In this episode of Animal People World News, find out…
- Why the U.K. Parliament is considering a ban on fur sales
- How Greece’s proposed dog and cat law would hurt animal rescuers
- Why Yellowstone National Park is slaughtering endangered bison
- Why Australia continues to promote kangaroo meat despite backlash
- What a recent court case means for wildlife trafficking in Indonesia
- How South Korea’s constitution may soon include animal protection
U.K. PARLIAMENT TO CONSIDER FUR BAN
The United Kingdom will soon consider banning the sale of fur. Fur farming has been illegal in England, Wales, and Scotland since 2002, but fur products imported from abroad can still be legally sold within the U.K. A formal petition to ban all fur sales has garnered more than one hundred thousand signatures, enough to require a Parliamentary debate on the issue. A number of prominent celebrities have endorsed the petition, including primatologist Jane Goodall and actors Simon Pegg and Joanna Lumley.
Parliament has yet to set a date for formal debate of the issue. In the mean time, the government has issued a statement affirming that current laws regulating the fur industry will remain in place after the U.K. leaves the European Union. The Conservative Party currently in power has in recent months overseen a number of pro-animal reforms, following backlash by voters over its historic support for foxhunting. Such measures include requiring cameras in slaughterhouses starting this May, and banning the use of shock collars and noxious sprays to train dogs.
On March twentieth, San Francisco enacted a ban on fur sales effective January 2019, becoming the largest city in the United States to do so. Norway, once the world’s largest producer of fox fur, announced plans in February to abolish fur farming. Globally, some seventy million animals are raised and killed on fur farms annually, including minks, foxes, raccoons, raccoon dogs, rabbits, and chinchillas. Another ten million animals are trapped from the wild every year.
GREECE WITHDRAWS CONTROVERSIAL DOG & CAT BILL
The Greek government has withdrawn a controversial bill to regulate the treatment of dogs and cats, less than one week after it was first announced. The bill was widely perceived as an attack on people who rescue animals, and provoked massive outcry from animal activists and pet lovers across Greece.
There are several million homeless dogs and cats throughout the country, a problem aggravated by Greece’s financial troubles, which have led many people to abandon their pets on the street. Dog bites are common, as is the use of poison to exterminate strays, highlighting the urgent need for humane population control. The proposed law would have mandated spay and neuter of pets, fining pet keepers who don’t sterilize their animals, and taxing breeders. However, it would also have defined people who feed or care for stray animals as their “owners,” putting private rescuers at risk of prosecution if they try to help dogs or cats without also sterilizing, registering, and bringing them in for annual health checks.
In addition, veterinarians would be forbidden from treating unregistered or unsterilized animals, facing fines of up three thousand euros for doing so. Posting adoption notices to find homes for dogs and cats would also be penalized. Anyone seeking to adopt a pet would have to go through their local animal control agency, making the adoption of Greek dogs and cats by foreigners much more difficult.
A petition protesting the bill gathered more than twenty-six thousand signatures from outraged Greek citizens. On March twenty-seventh, the Ministry of Agricultural Development withdrew the bill from public consultation, just four days after it was first proposed. The legislation will be reviewed, rewritten, and eventually re-introduced for consideration.
YELLOWSTONE PARK SERVICE SLAUGHTERS ENDANGERED BISON
In Yellowstone National Park, the slaughter of more than one thousand American bison, popularly known as buffalo, is currently underway. Some seven hundred and fifty buffalo have been rounded up this winter for transport to slaughterhouses, while another two hundred and fifty have been shot by hunters after wandering outside the park’s borders. The government claims that annual culling of buffalo is necessary to protect domestic cows from the disease brucellosis. However, brucellosis originated in European cattle and has never been proven to transmit back from buffalo. According to the Buffalo Field Campaign, the true motive is to benefit cattle ranchers, by preventing bison from competing for grazing lands.
On March sixteenth, two activists were arrested for protesting the buffalo killings. The men, who go by the names Coyote and Wolf, used barrels of concrete to block a road used by trucks to transport buffalo out of the park. They have been charged with trespassing and obstruction, and fined nearly two thousand dollars each. In public statements following their arrest by Park Service law enforcement, Coyote and Wolf state that they were physically brutalized and taunted, with one officer reportedly bragging,
“All these buffalo are going to die today and there is nothing you can do about it.”
Buffalo once roamed all across North America, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, in herds of tens of millions of animals. During the nineteenth century, the species was hunted almost to extinction. Buffalo were killed both for their meat and hides, and as a government tactic to starve Native American tribes into submission. Today, the vast majority of surviving buffalo are raised for meat on commercial farms, with only around five thousand still living wild in Yellowstone National Park.
AUSTRALIA STRUGGLES TO PROMOTE KANGAROO MEAT
The U.K. grocery store chain Lidl has announced that it will no longer sell kangaroo meat imported from Australia. Lidl was until now the only retailer still carrying the product, other major chains like Morrison’s and Tesco having already dropped kangaroo meat under pressure from the animal rights group Viva! However, the government of Australia continues to promote kangaroo meat, despite losing one of its largest international markets.
The Australian government sanctions the slaughter and consumption of kangaroos on the grounds that they are overpopulated. Legal guidelines for kangaroo hunting require that the animals be shot in the head, and quickly put out of their misery if not killed on the first try. However, orphaned babies, or joeys, may be bludgeoned to death or decapitated, and in practice are often left to die on their own. Not counting joeys, six point eight million kangaroos are permitted for slaughter in 2018 under government quotas.
Enthusiasts of kangaroo meat argue that it is more ecologically sustainable than farming domestic animals. However, this argument is undercut by the fact that sheep farmers are themselves among the biggest proponents of kangaroo hunting, since kangaroos compete with sheep for grazing and water. There are around seventy million domestic sheep across Australia, compared to forty-five million kangaroos.
Prior to human arrival in Australia, kangaroo populations were controlled by a variety of native predators. These included the lion-like marsupial Thylacoleo and giant lizard Megalania, which were wiped out in prehistoric times, and the Thylacine or Tasmanian wolf, of whom the last known wild individual was shot in 1930. Dingoes, descendants of feral dogs, occupy the same ecological niche as extinct native carnivores and keep kangaroo numbers in check naturally. However, dingoes are themselves classified as pests, and routinely shot or poisoned to keep them from preying on livestock.
INDONESIA GETS TOUGH ON LORIS TRAFFICKING
A court in Indonesia has sentenced wildlife traffickers to three and a half years each in prison, the toughest punishment ever given for wildlife crime in the country. The two individuals were arrested during a raid last September, conducted by local police and a team from the group International Animal Rescue. Nine slow lorises were rescued during the operation. Although one loris died following rescue, the other eight are alive and currently undergoing rehabilitation.
Wildlife trafficking is a thriving industry within Indonesia, with an estimated annual value of nearly one thousand million U.S. dollars. Protected species like lorises, pangolins, turtles, and rare birds can be bought easily even in major cities, sold alive or dead in open markets alongside common animals like cats, rabbits, monkeys, and civets. Until now, the harshest penalty ever given for the capture or sale of endangered animals was only two years in prison. Says International Animal Rescue of the groundbreaking recent case,
“These convictions serve as a bold statement that horrific animal cruelty such as this will no longer go unpunished.”
Lorises are popular as pets due to their cuteness, but fare poorly in captivity, due to their nocturnal lifestyle and specialized diets as well as the stress of being captured from the wild. They are the only venomous primate, and despite their name slow lorises often travel several kilometers per night hunting for prey. The loris is also known locally as the “little fire face,” due to the way their eyes reflect light at night.
SOUTH KOREA CONSIDERS ANIMAL PROTECTION IN CONSTITUTION
Finally, South Korea is set to consider a constitutional amendment to protect animals. On March twenty-sixth, President Moon Jae-in and Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon submitted a bill to revise South Korea’s current constitution. Among the proposed changes is a provision to change the legal status of animals, raising them from mere possessions of humans, to a new classification in-between people and property. The amendment would reportedly also establish new national policies on animal welfare, although details have yet to be announced publicly.
The possible inclusion of animals in South Korea’s constitution is heartening. However, it is far from certain whether the amendment will pass, as many of the constitution bill’s other proposed measures have proven controversial, such as decentralizing the economy and lowering the voting age. The National Assembly is currently reviewing the bill, which if approved will go to a national referendum in June.
While the bill’s future is still unknown, its very consideration is the latest in a string of victories for animals in South Korea. Earlier in March, Korea banned the import of endangered animals or their products from abroad. The law specifically forbids import of whales or dolphins slaughtered in Japan’s infamous Taiji hunt. In 2016, the city of Seongnam ended the slaughter of dogs at Moran Market, previously the nation’s largest outlet for dog meat.