Noah loaded all his beasts with no trouble worth recording and the ark sailed off, and this was the last time in human history that the shipment of animals was handled without tears, rage or the threat of lawsuits.
Yesterday an official of the Interior Department, Richard Parsons, held public hearings on (he said) international humane shipment of animals and plants deemed to be 'endangered.'
His office has charge of permits for the export of endangered animals and plants from this country. He is going back to Switzerland to input (a word often used yesterday) the American position on shipment of these animals before an international group that hopes to devise reasonably sane rules for international traffic.
Parsons conceded he is having some trouble figuring out what the American position is, but said that as soon as he could determine it, he would try to represent the nation well at Berne. As an aid, he held the public meeting at 1717 H st. NW, attended by perhaps 40 madly interested persons representing a number of wildlife outfits, humane groups, airline carriers, zoo directors, laboratory research groups that use animals, the Civil Aeronautics Board, the Department of Agriculture and so on.
For the next 3 1/2 hours Parsons got his inputs, occasionally reminding the audience that the question was the international shipment of endangered plants and animals.
His reminders did not in the least bother the inputters, who were substantially more concerned with getting animals into America and around America than in sending them aboad.
At first, an objective observer might think things would all work better if the entire government were abolised.
A leading them was the plethora of government agencies already involved in the animal act - one man said nine, another said that three different sets of government rules governed a cat cage between the 14th Street Bridge and the plane taking off at National Airport.
But that is relatively simple compared with rules governing cages, sanitation, disease, placement, ventilation, feeding, medical treatment and so forth when an animal is shipped in from abroad. (Parsons mentioned from time to time the subject was not importation, and people waited politely till he finished, then resumed).
One man said government rules required bird cages to have staggered perches - the idea being to keep then birds at the bottom of the heap clean. It sounds fine, except that some birds like to perch only on top and all the perches should be up there.
A man concerned with the importation of laboratory animals said one regulation requires certain animals used in blood work to be vaccinated before coming in, while anothe regulation specifically forbids such vaccination. "The rules are full of Catch-22 possibilities," he said.
A woman referred to one proposed set of rules (suggested by air carriers and not binding) that showed a certain cage with padding, but which in the text did not require the padding. "You cannot assume that common sense will apply," she said, "unless the regulation spells out in full detail exactly what the padding must consist of."
At a smoking break, Mary Brademan, a director of the Washington Humane Society, said you would not believe the state she has often seen animals in at the airport. Once when a mountain lion was bleeding, and kept getting shunted from one airline to another, she phoned the zoo and got some nitwit on the phone who could do nothing. She phoned Dillon Ripley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, which runs the zoo, and got him out of bed. He, at least, saw the need for emergency action, she said, and immediately took it.
A government prosecutor said it was most effective to move against people who import animals, rather than the shippers of animals.
"Not necessarily," said Brademan back at the meeting, "since it's not always out of the importer's pocket. If pet shop animals die or lab animals die, it's eithe a business write-off or else somebody else's money is paying for the animals to begin with."
Parsons, who finally gave up reminding people his job was to issue permits for export, absorbed his inputs and thanked one and all.
"Isn't anybody going to say anything about plants?" he asked."They are covered by the Endangered Species Act, too."
Nobody said anything at all. Nobody gave a damn about humane treatment for odontoglossums or paphiopedalums.
"Nobody will speak for suffering plants?" said Parsons. "They can't even bark."