Cockfighting Bill Approved
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson signed a measure in March that will outlaw cockfighting in the state. The law takes effect on June 15, leaving Louisiana as the only state that continues to permit the cruel bloodsport. Animal protection advocates applauded Richardson's decision as a major step in completely outlawing the barbaric practice. However, those who support cockfighting—in which two roosters fitted with sharp blades or gaffs on their legs are placed into a pit to fight until their deaths—say they plan on a legal challenge.
Shark Species Discovered; Others in Decline
A 5-year study that was the first analysis of Indonesia's shark and ray populations since 1860 was recently published by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research. "Economically Important Sharks and Rays of Indonesia," a bilingual field guide by researchers from the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, discusses the discovery of 20 new species of sharks and rays, including the Bali catshark, the Jimbaran shovelnose ray and the Hortles' whipray.
Study co-author Dr. William White says the information is especially critical in Indonesia, since it is home to the largest shark and ray fishery in the world, with reported landings of over 100,000 tons a year. The country is also a major player in shark finning operations and the trade in shark parts, so it is crucial that these newly discovered species are protected from exploitation. Accurate species data is the best tool for preserving species diversity, because it allows researchers to gauge the effects of the fishing industry and develop successful fisheries management plans.
Unfortunately, North American researchers write in Science that the overfishing of large shark species has upset the balance of marine life off the eastern seaboard of the United States by "chopping off the top of the food chain." A report by US and Canadian scientists outlines the decline in big sharks over 35 years, as well as the corresponding explosion of the number of cownose rays in Chesapeake Bay. Reaching up to 40 million animals, the ray population has multiplied by 20 times over three decades and simultaneously decimated populations of bay scallops, oysters and clams.
The population of scalloped hammerhead and tiger sharks has fallen at least 97 percent since 1970, and bull, dusky and smooth hammerhead shark populations have fallen by at least 99 percent. The species have been deemed "functionally extinct" because they cannot control middle predators in their ecosystems. These findings updated the results of a 2003 study, concluding that original estimates of declines in big shark populations were too conservative.
Integrity-Free MonsantoIn a not-so-surprising development, biotech multi-national giant Monsanto is moving aggressively against a group of dairies labeling their products "hormone free." The agribusiness behemoth that manufactures the cow growth hormone rBGH claims that this type of labeling is damaging its business and has lodged a complaint with the US Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission. Its objection flies in the face of what is known about bovine growth hormone—even Monsanto lists 16 possible health effects for cows on its packaging. Use of rBGH to increase milk production in cows is associated with an increase in painful conditions such as severe mastitis, digestive disorders and chronic lameness.
Celebrity Chef Speaks Out
Famed Chef Wolfgang Puck has announced that he is changing suppliers of the egg and meat products served in his fine-dining restaurants, fast-casual eateries and catering venues, avoiding those that use some of the most egregious industry methods. Further, he has stated that he will no longer serve foie gras, a product produced by force-feeding ducks and geese. We applaud Puck's decision and hope he will insist on a high welfare requirement for all species of animals raised for food that are supplied to his establishments.