AWI Quarterly

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.


Disappeaaring Planet of the Apes

A Taste For Extinction

The flesh of species such as chimpanzees, gorillas, elephants, giant pangolins, and other wildlife ("bushmeat") has historically provided a source of food for people throughout central and western Africa. Today, encroachment of logging companies and destruction of natural forest lands have led to the wholesale decimation of wildlife habitat as well as the escalation of the bushmeat trade. What was once a locally used food source has become an expensive delicacy in commercial trade — a trade that threatens the existence of the species involved. As Richard Leakey, former head of the Kenya Wildlife Service told CNN: "The slaughter of chimpanzees and gorillas, our closest relatives, is absolutely diabolical. I can't imagine that this can go on much longer before these animals are extinct."

The number of great apes involved in this unsustainable trade is enormous. The Ape Alliance, an international coalition of over 30 organizations including the Born Free Foundation and the Jane Goodall Institute, estimates that in northern Congo "up to 600 lowland gorillas are killed each year to feed the trade" and that one-ton of smoked bushmeat is unloaded every day in Yaounde, the capital of Cameroon.

Karl Ammann, one of the most vocal opponents of the bushmeat trade succinctly averred in a New York Times Magazine article that "the DNA of chimpanzees is 98.5 percent the same as that of humans... eating them [is] '98.5 percent cannibalism'."

Timber corporations ripping through wooded areas of Africa have not only destroyed the forests on which wild animals depend, but have cleared logging roads which enable poachers to transport animals' carcasses to markets in other regions, and sometimes to expensive restaurants in western Europe. Dr. Anthony Rose of The Biosynergy Institute estimates "that bushmeat trade across equatorial Africa is more than a billion dollar business" and that "as logging expands, the number of monkeys and apes killed for the cooking pot increases."

Currently, killing apes for bushmeat provides a "quick buck" for humans. But when the apes are gone, the buck is too. In countries where the transnational timber corporations are wiping out forests, funds are lacking for enforcement of laws that prohibit killing and selling highly endangered species such as great apes. There is a moral obligation for these exploitative companies to completely cease facilitating the trade in bushmeat on their logging roads using their logging trucks.

Governments in need should receive funds to hire and train competent enforcement agents to fight the bushmeat trade. In some cases, poachers can become protectors and be paid to ensure that the resident wildlife is preserved. Greater availability of alternative food sources and other employment opportunities would be significant additional steps toward positive change.

CITES and The Great Ape Conservation Act

At the upcoming Meeting of the Conference of the Parties to CITES this April in Kenya, a "Discussion Paper" will be offered by the United Kingdom on "Bushmeat as a Trade and Wildlife Management Issue." The paper notes "that the loss of animals through the bushmeat trade is having a greater impact on conservation in some areas than habitat loss." Action by all CITES Parties is essential to stem the decline of bushmeat species.

The U.S. is already well on the way to addressing the issue. United States Senator Jim Jeffords (R - VT) has engaged in a noble effort to elevate America's role in ending this repugnant bushmeat trade. On May 10, 1999 he introduced in the United States Senate the "Great Ape Conservation Act," S. 1007, to "perpetuate viable populations of great apes in the wild" and "assist in the conservation and protection of great apes by supporting conservation programs of countries in which great apes are located."

The legislation would accomplish this by authorizing up to five million dollars to go into a "Great Ape Conservation Fund" each year from 2000 to 2004. Money in this fund could then be disbursed to enhance programs for conservation of great apes, including those to help minimize the conflict between humans and non-human primates over land resources and habitat protection, to monitor great ape populations and threats to those populations, and to enforce CITES restrictions on trade in parts and products of these species.

In Senator Jeffords' words: "If we do not act now chimpanzees, gorillas, bonobos and orangutans may be extinct in the next 50 years."


Mexican Ecological Group Blockades Logging Road to Save Forest


Mexican Ecological Group Blockades Logging Road to Save Forest

Under the headline "Jailed Mexican Wins Environmental Prize" Sam Dillon wrote a report of Rodolfo Montiel's heroic struggle to save the forest near his village north of Acapulco (The New York Times, April 5, 2000). The transnational Idaho logging company, Boise Cascade, and all the government officials to whom Montiel wrote, were unmoved by his reports that laws were being broken, rivers drying up, and thousands of fish dying.

"Our defense of the forest is a struggle for our way of life," he wrote, "The earth without trees becomes a desert, because the soul of the water lives in the cool of the forest."

Montiel's formal education ended after first grade, but his lyrical plea for the trees was wisely followed up in spring 1998 by his peasant group's blockade of logging roads to stop the timber trucks. According to Dillon's article, "Gunmen have since killed several members of Mr. Montiel's rural ecological organization and last May soldiers seized and tortured Mr. Montiel, he said, accusing him of drug and weapons crimes.

"The charges were riddled with contradictions, but were enough to send him to a penitentiary pending a felony trial. One of the human rights lawyers defending him has been kidnapped, twice."

Now the Goldman Foundation has awarded him its prestigious $125,000 environmental prize and Amnesty International declared him to be a prisoner of conscience.

ACTION Write to the President of Mexico protesting the mistreatment and imprisonment of Rodolfo Montiel. Address your letters to President Ernesto Zedillo,
c/o Embassy of Mexico,
1911 Pennsylvania Avenue,
Washington, D.C. 20006
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