Friday, April 14, 2017

Successes to report this week!

UK Travel Company Calls Zoos ‘Antiquated’ and Removes Them From Itinerary.

If you love animals, chances are you’ve been to a zoo at least once in your life. There is nothing better than seeing wild animals up close – but unfortunately, zoos aren’t as fun for animals as they may be for people.

Most animals confined in zoos were either captured from the wild at a young age or born into captivity. In either case, these animals are deprived of their wild habitat and family which causes them to suffer both mentally and physically over time. Countless studies have shown how captivity causes zoochosis in animals, a mental illness that is expressed through mindless, repetitive behaviors that can even include self-harm. Further, animals born in captivity can never be released back to the wild, effectively debunking the claim that zoos help “conserve” wild animals. To make matters even worse, it has been proven visiting the zoo does not have a positive impact on children, but rather teaches them that animals exist for entertainment. Knowing this, perpetuating the idea that zoos are a fun activity to partake in while on vacation is incredibly dangerous.

But it looks like the future for captive animals just got a bit brighter, as UK-based travel company Responsible Travel became the first of hopefully many more travel organizers to eliminate zoos from its trip itineraries. The company cited the following reasons for doing so:

  • There are many ways to educate people about wildlife in the wild (some outstanding natural history programs and educational materials) that do not require them to be held in captivity.
  • There is no evidence that seeing animals in Zoos does make people become active in conservation. 
  • The World Association of Zoos and Aquariums encourage their members to commit just 3% of their expenditure to conservation. While a few Zoos fund some good conservation work it’s hard to understand how they can justify claims to be conservation organizations when such minimal funds are committed. In our opinion most are simply commercial organizations that display animals for profit and donate a tiny proportion of expenditure to conservation.
  • 90 percent of animals kept in Zoos are not endangered. There is no justification for keeping them in captivity to protect the species.

Responsible Travel CEO Justin Francis concluded, “Zoos are not appropriate in 2017. They are relics of the past, and the arguments to justify keeping animals in captivity no longer stand up. The sad reality is that the animals are held captive primarily for our entertainment, not for reasons of conservation, and it is time that this stopped.”

As a result, the company has removed six trips that included zoo visits from its site. It continues to promote legitimate animal sanctuaries, rescue and rehabilitation centers, and “genuine endangered species conservation centres,” but only after auditing each of these in-depth to ensure they are strong champions of animal welfare.

These actions were supported by the Born Free Foundation, which responded by saying that its investigations over the years have “demonstrated that few animal species can adapt to a lifetime in captivity, with many individual animals developing abnormal behavior, not seen in their wild counterparts, in order to cope with captivity’s restrictive and often barren environments.”

Could Responsible Travel’s move mark the beginning of a new trend against promoting animal captivity as entertainment? Let’s do more than hope. We can all help make this a reality by contacting more travel companies and urging them to follow Responsible Travel’s lead by eliminating anything that supports animal cruelty and misery from their itineraries and websites, as well.

Taiwan Becomes First Asian Country to Ban Eating Dog and Cat Meat.The times are changing! In a great victory for animals, Taiwan has banned the consumption of dog and cat meat. Where previously the Animal Protection Act, Taiwan’s animal rights legislation, only covered the slaughter and sale of dog and cat meat, this amendment specifically prohibits the consumption of dog and cat meat as well. Now individuals who eat or trade dog or cat meat can now be fined between $1,640 to $8,200.

Not only that, but the amendment to the Animal Protection Act also bans “walking” an animal on a leash pulled by a car or motorcycle and raises the penalty for cruelty to animals. The maximum prison term for animal cruelty has been doubled to two years and the fine is now up to $65,500 for “any act that deliberately harms animals and results in mangled limbs, organ failure or death.”

Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen is a cat lover herself and even showcased her two felines “Think Think” and “Ah Tsai” on social media during her presidential campaign.

With an estimated 30 million dogs killed annually in Asia for the dog meat trade, Taiwan joins Hong Kong, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand in trying to put an end to the horrific trade.

Wendy Higgins of Humane Society International (HSI) applauded the ban saying, “Taiwan’s progressive ban is part of a growing trend across Asia to end the brutal dog meat trade.” Just earlier this year, HSI shut down a dog farm in South Korea and rescued 55 dogs from the farm, with all of the dogs getting a second chance in the United States.

Knowing the horror behind the dog meat trade, we are thrilled Taiwan is taking this step on behalf of animals. Dogs in the meat trade are forced to travel long distances, crammed into crowded wire cages, where they will languish without food or water as they await their fate. They will watch on as those before them have their throat’s slit. Many are reportedly beaten — even burned or boiled alive. A four-year investigation by Animals Asia found that the majority of animals killed for human consumption in China are stolen pets or stray animals.

While the news of Taiwan banning the consumption of dog and cat meat is great, the fight is not over. There are many options available if you want to help stop the cruel dog meat trade. Humane Society International has a wealth of information and resources to help raise awareness for the cruelty inherent in this practice, and they also run large campaigns encouraging country leaders to take action to ban the trade altogether. Many people are not aware of the dangers or even the existence of the dog meat trade, so your best course of action is to educate yourself and others to expose the truth of this industry!
Cactus ferruginous pygmy owl
Court Overturns Denial of Protection for Fierce Little Owl
In response to a lawsuit brought by the Center and allies, a federal judge in Arizona has overturned a 2011 decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service that denied Endangered Species Act protection to the tiny but ferocious cactus ferruginous pygmy owl.

The court also overturned a policy making it far more difficult for species imperiled in important portions of their ranges to gain federal protection. The pygmy owl faces serious threats to its survival in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and northern Mexico, but the Service had denied protection anyway, arguing the bird was secure elsewhere.

The latest landmark decision is a lifesaver for this little desert owl and many other species.

Read more in the Arizona Daily Star.
Prairie dogs
Court Restores Utah Prairie Dog Protections
A win not just for prairie dogs but for endangered species across the country: The 10th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled that the federal government does have authority to protect Utah prairie dogs and other endangered species occurring in a single state.

In a stinging rebuke to extreme private-property-rights advocates, a Republican judge concluded that eliminating protections for "purely intrastate species" would "leave a gaping hole" and "undercut the conservation purposes" of the Endangered Species Act. The Center and allies submitted a friend-of-the-court brief in the case supporting protections for prairie dogs.

"We're tremendously relieved," said Noah Greenwald, our endangered species director. "If the decision had gone the other way, iconic species like the Florida panther and southern sea otter could have lost protection."

Read more in The Christian Science Monitor