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Why Is PETA So Weird
Hugely successful yet with a soft underbelly
Members of the rock band the GoGos declared their opposition to the use of animal fur apparel, during a promotional photo session on behalf of PETA in Los Angeles, Oct. 8, 1990. (Sam Jones/AP)

People for the Ethical Treatments of Animals (PETA) has been at the forefront of animal activism since its founding in 1980. After three decades of the "I'd Rather Go Naked than Wear Fur" campaign and countless red paint on fur wearer antics, PETA has gained a share of mind with most Americans and an even larger share of the fundraising dollar dedicated to the animals. Fueled by celebrities such as Elton John and Bill Clinton PETA received $64,000,000 in donations during the 2020 COVID year. PETA has clearly shown the veracity of their shock based model. While the world was dying PETA, was doing well indeed!

But draw back the curtains on the glitz, the money, and one finds a questionable model with atypical standards at play. While the organization is all about no testing, no eating, no use of the animals, further inquiry reveals that train of thought to go further and further until one ends with the ultimate 'NO ANIMALS ANYWHERE' caveat. Well financed and full of lawyers they play carrot and stick in order to keep the full messaging of their platform from unfurling. As a former host of a WABC Radio show, we had PETA on the line several times. It was impossible to pin down their head of public relations to speak of their broader mandate. For the broader mandate is disconcerting and troublesome to many, and that can result in a reduction in donations.

And what exactly is this broader mandate? Well it's one invented by their long time President and co-founder Ingrid Newkirk. A fine person with a kind heart, she was first in animal welfare to recognize the power of public relations and the shock value of public actions of disobedience. A marketing whiz, using controversial tactics, she took PETA to one of the top three animal rights organizations on the planet. What motivates Ms. Newkirk is not money, though she is prepared to use it to thwart her enemies. She is a true animal person! And as an opinionated and highly successful individual she has thought long and hard about the plight of the animals and has come up with her own versions of the 'solution'.

PETA's motto "Animals are not ours to experiment on, eat, wear, use for entertainment, or abuse in any other way," when read literally can mean a host of radicalization far beyond the mere words of that sentence. The key word is 'abuse', as a subjective word one can connote almost any behavior as such. In PETA's or Ms. Newkirks world 'abuse' also embraces the human to pet relationship itself!

The world had decided by 1860 that after thousands of years of human slavery, the ownership of a human by another was unconscionable and immoral. Even though the global economy for 5000 years was based on slavery, suddenly humanity had developed a new mantra and viewed its actions as nothing short of horrific. Thus we made it illegal planet wide, darn the economy, some things were more important! PETA's view extends this thought pattern to the animals; no human has the right to own another animal, whether farm or pet. In Ms. Newkirk's world animals roam free in the wild, some get eaten and some survive, but none at human hands. Animals such as dogs, with very weak relative offensive skills, become food fodder for the larger more powerful creatures higher in the food chain, possibly going extinct in short order.

Thus PETA coordinates this subtle dance each day. A very public animal advocacy on one hand with a quiet radicalized view at its core. The results of this radical perspective is PETA's action at its home base in Virginia. PETA has killed over 40,000 dogs and cats in the past years, in 2020 they killed 90% of intake animals within 24 hours. Hmmm, why is an animal rescue organization killing animals it rescues? It goes back to Ms. Newkirk's unshakeable philosophy --that these animals were abused by being the 'pets' of their owners. She has even proposed that all Pit Bulls anywhere in the country should be put to death immediately. Any opportunity PETA employees get, especially in low income neighborhoods, vans round up cats and dogs and kill them soon thereafter. Any contrition of PETA's action and particularly any criticism is met with legal action. Sixty four million can buy one a lot of lawyers!

So PETA is a strange animal in the midst of the animal rights movement. Run by a kindhearted, ingenious, but radicalized woman, they help set the great animal debate dialog in the country much more than say, the ASPCA does. However their underlying philosophy is a strange one, in conflict with the views of a great majority of Americans. So why is PETA so weird, because Ingrind Newkirk is weird!

*** Alex is a serial entrepreneur having started multiple successful businesses. After a career in marketing with Fortune 50 companies he entered the world of the Internet in 1999. In 2005 he adopted the cause of the animals as his own. A prolific writer he has been seen and quoted on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, People magazine amongst many others. He currently serves as the President of The Buddy Fund.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

More people are eating bugs - but is it ethical to farm insects for food?
Questions of morality abound in a socially conscious world
An entovegan might happily eat an insect burger like this one, believing that their diet is both sustainable and ethical. Karen Bleier/AFP via Getty Images

What is the life of a cricket worth?

Insect farming is a rapidly growing industry, with hundreds of companies worldwide rearing insects at industrial scales. The global value of insect farming is expected to surpass US$1.18 billion by 2023.

Farmed insects, or "mini-livestock," refers to insects such as crickets and mealworms raised for the sole purpose of being sold as food or animal feed.

These are not the fried tarantulas on a stick hawked to tourists or scorpion lollipops sold as novelties. High-protein insect powder can be used in foods from breads to buns, pasta and protein bars. Such products are already available in countries including the U.S., Switzerland and Finland.

As an entomologist who has studied the potential and promotion of edible insects in new markets, I have seen how much progress has been made in the past decade in normalizing the idea of eating insects worldwide. Now is the time to evaluate the ethical aspects of insect farming.

Insects for humanity
The main motivation for edible insects’ rising popularity is environmental. Producing 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of insect protein requires about 10% of the feed, water and land used for the same amount of beef production, and releases as little as 1% of the greenhouse gases. Insects have a lower environmental impact even compared to other meat alternatives like dairy, gluten and mycoprotein.

Raising insects on waste products significantly ups these benefits. Black soldier flies can be raised on agriculture byproducts like vegetable peels or spent grains. The larvae are then used as feed for fish and poultry, recycling waste and reducing reliance on more expensive soymeal and fishmeal feeds.

Besides being big business, insect farms also provide important sources of protein and income for rural households. They can be established cheaply, with little space, and are a boon for smallholder farmers who lack the resources for livestock, all the while sustainably providing feed and fertilizer.

A good example is the "Insects for Peace" program that has helped ex-combatants in post-conflict Colombia with their reintegration. The former soldiers have found livelihood farming black soldier flies, which are used as a feed component for livestock.

Is insect meat cruelty-free?
An additional bonus is that insects do not evoke much empathy. With exceptions, even vegetarians rarely think twice about swatted mosquitoes, let alone the millions of agricultural pests killed when farming crops.

Those who do mind can rest assured that farmed insects lead net-positive lives, with no fear of predators or starvation. Insect welfare is conveniently easy: While cramped, hot, filthy settings in factory farms are cruel for vertebrates, they are ideal for insects like mealworms that thrive when crowded together. One can imagine that there are not many requirements to set up a humane cockroach farm, though one’s neighbors might disapprove.

The slaughter of insects is another issue.

Recent surveys of U.K. insect farmers found many are concerned about insect pain perception and providing their mini-livestock a "good death." The most common slaughter methods large-scale insect farmers use are freezing or freeze-drying, with the assumption that the cold-blooded insects will humanely fall asleep and never wake up.

While insects can and do sense physical pain, they likely do not do so consciously. Invertebrate neurologist Shelley Adamo notes that many insect behaviors are "incongruent" with pain as mammals experience it, citing reports of insects walking normally on broken legs or mantids mating while their partner eats them alive. Entomologist Craig H Eisemann’s influential review of the field, "Do Insects Feel Pain?," concluded that they are missing too many neurological, chemical and behavioral signs for a pain state.

Nonetheless, scholars such as Eisemann and other advocates agree that insects should be farmed and killed with the assumption that they do feel pain. That means the slaughter method should be as quick and painless as possible.

While certainly less potentially painful than boiling, as extreme heat is known to induce pain responses in insects, freezing is slow. Shredding is a popular alternative: At their small size, insects can be reduced to powder almost instantaneously, before they could sense any pain. Current surveys suggest public perception of pulverization is still negative compared with freezing, but insect farmers increasingly view it as the more humane choice.

The low probability that farmed insects suffer pain, if they can "suffer" at all, combined with the environmental and social benefits of insect farming, caused philosopher Chris Meyers to argue that eating insects is not only morally acceptable but also morally good.

This idea gave rise to the term "entovegan." Like pescatarians follow a vegetarian diet but still eat seafood, entovegans happily eat arthropods, secure in the knowledge that their diet is both sustainable and ethical.

How much are insect lives worth?
What gives some strict vegans pause is the sheer number of insects involved.

In a 2020 preprint, animal welfare activist Abraham Rowe calculates that 1 trillion to 1.2 trillion individual insects are farmed annually for food and feed, not including harvested wild insects. On average, 79 billion to 94 billion farmed insects are alive on farms globally in any given day, compared with only about 22 billion chickens, Earth’s most popular meat.

So, how valuable is an insect’s life compared with a plant’s or a bacterium’s? Capacity for consciousness is a popular metric for determining if an organism has moral standing, even though there is no agreement on how to actually measure that.

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If one assumes, hypothetically, that insects are 0.1% as sentient as cows, or that the probability that insects can suffer is 0.1%, then killing 1,000 crickets has a similar ethical footprint as killing one cow. That may seem generous, yet in his guide "How to Reply to Some Ethical Objections to Entomophagy," philosopher Bob Fisher calculates that one cow produces as much meat as 900,000 crickets.

The math changes, however, when one considers how many animals die in agricultural fields: Conservative estimates place at least 10 million invertebrates per acre of crops at risk from pesticides, as well as thousands of small, undeniably conscious vertebrates like mice and rabbits at risk from mechanical harvesters. This math adds millions of deaths not only to traditional meat production through the fields of feed, but also to almost any cultivated crops, including soy. To quote biologists Charles Nicoll and Sharon Russell, "There is no such thing as a bloodless veggieburger."

Fisher calculated that the number of insects killed to produce a plant-based diet or an insect-based diet are about the same, meaning entoveganism and veganism are in that sense equivalent. Eating insects raised on organic wastes, all but eliminating the environmental and animal death costs of plant farming, may be the best option of them all.

The rise in insect farming means questions about insect sentience and slaughter are no longer just philosophical: The well-being of trillions of creatures is at stake.

*** Born in New York City, Prof. Shelomi got his undergraduate degree in Organismic and Evolutionary Biology from Harvard University and PhD in Entomology from the University of California, Davis. After a National Science Foundation postdoctoral fellowship at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Germany, he became a professor at the Department of Entomology at National Taiwan University.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Republished under Creative Commons license. Originally published by The Conversation. Original article may be found by clicking here.

Saying goodbye is never easy, but saying it at home helps
At home euthanasia services bloom in the wake of COVID
Sick dog and that look that you never forget

When pets reach the end of life, euthanasia often takes place on a shiny cold elevated table, in a vet clinic filled with the smells of other animals, and noises like barking dogs. But more and more people are seeking the comfort of home for the end of their dog's life. It's a trend that started years ago, and covid restrictions which prevented family members from being present in these final moments, has resulted in more requests for in home services than ever before. During this most heart wrenching of times, people forced to leave their beloved dog alone and scared, facing only strangers, are demanding better.

Many veterinarians are not trained or not comfortable in grief management. While the client is going through sheer anguish and the pet is in fear and sick, the doctor typically follows training protocols, treating the entire event as a medical procedure. It's not! It's heart wrenching anguish for all involved. The inhumanity of it all has burgeoned a trend toward euthanasia at home, in an environment full familiar things and loved ones.

The pandemic has caused a dramatic increase in business, said Rob Twyning, who founded the company Pet Loss at Home with his wife, Karen, a veterinarian.

When Penny Wagner was facing the prospect of not being allowed to be present for the end of life of her beloved giant Schnauzer, Clarence, at her local vet office, she contacted Pet Loss at Home. Clarence, suffering from advanced kidney disease, was euthanized in the comfort of his own home. Penny and her husband cuddled Clarence as they cried, and their other dog, Cooper, was able to say goodbye as well. ?He?ll always have a special place in my heart,? said a tearful Penny. "I think he was very comforted by the fact that he was home and that he was with loved ones up to the moment we said goodbye."

The peaceful end to a peaceful life via the home euthanasia process has a closure effect on the journey you and your pet just completed. I have been present at two of my family's such passings, and I can assure you, while gut wrenching to the core, being at home is the right thing to do as a bookend to your love. I remember how calm both dogs were as the first needle went in. We were crying uncontrollably, but the dogs were peaceful, surrounded by loved ones and familiar things.

At home services often include condolence gestures to the grieving family. They send condolence cards or make clay paw prints as memorial gifts. After Clarence was gone, the person assisting the euthanasia at home sent a condolence card with marigold seeds inside, suggesting they plant them in the dog's honor. They did, and sent her a photo when the flowers were in bloom.

The cost differential can be quite high, from $100 at the vet office verses $300 with a private service. For those who cannot afford at home service, or choose not to be present for the death of their pet, that option still exists.

For our loved ones to die peacefully, without pain, in the comfort of their own home, surrounded by the people they love and who love them. Isn't that what we want for all of our family members?

*** Alex is a serial entrepreneur having started multiple successful businesses. After a career in marketing with Fortune 50 companies he entered the world of the Internet in 1999. In 2005 he adopted the cause of the animals as his own. A prolific writer he has been seen and quoted on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, People magazine amongst many others. He currently serves as the President of The Buddy Fund.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.

Pleased to meet you, Hope you guess my name
An ancient story for my most cherished friends
Hells last judgment by Fra Angelico

Ahh, as the famous Rolling Stones song recalls, I do not believe I have to introduce myself; after all I was there at your birth and will be present in your final days, your longtime faithful companion. Gazing over the destruction I now have wrought upon humanity, both physical and economic, I must say I remain quite ebullient. Watching the most rapacious of you prepare to sacrifice your grandmas and grandpas, even yourselves, to the altar of greed is, after all, wonderful theater. Even I who have suffered alongside you since time immemorial have never quite enjoyed such a spectacle.

A scourge on the planet, you have taken the greatest gift ever endowed any species, and used it to sow destruction and chaos. Your mind was the exceptional tool we placed all hope and aspiration in. Self-absorbed, cruel and delusional to the extreme, you have instead defined murder and mayhem. First came the interminable wars, kill, maim, rape and steal. Now do over again and again and again. Then, when we allowed your minds to expand further, you used it to concoct a means of extinguishing all of life in one nuclear step. Even with this greatest of threats in hand you would not, could not, cease. You now focused your destructive gaze upon the dismantling of the very planet that gave you birth. Its air, its oceans and its wondrous fields, slowly turning them all into murky solutions of vile.

You even went so far as to create a false prophet that hijacked decency and enabled, yes even encouraged, your criminal instincts. A prophet that forgave all of your sins no matter how devious, no matter how atrocious. You have killed children, you have raped young women, you are guilty of the most heinous acts?yet you are forgiven, my son. Slate cleaned and ready for the next atrocity, which is once again of course lovingly forgiven. Just how big a fool do you think my superior, God, is? Why do you think that he would forgive you for being monstrous? Why would he love you so for being treacherous? Idiotic and silly thoughts created to fulfill the false narrative of a false prophet.

Your debauchery has extended to the most peaceful and harmonious entities on Earth. Rabbits, chickens, cows and creatures of wonder and awe. Instead of learning their lessons of peace, you have chosen to butcher hundreds of billions a year, consuming their dead flesh. What creature could ever conceive that the pulling of a trigger on a high power monstrosity with a scope is exercise for the hand?

Always self-indulgent, always delusional, you now question why this viral calamity has befallen your miserable species. I have been called into order time and again to try and teach you the lesson you are incapable of learning. I have armies, great big armies of invisible soldiers, that are even better at killing than you are. Viruses, bacterium and prions, we all work together. All your efforts to rob your own people with outrageous military spending is powerless against us, my armies are eternal and unstoppable. Your great minds will never outwit us, and as you once again turn your diabolical instincts upon self-destruction my armies will be ready to extract the greatest punishment ever on your race.

The night is nigh when it will all finally end. As has ended a thousand times in lands far, far away from Earth. When the tombstone of humanity lies in the ashes of stone, concrete and metal, my job here will be done. By the tone of my letter you may surmise that we, the creators, are angry at the human race. Not at all. We have seen this many times over - we are merely disappointed as the experiment has failed once again. But we will try once more, maybe a few turns here and there in that exquisite tool that we worked so hard and fought so long to develop. We must try again; there must be a solution found, somewhere, sometime.

Hope you guessed my name.

*** Alex is a serial entrepreneur having started multiple successful businesses. After a career in marketing with Fortune 50 companies he entered the world of the Internet in 1999. In 2005 he adopted the cause of the animals as his own. A prolific writer he has been seen and quoted on Good Morning America, The Today Show, CNN, People magazine amongst many others. He currently serves as the President of The Buddy Fund.

The opinions expressed are solely the author's and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the website or its affiliates.