Great news! Already tired of looking at depressing photos from the oil spill? Thanks to new regulations from the Coast Guard, you won’t have to for much longer. Soon, getting close enough to photograph the oil spill will be a felony, punishable by a $40,000 fine. Zoe Strauss, you’re on notice.
According to CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the Times-Picayune, and several other news sources, the Coast Guard has put new restrictions that prevent the public—including members of the media—from approaching within 65 feet of response vessels or booms on the water or beaches.
And since booms are often placed more than 40 feet from islands or marshlands, this means that photographers, bloggers, reporters, and even volunteers won’t be able to get close enough to oil-drenched wildlife to bear witness. To report. To help.
Violators will face a $40,000 fine and prosecution for a Class D felony.
As always, Change.org has an online petition you can fill out. Or, you know, riot in the streets instead. I’m not choosy.
Well I say! It’s time for the adorability and tragedy of this week’s link-o-rama! »
BUNNIES BUNNIES BUNNIES! Adopt yourself a bunny from the East Bay SPCA—4651 Gleason Dr. in Dublin—at tomorrow’s Adopt-a-Rabbit Day, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.! Five different rescue groups will have rabbits there for you to fall in love with, because rabbits are like cats for a dog-person: they’re super-cute and loving, but also neat and tidy, and they like to have time for themselves, and when they tire of your adoration they will just hop away, but their displays of affection are ridiculously exuberant. You guys if I don’t get to adopt a rabbit soon I WILL EXPLODE WITH YEARNING. HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. Back to the matter at hand: please contact Anne with questions.
Did you know that Mission Mission features adoptable animals of the SF SPCA every Friday? This week’s future-best-pals are Shortstop and Sassy!
Super-duper vegan-friendly events! Tomorrow’s Beehive Market is having a free ice cream social, featuring Scream Sorbet and Rocket Ship Vegan Ice Cream! Get over there sometime between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. because missing free ice cream would be SO STUPID, goodness.
OK, it’d be cool to miss it if you were attending Animal Place’s Barn Warming, instead! It runs from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at AP’s new facility (600 acres!) in Grass Valley; you can meet the animals, shop at the Compassionate Marketplace, turn your children—should you have any—loose in the Kids’ Corner, and buy a vegan lunch for $5. You cannot bring your own food or animals, however. Details and driving directions here.
Hello, Bijou the bunny! What’s that? You’re available for adoption at tomorrow’s Adopt-a-Bunny event at the East Bay SPCA? My word!
Well at least the state of Ohio isn’t totally rotten: the Humane Society made a deal with Governor Ted Strickland to implement a number of the demands that were moving toward becoming a ballot measure (like our Prop. 2 in 2008) in November, which HSUS will put on hold while the state phases out veal crates and gestation crates, and bans things like strangling farm animals and transporting downer cows for slaughter. More details here.
What’s new in the ocean (besides the great big fucking oil spill, coverage of which by The Rachel Maddow Show has been quite good, incidentally)? They’ve got magic-science salmon soooo close to FDA approval. These fish have been genetically engineered to “grow to market size in 16 to 18 months” instead of the usual three years! HOORAY! Other magic-science water-breathers include Paul the octopus, who lives in Oberhausen, Germany; described by Der Spiegel as “cuddly,” Paul is nationally adored for his “ability” to “predict” Germany’s World Cup wins. Nothing in that sentence was a lie. Now, would you like to cement your hatred of SeaWorld, and keeping orcas in captivity? Read this article about Tilikum in Outside magazine; it’s unbelievably heartbreaking (also, enraging).
Clementine, you darling! Are you looking to get adopted as well? Any time between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m., at 4651 Gleason Dr. in Dublin? You got it!
It’s summer, and that means eating (kidding, every season means eating, duh)! Jeremy Fox will include charcuterie—with an ear- and skin-focus!—with his “plant-based” cuisine at Plum when it opens in September. GROSS and BOO. Spice Kit opened in the FiDi and looks to have decent veg options; Mission Chinese Food is open and is offering (apparently) four vegan options, plus THEY DELIVER, OH MAN; the Village Voice even did a little roundup of delicious NYC-area veg dishes.
Miss Tisha! Is it true that people can bring their rabbits for introductions to potential new best friends at Adopt-a-Bunny day as well? And the East Bay SPCA is offering free bunny nail trims, too? How wonderful! [all photos courtesy East Bay SPCA]
Looks like we ruffled some feathers (ha!) over at Treehugger, and they’ve posted a response. To be clear, I’m glad that both sides of this debate are focused on helping birds and easing their suffering, but let’s unpack this a bit:
I was assuming that everyone was aware of the opposing view: The conventional wisdom that cleaning birds is a good and worthy practice.
In fact, the opposing view I was hoping to see was a response from IBRRC to Silvia Gaus’s specific claims, not a rehash of how everyone feels about helping animals. We reported on IBRRC’s debunking in our follow-up, pointing out that “Gaus’s statistics are related to past North Sea oil spills, where birds are more prone to freezing”.
I’m sorry if this discussion makes some people uncomfortable, but it’s a discussion worth having.
I enjoy uncomfortable discussions (what vegan doesn’t?) but ultimately, Brian Merchant and I are two amateur observers trying to sort out the facts. Neither of us are doing the work of rescuing birds in the Gulf and observing how well they survive. (Disclosure: I volunteered for the Oiled Wildlife Care Network and cleaned birds following the COSCO Busan oil spill in the San Francisco Bay.)
Novel ideas tend to excite more than the conventional wisdom, but is it truly a discussion worth having? IBRRC spends considerable resources to answer the exact question Mr. Merchant is posing. In science, it’s not the “scrappy bloggers” asking the tough questions; it’s the researchers themselves.
IBRRC doesn’t oppose euthanasia when necessary (and neither do I — not for animals, not for humans). But “kill-not-clean” is quickly becoming the new conventional wisdom, thanks to the media’s approach to science reporting. If Gaus’s claims are reported unchallenged, then the general public will be less willing to support organizations like the IBRRC. Why bother, after all, if they’re spending resources on an entirely futile task?
We should not only be trying to rescue as many animals as we can; we should be trying to understand what happens to them after we do, so we can keep getting better at it. IBRRC has been doing exactly that. Why not ask them about their research?
From NRDC comes this devastating video of the worst of the worst quotes from BP CEO Tony Hayward, alongside photos of oil-soaked birds and marine life to really hit you in the gut. My favorite Tony Hayward quote? ”I think the environmental impact of this disaster is likely to have been very, very modest.” “Modest” as in you’re holding back from bragging about winning #1 all-time worst oil disaster? Save it for your acceptance speech, Tony. IN JAIL.
Well surprise, surprise. The news media and the blogs—including a few that should know better (*cough* Treehugger)—have been bursting at the seams with euthanasia bloodlust for oil-soaked birds. But IBRRC, the actual experts doing the work of bird rescue and research, is pushing back. Silvia Gaus, the German biologist who everyone is quoting, is basing her opinion on bad and outdated science.
Mark Russell, a project manager at the IBRRC, took strong issue with Gaus’ claim that cleaning is ineffective: He told me that the studies on which she based her conclusions suffered from some gaps in procedure. (For example, what were the rehabilitation practices? Did the monitoring equipment that was strapped onto the released birds contribute to their demise? If you can no longer locate a bird with a transmitter, should you always assume that the bird died?)
Other studies indicate that the survival rate for cleaned-up birds can be quite high, from 78 to 100 percent. And as bad as those oily pelicans may look in the pictures from Louisiana, Russell said it’s often the oiliest birds that have the highest survival rate. That’s because they tend to be picked up earlier, before dehydration, hypothermia and other ills have set in.
Russell said there was once a long-running debate over whether the stress of rehabilitation does the birds more harm than good. (Research shows that it doesn’t.)
Each oil spill is different, however, and survival rates often depend on factors such as climate and species, according to Nils Warnock, a wildlife specialist with the Oiled Wildlife Care Network.
No one knows what the survival rate will be for the Gulf species affected by the oil spill. But, Warnock said, “I don’t believe that all these birds that are being rehabilitated for the Deepwater Horizon spill will end up dying.”
He added that Gaus’s statistics are related to past North Sea oil spills, where birds are more prone to freezing after oil has compromised their natural waterproofing.
So there you have it. Clean, rescue, and care for oil-soaked birds. Don’t kill them.
Here’s a simple quiz: If you came home to find your house on fire, would you (a) call the fire department and, while waiting, run in to try and save your family? Or would you (b) assume they were going to die from smoke inhalation anyway, so why not pour some gasoline on the fire and finish the job?
You’re probably not a sociopath, which means you answered (a). So then why the hell is Treehugger pushing the idea that rescuing oil-soaked birds is futile, so we’re better off killing them?
They’re basing this recommendation on the opinion of one biologist in Germany, Silvia Gaus, who claims that “the middle-term survival rate of oil-soaked birds is under 1 percent.” We’re expected to be impressed because “even the World Wildlife Fund agrees.”
Do rehabilitated birds in oil spills survive once they have been released?
I wish I had a yes or no answer but it just is not that simple. The truth is that, yes, many have a very good chance of survival. We have documented many survival stories but it is very difficult to follow up on sea birds that live in colonies in remote areas and who basically look the same except for little silver bands on one leg. In most cases we receive less than a 1 percent return rate on banded birds and especially sea birds that live in colonies that sometimes range in the millions. But we are always working to establish and apply any post release studies that we can.
IBRRC openly admits that there isn’t enough data, but what they do know is much more encouraging than “put ‘em out of their misery.” Here is one such study [PDF]. Rescued birds from the Santa Clara River oil spill survived for years and continued to migrate.
Even if only one rescued bird survives (or survives long enough to breed!), it’s worth doing. BP’s oil volcano is a moral tragedy, and we have an obligation to throw every resource available towards saving as many animals as possible. This probably makes me “unserious” or “sentimental,” but it’s shameful for an eco-conscious blog like Treehugger to push this kind of “counter-intuitive” bullshit. What’s good is actually bad so let’s kill some birds! UGH.
Not sure what’s going on with the oil spill? These adorably evil kittens with fake English villain accents have re-enacted the scene at BP’s corporate offices to get you up to date. So cute! Except that they’re evil kittens. Eeeeeevvvil.
This photo of a Portuguese Man o’ War, by Flickr user slkeith, is part of the National Wildlife Federation BP Oil Spill Coverage pool. Yes, that horrible black stuff is oil. No, Man o’ Wars cannot live while full of petroleum products.
They discovered one oil plume last week with a larger surface area than San Francisco’s (six by 20 miles, vs. seven by seven), which is terrifying, you know? It is going to cause the gruesome deaths of countless animals. If you can give some money to the cleanup effort, please do. You can’t count on BP to do anything good.
Do you love science, ecological disasters, and rubbernecking at car crashes? Well do I have a special treat for you. BP had been refusing to release video footage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill/leak/-ocalypse, making it nearly impossible for scientists to evaluate the extent of the ongoing damage. So Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) said, “This is a whole heap of bullshit,”* and demanded a live video feed of the gushing oil be made available online to everyone, immediately.
Less than four hours later, BP responded, and promised to make the webcam available within 24 hours. The result is now live on house.gov and Ustream.
The spill cam is for independent scientists and the general public to hold BP accountable. We already know that BP undercounted the rate of oil flow by 20 times from their original estimate, thanks to the limited video footage that they reluctantly released. With the current estimate at 4 million gallons each day, that’s an Exxon-Valdez-size spill every three days still pouring into the Gulf of Mexico.