LETTERS [June 2012]
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2012:
“Proposal for an Accord” & cost/benefit
The April 2012 edition of Animal People included an article entitled “Proposal for an Accord between Animal Advocates and the Biomedical Research Community.” A number of responses to the proposal were published in the May 2012 edition.
Based on my experience with the science and ethics of animal research, described in my 1998 book Human Models of Animal Psychology, I support much of and welcome the “Proposal for an Accord.”
However, there is one issue that I would like to examine and underscore because it has enormous implications, and the document is arguably inconsistent in addressing it. Most contemporary legislation and regulation of animal
research uses the language of cost/benefit. Although at one point the “Proposal for an Accord” accepts that limited frame, stating that “the use of animals is approved only when any harm done to the animals is greatly outweighed by the anticipated benefits of their use,” at another it states, “Compulsory guidelines would specify the types of experiments and levels of pain that would not be permissible regardless of potential benefit (emphasis added).”
These are radically different positions, for the latter preempts or trumps the cost/benefit or utilitarian frame by asserting that some procedures are inherently objectionable, independent of usefulness. Much as the U.S. Bill of Rights prevents the tyranny of majority rule, the prohibition of certain research procedures overrides any calculus of costs and benefits.
This is critical at several levels. Study has shown that cost/benefit analysis is notoriously impractical and of questionable reliability, and that politics tend to carry the day. As the “Proposal for an Accord” points out, the composition of Institutional Animal Care and Use Committees is biased toward those who take a “research first” position.
Even more importantly, the acceptance of a regulatory frame that defines certain procedures involving nonhuman animals as inherently objectionable, independent of their usefulness to us, greatly enhances the status of animals and opens the door to significantly more progressive policy in the several areas of their current exploitation.
Executive Director, Animals & Society Institute, Inc.
403 McCauley Street, Washington Grove, MD 20880
Irish National Lottery funds pro-hunting org
The Irish Council Against Blood Sports has asked the National Lottery to clarify its stance on bloodsports after learning that funds have been given to Horse Sport Ireland, the governing body for equestrian sport in Ireland. Regulating activities including show jumping, dressage, the Pony Club, and riding clubs, Horse Sport Ireland presents hunting as an “equestrian discipline” and includes a claim on its web site that “the hunting field is an ideal nursery for both horse and rider.”
We pointed out to the National Lottery that hunting is one of Ireland’s most appalling forms of cruelty to animals. In foxhunting, foxes and vixens are disturbed from their habitats, chased to exhaustion and are literally ripped apart by packs of hounds. Fox cubs are also targeted. In the weeks before the foxhunting season, dens are surrounded by foxhunters who goad their hounds into attacking and biting the cubs to death. In hare hunting, hares are chased to exhaustion and torn apart by dogs.
A majority of Irish people–including, undoubtedly, a majority of lotto players–are firmly opposed to hunting and want it outlawed. They would share our disgust that “good causes” lottery cash is benefiting a pro-hunting group.
We have previously complained to the National Lottery about “good causes” money totalling at least 48,000 Euro being handed over to gun clubs.
–Aideen Yourell, Irish Council Against Blood Sports
PO Box 88, Mullingar, County Westmeath, Ireland
No charges in Thai “found” orangutans case
I was informed a few weeks ago that 11 orangutans who were found illegally kept in a zoo on Phuket Island were not confiscated after a government raid on the zoo. Instead the 11 orangutans were “found along the highway” and taken in by the DNP as “a donation.”
The Wildlife Friends Foundation of Thailand complained about three years ago about the illegal possession of 11 orangutans at the crocodile and tiger zoo on Phuket. We had a complaint from a tourist who had seen four baby orangutans, but one of our staff also saw some sub-adults at the zoo. While interviewing one of the zoo workers we found out that there were 11 orangutans in total, and that the zoo owners imported them from Indonesia. It took us a few visits to the zoo on different days to find and photograph all of the animals.
We sent an official complaint to the Department of National Parks on December 16, 2008, but until the first week of January 2009 we did not see any action taken. We were finally informed in February 2009 that a raid found not one orangutan at the zoo. The officials from the DNP region 5 office told us there never were any orangutans at all. This despite the fact that we attached pictures of the orangutans to the complaint and included a DVD with video images of the location where the animals were kept.
It was clear that the zoo knew about the raid in advance and therefore had time to move out the orangutans. The Department of National Parks told us that since no orangutans were found, the case was closed. Our photos and video, however, proved them wrong. We asked for an official investigation. Two weeks later we were told that all 11 orangutans were found and confiscated in early March 2009. The orangutans were sent to the Kao Prathap-chang wildlife breeding center, and were to be returned to Indonesia, their country of origin, but Indonesia refused to take them back.
I have asked the authorities for a copy of the criminal charges laid against the owner of the zoo on Phuket. On several occasions I was told that the case was with the local police on Phuket. For more than three years now I was under the impression that the zoo would be prosecuted for illegal possession of protected wildlife and illegally smuggling CITES-protected species. I have been informed, however, that because the 11 orangutans were found
“along the highway between Phuket and Phangnga without any owner present,” and were taken in as “donated,” no charges were ever filed, even though the pictures of the orangutans at the zoo in our complaint exactly matched the ones “found” along the road. Case closed.
A 2004 case in Samutprakarn province involving eight orangutans and a 2003 case at a Bangkok safari park with 78 illegal orangutans among a total of over 115 also resulted in no prosecution. We are still awaiting the prosecution and even the confiscation of two orangutans found in February 2012 at a wildlife trader’s house in Sraburi.
–Edwin Wiek, Wildlife Friends Foundation Thailand
108, Moo 6, Tambon Thamairuak, Amphoe Thayang
76130 Petchaburi, Thailand
Conflict in Serbia over the use of neuter/return
The city authorities in Belgrade, Serbia, have been abusing street dogs and the people who take care of them for months now, and it gets worse every day. The media have not reported a thing about it. I send you three reports, Belgrade Street Dog Situation 2006-2012, Dogcatchers’ Safari in New Belgrade, and Street Dog Extermination in Belgrade, with the hope that you will inform the world public about these crimes against animal welfare and maybe find some way to help the dogs. Please contact me if you have a question of any kind.
The three reports that Natasa Polovina sent, Belgrade Street Dog Situation 2006-2012, Dogcatchers’ Safari in New Belgrade, and Street Dog Extermination in Belgrade, together describe a situation which differs only in detail from conflicts occurring almost everywhere that has both abundant street dogs or feral cats and people trying to help them. Some people feed the animals, and activists sterilize and vaccinate as many animals as they can, but the animals remain a nuisance to other people. While the activists try to limit the animal population through the combination of neuter/return and attrition, this approach–even when successful over time–does not resolve immediate grievances.
People who feed street dogs and/or feral cats meanwhile tend to inflame grievances by inadvertently conditioning the animals to become more visible and more inclined to approach passers-by in hopes of being fed. As the typical tenure of elected officials tends to be shorter than the time required for even the best-managed neuter/return project to eliminate street dogs and/or feral cats from a problematic habitat, government tends to favor approaches that
officials believe might bring faster results at less expense, such as killing the animals, incarcerating them in quasi-shelters to die of neglect, or insisting that every animal must have an “owner,” accountable for the animal’s behavior, and that anyone who helps an animal, including by sterilizing and vaccinating the animal, thereby becomes the animal’s “owner.”
The initial ANIMAL PEOPLE project, in 1992, was the largest and best documented feral cat sterilization campaign undertaken to that point in the U.S. ANIMAL PEOPLE continues to encourage the use of neuter/return wherever practicable, as a humane and ecologically sound response to the presence of street dogs and feral cats in
habitats where they are not persecuted and have adequate food and shelter.
However, as the April 2010 ANIMAL PEOPLE editorial “How to introduce neuter/return & make it work” discussed in depth, neuter/return really only succeeds where most people tolerate free-roaming animals; where there are no politically influential people who benefit from killing the animals– for example, by using animal control as a pretext for hiring their friends and supporters at public expense; and where animal advocates refrain from behavior
which makes neuter/return problematic. Such counterproductive behavior can include feeding animals in public areas; feeding excessive numbers of animals; feeding in a manner that encourages dogs to form loitering packs and/or bark excessively, especially at night; feeding at locations that contribute to animals defecating in playgrounds, food handling areas, and walkways; and returning sterilized animals to protected wildlife habitat.
Successful neuter/return projects may require spending as much time educating the public, politicians, media, pet keepers, and participants as are spent working with the animals–because the underlying issue is not animal behavior so much as human behavior in response to animals.
Feline Friends in Ontario
Even though I run my own organization, the Feline Friends Network of Stratford, I still want to support others who I feel do a wonderful job, and you do. I often refer to your articles and editorials, and always find them well-researched and objective.
Stratford, Ontario, Canada
“No overpopulation of wild horses” says biologist
As a biologist and advocate of the wild horses and burros in the American west, I have had the experience of observing and studying these creatures in the wild, both in Montana and Nevada. These intelligent and very family-oriented animals are not just a beautiful example of freedom and all that entails, but are an absolutely necessary component of ecological balance on the range.
I have witnessed the effort on the part of the Bureau of Land Management to remove thousands of wild horses and burros from legally designated herd management areas. This removal is based upon unscientific methods and false data, motivated by the cattle and sheep industry and old prejudice. In virtually every environmental assessment made public to explain the need for a roundup, the BLM will cite what it calls the Appropriate Management Level. This it does to impress upon the public what it considers overpopulation of these creatures, always stating that the removal of wild horses and burros is to maintain a “thriving ecological balance.”
In truth there is no overpopulation of wild horses and burros, nor has there ever been such a state. I can assert, as a biologist, that almost every wild horse and burro in the BLM holding facilities, approximately 50,000 now, could be released back into the wild from which they were taken without having any negative impact on the land. Their presence would help to bring balance back to the range.
–Robert C. Bauer
New Albany, Indiana
“Eye-opener” about WWF, HSUS
Your May 2012 issue was an eye-opener about two animal-welfare organizations I’ve contributed to for many years. One, the World Wildlife Fund, has been a recipient of my modest annual donation since 1988. But why? More or less as a habit, since it does nothing of particular value that other groups don’t do as well or better. The WWF newsletter is mostly public relations boilerplate. I did take one spectacularly informative trip that WWF sponsored, to Brazil’s national parks back in 1988, but nothing since has sounded worthwhile. (And all of the WWF tours are outlandishly overpriced.) Animal People’s report on the King Juan Carlos hunting debacle was not news to me, but some of your related coverage of WWF activities further tarnished its image. You have convinced me to let my longtime membership lapse. They won’t miss my $50 yearly check and I certainly won’t miss their efforts on behalf of the planet’s wildlife.
The other revealing story was your lengthy obituary for former Humane Society of the U.S. president John Hoyt. Again, I have been a donor to HSUS for more than a quarter-century. During the lengthy tenure of Hoyt and his overpaid sanctimonious successor Paul Irwin, I always felt some uncomfortable vibes emanating from their junk mail and annual reports. Your background history makes clear why.
Now, with the current management of HSUS, I agree with nearly all of their priorities and policy objectives and am comfortable offering them as much support as I can afford. So Animal People reinforced my positive view of one animal charity even as it dealt a knockout punch to my regard for another.
I think some of your readers with a strong interest in companion animals will find a subscription to one HSUS publication, the bimonthly Animal Sheltering magazine, well worth the modest investment.
–Susan M. Seidman
East Hampton, New York
Susan M. Seidman is author of Cat Companions: A memoir of loving and learning, reviewed in the September 2011 edition of ANIMAL PEOPLE.