AWI Quarterly

Polar Bears Suffer In The Suarez Brothers Circus

By Adam M. Roberts

Amidst the cold Arctic snow and ice of Alaska, Canada, Greenland, Norway, and Russia massive polar bears travel hundreds of kilometers in search of food and mates every year. They swim in frigid waters, eat and sleep in the open, and hunt for their food of meat and blubber, notably from seals. Fewer than 30,000 polar bears exist in the wild today.

Bears, panting in temperatures over 110oF, are repeatedly whipped and hit in the ear and face with a rod to force them to climb stairs and go down a slide on the other end. (PETA)

In the Suarez Brothers Circus of Mexico, miserable polar bears suffer in confinement and only travel where the circus takes them-even to the warm-weather Caribbean. They live in oppressive heat, exhibit the stereotypic behavior of rocking back and forth insanely in their cages, have little access to water or air conditioning, and eat whatever food is given to them, including dog chow and lettuce. Seven polar bears languish in these horrid conditions.

The circus is currently in Puerto Rico and faces cruelty charges brought by the Puerto Rican Department of Natural Resources-charges the circus has twice tried, and failed, to have dismissed. A separate suit brought by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, the Humane Society of Puerto Rico, and private individuals has been filed in a federal court in Washington, DC to keep the bears in the US. Marianne Merritt, co-counsel for the plaintiffs in the federal case, stated: "Allowing these arctic animals to be maintained in a tropical climate in such inhumane and deplorable conditions is an abdication of the government agencies' legal duties.  Maintaining polar bears in Puerto Rico is akin to placing an African elephant on the North Pole."

Diana Weinhardt, Chair of the American Zoological Association Bear Technical Advisory Group, visited the facility and observed that some bears flinched when the bears' trainer approached them with a camera and a four and a half foot "fiberglass stick with a blunted point on the end." She added, "The actions I thought were an indication that they have been hit with this stick possibly on a regular basis as a guide to get a desired behavior."

A Puerto Rican veterinarian and zoologist, Dr. Pedro E. Nunez, observed bears "caged individually in spaces too small for their size as the lengths of their bodies were practically reaching from one end to the other." He graphically continued, "They didn't have access to a pool and you could see that some bottles of drinking water were dirty with tomato, lettuce and carrot. A large quantity of bloody diarrhea, with a lot of mucus, was draining from one of the cages, accumulating on the floor, and several flies, attracted by the apparent bad odor of the blood, were clearly visible."

Bears, panting in temperatures over 110°F, are repeatedly whipped and hit in the ear and face with a rod to force them to climb stairs and go down a slide on the other end. (PETA)

According to a Marine Mammal Commission (MMC) review of United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports for the circus and a video of the facility, Suarez Brothers is repeatedly out of compliance with the Animal Welfare Act. The polar bears have only occasional access to pools of water and fully air-conditioned holding areas and are receiving poor veterinary treatment. In a letter to the acting administrator of the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, the MMC offers this synopsis of the polar bears' conditions: "The animals are constantly swaying and panting, suggesting that they are distressed. It appears that neither the air conditioning system nor the fans were operating. The time and temperature are recorded as being 10 a.m. and 112.8 degrees, respectively. The tape also shows that the bears are being maintained in filthy conditions and that waste products, when they are being removed from the transport enclosures, are being deposited directly on the ground adjacent to the enclosures."

At least one animal already has died at Suarez Brothers. According to the MMC, "'Yiopa' died of heart failure due to dirofilariasis. With proper treatment, this should not have been a life-threatening condition. However, that animal was not provided veterinary care until he was in an advanced stage of deterioration and was not treated in a timely fashion after the diagnosis was made."

There is also a looming question about whether these polar bears were captive born or taken (illegally) from the wild. Dr. Terry Maple, President and CEO of Zoo Atlanta, notes that the circus's claim that one of the polar bears was born in Atlanta is false. "These documents are not accurate, since the Atlanta-born bear ("Snowball") died in a German zoo in 1994," Dr. Maple wrote. He noted that the bear must have had another origin and that the circus's records must have been doctored.

While the cruelty case is proceeding, at least 55 Representatives and 16 Senators have weighed in to urge the USDA and the Department of the Interior (DOI) to take appropriate action to ensure the well being of these animals, including confiscating and relocating the polar bears. According to Congressman George Miller (D-CA), "It is disturbing that the two federal agencies responsible for protecting polar bears would allow arctic animals to be held in tropical climates." Several bipartisan measures have been introduced in Congress, including an amendment to the contentious annual "farm bill," to prohibit the exhibition of polar bears by carnivals, circuses, or traveling shows.

There is widespread agreement that it is inhumane and inappropriate for polar bears to be in the Suarez Brothers Circus. Now the Courts, Congress, and the Administration can each take appropriate action to ensure the poor bears' long-term well-being.

Dear Friend

Dear Friend:

It is with mixed emotions that we bring you this issue of the AWI Quarterly, which has a special center section devoted to the Animal Welfare Institute's founder and president, Christine Stevens, who died this past fall. I say "mixed emotions" because while her death brought great sadness to me and all the other people whose lives she touched, I know she would never approve of us dwelling on the loss when there is still so much work to do on the animals' behalf. We choose to celebrate Christine's remarkable life and all of her accomplishments.

Thank goodness for Christine! I say with utter confidence that no single individual has done more for animals than she, and animals everywhere were so very fortunate to have had her as their tireless advocate. Christine devoted her life to helping any and all animals in need of protection from the myriad cruelties inflicted on them by humans. No animal was too small to receive Christine's aid and no opponent was too large to take on.

The Animal Welfare Institute and Christine, institutions both, have been integral to my life for the past 22 years. Christine's position as my boss was overshadowed by her roles as mentor, friend, and co-conspirator. I share her belief in the vital niche that the Animal Welfare Institute fills and I am, therefore, humbled and honored to have accepted the AWI Board of Directors' invitation to assume the position of president.

During my tenure at the Institute I have held nearly every job at one time or another and have been involved in most of AWI's campaigns: I have inspected animal laboratories across the country, investigated animal dealers, scrutinized traplines and factory farms, and spoke on behalf of the Institute at a variety of local, national, and international forums. 

I won't say that I will follow in Christine's footsteps, for her shoes simply cannot be filled. But I am firmly committed to continuing AWI's work and building on the phenomenal groundwork laid by Christine, inspired by her love and respect for animals, her devotion to the cause and her incredible fortitude.

Cathy Liss

Two Bear Stories

China Still Jails Bears

Just months after being awarded the 2008 Olympics, two illegal bear bile factories in China were uncovered by undercover journalists for China's Central Television. Thousands of bears are still kept in cramped cages in China and elsewhere throughout Asia, regularly milked for their bile, which is used in traditional Chinese medicines and can fetch prices higher than gold or heroin on the black market. Reuters reports, "footage showed bears yelping in pain as keepers extracted the bright green liquid....At the second factory, the bears have their teeth and claws removed so they are not a threat to their handlers."

Dead Grizzlies Not
Welcome in the EU

After a partially successful campaign that saw trophy hunting of grizzly bears stopped or reduced in many areas of British Columbia (BC), Canada, last year, the Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) has announced that the 15 European Union (EU) countries have taken the additional step of banning the importation of grizzly bear trophies into the EU from British Columbia.

According to EIA, "The EU accounts for up to 30% of the 120 BC grizzlies killed on average each year by fee-paying foreign hunters. The total hunt including bears killed by Canadians averaged 300 grizzlies per year during the last decade, from a population which independent biologists [estimate] could be as low as 4-6,000."

The United Kingdom and Germany called for the ban to stop the unsustainable BC hunt. Daniela Freyer, International Campaigner with the German organization, Pro-Wildlife, said, "More BC grizzlies end up decorating houses in Germany than almost any other country, so it is fitting that along with the UK it was Germany leading the call for an import ban."

The Animals' Angel

The Animals' Angel
Celebrating Christine Stevens' Passionate Animal Activism

AWI's founder, president, and motivator, Christine Stevens, died on October 10, 2002, after founding the organization in 1951 and actively leading it for more than fifty years. Though she loathed accolades and self-promotion, respected colleagues-and even opponents-have called her an "immortal icon," an "inspiration," and an "institution."

She has long been called the "Mother of the Animal Protection Movement" with good reason. Without her five decades of leadership, animals globally would have suffered much greater atrocities and long, drawn out pain, fear and suffering. AWI's new president Cathy Liss acknowledged, "She was phenomenal-a woman of boundless compassion and drive."

Mrs. Stevens founded the Animal Welfare Institute to end the cruel treatment of animals in experimental laboratories. Inevitably, her work expanded to the fight against cruel animal factories, the barbaric steel jaw leghold trap, commercial whaling, the extinction of endangered species, and the burgeoning killing of great apes for bushmeat.

Dr. Jane Goodall said, "Christine Stevens was a giant voice for animal welfare. Passionate, yet always reasoned, she took up one cause after another and she never gave up. Millions of animals are better off because of Christine's quiet and very effective advocacy. She will sorely be missed by all of us."

"Mrs. Stevens' achievements in the field of animal protection are incalculable," added Ms. Liss. For example, it was she who spearheaded the campaign to ban the commercial trade of fur from animals caught in steel jaw leghold traps to and within the European Union. She was also instrumental in achieving the 1989 international ban on the commercial trade in elephant ivory at the United Nations Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species.

Her passionate defense of the creatures of the sea led to the beginning of the Save the Whales campaign in the 1970s. For years she was an active combatant against commercial whaling at the meetings of the International Whaling Commission. Sue Fisher of the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society said of her phenomenally powerful advocacy, "I only met her once and she had more spark at 80 than the combined energy of the rest of the NGO community in the room. A very inspiring lady."

Mrs. Stevens didn't mince words. In 1988 she served on a National Research Council committee examining the Use of Laboratory Animals in Biomedical and Behavioral Research. She issued a Minority Statement to the Committee report in which she chided the authors for refusing "to face the widespread, ingrained problem of unnecessary suffering among the millions of laboratory animals used yearly in our country." She continued: "I was shocked by the attitude of Committee members who asserted that we have no moral obligation to animals and expressed hatred of the idea of having a report that puts emphasis on alternatives.... A balanced report should recognize the severity and extent of the problem."

In 1955, sensing a need to make an impact in the legislative process, she founded the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL). At a time when only a handful of laws to protect animals were on the books, Mrs. Stevens' resolute efforts helped lead to the passage of dozens of vital bills including the Animal Welfare Act, the Marine Mammal Protection Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Wild Bird Conservation Act, and the Humane Slaughter Act. On the wall here at AWI's office is a simple, yet illustrative letter from May 15, 1958 written by Gerald W. Siegal of then-Senate Majority Leader Lyndon Johnson's staff to future Supreme Court Justice Abe Fortas about the Humane Slaughter Act. Siegal wrote: "Dear Abe: I surrender. Mrs. Stevens and I visited at some length yesterday on the humane slaughter bill. She is as persuasive as she is charming."

Running AWI was a family affair. Mrs. Stevens' daughter, Christabel Gough, was her mother's colleague and trusted advisor and served on the board for a decade. Mrs. Stevens' husband of 60 years, Roger L. Stevens, founded Washington's John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and served as Treasurer for AWI and SAPL. Mr. and Mrs. Stevens used their important political connections to host foreign dignitaries and leaders in the American government. Mrs. Stevens possessed what AWI's Ben White called a "graceful and lovely" presence, which served as the "ultimate disguise." She never passed an opportunity to push her agenda of animal protection. For instance, Mrs. Stevens donned a raccoon mask at one party to expose the plight of animals cruelly trapped for their fur. In one terrific photo of Mrs. Stevens at the White House, she's practically glaring at President Clinton as they shook hands in a receiving line.

After all, how could she pass up an opportunity to tell the President directly that free trade agreements such as the WTO were potentially disastrous for animals?

(click on individual picture for larger image and description)

Senator Edward Kennedy, a friend of Mr. and Mrs. Stevens said, "Washington is a more civilized place because of Christine and she will be greatly missed." He continued, "For so many of us, Christine Stevens will always be the First Lady of the Kennedy Center. She was as knowledgeable as she was gracious and a tremendous partner to her devoted husband, Roger. My brother asked him to lead the effort to establish a national performing arts center here in Washington. Together they did an impressive job and, in the process, transformed our capitol city."

The work undertaken by Mrs. Stevens was always without compensation and she modestly listed her profession as "volunteer work in the area of animal protection." She was a talented artist who attended the University of Michigan College of Literature, Science and the Arts. Her creative skill, too, was applied to the work of AWI. Mrs. Stevens designed hand-drawn holiday cards each year, a magnificent, detailed elephant t-shirt, and a huge eight foot high mural of endangered species that adorned AWI's booth at the 1994 CITES meeting. Her artistic eye also assisted in the design and publication of the Animal Welfare Institute Quarterly magazine, for which she served as chief editor and writer.

Perhaps our colleague Susie Watts, formerly of the Environmental Investigation Agency, put it best: "When I look around me and I see all the huffing and puffing egos among the world's animal protectors, people who cannot claim-and never will be able to claim-to have achieved anything close to what Christine achieved in her lifetime, I'm just all the more grateful that she was there. Not many people can truly be called great or unique. Christine can. Not many of us could make a list of achievements that's more than a paragraph long. Christine could, and then some. Not many of us will be remembered after we're gone. Christine will."

"So long as I can, I feel it's a duty.
Why would I stop?"
-Christine Stevens, 1918-2002  
Christine in action photomontage. Top Row: Humane Society of Washtenaw County shelter, Michigan; Trapping protest; President Lyndon B. Johnson and Former AWI Assistant Treasurer Adele Schoepperle;Mr. Stevens, May and Follow. Middle Row: President Reagan's Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger; Daughter Christabel Gough at laboratory animal meeting; DC whale demonstration; Countess Wachtmeister, Schweitzer Medallist Astrid Lindgren, Ambassador Wachtmeister; Former AWI Secretary Estella Draper. Bottom Row: Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, Argentinean Ambassador Orfila, Mr. Stevens, Vice-President and Mrs. Nelson Rockefeller, and Mr. and Mrs. Henry Kissinger at the Kennedy Center; Congressional Trapping Hearing; John Kullberg, then ASPCA President; DC WTO demonstration; in Australia.

Tuna-Dolphin Battle Continues

Tuna-Dolphin Battle Continues

Within hours of the decision by the Department of Commerce to allow dolphin-caught tuna to be sold as "dolphin-safe" in American markets, Animal Welfare Institute, Society for Animal Protective Legislation, Earth Island Institute, and other groups were back in court suing the federal government. In dramatically relaxing the standards of the dolphin-safe label, the Department of Commerce asserted that the setting of nets on dolphins causes "no significant adverse impact" even though a brand new study by their own scientists says the opposite.

The National Marine Fisheries Service study found that populations of eastern spinner and offshore spotted dolphins have failed to recover from a seventy percent decline suffered from decades of pursuit and entrapment from tuna boats. It also showed an entirely new category of heretofore unreported deaths-unweaned babies separated from their moms during the chase, and "cryptic kill" where animals are injured and go off to die. Even without counting these mortalities, over seven million dolphins have died through this method of fishing.

Allowing the sale of dolphin-deadly tuna in the U.S., fraudulently labeled as "dolphin-safe," is expected to cause between 20,000 and 40,000 dolphin deaths a year.

The dolphin-safe label is one of the biggest successes in using consumer awareness to protect a threatened and beloved creature. Senator Barbara Boxer has introduced new legislation forbidding the change in label that would "blatantly mislead the American public."

As we go to press, an agreement to stay the implementation of the new label has been signed by the Judge. For the moment at least, the dolphin-safe label still means what it says.


The Water Keeper Alliance Institutes Legal Attack on Pig Factories

On December 6, 2000, at press conferences in Washington, D.C. and Raleigh, North Carolina, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of the Water Keeper Alliance announced the launch of a broad legal assault against America's large pig factories. The Water Keeper Alliance and a coalition of supporters have turned to private attorneys and law firms to pursue enforcement of environmental protection regulations. This is necessary, said Kennedy, since "Federal environmental prosecution against the meat industry has effectively ceased because Congress has eviscerated the Environmental Protection Agency's enforcement budget while the political clout of powerful pork producers has trumped state enforcement efforts. This collapse of environmental enforcement has allowed corporate hog factories to proliferate with huge pollution-based profits."

The plaintiffs are seeking enforcement of state and federal laws, including the federal Clean Water Act, Resource Conservation and Recovery Act and Clean Air Act. Kennedy added: "What we are dealing with here is a crime….  And they should have to stop today so we can get back to the family farmers and the tried and true way of preserving America's landscape and waterways." Describing the confinement of sows in crates so small they cannot walk or turn around, Kennedy called pig factories "extraordinarily cruel." Jan Schlictmann, a renowned environmental attorney, referred to modern hog factories as "animal concentration camps."

Attorneys who are committed to "civilizing" industrial hog operations stood with Mr. Kennedy and coalition members at the press conference. Coalition members and press conference speakers included family farmers Terry Spence and Rolf Christen of Citizens Legal Environmental Action Network (CLEAN), Sierra Club representative Scott Dye, Leland Swenson, President of National Farmers' Union, Brother David Andrews of the National Catholic Rural Life Conference (NCRLC) and Diane Halverson, Farm Animal Advisor of the Animal Welfare Institute.

Following are excerpts from the statement made by Diane Halverson. "Industrial hog producers have driven independent farm families out of business, and in doing so, have decimated the culture of humane husbandry that once characterized American farming. Traditionally, farm families took joy in good stockmanship and pride in the robust health of their herds. Industrial agriculture, on the other hand, calls animals into existence, and before it kills them, makes them suffer.

"For the corporate investor the animal is not a sentient creature, but a 'production unit.' The corporation is intent on three things: maximizing the number of 'production units' in each building; eliminating the need for husbandry skills among workers; and minimizing the number of workers. To do this, sows on the industrial farm are permanently confined in coffin-like crates, unable to walk or even turn around. All pigs are denied bedding in order that their manure can be liquefied for easy handling; this liquefaction makes it possible to concentrate huge numbers of animals on one site. Liquefied manure, running into streams, seeping into groundwater and emitting toxic gases, causes the environmental and public health problems discussed today. It is inevitable that a system which grossly violates the biology of the animals inside the factory will wreak havoc on everyone and everything outside of the factory.

"Sow deaths are common inside factory sow operations. The death rate of some herds is as high as 20%. The factory system is characterized by widespread routine application of antibiotics to promote growth of piglets, promote sow productivity and to prevent outbreaks of disease in the hostile conditions of the factory. The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified the routine, subtherapeutic use of antibiotics in agriculture as a major contributor to antibiotic resistance in humans. WHO recommends switching from industrial management of animals to more extensive, enriched housing methods to reduce the distress caused to the animals and thereby reduce the need for antibiotics.

"AWI is proud to support the effort announced today, to expose and rein in an industry characterized by callous disregard for society, our environment and animals."

Top Photo: Attendees included attorneys fighting the hog producers and representatives of organizations supporting the legal battle. Among others pictured here: Sue Jarrett, Global Resource Action Center for the Environment; Scott Dye, Sierra Club; Terry Spence, CLEAN; Leland Swenson, National Farmers' Union; and Brother David Andrews, NCRLC. 

Bottom Photo: Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., President of the Water Keeper Alliance, and Diane Halverson holding a pig.

Helping Hands for Hedgehogs

Helping Hands for Hedgehogs

Victim of one of the latest exotic pet crazes appears to be the African Pygmy hedgehog. Sadly, many of these animals are being mass-produced in "mill-type" situations where they are viewed as easily replenishable commodities. Novel pets, hedgehogs are oftentimes purchased by individuals who have done little research into how to properly care for them.

Deirdre, a victim of neglect, was rescued from a family in Pennsylvania, a state that prohibits keeping hedgehogs as pets. Hedgehog Welfare Society

Although hedgehogs are protected under the Animal Welfare Act, the law's regulations are overly broad to cover a wide range of species and do not provide specific requirements for cage size, exercise opportunities, appropriate weaning age, and proper environmental temperatures to avoid hibernation attempts and possible death-by-freezing.

The Hedgehog Welfare Society (HWS) is an organization that exists to protect the well being of hedgehogs through rescue, research, and education of the people who care for hedgehogs. The HWS expends most of its resources on rescue of unwanted and abandoned hedgehogs, who are frequently purchased on impulse from pet stores. Members of the American and Canadian HWS have rescued hundreds of hedgehogs in the past year from situations where they were  neglected, unwanted, and/or in desperate need of veterinary care.

Another objective of the HWS is advocacy, targeted at breeders and pet stores. The HWS has filed numerous complaints to the USDA regarding unlicensed pet stores and breeding facilities that practice inadequate animal care. These include reports of hedgehogs who have been left injured and bleeding in cages, animals in over-crowded conditions without sufficient room for movement or exercise, unattended cages piled with two inches of feces, hedgehogs soaked in urine, cannibalism, and hedgehogs shipped in bulk to pet stores across the country prior to healthy weaning age. Many unlicensed facilities have been inspected and, once informed of licensing and care requirements, agreed to cease sales of hedgehogs. However, there have been far more occasions where no action is taken in response to the complaint.

For more information about hedgehog rescue or to report abuse, please contact the HWS at


Don't Order the Sea Bass


Chilean Sea Bass with Almonds and Pistachios in Garlic Sauce? Baked Ginger Snap Crusted Chilean Sea Bass with Kiwi Lime Sauce? Coast to coast, Chilean Sea Bass can be found on restaurant menus. But when eateries offer such fish, they actually serve Patagonian toothfish, a species being rapidly depleted in the Southern Ocean. 

The long-lived fish can survive to be 80 years old but has a difficult time recovering from over-exploitation with its slow reproductive rate; this is compounded by the fact that unregulated, unethical pirate fishers take toothfish at unsustainable levels. The Honorable Warren Truss, Australian Fisheries Minister, in September stated that a vessel suspected of poaching Patagonian toothfish had been sighted in Australian waters: "The suspect vessel's crew attempted to conceal its identity by obscuring its name and registration number and when approached fled the scene."

The Antarctica Project reports, "If pirate fishing continues at its current rate, scientists estimate that the Patagonian toothfish could be commercially extinct in less than three years." The Project asserts that pirate fishers are responsible for over eighty % of the total catch - valued at five hundred million dollars. Toothfish fishing also causes the slaughter of numerous non-target species. Over 300,000 sea birds have reportedly been killed after being hooked on the fishers' gear and drowned. This includes the majestic albatross—twenty species of albatross are listed on the 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

According to the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), "The high level of illegal and unregulated fishing for toothfish…threatens stocks of toothfish through over-fishing, and populations of seabirds through incidental capture and mortality during longlining." Despite this recognition, however, the 23 participating CCAMLR governments still set toothfish fishing quotas at its October 2000 meeting. Mark Stevens of The Antarctic and Southern Ocean Coalition lamented that the participants "all but ignored scientists warnings [about] the massive pirate fishing of toothfish in Antarctica's oceans." Stevens continued: "CCAMLR is simply making wild guesses when it comes to estimating how much toothfish pirate fishers are pulling out of the Southern Ocean ecosystem."

Dolphins Turned into Killers

Dolphins Turned into Killers

During World War II, Japan was criticized for strapping incendiary bombs on bats and unleashing them on the Pacific Northwest, hoping they might roost under eaves and cause fires. Now our own Navy has announced that it may use bottlenose dolphins in any upcoming war against Iraq.

The Navy refers to sixty dolphins long held in San Diego as "soldiers of the sea" and "systems" for finding mines and for "neutralizing" enemy swimmers.

This Navy dolphin, shown with a device used for finding and marking underwater mines, may be deployed in a war against Iraq. U.S. Navy

Dolphins were first captured for the Navy in 1959 but were classified as secret until the 1970s. They were used in Cam Ranh Bay in Vietnam to kill enemy divers, in the Persian Gulf War in 1991, and even in San Diego Bay during the 1996 Republican Convention where dolphins were used as underwater patrols to prevent terrorism.

Besides the obvious harm done to the Navy dolphins themselves, with all of the attendant problems of taking them from their homes and families to a life of captivity and servitude, AWI questions the wisdom of making any dolphin in the Persian Gulf area into a potential combatant and therefore fair game.

Unfortunately, it appears that this bad idea has already spread to other countries. An official of the Ammunition Factory Kirkee (AFK) in India, Mr. O.P. Yadav, confirmed that the Indian Navy has successfully trained dolphins to plant mines on sensitive areas of enemy ships. He claimed dolphins, "regarded as one of the most intelligent creatures" are useful in deep-water missions "because they will cut the human risk factor."

Turning dolphins into weapons to kill humans is unacceptable and immoral.


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)

Syndicate content