PETA lauds India, UK and the finale of animal circus

Baby boomers and Gen Xs may remember the fond memories of going to the circus to see elephants, lions, and bears do their tricks. Gone are those days and, now, new generations may never see such entertainment again. Animal activists say the industry has to close shop soon.

Animal advocates worldwide are crying “enough!” and are calling for a more compassionate world where animals must be treated more sensibly — without violence, pain, and suffering.

Reese Witherspoon and Robert Pattinson promote their movie, Water for Elephants, in Sydney.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) Australia lauds the landmark victories of UK and India, which announced the ban of exotic circus animals.

The UK Government recommended the total ban of wild animals in circuses by 2015, and further review on the classification of circus animals will continue. The government committee said wild animal circuses have become a sunset industry. PETA Australia said this “is a sure indicator that we’re moving closer to an end to the abuse of animals by cruel circuses around the globe.”

A scene from the box office hit, Water for Elephants

Earlier this year, PETA India and Animal Rahat released the results of a nine-month undercover investigation of more than a dozen circuses that travelled across India. PETA Australia described the findings as “shocking”.

Authorised by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), the investigation documented cruelty to elephants. According to the AWBI report, many of the circus operators kept elephants in lamentable conditions: almost constantly chained, routinely and violently abused with bull hooks and other weapons. The Board has produced photographs of animals with open wounds, eye and foot conditions, and other severe medical problems.

The report added that trainers were sometimes drunk while interacting with the animals, and none of the circuses had permanent full-time veterinarians present on the days of inspection as required by Indian law.

An elephant is getting ready to perform at an Indian circus. (Photo: AFP/ News Ltd)

Following headlines of abuse around the world and pressure from animal rights groups, the AWBI confirmed it has “decided to stop registration of elephants for performance … in view of huge cruelties and abuse”. PETA India said this is a move that will effectively mean an end to the captivity of elephants in India’s circuses. It also indicate support for an eventual ban on the use of all animals in circuses in India.

The AWBI is now preparing to seize old and injured elephants named in PETA India’s report for possible rehabilitation.

“This tremendous victory for elephants in India – along with the recent British decision to ban all wild animals in circuses by 2015 – is a sure indicator that we’re moving closer to an end to the abuse of animals by cruel circuses around the globe,” PETA Australia said.

In Australia, there is a strong advocacy against entertainment animals, both nationwide and all across states. One of the studies on Australia’s performing arts industry also confirmed that traditional circuses are part of the dying nomadic settlers’ industry.  ”Australia’s last nomadic settler community and the only travelling entertainment continued its cultural role unabated for over 150 years”, the study said. However, it is time for the industry to give way to the rise of animal activism, as well as to the changes in financial, social and environmental conditions of the time.

Part of the activism is caused by a list of incidents involving Australian circus animals as well as sad tales of elephants in circuses around the world.

At the forefront of the advocacy also include: Animals Australia; Human Society International Australia; RSCPA (Victoria) and other states; and Animal Justice Party, to name a few.

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

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Victoria bans fracking until 2015

Fracking is ongoing in many parts of Australia – business as usual. But there is a sigh of relief in Victoria, at least, for now. Re-blogging my post at AC over the weekend:

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Bad news for gas exploration ventures in Victoria: Fracking moratorium stays until 2015. But for Greenies, it is party time!

Victorian Premier Denis Napthine announced towards the weekend his government is extending the moratorium on the process of unconventional gas fracking until at least July 2015.

Friends of the Earth Melbourne (FoE) has been seeking a gas-free Victoria and this announcement is a welcome development. The group said the state government has been listening to community concerns.

Lock the Gate rallies for a gas-free Australia (Photo:FoE)

The Premier, through his online news service, said that his government would not support on-shore gas production until scientific facts are known and clear evidence shown that such an industry would not risk the state’s assets. He said Victoria is taking a careful and measured approach to a potential onshore gas industry that will be informed by independent scientific facts and public consultation.

FoE Campaigner Cam Walker said the ban extension is a good start although he admitted the issue will not go away.  “Pushing the moratorium out to 2015 will take some of the heat out of the community concern over new fossil fuel projects… But it will not make the government’s problems go away. While gas exploration is allowed to continue, and the prospect of new coal allocations exists, the extension simply gives the community more time to get organised against these threats,” Walker said.

FoE maintains that the Napthine government’s capitulation to people power on unconventional gas will not diminish the community’s angst over new coal mining operations.

The next test for the government will be to see whether it drops plans for a further coal allocation.

Walker added that Napthine needs to understand that new coal is every bit as unpopular as new gas operations in regional Victoria.

Lock the Gate co-ordinator Ursula Alquier also said the state government’s extension to the moratorium on fracking will not stop the growing movement against unconventional gas. She suggested that the logical next step is for the government to ban any further exploration for unconventional gas and initiate a state inquiry into whether this industry will be safe for land, people and water.

“A public inquiry under an independent Chair would then provide information that would complement the findings of the 12-month community consultation program that will be carried out by Energy and Resources Minister Nicholas Kotsiras… without this data, we will be flying blind on whether this industry can be safe and compatible with continued agricultural activity in a densely populated state like Victoria,” Alquier said.

Friends of the Earth joined the National Day of Climate Action on Nov 17. (Photo: R. Yoon/Asian Correspondent)

The gas and petroleum sector, meanwhile, is disappointed with the Premier’s announcement.

According to a report from Mining Weekly,  the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association (Appea) warned the moratorium would further delay diversifying the development of natural gas resources in Victoria and would result in higher-than-necessary energy prices.

Appea COO for Eastern Australia Paul Fennelly reportedly said, “The message to companies seeking to do business in Victoria – seeking to source natural gas, create jobs, revitalise rural communities, add to government revenue streams and provide additional income to farmers – is unfortunately crystal clear.”

Fenelly added the “Victorian government is paying more attention to short-term politics than science-based evidence and is clearly not displaying enough focus on attracting investment and building the economy, nor the consequences of failing to do so.”

Gas and oil explorer Lakes Oil’s chairman Rob Annells also criticised the moratorium on fracture stimulation, or fracking, claiming it is harming both Victoria’s economy and petroleum extraction industry employment, the Gippsland Times reported.

Annells said projects gas prices would rise significantly, probably doubling in the next three to four years, because Australia’s east coast gas market was about to be opened up to world prices when gas exports out of Gladstone, Queensland, began.

He is pessimistic that the consequent price rise will put pressure on local energy reliant industries, threatening employment.

Australia disappoints at global climate talks, grassroots take action

As the UNFCCC Conference of Parties 19 (COP 19) wraps up in Warsaw, Poland, close to a thousand activists have walked out , grossly disappointed with the results.

The rift between rich and poor nations intensified with no major compromise on key issues. Many developed countries turned their backs from their commitments,  including emission caps and funding mechanisms.

Oxfam International, joined by more than a dozen of civic international groups, released a statement saying the Warsaw Conference saw participants with conflicting interests. More notably, the interests of dirty energy industries were more visible than that of global citizens – with a “Coal & Climate Summit” being held in conjunction. It said corporate sponsorship from big-time polluters could be seen everywhere and that the Poland Presidency that is beholden to the coal and fracking industry.

Members of civil society movements walk out out of the U.N. talks on global warming held at the National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland on Thursday. Pic: AP.

From day one, Australia showed no interest to take part in the climate event; it did not send a minister representative. The Tony Abbott coalition government instead prioritised the repeal the carbon tax at its first parliamentary session. As the Warsaw Conference ends, the carbon tax repeal has already passed the Lower House, although it is still to go before the Senate.

The Climate Action Tracker (CAT) gave Australia a high ranking for creating the framework for strong action when it introduced the carbon tax in 2011. The CAT saw the new climate legislation as a historic breakthrough for the nation – putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions ranks alongside any of the “big” reforms of the past 30 years.

The CAT said the study is the first of a series of independent, science-based country assessments looking at each country’s international climate change action, comparing it to its pledge and to what’s needed to keep global warming to below 2°C (and 1.5°C, as called for by the most vulnerable countries).

In Doha last year, Australia made a non-binding pledge to reduce emissions by 5% on 2000 levels by 2020, irrespective of international action, and said it will reduce emission levels by 15-25% from 2000 levels by 2020 if other countries make significant commitments.

Greg Combet, then Minister for Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, told delegates at CarbonExpo in Melbourne on November 9, 2012 that Australia would sign on to a second commitment period under the Kyoto Protocol with specific conditions.

Most Australian economists agree that the country cannot achieve its voluntary target of reducing emissions by 5 per cent by 2020 without industry paying a price on carbon.

Under the new Abbott Government, however, the CAT ranked Australia’s climate change efforts as inadequate.

The CAT said repealing the carbon tax would dismantle most of the present policy framework, including present fixed carbon prices and the cap-and-trade system put in place in 2011.

The CAT speculates

Australian Coalition Government at present does not have the majority in the Senate for repeal and will not do so until at least July 2014, after which time it will need to be negotiated with minor Parties to achieve this. However, the Government has insisted that it will call a fresh general election should the Senate not support repeal.  Given this situation, it is clear that the present assessment may not stand, given the significant chance that present policies could be dropped or not implemented. The new Government has committed only AU$3.2 billion (capped) to meet the 5% reduction target and has indicated that no further funding will be made available should this fall short of meeting this goal. Several analyses indicate that this so-called ‘Direct Action’ policy will fall far short of the 5% goal.

Australia was already mocked for garnering the most Fossil of the Day awards during the summit. It has so far won half of the “illustrious accolades”, handed out on each day of negotiations by the Climate Action Network to the country who has done most to block progress at the UN climate negotiations.

During one of the sessions, Australia’s team was accused of lacking respect after delegates turned up to critical discussions wearing shorts and teeshirts. They also “gorged on snacks” during negotiations on whether developed states should make reparations to vulnerable countries as the impacts of climate change become more severe, according to a spokesperson for CAN International. Their behaviour caused over 130 developing nations to abandon discussions on the controversial issue of climate compensation at 4am last night.

Abbott is pushing to scrap the carbon tax following an election campaign promise. Repealing the carbon is an effort to keep Australia’s businesses competitive in the world market. The Australian noted Abbott saying:

… without the carbon and mining taxes, “and without the sovereign risk issues that this government has created”, Australia would once again be among “the most attractive places in the world to invest”.”The Olympic Dam mine expansion, Port Hedland Harbour expansion, and the Browse gas-field development can’t be guaranteed to go ahead — but they can almost certainly be guaranteed not to proceed while the carbon tax, mining tax and job-destroying industrial regulation remain in place.”Mr Abbott, who has threatened a double dissolution election if the Coalition’s repeal of the carbon tax is frustrated in the Senate, was “confident” Labor would learn the lessons of an election defeat.

A banner at Treasury Gardens in Melbourne during the National Day of Climate Action. (Photo: R. Yoon/the Green Journal)

Abbott abolished the Australia Climate Commission shortly after he took office in September. The Commission was set up to advise on the science and economics of carbon pricing.

Greens and grassroots movements have taken action in response to the new government’s actions. The National Day of Climate Action (November 17) saw more than 60,000 people gather in major cities and towns nationwide to urge the government to take action on climate change. The event was organised by GetUp, Australia Youth Climate Coalition, and the Australian Conservation Foundation.

GetUp supporters raise banners in Melbourne. (Photo: R. Yoon/The Green Journal)

“60,000 Australians from every corner of our sunburnt (and, in places, rain-soaked) country came together for climate action on Sunday, and as climate activists we’re now being described as ‘Abbott’s Worst Enemy’,” GetUp said.

GetUp is now spearheading a drive to raise $22m to keep up the fight.

 If we are going to keep up the fight, we need the resources to keep going. If all of us who came chipped in just $1 a day we’d have $22 million to fund a campaign for climate action – matching what the mining industry has spent to stop climate action. We have to step up and fight even harder on climate change. We believe that means we need a movement of people who are connected, empowered, inspired and informed. GetUp’s infrastructure allows us to connect and empower.

More photos: National Day of Climate Action (Melbourne)

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Murum dam protesters seek Malaysian diplomats to help

This is an ongoing development in Sarawak, Malaysia. – Ed.

Malaysian diplomats stationed worldwide are now sought to intervene in the controversial Murum Hydroelectric Project, one of the 12 mega-dams undertaken by the Sawawak Energy Berhad.

Indigenous people around the said river are getting desperate day by day to save their land and property, but there seems to be no aid in sight to ease their suffering. They have explored all means to get the attention of the government and local media, but not enough.

Last week, a group of about 27 international NGOs and activist organizations joined forces in an attempt to help. The office of Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Rzak has remained silent despite a letter calling for his intervention. In a letter dated November 11,  the NGOs have written the prime minister expressing concern over the situation of Indigenous Penan women, men, and children who are peacefully protesting at the site of the Murum hydro power project.

The NGOs are now set to  deliver a  signature campaign against the maltreatment of indigenous Penan protestors in the Murum Dam. The campaign containing complaint against harassment, intimidation, and violation of human rights will be sent to Malaysian embassies worldwide on November 25.

Led by the Borneo Project, International Rivers, Bruno Manser Foundation, and SAVE Rivers, the complaint is part of the effort to get the direct attention of Malaysian consulates asking to intercede and to stop the ”maltreatment, abuse and disrespect of indigenous communities” protesting against the construction of the dam. According to the Bruno Manser Fonds, the indigenous groups are asking for the withdrawal of police and to allow human rights observers as well as lawyers to access the area.

The protesters have been cordoned off by a barricade of armed police since November 5, the letter added. Lawyers, human rights groups, medics, media personnel and convoys carrying basic supplies of food and water for distribution all have reported that their access to the site has been blocked.

Information regarding the health and wellbeing of families inside the security perimeter is nearly impossible, according to Borneo Project. This raises concern over the conditions of those who are vulnerable, including younger children and the elderly.

Intimidation, threat, arrest, detention and criminalization of members of the Penan families seeking justice against forced displacement are clear violation of  the rights with respect to freedoms of expression, association, and peaceful assembly, the groups said.

The list of NGOs provided by Borneo Project:

  • Accountability Project, International
  • Accountability Counsel, International
  • Human Rights Watch, International
  • Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self Determination and Liberation, International
  • Green Advocates, International
  • International Rivers, International
  • Asian Indigenous Peoples’ Pact, Asian Region
  • NGO Forum on the ADB, Asian Region
  • Pesticide Action Network-Asia Pacific, Asian Region
  • Borneo Resources Institute (BRIMAS), Malaysia
  • Jaringan Orang Asal Semalaysia (JOAS), Malaysia
  • The Sarawak Native Customary Land Rights Network (TAHABAS), Malaysia
  • Malaysian Damn the Dams Action Group, Malaysia
  • Pacos Trust, Malaysia
  • SAVE Rivers, Malaysia
  • Suara Rakyat Malaysia (SUARAM)
  • Malaysia Tenaganita, Malaysia
  • Association for International Water Studies (FIVAS), Norway
  • Borneo Project, USA
  • Bruno Manser Foundation, Switzerland
  • Burma Partnership, Burma/Myanmar
  • Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Philippines
  • Huon Valley Environment Centre, Tasmania
  • Korean House for International Solidarity (KHIS), Korea
  • Movimento dos Atingidos por Barragens [Movement of Dam Affected People]
  • Brazil Pakistan Fisherfolk Forum, Pakistan
  • Plataforma Interamericana de Derechos Humanos, Democracia y Desarrollo
  • Ecuador Shwe Gas Movement, Burma/Myanmar
  • Sierra Leone Network on the Right to Food, Sierra Leone

Blog Link: The Green Journal at Asian Correspondent

Australia snubs global climate summit in Warsaw

It is official: Australia’s new government denies global warming.  The Coalition Government will not send its environment minister to the 19th session of the Conference of the Parties (COP 19) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) which will kick off  in Warsaw, Poland from 11-22 November 2013.

The National Stadium in Warsaw

Environment Minister Greg Hunt will stay at home to expedite the processes involved in repealing the carbon tax, a top election promise made by his big boss, Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

However, a representative on his behalf has been dispatched to take part in the annual event. Hunt will be busy repealing the carbon tax while the conference is underway. The carbon tax was passed by the Australian legislature in 2011 under former Prime Minister Julia Gillard. Since Abbott won the federal election in September this year, scrapping the carbon tax has topped his priority agenda.

Australia will be represented by Australia’s Climate Change Ambassador Justin Lee from the Department of Foreign Affairs. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will also not attend.

The Coalition Government of Tony Abbott (center) is up to repeal the carbon tax. (Photo: Courier Mail)

Climate observers said this will send a wrong signal of Australia walking away from its commitment on climate action and it may set a precedent for other countries to backslide.

Climate skeptics and right-wingers are already cheering on Australia’s unprecedented example. Recently, former PM John Howard also scoffed at ”alarmists” in a climate skeptics’ gathering held in London and admitted he is “unconvinced” of an impending ”global warming catastrophe.”

The COP19 expects to bring together around 40,000 attendees from government, academia, business and advocacy groups to advance international agreements that aim to mitigate climate change and adapt to its effects.

In the past, a government minister represented Australia to the UNFCCC.  Ian Campbell headed the delegation under John Howard’s first government in 1997.  Labor Climate Change Ministers Penny Wong and Greg Combet, respectively, attended the conference from 2007, although in  2012, the Gillard government’s parliamentary secretary on climate change Mark Dreyfus attended the conference on behalf of Combet.

Oppositions and environmental groups are wary of the bad signal Australia will be sending to the summit. Opposition climate spokesman Mark Butler said “Other countries are going to read into it at best with confusion and at worst that the Abbott government is walking away from global action on climate change, ” Australia’s leading media The Australian quoted him as saying.

Greens MP Adam Bandt also said it was “understandable” that Minister Hunt was “embarrassed” by his government’s decision to scrap the carbon tax, but it was no excuse to skip the global summit. While no major decisions will be made at Warsaw, the meeting will build momentum in the lead-up to major negotiations for a global agreement on cutting greenhouse gases in Paris in 2015.

Environment Minister Greg Hunt during a media interview (Photo: SBS)

Businesses support repeal of carbon tax

PHP Billiton, among other businesses under the Australian Business Council,  supports the dumping of carbon tax. While backing the Federal Government’s plan, the mining giant, however, urged scrapping the price of carbon should be done as soon as possible. It warned of a possible  complications if it is not done by mid-2014. The mining firm said it still believes in having a price on carbon, but any policy should be trade friendly and revenue neutral.

BHP Billiton noted that repealing the carbon tax will get rid of the current problem of Australian firms paying a higher cost on pollution than their international competitors.  The company shares concerns already expressed by others businesses about the uncertainty that will be created should the legislation not pass by mid-next year.

Climate action nationwide rally

Amid plans to scrap the carbon tax, a climate action is brewing nationwide. Various environmental groups are set to mobilise rallies in every major city nationwide on November 17. It is a collaboration of GetUp, the Australian Conservation Foundation,  the Australian Youth Climate Coalition, Environment Victoria, Fire Brigade Employees Union, Greenpeace, 350.org, Oxfam Australia and many other groups. ACF said they intend to make this event as big as they can.

The ACF wants to keep Australia’s carbon tax. It said that while the tide of history is flowing towards pricing pollution, Australia is turning back the clock. Along with the climate action rally, the Foundation also supports an online petition to the prime minister, environment minister, and environment decision makers from all parties.

GetUp who is spearheading the climate action  rally said 2011 was a turning point for Australia.  Climate scientists warned it was the beginning of the critical decade for climate change and thus required stronger action to avoid the catastrophic effects of rising emissions. Australians responded to this warming by enacting the carbon tax.

However, Australia faces another turning point this year– which is poised to “go backwards on climate action at a time when the government’s own independent climate policy advisory body has warned the nation’s current emissions reductions targets are “inadequate” and what it needs is stronger and more ambitious targets.”

Blog Link: The Green Journal/Asian Correspondent

Climate Action: From the ACF

From the Australian Conservation Foundation:Who cares?

Carbon pollution contributes to man-made environmental disaster

Carbon pollution contributes to man-made environmental disaster

Hi Rowena,

You are one of a 20 million strong movement. On October 23, 24 Hours of Reality: The Cost of Carbon created the world’s largest conversation on climate change.

Did you miss it? You can watch videos from Australia and around the globe here.

So what happened?

  • More than 20 million people watched worldwide.
  • Over 24 hours, there were 252 million mentions on Facebook and Twitter.
  • ACF members and Climate Leaders hosted 60 screening events around the country.

What now?

More than ever, as we hear mixed signals from politicians about climate action, we need to be vocal and well versed.

Here are 3 things you can do:

  1. Come to the national day of climate action on Sunday Nov 17. Join ACF and our allies around Australia.
  2. Sign our petition to keep our laws to cut carbon pollution. It’s not time to wind them back!
  3. Request a presentation from a Climate Leader trained by Al Gore, so your group can better understand the science, impacts and solutions to climate change

I will be at the Melbourne day of climate action. Other cities have meeting points too. I hope you can make it on Sunday 17 November.

With thanks,

Tony

Tony Mohr ,Climate Change Campaign Manager, Australian Conservation Foundation