Animal Rights Groups File Lawsuit Against USDA Over Cormorants

In February, four animal rights groups filed suit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Agriculture in an attempt to prevent new rules for killing the double-crested cormorant (a fish eating bird) from going into effect.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida, Defenders of Wildlife, the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States filed the lawsuit to overturn a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service ruling to allow state, federal and tribal officials in 24 states to kill cormorants in order to prevent the birds from killing too many fish.

In the 1960s and 1970s the cormorant was threatened. Since 1972, cormorants have been protected under the Migratory Bird Treaty Act and cannot be killed without the approval of the federal government. In the intervening years, the cormorant recovered and thrived to the point where fisherman and owners of fish farms complain that the cormorant is cause a significant decline in fish populations in many parts of the country.

In a press release announcing its lawsuit, the groups said,

The recent decisions by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) allow state fish and wildlife agencies, Indian tribes, and USDA agents to kill unlimited numbers of cormorants — in 24 states where the birds are allegedly depleting fish stocks for sport fishing, and in 13 states where they are said to impact commercial fish farms — without any restrictions on time of year or location of the killings, and without showing any specific, localized harm caused by the birds. The government’s decision also allows, for the first time, killing of cormorants at the birds’ winter nesting sites by shooting, gassing, and breaking their necks, as well as destroying their nests and eggs.

The organizations filing the suit — The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, and the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida — point to studies indicating that the amount of fish eaten by cormorants represents only a small fraction of fish productivity, and suggesting that fish-eating birds like cormorants tend to eat diseased or dying fish because they are easier to catch, and therefore play a beneficial role at fish farms by decreasing the potential spread of disease. The FWS itself has flatly conceded that “commercially and recreationally valuable fish do not generally make up a large proportion of [cormorants’] diet.”

The oddest statement from the group came from The Fund for Animals president Mark Markarian who offered this interesting defense of hunting,

Cormorants, like many other birds, eat fish to survive, and should not be punished for doing what comes naturally. Writing a blank check to kill tens of thousands of protected birds at any time and any place is an extreme knee-jerk reaction to placate the sport fishing and commercial fish farming industries.

Why couldn’t the cormorants just learn to switch to a vegan diet? And why is The Fund not so understanding when humans just do what comes naturally and hunt/fish for food?

The full text of the lawsuit can be read here (97kb PDF).


Federal lawsuit filed to stop mass killing of double-crested cormorants. Fund for Animals, Press Release, February 5, 2004.

Animal group sues over cormorants killing. Frederic J. Frommer, Associated Press, February 6, 2004.

The Animal Rights Foundation of Florida Will Keep Them Together

The Orlando Sentinel ran a profile of animal rights activists Carla and Bryan Wilson — married 10 years now and using their activism to bond. (Awwwwww). The Wilsons are the Central Florida coordinators for the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida.

The puff piece quotes Bryan Wilson, 35, as saying,

A lot of people probably think it’s strange that Carla and I want to spend our free time doing these things. But it’s something that’s important to us that does keep us close together.

Gee, Bryan, it’s hard to understand what people would find strange about ARFF activities like their August 2001 protest at the funeral of Gunther Gebel-Williams. After all, if it’s good enough for the Phelps’, surely its good enough for the Wilsons. Doesn’t every couple associate with groups that protest at funerals?


Animal rights kindle their love. Grant J. Heston, Orlando Sentinel, January 11, 2004.

Animal Rights Foundation of Florida Protests Against Hermit Crab Sales

The Boca Raton News reports that on August 15 activist with the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida showed up at the Town Center Mall to protest against a kiosk there selling hermit crabs.

Animal Rights Foundation of Florida outreach director Fred Ellis told the Boca Raton News that,

It [selling hermit crabs] sends the message to kids that animals are here for us to use and abuse on a whim and they’re not. They belong in the wild, not locked in a plastic box.

ARFF communications assistant Loretta Murray added that,

They[hermit crabs] don’t reproduce in captivity so every crab in Crab Buddies kiosk was ripped away from his or her home and family.

Hermit crabs are apparently a recent fad in the area, and sell at kiosks for $20-$50 apiece.


Protestors get crabby at Town Center Mall. Kelli Kennedy, Boca Raton News, August 16, 2003.

Animal Rights Foundation of Florida Being Sued by One of Its Targets

The Orlando Business Journal had an interesting story about the target of an Animal Rights Foundation of Florida campaign fighting back in court with a slander and defamation lawsuit that looks pretty strong on the face of it.

The case begins with an early 1990s undercover operation by a People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals member. The PETA operative enrolled in a school owned by animal trainer David McMillan designed to teach people how to train and care for exotic animals.

Of course PETA ended up producing a short video allegedly showing abuse. After a year’s worth of investigation by four state and federal authorities, McMillan’s school as cleared of all charges. McMillan told The Orlando Business Journal,

Four different entities investigated each and every one of 167 allegations. They interviewed 25 witnesses and spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money — and at the end of a year, none of them found any evidence of any abuse whatsoever. They closed the case.

Businessman David Siegel entered the story when he hired McMillan to put on shows four nights a week at Westgate Resorts which Siegel owns.

Upon learning of this, the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida began protesting Siegel. They’ve shown up at Westgate Resorts, at Siegel’s neighborhood, and even mass mailed letters to Siegel’s neighbors claiming that Siegel supports animal abuse.

And with that claim, Siegel maintains, the group crossed the line into slander and defamation of character. As Siegel’s attorney Victor Kline puts it,

David Siegel has never seen any bit of information — not one iota, not a scintilla, not a shred of evidence — that [McMillan’s] Tiger’s Eye Productions, in any way, abuses animals.

As the Kline spins the analogy, the group’s claim is akin to saying that because someone gave a donation to the Republican Party in the 1970s, it is fair game to say that he supports burglary.

Orange County Circuit Judge R. James Stoker recently issued a temporary injunction against the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida prohibiting them from protesting outside his home or business.

It’s good to see someone finally holding an animal rights group accountable for its outlandish claims.


Siegel biting back at animal rights activists. Becky Knapp, Orlando Business Journal, February 28, 2003.

Pigs Off to Slaughter After Passage of Florida Amendment

In November Florida voters passed an amendment to their state constitution banning the use of gestation crates for pigs. Rather than try to comply with the law, the two pig farmers affected by the law have decided to get out of the pig farming business altogether and send their animals off for slaughter.

One of those farmers is Henry Mathis who had about 250 sows covered by the amendment. Rather than comply with the law, which Mathis maintains would be too expensive, he decided to sell his 250 sows to be made into sausage, as well as dumping the other 2,000 hogs on his farm.

Fellow pig farmer Steve Basford, the only other Florida pig farmer covered by the law, has also reportedly begun sending his pigs to slaughter.

And what do animal rights activists who pushed for the law think about its passage leading to farmers sending their pigs for slaughter? Some of them love it.

Mike Winikoff of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida told The St. Petersburg Times,

We think that’s an excellent thing. And hte factg that some of the pigs might get slaughtered earlier, in the big picture, we see that as a good thing. It’s going to lessen their suffering and hasten the end of their miserable lives.

Slaughter early, slaughter often.


Amendment is final straw for pig farmer. Wes Allison, St. Petersburg Times (Florida), December 13, 2002.

With narrow stalls banned, pregnant pigs face slaughter. Jennifer Maloney, The Miami Herald, December 12, 2002.

Leslie Alexander: Another Hypocrite PETA Celebrity

Leslie Alexander might not be a household name, but the former securities trader who is the owner and president of the NBA’s Houston Rockets is a major contributor to animal rights groups. He and his wife Nanci are major contributors to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and were guests of honor at PETA’s 21st anniversary celebration. Nanci Alexander’s Animal Rights Foundation of Florida played a major role in the signature drive to place a ban on confinement cages for pigs on the Florida ballot.

But, for these wealthy vegetarians, business is still business. When the Houston Rockets start playing later this year at a brand new arena, Alexander won’t let his animal rights views get in the way of a quick buck — the arena will continue to sell lots and lots of meat.

Alexander actually had the gall to tell the Associated Press that, “In this particular case I have no choice” calling a meatless arena “unreasonable.”

At the current arena the Rockets play, Alexander has no control over the concessions and receives no money from the sale of hot dogs and other items. At the new arena, however, Alexander will have direct control and receive the profits from the concession. Alexander does plan to offer meatless options at concession stands.

Interestingly, PETA is behind Alexander’s decision to vend meat 100 percent. Dan Shannon told the Associated Press,

He’s in charge of his money and his first interest is making sure his investment pays off. I think if he’s offering other options, that will be very exciting and will be a huge step forward in itself.

Everything is becoming clear now. Animals have rights unless some animal rights activist needs to recoup his investment. Sounds like what PETA is really concerned about is that it keeps getting some of Alexander’s money. Wouldn’t want to put principles ahead of wealthy donors.


Rockets’ animal rights-backing owner to sell meat in new arena. Mark Babineck, Associated Press, August 27, 2002.