Carol: Ho, ho, ho, Hurst. I think Santa Claus is going to leave my dogs some gifts tonight.
Hurst: I thought you said one of your dogs was a demon.
Carol: She is but even demons need a little love. And distractions. Her chew toys keep her from gnawing on other things. Like my shoes she demolished yesterday. But that’s another story and not really good enough to be in Creature Feature.
Hurst: So, switching gears to a more noteworthy story, the US Department of Agriculture is withdrawing a proposed rule regarding the improved living conditions, handling, and slaughter of livestock and poultry whose meat would later be sold under the organic label.
Carol: Oh yeah, I read about this in the Federal Register. It seems this rule – called the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices rule – has been delayed more than once. It was originally set to take effect in March 2017, then May 2017, then November 2017, and now the proposed effective date is May 14, 2018. USDA is currently inviting more public comment regarding its authority to enact the rule and on the benefits of the rule.
Hurst: Hmmm, it seems like it has enormous benefit for consumers, who could be ensured that the organic label in fact includes animal welfare standards, as well as benefit to those farmers who already take their animals’ welfare into consideration.
Carol: I agree with you. Currently, when the organic label is applied to animal products, you can’t assume much about the treatment of the animals. I hope our readers who care about this issue will offer comment.
Hurst: Moving on to other news, Taiwan had its first animal rights march last week. About 150 attended, including a famous Taiwanese rapper Dwagie who has written a song about animal welfare. Veganism is on the rise in Taiwan, especially among Millennials, and although there have been a lot of public events centered around vegan food, this march was the first focused on animal welfare.
Carol: Interesting! On a different note, how many Hermit Thrushes and Eastern Bluebirds have you seen this week?
Hurst: Wait, what?
Carol: Well, we are well underway with Bird Count Week, which is a misnomer because it lasts from December 14 – January 5 every year.
Hurst: Oh yeah, they expanded the timeframe on the 100th anniversary of the count, back in 2000.
Carol: That’s right! There are a number of resources online for people who want to become a “compiler” and join the count, such as this packet of info from Audubon. There is another backyard bird count coming up in February but we’ll get to that later in the new year.
Hurst: Well, moving from the skies to the seas, this past week I saw a whale of a story about the ecological services provided by cetaceans. A recent study showed how whale feces releases nutrients like iron and nitrogen into the ocean, causing phytoplankton blooms and providing food for marine food webs.
Carol: Well, that’s quite the poop! Whales even play an important ecological role when they die. Carbon-rich decomposing whale carcasses provide a substantial amount of nutrients for seafloor communities.
Hurst: Mmm nothing like a decomposing whale carcass. But these findings are so important because they will heavily influence the way we create environmental policy and legislation. It brings a change in perspective; whales and other cetaceans are not just animals hanging out in the ocean, but important catalysts for necessary biological processes.
Carol: Speaking of animal legislation, the government of British Columbia has enacted a ban on the hunting of grizzly bears. This comes after pressure from animal welfare and conservation groups, and First Nations. This ban was needed for a multitude of reasons – one of which being that the trophy hunting of grizzly bears has a high wounding rate, meaning that many animals suffer for a long time after being shot. In addition, recent population counts have reported the current numbers of bears could not survive continued hunting.
Hurst: It is also worth noting that when the public was polled, ninety percent said that they oppose the trophy hunting of grizzly bears. It is always good to see a government representing its people, especially in animal matters!
Carol: I agree, animals do matter. See what I did there?
Hurst: I’m afraid so. Coming up on December 27th is Visit an Animal Sanctuary Day. Which sanctuary are you going to visit?
Carol: Good question – I need to check out the list of accredited sanctuaries provided by the American Sanctuary Association. They also outline a list of criteria or standards that visitors to sanctuaries should keep in mind when supporting these types of animal-based attractions. Our readers probably remember the terrible account of the Tiger Temple in Thailand that was found violating all kinds of common sense welfare conditions. This facility had forty dead tiger cubs stored in a freezer and twenty more in jars of formaldehyde, really gruesome stuff.
Hurst: That’s a much needed list of standards, in my opinion. In terms of organizations that address international sanctuaries, I am aware of the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries, but even if a sanctuary is not on their accredited list, visitors should be savvy shoppers and make sure they check out the sanctuaries practices as well as they can before visiting.
Carol: Well, that’s a good note to end on. I look forward to next week and hearing about your New Year’s Eve plans. What do young people do these days to celebrate? Ever since I hit (ahem) forty, I tend to not even make it to midnight.
Hurst: Forty, huh? Currently I plan on making some new year’s resolutions that I have no intentions of keeping, but overall nothing too wild and crazy. See you next week!