AWI Quarterly

Slovenia's Bear Slaughter

Brown bears (Ursus arctos) in Eastern Europe may be imperiled by a dramatically increased annual kill in the Republic of Slovenia, a relatively new nation that declared independence from Yugoslavia in 1991. On October 10, 2002, Slovenia's Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food (MAFF) issued a permit allowing an extra 34 brown bears to be killed in the 2002/2003 hunt season-this, in addition to the previously approved 70 bears.

Brown bear populations across Europe are becoming increasingly fragmented and marginalized as a result of the destruction of their habitat. Slovenia is putting its resident brown bear population at great additional risk by inflating its annual hunt quota. Alenka Kryštufek

The total legal kill of 104 bears represents approximately 25% of the nationwide population of about 450 animals. The new cull numbers signify a considerable jump from previous years, where half as many animals were allowed to be hunted. According to Dr. Boris Kryštufek of the Slovenian Museum of Natural History, Slovenia "hosts one of the most important populations of brown bears in Europe....it is doubtful that the population size is large enough to cope" with the expanded slaughter. Opposition to the expanded kill has come from animal protection organizations including the Animal Welfare Institute, as well as authorities including the International Association for Bear Research and Management, and the Bear Specialist Group (BSC) of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature's Species Survival Commission. In a letter to the MAFF Minister, Franc But, the BSC notes, "The long term status of bear populations in nations such as Austria, Italy, and Croatia are all significantly influenced by actions in your country." The Chairman of the Large Carnivore Initiative for Europe warns that the European brown bear's current range "is grouped in few dangerously small and highly fragmented populations, representing the remnants of the former range, and is still threatened with extinction." According to the Group of Experts on Conservation of Large Carnivores' 2000 "Action Plan for the Conservation of the Brown Bear (Ursus arctos) in Europe" brown bears in Slovenia are threatened particularly by domestic forestry practices, habitat fragmentation, and traffic kills.

Serious concerns have been raised, however, alleging that the cull numbers were based on inaccurate, inflated bear population data, and some nongovernmental organizations have questioned the government's methodology for counting Slovenia's resident bears. Also at issue is the claim that the additional kill is necessary to alleviate problems associated with increasing human-bear conflicts. Humans are rapidly expanding into bear habitat, even to the point of establishing government-subsidized sheep breeding operations in core areas of brown bear territory. The head of Slovenia's Department for Wildlife in the Slovenia Forest Service has acknowledged that officials there will consider other plans for dealing with bear management issues including habitat improvement, regulating the breeding of small livestock, and cracking down on bear-attracting illegal refuse dumps, but they are unwilling to reduce the cull numbers. Brown bears in Slovenia are considered a "protected" species and have been as early as 1935 when an ordinance prevented the shooting, killing, buying, and selling of bears in certain districts in the country. However, they are also listed as "game" animals, meaning there can be a regulated hunt. Slovenia, one of the first European countries to protect its brown bears, now threatens to decimate its own population.


YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

There is great concern over reports that another overzealously high quota of 80 bears has been approved for the 2003/2004 season. Further, we fear that an additional permit may again be issued for a take as high as 120! Please write objecting to this irrationally and unscientifically large kill:

Minister Franc But
Ministry of Agriculture
Forestry and Food
Ministrstvo za kmetijstvo
gozdarstvo in prehrano
Dunajska 56-58
1000 Ljubljana
Republic of Slovenia.

Great Apes Are the World's Heritage


A young gorilla rides "piggy back" in a National Park in the Republic of Congo. Ian Redmond/UNESCO

Do our closest relatives in the animal kingdom, rapidly diving toward extinction, deserve special consideration and targeted protection in the global community? A group of primatologists, conservationists, and animal advocates think so, and they have launched The Great Ape World Heritage Species Project, www.4greatapes.com. If successful, bonobos, chimpanzees, gorillas, and orangutans would get radically increased worldwide attention and preservation, similar to architectural works, archaeological sites, and natural areas that are protected as World Heritage sites by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Even if never covered under the existing Convention Concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage, however, the Project could secure an international declaration for the security of great apes and a specific convention designating great apes as a World Heritage Species. In more than 20 African countries from Angola to Uganda and three countries in Asia, great apes are under constant assault from habitat destruction, bushmeat poaching, insufferable civil wars, and capture for the pet trade. Globally, great apes also languish in captivity-any declaration or convention establishing their inherent value and adding safeguards must equally apply to them. Due recognition for the great apes' plight and considerable international cooperation are vital if they are to survive this decade.

Avian Amore Do Europeans Love Birds to Death?


 

Wild-caught green-winged macaw (left), found in tropical
 forests and Mangrove swamps in Central and South
 America, are exported from Guyana and Suriname for the
 international pet trade. The largest parrot in the world, the
 Hyacinth macaw (right), provides Brazilians hope for an
 alternate use of wild parrots-ecotourism. A meager 5,000
 Hyacinth macaw are thought to remain in their natural
 habitat.
J. Gilardi (r.) Mark L. Stafford/Parrots International
 (l.)

Exotic birds are beautiful animals, kept by millions of people as captive companions. Sadly, the global trade in wild birds has a drastically negative impact on their ability to survive in their natural habitats. Mortality of wild-caught parrots prior to export has been documented to range from 45-70%, as a result of poor nutrition, stress, and overcrowding.

The complex international web of bird smuggling and illicit trade reveals the breadth of the problem today: Indonesians smuggle parrots into Singapore, Italians smuggle exotics out of Yugoslavia, and countless species of wild-caught birds are kidnapped in Central and South America and illegally imported into the European Union. Last year, British citizen Raymond Humphrey, for example, was sentenced to more than six years in prison for smuggling internationally-protected birds into England. Do we literally love wild birds to death in our quest to keep parrots and other exotic birds as pets? Current threats to bird species in the wild vary. They are at risk from habitat loss, invasive species, pollution, and overexploitation from hunting for food and live capture for the pet trade. Regardless of which threat poses the greatest risk to the birds' long-term viability, one thing is clear-wild birds are disappearing fast. A new paper by the Worldwatch Institute, Winged Messengers: The Decline of Birds, presents some startling statistics. In general, "almost 1,200 species-about 12 percent of the world's 9,800 bird species-may face extinction within the next century.... Human-related factors threaten 99 percent of the most imperiled bird species." Specifically, with respect to the trade in parrots as pets, "almost a third of the world's 330 parrot species are threatened with extinction due to pressures from collecting for the pet trade, combined with habitat loss." The World Parrot Trust (WPT) agrees that there is an on-going and dramatic decline of wild parrots worldwide and notes that the parrot family has more globally threatened species than any other family of birds. The World Conservation Union's "Red List" contains 94 species of parrots that are currently considered vulnerable, endangered, or critically endangered, and many more sub-species are equally at risk of disappearing forever. Recent scientific findings from studies throughout the Neotropics demonstrate that the demand for large expensive parrots as pets is a key driving force for this trade. In June 2001, Timothy Wright of the University of Maryland published an important study in the respected journal Conservation Biology entitled "Nest Poaching in Neotropical Parrots."

Wright and his team concluded, "Poaching of parrots from the wild is an economic activity driven by a combination of the market demand for parrots as pets, the large profits to the pet industry, and the rural poverty in many countries with wild-parrot populations." As a result, nest poaching of wild birds in unprotected areas is rife. Deaths from poaching of nests, they found, was "significantly greater than mortality due to natural causes." Further, "nest poaching for the pet trade is a major conservation threat for many parrot species." The underlying importance of the study was its attempt to assess whether greater protection for birds in the wild exists after trade bans on their international commerce are put in place. The international trade in threatened and endangered species is governed by the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). But sometimes stricter national measures are vital to add an extra layer of protection for wildlife at risk. For instance, a number of countries, among them, Australia, Ecuador, and Guyana, have imposed export bans to prevent their native bird species from being exported commercially.

Lilac-crowned and yellow-headed
 amazon parrots smuggled into the
 United States from Mexico.
U.S.
 Customs

The United States took the equally important step in 1992 of banning the importation of some of the most critical bird species. As a major importer of wild birds, the U.S. action was remarkably significant and successful. The Wild Bird Conservation Act (WBCA) converted the U.S. from the largest importer of wild-caught birds to a virtual non-importer of wild-caught parrots. The Wright study importantly concludes: "Poaching rates were significantly lower in the years after enactment of the WBCA.... [suggesting] that importation bans reduce poaching in exporting countries by limiting the demand by consumers in developed countries." Legal and illegal imports have been reduced to a trickle, though it surely still exists, and captive bred parrots are now more available and less expensive than ever for pet owners, breeders, and collectors. Restricting or eliminating the legal trade will reduce the illegal trade, rather than drive it underground as is often suggested. But not all countries have gotten the message. Between 1997 and 2000, the European Union officially imported 469,602 wild-caught birds of 111 species. Wild-caught birds are generally unsuitable as pets when they arrive in European homes, and thousands of these birds end up unwanted and ill-cared for. By importing wild-caught parrots, developed European nations are, in fact, unconscionably exploiting the resources of developing nations by creating a harvest that is neither biologically nor economically sustainable.

Therefore, WPT is spearheading a campaign to immediately cease the importation of wild-caught birds into the European Union, following America's wise lead from a decade before. According to Dr. James Gilardi of the WPT, "The existing trade is cruel and inhumane to tens of thousands of highly intelligent and social parrots. Figures on the unacceptably high mortality that occurs during the trapping, shipping, and quarantine of these birds demonstrate that the trade impacts far more wild birds than the numbers which end up for sale in Europe and Asia."

The spectacle of wild parrots is now an enormously popular ecotourism attraction and generates millions of dollars annually for tropical nations. Tourism creates solid employment for indigenous people as guides and lodge operators, and, if implemented well, ecotourism facilitates the long term protection of natural areas. The international attention that comes along with the tourism also builds local pride in natural heritage, which further facilitates nature conservation. In contrast, harvesting parrots for the pet trade provides small numbers of temporary jobs, and the financial benefits fall primarily in the hands of unscrupulous dealers in large cities rather than indigenous people.

YOU CAN MAKE A DIFFERENCE

Send the European Union the message that you, like thousands of other people around the world, feel that it's time to stop the cruel practice of capturing birds from the wild for international commerce. The wild bird trade is an unacceptable exploitation of the natural resources of developing countries. The E.U. has become the largest importer of wild-caught birds; the existing legislation in Europe is ineffective at stopping the inhumane and unsustainable harvesting of these wild birds. Visit the World Parrot Trust web site to find out more information and sign the online petition. Visit www.worldparrottrust.org/trade/tradeindex.htm.

Also, if you want a bird as a pet, do not buy one who is wild-caught. Always check for a leg band and ask for documentation showing the bird is captive bred. Any reputable dealer should be able to provide that-particularly for an expensive bird.

The Truth Is a Hammer Humboldt DA Takes on Pacific Lumber


In a complaint filed February 23, 2003, in the Superior Court of California, Humboldt County, District Attorney (DA) Paul Gallegos and his legal team have charged The Pacific Lumber Company (PL) with "Deceptive Concealment," "Fraudulent Representation," and "Fraudulent Suppression" under California's Unfair Competition Law. The suit "seeks civil penalties and injunctive relief for harm to property rights and harm to ancient redwoods inflicted on the people of Humboldt County" by Pacific Lumber's alleged "unfair and fraudulent business practices."

The complaint contends that PL falsified data regarding landslide risks from timber harvesting on unstable slopes. Based on this allegedly false landslide data and suppression of additional information PL was granted approval for its preferred cutting plan. According to the DA, the approved plan thereby allowed the company "to cut down some 100,000 trees on unstable slopes so as to earn an additional $40 million per year."

As a result of PL's actions, the DA claims, for instance, that over the past three years, the company was "free to cut down trees on unstable slopes based on it deception... [resulting] in major landslides causing destruction to ancient redwoods, serious harm to Humboldt Bay, and serious harm to streams, bridges, roads, homes, and property rights for the people of Humboldt County."

It must be difficult to battle one of the county's largest employers. Assistant DA Timothy Stoen notes that when outside attorneys with a strong concern for the public interest offered to assist the prosecution team, getting paid only a percentage of any financial penalties recovered, the County Board of Supervisors voted 4-1 against such action-in a room purposely packed full of loggers. According to Stoen, the powerful company has threatened to sue his office, the county, and him personally.

The county's complaint seeks damages in the amount of $2,500 for every tree that would be logged under the plan that was approved based on PL's data-a potential $250 million fine-and the cessation of all logging operations that would not have been allowed had the decision been based on the best scientific data available. Says Stoen, "The truth is a hammer, and we've got the hammer."

In Memoriam John Kullberg, President of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation



John Kullberg with his dog Archie.

John Kullberg, the careful, conscientious and dedicated President of the Board of the Society for Animal Protective Legislation, died on April 20 after a long battle with cancer. He fought the disease courageously for a number of years, unwilling to yield in his work on behalf of animals. Even in his last days he remained driven, exemplifying the optimism he wrote about in January, when he asserted that it is always preferable to light candles instead of curse the darkness. At the time of his death, he was the Executive Director of The Humane Society of the United States Wildlife Land Trust, a groundbreaking concept ensuring permanent sanctuary for animals. Under his leadership, the program, which he called "shelters without walls," grew to 70 properties encompassing 60,000 acres in the U.S. and four other nations. On these lands, Dr. Kullberg wrote, "the violence associated with trapping, hunting, and logging would be banned forever."

John Kullberg and canine star Sandy celebrate the stage production of Annie, co-produced by former AWI Treasurer Roger Stevens. Far right is Sandy's trainer Bill Berloni.


He previously served with distinction as President of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and later as President of Guiding Eyes for the Blind. Before joining the animal protection movement, he was an Assistant Dean at Columbia University where he earned his doctorate. In all of these endeavors, his stewardship was invaluable, and he never missed an opportunity to advocate living an ethical life, since, in his words, "unethical behaviors weaken and destroy the inherited ethical beacon of a strong conscience."

Dr. Kullberg's sister, Marjorie Cooke, is a member of the Board of the Animal Welfare Institute, and both were close friends of Christine Stevens. He is survived by his wife Karol and three children Kristen, Kathryn and Evan.

Let us all honor Dr. Kullberg by taking his challenge to "commit ourselves to living in ways that reflect broadly compassionate choices over abuse-infused conveniences."

-John Gleiber

"Like a nation calling upon its best defenders to prepare for the most formidable war imaginable, our suffering Earth is crying out for truly compassionate and able people to defend it and its inhabitants from the increasingly destructive consequences of abusive actions by those whose fundamental interests lie in myopically satisfying their own needs and pleasures, regardless of the harm their decisions cause others. Toleration of complacency about the increasingly destructive impact abuse is having on sentient life everywhere, but especially in Third World countries, is no longer an option if we truly care about our planet and the pain and suffering our past toleration of abuses have meant for those species, now extinct, with whom we once shared the Earth."

-John F. Kullberg

The Christine Stevens Memorial Fund


The Board of Directors of the Animal Welfare Institute is pleased to announce that it has established the Christine Stevens Memorial Fund to ensure the long-term viability of AWI’s essential campaigns. We have taken great pride in our historically high ratings with non-profit watchdogs for our extremely low administrative costs (the American Institute of Philanthropy constantly gives us an “A” rating). Through the Christine Stevens Memorial Fund, you can further guarantee that 100% of your contribution goes directly to our programs and animal advocacy.

In honor of Mrs. Stevens’ lifetime of work on behalf of animals, please give generously to this Fund. Checks should be made payable to the Christine Stevens Memorial Fund and mailed to:

Animal Welfare Institute
PO Box 3650
Washington, DC 20027

If you have any questions, please call us at our new telephone number (703) 836-4300 or send a fax to (703) 836-0400.

Howling Praise for AWI’s Founder


On a perfect spring day in Washington, as tulips across the city reached toward the heavens, hundreds of people gathered in a vast, sun-drenched room overlooking the majestic Potomac River to share fond remembrances of Christine Stevens’ life and the inspiration she provided us all. How appropriate to celebrate the achievements of AWI’s founder and, for more than five decades, president, in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, where her husband, Roger, served as Founding Chairman for more than twenty years.

The event was opened by AWI’s Assistant to the Officers, John Gleiber, who served as a devoted right hand to Mrs. Stevens for 30 years. John observed that despite Mrs. Stevens’ modesty, shyness, and complete loathing of self-congratulation, she would have been “thrilled by this outpouring of love and affection and appreciation and admiration for her life and her career.” It was, after all, her unyielding work that drove her to such great success. Though she was an incredibly gifted artist, she devoted her entire life to the welfare of animals. “Christine not only changed the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals,” John noted, “but she changed the lives of people.”

One of those people touched by her wisdom and determination is AWI’s new president, Cathy Liss, who shared her 23 years of experience working with Mrs. Stevens. Cathy described Christine’s struggle to improve the well-being of all animals against seemingly insurmountable odds: “In taking on opponents, who were great in number, well-financed and politically connected, Christine triumphed time and again. In her David and Goliath battles, she succeeded utilizing her personal strengths—honesty, in-depth knowledge, lobbying expertise, grace, political connections and a network of cohorts, many of whom are here today.”

Cathy detailed how Christine led by example, including her own participation in public demonstrations. “Imagine if you will this perfectly elegant woman, of a certain age, putting on a raccoon costume to protest against steel jaw traps and at another time, a turtle costume to protest the free trade’s threat to animal protective laws. There was Christine, marching in front of the White House in the pouring rain to save the whales.”

A former U.S. Ambassador William McC. Blair, Jr. waxed poetic about the outwardly calm Mrs. Stevens in the midst of the “controlled chaos” that is the AWI office: “In the center of it all—Christine—seemingly serene—but as usual full of indignation over the latest obstacle to be overcome in her never ending battle to protect animals from inhumane treatment.” Mr. Blair, in a speech worthy of a statesman, continued: “Christine was a force in her own right—never hesitating to speak about what troubled her—and what troubled her most was the dreadful things done to animals by human hands—the widespread and too often needless torture done to them in the name of science, agriculture and sport. She was so passionate about the welfare of animals that she almost literally shared their pain.”

Surely, the tough-minded and strong-willed Mrs. Stevens would have been proud to hear Mr. Blair’s comment on the world’s animal abusers: “There were a few who called her an extremist. She was not. The extremists are those corporations, organizations, and their lobbyists who profit from the cruelty inflicted unnecessarily on animals.”

Grammy award winner, Paul Winter, a long-time colleague and friend of Mrs. Stevens, whom she greatly admired, shared two songs on his soprano saxophone to allow the whales and the wolves to pay dutiful tribute to their fiercest defender. The sound of waves crashing on the shore ushered in his piercingly melodic song, “The lullaby from the great mother whale for the baby seal pups,” using sounds off the coast of Bermuda. His piece, “Wolf Eyes,” reflects an effort to show “the gentle side of these creatures who have been for so long misunderstood and mistreated by us.” At the end of the haunting song, Winter led the gathering in what he called a “Howleluiah chorus for Christine,” eliciting realistic animal wails from the dignified audience.

Naturally, howling like wolves led smoothly into Dr. Jane Goodall’s reminiscences of Mrs. Stevens, replete with her own chimpanzee hoots (as if “to greet Christine…in joyous proclamation of the day,” she said). Dr. Goodall described Christine as her first shepherd through the labyrinth of Congress and the legislative process. She recounted further Mrs. Stevens’ even demeanor: “She always seemed to be the same. Although she would get very angry about things, she never lost her temper…. There was a strength within her, this steel, this determination… this woman who would never give up.” Animals everywhere are better off, said Dr. Goodall, “because of the indomitable spirit of one woman.” Christine exemplified the spirit that “tackles a seemingly impossible task and simply won’t give up. And these amazing spirits inspire those around them to carry on with the task even if they haven’t quite fulfilled it.”

Everyone who knew Mrs. Stevens and her work, who is aware of her legacy, is sure to have been inspired by her efforts and, yes, her spirit. As noted during the service, Albert Schweitzer called Mrs. Stevens his “companion in battle.” If this holds true, she was also our great general in war. And in her honor and instilled with her sensitive spirit and fierce determination, we must carry on her imminently humane crusade to eliminate animal suffering everywhere it occurs.


Above: Christabel Gough, Christine’s daughter, with John Gleiber on the terrace before the service; Cathy Liss; William McC. Blair, Jr.; Paul Winter; Dr. Jane Goodall

Marc Bekoff

Marc Bekoff, Professor
Ecology and Evolutionary Biology
University of Colorado
Boulder, Colorado 80309-0334 USA
 Homepage:
http://literati.net/Bekoff

________________________________________________________

January 26, 2004

Gregory Symmes
Associate Executive Director
Division on Earth and Life Studies
National Research Council

Dear Dr. Symmes:

Below is my review of the report titled Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park. I will try to follow your guidelines and I hope that you find my comments useful. If you have any further questions please do not hesitate to contact me. Can you please acknowledge receipt of this document? Thank you.

Sincerely,

Marc Bekoff
Professor

P. S. For your information, I am a Fellow of the Animal Behavior Society and a recipient of their Exemplar Award for major lifetime contributions to the study of animal behavior. If you need it, more detailed information can be found on my homepage at http://www.literati.net/Bekoff and at http://www.ethologicalethics.org.


Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park

I received the Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park on January 23, 2004. As I understand it, I am to judge whether the arguments, findings, and conclusions of this report are supported by the text and determine whether the report is accurate, complete, and even-handed. I will also identify issues that are of major concern. The title is appropriate, and I have no editorial comments.

General and major comments and concerns

The Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park is a comprehensive, well-written, and well-organized report. The specific case studies are very helpful for assessing how poorly the zoo is run and for highlighting the pitiful and shameful lack of documentation of pertinent information and the utter failure across administrative levels to implement procedures that could have helped to improve the well-being of animals who were ill as well as the well-being of other individuals. I congratulate the stellar group of scholars who obviously worked very hard on the project at hand and who then wrote this report. Even objective or dispassionate readers will be able to see that there is a long history of many major problems at the National Zoo, and that the numerous infractions of various federal and other guidelines, statutes, and laws (and common sense) constitute serious and egregious violations. The review is balanced and fair. Sensitive issues are given proper care and in many ways the authors of this review "bent over backwards" to be nice and accommodating to the zoo. I agree with the committee's summary that "Many issues remain unresolved at the National Zoo." (p. 59) Indeed, this is gross understatement.

The charge to the committee is clearly described in this report and in my view, the conclusions that are reached are supported by evidence, analysis, and argument. The authors do not go beyond their charge or expertise. The recommendations that are offered are realistic and strict (as they should be) and unwavering compliance should be enforced at all levels. That the existence of zoos is "inevitable" at least in the foreseeable future does not mean that we should lower our standards or accept the deplorable situation at this institution. Blatant disregard for the lives of the animals should never trump our responsibility to provide the best possible lives for those non-consenting beings who are held captive. I fully realize that it is very difficult to run a zoo and to maintain the highest of ethical standards, but difficult does mean impossible and the National Zoo (and all zoos) should be expected to put the animals first and not run a shoddy operation. Surely, administrators must oversee the entire operation and "run a tight ship." And there must be coordination and communication among all levels. Everyone has to talk to one another because it is clear that the proper operation of a zoo (like all businesses) requires ongoing dialogue and frank but cordial exchanges in which everyone is given a chance to express their views and each individual's views are listened to.

There are many major concerns about the operation of the National Zoo, and the clear organization and structure of this review makes it easy to highlight them. Frankly, I do not see many "strengths" to the way in which the National Zoo is run -- the numerous and blatant "weaknesses" overshadow any positive aspects. There is a shameful and regrettable lack of concern for the animal's well-being by some but not all of the people who are responsible for overseeing the zoo's operation from day to day. It is difficult to see how the goals of providing support for conservation, education, and science are met when there is such rampant disregard for the health and nutrition of the zoo's inhabitants, the beings whose lives and well-being underpin the goals of the zoo and are the very reason that this and other zoos exist in the first place.

I agree with the committee's recognition (p. 3) that "the decline of the state of the National Zoo had accrued over many years." I also find it extremely disconcerting that there are so many violations despite a sharp decrease in the zoo's animal populations (p. 22). I would have expected much better care for fewer residents. And, it is also disquieting that these infractions/abuses are occurring given that the veterinarians who work at the National Zoo are board-certified by the AVMA.

Some major concerns include (but are not limited to): (1) the lack of documentation for the preventative medicine program and the lack of compliance in numerous instances in providing annual exams, vaccinations, tuberculosis tests, and infectious disease testing; (2) shortcomings in the animal nutrition program despite a "history of world-class nutrition research" (p. 51) that have "undoubtedly lead to animal deaths at the National Zoo" (p. 6); (3) the disregard for adherence to guidelines in research supported by the PHS (and also other research supported in other ways) stipulated by the PHS itself, the Federal Animal Welfare Act, the American Zoo and Aquarium Association (AZA), IACUCs, and the zoo's own policies and procedures for animal health and welfare (p. 8); (4) failure to comply with guidelines for euthanasia; (5) violation of quarantine procedures and protocols; (6) failure to keep adequate animal husbandry and management records; (7) poor pest control; (8) poor compliance with the zoo's own policies (p. 63); (9) poor record keeping; and (10) the lack of accessibility to records.

One of the most egregious violations is the alteration of veterinary records weeks and years after the event (p. 9). Another is the failure to keep "official records" of complaints (p. 60). Yet another is the inexcusable death of two red pandas after they were exposed to rodenticide. Where was the safety manager? I select this example from among many others merely to make the point that individual's lives are at stake and that because of a failure to comply with even the most elementary guidelines and common sense, numerous individuals needlessly suffer interminable psychological and physical pain and death.

AZA Accreditation

A major concern is that the zoo's AZA accreditation will be approved once again in March 2004. I recommend against this. I favor withholding accreditation until the many wrongs are righted. There is a lack of a strategic plan, as highlighted in this review (pp. 89, 91). There has been enough time for the people running the zoo to get things in order and I fear that giving them accreditation will mean that things will change far too slowly if at all. It is time to play "hard ball" because the situation as described in the Review of the Smithsonian Institution's National Zoological Park is deplorable, inexcusable, and an embarrassment to humankind. It is an insult to the people who support the zoo and trust that those who work at the zoo (perhaps especially administrators) will work hard to maintain the highest of standards. Most importantly, it is an affront to the animals who depend on the goodwill of those who are responsible for their well-being and lives. The fact that there still is no strategic plan for the National Zoo "despite the recommendations of previous AZA accreditation reports" (p. 11, my emphasis) in and of itself justifies withholding further accreditation until the zoo gets things in order. Obviously, good intentions and promises to do so have not been sufficient to make suitable changes.

Other substantial issues or concerns

I found myself wondering how and why the high profile situation at the zoo got to be as bad as it is. How and why did conditions deteriorate despite (1) close scrutiny by organizations and individuals who are supposed to be responsible for overseeing zoos and (2) repeated and deep expressions of concern by the public that were carried in high profile media? Why wasn't there better communication and interaction among all levels of the zoo's administration and the people who are responsible for people who interact with the animals first hand,, each and every day, those who do the hand-on work? What has morale been like at the zoo? Has morale declined as the zoo declined? Did anyone at the zoo speak out about the conditions before they snowballed into such a horrific and inexcusable state? What happened to those who did speak out? Were they listened to or dismissed? Was there open communication even about difficult or contentious issues?

To sum up, it is worth emphasizing that the review committee recognized (p. 63, my emphasis) "a lack of evidence that the administration has embraced its role in providing for animal care and management, compounded by a lack of responsibility and accountability at all levels." This summary says it all. There are far too many unresolved questions and issues and a lack of accountability throughout all administrative levels. Pondering the questions that I and the review committee have raised, along with the review committee's summary, is extremely troubling. The future at the National Zoo must not mirror their decline, even in the slightest.

Summary

Once again, I congratulate the review committee for writing a fair and balanced report. While I knew that conditions at the National Zoo were bad and continuing to decline, I had no idea that things were as bad as they are. I was alarmed by the extent of the problems that have compromised the well-being of individual animals and have needlessly caused much pain, suffering, and death. There is culpability across all levels. Shame on the individuals responsible for knowingly compromising the lives of animals at this zoo. Shame on them also for mindfully forfeiting public trust.

The National Zoo defines its mission (p. 88) as "exhibiting and protecting biodiversity by joining public education and recreation with research in conservation biology and reproductive sciences." They surely are a long way from realizing that goal and strict and uncompromising measures must be taken to ensure that they "clean up their act" immediately. Stern enforcement of recommendations must commence at once regardless of the zoo's status with the AZA. The entire National Zoo must be kept under the closest scrutiny by organizations and individuals who will enforce recommendations without compromise (and without fear of retribution if necessary). There should be serious consequences for failure to comply with recommendations by oversight committees, and one way to begin is to withhold AZA accreditation. The well-being of all animals must come first.

Animals are not a 'resource'

Ben White

"The briefest of encounters can still touch our hearts. 
Reminders of our mortality, our limited heartbeats,
can steel our resolution to make each one of them count;
to add a small liquid drop of love to a parched world."
Peter Alsop


BEN WHITE

Ben White put up a fight
To try to save the whales
Cause Ben White knows
You can't buy life
Life – Life – Life
No, Life is not for sale.

Ben White, he saw the light
Didn't want the redwoods cut
Cause Ben White knows
You can't buy life
Life – Life – Life
And your redwood deck is dead wood
And you know it in your gut.

Ben White, he got it right
Said "Animals feel pain!"
And Ben White knows
You can't buy life
Life – Life – Life
When we close our hearts
We loose more than we gain.

Ben White felt sick one night
When the cancer filled his shoes
And Ben White knows
That's how life goes
He loved Life – Life – Life
Cause every living thing on Earth
Is a precious life to loose
Life – Life – Life
It's not for people just to use.

Life – Life – Life
Life – Life – Life
Thanks Ben White,
Life – Life – Life

 

Written by Peter Alsop
©2005, Moose School Music (BMI)

Smithfield's Ludendorff Offensive

In 1918, Imperial Germany was running out of time. It was being slowly strangled by the allied blockade. Its Austrian ally, bled white by the terrible battles in the east, was crumbling internally. Every week thousands more American troops arrived in France to reinforce the battered French and British armies, meaning that allied strength was increasing even as German strength declined.

The German high command decided on one last, massive offensive to either defeat the allies outright or force them to conclude a peace favorable to Germany. This last great offensive of the First World War-- which ultimately failed and led to the disintegration of the German army from within its enlisted ranks-- is remembered as the "Ludendorff Offensive" after the man who conceived and commanded it.

Early in 2002, Smithfield Foods, running out of time to establish "vertical integration" in Poland before Poland accedes to the European Union, opened an offensive long in preparation and backed massively by the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development and other international banks. The breadth of the attack, involving simultaneous moves in the Polish Sejm, the government ministries and in gminas (counties) across Poland revealed startling corporate penetration of the Socialist-Peasant Party coalition that took power in October, 2001.

For all the alacrity with which captive officials and parliamentarians have rushed to the company's bidding, the Smithfield offensive contains an element of desperation. With his Animex subsidiary continually losing money, E.U. accession approaching, populist politicians Andrzej Lepper and Law and Justice head Lech Kasczynski (both Smithfield enemies) outstripping Prime Minister Miller in the polls, this is CEO Joe Luter's last chance to install Smithfield-as he has promised to do-as "Europe's number one pork producer".  What is underway is Smithfield's Ludendorff Offensive in Poland.

Defeat In The Sejm

Late in 2000, Smithfield achieved a cryptic coup in the Polish Sejm by passing the "Fertilizer Act", redefining liquid animal manure--previously subject to regulation as "sewage" under water pollution statutes-- as "natural fertilizer" exempt from regulation. The Act sanctions surface spraying of waste as "appropriate means of application" and sets up legal barriers against challenging, or prohibiting, liquid manure because of odor. Provisions that might have halted hog factories and mega-dairies on environmental grounds were thus erased. There was no opposition to the bill; it was "slipped through" so stealthily that Polish NGOs were not even aware of it until 2002!

The attempt to eliminate a second potential barrier to populating Poland with American style hog factories, however, did not go unnoticed. An effort by the Solidarity government to gut the Polish Animal Welfare Act was vetoed by President Kwasniewski early in 2001. However, a new drive to strip the Act-this time by the Socialist (SLD) government of Prime Minister Leszek Miller-- began in February, 2002. It reached an ignominious conclusion with Kwasniewski's last minute decision on August 14, 2002 to sign a weakened bill into law.

The most remarkable thing about the struggle over the Animal Welfare Act, however, was not that it was ultimately weakened-how fatally remains to be seen-but how close the government, with the massed power of banks and corporations behind it, came to losing. The bill consumed a dozen hearings over six months and triggered acrimonious and protracted debates in the chambers of the 460 member Sejm and 100 member Senat. Miller's government was savaged in the press on the issue and humiliated by the Senat's rejection of its bill. In the end, Miller was forced to impose harsh party discipline on his restive deputies to override the Senat. It was a victory whose costs have yet to be fully paid.

The industry draft eructed from Ministry of Agriculture in February, was couched as an "urgent measure" to integrate Polish law with EU regulations. It was accepted without debate by the Cabinet and sent on an "expedited" basis to the powerful Sejm Commission on European Integration chaired by former Prime Minister Jozef Oleksy.

Marek Kryda, working under an AWI grant, and I analyzed the draft-which proved far less consistent with E.U. regulations than the original Act--- and set to work drafting and translating amendments. Among these were two that-had they passed-- could have stopped Smithfield in its tracks. One required that animals raised in buildings must have adequate natural bedding (eg; straw), enough-in the case of mammals-to permit composting. This would have made it flatly impossible to use liquid manure systems. A second amendment mandated natural lighting in buildings housing animals-with exceptions for infants and chicks requiring heat lamps-- be consistent with diurnal rhythms: no rearing in the dark or under constant artificial light.

At the initial hearing before Oleksy's commission in April there were only four NGO witnesses: Marek Kryda, Liza Kodym who heads the Polish Animal Welfare League, Poznan activist Jurek Dusczynski (who participated in AWI's October 2000 tour of the Midwest) and 80 year old Jenna Polyturzycka, the woman chiefly responsible for the original (1997) Act. However the appearance of a front page article on the Animal Welfare Act in Gazeta Wyborska, Poland's largest daily, that quoted Kryda extensively, and the ferocious opposition of deputies from Samoobrona and Law and Justice transformed what was expected to be a routine exercise into a political brawl. Oleksy,( who looks remarkably like Nikita Kruschev ) was forced to appoint a subcommittee.

The issue reached the Sejm Chamber on July 6. After a fierce five hour debate, mostly over the bedding and natural lighting amendments, the bill was returned to Oleksy's committee for additional hearings. From all reports, supporters swept the debate and a vote on the 6th would have gone our way. But by the time the bill made its way to the Chamber for final voting on July 19 our position had deteriorated. The bedding amendment was defeated by a vote of 203-167 ;The amendment on natural lighting failed 201-169 .

Ironically, the erosion of support occured- in part-because of Marek and Liza's early lobbying success. The intense press and media coverage attracted unwelcome attention.! Hunting interests entered the arena with a bizarre amendment allowing hunters to shoot "dangerous" dogs and cats more than 200 yards from an occupied dwelling. The Polish humane movement erupted in highly public controversy over a scheme-apparently involving conflict of interest-- to implant identifying computer chips in dogs and cats. These issues brought noisy debates that pushed humane treatment of farm animals out of the spotlight. Worse was the involvement of the international banks that now own 80% of Poland's banking sector. Halina Nowina- Konopka, a League of Polish Families deputy from a banking family who adopted natural lighting as her special cause, was under no illusions. "Dear" she told Liza before the vote, "we can't win. The banks realize that there are hundreds of millions of euros at stake. They won't let us."

Our defeat was not, however, a rout. We were able to hold on to Article 13 of the Act requiring that any "new technology" impacting Animal Welfare must be investigated and approved and a provision banning importation of animals or animal products "raised in a manner inconsistent with the Animal Welfare Act". Surprisingly, an amendment I first drafted on a napkin that authorizes the Ministry of Transportation to halt, inspect and-if necessary-impound trucks transporting livestock and mandates construction of unloading and holding facilities, passed. If implemented, this measure could practically shut down international traffic in Polish horses.

The vote in the Senat, where 70 of the 100 senators are listed as SLD, was considered pro-forma. However, Marek and Jurek Dusczynski, lobbying hard, found unexpectedly strong support. The Senat voted to reject the bill en toto and returned it to the Sejm with a letter saying that it was "too flawed to consider". Stung, Miller and Co. exercised themselves as never before to discipline SLD members and gain opposition support to override the Senate. In the end only one opposition party, Law and Justice (45 MPs) voted solidly against the government and only a single courageous SLD deputy, Izabella Sierakowska, defied the Miller machine to vote "No".

The bill that went to the President, saddled with the "hunters right to shoot pets" amendment and provisions that fly in the face of EU regulations it supposedly "approximates", was ripe for veto. In the end, a veto and an early test of strength between Miller and Kwasniewski, rivals for future leadership of SLD, did not occur. The sorry state of the new Act, however, suggests that Smithfield's victory is on shaky ground. E.U. is likely -indeed almost certain--to find it inadequate; there may be legal and even constitutional challenges. The battle over the Animal Welfare Act may be just beginning.

Struggle In The Countryside

Unlike the U.S. Constitution, the Polish Constitution of 1997 specifies and guarantees the rights of local government. The sixteen voivodships (states) are considered part of the federal government; state legislatures (with limited powers) are elected but the governors are appointed by the Prime Minister. However, the powers of the gminas (counties) and the cities and towns are separate and inviolate; there is no constitutional way for federal government or the voivodships to force gminas to accept hog factories; local government has the constitutional right to say "No!". This means that by sweeping away federal barriers to hog factories (if it really has) Smithfield has only broken the first line of resistance.

Many of the 7,000 copies of "The Trojan Pig" (note Spring 2000 Quarterly) that AWI delivered to Samoobrona were passed on to local officials across Poland in the hope that this would prevent Smithfield hog factories from being approved. Luter's initial drive to "replicate Smithfield's American success" received a chilly reception at both federal and local level. However, early in 2001 it became evident that Smithfield, lurking behind Polish proxies, had seeped around our defenses. A company calling itself "Prima Farms" managed to secure permits for a hog farm near the town of Czplinek, between Poznan and the Baltic coast and by late summer hog factories-patterned to the American mode-were in operation. With the advent of a new, more "compliant" government in October and the installation of company operatives in key posts within the Agriculture Ministry, Smithfield caste aside the pretence that "Prima" is an independent company. Plans for immense hog factory complexes came, one after another, into focus: 300,000 hogs to be housed at the former Soviet Army base at Borne-Solinowo west of Czplinek; 300,000 hogs to be housed at Rekoniewice near Poznan; from 300,000 to half a million hogs to be raised near Goldap in northeastern Poland. The reason why Adam Tanski, head of the State Farm Property Agency under the previous government, had been retained in office became clear. Tanski, whom we once considered a friend, has "gone over" to Smithfield; an estimated thirty former state farms-up to 50,000 hectares according to an article in meatnews.com have been handed over to Smithfield's Animex and Prima subsidiaries.

Two battles are now at boiling point. Near the town of Rekoniewice in western Poland about 50 kilometers southwest of the city of Poznan, Animex obtained permits to build a large sheep farm. Instead of sheep, however, the new buildings were designed to imprison hogs- vast numbers of hogs-in the standard Smithfield way. If there was a "fix", however, it did not stay fixed. Last spring when Smithfield began stocking its "sheep barns" with "lean generation" hogs imported from the U.S., Andrzej Lepper, Samoobrona Party Secretary Renia Beger (who was our guest in October, 2000) and Jurek Dusczynski organized a protest rally. On May 27, the local authorities reacted by ordering Animex to remove the hogs forthwith from Rekoniewice. The company then hauled the animals to a farm Animex had acquired eight years earlier near Wieckowice at the outskirts of Poznan.

The permits issued for the 900 hectare Wieckowice farm authorize 500 pigs and 600 cows. In August, 2001, Animex inquired about (but apparently did not file) documents needed to raise the number of animals to 9600 and began retrofitting the farm's massive buildings to accommodate hogs.  Estimates of how many thousand hogs were already illegally housed at Wieckowice by May 27, 2002 vary. In any case, addition of those from Rekoniewice brought the total number to 17,000. The poor animals, jammed into hastily prepared storage buildings, barely tended by the farm's skeleton crew, died by the hundreds. Their carcasses, in a scene all too familiar in the United States, were heaped in dumpsters awaiting transport to a rendering plant and the nauseating stench of rotting hogs permeated the town of Wieckowice. Even with the windows closed at the school children vomited; vast swarms of flies settled over the town.

Goaded beyond endurance, the townspeople gathered at the company gate on June 9th railing at unresponsive Animex managers and threatening to "free the pigs" if nothing was done. The carcasses were finally hauled off but the reek of hog feces-amply nauseous in its own right-remains. On August 21 a hearing was held in Wieckowice on Animex's hastily filed application for a permit to dispose of ("apply") liquid manure. The company, not having installed a system of pipes that underlie "sprayfields" for liquid hog feces in the U.S. nor acquired tank trucks with Chisel plows to "inject" it, proposed to spread it along the roads. The assurances of Animex spokesmen that liquid manure is odorless were not, one paper reported, "well received"

.The situation at Wieckowice is ripe for activism. However, local authorities have displayed none of the courage animating their counterparts at Rekoniewice. The deep complicity of the Miller government in Smithfield's attempted takeover of Polish pork production was reflected in press coverage of the raucous August 21 hearing. Privately owned newspapers told it as it was. But public media, increasingly controlled and straitened by the government took an insipid "company line". A BBC team Marek conducted to the site on August 16 penned graphic descriptions but even BBC was at pains not to identify the "foreign multi-national" involved.

A larger and even more critical battle with Smithfield is underway in northeastern Poland, in former East Prussia near the border with Russia's Kalingrad enclave. Operating as Prima Farms the company has applied for permits to construct facilities to house hundreds of thousands of hogs-by some accounts over half a million-on six former state farms it controls near the border town of Goldap.(population about 16,000). Investigating onsite, Marek Kryda found the properties grouped in a tight semi-circle around the town, averaging only about five kilometers distant. With millions of gallons of hog feces in open cesspools on three sides of their homes only a north wind could provide Goldap residents respite from the malodorous stench; absent this there would be no escape.

The grotesque effrontery of trying to confine hundreds of thousands of hogs here does not end-indeed hardly begins-with an assault on Goldap's air. The area is part of the Green Lungs of Poland, containing Europe's last fully intact aquatic ecosystem. Much of the land is low lying and marshy; fecal effluent from spraying would-as in North Carolina-almost certainly reach water, draining either into the Goldap river (which flows north into Russia thereby introducing an international dimension) or into local lakes. There is no chance, if large scale spraying occurs, to avoid eutrophication of pristine lakes and the contamination of an historic river.

This area's unspoiled natural beauty; the fact that it is home to scores of birds and mammals (including bison and wolves) extinct in western Europe, its proximity to the famous Romincka forest, site of Reichmarshal Herman Goering's baronial hunting lodge, makes it a prime destination for European tourists. Tourism-founded on clean air and unsullied nature-is the areas' most viable economic activity. Liquid manure from hundreds of thousands of imprisoned hogs would bring all of this to an end.. Already 40 miles south, near Elk, Smithfield farms containing only a few thousand hogs have left local tourist homes without clients.

Add to this the fate of the hogs themselves-never, in their terrible prisons, to smell the earth or see the sky-and the impact on peasant agriculture. At Wieckowice, it was learned that the company-aside from guards and white collar types-had only five workers for 17,000 hogs. This many animals, raised traditionally, would support at least fifty families.

On June 17, at the insistence of the Olsztyne Voivodship legislature and amid a swarm of rumors that officials were being bribed, the City of Goldap convened a hearing. It was opened by the Mayor, who lent credence to the rumors by saying that he had no authority to reject properly made out applications and then hastily departed. Company officials took the floor, rhapsodizing over the "eco-friendly" nature of the "Smithfield system"; characterizing effluent spraying as a modern version of organic agriculture. A farm in-of all places-- Yorkshire was cited as the exemplar of this enlightened new agriculture.

At this juncture a white haired man made his way through the packed meeting room to the lectern. It was Wijtold Malevicz who participated in our September, 1999 tour . "Have you people been to the North Carolina to observe the real 'Smithfield system'?" He asked. "I have!" he continued and spared no detail in describing what he had seen, heard and smelled. Malevicz was followed by a succession of angry witnesses, among them the Chief Veterinarian of the Olsztyne Voivodship, Dr. Maslowski. Maslowski, debunking the cheery company accounts, reported appalling conditions and prodigious death loss at Smithfield/Prima's two functioning farms in the voivodship. At Bychowo where the company admits having only 6,000 hogs (although the real number is evidently much higher) Maslowski said that 1,761 hogs had died in the previous seven months. By the end of the day, public witnesses from every walk of life had attacked the project; not one had supported it.

Public opinion notwithstanding, "Prima" is proceeding as though the issuance of permits (no decision is expected until after the October 26, municipal elections) is a sure thing. Huge pits have been dug for sewage ponds, construction and retrofitting continues at the company farms.

Exhibiting its parent's seemingly perdurable contempt for laws and regulations Prima was found to have illegally dumped asbestos roofing stripped from farm buildings into a swamp. In the meantime heavy handed federal interference continues; local officials report intense badgering from Tanski and the Agriculture Ministry to abet the project.

"Returning from Goldap through the North Warmia district in the evening was a marvelous experience" Marek wrote. "Nature is incredible there; in every village are a few storks nests; all around are forests and meadows. They are such nice villages even though they are not wealthy. The people live in close contact with nature."

Why, one asks, can't decent, honest humans living in balance with nature be left alone? What Procrustean mania drives these bandit CEO's, these tyrant bureaucrats, these corrupted politicians to impose their ruinous imprimatur on all of nature and society?

Ask as we will, the corporate offensive against Poland's peasant farmers, with Smithfield-today at least-at its spear point, rages apace.

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