Just Your Average Morning Cup Of Processed Partially Digested Fecal Matter

It’s been a wild couple of weeks, but I’m finally back to a point where I can get some articles written for ICARUS. As I debated what today’s article should focus on, I kicked back in the only chair not occupied by a cat, and sipped on my usual morning cup of processed partially digested fecal matter. I’m not really into keeping up with fads, but I am totally devoted to the bean, so only the best will do. In this case, the best–by current popular standards–means that the ingredients of my hot beverage have been fed to a small animal, partially digested by that animals, then excreted within the feces of that animal, and that feces has then been ground up and I bought it and drank it.

Have I grossed you out yet? Because I’m telling you the truth. Well, not about me drinking the stuff. I don’t get paid enough to afford the $700 per kilogram price tag. But I’m telling the truth about all the rest.

Still don’t know what I’m talking about?

Coffee.

Yes. Coffee. No, probably not the coffee you’re drinking while reading this. But a certain coffee, kopi luwak, kapé alamíd, kafé-laku, it has many names, is made from the partially digested coffee beans excreted in the fecal matter of the Asian palm civet. No, I am not making this shit up. Pun entirely intended.

For anyone who has never heard of this type of coffee, don’t feel bad. Kopi luwak, or civet coffee, has been around since the early 18th century, yet it’s also something that only devoted coffee connoisseurs would be familiar with. After all, not even the most ornate marketing can make up for the fact that you’re drinking something made from poop. That said, you might be shocked to know just how many people will happily pay $700 for a kilogram (just over two pounds) of these mysterious beans and kopi luwak is second in price only to Black Ivory coffee, which brings in $1100 per kilogram.

I know, now you’re thinking ‘Okay, gross, but whatever. What does this have to do with conservation? If people want to drink poop-coffee, let them do it and weed out the crazies via natural selection.’

But it’s not that simple.

Let me give you a brief overview of kopi luwak history.

In the early 18th century, the Dutch were ruling the coffee roost from their position in the Dutch East Indies islands of Java and Sumatra. But since coffee was special, the Dutch forbid the native peoples–including plantation workers and coffee bean farmers–from using coffee fruit themselves. Wanting to know just what their Dutch masters cared about so much, the native peoples got the idea to follow Asian palm civets–a smallish obscenely adorable mammal indigenous to the area–and collect the civet’s feces, knowing that the civets ate the coffee fruit from the plantations, and that the seeds (the coffee ‘beans’) would not be digested, but instead would pass through the animals and could be found in their droppings.

Asian Palm Civet
Asian Palm Civet

So by collecting civet poop, gathering the coffee beans from within it, and then cleaning the beans and grinding them up, the naive peoples were finally able to taste the coffee beverage so coveted by their masters. You’d think this would be the end of the story, but according to accounts, the aroma of this ‘civet coffee’ became renown, eventually drawing the attention of the Dutch plantation owners, and it quickly became their favorite type of coffee. Of course, due to the fact that one had to follow palm civets around and collect poop for days in order to gather enough beans to make even one serving of coffee, the ‘civet coffee’ was just as expensive during the colonial period as it is today.

Fast forward a few hundred years, and kopi luwak is still coveted.

The natural process of making civet coffee is slow, and, well, natural. Civets, which are frugivorous, meaning that they primarily eat berries and pulpy fruit, such as figs, palms and coffee, eat only the tastiest coffee fruits. They then defecate in order to mark their territory (they are solitary animals aside from the mating period) and subsequently leave the undigested coffee beans behind. One must go around collecting the feces, sort through it to find the beans, and then gather them. Because the civets select only the best coffee fruit to eat, this selection process is valued by coffee connoisseurs as part of what makes the coffee so special. Problem is, you’re limited on how much you can profit because you’re reliant on following wild civets around waiting for them to eat coffee beans and poop them out.

Enter the idea of civet farming.

Why go around following wild civets, who may, or may not have eaten coffee fruit, when you can keep them locked in small cages and feed them nothing but coffee fruit?

Civet farms have now become the norm, with tens of thousands of civets being kept in cages and fed almost exclusively coffee fruit. Wild civets are captured using box traps, snares and hunting dogs. These methods often result in injury to the animals, and cause the animals immense stress. Kept in small cages similar to what you’d find in a puppy mill, or chicken battery, and forced to eat an improper diet, many animals die after only a few years in captivity. Others live on, bearing self-inflicted wounds, or old injuries leftover from their original capture. Offspring are forcibly removed from mothers, only to be put into their own cages and started on a coffee fruit diet.

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Via The Guardian

The most shocking and disturbing factor of civet coffee, is that we know it’s going on, and yet we keep buying the damn coffee. Investigations of animal cruelty have been reported and written about since 2012. Time Magazine ran an article in both 2012 and one in 2013 highlighting the documented abuse of civet farms. The New York Times touched on the subject back in 2010, though its article did not seem to consider the backyard pens of cages to be abuse.

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Via Gotham Coffee

Disease, self-harm, and capture related injuries are commonplace.

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Yet the exposure provided by articles about civet coffee only seemed to fuel interest in the coffee, rather than in the abuse and cruelty utilized to make the coffee. Harrods of London originally offered civet coffee for its most discerning clientele at a whopping £70 (about $105 USD) per cup, as well has offering packaged ground beans. They withdrew the product after being petitioned to do so, then began selling it again, claiming to work closely with their suppliers to assure that only ‘authentic wild’ civets were used in production. Now, they’ve removed civet coffee from their roster entirely. Following Harrod’s lead, several other leading stores have also stopped selling the coffee. Which is a start, at least.

A movement to use only wild civets has been gaining steam, but with little oversight in the industry and virtually no legal guidelines, fraudulent claims of ‘wild’ civet production are rampant. Just as the term ‘cage free’ chickens is often accepted as meaning that the chickens roam freely on vast acreage, the term ‘authentic wild’ civet is accepted as meaning that the animals are free and wild, and existing in their natural habitat. In reality, ‘cage free’ chickens might well indicate chickens which are kept tens of thousands of animals crammed into a small shed–unconfined to cages, yet still unable to move more than a few inches in any direction–and ‘authentic wild’ civets might be authentically wild-born civets who have been captured, and are now kept caged. It’s all an insidious word game, one in which the public ignorantly allows themselves to become pawns.

Hand-in-hand with the word games of marketing and advertising, comes the peculiar sort of peer pressure of the jet-set. There is a bizarre prestige associated with, and a desire to mindlessly agree with the status quo. A pressure to be grateful for being offered something so rare and expensive that the majority of the population will never be able to afford it.

How it’s portrayed:

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If someone stopped you on the street and offered you the chance to drink a beverage derived of animal feces, you would likely provide your choice explicative, and keep walking. But change the setting to a high end venue like Harrods, and have the person offering you the poop beverage be a millionaire jet setter, and suddenly if you refuse, you feel like an uncouth and ignorant pauper, part of a crowd wherein only the uncivilized would fail to appreciate the rarity and fabulousness of such a beverage. So you drink it, because really, who says no to a millionaire? And so the cycle continues.

How it’s actually made:

Luwak_(civet_cat)_in_cage

It’s a cycle not unlike that which surrounds the pseudo-sanctuaries such as Black Jaguar White Tiger, and their high end celebrity benefactors. If you actually are an established actress/actor or celebrity, you risk status-suicide if you criticize your contemporaries for their exploits in cub petting at *the* premier ‘it’ place to be seen holding baby lions and tigers. And if you’re just a common person, you risk being called jealous, ignorant, and worse if you have the balls to call out celebrities for their actions in supporting the abuse of such animals.

Civet coffee remains one of the most expensive and sought after coffees in the entire world. A coffee made from poop. And yet the adoration of it keeps growing. In a perverse modern interpretation of the Emperors New Clothes, the hype surrounding the flavor of kopi luwak has attained such mass that one who has never tasted it is subsequently obligated to support the claims of its taste, or be ostracized for being too uncultured to recognize the delicate flavors. Never mind that the difference in taste between civet coffee and other types of coffee is something still being debated. Just as if you’re a celebrity invited to romp with the animals of Black Jaguar White Tiger, you’re faced with accepting the invitation, and joining the ranks of the touted, or speaking out against them and being publicly placed into the ‘haters’ category.

Poop coffee and coddling wild animals. Neither one seems like a good idea, and yet thousands of people participate in both, and millions more ignorantly support the ideas. Why? Because it’s what everyone else is doing, and no one wants to be the squeaky wheel. No one wants to be the uncultured one, no one wants to be in the hater category. Thus, the animals continue to suffer.

So, as I finish off my second cup of non-civet-poop-coffee, I challenge you to be the squeaky wheel, the hater, the one with the balls to stand up for the animals. Tens of thousands of civets are suffering at this very moment just so someone somewhere can pay a $100 to sip coffee made from their poop. Tens of thousands of more wild civets are at risk for exploitation. Wild populations of civets have not yet been damaged enough to fall within the ranks of conservation status. But that will change in the very near future if the drive for civet coffee remains as it is. Between the continually expanding civet farms used for coffee production, and the encroachment of civilization, the civets face imminent loss of habitat. It’s going to take a lot of squeaky wheels to change the status quo, to stand up and say that no supposed flavor is worth the torture and abuse of animals.

In a world full of celebrity-enamored doormats, be a squeaky wheel.

Author: Artemis Grey

With a Sleight Of Social Media Hand: How Black Jaguar White Tiger Continues to Choose Slander Over Answers

In my last post, I focused on how the pseudo conservation, and misleading representation of Black Jaguar White Tiger was finally being mentioned in news outlets. I talked about how refreshing it was to see the news articles highlighting the questionable activities and the very real dangers of handling big cats, and worse, allowing paying customers–excuse me sponsors–to handle and play with big cats, instead of simply writing a fluff piece with the main theme of Aaaawww! and adding a video or photos of someone cuddling with a days-old cub.

It seems I wasn’t the only person who noticed that news sites were beginning to slowly pick up stories about how Black Jaguar White Tiger exploits the animals it claims to be rescuing. Over the last few days, Eduard Serio has taken to Instagram in attempt to both defend himself and BJWT and, not surprisingly, to direct public attention elsewhere through a campaign of misinformation and outright lies.

This is how BJWT has operated historically. If you question them, you get blocked. If you speak out against them, their followers browbeat you and clog your posts with hateful comments, threats and admonishment for not “seeing the good he does”. Eduardo himself rarely gets his hands dirty. With 4 million+ adoring fans, he doesn’t have to. Neither does he ever step in and tell his fans to back off, or that there might be justification for others not agreeing with how he functions. Interestingly enough, in Eduardo’s recent defensive Instagram posts–responses, he says he’s finally offering after 9 months of being assaulted with accusations–he does not mention The Daily Beast, or Gizmodo,  (though his followers have successfully made asses of themselves on her Instagram) or even ICARUS. No, according to Eduardo, there is only one sanctuary, and one person who has been “hating” on him for “the last 9 months”.

That sanctuary, according to Eduardo, is Big Cat Rescue, which is internationally renown, accredited by the Global Federation of Sanctuaries (unlike BJWT) a member of the World Society for Protection of Animals, certified by the Independent Charities of America as a “Best in America Charity” and has been Rated 4 Stars by Charity Navigator (their highest rating) and has one of the highest scores of any animal based charity. And the single person Eduardo claims has been persecuting him for precisely 9 months, is Carole Baskin, BCR’s founder. Why Eduardo has chosen to fixate on Carole and BCR isn’t clear, nor is the very precise description of the “last 9 months” ever explained in his rantings.

These are classic behaviors of someone suffering from narcissistic personality disorder,  with a healthy helping of megalomania. Instead of answering questions, Eduardo is pointing fingers, and instead of combating the multiple organizations that have questioned him, Eduardo is publicly fixating on just one–also very public figure–and trying to divert all attention to her. In short, he’s picked the biggest piranha in the pool and is attempting to publicly spear her, in hopes that the rest of the piranhas will just go away. Again, Eduardo is mirroring Jim Jones, who chose to vilify the American government in order to ‘save’ his congregation. In Eduardo’s case, he’s trying to vilify one of the premier big cat sanctuaries in order to make his own BJWT look more legitimate.

The tragic–but not surprising–part is that his 4 million+ Instagram followers are blindly agreeing with him, and eagerly gobbling up the misinformation and lies, as well as Eduardo’s poorly executed excuses and explanations for some of the accusations that recent articles have raised in regard to BJWT.

The first lie that caught my attention was this post:

IMG_0399      IMG_0400 In his description, Eduardo asserts that someone who truly loves their animals ‘wouldn’t want to use their skulls and skin as decoration for some drunk people partying.’ That’s totally true, Eduardo, which is why those skulls aren’t for display but for learning. Also, the curio cabinets (an inside source tells me that there are only two of these curio cases) are not ‘decoration’ for partying drunk people, but rather they stand in a back room of the sanctuary which is used for private events–often visiting groups of school children– and each skull is identified by species, with descriptions of the species, habitat and cause of death for the animal that the skull represents. These items are educational tools, used to teach children about big cats in the wild. In contrast, BJWT offers no education to any school children as it is privately owned by Eduardo and you have to pledge to donate $1,000 a month, in order to even be allowed onto the property.

Since I knew that the above photograph was bogus, and accompanied by slanderous lies, I decided to dig a little deeper. Next up was this gem:

IMG_0412 I’m not a tech expert, but this is a sloppy splicing job if I ever saw one. Some avid BJWT buddy ought to be unfriended for this. The top part IS an article–not written by Carole, but rather One Green Planet–which is linked to via BCR’s Abuse Issue page–not 911Animal Abuse, as Eduardo claims. The bottom part, which makes a great deal out of offering people money in exchange for comment or articles is something that has been electronically spliced using unrelated subjects, and as I said, sloppily at that. If you look closely:

IMG_0456   you can clearly see that a splicing tool marker is visible on the page, something that would not exist on a genuine webpage. Nor would the solid black line that runs across the screen be present in a genuine webpage. The crosshairs are a photo-merging tool, and that, in itself is very telling of the sorts of lows Eduardo is willing to go to just in an attempt to deflect attention from himself and the workings of BJWT. If Eduardo is willing to fabricate a webpage (or post a fabricated page without proof of it being real, but claiming that it’s real) in order to then put the fabrication on BJWT’s Instagram and lie about BCR, what else is he willing to lie about? My guess is, pretty much anything.

Along with the slandering posts of outright lies he’s put up, he’s also put up posts with misconstrued publicly available information. That’s the thing about America. We have the Freedom of Information Act, which means that besides doctor’s records, and a few other select things, you can get pretty much any information about a person you want from what hospital they were born in, to if they got drunk in public as a teenager. Eduardo then takes this public information–which is not secret or anything hidden from anyone–and adds a few baseless and unsupportable speculations, and sets it loose amongst his fans to spread and comment on.

In the midst of all the trash talking Eduardo has done, he’s also suddenly begun to offer little BJWT ‘Facts’ which state some of the very questions the recent criticizing articles have asked of the pseudo sanctuary. With each “Fact” and question, Eduardo posts the “answers” to the questions. Problem is, none of his ‘answers’ ever actually answer the question.

For example:

IMG_0416        IMG_0417

Okay. So you’re a nonprofit, which means nothing except that you’ve complied with Mexican law and are considered a privately owned civil association. And you’ve got 5 million friends and 200 animals which means–somehow–that you “can’t not be accredited.” Um, sorry, having a bunch of friends and animals doesn’t mean you’re qualified to pack bagged lunches for homeless kids. It just means you’ve got a bunch of animals and friends. He also cites–as if presenting some sort of certification–that he’s posted photos of an award he received from the Federation of Political Green Parties. So you’ve been handed an award by political parties which are, first and foremost, political parties, not conservation groups. Just because the word ‘green’ is involved, doesn’t make them conservationists. In fact, the Green Party of Mexico was shunned by the European Green Party back in 2010 for instating the death penalty, which has nothing to do with conservation at all.

Eduardo goes on to describe how much he’s seen and done and blah blah blah. Basically he throws out some official sounding stuff and then talks about himself. No, BJWT is not recognized by the GFAS. And the ‘G’ in GFAS stands for Global, so BJWT can apply to be recognized, and approved by them any time it wants to. The only reasons it’s not recognized by the GFAS is because it hasn’t applied, or hasn’t met their stringent regulations.

Another question Eduardo has ‘answered’ in his recent defensive posts is:

IMG_0407 IMG_0408 IMG_0409

Terrifyingly, Eduardo’s ‘answer’ to why they consistently have so many cubs at BJWT is to plainly admit that the breeding of big cats is still allowed in Mexico, that he has attempted to buy out breeders, and that he never says no to a rescue. He then cites how much that costs and that the breeders don’t pay him to take their cubs (which, he just stated that he’d attempted to buy out a breeder) so he’s also admitting that the money is going the other way, subsequently supporting the continued breeding of captive big cats. At the end, Eduardo states that BJWT does not have a license to breed animals, and would be shut down if they bred them. Problem is, according to the Law Library of Congress, Mexico doesn’t have licenses for breeding big cats, only for possessing them. A full version of the study and documentation relating to Mexico’s  General Law On Wildlife can be seen here. Be prepared to scroll, as the study covered several countries. The takeaway? Eduardo has spent money to buy baby cats, and then as per BJWT’s own FAQ page they never spay/neuter their animals:

ABSOLUTLEY NOT. None of our kids are spayed or neutered unless they come to us like that. We prefer to use less invasive methods and technology, the oldest method is to separate the female from the male when she is in heat, our most usual option is giving birth control injections every six months. Nobody knows what tomorrow will bring, we would Love that someday in the future our Angels could help repopulate the Jaguar, Lion, Tiger and Leopard population in México, Africa and Asia. It is very easy to spay or neuter a rescued Angel, but perhaps in 10 years or so things will change and we would have recovered their natural habitat. ALWAYS THINK BIG. ALWAYS…

At the same time, several of Eduardo’s Instagram darlings have complications that he blames on inbreeding. But they aren’t spayed or neutered because he’s ‘thinking big’ about repopulating the wild with his dysfunctional, inbred babies. If that doesn’t make much sense to you, we agree. However, according to Eduardo, his “hater” are just jealous.

Meanwhile, BJWT continues to load up Instagram on a daily basis with photographs of people playing with animals, some of them containing a number of species of big cat lounging, or worse, eating together, in what Eduardo likes to hashtag #TheBigPrideBJWT. Never mind that of the various species shown only lions exist in a family group, while the tigers and jaguars are animals who exist singularly unless meeting with the opposite sex in order to mate, or if in the company of their own young. Then we’ve got gobsmacking acts of stupidity like this, wherein Eduardo is communing, or something, with his ‘kids’ while they eat, and for whatever reason he felt he needed to put himself there and videotape it.

Eduardo very much enjoys asserting that BCR keeps it’s animals in cages, often posting photos which show only a corner of a habitat, or the feeding conduits in a misleading fashion. According to BJWT’s own FAQs page, however, they have only ‘8 acres of land for our babies to run freely and safely without harming one another or risking danger.’ compared to BCR’s 67 acres, and BJWT claims to have possession of some 200 animals while BCR has much fewer animals, many of whom are geriatric and in the last stages of their lives. BJWT welcomes “sponsors” who pledge $1,000 or more a month in donations to come and handle their young animals. BCR, in contrast, hosts limited tours through only a small portion of their sanctuary and because of the size of the cat habitats, they cannot promise that visitors will even see a big cat.

In one of Eduardo’s most recent Instagram posts he offered this picture:

IMG_0414 and proudly said ‘You can not say that us Mexicans don’t have thick skin.’ Except, Eduardo, when it comes to anyone questioning your methods or your pseudo sanctuary. Then evidence shows that ‘us Mexicans’ do, indeed have exceptionally thin skin, and that you’ll always prefer slandering others to answering questions. BJWT will always use a sleight of social media hand to attempt evasion, to justify their own actions, and to deflect attention from themselves onto their ‘haters’, even when those ‘haters’ are just asking legitimate questions, or pointing out obvious issues with the actions of BJWT.

BJWT might have 4 million+ followers on Instagram, but then, perhaps BJWT is more suited to the theatre of social media popularity than they are the theatre of genuine conservation. It’s one of the defining differences between BJWT and BCR. BCR aims to end all private ownership of big cats with their Big Cat Public Safety Act HR 3546, while BJWT actively thrives on being allowed to own big cats.

 

Author: Artemis Grey

 

Addendum: As BJWT is continuing their own “Fact” campaign, I’m continuing to follow it, and thus wanted to add the latest rebut to Eduardo’s latest ‘Fact’ and ‘answer’. As usual, it is an ‘answer’ which, under scrutiny, only raises more questions.

Two days ago, just one day after this article was originally published, Eduardo posted this on his Instagram account:

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Getting a 501(c)(3) can be tricky. But if you know the right people, it can also be a great deal less tricky, and more profitable.

Naturally, I was also keen to learn more about how the offices of a Foundation based in Mexico had an IRS-related address listed in CA. I should have not been surprised to find what resides at the address attributed to the Black Jaguar White Tiger Foundation.

The business located at the address to which the above letter was sent is not actually some sort of ‘American headquarters’ for BJWT. Rather, it is R.C. Baral & Company, Inc. which is an accounting company devoted solely to managing the books for entertainment companies. They specialize in the bookkeeping of such monstrosities as Universal Studios, Warner Bros, Showtime, ABC, NBC/Universal, Miramax, and others. All of them devoted to entertainment. They also cater to what they call ‘Creative Entertainment And Business Executives’ along with professional athletes, actors, directors and so on and so forth.

A google of the Contact Person listed in Eduardo’s photo gets us to Joe Laux, CFP (Certified Financial Planner) of Silverhawk Wealth Management. A simple Google search of Joseph Laux and his phone number under ‘Images’ revealed multiple letters exactly like the one Eduardo has posted on Instagram. Apparently, filing for 501 (c) is a specialty of Joe’s. There are 29 types of of 501 organizations (1-29) so not all of the ones I found with Joe’s contact information are 501(c)(3) but it’s clear that he does this quite a bit for companies that range from avionics to other (3) groups.

50(c)(3) is specified for organizations pertaining to –Religious, Educational, Charitable, Scientific, Literary, Testing for Public Safety, to Foster National or International Amateur Sports Competition, or Prevention of Cruelty to Children or Animals Organizations

Lots of organizations have 501(c)(3) status. It’s not a crime.

However, when your foundation takes “donations” in exchange for the chance to play with your captive wild animals, gaining the status of 501(c)(3) status via the efforts of an entrainment accounting company, and a CFP who specializes in getting tax exemption for companies, and then happily announcing on your Instagram that now all of those “donations” people pay you in order to play with your animals are ALSO tax free for them, does not, in fact, validate you as a conservation group. If anything, it only casts a longer shadows over your empire of pseudo conservation.

 

Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank

The ICARUS crew is absolutely thrilled to announce that we will be hosting an International summit in 2016 titled Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank. It is our goal for this summit to bring together some of the greatest and most influential minds in the world of conservation today, and to develop strategies for further conservation efforts in the future.

The only thing the members of ICARUS want it to protect the animals and world we live in, and to educate those around us about the challenges involved with world wide conservation. When you choose to donate to ICARUS through this page, or our Facebook page, you aren’t paying us.

Your money goes directly to helping fund animal conservation through rescues, rehabilitation, and things like our 2016 International summit. The members of ICARUS are volunteer only, so all of our articles, and information is gathered and produced around full time jobs and late night hours devoted only to the conservation of the animals.

This is one reason that we took such a hard and forthright stance against hugely popular establishments such as the Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation, and Eduardo Serio 5 months ago when we first opened our WordPress account.

As a group devoted to hands off conversation, the ICARUS team does not condone the unnecessary handling or interaction with any wild animal. Sometimes during the rehabilitation process, handling is required, and as the members of our group have all been involved with wild animal rehabilitation, we understand this.

However, when one posts photographs on social media, or use social media to build themselves into a Celebrity Conservationist who is famous for no other reason than the fact that they post photographs and videos of themselves playing with big cat cubs, or adult big cats, they are not rehabilitating those animals, they are actively participating in their exploitation.

This Social Media Conservation, which so often highlights pseudo conservation is only one of the many global conservation issues that will be addressed at the 2016 International Summit which the ICARUS group will be hosting. Wildlife in Crisis: An International Think Tank will bring together conservationists from all over the world with the goal of addressing such issues as captive big cat ownership, wildlife crime, pseudo conservation groups and sanctuaries, rehabilitation ethics , legislation, and similarly the laws that govern exactly what foundation can describe themselves as rescue group or sanctuaries without actually obtaining the accreditation associated with being a sanctuary or rescue. Only through education can the public learn to see the difference between conserving wild animals in the wild, and exploitation of them by Celebrity Conservationists.

Author: Artemis Grey

Like A Bug On The Windshield Of An a380 Airbus

Do you remember high school? Okay, maybe some of you reading this post are stilll in high school. But if you’re older, do you remember what it was like? I mean, do you really remember?

Everyone experiences high school (or any level of school, for that matter) differently. Some of us have a great time, others barely survive, but one thing is certain: The longstanding tropes of Jocks, Cheerleaders, Nerds, It Girls, Outcasts, Drama Freaks, Rednecks, Art Dorks, and the most loathed of all, the Clingers, haven’t become tropes without reason. There are always a variety of stereotypes that kids either naturally fall into, or get pushed into. It’s not fair, but it’s been this way since the beginning of time.

While you’re in high school, everything social hangs on which group you fall into. Even if you don’t want to be in a certain group, you suddenly find that your entire life gets judged by which group you’re in, or at least by which group everyone else perceives you to be in. And if you can’t get into a group, you’ll be just a Clinger, and that’s social suicide because then you’re just fodder for everyone else.

Maybe you’re a badass on the trumpet, and love music, but then all of your friends go out for JV football. You don’t want to be the lame-o who didn’t try out when they did, so you feel like you have to go, even if you’d rather be in band. Also if your don’t go with the guys, you’ll never be able to hang out together because JV practices after school, so the Band Dweebs have to meet before school starts, and then they sit in front of you in math and smell like grass and old sneakers because they didn’t get to shower before school started. Besides, if your buddies make JV, and you throw in with the Band Dweebs, you’ll never hear the end of it when you do get to spend time with the guys. Bros stick together, after all, and you’ll be the one who ran out on them. Or, worse yet, if you don’t try for JV, and then you flub your band try out, you won’t be anywhere. You’ll be nothing but a Clinger. who doesn’t fit in anywhere, and just has to do their own thing.

So you go out for JV football, and you make the team with all your friends. And just like that, you’re a Jock. Even if you quit the team, it’s a done deal. Jock is your tagline for high school. And it does have its perks. Cheerleaders and It girls are all on the table, now. The Clingers, too, since they don’t even count because they’re always doing their own thing, so you can have your pick of them, and then still take Selena, that 9.5 Cheerleader, to Homecoming, because, well, Clingers aren’t real GF material, but they’re fun, once in a while. Yeah, let the Nerds and Drama Freaks duke it out for the Art Dorks and Band Dweebs, the real lookers are in your league, now. At least, the girls that everyone is into are in your league.

It’s a decent system, really. No crossing the lines. You always know where you stand and what’s at stake and how things are supposed to work out. Kind of like that book you were supposed to read in English this year but didn’t because none of the other guys wanted to. You did catch the movie version, though, just so you’d be able to answer the questions on the pop quiz that everyone knew  was coming. The Outsiders, that’s the one. Yeah, there are more groups at school than just the Socs and Greasers but it’s the same idea. You stick to the rules and play whatever role you got handed and you’ll make it out just fine.

Fast forward a decade–maybe only a few years– and you pause while walking to the office and look back on your high school years. And you start laughing. Laughing  like crazy laughing. Crazy laughing like people on the sidewalk around you start to go extra wide to either side, unwilling to cross the street entirely, but making sure that some other person is more in reach, just in case you lose your shit and start grabbing at folks.

Why are you laughing like a maniac?

Because high school–and which clique you were in–had no more significance in the scheme of your life than a bug on the windshield of an a380 Airbus flying at 35,000 feet.

You can’t know more than you’ve experienced. If you’ve never made it through high school, or through the age at which most of us go through high school, you literally can’t know what’s beyond it. You can daydream about it, or theorize, plan, make achievement lists, or set goals like becoming the owner of your own law firm. But until you actually get on the other side of things, you can’t see what’s going to be there waiting for you.

Now here you are, standing on a sidewalk, still laughing, and you’re going to be late to work, which means the guy at the front desk will be sure to tell the third-rate clerk who works for you that you’re late and the clerk will ‘accidentally’ let that slip to your boss who does, incidentally, own the law firm where you’re just a junior partner. But all you can think about right at this moment is the fact that your boss, the guy who owns the law firm, has fifteen framed photographs of him playing the piccolo in marching band, and he never played a single game in football in his entire life.

It doesn’t matter that he was a Band Dweeb in high school. It doesn’t matter that you were a Jock. High school was four measly years in the span of what–gods willing–will be twenty times that over the course of your life. Maybe more, if you’re lucky. Who belonged to what clique fades into complete irrelevance.

Fads are exactly like that. And the phenomenon that I think of as Social Media Conservation is the hottest fad on the planet right now.

A fad is defined as “an intense and widely shared enthu- siasm for something, especially one that is short-lived” (Oxford English Dictionary 2013) and likely to fade away once the perception of novelty has gone.

Now, parts of social media are great, and serve to make a genuine difference in the world, and social media itself, is not likely to go anywhere anytime in the near future. However, the phenomenon of Social Media Conservation can’t die soon enough, if you ask me.

Just what is Social Media Conservation?

Besides being a pox on genuine efforts to conserve our planet and all the things living on it, Social Media Conservation is the phenomenon of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of people taking to social media en masse to champion Celebrity Conservationists.

Not conservationists who happen to be movies stars, like Leonardo DiCaprio, but Celebrity Conservationists who, without their ‘conservation angle’ would not be celebrities or known names at all. Unfortunately, the majority of these Celebrity Conservationists often do far more damage to animals and conservation efforts than they do good.

Eduardo Serio of Black Jaguar White Tiger is the reigning king of Celebrity Conservationists. What he posts to his Instagram, and other accounts is completely irrelevant to conservation in any form and some of the posts are blatantly detrimental to the animals he claims to have rescued. His “sanctuary” is not accredited by the GFAS, though it is supposedly a sanctuary under Mexican law (I’ve seen no evidence of this, but since he threatens to sue and destroy anyone who claims otherwise, there it is) Yet his followers eagerly cheer the posts on, share them repeatedly, and basically flood the internet with them.

The content of Black Jaguar White Tiger’s Instagram account ranges from adolescent lions peeing on the walls of Eduardo’s own home, to Eduardo randomly spinning around in circles with an adolescent lion over his shoulders to Eduardo himself lying on the floor of his own bedroom (the cubs literally live in his walk-in closet until they’re a month or two old) covered in young lion cubs.

Not one of these videos serves any purpose in the world of conservation, or to raise awareness in regard to the plight of wild lions, or wild big cats. However, they do have a function, and that function is to make Eduardo–and his Black Jaguar White Tiger foundation–look like the coolest place on earth. And the videos work. Each of those three videos has been ‘liked’ by Instagram users anywhere between 68,600 (first video)  78,200 (second video) and 128,000 (third video) times and thousands of comments have been made on each one.

68,600 people have liked a video showing a captive lion cub pissing on the wall of a home lived in by humans

And these followers actually believe that the guy who owns that captive lion cub, and the house it’s pissing all over is somehow saving lions, saving our planet, and not keeping them as pets, as per the hashtags #SaveLions #NotPets and #SaveOurPlanet, which are very carefully included with virtually every photograph and video uploaded to the Black Jaguar White Tiger Instagram and other social media accounts. And there are tens of thousands of those photographs and videos, all carefully hashtagged #SaveLions #SaveJaguars #SaveTigers #SaveOcelots and most the most asinine claim #NotPets

Not pets? 

The guy is videoing exotic big cats and other exotic animals running around inside his house, pissing on the walls, sleeping in his bed, lying in his lap, rough-housing with the select high-name guests he brings in for more exposure and swimming in his in-ground swimming pool. 

But they are not pets. Right. I have a bridge I’ll sell you, too.

But dare to question the edict that the animals being exploited by Black Jaguar White Tiger are not pets and are not being exploited? Be prepared for personal attacks ranging from the mild ‘You’re an idiot, Eduardo is saving them from a horrible life!’ to the more heated ‘Fuck off, you’re a stupid cunt who’s just jealous of Eduardo’s bond with his cats’ to the unhinged ‘Keep it up, bitch, and someone’s gonna come piss on your walls!’ *These are not actual threats I’ve received, but a sampling of actual responses made to other, similar to what you’ll get if you have the gumption to actually question Black Jaguar White Tiger and what they’re doing.*

Unsurprisingly, when such gang-ups occur, the commenter who challenged the status quo is often battered vehemently, and then the entire post is immediately deleted, and the original commenter blocked. Unless you take screen shots as it’s occurring–something that most people don’t think to do while they’re trying to defend themselves and their position–there is no evidence it ever happened at all, leaving a situation of ‘he said she said’. This is the savagery of Internet bullying and assault. And, tragically, it is incredibly typical within the circles of Celebrity Conservationists. This is how they insulate themselves from answering questions or being held accountable for their actions. They gather devotees and then simply let those mindless followers do all the dirty work of defending them.

Social Media Conservation is a self-fullfilling phenomenon. The ‘cooler’ a Celebrity Conservationist is, the more followers they get, the more exposure their foundation receives–even if it never produces any tangible evidence of conservation efforts–the more their name and that of their sanctuary or foundation is spread, the more followers it gathers, the more those followers talk about it, the more they share posts, the more unimpeachable the Celebrity Conservationist becomes until their presence is so immense, their influence so insurmountable that to speak out against them is to invite the unified wrath of the millions who worship them.

And suddenly, we find ourselves stepping back through a wormhole into the era of high school cliques. Instead of Jocks or Cheerleaders, there are Celebrity Conservationists, and a planet full of people obsessed with getting into the cliques formed by those Celebrity Conservationists. And if you aren’t in those cliques, then you’re immediately degraded to being just a Clinger hanging around the edges and taking potshots at them simply because you’re jealous that you’re not involved. Your facts, and science, and utterly valid arguments are devalued and belittled by accusations of personal vendettas and ignorance. You’re either jealous of the Celebrity Conservationist, or you don’t understand them.

But this is the incontrovertible truth about these Celebrity Conservationists and their social media empires:

They’re no more significant in the scheme of conservation and the survival of the planet and the animals on it than a bug on the windshield of an a380 Airbus flying at 35,000 feet.

Yeah, Black Jaguar White Tiger has 4.3 million followers on Instagram, and almost 10,000 posts on Instagram. Big fucking deal.

What has Black Jaguar White Tiger done to help wild animals in wild habits, in real life situations? Not what have they talked about doing, or discussed doing, or promised to do, but what have they actually done?

The answer is nothing.

He can’t even get a GFAS accreditation. In all Eduardo’s supposed fundraising, and supposed efforts at conservation, the only thing he has actually done is con 4.3 million people (and countless backers and Hollywood celebrities) into thinking he’s the best thing since sliced bread, while amassing a hoard of some 180+ captive big cats which are currently crammed into a residential house (location unknown) and caged on an 8 acre plot of land (location unknown) and with a promised several thousand acre ‘paradise’ to be built for them in the future.

Just like high school, this fad of Social Media Conservation is going to pass. In another five years, no one is going to be infatuated with how many followers they have on Instagram. No one will even remember Instagram. All of the popularity that is so vital to Celebrity Conservationists will disappear. And without the 4.3 million followers worshiping every inexplicable farce they engage in with their ‘rescued’ captive wild animals, these Celebrity Conservationists will fade away. If they’re lucky, they’ll become a nothing name. If not, and if our laws in regard to animal rights and protection increase, maybe they’ll be in jail for all the damage they’ve done to the animals they claimed to be helping.

But no matter what happens to the Celebrity Conservationists, the animals they used to attain their brief throne will remain. Likely thousands more animals will remain, since places like Black Jaguar White Tiger maintain a constant stream of newborn animals, and do not believe in the practice of spaying and neutering.

And all of those captive wild animals will still need to be cared for, on top of all the wild animals still in the wild who need to be protected so that they might remain in the wild.

A crisis that will fall onto the shoulders of genuine conservationists who toil tirelessly in the shadows, without any expectation of public thanks, because simply seeing wild animals in the wild where they belong, or seeing captive wild animals properly housed in spacious wild-like enclosures, unbothered by humans, is all the thanks we need in order to feel good about ourselves. 

 

Author: Artemis Grey

 

 

It’s Not About The Person, It’s About The Animals In Their Care

Hands off conservation is one of the fundamental ethical foundations of the ICARUS team.

It’s something we’ve posted about before, and it’s something we’ll post about again. Every blog post which contains certain ‘celebrity conservationists’ and which criticizes the way they treat their animals gets quite a few comments (not all of which get posted, because while we’re open to differing opinions, we’re not going to entertain baseless poop-slinging) and while some of them agree with us, many argue that for *insert whatever reason* it’s okay for a particular celebrity conservationist to pet/play with/hold/whatever their wild captive animal.

Most of the unpublished comments accuse us of being “jealous” of the celebrity conservationist, of being ignorant as to the fact that they’re “special” and thus can do these things without hurting the animal, or that we’re being paid to attack them, or that the attention they bring to conservation outweighs any stuff that they shouldn’t be doing.

Here’s the point all of these avid defenders are missing: It’s not about the celebrity conservationist. It’s about the animals they’re exploiting.

When we name names in our posts, citing how certain people directly interact with the captive wild animals in their care, or how they allow the public to directly interact with them (and subsequently how they cannot attain GFAS accreditation no matter how awesome they are) people rush to the defense of these (or some of these) celebrity conservationists. People get angry when you call out those whom they idolize. While we have yet to get any death threats, we’ve definitely gotten some, colorful, shall we say, comments, in defense of these celebrity conservationists. What these defenders fail to understand is we aren’t after their idols because they’re awesome and we’re jealous, or we’re getting paid to go after them, or because we’re just mean. We’re naming their names because we’re concerned about the animals in their care.

Our number one focus is the ethical and responsible treatment and care of animals. Most specifically wild, and captive wild animals. Our basis for believing in, and supporting, hands off conservation isn’t that we don’t believe you can have a special bond with a wild animal, or because we don’t have access to captive wild animals, so we don’t think others should, or anything else. Our belief is based in science, concern for the animals, and in existing laws, including the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries.

Yes, some of these celebrity conservationists have raised the animals since birth. Yes, they’re experts (self-proclaimed, or with actual degrees) on these animals, and their behavior. Yes, they speak about conservation, and engage the public. None of that, however, gives them the right to treat the animals in their care any differently than they expect the public to treat them. And none of it guarantees that they, or their animals, will not suffer immensely for it in the end.

Let me use myself as an example.

I’ve been riding, training, breeding, foaling-out, showing, and caring for horses for 27 years. Almost three decades. I have more experience than some of those who have served on the Olympic team.

Several years ago, there was a cold born on the farm. I knew his mother, and his father. I personally assisted in his birth. The colt touched me, smelled me and saw me before he even saw his own mother. I raised this foal from birth, worked with him daily, and when he was old enough, began his training. He was a very ‘brain stem’ horse, meaning that he responded to body language, and silent communication more than verbal. I was his boss mare, so to speak, and he was my beta. He submitted to my authority readily, and without any physical domination on my part. I spent hours with this animal every single day.

One day, when he was about three years old, I had him in the crossties for a routine vet appointment. There was another colt in a nearby stall. My guy was fussing, where he was standing in front of us, because he didn’t like that he couldn’t turn around and be involved in what was going on. He was nosey, like most little boys are. I gave him a pat and told him to cut out the complaining. After that, I had approximately three tenths of a second to dodge or otherwise defend myself when the colt threw his hind end into the air, and lashed out with both hind feet.

I was incredibly lucky. His right hind foot hit my right breast, while his left hit my left arm. Less than an inch to one side, and he’d have broken my sternum, bruised or ruptured my heart, torn my descending thoracic aorta or my superior vena cava. Less than an inch the other way, he’d have broken ribs, punctured my lung or ruptured my liver. Farther down, and I’d have received gross damage to my internal organs, and farther up could have broken my neck, caused a depressed skull fracture, torn my lower jaw clean off, or even worse. The fact that I had space behind me, where I could be flung back without absorbing the full force of the kick helped, too. Basically, there was only one or two ways to survive the sort of kick I received, and I was lucky enough to manage one of them.

The really crazy part? That colt wasn’t trying to hurt me. What he did was the equine equivalent of saying ‘Get off my case, lady.’ He was a small, 700 pound herbivore just giving his ‘boss mare’ the brush off. If I had been another horse, I would merely have grunted and bitten his ass to put him in his place. As it was, he got a sound whack, and submitted in apology, and then stood there quietly without further fuss, because he wasn’t being mean, or attacking me in the first place. He was just mouthing off, horse style.

WARNING GRAPHIC PHOTOS taken directly after the incident, then later.

IMG_3185.JPG IMG_3184.JPG

The colt’s left hind foot grazed my elbow, causing my arm to swing back and hit the corner of a stall. I required X-rays to assure nothing was broken.

IMG_3202.JPGMy right breast, just moments after the impact.

IMG_3274.JPG     IMG_3273.JPGDespite scrubbing the wound immediately with disinfectant from the vet, an infection set up, requiring antibiotics.

IMG_3313.JPGAfter a week of antibiotics, the infection retreated. But the wound took more than a month to fill in.

IMG_3267.JPG My breast required pain meds, and had to be noted in my records, due to the internal scar tissue created which will show up on future mammograms.

I am a professional, and I knew what I was doing, and I wasn’t doing anything inappropriate. Neither was the colt. He was just being a colt. Almost any owner/trainer of captive wild animals will say the exact same thing about their animals after an incident.

However, there are some major differences between this horse and me, and captive wild animals.

The biggest of those, is that even if I’d been killed, no authorities would have shown up and confiscated the horse, and possibly euthanized him. No news crews would have shown up to discuss the problem of ‘captive horses’ being kept in ‘back yard zoos’. Horses and their owners all over the globe would not fall under fresh scrutiny, and there would be no sudden push for legislation to protect horses from being held in captivity.

If the colt had been a captive lion or tiger or other wild animal, all of those things would have happened, or could have happened. Maybe even worse things would have transpired. All because the animal acted like an animal, and I happened to be too fragile to withstand it.

Private owners are killed or maimed by their captive wild animals on a regular basis. This isn’t something new. Celebrity conservationists and animal trainers are also killed and maimed by their captive wild animals on a regular basis. It’s also nothing new.

Yet hundreds of thousands of members of the public continually try to categorize these incidents into neatly labeled boxes like ‘They were amateurs, and didn’t know what they were doing.’ or ‘They mistreated their animals, and the animals fought back.’ or ‘It was just a freak accident, that no one could have prevented.’ or ‘It was the fault of someone else present, not the the fault of the animal, or its celebrity conservationist.’ when the truth and absolute fact is that none of the incidents would ever have happened if someone was not directly interacting with a captive wild animal.

Here are links to just a small sampling of documented attacks and incidents involving captive wild animals with trainers. Here’s a PDF file compiled by the Human Society documenting hundreds of circus related incidents. It happens in the film industry, with trainers who have ‘perfect safety’ record. Even owners who start out thinking that they’ll be able to communicate with their animals, and be successful interacting with them often learn the truth, sometimes, they’re lucky enough to learn it without dying.

The one, single defining fact shared by these incidents, is the direct interaction between humans and captive wild animals.

This is why ICARUS maintains a strict hands-off approach to conservation. When you directly interact with a captive wild animal, it is not a matter of if something will happen, but when it will happen. And when it does, it will be the animal who suffers. There is no free pass for celebrity conservationists. They run the exact same risks as someone who’s raised and trained animals in their backyards. The only difference is in how the public chooses to justify one, while vilifying the other. For the ICARUS group, however, there is no difference at all. Our focus is the well being of the animals, and therefore we will continue to speak out against direct interaction with captive wild animals for any reason beyond rehabilitation and medical treatment.

As gratifying as it might be to interact with captive wild animals, it simply is not worth the risk of what could happen to those animals if something went wrong.

Author: Artemis Grey

Feature photo credit: Peter Lawson