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Animal Justice Fund

Just a quick note on the Animal Justice Fund, administered by SAFE, funded from Jan Cameron’s (founder of the hugely-successful outdoor equipment company, Kathmandu) fortune which allocates $2 million for whistleblowers. Between $5 000 and $30 000 can be awarded in each instance that leads to a successful prosecution or ‘significant animal welfare outcome.’

To date, at least six workers have ‘dobbed in’ bosses for animal cruelty. But none want to accept the reward.

All were for dairy farms and piggeries. None of the workers were still employed by the farms they were laying complaints against, so the cases and information are considered ‘historical’ and hence a low priority for investigation. Four of these cases were referred to MAF. According to SAFE’s Hans Kriek:

Paddocks were in bad shape, there were stones and lame cows. There were high mortality rates amongst calves. Dying animals were being left to rot in paddocks. With the pig farms we had the usual complaints … that the conditions were terrible and enclosures weren’t cleaned out and the animals were standing a foot deep in their own muck.

Yet, no breaches of the relevant welfare codes were found in any case. Continue reading

Circus Animal Bans

As of 1 July 2010, the use of any animal in a circus has been banned in Bolivia. A handful of other countries have banned the use of wild animals in circuses but only Bolivia has banned exploitation of domestic animals in circuses as well.

The Bolivian law, which states that the use of all animals in circuses ‘constitutes an act of cruelty’ was enacted on 1 July 2009, with operators given a year to comply.

The bill took two years to pass through both chambers of the Plurinational Assembly, meeting stiff opposition from the eastern states of Bolivia where there was concern that the law would be expanded to include bullfighting, which is popular in rural villages. Bullfighting remains legal in Bolivia.

The legislature were eventually won over by a screening of videos shot by undercover circus infiltrators in Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia co-ordinated and funded by Animal Defence International (ADI), a London-based NGO which found that ill-treatment and violence against animals in circuses is commonplace.

Continue reading

Against the Proposed New Elephant Enclosure at Auckland Zoo

Plans were approved in August this year to expand the elephant enclosure at Auckland Zoo to six times its current area.  The importation of another 9 elephants to join the current sole occupant, Burma, would make this the only elephant herd in Australasia. The planned extension into Western Springs Park is estimated (by many accounts, unrealistically) to cost $13 million and the zoo plans to expand into 22000 square metres of the park.

Two main arguments have been made for this. First, that Burma is in need of companions as elephants are intelligent, empathic, social animals and she has only recently lost her companion, Kashin. Second, that the herd will be valuable for conservation. Given a choice between sending one animal to a reserve overseas or committing to the hugely-expensive upkeep of ten elephants, the City has chosen the latter.

This goes against international trends to close elephant enclosures. As pointed out in SAFE’s excellent submission to the Auckland City Council Combined Committees, enclosures closed this decade include London (2002), San Francisco (2005), Detroit (2005), Lincoln Park, Chicago (2005), Alaska (2007), and Philadelphia (2009). A significant number of zoos have also committed to gradually phasing out their herds by not replacing elephants.

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Cultural Significance v Animal Rights: The Constitutional Challenge to the Ban on Bullfighting in Catalonia

The oddly familiar-looking Constitutional Court of Spain

Bullfighting was banned in the autonomous Spanish region of Catalonia on 28 July this year, with the ban coming into full effect in 2012.

Now, three months to the day later, the Spanish Constitutional Court (housed in a rather Beehive-esque building) has accepted an appeal lodged by the Partido Popular (People’s Party, PP) challenging Catalonia’s ban on cultural, economic and administrative grounds. The PP is a conservative, nationalist party known for such other legislative projects as restricting immigration to Catalonia and deporting immigrants who have not learnt the Catalan language to proposed minimum standards.

If the appeal is successful, the Court may overturn the regional ban (I have written in detail on this ban here). However, the Court can take months or years to deliver a judgment.
The central constitutional provision is article 149, which provides that the State has exclusive jurisdiction over conditions governing ‘the equality of all Spanish in exercising their constitutional rights.’ This is advanced as the basis for the following three grounds of appeal: Continue reading

Schechita, Halal and Ministerial Conflicts of Interest

It’s been a week of big announcements about animal welfare from the Minister of Agriculture, David Carter. We’ve seen not only the phase-out of sow crates but also the reversal of his decision in May 2010 to outlaw the traditional Jewish method of slaughter, schechita, for chickens.

Schechita slaughter requires the animal to be fully conscious as its throat is cut and it is allowed to bleed out. The NAWAC animal slaughter code created under the Animal Welfare Act 1999 (AWA) requires that an animal to be slaughtered must be first rendered insensible – stunned – so that it does not experience ‘unnecessary’ pain or distress. Although Muslims also object to the stunning of animals at slaughter, a compromise has been reached with halal slaughter whereby the animal is stunned at the instant the cut is made.

But there’s one revelation about the reasons behind the decision to ban schechita in the first place that the Minister would rather not see the light of day.

Documents obtained by the Herald on Sunday:

[A]ppear to show Carter broke the rules governing his portfolio by considering trade implications when making the original decision.

An allegation of conflict of interest has been made because of that – he holds shares in a company which exports meat and met with senior managers who wanted a ban on shechita to protect their interests. Continue reading

To Catch a Falling Star…

I’m currently reading John Brunners Catch a Falling Star.  The setting is surreal, fantastic even.  It comes across as a simple, dream-like tale, set many millennia hence, after the rise and fall of countless human empires and civilisations.  Ideas abound.  Big ideas.

As I write this, Tom Morello, the Nightwatchman, sings: The sky is falling, the sky is falling…

I’m not mad yet.  This is about animals, ecology, and veganism.  Bear with me for a moment.

The novel is one of Brunner’s earlier works, revised from one of his earliest novels.  But still.  Brunner is an author of tremendous vision.  His big novels – Stand on Zanzibar, about corporate control of an African state, AI, and the brutal military deconstruction of one man; The Sheep Look Up, about ecological collapse and the solution (the death of America); the Shockwave Rider, in which he coined the term ‘worm’ for a computer virus (in 1975);

But Catch a Falling Star is not really science fiction or fantasy.  Catch a Falling Star is a simple parable.  Every night, the Meat arrives in town.  Sometime, between now and the hundredth millenium in which the book is set, someone bred a bipedal species: the Meat.  And they run laughing to their deaths, joyously dying so that the people of the town can eat.

I cannot help but wonder how closely this vision parallels most people’s perceptions of the animal industries.  The meat just appears in the supermarket in a flash.  Perhaps, with a little thought, they recall that the animals were killed.  But, of course, sensible, smart, scientific people design cold, clinical slaughterhouses, so the animals die without pain.  And the farmers treat the animals nicely, so the animals live long, happy lives.  If they knew they were dying to make delicious food, they’d be happy, right?

Continue reading

Why Monbiot is wrong about being wrong about veganism.

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I bet it’s nice to be right every now and then. Good for the self-esteem, at any rate. However I’m not sure where you stand when publicly falsifying your own previous positions. There is a certain degree of comfort in knowing that if the new me wasn’t right, then sure enough the old one was.

This is where British environmentalist George Monbiot now finds himself. Despite previously proclaiming that the ‘only’ ethical stance in the face of coming food and climate crises was veganism, he has recently published an article dramatically titled ‘I was wrong about veganism. Let them eat meat – but farm it properly’. Continue reading

Why Not?

Surveillance of Animal Rights Activists

Search and Surveillance Bill (2009)

In an alarming development for anyone concerned about civil liberties in New Zealand, the Search and Surveillance Bill, currently before Parliament, will extend powers previously available only to Police to any state agencies with enforcement powers, of which there are 70. This includes, for instance, Work and Income New Zealand and the Pork Industry Board.

I’ve posted recently about the nefarious activities of the Pork Industry Board here in attempting to avoid their obligations under the Official Information Act 1982.

There have been widespread protests against the bill which strips away civil rights hard won over centuries in one fell swoop: Continue reading

Catalonia Bans Bullfighting

Spain’s Catalonian regional parliament has banned bullfighting in a vote of 68 – 55 with nine abstaining.

It is the second Spanish region after the Canary Islands (which banned bullfighting in 1991) to outlaw the practice and the first on the mainland.

Bullfighting is a brutal spectacle  in which the torture and death of the bull is the end of a life-long process of abuse and mistreatment (I’ve written on this in more detail here) and this is a significant victory for a coalition of Catalonian animal rights groups called “Prou!” meaning “Enough!”  They initated the vote by submitting a 180 000-signature petition to the parliament, calling for a ban.

The vote was not a cut-and-dry animal welfare issue as the rejection of this emblematically Spanish tradition is also widely interpreted as animated by separatist sentiment. Of Spain’s semi-autonomous regions, Catalunya has the greatest degree of autonomy along with the Basque region. It has even been suggested that the vote was calculated in last-minute lobbying as retaliation for a recent decision from Spain’s Constitutional court which has curtailed some of the proudly-independent region’s autonomy in law-making.

This is an exciting advance made against one of the most tradition-bound forms of animal suffering. The commercial significance of the ‘sport’ falls far short of that in the Spanish capital of Madrid and Andalucia to the South, when the law comes into effect in 2012 it will close Barcelona’s last remaining bullring, La Monumental. This may limit the spread of the ban to the other regions.

But there is still work to do. Activists have now set their sights on a ban on the Correbous, an annual festival in the region in which flaming torches and even fireworks are fastened to the bulls’ horns and they are set loose, frightened, disoriented and often suffering burns, to run around  an enclosure for the amusement of onlookers.