Feds propose new rules for cormorant control

The federal government is often viewed, rightly or wrongly, as having an endless appetite for issuing rules and regulations. Ambitious politicians routinely promise that if we elect them they will put a stop to it, “cut through the red tape,” and perhaps even roll back regulations that are already on the books.

Not everyone is aware that the purpose of regulations is to interpret and provide guidelines for how the laws passed by these same politicians are to be carried out. The absence of regulations could be compared to a chef lacking recipes for the meals he’s expected to create. The chef may know what an entrée is supposed to look and taste like, but without knowing the ingredients—and how and when they should be assembled—the odds of having a great meal are poor. When all is said and done, some regulations are needed to carry out the intent of our laws.

There’s also a common belief that regulations are only about telling us what we can’t do. Don’t pour that used motor oil or paint thinner down your garage drain. Farmer, don’t locate a cattle feed lot where spring flooding can wash fish-killing nutrients into a nearby river. Fishermen, don’t catch and keep more than 10 crappies in a day’s fishing.

Some regulations, however, expand boundaries and make possible things that would otherwise be prohibited. A recent example is an “advance notice of proposed rulemaking”—the first step in proposing new regulations—in this case, for the management of a familiar Minnesota bird, the double-crested cormorant.

The U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) is considering whether to give state natural resource agencies more authority to control the population of these waterfowl that prey on small fish, including those prized by anglers, as well as fish raised in commercial aquaculture—fish farming—done primarily in the South. Minnesota’s Leech Lake and Lake of the Woods, to name just two state waters, have seen spikes in the number of double-crested cormorants. Not so long ago, a downturn in walleye numbers on Leech Lake was attributed—at least by some—to a growing population of nesting cormorants there.

Larger than a duck, but somewhat smaller than a common loon, cormorants nest in high-density colonies. Their “guano” is highly acidic, and the concentration found in these colonies can kill ground vegetation, and even the trees in which the birds nest. Cormorants can denude entire small islands, leaving them looking like they were chemically defoliated.

It is a human prejudice to describe a cormorant as unhandsome, but there is something almost vulture-like in their appearance, with large broad wings, a snake-like neck and hooked beak. A duck, goose, swan or loon is graceful by comparison. It may be a further irony that Minnesotans revere the common loon, even though it earns its living chiefly as cormorants do, by eating fish. The loon’s strikingly beautiful plumage, and its distinctive and haunting call, contribute to this prejudice in its favor. This, and the lore and legend that have linked the loon to wilderness.

Cormorants were at a population low point nationally in the 1970s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But by the late 1990s, natural resource agencies in more than half the states were reporting declines in popular and valued fish in their waters. Agencies in 10 states were on record as considering the cormorant a major threat to their fisheries management programs.

One of the most important federal conservation laws ever enacted is the Migratory Bird Treaty Act of 1918, an agreement initially between the U.S. and Great Britain—acting then on behalf of Canada—with Mexico later added to the agreement. This Act “makes it illegal to take, possess, import, export, transport, sell, purchase, barter … any migratory bird … except under the terms of a valid federal permit.” The waterfowl hunting license we purchase for the privilege of hunting migratory ducks, geese, woodcock or snipe, is an example of such a “valid federal permit.”

Because cormorants are a migratory bird, they are protected under this Act. But from 2003 to 2016, in light of their depredations on wild fish stocks and fish farms, wildlife agencies in 24 states had broad authority to control cormorant populations that were considered a threat. In thirteen states, fish farmers had the right to control cormorants preying on their fish stocks without the need for individual permits.

This changed in 2016. A federal judge in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.) ruled for plaintiffs who had objected to the “culling”—the killing—of cormorants under these broad permits during the 2003 to 2016 period. The judge found that the governing agency—the USFWS—had not sufficiently made the case for broad authority to kill cormorants, versus permits that would be sought on a case-by-case basis.

Since 2016, those “case-by-case” rules have been in place while the USFWS did its homework, and—it now appears—will try to make a better case to again give state agencies discretion to determine “whether, when, where and for what purpose, to control cormorants.” A similar proposal is being made by USFWS to allow the taking of cormorants without individual permits where they’re found to be causing fish farming losses.

For now, we’re in a 45-day public comment, which began on January 22nd, when this proposal was published. Comments received by USFWS may shape its decision on the degree of freedom the states should have in decisions to control—or not control–their cormorant populations. Also shaping these regulations—we can safely assume—will be a USFWS judgment on whether they would be likely to withstand another challenge in court.

Anglers and fish farmers will be eagerly awaiting the outcome.

Film screening from Project Coyote

We’re excited to announce that Colorado’s First Gentleman Marlon Reis will be joining us in Denver, Colorado, on February 26 for a free screening of Project Coyote’s award-winning film KILLING GAMES ~ Wildlife In The CrosshairsThis event is part of the Human-Animal Coexistence Catalyst Series.


More information on both screenings is available in the sidebar.

In related news, the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Commission will meet on March 18-19 where we anticipate that they will consider whether to support a petition to ban wildlife killing contests for furbearer and small game species (including coyotes and prairie dogs) in the state. The petition was filed last November by a coalition of groups including the Animal Welfare Institute, the Humane Society of the United States, Project Coyote, WildEarth Guardians, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, and the Center for Biological Diversity. More on that exciting development to come!

We hope to see you later this month in Colorado!

For the Wild,

Colorado Environmental Film Festival Screening
The Colorado Environmental Film Festival (CEFF) is an exciting, inspiring, and energizing event that includes world-class environmental films with representatives from local and national organizations. CEFF screens feature-length and short films by foreign, local and young filmmakers. True to the spirit of Colorado, this event is supported and attended by people who value the natural world and share a passion for the power and beauty of film.

Purchase tickets here.
University of Denver Screening
This screening will be hosted by the Institute for Human-Animal ConnectionSturm College of Law, and DU Media, Film, & Journalism Studies, in partnership with Project Coyote. The event will include remarks by First Gentleman of Colorado Marlon Reis and a discussion with Project Coyote’s Camilla Fox and Marc Bekoff.

This is a free event! Register here.



Camilla Fox
Founder & Executive Director


Marc Bekoff
Project Coyote Science Advisory Board Member

Appetite for ‘warm meat’ drives risk of disease in Hong Kong and China

A wet market, where animals are freshly slaughtered rather than chilled was identified as the source of the coronavirus outbreak. But experts have long warned of dangers

People buy meat at a butchers’ shop at the Bowrington Road food market in Hong Kong.
 People buy meat at a butchers’ shop at the Bowrington Road food market in Hong Kong. Photograph: Grant Rooney/Alamy

Each evening, under cover of darkness, hundreds of live pigs from farms across China are trucked through the rusting gates of a cluster of mildew-stained quarantine and inspection buildings in the Qingshuihe logistics zone in Shenzhen.

Overnight they are checked for illness, primarily the African swine fever (ASF) that is expected to kill off a quarter of the world’s pigs, and reloaded on to ventilated trucks with dual mainland China and Hong Kong licence plates.


Why are we reporting on live exports?

Before sunrise the caravan makes its way five-and-a-half miles south to the border at Man Kam To, a small customs and immigration checkpoint, where the pigs go through further visual health checks before crossing into Hong Kong.

They are bound for Sheung Shui slaughterhouse, the largest of three abattoirs in the territory. Once there they will be checked again before being dispatched in less than 24 hours under new rules meant to prevent the spread of ASF.

It’s a lot of effort to get fresh meat from the 1,400 pigs that cross the border each day.

Workers close a gate outside Sheung Shui Slaughterhouse in Hong Kong.
 Sheung Shui slaughterhouse in Hong Kong is the largest of three abattoirs in the territory. Photograph: Getty

The appetite for freshly slaughtered ‘warm meat’

For various reasons, the Chinese prefer freshly slaughtered pig, chicken and beef over chilled or frozen meat that has been slaughtered before being shipped.

That desire is at the heart of why diseases such as avian flu in poultry and ASF have been so difficult to eradicate, with huge movements of live animals from all over the country – from farm to slaughterhouse to market – on a daily basis making controlling the spread of disease incredibly difficult.

A recent coronavirus outbreak in China has been linked to a wet market in Wuhan, eastern China. Like other respiratory illnesses, the disease was initially transmitted from animal to human, but is now being passed human to human.

But despite awareness of the issues, the markets are a huge part of Chinese life. On a busy morning at a so-called “wet market” in the Shajing area, the oldest inhabited and very Cantonese part of Shenzhen, hundreds of shoppers arrive soon after daybreak. Slabs of pork hang from the stalls and various cuts are piled on the counters amid lights with a reddish glare and the occasional buzzing of flies.

Just a few minutes away at the nearby Walmart, where there are also options for fresh, chilled and frozen meat, the customer flow at this time of day is only a trickle compared to the wet market. It has your average western supermarket vibe – white daylight lighting, sterile and clean.

Staff at the meat counter in Walmart and at the stalls in the wet market both say the meat comes in from the same slaughterhouse around 2am. So why the huge difference in foot traffic?

Molly Maj, a corporate communications representative for Walmart, says “the average customer in China still prefers fresh meat” over other options.

One reason for the demand for wet markets is that widespread refrigeration only came to China in recent years. While most urban homes now have refrigerators, many in rural areas and low income urban renters still do not own one, or only a mini-fridge if they do.

Food for sale at a food market in Sichuan.
 ‘Wet’ markets are a huge part of life in China but have been linked to disease outbreaks. Photograph: Alamy

The habit of buying perishable food for daily use is still prevalent in many consumers, particularly older shoppers who grew up without refrigerators. They say they can tell the quality of fresh meat by its smell, colour and how it feels to the touch.

“When I’m talking with my students I say: ‘The term warm meat, fresh meat, sounds disgusting to me, I grew up [in Germany] with chilled meat, that’s all I know,” Dirk Pfeiffer, a professor of veterinary medicine at City University in Hong Kong and an expert on diseases related to animal husbandry, says.

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“So I ask them why and they come up with all sorts of vague things like the soup tastes better or that it is a trust issue, knowing it is a live animal at the other end and not some diseased animal,” he says. “It’s all very subjective.”

An ‘utter disaster’ for disease

Wet markets are central to the perception that fresh meat is better, says Pfeiffer. They evoke nostalgia among shoppers, many of whom come from rural areas where all they knew were wet markets and no refrigeration.

Where a wet market feels familiar a supermarket can seem alien and out of place.

“I actually believe that it is an important thing for the older generation to go to the wet market and chat,” says Pfeiffer. However, the way the animal trade operates in China is “an utter disaster”, for animal disease and welfare, he adds.

A poulterer carries chicken at the market, in Xizhou, Yunnan, China.
 ‘It is an important thing for the older generation to go to the wet market and chat’ – Prof Dirk Pfeiffer. Photograph: Alamy

A year ago, before rising concerns about the spread of ASF, nearly 4,000 pigs crossed daily with less scrutiny. Pigs were held in dismal conditions for as long as five days before being slaughtered on the Hong Kong side, greatly enhancing the possibility of disease transmission, says Pfeiffer.

The recent shortages due to the ASF outbreak have doubled and tripled prices for fresh pork at wet markets across Hong Kong. Farms in Hong Kong itself can usually supply about 300 pigs a day. Land use and environmental restrictions prevent any increase in production. The result is further worries about Hong Kong’s reliance on mainland China beyond its water and energy dependence.

“Many years ago, we had imports from all over Asia of live animals, but eventually the entire supply was monopolised by mainland China,” said Helena Wong, a member of Hong Kong’s legislative council panel on food safety and environmental hygiene. “They killed all their competitors and monopolised the supply of live pig and chicken.”

More than 6,000 pigs at the Sheung Shui slaughterhouse were culled in May 2019 after ASF was found among animals brought in from China. Hong Kong’s legislative council is now trying to figure out how much it owes traders and farmers in compensation.

Massive culls of poultry due to avian flu in imported mainland chickens in the last decade also led to large compensation bills and, eventually, to ending live chicken imports in early 2016.

Pigs about to be buried alive in a pit after an outbreak of African swine fever in Guangxi, in February 2019.
 Pigs about to be buried alive in a pit after an outbreak of African swine fever in Guangxi in February 2019. Photograph: Reuters

“We as taxpayers have to give that money,” said Wong. “So now we are in a big crisis because in the past few years we have experienced avian flu and now African swine fever.”

A future beyond ‘warm meat’ for Hong Kong

Disease outbreaks have raised wider questions about the sustainability of Chinese consumers’ appetite – both on the mainland and in Hong Kong – for what is often called “warm” meat.

For Deborah Cao, a professor at Griffith University in Australia and an expert on animal protection in China, a deeper issue driving the live animal trade is a cultural disconnect about animal welfare.

“The main problem is the indifference or perception of people who simply regard animals as food, tools, or as things that people can do anything they want to,” she said.

“In particular, there is no perception of farm animals as having feelings, or being capable of feeling pain or suffering.”

Hong Kong may find it difficult to switch to a different model. There is almost no chance of farm expansion to support larger scale production within Hong Kong and, although the government is looking at possibilities of live imports from other Asian countries, the ports do not have adequate facilities to cope with large numbers.

“To a large extent, if we insist on fresh food, we have to rely on China,” said Wong. “If we can change and make certain concessions, Hong Kong has always been an open market for importing food items from many parts of the world. It is only for the provision of live animals that we are monopolised by the mainland farms.”

Reporting assistance from Zhong Yunfan.

France to ban culling of unwanted male chicks by end of 2021

A chick stands among eggs being hatched inside an incubator at the Agriculture Fair in Paris in February 2017.Image copyrightAFP
Image captionAn estimated seven billion unwanted male chicks are killed each year

France has pledged to outlaw the practice of culling unwanted male chicks by the end of 2021, as part of animal welfare reforms.

About seven billion male chicks – not wanted for meat or eggs – are killed around the world each year, usually in shredding machines or by gas.

The government said new methods were emerging that would make it possible to test the sex of embryos inside the egg.

But some campaigners said the reforms did not go far enough.

What are the changes in France?

French Agriculture Minister Didier Guillaume announced the reforms at a press conference in Paris on Tuesday.

“From the end of 2021, nothing will be like it was before,” he said.

Mr Guillaume said he hoped a method would soon be developed that would allow the gender of a chick to be determined before it had hatched.

Researchers have been working on the issue for years, but are yet to come up with a solution that works on an industrial scale.

The 2021 ban will make France one of the first countries to outlaw the practice of culling male chicks. A ban in Switzerland came into effect earlier this year, while a top court in Germany has ruled that the practice can continue on a temporary basis until an alternative can be found.

France and Germany last year said they would work together to put an end to mass chick culling.

Mr Guillaume also announced on Tuesday that the practice of castrating piglets without anaesthesia would be banned by the end of 2021.

Castration is performed to prevent “boar taint” – a potent smell or taste that can occur in the meat of non-neutered pigs. Several countries have already made the use of anaesthesia obligatory.

How widespread is male chick culling?

The mass-killing of male chicks shortly after birth is common practice in food production around the world.

For the billions of hens used in egg and poultry farming every year, a similar number of male chicks are killed shortly after birth.

Male chicks are viewed in the industry as commercially useless, because they grow more slowly than hens so are deemed unsuitable for meat production.

After sorting, the most common methods of killing involve asphyxiation by gassing or maceration in high-speed grinders.

What has the response been?

Many animal rights activists welcomed the changes in France but said they did not go far enough.

They are “a step in the right direction, but still inadequate”, Anissa Putois of the campaigning group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (Peta) told AFP news agency.

French animal protection group L214 said the measures were “not ambitious” and “do not address the basic problems”.

“There is nothing on slaughter conditions, nor on how to exit from intensive animal farming,” it said, according to AFP.

Presentational grey line

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Live Animal Markets Worldwide Can Spawn Diseases, Experts Say

FILE - A man looks at caged civet cats in a wildlife market in Guangzhou, capital of south China's Guangdong Province, China, Jan. 5, 2204.
FILE – A man looks at caged civet cats in a wildlife market in Guangzhou, capital of south China’s Guangdong Province, China, Jan. 5, 2004.

WASHINGTON – The virus that has caused dozens of deaths and hundreds of illnesses worldwide emerged from a market in Wuhan, China, that sold live food animals, including some animals caught in the wild, according to Chinese authorities.

One study suggested a snake may have brought the virus to the market,  but other experts were skeptical. The search for a definitive source continued.

A price list circulated on Chinese social media showed snakes, hedgehogs, peacocks, civet cats, scorpions, centipedes and more for sale at the market.

It’s not the first time these markets have bred a new disease, and experts said it probably won’t be the last. Severe acute respiratory syndrome, better known as SARS, originated at a similar market in China in 2002. It ultimately claimed nearly 800 lives.

A Chinese man looks over cages of dogs and rabbits at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Tuesday, Jan 6, 2004…
FILE – A Chinese man looks over cages of dogs and rabbits at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Jan 6, 2004.

Bird flu spread in these markets in the late 1990s and early 2000s. The H5N1 strain of influenza has killed 455 people since 2003.

Without proper sanitation and animal handling, health officials said, these markets can be spawning grounds for diseases.

Live animal markets are found across the developing world, especially in Asia and Africa.

Most animals sold there are healthy. But in the crowded conditions at these markets, one sick animal can infect many more, experts said.

Wild cards

Wild animals introduce a dangerous wild card.

For example, civet cats carried the virus that caused SARS. But scientists think the virus originated in bats.

“In the normal world, these species would never meet,” said veterinarian Tony Goldberg, associate director for research at the University of Wisconsin Global Health Institute.

“But in these live animal markets, they brought those two species together,” he said. “And when you do that in these tight, crowded, stressful conditions, you create every opportunity for these viruses to jump host species.”

The virus could spread when a vendor butchers an animal. Or a sick animal could spread it through its saliva, urine, feces or other secretions.

Humans and domesticated animals have been exposed to each other’s diseases for millennia. We’ve developed some defenses. That’s not the case with a new virus coming from a wild animal, Goldberg said.

A Chinese man carries sacks containing geese at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, in this photo taken Jan 6,…
FILE – A Chinese man carries sacks containing geese at a live-animal market in Guangzhou, Southern China, Jan. 6, 2004.

The virus lottery

Given how common these markets are around the world, it’s almost surprising that new outbreaks don’t happen more often, veterinarian William Karesh, executive vice president for health and policy at EcoHealth Alliance, said.

“I’ve gone to a market in Southeast Asia and they’re selling maybe 5,000 or 6,000 bats every week,” he said. “And that’s just one market. As you drive around, there’s 20 or 30 of those markets within a few hours’ drive. So now we’re talking about tens of thousands of bats for sale, and tens of thousands of rats (and other species). And that’s going on throughout much of the world.

“So we’re talking, really, about millions of animals for sale on a daily basis and tens of millions of people shopping there,” Karesh said.

For a virus looking for a different species to infect, he said, it’s like playing the lottery.

“Your chances of winning are pretty high when you’ve got exposure to 10 or 15 or 20 million people every day,” Karesh said.


People often don’t shop at these markets by choice, he said. When refrigeration is not available, the best way to get fresh meat is to buy it when it’s still alive. And customers can see if the animal is healthy before they buy it.

Also, many wild-caught foods are “deeply cherished in many cultures around the world,” not just in Africa and Asia, Goldberg said, even if they may carry diseases.

In the United States, rabbits carry tularemia, a bacterial disease that can be fatal. It’s on the list of potential bioterror weapons.

“You’ll see human cases pop up every now and then when rabbit hunters cut themselves when butchering a rabbit,” Goldberg said, adding he knows a rabbit hunter who got tularemia twice.

Packs of Canadian pork are displayed for sale at a supermarket in Beijing, June 18, 2019.
FILE – Packs of Canadian pork are displayed for sale at a supermarket in Beijing, June 18, 2019.

Market shift

The Chinese government closed live animal markets after SARS. But the markets have slowly reopened in the years since.

The government could close them again. But what may ultimately solve the problem is not a government mandate but a cultural shift.

Around the world, Karesh said, more young people are shopping at supermarkets.

“The grocery store is selling chilled refrigerated chicken, and it’s cheaper,” he said. “And people are busy. They’re going to work. They don’t really have time to go to that live animal market anymore.”

Plus, he added, attitudes are changing. Older people may see wild animals as a delicacy. The younger generation? Not so much.

“I don’t think they’re so interested in going to the live animal markets anymore to watch a bat be slaughtered or have a chicken have its throat cut,” he said.

“Twenty years ago, there weren’t many people in China who had pet dogs,” he said. Now, “there’s a new generation of people that when they see a dog, they’re not thinking about food. They’re thinking about, ‘Oh, wow, what a wonderful opportunity to have a pet.’”

‘Floating feedlots’: animals spending weeks at sea on ships not fit for purpose

Animal welfare put at risk on old and ‘inferior’ converted car carriers and cargo ships that are not built to transport livestock

Sheep destined for the Middle East loaded in pens onboard the Al Messilah livestock vessel at the Fremantle wharf in February 2019.
 Animals may spend weeks on board vessels en route to another country for slaughter. Photograph: Trevor Collens/AAP

The live export trade carrying millions of sheep and cattle across the seas each year is plagued by “old” and “inferior” ships that are a threat to animal welfare, claims a leading shipping company.

Livestock carriers are a key part of the multibillion dollar live export industry, dominated by Australia, South America and Europe. In 2017, almost 2 billion animals were exported in a trade worth $21bn (£15bn), with a significant proportion travelling by sea.

But most of the ships are old car carriers or other former cargo ships, rather than purpose-built vessels that can meet higher standards of animal welfare, said Wellard, one of the world’s largest livestock exporters, based in Australia.


Why are we reporting on live exports?

A spokesperson for the company, which shipped nearly 400,000 cattle in 2019, said: “The old converted vessels bring the standard of the whole industry down. If you’re using a ship that was originally built for another purpose, you’re compromising on your animal services when you convert it to a livestock vessel.

“The biggest threat to the global live export industry is old ships. They have inferior standards and livestock services and they are more prone to accidents and breakdowns. Those ships give a bad name to a legitimate industry.”

More than half of the 129 livestock carriers listed as active with a working automated tracking system on at least one marine website were built before the 1980s. “The livestock carrier fleet is one of the oldest sectors in the globally trading fleet with an average vessel age of 38 years old,” said Adam Kent, managing director of market analysts Maritime Strategies International (MSI). In comparison, the average age of a container ship is 13.

“Only the Laker fleet, trading on the freshwater Great Lakes, has an older average age,” he said.

“Given that around 80% of all livestock carriers are converted vessels, which were originally designed for another cargo, the relative investment in the sector is significantly below other ship types,” he added. Most ships were converted from general cargo or “roll on roll off” (RoRo) vessels, meaning ships that have been designed to carry wheeled cargo.

The Dutch company Vroon, which owns the subsidiary Livestock Express, is known as the “world’s biggest independent seaborne livestock carrier”, with a fleet of 13 purpose-built vessels. Around half its ships have a gross tonnage of 10,241 and can carry more than 4,600 heads of cattle.

Livestock Express managing director Paul Pistorius warned that converting old vessels into livestock carriers means making “compromises”.

“When converting a vessel, you must live with the original hull and machinery and furthermore you always need to make compromises during the conversion phase. History has shown that these compromises may lead to poor animal welfare outcomes.

“There are indeed a lot of old conversions and also recent conversions of old hulls. Unfortunately, many of these vessels don’t always meet the standards to which we believe livestock carriers should adhere,” he said.

Share your experiences

If you or someone you know has expertise in this field, we would like to hear from you. You can get in touch by filling in the form below, anonymously if you wish.  Only the Guardian can see your contributions and one of our journalists may contact you to discuss further.

Animal health and welfare concerns

The practice of transporting thousands of live animals (some ships carry more than 10,000 animals) across the sea for weeks at a time means attention must be paid to the welfare of animals. Older ships were not built for this purpose, which raises concerns.

The most common health risks for animals on ships are fatigue, heat stress, overcrowding and related injuries, and the spread of disease. Lynn Simpson, a former veterinarian on livestock export ships, has been a vocal critic of the long-distance ship trade. She’s witnessed cattle forced to stand on hard floors for weeks on end, sick, injured animals left to die, and sheep literally cooking from the inside with their “fat melted and like a translucent jelly”.

“Some animals are held on decks for as long as 40 days, living on hard decking of concrete and metal. They [the animals] are not built to cope with these environments,” said Simpson. She points out that the long time spent at sea makes it even more critical for ships to be well-adapted for animals to protect their health and welfare. “A truck is transporting from A to B, but a ship is really a floating feedlot. They are at sea for up to six weeks so it’s not just a small period of time. They [the animals] have to eat, sleep, drink and recover.”

“The live animal trade is not one where great fortunes are made. The unsuitability of the ships has created a lot of issues for the welfare of the animals. There has been a lot of concern about converted ships, which have a checkered history of inspection failings,” said Andrew Linington, former editor for the maritime trade union, Nautilus International.

In November the Queen Hind, a 40-year-old vessel owned by Romanian company MGM Marine, was carrying more than 14,000 sheep when it capsized en route from Romania. The 22 crew members were rescued but just 180 sheep survived.

Campaign groups said at the time that a major problem was that often vessels were not built for the journey. “They are old vessels that are converted to transport animals,” Francesca Porta from Eurogroup for Animals in Brussels told the New York Times.

That incident prompted Nautilus International to call for an investigation into converted livestock carriers, saying the industry must “learn safety lessons for keeping seafarers safe and improving animal welfare”.

“There’s a risk that in these long-distance transport there are major problems with animals overheating in highly humid, dirty conditions … where a vessel has been converted it will be less able to control bad conditions,” said a spokesperson from Compassion in World Farming.

Mortality figures in the export of livestock are largely unavailable as the majority of countries, aside from Australia and New Zealand, do not require them to be publicly reported. The International Maritime Organization only requires an investigation of casualties at sea if they led to the death or serious injury of a person, or serious damage to the ship or the marine environment. In Australia the government reports on any shipments where the mortality rate exceeds 1%. In August 2017, around 2,400 sheep died from heat stress on a ship sent from Australia to the Middle East.

For Europe, the only available mortality figures are from media reports on major incidents. In 2015, Jordan rejected a shipment of 13,000 sheep from Romania because 40% of the animals were dead. A veterinary inspection at port found that it was not disease that caused the high mortality rate, but a failure to provide adequate food or water on the eight-day trip.

Simpson said the mortality rates were likely to be higher in other regions not reporting figures. “The ships I was on 10 years ago carried 10,000 cattle for 20-day voyages and if you lost 15 animals I would say that was average. When they were travelling out of South America, the crew told me the same ships would have 14,000 cattle and would lose 300–500 animals in a voyage.

“They don’t care about animal welfare. It is just about numbers, which would be fine if we were talking about cans of soup.”

A large number of livestock-carrying ships are also sailing under flags of convenience with poor reputations for ship safety. Out of the 129 ships listed as active, 52 are flying flags from countries currently blacklisted by the port inspection body the Paris MOU, which conducts more than 17,000 inspections on ships every year in ports around the world.

In addition, 10 of the companies that own or manage converted vessels built before 1975 are listed as “low or very low-performing” by the European Maritime Shipping Agency.

The outbreaks of both the Wuhan coronavirus and SARS started in Chinese wet markets. Photos show what the markets look like.

china wet marketchina wet market
Customers in a Chinese wet market on January 22, 2016. 
Edward Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

The coronavirus spreading in China and the SARS outbreak of 2003 have two things in common: Both are from the coronavirus family, and both started in wet markets.

At such markets, outdoor stalls are squeezed together to form narrow lanes, where locals and visitors shop for cuts of meat and ripe produce. A stall selling hundreds of caged chickens may abut a butcher counter, where uncooked meat is chopped as nearby dogs watch hungrily. Vendors hock skinned hares, while seafood stalls display glistening fish and shrimp.

Wet markets put people and live and dead animals — dogs, chickens, pigs, snakes, civets, and more — in constant close contact. That makes it easy for a virus to jump from animal to human.

On Wednesday, authorities in Wuhan, China — where the current outbreak started — banned the trade of live animals at wet markets. The specific market where the outbreak is believed to have begun, the Huanan Seafood Market, was shuttered on January 1. The coronavirus that emerged there has so far killed 26 people and infected more than 900.

“Poorly regulated, live animal markets mixed with illegal wildlife trade offer a unique opportunity for viruses to spillover from wildlife hosts into the human population,” the Wildlife Conservation Society said in a statement.

Coronaviruses are zoonotic diseases, meaning they spread to people from animals. In the case of SARS, and likely this Wuhan coronavirus outbreak as well, bats were the original hosts. The bats then infected other animals, which transmitted the virus to humans.

Here’s what Chinese wet markets look like.

The Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan closed on January 1 after it was found to be the most likely starting point for the outbreak of this coronavirus, also called 2019-nCov.

wuhan wet market
Huanan Seafood Market in Wuhan, China, on January 12, 2020. 
NOEL CELIS/AFP via Getty Images

A 61-year-old man was the first person to die from the virus. According to Bloomberg, he was a regular shopper at the Huanan wet market, which sold more than seafood.

Reports indicated that before the Huanan market closed, vendors there sold processed meats and live animals, including chickens, donkeys, sheep, pigs, foxes, badgers, bamboo rats, hedgehogs, and snakes.

wet market fish
A wet market in Beijing on July 3, 2007. 
Teh Eng Koon/AFP via Getty

Wet markets like Huanan are common around China. They’re called wet markets because vendors often slaughter animals in front of customers.

“That means there’s a lot of skinning of dead animals in front of shoppers and, as a result, aerosolizing of all sorts of things,” according to Emily Langdon, an infectious disease specialist at University of Chicago Medicine.

On Wednesday, Wuhan authorities banned the trade of live animals at wet markets.

china wet market
A wet market in Guilin, China, on June 19, 2014. 
David Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

Police in Wuhan began conducting checks to enforce the rule among the city’s 11 million residents, the BBC reported, citing state media reports.

This type of intervention could help stop the spread of zoonotic viruses like the Wuhan coronavirus.

wet market china chicken
A wet market in Beijing on July 3, 2007. 
Teh Eng Koon/AFP/Getty

“Governments must recognize the global public health threats of zoonotic diseases,” Christian Walzer, executive director of the Wildlife Conservation Society’s health program, said in a statement. “It is time to close live animal markets that trade in wildlife, strengthen efforts to combat trafficking of wild animals, and work to change dangerous wildlife consumption behaviours, especially in cities.”

The close proximity of shoppers to stall vendors and live and dead animals in wet markets make them prime breeding grounds for zoonotic diseases.

china wet market
A Chinese wet market. 
Felix Wong/South China Morning Post/Getty

Between 2002 and 2003, SARS killed 774 people across 29 countries. It originated in wet markets in the province of Guangdong.

An Asian palm civet. 
Oleksandr Rupeta/NurPhoto/Getty

But the civets weren’t the original hosts of the disease.



Researchers figured out that SARS originally came from a population of bats in China’s Yunnan province.

horseshoe bat
A greater horseshoe bat, a relative of the Rhinolophis sinicus species from China that was the source of the SARS virus. 
De Agostini/Getty

“Coronaviruses like SARS circulate in bats, and every so often they get introduced into the human population,” Vincent Munster, a virologist at the Rocky Mountain Laboratories, told Business Insider.

Bats can pass along viruses in their poop: If they drop feces onto a piece of fruit that a civet then eats, the civet can become a disease carrier.

Experts haven’t yet confirmed the animal species that enabled the Wuhan coronavirus to spread to people.

pig wet market
A worker with a slaughtered pig at a wet market in Manila, Philippines. 
Romeo Ranoco/Reuters

“There’s an indication that it’s a bat virus, spread in association with wet markets,” Munster said.

But according to a group of scientists who edit the Journal of Medical Virology, the culprit in this case could be the Chinese cobra.

chinese cobra
A Chinese cobra. 
Thomas Brown

Scientists in China have figured out the genetic code of the Wuhan coronavirus. When researchers compared it with other coronaviruses, they found it to be most similar to two bat coronavirus samples from China.

But further analysis showed that the genetic building blocks of the Wuhan coronavirus more closely resembled that of snakes. According to the researchers, the only way to be sure of where the virus came from is to take DNA samples from animals sold at the Huanan market and from wild snakes and bats in the area.

The H7N9 and H5N9 bird flus — also zoonotic viruses — were likely transmitted to humans in wet markets, too.

wet market ducks china
Ducks on top of chickens at a wet market in Shanghai. 
In Pictures Ltd./Corbis/Getty

According to the World Health Organization, people caught those bird flus via direct contact with infected poultry in China. The diseases killed 1,000 people globally.

Bats and birds are considered reservoir species for viruses with pandemic potential, according to Bart Haagmans, a virologist at the Erasmus Medical Center in Rotterdam, Netherlands.

wet market china chicken
A chicken vendor on top of chicken cages at a wet market in Kowloon City, China. 
Dickson Lee/South China Morning Post/Getty

“Because these viruses have not been circulating in humans before, specific immunity to these viruses is absent in humans,” Haagmans told Business Insider.

“There have been plenty of eminent epidemiologists predicting ‘pandemic X’ for a number of years now,” Adrian Hyzler, the chief medical officer at Healix International, told Business Insider.

wet market china chicken
Live chickens in a wet market in Guangzhou, China. 
K. Y. Cheng/South China Morning Post/Getty

These pandemics “are more likely to originate in the Far East because of the close contact with live animals [and] the density of the population,” Hyzler added. His firm offers risk-management solutions for global travelers.

The Wuhan coronavirus outbreak isn’t considered a pandemic, however.

wet market china
A seafood stall in a wet market in Hong Kong. 
Isaac Lawrence/AFP/Getty

Since December 31, more than 900 cases of the Wuhan coronavirus have been reported across 10 countries, including the US. Symptoms include sore throats, headaches, and fevers, as well as pneumonialike breathing difficulties.

Haagmans said one of the challenges in containing this outbreak was that a substantial portion of infected people show only mild symptoms.

These people “may go unnoticed in tracing the virus and fuel the outbreak,” he said. “It seems that this actually may be the case now.”

Aria Bendix contributed reporting to this story.


Lakewood renter shocked complex using traps to control squirrel population

Posted: 5:52 PM, Jan 22, 2020
Updated: 5:49 PM, Jan 22, 2020

squirrel traps1.jpg

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LAKEWOOD, Colo. — A Lakewood woman said the laws need to be changed after her condominium has been trapping and killing squirrels.

“I don’t think this is a humane way to deal with this at all,” Klaudia Sekulska said.

The traps are placed on the roof outside her window.

She said someone in the building complained the squirrels were getting into the attic, and a local pest control company was called.

“There are different ways to go about it. You don’t have to let an animal freeze to death overnight and then put it in a black garbage bag. That’s not dignified for anyone,” she said.

Colorado law allows pest control companies to operate under the same rules as homeowners. It’s legal to trap and, in some cases, poison squirrels that are damaging property.

Sekulska said the laws should change.

“It’s a permit to kill, and that’s what’s happening here. We’re proud of our animals and our wildlife, and it was National Squirrel Day yesterday,” Sekulska said.

Sekulska brought her concerns to animal control, property managers and her HOA.

She said they haven’t done enough to patch the holes in the roof or bring in proper trash bins before resorting to killing the animals.

Denver7 reached out to the HOA for comment but did not hear back.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife recommends removing pet food and trash that may be attracting squirrels, create barriers, and use ammonia as a deterrent.

If you believe any animal is being abused or is being treated inhumanely, you can file a complaint with Colorado Parks and Wildlife or your local animal control.

Dog’s paw caught in trap at Silver Spring Township park


SILVER SPRING TOWNSHIP, Pa. (WHTM) — A Sunday stroll turned scary for a pup named Sully after a trap snapped on his paw while he was climbing back onto the banks of the Conodoguinet Creek during a walk with his owner in Hidden Creek Park.

“It’s a small, about hand-size trap. I’m not a trap expert, but it looks like it’s for a small animal,” said Silver Spring Township Police Chief Christopher Raubenstine said.

Luckily, Sully isn’t exactly small and didn’t break anything from the trap, but a trap at all triggers worry.

“Our concern, obviously, is for everyone’s safety, whether they’re four legs or two,” Raubenstine said.

The township spent the next couple days on paw patrol, sweeping the park and found no other traps — just more questions about how it got there.

“This could be anything from a simple mistake to what they think is legitimate, to somebody with malicious thought,” Raubenstine said.

Despite the why, trapping is still not legal on public property. Traps have to be registered, which would have led to the offender immediately but the evidence was washed away.

“A passerby helped the owner free the dog and out of anger, disgust — whatever — threw the trap out of the creek,” Raubenstine said.

Whether it was an honest mistake or demented deed, police are monitoring the situation.

“We just want to make sure it’s a one and done thing, and we don’t have to worry about it again,” Raubenstine said.

If you have any information about how the or why the trap was placed, you’re asked to call Silver Spring’s non-emergency line at (717) 697-0607.

Germany, France push to end male chick ‘shredding’ in European Union

France and Germany are calling for an end to male chick culling.
 France and Germany are calling for an end to male chick culling. Canadian Press
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Germany and France are teaming up to push for the end of male chick shredding in the European Union by the end of 2021.

Agriculture ministers Julia Klöckner of Germany and Didier Guillaume of France announced their plans to help press this issue further during a Monday meeting in Germany.

“It’s time to end the shredding of chicks. France and Germany should be the European motor to advance on this issue,” Guillaume said, according to France24.

Shredding refers to the act of killing male chicks shortly after they hatch. This practice occurs in many poultry businesses because male chicks don’t produce eggs and generate less meat than their female counterparts.

READ MORE: New York City passes bill banning sale of foie gras [2019]

The two European countries hope to bring together industry groups, companies, researchers and campaign groups to “share scientific knowledge” and “implement alternative methods,” France24 reports.


“We welcome this scheme and the fact that non-governmental organizations are involved, but we expect clear regulatory commitments,” Agathe Gignoux of CIWF, a French NGO, said.

In 2009, the Associated Press reported U.S. egg producers euthanize 200 million male chicks per year. According to AP, Chicago-based animal rights organization Mercy for Animals videotaped male chicks being ground up alive while undercover in Iowa hatchery Hy-Line North America that same year.

The same practice appears to occur in Canada, too, though the Canadian government has announced recent changes in an effort to minimize this waste.

Jean-Michel Laurin, president and CEO of the Canadian Poultry and Egg Processors Council, told Global News that the industry has been working towards eliminating the euthanizing of male chicks.

READ MORE: ‘It’s a cold scary trip’: Tabby cat travels more than 80 km hiding in truck engine

“This requires a great deal of research, which has been occurring worldwide and includes Canadian-based research which has been active for about 10 years,” he said. “Currently, stakeholders in Canadian industry have made significant investments to bring us beyond the research trial phase.”

“Our industry is committed to continually improving practices. Farmers, hatcheries and others in the supply chain have demonstrated, over generations, their desire to improve and to respond to change.”


He added that the National Farm Animal Care Council’s (NFACC) Code of Practice for the Care and Handling of Chickens, Turkeys and Breeders lists several methods to euthanize day-old chicks and emphasizes that in all circumstances, the termination of life must be instantaneous.

Toronto Chick-fil-A launch draws customers and demonstrators

Toronto Chick-fil-A launch draws customers and demonstrators

In 2018, then-Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Lawrence MacAulay announced an $844,000 investment would go towards developing an electronic scan to determine a bird’s sex and fertility of eggs prior to hatching, Poultry World reported.

This would mean male eggs could be sold before hatching, which would increase capacity and efficiency of Canadian hatcheries and ultimately end male chick culling.

“The Canadian egg industry is driving our economy and creating good jobs,” he said in a statement. “The government of Canada is produce [sic] to support the Egg Farmers of Ontario for this first-of-its-kind study that will make Canada a world leader in animal welfare.

“This investment will help pilot a solution that will be welcomed in Canada and around the world and will keep the egg industry strong and growing.”

READ MORE: London animal rights activist ‘targeted’ by aggressive driver due to bumper stickers

The Canadian egg industry contributes over $1 billion a year to the national economy and employs more than 17,000 people.