April 2, 2006
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
For more info contact:
Stewart Metz, M.D., (425) 373-1441 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (425) 373-1441 end_of_the_skype_highlighting email@example.com
Bonnie Zimmermann, (707) 965-3480 firstname.lastname@example.org
The ‘Collateral Damage’ of the War on “Bird Flu”.
Pope Valley, California, April 2, 2006 – The deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza (AI) is chiefly propagated by commercial fowl living in close quarters; the role of migratory birds is less clear and still evolving. There is a documented species-selectivity in the sensitivity to the H5N1 virus; however, in the panic over a possible pandemic of AI, the indiscriminate culling of wild and pet birds is being increasingly practiced. These include some spectacular and endangered species of parrots rarely or never affected by the virus, providing an unnecessary further pressure for their decline towards extinction.
Not a single, well-documented case has been reported of H5N1 influenza occurring in a large parrot or cockatoo. The single case in the UK claimed to be that, turned out to be, in all likelihood, merely a misinterpretation of shoddy laboratory data, as reported in The Independent (UK) – Online Edition, on November 15 of last year. Despite this scientific fact, both Indonesia and the Philippines have recently taken to culling large numbers of these beloved but vanishing birds, even in the absence of any solid medical justification. In the Philippines (as reported in a Philippines Information Agency Press Release; March 1, 2006), 339 smuggled parrots were killed following confiscation, merely out of an imagined fear that they might carry AI. Although quarantine with testing for the virus could have excluded this possibility, these simple steps apparently were not carried out. Last year, a similar fate befell 500 parrots in the same country . (In 2004, more than 300 lovebirds were culled there merely because they had passed through Thailand in transit). Since these first 839 or so birds had all been smuggled from Indonesia, the shipments probably contained many parrots and especially cockatoos now endangered in the wild. Indeed, four of the world’s five cockatoos which have been given the highest level of protection by CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species) are native only to Indonesia.
In Taiwan, 28 magnificent Palm and Moluccan cockatoos were slain at CKS Airport merely out of a similar fear that they might harbor the H5N1 variant of AI. However, test results returning only 24 h. later revealed that none of the 24 was infected (Taipei Times; November 4, 2004). These birds, which are protected by both Indonesian and international law, can sell for between $1500 and $15000 each in pet stores. Recently, Taiwan has hinted that it might cull imported birds only if they are infected (Korea Times; November 18, 2005); if enforced, this policy would be an important step in the right direction.
In Indonesia itself, Agriculture officials recently announced in The Jakarta Post that all birds–including pet birds–within a given radius of chickens found to be infected with AI–would also be culled. This policy is inconsistent with the Department’s own approach which it recently employed when the highly pathogenic strain of AI was discovered in the largest zoo. When avian influenza struck Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta, parrots and cockatoos were spared unless they were proven to have the disease. An additional advantage of testing prior to culling is that one thereby gains valuable new knowledge about the epizootiology (the factors determining the spread among animals) of this disease. The people suffer from this approach as well as the birds. The compensation paid to the bird owners for the loss of their property is paltry– for example, Rp 10,000 (slightly more than $US 1) has been paid for the seizure of a Palm cockatoo.
Worse still, these spectacular, sentient creatures–with an intelligence likened by some psychologists to that of 2 to 4 year human children–are being burned alive. This is a profoundly inhumane approach, inconsistent both with veterinary principles in most of the world as well as with Indonesia’s own strict limitations on the use of euthanasia in general. It is also inconsistent with any policy of the current government claiming to support the conservation of Indonesia’s vanishing species, since it sends a message to Indonesia’s people that these birds are disposable and not worthy of efforts to save them. The unnecessary culling of such birds also makes a mockery out of anti-smuggling efforts.
Ironically, there are organizations and committees which should be able to work together to solve this problem–but it is not apparent (judging by outcomes, at least) that the “right hand” knows what the “left hand” is doing on this issue. For example, within the critical ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), there is the Experts Working Group on CITES, the ASEAN Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza Taskforce, and the ASEAN Center for Biodiversity . Logically, these groups would work together to fight the bird flu epidemic while simultaneously protecting endangered avifauna, but one sees no evidence that these groups are working in concert. Likewise, a Cooperative Initiative between the Philippines and Indonesia to reduce the illegal trade in parrots and cockatoos was established in June of 2004 and includes a plan for repatriation of confiscated specimens back to Indonesia from the Philippines (TRAFFIC Bulletin 20; February, 2005). Obviously, repatriation did not occur in the cases cited and it would seem to be an exercise in futility to interdict smuggling if examples of endangered species are seized by agents who then kill them.
Preventing a pandemic of avian influenza inevitably will require some draconian measures. However, a rational approach would seem to be a war on Bird Flu, not a War on all Birds. (That statement, of course, extends well beyond parrots). Tony Juniper pointed out in The Guardian that “there are many bird species at the brink of extinction, and flu could push them over the edge”–but it seems that it may be man, and not the flu, which is the graver risk to endangered parrots. Stewart Metz, M.D., and Director of the Indonesian Parrot Project stated that “some of the world’s most precious creatures– which are already vanishing in the wild due to man’s greed–should not be further threatened due to man’s refusal to apply reason backed by scientific principles. The effects of such a tragedy would persist well after this calamitous disease outbreak ceases.”
Avian flu and inhumane burning
From The Jakarta Post (www.thejakartapost.com)
Reported by Stewart Metz
April 5, 2006 – In recent days, the Indonesian Agriculture Ministry has instituted a “sweep” policy of culling all birds within a certain radius of cases of avian influenza in chickens in local communities. Sadly, they have mixed all birds in this policy, which apparently includes some of Indonesia’s avian treasures — such as endangered parrots, cockatoos and lories — along with chickens, other fowl and pet birds. After confiscation these birds are burned alive.
This approach seems misguided and inhumane for birds and people alike for multiple reasons: First, it is inconsistent with scientific knowledge. Not a single well-documented case exists in modern world history of a large parrot contracting the deadly H5N1 strain of avian influenza. If Indonesian officials know of such a case, they should share it in the scientific literature.
Second, it is inconsistent with a scientific approach in which simple laboratory testing during in-house quarantine of the birds could identify the presence or absence of bird flu and spare the lives of many of these rare and endangered creatures. In addition, by not testing these birds, a valuable opportunity is lost to expand our knowledge about the epizootiology (the factors determining the spread among animals) of this disease.
Third, it is inconsistent even with the approach used in the largest zoo in Indonesia. When avian influenza struck Ragunan Zoo in Jakarta, parrots and cockatoos were spared unless they were proven to have the disease.
Fourth, it is inconsistent with principles which are fair to the people involved. For example, reports are surfacing of citizens being offered as little as Rp 10,000 (slightly over US$1) as “reimbursement” for seizing a Palm cockatoo (which is a protected species nationally and internationally and may sell for up to $25,000 overseas). This is less even than trappers receive for illegally collecting these birds in the wild. There are also reports of bribes allegedly going to the untrained “inspectors” whose job it is to seize the birds — in return for them turning a blind eye to the presence of expensive or rare birds in the homes.
Fifth, this policy is inconsistent with any policy of the current government claiming to support conservation of Indonesia’s vanishing species, since it sends a message to Indonesia’s people that these birds are disposable and not worthy of the efforts to save them. The unnecessary culling of such birds also makes a mockery out of antismuggling efforts.
Last, but deeply disturbing, it is inconsistent with humane principles of veterinary action. These birds are intelligent and are capable of suffering. To burn a parrot or cockatoo alive without anesthetic is inhumane.
Preventing a pandemic of avian influenza requires some severe measures. However, a rational approach would seem to be a war on bird flu, not a war on all birds.
Dr Janez Drnovsek About Vegetarianism and Animal Rights
From the magazine Liberation of Animals, January 2006
Edited by The Society for the Rights and the Liberation of Animals, Slovenia, email@example.com , www.osvoboditev-zivali.org
Reported by Damjan Likar
Vegetarianism would increase the chance for long-term survival of mankind. In the entire history of mankind there have only been a handful of notable statesmen who were vegetarians and seriously took a stand for animal rights. Even today there are very few. Slovenija is one of the few bright lights in the world of politics today. By giving this interview the president Dr Janez Drnovsek has for the first time expressed the message to people, to start thinking about unimaginable brutality that man is inflicting upon animals.
Why did you become a vegetarian and what changes did you notice as a result?
Because I feel vegetarian food is better, better quality. We eat meat because it’s the way we had been brought up. I have been a vegetarian for a few years and just recently I have become a vegan, which means I don’t eat milk, dairy products or eggs. There is still plenty of choice, varied vegetable foods, which are sufficient to our needs. I took this step following my inner feeling. Some people believe that vegan food is very limited and boring which is not true. It can be very diverse.
Was the main reason for changing your diet your serious illness a few years back?
That was the time I gradually started to change. First step was omitting red meat, then poultry and eventually fish.
After changing to vegetarian food do you feel better, healthier?
I feel great – they say I have too much energy.
On World protection of Animals Day (October 4th) you invited members of Society for Liberation of Animals and their rights for discussions. What was discussed?
I invited them mainly to try and convey the message to general public to coincide with this day. We don’t always realise how we treat animals, how we manage them. They are live creatures. As I said people have this set idea of behaviour towards animals and as result very rarely question what we actually cause. If we think for a moment how man manages animals and what impact he has on animal world we could say he was not human at all. Just think of all slaughter houses and production of beef or poultry where conditions for animals are impossible. Animals are transported in lorries many times without any water which is extremely cruel. It is not that people are bad they just don’t think about it. When the final product is in front of them on the plate they don’t think what was it before and how it got to this stage.
So you decided to become a vegetarian on ethical grounds as well?
The ethics are part of the reason; the other part is the fact that humans don’t need the animal flesh. It is only thinking patterns we follow that are ingrained in us. It is probably really hard to change overnight, but it can be done gradually. This is how I did it.
You spoke against subsidising mass livestock farming in the media. What was your reason for this?
I believe it is foolish, that European Union’s main priority is one hundred percent subsidy of farming especially meat products. The fact that EU subsidises mass production of meat and poultry is really the main obstacle from the ethics point of view. Not only that but also from the point of view of nutrition. We are frequently reminded by nature i.e. mad cow disease, recently swine fever, bird flu. It is obvious that something is not as it should be, something is disturbing the natures balance and that should be a warning to us all.
Vegetarian products in shops are more expensive than meat products, which does not encourage people to buy healthier food. Do you think that more people would stop eating meat if vegetarian option was cheaper?
That is a factor as well although I believe the main reason to be awareness of people. It is a question of making people aware of what is happening and what are they being part of. I think that is the key. That in turn leads to changes in politics i.e. agricultural policy, farming subsidies and future directions. Instead of using huge resources for mass meat production we should use it for organic farming of diverse produce from cereals, pulses, fruit and all the products that originate from these. This would certainly be kinder to nature as organic production means no use of chemical fertilizers or additives. It would mean no pollution to the environment and no chemical additives in our food. We consume these chemicals every day in our food and they are harmful. But behind all this are the interests of big manufacturers, lobbies, huge profits which are the driving force for these food manufacturers’ conglomerates. Nonetheless I believe that awareness of people continues to increase in our country and in EU. People are more and more searching for natural alternatives; they are turning to nature and becoming more aware of problems regarding animals and animal products.
Would you on the basis of your own experiences recommend people to try vegetarianism?
If I do it myself I can’t see a reason why I wouldn’t recommend it to others. I have no complaints as I said; I have more energy than I need. If nothing else I am living proof that you can survive without meat and meat products.
How do you view the fact that we all have to pay the same national insurance contributions? It is well known that vegetarians are a lot healthier and therefore don’t use the health service as frequently.
This is a wider problem; the whole concept could be different. I don’t think that is a valid point, because there should be some solidarity, where healthy people help those, who are unwell. It is true however that everyone is responsible for their own health. If we consumed less harmful and unhealthy food, we would considerably lessen the financial burden on our health service. Of course it is not in everybody’s interest if that were to happen. What would happen to pharmaceutical industries, huge multinational companies which make billions from sick people?
What is your view on hunting?
Hunting as killing animals in the name of sport is unethical. If you are referring to the part of the hunting organization that looks after nature environment and wild animals, for example helping with feeding in the winter – it is very useful. Hunting which is by definition just chasing and killing of animals is of course completely unethical.
What is your opinion on live animal testing?
This is a well known dilemma which has recently been in forefront of politics in Europe, in Great Britain. You have to ask yourself would you like it if you were the subject of such testing. During the second world war my father was an inmate in the concentration camp in Dachau, where he was subjected to such medical experiments together with thousands other people. He didn’t like it one bit. Some people would say it is necessary for the progress of science but I am sure that in most cases alternative methods can be used without the need for animal testing.
Where do you think the brutal treatment of animals originates?
It comes from low level of people’s awareness.
And looking historically?
It is difficult to pinpoint the exact time in history. It is a question of respecting life in general. Animals are live creatures with feelings. Everyone who has a domestic animal or a pet knows that animals have feelings. The world’s religions often speak about respecting life but they only mean human life and sometimes not even that. Looking back in the Middle Ages Catholics proclaimed for a long time that native Red Indians which were enslaved by the Spanish and Portuguese do not have a soul. This meant that they weren’t treated as living creatures with feelings. Then they changed their mind and proclaimed that black people don’t have souls. Centuries of black slavery followed. All this happened with the blessing of the Church. Today nobody accepts this anymore. We can see how historical conscience of people is changing despite the opposing views from some institutions at different points in time.
It’s nearly Christmas. For millions of people it is time for happiness, love and peace. For millions of animals it is a time of terrible cruelty at slaughter so that our tables can be laden with carcases. And all this to celebrate the birth of a man who loved animals, protected them and didn’t kill them. What is your view on this?
Jesus would be turning in his grave if he knew that mass slaughter of animals is carried out every year in his name. His deliverance is based on absolute respect of life and it is very difficult to imagine that he would accept millions of living creatures being killed in his honour.
Are you aware that all vegetarians (including you) are cursed by the Church and are condemned to eternal hell?
Fortunately people who say this don’t decide who goes to hell and who doesn’t.
All the world leaders always emphasise their endeavours for world peace. Do you think peace is connected to our relationship to animals and nourishment of people without the need for killing? Tolstoy said “As long as there are slaughter houses there will be wars”
If a person’s conscience is highly developed they will not kill or be cruel to animals. You can not expect from such person to go to war and kill people for a profit. People who do not kill and eat animals have a greater chance of finding a way to live in peace in harmony. Everything is interconnected in one’s conscience. On a higher level one comes with the other. Making people more aware is the key.
How do world’s politicians view this?
The world’s politicians are no more aware of this than most people. I have noticed that in many cases ordinary people are ahead of politicians. We see a lot of non governmental organizations championing causes that are not priorities of governments. Be it our treatment of animals, environment or climate change. This push for change is coming from ordinary members of society. When the critical mass of people accepts an idea, when majority of people expect and demand change only then will the politics respond. Sadly politicians are not the ones to encourage others to be conscious but instead they follow public opinion of the moment. When they see the public support slipping they reassess their priorities.
Tolstoy is just one of many “great minds” of mankind, who publicly spoke for vegetarianism. Let me name a few: Pythagoras, Leonardo da Vinci, Nikola Tesla, Albert Einstein, and Mahatma Ghandi. These people are recognized for their great works and achievements, they are often quoted in recognition of their genius. Why do you think that mankind does not want to hear about animals and vegetarianism from these great people for example this daring saying from Albert Einstein “Nothing will increase our chances of survival on Earth as significantly as will switching to vegetarian food.” How would you comment on this quote from the genius physicist?
Certainly the chances of long-term survival of mankind would increase. Everything is connected. Better quality food is somehow connected with higher level of consciousness. It is a parallel process if we can do one we can do the other. However it is unreasonable to expect from people with lower levels of consciousness who are cruel to animals, to end wars, to stop manipulating others, to help eradicate world poverty. In short as long as consciousness level is low all the disagreements in the world today will remain and possibly increase to the point of annihilation of humans.
Are the people who say they love animals, but they eat meat, real animal lovers?
I think that people do love animals, their pets, but somehow they automatically eat other animals. If they had to slaughter a cow before they could have a steak, they would think twice. Meat products are so altered in appearance that people don’t associate them with real animals.
Some ladies wear animal fur in winter. What is your view on this fashion industry?
Again it’s the question of consciousness of people. People often automatically accept the behavioural patterns without questioning them. Only when you question something, you can change your point of view and become more aware of what you are buying.
Where do people get the right to slaughter, incarcerate and torture animals and at the same time demand peace and all the rights for themselves? Is this sanctioned in the constitution?
It is not sanctioned as such, of course the lawyers and legislators will tell you it is not barred; but it is indeed assumed it is legitimate.
From unofficial source I’ve heard that even your dog Brodi is vegetarian. Is it true?
You’ve been informed well. You’d better ask him personally. I’m not authorised to answer in his name. (laughing)