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Activists to Stage Nationwide Protests Against Company Holding Lolita Captive

May 5, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

On May 9th and May 23rd, animal rights activists will stage protests in nine states at theme parks owned by Palace Entertainment, the company that operates the Miami Seaquarium, where the orca Lolita has been held captive for 45 years in the nation’s smallest killer whale tank. Palace, which owns 32 amusement and waterparks nationwide, purchased the Miami Seaquarium in 2014.

Seaquarium-Lolita

Lolita has lived in the nation’s smallest killer whale pool since 1970

Lolita was kidnapped from her pod off the coast of Washington state in 1970. For the first 10 years, she had a killer whale companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. Since 1980, she has been alone, unable to interact with members of her own species or engage in any natural behaviors, such as hunting, diving and swimming in the open water. Her tank is just 20 feet deep.

"Please take me home. I don't belong in a pool."

Lolita is 20′ long. Her tank is 20′ deep.

Lolita’s captivity is not just cruel; it is illegal. In fact, Palace Entertainment is violating the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in three ways. Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from Florida’s searing sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.

In February, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) designated Lolita as endangered because she was taken from the protected Southern Resident Killer Whale population. This historic decision has provided legal ammunition to the groups that are suing the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations.

photo: Matthew Hoelscher

Animal exploitation (photo: Matthew Hoelscher)

Palace Entertainment has been steadfast in its opposition to releasing Lolita to a seaside pen. In an effort to keep their biggest money maker, Seaquarium spokesperson Robert Rose tells the press that Lolita will die if she is released into the ocean. Advocates, on the other hand, assert that a coastal sanctuary would finally give her the opportunity to live — providing her with space to swim, communicate with her pod; receive rehabilitation; and be released if she is deemed capable of surviving in the wild.

The May 9th protests, organized by the group Shut Down Palace, will take place at Palace’s theme parks in Florida, Georgia, New York, Connecticut, Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh & Lancaster) and California.  On May 23rd, a second wave of protests will take place at Palace parks in New Hampshire, North Carolina and Wisconsin.

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

For Lolita, the Miami Seaquarium is a prison, not a palace (photo: Shut Down Palace)

The #ShutDownPalace protests are not the first major effort to liberate Lolita. In January, over 1,500 activists from around the world descended upon Miami to participate in the “Miracle March for Lolita.” In a rousing speech after the march, Jane Velez-Mitchell of JaneUnchained told the crowd to “get the police tape” because the Miami Sequarium is a “crime scene.”

Miracle March for Lolita at Miami Seaquarium

Miracle March for Lolita on January 17, 2015 (photo: Christina Estrada)


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Should We Buy Products with “Sustainable” Palm Oil?

April 2, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

Articles posted on social media routinely direct us to boycott palm oil because its production displaces indigenous communities, kills wildlife, and destroys rainforests, which contributes to climate change. In fact, the cultivation of palm fruit trees is so destructive to the environment and to animals that, to many, palm oil, which is derived from a fruit, is no longer regarded as vegan.

Palm oil plantation on newly cleared rainforest

Palm oil plantation on newly cleared rainforest

Some products contain palm oil that is labeled “sustainable,” but what does that mean? In an effort to determine whether or not we should be consuming “sustainable” palm oil, TheirTurn spoke to several rainforest and wildlife NGOs; companies that use sustainable palm; and a leader in the production of de-forestation-free palm.

orangutans - victims of palm oil cultivation

Orangutans, who are displaced, orphaned, kidnapped and killed, have become a symbol of the destructive effects palm oil (photo: Biosprit-subventionen)

What is sustainable palm oil?

In the U.S., palm oil is found in 50% of packaged consumer goods sold in grocery stores. It is widely used because it minimizes separation and is free of trans-fats. NGOs estimate that 18% of palm currently sold comes from sustainable sources.

At the moment, only one organization, the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO), has a global certification program, but the criteria are so weak and enforcement so lax that “sustainable” no longer has meaning.

According to a spokesperson at the Rainforest Action Network (RAN), “‘sustainable’ is just a claim; it’s not credible.” For instance, the RSPO will certify palm grown on certain deforested lands. That’s not good enough, according to the RAN, which opposes the clearing of any forest worth conserving. RAN says that the newly-created Palm Oil Innovation Group (POIG) is working to strengthen the RSPO criteria and to pressure the biggest manufacturers to adopt a stronger set of requirements from its growers. The process, however, is slow going.

The Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil certification criteria are weak and often unenforced

The Roundtable Sustainable Palm Oil certification criteria are weak and often unenforced

Should we boycott palm oil?

Palm oil is here to stay for the indefinite future. The vast majority is consumed in countries in Asia and the Middle East where rainforest conservation is a low priority and consumer demand for sustainable products is negligible. If the American, European and Australian NGOs fighting to save the rainforests call for a boycott, then the companies that use palm will have no incentive to purchase it from sustainable sources. After all, why would companies spend more money on sustainable palm if the people who care about sustainability aren’t buying it? That is why many NGOs argue that demanding and buying responsible palm oil will, over time, protect the remaining forests more than boycotting it will.

The Rainforest Action Network targets the top 20 companies that use unsustainable, or "conflict," palm oil.

The Rainforest Action Network targets the top 20 companies that use unsustainable, or “conflict,” palm oil.

Following are factors to consider when deciding whether or not to buy packaged foods with palm oil at this point in time

  • If “sustainable” is not printed on the label, then you have to assume the palm fruit trees were grown on cleared rainforest.
  • If “sustainable” is printed on the label, then the palm oil may or may not have been grown on cleared rainforest.
  • Tracing palm oil to the actual land on which it was grown is challenging at the moment. As a result, most consumer products companies don’t know the exact source of their palm oil and should therefore not be making sustainability claims.
  • In the U.S., any company can print “sustainable” on its label because the government does not have a regulatory agency to monitor that claim.
Palm oil is extracted from palm fruit that grows on trees in the tropics

Palm oil is extracted from palm fruit that grows on trees in the tropics

Can we eat Earth Balance and Justin’s?

TheirTurn contacted the makers of Earth Balance and Justin’s because they make products with palm oil that are popular with vegans. Both companies buy RSPO-certified palm and appear genuinely eager to ensure that it’s deforestation-free, but, short of hiring investigators to follow their palm vendors, they simply cannot guarantee it at the moment.

However, according to the the Rainforest Action Network, Boulder Brands, the maker of Earth Balance, has “made the strongest palm oil commitment” of any U.S. company, demanding that its suppliers move in the direction of providing the company with palm produced in accordance with the POIG’s strict requirements. Now, Earth Balance needs to work with its supplier to implement this higher standard on the ground in Indonesia and Latin America.

Are plant-based foods vegan if they contain palm oil?

Are plant-based foods vegan if they contain palm oil?

What is Palm Oil?

Palm oil is extracted from the fruit of palm trees that can only be grown in the tropics (show map), the heavily-forested areas near the equator that are often described as “the lungs of the earth.”

Palm fruit trees can be grown in the tropics, 10 degrees on either side of the equator. About 90% is currently grown in Indonesia (far right)

Palm fruit trees can be grown in the tropics, 10 degrees on either side of the equator. About 90% is currently grown in Indonesia (far right)

Once planted, palm fruit trees bear fruit after four years. After 20 years, the trees are chopped down and replanted because plantation workers can no longer reach the fruit bundles. After four cycles, the yield is reduced. Does that mean that palm growers will move  their plantations to new land that is covered in forest? It’s too soon to say.

When plantation workers can no longer reach palm fruit bundles, the trees are cut down, and new trees are planted.

When plantation workers can no longer reach palm fruit bundles, the trees are cut down, and new trees are planted.

If every company that uses palm oil decided to purchase it from responsible sources, would there be enough non-forested land to supply the global demand?

According to the Orangutan Land Trust, an advocacy group that works to preserve orangutan habitat, the island of Borneo alone has 35 million acres of unforested land that is suitable for oil palm cultivation, and that far exceeds projected growth for the next few decades: “It is a complete fallacy that new oil-palm plantations need to come at the expense of forests.”

Your Turn

To find out how you can help protect the planet’s remaining rainforests from being cleared for palm fruit tree plantations, please visit the Rainforest Action Network’s Palm Oil Action Team.


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Fire Department To Host “Squirrel Slam” Killing Contest

February 20, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

A fire department whose motto is to “save lives” is hosting a shocking event to end them.

On February 28th, the Holley fire department in upstate New York is hosting its ninth annual “Squirrel Slam,” a squirrel hunting contest that raises funds for the fire station. Hunters who kill the heaviest squirrels win cash and other prizes.

Hunter carries dead squirrels to the weigh in

Hunter carries dead squirrels to the weigh in

Hunters hang dead squirrels on hood of truck and out the window

Hunters hang dead squirrels on hood of truck and out the window

The “Squirrel Slam” is nine years old, but animal right activists only learned about it two years ago. In 2013, Friends of Animals (FOA) offered to host an alternative fundraiser that would raise more money that the squirrel hunt, but the fire department turned them down. In 2014, FOA staged a demonstration that attracted 60 people. Video shows hunters and their supporters taunting, harassing and, in a couple of cases, threatening the protesters.

Activists have also been working to cancel the hunt online and in court. For the Love of Alex, a charity that provides veterinary care to pets in urgent need, sent a letter to the Mayor of Holley offering to pay the fire department to call off the hunt:

“We, as citizens, look to our government, police and fire officials to set examples of conduct and decency, of fairness and compromise. For a fire department to sponsor and organize the mass slaughter of innocent living beings in the name of fun is really the wrong message to send your constituents and our children, who you have invited to participate. We implore you to consider permitting our 501c3 org to donate to the Holley Fire Dept. the amount equivalent to last year’s net proceeds from the event, which we understand to be the sum of $4,000, in exchange for cancellation of the event.”

Squirrel_slam_2014_protest

About 60 people protested Holley’s 2014 “Squirrel Slam.” The 2015 slam is being held on 2/28

On the legal side, an area resident filed a lawsuit to block the hunt on the grounds that it violates the State Environmental Quality Review Act, which prohibits the destruction of large quantities of vegetation or animals in a confined geographic area. On February 19th, a county judge heard arguments and dismissed the case.

Counter-protesters support the hunters during 2014 Squirrel Slam

Counter-protesters support the hunters during 2014 Squirrel Slam

When activists brought the squirrel hunt to the attention of state lawmakers, several introduced legislation to outlaw all killing contests in New York. At a press conference announcing the bill, Senator Tony Avella said, “Running a contest in which participants must kill as many small and defenseless animals as possible to win prizes, including guns, is a disgrace. What kind of message are we sending to our youth, especially in light of the increasing gun violence in this country.”

FOA's Edita Birnkrant & State Senator Tony Avella announce bill to ban wildlife killing contents

FOA’s Edita Birnkrant & State Senator Tony Avella announce bill to ban wildlife killing contests

Your Turn

1. Sign the petition to the Mayor of Holley and to the Holley Fire Department asking that they cancel the 2015 “Squirrel Slam”

2. Sign the petition to State Lawmakers to support the legislation to end wildlife killing contests in New York.

3. If you live in New York, please ask your state legislator to support the legislation prohibiting wildlife killing contests.

4. Call the Mayor of Holley, NY and explain why the “Squirrel Slam” should be cancelled. Dial 585-638-6367 and press 5 to reach a live person or leave a message.


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In Battle to Save America’s Wild Horses, Activists Engage in Disruption

January 26, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

The U.S. government is waging a war on America’s wild horses, and Friends of Animals (FOA) is getting increasingly aggressive in its efforts to stop it.

FOA asserts that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – the federal agency charged with protecting wild horses – is wiping them out on behalf of powerful ranchers who want the public land to graze their cattle. The government either sterilizes the horses with PZP or uses low-flying helicopters to chase them into fenced-in traps which bring them – and their freedom – to a screeching halt.

Helicopters chase terrified horses into traps (photo: returntofreedom.org)

Helicopters chase terrified horses into traps (photo: returntofreedom.org)

“The BLM is exterminating wild horses because cattle ranchers regard them as pests,” said Edita Birnkrant, Director of Campaigns for Friends of Animals. “But we’ve reach a tipping point. To save those who remain, we must disrupt business as usual.”

At a recent BLM meeting in Nevada, Ms. Birnkrant seized control of the microphone and announced that the “BLM is managing wild horses to extinction through roundups and PZP” and “pimping our land out to ranchers.” Within minutes, she and her colleague Nicole Rivard, who filmed the protest, were escorted out of the conference room and expelled from the hotel, in spite of the fact that they were paying guests.

The Nevada disruption was not FOA’s first act of civil disobedience. In September, 15 protesters with FOA occupied the BLM’s Wyoming office and temporarily blocked the entrance to a nearby holding pen for wild horses.

Activists block entrance to horse holding pen

Activists block entrance to horse holding pen

In an effort to protect the remaining horses, FOA isn’t just relying on provocative protests. In June 2014, the organization filed a petition it with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to list North American wild horses as endangered under the Federal Endangered Species Act. They expect an answer within the next five months.

The BLM vehemently denies allegations by horse advocates and claims that it works to “ensure that healthy herds thrive on healthy rangelands.” But the “smaller print” on its website reveals the conflict of interest that FOA and other groups describe: “The BLM monitors rangeland conditions . . . to determine the number of animals, including livestock and wildlife, that the land can support.” Why does federal government allow privately-owned “livestock” on public land in the first place? Also, isn’t the BLM’s use of tax dollars to round up wild horses on behalf of cattle ranchers really just a meat subsidy covered in horse blood?

Cattle graze on public land (photo: thewildlifenews.com)

Cattle graze on public land (photo: thewildlifenews.com)

On it’s website, the BLM also states that it “gathers excess wild horses and burros from areas where vegetation and water could become scarce if too many animals use the area.” What it fails to mention, of course, is that private cattle who are brought onto the public land consume far more water and vegetation than the wild horses.

Before Ms. Birnkrant disrupted the BLM meeting in Nevada, she heard a cattle rancher tell a BLM representative that he “wants to open a horse butcher shop.” The two of them, she said, had a big laugh.

Wild horses in BLM trap (photo: equineink.com)

Wild horses in BLM trap (photo: equineink.com)

Your Turn

Please ask U.S. Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell to list North American wild horses on public lands as “threatened” or “endangered” under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). This designation represents their best hope for the survival. We can also help the horses by going vegan. If we put the cattle ranchers out of business, then they will no longer steal public land inhabited by the wild horses.


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Club At Center of Rhino Hunting Controversy To Auction Off More Rare Animal Hunts

January 16, 2015 by Leave a Comment


The News

The 6,000 member Dallas Safari Club will auction off rare animal hunts this weekend during the banquet at its annual convention, which is a “showcase of hunting, sporting and outdoor adventure,” according to the Club’s website. During the auction, “bidders of any age or gender” will have the chance to bid on “amazing items,” including “youth hunts in New Zealand and Texas, a challenging Mid-Asian ibex hunt in Russia, and a bongo hunt in Cameroon.”

One of dozens of animal hunts at Dallas Safari Club Auction

One of dozens of animal hunts at Dallas Safari Club Auction

The 2014 convention made international headlines when one attendee, Corey Knowlton, paid $350,000 to shoot an endangered black rhino in Namibia. Mr. Knowlton, who has purportedly received death threats, tells critics that he is motivated by “conservation.” Specifically, he claims that his substantial contribution will be allocated to rhino conservation efforts and that killing the rhino in question would actually benefit other rhinos in the area who he has been attacking.

But, if conservation is really Mr. Knowlton’s motivation, then why doesn’t he allocate a small part of his winning bid to relocate him?  And, if he’s concerned that the menacing rhino is harming the others, then why hasn’t he  shot him down hasn’t he done it in the 12 months since he won the bid?  Could it be because the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service has not yet issued a permit to import the rhino’s body and that Mr. Knowlton has no intention of returning from Africa without his “trophy.”

In an interview with Jane Velez-Mitchell on JaneUnchained.com, Christopher Gervais, the director of the Wildlife Conservation Film Festival & Biodiversity Conference, says that killing animals is not the way to preserve them: “You do not hunt a vulnerable species in the name of conservation. Other organizations are conserving without hunting and killing.” Conservation funds. he says, can be raised through photography safaris during which animals are shot with cameras instead of guns.

Shooting rhinos with cameras

Shooting rhinos with cameras

Your Turn

Please let the Dallas Safari Club know what you think of selling trophy hunts by contacting them through Facebook or its website.

 

 


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