Friday, December 30, 2011

Another exciting new project: Parrots in Costa Rica

The Kerulos Center has announced the launch of Aves Sagradas (sacred birds) a sanctuary and education center in Costa Rica!  I am thrilled to be a part of this exciting project. 

The facility will provide sanctuary and rehabilitation to parrots in Costa Rica confiscated from the pet trade and will also be a source for education and collaboration to create a future in which parrots are valued as sentient beings not as commodities.   

Sunday, December 18, 2011

New Project

I am excited an honored to be working with the Kerulos Center on their "Sacred Bones"  project.

That's it.

More later.

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

What gives USDA? Show me the regs!

Most people are surprised to learn that captive exotic birds commonly sold in the pet trade or used for other entertainment purposes do not have specific protections under the Federal Animal Welfare Act, which mandates that certain animal facilities comply with licensing, inspection and care requirements.

They are supposed to be protected, but they aren’t. Not yet.
You see, birds should have been included under the act from its inception in 1966, but in 1972 when the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) initiated regulations to enforce the act, it rather arbitrarily excluded birds (as well as rats, horses and farmed animals) from the definition of “animal.”
Thirty years later, the passage of the Farm Security and Rural Investment Act (2002 Farm Bill) amended the AWA’s definition of animal to include rats, mice and birds — with the exception of those bred for use in research. Now more than nine years later, the USDA has yet to even issue draft regulations to implement the act for birds (or rats and mice).
What gives, USDA?
It’s not like your office wasn’t spoon-fed detailed suggested regulations in 2004 by more than 22 other animal protection groups that would provide basic but meaningful protections for birds. Feel free to take what we wrote, stick the USDA’s name on it and publish it for public comment. Really. Plagiarize away. I don’t care. I just want the job done, for the birds’ sake. (For the record, I care about the rats and mice too — but this blog is for the birds).
I’m not the only one who thinks protections for birds under the AWA are long overdue.
Last year, the Avian Welfare Coalition commissioned a public opinion poll conducted by the Humane Research Council that asked randomly selected members of the general public their opinion about whether the Animal Welfare Act should require minimum standards for parrots in any of the following situations: pet shops, breeding facilities/“bird mills,” and in homes where they are kept as pets.
The answer to this question was a resounding “yes,” with a strong majority of U.S. adults believing that parrots should be covered under that Animal Welfare Act in all situations.
A very high 83 percent of respondents said they believe this should be the case in breeding facilities or “bird mills,” while nearly the same amount (80 percent) said parrots in pet shops should be covered under the AWA’s standards of care. Support was lower, but still high (60 percent) for applying AWA’s minimum standards to parrots kept in homes as pets.
(Note: The AWA regulations never extend to private homes, but the response to the question demonstrates the level of concern the public has about the welfare of all captive parrots.)
The bottom line is birds should never have been excluded from the AWA in the first place and regulations to implement their protection under the act are long overdue. Period.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Wildlife Friendly Fashion

Animal Kingdom inspired clothing is a hot fashion trend this Fall, from jungle prowling panthers on satin and helmets adorn with ears in Givenchy’s runway show in Paris, to sleek red foxes and barn owls on sleek and chic dresses at Jill Stuart and stampeding impala patterned skirts a al Marc by Marc Jacobs. 
Depictions of wildlife imagery may appeal to fashion lovers out of their love for animals; sadly the same cannot always be said for the designers who make the clothes. For example, all of the designers mentioned above use real fur in their fashion lines.  So while animal lovers may be attracted to the fox image on Jill Stuart’s dress, this designer has yet to extend that compassion and respect to wildlife by eliminating real fur in her collection.

With this in mind, here are a few tips for Wildlife Friendly Fashion choices.

·         Go Fur Free. Real fur damages the environment, hurts individual animals, and can endanger wildlife.  Manure run-off from fur farms pollutes streams and harmful chemicals including chromium and formaldehyde are use in the processing and tanning of real fur garments. In addition, traps set to catch wild furbearing animals are notoriously indiscriminate often catching “non-target” animals including threatened and endangered species.

·         Go Organic. Look for organic cotton. Cotton is one of the world’s most chemically-dependent crops and the pesticides used on cotton are classified as among the most toxic by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

·         Go Eco. Try out some “eco-fabrics.” In general “eco-fabrics” are fibers that have less of a negative environmental impact in the production process than a conventional alternative.  Bamboo, soy, and hemp fibers are a good choice because their production requires less herbicides and pesticides than non-organic cotton and they bio-degrade faster than petroleum-based fibers.

·         Avoid Wool. The raising of sheep also has significant impacts on the environment. Sheep often destroy             wildlife habitat by overgrazing, domestic sheep transmit disease to wild big horn sheep threatening their survival some areas. In addition, ranchers kill thousands of wild animals every year in an attempt to protect sheep from native carnivores such as coyotes and wolves despite the availability of nonlethal ways to protect flocks.  

·         Reduce. Buying (and therefor producing) less clothing both reduces resource use and waste.   Focus on quality over quantity by select clothing that is well made and will last longer, rather that disposable clothing that wears out quickly. A small reduction can make a big difference. Consumers in the Unites States spend approximately 4% more of their annual income on apparel than Europeans.  

·         Reuse. Washing clothes requires huge amounts of water and energy. Before throwing your clothes in the laundry consider whether they really need to be washed or if they can be worn again. When you do was use low temperature water. Approximately 50% of all energy used in a wash cycle is for water heating. When possible air dry your clothes, and always use a biodegradable and cruelty-free (not tested on animals) laundry detergent. Visit for lists of cruelty-free companies.

·         Recycle. Donating unwanted clothing to charities and purchasing clothes from charity thrift stores or other re-sale stores allows us to get the greatest amount of value out of our resources whether the garments are made of conventional cotton, polyester or nylon.  The one exception is fur. It is difficult, if not impossible, for the average consumer to obtain a credible assurance that fur used on a garment is indeed “vintage” or “recycled.” Due to the vagueness of these terms, it is possible that fur from an animal killed less than one year ago could be considered “recycled,” if it has previously debuted on an earlier fashion. Creating a secondary market for fur — no matter how old — helps to maintain the commercial viability of fur and other wildlife products, and thus helps perpetuate the cruel trade.  

·         Vote. Vote with your dollars by supporting fur free retailers and designers. Don’t purchase clothing from designers and retailers who sell our use real fur. Better yet show support to retailers and designers who have signed on to the international fur free retailer program and put their fur free commitment in writing, such Dalia MacPhee, Sherri Hill, Esprit, H&M, Top Shop, and American Apparel  (U.S. retailers and International retailers

 With a little effort fashion lovers can make choices that protect and respect wildlife and help ensure that compassion is the future of fashion. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

Tips for a Fantastic Landing Page

This is some great information on creating an effective and inviting web landing page. It's too good to keep to myself so I'm "stealing it" and sharing it.  You can see a bigger version at the link below.

The Anatomy of a Perfect Landing Page

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Eco Tourism and Brigham Young University

An article I wrote several years ago entitled "Eco Tourism: a Walk on the Wild Side" will soon be used as part of the Academic English Program for the English Language Center at Brigham Young University !
I'm really excited that this topic is being explored at Brigham Young and of course I'm flattered that they have requested to use my article. 

It seems now is a good time to share some portions of that article.  

Ecologically-sensitive travel is a simple and rewarding way for animal advocates to help protect wildlife from poaching, the exotic "pet" trade, and habitat destruction.
The International Ecotourism Society defines ecotourism as "responsible travel to natural areas that conserves the environment and sustains the well-being of local people." When conducted properly, ecotourism is less destructive than many other environmental uses. The impacts of ecotourism can be managed to realize a balance between preservation and development; such balance can be achieved, for example, by limiting both the size and number of tours in a particular area and by incorporating environmentally-conscious meals, lodging, waste management, and wildlife viewing principles into the tours. Further, by creating economic incentives for impoverished villages or communities, ecotourism can encourage local guardianship of natural resources, habitats, and wildlife.
According to the World Travel and Tourism Council, tourism is projected to remain one of the world’s most lucrative industries, generating more than $3.5 trillion in economic activity annually. Ecotourism is one of the most rapidly growing and dynamic sectors of the tourism market.
Choose Wisely
Determining whether an ecotour truly serves conservation purposes or if it is merely a "green-washed" business venture can be difficult. More than 60 different voluntary certification programs award labels for varying degrees of environmentally-sensitive tourism practices. While the majority of these programs are for hotels and other lodgings, a few cover beaches, parks, tour operators, and guides. Unfortunately, however, no global standard or certification process currently exists for tour operations, so it left to compassionate travelers to ask the appropriate questions before choosing an ecotour, and to ensure that their dollars support only the best and most conscientious programs, outfitters, and guides.
 A few questions that travelers should ask and issues to consider when selecting an ecotour.
1. Has the tour evaluated its impact on local wildlife?
The ecotour company or operators should, if possible, have available "pre-tourism" data demonstrating that its tours do not adversely affect wildlife. Such data should compare animal behavior in non-tour areas with their behavior in areas in which tourists congregate for wildlife viewing. Some studies have found that viewed animals become accustomed to the presence of humans and that their stress levels remain low or unchanged in the presence of tourists. Other studies, however, have shown an increase in animals’ stress indicators such as rapid heart rate and dramatic avoidance behavior in the presence of tourists, which could lead to an increase in mortality or lower reproduction rates.2
The ecotour should not offer or encourage physical interaction with wildlife, including catch-and-release fishing, swimming with dolphins, or handling of wildlife for photo opportunities or petting purposes. These activities are well-recognized as exploitive and harmful to wildlife.
2. Does the local community or village benefiting from the tours have an official agreement with the tour operators not to trap birds and other animals for commercial purposes?
The local community involved in the ecotour program should have a written agreement with the tour operators not to trap birds and other animals for the pet trade or other commercial markets. This can help ensure that ecotourism actually replaces trapping income rather than merely supplementing it.
3. What is the maximum number of people accommodated on each trip?
An ecotour should accommodate no more than 30 visitors per location, per tour. According to Dr. Nigel Dunstone, a lecturer in zoology at University of Durham in the UK who has studied the impacts of ecotourism since the early 1980s, when visitor numbers exceed 30 people, trails become too wide; the need for clean water, fresh food, and sewage disposal become too difficult to accommodate; and the disturbance to wildlife becomes too great to benefit conservation.3
4. Is the tour capable of accommodating vegetarian/vegan diets?
A truly environmentally-sensitive tour would provide and promote vegetarian and/or vegan meals for tour patrons. Adopting a vegetarian or vegan diet is one of the most important steps an individual can take to protect the environment and to protect animals from cruelty and exploitation.
Providing meat and other animal-based food products for tourists can result in increased hunting, fishing, and/or livestock production in the tour area, thereby negatively impacting the environment and animals. The food eaten by tourists from developed nations inevitably influences consumption trends in the areas the tourists visit. Rising meat consumption in the developing world could have devastating effects on the global environment. According to a Worldwatch Institute paper, "if livestock are to live in balance with the environment again, First World consumers will have to eat less meat, while Third World citizens will need to keep their meat consumption low." The paper also points out that "a diet rich in animal products is not an appropriate goal of pubic health policy, neither is it a wise development strategy."4
5. Does the tour company work closely with nonprofit organizations?
It is important that ecotour programs work actively with nonprofit environmental, animal advocacy, and public interest groups to safeguard against exploitation and to ensure that the focus of the tour remains conservation, and not pursuit of profit.
Despite the enormous amount of money made by international ecotour companies each year, very little of these funds are routed directly to conservation projects. Ideally, at least 10 percent of a trip’s total profits should be directed to nonprofit organizations that advocate for wildlife and environmental protection.
6. Does the tour program address animal welfare issues?
For some people, one of the most difficult parts of traveling is witnessing animal suffering and mistreatment at the hands of humans. One example is the widespread practice of keeping wild-caught birds on leg chains attached to perches; the birds may languish for years, never to taste freedom again. It is also not uncommon while traveling to encounter repeatedly abuse and neglect of domestic animals, including cats, dogs, goats, and horses. Such mistreatment may be due to cultural beliefs about the treatment of animals or a lack of education or access to veterinary care. A good ecotour program should address such situations by providing local communities with education and animal care supplies.
7. Does the local community benefit directly and indirectly from the tours?
A percentage of the profits of the tour should be spent on local community development. The link between safeguarding economic futures and protecting animals and the environment should exist on a community-wide level. To ensure this connection, a portion of guiding and hosting fees should go into a general community fund to be used for local projects, school materials, and medical supplies. Profit-sharing with communities strengthens local guardianship of native species and habitats. Moreover, members of local communities have emotional, traditional, and/or religious ties to the land and, therefore, are less likely to degrade and abandon their homeland in the course of business.
Ideally, the native community has a meaningful stake in ecotour programs, in the form of profit-sharing, land and lodging ownership, and a role in decision-making.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Spanish version of "Lucky" in Colombia!

The Spanish translation of my book "Lucky" (which was produced as a project of the Avian Welfare Coalition) recently had its second public school and library release in Colombia thanks to WSPA Colombia and their local affiliates. The first was in Bogota - the capital city  and the most recent in the city of Medellin - the second largest city in Colombia (Bogota is the first).  Really exciting to have the story of Lucky reaching more kids and hopefully hearts and teaching that birds are more beautiful wild. 
Here is a copy of the promo flyer.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Consumer attitudes about fur. What do recent polls tell retailers and animal advocates?

The 2011 Gallup poll on Values and Beliefs conducted annually to provide insight into “U.S. Perceived Moral Acceptability of Behaviors and Social Policies” on a range of issues from doctor-assisted suicide, to wearing fur was recently released.  I found the results on opinions about fur to be at once troubling and encouraging.

Let me explain.

The poll found that 39 percent of U.S. citizens consider buying and wearing clothing made of animal fur morally wrong. On the flip side 59% of U.S. citizens consider buying and wearing fur to be morally acceptable.  These numbers suggest that animal advocates have more work to do in terms of educating the public about the inherent cruelties and environmental damage caused by the fur industry.

But wait a minute. What do these numbers really tell us about how what people think about fur and how do their feelings translate into purchasing habits?

In contrast to the Gallup poll, a 2010 poll conducted by the Humane Research Council found that only 23% of respondents believe that wearing real animal fur is “ethically acceptable.” 59% vs 23% is a fairly significant difference.  One reason for this difference could be the terms used in the question “morally acceptable” vs “ethically acceptable.”

I suspect that even if someone finds wearing and buying fur to “morally acceptable,” this doesn’t mean that they will buy or wear fur. It doesn’t even mean that they “like” fur, but in their mind it does not rise to the level of being a moral issue.Considering something to be “morally acceptable” is not equivalent to an endorsement.

How the polls were conducted may also be relevant.

The HRC poll was conducted online while the Gallup poll was conducted via telephone - the sample size the surveys were nearly identical. Both online and telephone surveys have their benefits and shortcomings.

What is potentially significant with regard to the question of fur is that online surveys typically result in under representation of lower income and elderly individuals. In contrast phone interviews may be more likely to represent the views older generations –which anecdotally speaking, come from a generation when fur was far from controversial.

This means that the HRC poll probably better represents the target demographic of the modern fashion industry and, as such, they might want to pay attention to the HRC poll results.
Another important consideration is that both the Gallup Poll and HRC polls included views from men and women. But it is women who are more likely to be concerned about animals.

A recent Angus Reid public opinion survey suggests that on a wide range of animal issues, women are more likely than men to be sympathetic to animals.  For example, men were more likely to support killing animals for fur, using animals in entertainment and killing animals for sport. This comes as no surprise.

Not only are women more likely to care about animals, they are more likely to be interested in fashion (we don’t’ need a poll to tell us that!). Moreover according to the 2009 Barkley/PRWeek PR Cause Survey women are responsible for more than 80% of all spending.  In addition the survey found that two of three women have purchased a brand because it supports a cause they believe in, and three of four have recommended a brand to others for the same reason.

In short, what matters to women should matter to retailers - and animals matter to women. 

If animal advocates keep up their efforts with a focus on women consumers the fur fashion industry will be on the ropes in no time. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

OBG .....Oldie But Goodie

I promise I will get around to writing a new blog post soon. In the meantime here is an old article I wrote for Satya Magazine to give you something to chew on. (har har)

Wild Bird Population Declines and the link to Meat