Posts Tagged ‘vegan’

The Tragedy of Dolphin-Safe Tuna

November 25, 2010

A horrific example of the failure of greenwashing and a speciesist approach to animal protection is the problem of dolphin-safe tuna. It hit the public consciousness when various environmental organizations such as the Earth Island Institute and Greenpeace started awareness and lobbying campaigns to stop the then common tuna fishing methods being used in the Eastern Pacific Ocean which they considered cruel and environmentally unsound. You see, schools of yellowfin tuna tend to be associated with dolphins in the EPO, possibly either for protection or to help locate prey, by following these dolphins fishermen were able to easily locate the tuna. Then they would encircle the school of fish, dolphins and all, with purse seine nets. While many crews made efforts to allow the dolphin to escape, numerous dolphin died of asphyxiation, from stress, or were bludgeoned to death, hundreds of thousands of dolphins were killed each year.

The legal campaign was successful and eventually “dolphin-safe” labeling was codified in US law. To prevent unnecessary suffering or death, the new dolphin-safe guidelines essentially banned the technique of “dolphin fishing”, the intentional chasing or encirclement of dolphins. This policy applies only to US boats or boats catching tuna to be sold in the US, for other nations “dolphin fishing” is still common and many foreign vessel have filled the gap US vessels left when many of them were decommissioned or started fishing the west pacific. Since then tuna fishers wishing to sell their tuna in the US have had to go through much greater trouble and expense to locate free swimming schools of tuna, known as “school fishing”, or resort to Fish Aggregation Devices (FAD) also know as “log fishing”. These are floating objects are designed to aggregate marine life to one spot for easy netting, though the reason they attract such a wide variety(over 300 species) of marine life in not fully understood and may vary by species. The more high tech FADs are be equipped with GPS and sonar to allow for remote monitoring of number of fish and one ship can service multiple FADs, a very efficient method to generate large catches. This efficiency comes at a price though. While it does kill less dolphins, compared to netting tuna associated with dolphins, netting tuna around FADs creates significantly more non-cetacean “bycatch”, an industry euphemism for the “unintentional” victims of their nets.

Scientists with the Inter-American Tropical Tuna Commission (IATTC) came up with these estimates of bycatch rates per 10,000 sets of purse seine nets for the three fishing methods mentioned earlier. The method called “school fishing” of netting “immature yellowfin tuna found swimming in schools, will cause the deaths of eight dolphins; 2.4 million small tuna; 2100 mahi mahi; 12,220 sharks; 530 wahoo; 270 rainbow runners; 1010 other small fish; 1440 billfish; and 580 sea turtles.”

Using FADs and catching “immature tuna swimming under logs and other debris will cause the deaths of 25 dolphins; 130 million small tunas; 513,870 mahi mahi; 139,580 sharks; 118,660 wahoo; 30,050 rainbow runners; 12,680 other small fish; 6540 billfish; 2980 yellowtail; 200 other large fish; 1020 sea turtles; and 50 triggerfish.”

And using the old methods to net “mature yellowfin swimming in association with dolphins, will cause the deaths of 4000 dolphins (0.04 percent of a population that replenishes itself at the rate of two to six percent per year); 70,000 small tunas; 100 mahi mahi; 3 other small fish; 520 billfish; 30 other large fish; and 100 sea turtles. No sharks, no wahoo, no rainbow runners, no yellowtail, and no triggerfish and dramatic reductions in all other species but dolphins.”

Rod and reel fishing wasn’t mentioned and while it has low bycatch rates, it is expensive, time consuming, and the large amount of baitfish required would have to be considered. You may also notice that for the first two methods “immature tuna” are referred to where as for the “dolphin-fishing” method “mature tuna” are referred to. This is because the fish attracted to FADs or found free swimming tend to be younger and smaller than schools swimming with dolphins, scooping up these fish will have a greater effect on the tuna population as a whole causing subsequent catches to drop by as much as 25%.

As you can see the current reliance on FADs has resulted in larger kills of sea turtles, rays, juvenile tuna, and at least several endangered species and is a large factor in the decline of some shark populations, an important issue as of late. While some conservationist’s response to this issue is to return to the fishing method of encircling dolphins, the anti-speciesist response would likely be to recognize fishing is inherently cruel and stop altogether. As consumers we can choose the tuna-safe alternative and avoid culpability in the deaths of dolphins, sharks, and tuna.

Urban Foxhunt Hoax

November 6, 2010

The fuzzy green tinted video seemed to show four men drugging dogfood with Xanax as fox bait then chasing the animal through a park and beating it with cricket bats to death. The video was posted by a man calling himself the Lone Horseman saying “This is NOT about inflicting pain or torture to an animal, but about ridding our neighbourhood of a pest.” While also making bloodthirsty and flippant remarks that taken as a whole were clearly satire…or the ravings of mad fox killers. The video was pulled from Youtube and Facebook quickly but you can still see parts here Public outrage erupted, law enforcement began to get involved and it was soon revealed by the creators to be a hoax. So what was this all about?
The Lone Horseman?
This past June two babies girls,Isabella and Lola Koupparis, were mauled in their crib by a fox in a quite rare but tragic event. This sparked off a media frenzy demonizing urban foxes, spinning any story that involved a fox to manufacture fear, whether is was a chewed up shoe or just a sighting. Within two weeks after the attack 6 foxes were caught near the Koupparis home and killed.
Outraged by all this scaremongering the film makers Chris Atkins and Johnny Howorth had an idea. Both being “hardcore lefties” and Chris being a former hunt saboteur, they decided to stage a video hoax designed to bring attention to the brutality of fox hunting. “The film shows what actually happens when foxes are hunted, in contrast to the romanticised image of sprightly gents on horseback carrying out a noble tradition” said Chris.
The video was shot in such a way as to be so ridiculously Pythonesque as to be unbelievable, and a mockery of the childish scaremongering of the right wing. Chris said “We wanted to create something that would be so ridiculous that in any other area it would be immediately dismissed as a spoof, but that news outlets desperate to continue the media narrative against foxes would leap on without any thought as to its authenticity” Coming from Chris this tactic shouldn’t be too much a surprise considering his previous film StarSuckers about media gullibility and celebrity reporting that duped papers into publishing outlandishly untrue stories about celebrities.
Instead of a brutal drugging and beating what they actually filmed was themselves chasing their friends dog Monty through a park, merely acted as if they were beating in a foxes head, and used a stuffed fox borrowed from a film prop company as the dead body at the end. Chris made a video explainable his hoax available here
They didn’t think it would catch on so quickly but within hours of posting online it was causing uproar and in a couple days the Mirror credulously ran the story along with many other news services including the BBC. A bit surprised by the intense response, Chris and Johnny felt they had been successful in getting widespread coverage but were uneasy with having disgusted so many animal lovers, feeling it was getting out of hand they decided to do the reveal, especially after hearing death threats and a reward was put out for info on them.
The hoax took in many well meaning people and animal rights activists including the crew over at the Righteous Indignation podcast but like any good skeptics they were willing to admit they were wrong and in their next episode invited Chris Atkins on for an interview which you can listen to here.