An endangered species
An endangered species is a population of organisms which is facing a high risk of becoming extinct because it is either few in numbers, or threatened by changing environmental or predation parameters. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has calculated the percentage of endangered species.
Many nations have laws offering protection to conservation reliant species: for example, forbidding hunting, restricting land development or creating preserves.
Why International Trade is not Safe for Dolphins
You may have your own opinions about the World Trade Organization (WTO), whether positive or negative. Regardless, the WTO wields influence over imports and exports worldwide. As we have discussed at length on this blawg, animals are commodities, and thus the policies of the WTO are important when considering animal rights.
Over the last several months the WTO has taken issue with dolphin-safe tuna. To summarize what is a long and involved debate, since 1990 the United States has provided labels specifying whether dolphins were killed (though ”harmed” isn’t covered) through the harvesting of tuna to be sold in the U.S. market under the Dolphin Protection Consumer Information Act(originally the labels really meant that purse seine nets, the type that often harm dolphins, weren’t used). Mexico, via a complaint to the WTO, claimed that these dolphin safety measures unfairly impeded Mexico’s tuna trade. The WTO agreed, and ruled that the dolphin-safe labels are “unnecessarily restrictive on trade.” This ruling comes out of one of the core principles of the WTO’s policy of non-discrimination. Under the doctrine of “the most favoured nation” all WTO countries must extend to each other the same trade advantages as the most prefered trading nation would receive. National equality also states that foreign traders must be treated the same way as domestic traders. When you consider the long history of violence and discrimination associated with international trade, including the United States’s own origins, this is sound policy. Yet as always, the devil is in the application.
Though the United States is often on the wrong side of international agreements, here we have at issue one of the few pro-animal laws Congress has produced, and that we should perhaps be wary of eroding. To be clear, the WTO held that Mexican tuna products are not afforded less favourable treatment than tuna products of US on the basis of their origins. The WTO did find, however, that the dolphin-safe labels are overly trade-restrictive to fulfill the legitimate objects of the Unites States, based on two findings:-
(i) the findings that the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions only partly address the legitimate objectives pursued by the United States.
(ii) the finding that Mexico had provided the panel with a less trade restrictive alternative capable of achieving the same level of protection of the objective pursued by the US dolphin-safe labelling provisions.
So what does this mean? The WTO is saying that the US is banning tuna harvested from a form of fishing wherein fishermen “set upon” tuna schools that are often herded by dolphins. The dolphins circle above the fish, and hunt them. Dolphins are killed when the fishermen go through the dolphins to get to the tuna. The WTO recognizes that the US has a legitimate interest in protecting the dolphins, and that this method of fishing puts the dolphins at risk. The types of tuna that the US allows, however, have been harvested under fishing conditions that place the dolphins at equal risk of being killed. In that sense, the US is prejudicing Mexico’s trade by banning only one variant of risky fishing. The WTO was unclear on how all of this fits within the International Dolphin Conservation Program, which ideally would provide some protection for the dolphins. The appellate board also suggests that the “less trade restrictive alternative” doesn’t work as well as Mexico claims it does to achieve the requisite protection.
It is unknown at this stage what actual effect this ruling will have. The United States has until July 13, 2013 to conform with the WTO ruling, but there is talk of further appeal. Whether this ruling illegally overrides United States law is still in question. The only real, and perhaps unsurprising, outcome will be a worse situation for dolphins. This complaint indicates that rather than attempt to similarly modify their own fishing policies, Mexican fisherman are continuing to implement a technique that the United States and the WTO find to be harmful. Though there is merit in the argument for consistency in all approved fishing methods, that should not prevent us from outlawing ones that are proven to be detrimental. As is too often the case, we again see an uneasy compromise between animals as creatures, and animals as commodities. Furthermore, if and when the US complies with this ruling, whatever the result, it will mean a weakening of dolphin protection in some form, even if the dolphin-safe labels are preserved. Much like the questionable USDA certified organics, or the “cage-free” chickens, we won’t really know what that label means, or if it is really providing protection. Given Mexico’s implications, it doesn’t even mean that much now.
The best case scenario is we keep the status quo, but if this WTO hearing shows nothing else, it is that the international community desperately needs to be taking steps forward for marine animal protection, not squabbling over the few gains it has taken so long to establish.
Animal Cruelty and Neglect Exposed
They are victims without a voice. Every year, thousands of animals are victims of cruelty.
Animal cruelty encompasses a broad range of behaviors harmful to animals. There are no federal cruelty laws; the Animal Welfare Act is only federal law that governs the humane care, handling, treatment, and transportation of some animals in certain situations. Meanwhile, state definitions of animal cruelty vary.
“There is no simple answer to the question, ‘what is animal cruelty,’ since the definition differs from state to state,” says Bret Hopman, senior manager of Media & Communications for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). “Adding to the confusion, ‘cruelty’ is often used as a catch-all for offenses against animals, including abuse, neglect, animal fighting, abandonment, and practicing veterinary medicine without a license.”
“Animal cruelty is recognized as a crime throughout this country as exemplified in state and federal laws regulating that activity,” explains Roger H. Humber,
Criminal Justice program director at South University, Montgomery. “Punishments range from misdemeanor to felony sanctions, depending on the case and the perpetrator’s mental intent regarding such abuse.”
Although many people witness and report acts of cruelty, there are cases that go unreported. Animal cruelty can take on many different forms, so people should know what to look for.
Animal cruelty generally falls into two categories: intentional cruelty and unintentional cruelty or neglect.
Intentional cruelty means someone has purposely inflicted physical harm or injury on an animal. Unintentional cruelty, or neglect, could mean an animal has been denied the basic necessities of care, including food, water, shelter, or veterinary care. It could also mean that the pet parent is unaware they are doing anything wrong and needs to be educated on how to properly care for the animal.
According to the Humane Society, signs of neglect include:-
- Animals without shelter in extreme heat or cold.
- Clearly emaciated animals. Visible bones and lethargy can be a sign of an untreated, life-threatening medical condition or imminent starvation.
- Untreated wounds or other medical conditions. This includes limping, multiple patches of missing fur, and open sores.
- Dogs or cats living inside abandoned homes.
- Too many animals living in one property might be a sign of animal hoarding.
Animal hoarding is another example of unintentional cruelty, Hopman says. Hoarding is part of an anxiety disorder in which people, for a variety of reasons, feel they are incapable of forming lasting relationships with people, so they substitute them.
“The effects of animal hoarding are far-reaching and encompass mental health, animal welfare, and public safety concerns,” Hopman says. “In April 2010, the ASPCA launched the Cruelty Intervention Advocacy (CIA) program to assist its law enforcement agents who come across investigations in New York City that legally fall short of animal cruelty, but nonetheless place animals in perilous situations.”
The main goals of most programs are to help educate people about their actions. There has been growing awareness and reporting of animal cruelty, but it is still a major problem.
Animal Cruelty and Other Crimes
Research suggests a link between animal abuse and domestic violence. The National Coalition Against Domestic Violence conducted a study and found that women in domestic violence shelters are 11 times more likely to report animal abuse by their partner than women not experiencing violence. Eighty-five percent of domestic violence shelters report that they commonly encounter women who speak about pet abuse incidents.
“Over the past 25 years, researchers and professionals in a variety of human services and animal welfare disciplines have established significant correlations between animal abuse, child abuse and neglect, domestic violence, elder abuse, and other forms of violence,” Hopman says.
The ASPCA supports efforts to raise awareness of animal abuse and neglect as significant crimes, and publicize the connection between animal cruelty and other forms of violence.
Humber says people must be vigilant and recognize animal cruelty cases and offenders as areas of concern.
“We all need to be concerned with the neighbor that takes pet care responsibilities lightly and report them to the appropriate agency” he says. “We also need to be aware that animal cruelty could be a predictor or precipitator of violent behavior against people.”