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Posts Tagged ‘animal rights

[LINK] “Canada, EU edge toward agreement on Inuit sealskin products”

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CBC notes that Canada and the European Union are entering discussions on enabling the import of Inuit-made sealskin products into the European Union. I’m not sure what I think of this, issues with the seal hunt aside. If a European market doesn’t really exist, and if similar products from elsewhere in Canada (Newfoundland) don’t have like access, is this really a durable exception?

Canada and the EU are working towards a way to separate the Inuit seal harvest from that of the East Coast seal hunt, so Canadian Inuit can take full advantage of an exemption for skins harvested by indigenous people under the 2009 EU seal ban.

In 2009, the 28-nation EU banned the import of seal products except for skins harvested by indigenous people.

The problem for Canadian Inuit is that there has been no recognized way to separate their harvest from that of the East Coast seal hunt.

Terry Audla, president of Canada’s national Inuit group, says that’s what Canada and the EU are now working towards.

Audla says a deal won’t solve the problem of low prices for seal products caused by the import ban.

“We always said that the exemption itself was an empty box because we share the same market dynamic as the East Coast sealers,” Audla says.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 15, 2014 at 9:23 pm

[LINK] “Why Not Eat Octopus?”

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The New Yorker‘s Sylvia Killingsworth tackles the question of whether it is ethical to eat the intelligent octopus by, among other things, talking to chefs.

I wondered whether word of cephalopod intelligence had reached the food world, so I asked a few chefs if they had any misgivings about serving the animals at their restaurants. For Ashleigh Parsons and Ari Taymor, of Alma, in Los Angeles, the question is not what we eat but where the food is coming from and how it is treated. “The only octopus Ari can get is frozen and shipped from Japan,” Parsons told me in an e-mail. For them, sustainability is paramount, and can trump the cachet of an ingredient.

Ignacio Mattos, the chef at Estela (and formerly at Isa, where he served a whole squid), said that he recently put cuttlefish on the menu, and recalled telling his staff about how smart the creatures are. “I remember seeing this Discovery Channel documentary about them and it really blew my mind,” he wrote to me. Mattos confessed that he loved their elegant texture and taste, but added, “I might in a way have started consciously avoiding using them somehow.” Dave Pasternack, chef and co-founder of the upscale midtown seafood restaurant Esca, spoke with me last week during dinner service from a wall-mounted phone right behind his station in the kitchen. As he called out orders for sole and scampi, he assured me that he had never heard tales of octopus intelligence. “The smarter they are, the more you’d want to eat them, right?” he suggested. (I’ve always been suspicious of people who eat brains.) He insisted that there was an art to cooking octopus correctly. His includes a Neapolitan trick: a wine cork in the cooking liquid. Éric Ripert and Harold McGee dismiss this step as mere legend—to which Pasternack gleefully responds, “Éric Ripert is full of shit!”

Michael Psilakis, a successful Greek-American chef and restaurateur in New York (Kefi, Fishtag, MP Taverna), said that he’s been serving octopus for about twenty-five years but only noticed its increase in popularity over the past ten. “I remember first cooking octopus as a special, only on the weekends, and we’d do twenty orders the whole weekend. Now we do two hundred for a single shift,” he told me. He had heard about octopus intelligence many years before from a customer and Googled it. One of the first results he got was a list of the twenty-five smartest animals. “Pig was, like, number two, and sheep was on that list, too. That’s three animals specific to my cultural identity.… I sort of wondered, does that mean anything?” Psilakis said.

Written by Randy McDonald

October 8, 2014 at 2:30 am

[NEWS] Some Sunday links

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  • Al Jazeera notes the effects of population aging worldwide, observes the quarantining of four individuals possibly exposed to Ebola, comments on the huge costs associated with reconstruction in eastern Ukraine, and reports on a conference held by the Vatican on the plight of Middle Eastern Christians.
  • Bloomberg notes the recovery of house prices in Hungary, notes that elderly Koreans are being warned against speculative investments, looks at Southeast Asian Muslims going off to fight in Syria, notes the resistance of farmers to Thailand’s junta, quotes Angela Merkel’s comparison of the Ukrainian crisis to the decades-long Cold War and East Germany, looks at possible Russian capital controls and growing Spanish public indebtedness, points to the aging of Sweden’s nuclear reactors, looks at Catalonia’s separatists as they prepare for a controversial independence referendum, and warns the world about Japan.
  • Bloomberg View notes the profound uncertainty over Ebola, suggests Shanghai cannot replace Hong Kong as a financial centre yet, looks at skyrocketing real estate prices at the far upper end of the New York City scene, and suggests that Hong Kong’s revolt will sputter out.
  • CBC notes that Makayla Sault, a First Nations child who refused treatment for her leukemia, is relapsing, notes that global warming is leading Greenlanders to hunt more orcas, observes that the Islamic State has ended the Arab spring, and wonders what China will do with Hong Kong.
  • IWPR notes the odd optimism of many eastern Ukrainians, looks at the problems of Syrian Armenian refugee schoolchildren in the Armenian school system, and notes controversy over the creation of a Russian satellite university in Armenia.
  • National Geographic notes the new phenomenon of sanctuaries for former pet pigs, and suggests that threats to an Ottoman tomb could bring Turkey into Syria.
  • Open Democracy notes the plight of Syrian Kurds, suggests that secularism is an alternative to oppressive religious identities, and criticizes European Union migration policy.
  • Wired looks at Europe’s history of trying animals for crimes and examines Andy Warhol’s sketching of Blondie’s Debbie Harry on an Amiga.

[LINK] “Japan to Resume Whaling Next Year, Defying International Whaling Commission”

Oh, Japan. From National Geographic News:

Japan announced Thursday that it will restart its scientific whaling program next year in response to a new resolution adopted by the International Whaling Commission placing stricter regulations on scientific whaling.

This new nonbinding resolution—proposed by New Zealand—adopts the criteria used by the UN’s International Court of Justice earlier this year when it ruled that Japan’s current whaling program was not scientific.

The new guidelines establish criteria for the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) scientific committee to consider when it reviews whaling plans submitted by member countries. The criteria include consideration of whether a program needs to lethally sample whales to obtain data, how many whales a scientific program will take, and whether the number to be taken is justified.

At this week’s IWC meeting, Japan’s representatives stated the country’s intention to revamp its scientific program based on “international law and scientific evidence.” They planned to submit their proposed program to the IWC’s scientific committee this fall, with the aim of conducting scientific whaling next year.

If Japan were to abide by the new regulations, the country would have to submit a plan to the scientific committee next year, delaying the start of its whaling activities until 2016, says Leigh Henry, a senior policy adviser for wildlife conservation with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Washington, D.C.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 19, 2014 at 7:42 pm

[LINK] “Faroe Island Whaling, a 1,000-Year Tradition, Comes Under Renewed Fire”

Jane J. Lee’s National Geographic article profiles, with distressingly–but necessarily–graphic pictures, the ongoing controversy over whaling in the Faroes.

One positive sign is that apparently it has become much less an issue of subsistence or economics and more a cultural trait. These can be changed more readily.

The recent arrest of 14 volunteers working to stop whaling in the North Atlantic Ocean’s Faroe Islands has focused a spotlight once again on a local tradition stretching back over a thousand years.

Six of the protesters were found guilty this week of interfering with the grindadráp, or grind, as these drive hunts are called, according to a statement released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society. The remaining eight will appear in court on September 25. The activist group often makes headlines for the confrontational tactics used by some of its members—such as ramming whaling ships in the ocean around Antarctica.

The organization’s campaign to end these hunts began in the 1980s, says Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd, and won’t stop until the practice disappears.

During a grind, a flotilla of small boats drives whales or dolphins into a shallow bay where they can be easily killed with knives. Grinds are the longest continuously practiced and relatively unchanged whaling tradition in the world, says Russell Fielding, a geographer from the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee. He has studied the Faroe Island grinds since 2005.

Other cultures in the Arctic and Europe started whaling long before the Faroese, Fielding says. But they have either stopped or changed their techniques quite a bit.

Written by Randy McDonald

September 16, 2014 at 7:31 pm

[URBAN NOTE] “Toronto’s elephants get back to basics in California”

The Toronto Star‘s Laura Armstrong reports that the Toronto Zoo’s three elephants, relocated recently to a reserve in California, seem to be doing well in their new home.

It’s dry season in San Andreas, where California’s ongoing drought and prolonged excessively hot weather make a fire hose at the Performing Animal Welfare Society Wildlife Sanctuary a welcome escape for three African elephants as familiar with frigid winters as drawn-out summers.

Iringa buries her head in the ground and kicks her foot up in the air as she bathes in the steady stream. Toka wiggles down in the mud, throwing dirt with her trunk, basking in the oozing slime.

This is probably the first year the ground these two elephants call home hasn’t frozen, said sanctuary co-founder Ed Stewart. Iringa and Toka, along with a third elephant, Thika, moved from the Toronto Zoo to their warm, sprawling habitat last fall.

[. . .]

Despite protests from zoo staff, the elephants’ relocation was finally pushed through in late 2012, when city council reaffirmed its decision to move the mammals to the sanctuary, which takes in retired zoo and circus elephants. Barker funded the October 2013 transport.

In the nine months since their hotly-contested move, Iringa, 45, Toka, 44, and Thika, 33, have started acting like elephants in the wild rather than captive creatures, Stewart said.

“Natural behaviour is exhibited a lot, like every single day,” Stewart said. “Every day they resemble elephants in Africa.”

Written by Randy McDonald

August 25, 2014 at 7:25 pm

[LINK] “Save (most of) the whales”

Tristin Hopper’s recent National Post article describing how Greenpeace’s new support for limited native whale hunts among the Inuit, seen as necessary to enlist local allies against oil drilling in the Arctic, is actually not appreciated by locals who remember the past.

(Myself, I think Greenpeace should have stayed consistent and not made exceptions.)

“Our young men started committing suicide in the 1970s because people couldn’t feed their families anymore,” said Rosemarie Kuptana, a former president of the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an international organization representing the world’s 160,000 Inuit.

Greenpeace, she said, has never acknowledged “that there’s a whole generation of young people today who grew up without fathers.”

Only a few years after its 1971 founding in Vancouver, Greenpeace was at the forefront of efforts to condemn the Canadian seal hunt. By 1976, Greenpeacers were venturing out onto ice to physically push seals out of the way of East Coast sealing ships. Later, they would graduate to spraying the animals with non-toxic dye to make their coats unusable.

[. . .]

Driven by public pressure, Europe banned the import of whitecoat harp seal pups in 1983. Although the Inuit could still hunt, the ban demolished the market for seal skins. In some Northern communities, annual seal hunting revenue reportedly dropped from $50,000 to as low as $1,000.

“You could not find a more thoroughly discredited brand, from one end of the Arctic to the other, than Greenpeace,” said Madeleine Redfern, a former mayor of Iqaluit, writing in an email to the National Post.

Written by Randy McDonald

August 21, 2014 at 7:58 pm

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