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May 14, 2013 > Ohlone Humane Society: Of bobcats, births and whistleblowers

Ohlone Humane Society: Of bobcats, births and whistleblowers

By Nancy Lyon

Things have heated up early in the California state legislature. Animal and environmental protection bills addressing issues from cattle rustling to fracking are being hashed out in committee hearings as they progress through the lawmaking process.

One of the most heated bills is the "Bobcat Protection Act of 2013," authored by Assembly Member Richard Bloom. It addresses the growing concern over the increasing demand and price for bobcat fur, especially in foreign markets, and its impact on the bobcat population in California.

Supporters - animal and environmental protectionists - of Assembly Bill (AB) 1213 argue that the killing of California's bobcats for their fur is simply an unacceptable matter of greed, profiting from a burgeoning market for fur coats in Asia, Russia and Europe. Reportedly, a bobcat pelt is worth $300-$700 on the current market. About 1,800 California bobcats were legally killed by hunters and trappers during the last licensing year - about 1,500 of them by trappers.

Bobcats are a vital part in our eco-system; they help keep the balance of nature by devouring all kinds of rodents as part of their daily diet. A decrease in bobcat numbers could well result in a threat to public health in a time when there is increased concern over rodents carrying the deadly Hanta virus.

Assembly Bill 1213 was originally designed to be statewide, but during committee debates, the bill's reach was amended to the prohibition of trapping, exporting and selling of bobcat fur or product in the area surrounding Joshua National Park.

If AB 1213 is passed, it would direct California Department of Fish and Wildlife to complete a study of the number of bobcats in the state and develop estimates of how many bobcats can be trapped and killed while maintaining a viable population. If the state fails to complete and enact a management program for bobcats by July 1, 2015, the result would support its original mission of a statewide ban on the trapping of bobcats.
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The animal nursery exhibit - aka - live birthing exhibit, continues to be a subject of heated controversy at the California State Fair that runs from July 12-28 in Sacramento. Since the beginning of the exhibit several years ago, animal welfare advocates have come together to urge banning the practice that imprisons pregnant sows in steel-barred "farrowing crates" for three straight weeks, unable to turn around, barely able to move, and forced to give birth on a barren metal grid, further stressed by nightly fireworks and before milling crowds. Under normal conditions, expectant pigs look for a quiet, secluded place to birth their young. The contrast between the fair exhibit and natural instincts is glaring condemnation of the practice.

Compare this to the display at last's year's Alameda County Fair that featured a 10' x 20' enclosure, the sow in deep sawdust, with her piglets (born off-site) free to come and go at will through a slotted partition across one corner of the pen, drawn by the warmth of a heat lamp, with pigs and public seemly content.

In fact, it's interesting to note that according to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, farrowing crates have been illegal since 1970 under California Penal Code 597t.

Many individuals and organizations - including OHS - have requested that this cruel exhibit be dropped, and when the State Fair Board meets for its yearly meeting on May 31, perhaps they will listen.

CALIFORNIA FAIR BOARD: Administration Building, 1600 Exposition Blvd, Sacramento, CA 95815. www.calexpo.ca.gov. 916/263-3276
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One of the most chilling pieces of California legislation that was dropped by its author but may resurface next year was AB 343 by Assembly Member Jim Patterson, was a so-called "Ag Gag" bill. AB 343 was meant to punish people who document cruelty to animals by requiring that documenting materials must be given to law enforcement within 120 hours or face a fine.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, Ag Gag bills make it a crime to report animal cruelty inside a poultry warehouse, slaughterhouse, or on a cattle feedlot. They represent a wave of bills passed in state legislatures across the nation that have been put forth by the meat industry to criminalize the reporting of animal cruelty by anyone - journalists, activists, or whistleblowers. Their intent is to prohibit the release of videotapes or photographs that document what happens inside factory farms and meat processing facilities, often with the threat of jail time. The real goal of these laws is to intimidate and discourage a person's resolve to make public any illegal behavior such as beating or torturing captive animals, often using the police to seize their materials.

The huge agri-business industry is pushing hard to keep Americans in the dark about the extreme cruelty that regularly occurs in food production. Whistleblowers on factory farms and in slaughter houses are being criminalized for exposing animal abuse, unsafe working conditions, and environmental problems on industrial farms.

Instead of upholding existing anti-cruelty laws and working to prevent these abuses from occurring, the agribusiness industry has been working to prevent people from finding out about such problems by promoting anti-whistleblower bills by making it illegal.

Check with HSUS on updates on preventing Ag-Gag bills: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6047&autologin=true&s_src=web_309749578

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