In this episode of Animal People World News, find out…
- What’s behind an anti-pitbull “Super Bowl” commercial
- What a recent court case in Idaho means for undercover cruelty investigators
- How Tanzania’s recent ivory auction puts hippos at risk
- Why India’s Supreme Court is reconsidering its 2014 ban on “bull taming” events
- How Norway plans to ban fur farming of minks and foxes
- Why three car companies performed fraudulent experiments on monkeys
- Why banning live export in the U.K. and Brazil is proving so difficult
- How Baja California is taking aim at bullfighting and cockfighting
Greetings! I’m Wolf, like the animal, reporting for Animal People World News.
ANTI-PITBULL ‘SUPERBOWL’ AD SPARKS CONTROVERSY
Last Sunday, fans of American football watched the Philadelphia Eagles defeat the New England Patriots in the fifty-second annual Super Bowl. Leading up to the big game, one purported Super Bowl commercial triggered outrage among pet lovers and animal advocates:
[excerpt of ad plays]
The video was created by attorney Kenneth Phillips, a specialist in dog bite law. Despite being titled a “Super Bowl commercial,” it was never actually submitted to play during the game, but has nonetheless been shared more than one hundred thousand times on Facebook.
Phillips’ statistics, claiming that pit pulls are responsible for over eighty percent of so-called “canine homicides,” are based largely on non-peer-reviewed studies of media reports comprising less than two percent of the total estimated number of serious dog attacks each year.
According to scientific research by the National Institutes of Health and Centers for Disease Control, pit bulls are involved in approximately thirty-four percent of dog bite hospitalizations, and twenty-eight percent of deaths, outnumbering any other breed on both counts. However, some surveys have identified confounding factors that correlate more strongly with likelihood of attack than does breed. These include poor socialization, past neglect or abuse, and whether or not a dog has been spayed or neutered.
Laws that regulate pit bulls separately from other dogs exist at the city or county level in thirty-three U.S. states, and at the national level in thirty-nine countries worldwide.
Animal protection organizations differ in their stances on breed-specific legislation, or BSL, from active opposition by Humane Society of the United States, to conditional support by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Kim Bartlett, the founder and president of Animal People, seeks a balance of compassion and safety in her own position on BSL:
“Pit bull bans are cruel to both the dogs and the people who have taken them into their homes and love them. A humane alternative to banning any breed of dog is a breed-ing ban, whereby the worst thing dogs and their families would face would be spaying or neutering. Since pit bulls are arguably the most abused of all dog breeds, it seems reasonable from a humane standpoint to begin to regulate breeding of all dogs by starting with a breed-ing ban of pit bulls and related breeds.”
‘AG GAG’ LAW RULED UNCONSTITUTIONAL IN IDAHO
Undercover cruelty investigators have won a major victory against agribusiness. On January fourth, a court in Idaho ruled that the U.S. state’s Interference with Animal Production law, which criminalized undercover video and audio recording in factory farms and slaughterhouses, was unconstitutional. The law was written in 2012 to protect animal agriculture following the public release of footage collected by Mercy for Animals, which showed workers abusing dairy cows. The Animal Legal Defense Fund contested the law, in partnership with animal rights and welfare, food safety, and civil liberties organizations.
The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals’ decision reaffirms a previous lower court ruling that banning undercover recording infringes on freedom of speech and the press. The ruling does not, however, protect activists who use false credentials in order to access agricultural facilities. Idaho is one of eleven U.S. states to have passed so-called “Ag Gag” laws, and now the third to rule them unconstitutional.
TANZANIA AUCTIONS HIPPOPOTAMUS IVORY
On January twenty-ninth, the government of Tanzania auctioned off a large stockpile of hippopotamus ivory, consisting of teeth from an estimated six hundred and seventy-five hippos. The ivory had either been seized from poachers or collected from naturally deceased animals, or from hippos killed in conflicts with humans. Sold to a private company for about fourteen thousand U.S. dollars, the proceeds will go toward funding conservation efforts, according to the Tanzania Wildlife Authority.
Although auctioning off the stockpile will not directly profit poachers, many wildlife protection activists fear that it may still indirectly harm hippos. Permitting legal trade in wildlife products can often encourage poaching, both by increasing commercial demand and by providing legal cover for illegally sourced products. This has proven the case for legal farming of captive tigers for their parts in southeast Asia, and government auctions of confiscated elephant ivory, both of which have resulted in increased killings of wild animals.
Hippopotamus teeth are very similar in their properties to elephant tusks, which are illegal to trade internationally and were recently banned in China. Hippos are therefore particularly vulnerable to increasing demand for their teeth as a legal substitute for elephant ivory.
INDIA’S SUPREME COURT REVISITS BULL TAMING BAN
The Supreme Court of India is currently revisiting a previous decision to ban the practice of jallikattu. Jallikattu is a traditional spectacle in the state of Tamil Nadu and neighboring regions, in which bulls are forced to run through crowds of men, who attempt to grab and hold on to them for a prescribed distance or time. Such events are inherently frightening and stressful for the bulls, and frequently result in injuries or even deaths to animals and humans alike.
The Supreme Court banned jallikattu in 2014, holding that it violated federal animal welfare laws. The ban provoked massive protests by jallikattu supporters, who defended the practice as part of their cultural heritage. The government of Tamil Nadu has since passed a state law allowing bull taming events to continue.
The Supreme Court must now decide whether Tamil Nadu’s law protecting jallikattu is itself constitutional. To that end, it has referred the matter to a constitution bench of five judges. The bench must determine whether jallikattu meets the legal definition of animal cruelty; whether it qualifies as a constitutionally protected cultural practice; and whether breeding bulls specifically for jallikattu can be defended as conserving native breeds of cattle, a duty of the state prescribed in India’s Constitution.
Jallikattu festivals continue to be held across India in observance of Pongal, the annual harvest festival. On January twenty-eighth, the city of Coimbatore held its first bull taming event in thirty eight years, attracting more than three hundred participants and two thousand spectators. There have been at least seven human deaths so far this year. The number of bulls to have perished from falls, collisions, or other injuries is not yet known.
NORWAY TO BAN FUR FARMING BY 2025
The government of Norway has announced plans to abolish fur farming. Once enacted, the ban will spare some eight hundred thousand minks and foxes from being raised and slaughtered every year. It comes as the result of a political deal made between the reigning Conservative and Progress Parties, both historically pro-fur, and the anti-fur Liberal Party, the three of which recently forged a coalition to secure their collective power. Fur farms will be closed down gradually, with the ban taking full effect in 2025.
Norway, once the world’s largest producer of fox fur, is now the fourteenth European nation to phase out fur farming. Globally, around seventy million minks and four million foxes are raised and killed on fur farms each year, and another ten million animals trapped from the wild.
FUMING ANGER OVER CARMAKERS’ MONKEY RESEARCH
Car companies BMW, Daimler, and Volkswagen commissioned fraudulent research subjecting monkeys to diesel fumes, according to a recent report published in the New York Times. The experiments involved confining crab-eating macaques in airtight chambers filled with diluted car exhaust. Besides being obviously cruel, the research was also rigged, as the Volkswagen Beetle used in the experiment had been secretly modified to produce less pollution than usual, making its technology seem cleaner than it actually was.
The revelation of these experiments has caused massive backlash against the companies, including official condemnation by the German government. All three companies have launched internal investigations, and Volkswagen has pledged that it will never conduct animal research again.
Although the fates of the individual monkeys are not known, the laboratory that conducted the research, Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute in Albuquerque, New Mexico, has been written up for animal welfare violations thirteen times in the past three years, including accidents that killed a monkey, a dog, and six guinea pigs.
Due to the fraudulent nature of the diesel fumes research, the laboratory may be liable for prosecution under the Animal Welfare Act, which requires scientific justification and honest reporting for all experiments on animals. The Animal Legal Defense Fund is currently investigating the case.
WRANGLING OVER LIVE EXPORT IN U.K. AND BRAZIL
The United Kingdom is considering banning the export of live farm animals for slaughter overseas. Hundreds of thousands of sheep and tens of thousands of cattle are currently exported from the U.K. every year to mainland Europe, Africa, and the Middle East. The proposed ban would take effect after Brexit, as the European Union does not allow restrictions on trade between member states.
The U.K. Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, numerous politicians, and a large percentage of the British public support banning live export. However, livestock farmers in Northern Ireland and Scotland have come out against it. The Scottish government has declared that it will defy the ban if it is passed, and continue to allow live exports in spite of U.K. law.
In Brazil, meanwhile, a ban on live export declared last Friday, February second, survived only three days before being overturned. The short-lived ban was declared by federal judge Djalma Moreira Gomes, following reports of miserable conditions aboard a livestock ship bound for Turkey. Yet the following Monday, Brazil’s Minister of Agriculture lifted the prohibition, announcing that exports of live animals could continue as before.
The twenty five thousand cows aboard the vessel in question are currently somewhere in the Atlantic Ocean. As of Judge Gomes’ attempted intervention, the cows were confined in spaces too tight to turn around, caked in their own feces and urine, subjected to deafening noise from the ship’s ventilation yet still barely able to breathe. It will take an estimated two weeks for them to arrive in Turkey for slaughter. Unless another ban is implemented, another four hundred thousand cows will suffer the same journey this year.
BAJA CALIFORNIA FORBIDS CHILDREN AT BLOODSPORTS
Finally, the Mexican state of Baja California has banned children from participating in bullfighting or cockfighting. An amendment recently passed to Baja California’s Law for the Protection of Girls, Boys, and Adolescents forbids exposing minors to acts of extreme violence against animals. The new law not only prevents parents from taking children to attend bloodsports, but also restricts the training of new bullfighters, who traditionally begin at a young age. In Mexico, bullfighting academies recruit children as young as five, and aspiring matadors often get their start in organized calf killing competitions as teenagers. Thanks to the new law, such practices will no longer be open to anyone under eighteen.
A similar law is currently under consideration in France, whose National Assembly has established a working group to regulate the use of animals in entertainment. The working group will study, among other issues, a proposal to ban participation in bullfights to anyone under fourteen years old.
These are just a few of the countless issues affecting animals worldwide. Visit the Animal People Forum to find out more, and share your own perspectives on animal rights, welfare, and conservation.
Animal People is a non-profit charity, and this news program would not be possible without help from our donors. Visit our Patreon page to find out how you can support the production of future episodes, and gain access to a variety of exclusive rewards.
Thank you for your support, and for helping to create a kinder world for all living creatures!