hours of tortuous night driving on snow-packed roads brought us to Warsaw, and at noon of the 22nd, after a harried morning of press interviews and meetings with environmentalists, we said goodbye to our friends and returned to the United States.

What has AWI accomplished thus far? Three thousand copies of a forty-minute video developed by Diane Halverson and narrated in Polish by Agnes Van Volkenburgh were delivered to Samoobrona and other Polish NGOs. The tapes are based around the Polish September tour, but they contain additional footage from hog factories and aerial coverage of the North Carolina floods. Along with written material, translated by Agnes, they have been distributed across Poland providing the sinew for a press and media campaign. Excerpts from the tapes have appeared on two Polish cable channels and numerous television stations. The March 10 issue of Nie (circulation 800,000) contains a scathing attack on Smithfield quoting AWI extensively. A similar article appeared in the daily paper Nasz Dziennik. The breakthroughs on radio, which is more important in Poland than in the U.S., have been dramatic. Agnes and Lepper were featured on TOK FM, Poland's main talk radio station. Appearing on Radio Zet, which is the most listened to-station in the country, Agriculture Minister Artur Balasz was asked whether he supported Lepper or Smithfield in the battle over pig factories. In a startling turnaround, Balasz announced that he supported Lepper and that pig factories cannot be tolerated in Poland.

In the Polish countryside, Samoobrona's campaign against Smithfield and other multinationals is gaining force. On February 8, for example, 2000 farmers gathered to protest Cargill's failure to pay farmers on time for deliveries of grain. Concurrently, a campaign led by Rural Solidarity head, Roman Wierbicki, has succeeded in blocking a giveaway of Poland's sugar processing capacity to foreign companies. On March 6, farmers will "send a message" by blockading roads and highways for three hours all across Poland. Meantime, an alliance is coalescing between the peasants and the Polish environmentalists. It will have its first test when humane and environmental groups from throughout Poland send cadres to Warsaw to participate in Samoobrona-led protests at German, Danish and U.S. Embassies on March 14.

The Polish campaign has opened the door for AWI to carry its message, that mass abuse of animals is the core evil of industrial agriculture, to an ever wider audience. Agnes and I have been invited to address a Congress of Peasant Parties from ten eastern and central European nations in Prague on March 11. On March 26, we will address the World Congress of Trade Unions in New Delhi, India. In attendance will be the leaders of India's 30 million member peasant unions who have given the agribusiness giant, Monsanto, vector of "genetically modified" seeds, an ultimatum to leave India.

 

Animal Welfare Institute QUARTERLY Summer 2000 Volume 49 Number 3

 

About the Cover
Katy Payne, who initiated the study of infrasound elephant communication, photographed this mother and infant elephant. Katy is profoundly committed to the protection of elephants as individuals, and she suffers with them when they are culled or poached for their ivory. She is conducting her studies now in the Central African Republic. Her book," Silent Thunder — In the Presence of Elephants," which was reviewed in the Spring 2000 AWI Quarterly , concludes sorrowfully. After Katy and five colleagues returned to the U.S., a cull by the Zimbabwe Parks Department killed many of the elephants whose voices she had recorded and grown to know.
Directors
Marjorie Cooke
Roger Fouts, Ph.D.
David O. Hill
Fredrick Hutchison
Cathy Liss
Christine Stevens
Cynthia Wilson

Officers
Christine Stevens, President
Cynthia Wilson, Vice President
Fredrick Hutchison, Treasurer

Scientific Committee
Marjorie Anchel, Ph.D.
Gerard Bertrand, Ph.D.
F. Barbara Orlans, Ph.D.
Roger Payne, Ph.D.
Samuel Peacock, M.D.
John Walsh, M.D.

International Committee
Aline de Aluja, D.M.V., Mexico
T.G. Antikas, D.M.V., Greece
Ambassador Tabarak Husain, Bangladesh
Angela King, United Kingdom
Simon Muchiru, Kenya
Godofredo Stutzin, Chile
Agnes Van Volkenburgh, Poland
Alexey Yablokov, Ph.D., Russia

Staff and Consultants
Ava Armendariz, Publications Coordinator
Amy Conklin, Administrative Assistant
John Gleiber, Assistant to the Officers
Diane Halverson, Farm Animal Advisor
Chris Heyde, Research Associate
Lynne Hutchison, Executive Secretary
Cathy Liss, Executive Director
Nell Naughton, Mail Order Secretary
Greta Nilsson, Wildlife Consultant
Viktor Reinhardt, D.M.V., Ph.D.,  Laboratory
       Animal Advisor
Jennifer Rinick, Research Assistant
Adam M. Roberts, Senior Research Associate
Wendy Swann, Research Associate
Ben White, International Coordinator

  TABLE OF CONTENTS CITES  Political "Spin" and Wildlife Conservation
by Adam M. Roberts China 's Torture Chambers,
 by Jonathan Owen  Wildlife Conservation Heroes,
by Adam M. Roberts In Remembrance of Nick Carter,
by Rosalind Reeve "Report: Japan is Top Importer of Endangered Species" Marine Mammals Judge Strikes Down Phony "Dolphin-Safe" Label U.S. Navy Kills Whales In The Bahamas,
by Ben White Elephant Seals Hot Iron Branded Wildlife and Environmental destruction The Environment Comes Second A Fur Promotion Frenzy "The Voice of the Turtle is Heard in Our Land,"
By Ben White
World Bank vs. Tigers in India,
by Bittu Sahgal and Daphne Wysham Mexican Ecological Group Blockades Logging Road to Save Forest  Animals in Laboratories A Power Struggle on Capitol Hill Over Chimpanzees' Future,
by Adam M. Roberts Animal Dealers Animal Dealers Arrested and Convicted Canadian Bear Parts Traders Jailed Another Dealer is Exposed for Illegally Acquiring Dogs for Experimentation $10,000 Reward for Stolen Labrador Retriever Farm Animals The Farm Bureau Prediction on China rBGH Reconsidered,
by Chris Bedford Two AWI Missions to Central Europe,
by Tom Garrett
Join the Fight to End Abuse of Laying Hens BioMusic BioMusic: The Music of Nature and the Nature of Music  Music of the Birds, A Celebration of Bird Song.
Comments? Questions? Click Here

Political Spin

 

Political "Spin" and Wildlife Conservation
CITES 2000

By Adam M. Roberts

The Eleventh Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) concluded in Nairobi, Kenya on April 20, 2000. The 151 nations that are signatories to the Convention considered over sixty proposals regarding levels of protection for wildlife threatened by consumption for international trade. Appendix I species are threatened with extinction and are or may be affected by international trade and are subject to a prohibition on international commercial trade; Appendix II species are not yet threatened with extinction but may be at risk without strict regulation of the legal international commercial trafficking in these species' parts and products made from them; Appendix III species are identified by individual Parties as subject to internal regulation to prevent over-exploitation. 

AWI's positions on these proposals were supported in over half the votes—clear victories; in about a third of the votes we clearly lost; and the remaining proposals were amended in some compromise fashion (for instance, not changing the species' status, but specifically disallowing trade in specimens, known as a "zero quota").

Did animal advocates or wildlife exploiters prevail overall at this CITES Meeting? It depends on whose reports you read. Politics and political debate in Washington, DC is often dominated by political "spin" when policy debates end, each side attempts to portray itself the victor in the press and to the public. 8,000 miles away from Washington in Nairobi, molded media messages bombarded the news on a daily basis as opposing forces claimed triumph on a host of issues.

In 1997, CITES Parties undermined the nearly decade-long ban on the global trade in elephant ivory by downlisting from Appendix I to Appendix II the elephant populations of Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe to allow sale of hunting trophies, live animals, hides and leather goods (for Zimbabwe), and a total of 59.1 tons of raw ivory to Japan.

Elephant poaching escalated once the ivory trade was reopened. Numerous reports circulated in Nairobi revealing the carnage. The Born Free Foundation's Stop the Clock Report analyzed elephant poaching and ivory confiscation data for a number of countries. While the CITES Secretariat's official figures claim "235 elephants poached" in 1998 and 1999, Born Free's analysis shows a conservative figure of 6,159 elephants poached in 1998 and 1999 26.2 times the "official" record. Considering potential for underreporting, Born Free estimates the actual kill may be up to five times higher.

But despite reported rampant poaching across Africa, Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe petitioned to open the ivory trade further to allow a combined 24 tons of ivory to be exported annually and for all three countries to trade in elephant hides, leather goods, trophies, and live animals. In addition, South Africa proposed to downlist its elephant population to allow 30 tons of ivory to be sold as well as other elephant parts and live animals.

Kenya and India, both facing an upsurge in elephant poaching since 1997 and desperately underfunded and understaffed in their anti-poaching efforts, proposed putting all elephants back on Appendix I and opposed South Africa's new weakening proposal.

"Consensus building" was a clear theme of the Meeting especially regarding African elephant range state opinions on the future of elephants and the trade in elephant ivory. Anticipation of an explosive debate evaporated when Botswana, Namibia, and Zimbabwe all withdrew their proposals (thus leaving their elephants on Appendix II but not allowing further trade in ivory); Kenya withdrew its uplisting proposal; and South Africa's proposal, which was amended to remove the ivory sale, was adopted by consensus.

This is where the biggest media "spin" begins. If one reads pro-ivory trade organizations' literature, such as a press release from the International Wildlife Managers Consortium -World Conservation Trust (IWMC) the compromise was a "Win for Sustainable Conservation of Elephants and Patience of Southern African Nations." The President of this pro-use organization is actually Eugène Lapointe, former Secretary-General of CITES. But for us, the clear message is that the ivory experiment failed once more and bloody ivory is again illegal in international trade.

A disturbing element of the elephant debate (or ultimate lack thereof) was America's impotence. Historically a vocal opponent of the ivory trade, the U.S. voice was silent throughout. In fact, the "final" U.S. negotiating position on the elephant proposals was not final at all it was "pending." The U.S. would have opposed proposals that permitted any ivory trade but would have abstained on the proposal by Kenya and India to put elephants back on Appendix I.

In another example of political spin, when President Clinton issued a one-paragraph statement saying that the U.S. would oppose proposals "to reopen trade in elephant ivory," the IWMC's pro-use propaganda reported: "U.S. Congress, President Clash Over Elephants." Why this supposed "clash?" Six Members of Congress sent a letter to the head of the U.S. Delegation urging support for the expanded ivory sale. What's purposely excluded from this report is reference to other letters from the Legislative Branch to the same Head of Delegation urging opposition to the ivory trade and support for Kenya and India -- not one meager letter signed by six Congressmen, but 4 separate letters: one signed by Congressman George Miller, the Ranking Minority Member of the House Resources Committee, one signed by the Chairman and Ranking Minority Member of the House International Relations Committee, one signed by 20 Members of the Congressional Black Caucus, and one signed by 25 Members of the United States Senate. The Senate letter concluded: "At this critical juncture, we believe it will take the full energy and commitment of the United States delegation to return to elephant populations the protections they still need." Unfortunately, the U.S. exerted little energy and displayed little commitment toward the legislators' laudable goal.

Shutting down the ivory trade again - even without U.S. help - was vital, but the tone of the dialogue makes it clear that the issue will resurface repeatedly. Over the next two years, much time, effort, and money will be devoted to establishing a monitoring system to examine illegal killing of elephants, and when the "system" appears to work, in all likelihood, legal ivory will flow again. The problems with this approach are too numerous to detail here, but in brief, the millions of dollars spent establishing this system would be better spent on anti-poaching efforts in elephant range states. Instead of monitoring elephant killing, why not try to stop elephant killing? There will never be a legal ivory trade that does not result in the illegal slaughter of elephants; machinations to find ways of facilitating such trade are a waste of time and resources that could be better focused on conserving wild, live elephants.

Clearer hard-fought victories came for whales and sea turtles. But reading the "spin" from the High North Alliance, a pro-whaling organization, one might think the whales were doomed: "A majority of government delegates to [CITES] today voted in support of Norway's proposal to open international trade in minke whale products." Although the vote was 53 in favor, 52 opposed, and 8 abstentions, CITES requires a 2/3 vote to approve a change in a species' status not a simple majority.

Three other whale downlisting proposals by Japan regarding gray and minke whales were all soundly rejected with the closest vote still having 18 more nations opposed than in favor far from even a simple majority. Together, Japan and Norway consistently try to weaken protection for these whale species and undermine the current moratorium on commercial whaling. There is no enforcement regime in place to control international trade in whale products and illegal whale meat recently has been found for sale in Japanese markets. Downlisting any of these whale populations would pose an enormous threat to all whale species.

Not surprisingly, each attempt to weaken whale protection at this CITES meeting was undertaken by a secret ballot. Nations advocating use of the secret ballot on controversial votes claim it is necessary to prevent retaliation from developed countries and conservation nongovernmental organizations that somehow if we know who votes for the whale downlisting we will try to eliminate their foreign aid. For instance, during the whale debates, a vociferous delegate from Antigua and Barbuda argued against the "strong-arm tactics of those countries who don't think we have a right to exploit our natural resources."

This conspiracy theory is all the more fascinating given that an article in the London Guardian Weekly from 18 November 1999 reports, "Japan has admitted for the first time that it is using its overseas aid budget to persuade developing countries to join the International Whaling Commission (IWC) and vote for a resumption of commercial whaling." The revealing article continues to note that IWC Secretary Ray Gambell alleged that "Japan was using the same tactics" at CITES.

The simple message from CITES is that the IWC has primacy in cetacean protection and that CITES should respect the IWC's ban on commercial whaling. Of course, Japan and Norway will continue their attempts to profit from slaughtered whales when the IWC meets in Adelaide, Australia this July.

Although elephants and whales dominated the debate, CITES Secretary General Willem Wijnstekers accurately noted in his opening statement "This meeting is not about elephants, it is also about elephants, it is not about whales, it is also about whales."

Strong rhetoric surrounded the dialogue on downlisting critically endangered hawksbill sea turtles from Appendix I to Appendix II to allow trade in stockpiled turtle shell from Cuba to Japan and establish an annual quota of not more than 500 specimens. A report from the Japan Wildlife Conservation Society asserts that "Reopening of international trade of "bekko" [tortoiseshell] will also increase the possibility of its smuggling by reactivating Japan's domestic market for it."

Even though this proposal claimed to be restricted to the "Cuban population" of hawksbills, there is no discrete Cuban population of this species. Imagine being a poor sea turtle who mistakenly swims through Cuban waters at the wrong time! Already the hawksbill has been subjected to an 80% worldwide population decline. Clearly, as with whales and other species, allowing the sale of sea turtle shell will encourage sea turtle poaching in other regions and illegal sale of those shells and products made from them.

The debate was filled with high emotions and not-so-subtle political jabs at the U.S. for its embargo on Cuba (an argument that to compensate for lost national revenue as a result of the embargo, Cuba should benefit financially from wildlife exploitation). Ultimately, the proposal was defeated, again by secret ballot.

In addition to preserving the protection for whales and sea turtles, notable increases in protection were given to the manatee-like Australian Dugong, the Horned and Uvea Parakeets of New Caledonia, China's Melodious Laughing Thrush, Asian Box Turtles, and Madagascar's Mantella Frogs.

Marine fish species did not quite fare as well. The Parties refused to list three species of sharks: great white sharks, whale sharks, and basking sharks. All three species have low reproductive rates and declining populations, and are killed for their fins and other body parts. Fins float in high-priced Asian "shark fin soup;" basking shark skin is made into leather goods; great white shark livers are used for medicines, and shark meat is sold for human consumption. Unfortunately, all three proposals were defeated on the grounds that the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has competency over fisheries management. (The FAO has begun considering shark conservation and has developed an "International Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.")

CITES also considered over 50 resolutions and other documents and on many of these issues we had success. On the trade in bear specimens, the Parties again fell short of advocating a global moratorium on the trade in bear parts such as the gallbladders and bile that are used in traditional Asian medicines. However, it was recognized that the illegal trade in bear parts and derivatives has not been demonstrably reduced, a goal the Parties agreed upon in 1997. This year, the Parties agreed to continue seeking information about national legislation to control the illegal bear parts trade, to share forensic technology to help distinguish bear parts in trade, and to consider introducing measures to implement CITES with respect to the trade in bear parts and derivatives. The issue will be revisited again at the next CITES meeting.

For the first time the Parties have addressed the issue of "bushmeat," the consumption, and increasingly the cross-border sale, of wild animal flesh including elephants, primates such as gorillas, and other species. What was once an issue of local consumption has become a growing international crisis, fomented by unsympathetic logging companies. In an editorial in The Washington Post on April 8, 2000, Dr. Jane Goodall advocated the "simple, straightforward step" of forming "an official working group that would be charged with the development of ways to control the illegal trade in bushmeat." That is exactly what the Parties agreed to in Nairobi.

The Parties also agreed that immediate action is necessary to save the fewer than 75,000 remaining Tibetan antelope (chiru) from the trade in their wool known as "shahtoosh." It is estimated that western demand for this luxurious fabric leads to the illegal slaughter of between ten and twenty thousand chiru annually. At this rate, the species may be gone in just 5 years. The resolution approved by the Parties urges a number of actions including adoption of comprehensive legislation to eliminate the commercial trade in shahtoosh with adequate penalties to deter such illegal commerce. Just after the close of the Conference, the Jammu and Kashmir high court issued a judgment banning the shahtoosh trade in the Indian state of Kashmir. And, here in the U.S., the Fish and Wildlife Service is considering listing the chiru under the Endangered Species Act. The Service has until October to make its final ruling.

Ultimately, CITES Parties made advancements on important issues of wildlife conservation. Stopping over-exploitation of wild species in international trade is an ongoing process. As we look toward and beyond the next Conference in Chile in 2002, the message to the world is: "no ivory, no whale meat, no sea turtle shell" and substantial protection for scores of other wild species. As always, the lingering question is: "but for how long?"

Top Photo, African Sunset by Adam Roberts

Second Photo, The bond of wild elephant families is incredibly strong.  Elephants, The Deciding Decade, that elephants seem to have "displayed compassion and awareness of death.  There are stories of elephants using leaves and grass to bury elephant and human remains, and shattering the tusks of dead elephants against trees or rocks."  Although CITES has reinstated the international prohibition in ivory commercialization, the elephants of South Africa, Botswana, Nambia and Zimbabwe may still be hunted as trophies, for meat and other non-ivory products, and sold live to zoos and circuses across the globe.  Continued vigilance is needed to save elephants for future generations. (Katy Payne)

Third Photo, A young elephant at Daphne Sheldrick's wildlife orphanage in Nairobi, Kenya.  Daphne and her committed corps of specialized animal handlers help rear young orphaned wildlife including elephants, rhinos, and zebras with the ultimate goal if reintroduction in the wild. (Adam M. Roberts/AWI)

Fourth Photo, Minke whale butchered on a Japanese whaling boat in the Antarctic. (WDCS/Mark Votier)

Fifth Photo, According to the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, despite the 1986 IWC ban on commercial whaling, Japan and Norway kill over 1,000 minke whales each year. (Robert Pitman)

Sixth Photo, CITES Parties rejected Cuba's attempt to sell a stockpile of hawksbill turtle shells to the avid wildlife consuming nation of Japan. (Yves Berard/1997 Oceanographical Museum of Monaco)

Bottom Photo, A logging vehicle in Central Africa transports both hunters and their fresh kill for the bushmeat market.  Numerous species are involved in the trade including chimpanzees, gorillas, monkeys, elephants, duikers (as pictured) and other antelopes. (John Sidle)

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