Current political developments in the USA are threatening the country’s animal protection laws in multiple ways. Some of the laws under threat are very recent, having just been signed by the previous president Barack Obama a couple of years ago. One law under threat is the protective status of the Grizzly bear. For example the state of Wyoming started to hand out hunting permits for Grizzlies again, through a lottery system. This is after 44 years of protecting the endangered animal. Numerous environmentalists and Native American tribes stood up to protest against the decision to hunt the Grizzly again. One of the lottery winners is the photographer and environmentalist Thomas Mangelsen.
The Grizzly bear has been a protected species in the USA in 1975 under the Endangered Species Act. Back then only 136 bears survived in or near Yellowstone. Because of the protective measures, the population numbers have been able to increase to a more stable (but still low) population of 700 bears in the Yellowstone area. However the current government took this as a reason to change the protective status of the Grizzly in June 2017, and now the Grizzly is no longer protected in the US. This means the states of Wyoming, Montana and Idaho to hunt them. Many environmentalists protested against the changing of the protective status of the Grizzly. 120 Native American tribes even stood up for the Grizzly with a Grizzly-protection treaty. However, over 6000 people applied for the lottery, which gives out 22 Grizzly hunting permits. The government takes this as proof that the people of the United States demand such changes. Many environmentalists, among others the famous biologist Jane Goodall, signed up for the lottery to raise awareness to the issue. People even started a campaign with the title “Shoot them with your camera, not your gun”. We’re thankful that one of the 22 winners actually is not a hunter but a photographer. Thomas Mangelsen, legendary nature photographer, says he does not intend to use the permit for hunting the bear with his gun but with his camera. The photographer is famous for his pictures and films which promote nature conservation and animal protection worldwide.
Repeal of animal protection laws
Earlier this year the US government repealed numerous laws dealing with livestock farming. These are laws only just approved by former president Barack Obama, which set new standards for protecting livestock on organic farms. For example, they defined that laying hens need a minimum of one square metre, as well as proper outdoor access. The laws also inluded changes to the species-appropriate slaughter transport and the treatment of the animals there. However, the US ministry for agriculture (USDA) anulled them as they do not see the need to change the current situation. Many small, organic farms have welcomed the animal protection laws. But this change of laws would open the market for large suppliers, offering their factory-farmed animals and animal products as organic. Consequently, the certificate “organic” would completely lose its credibility.
Reintroduction of brutal hunting methods
Obama also signed a law prohibiting numerous hunting methods in Alaskan National Parks in 2015. These included; the hunting of bear cubs together with their mothers, the trapping of bears with the help of artifical light and bait, the hunting of wolves and coyotes during denning season, the hunting of black bears with dogs, as well as the shooting of caribous from a board while the animals are swimming. The repealing of the law prohibiting these brutal hunting methods is now openly discussed on the ministry page regulations.gov. Currently most of the comments on the discussion are against a reintroduction and call it a setback for animal protection. However, Ryan Zinke, Secretary for Interior, strongly supports the reintroduction of these hunting methods in Alaska. Alli Harvey, from the Sierra Club says:
“these brutal hunting methods would work exactly against what these protected areas would try to achieve.”
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