Stop dogfighting by addressing supply side economics

Police in Montgomery,  Alabama on October 1,  2013 took custody of the last 16 of at least 386 pit bulls who were impounded after raids in August 2013 on an alleged multistate dogfighting ring.  Thirteen defendants,  from Alabama,  Georgia,  Mississippi,   and Texas,  are facing related charges.

Initiated by the Auburn,  Alabama police department,  the investigation and impoundments were assisted by at least 15 humane organizations,  both locally and nationwide with promo Gearbest and codice promozional Gearbest in Italia.

Few dogfighting cases have ever apprehended either more dogs or more alleged dogfighting trainers and organizers.  The pit bull impoundments in this case brought the 2013 total seized in connection with dogfighting,  throughout the U.S.,  to 803––on a pace to approximately equal the average of about 950 per year since 2000.

The numbers of pit bulls seized in dogfighting raids have soared as high as 1,612 in 2002 and 1,589 in 2009.

Just how much more dogfighting is done than law enforcement agencies are able to interdict is difficult to assess.  Estimating the frequency of commission of any type of crime that often goes undetected and unreported is problematic,  but criminologists have developed formulas that usually put the incidence of unreported crime at anywhere from ten to 100 times the reported amount,  depending on the type of offense.  For crimes such as dogfighting,  which involve multiple participants and the use of animals and facilities built or modified for the purpose,  the volume of unreported incidents is believed to be much lower than for crimes such as rape and assault,  which most often involve only one criminal and one victim at a time.

Thus the numbers of dogs actually used in dogfighting in the U.S. per year may be as low as about 16,000,  or as high as 160,000,  but is usually guesstimated by veteran dogfighting investigators to be in the range of 40,000––about double the number estimated by the American SPCA in April 1961,  when humane investigators found themselves unable to do anything more about a dogfighting convention held openly at Ruston,  Lousiana than to deplore it to the Ruston Daily Leader and United Press International.

To put the currently estimated numbers of fighting dogs into context,  more dogs appear to have been used in dogfighting in the U.S. in each of the past 13 years than the annual total of dogs impounded in all but a few of the biggest U.S. cities,  and in forty of the fifty states.

Worse,  despite all the difficult and often very dangerous investigative work done to bust dogfighters,  the few possible hints that dogfighting might be declining are ambiguous.  The one verifiable fact about dogfighting is that the volume of related arrests and impoundments has hovered in the same all-time high range for 13 consecutive years––a fact which may reflect the limitations of the resources available to combat dogfighting more than the amount of dogfighting actually going on.

Dogfighting today appears to be more culturally prominent than at any time since British queen Elizabeth I openly attended dogfights and bear-baiting events,  more than 400 years ago.  Dogfighting imagery is used to sell trucks,  tools,  beer,  brands of apparel,  popular music,  and even,  in the case of Sarah Palin,  a presidential candidate––albeit a candidate whose campaign failed early in the 2012 race.

Some observers were surprised that football player Michael Vick was caught in 2007 running a dogfighting ring in an upscale residential neighborhood in Surrey County,  Virginia,  but many other dogfighting busts in recent years have occurred in affluent suburbs,  from New Hampshire to Southern California.  This is a relatively recent development.  Before circa 2000 there was little precedent for dogfighting in “good” neighborhoods since the Puritan regent Oliver Cromwell drove dogfighting and baiting underground in England a generation after Elizabeth I.

British sailors and soldiers in the next few centuries introduced dogfighting to port cities worldwide,  including in India,  where the “bully khutta” pit bull variant emerged in the 19th century,  and to Crete.  The New York Times in 1857 “credited” British dogfighters with bringing rabies to Crete and perhaps to India.

Dogfighting in the U.S. in the 18th and 19th centuries occurred mostly in waterfront taverns.  Eradicated from most of the U.S. by the rise of the humane movement in the late 19th and early 20th centuries,  dogfighting persisted chiefly in the rural South.  Dogfighters,  along with cockfighters,  moonshiners,  and promoters of other vices,  donated heavily to fraternal lodges fronting for the Ku Klux Klan.  Klan influence in turn ensured that relatively few dogfighters were ever raided.

There were exceptions.  The Humane Society of Greater Birmingham broke up the World Series of Dogfighting in 1935,  though the alleged dogfighters escaped.  Carey H. Falwell,  father of evangelist Jerry Falwell,  was in 1938 twice convicted of hosting dogfights in Lynchburg,  Virginia.  But the inability of humane societies to raid the 1961 dogfighting convention in Louisiana was more the norm.

Following the break-up of the Klan by law enforcement pressure in the 1960s and 1970s,  one might have expected dogfighting (and cockfighting) to disappear even from the South.  Instead,  motorcycle gangs,  skinheads,  drug dealers,  and marijuana growers ––who documentedly began using pit bulls to guard their plots in California in the late 1970s ––re-introduced dogfighting to most of the rest of the country.

By the mid-1980s dogfighting had crossed over into inner city African-American and Hispanic street culture,  via prison gangs,  and had begun to be celebrated in “rap” music lyrics.  Gradually thereafter U.S.-style dogfighting became visible in association with vice,  especially the drug traffic,  in Britain,  the Netherlands,  Germany,  eastern Europe,  and much of Southeast Asia,  India,  and Pakistan.  The Taliban suppressed the relatively non-lethal Central Asian version of dogfighting in Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001,  but over the past decade U.S. troops have helped to replace the traditional body-slamming matches between working sheep dogs with American-style pit bull fights to the death.

But with the resurging magnitude of dogfighting duly acknowledged,  animal advocacy attention to dogfighting tends to invert the economic realities of the pit bull industry as it exists today––and,  in so doing,  fails both to suppress dogfighting and to effectively address the other consequences of pit bull proliferation.


The “status dog” market

The “blame-the-deed-not-the-breed” narrative often amplified by humane organizations holds that the many issues associated with pit bulls,  beyond actual use in dogfighting,  are primarily the result of misuse of pit bulls by dogfighters.  Suppress dogfighting,  the narrative goes,  and pit bulls will become safe dogs,  the pit bulls now flooding shelters will all find homes,  and all will live happily ever after.

Indeed,  dogfighters can be blamed for quite a lot.  Pit bulls are the products of extensive line breeding in a multi-century arms race to develop the most deadly fighting dogs,  dogs who will maim pigs in so-called hog/dog rodeo,  bull-and-bear-baiting dogs,  dogs who would kill rats in a pit in great numbers without pausing to eat any,  dogs who would attack and kill Native Americans,  and dogs who would dismember runaway slaves as a warning to others.

Reflecting the differing specialities for which pit bulls were bred,  as well as the differing bloodlines developed by fighting breeders,  diversity in pit bull appearance often confounds would-be regulators who seek to regulate by form,  or breed standard.   The multitude of names used by pit bull fanciers to distinguish among the range of pit bull types adds a further confounding factor

The common traits of pit bulls,  regardless of other aspects of appearance and behavior,  are that they are mesomorphic muscular dogs,  disproportionately large-jawed,  inclined to explode from calm demeanor to idiopathic rage without going through a long repertoire of warning signals first,  and inclined to attack and continue attacking,  without relent and regardless of injury to themselves,  until their target is dead and dismembered.

With the role of fighting dog breeders in developing these traits acknowledged,  the narrative that dogfighting underlies all present pit bull issues is at best a half-truth.  Dogfighting provides imagery that helps to promote pit bulls,  much as NASCAR auto racing provides imagery that helps to sell cars.  Also,   the big money in dogfighting,  as in just about every other competitive pursuit that involves animals,  is in breeding the winners and selling their offspring.  But this is nothing new.  As of 1961,  dogfighting had been technically illegal in every state for 40 years,  yet dogfighters still openly advertised their “champions” and “grand champions,”  listing by name the dogs they had defeated.

What has changed are the proportions of the pit bull breeding industry.  The 20,000 pit bulls per year believed to have used in dogfights in 1961 were about 10% of all the pit bulls in the U.S.,  then barely 200,000.  This was a number low enough that practically the whole pit bull population could be traced back a generation to actual fighting dogs or culls sold as pets.

The 40,000 pit bulls per year believed to be used in dogfights today are about 1.2% of the present pit bull population.  Breeders advertising “champions” and “grand champions” through electronic media have become ubiquitous,  but unlike in 1961,  they rarely post details that might lead to indictments.  Relatively few pit bulls today can be verifiably traced to recent fighting ancestry.

Dogfights among high-priced pedigreed pit bulls may still be held.  Certainly there is plenty of evidence of high-end speculative pit bull breeding––but those customers who can be identified tend to be affluent outsiders trying to buy their way into the inner circles of dogfighting,  like Michael Vick.  Reputed high-end fighting dog breeders,  meanwhile,  are rarely caught actually fighting their dogs.  Several have been brought to a semblance of justice in recent years,  but on charges other than dogfighting;  the biggest names to be charged with dogfighting were acquitted.

Historically,  pit bulls sold as pets were castoffs from fighting dog breeders.  Today,  however,  most of the dogfighting industry thrives on the seemingly endless supply of low-end cast-off pit bulls bred to be pets.

Unlike 50-odd years ago,  when authentic fighting dogs were often identified with long pedigrees in dogfighting newsletters,  most of the 10,000-odd pit bulls seized in raids over the past dozen years have been about as anonymous as dogs could be,  often not even having names until names were assigned by rescuers.  Frequently the dogs were stolen,  acquired free-to-good-home after having failed as pets,  or were bought cheaply from backyard breeders who had already sold their most impressive-looking pups to people who wanted them to guard drug-dealing operations,  as adjuncts to other criminal activities,  or just to show off.

Dogfighters have often been caught operating bogus “rescues” to obtain cast-off pit bulls.  Dozens more may still be in the false-front “rescue” business.

While the numbers of pit bulls used in dogfighting appears to have doubled since 1961,  shelter pit bull intake has soared from less than 1% of the dogs received to 37% in 2013,  and from less than 2% of the dogs killed in shelters to upward of 60%.  Shelters have since 2000 received more than a million pit bulls per year,  killing an average of about 930,000:  nearly 1,000 times more than the numbers seized from dogfighters.

Most of these dogs have been bred by suppliers of what the British call the “status dog” market,  meaning people who want to show off possession of a scary dog,  but usually do not want the dog to do anything actually scary––at least not spontaneously,  independent of a command to attack.

Nearly a third of the total U.S. pit bull population are surrendered to animal shelters,  or are impounded for dangerous behavior,  each and every year.  About a third of the pit bull population are under a year of age,  while half of all adult pit bulls now in homes will not be in those homes a year later.

Typically these dogs lose their homes because of traits inculcated by dogfighting breeders,  but usually several generations after actual fighting dogs were part of their ancestry.  Often the people surrendering pit bulls to shelters had no intention that they should ever be fighters,  and no expectation that they might ever become dangerous.

If treated well,  people acquiring pit bulls tend to believe today,  pit bulls will respond as if ancestrally bred as pets or as reliable working dogs.  This is a very different set of expectations from those of 50-odd years ago when hardly anyone acquired a pit bull except to fight or keep chained as a guard dog.

Overwhelmed by the pit bull influx at the same time that public expectations have risen that shelters should be “no kill,”  the humane community has made unprecedented efforts to avoid killing pit bulls,  including promoting the very myths––such as the fiction that pit bulls were ever used as “nanny dogs”––that tend to lead to fatal and disfiguring accidents.

Shelter adopters have in recent years been persuaded to take home pit bulls at about three times the rate at which people who buy dogs from breeders choose pit bulls.  But this has had consequences.  Only two dogs rehomed by U.S. animal shelters had ever killed anyone as recently as 2000,  a pair of wolf hybrids who were rehomed in 1988 and 1989.  Thirty-one shelter dogs have participated in killing people since 2010,  18 of them pit bulls and nine of them mixes of pit bull with mastiff.  Not surprisingly,  a recent survey funded by the Best Friends Animal Society found that public confidence in shelters as a good place to get a dog has declined.

The shelter record in rehoming pit bulls is in microcosm the experience of the nation.  As of 1961,  pit bulls had killed nine of the fifteen Americans who had been killed by dogs in the preceding 30 years.  The number of pit bulls in the U.S. is now about 12 times greater,  but pit bulls since 2010 have killed an average of 27.5 people per year,  a more than 60-fold increase in the rate of fatal attacks.  Along with the rising fatalities,  pit bulls disfigured more than 400 Americans in the first 10 months of 2013,  twice as many as in any previous year.  In all the 31 years that ANIMAL PEOPLE editor Merritt Clifton has logged fatal and disfiguring dog attacks,  only one of the 265 human fatalities inflicted by pit bulls and just a handful of the more than 3,000 disfigurements have involved dogs kept by people who were ever charged with dogfighting.

Of further concern to people who care about animals,  there have been about 20 reported pit bull killings of other pets thus far in 2013 for every human fatality.  If this attack ratio extends to disfigurements,  and there is every reason to believe it does,  pit bulls have in 2013 killed or disfigured at least 8,000 other pets––over and above whatever number have been killed in dogfighting and training fighting dogs.

Though the pit bull problem began with dogfighters,  it is today mostly an exceptionally problematic aspect of pet overpopulation,  perpetuated primarily by the low rate of sterilization among pet pit bulls––less than 25%––and by backyard breeding,  not by people trying to produce “grand champions” so much as by people hoping to make a few hundred bucks selling “status dogs” around their neighborhoods.

Contrary to common belief,  there is no documentation to support the notion that sterilization makes pit bulls,  or any dogs,  significantly safer.  In 1960,  when only 1% of all the dogs in the U.S. were sterilized,  most pet dogs were not kept leashed or confined,  and canine rabies had not yet been eradicated from the U.S.,  only 611,000 Americans required medical treatment for dog bites.   Hardly any dogs run free today,  no dog has contracted canine rabies in the U.S. in 15 years,  and more than 70% of all dogs are sterilized,  despite the low rate of pit bull sterilization.  Yet 4.7 million Americans per year now seek medical attention for dog bites.

Serious bites have increased eightfold while the U.S. dog population has only doubled.

But though sterilization does not make dogs safer,  it does make them less numerous.  Mandatory pit bull sterilization,  in effect in San Francisco since 2006,  could prevent the impoundment and subsequent deaths of more than 900,000 pit bulls per year nationwide;  end the desperation of shelter management to avoid killing pit bulls which has led to so many deaths and disfigurements by pit bulls who have been rehomed,  eroding public trust of shelter adoption;  and cut off the flow of cast-off pit bulls to dogfighters via bogus “rescues.”

With pit bull proliferation curbed,  identifying and successfully prosecuting dogfighters should be considerably easier.  And throwing the book at pit bull breeders would shut down those who trade on their reputations for producing “grand champions,”  whether or not they can be caught at the pits.

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Bands bail on SeaWorld

ORLANDO, SAN FRANCISCO, TAIJI––Shortlisted for Oscar consideration as “Best Documentary of 2013,” the Gabriela Cowperthwaite exposé of SeaWorld Blackfish between November 28 and December 14, 2013 persuaded all six original headline bands and one of the replacements to withdraw from scheduled performances at the SeaWorld “Bands, Brew & BBQ Fest,” due to begin on February 1, 2014.

The Canadian band Barenaked Ladies was first out of the water, wrote Earth Island Institute International Marine Mammal Project spokesperson Laura Bridgeman, after Mike Garrett, of St. Catherines, Ontario, posted an online petition directed at fans that rapidly collected more than 11,000 signatures.

“We’ve talked things over and decided not to play at SeaWorld at this time,” Barenaked Ladies responded via Facebook. “It’s not about money, but it is about our fans. We listen to them, and they’re important to us.”

Willie Nelson, booked to be the “Bands, Brew & BBQ Fest” opening act, cancelled a week later. SeaWorld claimed Nelson backed out because of a scheduling conflict, but Nelson scuttled that claim in a live telephone interview with Brooke Baldwin of CNN. Nelson acknowledged receiving electronic petitions with 9,000 signatures, including 250 collected by his own great granddaughter.

“I don’t agree with the way they treat their animals,” Nelson said, “so it wasn’t that hard a deal to just cancel. I understand there are some natural habitat zoos out there that are probably okay,” Nelson added, “but SeaWorld is not okay.”

After Nelson came the deluge. REO Speedwagon, Trisha Yearwood, Cheap Trick, Martina McBride, .38 Special, and replacement band Heart all withdrew in rapid succession. In addition, Joan Jett, whose song “I Love Rock `n’ Roll” was formerly used as the opening music for the “Shamu Rocks” theme show, asked SeaWorld President Jim Atchison to refrain from using it again.

“A new nighttime Shamu show is being designed for SeaWorld Orlando, and we had no plans to use any of her music in that show,” responded SeaWorld spokesperson Nick Gollattscheck.

“The value of the bands leaving SeaWorld,” Earth Island Institute International Marine Mammal Project associated director Mark J. Palmer told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “is not from the lack of income for SeaWorld. The value is the publicity all over the place that big-name celebrities don’t like SeaWorld’s treatment of cetaceans. It isn’t our campaign particularly,” Palmer added. “Many individuals formed the nucleus of the response early on, setting up the online petitions. And we have far more in mind than just raising hell among some rock stars.

“SeaWorld directors are selling off their own shares,” Palmer continued. “Their attendance is down from past years. The only reason they are doing well financially is that they raised their prices this year. And SeaWorld is trending away from their animal performanes toward thrill rides and roller coasters. Our goal is total shutdown––yes, an end to captivity.”

The “wildcat strike” by the musicians “happened spontaneously,” added Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry. “It’s free. It’s organic. It’s worth doing because it brings attention to the atrocity of keeping orcas in captivity for casual amusement. It’s already successful because it brings attention to the problem.”

Encouraging musicians to cancel SeaWorld performances “is something we can all do,” OBarry continued, “as opposed to not being able to do anything––which is usually the case with SeaWorld. This is being done by musicians, their fans, and ordinary people who saw Blackfish and The Cove,” the 2009 Oscar-winning exposé directed by Louis Psihoyos that documented dolphin captures and slaughters at Taiji, Japan.

The view from Taiji

O’Barry spoke from Taiji, Japan. “I am up to my ears in blood and guts today,” O’Barry told ANIMAL PEOPLE. “The things that happen here in this cove are quite overwhelming. I don’t have much hair left to pull out. Screaming helps sometimes. “

The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society has live-streamed video of much of the Taiji dolphin captures and killing this fall and winter, including the December 1, 2013 capture of 75 to 80 bottlenose dolphins. Typically several dolphins from each roundup are selected for sale to marine parks and swim-with-dolphin attractions around the world, while the rest are slaughtered for meat.

“Four different Japanese groups are coming forward and stepping up to do something about this annual dolphin slaughter,” O’Barry told Hannah Sentenac of the Miami New Times in September 2013. “That is historic. I see the time when the Japanese activists will take ownership and I won’t have to go there any more. I’m thrilled about that. It’s really hard to go from here. You go to this remote area of Japan, and you’re basically looking at Dante’s Inferno for dolphins. If you saw The Cove, you’re looking at the Disney version of what happens. When you see it in full color, with the sounds and the smells, you can’t unsee it. And once you get home you’re bringing all these images with you. I’ve been doing that several times a year for the last 11 years. To see the Japanese step up, to me it’s like, finally, it’s light at the end of the tunnel.”

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Blackfish bites, but SeaWorld isn’t tanking

ORLANDO––SeaWorld Entertainment, Inc on November 13, 2013 reported partial recovery from a year-long attendance slide, plus record third quarter revenue of $538.4 million.

The financial data cooled speculation that the July 2013 theater release of the award-winning documentary Blackfish might have marked the beginning of the end of profitable marine mammal exhibition. Blackfish had won increasing critical acclaim since debuting at the Sundance film festival in January 2013.

Influenced by Blackfish or not, SeaWorld attendance slipped 9.5% in the second quarter of 2013, 5.7% in July, and 1.8% in August and September, for a total dip of 3% in the third quarter.

SeaWorld said the numbers showed audiences returning to the 11 SeaWorld-owned amusement parks, including marine mammal parks in Orlando, San Antonio, and San Diego, after a drop in early 2013 due to bad weather.

But trainers and orcas interacting in the SeaWorld tanks, long the SeaWorld top draw, have been suspended for nearly four years, and may be history. SeaWorld halted in-the-water interactive performances immediately after trainer Dawn Brancheau, 40, was killed in February 2010 by an orca named Tillikum at the SeaWorld park in Orlando. Tillikum had in 1991 killed trainer Keltie Byrne, 20, at the now closed Sealand of the Pacific marine mammal park in Victoria, British Columbia, and killed a night intruder at SeaWorld in 1999.

Whether the interactive performances ever resume well depend on the outcome of a SeaWorld appeal of an August 2010 order by the U.S. Occupational Safety & Health Administration that the trainers and whales must be physically separated during performances.

The SeaWorld appeal was heard by a three-judge panel of the U.S Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit on November 12, 2013, one day before SeaWorld released the third quarter revenue figures. Eugene Scalia, son of U.S. Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, was among the five-member legal team representing SeaWorld.

As well as prohibiting further interactive performances, OSHA in August 2010 fined SeaWorld $75,000, but SeaWorld on appeal won a reduction of the fine to $12,000.

The federal Occupational Safety & Health Act includes a “general duty clause” which requires employers to protect employees from recognized hazards. SeaWorld contends that performances in which trainers and orcas interact in the water are “integral to its mission,” and are therefore beyond the scope of OSHA to regulate.

The SeaWorld brief to the U.S. Court of Appeals argues that “The [general duty] clause cannot be used to force a company to change the very product that it offers the public, and the business it is in. The clause is no more an instrument for supervising the interactions between whales and humans at SeaWorld, than it is a charter to prohibit blocking and tackling in the National Football League or to post speed limits on the NASCAR circuit.”

“The nature of SeaWorld’s show is waterwork,” asserted SeaWorld lead attorney Carla Gunnin after appealing the OSHA ruling in September 2011.

Added SeaWorld corporate curator of zoological operations Julie Scardina, “It’s something that we’ve been successful doing throughout our history. We know it inspires people, and we know that it allows us the best access to the whales.’”

“SeaWorld has continued allowing close contact between orcas and trainers during ‘drywork,’ when staff interact closely with the whales at the stage or in the slide-out area during a show,” observed David Kirby, author of the 2012 hardcover bestseller Death At SeaWorld. “And, the company let it be known, it wanted trainers to resume waterwork as soon as possible.”

But SeaWorld on the eve of the appeal hearing appeared to hedge its bets, Kirby noted.

“Our trainers have not entered the water for performances since February 2010 and we have no plans for them to return to that kind of interaction with our whales,” SeaWorld spokesperson Fred Jacobs told CNN in a written interview soon after CNN broadcast the Blackfish documentary.

“It was the first time I can recall SeaWorld saying it had no intention to resume water work during shows,” Kirby wrote.

Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, Blackfish centers on the death of Brancheau. Featuring several generations of former trainers, mostly for SeaWorld, who have come to question the ethics of marine mammal exhibition, Blackfish structurally parallels Death At SeaWorld.

The paperback edition of Death At SeaWorld, released in June 2013, went to a second printing in only 16 days. Yet despite the success of both Blackfish and Death At SeaWorld, SeaWorld revenue for the first nine months of 2013 soared to $1.2 million, up 2% from 2012. This was achieved, however, not by attracting more vistors, but rather by increasing revenue per visitor to $56.80 through “targeted price increases and increased in-park offerings,” SeaWorld said.

SeaWorld board chair David D’Alessandro sold 43,179 shares of SeaWorld stock during the first four days of November 2013 with the share price below $30, near the lowest point it reached since SeaWorld opened to public investment on April 19, 2013. The share price peaked just under $40.

“The more people see the film Blackfish, the deeper stock of SeaWorld Entertainment Inc. dives,” wrote Wall Street Journal and MarketWatch financial columnist Al Lewis on November 7, 2013. But the share price climbed back above $31 before the SeaWorld third quarter earnings report was released.

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Taiji plans swim-with-dolphins attraction

TAIJI, Japan––Notorious as scene of the dolphin massacres shown by the Oscar-winning documentary The Cove, Taiji “has begun researching a plan to section off part of a cove and turn it into a place where people can swim in the water and kayak alongside small whales and dolphins,” Agence France-Presse reported in October 2013, confirming rumors circulating since March 2012.

“We already use dolphins and small whales as a source of tourism in the cove where dolphin-hunting takes place,” city official Masaki Wada told AFP. “But we plan to do it on a larger scale. This is part of Taiji’s long-term plan of making the whole town a park, where you can enjoy watching marine mammals while tasting various marine products, including whale and dolphin meat.”

Wade said the proposed swim-with-dolphins attraction would be at Moriura Bay, separate from Hatakejiri Bay, where dolphins are killed and captured for sale to marine parks, as detailed in The Cove.

Taiji killed or captured 1,277 dolphins in 2012-2013, and has a quota of 2,026 for 2013-2014.

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Illegally captured Korean dolphins freed

The Korean Animal Welfare Association in July 2013 celebrated the successful release of the bottlenose dolphins Sampal and Chunsam, shown en route to release, and Jedol, who were the surviviors among 11 dolphins who were illegally captured in 2009 for the Jeju Pacific Land marine park.

Jeju District Court Judge Kim Kyeong-seon in April 2012 fined Jeju Pacific Land $9,000, issued suspended jail sentences to the company president and one employee, and ordered that the five dolphins from the illegal capture who were still alive and still at the marine park be released. Five dolphins had died. Jedol had reportedly been traded to the Seoul Grand Park Zoo for two sea lions.

The release order was upheld by the Korean Supreme Court. Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered that Jedol should be released as well. KAWA and Dolphin Project founder Ric O’Barry in May 2013 moved the dolphins into a sea pen to rehabilitate them for release.

Escaping on June 22, 2013, Sampal rejoined her wild pod within five days. Chunsam and Jedol, were freed on July 18, 2013. Chunsam, a female, soon joined two female dolphins and a calf from her wild pod. Jedol, a young male, has socialized with other dolphins, but has not rejoined a pod.

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Animal Welfare in Islamic Law is now available free in both English and Arabic. It consists of 48 medium-sized pages. The book serves as a guide in matters related to ideal treatment of animals in daily life. Likewise it serves as a reminder to people of the divine rules and the fine human values that Islam calls for in treatment of animals. “In my studies of Islamic law, I have always been impressed by the extensive rules that require humans to treat animals kindly and with mercy.

These rules are wide ranging, and include significant protections for work animals like horses and donkeys, requirements that slaughtering be done in the absolutely merciful way as possible, and commands to treat dogs and cats kindly in all situations. The position on animal welfare within Islamic law is an excellent example of compassion and concern for those who depend on others for their care. Islamic legal protection of animal welfare is truly a model for everyone, and if these protective rules were applied world wide, the amount of animal suffering would be radically reduced and the situation for animals would be tremendously better.”—From the Introduction, Animal Welfare in Islamic Law.


KRISTEN STILT is a Professor of Law at Northwestern University School of Law and an affiliated faculty member in the History Department. She received her law degree from The University of Texas School of Law, where she was an associate editor of the Texas Law Review and Co-Editor-in-Chief of theTexas Journal of Women and the Law. Her Ph.D. (2004) in History and Middle Eastern Studies is from Harvard University.

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However, seeking ways to become more effective in the struggle to help animals, we recently launched a new project, the ANIMAL PEOPLE FORUM, which you may be interested in. Building on the legacy of our former newspaper, the Forum empowers activists and others who care about animals to share their own unique perspectives on animal-related issues.

Anyone can register and submit material, on any topic relevant to animal rights, welfare, and conservation, and in any medium, including articles, essays, videos, photos, artworks, and more. As a user, you may also participate by commenting on others’ pieces, joining in message board conversations, and networking with fellow activists and organizations from around the world. Our goal is to provide a space where animal activists and supporters can share views and information on a level playing field, for the benefit of the movement and the creatures it serves.

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