Category: Poaching


A photo of a fishmonger peeling the spine from a tuna.

A worker peels the spine from a tuna at New York’s Fulton Fish Market—the world’s largest after the Tsukiji Market in Tokyo, Japan—on March 29, 2013.


Brian Clark Howard

Published April 9, 2014

Do you know if the fish on your plate is legal? A new study estimates that 20 to 32 percent of wild-caught seafood imported into the U.S. comes from illegal or “pirate” fishing. That’s a problem, scientists say, because it erodes the ability of governments to limit overfishing and the ability of consumers to know where their food comes from.

The estimated illegal catch is valued at $1.3 billion to $2.1 billion annually and represents between 15 and 26 percent of the total value of wild-caught seafood imported into the U.S., report scientists in a new study in the journal Marine Policy.

Study co-author Tony Pitcher says those results surprised his team. “We didn’t think it would be as big as that. To think that one in three fish you eat in the U.S. could be illegal, that’s a bit scary,” says Pitcher, who is a professor at the fisheries center of the University of British Columbia in Vancouver.

To get those numbers, Pitcher and three other scientists analyzed data on seafood imported into the U.S. in 2011. They combed through government and academic reports, conducted fieldwork, and interviewed stakeholders.

The scientists report that tuna from Thailand had the highest volume of illegal products, 32,000 to 50,000 metric tons, representing 25 to 40 percent of tuna imports from that country. That was followed by pollack from China, salmon from China, and tuna from the Philippines, Vietnam, and Indonesia. Other high volumes were seen with octopus from India, snappers from Indonesia, crabs from Indonesia, and shrimp from Mexico, Indonesia, and Ecuador.

Imports from Canada all had levels of illegal catches below 10 percent. So did imports of clams from Vietnam and toothfish from Chile.

Graphic showing percent of seafood imported into the U.S. that is illegal and unreported.


In response to the study, Connie Barclay, a spokesperson for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Fisheries, said, “We agree that [pirate] fishing is a global problem, but we do not agree with the statistics that are being highlighted in the report.” Barclay says data are too scarce to make the conclusions verifiable.

But, she adds, “NOAA is working to stop [pirate] fishing and the import of these products into the U.S. market.” She points to recent increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies and improved electronic tracking of trade data.

Pirate Fishing

The U.S. is important to consider when it comes to fishing because it is tied with Japan as the largest single importer of seafood, with each nation responsible for about 13 to 14 percent of the global total, says Pitcher. Americans spent $85.9 billion on seafood in 2011, with about $57.7 billion of that spent at restaurants, $27.6 billion at retail, and $625 million on industrial fish products.

However, what few Americans realize, says Pitcher, is that roughly 90 percent of all seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and about half of that is wild caught, according to NOAA.

Pirate fishing is fishing that is unreported to authorities or done in ways that circumvent fishery quotas and laws. In their paper, the authors write that pirate fishing “distorts competition, harms honest fishermen, weakens coastal communities, promotes tax evasion, and is frequently associated with transnational crime such as narcotraffic and slavery at sea.” (See: “West Africans Fight Pirate Fishing With Cell Phones.”)

Scientists estimate that between 13 and 31 percent of all seafood catches around the world are illegal, worth $10 billion to $23.5 billion per year. That illegal activity puts additional stress on the world’s fish stocks, 85 percent of which are already fished to their biological limit or beyond, says Tony Long, the U.K.-based director of the Pew Charitable Trust’s Ending Illegal Fishing Project.

“The ocean is vast, so it is very difficult for countries to control what goes on out there,” says Long. He explains that pirate fishers are often crafty, going to remote areas where enforcement is lax. They may leave a port with a certain name on the boat and the flag of a particular country, engage in illegal fishing, then switch the name and flag and unload their catch at a different port.


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The oceans are vast and humans are small — as the monthlong hunt for a vanished Malaysian jetliner demonstrates. Think of the challenge, then, for law enforcement and fisheries managers in going after fleets of shady boats that engage in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. These criminals ply the seas and sell their catches with impunity, making off with an estimated 11 million to 26 million metric tons of stolen fish each year, a worldwide haul worth about $10 billion to $23.5 billion. Many use banned gear like floating gillnets, miles long, that indiscriminately slaughter countless unwanted fish along with seabirds, marine mammals, turtles and other creatures.

The danger that illegal fishing poses to vulnerable ocean ecosystems is self-evident, but the harm goes beyond that. Illegal competition hurts legitimate commercial fleets. And lawless fishermen are prone to other crimes, like forced labor and drug smuggling. The convergence of illegal fishing with other criminal enterprises makes it in every country’s interest to devise an effective response.

That’s the job of the Port State Measures Agreement. It is a treaty adopted by the United Nations in 2009 that seeks to thwart the poachers in ports when they try to unload their ill-gotten catches. Many countries have been unable or unwilling to enforce their own laws to crack down on poachers flying their flags.


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The Telegraph

Aerial footage released by the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society appears to show the bloodied remains of three minke whales

By Hannah Strange

Activists have captured rare images of protected whales slaughtered by a Japanese fleet in what is said to be an internationally recognised ocean sanctuary, offering a stark insight into Japan’s secretive but much-criticised whaling practices.

The bloodied carcasses of three minke whales lie on the deck of the Japanese ship Nisshin Maru in the aerial shots and footage taken by the anti-whaling campaign group, Sea Shepherd, as its vessels pursued the fleet through the Southern Ocean. The group said a fourth whale had already been killed.

“There’s three carcasses on the ship, a fourth carcass has been cut up. There’s blood all over the place, meat being carted around on this factory ship deck, offal and innards being dumped in the ocean,” said Bob Brown, chairman of Sea Shepherd Australia

“That’s just a gruesome, bloody, medieval scene which has no place in this modern world.”

The images, purportedly taken inside the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, drew international opprobium and renewed calls for Japan to end the controversial whaling programme which critics say is endangering populations of the marine mammals.


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Tanzania halts anti-poaching drive after abuse claims




by Staff Writers
Dar Es Salaam (AFP) Nov 02, 2013

Tanzania has suspended a controversial anti-poaching operation following reports of rampant human rights abuses including the seizure of property, torture and killing of suspects, the speaker of parliament said Saturday.

Police and wildlife officers have cracked down on suspected poachers amid a surge of killings of elephant and rhino in the east African nation, operating under what was reported to be a shoot-to-kill policy and making sweeping arrests.

The campaign, launched two months ago, was dubbed “Operation Tokomeza”, or “Operation Terminate”.

“It is has been necessary for government to suspend the operation indefinitely,” Speaker of Parliament Anne Makinda told AFP Saturday, adding that a probe into the conduct of the campaign would be launched next week.

Natural Resources and Tourism Minister Khamis Kagasheki told parliament Friday the operation would be called off, adding that any member of the security forces found to be involved in acts of torture, theft of property would be punished.

Shortly after the campaign’s launch Kagasheki was widely quoted in Tanzanian media as saying that “rangers are allowed to shoot to kill poachers.”

On Friday, MP John Shibuda said while poachers have badly hit Tanzania’s elephant population, killing the hunters was unacceptable.

“Human life is more valuable than jumbos,” he told parliament.


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Execute elephant poachers on the spot, Tanzanian minister urges

Khamis Kagasheki says radical shoot-to-kill policy would curb the slaughter of elephants for illicit ivory trade

Elephant walking in Ngorongoro Conservation Area, Serengeti National Park, Tanzania

Tanzania, with 70,000-80,000 elephants in 2009, is thought to have nearly one-quarter of all African elephants. Photograph: Joe McDonald/Corbis

A government minister in Tanzania has called for a “shoot-to-kill” policy against poachers in a radical measure to curb the mass slaughter of elephants.

Khamis Kagasheki’s proposal for perpetrators of the illicit ivory trade to be executed “on the spot” divided opinion, with some conservationists backing it as a necessary deterrent but others warning that it would lead to an escalation of violence.

There are already signs of an increasing militarisation of Africa’s wildlife parks with more than 1,000 rangers having been killed while protecting animals over the past decade, according to the Thin Green Line Foundation. Tanzania is said to have lost half its elephants in the past three years.

“Poachers must be harshly punished because they are merciless people who wantonly kill our wildlife and sometimes wardens,” said Kagasheki at the end of an International March for Elephants, which took place in 15 countries to raise awareness of the poaching scourge. “The only way to solve this problem is to execute the killers on the spot.”


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Earth Watch Report  –  Hazmat  –  Animal Advocacy – Poaching

elephants watering hole photo

CC BY 2.0 ilovetrees


HAZMAT Zimbabwe Matabeleland North, [Hwange National Park] Damage level Details

HAZMAT in Zimbabwe on Monday, 23 September, 2013 at 14:24 (02:24 PM) UTC.

Zimbabwe’s government said Monday that a “poaching syndicate” has killed at least 81 elephants, unknown numbers of buffalos and kudus by poisoning in the country’s largest national park. Six suspects were arrested two weeks ago but the scale of the cyanide-poisoning has only gradually unfolded as more elephant carcasses were discovered in the sprawling Hwange National Park. Authorities on Monday warned “huge spiral effects” as primary predators like lions, vultures, and others that feed on the contaminated elephants carcasses would be poisoned as well. Police revealed that the syndicate, led by a South African businessman, mixed up a combination of cyanide, salt and water and poured the cocktail in about 35 salt licks at watering holes known to be frequented by elephants. At other watering holes the poachers would dig holes and place containers containing the deadly mixture into the holes. Zimbabwe’s newly appointed Minister of Environment, Water and Climate Savior Kasukuwere declared a “war” against poaching. “We declare zero tolerance to poaching. We must put a stop to this. We cannot continue with this non-sense,” state media quoted Kasukuwere as saying after he went to inspect the ecological impact of the poisoning — his second trip in a week. Tourism and Hospitality Minister Walter Mzembi, who accompanied Kasukuwere to Hwange, described the poisoning as case as “murder” of Zimbabwe’s our wildlife and pledged to take the fight to those international source markets. Hwange, spanning 14,651 square kilometers, is home to about 50, 000 African elephants. Over the years, elephant population in Africa has been rapidly declining due to rampant poaching. Zimbabwe is among a few countries, mostly in southern Africa, that still have a significant number of elephants. The Zimbabwean government allows ivory trade in the domestic market, but puts strong restrictions on exporting the ivory products. The country’s law provides maximum 11 years in prison for people convicted of poaching.

The Zimbabwean News

Zim elephant death tolls climbs to 81 after cyanide poisoning

More than 80 elephants have died as a result of cyanide poisoning at the Hwange National Park, in what is being described as serious crisis for the park.

Nine suspected members of a poaching syndicate have been arrested since the first of the elephant carcasses were discovered late last month. The carcasses were discovered after national parks authorities teamed up with police to track suspected poachers, after hearing gunfire in the park.

Investigations by the police resulted in the grisly discovery of the elephants, with their tusks removed. Further investigations led the police to nearby Mafu homestead, where six suspected members of the poaching gang were arrested and 17 elephant tusks were recovered.

According to authorities, the poaching syndicate laced salt licks with cyanide and placed the salt at main water sources where the Hwange elephants drink.

Since then, a large scale operation has been launched resulting in three more arrests and the discovery of even more elephants remains.

Johnny Rodrigues, the chairman of the Zimbabwe Conservation Task Force (ZCTF) said the situation is “very serious.” He told SW Radio Africa that greed and corruption was to blame for allowing poaching to reach such serious levels.

“The repercussions are just so big. All the carnivores in the park like your lions, your leopards, the birds, they will all have perished too from eating the elephant meat,” Rodrigues said.

He added: “The situation is just going to get worse and something needs to be done to stop the carnage.”

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Jeremy Hance
July 25, 2013

It all started with a video: in 2009 a Russian man uploaded a video of himself tickling his exotic pet (a pygmy slow loris) from Vietnam onto the hugely popular site YouTube. Since then the video has been viewed over half a million times. But a new study in the open source journal in PLoS ONE, finds that such YouTube videos have helped fuel a cruel, illegal trade that is putting some of the world’s least-known primates at risk of extinction. Lorises are small, shy, and nocturnal primates that inhabit the forests of tropical Asia, but the existence of all eight species is currently imperiled by a booming illegal pet trade that has been aided by videos of lorises being tickled, holding tiny umbrellas, or doing other seemingly cute (but wholly unnatural) things.

“In Indonesia alone, where six species of loris occur, a minimum of 15,000 lorises are trafficked each year; this does not count the numbers that die before making it to markets,” lead author Anna Nekaris, with Oxford Brookes University and founder of the slow loris-organization Little Fireface Project, told “In Indochina, no figures are available, but slow lorises have often been the most frequently encountered mammal in markets. In both regions, however, sellers report declines, saying they are ‘finished’ in the wild.”

Given the popularity of YouTube videos showing illegal pet lorises, Nekaris and her team decided to analyze how people responded to the videos through viewer comments. Selecting the video of that pygmy slow loris (Nycticebus pygmaeus) being tickled in Russia, the researchers made their way through 12,000 comments. Worryingly, they found that around 25 percent of people expressed a desire for slow loris “pet.” Many comments were along the lines of, “where can I get one?”

This baby Sumatran slow loris has little chance to survive. Only a few weeks old, it should live with its mother in the wild for 14 months, but instead is being sold into the pet trade, doomed to a diet of bananas and rice. Photo by: The Little Fireface Project.
This baby Sumatran slow loris has little chance to survive. Only a few weeks old, it should live with its mother in the wild for 14 months, but instead is being sold into the pet trade, doomed to a diet of bananas and rice. Photo by: The Little Fireface Project.

But even beyond being illegal—slow lorises are protected in each of their range countries—the loris trade is problematic for a number of reasons. For one thing, slow lorises that end up in pet trade are not captive-bred but taken directly from the wild.

“Slow lorises are impossible to breed in captivity. The track record of some of the most renowned zoos shows that the number of slow lorises born in these facilities is way below what is needed for a self-sustaining population. Indeed several species have never been bred in captivity,” Nekaris explains. “Without a shadow of a doubt the slow lorises we see in these YouTube videos are derived directly from the wild and not the result of some fictitious/magical captive breeding facilities.”

In order to capture a slow loris baby for the trade, poachers must kill the mother and sometimes whole family groups. In other words, several slow lorises may die for one pet, and few pet owners realize their purchase is likely responsible for the death of their “pet’s” mother. Further mortalities occur while the slow loris waits for a buyer.

“Slow lorises are the world’s only venomous primates, so in hopes to keep them from biting, traders cruelly clip or rip out their teeth with pliers, wire cutters or nail clippers. This is done in the open street with no anesthesia, resulting usually in slow painful death due to infection,” Nekaris says.

This wild baby Javan slow loris is just as it should be, with a full set of teeth, and still living with its family group in the wild. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.
This wild baby Javan slow loris is just as it should be, with a full set of teeth, and still living with its family group in the wild. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.

This cruel operation also makes it possible to release confiscated lorises back into the forests, according to Nekaris, who adds that “the procedure is useless since their deadly venom can still be administered via their powerful jaws.”

Keeping a loris is also incredibly difficult. Little is known about the animal’s dietary needs even by scientists (for example the slow loris shown in the tickling video is clinically obese), and few of these pets live long.

However, the study also found a slight shift in opinions following the establishment of a Wikipedia page called ‘Conservation of Slow Lorises’ in 2011 and the airing of a documentary on the BBC about the slow loris trade called the Jungle Gremlins of Java in 2012. After this, comments expressing a desire to own a pet slow loris dropped to about 10 percent on the site per month, and those with a conservation message rose. But the videos are still seen as reinforcing both the illegal trade and the idea of slow lorises as “cute pets,” instead of wild and poisonous primates that hugely sensitive to bright lights and human handling.

Today, all of the world’s slow lorises are listed as either Vulnerable or Endangered by the IUCN Red List, and the Javan slow lorises is considered among the world’s top 25 most imperiled primates. Lorises are also threatened by deforestation and the traditional medicine trade, but play hugely important roles in their ecosystems by pollinating plants and eating insect pests.

Nekaris told that one of the big problems for slow lorises and other animals exploited by sites like YouTube is that these social sites don’t allow users to flag animal media as “illegal.”

This Javan slow loris is already severely dehydrated, terrified, and shows injured hands and horrific fur condition. It is unlikely to make it to any YouTube video. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.
This Javan slow loris is already severely dehydrated, terrified, and shows injured hands and horrific fur condition. It is unlikely to make it to any YouTube video. Photo by: Wawan Tarniwan.

“Currently, no Web 2.0 site (e.g. Facebook, YouTube) allows viewers to report that animal material is illegal. Animal cruelty is available on YouTube, but is vastly different from illegal animal activity that threatens an entire group of species. If this flagging option were available, YouTube could then either embed flagged videos with warnings about illegal pet trade, poaching, medicinal, ivory or fur trade (for example), or ideally remove the videos altogether, as they would videos portraying illegal arms, pornography or drug use,” Nekaris says.

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Wildlife Extra

More than 2 tonnes of ivory seized in Hong Kong

world/Asia/2013/Hong-Kong-ivory-July-2013The ivory tusks were packed in 30 sacks and covered by wooden boards in the innermost part of the container. © Hong Kong Customs and Excise Department

Seizure of 1,148 ivory tusks underscores Hong Kong’s transit role in illicit trade
July 2013-Hong Kong Customs have seized 1,148 ivory tusks weighing 2.183 tonnes. The tusks were declared as timber and concealed in a 20 foot (6 m) container that arrived on a vessel from the West African country of Togo.
Repeated large scale seizures
It was the ninth large-scale ivory seizure made in Hong Kong since 2010, with a combined weight of just over 14 tonnes. CITES has defined large-scale seizures as 500 kg or more, and typically are indicative of organized criminal activity.

Hong Kong, Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam
Hong Kong, together with Malaysia, the Philippines and Viet Nam, were identified through analysis of the Elephant Trade Information System (ETIS) database as the main transit points for ivory arriving in Asia from Africa before onward distribution to the major markets in Thailand and China. Collectively, they have made or been implicated in 21 (62%) of the 34 large-scale ivory seizures made between 2009 and 2011, totalling 41.1 tonnes of ivory.

ETIS is the world’s foremost collection of ivory and other elephant product seizures containing nearly 20,000 records from some 90 countries or territories worldwide since 1989. It is managed by TRAFFIC on behalf of Parties to the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), who met this March in Bangkok, Thailand.

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Image: Princess. Tilly, Wikimedia Commons

Wildlife Extra

Czech rhino horn smuggling gang arrested

24 rhino horns seized

July 2013. 16 people were arrested and charged with smuggling, and 24 rhino horns were seized.

It appears that the gang members posed as hunters in South Africa, where they shot the rhinos on game farms; the horns were then imported to Europe, sometimes using fake documents. The gang planned to export the rhinos to Asia but it appears that they have been seized before they could complete the shipment.

This is not the first time rhinos have been shot, supposedly by ‘big game hunters’ who turned out to be working for smuggling syndicates. South Africa changed their rules after discovering that rhino hunting licences had been awarded to Thai prostitutes posing as hunters. Possibly as many as dozens of rhino were shot, not by the Thai girls who thought they were on safari, but by ‘professional hunters. The horns were then given export licences before being shipped to the gang leaders in Asia.

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Wild Life Extra

Iceland whale meat returned to Iceland

whales/2013/iceland_whale_meatSpotlight Iceland: what is the point of your whaling Mr. Loftsson?

Shipping lines and ports refusing to carry Iceland’s whale meat

July 2013.

For years the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has been asking “what’s the point?” of his whaling operation. Besides being cruel, his whaling has never looked profitable. His only possible market, Japan, has never been particularly inviting and now he’s having trouble finding anyone who will carry the products of his cruel trade.

Whaler meat found in Rotterdam Harbour
Mr Loftsson’s most recent troubles began at the beginning of July when whale meat was discovered in a merchant vessel in Rotterdam harbour. It was labelled as “fish”, but the six containers were estimated to contain the meat of between five and six Fin whales. After a huge on-line Avaaz campaign deluged a million emails on the port authorities, they announced that no further whale meat would be allowed into their port as such a trade was in breach of their corporate responsibility policies.

Attention then turned to the exporter, Samskip. Within days they issued a statement saying they would not carry the six containers to Japan and that”, for the sake of avoiding any misunderstanding, Samskip confirms that it does not plan to ship whale meat in the future.”

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Kenya to toughen poaching sentences to save elephants

by Staff Writers
Nairobi (AFP) April 06, 2013

Kenya plans to bolster current lenient sentences for convicted wildlife poachers or ivory smugglers in a bid to stamp out a spike in elephant killings, the government said Saturday.

“We intend to fight poachers at all levels to save our elephants,” government spokesman Muthui Kariuki said in a statement.

A major obstacle to this is that Kenyan courts are currently limited in their powers to jail or fine those convicted of wildlife crimes, he said.

“One of the major setbacks are lenient penalties and sentencing for wildlife crime by the courts,” he said.

“The government is concerned about this and has facilitated the process of reviewing the wildlife law and policy with a view to having more deterrent penalties and jail terms.”

Poaching has recently risen sharply in east Africa, with whole herds of elephants massacred for their ivory. Rhinos have also been targeted.

Passing tougher wildlife laws will be made a priority for Kenya’s parliament, elected last month but which has yet to begin business.

“We look forward to… parliament giving priority to passing of a new wildlife law and policy,” Kariuki added.

Kenya’s current wildlife act caps punishment for the most serious wildlife crimes at a maximum fine of 40,000 Kenyan shillings (470 dollars, 365 euros), and a possible jail term of up to 10 years.

Last month, a Chinese smuggler caught in Kenya with a haul of ivory was fined less than a dollar (euro) a piece.


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Kenyan, Tanzanian poachers arrested in possession of ivory

Souce:Xinhua Publish By Updated 07/04/2013 6:21 am

NAIROBI, April 6 — Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said two suspected poachers, a Tanzanian and his Kenyan accomplice have been arrested while in possession of six pieces of ivory weighing 43kilograms.

KWS said in a statement issued on Saturday that Emellian Shirima, Tanzanian, and Uchapa Mirie, Kenyan were arrested on Thursday in Taita Taveta in the coastal region.

“It is believed that the ivory was from a recent poaching incident in the area. KWS officials will prefer charges against the suspects for being in illegal possession, dealing with a government trophy and failing to make a report of being in its possession to authorities,” the statement said.

In February, two Tanzanians were arraigned in a Nairobi court after they were arrested with 16 pieces of ivory weighing 141 kilograms in Ongata Rongai Township on the outskirts of Nairobi. A Tanzanian registered vehicle was impounded in the incident.

Rampant poaching in Kenya has forced the wildlife agency to step up anti-poaching measures after experiencing a loss of 19 elephants since the beginning of 2012.


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Published on Mar 25, 2013

Father Mann organized the Tablet Forum’s May 10, 2013, NYC premiere of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home, an award-winning documentary about farmers and their change of heart about animals. Father Mann is a gifted writer and speaker known for his infectious enthusiasm and warm sense of humor. The Tablet Forum events offer attendees the chance to view films, hear speakers, and participate in discussion of a wide range of topics which foster community and celebrate the potential we each have to make a difference for those most in need. The May 10 film premiere is a free event that is open to the public. Learn more at

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The New York City premiere of Peaceable Kingdom: The Journey Home is the first Tablet Forum to explore the ethical dimensions of our society’s relationship to animals.

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