Theresa May wants to revive fox hunting in Britain

May 10, 2017 • 2:15 pm

This video came from The Independent:

Fox hunting was banned in Britain a while ago, but now some Tories want to bring it back so they can indulge in upper-class ritualized murder.

In the video above, the odious May says this:

“As it happens, personally I have always been in favour of fox hunting, and we maintain our commitment, we have had a commitment previously as a Conservative Party, to allow a free vote.”

Well. some things, and fox hunting is one of them, should not be up for a vote.  And do the foxes get to vote? After all, they’re the ones who get chased down and torn apart by dogs. What kind of heartless boobs would do that for fun?

Maybe they should bring back bear-baiting, too.

Stop the gratuitous slaughter of Alaska’s wildlife

February 19, 2017 • 10:15 am

According to the Dodo, the Sierra Club, and other sites, the U.S. House of Representatives just voted to overturn a prior ban on hunting in the wildlife refuges of Alaska. The resolution allows hunters to enter dens and slaughter entire families of bears and wolves, as well as to lure animals with food and shoot them at point-blank range. They can also use the unspeakably cruel leg traps, and even shoot from helicopters!

There seems to be no genuine conservation reason for overturning this ban, which was previously applauded even by hunters, as well as the citizens of Alaska. As the Sierra Club notes, there’s no scientific evidence that killing these animals will effect any kind of needed change, for these mammals are already being managed by the state of Alaska. Rather, this seems to be a Republican-inspired sop to hunters who want to put a grizzly-bear rug on their floor, or simply to blast away at wolves. As The Dodo notes:

Now it’s unclear why the push to overturn the ban was introduced in the first place, as a 2016 poll of Alaska voters showed that most agreed that those practices should be banned. Alaska’s Representative Don Young (R-AK), who has trapped animals in the past, introduced the measure, known as H.J. Resolution 69, anyway.

Congress voted 225 to 193 in favor of it on Thursday, some citing states’ rights as the reason for their vote in favor, despite the resolution being about federal lands.

“Special interest groups are quietly working at the federal and state level to lay the groundwork for federally managed lands to be handed over wholesale to state or even private ownership,” Dan Ashe, then-FWS director, wrote last year in an op-ed. “Unfortunately, without the protections of federal law and the public engagement it ensures, this heritage is incredibly vulnerable.”

The Dodo asked Rep. Young for a comment as to why he would push to allow these practices when so many voters oppose them. His office did not immediately respond.

Young is a jerk; he can’t even be arsed to answer the question. Most likely he wouldn’t want to answer publicly.

Here’s the final House vote on HJ 69, which, as usual, is very strongly divided along party lines;




Here’s the Sierra Club’s statement on the new resolution:

The U.S. House of Representatives today passed a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution to overturn the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule. Voiding the rule undermines the management of public lands in Alaska, including not only national wildlife refuge lands, but also national park lands in Denali and other places. It cedes control of wildlife management on national public lands to a narrow set of extreme hunting interests. If passed out of Congress, it could have drastic implications for national public lands across the country.

In response, Alli Harvey, Alaska Representative for the Sierra Club’s Our Wild America campaign issued the following statement.

“The resolution passed today undermines the very premise of wildlife refuges as places for wildlife conservation. The extreme hunting measures promoted by this resolution– from targeting cubs with their mothers to baiting and gunning animals down from planes, are opposed by the majority of Americans and Alaskans. These measures threaten the future of bears, wolves and other predators that are so much a part of the Alaskan identity.

“Across the country wildlife refuges and other public lands support an amazing array of wildlife, recreation opportunities and outdoor economies. They provide refuge not just for wildlife, but people as well. There is value in the existence of wild places like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and the opportunities they provide to connect with the natural world. Our public lands must not be sold-out to narrow special interests, but preserved to inspire the hopes and dreams of future generations. We have a responsibility to ensure our parks and wildlife refuges remain protected by basic national environmental safeguards.”

Now this isn’t over yet, for the resolution has to be approved by the Senate, and SJ Resolution 18 is now being considered. There are two things you can do. First, sign the Sierra Club’s petition against the Senate bill, which you can find here.

Second, you can contact your Senator, as the bill hasn’t yet passed. The names and sites of your Senator can be found here, and, if you want, you can simply paste in the language from the Sierra Club petition, below. It’s dead easy to write Senators, as every one has a “contact” site where you can fill in your details as a constituent and leave a message. The site even allows you to enter your state in a pull-down menu and find your two senators directly.

Email header: I oppose the slaughter of wolves and grizzly babies in Alaskan wildlife refuges

Email contents:

Please oppose the CRA joint resolution, S.J. Res. 18, which would allow the cruel slaughter of wolf pups and grizzly cubs.

These proposed resolutions to strike the Alaska National Wildlife Refuges Rule would allow wolves and grizzlies to be chased down by air and sprayed with bullets under the false pretense of “predator control.” Repealing this rule would also allow the slaughter of hibernating grizzlies and their cubs and targeting of wolf dens where pups are sheltered from natural predators.

The state of Alaska claims that these so-called “predator control” activities will increase populations of game animals like elk, moose, and caribou but there’s just one problem – there is no scientific evidence to back up that claim. Additionally, polls show most Alaskans do not support the use of these barbaric methods in National Wildlife Refuges.

Please reject the CRA joint resolution — S.J. Res. 18 — to protect grizzlies and wolves from this horrifying practice.

I don’t often ask readers to take action, and I never ask for money. But if you’re an American who opposes this resolution, as do the voters of Alaska themselves, then please drop a note to your Senator and sign the Sierra Club petition. We progressives can fight back against the Republicans, but the animals of Alaska have no such voice in issues concerning their very survival.

h/t: Nicole Reggia

The unfair treatment of the animal rights movement

November 22, 2015 • 11:45 am

It seems to be a common opinion among atheists and scientists that the animal-rights movement is ridiculous, and I’ve seen it criticized and mocked on many secular websites. And indeed, the tactics of some animal-rights groups, like PETA, have been such as to offend or turn off many people. PETA, for instance, shows ads featuring semi-clad women, and even though the ads are promoting vegetarianism and the non-wearing of fur, I know women who find them sexist, for where are the naked men? More important, PETA and other groups have engaged in violent activities, threatening researchers and trashing labs, and freeing lab animals that could never find an alternative home. Finally, some animal-rights groups decry owning pets (excuse me, “companion animals”), on the grounds that this leads to overpopulation of unwanted pets as well as stressful confinement of animals like cats and dogs, who still have their evolutionary instincts to roam free.

But regardless of the invidious tactics of some animal-rights groups, the general point stands: if you think animals are capable of suffering, and they are, then don’t they at least have some of the “rights” that we reserve for humans? Isn’t the criticism of groups like PETA, or the kneejerk feeling that any experimentation on animals is justified so long as it has potential to save human lives, simply something that we espouse to avoid thinking about the important issue of animal suffering?

Yesterday I saw a photo in the New York Times of a turkey farm (Thanksgiving is upon us); in it a farmer was standing in a huge building in which turkeys, obviously stressed, were packed wing to wing. (See photo at boottom.) The birds had no room to roam, and it was disturbing. Experiments have shown that chickens, for instance, much prefer wandering on grass than standing in wire cages. And what we do to chickens—confining them in cages, clipping their beaks, and crowding them horribly—is unjustifiable if you think that these animals suffer. The evidence suggests that they do, and who with a scientific and empathic turn of mind could deny that suffering, or the proposition that animals feel pain?

And the suffering we inflict on chickens also applies to many of our other food animals. Driving through Texas and the Midwest last summer, I saw cows crowded together in feedlots, getting fattened up before the slaughter. The lots were simply bare expanses of mud filled with stinking cow dung that you could smell miles away. I have no doubt that those animals were stressed.

These thoughts were prompted by a good book I’m reading, Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life, by Steve Stewart-Williams (2010; Cambridge University Press). The book is the best discussion I’ve seen about the philosophical implications of the theory of evolution; and believe me, there are philosophical implications—dealing with issues like the existence of the soul, the nature of morality, and human exceptionalism. I recommend it highly: Stewart-Williams, an associate professor of psychology at Nottingham University, Malaysia Campus, writes very well and has thought deeply about these issues. Even if you think you understand the implications of evolution for your own worldview, you’ll still learn a lot.

At any rate, Chapter 13, “Uprooting the doctrine of human dignity,” contains this paragraph near the end:

Singer [Peter Singer, author of the excellent book Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for our Treatment of Animals] makes the extremely interesting and challenging point that the amount of suffering and pain caused by the tyranny of human beings over animals (particularly in food production) far exceeds that caused by sexism, racism, or any other existing forms of discrimination, and for that reason the animal liberation movement is the most important liberation movement in the world today.  Women and disadvantaged ethnic groups have never been farmed, killed for sport, or systematically experimented on in anything like the numbers that non-human animals have. Furthermore, unlike women and slaves, non-humans cannot talk or campaign for their own liberation, and, because they can’t vote, they’re not a high priority for most politicians. This further underscores the importance of the animal liberation movement.

I see a lot of sense in that. For, when you think about it, evolution teaches that for some traits we’re different quantitatively but not qualitatively from our animal relatives, and that they, like us, can suffer and feel pain. Perhaps humans, because we have greater rationality and the presence of culture, may suffer more than some animals, but can you really say that a gorilla or chimp who is captive in a zoo, or subject to experimentation to cure human diseases, isn’t suffering? (Recognizing this, the US National Institutes of Health just joined many other countries in ending “invasive research” on chimpanzees.)

Those are our primate relatives, but what about guinea pigs, mice, and laboratory cats and dogs? They are subject to horrible procedures that cause them to suffer, not even considering just their confinement. People automatically assume that this is okay if such experimentation will save human lives, but how many dog, cat, or mouse lives are worth one human life? Could it be justified, as Stewart-Williams asks, to experiment on humans, killing a few humans to save thousands of chimpanzee lives? If not, why not? Why is the saving of human life worth the expenditure of vastly more animal lives, and perhaps—adding it all up—the greater suffering of animals than of humans?

It’s even less justifiable to eat factory-farmed animals, I think, for we can live without eating them. Why—and I am complicit in this—do we simply ignore all that suffering so that we can have a nice roast chicken or a plate of fried eggs on our tables? In our hearts we know that animals suffer to give us that food. Is their suffering truly worth nothing?

We need to face the fact that if we really care about suffering, there is no justification to limit our concern to the suffering of Homo sapiens. That’s especially true because, as Stewart-Williams argues, we cause immensely greater suffering of animals, and they have no representation save groups like PETA. If evolution and science tell us anything, it is that animals suffer as we do—perhaps not as intensely in cases like the death of a relative—and that many species are apparently conscious, and surely many feel pain. By what right do we ignore all of that when doing so is just a convenience for our own species? Is any amount of animal experimentation and suffering justified by its potential to save human lives? If so, why?

Few people have come to grips with these issues. Singer is one, Stewart-Williams another. But we need to face those issues if we’re to be consistent in our concern for the suffering of the disadvantaged. As for me, I feel pretty bad about all this, and consider myself a hypocrite for eating eggs and meat. I don’t know if I’ll do something about that, but at least we can oppose the confinement of animals in zoos, and agitate for humane treatment of the animals we put into our stomachs.

Here’s the picture from the New York Times that disturbed me; it’s from an article called “After bird flu scare, plenty of turkeys for Thanksgiving.



Brutal mass slaughter of pilot whales by Faroe Islanders

August 4, 2015 • 10:00 am

Here’s another story about gratuitous animal slaughter.

Since at least the sixteenth century, Faroe Islanders (the islands are nominally independent but run largely by the Danish government) have participated in slaughtering whales, both long-finned pilot whales (Globicephala melas) and Atlantic white-sided dolphins (Lagenorhynchus acutus). The whales are herded and beached by boats, or dragged ashore from shallow waters by gaffing, and then killed. As Wikipedia describes:

Once ashore, the pilot whale is killed by cutting the dorsal area through to the spinal cord with a special whaling knife, a mønustingari (spinal cord cutter), and after cutting it, the whaler must make sure that the whale is dead, he can do this by touching the whales eye; before he cuts the neck open, so that as much blood as possible can run from the whale in order to get the best quality of meat. The neck is cut with agrindaknívur, but only after it has been killed. The mønustingari is a new invention which has been legal to use to kill pilot whales with since 2011, and since 1 May 2015 it is the only weapon allowed to slaughter a whale. The length of time it takes for a whale to die varies from a few seconds to a few minutes, with the average time being 30 seconds. Other observers complained that it took up to fifteen minutes for certain whales to die, they noted several cuts were sometimes made before a successful death and that some whales were not even killed properly until a vet finishes the job.

The whale meat has traditionally been used as a source of protein in this barren land, but that’s no longer necessary. Further, some nutritionists recommend that because of its high levels of mercury, the meat be avoided altogether or limited to one meal per month.  But this “cultural tradition,” an extraordinary brutal one, is outmoded. Take a look at the video below to see what it involves, and imagine the fear and pain suffered by these intelligent animals.

According to both the Independent and Sea Shepherd (the latter an anti-whaling organization) the slaughter this year, on July 23, destroyed about 250 pilot whales, with the killers guarded by the Danish Navy. Five members of the Sea Shepherd organization ran onto the beach to try to stop the slaughter; all were arrested and, according to a new Danish law, face up to two years in jail. Is that a fair sentence? Not at all; what’s unfair and unnecessary is the slaughter itself.

I’ve long admired the Danish people and their enlightened society, but I can’t countenance this slaughter, nor the apparent glee with which it’s conducted. I’m sorry, but some cultural traditions become outmoded, and I can’t help but feel that many of the people in the video below (taken by Sea Shepherd members) are actually feeling great glee when they herd, gaffe, and dispatch these wonderful beasts.

The result:

Whale hunters in a sea of red. Photo: Sea Shepherd/Eliza Muirhead