Monday, January 10, 2011

They're at it again

The Middle East is full of animal espionage. Iranians caught 14 spying squirrels in 2007, and then, spying pigeons in 2008.

Now, authorities in Saudi Arabia have detained a vulture on suspicion of being an Israeli agent.

The vulture was wearing a GPS transmitter labelled as belonging to Tel Aviv University, so what other explanation could there be, right?

Israeli authorities claim that the transmitter is simply part of a conservation project. But the pigeons that spied on Iran aren't the only birds who've done international undercover work: Pigeons were used to deliver messages during the two World Wars, and were even awarded medals. And showing that they're not picky about who they work for, more recently, pigeons smuggled cellphones into a prison in Brazil.

And it's not just birds and small land-based furry things. When sharks attacked tourists in the Red Sea last year, an Egyptian official suggested it was an Israeli intelligence plot to disrupt tourism in his country. Many thought it was ridiculous to imagine ocean wildlife being used in espionage. But did you know that the US Navy has a Marine Mammal Training Program? Sure, they're supposedly just used for protection and mine detection and that sort of thing. But that's what they'd tell us, right?

So let's hope the vulture receives a fair trial, but without speciesism: as readers of this blog well know, just being an animal is the last thing that should be enough to get it off the hook.

Vultures suspiciously interested in our communications technology by Flickr user Starwatcher307.

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