Friday, November 30, 2012

Helping Animals by Getting Humans to Say "Yes"

Advocating for animals almost always involves persuading others. Whether you are persuading individuals, companies or policy makers to do right by animals or persuading other advocates to join you in your crusade. How people are persuaded to say "Yes" or take a particular action or position is, as you might imagine, an incredibly large area of study.  Lucky for us the Influence at Work team have created an 11 minute short cut. 

This 11 minute YouTube video is breaks down the piles of "yes science" into 6 core principles:
1) Reciprocity
2) Scarcity 
3) Authority 
4) Consistency 
5) Liking 
6) Consensus. 

As you watch think about how you can apply these principles to your campaigns and daily interactions.   

If you want to learn more I also recommend the book "The Art of Woo. Using Strategic Persuasion to Sell Your Ideas."

I admit, I first picked up the book because of the cute pair of parakeets on the cover (which I am sure was a scientifically predictable reaction and book marketing strategy), but it was well worth the read. The book is also available in audio.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Fur Farming Should Be Extinct

Few people would force an animal to live its entire life in a cramped, barren cage suspended over its own waste. As an example,most humane-minded people agree that puppy mills which keep dogs in precisely such conditions are abhorrent and should be shut down.

 But what happens when the animals that are kept in such horrific conditions are not domestic dogs, but wild animals?

This is precisely the situation that exists for millions of animals raised on U.S. fur farms.

 Globally, the majority of fur used in fashion comes from animals raised on fur farms where they are forced to live in cramped confined conditions that fail to accommodate their natural behavior. Death provides their only release and is often precipitated by extreme fear, stress, illness, and pain.

 The frivolity behind such treatment makes it particularly repugnant. Between 10 and 24 foxes and 36 to 65 mink are killed to make a single fur coat. While it may take fewer animals per coat to produce fur-trimmed garments, fur trim collectively may take more animal lives than do full-length fur coats due to its prevalence in today’s fashion.

 The United States is the fifth largest mink producing country in the world. In terms of animal lives this amounts to approximately 3 million farm-raised mink killed annually for their pelts. Additionally, approximately 660,000 breeding female mink are held on U.S. fur farms. Reliable data on the total number of farmed fox, and farmed bobcat or lynx, raised or pelted in the U.S. are not available.

 The fur industry and its apologists want us to believe that fur farming is a humane, environmentally friendly and highly regulated industry. Nothing could be farther from the truth. A common assertion made by the fur industry is that mink and fox raised for their fur are domesticated animals that have been selectively bred over generations to be adapted to fur farm conditions. However, fox and mink have been bred in captivity for possibly 90 years, which is less than 3 percent of the domestication time of cattle, pigs, horses, and dogs, which have been raised in captivity by humans for more than 5,000 years.

 The issue of domestication in farmed fox, and perhaps to a lesser extent farmed mink, creates an interesting paradox for the fur industry. On the one hand, the industryguards itself against charges that it mistreats wildlife by claiming that farmed fox and mink are “domestic animals” in anattempt to akin itself to other animal-based agriculture. On the other hand, the industry must guard against comparisons of foxes and domestic dogs unless it is willing to defend the use of domestic dogs or cats for the fur trade — a practice that is so widely condemned that it has been banned in most long industrialized countries including the United States.

 There are no U.S. laws regulating how animals on fur farms are to be housed or killed. Animals raised for fur are not covered under the federal Animal Welfare Act. The slaughter of furbearing animals is also not covered by the federal Humane Slaughter Act. The techniques used to kill animals on fur farms vary. Small animals like mink are killed by neck snapping or “popping.” Larger animals like foxes are electrocuted anally by placing a metal clamp on the snout and forcing a rod into the anus, and then connecting the metal to a power source. Some animals are forced into bags or boxes and gassed with carbon monoxide or carbon dioxide. Animals may also be killed by injection, and while this is often considered a humane method, it is not possible to inject a wild, fearful animal skillfully. It is clear that conditions and killing techniques on fur farms have been designed for the convenience of the fur farmer, not the welfare of the animals.

Fur farming also poses risks to the environment and native wildlife. Like any other factory farm, fur farms produce loads of animal waste (manure) that are too intensely concentrated to be neutralized by natural processes. Excessive nitrogen and phosphorus are the most common causes of water pollution in the United States. Current research also suggests that farmed mink may be having a serious impact on North American wild mink through competition, hybridization, and disease introduction. Hybridization and associated genetic transformations may eventually result in the natural population being incapable of sustaining itself leading to species endangerment and extinction.

 In the last 50 years, concern for animals has increased in many countries, resulting in an increase in animal welfare–related legislation and prohibition of acts considered to be unacceptably cruel. However, fur farming suffers a relatively low position on the U.S. political agenda. As a result, the United States lags far behind European countries such as the United Kingdom, Italy, Sweden, Switzerland, Denmark, Austria, the Netherlands and Croatia which have banned some or all fur farming.

It is time for the United States to match international progress on this important issue and ban fur farming.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Elephants and tourists in Thailand.

My colleague and friend at Ecostorm with who I have worked on undercover investigations in the past, shared the results of the agency's most recent investigation: The Thailand elephant tourist trade. It is shocking and heartbreaking to watch but it must be seen. It is especially important that tourists(ahem U.S. and European citizens)see this as they are the unsuspecting facilitators of this misery that threatens the survival of the very animal they flock to see and profess to love. I wish I could say that I am surprised by the investigation findings. Questions about this industry have been raised for along time. In fact a few years ago when You Tube videos of "painting elephants" started circulating on the internet, I took a closer look and wrote a blog about it "Why elephants Paint" The concerns raised in the blog are verified in gruesome detail by Ecostorm's investigation. Tourists have created this tragedy and tourists can stop it. You can find out more by visiting the organization that commissioned the investigation, The Elephant Family

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Cee lo Green and a cockatoo? Forget you!

I recently became aware that singer songwriter Cee-Lo Green will be replacing his signature white cat “Purrrfect” with a Moluccan cockatoo “Lady” on the set of the hit show “The Voice.”

While care must be taken when bringing any animal on to the set of show especially one with lots of noise and bright flashing lights to ensure that the individual animal is comfortable and not stressed by the environment, I am particularly concerned about the wider implications of featuring an endangered exotic bird as a “pet” on the show.

You see, for better or for worse, the actions of U.S. celebrities can have an impact on national international trends, and the last thing this species needs is to be popularized as a “pet” for both conservation and welfare reasons. Moluccan cockatoos are in trouble in the wild and in captivity.

Conservation concerns:

Nearly the entire remaining population of Moluccan cockatoos is found on the tiny island of Seram in Eastern Indonesia. The population has declined as a direct result of their popularity as “pets” which has led to severe trapping for trade. I have twice traveled to the island of Seram parrot conservation projects with the Indonesian Parrot Project, and have seen first-hand the challenges this species faces as well as other species popular in the pet trade.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) added the Moluccan cockatoo (Cacatua moluccensis) under the protection of the Endangered Species Act (ESA) on May 26th 2011, and the birds have been on CITES (Convention on International Trade In Endangered Species) Appendix I since the 1990s. This action has curtailed reported trade at the international level, but has not eliminated it. In fact, despite these protections, Moluccan cockatoos remain one of the most sought-after birds in the pet trade. Although protected at the provincial and national level in Indonesia, Moluccan cockatoos continue to be traded within Indonesia and are still smuggled to outside markets including Malaysia and Singapore.

An investigation by our friends at Pro Fauna -Indonesia an animal welfare organization, that 47% of the parrots traded at the five bird-marts on the island of Java, were protected under Indonesian law and include those listed on CITES Appendix I, thereby violating international conservation agreements.

The birds are delivered to the markets by middlemen who make huge profits by purchasing the birds from village trappers in Eastern Indonesia (including the island of Seram) where poverty levels are as high. These birds may fetch hundreds of dollars in domestic markets or thousands of dollars in the international market. However, the trappers from local villages receive an equivalent of just six U.S. dollars or less for birds in good condition.

Lack of law enforcement, weak agency policies, and government corruption has often characterize the wild bird trade in Indonesia. It has been reported that wildlife dealer have regularly avoided arrest by bribing Indonesian law enforcement authorities and those who refuse face the risk of physical harm at the hands of associated wildlife dealer “gangs.”

Clearly, the market demand for parrots as pets is a huge problem for this species, and markets are influenced by advertising – it is well known that celebrities and popular television shows are key advertsing outlets setting trends in products, fashions, and yes, “pets.”

Not only does the pet trade threaten wild populations the pet trade threatens the welfare of individual cockatoos whether wild-caught or captive-bred.

Welfare Concerns:

Moluccan cockatoos are beautiful, intelligent animals but they are very challenging to care for especially in the long term, and are prone to considerable welfare problems. Many Moluccan cockatoos develop self-destructive behavior including feather plucking and self mutilation not known to occur in the wild. Many parrot rescues are already filled to capacity with Moluccans and other large parrots.

Breeding the birds in captivity and promoting them as pets does not help the situation – it actually aggravates it.

It is commonly asserted by breeders of exotic birds that captive breeding reduces pressure on wild populations. However, the cost of wild-capture tends to be much cheaper than captive breeding (Snyder et al 2000) and, as such, the availability of captive-bred birds does not typically deter wild-capture. Indeed, demand and subsequent collection of wild parrots for the global pet trade continues to threaten wild parrots despite the ability to produce captive-bred birds. Moreover, history has shown that the increased popularity of exotic animals as pets often leads to a subsequent increase in the illegal trafficking of their wild counterparts.

Another point to consider is that there currently exist no legal standards governing bird production facilities. The U.S. Animal Welfare Act (AWA)—legislation passed in 1966—extends protection to certain warm-blooded animals maintained by certain animal dealers, transporters, exhibitors, and research facilities. Birds were excluded from the AWA until 2000 but standards for regulating breeding facilities are still in development.

Contrary to popular belief the breeding of these birds in captivity in the United States doe s not contribute to conservation efforts because most captive breeding is done outside of official species survival plans or other directed conservation efforts. There currently is no captive breeding release program for Moluccan cockatoos. Captive parrot breeding release programs are notoriously difficult and have far more failures than successes. Moreover, if ever such a program were to be undertaken it would need to occur in the birds’ native country and in close proximity to native habitat and wild-free living cockatoos.

Even when bred in captivity, exotic birds are not considered domesticated animals, they are the native species of other countries and, as such, all their inherent behavioral and physical needs remain intact. Sadly, when it comes to birds, deprivation of their natural behaviors (to fly and flock, for example) is an inescapable component of their captivity. Confinement in cages can lead to neurotic behavior, excessive screaming, feather plucking, self-mutilation and other destructive habits. As a result, very few people are capable of caring for the special needs of captive exotic birds.

I hope “The Voice” will seriously reconsider featuring a Moluccan cockatoo or any bird as “pet” on the show. As I told TMZ, featuring a more appropriate companion animal such as a dog would be a better choice and that featuring a rescue dog or a dog in need of a home would be doubly beneficial.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Saving Nemo and his friends

Too busy to write a new full blog post, but I've gone into the archives and found an important issue that does not get enough consideration and so bears repeating. The plight of aquarium fish.

This is an article I wrote for April/May 2007 issue of Satya Magazine. Satya is sadly no longer with us but the articles live on online.  Enjoy!

Saving Nemo

Monday, March 5, 2012

Are Foundations Creating Barriers to Positive Change?

This is a great article from TruthOut about why the environmental movement is failing (their words not mine - I'd say falling short but not "failing").  The key focus of the article is aimed encouraging grant makers and funders to re-think how they give and and how they measure success. While the article focuses on the environmental movement, I think many points translate to animal protection movement as well. 

Here is excerpt. "In his important monograph Just Another Emperor: The Myths and Realities of Philanthrocapitalism, former Ford Foundation director Michael Edwards cautions that one of the downsides of increasingly infusing the nonprofit world with business ideals is that social change organizations are expected to churn out good, quarterly metrics. Extreme advocates of these ideas expect social change organizations to report mounds of data and compete with one another for funding based on "numbers" and "deliverables." 

Read more here