FUR COMMISSION USA PRESS RELEASE, MARCH 7, 2000
NAIA Highlights Human Rights, Animal Welfare
(See below for NAIA Animal Law Conference Resolution.)
“REGARDLESS OF OUR BACKGROUNDS, we are all challenged by the rampant corruption present in today’s animal protection movement. Misinformation campaigns, eco-terrorism, legislative assaults promoting unsound public policy, etc., are symptoms of that corruption. They arise from an animal protection movement that at its worst encourages criminal acts and at its best is more proficient at fundraising than at promoting animal welfare or sound public policy.”
With these words, National Animal Interest Alliance president Patti Strand opened the organization’s ninth Animal Welfare Conference in Portland, Oregon, on Mar. 4.
VICTIMS OF THE MMPA: Violet Ford, Policy Advisor to Inuit Tapirisat of Canada; Ben Kovic, Director of Nanavut Wildlife Management Board; Okalik Eegeesiak, President of Tapirisat of Canada; Theresie Tungilik, Senior Advisor – Arts Economy, Rankin Inlet, Nunavut.
Speakers told of regulatory impacts on animal enterprises; crimes committed in the name of animal rights; emotional and misleading campaigns against animal owners; and victories in court and in the voting booth. They urged participants to tell the story of responsible animal use to the public, and to work together to preserve human rights and animal welfare.
The Law and Animal Protection
An overview of the current state of animal protectionism was provided by conference moderator Prof. Jerrold Tannenbaum, University of California at Davis. Comparing the animal protection movement to Ayn Rand’s oak tree that rotted from within, he stated that the current drive to get “personhood” for animals centers around “The Great Apes Project”. However, “most people don’t want human-and-animal equality and so must be forced to have it by courts that can override the will of the public.”
Cong. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), a champion of sustainable use, focused on the Marine Mammal Protection Act (MMPA), a law that bans imports to the US of marine mammal products in violation of trade agreements, including the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species. Nowhere are the conflicts between unsound public policy and fundraising on one side, and human-animal interaction on the other, more stark than in the story of indigenous peoples and the MMPA.
“We looked at life as a miracle and we treated it with care,” explained Inuit delegate Teresie Tungilik from Canada’s Nunavut Territory. “Our wildlife provides us with all the nutrition our bodies need. We started to hear that our way of life was wrong, but we didn’t know how to live any other way.”
Tungilik and others told of the devastation caused to sealing communities by the MMPA, which bars them from selling meat, clothing or crafts to the US even from abundant species.
Terrorism and Infiltration
Edward Taub PhD was an early victim of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. Back in 1981, he recalled, PeTA used staged photos of animal abuse taken by an infiltrator to shut down his research on monkeys aimed at helping stroke patients – a modus operandi that has been repeated many times since. These days, he observed ironically, “the web of regulations … for [using] animals is more complex than regulations for working with people.”
FCUSA executive director Teresa Platt told of ongoing problems with illegal releases of mink from fur farms. Though many farmers have implemented “neighborhood watches”, too many “liberated” animals are still ending up as road kill. She also criticized the continuation of non-profit status for certain groups which support such acts. “It is ironic,” she said, “that we pay one arm of government to chase eco-terrorists while another, the IRS, gives non-profit status to groups that romanticize and promote such illegal actions.”
Successes and Plans
On a positive note, animal welfare advocates have chalked up some victories in the courts and voting booths.
Ranchers recently won a court ruling dismissing a claim that cattle were a point source of pollution in Oregon; anti-wildlife management bills and initiatives have been blocked; and the courts have been used to overturn nonsense regulations established by animal rights campaigns.
And FCUSA’s Platt was able to report on the overwhelming rejection by Beverly Hills residents of a ballot initiative to place misleading labels on furs about how the animals may have died.
Support for Human Rights
The conference ended with a recognition of human rights, and in particular those of the Inuit whose cultural traditions and economies have suffered under the MMPA. Specifically, NAIA has resolved to ask Congress to bring the MMPA into compliance with national laws and international treaties signed since its enactment in 1972 (see below).
The conference also agreed that efforts should continue to persuade the IRS to review the tax-exempt status of groups that endorse terrorism.
THE KEY OBSERVATION arising from the NAIA Animal Law Conference is that the promotion of animal-rights beliefs has produced unacceptable consequences that include ongoing violations of fundamental human rights.
The delegation of Inuit people from Arctic Canada have eloquently described how their culture, livelihoods and society are being devastated by the animal-rights inspired Marine Mammal Protection Act – a law which contradicts accepted principles of sustainable use and environmental conservation.
This outdated legislation arbitrarily bans the import of seal products from an abundant species and violates the American ideal of individual freedom and the rights of the people to self determination, including the right to use and trade abundant local resources.
We believe that the American people would be shocked and distressed to discover that the MMPA has so severely harmed so many people and cultures. This law disrupts the ecological relationship with which indigenous people have lived in harmony with the environment as active practitioners of sustainable use.
Seals are abundant in Arctic Canada and other regions and provide a vital source of food in Arctic communities, but provisions of the MMPA prevent Inuit and other people from fully utilizing animals upon which they depend for their survival, because trade is prohibited.
Therefore this assembly of the NAIA:
I) Calls for the amendment of the MMPA to allow for the import of seal products, to protect US commercial and recreational fisheries, and to bring the MMPA into accord with the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) as implemented by the Endangered Species Act and the Uruguay Round Agreements under the WTO; and,:
II) Resolves to work to inform the American public and legislators about the injustice which has been done by this law; and,
III) Calls upon all people and organizations that respect human rights to join us in our efforts to right the wrongs that have been done.