AWI Quarterly

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.

Silent Thunder, In the Presence of Elephants

Katy Payne
New York, Simon and Schuster,
1998, 288 pages, $25.00
Hardcover ISBN: 0-684-80108-6

Long before Katy Payne's powerful book, Silent Thunder, In the Presence of Elephants, was published, she told us about her experience with elephants in the Portland, Oregon, Washington Park Zoo. She felt, rather than heard, what she later found were sounds — actually infrasound. She remembered feeling the same kind of vibrations from the lowest notes of an organ in the church she attended as a child.

Katy and Roger Payne had recorded "The Songs of the Humpback Whale" from hydrophones in the sea. These marvelous songs by the huge humpback whales were a prelude to Katy Payne's inspired understanding of the secret communications of the largest land animals: the Asian elephants.

She explains, "We ran the tape recorder at its slowest speed so that in playing back the tapes we could speed them up, raising the pitch of all recorded sounds and bringing the lowest sounds into the range of human hearing."

Katy Payne has deep empathy for animals in general, and for elephants in particular, and interprets their actions and their feelings and their communication techniques. She had grown to know them so well while in Zimbabwe, that she even dreams about them. The deep attachment formed for the elephants Katy studied during her five separate scientific expeditions in Zimbabwe make the tragedy of the cull of these elephants especially powerful and shocking.

Silent Thunder makes no mention of the major human struggle which took place at the 1989 meeting of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) at which the member countries decided to place all elephants on the Treaty's Appendix I (endangered). African elephant populations were heading for extinction as gangs of poachers decimated them for the ivory trade at the behest of Asian ivory dealers. Zimbabwe fiercely resisted the endangered listing which was so valiantly fought for by Constance Harriman, head of the U.S. Delegation to CITES. At the 1997 CITES meeting Zimbabwe fought back, winning the vote to sell its ivory stockpile to Japan, which effectively started a wave of poaching for ivory all over again.

The book ends sorrowfully with human deaths and elephant deaths and even the seeming death of a river. But there is still hope because in the river's new channel, the elephants have dug wells, and when they have been counted, the total is 1,000 wells for all animals in the vicinity to drink from!   

Katy Payne's list of acknowledgments finishes with the following words: "Finally, I wish to acknowledge the compassionate animals in whose remembrance I have written all these words. All these greeting rumbles, and all these cries for help."

- Christine Stevens

 

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."

 

Dog Nursing Pups Mutilated in so called "Padded" Trap

 

Shortly before Christmas, a mother dog was seen limping around the neighborhood in the White Knoll, South Carolina community. Her right front paw was held in the viselike grip of a steel jaw  leghold trap. Apparently, the dog wasn't able to pull her foot out of the trap, but she had succeeded in pulling the trap's stake out of the ground to get back to her puppies. Although trappers refer to the device as a "padded" leghold trap, the trap had mangled the dog's paw, and she had lost three of her toes.

Dave Johnston, a volunteer with Pets, Inc., a local animal rescue organization, lured the emaciated mother dog in with food. "She was quite cooperative," Johnston said. "She was exhausted. She went sound asleep in the van." Johnston was only able to catch two of her puppies, but he knew there were more so he returned until he was able to round up all of five of her offspring. The puppies were only weeks old.

Thankfully, this story has a happy ending. The sweet mother dog has been adopted by a loving family and named Honey. After only a few weeks in her new home, Honey has thrived, gaining nearly 25 pounds. She doesn't like taking her twice-a-day antibiotic treatment or having the bandage on her paw changed. But this treatment, along with a trip back to the veterinarian every other day to monitor her progress, appears to be paying off. Honey's maimed paw is healing better than expected, and it probably won't have to be amputated. And all of her puppies have been adopted to good homes.

The owner of the inhumane, indiscriminate trap has not stepped forward to assume responsibility for setting it. Residents of White Knoll are concerned that the steel jaw trap, which had been set near a grade school, could have caught a child.

Meantime, Honey appears to be enjoying her new home, although she is apprehensive of people following her ordeal. Her new family is very protective of her. When they realized that she hated loud noises, they spent New Year's Eve with her on the floor of their bathroom. Honey is bonding with the two other dogs in the family, and the woman who adopted Honey acknowledged that she's made great strides, describing a day when "…I caught her playing, jumping around on three legs and her nubby foot. She looked at me like I wasn't supposed to see that."

 

Jumbo Thieves

A further concession of the 1997 elephant downlisting was facilitation of "export of live animals to appropriate and acceptable destinations." The problem is that there is no clear definition of what an "appropriate and acceptable destination" really is. As a result, insidious animal dealers such as Riccardo Ghiazza can literally steal baby elephants from their mothers and transport them internationally for commercial gain.

According to the London Mail and Guardian, Ghiazza was recently arrested on charges of fraud and falsely obtaining South African citizenship when he allegedly failed to declare that he is wanted for a drug conviction in Italy. He is also the culprit in the Tuli elephant fiasco in which his company removed 30 baby elephants from Botswana and transported them to South Africa where they suffered beatings to "train" them in preparation for international transport to zoos and circuses abroad. The National Council of Societies for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals brought cruelty charges against Ghiazza and after lengthy and expensive court procedures was awarded custody of the animals. Most of the Tuli elephants have been freed in national parks and private reserves in South Africa.

 

Coulston on the Ropes Again

 

The Coulston Foundation (TCF) continually allows the grossly negligent deaths and inhumane treatment of chimpanzees for whom it is responsible. Now TCF is facing a new set of problems from the Food and Drug Administration for violations of Good Laboratory Practice (GLPs) regulations.

GLPs are in place to regulate experiments "to assure the quality and integrity" of the laboratory practices for research involving "food and color additives, animal food additives, human and animal drugs, medical devices for human use, biological products, and electronic products." Just as TCF repeatedly has violated the Animal Welfare Act, now it has been cited for nearly 300 violations of GLPs.

Infractions from the FDA inspection report include:

…not all studies had an approved written protocol that clearly indicated the objectives and all methods for the conduct of the study.

There is no assurance that all the surgical procedures were approved….

The identity of a study animal on a [xxx] report dated [xxx] was corrected from [xxx] using a scrap piece of paper. {[xxx] indicates redacted, or blacked out, information}

Temperature monitoring records are incomplete….Humidity is not monitored during the entire study.

The animals were fasted the day prior to any study activity. There was study activity daily for the first [xxx] days of the study, and weekly thereafter. The animals experienced decreased appetite and diarrhea. No animals were taken off the study for health reasons.

A certified "warning" letter from the Department of Health and Human Services to Dr. Frederick Coulston, TCF's CEO and Chairman of the Board, concludes that the conditions at his facility "are serious violations of the GLP regulations," and warns that the results of future studies at TCF would be considered "seriously flawed" if these deficiencies are not corrected.

An Unbearable Trade

 

The trade in bear gallbladders and bile continues to put pressure on endangered bear populations across the globe. All bear species are listed under the Convention's Appendices, but different CITES Parties have different regulations regarding the bear parts trade. The CITES Secretariat's document for consideration at COP 11 warns that "Differences in national, federal, state or provincial laws allow for confusion and enforcement difficulties; for example, where trade in bear gall bladders is permitted on a domestic market but import or export is banned." Since bear parts such as the gallbladder are visually indistinguishable, allowing some legal trade in some bear species' parts makes strict enforcement of CITES and national bear protection legislation difficult.

The Parties to CITES attempted to address some of the complicating factors in Harare, Zimbabwe in 1997 where they unanimously resolved "that the continued illegal trade in parts and derivatives of bear species undermines the effectiveness of the Convention" and that "poaching may cause declines of wild bears that could lead to the extirpation of certain populations or even species." Parties were urged "to take immediate action in order to demonstrably reduce the illegal trade in bear parts and derivatives" by, among other actions, "confirming, adopting or improving their national legislation to control the import and export of bear parts and derivatives." Unfortunately, it seems that few countries, including the U.S., have complied.

A global moratorium on the international trade in bear viscera would help individual CITES Parties protect their resident bears from poaching and smuggling of their parts. Pending legislation in the U.S. Congress, the Bear Protection Act, should be passed and used as a model for the rest of the world.

 

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