//
archives

Archive for March 2012

Legal Standing of Animals: How the plight of five Orca has come to be at the vanguard of animal rights jurisprudence

A pod of Southern Resident Orca

Recently, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) brought a civil action to have five Orca, named Tilikum, Katina, Corky, Kasatka and Ulises, kept in captivity at Sea World in San Diego, California recognised as ‘slaves’ and hence protected by the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution. For this action to succeed, the court would have to recognise the Orca as legal persons and accept that the thirteenth amendment should apply to them. Sea World has called it “baseless and in many ways offensive” and a “publicity stunt”.

Of course this approach, while garnering a good deal of publicity (even the NZ Herald published an (very basic) article), was doomed to failure. U.S. law professor, David Favre, suggested in a letter to the Associated Press that it is highly unlikely that the substantive matters of the case would even be argued as the plaintiffs will be interpreted as lacking standing. Even if this hurdle were overcome, the judges were very unlikely to consider that the original intention of the drafters of the Constitution can encompass non-humans.

Concern has been expressed by many animal advocates that this sort of publicity stunt runs the very real risk of undermining decades of careful argumentation around the recognition of the legal personality of non-human animals. Pursuing a cause of action that is virtually guaranteed to fail may establish a negative precedent which undermines future attempts to build an animal rights jurisprudence. The Non-Human Rights Project have summed up these concerns particularly well in ‘Ten Tillikum Takeaways‘.

Pioneering animal lawyer, Steven Wise, who has brought a separate action to PETA’s on different, more considered, grounds has reservations about the PETA approach. He has said it is “ill-conceived, impossible to win, and capable of damaging future animal rights legal law cases”, going further to suggest that PETA is plowing ahead because “it wants the case ‘to go down in history as the first time that a U.S. court considers constitutional rights for animals.’ Winning is beside the point.” Continue reading

Syndicated: New Zealand’s Role at COP17: Concluding Unscientific Postscript

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

The below post was originally posted on the Adopt a Negotiator Project.  It is therefore intended for overseas readers.

To the NGO community, New Zealand was one of the villains of COP17.  But, I’m not sure if this reputation is wholly deserved.  The trouble is, even if it is not, this reveals a fundamental failure in the New Zealand negotiators’ messaging: if New Zealand was a lamb, it appeared to too many to often as a lamb in wolf’s clothing.

Even a month after the end of COP17, I remain uncertain about the role played by the New Zealand negotiators. Two quite opposite interpretations seem possible. On one hand, New Zealand’s actions could be interpreted as deliberately compromising the integrity of the negotiations for short-sighted national economic interests (Scenario A).  But, on the other, New Zealand’s negotiating stance could be interpreted as pragmatic attempts by a small State to bring about a deal that would bring in more of the key emitters (Scenario B).  In truth, I suspect that New Zealand’s negotiators fell somewhere in the middle, with both good intentions and bad (Scenario C). Continue reading

Why Colony Cages Rather Than Barn-Laid Eggs?

Caged Layer Hens

According to RNZSPCA national accreditation and marketing manager Juliette Banks: “Consumers are becoming far more conscious of where and how their food is produced and they don’t want cages.”
Yet New Zealand farmers are going ahead with installing the ‘colony cages’ approved in the new Layer Hen Code of Welfare. The thing is, the capital investment in changing out one type of cage for a marginally larger one is far greater than converting to a barn set up where the animals are still kept indoors in crowded conditions but are at least not in cages.

Barn Layer Hens

Banks continues: “With a steady annual increase in the free-range egg market it is clear consumers will not accept caged eggs in the future. For the industry to spend millions converting a system that consumers will reject seems pointless.”

Indeed it does. Until we consider that caged hen operations are very large businesses with capital investment that often runs into the millions. Why would these operators be prepared to continue with a more expensive system? Because it provides a very effective barrier to entry for possible competitors. The welfare of the thousands of hens in their care is neither here nor there for these producers. The decision is purely economic. It makes the claim of Egg Producers Federation chairman, Michael Guthrie, that they want to ‘ensure eggs remained affordable during tough economic times’ ring rather hollow.

Syndicated: Clean and Green Aotearoa New Zealand?

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

The below post was originally posted on the Adopt a Negotiator Project.  It is therefore intended for overseas readers.

When you picture New Zealand, the odds are good that you picture an untouched waterfall, straight out of Lord of the Rings. I have camped at the base of the waterfall you’re probably thinking of.

That’s not a real picture of New Zealand. Native bush and national parks make up a small part of the country – and the government has hinted at mining within our national parks. Over a third of the country’s population lives in Auckland, a suburban sprawl with about half the public transport of a small European town.

New Zealand’s environmental policy is a contradiction, and its international stance is the same. The government recognises a “clean and green” brand as the core of our tourism – but much of our GDP comes from intensive dairy farming, which infects our rivers with runoff and accounts for around half the country’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Generally, New Zealand professes to take a “centrist” and “cooperative” stance in negotiations. Underlying this, however, is a very self-interested negotiating strategy.

In the Kyoto Protocol track, New Zealand stresses transparency and balance. As a member of the Umbrella Group, a loose affiliation that aims to promote cost effectiveness and flexibility within the Kyoto Protocol system, New Zealand is willing to consider a second Kyoto commitment period subject to several conditions.

New Zealand seeks a successor agreement by 2020. It hopes to negotiate a mandate to agree, either at Durban or more probably a subsequent COP.

In climate financing, New Zealand stresses the importance of governments leveraging private finance to secure or exceed the US$100 billion 2020 target.

Agriculture and forestry are both crucial issues for New Zealand.

When it comes to practically implementing technology transfer and providing adaptation and mitigating funding, New Zealand focuses on the Pacific. Unusually, some 70% of funding provided by New Zealand each year is used for adaptation projects, with the balance devoted to mitigation. For more states, the opposite is the case.

Overall, New Zealand presents two quite different faces in the negotiations. Unlike other States in the Umbrella Group, which overtly attack the core of the Kyoto Protocol and openly assert a “hard-ball” strategy with developing States, New Zealand plays a subtle game. It takes contradictory positions and stalls talks, but maintains a commitment to the outcome it jeopardises.

It’s going to be an interesting ten days. Our delegation, the New Zealand Youth Delegation, meets the negotiators daily. We can sometimes ask to meet a specialist in a certain topic, but we never know which of the negotiating team we’ll get to talk to. Three of us will be blogging here on Adopt a Negotiator: Jonathan Williams, Rachel Dobric, and me. All our posts will be in the New Zealand category.

Devonport, Auckland

Originally posted by me on Adopt a Negotiator.  All photographs and intellectual property in this post solely mine unless otherwise stated.

Each Decade Seems to Have a Different Dangerous Dog: What’s the common denominator?

I happened across this on Facebook. The image makes a good point about the shifting historical conceptions of what are considered inherently dangerous breeds of dog. In the early twentieth century, Bloodhounds were considered to be a menace. There is one common denominator here.

Syndicated: It’s Still Friday at COP17 (liveblogging the next last day)

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

The last day of COP17, Friday 9 December 2011, stretched well on into the night – and then into the Saturday, and then into the Saturday night.  It finally finished a little after 0600 on the morning of Sunday 11 December 2011.  Fellow youth delegate Rachel Dobric and I live-blogged the extended last Friday of the conference.  The below is part two of that liveblog, reposted with Rachel’s permission, unedited.  Part one is here.

Negotiations are running well over time here in Durban.  We will keep you up to date as best we can.  For more frequent updates, please follow us on Twitter.  The rumour here is that negotiations may continue to tomorrow (which will be the third day of Friday 9 December 2011, as far as COP17 is concerned) – but apparently the ICC is booked until Wednesday.  Rumours and speculation abound.

Latest is first.  If you don’t like what you read, email, tweet, or otherwise contact your MP.

0600, ICC: It’s over.  There is a deal.  It’s not a great one by any means, but it is.  The conference has ended – 30 hours late. Continue reading

Manufactured Meat: Lab burgers anyone?

An initial culture of cow flesh. Yum. (Photo: Dr Mark Post, Maastricht University)

In a move that may overcome the cruelty problem of raising and killing animals for meat, Dr Mark Post of Maastricht University and Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands has pioneered the technique of growing meat independently of an animal by the cultivation of stem cells.

The pieces of muscle are made by extracting stem cells from cow muscle tissue and growing them in containers in a laboratory. The cells are grown in a culture medium containing foetal calf serum, which contains the nutrients the cells need to grow. The nutrients in the meat itself need to come from another source, Post will use algae to produce the amino acids, sugars and fats necessary to produce a nutritious flesh. The strips of muscle are cultivated between pieces of Velcro and flex and contract as they develop. To improve the texture of the tissue and make more protein in the cells the samples are periodically shocked with an electric current.

The problems for which this is a solution are summed up rather concisely in this abstract of a paper called ‘Advances, Challenges and Prospects for Cultivation of Tissue-Engineered Meat’ that Dr Post presented in February this year:

Traditional meat production through livestock is rapidly reaching its limits. Worldwide, meat consumption is projected to double in the coming 40 years (source WHO) and already we are using more than 50% – 70% of all the agricultural land for meat production. It has also become clear that livestock contributes appreciably to the emission of greenhouse gases such as methane and CO2. Last, the public objection against cruelty to animals will eventually favor a market for cruelty free meat …

From all livestock, cows and pigs are the least efficient meat producers with a bioconversion rate of 15%. Through breeding and feeding, the bioconversion rate has reached its upper limit. This inefficiency provides us with a margin to improve meat production provided we move beyond the traditional boundaries of livestock.

Continue reading

Syndicated: Liveblogging the Last Day

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

The last day of COP17, Friday 9 December 2011, stretched well on into the night – and then into the Saturday, and then into the Saturday night.  It finally finished a little after 0600 on the morning of Sunday 11 December 2011.  Fellow youth delegate Rachel Dobric and I live-blogged the extended last Friday of the conference.  The below is part one of that liveblog, reposted with Rachel’s permission, unedited.

We are liveblogging the last day of COP17 from inside and outside the conference centre.  Check back regularly for updates.

Latest is first.  If you don’t like what you read, email, tweet, or otherwise contact your MP.

We’ve broken day two of the last day into a new post.  For further updates, go here.

Overnight: Security guards patrolled the corridors – encouraging people to leave and insisting they wanted the buildings empty. Rumours flew that they were trying to expel the NGOs, and that we wouldn’t be let in again if we left. Talks were suspended until midnight, and then until Saturday. Hoping we were right in believing our badges would be extended through the following day, NZYD headed home for some much needed rest. On the way, we crossed to Speakers’ Corner and the Occupy camp to get away from the confusion and sterility of the conference centre. There weren’t many people there; it was clear most had gone home, leaving only a faithful few to beat their drums and sing late into the night. It would’ve been peaceful under the trees if it weren’t for the speeding cars and the bright lights of the Hilton across the road.

Caffeine and conversation until the very wee hours. Then sleep.

2315, ICC hall, Baobab plenary/computer labs/occupied offices, inside: The Chair has taken the plenary through all agenda items relating to SBSTA quite quickly.  The meeting is adjourned until sometime in the morning.  Word is that the last texts were too pro-US.  YOUNGO people are wandering the halls taping signs saying “Where is my future? I’m sure you have it.” to things (mostly to themselves).  We have set up camp in an abandoned office.

It’s all getting a bit JG Ballard.  Rumours are flying around on Twitter.  People are sleeping in the halls of the ICC.  The Canadians have a designated sleep room occupied in the DEC.

We have no idea when this will finish.  Some delegates apparently have suggested adjourning to Rio+20 next year.  Others have suggested working through until Sunday, even (which perhaps makes more sense, as Rio+20 is a three-day conference!).

Interesting times.

2046, ICC hall, Baobab plenary, inside: The plenary is currently debating rules of procedure.  We have hunkered down in the corner with copies of the draft texts.

You can read a transcript of the Colossal Fossil here:

“New Zealand wins the 1st place Fossil. The New Zealand government got a Fossil this week for severely mixed messages about its Kyoto Protocol 2nd Commitment Period stance. This time, it made it clear, describing Kyoto as ‘actually an insult to New Zealand’. The only insult is to the citizens of New Zealand and the rest of the world, who will have to suffer the costs of climate change.”

2014; DEC hall, inside: We’re back in the conference centre after a quick dinner break (bunny chow down the road), heading into the ICC to see what’s happening.  The DEC is almost empty.  A few NGO campaigners are still in the cafeteria, plotting the long haul ahead tonight.  They’ve already started to take apart the entry hall and the expo area outside.

New Zealand won a Fossil of the Day today, for the Minister, Tim Groser MP, declaring that a second commitment period woud be an “insult“.

Canada, unsurprisingly, won the Colossal Fossil, but kindly passed the moral victory on to the USA.

Heading to the ICC now!

1740, DEC hall, inside: We’re preparing for the final Fossil of the Day ceremony now.  We’d just like to draw your attention to the great intervention that Anjali gave this morning on behalf of YOUNGO:

I speak for more than half the world’s population.

We are the silent majority. You’ve given us a seat in this hall, but our interests are not on the table.

What does it take to get a stake in this game? Lobbyists? Corporate influence? Money?

You have been negotiating all of my life. In that time, you’ve failed to meet pledges, you’ve missed targets, and you’ve broken promises.

Here’s a video, courtesy of Katie O’Brien from Sierra Student Coalition:

1728, DEC hall, inside: Videos from the last hour.

1720, DEC hall, inside: Just returned from the ICC.  Those protestors who chose to remain and be removed have mostly been escorted out.  UN Security were extremely reasonable.  There were no signs of violence until the very end.  Small groups of peaceful protestors chanted as blue-shirted security escorted them out.  One of our delegates overheard the head of security explaining that he did not wish to have them removed, because so many were so young, and also because their home countries might object.  The only scuffle I saw was brief, and at the very end, after the last few protestors chose to begin a sit in, when security shoved a photographer.

A large crowd had gathered in support.  They joined the chanting, and sung songs of support.

1634, DEC hall (coming down around us), inside: Video from the protest 1:

1623, DEC hall (being dismantled), inside: We just got back from the ICC.  For those who don’t know, COP17 is split into two main venues: the DEC hall, where most of the civil society booths and side events are; and the ICC, where the real negotiations are going on.  In the DEC, t-shirts and jeans have been the norm all week; in the ICC, suits and ties.

Currently, the main floor of the ICC is blocked off outside the plenary hall by a mass of chanting protestors.  Two lines of volunteers and UN security are keeping access open to the plenary session.  On one side of this corridor, the protestors are yelling and chanting, often through the “human microphone”.  On the other, the media (and bloggers) are amassed, filming the crowd.  It’s a little surreal.  A line of blue-shirted volunteers control access to the foyer of the plenary hall.

Inside the ICC, all social media are offline.  The internet appears to be working otherwise.  The rumour mill says that social media have been blocked on wifi.

Videos and photos coming soon.

Security has told the protestors that, if they move outside, they can keep their badges and continue to protest.

1500, DEC hall, inside: Just 12 hours left.  Maybe even 18,  The atmosphere here in the Convention Centre is grim.  In the DEC hall, where civil society has mostly been encamped, all the booths are coming down.  The businesses, universities, NGOs, and IGOs are packing up their things and going home.  It feels like civil society is leaving.

Our delegation has split into two.  The majority are off to join a variety of protest actions, making a last push for, in short, two very simple things: a plan for a solid, real, new treaty by 2015 and a second Commitment Period of the Kyoto Protocol.  There are countless other issues tied into those, but all ultimately come down to two last minute hands of poker.  We’re all in: If the cards go one way, global temperature rise may stay below two degrees this year.  If the other, we will have locked in a warming of at least two degrees, probably largely in our lifetimes, causing suffering and death on an incredible scale.

Two or three of us are staying in here. Until. It’s. Done.  We will be liveblogging on Twitter and continually updating this post as we learn more of what’s happening inside and outside the ICC/DEC convention centre.  Keep checking back.

If you don’t like what you’re reading on this blog or Twitter or in the international press, please: Contact Tim Groser MP.  Contact your local MP. Email them.  Message them on Facebook.  Tell them what you think on Twitter.  This negotiation isn’t over until it’s over, and there remains a very, very slim chance that New Zealand might soften its stance.  Let’s keep pushing and hope.

Originally posted by me on the New Zealand Youth Delegation website.  All photographs and intellectual property in this post solely mine unless otherwise stated.

Syndicated: Fossil of the Day Roundup

In November and December 2011, I attended the United Nations climate change conference (COP17) in Durban, South Africa.  I will be periodically syndicating my blog posts from other websites here on the Solution.  I’m doing this for two reasons.  First, I want an archive of my work here, on my site, under my name.  Second, as I will discuss in a forthcoming post, climate change is an animal rights issue.  I hope that Solution readers will be interested, therefore, in my commentary on the climate talks.

Each day during COP, the Climate Action Network (CAN) awards the prestigious “Fossil of the Day” trophy to the State that did the most in the last 24 hours to block, disrupt, slow or weaken negotiations.  Basically, it goes to the country each day that the big NGOs collectively judge to be the worst in the negotiations that day.  At the end of the conference, CAN awards the “Colossal Fossil” to the State that earned the most Fossils of the Day.

New Zealand’s record at COP17 is, frankly, embarrassing.  We came third overall in the “Colossal Fossil” stakes, beaten only by Canada and the United States. Continue reading

Human Battery Cages

I don’t normally agree with PETA‘s tactics. Sex with vegetables, nude women against fur, etc. They’ve really outdone themselves recently with this ad which manages to make light of domestic abuse and (I think?) drug addiction in the name of promoting veganism.

But I think they’ve nailed it in one particular instance. Commissioning splatter-gore purveyors, Troma Films, they’ve made the clip below, highlighting the horrors of factory farming.

WARNING: It’s pretty gruesome but that’s the reality for billions of intensively-farmed animals around the world every day. What do you think?

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,255 other followers