Category Archives: Social Commentary

Help: Save the pigeons living in Singapore

Pigeons_20100317_006x Unless you’ve been living under Singapore River, there’s no way you are unaware that living among Singaporeans in this cold home of concrete that demands we give and give and give, is another “homeless” animal who has been targetted for the Singapore brand of population and complaint management.

The letters that have seen print argue for both sides of the coin… but it seems like as soon as “potential hazard” or health concerns are trotted out, that’s the end of the argument. Is that valid? There was even a letter that tells of the letter-writer’s father brush with death due to inhalation of dried, power-form pigeon shit. While I feel sorry for the letter-writer’s father, I am concerned at the myopic nature of her call to arms as it were. Yes, pigeon shit caused the problems her father suffered, but the pigeons were just being pigeons, but the true cause? Human neglect. Yet the letter writer does not go after her neighbour for negligence leading to the “perfect storm” that hit her father.BirdStatue_20100317_002x

There is too much fear-mongering, what-ifs, laziness, illogic, blame-shifting and complacency in this matter.

Sounds familiar?

Let’s extend our empathy for our homeless kitties’ fellow victims of the Singapore brand of population and complaint management.

Help the pigeons sharing our homeless kitties’ space, check out savepigeons.blogspot.com to find out how.

Could you bear it if it happened to a human child or your beloved pet?

While reading the papers 2 sundays ago, my eyes were drawn to a tiny article tucked into the inner bottom corner of the right page.


How cruelly ended was this cat’s life!  What a senseless, wanton waste of life!

Philly_Rheilly_20090128_004_DSCN4481x

Tabulously spotted Philly and agouti Rheilly

But it was more than grief and outrage I felt. I was also deeply disturbed. Because this cat looks very much like our Philly.

It boggles the mind.

Philly_20091027_010x

Philly trying to get a grip

Why would anyone even contemplate such a sick thing? The poor kitty was strangled to death with a rafia string just behind a block of HDB flats. The rafia string had cut 1″ deep into its throat, probably causing poor kitty a very slow painful death. How could such a painful death be unnoticed when the poor cat was struggling for a long while in the midst of densely populated human habitats?

Rheilly_20090128_017_DSCN4502x

Rheilly: So scary!

Could a human child have died the same death unnoticed?

Can you imagine the same happening to your beloved kitty?

It could happen to any cat. This kitty isn’t the first or the only cat who met a cruel end by any stretch of the imagination.

Remember Bedok South, then Old Airport Road, followed by Jurong East, and Pasir Ris, Choa Chu Kang?

Teddy_20091029_007x

Teddy: Philly annoys the hell out of me EVERY SINGLE DAY, but even I wouldn't wish this on him

I am still boggled by the attitudes of those who claim to love cats, then leave their “beloved pets” to roam outside 24/7 unsupervised, exposed to the dangers of animal abuse, road accidents, pest control roundup and AVA culling, poisoning, injuries and sickness from scuffles with other cats, and unwanted pregnancies (conveniently discarding the unapproved young lives that result from their cavalier attitude towards responsibility). Would these people allow their children to live the same risks?

This isn’t just a cat who died. He had caregivers, he had a name.


His name is Pui Pui. And he did not die an easy death.

Bloody signs of Pui Pui's last moments of life

Pui Pui's blood seeped into the ground as he struggled for his life

Thanks to Pawpledge, Pui Pui is not a nameless cat to be forgotten. Nor will his death be just another statistic in Singapore’s annual average of 700 reported (and rising) animal abuse cases if Singaporeans CARE. Pawpledge has sketched a chilling but not unsalvageable reality of the dangers Pui Pui and the cats in the area live in. Sterilisation, and TNRM of course figures prominently. Please help if you can.

Joey_20091025_003x

Joey: I really really don't like Philly but no cat (or dog) deserves to die so horribly

Animal abuse takes every form. Already, between the AVA and SPCA, 21,000 dogs and cats are put to death annually. And official policies or officious support and subsidies of certain behaviours isn’t anything NOT wrong. Not when the real core root, the cause and effect are not even bothered with.

BamBam_20091023_017x

Bam Bam: I'm the resident evil... I can't bear to look!

Are the issues complex? Sure, any issue involving people evolve complexity. But are they uncomprehensible? I don’t think so – if a foreigner who read a short, simple but true rendition of the plight of Singapore’s community aka homeless cats can go on to write it in his own words, no one needs high qualifications from officially sanctioned university brand names nor be called Mr Minister or Mr MP to claim authority and weight on the issues, not when they’re plagued with the head in the sand syndrome.

Rheilly_Philly_20091025_012x
Philly: So sad, that really looks like me
Rheilly: Anyone who wants to mess with you has to go through me first

As for Philly, and the rest of the slackers, I am glad they are safe. But please, let’s keep our eyes out for the voiceless ones who are only striving to eke out a living on the harsh streets of Singapore

Feline Fantasies 101

Got cha attention, right? This is a wonderful post dealing with kitty myths and such on the advocacy site: care2.com. Black cats get such an especial dose of bad rep that many are rejected outright, but there are black kitties with absolutely perfect personalities (not just cats, dogs too), and adoption chances for black cats is only half of others (torties rank a close second, at least in Singapore). It’s really a wonder that black cats aren’t killed on sight everywhere (especially during Halloween, black cat month), though there’s no lack of trying, even in urban Singapore. But so what if they look like shadows with eyes under the right lighting? Black kitties are still kitties. Black kitties need love too

Janet Garey

Feline Fantasies 101

posted by Janet Garey Oct 19, 2009 5:10 pm


“Doesn’t Bella creep you out?” Andy asked, raking his black-painted nails through spikes of neon purple hair.

The object of his curiosity reclined on my lap, bubble gum-pink tongue lapping at her glistening, black as pitch, tiny paw. I had no idea what the boy was talking about.

“She’s a cat,” he observed, “and completely black!”

Chuckling over Andys’ skill at stating the obvious, my nod urged him to delve a bit deeper.

“Hey, everybody knows that black cats bring bad luck,” he insisted, then paused to watch my complexion darken, eyebrows shooting toward my auburn hairline.” I’ve always believed they have something to do with evil, witchcraft and wizardry.

Resisting the urge to smack my young Goth friend alongside his multiply-pierced head, I decided it was time to give Andy a crash course in Feline Fantasies 101, aka What the Heck Are You Thinking, Oh Child of the the New Millennium?”

(Click here to continue reading)

Say it!

The situation for Singapore’s community cats and cat caregivers is anything but rosy. But we’re not unique in our situation. For example, in the state of California, the perceived American forerunner of of animal welfare, Alley Cat Allies successfully called on residents to help repeal a bill that would have been detrimental to the work that caregivers were doing and to the cats themselves.

Philly_20090920_001xWhat does this say? That bad things can happen anywhere. And also that they can be pushed back. Here in Singapore, we may have a tougher time of it… due to inertia in the Singapore leadership and bureaucracy, but the people on the street, the ones who roll up their sleeves and DO SOMETHING, have a part to play too. Nothing is going to happen if we don’t do something, as in take measures that is required of the situation, for example speak up.

Efforts to get HDB to review its unreasonable ban against cats are still leaving advocates gnashing teeth and nursing headaches. But ACRES‘s role in the successful effort to up the penalties for wildlife smuggling shows it may not all be lost causes we champion.

So what can we do? Dawn says it all:

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Speak up – and in a timely fashion

There was some confusion about which rail operative was involved, and it seems that it was not SMRT identified, as the letter writer originally stated, but SBS Transit. Full disclosure : I have a relative who works for SBS Transit – but my opinion on the subject remains the same.

It’s good to hear from this letter that SBS transit acknowledged that they made a mistake in the handling of this case, and that they will be meeting with the SPCA to work out a proper way of handling this situation. Apparently they mentioned having rescued some dogs from the station in the past. Even if there was already a protocol in place as the letter stated, it is certainly good to have a refresher, and to remind the staff (who clearly didn’t know about it). It’s also heartening to hear that they haven’t found a dead cat on the tracks. I spoke to someone who told me that there are apparently a lot of ventilation holes in the tunnels – hopefully the cat was able to escape out of one of them.

On another thought, this brought into mind the story that I first read via calsifer’s blog the other day.

I’m so sorry to hear about this case, and about the cat that wasn’t saved but it does also bring to mind several issues. The writer in the MRT case wrote in and demanded accountability – and she did get it.

On the other hand, the aunties in the case mentioned above, didn’t, for whatever reason. I can understand they might be frightened or scared but that doesn’t help them or the cats. Neither does bringing the case up long after it happened.

The point is this – if a situation like this happens, someone has to ask for accountability, and it has to be the person whom it happened to. Imagine if the writer at the MRT station had told a friend about it, and asked that friend to write in, months or years after the fact. All of us responded especially to the situation because it had happened to the writer herself – and she was able to give specific details of what happened, and when. It also added an urgency to the case because obviously it mattered so much to her, that she wrote in right away, when the details were still fresh in her mind. It also adds credibility because she came forward herself and identified herself.

On the other hand, this case in AVA, sad as it is, made me wonder – why didn’t the people involve come forward? Also, why didn’t they do so sooner?

If the women were frightened for their own (and their cats’) sakes, then their cat was already killed – honestly, what could be worse? The worst thing had already happened.

If the issue was that they felt that it didn’t matter anymore – and it obviously does still matter to these aunties because they are still scarred by the event – then it could very well matter to the next cats which are caught. If the AVA staffer is still there, then it could well happen to the next person whose cats are caught. At the very least, what seems to be from the (admittedly second or third hand) account, a seemingly arbitrary decision could have been queried.

Right now, it’s hard to see what can be done. It’s like the many times we hear of people complain of animal abuse – but that they can’t ‘do anything’ and so they tell their friends who then try to go to the police. Obviously this can’t be done because the police need an actual eyewitness – and it’s clear to see why. Any news passed down second or third hand will get distorted – ever played ‘broken telephone’?

If someone’s home is broken into, I doubt most people would not file a report, or go to the police. Then why the difference with cats? I can understand that this might be the case with the general public – but I’m sure to most of us, a cat’s life is more important than any property. We have to put aside this fear or reluctance to speak up. We have already seen that there are many caregivers and people concerned about cats who are willing to back witnesses up and give them support in terms of letters and phone calls. There is a community that will support caregivers – and we’ve seen that time and again.

At the end of the day, if we don’t speak up for the cats, then who will?

Posted by Dawn at 10:09 AM comments

We really really do need to learn to speak up. It may not work all the time, but if we keep at it, sooner or later, something has to click. For us minions, our perennial frustrations is in convincing caregivers in the town to band together and work with each other and present a united front to the power-that-be. If you are in a cooperative group, treasure it.

Kitten in mrt station incident: Officious response

A follow-up to the kitten in Dohby Ghaut NEL station incident (or Bureaucracy, boxes, beer. Blech).

From the TODAY Voices section. At least the NEL spin doctors have the grace to acknowledge the mistakes on their part.

‘Proper procedure was not followed’

But there was no evidence that the cat had been hit
Letter from Tammy Tan, vice-president (Corporate Communications), SBS Transit
Updated 09:05 AM Oct 07, 2009

WE REFER to “MRT staff at Dhoby Ghaut ignored pleas; had no regard for animal welfare” by Ms Risa Okamoto Mardjuki (Today Online, Oct 4).

It is rare for animals to enter our stations, but when they do, our staff have been told to spare no effort in ensuring their safety whilst not compromising on the safety of our passengers.

The Standard Operating Procedure in such cases is for station staff to seek assistance from the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty of Animals (SPCA) and to watch over the animal as the SPCA makes its way to our premises. This has been the way we have handled similar cases in the past when dogs strayed into our station.

Unfortunately, the proper procedure was not followed in this instance. Our station staff first erred by calling the pest control company instead of the SPCA.

An error of judgment was also made when the staff tried to lure the cat into a non-public passageway which is located behind the emergency door. The manner in which this was done was also wrong. Certainly a stick and a garbage bag should not have been used.

To make matters worse, the cat unexpectedly leapt up the wall into a small opening located just beside the emergency door and landed on the tracks instead.

Since the incident occurred on Oct 2, we have conducted several sweeps of our tracks and found no evidence that the cat had been hit by our trains.

We have also been trying to look for it in our tunnels to try and bring it back up to street level and to safety, but we have not been able to spot it. We will continue to keep a lookout for the cat, but we believe that it has since escaped and is now safe.

We wish to offer our sincerest apologies to Ms Mardjuki and all animal lovers for the way in which we have handled this situation. It was not our intention to bring harm to the cat.

We have since learnt from this episode and will be fine-tuning our procedures to ensure that stray animals are better dealt with in future. We will be seeking assistance from the SPCA and our staff will be trained on the proper ways to deal with such situations so that the animals’ welfare is not compromised and our passengers’ safety is assured.

The question of course, is do they walk the talk?

Bureaucracy, boxes, beer. Blech

Reading Dawn’s thoughts on the Cat on MRT tracks incident, one has got to wonder why Singapore bureaucracy has this tendency to stick around in the revolving door, and go with the flow to nowhere. Doesn’t it get motion sick at some point? Or rather, how long does the Singapore bureaucracy like to punish itself and those it affect before it does something and drag or throw itself out of it and perhaps give relief to the affected populace?

Dawn says:

“… the staff member may not have felt empowered to do this – or to face the consequences especially when the management may not already be very cat-friendly to begin with. I remember at least one case where I wrote in to offer our help because we were told that the unsterilised cats were usually rounded up and sent to the AVA if there were complaints or if they were found to be a ‘problem’.

So what needs to be done? Clearly what this episode shows is that there should be some manner of procedure or protocol devised so that staff members DO know what do in future. This would ensure that we don’t have to cross our fingers and hope that if this happens again, the staff member knows something about cats.”

It’s like the long long slate of mrt track “intrusions”. Only now are we getting platform screen doors for the doorless above-ground stations.

And consider the train service disruptions which jolt us out of our complacency every so often. The LTA says it takes a serious view of service disruption. But there’s been 92 instances of disruption over a 3 year period, and it’s always the same old same old in the bag of grievances when the letters of complaints flood the media. About how staff don’t seem to know about crowd control, traffic direction, or plain don’t know what they’re supposed to do. About alternatives which are non-existent or cause more “hardship” to the already inconvenienced commuters.

In place is a SOP which received a parliamentarian airing, so why are there still so many unhappy commuters who complain about the same things each time?

Do we dare hold out much hope that a SOP will be set in place to handle kitties in stations, or that it the SOP in place will actually be followed, or even applied correctly?

It’s also the same old same old in the bag of grievances us minions caregivers have about how we and the kitties living in Singapore’s streets are treated.

The powers that be keep relying on the same tired old excuses for keeping status quo.

Curiously, I keep thinking about the latest Tiger Beer ad making the TV rounds when I think about our situation.

Not that I’m stumping for the frothy or want some morose dousing, but it does demonstrate a life lesson (the ad, not the draught), which is saying quite something since beer ads never make much sense (though the Heineken ones I always found most palatable among the hordes).

The ad is no philosophical dissertation for sure. Two guys fighting over the last bottle in the bucket — can’t they just order more? – decided on arm-wrestling, and end up trying to one-up each other, morphing into bigger and stronger opponents which also happen to counter the other guy’s latest incarnation. The winner morphs into a blond hot chick and wins by shorting the circuits of his robotic rival.

No, there is no kitty involved but how cool that instead of being stiff-necked, conventional, and deadboxed into the one-track idea of bigger must be better, the winner takes stock of the situation (while in the very pleasing form of a buff Jungle Man who stares down Philly_Rheilly_20090927_005xsilverbacks), basically jumped out of the box and threw his then stronger-than-Jungle-Man robotic foe out of orbit with his twist on oneupsmanship. Imagine if he had been lazy and conformed with the flow, and morphed into something stronger than stronger-than-Jungle-Man-robot instead. Bore, broken record, tiresome, credibility depreciation. Vicious cycle.

Whenever I see the ad, I ask myself the million dollar question: why can’t the powers that be do the same when confronted with ideas, facts, or complaints about Singapore ’s cats? Have a tiger or whatever’s their poisons of choice, untie the knots they’re in and LOOK the issues in the eye rather than trotting out and nursing those so-old template responses that don’t do a thing except tighten the knots they’re in, and grind our noses in it. Vicious cycle, anyone?

Maybe this post should be titled “Saatchi & Saatchi for government” instead. [EDIT: Or maybe I don't want that actually, imagine legislation that decree ad-watching quotas on citizens... ]

Footnote
Remember: if you come across an SOS, whether from a fellow human or a little kitten, don’t just walk away. And drink responsibly.

World Animal Day Weekend – what it means for Singapore’s homeless cats

The first time I was aware something specific was mentioned about World Animal Day in Singapore’s media was 2 years ago:

(Google Anthony Lee Mui Yu, the writer of the second article, and you will get a list of letters written by this humanitarian on human-animal issues. A social worker, his compassion extends beyond people, as do many genuine humanitarians.)

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Mary: All I want is to be left alone to enjoy my food

Besides the educational channels on cable, Animal Planet and NatGeo Wild, which are running specials to commemorate this World Animal Weekend, nothing seems to stir for the global plight of the animals, much less the ones living among us on this little red dot.

2 years , 730 days later, and still not much has changed: we, humans, are still going at breakneck speed, in terms of habitat destruction, polluting our living environment, poisoning the fishes, birds and land animals, including ourselves. There are slivers of hope here and there but nothing can’t change anything.

Since us minions are kitty slaves, let us leave the biggies to others, and take stock of what World Animal Day 2009 means for the kitties living in Singapore by touring the Singapore blogosphere:

  • How do you recover from this?
    “Two old aunties rushed down to AVA after they found out that their cats were caught. A mother and her baby.” They were made to choose to save either the mother or the kitten. Read the comments – a reader wrote to AVA and incredibly, got a response that say it did not happen despite the lack of specifics even in the post itself. The clincher is that the response even states caregivers are never forced to make such a choice. Large pinches of salt to go with AVA officialspeak that doesn’t quite wash.
  • Utter Lack of Compassion by SMRT Staff of Dhoby Gaut station
    A young cat was trapped in the NEL in Dhoby Ghaut station during the morning rush hour on 2 Oct 2009, Friday. Only 1 person bothered to detach herself out of the bustling commuter traffic to help the kitten. From the management to the on-site station staff, especially Mr Francisco Dela, showed an appalling lack, not only of compassion, but of competence and ability in the matter. As of now, the fate of the frightened kitten, who managed to disappear onto the tracks thanks to the uncaring attitude and ineptitude of the NEL’s station and cleaning staff, remains unknown.
  • Peacocks on Sentosa
    Proven car paint destroyers and chassis markers, male peacocks, which were introduced onto Sentosa island to add to “the wildlife” are tolerated for their hormone-driven antics, and the car drivers who park where they strut know that the peacocks are only doing their thang. On mainland Singapore, community cats, who are homeless, or free-ranging pet cats with a penchant for carparks or simply love 4 wheeled perches can die just for being caught cosying up to someone’s prized ride. In fact, cats have died from such complaints. Drivers bitten by the carpride bug just need to whine to get AVA to terminate the hapless kitties, or perhaps do it themselves.
  • TC report cards
    The town councils have muster to pass now. As noted by Dawn, there are still questions about the way this works. Already I have heard of stepped up culling in well managed areas with previously cooperative TCs.

Just 4 blogs in a few days, and they already encompass the issues plaguing the homeless animals of Singapore. Yes, there are some notches on the good side, eg MP got heart: Bedok Reservoir Cats saved from death, but there is still no heart in Singapore’s heartlands, both in terms of management and tolerance, nor can the misaligned red-taped choked bureaucratic hearts of Singapore’s leaders get the blood of community spirit past its anemic state. So much for the gahmen’s call for greater tolerance and personal responsibility. Until the Singapore gahmen accept reality and acknowledge that pet issues can’t be legislated away, that homeless animals and animal-related community complaints and conflicts are part of the SAME package, that among Singapore citizens are people aspiring to help animals, and humane methods exist and are effective, it’s the same dirge that accompanies the kitties terminated in Singapore, thanks to government agencies who clutch outdated rules like talismans and treat complainants like royalty to be pampered and mollycoddled, to the point of providing one-stop “service” encompassing free cat traps, cat collection, with no charge on the cost of the trapped cat’s termination (click here for the petition to stop this macabre service). It says quite something when even a global news agency has taken notice and does a feature on the Singapore cat situation.

Not every corner of Singapore is cat gestapo, and there are places where kitties are left unmolested, but the stale cocktail of half-heartedness about doing what’s right, the inertia to “fit in”, be seen as efficient and the eagerness to pander to complaints that continues to be forced down thinking Singaporeans’ throats keeps us in the revolving door, and leaves a foul taste in any intelligent person’s mouth. It doesn’t help that whinging Singaporeans hoodwink themselves about the fates of the cats they cause to be removed from their sights (with a healthy abetting dose from the authorities). Every Smalley among Singapore’s cats is one too many.


Addendum: Say It!

TODAY 20051104: Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Hot News // Friday, November 4, 2005

The art of getting heard

Why animal welfare groups in Singapore can’t reach out to the authorities

Goh Boon Choo

IN Singapore, animal cruelty reports precipitate letters in the media calling for harsher punishment, tougher laws and stringent enforcement.

The authorities then issue sympathetic responses, explaining their stand and that they “will not hesitate to take strong action” against perpetrators — but stop short of committing to firmer penalties.

In a reply published in Today in June, the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA) said: “While we may not be able to adopt all the suggestions by the (letter) writers, we will definitely take these suggestions into consideration when we review our rules.”

So it was too, when news of Max, the Alaskan Malamute, broke in August.

For fatally neglecting him, Max’s owner, Lim Bee Leong, was fined $3,000. Singaporeans wrote letters and signed an online petition for stiffer punishment.

The persistent calls for tougher enforcement are a symptom of the gap between public disapproval of animal cruelty and official policies.

People understand that animal cruelty concerns society at large. Nine in 10 respondents believe “we have a moral duty to minimise suffering”, according to the results of an Asian survey commissioned by the International Fund for Animal Welfare, presented in March.

In July last year, a local newspaper reported that culling costs for 2003 rose 20 per cent. That year, AVA cancelled its five-year-old Stray Cat Rehabilitation Scheme (SCRS), following the Sars scare.

Eighty per cent of readers surveyed objected to AVA’s annual $600,000 culling bill, and more than half felt funds should go to animal welfare groups to re-home or sterilise strays.

Animal welfare groups play an important role in raising awareness and rallying like-minded citizens. But they seem unable to engage the authorities to the extent their counterparts elsewhere do.

The Humane Society of the United States collaborated with a senator to successfully lobby for an end to horse-slaughter for food exports. In the wake of Hurricane Katrina, it secured senators’ sponsorship of its proposal to change evacuation policies to include refugees’ pets.

The disparity may be due to cultural mindset and maturity of the political system — but in comparison, Singapore’s welfare groups are often left reacting to policy changes. For instance, the Cat Welfare Society championed in vain for the continuation, then reinstatement, of the SCRS.

In fact, AVA’s own case study of the SCRS in Bukit Merah View (since been removed from the AVA website) proved the scheme’s effectiveness over culling.

Tellingly, part of that study’s conclusion was that “sterilisation and responsible management has the support of up to 96 per cent of the public. The majority want cats controlled but do not want them culled”.

Another example is the Action for Singapore Dogs’ (ASD) proposal to the HDB. It suggested easing HDB’s rule on dog breeds, to widen the adoption pool for larger dogs, as temperament rather than size determines a breed’s suitability for flat-living. Despite volunteering to monitor trial adoptions, ASD’s proposal fell through.

Since collaboration is not welcomed, groups have to try to involve themselves indirectly. For example, a US group, pet-abuse.com, produced a training film on investigating animal cruelty and successful deterrent sentencing. Targeted at police and prosecutors, the film’s distribution has widened beyond America.

Welfare groups also need to be politically savvy: Identify and initiate contact with foresighted officials, as it seems change is possible only from within officialdom.

In recent months, readers have written in urging for a rethink on current laws, legislative support for pet ownership (for example compulsory microchipping) and cooperation between AVA and welfare groups to design humane and effective solutions to issues conventional policies cannot address, such as stray culling and unregulated pet breeding. So far, the authorities have issued the standard responses.

The equation between public opinion and official stance is a skewed one. Still, if only extreme cruelty cases compel Singapore to react, it would reflect poorly on our collective compassion.

There will always be another Max, but instead of decrying lax enforcement or incongruent penalties after the fact, Singapore should minimise the number of Maxes by deterring the potential Lim Bee Leongs.

This necessitates paradigm shifts, but to effectively address prevalent problems, the authorities must include Singaporeans and the welfare groups more thoroughly in its policy formulation process.

The writer is an analyst concerned with animal and environmental issues.

Japan Taiji dolphin slaughter – good news for 1 Sep at least

How wonderful for the dolphins, at least for 1 day.

Urgent Update from Taiji: September 1, 2009, A Good Day for Dolphins
Posted by Guest Contributor on September 1, 2009 at 2:05 pm

200353827-001Editor’s Note: This piece was written by guest contributor Richard O’Barry of the Save Japan Dolphins Coalition.

As TakePart reported earlier this week, O’Barry is currently in Taiji, Japan with European and Japanese journalists in anticipation of the annual dolphin slaughter that usually takes place the first week of September.

Today is September 1st, the first day of the dolphin slaughter season in Japan. But when I arrived today by bus from Kansai Airport with media representatives from all over the world, the notorious Cove from the movie was empty. There were no dolphin killers in sight.

So today is a very good day for dolphins!

I vowed to be back in Taiji when the dolphin killing began. I’ve often been here alone, or accompanied by a few environmentalists. Sometimes, I was able to talk a major media organization into sending someone.

But the people of Japan never learned about the dolphin slaughter, because none of the media in Japan (with the exception of the excellent Japan Times) have ever sent reporters to the killing Cove. Until today!

… click here to continue reading

Imagine if the same were to happen for Singapore’s community cats and dogs – that celebrities and journalists take an interest in, and film pest-control round-ups of cats and dogs, citizen trapping and film the euthanesia process anmd conditions in AVA. Then maybe people will wake up and look real hard at the more humane ways in dealing with stray cats.

The need to spread the word about how Singapore deals with community cats and dogs looks to be gaining urgency, when even Town Council general managers think they are merely despatched to the AVA for “assistance“. What sort of assistance did the TC bigwigs expect from AVA? Housing grants or rights, maybe to eke out a living on some unnamed offshore island nobody cares about? Time to pull the cotton away from those blinkered eyes. Where’s the LAW?

REFERENCE

(PS: I’ve promised furry-do… no worries, it’s to come)

There be giants… and Man likes ‘em better dead

In keeping with the L-A-R-G-E swimmers (which are not limited to salties) theme of the latest posts, here’s some fantastical stuff about big fishes. While looking up bluefin info for this post, I cane across several fascinating articles about very large fishes.

Just this very month, a 20 year old kid caught the largest male mako shark on record:

300h

A Scituate man reeled in a 624-pound mako shark Thursday, possibly breaking the record for the biggest male mako ever caught, a biologist said….

… the 10-foot fish is the largest male mako shark ever to be recorded in the Atlantic Ocean, and appears to be the largest male ever caught.

“We didn’t think they got this big, basically,” ….

“When I saw the shark, I said, ‘That would be a dream to catch,’” Sears recounted.

shark082809It’s fantastic to know that there are still such magnificent specimens in our collapsing ocean ecologies. That science is getting new information and we learn a bit more about these little-understood sharks, but does it warrant turning the mako into fish steaks?

What is it with anglers and hunters that beautiful large living things must be possessed, conquered, preferably life snuffed out. Why the impulse to kill and destroy wonders of nature? All that matters is the self-serving dream of boasting of killing something large, something rare. (I remember news a few years about a regal giant moose with magnificent antlers in some US national park who was well-loved by visitors and park rangers; he was found dead and they found his killer because his antlers were on display in the  teenager’s backyard, a teenager who wanted to own the biggest antlers around.)

Or staking a claim in some way.

Whale sharks are the largest fish in the world, placid plankton mowers quite apart from the frenzied killing machine image JAWS evoke.

WhaleShark1They have the largest fins of all sharks by sheer size. Inevitably, they are also coveted for that accursed Chinese dish, sharks’ fin soup. I believe their fins are known as one of the highest grade fins, tian jiu chi (fins of 9 heavens). But again, very very little is known about the whale shark itself. No one knows their reproduction cycle and young sharks smaller than 4m are impossible to sight. So the discovery of a baby shark just 15inches in length (pictured) earlier this year caused much excitement.

The sad thing about this baby’s discovery is that it was tied to a stick in the water, like a leashed dog. A hawker was apparently trying to sell it.

WhaleShark2Now that it has been rescued, let’s hope it grows up to its full potential of 9 to 14 metres and live out its natural lifespan of 60 to 100 years.

WhaleShark9I hope it doesn’t end up as fish steaks like some of its kind did, whether due to fishing net entanglement, shipping lane accidents or hunting. I certainly hope it doesn’t become an exhibit like Sammy either.

While it is the ocean giants that mesmerises, the muddy depths of freshwater rivers do plump a surprise or 3. Well-known are the Mekong’s giant catfish, Chinese sturgeon (thought to be a source of the dragon mythology), the Amazon’s Arapaimas or Pirarucu. Less well-know, and only recently certified as legitimate are giant freshwater stingrays. GiantStingray

In the world of giant swimmers, perhaps the most well-known is Wally the humphead wrasse. Or one fish named Wally did. There are multiple Wallies in the reef.  He resides in the Great Barrier Reef, an ambassador resident after being rescued from a one-way trip to a cooking pot in Hong Kong. However it is not clear whether the stay of execution is permanent or what happens should he be somehow nabbed legally by some enterprising fisherman.

Sadly, wherever they and however big they grow, megafish all face the same threats: overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, climate change. In a word, Man.

The burning question: Who gave all the covetous hunters, anglers, and gourmets of the world the right to terminate these wonders of nature for their own selfish wants and deprive the rest of the world?

くそっ、私の黒鮪刺身はどこにありますか?!

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DAMN, where’s my bluefin tuna sashimi?!

くそっ、私の黒鮪刺身はどこにありますか?!

(Kusou, watashi no kuro maguro sashimi wa doko ni arimasu ka?!)

Thunnus_thynnus1

From the Mediterranean to Japan, the bluefin tuna is being fished and eaten into extinction.

There are a few species of bluefin tuna, and all of them are in danger disappearing forever.

The species in the greatest danger of slipping into extinction is the western north Atlantic population (stock) of bluefin tuna. Thanks to 4 decades of overfishing, it has been driven to just 3% of its 1960 or pre-longlining abundance – a decline of 97%…
-“Atlantic Bluefin Tuna – Severity of Decline and its Causes“, bigmarinefish.com

Bluefin tuna sashimi is a delicacy the world over, wherever fanciers of Japanese live. This is a phenomenon ignited in the 1970s, and it may soon burn out, not because of waning demand but because demand is fueling the bluefin’s road to oblivion.

The hunting of highly valued animals into oblivion is a symptom of human foolishness that many consign to the unenlightened past, like the 19th century, when bird species were wiped out for feathered hats and bison were decimated for sport. But the slaughter of the giant bluefin tuna is happening now.
The Bluefin Slaughter, New York Times

Before it got reduced to a raw morsel of gourmet ecstasy, the bluefin is a living fish, one of the largest fish apart from sharks (sharks are soft-boned or cartilaginous, while most other fishes including the tuna are bony fish). The tuna’s fishy biology is rare, for it’s a warm-blooded fast swimming fish, the Lamborghini of the seas. Like those gas-guzzling monsters, bluefins are fantastical swimmers capable of hitting 70kmh, traversing the oceans from north to south, east to west, several times a year. They are highly evolved fish, advanced in design, with amazing navigation systems, able to locate prey with their sonar, but closing in with their large eyes. They can even dive down to almost 1000m deep. And like the supercars, these superfish have voracious appetites, requiring 25 kilos of prey to gain 1 kilo of weight. Their average lifespan is 15 – 30 years, and it takes them up to 12 years to go from puny microscopic larvae carried along by currents to sexually mature, sleek giants averaging 2m in length.

It seems like apart from growing up quickly, there’s nothing this beautiful fish can’t do, but it cannot escape extinction if people insist on eating them off the face of the earth.

Stop the gluttony: save the bluefin tuna from extinction!

大食家の貪欲を止めてください:黒鮪を絶滅から救ってください!

(taishyokuka no donyoku wo yamete kudasai: kuro maguro wo zemmei kara sukutte kudasai!)

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Tuna looks like this to most people – the beginning of sushi, the ignomy of a frozen piece of multilated meat. But it is the end of life, or a parodic prophesy of the bluefin’s future, driven by human greed and gluttony

As Prince Albert, Monaco’s ruler, wrote in the Wall Street Journal:

The forces of selfishness and stupidity that wiped out the great whales and the northern cod in the last century are steaming ahead at full speed… The bluefin tuna is as endangered as the giant panda and the white rhino.” Unless a ban is enforced almost immediately, the only examples of the species could be found in large aquariums.

Is it too pessimistic a view? It doesn’t seem to be, given this typical of the editorials on the state of things:

… what was once known as the common tunny has, over the past few decades, come to be at serious risk of extinction, thanks to overfishing driven by demand from Japan, where bluefin tuna are considered a delicacy and are used in sushi and sashimi.

Efforts to protect the species have floundered.
–  So long, and thanks for all the fish, Economist.com

How did it come to this?

From Horse Mackerel to Sushi

The bluefin was not always considered a delicacy. In the early 1900s the fish was known

as “horse mackerel,” and its red, strong-flavored flesh was considered suitable fare only for dogs and cats. Nevertheless, big-game fishers off New Jersey and Nova Scotia targeted the bluefin because these powerful fish were considered worthy opponents… Although swordfish were certainly considered edible, tuna and marlin were thought of as strictly objects of the hunt. The bluefin did not become valuable as a food fish until the latter half of the 20th century, when sushi began to appear on menus around the globe.
The Bluefin Tuna in Peril, Scientific American

Yes, sport fishing is a culprit along with sushi gobblers, but the bulk of culpability lies with the sushi and sashimi lovers.

Supplying tonnes of tuna means mass fishing techniques, which are indiscriminatory about what gets snared. Non-target species like birds, turtles, sharks, whales, dolphins, seals, and other fish species become by-catch, sacrificed needlessly.

drowned-albatross… long-line fleets are fishing blind, with little or no understanding of their devastating impact on threatened species,’ says Dr Simon Cripps, Director of WWF’s Global Marine Programme. ‘Responsible countries must urgently implement measures to dramatically reduce the death toll.’ The new report exposes ten years of inaction by members of the Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT), and calls for reform measures to be agreed at their annual meeting in Australia next week to stem the catch of endangered wildlife and reduce chronic overfishing.
–  Southern Bluefin Tuna fleets endanger a wide variety of wildlife, warns WWF

Take positive action before it’s too late for regrets

悔悟のために遅すぎである前に、確かな行動をとってください

(Kaigo no tame ni susugi de aru maini, tashika na koudou wo totte kudasai>

news_090623_1_fish1

Can you imagine a day where the bluefin tuna has come to the end of the line? A day where there’s no fish? Bluefins are to fishes what whales are to cetaceans.

But for the diehard fan of maguro, especially otoro, the question burning the tastebuds and churning the gastric juices in the guts must be : Is this the end of sushi?

Sushi connoisseurs tend to be obsessive folks – I know because I am one. If we think we must sacrifice good sushi to save the bluefin, we may just as well keep eating bluefin.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

Old habits die hard, but what about older habits that were buried by the old habits?

The people who come to my dinners are American sushi eaters ready to experience and understand a completely authentic Japanese meal….

And guess what? There’s no bluefin on the plate. There’s no toro, no hamachi, no unagi, and no fatty salmon. None of these usual suspects of today’s global sushi business are part of the traditional sushi lineage. In fact, until just a few decades ago the Japanese considered tuna a garbage fish.

It wasn’t until after World War II, when the Japanese started eating a more Westernized diet, with red meat and fattier cuts of it, that the bluefin fad began. And it was a fad practically invented by Japanese airlines, so they could load their international flights with pricey cargo.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

How do you kick an old habit, one that is harmful? By looking further back to when things were better, more sustainable.

A Japanese chef named Hajime Sato did what celebrity chef Matsuhisa has not had the wisdom to do. With the help of a seafood conservation expert named Casson Trenor, Chef Sato converted his sushi bar, Mashiko, to an entirely sustainable menu….

Sato no longer serves bluefin. And he’s thrilled. “I found probably 20 more fish that no one uses for sushi anymore,” he says. “My restaurant has so much more different fish that I can’t fit them all into the new menu.”

Sushi doesn’t need to die because the bluefin is endangered. With our help, sushi can be reborn – better than ever.
Better sushi, but without bluefin tuna, The Christian Science Monitor

Some may point to farming as a way out. But no, it is really another farcical false hope.

It may not be  too late to do the right thing and keep the legacy meant for our future generations intact, a LIVING planet filled with the amazing bluefin and its fellow dwellers of the deep.

Yet even if the trade in bluefin tuna were to be halted completely, there would be no guarantee that the species would recover. Experience with other fisheries, such as the collapse of the cod population of the Grand Banks off Newfoundland in 1992, has shown that the dynamics of an ecosystem can change when a top predator is removed completely. Fifteen years later, the northern cod stock has not recovered.
–  So long, and thanks for all the fish, Economist.com

(Incidentally, the intensification of the annual Canadian seal slaughter used the cod fisheries’ collapse as its excuse. Ref  “Scientific Study – my fish!“)

Efforts to study and understand the bluefin tuna are underway. In fact, 1 scientist has said:

“To say there’s not enough science to tell us whether we need to protect the last few fish that are trying to breed on our side of the ocean, that is just nonsensical,” he said. “I believe that is illegal. The law requires better stewardship than [government officials] sitting on their hands and doing nothing.”
Advocates Hope Science Can Save a Big Tuna, Washington Post

But we must bear in mind that even if the bluefin is saved, it still does mean we can feed the bluefin to our feckless appetites again anytime soon:

At the moment bluefin tuna has no protection under Cites, the only global body with the power to limit or ban international trade in endangered species.

If bluefin tuna are given protected status at the meeting in Qatar next March the sale of the fish on international markets would be banned although it could still be sold locally.

Such a measure would eliminate the main cause of over-fishing: the strong demand for the delicacy as sushi and sashimi in countries such as Japan and the United States.
EU considering bluefin tuna protection

It’s not just Japan (but even Japanese think tank are urging Japanese to spare the bluefin). Bluefin tuna are missing from Danish waters since the 1960s, the annual mattanza in Sicily. In fact, it’s not just tuna that’s got problems.

No nation can claim innocence. No one. Even in tiny lawful Singapore, illegal food encounters are not unheard of.

Though there seems to be hope, this constant yo-yoing between austerity and glut cannot be good. Can we actually learn? The insidious food, inc has its claws in every aspect of the human food chain, whether on land or in the seas, and consumers are not guiltless in the concocting of this recipe for disaster. The important thing is for consumers, you and me, to realise what we’re doing (or not) with our habits, and do the right thing.

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

Mercury Poisoning: People who eat a lot of fish may run health risk. (Latest “HOT” victim – Jeremy Piven)

Problems for Sharks and Dolphins:

All the Tuna you buy comes from wild fish, some caught using vast purse-seine nets to scoop them out of the sea, and some from lines of baited hooks many miles long. Unfortunately these methods catch many other creatures at the same time, including sharks. Longlines around New Zealand are said to have caught 450,000 blue sharks in 10 years!

And there are serious problems for Dolphins. Follow these two links to start researching them. Dolphins may be caught at the same time, or Dolphin mothers may be separated from their young.

Weekend Movie Choice: The Cove

[NOTE: Any comments in Japanese will not have any response from me. The Japanese title and section headings are to pique interest only. While I have studied Japanese, it was a long time ago - but with thanks to the internet, it was a easy task to get translations.]


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Who stands up to the whale killers?

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The Cove speaks about dolphins and the horrific things we do to them for our selfish ends. But it is not just the dolphins or bluefin tuna.

And now once again we are in the vast and remote Southern Oceans in search of the elusive whale killing fleet from Japan. How will we find them? The Australian government knows where they are but they’re not talking for fear of offending Japan. The United States Department of Naval Intelligence is monitoring our movements and relaying those movements to the Japanese whalers. The Japanese whalers have the full support of their government and military to track our movements. Even my old alma mater Greenpeace is not being cooperative but then again Bob Hunter and all my old shipmates who were once at the Greenpeace helm are regrettably no longer there.

From The Art of Finding Whalers, Commentary by Captain Paul Watson

281x211Sometimes uncomfortable messages need to be delivered creatively to get people thinking. The music video for the Modest Mouse song, “King Rat“, directed by the late Heath Ledger, is one such creative message. It is fascinating. Allegory brought to its perverse ultimate outcome. What is its link to whale killing? Simply this: It sums up the situation for the whales well, and is factually fiction.


Just as disturbing: Is “Pink Gold” Coming To Your Local Grocery Store Soon?

Bad news abound for the whales: Japan is the leader of the whale killing pack. Iceland, which restarted its whale slaughtering pogrom 2006, then halted it in 2007, has resumed killing whale killing in 2008. Denmark has always maintained its annual pilot whale slaughter in the Faeroe Islands, Norway has been actively killing whales, like Japan. And padawan of the Japanese whale killers:  St. Lucia, St. Vincent & The Grenadines

MORE REFERENCE

- Save the whales at sea, too

- Most dolphin slaughter/capture (for aquariums and whatnots) is thought to occur in a tiny village called Taiji. Here’s links by credible and respected outfits on it:
http://www.seashepherd.org/dolphins/sea-shepherd-in-taiji.html
http://www.savejapandolphins.org/
http://www.wdcs.org/stop/captivity/index.php

For ref, click here for a recent article about the link between the dolphin massacre in Japan and Swim-with-Dolphins programs in the UK.

Sadly: a fresh dolphin massacre, not in Japan, but the coasts of a country on the other side of the world, touristy Brazil

I believe the future IRs of Singapore will weigh in with their own contributions to the dolphin murders too, given their grand plans for marine-themes. And I’m certainly not happy about that.

As for eating dolphin, or eating dolphin-disguised-as-whale, click here for some facts about mercury poisoning in dolphin meat.

Regarding the oft-cited excuse that it is tradition, it’s just so much bullshit:
http://www.seashepherd.org/editorials/editorial_060627_1.html
– local article: http://calsifer.wordpress.com/2006/06/24/today-20060624-scientific-study-my-fish/

Up-to-date whaling news can be found here. Out of that, worth a  highlight are articles related to the IWC meeting last year and this.

The gist is that Japan is buying votes on the IWC council to make it legal to commercially kill whales again. In this, it is not alone – Norway and Iceland hold up the other two axes of whale murders. Japan buys out countries like Grenada, Fiji, Carribean nations to vote with it. Holiday destinations. Japan has achieved several coup-d’tat:eg land-locked desertland, Mongolia has joined the party on Japsn’s side. To say that is very disturbing is understating the gravity of the situation.

For a list of IWC member nations, which really does comprise a few surprises, and the breakdown of the votes, view this: http://www.seashepherd.org/news/media_060619_1.html

The next time people go diving, snorkelling or just hoilday in hot tourist spots, I really hope they’ll give some thought to where their tourist goes… and to send letters to trade/tour reps of Japan’s whaling-cronies and tell them exactly why these countries aren’t getting their tourist dollars while they vote with Japan on its whale murder agenda. Jut as Belize, Japanese voting crony, was reined in by a conscientious pillar of the local society in 2006. There are friends, and then there are friends.


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Weekend Movie Choice: Food, Inc.

Movie choice: Food, Inc. (Credit to the woman of myanimalfamily)

Food, Inc.

Available at a GV screen near you, a movie generates food for thought.

If you don’t regurgitate and think about food after watching this, then you’re probably a card-carrying Darla-head who would watch Finding Nemo and made Nemo’s nightmare by joining the hordes who stampeded the aquariums demanding for a Nemo of your own, missing the reef for the polyp, totally.

Click on the title above to visit the official site for the trailer, more info about the movie, the issues, and take action!

Now if Animal Planet will premiere Whale Wars here, my weekend is complete. (Season 2 has already broken US viewership records for cetacean’s sake!)

Additional Ref related to Food, Inc:

HDB’s cat ban elicits incredulity

Popular local blogger Mr Wang blogged about his brother’s art exhibition in Hong Kong. The interesting thing is its his “brother’s sixth exhibition of cat paintings, all of which are inspired by his real-life pet cat”. If this cat minion were in Hong Kong, this would an exhibition I’d go to. I was particularly piqued with this remark by Mr Wang:

And here’s another. I guess this is about HDB’s prohibition on flat owners having a pet cat:

The interesting thing is one reader’s reaction to the HDB cat ban:

Are you sure this is the case? I think this sort of statement spells disaster for credibility.
I think feeding strays is illegal or frowned upon, but not having legal pets.

I think this sort of reaction is good. People do tend to want to believe the positive where there’s a choice, never mind the reality. But this also shows how incredulous people find the ban to be. I’m interested to know the reactions when more people realise just how ridiculous Singapore’s pet and animal control policies are. I’ve responded (adding AVA’s pet cat brochure which extols the suitability of cats as indoor pets who do not need to roam for good measure), but of course it depends on whether Mr Wang approves my comment. I hope he does.

Forget awareness, I cannot believe in this day and age such things should be shocking news. What people need to do is acknowledge reality, not just about the pet legislations in place but also the whole animal population control situation – and the laughability of it all. TNRM is the way to go, culling is ineffective and an expense taxpayers should not be expected to subsidize. When the Singapore government and the bureaucrats running rings around their fingers see the light depends on more and different Singaporeans speaking up.

Local Animals Worried Fanatics Will Take Over SPCA

(source)

This is so funny it’s not even cute when you think about the foundation it is built on, because there may just come a day this comes to pass, ala the AWARE saga.

Fanaticism and the self-righteous drive to make everybody convert or perish is not something new to me. I have passing awareness of the NARasitic plague inflicting the US. But I would never have thought it would be happening on any level worth worrying in staid old Singapore. How wrong I am.

Read this to the end, including the comments (which have very informative links, circulated correspondences, plus thoughts by proponents on both sides): The AWARE steeplejackers and their deep connections to Joel’s Army and American dominionists

A partial steeplejacked church checklist, which apparently started in the 1940s:

  • Features overtly anti-gay.homphobic stance/doctrine
  • Promotes publications by NAR authors/leaders
  • Forbids ancestral worship, traditions – collectively “generational curses”
  • Intercessory prayers
  • Promotes and encourages takeover of societal pinions like Government, Arts, Culture
  • Association or links in any way with Focus on the Family

Nobody’s safe from the insanity. Since I became aware of FotF (thanks to Josie Lau), I am highly disturbed that the TODAY tabloid has been featuring a column by Focus on the Family in its Voices section for ever. Even worse, FotF is actually a registered non-profit organisation in Singapore, apparently claiming itself non-religious. How did this ever come to pass?

For additional supporting references:

Note: I know, I know, I said the trilogy was the end of the affair but I just had to get this off my chest. So while I may come back to revise and update this, with this post the minionly focus on human affairs is closed. But while we attend to some real-life issues and try to juggle them with the kitty services, please bear with our slackerly rate of REAL updates.