Brief economic and ecological news items from 1998

Cuba’s Organic Revolution

Organic agriculture has been adopted as the official government strategy for all new agriculture in Cuba, after its highly successful introduction just seven years ago.
In less than a decade the use of chemical pesticides has dropped by 80%. The catalyst which revolutionised the Cuban approach, was economic necessity after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Now the island is self-sufficient in organic fruit and vegetables, and organic livestock is also being reared successfully. Even cabbage, which could not be grown in the past, because it was impossible to control the diamond black moth, now has yields of 60 tonnes per hectare without using fertilisers or pesticides.

To meet the demands of a more labour intensive system of agriculture, the Cuban government has increased rural wages and is providing favourable housing for farm workers which also helps solve the problem of severe housing shortages and overcrowding in the cities. It is also making available abandoned land in urban areas for local communities to farm.

In one co-operative, 40 members are providing food for their own families, with plenty of surplus to provide for community elders, invalids and day care centres.
Over 40 countries were represented at a recent Pesticide Action Network (PAN) conference in Cuba to challenge the view that pesticides are essential for agriculture.

The Cuban experience added strength to their conviction that organic agriculture has a great deal to offer and has been unjustifiably ignored by agricultural researchers.

Pesticide Action Network UK (former The Pesticide Trust)
56-64 Leonard Street
London EC2A 4JX
Tel +44 (0) 20 7065 0905 / Fax +44 (0) 20 7065 0907

"Green" Olympics?

The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA), together with its Japanese member society All Life in a Viable Environment (ALIVE), has condemned Japan over the killing of hundreds of endangered Japanese black bears and macaques (or ‘snow monkeys’) that live in and around the site of  the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano Prefecture.

There is no government protection for these species, despite the fact that they are extinct in many parts of Japan, and thousands are legally killed  every year by people who see them as pests.  Bears are even seen as potential sporting trophies and are shot on sight or trapped and speared.  In 1996, over 1,000 snow monkeys and 100 bears were killed in Nagano Prefecture alone (there are only 1,300 black bears in this region). In addition, hundreds of monkeys are caught from the wild each year and sold to vivisection laboratories as fresh live specimens.

Victor Watkins, WSPA’s Director of Wildlife, said "It is hypocrisy for Japan to pretend that the Winter Olympics are the ‘nature olympics’ whilst killing increasing numbers of the wild bears and monkeys that live in the area.  There are only between 10,000-15,000 black bears left in Japan and around 2,000 are killed each year.  At this rate, Japan’s bears will not last long."

The snow monkeys of the Jigokudani area of Yamanouchi Town in Nagano Prefecture are a world-famous tourist attraction, with their habit of taking baths in the area’s natural hot springs during winter months. However, there are controversial plans to reduce this small population of monkeys from 400 to less than 100 over the next few years, by killing any that are found on farm land and capturing wild monkeys to sell to vivisection laboratories. Meanwhile, snow monkeys in surrounding areas continue to be killed in increasing numbers.

WSPA and its member society ALIVE are lobbying the Japanese authorities to undertake humane management of bears and monkeys, by using electric fencing and adverse conditioning techniques to keep the animals from raiding farm land in search of food, as well as looking at the long term restoration of natural habitat and food bearing vegetation.

People wishing to express their opposition to the killing of Japan’s endangered bears and monkeys should write to:

Prime Minister Ryutaro Hashimoto, Prime Minister’s Office, 2-3-1 Nagata-cho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-0014, Japan

Governor Goro Yoshimura, Nagano Prefectural Office, 692-2 Habashita, Minami Nagano, Nagano-shi 380 0837, Japan .

For further information, please contact:

Crunch Time for Endangered Tuna

 Japan’s actions at a meeting in Canberra today could push the critically endangered southern bluefin tuna another step closer to extinction, Greenpeace warned.
The Commission for the Conservation of Southern Bluefin Tuna (CCSBT) is meeting for the third time to set the 1998 tuna quota for its members - Japan, Australia and New Zealand. The previous two attempts failed to set a quota because of  Japan’s hardline demand for a 3000 tonne increase and plans to introduce an experimental fishing program.

Greenpeace warned that the Japanese Government’s opposition to conservation measures for southern bluefin tuna could set the species on an irreversible path to extinction, and lead to the demise of the CCSBT. Japan has already threatened to quit the commission.

"Southern bluefin tuna is being hunted to extinction," said Greenpeace campaigner Darren Gladman. "Japan, which is the major fishing nation for southern bluefin tuna and its major consumer, is now demanding even more quota. How low do the stocks of southern bluefin tuna have to get before the fishery is suspended?"
Stocks of southern bluefin tuna are so severely depleted that in 1996 the World Conservation Union listed the species as "critically endangered" and placed it on its Red List of endangered species alongside the Black Rhinoceros and Mountain Gorilla.

Australian Government scientists have predicted that if the current level of fishing continues there is a greater than 50% likelihood that spawning stocks will be reduced to zero by the year 2020.

"The CCSBT has been unable to fulfil its role of conserving the southern bluefin tuna," said Gladman.  "If Japan, Australia and New Zealand are unable to agree on measures to rebuild southern bluefin tuna stocks and stem the increase in global fishing for the species, then the CCSBT will go down in history as the body which drove its target species to extinction."

Source: Greenpeace on the Internet at

Mother Cow Saves Calf from Slaughterhouse

A cow showing highly developed maternal instinct, saved her calf by breaking down the door of a slaughterhouse where the little creature was about to be killed.  The cow managed to break through the heavy slaughterhouse door by using its horns while the butchers looked on terrified.

Source: Il Messagero (Rome, 23.7.97)  via European Vegetarian Union News.

Vegetarianism Grows in UK

A new survey of more than 4000 people by the Realeat vegetarian foods company, conducted by Gallup, has shown a record rise in vegetarianism in the United Kingdom.  As well as showing an increase of 5000 people a week turning to vegetarianism, the poll puts the number of vegetarians in the U.K. at more than 3 million, compared to just 100, 000 in 1945.

Source: The Vegetarian, Summer, 1997

Quote, unquote

"The demand for iguanas is growing at an alarming  rate.  We believe that this is in part due to the success of Jurassic park.  The same thing happened with Dalmation dogs following the release of Disney's 101 Dalmations."

Cristina Maceroni, of  the World Wildlife Fund, on the importing of iguanas as pets in Rome (The Guardian, 23.10.97 via Outrage, the Animal Aid Journal)

"You probably want to put a government health warning on the bag of poultry meat, just like a pack of cigarettes.

Ian Coghill, Environmental Health Officer in Birmingham  commenting on statistics showing  salmonella  contamination in over 50%   of  chickens sold in the UK (Outrage, February 1998)


This article was published in New Renaissance magazine Vol. 8, No. 1