PETA says BP's acts of criminal negligence are killing hundreds of birds, mammals and other marine life.
As the tally of animals killed by the BP oil spill climbs -- 333 dead sea turtles, 756 dead birds and 41 mammals, including dolphins, and untold numbers of fish and crustaceans as of June 15 -- environmentalists are asking Gulf Coast states to bring cruelty to animals charges against BP for criminal negligence.
In letters sent this week to each of the attorneys general in the states of Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi and Florida, lawyers for the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) said that the anti-cruelty laws of those Gulf Coast states provide that any person who unnecessarily causes the torment or death of any animal is guilty of a misdemeanor.
Jeffrey S. Kerr, General Counsel and Vice President of Corporate Affairs at PETA, writes that by enacting cruelty-to-animals laws, the Gulf states "acknowledged that these animals are not simply products or resources for the enjoyment of humans but rather that each animal is an individual who must be protected from unnecessary cruelty."
"BP's criminal negligence, including its willful filing of a blatantly false response plan with the Minerals Management Service assuring that it was well prepared to deal with a leak many times greater than the one occurring now, directly resulted in the torment, unjustifiable injury, and mistreatment of hundreds of animals in the Gulf region," writes Kerr.
PETA's letters to the attorneys general details precisely how the affected animals are suffering:
"Those killed by immersion in oil die in a number of distressful ways. Some oiled birds lose the ability to float on the surface of the water and ultimately drown. Others die from hyperthermia or hypothermia when oil destroys the insulating and waterproofing capabilities of their feathers. Still others lose the ability to fly or dive for food, which is particularly devastating at this time since breeding season has just begun for some bird species. Even birds who are not visibly oiled may suffer from pneumonia, neurological damage, or cancer from inhaling oil vapors; ulcers, diarrhea, kidney or liver damage, anemia, or intestinal disorders from ingestion of oil by grooming or eating contaminated food; or dehydration from a lack of uncontaminated water."
"Oil on turtles can cause severe skin irritation, chemical burns, or infections. Ingesting tar balls or chemicals can clog sea turtles' digestive tract (causing an accumulation of gas and preventing the animals from diving for food); damage their liver, kidney, or brain; cause anemia and inhibit their immune system; and lead to reproductive failure or death."
"Dolphins with prolonged exposure to oil have in the past experienced skin injuries and burns, reduced neurological function, and lower hemoglobin levels in their blood. Mammals' ingestion of oil can also result in digestive tract bleeding and liver and kidney damage."
The letters go on to argue that each of these animals "has suffered and endured a tortuous death" coming "as a direct result of BP's reckless acts and omissions," and that BP "consciously disregarded the substantial and unjustifiable risk that a blowout could occur..."
In an email to Ecopolitology late on Thursday afternoon, PETA said they have yet to receive a response to the letters.
Photo credit: Deepwater Horizon Response via flickr