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Sick souvenirs

This week, Miami New Times reported on t-shirt shops selling dead baby sharks as souvenirs. The sharks, by-products of the commercial fishing industry, are preserved inside bottles of blue alcohol/water solution.

We don’t know why a tourist would be interested in buying the body of a dead shark. The items have been sold in tourist shops in Florida and across the country for years, but New Times reported that they may be losing their appeal. A manager at one store in Miami Beach told the paper, “We’re getting rid of them because so many people have complained.”

One of the biggest retailers of the bottled dead sharks is Alvin’s Island, a chain with 12 stores in Florida. Please contact Alvin’s Island and ask them to stop selling bottled sharks in their stores. Contact:

Eliezer Tabib, President
Alvin’s Island
Phone: (305) 471-9394
Email: eliezertabib@marcodestin.net
Online comment form.

One source of the bottled dead sharks is a Fort Lauderdale-based company, Holiday Souvenirs. Please contact the company and ask them to no longer sell bottled shark souvenirs. Contact:

Manuel and Barbara Pascal
Holiday Souvenirs
Phone: (800) 521-4302 or (954) 564-6134
Email: hsshells@bellsouth.net, info@holidaysouvenirs.com

Sharks are magnificent creatures who are essential to the ocean ecosystem, but shark populations are dwindling around the world.

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When bears in Florida act aggressively or attack humans, as happened on April 12 when a woman was seriously injured by a bear outside her home in Lake Mary, the incidents are often linked to food. In the Lake Mary neighborhood where the attack occurred, bears were known to go through residents’ trash looking for food. A Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) spokesman described the bears in the area as “food-conditioned” and said they had lost their fear of humans.

Rep. Mike Clelland, who represents Seminole County neighborhoods that have seen recent bear attacks, has suggested requiring residents to use bear-resistant garbage cans. We think this is a great idea. Using bear-resistant garbage cans, along with taking in bird seed and other food items overnight, is a proven effective method of reducing conflicts.

Unfortunately, last week, in a letter sent to the FWC, a group of state lawmakers– Representatives Ben Albritton, Frank Artiles, Halsey Beshears, Jim Boyd, Jason Brodeur, Matt Caldwell, Katie Edwards, Eric Eisnaugle, J.W. Grant, Doug Holder, Ritch Workman and Dana Young– called for a return to bear hunting.

Hunting does not reduce human-bear conflicts. Most conflicts occur in residential neighborhoods where hunting would not be allowed. Rep. Clelland, a voice of reason, explained to the Orlando Sentinel, “It’s not the number of bears that we’re most concerned about — it’s bears interacting with humans. The reason they’re interacting with humans is trash. We can solve that problem with bear-proof cans, not guns.”

Bears were last hunted in Florida in 1993. Although bear populations have increased since hunting was stopped, there are still only approx. 3,000 bears statewide. ARFF will continue to work to make sure bears in Florida remain safe from hunter’s bullets.

In late February, three managers at a dairy farm in northern Florida (Jackson County) were arrested after an inspector from the Florida Department of Agriculture found unsanitary conditions and 90 cows suffering from neglect. The inspector reported bluntly, “these animals were not being fed.”

Joe D. Clark, Richard K. Clark and Nikki Slininger, managers at Wild Rose Dairy, were charged with felony animal cruelty and unlawful disposal of animal carcasses (two dead cows were also found on the property).

photo: Wild Rose Dairy in Graceville, Florida

ARFF is encouraged that felony charges have been filed in this case. Too often, “farm animals” are not provided the protection they deserve in the courts.

Please contact the State Attorney for Jackson County and urge him to take this case seriously, and if the three individuals are found guilty, to press for the maximum penalty.

Glenn Hess, State Attorney
14th Judicial Circuit of Florida
P.O. Box 956
Marianna, FL 32447
Phone: (850) 482-9555
Fax: (850) 482-1383

ARFF recommends that people wishing to reduce animal suffering minimize or, better yet, eliminate dairy and other animal products from their diet. Visit ARFF’s website to learn more about the dairy industry, or click here to download ARFF’s dairy brochure.

On Saturday, February 22, Monkey Jungle in Miami will host an “African Ape Awareness Festival” featuring talks by conservationists, dance and drama performances, and a fashion show. The goal of the festival is to raise awareness of endangered chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa. But there is one African ape closer to home who deserves greater public awareness.

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For 25 years a gorilla named King has lived a solitary existence at Monkey Jungle. Of the approximately 360 gorillas in zoos in the United States, King may be the only one who lives alone and who has no prospect of ever having a companion*.

In March 1989 a female gorilla named Mitzie died at Monkey Jungle. Since then, King has remained alone–despite the efforts of animal advocates.

In 1997, a campaign was launched to persuade Monkey Jungle to send King to Zoo Atlanta, where he could be with other gorillas. But despite Zoo Atlanta’s invitation and pleas from noted primatologist Jane Goodall and thousands of Florida residents, Monkey Jungle refused.

Instead, after languishing for years in a concrete-and-bars cage, in 2001 Monkey Jungle built a naturalistic enclosure where King is at least able to feel the sun and breath fresh air. Although the larger enclosure was an improvement, it is unclear how much time King actually spends in the enclosure, and Monkey Jungle continues to ignore the issue that King is alone. Gorillas and other apes are intelligent animals with complex social and emotional lives.

During King’s daily shows at Monkey Jungle, he performs degrading tricks such as the Hokey-Pokey for the amusement of tourists. King will turn 45 this year.

Please ask Monkey Jungle to transfer King to a respected zoo where he could live out the remainder of his life with companionship and dignity. Contact:

Monkey Jungle
14805 Southwest 216th Street
Miami, FL 33170
Phone: (305) 235-1611
Email: mjungle@bellsouth.net

*Monkey Jungle lost its American Zoo and Aquarium Association-accreditation years ago and therefore does not qualify to receive another gorilla.

According to preliminary U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service records, in 2013 there was not a single monkey exported from St. Kitts & Nevis into the United States. With this unexpected good news, ARFF is renewing our call for a permanent end to the export of wild monkeys for experimentation.

2013 was the first in at least 20 years that no animals were exported from St. Kitts & Nevis. In 2012, 164 monkeys were trapped, stuffed into wooden crates and flown off the islands. (It appears that there hasn’t been a shipment since November 2012 when 44 monkeys arrived in Miami.)

photo: African green, or “vervet” monkey in St. Kitts

St. Kitts & Nevis is one of only a handful of countries, including Barbados and Mauritius, that allows the trapping and export of wild monkeys for use in laboratory experimentation.

You can Help! Please contact the Prime Minister and politely ask for a ban on the export from St. Kitts & Nevis of monkeys destined for the research industry.

The Honorable Dr. Denzil L. Douglas
Prime Minister of St. Kitts & Nevis
Email: sknpmoffice@sisterisles.kn
Online comment form.

Please send a copy of your comments to the St. Kitts Tourism Authority.

Racquel Brown, Acting CEO
St. Kitts Tourism Authority
Email: info@stkittstourism.kn
Online comment form.

Visit Stolen from Paradise.com for a sample letter and to learn more about ARFF’s campaign.

There is a well-documented link between animal cruelty and acts of violence against humans.

For several years, ARFF pushed for legislation to make sexual contact with animals a crime. A bill outlawing the sexual abuse of animals was finally enacted in 2011. This week, that law was used to sentence a man in St. Johns County to eight years in prison. James Lee Lyons was arrested twice in 2013 for raping dogs. Lyons is a registered sexual predator with a previous conviction for sexual battery on a child.

When law enforcement and courts take animal cruelty seriously, they may be preventing other acts of violence. This year in Tallahassee, a bill has been introduced that would significantly increase penalties for animal cruelty. Please contact your State Representative and ask him or her to sign on as a co-sponsor of House Bill 637.

The 2014 legislative session will officially begin on March 4. Visit ARFF’s website for updates on animal protection legislation.

This week a young chimpanzee named Arden celebrated her 5th birthday at the Chimp Haven sanctuary in Keithville, Louisiana. Click here to watch a beautiful video about Arden.

Arden spent her first few years behind bars at the New Iberia Research Center (NIRC), which was the largest chimpanzee lab in the world. In June 2013, the National Institutes of Health announced that almost all of the government-owned chimpanzees at NIRC and other laboratories would be retired to sanctuaries (in the announcement, the NIH director stated, “new scientific methods and technologies have rendered their use in research largely unnecessary”). Arden and her mother were among the first chimps from NIRC to arrive at Chimp Haven in 2013.

It is wonderful to watch Arden climb trees, run on grass and play with friends at Chimp Haven. But if it was up to the President of Primate Products, Arden would have spent her life in a laboratory.

Thomas J. Rowell is President of Primate Products, an Immokalee-based company that imports and sells monkeys for use in research and testing. Before taking the position at Primate Products, Rowell served as NIRC’s Director for 15 years. In that role, Rowell was a leading proponent of the continued use of chimpanzees in biomedical research.

Thankfully, Arden is now safe from laboratory experiments!

We’ve written about Primate Products many times on this blog. Search “Primate Products” above to learn more about this company’s controversial history.

Stopping shark finning cruelty

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The 2014 Florida Legislative Session will begin in March, but legislators are already beginning to introduce bills that they will support during the session. On Monday, the first animal protection bill was filed: Senate Bill 540, introduced by Senator David Simmons, would ban the possession and sale of shark fins in Florida.

Tens of millions of sharks are killed each year for their fins, an ingredient in shark fin soup. “Finning,” removing a shark’s fins and dumping the injured fish back into the ocean, is banned in Florida waters. Unfortunately, it is legal to remove and sell shark fins once boats return to the dock. Each year, thousands of pounds of shark fins are sold by commercial fishermen in Florida. In addition, a large number of imported shark fins enter the U.S. through Florida ports.

The killing of sharks for fins is cruel and threatens some shark species with extinction. Eliminating the demand for shark fins, as this bill would do, is the most effective way to save sharks. The trade in shark fins is already banned in New York, Maryland, Delaware, Illinois, California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii.

ARFF will be supporting this bill, which we hope is just the first of many bills related to animal protection to be introduced for the 2014 session.

Please thank Senator Simmons for introducing this legislation: simmons.david.web@flsenate.gov

To win victories for animals, ARFF will need your help during the legislative session. Click here to be added to our email list to receive legislative alerts and updates.

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Last week state senator Charlie Dean introduced a bill (SB 414) to create a public records exemption for home addresses, telephone numbers, dates of birth and photographs of researchers at public universities whose work involves, “experimenting on animals for the purpose of conducting life-sustaining medical research.”

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida (ARFF) does not oppose the right of individuals employed in the public sector to remove their personal information from public records for safety reasons, but the proposed legislation raises interesting questions about the different types of research involving animals.

In limiting the public records exemption to researchers who use animals in “life-sustaining medical research,” the legislation may not apply to researchers who use animals in basic research (research that is not focused on understanding or treating a specific disease), or who use animals in teaching. Other researchers who may not be protected under the proposed legislation include those conducting agricultural research, researchers who use animals in psychological experiments, and researchers working on projects funded by the U.S. Military.

ARFF would welcome a discussion about what research involving animals is life-sustaining (for the thousands of animals in laboratories in Florida, research is certainly not life-sustaining!).

The 2014 legislative session will begin on March 4. Click here to be added to ARFF’s email list to receive alerts and updates on animal protection legislation.

In a recent column, Lakeland Ledger environmental writer Tom Palmer accused ARFF of “environmental ignorance” for our suggestion that after 500 years of living in Florida, wild pigs should be considered a native Florida animal. We admit that it’s a challenging idea.

Palmer argues that wild pigs can be destructive, but so can other animals. Like pigs, armadillos damage lawns and gardens when rooting for food. In northern Florida, farmers are angry about deer eating their crops. Cormorants and other fish-eating birds are a big problem at aquaculture facilities in Florida. Even tiny bats can cause problems when they roost in buildings in large numbers. (Palmer also claims, but offers nothing more than anecdotal evidence, that wild pigs prey on native wildlife and spread disease.) ARFF would support creative, humane methods of reducing the pig population in areas where they are causing problems.

Unfortunately, Palmer does not address our main point: that the “non-native” designation for wild pigs has been used as justification for horrible acts of violence against these animals, cruelties that would not be ignored if suffered by “native” wildlife. For example, Florida hunters use packs of dogs, and primitive weapons like knives and spears, to chase down and kill wild pigs. Pigs are often castrated, without anesthesia, by hunters who then release the animal in the belief that he will grow fatter and have better-tasting flesh when captured in the future.

As tempting as it may be to turn the clock back to the year 1500, that’s not going to happen. Florida’s environment has changed dramatically since Europeans first arrived. It is unrealistic to demand that Florida’s wildlife look the same as when Ponce de León stepped off the boat.

ARFF will continue to speak up for these intelligent, adaptable animals. We hope that in the future Floridians will view wild pigs with compassion and understanding.

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