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Animal Rights

All articles with the "Animal Rights" tag.

Published: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 00:00:00 -0400

Last Build Date: Sun, 23 Apr 2017 09:04:30 -0400


Brickbat: What the Fur?

Fri, 14 Apr 2017 04:00:00 -0400

(image) The Berkeley, California, City Council has banned the sale of fur clothing. The ban was spearhead by the Berkeley Coalition for Animals. Coalition founder Jay Quigley says fur is inconsistent with Berkeley's values.

Brickbat: Hunting Them Down

Tue, 10 Jan 2017 04:00:00 -0500

(image) Domonique Yatsko, 9, was so proud when she killed her first deer in Ohio, her family had a photo of her with the eight-point buck put on a sweatshirt. But when she wore the shirt to school, she says one of her teachers "yelled at" her, told her killing animals was "not what we do" and demanded she take the shirt off. But Superintendent Catherine Aukerman says the teacher merely told her the shirt was upsetting other students and asked her to take it off. Aukerman says the girl was mistaken if she thought the teacher yelled at her.

Anthony Bourdain on Sichuan Peppers, Sex, Eating Dogs, and Political Correctness

Thu, 29 Dec 2016 08:30:00 -0500

From Iran to to Hanoi to rural New England: Anthony Bourdain's Parts Unknown on CNN has covered a lot of territory, like No Reservations before it. More than 15 years since his best-selling memoir Kitchen Confidential gutted New York's culinary underbelly, the former junkie and chef continues not to give any fucks. Bourdain has also just published Appetites (Ecco), his first cookbook in over a decade, co-authored with longtime collaborator Laurie Woolever. New Zealand–based writer Alexander Bisley reached the traveler and chef by phone the day after the Electoral College confirmed Donald Trump as president of the United States, and Bourdain talked about how Sichuan peppers are like sex, whether animal-rights activists have any sense of humor, and how the "utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes" is a problem. This interview has been condensed and edited for style and clarity. Bisley: What concerns you about Trump? Bourdain: What I am not concerned about with Trump? Wherever one lives in the world right now I wouldn't feel too comfortable about the rise of authoritarianism. I think it's a global trend, and one that should be of concern to everyone. Bisley: You're a liberal. What should liberals be critiquing their own side for? Bourdain: There's just so much. I hate the term political correctness, the way in which speech that is found to be unpleasant or offensive is often banned from universities. Which is exactly where speech that is potentially hurtful and offensive should be heard. The way we demonize comedians for use of language or terminology is unspeakable. Because that's exactly what comedians should be doing, offending and upsetting people, and being offensive. Comedy is there, like art, to make people uncomfortable, and challenge their views, and hopefully have a spirited yet civil argument. If you're a comedian whose bread and butter seems to be language, situations, and jokes that I find racist and offensive, I won't buy tickets to your show or watch you on TV. I will not support you. If people ask me what I think, I will say you suck, and that I think you are racist and offensive. But I'm not going to try to put you out of work. I'm not going to start a boycott, or a hashtag, looking to get you driven out of the business. The utter contempt with which privileged Eastern liberals such as myself discuss red-state, gun-country, working-class America as ridiculous and morons and rubes is largely responsible for the upswell of rage and contempt and desire to pull down the temple that we're seeing now. I've spent a lot of time in gun-country, God-fearing America. There are a hell of a lot of nice people out there, who are doing what everyone else in this world is trying to do: the best they can to get by, and take care of themselves and the people they love. When we deny them their basic humanity and legitimacy of their views, however different they may be than ours, when we mock them at every turn, and treat them with contempt, we do no one any good. Nothing nauseates me more than preaching to the converted. The self-congratulatory tone of the privileged left—just repeating and repeating and repeating the outrages of the opposition—this does not win hearts and minds. It doesn't change anyone's opinions. It only solidifies them, and makes things worse for all of us. We should be breaking bread with each other, and finding common ground whenever possible. I fear that is not at all what we've done. Bisley: In your Brexit episode of Parts Unknown, Ralph Steadman, who illustrated Appetites eye-catching cover, said "I think human beings are still stupid." Does that explain Trump's election? Bourdain: I don't think we've got the [exclusive] franchise on that. If you look around the world (in the Philippines, in England), the rise of nationalism, the fear of the Other. When people are afraid and feel that their government has failed them they d[...]

Can Egg Producers Recover from November's Great Fall?

Sat, 03 Dec 2016 07:00:00 -0500

Supporters of animal agriculture—of the sort that can feed people inexpensively and on a large scale, at least—are reeling after two stinging defeats last month. The first blow came in Massachusetts, where residents voted to adopt Question 3, which mandates a minimum cage size for raising livestock on farms in the state, around the country, and around the world that sell eggs, pork, and veal in Massachusetts. That law effectively means chickens, pigs, and veal calves must be raised in a "cage-free" environment. The second blow came with the defeat of an appeal in federal court challenging a similar law in California. The purpose of the California law is to "to prohibit the cruel confinement of farm animals." Similarly, the Massachusetts law is intended to "to prevent animal cruelty." The latter also claims that caged livestock "threaten the health and safety of Massachusetts consumers, increase the risk of foodborne illness, and have negative fiscal impacts on the Commonwealth of Massachusetts." But a closer look shows it's these two laws, in fact, that may harm the health of livestock and humans and wreak negative economic consequences. As I described in a column this summer, "'cage-free' hens are typically raised in aviaries—large, cramped egg-laying warehouses in which hens are more likely to attack, kill, and eat one another, and hens and livestock workers are more likely to become sick." If that sounds grim, it is. "In short, liberating hens from cages—and holding them in aviaries—doesn't necessarily make them, or the workers who handle them, any healthier," wrote the New York Times's David Gelles, in an eye-opening piece earlier this year that pierced the halo surrounding cage-free eggs. Notably, research backs up Gelles's expose. If the health benefits of mandating cage-free eggs are questionable at best, the financial benefits of doing so appear to be nonexistent. As Wired reported earlier this year, in an excellent article that's worth reading for the great flow chart alone, shifting from caged to cage-free methods poses a host of existential perils for many farmers. For farmers who want (or are forced) to make the switch, the costly transition will take years—a decade or more, in many cases—to achieve. Egg prices rose last year after a massive outbreak of avian flu. But the price some farmers charged for a dozen eggs had already doubled in California in 2014, as its cage-free law was set to take effect. As these charts show, the days of eggs serving as cheap protein available to the masses could be ending. If that happens, then we'll have foolhardy regulations to blame. Unlike the Massachusetts law, California's applies to egg-laying hens but not to pigs or veal calves. Like the Massachusetts law, the California law violates the dormant Commerce Clause, as I explain here. That issue had been at the heart of the California lawsuit case. Last month, though, the Ninth Circuit Court upheld a 2014 lower court ruling that the plaintiffs—attorneys general from six egg-producing states—did not have standing to challenge the law. I agree with the plaintiffs on the premise behind the challenge, but with the Ninth Circuit's ruling on the standing issue. "In short," as I wrote in 2014, "the wrong people made the right arguments." But that doesn't mean that law—or the new Massachusetts law—could or should withstand a court challenge. "Large egg producers certainly could file an action like this one on their own," wrote Ninth Circuit Court judge Susan Graber. That's something supporters of the Massachusetts and California laws are ready for. "Some agribusiness interests may want to force states like California and Massachusetts to allow the commerce in substandard and cruel products that these two states have rightly determined to be repugnant to their values," said Paul Shapiro, vice president of policy
with the Humane Society of the United States, in an email to me this week. "States have the right to protect their cit[...]

Massachusetts Voters Could Have Egg on Their Faces

Sat, 23 Jul 2016 08:00:00 -0400

Voters in Massachusetts will decide this November whether to impose unwise, harmful, costly, and unconstitutional standards for raising a host of livestock animals. Critics have rightly issued dire warnings. "This November, without even realizing it," writes veterinarian Dr. Nancy Halperin, "Massachusetts voters may be voting to ban importation of eggs, veal, and pork." The purpose of the state's ballot measure is to phase out animal confinement measures that supporters of the initiative claim "threaten the health and safety of Massachusetts consumers [and] increase the risk of foodborne illness" in the state. The Massachusetts law effectively mimics the California egg law, but also adds veal calves and pigs to the mix. The California law is the subject of an ongoing lawsuit filed by Missouri and other states. The case was appealed in 2015, after a federal judge ruled the plaintiffs lacked standing. I've previously urged livestock farmers—who undoubtedly have standing—to seek join the lawsuit. The proposed Massachusetts law would make it "unlawful for a business owner or operator to knowingly engage in the sale within the Commonwealth of Massachusetts of any" eggs in the shell, veal, or pork (the latter two in meat form, rather than in, say, a can) if the business owner or operator "knows or should know" that the animal in question "was confined in a cruel manner." The proposed law goes on to define cruel conditions as ones that "prevent a covered animal from lying down, standing up, fully extending the animal's limbs, or turning around freely." If voters in my home state make the mistake of adopting the law, a federal court should strike down the law as an unconstitutional power grab on the part of Massachusetts. The state may well be allowed to regulate many facets of agriculture within its borders. But it has no such authority to regulate the way livestock is raised in other states. In a 2014 piece on a related California egg law, I explained why it's both problematic and unconstitutional for one state to dictate standards for others. "If California may dictate standards for raising animals in other states, then any state—in keeping with the hypothetical, let's say Iowa—could pass a law that prohibits, say, farmers from raising crops in drought-stricken areas," I wrote. "The justification? It's not a good use of water, and water should be conserved (rather than exported in the form of produce) in times of drought. Since California is in the midst of a decade-long drought, then that rule would effectively bar California crops from Iowa. If a handful of other states followed, then the rule could doom California agriculture—including, for example, the state's enormous wine industry." But federal courts seem loathe to tell states they can't do something unconstitutional unless the court also seeks to placate agricultural control freaks by assuring these busybodies that, really, their concerns lie in an area that's preempted by federal law. Such was the message from successive federal courts in California in recent years—and in a related 9-0 Supreme Court ruling—in separate lawsuits that overturned that state's foie gras ban and its rules governing the slaughter of non-ambulatory pigs. In addition to these defects, the law is unconstitutionally vague and unenforceable. For example, how could a Massachusetts grocer know if the eggs she buys from one of tens of thousands of farms in Mexico or Iowa, the veal he buys from China, or the pork he buys from North Carolina was raised in conditions that satisfy the Massachusetts standards? What's more, how could the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, which would enforce the law and issue fines of $1,000 under it, know whether the hen that laid a particular egg was raised in conditions that satisfy the state's standards? Neither can know, and Massachusetts has neither the authority nor the right to inquire. This makes the law an unenforceable nuisance. Hence, at wo[...]

Cop Shoots Barely Injured Cat He Says Was a Threat

Wed, 04 May 2016 14:39:00 -0400

(image) A police officer in North Catasauqua, Pa., responded to a 911 call about an injured cat, Sugar, by finding the feline and fatally shooting it.

The local district attorney, John Morganelli, told a news conference that the officer, Leighton Pursell, said he saw injuries on the cat's leg and a trail of blood before deciding to kill the cat, as reports.

"Officer Pursell made a decision to, in his judgment, humanely end the cat's life and suffering," Morganelli said. "Officer Pursell fired a single shot from his department-issued .38 caliber service revolver, instantly killing the cat."

A subsequent autopsy reportedly find little injury to the cat aside from the fatal gunshot wound. The officer was given a "summary citation," which described as the equivalent of a parking ticket.

Morganelli said he decided not to file misdemeanor animal cruelty charges against the officer because he "did not find Officer Pursell acted with any malice or maliciously," insisting it was a "tough call" to make.

Pursell's attorney, Gary Asteak, told Lehigh Valley Live he would fight the citation.

Purcell "came upon an attack in violation of the borough ordinance with an animal that had no tags, no sign of ownership, was injured," according to the attorney, who said Pursell followed borough regulations. An attorney for Sugar's owner insists Pursell did not follow the local law, which he says requires two other people to agree the severity of injury to an animal is cause to kill it.

Purcell's attorney also argues Purcell considered the cat a threat. "He viewed the animal as injured, snarling and a threat to public safety on a private property owner's property who wanted it gone," Asteak said. "He had no choice but do what he did under his code of conduct."

h/t Brochettaward

There Are Better Ways to Handle Unwanted Animals Than Through Government

Fri, 15 Apr 2016 00:01:00 -0400

The last time I was in an animal shelter, I adopted a furry 8-year-old puss named Gus. The shelter was clean but depressing: It was filled with whelping dogs (mostly pit-bull mixes) and terrified cats that, most likely, were not long for this world. It was one of the nicer shelters I've been to, but it had the charm of a county jail. That shelter had a novel idea. On Fridays, it sold its elderly cats for five bucks. That's a great deal given the cats are spayed or neutered, have shots and come with coupons for a free veterinary visit. That's the first time I recall any shelter offering such a market-based approach. Most people want kittens, and the lovable old fellas go begging. This jumped to mind after reading about the latest travails at the Orange County animal services department. According to news reports, animal activists and a city council member accused department officials of under-reporting their "kill rate"—the percentage of animals they put down. Official estimates previously put that number at 6 percent, but The Voice of OC reported "it's actually been a far higher rate of around 35 percent, according to data later provided by the county in response to a legal settlement" with an animal rescuer. (In fairness, either kill-rate is lower than what it had been a few years ago.) County animal officials had no response to the allegations, according to that report. And—big surprise here—the union that represents the animal-care workers defended the agency and argued it provides a "valuable public safety function" because of the many times it refers animal-related criminal cases to the prosecutors. The Board of Supervisors meeting was filled with debate over possible reforms. Let's face it: Nothing will change. The animal shelter has been plagued by problems for many years. I love commentator Paul Harvey's quotation from the beginning of the Orange County Grand Jury's 2014-2015 report on the state of the county animal shelter: "Ever occur to you why some of us can be this much concerned with animal suffering? Because government is not. Why not? Because animals do not vote." Animals don't vote. Government agencies don't have customers. They operate for the good of those who work for them. They ultimately are funded through tax dollars. If this were a business, there would be all sorts of promotions to discount less-sought-after merchandise (e.g., old cats and hard-to-place bully dog breeds). They would be open the hours that shoppers prefer. The facilities would be comfortable and cheery. "The Grand Jury has concluded that the county's lack of leadership, lack of commitment to animal care, and the prioritization of other Orange County Community Resources department functions ahead of Orange County Animal Care are the primary reasons for failure to address the need of new animal shelter facilities," according to the report. Ouch. An ABC News investigation from May detailed allegations of problems at the agency. A Los Angeles Times article from 2004 is headlined, "Grand Jury Blasts Animal Shelter Again." Shelter officials disputed the report, as have officials during the most recent reports. But last year, the Orange County Register's Teri Sforza detailed the county's long-running animal-control problems. "Red rust eats at kennel frames. Partitions have frozen in place. Wet, black noses poke between what look like prison bars," she wrote, noting the county's "fusty facility" dates to 1941. She quotes a supervisor complaining about it in 1983. In 2000, the OC Weekly criticized Santa Ana's shelter (e.g., "paperwork screw-ups lead to dead animals..."), which it used to show that private shelters are as bad as government ones. Sure, privatized agencies have many of the same flaws as government (they are funded by public contracts, not by luring customers in a competitive environment), but at least bad[...]

McDonald's 'Cage Free' Edict Gets Activists Clucking

Fri, 09 Oct 2015 00:01:00 -0400

Not long ago, one of our prize chickens had just hatched some chicks and was strolling around the yard with the little ones in tow. Out of nowhere, a hawk descended from the sky and grabbed a chick, as momma hen squawked hysterically. In a few moments, we went from a scene from Norman Rockwell to one with Norman Bates. The life of most animals, with our housecats possibly excepted, is "nasty, brutish and short," to quote 17th century philosopher Thomas Hobbes (who was talking about mankind). My perspective on animal issues has changed considerably after moving to a few acres in the country and watching my kids raise their animals. It's often not a pretty sight. Last month, my wife came into the house bawling after coyotes had torn apart one of our baby Nubian goats. I bought two Great Pyrenees to protect the goats, which went well until the dogs broke into the hen house. Don't even ask. We named our newest turkey Darwin because he was the only one of 22 to survive to adolescence. Yet the harshness of the natural world doesn't alleviate our nature, as human beings, to ponder how we treat animals. Americans give generously to animal-welfare causes and often back legislation meant to reduce animal suffering. A notable example is Proposition 2, which was approved overwhelmingly by California voters in 2008 and went into effect last January. The measure requires our state's farmers provide more "elbow" room for hens, veal calves and many pigs. There's little pork and veal production in California and meat chickens already are mostly cage free, so it mainly changes egg farms. A follow-up law applied the same standards to any eggs sold in California. The measure has survived legal challenges. Several months after implementation, the price of eggs has soared. Part of that is the result of avian flu that killed millions of birds, but California egg prices are now far above the national average. Some studies predict a small price difference after the market settles down, but there's no question these laws imposed enormous costs on egg farmers, who had to revamp their operations. The really big recent news is the fast-food chain McDonald's announced it will only buy eggs from cage-free farms by 2020. "It will be increasingly hard to ignore a buyer of 2 billion eggs, especially given that McDonald's joined a flock of companies that already made similar supply-line switches," according to the Los Angeles Times. Government regulations are not cost free, and they often have unintended consequences. The marketplace usually does a better job sorting out difficult issues than government bean (or egg) counters, but animal suffering is a conundrum. Many economists argue government's proper role is to correct instances of "market failure." That's when the marketplace doesn't act efficiently, such as in a monopoly situation. (The latter almost always is the result of some government favor or intervention, but that's a discussion for another day.) A similar concept comes into play regarding animals, as the market fails to factor the cost of animal suffering when it's more cost-effective to cram them into tiny cages. That perception may explain why so many Californians voted for Proposition 2. They couldn't think of another way to keep these creatures from spending their short lives in such an unpleasant situation. Then again, the decision by McDonald's, Burger King and other restaurants to adjust their purchasing shows how public attitudes can drive change. They can often do so more thoroughly than regulators. For instance, McDonald's wants cage-free eggs, whereas California's laws only require bigger cages. The new policy may be as good for business as it is for the hens. By the way, it's mainly in wealthy countries, where most everyone is well fed, that people have enough time and money to worry about the plight of chickens. Those who argue that an[...]

Cool, Cool Kitty

Fri, 02 Oct 2015 06:00:00 -0400

(image) A German court has ordered Berlin cat breeder Jacqueline Linke to have her male Sphynx cat, Willie, neutered. The court ruled that passing on Willie's hairless genes and lack of whiskers would amount to animal cruelty.

Cruelty to Animals, Exposed

Mon, 10 Aug 2015 00:01:00 -0400

If you like eating meat, information is not always your friend. In recent years, practices at large facilities that turn livestock into food have been exposed to public view, and the public often doesn't like what it sees.  The companies that confine pregnant sows in tiny stalls or scald chickens to death don't publicize these practices. Slaughterhouses where cattle are sometimes dismembered alive don't offer guided tours.  To see what goes on in the worst operations, most of us have to rely on activists who covertly record inside and put videos online. Organizations like the Humane Society of the United States, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Mercy for Animals have posted such footage.  When such grim revelations emerged, the owners of these operations had two choices: stop doing things that would shock consumers, or stop consumers from seeing them. Many suppliers did the former, sometimes under prodding from major grocery and restaurant chains. But some decided that concealment was preferable.  Their own efforts to keep out prying eyes, however, don't always suffice. So they have enlisted the power of government on their side. Seven states have passed "ag gag" laws aimed at preventing whistleblowers from exposing farm abuses.  Idaho, for example, made it a crime for anyone to do audio or video recording inside a facility without the owner's consent. This was necessary, the bill's sponsor explained, because "extremist groups implement vigilante tactics to deploy self-appointed investigators who masquerade as employees to infiltrate farms in the hope of discovering and recording what they believe to be animal abuse." Another likened these videos to "terrorism."  Vigilantes and terrorists, it should be noted, employ violent methods, including gratuitous brutality, to achieve ends they regard as important enough to override civilized norms. In that respect, they don't resemble the people filming the abuse of animals. They resemble the people committing those abuses.  The law, however, does not apply just to activist outsiders who rely on subterfuge. It covers faithful longtime employees who feel obligated to disclose conduct they find unconscionable or even illegal.  The ban does more than shelter the public from images affecting the treatment of mere livestock. It suppresses knowledge about practices that could harm humans. It denies the citizenry truthful information about important matters.  It also gets priorities backward. If you commit an excruciating act of cruelty against an innocent beast, you will serve no more than six months in an Idaho jail. But if you film that crime, you could spend a year behind bars. You also could be forced to pay restitution up to double the amount of any "economic loss" the company incurs once consumers learn how callous it is.  But as of last Monday, the law no longer applies to anyone, because a federal judge ruled it unconstitutional. In a decision that cast doubt on other state laws, U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Winmill said the Idaho ban violates the First Amendment because it "was designed to suppress speech critical of the agricultural industry."  The measure's supporters claimed to be protecting companies from dangerous impostors bent on destroying their businesses. Really? "It is already illegal to steal documents or to trespass on private property," said the judge. "In addition, laws against fraud and defamation already exist to protect against false statements made to injure or malign an agricultural production facility."  Devious infiltrators are hardly the only target. Winmill found that the law bans even filming that is "not disruptive of the workplace, and carried out by people who have a legal right to be in a particular location and to w[...]

Judge Strikes Down Idaho’s ‘Ag Gag’ Law as Unconstitutional

Tue, 04 Aug 2015 10:45:00 -0400

In a ruling both welcome and obvious, a federal judge has ruled that Idaho's law criminalizing the secret filming of animal abuse at farms and agricultural facilities is an unconstitutional violation of free speech. Here's how U.S. District Judge B. Lynn Mill described the law's impact in the ruling (pdf): Under the law, a journalist or animal rights investigator can be convicted for not disclosing his media or political affiliations when requesting a tour of an industrial feedlot, or applying for employment at a dairy farm. … An employee can be convicted for videotaping animal abuse or life-threatening safety violations at an agricultural facility without first obtaining the owner's permission. … Any person who violates the law—whether an animal rights' investigator, a journalist, or an employee—faces up to a year in jail. In addition, a journalist or whistleblower convicted under the law can be forced to pay publication damages pursuant to a restitution provision that requires payment for "twice" the "economic loss" a business suffers as a result of any exposé revealing animal abuse or unsafe working conditions. In other words, [the law] seeks to limit and punish those who speak out on topics relating to the agricultural industry, striking at the heart of important First Amendment values. The effect of the statute will be to suppress speech by undercover investigators and whistleblowers concerning topics of great public importance: the safety of the public food supply, the safety of agricultural workers, the treatment and health of farm animals, and the impact of business activities on the environment. Indeed, private party media investigations, such as investigative features on 60 Minutes, are a common form of politically salient speech. A review of Idaho media reports in recent years reveals a range of undercover investigations from life on the streets, to wolf-hunting contests, to family planning services, to public-school safety. Such investigations into private matters, both by government and private actors, are recognized and embraced as important political speech in Idaho. The judge notes that the proponents of the law have openly declared that its purpose is to protect the dairy industry from undercover investigation and references Upton Sinclair's The Jungle and how it exposed terrible conditions in Chicago stockyards. Under such a law, Sinclair would face prosecution for misrepresenting himself to get access. The judge also points out that laws against trespassing, fraud, theft, and defamation already exist: "These types of laws serve the property and privacy interests the State professes to protect through the passage of [the ag gag law], but without infringing on free speech rights." I have to wonder if there's a potential Venn diagram of those who would celebrate this decision but want California and the Department of Justice to throw the book at the Center for Medical Process or support judicial censorship for their secret filming and release of videos about how Planned Parenthood treats fetal tissue. I also have to wonder if there's a reverse Venn diagram of those who are outraged at animal rights activists secretly filming and distributing images of cattle abuse but nevertheless hold the Center of Medical Process up as heroes. The Idaho Statesman notes that seven states currently have "ag gag" laws. Idaho's is the first to be struck down. We will have to see if others follow. Keep Food Legal's Baylen Linniken has written at Reason how "ag gag" laws suppress free speech. Read what he had to say here. [...]

Here's What the Guy Who Paid $50,000 to Kill Cecil the Lion Can Learn from the Guy Who Paid $350,000 to Kill a Black Rhino

Fri, 31 Jul 2015 15:23:00 -0400

Days after the news of the death of Cecil the Lion broke—and weeks after the actual hunt—the Internet is still in an uproar. The dentist/hunter who killed the beloved big cat has shuttered his business in Eden Prairie, Minnesota, and seems to have gone missing. Everyone from Betty White to Zimbabwe's minister of the environment is pissed. At least part of the outcry seems to be focused on the fact that Walter Palmer regularly paid big bucks to go on big game hunts. From CNN: "As troubling as it is, the rarer these trophy hunted animals become, the more hunters are willing to pay to kill them—like the American hunter who recently paid $350,000 to kill a critically endangered black rhino in Namibia," said Jeff Flocken, the [International Fund for Animal Welfare]'s North American regional director. But the problem isn't that Palmer paid a lot of money to hunt a lion, it's that he didn't pay enough money, he paid it to the wrong people, and he killed the wrong lion. As far as I can tell, Palmer screwed up by using dodgy guides who in turn used illegal practices to lure an animal that should have been off-limits for many reasons, including that it lived on protected land and that he was part of an Oxford research project. In a public statement, Palmer has said he believed his guides were on the up-and-up and that all his permits were in order, but he should have been more meticulous about checking out the legitimacy of the operation, especially since he already had a felony record for botching a bear hunt. It's unclear how much he was involved in the coverup when it became clear that the lion was not a legitimate target. But too much of the coverage has elided of the fact that hunts like the one Palmer says he thought he was on can be carried out perfectly legally and, more importantly, are a huge boon for wildlife conservation. Here's the story of even more expensive and high-profile hunt, flawlessly executed: American Corey Knowlton paid $350,000 for a permit to hunt a black rhino in Namibia under the auspices of the Dallas Safari Club back in January 2014. Black rhinos are critically endangered, and Knowlton received death threats after the permit auction, but the details of his hunt are likely to win over all but the most ardent hunting opponents. For starters, the money will go to fight poaching. (That's right: this pay-to-play hunt will help fund efforts to prevent exactly the kind of crappy practices used by Palmer's team) The permit from the Namibian government authorized only the killing of one of 18 elderly male black rhinos, which are actually considered a net negative for overall species survival, since they are past their breeding years but remain territorial and are therefore a threat to the younger males. Knowlton and his well-vetted team whittled that list to just four animals and were obsessively carefully about finding the right rhino to kill.  At one point during the hunt, they felt visibility wasn't good enough to be sure they were getting the right animal, so they headed to a new location to hunt one of the approved rhinos, only to discover that it has beaten them to the punch by dying of natural causes, likely old age–related.  Yet according to an account from a CNN journalist who rode along on the hunt, the kill was no less thrilling for its careful targeting and elderly quarry and when it was over Knowlton felt he had done the right thing: Knowlton walks up from behind the rhino and when he's certain it's over, he kneels next to it. "Any time you take an animal's life it's an emotional thing," Knowlton said. The Namibian government official assures Knowlton it is the rhino on the approved hunting list. The trackers smile with relief and shake hands. I ask K[...]

I Mean, What Isn’t Auschwitz These Days? (UPDATED)

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:59:00 -0400

(image) This week, Rep. Jodi Laubenberg (R-Texas) commented on the undercover video sting of Planned Parenthood’s fetal-parts business thusly:

To find out that this culture of death is now leading to the sale – this is no different than what happened in Nazi Germany. No different than doing the experiments on the old men and old women and now doing them on the babies.

It's a sentiment echoed over at Red State, where Owen Strachan has a piece up titled "Planned Parenthood Is Our Auschwitz."

This is as close to accurate as such contemporary comparisons get. The following are American policy issues that have been analogized this month either to the Holocaust or its chief architect:

Scott WalkerUniversity Wisconsin-Madison professor Sara Goldrick-Rab ("My grandfather, a psychologist, just walked me through similarities between Walker and Hitler. There are so many — it's terrifying.")

The Iran nuclear weapons dealMike Huckabee ("will take the Israelis and march them to the door of the oven.")

The meat industry and other abusers of animals: Russell Simmons ("There were people for slavery, remember? Almost everybody. Slavery was fine. There's people that put people in ovens…. You're asking me, do I think that people who are unconscious to the suffering they cause to 100 billion animals–the worst holocaust in the history of humankind, the suffering of animals, the abuse of animals, and yes you're all guilty in my opinion…. [Y]ou don’t like the word holocaust? It's a fucking holocaust.")

UPDATE/ADDITION: Uh, Uber? Ted Rall: ("Seriously, let's walk through the parallels between the Silicon Valley startup and the genocidal right-wing totalitarian movements of the mid 20th century.") (Thanks to alert commenter Just say Nikki!)

The good news, as ever, is that Americans, with few exceptions, still really, really hate Adolf Hitler. The bad news, well, I'll let Kurt Eichenwald deliver it:

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What’s Behind the Jacked-Up Egg Prices and Shortages?

Wed, 29 Jul 2015 11:20:00 -0400

(image) Panda Express’ fast-food Chinese offerings may not be the most authentic choices out there, and now they’re going to be slightly less so. Thanks to a current massive egg shortage, Panda Express has dropped the eggs out of its fried rice and replaced it with corn. From CNN:

That’s not the only change. The company explained, “We take the health and safety of our guests seriously, and due to a temporary industry-wide egg shortage, Panda has temporarily modified our fried rice recipe and temporarily discontinued hot-and-sour soup.”

Across the country, the cost of eggs, especially those in liquid form, are up because of the recent bird flu outbreak.

The flu outbreak has killed off more than 48 million chickens in the first half of the year. It contributed to eggs reaching a record high price of $2.57 a dozen in June. Prices are expected to go up again in the fall.

But the flu outbreak isn’t the only factor reducing egg availability and driving up prices. At the start of the year, Proposition 2 in California went into effect. That ballot initiative requires chicken farmers to increase the size of chicken cages so that the hens could move around more. The rules aren’t restricted to California farms, either. Farmers in other states that want to sell their eggs to California also have to comply, a demand that has prompted lawsuits from outside states. So far a federal judge in California has ruled that the states lacked standing to sue on behalf of the farmers within those states.

As predicted by anybody with half a brain, the new rules were already driving up the price of eggs and cutting supply. According to Fox’s San Diego affiliate, one farmer has had to cut back the number of chickens in one building from 5,000 to 2,000 to comply with the law. A dozen eggs in California cost more than in other states, pushing a dozen up to $4.99 in some places.

It’s easy to imagine that those who have pushed so hard for this regulation either don’t consume eggs for moral reasons or live comfortable enough lifestyles that they can afford to be more discerning ethical consumers of what they put in their bodies. But obviously the people being most harmed by this price spike are the poor who discover a basic food staple is now consuming more of their limited budgets. The impact of the flu would have resulted in a spike anyway, but at least that’s just temporary.

Ferret Legalization Coming to New York City Tomorrow?

Mon, 09 Mar 2015 13:23:00 -0400

Illegal ferret-owning New Yorkers are anxiously waiting the Board of Health's decision on whether to end its 15-year ban on ferrets this week.

As this morning's The Washington Post Express reports, if repealed in New York City, D.C. may follow suit:

Until the D.C. Council votes to add ferrets to the list of allowable pets, D.C. ferret owners live with the knowledge that their beloved "fur babies" could be taken.

Ferret-confiscation isn't the only fear owners live with in the nation's capitol:

The ban has more insidious effects, as well, [ferret owner] Bullock said. For instance, local ferret owners hesitate to take their pets to city vets, for fear of being turned in. "In an emergency situation, you might not have time to get to a vet in Virginia or Maryland," she said.

Check out Reason TV's 2013 video, "Ending the War on Ferrets," below for more on the fight to legalize ferrets:

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