WHEN PIGS SAIL
One of E. B. White’s most moving essays is “Death of a Pig,” which ran in the January 1948 issue of The Atlantic Monthly. The story details White’s attempt to raise a pig for slaughter, only to become despondent when the animal suddenly becomes ill before being properly fattened. White is fully intent on slicing the pig’s throat and turning him into “smoked ham and bacon,” but he also takes pains to ease the animal’s suffering and, indeed, is desperate to keep him alive.
I thought of White’s essay as I read through a Nov. 17 press release from Stephanie Feldstein, Change.org’s director of organizing. Her topic? A new petition of 15,000 signatures compiled by Haiku resident and vegan activist Laurelee Blanchard calling on Matson Navigation to stop shipping pigs from the Mainland to Hawaii (a Nov. 18 email from Blanchard raised the figure to 18,000).
According to Blanchard, who is quoted at length in the Nov. 17 press release, the trip across the Pacific exposes the animals–hundreds of which arrive in Hawaii every week–to “stress and exhaustion, rough handling, hunger, thirst, extreme temperatures and filthy conditions.”
“As someone who provides refuge for rescued pigs at Leilani Farm Sanctuary, I know the intelligence and sensitivity of these animals,” said Blanchard, who launched the Change.org campaign. “Matson is attempting to shift the blame to the consumer, but is indeed directly responsible for causing unconscionable suffering to pigs by continuing to facilitate this cruel trade. These shipments need to stop immediately.”
Matson officials didn’t respond to two emailed requests for comment.
Feldstein’s email also references a new 55-page report from the World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA)–written with Blanchard’s assistance–which found the following: “Video footage and still images of this route provided to WSPA (many of which are included in this report) showed the poor treatment of animals. The footage showed pigs standing in their own waste, enduring temperature extremes, going without food or water for long periods of time and experiencing poor handling methods. Research revealed that U.S. laws did not address the welfare of animals transported by ship and, that therefore, these thousands of pigs were excluded from protection. WSPA joined with the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Hawaii, Animal Rights Hawaii (ARH) and the Animal Protection Institute (API) to stop this cruelty.”
The outcry over the harsh journey made by pigs on the their way to slaughter in Hawaii is not new (indeed, Feldstein’s email says that in recent years Horizon Lines, Foodland and Times Supermarket have all agreed to stop shipping pigs to Hawaii). In December 2008, the U.S. Department of Agriculture began investigating the practice in response to a complaint filed by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) following the deaths of 13 pigs on Matson freighters. According to a Dec. 11, 2008 Honolulu Star-Bulletin article, at least some of those pigs were bound for Schofield Barracks on Oahu, where they were to be shot and then mended by soldiers during medical training before Iraq deployment.
“Not only are these pigs killed in archaic training exercises, some of them may also be suffering and dying even before they arrive at Schofield Barracks,” PETA Director of Laboratory Investigations Kathy Guillermo said in the article.
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Saw a name from the past last week in a tiny Pacific Business News blurb. Seems that Peter Nicholas is retiring as executive director of Molokai Properties Ltd (MPL). According to the Nov. 18 PBN blurb, Singapore-based GuocoLeisure Ltd.–the international investment firm that owns MPL–has announced that Clay R. Rumbaoa, a former Castle & Cooke director of engineering and development for Lanai, will be taking over when Nicholas cashes out at the end of the year.
Nicholas, if you’ll recall, is something of a notorious figure in Molokai’s recent history. He was running the show back in March 2008 when Molokai Properties, stung by the island’s opposition to its proposed La‘au Point development plans, decided to shut down Molokai Ranch in its entirety.
Just like that, the Molokai Lodge, Kaupoa Beach Village, Kaluakoi Golf Course, Maunaloa Gas Station, Maunaloa Tri-Flex Theater and the cattle ranch itself were no more. In an instant, 120 people were out of work–a relatively huge number for the island, which has never really recovered. Indeed, the latest labor stats peg the island’s unemployment rate at 17.5 percent in October, four full percentage points higher than the same month last year.
“The decision,” Nicholas said in a 2008 statement, “is purely a business one. For the past five years MPL has been working with Molokai community leaders and community members on developing and implementing a Master Plan for MPL’s property and the future of Molokai. Unacceptable delays caused by continued opposition to every aspect of the Master Plan means we are unable to fund continued normal company operations… We deeply regret to have taken this step as the main impact will be on our loyal employees.”
But don’t worry about Nicholas. “He will continue to oversee GuocoLeisure’s investment in Fiji,” PBN reported.