Wow. You guys are incredible.
On Friday, we broke the story of a National Audubon Society editor-at-large who took to the Orlando Sentinel, a major metropolitan newspaper, to advocate that citizens get rid of cats by poisoning them with a common over-the-counter medication.
Together, we sent an incredible 30,000 emails directly to Audubon CEO David Yarnold and Chairman B. Holt Thrasher. Because of your response, the Audubon Society suspended the author, Ted Williams, from his position over the weekend.
This is a huge win and I am proud of our response – of your response – but our work’s not done yet. Extremist, anti-cat attacks are on the rise following the Smithsonian’s junk science cat “study.” To respond just as aggressively the next time cats are under fire, we rely on your continued support. Will you help us now to continue to show the strength of our movement?
Click here to donate $5 or more to Alley Cat Allies so that we can continue to be the leading national voice for defending cats.
Thank you for being such a reliable, dedicated ally for cats.
Alley Cat Allies
From the Animal Welfare Institute
March 18, 2013
Your Voice Is Needed for Chimpanzees
in NIH Research
Lira was a chimpanzee bred for research by FDA. Beginning at age 21 months, she underwent six years of invasive experiments that included hundreds of liver biopsies and knockdowns/”bleeds.” For almost three years she was housed alone. In one of multiple experiments—aimed at hepatitis c therapy—her liver was surgically exposed and then injected in 16–20 sites with hepatitis c construct. She became a chronic self-mutilator, chewing on her body hair, causing baldness. Despite FDA’s warning that liver biopsies had caused muscle and liver damage, the biopsies continued for years. She died young, at 17.
These invasive experiments were conducted by FDA from 1995 through 2001. It is against the backdrop of tragic stories like Lira’s that we now have an opportunity to significantly advance the welfare of chimpanzees in research.
In December 2011, a landmark Institute of Medicine (IOM) report titled Chimpanzees in Biomedical and Behavioral Research: Assessing the Necessity declared that “most current use of chimpanzees for biomedical research is unnecessary.” In response to this report, in January of this year, a Working Group (WG) of the Council of Councils—an advisory body to the National Institutes of Health (NIH)— issued its own report which expanded on the IOM report and included groundbreaking recommendations. The proposed changes are subject to a public comment period before NIH Director Francis Collins makes a final decision.
AWI believes that the WG Report contains watershed recommendations that likely would have prevented what Lira, and countless others, have endured for decades. These recommendations include:
- Promotion (and not merely allowance) of the full range of natural chimpanzee behaviors in an “ethologically appropriate physical and social environment”;
- Provision of housing with at least 1,000 square feet per chimpanzee; vertical climbing space of at least 20 feet; materials so that chimpanzees can build nests every day; and social groups of at least seven;
- Use by the Oversight Committee of a “burden/benefit” analysis to review research proposals; “high” burdens include prolonged separation from social groups, inoculation with infectious agent, and surgical procedures like biopsies;
- An end to breeding of chimpanzees by NIH for any type of research;
- Permanent retirement for the vast majority of NIH-owned chimpanzees into the CHIMP Act federal sanctuary system, with a reserve of 50 chimpanzees held available for research;
Despite these very positive developments, AWI does feel the recommendations could be strengthened in some areas:
- The decision-making process is too ambiguous and could be deleterious to chimpanzees. AWI urges that all the recommendations contain clear-cut criteria (similar to the specified minimum square footage, etc.).
- The largest single bloc of the Oversight Committee would constitute scientists (at least three, with a potential fourth), whereas just two would represent community interests. AWI proposes that the number representing community interests be at least doubled.
As Dr. Mary Lee Jensvold (an AWI board member and director of the Chimpanzee & Human Communication Institute) has pointed out, “acquiescence” and reliance on positive reinforcement techniques (PRT) are problematic. PRT does not work in all chimpanzees, and can be harmful. We join Dr. Jensvold in urging other positive aspects of interactions.
If NIH accepts the WG recommendations, it is unclear who will enforce the new standards. AWI urges that, like the Oversight Committee, enforcement be independent of NIH influence.
What you can do:
Take Action – Please join AWI in urging acceptance of the recommended reforms, and urging that additional actions are taken to strengthen the recommendations.NIH is now accepting comments on the recommendations. This is a historic moment that could radically improve the lives of chimpanzees in research. The public needs to let NIH know it strongly supports these reforms—so let your voice be heard! Please join AWI in urging acceptance of the recommended reforms, and urging that additional actions—as outlined here—are taken to strengthen the recommendations. The comments deadline is Saturday, March 23, 2013 at 11:59:59 PM EDT. Make your comments here. (When you click on the link, you will see a number of comment boxes related to specific subject areas of the recommendations. Should you wish, you may scroll down to the bottom of the page and enter all your comments in the “Overall Comments” section at the very end. Please note, however, that in each comment box, you are limited to 3,000 characters and spaces.)
Please share this AWI eAlert with family, friends, and coworkers, and encourage them to comment too. As always, thank you for your help; your action does make a difference!
P.S. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates on the action above and other important animal protection news.
We went to lunch at our city’s only Vegan restaurant on Saturday, and talked to a young man who we had worked with when the restaurant he worked at, Vegeria, did a benefit for Sunny Day Farms a couple of weeks ago. He was a Vegetarian at that time. I told him about the movie Earthlings, and how that movie convinced me to become an animal rights activist and a Vegan. At any rate, he went home and watched it, and as a result, switched from being a Vegetarian to a full-fledged Vegan. Woohoo! One down, just a few billion more to go.
From Huffington Post
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — An undercover video that showed California cows struggling to stand as they were prodded to slaughter by forklifts led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history. In Vermont, a video of veal calves skinned alive and tossed like sacks of potatoes ended with the plant’s closure and criminal convictions.
Now in a pushback led by the meat and poultry industries, state legislators across the country are introducing laws making it harder for animal welfare advocates to investigate cruelty and food safety cases.
Some bills make it illegal to take photographs at a farming operation. Others make it a crime for someone such as an animal welfare advocate to lie on an application to get a job at a plant.
Bills pending in California, Nebraska and Tennessee require that anyone collecting evidence of abuse turn it over to law enforcement within 24 to 48 hours – which advocates say does not allow enough time to document illegal activity under federal humane handling and food safety laws.
“We believe that folks in the agriculture community and folks from some of the humane organizations share the same concerns about animal cruelty,” said Mike Zimmerman, chief of staff for Assembly Member Jim Patterson, R-Fresno, whose bill was unveiled this week. “If there’s abuse taking place, there is no sense in letting it continue so you can make a video.”
Patterson’s bill, sponsored by the California Cattlemen’s Association, would make failing to turn over video of abuse to law enforcement within 48 hours an infraction punishable by a fine.
Critics say the bills are an effort to deny consumers the ability to know how their food is produced.
“The meat industry’s mantra is always that these are isolated cases, but the purpose of these bills is to prevent any pattern of abuse from being documented,” said Paul Shapiro, vice president of farm animal protection for the Humane Society of the United States, which conducted the California and Vermont investigations.
In Indiana, Arkansas and Pennsylvania it would be a crime to make videos at agricultural operations.
The goal of the proposed California law, industry representatives say, is to halt any abuses quickly and get video evidence to government regulators within two days, not to impede undercover investigations by animal welfare groups.
“The people doing this aren’t cops so I wouldn’t think it’s their job to build a case. The goal for all of us is to reduce instances of animal abuse,” said David Daley, a Cattlemen vice president and professor of agricultural science at California State University-Chico.
Formal opposition to the California bill comes from the ASPCA, the Teamsters, the HSUS and dozens of others. They say these attempts by the agriculture industry to stop investigations are a part of a nationwide agenda set by the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative think tank backed by business interests.
ALEC has labeled those who interfere with animal operations “terrorists,” though a spokesman said he wishes now that the organization had called its legislation the “Freedom to Farm Act” rather than the “Animal and Ecological Terrorism Act.”
“At the end of the day it’s about personal property rights or the individual right to privacy,” said spokesman Bill Meierling. “You wouldn’t want me coming into your home with a hidden camera.”
Animal welfare advocates say all of the focus on secrecy is energy misspent.
“I wish the cattlemen actually wanted to stop cruelty, not the documenting of cruelty,” said HSUS California director Jennifer Fearing. “One could think of a thousand ways for them to actually stop cruelty rather than waiting for people to make videos and turn them over.”
Animal welfare advocates say law enforcement agencies do not have the time or inclination to work complex animal abuse and food safety cases, and that federal USDA inspectors in slaughter plants have turned a blind eye to abuse.
When a USDA inspector at the Vermont plant was heard in 2009 coaching a plant worker on how to avoid being shut down, U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack weighed in, calling the conduct “inexcusable.”
In reaction to concerns, the USDA has been working to improve enforcement of its humane handling regulations over the past two years, including establishing an ombudsman position that accepts reports of violations. Last year 24 new positions in the Food Safety Inspection Service were dedicated to humane handling, said a high-ranking food safety official not authorized to speak publicly.
That hasn’t slowed investigations or the bills designed to stop them. The Arkansas bill goes further than the others and would prohibit anyone other than law enforcement from investigating animal cases.
Last year Iowa, a major egg-producing state, passed a bill making it illegal to deny being a member of an animal welfare organization on a farm job application. Utah passed one that outlaws photography.
Most of the sensational videos of abuse in recent years are shot by undercover operatives who surreptitiously apply and are hired by the meat processors for jobs within the facilities. One recorded last year by Compassion over Killing at Central Valley Meats in Hanford, Calif. showed a worker standing on a downed dairy cow’s nostrils to suffocate it and others repeatedly shot in the head, prompting several fast-food hamburger to cancel contracts, at least temporarily.
Animal welfare groups say investigations take weeks because the operatives nose around only when they aren’t performing the duties for which they were hired.
An HSUS investigator was in the Hallmark plant in Southern California for six weeks between October and November 2007, when the nonprofit turned over to the local district attorney evidence that included fraud in the federal school lunch program because animals too sick to walk were being slaughtered. In January 2008, HSUS released the video to force the DA to act. Two employees were convicted of cruelty charges.
Late last year, nine workers at a Wyoming pork processing facility were charged with animal cruelty after an HSUS video showed them kicking and tossing piglets and failing to euthanize a sow gravely injured by a worker while giving birth.
In 2009, HSUS spent 21 days in the Vermont slaughterhouse where male calves born to dairy cows were killed for veal.
“Believe me our investigators would like to be out of there as soon as possible. They’re stoic, they’re courageous, but they are not enjoying their work at all,” said Mary Beth Sweetland, director of investigations for HSUS.