The European Union’s highest court ruled that France must do a better job of protecting the highly endangered great hamster of Alsace. The wild hamster’s population, now in the hundreds, down from tens of thousands in past decades, is threatened by the huge monocultures of corn France grows. Wild hamsters don’t like corn; they eat varied cereals, cultivation of which has declined across the French countryside as heavily subsidized ‘big corn’ (grand mais) took hold. Corn, that is, grown principally to feed farmed animals. If France doesn’t create more hospitable habitat for the hamster, E.U. fines in the tens of millions of euros could result. A case of nature’s rights winning out? Perhaps. It’s certainly an interesting precedent.
Australia’s cattle also got a reprieve recently: a six month ban on their live transport to Indonesia. Undercover footage by the national broadcaster ABC found cows being kicked, beaten, and maimed in Indonesia, the largest purchaser of Australian cattle, before being slaughtered (and that’s after surviving a long sea journey). Public pressure in Australia played a role in bringing about the ban. Will it stick? The live animal trade is a lucrative business for many countries; commerce may yet well win out over cows’ interests or rights. But for now, 350,000 Australian cows that would have been shipped to Indonesia aren’t going. That doesn’t mean, of course, that they’ll be in greener pastures…most likely they’ll supply the domestic market. Australia’s likely to find itself awash in Australian beef.
Photo courtesy of U.S. Library of Congress