BROCKPORT, N.Y. — They crouched and hid, using the gray, rainy skies and fallow fields as camouflage. They scurried across well-traveled roads, up barren trees and perhaps even toward the border with Canada. They used their wits, their two extra legs and — yes — their bushy tails to fend off their pursuers.
And yet, it was not the squirrels but the hunters who triumphed here on Saturday during the annual Squirrel Slam, a decade-old fund-raising event that has drawn the ire of animal lovers and environmentalists.
The slam and its former host and beneficiary — a volunteer fire department in the nearby town of Holley in western New York — are the subject of a lawsuit filed in state court by Lauren Sheive, a squirrel aficionado who claims there has not been a proper review of its environmental effect.
In particular, Ms. Sheive and her lawyers allege that the slam — which is held on the last Saturday of February during squirrel-hunting season — is particularly damaging to the arboreal rodents because the key to winning the one-day contest is to bag the heaviest squirrels; that is, those that might be pregnant.
“Since it is baby time, the moms will be fatter and larger,” according to an affidavit submitted by Ms. Sheive, who lives in Williamson, N.Y., east of Rochester. “So if, as could happen, there is an overkilling of females who are potentially leaving young to die in their nests, what does that do to the balance of nature?”
State environmental officials dispute that assertion, saying the hunt falls outside of the period in which squirrels breed and care for their young. Supporters of the slam have long been bewildered by the accusation that they are somehow upsetting the area’s ecology, saying the event is merely a fun way to raise money and promote community bonding.
“Everyone thinks I’m sending 300 people into the woods and slaughtering all the squirrels,” said Dennis Bauer, a hunter who helps organize the event, noting that the slam is not localized, but countywide. If it were harming squirrels, he said, “I wouldn’t do it.”
The dispute also touches on age-old friction between rural and urban mores, with some here grumbling that the conflict was being stoked by downstaters who would not know a Remington from a Rembrandt.
“I think it’s the coolest — Americana in action,” said Jeff Allen, a former logger in Alaska and a local resident who was up early to check out the slam. “And I think this is just a great little thing for upstate New York.”
At the same time, the hunt has also tapped into a broader push by national animal rights groups to stop hunting contests, including those that target animals such as coyotes, pigeons and prairie dogs.
In Albany, state lawmakers have introduced a bill to ban any contest where the goal “is to take the greatest number of wildlife,” though the winners of the squirrel slam receive a small cash prize based on weight, not the number of animals killed. (Slam hunters are limited to five squirrels; the state limit for most species is six a day.)
Still, the New York State director of the Humane Society of the United States, Brian Shapiro, has expressed concern that the slam could cause “the wider community to believe that wildlife is unimportant and killing for a monetary prize is meritorious.”
When the lawsuit was filed in 2015, it was initially dismissed. Then in December, Ms. Sheive won on appeal, and the case was sent back to Orleans County Supreme Court for further review. Arguments there are due on Monday.
One of the slam’s principal opponents has been Richard Brummel, a Long Island resident and grass-roots environmental advocate who has waged a dogged campaign against the event in recent years, citing the State Environmental Quality Review Act to challenge the hunt. He said that his love of squirrels was born from a suburban upbringing and that the animals were “agile,” “industrious” and “very acrobatic.”
“And they are actually somewhat approachable,” he said.
Squirrels are plentiful in New York, according to the State Department of Environmental Conservation, which categorizes three types of squirrels — gray, fox and black — as having “abundant population” and allows them to be hunted in most parts of the state from Sept. 1 to Feb. 28.
Some squirrels, however, are considered nuisances and thus are hunted by humans year round. And many of the squirrels in this neck of the woods fall into that enemy-of-the-people category, said Amethyst McCracken, an avowed pet lover who works at an animal-care office in Holley.
“We have squirrels here the size of cats,” said Ms. McCracken, a licensed veterinary technician. “They do damage. They cause accidents. They chew through power cords, go through drains.”
Like others here, Ms. McCracken said part of the slam’s problem might be branding. “When you hear ‘slam,’ you think about someone taking it and slamming them on the ground,” she said. But whatever the hunt is called, its organizers insist that the animals did not go to waste. Their tails are used to make fishing lures, while much of their meat — a flavor that has been compared to rabbit or, yes, chicken — finds its way into squirrel stew and other foods.
Joey Inthavong, an immigrant from Thailand who lives in Rochester, collects hundreds of squirrels from the slam every year. He insisted the quality of the local squirrels was excellent.
“They live outside, eat apples, like deer, eat good food,” Mr. Inthavong said. “Not like in the city — they eat garbage.”
Regardless of the looming legal action, the slam proceeded on Saturday, though without the Holley Fire Department after previous protests. Kevin Dann, the fire chief, said his company was “100 percent uninvolved.”
“People in New York City don’t like that we hunt up here,” he said.
Instead, the event was transferred to an Elks Lodge in Brockport, a college town on the Erie Canal, about 20 miles west of Rochester. Most of the participants were experienced hunters — rifles and high-powered pellet guns being the weapons of choice — and had war stories about their nimble prey.
“They’re like little ninjas,” said Brett Jacobson, an avid hunter from Greece, N.Y. He noted that squirrels often scare off deer during that hunting season. “They’re obnoxious,” he said.
All told, New York has more than 500,000 licensed hunters — including 30,000 squirrel hunters. The participants in Saturday’s slam worked in a range of professions, including public-school teachers, salesmen and small-business people. Many chatted amiably in the hall of the Elks Lodge, drinking draft beer and buying raffle tickets.
Mr. Bauer, the hunter who helps organize the event, is a mechanic. He says the event draws all kinds of people — “fathers and daughters, 60-year-old brothers, husbands and wives.” And sure enough, a steady stream of hunters arrived in the late afternoon, bearing boxes and plastic bags full of squirrels.
The squirrels were handed off to a team of women called “squirrel girls,” who weighed them on digital scales as Mr. Bauer recorded weights. The winning team — teenagers from Kendall, N.Y. — brought in the heaviest individual squirrel (nearly two pounds), and five squirrels that weighed more than seven pounds total.
Mr. Bauer said it had been a tough day to hunt, driving rain and wind, but a good day for the slam: All of the money raised — from $10 tickets, raffles and the like — would go to the local Elks, who said they would use it for causes like helping veterans and fighting cerebral palsy.
Many of the hunters said they understood that squirrel hunts may not be for everyone, particularly those in cities, where the animals are more likely to be in a park than your barn.
“It’s a country thing,” said Rich Ezell, 62, who hunted with his son-in-law, adding that the event was for a good cause. “I wouldn’t shoot them just to shoot them.”
If milk comes from a plant, can you still call it milk?
Not according to the dairy industry. Facing growing competition from dairy alternatives like almond, soy and coconut milk, the nation’s dairy farmers are fighting back, with an assist from Congress. Their goal: to stop companies from calling their plant-based products yogurt, milk or cheese. Dairy farmers say the practice misleads consumers into thinking that nondairy milk is nutritionally similar to cow’s milk.
A bipartisan group of 32 members of Congress is asking the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on companies that call plant-based beverages “milk.” They say F.D.A. regulations define milk as a “lacteal secretion” obtained by milking “one or more healthy cows.” Proposed legislation from Representative Peter Welch, Democrat of Vermont, and Senator Tammy Baldwin, Democrat of Wisconsin, a state known for its cheese, suggests a slightly broader definition. Their bill would require the F.D.A. to target milk, yogurt and cheese products that do not contain milk from “hooved mammals.”
“The bottom line for us is that milk is defined by the F.D.A., and we’re saying to the F.D.A.: Enforce your definition,” Mr. Welch said.
But critics say consumers know exactly what they are buying when they choose almond or soy milk instead of dairy milk. “There’s no cow on any of these containers of almond milk or soy milk,” said Michele Simon, executive director of the Plant Based Foods Association, a trade group representing 70 companies. “No one is trying to fool consumers. All they’re trying to do is create a better alternative for people who are looking for that option.”
And what about other nondairy products with dairy names? Will milk of magnesia, cocoa butter, cream of wheat and peanut butter have to change their names as well?
In recent years, dairy milk alternatives made from almonds, soy, cashews and coconuts have exploded in popularity. Many people consider them more nutritious than cow’s milk. Some people buy them because they have a milk allergy or lactose intolerance. Others choose them for environmental reasons or because they want a vegan diet. And some just like the taste.
Cow’s milk was once one of America’s most iconic beverages. But Americans are drinking less of it. Americans drink 37 percent less milk today than they did in 1970, according to the Department of Agriculture. Dairy milk sales tumbled to $12 billion last year, down 20 percent from $15 billion in 2011. Part of the reason is that people switched to other beverages, such as soft drinks, fruit juices, bottled water and soy and almond milk. Mintel, a market research firm, found that negative health perceptions were driving the decline in sales of cow’s milk.
Plant-based milks, with brand names like Almond Breeze and Silk, are sold in the dairy aisle and still represent a fraction of the beverage market, but they are growing in popularity. According to Nielsen, sales of plant-based milks have surged to $1.4 billion from $900 million in 2012.
Much of the growth in plant-based milk has come from the rising popularity of almond milk. Last year, Starbucks, the world’s largest coffee chain, announced that it would begin offering almond milk to lighten its espresso drinks, to meet customer demand. The chain said it was one of the most-requested customer suggestions of all time.
Experts say sales of almond milk are surging for a number of reasons. The dairy industry has come under fire over concerns about animal welfare and the environmental impact of livestock, which contributes to air and water pollution. Almond production has an environmental impact as well: Most of the world’s almonds come from drought-stricken California, where farmers have been accused of diverting dwindling groundwater reserves to their almond orchards, and producing just 16 almonds requires an estimated 15.3 gallons of water. But ultimately the environmental impact of producing cow’s milk in areas where almonds are grown would be far worse, said David Zetland, an assistant professor of economics at Leiden University College in the Netherlands and the author of “Living With Water Scarcity.”
Many consumers also consider almond milk a healthier alternative to cow’s milk. The dairy industry says that’s not true. They point out that milk has nine essential nutrients that are necessary for good health, like calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12 and potassium. The industry has also created ads claiming that milk has up to eight times as much protein as almond milk and fewer ingredients and additives. Some brands of soy and almond milk do contain large amounts of added sugar. But they also come in unsweetened varieties with zero sugar, and some are fortified with calcium, B12 and other nutrients.
There is also debate over the nutritional merits of cow’s milk. In 2013, for example, two of the country’s top nutrition experts, Walter Willett and David Ludwig, both at Harvard, published an editorial in JAMA Pediatrics arguing that healthy adults who get plenty of vegetables, nuts and protein in their diets may not get any extra benefit from cow’s milk. They also raised concerns about exposure to hormones in milk and high levels of added sugar in the chocolate milk served in many schools.
As the dairy industry continues to press its case, producers of nondairy milks are fighting back. The Plant Based Foods Association sent letters to the F.D.A. stating that plant-based milks were properly labeled with their “common or usual” names. A petition from the Good Food Institute opposing the dairy labeling legislation has garnered more than 41,000 signatures.
“Don’t they have better things to do than to care about what a product is called?” asked Miyoko Schinner, the chief executive of Miyoko’s Kitchen, which sells popular nut-based cheeses and butters at almost 2,000 stores nationwide. “The only reason they would care is because they’re protecting their special interests.”
Marsha Cohen, an expert on food and drug law at the University of California, Hastings College of the Law, said that the dairy industry faces an uphill battle. She said the government’s definitions for milk and other foods — known as “standards of identity” — are intended primarily to protect consumers from financial harm, such as being duped into buying cheap or imitation foods masquerading as more expensive ones. She noted that the F.D.A. recently allowed the company Hampton Creek to call its vegan mayonnaise substitute “Just Mayo,” even though the F.D.A.’s legal definition of mayonnaise states that the condiment must contain eggs.
The debate over what can and can’t be called milk already has played out in courts, with judges so far siding with the plant-based milk industry. In 2013, Judge Samuel Conti of Federal District Court in San Francisco, dismissed a proposed class-action lawsuit that claimed that almond, coconut and soy milk were mislabeled because they do not come from cows. Judge Conti said the claim “stretches the bounds of credulity,” and that it was “simply implausible that a reasonable consumer would mistake a product like soy milk or almond milk with dairy milk from a cow.” He said the lawsuit was reminiscent of an earlier case in which a woman claimed she was misled by Cap’n Crunch’s Crunch Berries cereal because she thought it contained real fruit (that case was thrown out).
“Cecilia, in her 30s, has been kept alone in a concrete enclosure for
years at the shabby Mendoza Zoo in Argentina after the death of two of
Read more at: https://www.nationalreview.com/magazine/2016-11-07-0000/
from DawnWatch: This Sunday, October 9, the Magazine section of the New York Times is dubbed “The Food Issue.” It includes some terrific articles, including a piece by Michael Pollan, and a haunting photo-essay on big ag. Best of all it includes a piece, by Ted Genoways, on the undercover work of a
“Compassion Over Killing” investigator.
The article on the COK investigator, titled, “Close to the Bone,” and titled online “The Fight Over Transparency in the Meat Industry,” first tells us how little consumers know about the meat they eat. We read that the Department of Agriculture no longer oversees and verifies claims such as
“grass-fed” or “naturally raised,” and that even when the department certifies labels they are questionable, with no standard definition for “humanely raised,” and no site visits to confirm enforcement for those approved to use the label.
“Amid such dwindling transparency and oversight, animal rights activists, once regarded as the radical fringe, have taken on a somewhat unlikely role as consumer watchdogs.” He follows an investigator named Jay who get a job at a pig slaughterhouse near Austin. We read:
“He filmed a hog being hit in the face with plastic rattle paddles and electrically prodded on the head. He filmed another hog being repeatedly beaten then rolled and pushed by its hindquarters. He filmed hogs having their throats slit while still alive and — in one particularly harrowing sequence — appeared to capture a hog struggling to right itself in its shackle as it is carried toward processing. A spokesman for Q.P.P. said all the hogs ‘had been properly rendered insensible,’ but the video itself seems to contradict that claim. At one point, a worker shouts over the din of machinery and squealing pigs: ‘Too many sensibles. If U.S.D.A. is around, they could shut us down.'”
The article explains that because of a new kind of self-regulation, known as HIMP, the USDA was unlikely to be around.”
You’ll find the full piece on line at http://tinyurl.com/hansj7j
Michael Pollan’s article is titled, “Big Food Strikes Back.” The subheading is, “When Barack Obama took office activists hoped his administration would fight for stronger regulation of corporate agriculture. Eight years later they are still waiting.”
Pollan shares part of an early interview given by President Obama to Joel Klein of Time Magazine:
“I was just reading an article in The New York Times by Michael Pollan about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the meantime, it’s creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our health care costs because they’re contributing to Type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity.”
He reminds us that on the campaign trail Obama vowed “to bring CAFOs under the authority of the federal Clean Air and Clean Water Acts and Superfund program ‘just as any other polluter.’”
What follows is a fascinating study on the power of Big Ag. You’ll find it on line at http://tinyurl.com/hz3mr5v
We need to raise the status of animals in order to improve welfare standards around the globe.
Building the celebration of World Animal Day unites the animal welfare movement, mobilising it into a global force to make the world a better place for all animals.
Through increased awareness and education we can create a world where animals are recognised as sentient beings and full regard is always paid to their welfare.
Feel free to join these great animal welfare groups on Linkedin !
Animal Welfare Europe
Animal Activists International
Petitions & Causes Animal Welfare
Animal Rights World Wide
Say NO to animal cruelty !
World Animal Protection ( vh WSPA )
Sea Shepherd International
AMCF Animal Medical Care Foundation
Jane Goodall Instituut Nederland
AAP Animal Advocacy and Protection
SAFP Stray Animal Foundation Platform
ISAT International Stray Animal Team
HAA Helping Abused Animals
CAS International – against bullfighting
Vrienden van de Olifant – Elephants
SPOTS protection big cats ( lion, tiger, cheetah, leopard )