CONGRESS VOTE ON DR-CAFTA DECRIED AS DISASTER
OVER 100 ANIMAL PROTECTION GROUPS DECRY CONGRESS VOTE ON DR-CAFTA AS “DEADLY DISASTER” FOR ANIMALS
Animal advocates denounced the passage of the Dominican Republic Central America Free Trade Agreement, which passed the House of Representatives on July 28by a vote of 217-215 as “a deadly disaster” for farmed animals and wildlife. Prior to the vote, a letter signed by over 100 animal organizations, including Wetlands Preserve, PETA, In Defense of Animals, Friends of Animals, and Farm Sanctuary, was sent every member of the House condemning the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement,.
Activists charge that that passage of the agreement will lead to massive expansion of cruel and unsanitary “factory farm” agriculture, an intensive confinement industrial production system responsible for the vast majority of pig, chicken, turkey, and egg products produced in the United States, but still uncommon in Central America. DR-CAFTA will force CAFTA countries to eliminate tariffs and sanitary barriers on US agricultural imports, allowing US agribusiness to flood these countries with cheap pork, beef, chicken, eggs, turkey, and dairy products. Latin American producers will be driven out of business or forced to adopt factory farm methods to remain competitive.
Loss of habitat for terrestrial wildlife and marine life is also a concern for activists. The region provides critical habitat to over 1000 bird species, over 600 species of reptiles, several hundred types of mammal, and countless species of insects. Marine life at risk includes sea turtles, manatees, fish, crabs, shrimp, and mollusks. Even pro-CAFTA US trade negotiators admit the “loss of migratory bird habitat” as a side effect of the treaty.
DR-CAFTA offers strong protections to corporate investors, including investors in natural resource projects, including offshore oil drilling projects, but mandates no balancing increase in environmental protections. If DR-CAFTA passes, private corporations will be able to sue nations in international tribunals for tens of billions of dollars for refusing to allow ecologically destructive natural resource extraction projects that endanger wildlife. Under DR-CAFTA’s predecessor, NAFTA, deforestation rates in Mexico nearly doubled, and DR-CAFTA is expected to have a similar impact in Central America.
According to Wetlands' Adam Weissman, “As forests are destroyed and factory farms are expanded, DR-CAFTA will mean suffering and death for literally billions of animals. Congress members who voted for DR-CAFTA voted against animals.”
Only one animal advocacy organization, The Humane Society of the United States, supported the passage of DR-CAFTA. On July 1st, the Senate voted in favor of DR-CAFTA by a vote of 54-45. The bill will now be sent to President Bush to be signed into law.
Websites on DR-CAFTA:
Sign on Letter for Animal Rights, Animal Welfare, and Vegetarian Organizations Opposed to DR-CAFTA
Dear Member of Congress:
We, the undersigned animal rights, animal welfare, and vegetarian organizations, are writing to express our opposition to the Dominican Republic-Central America Free Trade Agreement.
This agreement poses a serious threat to the welfare of billions of nonhuman animals, including farmed animals, marine animals, and terrestrial wildlife, as well as to human health and the environment.
Expansion of Factory Farming
Under DR-CAFTA, animal agribusiness interests view the elimination of import tariffs as an opportunity to dramatically increase exports of beef, pork, dairy, and poultry products and to undercut small farmers in Latin America using traditional agriculture methods. US agribusiness will flood Latin American markets with cheaply produced meat and dairy products created with cruel, industrial scale methods, including “factory farm” agriculture.
Latin American producers using traditional methods fear that these cheap imports will force them to shift to a US-style intensive confinement factory farm systems to remain competitive. The high volumes of water used to clean these factory farms will be a serious concern for the environment and public health in areas lacking adequate water treatment facilities.
Beyond absorbing market share from Dominican and Central American producers, agribusiness interests also view DR-CAFTA as an opportunity to dramatically increase consumption of animal products in Latin America by making cheap meat products more available. While this may be profitable, it will be a public health disaster for Latin America.
Already, increased consumption of meat and dairy products in the Caribbean and Latin America have led to dramatic increases in diabetes and heart disease rates, with experts predicting that 62% of global diabetes will be in these regions by 2025.
This increase in consumption will also mean increased production. This will guarantee more animal suffering and environmental degradation. Factory farm poultry and pork production are two of the most severe causes of water pollution in the US. Increased beef production will lead to the further degradation of rangelands, including taxpayer subsidized public lands.
Marine Life Threatened by Expanded Fishing
As commercial zones are increasing and regulatory controls are undermined, larger enterprises will move into areas previously zoned solely for small fisherman and their use of larger nets. This destructive practice not only catches more of the fish, it also sweeps up other species that have been left alone by small fisherman, like sea turtles. This is just one example of the ways in which plant and marine biodiversity is gravely threatened by CAFTA-DR.
Weak Environmental Protections Endanger Wildlife
According to the Sierra Club, “While [CAFTA countries (excluding the US)] account for less than one percent of the earth's land area, 8% of all the planet's biodiversity is found in this region, including some 24,000 plant species, over 1000 bird species, over 600 species of reptiles and several hundred types of mammals. Three out of four migratory bird routes in the Western Hemisphere pass through the CAFTA countries. Of the 836 migratory bird species that are listed in the U.S. Migratory Bird Treaty Act, some 350 neo-tropical migratory species (mainly songbirds) migrate through or are winter residents of the CAFTA countries. Even the U.S. trade negotiators admit that CAFTA could contribute to the ‘loss of migratory bird habitat’ through investments in the agricultural sector.”
Loss of habitat means starvation and death for their resident animals, making environmental preservation an animal rights issue as well as a conservation issue.
DR-CAFTA’s weak environmental protections, contrasted with its strong protections for corporate investors, provisions for corporations to sue countries over natural resource agreements, and ability for corporations to sue nations in international tribunals severely imperils protection of critical wildlife habitat areas. The agreement’s sole environmental provision merely requires simply that countries enforce their existing environmental law, and even this is undermined by language that gives countries discretion on which laws they prioritize in allocating enforcement resources. DR-CAFTA requires that international enterprises be subjected to rules no more strict than those for national enterprise, despite the ongoing problem of flagrant abuse the law and environment national enterprises. Environmental enforcement is already lax in Central America and will not be up to the task of policing added environmental pressure from new investments under DR-CAFTA.
The potential threat to the environment of this Chapter 11 expansion can be seen in the Harken Oil Case.As reported in the online environmental journal Grist, “Harken Costa Rica Holdings, a transnational corporation with close ties to Harken Energy of Texas, obtained an agreement to drill off the coast of Costa Rica, contingent on the outcome of an environmental assessment. When it was found that the drilling would pose a serious threat to the rich marine ecosystems of the Talamanca region, the Costa Rican government decided the drilling was contrary to its environmental law, and Harken was denied the right to drill. In response, Harken tried to bring an international suit against Costa Rica. It demanded the outrageous sum of $57[.5] billion to compensate for profits Harken would have made from the drilling. A stipulation in the contract forced the company to taken their suit to domestic courts in Costa Rica, but had CAFTA's investor rules been in place, Harken could have bypassed the domestic court system and taken the case straight to a NAFTA-style tribunal.”
With a GDP of only $38 billion, the threat alone would have forced Costa Rica to concede and settle, regardless of whether Harken would have been able to substantiate their case in the end. If the project had proceeded as intended, sea turtle nesting beaches, rare manatees, and over 100 species of fish would have suffered.
Forests at Risk
Forest ecosystems in Central America, including rainforests and coastal mangroves, represent critical and irreplaceable wildlife habitat. Already experiencing an unprecedented rate of destruction, DR-CAFTA will hasten the logging of these forests.
Oxfam International has warned that DR-CAFTA may replicate the increased deforestation that came as a result of US corn dumping on Mexico. 1.5 million small farmers were driven off their land. This led to an upsurge in tree clearing for farming and fuel. Subsequent to NAFTA’ implementation, the annual rate of deforestation in Mexico rose to 1.1 million hectares, practically doubling the pr-NAFTA rate of 600 thousand hectares per year was practically doubled. Under DR-CAFTA this phenomenon is likely to be repeated with Central America’s rice farmers. This will also hasten a trend already seen in El Salvador—as farmers are forced out of business by cheap agriculture imports, they move to the cities for work. Forested rural areas are cleared to open to roads and logged for development.
DR-CAFTA will allow large-scale dumping of imported shrimp on the US, resulting in increased logging of Central American mangrove forests to create shrimp farms, destroying refuge and nursery grounds for juvenile fish, crabs, shrimp, and mollusks, and shelter for birds.
We ask that all members of Congress recognize nonhuman animals as stakeholders when weighing the costs of this agreement. Mahatma Gandhi once said that, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.” Our nation must apply this principle to matters of international trade as well as domestic policy and members of Congress must vote “NO!” to this inhumane agreement.
AESOP-Project [Allied Effort to Save Other Primates], San Antonio, TX
American Anti-Vivisection Society, Jenkintown, PA
Animal Protection Institute, Larkspur, CA
Association of Veterinarians for Animal Rights, Davis, CA
Catholic Concern for Animals-USA, Wayne, NJ
Cetacean Society International, Georgetown, CT
CIVITAS-USA, Swain, NY
Committee to Abolish Sport Hunting, New Paltz, NY
EarthSave International, New York, NY
FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement), Bethesda, MD
Farm Sanctuary, Watkins Glen, NY
Friends of Animals, Darien, CT
God's Creatures Ministry, Wayne, NJ
GourmetCruelty.com, Washington, DC
In Defense of Animals, Mill Valley, CA
Jews for Animal Rights, Marblehead, MA
JVNA (Jewish Vegetarians of North America, Federalsburg, MD
League of Humane Voters USA, New Paltz, NY
National Humane Education Society, Charles Town, WV
New England Anti-Vivisection Society, Boston, MA
North American Vegetarian Society, Dolgeville, NY
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Norfolk, VA
Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, Washington, DC
Responsible Policies for Animals, Inc., Glenside, PA
Sled Dog Action Coalition, Miami, FL
Society of Ethical And Religious Vegetarians, Staten Island, NY
Student Animal Rights Alliance, New York, NY
The Humane Farming Association, San Rafael, CA
United Poultry Concerns, Machipongo, VA
Vegan Research Institute, Jamaica Plain, MA
Veggie Jews, San Francisco, CA
VIVA! USA, Davis, CA
Voice for A Viable Future, Alexandria, VA
Wildlife Watch, New Paltz, NY
No Compromise, San Francisco , CA
Satya, Brooklyn, NY
Veg News Magazine, San Francisco, CA
Vegan.com, Ithaca, NY
Action for Animals Network, Alexandria, VA
Activism Center at Wetlands Preserve, New York, NY
Alliance for Animals, Milwaukee, WI
Animal Acres, Acton, CA
Animal Advocates of the Inland NW, Liberty Lake, WA
Animal Defense League-Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
Animal Legislative Action Network, Los Angeles, CA
Animal Protection and Rescue League, San Diego, CA
Animal Protection of New Mexico, Albequerque, NM
Animal Protection PAC, Manalapan, NJ
Animal Rights and Rescue Coalition, Los Angeles, CA
AOK (Animal Outreach of Kansas), McLouth, KS
ARK (Animal Rights Kansas City), Olatha, KS
Baltimore Animal Rights Coalition, Baltimore, MD
Bleating Hearts Farmed Animal Sanctuary, Boulder, CO
Boston Vegetarian Society, Cambridge, MA
California Animal Defense & Anti-Vivisection League, Inc., Gardena, CA
Cape Cod Coalition for Animal Rights, Centerville, MA
Center on Animal Liberation Affairs, Syracuse, NY
Central New York Earth First!, Syracuse, NY
Cincinnati Animal Defense League, Cincinnati, OH
Community Animal Project, Syracuse, NY
Compassion Over Killing, Washington, DC
Delaware Action for Animals, Wilmington, DE
Division of Animal Welfare, Studio City, CA
Earthsave New York City, New York, NY
Eastern Shore Sanctuary and Education Center. Princess Anne, MD
Feral Cat Caretakers Coalition, Los Angeles, CA
Hacienda De Los Milagros, Inc., Chino Valley, AZ
Houston Animal Rights Team, Houston, TX
Ithaca Voices for Animals, Ithaca, NY
John Marshall Animal Law Society, Chicago, IL
League for Earth and Animal Protection, Sherman Oaks, CA
League of Humane Voters of New York City, New York, NY
League of Humane Vters of Ohio, Mayfield Heights, OH
Liberation Collective, Portland, OR
Live Oak Alliance
Long Island Animal Defense League, Huntington, NY
Massachusetts Animal Rights Coalition, Boston, MA
Mercy for Animals, Columbus, OH
Michigan Animal Rights Society, Ann Arbor, MI
Northern Ohio Wellness Connection, Walton Hts, OH
Orlando Animal Rights Alliance, Orlando, FL
PAWS (Progressive Animal Welfare Society), Lynnwood,. WA
People for Animal Rights, Syracuse, NY
Petstorecruelty.com, Annandale, VA
Rattle the Cage Productions, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
ROAR-USA, Cape May, NJ
S.P.E.A.K., Chicago, IL
San Diego Animal Advocates, San Diego, CA
Showing Animal Respect and Kindness, Geneva, IL
Sonoma People for Animal Rights, Sebastopol, CA
Southern California Vegetarians, Los Angeles, CA
Syracuse Animal Rights Organization, Syracuse, NY
The Coalition for New York City Animals, Inc., New York, NY
The Empathy Project, San Francisco, CA
The Trixie Foundation, Webbville, KY
Uconn Animal Rights Club, Storrs, CT
Unitarian Universalists for the Ethical Treatment of Animals – Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA
United Federation of Teachers Humane Education Committee, New York, NY
Veggies In Motion, Madison Heights, MI
Viva Vegie Society, New York, NY
Voice for Animals, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
Voices for Animals, Charlottesville, VA
Woodstock Animal Rights Movement, Woodstock, NY