AWI Quarterly

Congressional Assault on Marine Mammals

he U.S. Congress is currently engaged in a two-pronged attack against the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), one of our most important animal protection laws.

The House of Representatives' version of a Department of Defense (DOD) authorization bill, currently pending in a conference committee (where the House and Senate resolve differences in the bill), would allow for broad exemptions from the law not only to the military but to anyone else, including researchers, fishermen, and defense contractors.

DOD wants to change the MMPA definition of "harassment" radically. Rather than referring to activities that injure, torment, or disrupt marine mammals' behavior, the change would mean that only activities causing "biologically significant disruption" would be curtailed. This level of substantiation is very difficult to ascertain, and switches the burden of proof to the government, which would need to show that the disruption was "biologically significant" before protecting marine mammals.

Another recommended change would eviscerate the MMPA further by removing the two primary limitations on the granting of "incidental take" permits: the requirement that the take be geographically limited and that the numbers of creatures affected be small. This would enable the Navy, or any other permit applicant, to kill or injure huge numbers of marine mammals across the oceans with impunity. This one change in language would virtually destroy the ability of the MMPA to protect marine mammals from being harmed or killed incidentally in fisheries, scientific research, and the deployment of devices such as active sonar and air-guns. Some of the impetus for these proposed changes stem from the Navy's desire to deploy its Low Frequency Active sonar over 80% of the world's oceans, potentially slaughtering broad swaths of whales, dolphins and fish with its ear-shattering 234 decibels.

Meanwhile, a bill to reauthorize the MMPA itself (H.R. 2693) has been introduced by the Chairman of the House Resources Committee, Richard Pombo (R-CA) and the Chairman of the Committee's Fisheries Conservation, Wildlife and Oceans Subcommittee, Wayne Gilchrest (R-MD).  This bill also would amend the MMPA by changing the definition of harassment and weakening the restrictions concerning the "incidental taking" of marine mammals.

Members of Congress should see through these underhanded attempts to weaken protection for marine mammals. Urge your legislators to reject the DOD's unnecessary requests for exemptions from the MMPA and to oppose the Gilchrest/Pombo bill as currently drafted. (Click here for addresses to Congress.)


Buckeye Egg Factory Closed

Fate of 13 Million Hens Unknown

After more than two decades of abysmal cruelty and environmental degradation, the Ohio Department of Agriculture finally ordered the closure of all 90 Buckeye egg factories. Buckeye's demise is due in large part to the persistent efforts of concerned citizens unwilling to tolerate the nuisances associated with animal factories. Buckeye, which confines over 13,000,000 laying hens to battery cages, should be closed by June 1, 2004. However, Buckeye has appealed, and Japan-based Ise Farms and Ohio Fresh Eggs may buy the facilities. The celebration of Buckeye's closure is short-lived if the cruelty to laying hens simply continues under another name.

Of utmost concern is the welfare of the hens. Buckeye estimates it would have to kill 464,000 to 576,000 chickens per week to comply with the order. Humane euthanasia of such massive numbers of birds is unlikely. Or the birds could be slaughtered for soup and animal food. The future looks bleak for most of the birds, but as we go to press, our friends at Oohmahnee Farm are set to rescue 1,000 of the hens. Hopefully, the compassion shown to these birds will be extended to others, who can be rescued or killed in a truly humane manner.

Buckeye's inability to comply with even minimal environmental laws underscores the fact that it is inherently cruel and problematic to confine millions of animals to factories. Compassionate consumers should not support the cruelty of any egg factory. If you consume eggs, please be certain they come from cage-free hens who have access to pasture.

(AWI Quarterly: Summer 2002, Winter 2001, Fall 2001)

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