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From 10 July 2005 Issue

The State of the Movement: Wildlife
By Greg Lawson - ParkStranger@aol.com 

The following is the text of a speech made by Greg Lawson Thursday night at the annual conference Animal Rights 2005 in Los Angeles...

I am honored to be addressing you tonight, presenting the state of our movement as it pertains to wildlife.

I believe that we've seen a lot of consciousness raised in our country about animal rights and veganism in the last few years. We've seen many new stories about the health reasons for vegism and the plight of farmed animals. We've seen some successful campaigns to improve conditions for farmed animals. We've seen the practice of Animal Law become considered reputable. We've seen striking new studies about animal intelligence. We've seen the availability of meat alternatives explode to the point where even 7-11s carry soy jerky. Well, maybe not.

But what we have not seen is a decrease in the production and consumption of meat. Even as a second mad cow was discovered in the US, people close their ears and eyes and wish the government was better at hiding this mad cow thing. And what we have not seen is much improvement for the wildlife. The rate of species extinction is 1000 times faster than the planet's historic rate, and we need to help people realize that much of this is caused by animal agriculture. We are in the 6th great period of extinctions. Unlike some of the previous extinction periods, this one was not caused by meteors, but by meat-eaters.

People don't realize how a meat based diet affects the environment and wildlife. A recent study found that two-thirds of US citizens considered themselves to be environmentalists.

How many meat eating environmentalists know about the government agency known as Wildlife Services? Forty-million tax dollars a year fund this federal program to kill wild animals that compete with livestock on public lands. Wildlife Services, which is a branch of the US Department of Agriculture, kills over 200 million animals a year as a service to cattle ranchers and other livestock "owners." These 200 million include many threatened and endangered species, such as wolves, grizzly bears, prairie dogs and others. This is one aspect of a meat based diet that many environmentalists don't consider.

How many environmentalists think about the bison of Yellowstone when they bite into a burger?

This last winter the National Park Service killed 98 bison as a service to the ranchers who graze their cattle on allotments in the national forest that surrounds Yellowstone National Park. Ranchers don't want bison to compete for the grass on the grazing lands. Fortunately, in May, a bill was introduced in Congress known as the Yellowstone Bison Preservation Act. If this bill passes, and it does have over one hundred sponsors in Congress, it will stop the National Park Service from engaging in this annual slaughter.

Let me share some other events that have happened in the last few months that affect wildlife.

In December, Congress passed an omnibus budget bill that hardly any of them read as it was late December and it was over 3000 pages long. Two riders were inserted in that bill that meant death for wildlife.

One rider was the Migratory Bird Treaty Reform Act. This Act removed protections for more than one hundred species of migratory birds. It is also a direct violation of treaties we made with Canada, Japan, Mexico and Russia. Reprehensible, I mean Representative Wayne Gilcrest of Maryland slipped this rider into the budget bill so that mute swans could be killed. Some people consider mute swans a nuisance animal.

The Fund for Animals took this issue to court, but unfortunately in mid-June a federal judge ruled against the Fund and said Maryland can resume killing the swans.

Another rider was slipped into the budget bill by Senator Conrad Burns of Montana. This bill effectively negated the Wild Horse and Burro Act of 1971, stripping wild horses and burros of their protection and allowing the Bureau of Land Management to sell horses directly to slaughterhouses. But, this story has a happy ending.

In early June, the House of Representatives approved an amendment to the Agricultural Appropriations Bill, halting taxpayer support of our country's three horse slaughterhouses. The US Department of Agriculture will have no funding for inspections at horse slaughterhouses and can no longer approve the export of US horses to be slaughtered in other countries. This will effectively end the slaughter of our wild horses for human consumption abroad.

Another big animal in the news this year was the elephant. Zoos nationwide are facing increased scrutiny about the ethics of their elephant programs. A little over a year ago, the Detroit Zoo decided to close its elephant exhibit and send its elephants to a sanctuary. After the deaths of their last three elephants, Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo closed its elephant exhibit. In March, the San Francisco Zoo closed it's elephant exhibit and sent its elephants to the California sanctuary, the Performing Animals Welfare Society. This coming July 27, the city council of my hometown, El Paso, will meet to decide whether to send it's two elephants to the Elephant Sanctuary in Tennessee. And El Paso activists, with the assistance of the group In Defense of Animals, have been working hard and we have our fingers crossed.

One final news item I wanted to share. I am sure many of you have heard about computer assisted hunting. Last year a guy who runs a canned hunting ranch in San Antonio, Texas, started an Internet site known as Live-Shot.com. For a fee, any computer user anywhere could join his site and use a remotely controlled camera and rifle to kill animals on his ranch. This caused an immediate uproar. Even hunting organizations were lobbying with animal rights groups to put an end to Internet hunting. Texas made it illegal after only one animal had been killed. So far six states have banned Internet hunting and lawmakers in another 19 states are pushing bills to prevent it from happening in their states. A US representative introduced a bill in April to make computer assisted hunting a federal crime punishable by five years in prison.

I'd like to make one concluding observation.

One-third of all the oil we use goes to animal agriculture, to fuel the machines that grow the feed for our livestock, to fuel the slaughterhouses, to transport their bodies around the country in refrigerated trucks. If Americans could just make that patriotic decision to stop eating animals, we wouldn't need to be drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Preserve or at Padre Island National Seashore or in any of our other National Parks and Forests. If we cut our oil use by one-third, we would be energy self-sufficient. We wouldn't be in a war in the Mideast for oil, we wouldn't be sending our young people to kill and to die. If we could all just stop eating animals.

Thank you.

Go on to What Happened to the Cat in Catholic?
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