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Advocates for Lolita & Nosey Use Viral Video to Demand that USDA Enforces Animal Welfare Act

May 18, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

Nosey the elephant and Lolita the orca, longtime symbols of the cruelty of animals in entertainment, have also also become symbols of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) failure to enforce the federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA).

Lolita being used as a surfboard; arthritic Nosey gives rides to unsuspecting children

Lolita being used as a surfboard; arthritic Nosey gives rides to unsuspecting children

After years of protests, petitions and lawsuits, activists nationwide are now using a viral video to demand that the USDA liberate Lolita and Nosey on the grounds that the harsh conditions of their captivity violate the AWA.

Nosey, a 30-year old elephant who was captured in Zimbabwe when she was two, has been held captive by the Liebel Family Circus since 1988. In spite of her crippling arthritis and chronic skin disease, Nosey is forced to give rides to paying customers at flea markets and fairs across the country.
Under threat of bullhook, Nosey is forced to give rides in spite of eye infection and arthritis

Under threat of bullhook, Nosey is forced to give rides in spite of her eye infection and arthritis

Advocates claim that the circus owner, Tom Liebel, and his employees have beaten Nosey into submission with bullhooks, a sledge hammer and shovels and that the USDA has cited Liebel nearly 200 times for violations.  In spite of the violations,  abundant evidence of abuse and a veterinary report stating that Nosey is “suffering, permanently disabled and crippled,” the USDA has refused to revoke Liebel’s license to exhibit Nosey and use her for rides.
Violation of AWA

Violation of AWA

Lolita, an orca who was captured off the coast of Washington in 1970, has been held captive in the nation’s smallest whale tank for 45 years. Until 1980, she had an orca companion, Hugo, who reportedly committed suicide by pounding his head against the side of the tank. For the past 35 years, 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.

Lolita at the Miami Seaquarium

Lolita’s captivity at the Miami Seaquarium is not just cruel; it is illegal. Palace Entertainment is violating the AWA in three ways: Lolita’s tank doesn’t meet minimum size requirements; she has no shade to protect her from the sun; and she does not have a killer whale companion.

Lolita is longer than the tank is deep.

Lolita is longer than the tank is deep.

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 have sued the USDA for renewing Palace’s license in spite of its AWA violations. If the court rules in favor of the advocacy groups, then Lolita could be released to the Puget Sound where she would be rehabilitated in a coastal sanctuary and, if possible, released to her pod. Lolita’s mother, 86, is reported to be alive.

Your Turn

Robin Jewell, the producer of the historic Miracle March for Lolita in January, created a video with advocates around the country asking the USDA to enforce the Animal Welfare Act. Please hold the USDA accountable for its failure to protect Lolita and Nosey by helping to make this video go viral.

Filed under: Entertainment
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USDA Uses “Demand” to Justify Intensive Confinement of Farm Animals

April 14, 2015 by Leave a Comment

The News

In a speech on climate change at Yale University’s School of Forestry & Environmental Studies, the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Tom Vilsack, defended the intensive confinement of farm animals on the grounds of demand, saying “the market has been encouraging [farmers] to do that.” He also stated unequivocally that abuse on factory farms is the exception, not the norm, in spite of the fact that confinement is, in and of itself, abusive and that animal mutilation is standard practice on industrialized farms.

USDA versus animal rights activists

Animal rights activist Zach Groff confronts USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

Mr. Vilsack made the remarks in response to the following question posed by animal rights activist and Direct Action Everywhere (DxE) organizer Zach Groff: “You are on the record supporting more subsidies for animal agriculture, defending animal agriculture left and right whether it goes for pink slime or keeping animal products in the [government’s] nutritional guidelines. Everyone in this room knows that animal agriculture is devastating for forests, for the climate, for the water supply. But most ignored is that there are innocent animals who are routinely the victims of horrendous violence. And I want to ask you – why do you support horrendous violence against innocent animals?”

After Mr. Vilsack addressed Mr. Groff’s remarks, categorically denying the inherent cruelty of animal agriculture, DxE activists disrupted the event, chanting “It’s not food. It’s violence” as they exited the auditorium.

Brian Burns, a DxE spokesperson said, “Tom Vilsack is dangerous. His carefully crafted messages about built-in animal protections and his sympathetic tone belie the fact that he is subsidizing the country’s most violent industry with our tax dollars. And his lies about animal agriculture, which must sound compelling to those who are uninformed, serve to marginalize the activists who are fighting to end the cruelty.”

Tom Vilsack

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack

DxE activists disrupt USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack after he minimized animal abuse on factory farms

DxE activists disrupt USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack after he minimized animal abuse on factory farms

Activists say that Mr. Vilsack is the American version of Barnaby Joyce, Australia’s Minster of Agriculture who notoriously works to convince the public that the millions of sheep and cattle who are abused and tortured in his country’s live export trade are treated “humanely in almost every instance.”

Has Australia's Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce met his match?

Has Australia’s Minister of Agriculture Barnaby Joyce met his match?

DxE is growing rapidly. In the 1.5 years since launching the “It’s not food. It’s violence” campaign, the organization has added chapters in 110 cities in 24 countries, including India, Bolivia, Romania, Indonesia and the Republic of Georgia. Following is short video highlighting their recent non-violent direct actions.

Your Turn

Please visit Direct Action Everywhere to learn about, support and/or join the organization’s ground-breaking campaign to expose animal cruelty in the very spots where it is taking place.

Filed under: Food
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Victory: Feds Charge Slaughterhouse Owners who Sold Cows with Cancer

August 20, 2014 by Leave a Comment

The News

Owners of a California slaughterhouse that distributed beef from cows with cancer were charged in federal court on August 18th. In court filings, the USDA said that owners of Rancho Feeding Corp. “schemed with employees to slaughter about 79 cows with skin cancer of the eye while federal inspectors took lunch breaks” and that “plant workers swapped the heads of diseased cattle with heads of healthy cows to hide them from inspectors.” The discovery of the diseased carcasses triggered several recalls, including 8.7 million pounds of beef sold at Walmart and other national chains. The slaughterhouse owners and two employees were charged with distribution of “adulterated, misbranded and uninspected meat.”

Photo: REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

Photo: REUTERS/Alex Gallardo

Your Turn

If the abuse inherent in modern-day factory farming doesn’t stop people from eating animals, then perhaps the health risks will. Here’s our challenge: People have been eating animals for centuries and surviving, so why would they stop now — at a time when they assume that the government is keeping our food supply safe? When talking to omnivores, I point out that mad cow, bird flu and swine flu originated in the factory farms that produce 99% of the animal products we eat. Now I can say that cows with cancer are in the food supply. And then there are the antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, cholesterol and saturated fat that fill the meat, fish and dairy products we consume. So, if humane issues don’t resonate, then talk about the many reasons why animal products are simply unsafe and unhealthy to eat.

Filed under: Food, Victories
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