Ricky Gervais helps stop breeding beagles for research

A big campaign blocked–for now–what would have been the UK’s biggest breeding farm for laboratory beagles. About 75,000 U.S. dogs are being tested on; the biggest US breeder, Charles River, has 736 dogs.

Keep reading Ricky Gervais helps stop breeding beagles for research


DNA Reveals International Black Market for Whale Meat; Also: Horse Meat Fraud

Kujira Yukke

The whale meat sold at a hipster Santa Monica sushi restaurant came from Japan, a paper in Royal Society’s Biology Letters shows. The results highlight a growing body of research that shows there’s a thriving international black market for whales caught both under the guise of research and bycatch.  

We all knew that the whale sushi sold in the U.S. wasn’t caught off the Santa Monica pier, but we didn’t know where it came from beyond the Mercedes in the parking lot. Biologists now want the normally flaccid International Whaling Commission to stand up to recalcitrant whaling countries and demand a public DNA registry of the whales they admit taking.  The database of legal whales could show just how many whales are being poached.

Charles Hableton, producer of the Cove, is the big Hollywood name on the paper and at the original sting operation, but the big academic name is C. Scott Baker, associate director of the Marine Mammal Institute at Oregon State University. Baker is a pioneer in using whalemeat DNA to show where whales were caught–often where they weren’t supposed to. Some of his previous work has shown:

Some sei whale meat sold in Japan inexplicably came from the southern hemisphere.  Japan’s fish markets sold meat from 19 individual fin whales at a time they only admitted to taking 15. 46% of whalemeat sold was from protected local waters–suggesting that “bycatch” kills as many as “scientific research” whaling

Baker warned at the time that this excuse

Keep reading DNA Reveals International Black Market for Whale Meat; Also: Horse Meat Fraud

Five Questions Lesley Stahl Didn’t Ask the “Frozen Zoo”

Animal Tourism Blog Test Tube Wooly Mammoths

Last night on 60 Minutes Lesley Stahl went to see the Frozen Zoo, the Audubon Nature Institute’s Species Survival Center. The center is doing fascinating. historic, ground-breaking work storing the DNA of threatened species and even producing clones of endangered African wildcats. What was missing from the story, however, was a closer look at the context in which the center operates. If Stahl and 60 Minutes had asked the following questions, the piece might not have been as much of an inane exercise.

Who’s paying for all this?The nonprofit Audubon Nature Institute grew out of a once ailing, old New Orleans institution. They’re not related to the Audubon Club. ANI runs a zoo, insectarium and Imax theatre. So are they supporting the whole $43 million operation (including the $2.5 million it costs to save endangered species) by creeping out kids with bugs and selling zoo T-shirts? If so, that would be quite a feat and worth knowing. Too bad Stahl didn’t ask.

The issue is important because in 2007 the Washington Post’s Philip Kennicott pointed out ANI’s ties to big oil, raising the possibility it used Chevron money to make a lame Katrina Imax movie that doesn’t mention oil’s role in destroying wetlands. (No way, say the film-maker and Audubon: Chevron was just ordered by a court to funnel cash to an environmental cause and they chose this one.)

According to finances posted online, the operation just about breaks even (a loss of $187,000 in 2008, the latest

Keep reading Five Questions Lesley Stahl Didn’t Ask the “Frozen Zoo”