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Nonhuman Rights Project Is New York Times Magazine Cover Story

charles-siebert-042314Renowned author and journalist Charles Siebert writes about the Nonhuman Rights Project for this week's cover story in the New York Times Magazine.

Siebert accompanies attorney Steven Wise as he drives to the used trailer lot where Tommy the chimpanzee is being held in a dark shed. He attends the many meetings where the legal team is preparing the lawsuits on behalf of Tommy, Kiko, Hercules and Leo. And in December 2013 he follows Wise as those first, groundbreaking cases go to court in New York State.

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New Zealand’s Easter Bunny from Hell


The company is called Hell Pizza. And the billboard for its latest advertising campaign is made of rabbit pelts – an idea that's certainly straight from hell.

It's not just that the whole notion is so gross, so grotesque, so disrespectful. There's much more going on here than meets the average eye.

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The Great Irony in Showtime’s Climate Show


There's a terrible irony right there in the opening sequence of the first episode of the new Showtime series Years of Living Dangerously.

Nelly Montez describes what happened to her and thousands of other workers when Cargill, one of the world's largest factory farm operations, closed its slaughterhouse in the small town of Plainview, Texas. As she explains it:

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SeaWorld’s Shamu Show Gets a Reprieve


When California Assemblyman Richard Bloom introduced a bill that would bring an end to Shamu shows at SeaWorld, he probably didn't expect it to succeed. But in shelving the whole issue for a year so there can be more "study", the Water, Parks and Wildlife Committee has at least left open the possibility of reconsidering it next year.

SeaWorld hired one of California's most successful lobbyists, Scott Wetch, whom the L.A. Times has described as “blunt, shrewd and intimidating,” to do the rounds of committee members in advance of the hearing.

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Noah: Life Without Humans


While traveling this week, I had a chance to see the movie Noah. (If you haven't yet seen it, watch out for a minor spoiler alert below.)

Most of the reviews have noted that this isn't your typical robe-and-sandals story with a deep-voiced deity intoning commands to a reluctant prophet. It's about life on a blackened, blasted, wasted world, and whether our fellow animals can ever be safe while there are still humans around – even just one family of us.

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Hope Springs Eternal

In this week's climate-change quiz, we ask: Who wrote the following when discussing how to avoid the growing global catastrophe?

The glass is either half empty or half full. I choose to believe it is half full … Technology both creates unforeseen problems and then sets about solving them. My bet is on human ingenuity.

Was it:

  1. A tech start-up entrepreneur trying to sell a new invention that will supposedly save the world?
  2. A Congress person who's bought and paid for by the oil lobby?
  3. The Executive Director of Columbia University's Earth Institute, Steven Cohen, in a post entitled "Facing the Climate Crisis without Hysteria."

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Week in Review

I'm traveling this week, so here's just a brief rundown on some stories from the week and where you can find them:

Is SeaWorld Capsizing? I'm wary of counting blessings (let alone chickens) before they hatch, but SeaWorld is taking on a lot of water right now. This week:

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Endgame – What We Can Do

derrick-jensen-1-032514Derrick Jensen is one of the few people you'll come across who are passionate about both the "environment" and all the living creatures.

(Climate change activists barely ever mention our fellow animals, and most of the humane organizations, including the "no-kill movement", seem blissfully unaware that the entire planet is being killed, not just homeless pets.)

With 20 books behind him – including Deep Green Resistance, a strategy to save the planet before it's altogether too late; and Endgame, which explains why no human civilization can ever be sustainable and that therefore "Love does not imply pacifism" – Jensen is one of the leaders (some say the philosopher-poet) of a growing movement to take action on behalf of all living beings on this planet before there's literally nothing and no one left alive.

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Surprise: Elephants Are Really Intelligent (Really!)


Why are we humans always surprised to learn that other animals (aka "animals") are "also" intelligent?

Perhaps it's because we're not so bright ourselves when it comes to relating to nonhuman animals!

Whatever the reason, two new studies demonstrating the language skills of elephants have been widely reported in the last few weeks. One of them shows that elephants can distinguish the voices and dialects of different African tribes, whether the voices are male or female, and if they're young or old.

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Are You an Extremist?


The nation's largest coalition of vivisectionists has a new publication advising people who experiment on animals how best to combat the people it calls "animal rights extremists."

So, who fits the definition of an extremist? According to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB), an extremist is anyone who does anything outside of "participating in ethical, legal, and civil discourse to promote their viewpoint."

As if having discussions has ever brought an end to atrocities.

Sure, we don't endorse the rare instances of violence or threats of violence. But according to the folks at FASEB, extremism includes:

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The Basic Difference between Dogs and Cats

"The Evidence Is Overwhelming"


Scientists tend to err on the side of being ultra-conservative. It's built into the system. Their work is always being reviewed and picked apart by other scientists, so they don't want to be caught out making claims that they can't fully support.

Nor do most scientists want to be seen as advocates. They prefer to see themselves as purveyors of information, not of opinion – especially when it comes to hot-button topics like climate change.

All of which is why the latest report from the prestigious American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) is turning heads. Bottom line: This report is a giant alarm call.

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Elephant Destroys House, Rescues Baby


On Monday night in India, an angry elephant walked into the village of Olgara from the forest and smashed a house to pieces. This kind of behavior is no longer unusual. As human population grows and elephants are pushed out of their homes, they wander into towns in search of food. And when humans attack them, the elephants fight back.

But when this particular elephant, who is known to have already killed three people and destroyed 17 houses in the last year, pulled the house down and began to walk away, he heard a baby crying.

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In Carriage Horse Fight, Who’s Most Contemptible?


When actor Liam Neeson goes on The Tonight Show to promote the carriage horse industry (along with his latest dumb movie) ...

... and Jimmy Fallon agrees with him that the New York carriage horse trade is a "tradition" and that the horses love dragging tourists through the traffic of Midtown ...

... and the audience cheers ...

Which of this unsavory trio should get the prize for being the most contemptible?

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A Teenager’s Question about Mass Extinction

elizabeth_kolbert-031114At the end of her talk at the Seattle Town Hall about her book The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert takes questions from the audience. The final question is from a boy in his mid-teens. He's the only one at the microphone who's likely to be around when this the extinction process has gone into high gear. So, what does he ask?

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Updates on Legal Rights for Nonhuman Animals

dolphin-proclamation-030614Since the Nonhuman Rights Project filed its first series of lawsuits in December, there have been several other initiatives to secure legal rights for nonhuman animals.

Last week, for example, the mayor of Malibu signed a proclamation endorsing the right of cetaceans to bodily liberty, saying that: Read more

Climate Change for Dummies

Even when you understand that much of the damage climate change will do is now irreversible, it can be hard to understand the how’s and why’s of it all.

Where are we now? What do the various tipping points mean? Which ones have we crossed?

Here’s an easy-to-digest video from climate writer David Roberts.

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. . . Speaking of Photobombs

After posting about the lion who photobombed a visitor to Lion Park, I was reminded of a few other famous photobombs:

The ray who bombed a seaside trip.

The sloth who bombed a student visit to Costa Rica.

The gopher with two hikers in the Northwest.

The cat with little respect for faces.

... and the cat who could teach these two young ladies how to take a good selfie!

Lion Photobombs Park Visitor


Lina Jek simply wanted her husband, Chris, to take a photo of her with the African savannah in the background. But Chris, a wildlife photographer, got a more dramatic photo than either of them expected.

At Lion Park in South Africa, you can walk among the lions until they're eight months old, at which time they move to the adult section. This lioness was just turning eight, so this might have been her last chance to climb on the visitors' shoulders and lick their ears.

The 500-acre Lion Park isn't a zoo; more like a conservation area that's working to return lions to the wild. Part of it is run by Kevin Richardson, the well-known "lion whisperer." It's maybe not the ideal situation for lions, but in a world where the population of the "king of beasts" has dropped from 450,000 to 20,000 in the last 50 years, it's a lot better than most of what's happening to lions and other animals all across the continent.

Chris called the photo one of the luckiest shots he'd ever taken. A few days later, the lioness and her brothers and sisters were moved to the adult area of the park.

Check out some of Chris's best-of photos of lions and other great African animals, like this one:

"The Brave Old Fighter" by wildlife photographer Chris Jek

Of Chickens, Gays and the Arizona Legislature


We were a motley crew, to say the least. And we were laughed right out of the Arizona State Legislature.

It was 1978, and we weren't lobbying for gay rights, as they're doing in Arizona this week. (That would have been unthinkable back then.) No, in our case we were trying to persuade the state to ban cockfighting.

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