National Audubon Society Wins the Right for Invasive Species of Shorebirds to Prey Upon Unborn Horseshoe Crabs
"As the (Bush) Administration weighs the petition for more federal protection, the New Jersey legislature has taken bold action that would protect the Red Knot's food source."
-- Betsy Loyless, National Audubon Society
"It is ethically dubious killing one species for the sake of another."
-- Rob Atkinson, RSPCA
Bird and wildlife advocates won a major victory on March 25th when Governor Jon Corzine signed into law a bill indefinitely banning the harvesting of horseshoe crabs by commercial fishermen along the New Jersey coast. (See photo above of the signing ceremony.) Far from being a conservation measure, this is another governmental giveaway to the powerful bird and wildlife lobby which successfully argued that it has a god-given right to appropriate the unborn on Limalus polyphemus for predation by invasive species of shorebirds.
"... we are here today to extend the moratorium on horseshoe crab harvesting, so as to reverse the endangerment and prevent the extinction of the Red Knot species and other shorebirds," the high-strutting old oligarch from Goldman Sachs, who has a taste for expensive women, is quoted as saying by the Environmental News Service (ENS) in its March 26th edition. (See "Red Knots Get to Feed on Horseshoe Crab Eggs.") "This moratorium will be held in place until the populations of both horseshoe crabs and Red Knots have returned to a level where they are self-sustaining as determined by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS)."
Thoroughly ruthless and unabashedly hypocritical, Betsy Loyless of the National Audubon Society (NAS) added, "As the (Bush) Administration weighs the petition for more federal protection, the New Jersey legislature has taken bold action that would protect the Red Knot's food source."
Eric Stiles of NAS's New Jersey chapter was practically drooling from his pie hole as visions of financial grandeur danced throughout his greedy gourd. "We applaud the successful effort of legislators to secure this treasure and ensure we don't cook the golden goose by destroying a multimillion dollar wildlife watching tourism industry," he salivated for the Cape May County Herald on March 19th. (See "Environmental Groups Laud Passage of Horseshoe Crab Harvest Ban.")
At the center of this cause celebre is a medium-sized seabird known as the Red Knot which stops along Delaware Bay to feed during its annual migration from Tierra del Fuego to its breeding grounds in the Canadian Arctic. (See photo below.) By raiding the nests of horseshoe crabs, Calidris canutus are quickly able to double their weight within a fortnight and thus continue on their journey.
Although they were shot as food toward the end of the nineteenth century, their defenders now blame a precipitate decline in horseshoe crabs for pushing the species toward extinction. Accurate statistics are in short supply but some conservationists estimate that there could be as few as twenty-thousand Red Knots left in existence. Moreover, under guidelines established by the Shorebird Conservation Plan of May 2001, the species will not be deemed to be out of danger until its numbers increase to two-hundred-forty-thousand.
Commercial fishermen, who use the crabs as bait in order to catch conch, whelk, and eels, quite naturally deny that they are responsible for the crabs' decline. "It's (fishing) an industry that deserves to survive, and it hasn't been absolutely proven that the moratorium is a benefit to the overall Red Knot population," Gary DiDomenico of the Garden State Seafood Association told The New York Times on March 2nd. (See "In a Legal Tug of War, It's Bird Versus Crab Egg.")
Although DiDomenico did not spell it out, predation by Red Knots and other shorebirds is every bit as responsible for the decline in horseshoe crabs as is commercial fishing. The holier-than-thou hypocrites that comprise the bird and wildlife lobby are not about to own up to their crimes, however. Au contraire, their modus operandi always has been to demonize and blame other groups and species.
As for shorebirds, their numbers are affected by a multitude of factors. At the top of the list are habitat destruction and climate change caused by global warming. The skies also are increasingly crowded with airplanes, gratte ciels, and communications towers, all of which take their toll.
Many migratory birds also are shot by hunters as well as killed by such natural predators as peregrine falcons. Others die from exhaustion and severe weather conditions. Even birders are having a deleterious affect upon shorebirds by despoiling their habitats with their bird-watching activities.
Americans' lust for grapes, bananas, melons, rice, and other out-of-season fruits and vegetables also is blamed for endangering as many as one-hundred-fifty species of migratory birds. This is due to the fact that pesticides which were long ago banned in both North American and on the Continent are still being used profusely in South America, Central America, and the Caribbean.
"With spring we take it for granted that the sound of songbirds will fill the air with their cheerful sounds," Bridget Stutchbury of York University in Toronto wrote in the International Herald Tribune on March 30th. (See "Did Your Shopping List Kill a Songbird?" and The Independent, April 4, 2008, "American Songbirds Are Being Wiped Out by Banned Pesticides.") "But each year, as we continue to demand out-of-season fruits and vegetables, fewer and fewer songbirds will return."
Migratory birds also are regarded as pests by farmers in Latin America and the Caribbean and this no doubt leads to countless fatalities. Even if they are fortunate enough to make it to either the United States or Canada they often discover that their previous habitats have been appropriated by either developers or farmers growing corn for the lucrative ethanol market.
In today's world of unchecked greed, it is the unhappy fate of countless birds, mammals, and poor people to die from malnutrition and hunger just so that the bourgeoisie and the rich can power their automobiles, airplanes, and war machines. On top of that, the burning of coal in order to generate electricity and the use of dirty bunker fuels to power cargo ships is wreaking wholesale destruction upon the planet. (See International Herald Tribune, April 25, 2008, "Sludge at Sea: Shipping Slow to Clean Up.")
Moreover, consumers who purchase out-of-season fruits and vegetables are not doing themselves any favors in that such produce is three to four times more likely to be coated with banned pesticides. Washing and peeling helps but even those preventative measures are insufficient to remove all of the contaminants.
The plight of North American songbirds mirrors that of the estimated five-billion migratory birds that travel from Africa to Europe each spring. For instance, of the thirty-six species of African birds for which significant data exists, twenty-one have declined since 1967. (See The Independent, April 21, 2008, "The Migration Crisis.")
As is the case with Red Knots, not all migratory birds are angels. In Bangladesh, par exemple, hawks, swallows, shrikes, loons, ducks, and geese from Siberia are destroying seedbeds and rice plants as well as depleting fish stocks.
This avian onslaught comes on the heels of Cyclone Sidr which on November 15th claimed thirty-three-hundred lives and left millions homeless. (See Reuters, December 28, 2007, "'Guest Birds' Threat to Cyclone Survivors.")
Gamekeepers and hunters in England also are endangering such birds of prey as golden eagles, buzzards, peregrine falcons, and hen harriers by continuing to illegally hunt them. (See The Independent, April 22, 2008, "Birds of Prey Face Persecution.")
On the coral atoll of Midway in the Pacific, discarded plastic bags and other debris are literally choking the life out of Laysan albatrosses. In addition to plastic bags, the birds are dying because they are ingesting discarded toothbrushes, disposable cigarette lighters, bottle caps, and bits and pieces of fishing nets.
The problem is so severe that some of the birds' stomachs are becoming so weighted down with plastic debris that they cannot even get off the ground in order to search for food. (See BBC, March 26, 2008, "New 'Battle of Midway' over Plastic" and BBC, March 27, 2008, "Warning on Plastic's Toxic Threat.")
Farther north in the Pacific, the continued predation of gray whales by aboriginal tribesmen is blamed for endangering migratory birds that feed upon amphipods sucked in and expelled by the behemoths of the deep. (See Washington Post, September 11, 2007, "Warming May Be Hurting Gray Whales' Recovery.")
As for horseshoe crabs, they are the Rodney Dangerfields of the animal world in that they are savagely preyed upon by birds, fishermen, and vivisectors. (See photo below.)
Not only has their uncanny ability to regrow severed appendages, like sea stars, intrigued scientists for decades, but their four compound eyes have been repeatedly studied. In fact, Americans H. Keffer Hartline and George Wald along with Swedish scientist Ragnar Granit were awarded the Nobel Prize in medicine in 1967 for torturing and blinding countless crabs.
Chitin derived from their shells has been used since the 1950s in order to suture and dress wounds. Most notably, it is estimated to reduce healing time by as much as fifty per cent in certain cases.
Even more importantly, crabs produce a substance known as Limulus Amebocyte Lysate (LAL) which has the capacity to trap invading bacteria. This in turn makes the animals extremely valuable to vivisectors testing new drugs, vaccines, and medical devices, as well as those studying microbial diseases. Specifically, LAL is useful in finding remedies to maladies that have become resistant to penicillin.
All totaled, vivisectors shell out around $375,000 annually in order to purchase two-hundred-fifty-thousand horseshoe crabs. The LAL stolen from them is worth $50 million worldwide. On an individual level, LAL and other fluids taken from each crab during its lifetime are worth an estimated $2,500 to vivisectors.
The crabs can be bled up to three times a year but only once for LAL. Although up to thirty per cent of their blood is taken at each bleeding, volume returns to normal in about a week's time. Two to three months are required, however, for blood cell counts to rebound.
According to the Ecological Research and Development Group (ERDG), vivisectors use clam rakes in order to harvest the animals in shallow waters and dredges to remove them from deeper venues. While the former method is considered to be relatively humane, many clams are injured and scarred during dredging activities.
There is considerable disagreement, however, regarding the mortality rate of crabs that are bled. As one would expect, the manufacturers of LAL insist that they kill only three per cent of the crabs that they bleed whereas research conducted by universities and governmental bodies put the rate at closer to between ten and fifteen per cent.
While returning the crabs to the water is certainly preferable to killing them and then selling their flesh, it nonetheless subjects them to a lifetime of being recaptured and bled in much the same fashion that wildlife proponents repeatedly trap and electronically bug wild animals. (See Cat Defender posts of May 4, 2006 and February 29, 2008 entitled, respectively, "Scientific Community's Use of High-Tech Surveillance Is Aimed at Subjugating, Not Saving, the Animals" and "The Repeated Hounding Down and Tagging of Walruses Exposes Electronic Surveillance as Not Only Cruel but a Fraud.")
Known as living fossils because they have changed so little during the estimated half-a-million years that they have been on this planet, horseshoe crabs are closely related to spiders, ticks, and scorpions. Feeding upon a diet of mollusks, worms, invertebrates, and seaweed, they grow to be around two-feet in size and have a life span of between twenty-four and thirty-one years.
It is currently believed that there are somewhere between two and five million of them living along the East Coast from New Jersey to Virginia. Because they do not reach sexual maturity until they are eleven-years-old any sustained predation of either them or their eggs is going to have a huge impact upon the species regardless of whether the killers are birds, fishermen, or vivisectors. Besides, an alarming ten per cent of them perish each year when they are flipped on their sides by the incoming tide.
This has prompted ERDG to launch a "Just Flip 'Em" campaign which encourages beachcombers to right these helpless animals. The organization also has developed a mesh bag which prevents other species from stealing bait from conch and whelk traps and this has led to a dramatic decease in the number of horseshoe crabs required by fishermen in Virginia.
Sadly, absolutely nobody sees any intrinsic value in horseshoe crabs. For birders and wildlife proponents they are merely a cheap source of protein for the birds that they in turn exploit in order to line their pockets with ecotourism dollars.
For vivisectors, they are a cash cow to torture, exploit, and kill at will. They also were worth $1.5 million annually to commercial fishermen before the recent moratorium was declared. They are, in short, a throwaway species.
As for bird and wildlife advocates, the crimes that they commit are by no means confined to crabs. On the contrary, they have their own agendas and are not the least bit hesitant to use violence in order to eliminate any animals or groups that stand in the way of the achievement of their objectives. (See Cat Defender posts of December 8, 2007 and November 20, 2007 entitled, respectively, "All the Lies That Fit: Scheming New York Times Hires a Bird Lover to Render His 'Unbiased' Support for James M. Stevenson" and "Bird Lovers All Over the World Rejoice as Serial Killer James M. Stevenson Is Rewarded by Galveston Court for Gunning Down Hundreds of Cats.")
In March of this year, for example, bird advocates and the USFWS blackmailed Cape May, New Jersey into getting rid of part of its population of homeless cats and fencing in the remainder. (See Cape May County Herald, March 5, 2008, "New Cat Regs Part of Cape May's Beach Plan" and The Press of Atlantic City, March 5, 2008, "Cape May Says Feral Cats Can Stay, but They Will Be Fenced In.")
In particular, the USFWS withheld funding needed for beach replenishment until Cape May caved in and took action to protect piping plovers, which it alleges are threatened by cats. Although Alley Cat Allies (ACA) and other feline defenders put up a spirited defense, they clearly lost that battle. (See photo above of a protester.)
Under threat of a $15,000 per day fine from the USFWS, the town of Brookhaven on Long Island last month agreed to pay Nuisance Wildlife Control $10,000 to trap and remove about thirty cats from Mount Sinai's Cedar Beach. Once again, the USFWS and bird advocates argued that the cats had to go because they were preying upon piping plovers, bobwhites, and ovenbirds. (See Newsday, April 7, 2008, "Feral Cats, Endangered Birds Each Have Defenders.")
Local cat-hater and vigilante Karen Alt has taken it upon herself to also trap and remove cats. For whatever it is worth, she claims that the cats are handed over to a private sanctuary. (See Newsday, April 7, 2008, "She's on the Hunt for Feral Cats.")
As for those cats trapped by Nuisance Wildlife Control, Charlie McGinley of Brookhaven's Animal Shelter told Newsday on April 8th that they are going to be released at an undisclosed location on private property. (See "Brookhaven to Vote on Trapping Cats.")
It is conceivable that Alt and McGinley are telling the truth but highly unlikely. Once a cat is in custody the temptation to kill it is overwhelming. Besides, both inveterate ailurophobes and so-called cat advocates alike are guilty of using sickness as a pretext in order to kill cats. In reality, most feral cats are healthy at the time of their incarceration; it is the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions at shelters that cause health problems.
In Palm Coast, Florida, City Manager Jim Landon on March 25th ordered that fifty or so cats living along the Intracoastal Waterway be trapped and removed. (See photo below.) Once again, bird proponents were responsible for the cats' ouster although city officials also complained that the feeding stations were attracting vultures. (See Daytona Beach News-Journal, April 14, 2008, "Feral Cat Advocates Protest Capture of Colony" and Der Spiegel, March 14, 2008, "EU Carcass Laws Starve Europe's Scavengers.")
The cats are scheduled to be turned over to the Flagler County Humane Society which will then decide their fate. Although there is talk of giving the cats sanctuary on private property, advocates fear that they will be killed.
Since cats are territorial, ACA opposes relocating them. This first of all entails caging them for several months in order to prevent them from returning to their old haunts. In addition to the money and shelter space that this entails, caged cats are subject to a myriad of diseases which makes it unlikely that many of them will survive long in detention.
"Where cats are trapped is where they live," ACA's Elizabeth Parowski told Daytona Beach's News-Journal on April 5th. (See "Feral Cat Enthusiasts Seek Land for Colony.") "They usually are very territorial. They usually go back to where they came from."
In Connecticut, the Audubon Society and wildlife officials have their long knives out not only for cats but deer, geese, ducks, and swans as well. (See Cat Defender post of March 15, 2007 entitled "Connecticut Audubon Society Shows Its True Colors by Calling for the Slaughter of Feral Cats, Mute Swans, Mallards, Canada Geese, and Deer.")
Since the endangered Eastern Loggerhead Turtle and sea gulls also feed upon crab eggs along Delaware Bay, it most likely is only a matter of time before birders will be calling for their elimination as well.
Bird and wildlife proponents are increasingly relying upon the Endangered Species Act of 1972 and the Migratory Bird Treaty of 1918 in order to kill cats. While it is extremely unlikely that the drafters of those laws ever intended them to be applied to cats and other domestic animals, such a contorted reading of them is gaining momentum with legislators.
For instance, the United States House of Representatives last year adopted House Resolution 767 entitled the "Refuge Ecology Protection, Assistance, and Immediate Response Act" which mandates the eradication of all non-native species from federal wildlife refuges and adjacent private lands. The bill is now before the Senate's Committee on the Environment and Public Works chaired by Barbara Boxer of California.
The measure is strenuously opposed by ACA, the ASPCA, and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) because bird and wildlife supporters stubbornly insist that cats and other domestic animals are invasive species and therefore do not have any right to exist.
That, of course, is pure nonsense. Not only have ocelots, cougars, jaguars, jaguarundis, Canadian lynxes, and other cats always roamed North America but Felis domesticus came over with the Spanish conquistadors in 1535 and has always lived outdoors. On the other hand, the United States is home to hundreds of non-native avian species.
More importantly, Red Knots and other shorebirds are invasive species. Just because they show up in Delaware Bay for a fortnight once a year in order to kill horseshoe crabs does not make them native species. Moreover, their migratory status by no means bestows upon them rights which supersede those of cats, crabs, turtles, and other animals that live year-round in Delaware Bay.
Furthermore, because of their predation of crabs and other animals, the extensive damage that they do to crops, plus all the deadly diseases that they spread, such as H5N1 and other strains of Vogelgrippe, the West Nile Virus, etc., a good argument could be made that birds should be either trapped and killed or confined indoors. A Birds Indoors campaign makes a whole lot more sense than the diabolical American Bird Conservancy's Cats Indoors initiative.
The lucrativeness of any species should not be the deciding factor in determining the level of governmental protection that it receives. C'est a dire, just because birders and wildlife officials have grown accustomed to living high on the hog by championing the cause of birds at the expense of cats and other animals does not establish an entitlement.
In addition to the hundreds of millions of dollars that birders rake in from housing and feeding enthusiasts, peddling guide books and field glasses, and conducting bird-watching tours, wildlife officials are paid in the blood of dead animals. According to the USFWS, hunters in 2005 shelled out $723 million for hunting licenses, tags, and stamps. Federal excise taxes on the sale of guns and ammunition brought in an additional $224 million. (See ESPN, January 31, 2007, "Hunting License Sales Generate Record Funding for Conservation.")
The absurdity of funding conservation through blood money is nowhere more evident than in the eradication programs undertaken each year by the USFWS and USDA at the behest of ranchers, farmers, and developers. (See Cat Defender post of September 15, 2005 entitled "United States Government Exterminates Millions of Wild Animals at the Behest of Capitalists.")
In addition to their financial incentives to kill animals, wildlife officials operate upon many ingrained prejudices. Their deliberate introduction of coyotes and fishers into urban areas for the explicit purpose of preying upon cats and dogs is just one of many examples. (See Cat Defender posts of August 28, 2007 and July 19, 2007 entitled, respectively, "TNR Programs, Domestic Cats, Dogs, and Humans Imperiled by Wildlife Proponents' Use and Abuse of Coyotes and Fishers" and "Up to Their Old Tricks, Wildlife Officials Reintroduce Fishers to the Northeast to Prey Upon Cats and to Provide Income for Fur Traffickers.")
The USDA's Animal Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) has even stooped so low as to target Hemingway's world famous polydactyl cats. (See Cat Defender posts of July 23, 2007 and January 9, 2007 entitled, respectively, "Cat Behaviorist Is Summed to Key West in Order to Help Determine the Fate of Hemingway's Polydactyls" and "Papa Hemingway's Polydactyl Cats Face New Threats from Both the USDA and Their Caretakers.")
The USFWS' blatant crimes against both the Mexican and Northern Rocky Mountain gray wolves are every bit as nauseating as they are infuriating. (See Center for Biological Diversity's press release of March 4, 2008 entitled "Bush Administration Admits Wolves Removed after Alleged Baiting Incident Revealed" and Los Angeles Times, January 25, 2008, "Federal Rule to Allow More Hunting of Gray Wolves.")
Divested of its pretentiousness, the systematic vilification of one species as a prelude to exterminating it amounts to little more than Nazism 101 as applied to the animal kingdom. Moreover, cats are far from being the only species to be branded as pests and targeted for elimination.
Par exemple, Australia currently is eradicating tens of millions of domestic animals that it no longer finds useful. (See Agence France Presse, September 25, 2005, "Millions of Animals Face Death Sentence in Australia" and Cat Defender post of October 20, 2005 entitled "After Ridding the Ohio Statehouse of Rats, Cats Now Find Themselves Facing Eviction.")
In Northumberland, Paul Parker of the Red Squirrel Protection Partnership has secured $300,000 from the government in order to eradicate North American Gray Squirrels. (See photo above.) In the past year, his organization has trapped and shot in the head more than fifteen-thousand of them.
The eradication program has been undertaken not only because the grays carry a parapox virus that is lethal to the reds but also because they are accused of preying upon bird eggs. Once he cleans out northern Angleterre, Parker plans of training his rifle on the grays in London's Hyde Park.
With the notable exception of the RSPCA's Rob Atkinson, the plight of the grays has attracted little support. "It is ethically dubious killing one species for the sake of another," he told the BBC on April 15th. (See "Gray Squirrel Hunting" and The Independent, April 10, 2006, "Saving the Red Squirrel.") "Up until the early 1970s you could get a license to kill red squirrels so they were the baddies then. Now, it's the grays."
In addition to all the welfare money that Parker and his fellow executioners are receiving from the taxpayers, shops and restaurants in Corbridge and elsewhere are cashing in by peddling the flesh of Parker's victims to an uncaring public obsessed with dining upon the latest delicacy harvested from the woods.
Whether the victims be cats, horseshoe crabs, squirrels, or farm animals, it is difficult to imagine their eradication as being motivated by anything other than economic expediency and extreme prejudice. Shouts of conservation and appeals to science serve merely as convenient subterfuges for the exterminators to mask their crimes.
Photos: State of New Jersey (Corzine), Andrew Easton of Wikipedia (Red Knots), Wikipedia (horseshoe crab), Jack Fichter of the Cape May County Herald (protester), Moggies (Palm Coast cats), and North News (Parker).