polar bears in the federal register

Polar Bear Feed

What it is: An automatically updated chronological list of U.S. Federal Register items that mention polar bears from 1994 to the present. It also provides dynamically generated visualizations of data, including charts of permit applications for imports of polar bear trophies from Canada between 1997 and 2008.

How it works: The application builds a local database by using the Federal Register 2.0 API to search for the terms “polar bear” or “polar bears” in the full text of notices, rules, and other items in the Federal Register. It makes the results available over the web as a browsable list, as an RSS feed, and as a detail view of each item, and it dynamically generates charts and maps based on the local database.

What it’s good for: Environmentalists, animal protectionists, trophy hunters, and others can use the feed to easily keep track U.S. federal government actions relating to polar bears, including the drafting of new rules and regulations and the issuance of permits.

Some background: Polar bears have been a hot topic lately, and it’s not just because of Knut, may he rest in peace. Ursus maritimus is one of the species that has come to symbolize the threat of global climate change. In the United States, that means controversy. In 2008, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service took the historic step of listing the polar bear as “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act of 1973 because of the likelihood that global warming would lead to shrinking habitats for the species — specifically, less ice. The decision was highly contested and remains so.

One of the most immediate consequences of the ESA listing was the end of a program under which American hunters had been allowed to import trophies of polar bears killed in Canada. Killing polar bears for sport and importing polar bear parts for personal use (e.g., as trophies) had been illegal in the United States since 1972, when the species was protected by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, an important predecessor of the ESA. (Alaska Natives were still free to kill bears under certain conditions.) In Canada, in contrast, where the majority of the world’s polar bears reside, hunting had been regulated but legal. Amendments to the MMPA in 1994 opened up a loophole allowing American hunters to bring back their prizes. Advocates of the measure argued that Canada’s polar bear population was large and well-managed, and that license and guide fees would help support arctic communities and polar bear conservation.

The 2008 “threatened” listing shut the door on trophy imports, including the import of parts from bears who had already been killed by American hunters. Ever since, the Safari Club International, the Boone and Crockett Club, the National Rifle Association, and other hunting advocates have been trying to roll back the decision, or at least to allow trophies from animals that had been killed before the listing to be imported, while the Natural Resources Defense Council, the Humane Society of the United States, and other environmental and animal welfare/rights groups have defended the ban on importation. Recent court decisions have supported the ban, but it’s likely that the issue will continue to be controversial as long as trophy hunting of polar bears is legal in Canada.

It thus seems like an opportune time to revisit the history of federal protections for polar bears in the United States. Fortunately, there’s a new tool that makes it easier than ever before to get at some of the crucial primary sources: namely, all of the material about federal regulatory actions — including information about every single permit issued to an American trophy hunter under the import program — that has been published in the Federal Register since it first went electronic in 1994.

Federal Register 2.0, as it’s called, has a nice web interface for casually browsing or searching, but — even more importantly from the standpoint of open government — it also opens up an Application Programming Interface (API) to anyone who wants to write his or her own app using its data.

I’ve taken advantage of FR2.0 API to create a tool that automatically grabs all Federal Register items that mention polar bears, displays them in a nicely formatted list, lets you browse forward and backward in time, and links back to the full text on the official Federal Register site. To check out the Polar Bear Feed in a new tab or window, click here.  The app also exposes an RSS feed here, to be subscribed to with Google Reader or your favorite feed reader. And there’s a dynamically generated chart of the number of polar-bear-related Federal Register items per year from 1994 to the present  and a map of trophy import permit applications.  This is all, I hasten to add, experimental and liable to break at any time.

At the moment the Polar Bear Feed is quite rudimentary, but eventually it or something like it could offer a much richer functionality  — including, for example, links to other related content, more tools for analysis, mapping, and visualization, or opportunities for annotation and discussion. In the meantime it serves as a kind of proof of concept, with a few small bells and whistles. I suspect this kind of tool will become increasingly important for both scholars and citizens as more and more government data not only goes digital but also goes open, i.e., easily accessible for downloading and re-presenting according to open standards.

The technical details: The app builds a local database of polar bear-related FR notices, which is updated somewhat intelligently every time the page is loaded; i.e., it only searches for new items and checks to make sure it’s not creating duplicates in the local database. (One consequence is that if new items were to be added to the FR source with earlier publication dates than the latest item in the database, the app wouldn’t find them. This isn’t supposed to happen.) It was written with the Django web application framework, which is based on the Python language. Version control is managed with git and GitHub. In the spirit of FLOSS, the code can be viewed and downloaded here. Deployment is through Heroku, using virtualenv and pip to establish the Django/Python environment, South to handle database migrations, and git to push the code up to the Heroku servers. The database backend is Postgres. Charts are generated using Google Chart API, with request URLs generated either manually or with the help of pygooglechart. A tiny bit of client-side JavaScript with the jQuery library is used to hide/show data on the trophy page. The local development platform is Ubuntu Linux 11.10. If you’re developing with Ruby on Rails, the FR2.0 team has made things easier by providing an API available as the federal_register gem.

animal history core readings

This is an evolving list with no pretensions to authority, completeness, or representativeness. It’s biased by my own academic training and research efforts, which have focused on human-animal relationships as seen through the lenses of environmental history and science and technology studies (STS), primarily in a North American context. The one hundred works listed fall within the disciplines of history, anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and literary studies, but the primary focus is on history. Limiting the length of the list obviously entails excluding some important works and authors. I post it here in the hope that it might be helpful to graduate students and others trying to gain an intellectual foothold in the increasingly coherent but still dispersed field of animal studies. The list is ordered alphabetically by author.

  1. Adams, Carol J. 1990. The Sexual Politics of Meat: A Feminist-Vegetarian Critical Theory. New York: Continuum.
  2. Agamben, Giorgio. 2004. The Open: Man and Animal. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
  3. Anderson, Kay. 2007. Race and the Crisis of Humanism. New York: Routledge.
  4. Anderson, Virginia DeJohn. 2004. Creatures of Empire: How Domestic Animals Transformed Early America. New York: Oxford University Press.
  5. Animal Studies Group. 2006. Killing Animals. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.
  6. Arluke, Arnold and Clinton R. Sanders. 1996. Regarding Animals. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.
  7. Baker, Steve. 1993. Picturing the Beast: Animals, Identity, and Representation. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  8. Baker, Steve. 2000. The Postmodern Animal. London: Reaktion.
  9. Bankoff, Greg and Sandra Swart, with Peter Boomgaard, William Clarence-Smith, Bernice de Jong Boers and Dhiravat no Pombejra. 2007. Breeds of Empire: The ‘Invention’ of the Horse in Southeast Asia and Southern Africa, 1500-1950. Copenhagen: NIAS Press.
  10. Barrow, Mark V. 1998. A Passion for Birds: American Ornithology after Audubon. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  11. Barrow, Mark V. 2009. Nature’s Ghosts: Confronting Extinction from the Age of Jefferson to the Age of Ecology. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.
  12. Beers, Diane. 2006. For the Prevention of Cruelty: The History and Legacy of Animal Rights Activism in the United States. Athens: Swallow Press/Ohio University Press
  13. Berger, John. 1980. “Why Look at Animals?” in About Looking, 3-28. New York: Pantheon.
  14. Birke, Lynda, Arnold Arluke, and Mike Michael. 2007. The Sacrifice: How Scientific Experiments Transform Animals and People. West Lafayette, IN: Purdue University Press.
  15. Boomgaard, Peter. 2001. Frontiers of Fear: Tigers and People in the Malay World, 1600-1950. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  16. Budiansky, Stephen. 1992. The Covenant of the Wild: Why Animals Chose Domestication. New York: W. Morrow.
  17. Bulliet, Richard W. 2005. Hunters, Herders and Hamburgers: The Past and Future of Human-Animal Relationships. New York: Columbia University Press.
  18. Burnett, D. Graham. 2007. Trying Leviathan: The Nineteenth-Century New York Court Case That Put the Whale on Trial and Challenged the Order of Nature. Princeton: Princeton University Press.
  19. Callon, Michel. 1986. “Some Elements of a Sociology of Translation: The Domestication of the Scallops and the Fishermen of St. Brieuc Bay.” In Power, Action and Belief: A New Sociology of Knowledge, ed. John Law, 196-223. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul.
  20. Cartmill, Matt. 1993. A View to a Death in the Morning: Hunting and Nature through History. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  21. Cavell, Stanley, Cora Diamond, John McDowell, Ian Hacking and Cary Wolfe. 2008. Philosophy and Animal  Life. New York: Columbia University Press.
  22. Clutton-Brock, Juliet. 1999. A Natural History of Domesticated Mammals, 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  23. Coleman, Jon T. 2004. Vicious: Wolves and Men in America. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  24. Cronon, William. 1991. Nature’s Metropolis: Chicago and the Great West. New York: W.W. Norton.
  25. Crosby, Alfred W. Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900, 2nd ed. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2004.
  26. Daston, Lorraine and Gregg Mitman, eds. 2005. Thinking with Animals: New Perspectives on Anthropomorphism. New York: Columbia University Press.
  27. Deleuze, Giles and Félix Guattari. 1987. “1730: Becoming-Intense, Becoming-Animal, Becoming-Imperceptible….” In A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, trans. Brian Massumi, 256-341. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  28. Derrida, Jacques. 1991. “‘Eating Well,’ or the Calculation of the Subject: An Interview with Jacques Derrida.” In Who Comes After the Subject? ed. Eduardo Cadava, Peter Connor, and Jean-Luc Nancy, 96-119. New York: Routledge.
  29. Derrida, Jacques. 2008. The Animal That Therefore I Am, ed. Marie-Louise Mallet, trans. David Wills. New York: Fordham University Press.
  30. Dupré, John. 2002. Humans and Other Animals. Oxford: Clarendon.
  31. French, Richard D. 1975. Antivivisection and Medical Science in Victorian Society. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  32. Fudge, Erica. 2000. Perceiving Animals: Humans and Beasts in Early Modern English Culture. New York: St. Martin’s Press.
  33. Fudge, Erica, ed. 2004. Renaissance Beasts: Of Animals, Humans, and Other Wonderful Creatures. Champaign: University of Illinois Press.
  34. Fudge, Erica. 2006. Brutal Reasoning: Animals, Rationality, and Humanity in Early Modern England. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press.
  35. Geertz, Clifford. 1973. “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight.” In The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, 412-53. New York: Basic Books.
  36. Grier, Katherine C. 2006. Pets in America: A History. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press.
  37. Guerrini, Anita. 2003. Experimenting with Humans and Animals: From Galen to Animal Rights. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  38. Haraway, Donna J. 1989. Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science. New York: Routledge.
  39. Haraway, Donna J. 2003. Companion Species Manifesto: Dogs, People, and Significant Otherness. Chicago, IL: Prickly Paradigm.
  40. Haraway, Donna J. 2004. The Haraway Reader. New York: Routledge.
  41. Haraway, Donna J. 2008. When Species Meet. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  42. Harris, Marvin. 1985. Good to Eat: Riddles of Food and Culture. New York: Simon and Schuster.
  43. Hearne, Vicki. 1994. Animal Happiness: A Moving Exploration of Animals and their Emotions. New York: HarperCollins.
  44. Hearne, Vicki. 2000. Adam’s Task: Calling Animals by Name. Pleasantville, NY: Akadine.
  45. Henninger-Voss, Mary, ed. 2002. Animals in Human Histories: The Mirror of Nature and Culture. Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press.
  46. Hribal, Jason. 2003. “‘Animals are Part of the Working Class’: A Challenge to Labor History.” Labor History 44:435-53.
  47. Ingold, Tim, ed. 1988. What Is an Animal? Boston: Unwin Hyman.
  48. Ingold, Tim. 1995. “Building, Dwelling, Living: How Animals and People Make Themselves at Home in the World.” In Shifting Contexts: Transformations in Anthropological Knowledge, ed. Marilyn Strathern, 57-89. London: Routledge.
  49. Isenberg, Andrew C. 2000. The Destruction of the Bison: An Environmental History, 1750-1920. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  50. Jones, Susan. 2003. Valuing Animals: Veterinarians and Their Patients in Modern America. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  51. Kalof, Linda and Amy Fitzgerald, eds. 2007. The Animals Reader: The Essential Classic and Contemporary Writings. Oxford: Berg.
  52. Kalof, Linda and Brigitte Resl, eds. 2007. A Cultural History of Animals. New York: Berg.
  53. Kalof, Linda. 2007. Looking at Animals in Human History. London: Reaktion.
  54. Knight, John, ed. 2005. Animals in Person: Cultural Perspectives on Human-Animal Intimacies. New York: Berg.
  55. Kohler, Robert. 1994. Lords of the Fly: Drosophila Genetics and the Experimental Life. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  56. Krech, Shepard, III. 1999. The Ecological Indian: Myth and History. New York: W.W. Norton.
  57. Landry, Donna. 2008. Noble Brutes: How Eastern Horses Transformed English Culture. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  58. Lansbury, Coral. 1985. The Old Brown Dog: Women, Workers, and Vivisection in Edwardian England. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  59. Lévi-Strauss, Claude. 1963. Totemism. Boston: Beacon Press.
  60. Lovejoy, Arthur O. 1936. The Great Chain of Being: A Study of the History of an Idea. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  61. Lutts, Ralph H. 1990. The Nature Fakers: Wildlife, Science and Sentiment. Golden, CO: Fulcrum.
  62. MacKenzie, John M. 1988. The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation, and British Imperialism. Manchester: Manchester University Press.
  63. Manning, Aubrey and James Serpell, eds. 1994. Animals and Human Society: Changing Perspectives. New York: Routledge.
  64. Mason, Jennifer. 2005. Civilized Creatures: Urban Animals, Sentimental Culture, and American Literature, 1850-1900. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  65. McEvoy, Arthur F. 1986. The Fisherman’s Problem: Ecology and Law in the California Fisheries, 1850-1980. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  66. McShane, Clay and Joel A. Tarr. 2007. The Horse in the City: Living Machines in the Nineteenth Century. Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  67. Melville, Elinor G. K. 1994. A Plague of Sheep: Environmental Consequences of the Conquest of Mexico. New York: Cambridge University Press.
  68. Midgley, Mary. 1984. Animals and Why They Matter. Athens: University of Georgia Press.
  69. Mighetto, Lisa. 1991. Wild Animals and American Environmental Ethics. Tucson: University of Arizona Press.
  70. Mitman, Gregg. 1999. Reel Nature: America’s Romance with Wildlife on Film. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  71. Nash, Roderick F. 1989. The Rights of Nature: A History of Environmental Ethics. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  72. Noske, Barbara. 1997. Beyond Boundaries: Humans and other Animals. New York: Black Rose Books.
  73. Pflugfelder, Gregory M. and Brett L. Walker, eds. 2005. JAPANimals: History and Culture in Japan’s Animal Life. Ann Arbor: Center for Japanese Studies, University of Michigan.
  74. Philo, Chris and Chris Wilbert, eds. 2000. Animal Spaces, Beastly Places: New Geographies of Human-Animal Relations. New York: Routledge.
  75. Phineas, Charles. 1974. “Household Pets and Urban Alienation.” Journal of Social History 7:338-43. [A parody whose real target is a certain kind of Marxist historiography, but still worth reading.]
  76. Plumwood, Val. 1993. Feminism and the Mastery of Nature. New York: Routledge.
  77. Rader, Karen A. 2004. Making Mice: Standardizing Animals for American Biomedical Research, 1900-1955. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
  78. Raffles, Hugh. 2010. Insectopedia. New York: Pantheon.
  79. Ritvo, Harriet. 1987. Animal Estate: The English and Other Creatures in the Victorian Age. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  80. Ritvo, Harriet. 1997. The Platypus and the Mermaid, and Other Figments of the Classifying Imagination. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.
  81. Robbins, Louise E. 2002. Elephant Slaves and Pampered Parrots: Exotic Animals in Eighteenth-Century Paris. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  82. Rothfels, Nigel, ed. 2003. Representing Animals. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.
  83. Rothfels, Nigel. 2002. Savages and Beasts: The Birth of the Modern Zoo. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  84. Schrepfer, Susan R. and Philip Scranton, eds. 2004. Industrializing Organisms: Introducing Evolutionary History. New York: Routledge.
  85. Serpell, James. 1986. In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships. New York: B. Blackwell.
  86. Shepard, Paul. 1996. The Others: How Animals Made Us Human. Washington, DC: Island Press.
  87. Singer, Peter. 1975. Animal Liberation: A New Ethics for Our Treatment of Animals. New York: Avon.
  88. Singer, Peter. 1998. Ethics into Action: Henry Spira and the Animal Rights Movement. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield.
  89. Spiegel, Marjorie. 1996. The Dreaded Comparison: Human and Animal Slavery, rev. and expanded ed. New York: Mirror Books.
  90. Swabe, Joanna. 1999. Animals, Disease, and Human Society: Human-Animal Relations and the Rise of Veterinary Medicine. New York: Routledge.
  91. Tester, Keith. 1991. Animals and Society: The Humanity of Animal Rights. New York: Routledge.
  92. Thomas, Keith. 1983. Man and the Natural World: Changing Attitudes in England, 1500-1800. London: Allen Lane.
  93. Todes, Daniel. 2002. Pavlov’s Physiology Factory: Experiment, Interpretation, Laboratory Enterprise. Baltimore, MD: The Johns Hopkins University Press.
  94. Tuan, Yi-Fu. 1984. Dominance and Affection: The Making of Pets. New Haven: Yale University Press.
  95. Turner, James. 1980. Reckoning with the Beast: Animals, Pain, and Humanity in the Victorian Mind.  Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.
  96. Tyler, Tom and Manuela Rossini, eds. 2009. Animal Encounters. Boston: Brill.
  97. Walker, Brett. 2005. The Lost Wolves of Japan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.
  98. White, Richard. 1994. “Animals and Enterprise.” In The Oxford History of the American West, ed. Clyde A. Milner II et al., 237-73. New York: Oxford University Press.
  99. Wolfe, Cary, ed. 2002. Zoontologies: The Question of the Animal. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
  100. Wolfe, Cary. 2003. Animal Rites: American Culture, the Discourse of Species, and Posthumanist Theory. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.