I Went to the Conservation Congress Spring Hearings and It Was Much Friendlier Than I Thought It Would Be

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Last night was my first time ever going to the Conservation Congress, so I’m going to outline my experience for people who plan to go in the future.

My experience:

We registered between 6:30 and 7. There were white tables in front of the entry to the PAC, and we wrote down our names and addresses, and were handed the question packet and three voting ballots. The next table over, we showed our IDs and were given tiny ballots to write the name of the delegates.

We sat in a cluster of Alliance people so I would have the best chance of people finding me if they needed a cheat sheet. We all started filling out our white ballots, flipping between the question packet and the cheat sheet. The actual talking portion started a little after 7. The game warden introduced the event, and his words were supplemented by a powerpoint. He enunciated well, but spoke stiffly, and gave the impression of reading directly from a manual, the way that teachers always have to for standardized tests.

The first election was for the 3-year term. There was a period of time to nominate delegates. Two were nominated. Each took a turn speaking.

While the votes were counted, the game warden started to read through the questions in the packet. He read every.single.question, except for the local measures. I had mixed feelings about this. It’s good to have multiple ways to communicate information for different learning styles and intelligences, and it may have helped people with reading disabilities, so that’s very cool. But it was so dull and so long. We also watched a fishing video during this first hiatus.

After the votes were counted, they announced the winner – the incumbent, Paul Reich. The same voting process was then repeated with the 2-year term delegates, then more question reading as those votes were counted. The 2-year term delegate was also the incumbent, Melissa Smith. Yay, Melissa! I also liked Paul. He seemed like an ethical person who could get things done. Also, he looked kind of like Louis C.K.!

paul reich

The DNR guy finished reading all the questions on the white ballot, then we moved to the blue ballot. The blue ballot concerned citizen proposals, all of which were taped on the wall outside the PAC. The savvy people knew this and had already taken pictures with their smart phones. I was not one of those savvy people, so I had to run out halfway through and do so. The citizen proposals inspired a lot more crowd commentary than the DNR proposals.

We left right before they were going to read the questions for the green ballot. It was about 9 pm. I’m guessing the event went until 9:30 or 9:45.

I was definitely not the only animal lover there, and I didn’t feel out of place.

I was warned by others that the Conservation Congress can be an uncomfortable place to be if you’re non-consumptive (not a hunter/trapper/fisher). Because of this, I asked my mom to go with me. Even if she hadn’t been there, we had a contingent of maybe 15 Alliance people, most of whom were sitting together. The auditorium was huge, and there were only 200-some people there, so I was physically distant from the people who identified as hunters.

It is long, but there are multiple options to leave early. 

The only thing you have to physically be there for is the election of the 3-year and 2-year term delegates. That happens in the first hour. The rest of the time, the DNR reps read the questions that you vote on on the three different colored ballots. You can follow along, or you can fill them out ahead of time, especially if you have a cheat sheet!

I did enjoy the citizen commentary, and I learned a lot.

The reason to stay is that, after each question, there is an option for citizen comments and questions. It’s rare that what a citizen said changed the way I voted, but a lot of them were knowledgeable, and I’m glad I heard what they had to say.

“Conservation” is a bit of a misnomer, since the only issues we voted on are in regards to game species. Nothing about other wildlife, nothing about other environmental issues.

So, there are three different voting cards we fill out. The white is for issues that have passed their specific committees and will be enacted if voted on. I didn’t stay to hear what the green was, but I think it’s similar to the white. The blue is for citizen proposals. If those pass, they are sent to a series of committees in the DNR, and they may eventually become issues for the white ballot.

The white and green ballots only covered game species. The blue ballot had a range of proposals about keeping science in the DNR, doing a full impact study about the oil pipeline, making the voting process more transparent, educating the public, and my favorite, having online voting! When my mother and I Ieft right after the citizen proposals had all been voted on, her response was “that was a lot more balanced than I would have thought.” I agreed at the time, but I’m not sure in retrospect. The only issues where there was balance were the issues where voting didn’t mean that much. Assuming that it’s been this way every year, I think it says something that there’s significant disparity between the green/white ballots and the blue ballots. But let me know if I’m misinterpreting!

People really don’t like Cathy Stepp.

Which is, of course, totally justified. But my favorite part about the blue ballots is that they had at least three proposals that clearly had the goal of never having someone like Cathy Stepp as secretary again.

I have no idea how anyone answers all those questions without a cheat sheet, and without reading the questions ahead of time.

It’s just a lot, a lot of reading and information to do all at once.

A lot of the comments on citizen proposals were by people who cared about animals, the environment, or wanted hunters and conservationists to work together.

It was kind of inspiring.

OVERALL: It’s definitely not my favorite animal related activity, but I feel like it’s an important thing I can do for wildlife, and it’s only one night a year. I appreciate the option to leave whenever we want. I would appreciate even more the option to vote online, but I’m glad I went this year, and I hope to see even more of you at the next one!

Everything You Need for Tonight’s Conservation Congress

Tonight is your chance to cast a vote for Wisconsin’s wildlife.

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Image credit to Melissa Smith

From HSUS:

Care about Wisconsin wildlife? Then mark your calendars for Monday, April 13, 2015 and plan to attend the annual Conservation Congress spring hearings. The Congress offers an unparalleled chance to inform DNR and NRB decision-making, and in recent years it’s been dramatically over-represented by hunters, trappers, and other “consumptive” groups. Wildlife advocates, we need you at the table! Every county is allotted two delegates to the Congress, so please consider running for a seat. The time commitment is modest, considering what’s at stake. If you aren’t interested in running, please still plan on attending your local spring hearing next April – in just one evening, you’ll have the chance to vote on a wide range of issues affecting Wisconsin wildlife.

Click here to see the 72 locations across Wisconsin.

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Image created by Melissa Smith

Click here to read the issues you’ll be voting on.

Wildlife Ethic 2015 Poster Sand Hill Crane and Chick 8 X 11 format final

Image credit to Patricia Randolph

Click here for a voting cheat sheet from delegate Melissa Smith and here for a voting cheat sheet from Madravenspeak’s Patricia Randolph, or download below.

WCC2015

Wildlife Ethic Most Humane Answers 2015 DNR QUESTIONNAIRE FINAL

See you tonight, friends.

5 Ways to Make a Difference During World Laboratory Animal Week

World Laboratory Animal Week is April 18 – 26th. Here are five ways to make a difference.

1. Attend a sit in on April 18th.

April 18th, we’re organizing a sit in in front of the Harlow building. This will be a silent, peaceful protest. Important: We are not blocking people from entering the building or impeding foot traffic, just making our presence known.

2. Host a letter writing party.

Our elected officials need to hear from us about the UW open records exemption, UW needs to hear from us about the Kalin experiments, and our local newspapers can use letters to the editor about lab animals in general. If leafleting and protesting aren’t your thing, host a letter writing party. We’ll give you samples of letters, and we can work with you to reserve a room at a library in your area.

3. Leaflet with us on April 25th, 11-1.

April 25th, from 11-1, we’ll be leafleting downtown at the farmer’s market. Come join us! We’ll put more information on our website as the date draws closer.

4. Create an “ask me about monkeys in Madison” shirt or pin and wear it to a showing of Monkey Kingdom. 

Monkey Kingdom opens April 17th. This is an opportunity to connect with animal lovers, so please think about bringing some handouts, wearing an primate related shirt or pin, and/or speaking up for the Madison primates in any way you can. Send us pictures of your effort through alliance@allanimals.org, or tag Disneynature in your facebook posts or tweets.

5. Organize your own event during the week of April 18 – 26th and email alliance@allanimals.org with the details.

Let’s Meet March 26th For The Monkeys And The Beagles

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The Isthmus and the Wisconsin State Journal both just ran articles about testing on animals, and it’s clear that Wisconsin is ready for action.

Mark your calendars for March 26th, 7 – 8 pm at the Lakeview Library, 2845 N Sherman Ave, Madison, Wisconsin 53704. (We’ll send an e-alert out later today with other dates for the month.)

Here’s the plan:

7:00 – 7:30 Discuss Kalin actions, possible collaborations with other groups, sign up for continued action and fundraising teams

7:30 – 7:35 Quick meet and greet, snacks (?!!!)

7:35 – 8:00 Town hall meeting about Ridglan and the beagles. Ask any questions you want, propose any ideas you have.

If you missed the articles,

Noah Phillips’ Beagles bred at two Dane County facilities go to labs around the country

David Wahlberg’s Controversial UW Madison monkey study won’t remove newborns from mothers

RSVP to our facebook event, and contact alliance@allanimals.org if you need a ride or can give a ride.

See you there!

Animals in Entertainment Friday: Best and Worst Circus Elephant Links

All the links* about yesterday’s exciting news in one place! Including the ones that quote the Alliance! And ranked for how animal rights-friendly they are! h/t to Melissa Tedrowe of HSUS-WI who is a linkmaster EXTRAORDINAIRE

*okay, not really. But definitely some of them!

N.B.  All images are from the linked stories.

The Best of the Best

Category: The Best Video for Dane County Citizens to Watch

Winner 1:   Channel 3000: Elephants to Depart Greatest Show on Earth (video + text)

WKOW clip

Summary: Dane County citizens will get way pumped up about passing that legislation NOW. Also the only article to mention the ongoing investigation of this recent circus.

+ 1,000,000,000 for this

“Something like this shows that people are ready for this change right now. They are ready nationwide. They are definitely ready in somewhere it’s progressive and humane, like Dane County,” said Hannah West, executive director of Alliance for Animals.

and this

West said the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection has an open investigation into the George Carden Circus that comes to Dane County.

The department began the investigation after the circus submitted an incorrect permit to DATC. According to the department, the permit did not account for one of the elephants used to perform and for forced elephant rides.

+1 for our blog being TV FAMOUS

VELENA YOU ARE KILLING IT! This is perfect! Follow Velena on facebook here.

Winner 2:       WKOW: UPDATE: Circus world aims to keep elephants in performances (video + text)

WKOW actually video

Summary: Ends the story by talking about the 2020 ban, which makes it another perfect local choice.

+ 1,000,000,000 for this

“The way that these animals are trained is not by bribing them with peanuts or anything, the way that you train your dog, because they’re wild animals, they can’t be trained unless they’re made afraid of something, unless they’re harmed and they’re hurt,” says Hannah West, with Alliance for Animals and the Environment.

West tells 27 News she was amazed to see Ringling Bros. make the decision and she says it sends the right message that animal acts are not acceptable entertainment.

and this

West’s group helped push Dane County’s Board of Supervisors to keep elephants out of circus acts in the area. In 2012, the board banned elephant performances in county buildings. Zor Shrine Circus performs every year at the Alliant Energy Center in Madison. The Shriners have a contract with the county through 2020 that allows the circus to keep the elephant act until then.

Shout out to ELF and Al Matano, though!

YAY JENNIFER! Thank you for choosing super great quotes and including the information about Elephant Free Dane County! Follow Jennifer on facebook here.

Category: Best Article to Balance Out These Other News Articles’ Falsehoods

Winner:       Great Lakes Echo: Circus elephant phase-out praised by regional animal rights groups (text)

Summary: Dallas Rising clarifies “retirement facility” and gives a shout out to the other wild animals in the circus; reinforces the Dallas shaped space in my heart.

+ 1,000,000,000 for Dallas Rising! Woohoo! Love her! She lays it DOWN about that “retirement facility”:

The repeated use of the word “retirement” describing the elephants’ lives post-circus is misleading, Rising said. “We tend to think of retirement as a vacation, that’s not the deal for these elephants.”

Rising said that during the elephants’ retirements on the 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation, scientists use the elephants for research purposes.

“While it’s good elephants won’t be travelling around with the circus, my concern is that Ringling will use this as an opportunity to spin what they’re doing to be kinder than it actually is,” said Rising.

According to the center’s website, researchers there perform “ground-breaking research in assisted reproduction in Asian elephants.”

Ringling Bros. plans to eventually open the Conservation Center to the public, according to Rising. “They’ll still be profiting off of the elephants.”

Rising called Ringling’s announcement “a limited victory.” “It’s a step in the right direction, and it’s great that all the years of education around the issue is starting to pay off.”

AND Dallas is the first one to mention the other animals (because she is perfect and amazing and everything):

“It’s frustrating that it’s just about the elephants,” said Rising. “Elephants have been the poster-children for animals in the circus – they’ve been an effective one, but other animals have been forgotten.”

Way to tell the truth, Amanda! And way to include the indomitable Dallas as well as the Alliance! Yeah! See Amanda’s other stories here.

Also Pretty Good

Category: Best National Coverage, Overall

Winner:       AP: Ringling Bros. to give up elephant acts in 3 years (text)

Summary: For local and mainstream, this is pretty great! Lots of animal rights sources, specifics on ordinances, and the only article to mention animal free circus alternatives.

+ 1 for specifics on local ordinances, PETA quote, Carol Bradley, mention of Blackfish (!), AND specifics on how Blackfish has affected SeaWorld (!!), local animal activist quote, mention of animal free circus alternative Cirque de Soleil, specifics on how human circus performers will be showcased, this phrasing (emphasis mine)

For now, animals remain part of this circus

AND for showing the true colors of Feld’s plan for the retirement center:

Kenneth Feld said initially the center will be open only to scientists and others studying the Asian elephant, but he “hopes it expands to something the public will be able to see.”

+0 for extended explanation of the HSUS lawsuit. Not sure whether it’s better or worse to include this information:

The initial lawsuit was filed by a former Ringling barn helper who accepted at least $190,000 from animal-rights groups. The judge called him “essentially a paid plaintiff” who lacked credibility and standing to sue, and rejected the abuse claims.

also, this juxtaposition (emphasis mine):

We’re not reacting to our critics; we’re creating the greatest resource for the preservation of the Asian elephant,” Kenneth Feld told The Associated Press as he broke the news that the last 13 performing elephants will retire by 2018, joining 29 other pachyderms at the company’s 200-acre Center for Elephant Conservation in central Florida.

But Feld acknowledged that because so many cities and counties have passed “anti-circus” and “anti-elephant” ordinances, it’s difficult to organize tours of three traveling circuses to 115 cities each year. Fighting legislation in each jurisdiction is expensive, he said.

-1 for this phrase:

Animal rights groups took credit…but Ringling Bros.’ owners described it as the bittersweet result of years of internal family discussions.

Also, for a photo slideshow that doesn’t show any elephant training abuse.

Category: Best Mainstream Coverage With Opportunities for Public to Learn More About Elephant Treatment In Circus

Winner:     Washington Post: The long battle to remove elephants from the Ringling Bros. circus (AP video + original text)

AP video

Summary: Lots of links! Begins by telling the stories of individual elephants, and is the only article to trace back the history of the animal rights movement against circus elephants. I learned something!

AP video ratings as below.

+1 stories of individual elephants, mention of the Mother Jones article (SO GOOD READ IT NOW), A TON of links to PETA information about elephant training abuse, mention of Blackfish (!), AND specifics on how Blackfish has affected SeaWorld (!!), specifics on local ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle

– 1 for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?), this phrase

The tension between the two sides — groups that say the elephants are being badly mistreated and the famous circus company that insists its trainers have always treated the animals like their own children — will finally come to an end in 2018

because NOPE, we still got (veggie) beef with them.

 The Mediocre

Category: The “Yeah, it’s probably not a problem if you just interview the Felds and no one else” Award

Winner:    AP: Ringling Bros. Eliminating Elephant Acts (video)

AP video

+1 for including a man of color as the Ringmaster! – 1 for using women as decoration.

Summary: All Felds, all the time.

+ 1 for some video and pictures of activists, for extended interview with Alana Feld talking about their difficulties in fighting legal battles (go activists!)

– 1 for only interviewing the Felds and no one else, for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?),

Category: Great Video, Not Great Text

Winner:    NBC: Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus Phasing Out Elephant Acts (video + text)

NBC video

Summary: The video has a lot of really great footage of elephant training abuses, an animated map with the ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle. The text has a lot of really crummy things, including a statement about the Felds “saving the Asian elephant.”

+ 1 for showing extended video of elephant training abuses, citing the reason as a growing number of local ordinances limiting what the circuses can do (go activists!) AND showing an animated map with the ordinances, interview with Wayne Pacelle referring to this as the “Berlin Wall moment, ” citing the recent $270,000 settlement.

– 1 for misconstruing the conservation center as a retirement facility for the elephants, not questioning the circus’ choice to continue with other wild animals still included (if the laws limit exotic animals, shouldn’t that affect their choices about tigers and camels, too?), text below the video including Feld’s bizarre statement about their focus on “saving the Asian elephant” without question.

The Worst, Worst, WORST

Category: Sponsored by Feld, Inc

Winner:     NPR: Ringling Bros. Says No More Circus Elephants By 2018 (video by Feld + text)

Summary: NPR, my liberal bastion, I expected more from you.

I guess the text was okay but

– 1,000,000,000 FOR THE INCLUDED VIDEO BEING PROPAGANDA BY FELD ABOUT THE ELEPHANT CONSERVATION CENTER INSTEAD OF, LIKE, JOURNALISM. That said, I did get to learn a lot about the elephant conservation center, and even in a propaganda video, there are some heartbreaking statements like “the elephants are so well trained that the scientists can come right up to them.” (Because you know how that training happens. I’m so sorry, my elephant friends.)

Category: What just happened?

Winner:        NPR: Animal-Rights Advocates Cheer End of Elephants in Circus (audio)

NPR clip

Summary: I just don’t even know.

+ 1 for learning more about elephants and how they play and communicate!, talking to an animal rights lawyer!, specifics of circus life for elephants, chalking it up to “successful public education” (go advocacy orgs!)

– 1,000,000,000 for this interchange:

SIEGEL: You’ve mentioned that a better outcome for these elephants than the Barnum & Bailey Center in Florida would be zoos. Do you accept that there are good zoos that – while that may not be the ideal life for an elephant – it’s a valid educational institution and a zoo can treat elephants well?

MEYER: Some zoos can do that. There are – it’s very – it’s all relative. There are some wonderful zoos. The Oakland Zoo does a wonderful job of taking care of its elephants and allowing them to engage in natural behaviors and doesn’t hit them, doesn’t chain them.

What.

#ThrowbackThursday: When Animal Rights Was Mainstream

Don’t believe me? Read on to see media from the 1983 Mobilization for Animals Rally, which 3,500 – 4,000 people attended on the UW campus, and which happened concurrently with 18 other rallies at primate centers around the world.

It happened once, and we can make it happen again. People care about this issue. They just have to learn about it first.

Thank you to long-time volunteer Ann for bringing this to my attention and to former Alliance co-director Rick Bogle for providing additional documentation of the event. Rick’s Primate Freedom blog is the best chronicle of anti-vivisection efforts in Madison and beyond, and you can learn a lot from spending an afternoon there.

A speech given by Dr. Charles Magel, Professor of Philosophy, Moorhead State at the 1983 Mobilization for Animals Rally. On April 24, over 3500 people assembled at Library Mall on the campus of the University of Wisconsin in Madison.

Rallies and Demonstrations were held simultaneously in 18 cities around the world… Atlanta, Boston, Davis and at other primate research and breeding centers in England, Scotland, Sweden, Norway, Germany, France, Spain, Switzerland, New Zealand & Australia.

This rare historical raw footage (some never before seen) was videotaped at the library mall. See the entire video here: http://youtu.be/3AI5o2E9rLo

Read the article that accompanies the startling photo above. Credit to Primate Freedom. My favorite part is this:

Dean Rowland drove 7% hours in a van from Bowling Green, Ohio, and brought his friendly white dog Shucka along. Rowland, who is active in animal rights activities, said he had heard about scientists who cut the vocal chords out of experimental animals to keep them from crying.

“If they want to test something for humans, test it on humans, that’s what I say,” Rowland said

People care about testing on primates, and with Kalin’s experiments, we have a renewed chance to bring that awareness to the public. Share the information with everyone you know, as well as actions to take to stop the experiments.

If you want to get involved with the Alliance’s anti-vivisection efforts, come learn more at the Volunteer Info Fest and Appreciation. Food will be provided by donations from Willy St Co-Op, Bunky’s, Brown Rice and Honey, and Ian’s. The raffle prize is a gift certificate from Kneaded Relief.

Alliance Volunteer Info Fest and Appreciation
February 21, 2014
Madison Central Library, Room 302
201 West Mifflin St
1:00 – 3:00 pm
FREE!

Quick Hit: CAFO Pollution in Wisconsin

Report details CAFO pollution

In Wisconsin, dairy concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) hold 434,547 animal units — equal to 303,879 cows, assuming they are all milking and dry cows —and can produce more untreated waste than 69 million people. That’s more than 12 times the population of Wisconsin.

GAHHHHHHH

I actually don’t even know if that’s the worst one. This may be worse:

Over time, the DNR has issued fewer citations to factory farms, despite rapid growth in the number of operations. In 2012, the DNR issued just three violation notices for animal waste from CAFOs — down from 13 in 2011 and 15 in 2010. The agency has also never turned down a permit request.

Here’s a picture of the immense beauty of Wisconsin. This is what we are fighting for when we oppose factory farms in our state and when we pursue plant based diets and lifestyles. Learn more about animal farming’s effect on the environment here, and how to live a more environmentally friendly lifestyle here.

Devil’s Lake, site of very fond childhood memories.