Government concedes defeat after bribes and intimidation fail to deter rebels
MPs voted to ban wild animals in circuses last night after David Cameron’s attempts to bully Conservative backbenchers into voting against the measure backfired and ended in a humiliating public defeat. In a decision hailed by campaigners as an “historic victory for animal welfare and protection”, MPs of all parties unanimously backed a ban and the Government signalled that it would introduce one, ending forever the days of lions, tigers, elephants and other wild animals in the big top.
In an act of desperation, Conservative whips had warned they would impose the most serious parliamentary voting sanction, a three-line whip, to bring recalcitrant backbenchers to heel and get them to support the Government’s alternative proposal of a licensing system. But in a victory for The Independent’s campaign for a ban and for the long campaigns waged by animal welfare organisations, Downing Street backed down when it became apparent that it would lose the vote despite what backbenchers described as “desperate” measures. One of the three MPs who brought the cross-party motion for a ban disclosed that he had first been offered a government job – and then threatened that the Prime Minister would look “very dimly” on his recalcitrance – unless he amended or withdrew the motion. Mark Pritchard, a Conservative backbencher, stood firm and insisted that the measure be voted upon. As astonished MPs listened, Mr Pritchard said: “Well I have a message for the whips and for the Prime Minister of our country – and I didn’t pick a fight with the Prime Minister – I may just be a little council house lad from a very poor background but that background gave me a backbone. It gives me a thick skin and I’m not going to be cowed by the whips of the Prime Minister on an issue I feel passionately about and have conviction about. “There may be some other people with backbones on this side and they will speak later, but we need a generation of politicians with a bit of spine, not jelly. And I will not be bullied by any of the whips.”
MPs from all sides of the House including the Liberal Democrat MP Don Foster, Labour’s Nia Griffiths and the Green leader Caroline Lucas attacked the Government’s position, saying that both public and parliamentary opinion was in support of a ban. The motion was to “direct” the Government to introduce a ban. Shortly before the vote, the Animal Welfare minister, Jim Paice, said: “If at the end of this debate the House were to approve this motion then of course we will have to respect that.” Animal welfare groups were ecstatic. The RSPCA said: “This is a win for democracy as well as animal welfare.”
It said it hoped the Government would quickly and formally announce a ban. Animal Defenders International, the group which shot undercover footage of the beating by a Romanian groom of Anne the elephant at Bobby Roberts Circus, said: “This debate and vote has exposed the Government and demonstrated just how out of touch they have been with their peers, the public, and animal welfare groups.” Mary Creagh, the shadow Environment Secretary, said: “The public will be absolutely delighted that MPs from all parties have stood up to the Tory-led Government on this issue to achieve such a fantastic result. The vote brings to an end 48 hours of chaos and confusion from the Government about their position on a ban. It is extraordinary that David Cameron used such bully-boy tactics to threaten his own MPs and tried to impose a three-line whip on the vote.” The Government had initially planned to ban wild animals from circuses but the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was forced to do a U-turn, and instead proposed a licensing system, after Mr Cameron, a keen hunter and shooter, blocked the move. Mr Paice blamed a court challenge to a ban in Austria for the decision, but there was no court challenge and he was forced to admit during an emergency debate, called because of the misinformation, that he had misled the Commons.
The Government’s subsequent claim that a ban could be challenged under the Human Rights Act or the EU Services Directive was challenged by lawyers and the European Commission. The Government and MPs came under intense pressure from voters. More than 32,000 signed The Independent’s online petition calling for the Government to change its mind, and supporters of the protest group 38 Degrees, which had forced Defra to abandon plans for its forests sell-off, deluged MPs’ offices with hundreds of emails, letters and phone calls. During the debate, MPs said the issue was emblematic of wider animal welfare issues. But the most astonishing contribution came from Mr Pritchard who had secured the backbench debate, which should have had a free vote. He said: “On Monday if I offered to amend my motion or drop my motion or not call a vote on this motion – and we’re not talking about a major defense issue or an economic issue or an issue of public-sector reform, we’re talking about a ban on wild animals in circuses – I was offered reward and incentive. If I didn’t call for a ban – I was offered a job. Not as a minister, it was a pretty trivial job. “Then it was ratcheted up to last night and I was threatened. I had a call from the Prime Minister’s Office directly and I was told unless I withdrew this motion that the Prime Minister himself would look upon it ‘very dimly indeed’.”
He told MPs: “It remains a mystery why the Government has mounted such a concerted operation to stop there being a vote on this motion.”
Wynnewood, Okla. — The federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has cited and fined a Wynnewood roadside zoo known as G.W. Exotic Animal Park for several serious violations of worker safety laws. The national nonprofit Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) sent a formal complaint requesting enforcement to OSHA on December 18, 2013, after a park employee was mauled by a tiger late on October 5, 2013 and nearly lost her arm. OSHA began its investigation of the facility two days after receiving ALDF’s letter, noting a lack of barriers between the employees and captive wild animals and other inadequate worker protections. Additional violations include not providing adequate communications of hazardous chemical exposure. These violations resulted in a legal citation and a $5200 proposed penalty, issued March 31, 2014. However, OSHA has since lowered the penalty to $2400.
Undercover investigations by other animal groups suggest that dozens of tiger cubs have died in the care of G.W. Exotic Animal Park, and animals have been routinely and violently assaulted by workers when fights erupt from incompatible animals being caged together. The investigations also indicate premature removal of infants from mothers, inadequate care of pain, and inappropriate behavior such as giving lit cigarettes to primates. Park operator Joe Schreibvogel has previously been fined $25,000 for nearly 200 violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
“Worker safety professionals everywhere should thank groups like ALDF for looking out for employees as well as for animal welfare,” according to Dr. Adam Finkel, formerly OSHA’s chief enforcement official in the Rocky Mountain states. “Shortly after OSHA issued these citations, the DC Circuit court ruled in a case against SeaWorld that OSHA clearly has the authority to insist that workers be protected from dangerous animals.”
“ALDF congratulates OSHA on its swift enforcement against this horrific park” said Stephen Wells, executive director of the Animal Legal Defense Fund. “Not only are workers and visitors repeatedly injured, but the animals at this roadside sham are miserably mistreated.”
Copies of ALDF’s complaint and OSHA’s citations are available by request.
Posted on April 24, 2014
Federal Agency Fines Oklahoma Animal Park for Violation of Worker Safety Laws
Cypress the bobcat was rescued on January 4, 2014 and has been recovering in the West – Boensch Cat Hospital for these past 7 weeks. She had been resisting eating whole prey items, such as rats and chicks, so we were getting worried that she would never switch off the ground diet we have been giving her to the real prey items that she would have to eat in the wild. We couldn’t let her lose her ability to recognize prey and insisted that she eat what wild bobcats eat, but maybe Cypress knew best because after giving in and eating mice, she got bound up and couldn’t pass the fur and bones.
We took her in to see Dr. Wynn yesterday to do follow up X-rays and help her eliminate the fur and bones that were stuck in her intestinal tract. It was a very sad day for us because it appears that her pelvis is not healing properly and she may never be able to eat rats, mice, birds or anything else with fur, feathers or bones. That means she will probably never be able to go free.
So now we are faced with an awful decision: Life in a cage or euthanasia. Since it is still early in her recovery, what we decided to do was flush out her bowels (a big shout out to everyone at Ehrlich Road Animal Hospital as this stunk up the whole place) and put her back on a ground diet. If she can continue to eat and pass the ground diet, as she did for the first 6 weeks, then we will move her outside and try to acclimate her to humans.
Right now she hates us, because wild bobcats are supposed to hate people, but if she has to spend her life in a cage, then we need to help her learn to love us. That means lots of treats on sticks, soft words and patience. Even this isn’t a guaranteed life of luxury for Cypress though. There are many other considerations, such as; Pain management: Can she heal in such a way to be pain free? Future blockage: Even if we only feed her a ground diet, will she be able to catch squirrels or birds that end up in her cage and get blocked up again? We aren’t going to put her through repeated episodes, so if it happens again, it will only be humane to euthanize her.
There are many other factors to consider, and it is this sort of thing that keeps us up at night. This was about the worst news we could get on Cypress, but thought you would want to know.
Shere Khan Tiger and Armani Leopard Updates
Shere Khan’s blood work indicates moderate kidney value elevations and mild elevation in calcium which could be an indicator of many diseases including cancer. The changes in his blood work are similar to many other cats his age. His rear right knee is arthritic and he is now on a new course of medications to manage his pain. It has been a challenge to get him to take his meds consistently which is why he spent several days in the roofed section. Since being in there he has eaten his food and meds consistently. He is fed two meals a day of whatever foods he likes best. His foods are chopped up in easy to grab bites and are often fed to him with an operant stick.
After being let out in the yard yesterday he decided that he did not want to come up for his meds this morning. So we will try feeding him in the roofed section at night and then keeping him locked up until after his breakfast and morning meds the next day.
Armani had the mass removed from the back of her throat. She did very well under anesthesia, has recovered, and is back out in her enclosure. The mass was sent to the lab for testing.
Through Glass Video Big Cat Rescue
Disclaimer: This video is very shaky at the end and the wind noise makes it almost unbearable to watch but the things I had to say were so depressing that I just couldn’t say them again.
This is the first video shot with Google Glass Explorer 2.0 and it was a learning experience. It is not great film, because of hair blowing in front of the camera, me trying to get used to focusing where the camera should be pointing and the wind noise in the latter part of the video, but I am excited. I think this is one of those turning points in the history of mankind (Google Glass, not my video) and is certainly a turning point in the way we will be able to do our jobs here and share that work with you.
The main reason for the $1500 investment into Glass is to bring our videos into the first person perspective for you and to be able to capture moments that I could never catch if I had to either be holding a camera or digging one out of a pocket.
Glass has the ability to take a photo by me just blinking my eye at the moment I want to capture.
It can take a video on a voice command to do so. At that same moment I can ask Glass to text it to someone, post it to Facebook or email it.
Without digging into a pocket and swiping open my screen on my phone I can now see a weather forecast right in front of me as we are working with the cats.
I can ask Glass for directions and it displays turn for turn with an arrow to follow, in the display just above my right eye, so I never have to look away from the road. Imagine how helpful that will be when driving to a rescue?
I can just say, “OK Glass, google natural sources of B-12 vitamins” and a display pops up right when I am shopping for some food sources for the cats.
Even if my hands are full carrying shovels and rakes, I can see my texts, emails and other alerts, scroll past. With just a glance I can ignore them or touch the side of glass to tell me more, or even read it to me, if I have to keep my eyes on the job at hand.
I’m still learning all of the features and trying to master some of the nuances of it, but am excited to be accepted into the Google Explorer program to beta test this amazing piece of technology and be one of the pioneers who gives them input into how it can be better for different users, like those of us working with animals all day. I just can’t wait until these are available to the masses, as I think they will become vital tools to many of our staff and volunteers.
What makes this a moment in time that could well be the singularity is that as these recording devices become more ubiquitous, and accepted in society, I think people will behave much more kindly and with a forced integrity, if they know that everything they say or do could be recorded. The bad guys are going to hate it!
Faux fur the future in Africa?
For more Last Look, watch GPS, Sundays at 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. ET on CNN After the kind of winter we’ve had here in New York, upgrades on winters coats have been the style of the season. And at the city’s recent fashion week, one of the must-have items was what was described as a “fabulous fur.” Halfway across the world, the South African men in the video are sporting fur of their own during a religious ritual. Carrying Zulu warrior shields, the men are wearing the traditional ceremonial attire of the Shembe religion – a monkey tail loin cloth, ostrich feathers on their head, a leopard skin belt, and a leopard skin cape. And perhaps fashion designers should copy this African custom. You see, for some of the members the fur is fake. In fact, it’s made in China. The international trade of leopard parts is illegal, and the skins used in this ceremonial attire usually come from poachers. But thanks to a project by the Wildcat Conservation group “Panthera,” a fake fur material is now being made in China and shipped to South Africa. Ten percent of members are estimated to have made the switch to synthetic fur, and thousands of these fabulous faux shoulder capes have been shipped to the region. It’s a strange day when African animal skins are manufactured in China and shipped via DHL…but it is certainly the bright side of globalization. http://globalpublicsquare.blogs.cnn.com/2014/02/25/faux-fur-the-future-in-africa/
A rare Amur leopard, one of an estimated 30 left in the wild, was captured in Russia and examined by conservation experts before being released.
Representatives of a consortium of conservation organizations — including the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Wildlife Conservation Society and the Zoological Society of London — captured the female Amur (Panthera pardus orientalis) in south-west Primorye, a remote location in the Russian Far East, along the Chinese border.
The animal was tranquilised and examined by a veterinary team. There are between 24 and 32 Amur leopards living in the wild, making the animal the rarest big cat on Earth.
The Amur leopard is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. There are currently estimated to be between 25 — 34 Amur leopards left in the wild, distributed in south-west Primorskii Krai, between Vladivostok and the Sino-Russian border. Male leopards can weigh up to 50kg, females as little as 35kg, and they are carnivorous, feeding mainly on deer. The leopard inhabits mixed forest environments and has long fur to help it withstand the freezing weather.
The project’s co-leaders, Russian biologist Alexei Kostyria and John Goodrich of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said the unprecedented level of international collaboration was essential if the critically endangered leopard is to avoid extinction.
Since the wild population is so small, experts said it’s important to determine if inbreeding is occurring in order to plan conservation programmes.
There are currently approximately 130 Amur leopards in zoos across Europe and Russia; all part of a breeding program coordinated by the Zoological Society of London and the Moscow Zoo.
Kostyria, biologist from the Institute of Biology and Soils in Vladivostok and co-leader of the project, said, “This capture represents a new benchmark in assessing health of wild animals in Russia. We have brought together top experts from Russia and around the world and taken state-of-the-art equipment deep into the taiga to conduct medical assessments of the Far Eastern leopard. We have an unprecedented level of collaboration and remarkable effort that is essential if we are to save this critically endangered leopard.”
Goodrich of the Wildlife Conservation Society, said, “Catching this female was a big step forward in our efforts to understand the status of this population, and to better define necessary conservation actions needed to conserve this population.”