Better dead than fed, PETA says

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Source: Better dead than fed, PETA says

DON’T BE FOOLED by the slick propaganda of PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. The organization may claim to champion the welfare of animals, as the many photos of cute puppies and kittens on its Web site suggest. But last week, two PETA employees were charged with 31 felony counts of animal cruelty each, after authorities found them dumping the dead bodies of 18 animals they had just picked up from a North Carolina animal shelter into a Dumpster. According to the Associated Press, 13 more dead animals were found in a van registered to PETA.

The arrest followed a rash of unwelcome discoveries of dead animals dumped in the area. According to veterinarian Patrick Proctor, the PETA people told North Carolina shelters they would try to find the dogs and cats homes. He handed over two adoptable kittens and their mother, only to learn later that they had died, without a chance to find a home, in the PETA van. “This is ethical?” Proctor railed over the phone. “I don’t really think so.”

This is not the first report that PETA killed animals it claimed to protect. In 1991, PETA killed 18 rabbits and 14 roosters it had previously “rescued” from a research facility. “We just don’t have the money” to care for them, then PETA-Chairman Alex Pacheco told the Washington Times. The PETA animal shelter had run out of room.

The Center for Consumer Freedom, which represents the food industry, a frequent target of PETA campaigns, released data filed by PETA with the state of Virginia that shows PETA has killed more than 10,000 animals from 1998 to 2003. “In 2003, PETA euthanized over 85 percent of the animals it took in,” said a press release from the lobby, “finding adoptive homes for just 14 percent. By comparison, the Norfolk (Va.) SPCA found adoptive homes for 73 percent of its animals and Virginia Beach SPCA adopted out 66 percent.”

The Center’s David Martosko considered PETA’s hefty budget — reportedly, $20 million — and many contributions from well-heeled Hollywood celebrities, then figured, “PETA has enough money in the bank to care for every unwanted animal in Virginia (where it has its headquarters) and North Carolina.”

PETA prefers to spend donations, apparently, not caring for flesh-and- blood animals entrusted to it but on campaigns attacking medical researchers, meat-eaters or women wearing furs. It is as if PETA prefers the idea of animals to animals themselves.

Why does PETA kill animals that might otherwise find a home?

I repeatedly phoned PETA, but never reached an official who would answer my questions. PETA’s Web site spun the story under the banner, “PETA helping animals in North Carolina” with an emphasis on its efforts to “solve the animal overpopulation in North Carolina.” Here’s more: “PETA has provided euthanasia services to various counties in that state to prevent animals from being shot with a .22 behind a shed or gassed in windowless metal boxes — both practices that were carried out until PETA volunteered to provide painless death for the animals.” Make that painless deaths for animals that could have found love.

Besides, PETA always has been about killing animals. A 2003 New Yorker profile included PETA top dog Ingrid Newkirk’s story of how she became involved in animal rights after a shelter put down stray kittens she brought there. So she went to work for an animal shelter in the 1970s, where, she explained, “I would go to work early, before anyone got there, and I would just kill the animals myself. Because I couldn’t stand to let them go through (other workers abusing the animals.) I must have killed a thousand of them, sometimes dozens every day.”

That’s right. PETA assails other parties for killing animals for food or research. Then it kills animals — but for really important reasons, such as running out of room.

Martosko hopes animal lovers will learn that their donations will do more good at a local animal shelter than at PETA. “For years,” he added, “we thought that PETA just cared for animals more than they cared for humans. But now it seems they don’t care much for either.”

No lie about not caring for people. In 2003, Newkirk hectored late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat because a terrorist blew up a donkey in an attempt to blow up people. Newkirk also told the New Yorker the world would be a better place without people. She explained why she had herself sterilized: “I am opposed to having children. Having a purebred human baby is like having a purebred dog; it’s nothing but vanity, human vanity.”

Now you know. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals doesn’t really like people. PETA has no use for ethics. And PETA kills animals.

Where Rights May Be Wrong

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Original article: Island Connections – Loro Parque vs PETA

After several months of wrangling, a legal dispute between the animal rights organisation PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) and Loro Parque has now come to an end. Here’s a look behind the scenes of this animal rights activist group. The sequence of events is as follows. In 2016 Loro Parque sued PETA over accusations made to the Guardia Civil SEPRONA division (Spanish nature protection service) over supposed maltreatment of its orcas. PETA not only reported Loro Parque to SEPRONA but also started an international press campaign against the park, even though the previous investigations by SEPRONA had confirmed that there were absolutely no indications of maltreatment and that the orcas were in the finest conditions. The sentence published on November 7 by the Puerto de La Cruz court confirms and accredits that, “The orca installations at Loro Parque fulfil the regulations in force and the general condition of the orcas is the correct one”. It also states that, “The activity developed at Loro Parque complies strictly with the applicable legal requirements and has the obligatory authorisations and licences” and confirms that it has been verified that, “The zoological park has qualified personnel to take care of and medically treat the orcas that live in its installations”. At no time does the judicial resolution question the wellbeing of the orcas at Loro Parque, on the contrary, it makes it very clear that the orcas are in good condition, and attended to by qualified professionals and experts. This implies clearly that the accusations of maltreatment or even torture were not true. However, the sentence balances between the right to honour and the freedom of speech. The court understands that these affirmations, although demonstrated as false, are protected by the right to freedom of speech.

There is no doubt that in a democratic society this right has to be protected but it is also necessary to protect the legal and legitimate economic activities which are the motor of our society. Therefore, Loro Parque will appeal against this sentence to the High Court in Santa Cruz de Tenerife in order to address the fact that the legitimate use of freedom of speech cannot be an excuse for organising defamation campaigns against organisations like Loro Parque, which has been fighting for and funding the conservation of nature and the wellbeing of animals for 45 years. The zoological director of Loro Parque,  Wolfgang Rades, commenting on PETA’s activities, said, “We are regularly audited and awarded by independent organisations. We work constantly with scientists from all over the world to confirm that our animals are doing well. In some of the radical protest organisations, people from completely different professions call themselves specialists who allegedly know better than qualified scientists.”

But who and what is PETA and what does the organisation that so vehemently attacks Loro Parque stand for? PETA is the abbreviation for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, founded in Norfolk (USA) in 1980 by the former activist and today’s PETA boss Ingrid Newkirk. The organisation now has more than two million members around the world and earns about $30 million a year. This money is exempted from taxes due to the non-profit status of the association. But how non-

profit is PETA really? This is a question that the organisation, which repeatedly draws attention to itself through media effective campaigns, has to put up with. First of all, it does not, as is so often mistakenly understood, stand for animal welfare, but for animal rights, and the organisation obviously interprets this concern very creatively. In general, the PETA representatives are against the exploitation of all animals. This also includes a ban on meat and dairy products, the wearing of leather, wool and fur as well as the rejection of leisure activities such as horse riding, hunting, fishing or beekeeping, and of course, the zoos and circuses are at the top of the list of the most criticised. In macabre flyers, the so-called responsible persons compare hen batteries with a concentration camp. Children are unsettled by sentences such as, “Your father kills animals”. In fact, a flyer addressed to children says, “Your daddy teaches you the wrong things when he tells you what is right and wrong – so you should explain to him that he kills fish while fishing and that it’s wrong to kill someone. Until your dad learns that killing others is no fun, keep cats and dogs away from him. He enjoys killing helpless animals so much that they could be next in line.”

Regarding the killing of animals PETA should keep its own doorstep clean. Animals that are freed by PETA, often with media impact, are seldom cared for until they are adopted. In 2016, the Washington Post reported that approximately 72 per cent of the rescued animals were put to sleep, not only because they were old, injured or too aggressive, but also because the effort to find a new home was described as a, “Waste of resources”. A former employee, who under the name of Mom2nomads, published her experiences on a blog, confirmed this. She says that not all new entries have been registered, or their weight has been reported as higher than it really is, so that more animals can be put to sleep without anyone knowing, some of them on the same day. Like the Chihuahua Maya belonging to nine-year-old Cynthia from Virginia. At the end of 2014, the animal vaccinated or sterilised and the owners could be encouraged to behave responsibly. But that was rejected outright. During this time, the organisation also decided to sterilise only the bitches of fighting dogs for cost reasons, knowing full well that there is a great danger that the male offspring could be used for dog fighting. All this has so exhausted me that I couldn’t bear it any more”. It is estimated that around 30,000 animals in PETA’s care have been killed over the last ten years. On flyers, PETA warns cat owners against letting their cats run free. The dangers posed by traffic and people are too great, in other words it’s a plea for keeping cats at home as the best way of life. Does this really do justice to the nature of the animal? And what is the difference between keeping a pet exclusively in one’s own four walls and keeping a tiger in a zoo enclosure suitable for the species? PETA’s line does not appear to be quite clear then put towards financing processes which cause more of a spectacle.

British photographer David Slater can also tell a tale or two. About six years ago, he observed and photographed macacos in Indonesia to publish a picture book. The animals got used to his presence. One day, a monkey he called Naruto took advantage of an unobserved moment to use the camera’s shutter release and took his own picture. At first, Slater thought it had been an absolute stroke of luck. But the photos went around the world because PETA accused the photographer of denying the monkey the right to his own image. So, the monkey has a right to determine his image and everything about it? Every reasonable thinking person asks himself, “What are they doing? But not PETA. The organisation has ruined the photographer with its legal cases. He couldn’t make it to San Francisco on the last day of the case because he couldn’t afford the aircraft ticket. The photos are so well known that he can’t earn any more money with them anyway. In his commentary about the grotesque monkey selfie, the author and moderator Micky Beisenherz asked on the German website, “What about the countless photos of dead animals whose corpses you show off without their consent for your campaigns, robbing them of their last dignity?” Would it not make more sense to put the money of animal-loving humans into genuine animal protection, instead of into numerous questionable campaigns, nonsensical legal processes and apparent animal shelters, which are more like killing stations, and above all into their own bank account? All donors are advised to check carefully who they provide their money to and whether this really makes sense. He who screams loudest is not always right, but the one who does the most, is.

Activists Want Zoos to be an Endangered Species

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A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences asserts that a sixth mass extinction is underway. Primarily pointing to the extinction of several species, as well as the deterioration of animal habitats, the paper warns that habitats and animal populations are decreasing at an alarming rate. The conservation of endangered and threatened species is a critical issue. Ironically, animal activist organizations who claim the moral high ground are seeking to destroy two of the primary tools for supporting animal conservation: zoos and aquariums.

These institutions support conservation while conducting research across the globe on species ranging from primates to insects and everything in-between. The aptly named Phoenix Zoo has spent 50 years bringing back the Arabian Oryx (think, desert deer) from the brink of extinction and has reintroduced the animal to its native habitat. The National Zoo in Washington, DC did the same with the golden lion tamarin. Countless other zoos have helped with these and the survival of other endangered species. Using the best science, zoos also have an international database of their animals to assist in breeding efforts and ensure the genetic diversity of future generations of animals.

Despite these benefits, PETA and similarly positioned animal groups are threatening lawsuits under the Endangered Species Act that would spell the end of zoos and aquariums in America. Their legal claim? Keeping animals in enclosures is a form of illegal “abuse” of endangered species. They call zoos “prisons.” Nonsense. Zoos are great for the animals that live in them. A recent study from the University of Zurich shows that more than 80% of mammalian species studied have longer lives in zoos than in the wild.

Groups like PETA love to point to elephants as a case study because they have shorter lives in captivity, but animals that are generally “long-lived” take much longer to study. New strategies implemented in the last 10 years won’t show up in data until after this generation of animals has died. So as scientists have learned more about elephants and improved their lives in zoos, the results of that labor haven’t been realized yet. It also ignores the fact that the public’s exposure to elephants in zoos and circuses likely help in efforts to end the ivory trade. The research done by veterinarians and zoologists help all animals in a given species, directly refuting claims by PETA that “while confining animals to zoos keeps them alive, it does nothing to protect wild populations and their habitats.” Probably the most famous example is the decades of research on Giant Pandas. Scientists around the world brought the beloved animal from the brink of extinction on the endangered species list to the much better “vulnerable species” list.

Not only will anti-zoo efforts harm the animals themselves, which are not fit to be in the wild, but they will also destroy valuable educational experiences and local communities. Children’s physical exposure to animals—not just from books or tablets—is a key learning experience. Moreover, zoos and aquariums added nearly $20 billion to the U.S. economy from nearly 170 million visitors in 2012.

It’s important to understand that ultimately groups like PETA (or its cousin, the Humane Society of the United States) don’t want to make better zoos. They want to phase out the use of animals—whether at a zoo, on a farm, or at a circus. Some activists go so far as to question the ethics of pet ownership. Serious issues are facing animals of all stripes and in all corners of the globe. If organizations like PETA and HSUS have their way, it will be more than zoos and aquariums that go extinct. Will Coggin is the research director for the Center for Consumer Freedom in Washington, D.C.

Zoos Are Not Prisons. They Improve the Lives of Animals.

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The recent death of Harambe—the Western lowland gorilla shot dead at the Cincinnati Zoo after a three-year-old boy fell into his enclosure—has ignited a fierce debate about the role of modern zoos. Some critics have seized the tragedy as an opportunity to advance an uncompromising anti-captivity narrative in which all zoos and aquariums are inherently unethical and cruel.

To be sure, there are bad actors. The spawning of so-called “roadside zoos”—an exploitative enterprise known for its systematic negligence and abuse of animals—are some of the most egregious cases-in-point. But blunt and sweeping indictments of zoos and aquariums fail to account for how ethical institutions enrich and ultimately protect the lives of animals, both in human care and in the wild.

Responsible zoos and aquariums exist to facilitate and promote the conservation of animals. And the need for intensive conservation campaigns is now more urgent than ever before: Our world is currently in the midst of the “Sixth Extinction,” a term coined by Elizabeth Kolbert in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book of the same name. Unlike the five preceding die-offs, which were precipitated by natural events—such as those that killed off the dinosaurs, exterminating three-quarters of all species on the planet—the current mass extinction is a result of human activities encroaching on wild spaces.

Today’s zoos and aquariums are uniquely positioned to combat those evolving threats. Using robust and sophisticated breeding programs, these institutions fund and facilitate countless initiatives to propagate species and preserve genetic biodiversity, and then reintroduce critically endangered or extinct species into the wild. Consider the Arabian Oryx, a striking breed of antelope from the Arabian Peninsula. The species was hunted to extinction in the wild nearly four decades ago, when the last wild Arabian Oryx was shot and killed in 1972. The Phoenix Zoo helped lead the ensuing breeding and reintroduction programs, which ultimately birthed more than 200 calves from just nine individuals. Now between Oman and Jordan, there are about 1,000 Arabian Oryx living in the wild.

The Arabian Oryx—which has since been removed from the endangered species list—isn’t alone. Breeding programs at zoos and aquariums have since saved numerous other species from extinction, including the European bison, the red wolf, and the Oregon spotted frog.

Even when animals are never introduced into the wild, placing them under human care can still improve the lives of their wild counterparts: Modern zoos and aquariums serve as bases for observation and research, which then helps protect wild animals.

One compelling example is the study of animal infection and disease, currently the subject of numerous ongoing research projects at zoos worldwide. The Zoological Society of London, for instance, is developing innovative methods to assess the risks of animals contracting disease when they’re reintroduced into the wild. Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington is leading global research efforts on the detection and treatment of the sometimes-fatal elephant herpes virus, with the ultimate goal of developing an effective vaccine to be administered to the species in both zoo and wild populations. And the San Diego Zoo retains a staff of 20 experts dedicated to the study of treating wildlife diseases that threaten conservation.

Of course, the positive contributions of zoos and aquariums in conserving wild animals cannot—and should not—outweigh the health and well-being of the animals living under the care of these institutions. That’s why American Humane Association is launching a global initiative to elevate the welfare standards of zoos and aquariums worldwide. The Humane Conservation program will be the first third-party certification devoted solely to verifying that animals living in these institutions are healthy, positively social, active, safe, and living with proper light, sound, air, and heat levels. And these standards will be set not by zoos but instead an independent collection of world-renowned experts in the fields of animal science, behavior, and ethics—a sharp departure from most existing accreditation programs, which are vulnerable to accusations of conflicts of interest and leniency.

To some detractors, the humane certification of zoos and aquariums is an oxymoron. But vast empirical and academic research discredits this black-and-white view. Animals in zoos and aquariums today can live longer, healthier, and richer lives than their forbearers ever did in the wild. Go see for yourself.

Top 6 myths about zoos

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We all meet these myths almost every day. Lets just bust them once and for all, ok? Feel free to share and use, as you please.

Are You Letting Yourself Be Manipulated By Animal Activisits

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Animal activists have turned the plea of sick and injured animals into big business.

In 2015, PETA raised over $48 million dollars, HSUS raised over $178 million and the ASPCA raised over $138 million. This big business relies on exploiting the plight of animals to get people to open their wallets.

Most of us have found ourselves late at night watching TV when we hear the Sarah McLachlan music. You see videos of animals desperately in need of help, and like millions of other people, you reach for your wallet and donate.

Recently someone on YouTube took the audio from an ASPCA and mashed it up with video of robots.

The result is a video that pulls at your heart strings and demonstrates the brutal art of manipulating people with videos without context.

This is how this big business works.

The reality is that after hundreds of millions of dollars are donated to these organizations, very little animals are helped, and in PETA’s case, your money actually funds the killing of animals.

When you look at how easily the robot video can be edited to pull at your heart strings, you can see how BlackFish manipulated viewers into thinking that SeaWorld needs to be shut down.

The result of this manipulation is that people are condemning one of the world’s best zoological organizations – an organization that is actively engaged in protecting and saving wildlife around the world. While a donation to PETA will help kill animals, a day at SeaWorld or your local accredited zoological facility has a global impact that benefits animals worldwide.

Next time you see a sad animal video, take a moment ask yourself if you are being manipulated.

Richard Branson’s airlines have emitted 7.1 million metric tons of CO2

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Source: Virgin CEO Richard Branson may be championing green business investments, but his airline empire has emitted more than 7.1 million metric tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere over the years. Branson recently took to his blog to decry global warming denialism, saying that those who are skeptical of mankind’s effect on the planet should “get out of our way.” But Branson’s own airline companies have emitted millions of metric tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Branson’s flagship airline company Virgin Atlantic emitted about 4.8 million metric tons of carbon in 2006 and 2007 from aircraft operations and other operations “including staff travel to and from work, business travel by car and plane, plus energy consumed at [their] UK offices and hangars.” Virgin America has also thrown up its fair share of carbon emissions — about 2.3 million between 2008 and 2010, according to the company. The company started shuttling passengers across the U.S. in 2007 and had a carbon footprint of 573,296 metric ton in 2008, making it the lowest emitting U.S. carrier. But as Virgin America’s operations and airplane fleet grew so did their carbon footprint. In 2010, the company’s carbon footprint was 971,180 metric tons, making them the third lowest emitting U.S. carrier. Branson, however, has made an effort to make his airlines less carbon-intensive. Virgin Atlantic, for example, aims to improve the fuel efficiency of its airline fleet by 30 percent by 2020 and reduce energy consumption from its ground operations by 20 percent during that time. Virgin Australia allows its customers to purchase carbon offsets for their flights. According to the company, they sold carbon offsets equivalent to 65,491 metric tons in 2010 and 2011. The company also keeps a relatively young and fuel efficient aircraft fleet. Branson became the latest major CEO to lash out against skeptics of man-made global warming after Apple CEO Tim Cook lambasted a free-market activist for caring more about profitable investments than fighting global warming. “Tim [Cook] took a crucial stand: he told shareholders who oppose Apple’s commitment to sustainability to ‘get out of the stock’,” Branson wrote on his blog. “He also commented on how doing business sustainably can actually improve the bottom line. This is something we strongly believe in at The B Team, which is working hard to encourage better ways of doing business for the wellbeing of people and the planet. We wholeheartedly support him.” “More businesses should be following Apple’s stance in encouraging more investment in sustainability,” Branson said. “While Tim told sustainability sceptics to ‘get out of our stock’, I would urge climate change deniers to get out of our way.”

Dolphins’ immune systems are failing due to polluted oceans

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Wild dolphins have weaker immune systems than captive dolphins because of polluted sea water, a study has found.

Researcher`s compared the immune health of four groups of bottlenose dolphins living in aquariums and off the coast of America.

Pollutants in the oceans around Florida and South Carolina were found to be putting a strain on the wild dolphins’ immune systems, making it more difficult for the animals to fight off bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites.

Wild dolphins’ immune systems appeared to be “chronically activated” as a result of the unhealthy environments they were living in, said the study’s lead author Patricia Fair, a research professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

“This is likely a result of encountering and fighting off illness caused by pathogens, parasites and anthropogenic pollutants in the ocean that do not exist in closely managed zoological habitats,” she explained.

“The key to a healthy immune system is a balance between being able to recognise harmful organisms and over-stimulation and this study demonstrates the importance of the environment in these responses.”

Dolphins living in the ocean near Charleston, South Carolina were exposed to the highest levels of industrial pollution, and suffered more disease as a result.

Because dolphins are high on the food chain, they accumulate any toxins ingested by their prey, the researchers said. Industrial pollutants released into the water accumulate in micro-organisms, these are eaten by fish, which are in turn eaten by dolphins. At each step up the food chain the toxins become more concentrated.

The researchers suggested the findings of the dolphin study could have implications for human health in the area too, as local fishermen and residents are exposed to and consume the same toxins

Meanwhile, large amounts of toxic mercury were found in dolphins living in the Indian River Lagoon in Florida.

Tilikum vs J34 A Tale of two Killer Whales

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Original article: Tilikum vs J34 A Tale of two Killer Whales

The Southern Resident Killer Whales are dying. It is happening now, it is happening quickly, and it is happening before our eyes.

Deceased J34 – image via CBC

In 2016, the number of Southern Residents plummeted from 83 to 78, one of the smallest populations since record keeping on the whales began in the early 1970s. One of these whales, J-34, or “Doublestuf,” a well known member of the J-22 matriline, washed ashore in British Columbia on December 20th, 2016. A breeding age male of 18, the BC Ministry of Agriculture’s initial examination revealed blunt force trauma and a hematoma as the cause of death. There is a high probability, though unconfirmed, that J-34’s injuries were caused through a vessel strike.

People examine J34’s corpse – image via CBC

In other words, J-34 was struck violently on the head, and continued to live for up to a few days, before succumbing to his injuries and dying, most likely alone, in the waters of the Pacific Northwest.

Photo by Erin McKinney

In another part of the country, 3 weeks after J-34’s body washed ashore, another well known male killer whale died. At age 36, after years of veterinary and behavioral support for a complicated chronic infection, SeaWorld Orlando’s Tilikum passed away quietly, in the early hours of January 6th, 2017. He was in the company of the trainers and killer whales he’d known for much of his life since his move to SeaWorld in 1992.

Photo by Erin McKinney

Tilikum was well past the average life expectancy (30) listed by the NOAA for a male killer whale. He had been ill, and supported medically, for years, with an infection found in both free-ranging and zoological animals. His death was not violent or shocking, yet it garnered exponentially more news coverage and discussion then the fate of J-34.

Why? Where were the so-called “animal rights” crusaders, so abundant on Twitter and Facebook, when J-34 was suffering? Why is the death of a geriatric, professionally cared for animal a national ignition point, but the slow and steady destruction of a group of wild whales a special interest story?

Tourist disrupting the natural habitat of Killer Whales – image via NOAA

By all logic it should be reversed: J-34 was the 4th death (out of 6 adults and 3 neonate calves) for the embattled Southern Residents this year. His passing was violent, likely caused by human interference and marked the removal of another breeding animal from a population where the survival rate to 1 year for a calf is less than 50%. But animal rights activism, from PETA to The DoDo and beyond, is big business, and it’s a lot easier to sell ethics if you have a shiny corporation like SeaWorld to demonize.

While leveraging Tilikum’s death might do a lot for Ingrid Newkirk’s bottom line, addressing the death of J-34 means confronting a complicated and uncomfortable fact: humanity is failing the Southern Resident Killer whales. Their numbers are dropping. They’re listed as an endangered species. Over 50% of pregnancies are miscarried, and 43% of calves are lost in the first 6 months of life. They are some of the most contaminated animals on the planet, with nauseating levels of toxins building up in their blubber supply. Their supply of Chinook salmon, their primary food source, is being rapidly depleted. The negative impact of vessels, including whale watching boats, is becoming more and more apparent. All of these factors have been confirmed again and again by federal and NGOs seeking to help the whales recover.

And yet, with the overwhelming information that the Southern Residents are crying out for help, it is Tilikum who makes the headline, SeaWorld who catches the outrage and moral grandstanding, all while Justin Trudeau’s federal Canadian government approves a tar sand pipline project through the primary habitat of the Southern Residents that may turn out to be the death warrant for one of the most well known and well studied killer whale populations on the planet.

Tourists disrupting natural killer whale behaviors in the wild. – Image via

There is no time left for British Columbia’s whales. They are dying, and every time the public is told that attacking SeaWorld is how to help orcas, their chances of recovery grow even slimmer. On December 31st, 2016, “Granny,” the J-pod matriarch, was announced missing, and presumed dead, the most recent in 2016’s alarming Southern Resident fatalities. Even that wasn’t enough to draw the spotlight toward the silently vanishing whales.

There is no true “wild.” Everywhere is marred by humanity’s impact. We must make a decision as a society to turn the tables for the wild whales. We must decide what dies with J-34: either a romanticized and outdated vision of the ocean, or the Southern Resident whales themselves.

Works Cited:

James Borrell: Eight reasons why zoos are good for conservation

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Original article: James Borrell: Eight reasons why zoos are good for conservation

The shooting of a gorilla earlier this year reignited the debate about whether animals should be kept in captivity, but we must remember the essential work that good zoos do.

The Biologist 63(5) p9

This summer, a child fell into an enclosure at Cincinnati Zoo with a western lowland gorilla named Harambe, and to protect the child the gorilla was shot. This tragic and much-discussed event rekindled the debate over the role of zoos and aquaria – and much of the coverage was negative.

One would hope that zoos themselves would be proudly showcasing their work, but as I discovered while contributing to an Al Jazeera report on the incident, many are reluctant to speak up due to the barrage of attacks that Cincinnati experienced.

Zoos are not perfect. Should they continue to keep large predators or intelligent primates? Over the next few decades, probably not. Should large new animals be collected from the wild? No, unless there is a compelling case to develop a captive breeding programme.

But are zoos changing and developing? Yes. More than ever, good zoos are aware of their evolving role in conservation and responding to it.

Would I rather have a species in captivity, than not at all? One hundred times, yes.

Here are my eight reasons why zoos are critical to conservation:

  1. There are 39 animal species currently listed by the IUCN as Extinct in the Wild. These are species that would have vanished totally were it not for captive populations around the world, many of which reside in zoos (or, for plants, botanic gardens).
  2. For species whose survival in the wild looks in doubt, zoos often set up ‘insurance’ populations, captive groups of animals that could in a worst-case scenario assist in reintroduction to the wild should the original population become extinct. The Zoological Society of London, as an example, participates in more than 160 of these programmes.
  3. Reintroductions. It is often argued that zoos are bad because so few reintroductions actually happen. I would argue that it’s not the zoos that are at fault – a reintroduction can’t occur if the reason a species was driven to extinction in the first place hasn’t been resolved.
  4. In 2014, 700 million people visited zoos worldwide. Not all zoos are good at engagement, and indeed not all zoos are good full stop. However, surely that number of visits created some sort of connection with the natural world that might not have occurred otherwise.
  5. Zoos are a living museum. What we learn about wild animals in captivity can help us manage and conserve them in the wild – from animal behaviour, to reproductive rates, to dietary requirements.
  6. Zoos raise money for conservation efforts. It’s difficult to engage people with conservation taking place half a world away. But by enabling people to experience wildlife first hand, we can increase participation in international conservation activities.
  7. Helping respond to emergencies. Chytrid fungus has emerged as a deadly threat to amphibian populations worldwide, and 168 species have become extinct in 20 years. Responding to threats such as this is surely one of the greatest uses of zoos around the world. Many have set up specialist amphibian centres and are pioneering treatment and breeding programmes.
  8. They remind us that we can succeed. Conservation is full of bad news stories, yet on many occasions I have peered through glass or mesh at a species that shouldn’t exist. For me at least, zoos remind us that conservation does work – we just need more of it.