AIA’s International Campaigns Secretary, Marian Hussenbux is responsible for AIA’s global animal advocacy work. This involves writing to people of influence about animal suffering and cruelty around the world, sometimes in support of the campaigns run by other organisations and sometimes in support of AIA’s own campaigns.
AIA’S CAMPAIGNING ACTIVITY – FROM DECEMBER 2020 TO MARCH 2021
At the end of 2020, we wrote to Virginijus Sinkevičius, the European Union Commissioner for Environment, Oceans & Fisheries, having been informed by the excellent organisation Whale and Dolphin Conservation that over 10,000 common dolphins are killed in the Bay of Biscay every year due to harmful fishing activities, with most deaths and strandings occurring between December and March.
The French and Spanish governments appear to be ignoring scientific recommendations to close the fisheries in this area, thus failing in their legal obligations to protect the dolphins.
We asked the Commissioner to take urgent action.
He replied very fully – full reply here – assuring us of his active concern and that he is “equally concerned about the impact of bycatch and other pressures on critically endangered populations of harbour porpoises in the Baltic Sea”.
United Kingdom – Northern Ireland
Draft Bill to Ban Hunting with Dogs
A Draft Bill to ban hunting with dogs will in due course be put before the Northern Ireland Assembly, and The League Against Cruel Sports reports that “18,425 people responded to a consultation on the banning of the cruel sport, which is thought to be the largest response to a consultation in the history of the Northern Ireland Assembly”, estimating that 78% of the Northern Irish are in support of a ban.
The Bill is sponsored by John Blair, Alliance Party spokesman for Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs and we wrote to thank and support him. We also wrote to the 90 Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLA) asking for their endorsement as well.
To date, apart from automatic acknowledgments, here are some responses:
In accordance with Green Party policy in the UK, the Greens MLAs will vote for the Bill. We had replies from two of them to that effect.
Reply from Keith Buchanan, DUP: “As yet Mr Blair has not introduced his Draft Bill to the Assembly, and I await the wording of this draft bill to allow me to consider fully the implications it may have on our countryside management, ecosystem and natural habitat. At that point we can decide regarding amendments to the bill.”
Since Mr. Buchanan says “we”, it seems to imply the DUP will act in concert on this. However, we have had replies from three other DUP members who say they strongly support the Draft Bill.
Sinn Féin MLAs were the most numerous to reply – four so far have set out their policy on it. They will not vote to ban hunting, as they are concerned about effects on the rural communities, but they maintain they are resolutely opposed to cruelty to animals, and think regulation of hunting is desirable.
The League “will be working behind the scenes to support the bill and lobby for it to be worded in such a way as to avoid the pitfalls of the Westminster and Holyrood legislation”.
We probably all agree with that worry.
Republic of Ireland
Hare coursing features in the organisation GoFundMe as a ‘sport’, so we wrote to ask them to remove the appeal.
Apart from their support for a cruel activity, they maintain they do not feature sports that involve gambling. Hare coursing is very much involved in gambling. We had no reply to our message and, indeed, the coursing club’s appeal for funds was over-subscribed when we checked the web page.
In the town of Verdelais in Gironde, street cats were living in very poor conditions and one in particular needed attention. As previously mentioned in our reports, Mayors have the responsibility of caring for ‘free’ cats – many advocates in France dislike the term ‘feral’ as they see it as pejorative. We wrote to thank the Mayor Corinne Ribauville for her active interest and advocacy of the cats.
At the Parc Astérix, near Paris, eight dolphins and five sea lions were being displayed, in the usual inadequate conditions. We wrote to the Managing Director, who had maintained they were thinking of closing the exhibit three years ago, asking him to have the dolphins sent to sanctuary, not to other dolphinaria. On January 26, it was reported he would be transferring them to facilities in other countries – remember dolphinaria are to be banned in France – but by the time we knew of the matter, it turned out they had already been quietly transferred. Poor dolphin Femke, who was very sick, was euthanized.
Animal Welfare Bills
On January 29, bills affecting animal welfare had their first reading in the National Assembly and will go to the Senate in due course. Very many issues were on the agenda and some welfare improvements decided – to cite but a few:
Responsibility of Mayors to have ‘free’ cats neutered, more regulation of animal shelters, penalties for abandonment of companion animals, ban on selling dogs and cats in pet shops, the end of fur farming, a ban on exploitation of wild animals in travelling circuses, nightclubs and the like, an end to display of cetaceans in dolphinaria, penalties for ‘serious’ sexual acts on animals, which means only penetration – this is very contentious.
However, three significant topics were conspicuous by their absence: intensive farming, hunting and the corrida.
We thanked Député Eric Pauget for speaking up for the bulls, though his attempt failed. We also wrote to Julien Denormandie, Minister of Agriculture, asking for the closure of the private bullfighting schools in Nîmes, Arles, Béziers, Cauna. It is not just young bulls affected adversely by this training, but also young human minds, being ‘educated’ to torment their fellow creatures.
In Montana, the plight of wolves is dire. The State Legislature planned to allow every hunter to kill more wolves, authorise night time wolf-hunting, license wolf-killing in combination with licences to kill other species, lengthen the wolf “harvest” season, and allow snaring.
We asked the Governor not to sign these Bills. We understand that wolves control their own numbers and that killing – especially the uncontrolled killing which is reported in many US states – unbalances the behaviour of the packs and causes unpredictable problems for people and for wolves.
Animal Friendly Legislation
In Hawai’i, we continued our support of animal-friendly legislation. We submitted testimony to the Legislature on three matters – sexual abuse of animals – Hawai’i is one of only four states still to allow this – veterinary civil liability, allowing vets to treat animals in emergencies even if a guardian is not present to allow it and making them responsible for reporting ill treatment they see in the course of their work – and the inappropriate tethering of dogs.
We are pleased to report that all three of these Bills are moving through the process successfully so far. We wrote to thank Representative Scott Nishimoto for his strong sponsorship of the Dog Tethering Bill.
In the city of Puebla, Mexico, the Mayor Claudia Rivera again raised the matter of a ban on the corrida in council, after 9 years of inactivity by previous administrations on the subject, and we wrote to thank her.
The reform was debated at the next legislative session on February 18th, but unfortunately, the vote to ban corridas in Puebla city failed.
In spite of the proposal having been passed by two commissions and thousands of citizens having acted by signing the petition and joining in local actions, the plenary decided, in a close vote, not to ban bullfighting.
But for the first time, a vital debate on the cruelty of bullfights was generated within Puebla town hall and it is to be hoped that the petition and contacts with legislators will eventually have a positive impact for the bulls.
We asked the Premier of Queensland, if it is not yet the time to ban these cruel and futile events, that the roping of calves should at least be stopped.
The Minister for Agriculture had not to date announced a decision as to whether the event of calf roping will be made illegal, or whether there will even be any public consultation. He did state that progressing the draft Queensland Rodeo Standards & Guidelines (developed in 2019) is a priority this year, but has provided no further details.
We understand that this is one of the top two issues in which the minister receives correspondence. Calves being cruelly roped, slammed down and hog-tied is no longer seen by a majority of Queenslanders as an appropriate sport or entertainment.
What is more, the policy position of all five animal protection groups involved in the development of the draft Queensland Rodeo Standards & Guidelines (Animal Liberation Queensland, Animals Australia, RSPCA Qld, Australian Veterinary Association, Animal Welfare League Qld) is that calf roping needs to be banned.
Again – a thriving habitat of theirs near Sydney is planned to be massively developed by the company Lendlease, with many ancient trees removed. The company takes some pride in its environmental concerns, but this development will disrupt connectivity between the Georges River and Nepean River koala habitat corridors, putting these koalas at risk of attack from predators, car strike and, obviously, habitat loss.
We received a very full reply from the company, showing concern for the koalas and explaining their mitigation plans. It is impossible for us, who are not in the area, to know the whole truth of such issues. We tend to accept what the conservationists and animal advocates tell us, but recognise there could be factors we do not fully understand.
Finally for this report, we wrote to Fisheries Minister Peter Tinley in W, Australia about a proposed killing of sharks in the waters of the world-heritage listed Shark Bay and Ningaloo Reef, and the coast of the Kimberley.
This was described as a ‘commercial harvest’, planned because of ‘depredations’ to fishers in the area. This means that a shark bites off a fish already caught on a fisher’s hook.
Fishers are apparently reporting many losses of fish to sharks, thus creating a negative attitude towards sharks – which they really do not need.
Campaigners judge that in many cases, depredation is being used as anecdotal evidence of “booming” shark numbers, hence calls to kill them.
We have been informed that, ironically, W Australia is a world leader in shark depredation research, which, in the Ningaloo region, shows that predictors of increased depredation rates include boating activity and fishing intensity.
So it is, once again, human activity which is in itself causing these conflicts.
We asked the minister to avoid the lethal option and adopt solutions currently being investigated by WA’s Edith Cowan University – these include shark deterrents attached to boats that work in much the same way as personal shark deterrents for surfers.
AIA’s Campaigning Activities continued: