AWI Quarterly

Welfare Ranching The Subsidized Destruction of the American West

Welfare Ranching
The Subsidized Destruction of the American West

Edited by George Wuerthner and Mollie Matteson
Island Press 2002; Hardback: ISBN 1559639423; 346 pages; $75.00;
Paperback: ISBN 1559639431; 368 pages; $45.00

When picturing the American West, one conjures romantic images of wide-open ranges filled with wild horses, cows, and cowboys. However, upon closer examination you will see corporations and the very rich exploiting millions of acres of public land to the extreme detriment of the land, people, and wildlife that inhabit it.

Welfare Ranching: The Subsidized Destruction of the American West exposes this abuse through a broad range of essays detailing habitat destruction, species extinction, water pollution and depletion, and waste of taxpayer dollars. The mammoth book is filled with maps and photographs vividly depicting the stark contrast between public lands that have been overgrazed and those given a reprieve, or those that have never been grazed.

An estimated 307 million acres of federal, state, and local lands are leased for raising livestock through federal grazing permits. The 1934 Taylor Grazing Act created these permits to be "revocable, amendable, nonassignable ten-year licenses to graze on public lands" as a way to ensure the lands future viability and family ranching during the economic troubles of the Great Depression. Today, however, large corporations have consumed the Act's intended beneficiaries, the small family ranchers, much as they did the family farmers of the East. Those small ranchers, who remain in operation, struggle to survive, often forced to find additional jobs to supplement their income.

Taxpayer dollars also fund predator control methods such as the barbaric steel jaw leg-hold trap.
George Wuerthner

Welfare Ranching is filled with statistics clearly showing how a few people like Idaho potato billionaire J.R. Simplot (owner of one of the largest U.S. cattle operations) and the Hewlett and Packard Families, corporations such as MetLife, and Anheuser-Busch, and even the Mormon Church reap vast financial rewards at immense natural and public expense. Simplot's company alone controls 2 million acres of public grazing allotments.

Because federal permits are not retired, those no longer used by smaller operations are simply bought up by the larger operations. It is simple economics why corporations use public lands. Federal permittees pay only $1.35 per month to graze a single cow-calf pair on public lands while the average monthly cost of grazing per cow-calf pair on private lands is $11.10. In addition, subsidies for predator and pest control, drought and fire damage, further make the endeavor more profitable. In a one year period alone, welfare ranching cost taxpayers an estimated $72 million loss for Bureau of Land Management's Range Management Program (2001) and more than $52 million for Forest Service Program (2000).

Most ranching and cattle production in the U.S. exist on private lands while public lands contribute less than three percent of U.S. meat production. Only 1.9 percent of the 1.6 million cattle producers in the U.S. are ranching on all western public lands. Hopefully, this corporate abuse of a precious ecosystem and taxpayer dollars will end while the land and wildlife can still recover.

-By Christopher J. Heyde

 

The Kingdom of the Pigs

By Vangelis Stoyannis

The traveller heading from the city of Trikala towards the Pindos mountain range (Southern Alps) sees the imposing passage of the "Gate" opening in front of him. Through this passage—which looks like a wound opened by the sword of a Giant during the mythical times—Lethe, the river of Oblivion, flows towards the plain which emerged from the bottom of the inner sea. Through this Gate, 13 centuries before Christ, the servants of Aesculapius passed, bringing the miraculous mountain herbs to the father of Medicine. Through this Gate nations and civilizations, merchants and invaders passed towards the plain. In the 11th century B.C. the Doric Nation, and in the 2nd century B.C. the Roman Legions passed, heading towards Pidna for the battle which determined the fate of the Macedonian King Perseus.

The mountains, the Gate and the plain. The cradle of the 32 greek nations, their passage towards history and the place where the discovery of agriculture and stockbreeding gave birth to civilization. The Gate, of legends and history, is a place of rare beauty, imposing and ancient which, when you get closer, makes you feel the unbearable burden of history on your shoulders. The Gate leads also to the ancient kingdoms of the farmers, who cultivated wheat for the first time, and the stockbreeders who utilized the acorns, chestnuts and the rich mountain grasslands in order to feed their herds of goats, sheep, pigs and small cows. People still cultivate wheat in the plain and still pasture their animals on the mountains.

November 2000. A few kilometers on the right of the Gate, on the mountain roots, on the line where the short mountain range of Hasia connects Pindos with Olympus and marks the plain towards the north, there lie the stockbreeders' villages: Pialia, Megarhi, Oihalia, Diasselo, Eleftherohori.

Since the ancient times, Pialia has been a village of pig breeders and shepherds. Each family owns about 30 female pigs and 200 sheep or goats. The village of Pialia is a place where the 21st century meets the 13th century B.C. Today the village, built on the foot of the mountain, lives simultaneously in two ages. The families living at the side of the plain breed their pigs in small, industrial-type farms. The families living at the side of the mountain, breed free ranging pigs in the forest. Their farms are simply small, wooden constructions, under ancient walls (possibly the walls of the ancient kingdom). There, they enclose the female pigs when they give birth in order to keep the newborns safe from wolves and bears until they are a month old. Then, the young pigs and their mothers are freed into the forest. Apart from some corn that they give to the animals in order to get them used to returning to the farm at night, the animals feed on what they find in the ancient forest: roots, acorns, chestnuts, and mushrooms.

Those are strange pigs, not like those bred in the industrial farms. Their owners crossbreed pigs of ancient races with wild boars they catch on the mountain, the result being that almost every farm breeds its own race of animals. Their productivity and output are extremely close to the output of improved hogs which are bred at the industrial farms of the plain. The health level of those animals could produce a nervous breakdown of the veterinarians and antibiotic salesmen of the 21st century.

These are stockbreeders who live in two ages. Their houses have the comforts of a 21st century house, they themselves use mobile phones and go to their farms in modern pick-up trucks. They still bake their bread, however, on woods according to the ancient way and throw coins in the coffins of the dead, in order for them to be able to pay the ferryman who will take them to the other world.

The answer to the question of the contemporary traveller, how those people survive together with their animals in the age of industrial stockbreeding, is simple.

They base their survival on memory. Here come the inhabitants of the near villages, those who insist stubbornly to cultivate wheat in 4 hectare fields, in order to buy pigs, sausages and pork meat for their Christmas table. From here the families of the plain buy small pigs which they will breed at their houses for Christmas. Ancient people, keeping still alive the ancient tradition. The pig-fatlings in December, to honour the Goddess of Agriculture Demetra, survived through the Christian age together with the Christmas customs of the Greeks. The stockbreeders of free ranging pigs survived as well. It is not by chance that such stockbreeding farms still survive at the ancient places: in Pialia, at the ancient kingdom of hogbreeders; at the foot of Olympus, the mountain of the Gods; in Arcadia, at the mythical kingdom of Lycaon; in Thrace, at the ancient kingdom of Diomedes; at Vermion, the cradle of the ancient Macedonians. That is, where memory still transforms the places into ways.

Perhaps such places show us the solution to the tragic dead-ends of the contemporary industrial stockbreeding, with the inhuman breeding conditions, the antibiotics and the products of dubious quality. Perhaps the solution for our modern problematic societies also lies here, through the activation of people's memory.

In the 13th century B.C., when Ulysses returned to Ithaca after his 10 years of wandering, he couldn't go to his palace. The King's palace was invaded by suitors who wanted to kill him in order to marry his wife and change things in his kingdom. Homer, the blind poet, says that the King found shelter at the house of Evmeos, his loyal pig shepherd, where he prepared his strategy.

Is this just a coincidence or does the blind poet give a lesson, 33 centuries after his era? Perhaps, after all, the voyages and adventures Ulysses suffered because he defied the Gods is a symbol of contemporary corporate man who, confused, breaks natural laws.

Is returning a solution? Nobody knows. The fact is that in Greece, at the place which once was a way, the descendants of Evmeos, the loyal pig shepherd, still survives.


Photo: A wild boar with four domestic free-range pigs on a mountain-top pasture. (Vangelis Stoyannis)

Ducks-Yet Another Animal Factory Victim

As the old adage puts it, ducks are not adapted to exist without access to water, but that is exactly what 24 million ducks being raised in deplorably inhumane conditions on duck factories throughout the US are being forced to do each year.

Part of the ducks' sensitive upper bills are cut off, as shown above at Grimaud Farms, causing excruciating life-long suffering. (Viva!USA)


The most common ducks in these factories descend from the largely aquatic Mallard. They can never fly or swim and live in filthy sheds crammed together with hundreds of other ducks. They are denied access to sufficient water for bathing and preening, which is essential to their health. Such deprivation often results in serious eye problems and eventual blindness. They can barely walk because of bone deformities caused by slatted or wire mesh floors.

One of the cruelest practices is bill trimming or "debilling," which destroys the ducks' ability to fulfill their natural instincts to preen and forage for food. The very sensitive top portion of the bill is burned off with a stationary blade or cut off with a knife or scissors without anesthesia, in an attempt to prevent pecking and cannibalizing of other ducks in the overcrowded shed. According to Sarah Stai, a Muscovy duck expert from the University of Miami, this practice does not necessarily address confrontation among Muscovy ducks, which are known to fight with their feet and wings.

According to lauren Ornelas of Viva!USA, the organization responsible for exposing the cruelty perpetrated on ducks, the largest supplier of factory raised ducks in the US is Maple Leaf Farms headquartered in Indiana, which produces about 15 million ducks a year. Grimaud Farms, located in California and is a major producer of Muscovy factory-raised ducks, processes as many as 8,000 ducks a week. Muscovy ducks are the only modern domestic duck not descended from the Mallard. Their wild counterparts are strong flying birds that inhabit wetlands near wooded areas, using trees for roosting and nesting. Despite misrepresentations by duck factory operators, the Muscovy duck is indeed a species of waterfowl and does require full body access to water.

Colored Wild Muscovies are drastically different than their domestic cousins  raised for food. (USDA)


Grimaud contacted the University of California at Davis to evaluate its duck husbandry practices. A summary of the study released by Ralph Ernst, Extension Poultry Specialist at the UC Davis, confirmed that Grimaud is indeed an industrial duck factory. The report justifies Grimaud's practice of bill trimming and confinement as a "carefully planned program for duck husbandry that considers the welfare of the ducks under their care." Mr. Ernst's writings clearly demonstrate his support and promotion of the cruel methods employed by those in the intensive animal factory industry.

Based on the initial review and findings at Grimaud, Mr. Ernst is developing a set of guidelines for raising ducks. AWI received a draft copy of the UC Davis study from Grimaud for review and comments after requesting to discuss the issue. Following consultations with avian veterinarians from the Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights and the Muscovy duck expert at the University of Miami, AWI determined that the study, if enacted as written, is far from humane.

If you shop in any of the following stores please urge them to stop selling ducks raised in cruel and inhumane duck factories such as Maple Leaf and Grimaud Farms: Wal-Mart SuperCenter, Kroger's, Albertson's, Safeway, Trader Joe's, and Whole Foods/Fresh Fields.

Grimaud-Full of Foie Gras

Grimaud is not only the leading supplier of Muscovy ducks in the US, it also provides ducklings to Sonoma Valley Foie Gras, one of only two foie gras producers in the US-the other being Hudson Valley Foie Gras. However, this relationship does not end with the ducklings. Grimaud then markets the final Sonoma Valley Foie Gras product. Even though Grimaud claims not to be involved in the inhumane process of force-feeding the ducks, they do handle almost every other aspect of this cruel business.

AWI Launches Laboratory Animal Forum

The Animal Welfare Institute initiated a closed, electronic forum on Laboratory Animal Refinement & Enrichment in October 2002. The purpose of this discussion group is the factual exchange of experiences about ways to improve the conditions under which laboratory animals are housed and handled. The group is intended to serve the international animal care community in its attempt to promote animal welfare and improve scientific methodology by avoiding or eliminating husbandry-related stress situations. The forum is open to animal care personnel, animal technicians, students, attending veterinarians, and researchers who have first-hand experience in the care of animals kept in laboratories.

Presently the forum has over 100 members from 15 different countries. If you want to join please send your name, professional affiliation, experience(s) and interest(s) to viktorawi@siskiyou.net.

The following is part of a discussion by participants in the forum in response to the question: Should animal care personnel be encouraged to establish affectionate, rather than neutral, relationships with the animals in their charge? Erik Moreau, McGill University, Canada; Kathy Clark, Holliston, Massachusetts; Deborah Hartley, University of Oklahoma; Ann Lablans, Queen's University, Canada; Augusto Vitale, Instituto Superiore di Sanità, Italy; Pascalle Van Loo, Utrecht University, The Netherlands; Terri Hunnicutt, St. Louis Zoo, Missouri; Anna Olsson, Institute for Molecular and Cell Biology, Portugal; Chris Sherwin, University of Bristol, England; Viktor Reinhardt, Animal Welfare Institute, Washington, DC; all posted opinions, which were edited by Viktor Reinhardt, moderator of LAREF, for publication in the Laboratory Primate Newsletter (2003, 42[1], 14-15). The text below has been shortened because of space limitations.

Most correspondents agreed that development of an affectionate relationship with the animals in their charge is almost unavoidable (Clark, Hartley, Hunnicutt, Lablans, Moreau, Van Loo, Vitale). Empathy can even arise in researchers who go to great lengths to try to ensure that their data are objective (Sherwin). "Having a close relationship with your animals is necessary to regard them as living beings, rather than biological test tubes. As such, you are more careful and patient, and will think more about what the procedures mean to the animals. You will become more creative in finding animal-friendly alternatives for the procedures you need to do on the animals. You will thus increase the well-being of your animals and, by doing so, make them better research subjects and increase the validity of test results" (Van Loo).

There was a consensus that emotional attachment provides an assurance that the animals receive optimal care, both physically and behaviorally (Clark, Hartley, Van Loo, Vitale). "If I didn't think about the animals in my care, I wouldn't notice that someone seems a little off today, he's not participating in social activities like he normally does. I wouldn't notice that one animal suddenly flinches when I feed her something with a spoon, indicating a possible tooth problem. I've seen 'caregivers' that treat the animals with complete indifference miss a million details that they should have noticed. They don't clean well, are callous to the animals, and forget important things. I have watched animals cringe or cower when these individuals enter the room. I have seen these individuals breaking for lunch rather than take a few extra minutes for enrichment. Their emotions may not be absent from the situation, but they're focused somewhere else and so they don't do a good job since they aren't emotionally vested in the outcome" (Hunnicutt). A relationship based on trust rather than fear is particularly important when potentially dangerous animals such as macaques are being trained to actively cooperate during handling procedures (Lablans, Moreau). "Whether such a relationship enhances training success is another question, but it certainly is an effective safeguard against injuries resulting from defensive aggression" (Reinhardt).

All Laboratory Animals Deserve Protection

The federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 set minimum requirements for handling, housing, and care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs in the premises of dealers and in laboratories. In 1970 the Act, renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), was amended to extend protection to all species of warm-blooded animals. However, the regulations promulgated for enforcement of the law arbitrarily excluded birds, mice and rats from the definition of animals, thus denying these species the protection to which they are entitled. There are no concrete figures, but it is generally agreed that approximately 95% of all animals used for research and testing are birds, mice and rats. The vast majority of laboratory animals have been left outside the law!

Birds, mice and rats used for experimentation do not benefit from the routine, unannounced inspections conducted by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary inspectors. When USDA veterinarians inspect research facilities they specifically overlook the care of birds, mice and rats. Nonetheless, from time to time, inspectors have noted horrors during their inspections including the following:

"During the inspection of the unmarked paper bags in the freezer, I discovered a moribund Long-Evans rat that was barely breathing. The frigid condition of this animal and the fact that it was surrounded by chewed plastic bags containing other dead rats, indicated that it had been in the freezer for some time, possibly a day or more. The rat slowly recovered as it warmed.

"Had this incident occurred involving a species covered by the Animal Welfare Act, the University would be liable for serious violations of sections pertaining to the IACUC [Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee], euthanasia, provision of appropriate veterinary care, and training of personnel. The fact that the animal confined in the freezer was a rat and therefore not a covered species in no way diminishes the seriousness of this egregious lack of humane care for this animal. To me, this disturbing event raises grave concerns regarding the function of the IACUC and the delivery of veterinary care."

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation et al., USDA settled the case last fall by agreeing to initiate the process for extending the AWA's coverage to these other animals. Shortly thereafter, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), a long-standing opponent of the AWA that represents research facilities and animal dealers, interceded.

Dr. Henry Foster, founder and chair of Charles River Laboratories, Foster's attorney son, and Frankie Trull created NABR in Trull's living room more than 20 years ago. Foster made clear the commercial value of promoting use of the maximum number of laboratory animals: "If you read the papers, everything seems to have carcinogenic effects. But that means more animal testing, which means growth for Charles River…so you can see why we continue to be enthused and excited" (The Wall Street Transcript, May 21, 1979). Charles River has continued to expand since that time, recently opening a Gnotobiotics operation producing about 2,000 female mice per week and a new facility the company describes as "dedicated to the contract breeding and management of genetically engineered (transgenic, knockout and mutant) mice and rats." If the Act encompasses birds, mice and rats, in addition to providing humane care and treatment, researchers will have to consider alternatives to the use of these animals—this objective conflicts with animal dealers' interest in maximizing the sale and use of animals in experimentation.

Regrettably, NABR convinced US Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to attach a mandate to USDA's annual appropriation from Congress preventing the agency from conducting any activity related to birds, mice and rats during this fiscal year!

Much of the biomedical industry appears to be rallying behind NABR and, unfortunately, we anticipate a sustained effort by NABR and their cohorts to deny basic protections to the millions of birds, mice and rats subject to experimentation in the United States each year.

An Elephantine Question: How Many Elephant Species are There?

Arguably the biggest conservation debate concerning elephants in the last decade has been over the international ban on trade in elephant ivory. But a new debate may be arising over how many African elephant species actually exist.

It is possible for the elephants of Amboseli and the Maasai people to coexist peacefully as they have for centuries. But will elephants live free from the ivory-seeking poachers' bullets? (MERC)


It has long been assumed that there are two elephant species: the Asian elephant (Elephas Maximus) and the African elephant (Loxodonta Africana). However, in a Report in Science magazine (Vol. 293, 24 August 2001) researchers studying DNA sequences from nearly 200 African elephants found genetic distinctions that they argue warrant separation of African elephants into two distinct species: those inhabiting the savannah (Loxodonta africana) and the smaller elephants in Africa's tropical forests (Loxodonta cyclotis). According to the Report, the two African elephant species began to diverge genetically over two and a half million years ago.

Asian elephants and most African countries' elephants (except Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, and Zimbabwe) are already listed on Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), thus prohibiting international commercial trade in their parts and products. Recognizing two distinct African elephant species may have interesting conservation implications and political repercussions under CITES. Taken together, the African elephant population may appear relatively strong. But separated into two distinct genetic populations, there would only be an estimated 400,000 savannah elephants and roughly 150,000 forest elephants.

There is the possibility that some will argue that the forest elephant, taken as its own species, is not yet protected at all. Elephant poachers and ivory traders engage in myriad machinations to engage in their deadly trade. Recent evidence suggests that the relaxation of the worldwide ban on ivory in 1997 was misperceived as sending a message that the ivory trade is soon to be reopened unfettered. In the past few months, ivory seizures have been made across the globe. Reports reveal in September 2001, 20 tusks were impounded in Zurich, Switzerland; in November 2001, 30 tusks were seized at Bangkok's airport; that same month, 230 tusks were confiscated in Egypt; the biggest recent bust came in Tanzania where 1,255 tusks were found in two homes. Ivory traders continue to take advantage of understaffed and underfunded anti-poaching and wildlife law enforcement units.

All elephant species undoubtedly warrant and need complete protection under international conservation Treaties and domestic legislation around the world. Recognizing the forest elephant as a separate, fully protected species may also call greater global attention to the deforestation rampaging Africa by greedy logging companies. Perhaps heightened conservation measures will be taken to protect the forests in which the endangered forest elephant clings to existence.

The great elephant debate just got a little more intriguing; we hope the mighty elephants will get additional protection as a result.

Wildlife and Drug Smuggling: A Tangled Tale

Customs officials warned Jeffrey Allen Doth, operator of the Texas-based International Exotic Wildlife, of the proper procedures for importing wildlife when, at age 25, he was caught smuggling wildlife into the US. A year later, in 1995, wearing a baggy shirt, Doth boarded a plane with five juvenile green tree pythons concealed in elastic stockings strapped around his waist. The US Customs Service busted him at Los Angeles International Airport for attempting to smuggle the snakes from Indonesia without receiving necessary permits from the Indonesian government or declaring them to Customs.

At Doth's trial he argued that rather than hiding the pythons under his clothing to conceal them, he was merely trying to keep them warm and avoid paying extra airline costs. Doth was found guilty of two felony counts and faced a maximum sentence of 10 years in federal prison. On October 22, 2001, Doth was sentenced to a lenient four months of home detention, a $5,100 fine, and three years probation.

Less than four months after sentencing, while apparently still under house arrest in Texas, Doth was making trips to Miami to receive wildlife shipments from Guyana. He arranged to get wholesale shipments of exotic mammals and reptiles at cut-rate prices and then to sell some of the wildlife to other dealers, including the infamous drug kingpin and convicted felon Mario Tabraue (see Spring 2001 AWI Quarterly). Dealers or their representatives would meet at the airport to divide each shipment.

In late November, Doth, Miami Reptiles' Michael Powell, Tabraue's transporter Val Lorente, and a Guyanese man, Rajendra Persaud, were at Miami's Airport to receive a shipment of mammals and one of reptiles. The reptile shipment also contained over 100 pounds of cocaine hidden in false bottoms of the transport boxes. Regarding the illegal drugs, Customs is currently focused only on Persaud and another Guyanese man, Doyle Debudin, both of whom allegedly were house guests of one-time wildlife importer Cyril Lowe. Florida Fish and Game appears to be seeking prosecution of Doth for not possessing a wildlife dealer's license and for receiving 17 dwarf caiman without a permit. Excluding the caiman, the Fish and Wildlife Service has distributed the entire shipment, including 12 kinkajous, four two-toed sloths, 18 agoutis, five prehensile-tailed porcupines, and a coatamundi to the prospective dealers! No word on any action against Doth for his travels while under house arrest.

A coatamundi in his native habitat.

 

The Circus is Coming to Town...With NO Polar Bears!

The Circus Is Coming to Town...
With NO Polar Bears!

They are no longer suffering in constraining metal cages; they are no longer whipped until they perform unnatural tricks; they are no longer languishing in sweltering temperatures reaching more than 110 degrees. On November 5, 2002, Wilhelm, Masha, Boris, Kenneth, Royale, and Barle, six of the polar bears stuck in Puerto Rico as part of the Suarez Brothers Circus, were rescued by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Division of Law Enforcement.

          

Debbie Leahy of PETA, who worked tirelessly on the release of the "Suarez Seven" noted, "These polar bears are finally enjoying the simple pleasure of swimming, diving, and playing in a refreshing pool of water. They will serve as ambassadors of hope for all those animals still forced to perform cheap tricks."

After 18 months of public struggle and legal wrangling, these bears have a chance for a peaceful retirement at three different American zoos. Though they are not free, there is no question that their lives will be enormously enhanced in their new surroundings. As readers of the Quarterly know, one of the bears, Alaska, had already been confiscated and sent to the Baltimore Zoo as a result of allegations that the circus had falsified documents regarding the origin of this specific bear.

Two bears, Kenneth and Boris, thought to be about 18 years old, have gone to the Point Defiance Zoo and Aquarium in Tacoma, Washington, where polar bears have been displayed since 1980. The zoo estimates that it will cost approximately $20,000 a year to feed and care for them.

Barle, the only female in the group, has gone to the Detroit Zoo's Arctic Ring of Life exhibit. Detroit Zoo Director Ron Kagan stated unequivocally, "There is no excuse for the cruelty that was inflicted on these bears....Circus animals often demonstrate the effects of physical and social deprivation, so we're pleased to offer Barle a more natural and stimulating environment." Dr. Kagan had been on Capitol Hill last year urging support for Oregon Congressman Earl Blumenauer's legislation to prohibit the use of polar bears in traveling circuses.

Painfully declawed Wilhelm and underweight Masha have found new homes at the North Carolina Zoo. Sadly, a third bear, Royale, also was supposed to join them, but he died in transit from Puerto Rico, a testament to the long suffering these animals endured, their inhumane treatment, and the effect of prolonged inaction by the U.S. government in their rescue. Diana Weinhardt, Chair of the American Zoo and Aquarium Association's Bear Taxon Advisory Group, presciently noted before the death, "We are also very concerned about the current health of the bears, which we know to have deteriorated from their conditions earlier this year."

The Marine Mammal Protection Act provides that commercial exhibitors of marine mammals such as polar bears, taken for public display, must offer a public education program, maintain these animals under "humane and healthful conditions," and keep proper records related to the animals. The Suarez Circus allegedly has not fulfilled any of these legal obligations. The circus faces penalties of up to $20,000 and one year imprisonment for each violation of the Act.

For additional background on this case, please see AWI Quarterly, Winter 2002 and Spring 2002.

 

All Laboratory Animals Deserve Protection

The federal Laboratory Animal Welfare Act of 1966 set minimum requirements for handling, housing, and care for dogs, cats, primates, rabbits, hamsters and guinea pigs in the premises of dealers and in laboratories. In 1970 the Act, renamed the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), was amended to extend protection to all species of warm-blooded animals. However, the regulations promulgated for enforcement of the law arbitrarily excluded birds, mice and rats from the definition of animals, thus denying these species the protection to which they are entitled. There are no concrete figures, but it is generally agreed that approximately 95% of all animals used for research and testing are birds, mice and rats. The vast majority of laboratory animals have been left outside the law!

Birds, mice and rats used for experimentation do not benefit from the routine, unannounced inspections conducted by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinary inspectors. When USDA veterinarians inspect research facilities they specifically overlook the care of birds, mice and rats. Nonetheless, from time to time, inspectors have noted horrors during their inspections including the following:

"During the inspection of the unmarked paper bags in the freezer, I discovered a moribund Long-Evans rat that was barely breathing. The frigid condition of this animal and the fact that it was surrounded by chewed plastic bags containing other dead rats, indicated that it had been in the freezer for some time, possibly a day or more. The rat slowly recovered as it warmed.

"Had this incident occurred involving a species covered by the Animal Welfare Act, the University would be liable for serious violations of sections pertaining to the IACUC [Institutional Animal Care and Use Committee], euthanasia, provision of appropriate veterinary care, and training of personnel. The fact that the animal confined in the freezer was a rat and therefore not a covered species in no way diminishes the seriousness of this egregious lack of humane care for this animal. To me, this disturbing event raises grave concerns regarding the function of the IACUC and the delivery of veterinary care."

In response to a lawsuit brought by the Alternatives Research and Development Foundation et al., USDA settled the case last fall by agreeing to initiate the process for extending the AWA's coverage to these other animals. Shortly thereafter, the National Association for Biomedical Research (NABR), a long-standing opponent of the AWA that represents research facilities and animal dealers, interceded.

Dr. Henry Foster, founder and chair of Charles River Laboratories, Foster's attorney son, and Frankie Trull created NABR in Trull's living room more than 20 years ago. Foster made clear the commercial value of promoting use of the maximum number of laboratory animals: "If you read the papers, everything seems to have carcinogenic effects. But that means more animal testing, which means growth for Charles River…so you can see why we continue to be enthused and excited" (The Wall Street Transcript, May 21, 1979). Charles River has continued to expand since that time, recently opening a Gnotobiotics operation producing about 2,000 female mice per week and a new facility the company describes as "dedicated to the contract breeding and management of genetically engineered (transgenic, knockout and mutant) mice and rats." If the Act encompasses birds, mice and rats, in addition to providing humane care and treatment, researchers will have to consider alternatives to the use of these animals—this objective conflicts with animal dealers' interest in maximizing the sale and use of animals in experimentation.

Regrettably, NABR convinced US Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) to attach a mandate to USDA's annual appropriation from Congress preventing the agency from conducting any activity related to birds, mice and rats during this fiscal year!

Much of the biomedical industry appears to be rallying behind NABR and, unfortunately, we anticipate a sustained effort by NABR and their cohorts to deny basic protections to the millions of birds, mice and rats subject to experimentation in the United States each year.

Coexisting in Kenya The Human-Elephant Conflict


By Meitamei Ole Dapash

The Amboseli Maasai-elephant Dialogue is convened under a tree by the roadside to tap the inputs of passersby, who may not be residents of that location. The forum has no chairperson, master of ceremonies, or any form of authority figurehead. (MERC)


We, the Maasai have never failed in our moral duty as guardians of wildlife. However, those with myopic understanding of our way of life and its interconnectedness with nature have consistently failed both the people and wildlife of Amboseli. -Lengete Ole Manti, Amboseli resident The Maasai people name their clans after animals such as lions, elephants, or rhinos to demonstrate the importance of wildlife prosperity in Kenya and Tanzania to the Maasai culture. Each clan advocates for the protection of its particular species, which becomes the clan's totem and symbol of prestige. Wildlife conservation in Maasailand owes its success to the Maasai traditions that prohibit the killing of wildlife or destruction of forests or any part of the natural ecosystem for commercial or any other form of consumptive use. This is why, even today, wildlife thrives in Maasailand, unlike many other areas where animals have been eliminated either for food or to create land for commercial agriculture.

Kenya's prolonged droughts in 1999 and 2000, the worst in 25 years, led to widespread competition for water throughout East Africa. Many rivers, swamps, and dams dried up, and the few water sources that survived the droughts immediately became hot spots for human-wildlife conflict. This natural catastrophe caused starvation among wildlife, livestock, and even people in some parts of Kenya.

Amboseli National Park was the most affected protected area in the country. "Empusel"

Well dug by hand by the Maasai. Maintaining water wells outside Amboseli National Park in Kenya would reduce human competition with elephants for water inside the park. (MERC)


 (Amboseli) is a Maasai word for "dry land" and is located on the northern foot of Mt. Kilimanjaro, the world's tallest freestanding mountain. Amboseli was established mainly to protect Kenya's elephants and preserve their migratory routes. Amboseli is dotted with oases (created by the melting snow of Mt. Kilimanjaro) and perennial swamp grass species. These permanent sources of water and green vegetation attracted more wildlife and Maasai livestock into the park during the recent drought period than any other time in the history of Amboseli. Consequently, human-elephant conflicts erupted leading to the spearing of eight elephants-six of whom died from their wounds, while an orphaned baby was reported to have died of starvation. Reports from Maasai indicate that within the same timeframe, two Maasai (including a mother of a three week old infant) and at least 42 livestock had been attacked and killed by elephants.

The Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition (MERC), with support from the Animal Welfare Institute, set out to create a dialogue to discuss human-elephant conflict and related conservation issues in Amboseli and find long-term solutions to the conflicts. On June 30, 2001 the first meeting took place under a huge acacia tree at Meshenani area in the Olgului/Ololarrashie group ranch, the largest, most important communal land that almost engulfs the Amboseli National Park. More than 60 people, representing twelve villages within the vicinity of Amboseli National Park, attended the meeting.

Moving testimonies were heard about the peaceful coexistence of Maasai and wildlife in the delicate balance of the ecosystems within which they live. Participants expressed serious concerns over growing threats to the survival of Maasai people, elephants, and their shared habitat in Amboseli and across Maasailand. "These threats," they said, "come from commercial agricultural expansion; sidelining of the Maasai from mainstream nature conservation; insensitive tourism practices; and continued loss of Maasai traditional lands to other modern economic enterprises. The ongoing destruction of forests, commercial hunting, and loss of wildlife migratory routes and breeding grounds must be stopped now if the future of wildlife in Kenya and Tanzania is to be guaranteed. Moreover, as we lose land and culture, elephants and other wildlife lose habitat."

Intensifying competition for limited water resources was the single most important factor responsible for human-wildlife conflicts in Amboseli. According to the participants, approximately 80% of the permanent sources of water are located in the center of the park. Additionally, women and children have to endure a 10-15 kilometer daily trudge across the dry, open Amboseli basin into the middle of the park to fetch water for domestic use. This increased human presence in the park, coupled with human-elephant-livestock convergence at the watering points, creates tremendous tension resulting in occasional deadly conflicts.

Maasai communities often are forced to take the law into their own hands by killing rogue elephants when they believe that no help is coming from the park's office. An act of this nature often escalates friction between wildlife authorities and the communities. According to one elder, "elephants hardly ever attacked people unless provoked, thirsty or instinctively reacting to an experience of past attack." Although men would sometimes successfully scare away elephants from watering points, elephants in most cases prevail by maintaining their ground and forcing people and livestock to go thirsty. Many participants pointed out that water scarcity outside the park for communities and continued habitat loss to encroaching agricultural communities were some of the serious problems undermining Maasai's centuries' old peaceful coexistence with elephants.

Conflict is also exacerbated by the Maasai's dissatisfaction about the current level of wildlife-derived benefits being extended to the local communities. Currently, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) distributes approximately US$10,000 among the seven group ranches adjoining Amboseli National Park. The forum heard that the amount was not only meager; it was erratically given, in spite of the fact that Amboseli generates more tourists' dollars for KWS than any other park in the country. Moreover, lodges in Amboseli employ more than 1,500 people of which Amboseli residents constitute fewer than 100 people, put in the most undignified, poorly paid positions. Amboseli residents feel cheated and are increasingly becoming resentful of tourism and conservation programs alike.

The dialogue revealed that there is also pressure from wildlife consumptive use proponents to persuade and manipulate Maasai into urging the government to allow commercial hunting for trophies, particularly in communal lands, as a way of enhancing wildlife-derived benefits. Because of the problems mentioned earlier on, and the feeling that the colonial government stole Amboseli to create a wildlife preserve without consultations, the Maasai are very vulnerable to these ideas.

KWS already has expressed unequivocal interest in working with MERC and Amboseli communities to address human-elephant conflicts and a number of specific actions resulted from this valuable dialog. MERC will encourage KWS to include local communities' participation in the development and implementation of conservation programs in their localities. KWS will review the existing revenue-sharing policy with the view of increasing the community's share, while job training and placement opportunities in the tourism industry will be extended to the local communities. The Maasai have proposed the establishment of a code of conduct and ethics for the tourism industry to safeguard environmental integrity and the culture of the Maasai people. Finally, MERC is proposing the establishment of a problem animal control unit in Amboseli to respond to reports of animal attacks. This unit will be responsible for rapid response in situations where people or livestock have been attacked by elephants, lions, or buffaloes. It will also discourage people from taking action on their own to address the problem.

MERC continues to promote and sustain the peaceful coexistence necessary for the safety of both human and elephant populations in Amboseli. We need to keep focused on: handling local communities' complaints and liaising with the wildlife authorities for quick resolution; initiating water projects outside the park to minimize human-elephant contacts inside the park; and initiating community-based ecotourism programs in the Amboseli area. With the active involvement of MERC and the Maasai people, wildlife in Maasailand will be protected for generations to come.

For more information or to help the work of the Maasai Environmental Resource Coalition, contact Meitamei Ole Dapash at 2020 Pennsylvania Ave., NW, Suite 136, Washington, DC 20006, (202) 785-8787, mercmaasai@aol.com

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