Posts Tagged ‘animal rights’

Another Grey Bust

Tuesday, February 16th, 2010

Another 1000 African Gray parrots were discovered earlier this month in crates about to leave the airport in Cameroon for transport to Bahrain and the Middle East. This is the second illegal shipment of these parrots intercepted in two months in Cameroon. The total number of birds discovered numbers over 1500 between the shipments – all sent to Limbe Wildlife Refuge for rehabilitation. The birds who are alive and who are able to be released will be. Many have already died from being crushed or glued or just general rough handling and fear during the “shipment.”

These are all wild caught birds of the endangered species variety. They are CITES II which means trade in them is restricted because their populations in the wild are so low that they cannot sustain any trade. I spoke with Dr. Irene Pepperberg of The Alex Foundation who has done the seminal work on the intelligence of African Grey Parrots. She told me that when there is this high a number of birds being poached, it means there are a number of large flocks from which the adults are taken. Stripped of their teaching population, the younger birds remaining in these substantially decreased flocks are left trying to learn to survive in the wild on their own and it makes these diminished flocks extremely vulnerable. If any of the birds that eventually are released are young, they have an equally challenging situation in that they also need adult birds who will teach them how to survive. But in this case it’s even trickier because these unrelated birds being released will need to know to search out and find adults who are willing to teach them. Add to this the fact that, according to research done by Dr. Pepperberg over a 30 year project, African Grey parrots have an emotional equivalent of a 2-3 human child and the intelligence of a 5-6 year old human child, and seeing these birds tightly crammed in baskets and crates is even more heartbreaking.

Limbe is charged with caring for over 1000 parrots right now – a financial and time burden they never expected. The best way to stop these kinds of killing shipments is to end the market for wild caught birds. It can start with each of us. Triple check your desire for an exotic bird before buying one. Make sure you are prepared for the commitment. It can be up to 80 years of commitment and you can expect your life to change dramatically to accommodate the bird – you cannot reasonably expect the bird to accommodate your lifestyle and still have any kind of satisfying life for either of you. If you still must get one, then be absolutely certain the bird was domestically bred and raised and there are several generations of domestically bred and raised birds in his or her lineage. Wild birds make terrible pets anyway. Those domestically bred and hand raised are more accustomed to human interaction and there is generally less aggression than with a wild caught bird. We can avoid unwittingly aiding and abetting the poaching of exotic birds by shrinking the market for them. The birds are much happier when they remain in the wild. And, it would be a travesty for a regal bird like the African Grey to disappear because of his ornamental value in the pet trade.


Photo credits: Limbe Wildlife Refuge

Finch Fights

Monday, February 15th, 2010

Apparently there are no animals too small be bet upon in forced fighting rings. The latest bust, this one in Massachusetts, of illegal immigrants who keep finches in intolerable conditions, get them worked up , sharpen their beaks and then get them fighting, is a sad testimony to what goes on. Who would have thought finches weighing just grams could be considered fighting instruments with which to make money? This article in the Boston Herald tells a tough story about an improbable, but apparently not uncommon form of animal abuse.

photo credit: Boston Herald

The Tragedy of Taiji

Wednesday, December 9th, 2009

Today I got a Facebook request to sign a petition to stop the Japanese dolphin slaughter. I signed it and put a post on my Facebook page explaining a little about the situation and asking others to sign the petition. So now what? Will this slaughter ever really end? My understanding is that in the middle of the 20th century (not a terribly long time ago), there were three coves in which a handful of Japanese fishermen drove terrified dolphins into with the intention of bludgeoning the adults to death for their meat and then taking the babies still in shock, alive as aquarium specimens. All went along fairly well (for the fishermen at least) for a very long time as there was absolutely no knowledge of this happening outside the little towns in which they took place. But, eventually the word started leaking out and a few impassioned people (including Hardy Jones) tried to stop it. They were unsuccessful as the Japanese government just turned a blind eye – eventually shutting down 2 coves, but tacitly permitting it all to take place for a couple dozen fishermen in Taiji, while denying it ever happened at the same time. Sadly, the images are so horrific of what takes place that most people don’t even want to know about it. It almost boggles the imagination that this kind of brutality can take place anywhere – much less against an animal whose intellectual and emotional capacities are considered to be extremely high. As a result, any groundswell to challenge this has been very slow to get started. Now that Earth Island Institute has gotten involved with long-time dolphin defender Ric O’Barry and a film called The Cove has been released about this slaughter, there is a glimmer of hope that there may be an end to it all. Will the petition help? Who knows. But maybe it’s the start of something that will finally bring to public attention and end one of the more chilling condoned animal brutality cases in contemporary times.

Photo credit: Diamond Docs

Down with Down

Friday, November 20th, 2009

For many, the loft and warmth of a down comforter or parka is an expected part of winter. Once considered a luxury, now you can go into any store and they seem to be everywhere – inexpensive and costly ones – by the hundreds. Down isn’t made up of big feathers but of the tiny soft underfeathers closest to the birds’ skin which are great insulators for them and help them maintain their body temperature. Ever wonder where all that down comes from? Some of it is a by-product of the meat industry, but this is probably only a small part of it. Most of it (possibly even 80%) comes from birds who are live plucked – an extremely painful and sometimes paralyzing process. A Swedish investigative documentary showed not only how abusive the practice is but also how widespread it is, and after its airing there was a strong reaction in the EU where live plucking is illegal but not enforced. US Companies which openly get down this way include Laytners,, Down and Feathers Company and, but there are many more that do not disclose where their down comes from. Often live plucking is used as a marketing tool as an alternative to killing the birds. But this is a particularly torturous process and all three of the major down producing countries Hungary, China and Poland use this method to obtain down.

So, if a down comforter, pillow, parka or even gloves are on your wish list this season, maybe you can consider an humane alternative. Thinsulate, Primaloft, Thermolite and Polarguard are all excellent alternate synthetic materials. They are easier to care for as you can wash them in the washing machine and they dry out without lumping. We have used these in our family for years and have been more than satisfied with the quality and comfort of these synthetics. Before you make a down purchase, read this article from the AWI to get all the facts. If you decide to get an humane alternative, many folks, including 75 geese, will thank you for your decision.

Photo credit: Stan Tekila

That Horse-drawn Carriage Ride in the Park — Isn’t it Romantic?

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

Well, in a word…No. It really isn’t. I live in New York City and regularly see tourists loading into carriages along Central Park for a ride, horses trotting through theater traffic on Broadway’s Times Square. Most tourists never think about these horses working long hours in extreme temperatures, often having collisions with faster, motorized vehicles; never having the chance to live any life outside of a cramped stall or ceaselessly standing or walking on a hard pavement. In New York City, a bill (Intro 658) was introduced in December 2007 by Councilmember Tony Avella intending to ban the use of horse-drawn carriages in the city. Despite seven accidents with horses in the past 18 months, this bill is just sitting there – opposed by the industry association and the Mayor. What’s going on? This one is a no brainer, and it is disappointing that our terrific mayor doesn’t see how simple it would be to bring a little humanity to a city for which he has done so much. The AWI has a good article on horse drawn carriage in NYC and recommends ways to help. Don’t just sit by while there is a great bill languishing which can help these horses. Write Mayor Bloomberg and let him know you support this bill…and that maybe NYC has enough great stuff going on even without the carriages. If you live in NYC, let our Mayor and Council Speaker Christine Quinn know you support the bill and write your local councilmember, too. BTW – City Councilman Daniel Grodnick plans on introducing a bill this summer which will bring nostalgic electric cars to the city ensuring driver jobs for every carriage driver. Let’s see… transportation that has the same nostalgia but is more environmentally friendly and more humane? Sounds like a great plan to this New Yorker.


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