Wednesday, March 31, 2010

2010 Seal Hunt Opens

© Chad Sisneros/HSI

"Canada's commercial seal hunt officially opened at dawn yesterday, but wonderfully, the slaughter did not begin.

Record-Low Ice Devastating

Of course, the sealers were eager, as always, to kill the pups. But this year, climate change beat them to it. In the southern Gulf of St. Lawrence, there are virtually no live seal pups for the hunters to kill. Record -low sea ice cover likely forced many mothers to abort in the water, while some pups perished as the tiny floes of ice that did form melted too soon. Unbearably, there are also a few pups who have been separated from their mothers on the shores of PEI and Newfoundland who are condemned to a slow and painful death by starvation.

The impact of the diminished ice on the seals this year will be devastating, with mass pup mortality expected. It is appalling that the Canadian government, in its blind support of commercial sealing, actually chose to raise the harp seal quota by 50,000 this year, setting one of the highest total allowable catches in half a century, despite this ecological disaster.

Demand for Fur Lacking

But the move is relatively pointless, because there is another reason the sealers are staying home. As was the case last year, prices for seal fur in 2010 are expected to be set at a record-low level. Around the world, nations have acted to ban seal product trade, and their actions are directly saving seals.

Sadly, even the low prices, and the tragedy of the ice disaster, will not be enough to stop some sealers. In the northern Gulf, there are a scattered few pups on some remaining ice, and in the Front (northeast of Newfoundland), other pups have been spotted. In the first week of April, the Newfoundland section of the seal hunt will begin, and some of the boats will likely go out to slaughter the seal survivors. One of the top two seal skin processors in Canada has chosen not to buy any seal fur this year. But strangely, the other, a fisheries company, seems to have found a reason—and the money—to commission 35,000 or more seal skins from sealers despite the lack of markets. One can only wonder where the funds to purchase these skins are really coming from.

Bearing Witness, Making Progress

Regardless, as the sealers go out to slaughter the pups, Humane Society International and the Humane Society of the United States will be there to expose the cruelty to the world. The fishing industry is relentless in its quest to wipe out seals. We will be equally relentless in our efforts to stop them.

And we are making progress. Our boycott of Canadian seafood is now supported by more than 5,500 establishments and 650,000 individuals. Countries the world over are working right now to prohibit trade in seal products, following the EU example set last year.

An end is truly in sight. Please stand with us as we go to Canada's ice floes to be the eyes of the world at the commercial seal slaughter."

Original Post

Tuesday, March 30, 2010


I just finished 30 days of being a vegan.

Surprisingly, the transition has been easier and more delicious than I thought.
I decided to go cold turkey and give up all animal products and sugar all at once. The sugar went out the window pretty quickly, but the rest of my new cruelty-free diet has stuck.

While giving up dairy seems a little extreme to some, I wanted to make a point that I not only disapprove of animal farming, but also of the treatment of animals in dairy farms. The health benefits of a vegan diet are an added plus.

While vegetarian and vegan related diets are gaining popularity, the food options are more bountiful than ever. Everything I thought I might miss has a vegan friendly option- some are so good, you can't taste the difference. One day, I made my husband a spicy chicken cheese burger that he didn't realize was fake.

I've always had a mental block about dairy food, and with the soy milk, cheese, ice cream, and butter, I no longer feel a little bit sick with each bite. Plus, soy dairy is deeeelicious! Soy ice cream = heaven. Soy butter- can’t taste the difference. Now I admit, I while starting off, I haven't been 100% strict. I've done my best to only buy processed foods without dairy ingredients (as far as I know). But, being a girl with chocolate cravings, I sometimes grab a desert snack at work that I know isn't 100% vegan.

It's impossible to tell someone about your new diet without them ending the discussion with "I could never give up meat." Well, obviously you can't give up meat unless you make a conscious decision to. I haven’t missed meat or dairy once since cutting the cord, and I was a hard core meat eater before. Plus, I no longer need coffee- I didn't intend to give it up, but I haven't had a "needed" cup since the conversion. I wake up feeling fresh faced and ready to go.

Some interesting tid-bits that I've learned in the process:
- Cheese-less pineapple pizza is a.m.a.z.i.n.g.
- If all Americans stuck to a vegetarian diet, we would have enough resources to end world hunger.
- A 2006 United Nations report found that the meat industry produces more greenhouse gases than all the SUVs, cars, trucks, planes, and ships in the world combined.
- Eating 1 lb of meat emits the same amount of greenhouse gasses as driving an SUV 40 miles.
- There are 29 Olympic athletes who are vegan or vegetarian.
- The consumption of meat, eggs, and dairy products has also been strongly linked to osteoporosis, Alzheimer's, asthma, and male impotence.

The list goes on and on, and you can find out more information at

The bottom line, I watched a close friend of mine do the vegan thing for two years, thinking she was crazy. But now that I’ve jumped on the bandwagon, I fell crazy for not trying it sooner!

1 H. Steinfeld et al., Livestock's Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Livestock, Environment and Development (2006).

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A Sushi Sting Worthy of an Oscar

"Sounding like something straight out of Hollywood, the covert operation that busted a SoCal sushi restaurant accused of selling endangered whale meat involved a popular eatery, a film director, undercover vegans, text messages and a Mercedes. [Tip to the LA Times]

At the center of the intriguing whale tale is The Hump, a sushi hot spot in Santa Monica owned by Typhoon Restaurant Inc. According to the New York Times, Charles Hambleton, producer of the anti-dolphin hunting documentary, "The Cove," heard that The Hump was serving cetacean. So Hambleton outfitted two vegans with tiny video cameras. In October, the pair went to the restaurant, ordered the suspect dish and, much to their disgust, ate it. They slipped the meat in a Ziploc bag and paid the bill, leaving with footage of their dining experience and feeling nauseated.

One vegan, Crystal Galbraith, 27, told AP, "We were there eating for four hours. I felt so full and sick."

The meat was tested and it turned out to be Sei, an endangered whale. The feds were eventually notified and a week before the Academy Awards, "The Cove" director Louie Psihoyos helped launch the next phase of the sting.

On Feb. 28th, Psihoyos sat in parked a car relaying text messages between two groups of sushi spies -- called confidential informants or "CWs" in the affidavit -- who sat at a table (CW2 and CW4) and at the sushi bar (CW5, CW6, CW7), reports the New York Times. The affidavit describes CW5 watching the chef prepare the whale meat that CW2 and CW4 had just ordered.

"CW5 ... saw the sushi chef pull out a large piece of fish (the size of a human hand - as described by CW5). CW5 asked the sushi chef what he was slicing, and the chef said it was whale. CW5 asked the chef what type of whale, and the chef responded that he did not know ..." (Pg. 8)

CW2 and CW4 were then served "eight pieces of whale meat; and CW2 took two pieces of the whale meat and placed them inside a napkin and put them in a purse." (Pg. 7)

On March 4, two informants returned to The Hump, this time with federal authorities, including a special agent from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS SA) who allegedly saw the chef retrieve a piece of meat from a Mercedes parked at the restaurant. (Pg. 10)

On March 5, officials with a search warrant found "marine mammal parts" and various documents.

And on March 7, Psihoyos and others behind "The Cove" were on stage accepting an Academy Award for Best Documentary.

The Typhoon and sushi chef Kiyoshiro Yamamoto, of Culver City, were charged Wednesday with illegally selling an endangered species product. Typhoon now faces a fine of up to $200,000. Yamamoto faces a year in prison and a fine of up to $100,000."

Original Story

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Wildlife officials haze, kill sea lions feasting on endangered salmon in Pacific Northwest

"Portland, Ore. (AP) — Wildlife officials have tried everything to keep sea lions from eating endangered salmon, dropping bombs that explode under water and firing rubber bullets and bean bags from shotguns and boats. Now they are resorting to issuing death sentences to the most chronic offenders.

A California sea lion last week became the first salmon predator to be euthanized this year under a program that has been denounced by those who say there are far greater dangers to salmon — including the series of hydroelectric dams on the Columbia.

This is the second year of the program, which is administered by wildlife officials in Oregon and Washington and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Last year, 11 sea lions were euthanized. Another four were transferred to zoos or aquariums.

The sea lions represent a massive headache each year as chinook salmon begin arriving at the Bonneville Dam east of Portland, congregating in large numbers as they return from the ocean. Sea lions have become keenly aware that the dam is a great spot to feast on salmon, easy pickings as they wait to go up the dam's fish ladders.

"They learn. They come up here and know it's a good place to eat, and sooner or later the salmon are going to arrive," said Robert Stansell, a fisheries biologist with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Officials are tracking 63 additional sea lions listed as repeat offenders. They are identified by scars or by numbers that were branded on them by researchers.

"To get on that list, we have to have observed them as distinct individuals," said Jessica Sall, spokeswoman for the Oregon office of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. "They are not responding to hazing, and they're eating chinook salmon."

Sea lions have gobbled salmon forever. But their numbers have soared in recent years, as has the number of those cruising upriver to dine on salmon at Bonneville Dam. Frustrations peaked, especially among fishermen who have watched sea lions snatch salmon right out of their gill nets.

The Bonneville crowd of hefty mammals — they can reach more than 600 pounds and eight feet in length — have become the enemy of commercial and sport fisherman, who are allowed to catch and keep hatchery-raised fish, and a concern for conservationists trying to restore migratory runs, since sea lions don't distinguish between hatchery and wild fish.

At least three of the upper Columbia River spring salmon runs that pass through the dam are listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, most significantly the spring chinook salmon run.

The sea lions' growing numbers forced state, federal and tribal agencies to intensify efforts to protect the region's multibillion-dollar salmon recovery program.

The sea lions are protected by a 1972 federal law, but an amendment leaves open the possibility that some can be captured or killed if the states request it. Oregon and Washington did in 2006 with the support of Indian tribes and sport and commercial fishing groups.

Two years ago, the National Marine Fisheries Service authorized Oregon and Washington officials to first attempt to catch the sea lions that arrive at the base of Bonneville Dam and hold them 48 hours to see whether an aquarium, zoo or similar facility will take them.

Otherwise, they could be euthanized, along with those that avoid trapping. Only California sea lions can be destroyed. Stellar sea lions cannot be killed because they are protected under the Endangered Species Act.

Supporters say the program works. The numbers of sea lions at the dam have dropped, although the 4,489 salmon they ate last year was the highest since tracking began in 2002.

Critics, led by the Humane Society of the United States, say that a far greater danger to salmon are hydroelectric dams on the Columbia, which are an obstacle to salmon both as they head out to sea and when they return from the ocean to spawn.

The Humane Society also says fishermen catch three times as many salmon as sea lions eat.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission this year has begun tracking the sea lions' movements with acoustic transmitters and cameras placed along the river. Instead of just reacting to the sea lions, the data might help authorities plan a more successful campaign, a fisheries scientist says.

"All of the counts that you hear, all of the impact on salmon, is based on what they can see from the dam," said Doug Hatch, of the inter-tribal commission. "That doesn't account for the whole 150 river miles below the dam."

The frustration comes as experts predict the largest spring chinook run since 1938. Thanks to good ocean conditions for young salmon, an expected 470,000 fish will head up the Columbia River, compared to 169,300 in 2009.

The primary weapon against the sea lions still remains hazing, but even that has limitations.

"The problem is, as soon as the boats go around the corner, they're right back," Stansell said. "Some of the animals that have been there a long time don't even move when they get hit in the back with a rubber bullet. They just keep eating their fish.""

Original Story

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Stoned to Death? Really?

"The American Family Association, a religious right group, is urging that Tillikum (Tilly), the killer whale that killed a trainer at SeaWorld Orlando, be put down, preferably by stoning. Citing Tilly's history of violent altercations, the group is slamming SeaWorld for not listening to Scripture in how to deal with the animal:

'Says the ancient civil code of Israel, "When an ox gores a man or woman to death, the ox shall be stoned, and its flesh shall not be eaten, but the owner shall not be liable." (Exodus 21:28)'

However, the group is going further and laying the blame for the trainer's death directly at the feet of Chuck Thompson, the curator in charge of animal behavior, because, according to Scripture,

'But, the Scripture soberly warns, if one of your animals kills a second time because you didn't kill it after it claimed its first human victim, this time you die right along with your animal. To use the example from Exodus, if your ox kills a second time, "the ox shall be stoned, and its owner also shall be put to death." (Exodus 21:29)'

SeaWorld has no plans to execute Tilly."

Original Post

Some interesting reading