Toronto passes its shark-fin soup ban! »
In June I wrote a Vegansaurus post about a motion tabled before Toronto’s city council to ban the sale, possession, and consumption of shark fin soup in the city. I’m stoked to report that after a 38-4 city council vote yesterday, shark fin soup is now banned in Toronto. Woo!
The bylaw will take effect in September 2012; fines for the possession and use of shark-fin products will range from $5,000 to $100,000.
For a while it looked like the ban might not happen, when Mayor Rob Ford and a few other councillors argued that it was outside the city’s jurisdiction and instead a matter that lay with provincial authority. I suspect that similar bans in other cities helped make this happen.
It’s important to note, though, that another key factor in getting the ban through was the work of local activists. The Toronto Vegetarian Association did a lot to get the word out, as did groups like WildAid, United Conservationists, and Toronto Loves Sharks. Sharkwater director Rob Stewart also threw his support behind the ban and was on hand for today’s vote.
“Toronto’s action is a huge victory in the global fight against and illegal shark fin trade valued in the hundreds of millions of dollars,” said Rob Sinclair, WildAid’s executive director.
Goes to show that groups of local people really can create change! I’m happy to live in Toronto today.
[photo by hunxue-er via Flickr]
We love Cory Booker because he loves the animals! »
Did you see the post about Newark, N.J. Mayor Cory Booker in the Post the other day? The Humane Society of the United States gave him the Humane Public Servant award last week for his work building Patrick’s Place, a “state-of-the-art animal shelter” named for a pit bull who was found in a Newark trash can, starving to death.
Sometime between then and receiving this HSUS award, Mayor Booker stopped eating meat, because of the animals. Part of his anti-animal-cruelty campaign is to stop eating meat! It seems like the most obvious thing in the world, but they don’t make those Shelter Pet Project commercials just for non-meat-eaters. For most of the country, there’s a huge disconnect between donating some towels to an animal shelter and actually taking preventative measures against animal cruelty. But not for Cory Booker! He gets it.
Growing up a half-New Jerseyan, I heard a looooot of Newark jokes. It’s a pit, they’d say, it’s the worst. Nothing more terrible in Jersey than Newark (the response to that is, Have you seen Trenton?). But since its citizens elected Cory Booker mayor, its fortunes have risen. Risen! I wish our young, go-getting mayor had been half as useful. I mean, sure, marry the gay citizenry, but what about infrastructure? What about jobs? What are you even doing in the Lieutenant Governor’s seat except killing time doing your hair until you can run for governor and smarmily fuck up the state GODDAMN IT.
Laura says if you want to learn more about a younger Cory Booker, watch Street Fight, the Oscar-nominated documentary about his failed campaign for mayor in 2002. It’s on Netflix instant! It’s a trifecta of awesome—a documentary whose handsome star is an idealistic politician—so watching it would probably improve your life. Especially when you remember that later, he wins! And grows into an even better person! Cory Booker, he is pretty great.
[photo by David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons]
Nice one, Italy: police raid a bear-meat banquet »
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is gross for about a billion reasons; this week, it’s his political partner in Imer, Italy, who held a bear-meat banquet as a political fundraiser/fuck-you to Italian bear conservationists.
The party, the Northern League, is made up entirely of jerks who also do things like walk a pig around a future site of a mosque in order to defile it. They claimed they had imported the 53 kg. (116.6 lbs.) of dead bear from Slovenia, but they couldn’t prove it, so the carabinieri seized the meat before it was all cooked. Neat? These people are so gross. Only 35 bears live in the Dolomites! According to the Northern League, they’re all “marauding” devils, roaming the countryside eating livestock and threatening residents, and the proper way to address this issue is to eat them. Obviously.
Some party members told the Guardian that they think members of Berlusconi’s party arranged the raid, which is possible—cabinet ministers all over the place have been condemning the banquet. Yeah, I wouldn’t want to be associated with a bunch of reactionary cretins either, especially if my party and I were totally losing elections across the country. No one’s all bad, and if Berlusconi is good to bears, then maybe we can forgive him for like one bunga-bunga party.
Guest post: Toronto to ban shark fin soup? »
Shark fin soup bans aren’t just gaining traction on the West coast—this week, Toronto’s city council tabled a motion to ban the sale, possession and consumption of shark fin soup in the city. They’re following the lead of nearby Brantford, which became the first city in North America to ban the soup. This is all pretty great news for sharks.
So why is shark fin soup so bad? Well, it kills 73 million sharks every year, to start, according to Oceana— but what’s really awful is that it kills those sharks in a terribly wasteful way. In “harvesting,” the shark’s fin is cut off while the fish is still alive. The shark then gets thrown back into the ocean to drown, bleed to death or be eaten by another creature. No other part of the shark even gets used. And shark species are increasingly threatened; when a top animal on the food chain starts to disappear, it’s bad news for an ecosystem.
Traditionally in Chinese culture, shark fin soup is seen as a sign of prosperity—serving it to your guests during important occasions like weddings is expected by many people, especially older generations. That’s made it harder to get bans in place, but things are changing: aside from in Brantford, the soup’s been banned in Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, and California may be next. Some argue that the ban targets Chinese people unfairly, since many other favorite animal foods are raised or killed in nasty ways; they have a good point there, so maybe we should do something about that too!
Toronto councillor Glenn De Baeremaeker compared the killing of sharks for their fins to use in soup to hunting elephants just for their ivory tusks. “Playing the piano in the city of Toronto actually led to elephants being slaughtered in Africa. We’re learning now that simply going to a restaurant and eating shark fin soup is leading to a slaughter in the oceans and we want to have that stopped,” De Baeremaeker said.
Toronto has a large Chinese population, so the move is sure to receive some opposition. In its current form, the ban would come in gradually so restaurants can go through their existing stock for the soup—that way they can’t claim that they’ll be losing too much money on shark fins they’ve already purchased.
Moreover, the motion has the vote of another councillor, Kristen Wong-Tam, a former president of the Chinese Canadian National Council Toronto—her support for this ban will hopefully go a long way within the Chinese community. Wong-Tam grew up eating shark fin soup for special occasions, but stopped once she learned what’s really behind it. “We are not going to bring up a fish—a shark that’s 150 pounds—from the ocean, cut off the fins and throw the rest of it back” to sink and die,” she said. “Because we found this out, mom and dad and my sisters and I just decided, the soup no longer had taste. It was no longer something we desired. Oftentimes at banquets we’ve actually refused it.”
See? When you educate people, they can change their minds, even older generations who have been eating the soup for years. The director of Sharkwater, Toronto native Rob Stewart, also favors the ban. If a coming report on shark fin soup is approved, the city will vote on the ban in the fall. Write to Toronto’s city councillors to tell them how awesome they’ll look to the world if they make this move.
Terri lives in Toronto, Ontario, where she enjoys barbecuing, feeding feral cats, going to local music shows and getting really mad about hockey games. She blogs about her adventures in plant-based eating at The Vegina Monologues
Wolves to be removed from endangered species lists in five states. Go USA! »
[PBS special: Hunting Wolves, Saving Wolves. Shows both sides of the argument. Can’t see the video? Watch it on Vegansaurus.com!]
It’s official: in 50-some days, five states are set to take gray wolves off the endangered species list. This is the first time Congress has removed a species from the endangered list. This is not good. You would hope that an animal’s being removed from the endangered species list would mean that the species* had rebounded something fierce—that’s not the case here. The wolf population has recovered a lot from near extinction but that’s not why the wolves are being de-listed. In this case, politics triumphs over science. The Northern Rockies has something like 1,700 wolves and they are just making it too darn hard to hunt. The federal government has relinquished control and the individual states will now “manage” the wolf population on their own. I totally trust a bunch of hunters to manage an endangered species. There are a few super-duper legitimate restrictions; for example, under the new deal, Montana, who currently has a little less than 600 wolves, would have to keep a minimum of 150 wolves and 15 breeding pairs. That sounds totally reasonable—75 percent of the species could be wiped out. It’s like, how few can we keep around so that we can rebuild the species once we deplete it again?
The whole thing is depraved. The way they went about it is just as bad as the motivation behind the de-listing. They slipped it into the budget agreement and it’s total bullshit. Why is that legal? And we can’t have realistically expected the President to refuse to sign the budget and shut down the government for wolves. Fucking Congress. I wasn’t aware of this because I’m not that into right-wing politics but according to the Washington Post, “The endangered act has long been reviled by conservatives who see it as a hindrance to economic development.” Damn endangered species, always getting in the way of making money. I’m sure the conservatives are super excited now that they no longer have to go through the usual channels with regards to endangered species—congress has got their back.
Like I said last week, this sets a terrible precedent for other endangered species. Bison and grizzles are already in danger. I just hope there’s not a budget agreement next time polar bears get too rowdy.
*I don’t generally like this word but I’ve used it because that’s the word the government uses and you know what I mean.
Save the wolves! Keep them protected! »
This whole budget business is messy as my room. All these goddamn riders! One such rider is the de-listing of wolves as an endangered species in Idaho and Montana. This is utter bullshit and really sad. From Earthjustice via the LA Times: “For the first time in history, Congress is removing a species…from the Endangered Species Act based on political, rather than biological, judgments.” Like I explained last week, wolves are being attacked for eating livestock and competing for “game” with hunters.
I don’t really sympathize with livestock farmers but that’s a better reason than that of the hunters; at least it’s like about their livelihood (as animal abusers). It’s like I’m sorry the wolves are making it more difficult for you guys to hunt but isn’t that part of the point? If you want easy, go to the damn grocery store. De-listing an endangered species so you have an easier time hunting is just depraved thinking and sneaking it into the budget agreement is so slimy.
From Friends of Animals, here’s how you can help:
Listed below are the phone numbers and contact info for the Senate. Please call not only your own senators, but every Senate Democrat as many times as you can. Please also pass this information along to other animal advocates. Wolves need every voice possible.
Capital Switchboard Numbers: give the name of the senator and you will be transferred to their office. You will then either speak to a staff member, or to voice mail on the weekend.
When possible ask to speak to each senator’s environmental aide. This will give you a better chance to get your message across because you will be talking to someone who is familiar with the issue.
The delisting language must be stripped out of the final bill:
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid
522 Hart Senate Office Bldg
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: (202) 224.3542
Toll-free for Nevadans: (866) 736.7343
INDIVIDUAL LIST OF SENATORS:
Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.)
Thomas R. Carper (D-Del.)
Frank R. Lautenberg (D-N.J.)
Benjamin L. Cardin (D-Md.)
Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.)
Kirsten E. Gillibrand (D-N.Y.)
Tom Udall (D-N.M.)
Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.)
Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.)
Comments: (202) 456.1111
Switchboard: (202) 456.1414
Another important thing to note is that this isn’t just about wolves: “as [Josh Mogerman, spokesman for the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, D.C.] said the rider could mean threats to additional species in the future. ‘There’s a process in place for dealing with these issues in the courts. But by Congress acting, it’s just a completely different animal,’ he said. ‘You look down the [Endangered Species Act], you see critter after critter and plant after plant that are probably inconvenient to special interests all over the country. And what [they] have done is opened the door to removing plants and animals from the ESA by whim, rather than science.’”
[Cartoon by me, photo from Living With Wolves]
Sharks of Kuwait, sharks of D.C. »
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) spent the second-to-last day of the Senate before its “autumn recess” complaining about Sen. Harry Reid’s (D-Nev.) attempt to pass, among other animal protection legislation,* S. 850, the Shark Conservation Act. This is the Senate’s version of H.R. 81, which passed the House in March 2009; both bills would “prohibit removal any of the fins of a shark (including the tail) and discarding the shark carcass at sea,” and make even possessing shark fins unattached to shark bodies illegal. This is good stuff! But could Sen. Dr. Tom “rampant lesbianism” Coburn allow the Senate to save hundreds of thousands of sharks? What are you, new? Apparently the bill has “been proffered for special interest groups,” but not special interest groups that give Tom Coburn money, so it’s not worth his precious time.
All over the world, actually, sharks are being slaughtered at an obscene rate. In this episode of Witness, Al Jazeera’s documentary show, a small crew chums the waters of the Arabian Gulf off Kuwait looking for sharks. It’s narrated and filmed in an almost emotionless manner, but some of the scenes are heart-wrenching. Shark embryos are said to be a source of virility, so even though adult sharks aren’t usually eaten, the unborn babies are. It’s 22 minutes long, and completely astonishing. As one of the researchers says, anyone can go to South Africa and see a white shark, but who even knows to go to Kuwait? Definitely watch it in full screen.
[can’t see the video? watch it at vegansaurus.com]
*The other legislation ol’ Harry Reid was looking to get passed was “the Crane Conservation Act, marine mammals rescue assistance legislation, the Great Cats and Rare Canids Act, and the Southern Sea Otter Recovery and Research Act.” Man, fuck that Tom Coburn. Fuck him right in the ear.
Update: Let’s not forget that Sen. Coburn has also placed holds on legislation that would give $1 billion to Haiti; make settlements worth $3.4 billion with Native Americans and black farmers; allow the government to purchase land to build a National Women’s History Museum; give aid to victims of the Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda; provide financial aid and training to caregivers of disabled veterans, investigate “unsolved Civil Rights-era crimes from before 1970”; help prevent veterans from committing suicide; and also, the Genetic Information Non-Disclosure Act. Why? Who knows? Maybe Jesus told him to be a hateful human being with no compassion whatsoever! Fuck that guy in both ears.
Our beloved Elizabeth Kucinich wants you! to support Healthy School Lunches! »
The Improving Nutrition for America’s Children Act—gosh that sounds wholesome—otherwise known as H.R. 5504, has finally been placed on the House order of business. Unfortunately, the House is taking its “autumn recess” before voting on it, even though the previous legislation—a one-year extension of an even earlier bill—expires, oh, today. Good call, guys!
Elizabeth Kucinich is very concerned about how this will affect the public schoolchildren of the U.S. So is your Vegansaurus, actually. Our Laura worked extremely hard to help get language into this bill that would ensure veg options for public school kids, including non-dairy milk, and we really don’t want to lose that because of selfish politicians who require pork—literal or political!—to vote for any bill. Kids need healthy, tasty school lunches! And you know we aren’t concerned about CHILDHOOD OBESITY AAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!! so much as just getting the kiddies a good, vegetable-protein-based meal five days a week. You always pay taxes; why not let some of them ($8 per taxpayer over the 2011 to 2015 period) go toward something you believe in?
You can help out immediately by calling or emailing your congressional representative today to express your support of H.R. 5504. We need to tell them all to make this their top priority when they return from their “autumn recess,” a.k.a. “campaigning break.” If you hate kids, do it for Elizabeth. If you don’t care about people at all, do it for the animals that won’t have to be killed for the veggie kids’ meals. If that doesn’t move you, do it for your favorite pink dinosaur!
Monkeys on drugs!! FOR SCIENCE!!! »
Oh, motherfucker. You never know where a news story will lead you, right? Like how “The USDA is full of racists! Black people are taking over the country and ruining it for all the white people!” hideousness turned out to be “A USDA employee grew as a person before coming to work at the USDA! Andrew Breitbart is a disgusting racist and people are shockingly willing to listen to him!” Or the “evidence of widespread corruption” that shut down ACORN that were actually complete fabrications? Nasty stuff.
Here’s another one! But there isn’t any conveniently edited videotape, and the victims aren’t humans, so it probably won’t get much attention. It deserves outrage, though. See, the other day, some grumpy Republican senators released a report criticizing some of the projects that had received money through the stimulus program. Naturally, the writers of the report gave these projects extremely ridiculous titles, so as to stir up as much shallow controversy as possible. “Yoga and hot flashes!” Who needs to study the effects of yoga on reducing hot flashes in breast cancer survivors? That shit is INSANE! Replacing the windows in the Mount Saint Helens National Volcanic Monument? But it is closed and the U.S. Forest Service doesn’t plan on reopening it! And anyway, just the WINDOWS? Are you trying to give John McCain a rage-induced heart attack right now?
The most controversial, or at least the one that received the most frivolous name and onto which ol’ Nevadan crazypants Sharron Angle latched quite firmly, is “Monkeys Getting High For Science”—more specifically, a $71,623 grant to the Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center to “[help] protect very important research that will have significant impact on public health in regards to cocaine addiction and the issue of relapse.” On monkeys. And yes, that does sound fucking crazy. What are the scientists of WFUBMC talking about, and are they really experimenting with monkeys and cocaine? Is this even the most important part of the story?
Considering the rest of the story is like: “The report is very accusatory, doesn’t get its facts exactly right, and the senators probably could’ve better spent their time passing some motherfucking legislation, those lazy bastards,” yes, it is. A quick keyword Google found the official WFUBMC faculty pages for Michael A. Nader, Ph.D., professor of physiology and pharmacology, and Paul Czoty, Ph.D., assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology, both of the WFU Translational Science Institute and Primate Center. These two gentlemen are particularly important because, listed under their names are their recent publications, the majority of which are credited to both of them, and which go as far back as April 2006. Of Nader’s 41 listed articles, 26, or 63 percent, are specifically on the effects of cocaine (or withholding cocaine from already addicted) monkeys; one is on the effects of MDMA on monkeys. Of Czoty’s 32 listed articles, 19, or 59 percent, are on the effects of cocaine (or withholding cocaine from already addicted) monkeys; he was a contributor to the study on MDMA and monkeys.
The spokesperson for WFUBMC told a half-truth, at least; the stimulus money didn’t create a new program to “get monkeys high for science.” It’s in its fifth year, at least—I couldn’t find anything earlier using the search feature. Animal experiments are fucking disgusting, but animal experiments using cocaine? Where did the cocaine come from? Does WFU have permission to grow coca and process it into cocaine? That is the only ethical option for obtaining the cocaine—you can’t imagine scientists buying it off the street, and if so, that would actually make them the most evil scientists performing research in the name of “helping people” since the atomic bomb was created. Because you know drugs have a really, really high human cost, and unless you can ethically source them—just like your food, and your clothes!—you should not consume them.
But: the monkeys. They make the monkeys “self-administer” the cocaine, which seems eminently more despicable than giving it to them like medication or food. Just, here you go, monkey, here’s some cocaine! Take it! There are several studies on the effects of “the reinforcing strength of cocaine”; one on “Vulnerability to cocaine abuse in socially housed female monkeys”; and this one is my favorite: “Impulsivity and vulnerability to cocaine self-administration in adult rhesus monkeys exposed to cocaine in utero.” They give cocaine to pregnant monkeys, then give cocaine to their babies once they’ve become adults! Just to, you know, see what happens. Because rhesus monkeys are EXACTLY LIKE HUMANS! All this work, creating generations of cocaine-addicted monkeys, will provide us with so much valuable information on—what? How to cure cocaine addiction in humans? Except that, again, monkey physiology is not human physiology; a rhesus monkey’s brain is not a human’s brain. How are these scientists so sure the horrific things they’re doing will have any positive effect on humanity at all? Further, what gives them the right to perform these obscene experiments on any nonhuman, non-consenting animal—it’s their humanity, right? Their implicit human superiority?
Agreeing with useless, time-wasting politicians is irritating, but they probably did us a favor calling attention to these gross experiments. Of course they did it all wrong, but they weren’t paying attention to the important parts: the parts where the government is helping to pay for Wake Forest University to continue to torture monkeys with drugs. Everything is terrible, hooray!
My kind of politics!: Dachshund U.N. »
It’s art! It’s adorable! It’s my dream come true! Aussie artist Bennett Miller created Dachshund U.N. for Melbourne’s 2010 Next Wave Festival. There’s some sort of symbolism in this performance piece but really, OMG dachshunds pretending to be the U.N.! Adorbs.
This is from the Next Wave site:
Dachshund U.N. is both a joyful and chaotic experiment, and a meditation on the utopian aspirations of the Commission on Human Rights, and our capacity as humans to imagine and achieve a universal system of justice. Audiences are invited to these exclusive live viewings of the operations of the Dachshund U.N., where 47 specially recruited dachshunds will engage in rigorous debate.
AWESOME. I don’t really get why they’re dachshunds. But I like it! For more pictures, check out this slideshow from Life. I also found this cute behind-the-scenes look into the project, OMG!:
[Found that top picture here.]