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A 'humanely' killed animal is still killed - and that's wrong
Hereford cattle arrive at a meat processing plant. Photo by Daniel Garcia/Getty

Western conventional wisdom about animal ethics is that killing an animal is not the problem; the problem is making the animal suffer. As long as we have treated and killed an animal in a ‘humane’ way, we have done nothing wrong. A compelling example of this belief is found in the case of dogs and cats, animals particularly valued in Western culture. If someone inflicts suffering on a dog or cat, they are excoriated. But unwanted dogs and cats are routinely ‘put to sleep’ – killed – in shelters with an intravenous injection of sodium pentobarbital, and most people do not object as long as the process is administered properly by a trained person and there is no suffering inflicted on the animal.

Why do we think that killing animals per se is not morally wrong? Why do we think that death is not a harm for non-human animals?

Before the 19th century, animals were mostly regarded as things. Neither our use nor our treatment of them mattered morally or legally. We could have obligations that concerned animals, such as an obligation not to damage our neighbour’s cow, but that obligation was owed to our neighbour as the owner of the cow, not to the cow.

To say that we thought of animals as things didn’t mean that we denied that they were sentient, or subjectively aware, and had interests in not experiencing pain, suffering or distress. But we believed that we could ignore those interests because animals were our inferiors. We could reason; they couldn’t. We could use symbolic communication; they couldn’t.

In the 19th century, a paradigm shift occurred, and the animal welfare theory was born. In a relatively brief period of time as far as major shifts in thinking go, we claimed to reject the notion of animals as things, and to embrace the idea that animals had moral value. Prominent in this paradigm shift was the lawyer/philosopher Jeremy Bentham, who argued in 1789 that, although a full-grown horse or dog is more rational and more able to communicate than a human infant, ‘the question is not, Can they reason? nor, Can they talk? but, Can they suffer?’

Bentham maintained that the fact that animals were cognitively different from humans – that they had different sorts of minds – did not mean that their suffering did not matter morally. He argued that we could no more morally justify ignoring the suffering of animals based on their species than we could ignore the suffering of slaves based on their skin colour.

But Bentham did not advocate that we stop using animals as resources in the manner he had advocated abolition in the case of human slavery. He maintained that it was morally acceptable to use and kill animals for human purposes as long as we treated them well. According to Bentham, animals live in the present and are not aware of what they lose when we take their lives. If we kill and eat them, ‘we are the better for it, and they are never the worse. They have none of those long-protracted anticipations of future misery which we have.’ Bentham maintained that we actually do animals a favour by killing them, as long as we do so in a relatively painless manner: ‘The death they suffer in our hands commonly is, and always may be, a speedier, and by that means a less painful one, than that which would await them in the inevitable course of nature … [W]e should be the worse for their living, and they are never the worse for being dead.’ In other words, the cow does not care that we kill and eat her; she cares only about how we treat and kill her, and her only interest is not to suffer.

And that is precisely what most of us believe today. Killing animals is not the problem. The problem is making them suffer. If we provide a reasonably pleasant life and a relatively painless death, we have done nothing wrong. Interestingly, Bentham’s views are endorsed by Peter Singer, who bases the position he articulates in Animal Liberation (1975) squarely on Bentham. Singer claims that ‘the absence of some form of mental continuity’ makes it difficult to understand why killing an animal is not ‘made good by the creation of a new animal who will lead an equally pleasant life’.

We think that this view is wrong.

To say that a sentient being – any sentient being – is not harmed by death is decidedly odd. Sentience is not a characteristic that has evolved to serve as an end in itself. Rather, it is a trait that allows the beings who have it to identify situations that are harmful and that threaten survival. Sentience is a means to the end of continued existence. Sentient beings, by virtue of their being sentient, have an interest in remaining alive; that is, they prefer, want or desire to remain alive. Continued existence is in their interest. Therefore, to say that a sentient being is not harmed by death denies that the being has the very interest that sentience serves to perpetuate. It would be analogous to saying that a being with eyes does not have an interest in continuing to see or is not harmed by being made blind. Animals in traps will chew their paws or limbs off and thereby inflict excruciating suffering on themselves in order to continue to live.

Singer recognises that ‘an animal may struggle against a threat to its life’, but he concludes that this does not mean that the animal has the mental continuity required for a sense of self. This position begs the question, however, in that it assumes that the only way that an animal can be self-aware is to have the sort of autobiographical sense of self that we associate with normal adult humans. That is certainly one way of being self-aware, but it is not the only way. As the biologist Donald Griffin, one of the most important cognitive ethologists of the 20th century, noted, it is arbitrary to deny animals some sort of self-awareness given that animals who are perceptually conscious must be aware of their own bodies and actions, and must see them as different from the bodies and actions of other animals.

Even if animals live in the ‘eternal present’ that Bentham and Singer think they inhabit, that does not mean that they are not self-aware or that they do not have an interest in continued existence. Animals would still be aware of themselves in each instant of time and have an interest in perpetuating that awareness; they would have an interest in getting to the next second of consciousness. Humans who have a particular form of amnesia might be unable to recall memories or engage in ideation about the future, but that does not mean that they are not self-aware in each moment, or that the cessation of that awareness would not be a harm.

It is time that we rethink this issue. If we saw killing an animal – however painlessly – as raising a moral issue, perhaps that might lead us to start thinking more of whether animal use is morally justifiable, rather than only whether treatment is ‘humane’. Given that animals are property, and we generally protect animal interests only to the extent that it is cost-effective, it is a fantasy to think that ‘humane’ treatment is an attainable standard in any case. So if we take animal interests seriously, we really cannot avoid thinking about the morality of use totally apart from considerations of treatment.

*** Gary L Francione is Board of Governors Professor of Law at Rutgers University School of Law in New Jersey, US; visiting professor of philosophy at the University of Lincoln, UK; and honorary professor of philosophy at the University of East Anglia, UK. His most recent book is Why Veganism Matters: The Moral Value of Animals (Columbia University Press, 2021).

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 Aeon. Original article may be found by clicking here.

Before you hit "share" on that cute animal photo, consider the harm it can cause
Trained captive elephants perform in Sri Lanka. EPA

Limbani the chimpanzee has about 650,000 Instagram followers. In recent months the account has featured viral photos and videos of the captive young ape playing the guitar, bouncing on a trampoline and wearing a giant banana costume.

Fans are also offered real-life encounters with the chimp at a Miami facility, paying US$700 for a ten-minute session.

Experts, including renowned primatologist Dr Jane Goodall, have raised concerns about Limbani’s care. They question why he is not in the company of other chimpanzees, and say his exposure to humans could cause stress and other health issues.

So before you click on or share wildlife content online, it’s worth considering how you might affect a species’ welfare and conservation in the wild.

Smiling chimps are actually stressed

Chimpanzees are frequently depicted in greeting cards, advertisements, film, television and internet images. They are often clothed, in human-like poses and settings. These performing animals are usually taken from their mothers as infants, physically disciplined in training, and can spend their retirement in poorly regulated roadside attractions or breeding facilities.

For example the chimpanzee, who appeared with Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street has reportedly since been kept in a roadside zoo, dragged around by the neck and forced to perform circus tricks.

Primates are complex social animals, and the trauma they suffer when forced to perform is often clear. Research has shown the “cheeky chimp grins” we associate with happiness are actually a sign of fear or submission.

But it’s not just primates who are suffering. Earlier this year US banking giant JPMorgan Chase suspended an advertising campaign featuring captive elephants. The move followed an outcry from conservationists, who explained that elephants are often trained “using harsh and cruel methods” to perform unnatural behaviours and interact directly with people.

Endangered in the wild

Images of wildlife in human-like poses and environments can also skew public perception about their status in the wild.

For example, the International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies chimpazees as endangered. In the last century their numbers have decreased from some 1-2 million to as few as 350,000.

However research has shown that the prevalence of chimpanzees in media and entertainment can lull viewers into believing wild populations are thriving. This undermines both the need and urgency for in-situ conservation.

A 2008 article published in Science reported on the findings of two surveys where participants were asked to identify which of three great apes were endangered. In the first, 66% of respondents thought chimpanzees were endangered (compared with 95% for gorillas, and 91% for orangutans). In the second, 72% believed chimpanzees to be endangered (compared with 94% for gorillas and 92% for orangutans).

Participants in both studies said the prevalence of chimpanzees in television, advertisements and movies meant they must not be in jeopardy in the wild.

Suitability as pets

Images of animals in close proximity with humans also affects their perceived desirability as exotic pets. Such images include “wildlife selfies” shared on social media by tourists, pet collectors and celebrities.

The demand for exotic pets drives the illicit trade in live animals. In Japan, unprecedented demand for otters as pets is likely fuelled by an increase in the visibility of pet otters in social and mass media. The pet trade has been identified as a pressing threat to the survival of otters.

Social media provides an easy way for traffickers and buyers to connect. Over six weeks in 2017 in France, Germany, Russia and the UK, the International Fund for Animal Welfare identified more than 11,000 protected wildlife specimens for sale via more than 5,000 advertisements and posts. They included live otters, tortoises, parrots, owls, primates and big cats.

Facebook is also allegedly profiting from advertisements on pages illicitly selling parts and derivatives of threatened animals, including elephant ivory, rhino horn and tiger teeth.

Slow progress

Social media giants have gone some way to recognising the harmful impact of their wildlife content.

Facebook and Instagram are partners of the Coalition to End Wildlife Trafficking Online which aims to reduce wildlife trafficking online by 80% by 2020. Both platforms also banned the sale of animals in 2017 – however it is not well policed, and the advertisements persist.

In 2017, Instagram encouraged users not to harm plants or animals in pursuit of a selfie, and consider the potential animal abuse behind photo opportunities with exotic animals.

*** Zara Bending is an Associate at the Centre for Environmental Law (Macquarie University). She is an award-winning lecturer with multiple commendations for teaching excellence, including two Vice Chancellor's Learning & Teaching Awards.

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.

Ringling Bros. Circus shutdown is a distraction from the real issue: Eating animals
Nazim Uddin/Flickr, CC BY

The “Greatest Show On Earth,” the 146-year-old Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus, announced in January that it will finally close in May. The circus was simply not sufficiently spectacular to compete with the entertainment wonders offered by smartphones and tablets, or with rock concerts and monster truck shows.

Animal advocates, who have criticized circuses for years for exhibiting elephants, are calling this decision a victory, although the company had already announced in 2015 that it would stop using elephants in its shows in response to public criticism. Certainly, we can be glad if this action alleviates the misery of these individual elephants (although, as explained below, that is far from clear), or stops other animals from being used in future circuses.

But Ringling’s owners made a business decision that had nothing to do with what animal advocates said or did. Instead, executives made it clear the shows the circus produced were not viable as a business model. And closing the circus does nothing to change our institutions of animal use – most importantly, the fact that we eat animals. As scholars of animals rights and advocates for veganism as a moral imperative, we do not view it as a victory.

Why focus on elephants?

Tastes change, and consumer demand determines which businesses survive. Early circuses exhibited humans in appalling and exploitative ways, spotlighting “bearded ladies,” conjoined twins, and performers with dwarfism, gigantism, disabilities and illnesses.

As those practices phased out over the past century, circuses put more emphasis on clowns, acrobats, high-wire walkers and wild animal acts. The carnival atmosphere of the traveling circus gradually gave way to the more refined, artistic performances of companies like Cirque du Soleil.

 

Our view of animal acts also became more nuanced, varied and conflicted, particularly in the case of elephants. Large circuses once offered a rare opportunity to see these animals, but today we can see footage of elephants in their own habitats whenever we wish.

We also have come to understand much more clearly that elephants are intelligent and complex animals. They have joined dolphins, orcas and great apes in a small, privileged club of “special” animals that humans, particularly Westerners, fret about, feel conflicted about and perhaps are willing to accord more respect.

In 2015, Ringling announced that it would retire its performing elephants by 2018. Although the elephants will still be subjected to research and bred, and live in a very small “sanctuary,” animal welfare groups who had campaigned to end the circus company’s elephant acts celebrated. And when Ringling announced this month that it was going out of business, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals told its supporters, “Thirty-six years of PETA protests, of documenting animals left to die, beaten animals, and much more, has reduced attendance to the point of no return.”

Justifying animal exploitation

Such claims completely miss the elephant in the room. Humans kill and eat 70 billion land animals and at least a trillion sea animals annually. All other uses of animals – from circuses to rodeos to medical research – pale in comparison.

Yet most animal welfare groups do not maintain that using animals for food raises the same moral imperative that they assign to using elephants in circuses, clubbing baby seals for their pelts or eating of dogs and cats by Asians. This reflects these organizations’ fundraising strategy, which presents acts of cruelty to animals as frivolous and unnecessary – for example, wearing fur coats. They promise to address those issues on their supporters’ behalf, without asking anyone to change their diet, lifestyle or outlook. Elephants were perfect for this strategy.

However, animal welfare groups have entered into unholy alliances with companies and whole industries that have animal exploitation at their core. They work with animal industries to reassure the public that there is a “compassionate” way to exploit animals, and even license or support certification labels for “humane” animal products.

For example, in 2005 Princeton University philosopher Peter Singer wrote a public letter on behalf of a number of animal welfare groups expressing “appreciation and support” for Whole Foods Market’s program to ensure supposedly more “humane” treatment of farm animals. This inaugurated what we call the “happy exploitation” movement.

But animals are chattel property, and animal welfare standards will, as a general matter outside of niche markets for the affluent, do little more than make animal use more economically efficient. Even animal welfare groups recognize that their “business” is helping industry to identify inefficient animal treatment in order to have a better bottom line. For example, both PETA and The Humane Society of the United States promote the controlled-atmosphere method of poultry slaughter based on economic efficiency.

Eating animals: Unnecessary and unjustified

For more than 200 years, we have embraced the idea that animals have moral value – they are not just things. This view is reflected in legislation to ensure the “humane” treatment of animals, which dates back to the 19th century. Most of us believe that it is wrong to inflict “unnecessary” suffering on animals. This must mean that we cannot justify imposing suffering on animals for our simple pleasure, amusement or convenience.

But we would argue that, on a daily basis, we impose unnecessary suffering on animals. The idea that people need to consume animal products for optimal health has been debunked by professional organizations, such as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Heart Association; health care providers, such as the Mayo Clinic; government agencies, such as the National Institutes of Health and the British National Health Service; and insurance giants, such as Kaiser Permanente.

All of these authorities agree that a sound plant-based diet can provide adequate nutrition. Some claim that it can be better for human health than a diet that includes animal products. We eat animals for one reason: We enjoy it. We find it convenient to pick up a burger or a bucket of fried chicken. We have no more moral justification for eating hamburgers than for exploiting elephants in circuses.

If we want to take the issue of animal ethics seriously, we need to move away from debating treatment of this or that animal in specific circumstances. Instead, we should focus on justifying animal use in light of our conventional wisdom that animals have moral value and that we need a reason to impose suffering and death on them. For 99.9 percent of our animal use, we simply don’t have one.

The outcry against consumption of dogs and cats in Asian countries is deafening, and often involves ethnocentrism and xenophobia. But there is absolutely no moral difference between eating dogs and eating chickens or cheese.

And as long as we eat animals, nothing will change. Once we appreciate that our use of animals for food is no different from the use of elephants in circuses, the clubbing of baby seals or dogfighting, our entire perspective will change and the social discussion will shift from (supposedly) “humane” treatment to our justifications for animal use.

*** Gary L. Francione is Board of Governors Distinguished Professor of Law and Nicholas deB. Katzenbach Scholar of Law and Philosophy at Rutgers University Law School and is resident at the Newark, New Jersey, campus. He is also Honorary Professor at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England.

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.

Cow documentary shows the need for fundamental legal rights for animals
Cow captures the mundane cruelties of a dairy farm. Toa55/Shutterstock

This article contains spoilers for the film Cow (2021)

Cinema, according to the late critic Roger Ebert, is “a machine that generates empathy”. There is no film that better captures this truth than Andrea Arnold’s Cow.

Set on a British dairy farm, Arnold’s narration-free documentary captures four years in the life of a cow called Luma. The film opens with Luma giving birth to a daughter and ends with her being shot in the head at point-blank range with a bolt gun. In between, Cow documents the life-and-death cycle of the dairy industry.

The film captures routine dairy industry practices up-close, and it does not make for comfortable viewing. We see, for example, the horn buds of Luma’s calf seared with a hot iron. We’re also witness to the effects of repeated cycles of pregnancies and milking – coupled with selective breeding – on the bodies of dairy cows. By the end of the film Luma can barely stand and her swollen, infected udders are clearly very painful. Before her unceremonious death, Luma looks like a physically and mentally broken being.

These harrowing scenes are sometimes punctured by happier moments of Luma exploring open pastures with her herd. This makes the film all the more poignant, reminding the viewer that cows are capable of joy as well as suffering.

Cow is first and foremost a case study into Luma’s life. Throughout the film the camera lingers very closely to her, capturing her facial expressions, bodily movements and interactions with her children. The audience is invited to get as close to a cow’s-eye view of the world as possible.

This is not a documentary about cows as an amorphous, undifferentiated mass, it’s about a particular cow, and to a lesser extent, her calves and the fellow members of her herd. In this respect, Cow follows on the hooves of Pippa Ehrlich and James Reed’s My Octopus Teacher and Victor Kossakovsky’s Gunda, which have an octopus and a sow as their respective protagonists.

This emerging trend in animal documentaries – to focus on the real lives of particular animals – is encouraging. It underscores that nonhuman animals are not fungible entities but unique individuals with feelings, relationships, goals, desires and personalities.

But Cow also serves as a damning critique of the dairy industry more broadly. Although conditions will differ from farm to farm, the film records routine, and near-universal practices: mother-calf separation, harmful selective-breeding and bodily mutilations like branding, ear-notching and dehorning, not to mention killing spent cows.

The fact that the footage from Cow is shot with the knowledge and permission of the farmers shows that this film does not depict aberrations or abuses, but rather, documents the inherent brutality of the dairy industry. There is no nice way to enforce reproductive servitude – something we’re usually able to avoid thinking about. Cow leaves viewers no such room for denial.

Cow confronts us with the logic of commodifying animal bodies. When sentient beings are turned into productive units and caught in the maw of economic exploitation, their lives will invariably be characterised by suffering, ill health and denied freedoms.

Exposing the limits of animal welfare laws

As a law scholar, I’m interested in the role that legal systems play in maintaining the subordinate and vulnerable status of animals – and how they can be changed to better protect them. In virtually all legal orders animals are classified as property, a necessary corollary of their economic exploitation.

Of course, animals are distinct from other forms of property. Unlike chairs, books and phones they are sentient beings with subjective experiences and lives that matter to them.

Legal systems recognize this through animal welfare laws. Regulations establish certain minimum standards of care for farmed animals. While these laws may reduce some of the worst excesses of animal suffering, they leave untouched the systems that generate the suffering in the first place.

Just as Cow illustrates the inherent brutality of the dairy industry, it also shows the limitations of current legal means of animal protection. There is growing recognition among animal law scholars and practitioners that animals need fundamental legal rights akin to human rights to protect them from institutionalized abuse.

This doesn’t mean animals should have the same rights as humans – merely that they should share basic rights to protect their fundamental interests, such as rights to life, bodily integrity and freedom from slavery and servitude.

Efforts are afoot to challenge the prevalent approach to animal law. New York State’s highest court will soon hear a petition – supported by myself and 35 other UK experts in animal law – to release a solitary zoo elephant called Happy to a sanctuary.

What makes this case novel is that it does not appeal to animal welfare laws, but rather, to a common law right to contest unlawful imprisonment. If the appeal is successful, it will be the first time a nonhuman animal is recognized as possessing at least one fundamental right traditionally reserved for humans.

The Northeast Dairy Producers Association has, among other US industry groups, opposed the petition on the grounds that recognizing this right would be a “gross interference in owners’ property rights”.

These dueling views of non-humans – as beings to be respected or resources to be used – reflect the crossroads we’ve arrived at as a species. With growing recognition that our dysfunctional approach is not only bad for other animals but also ourselves, there has never been a better time to reflect on how we want to relate to the rest of sentient life.

*** Joe Wills is a lecturer in law at the University of Leicester. His research interests lie in human rights, animal rights and legal, political and moral theory. He is currently working on a Leverhulme Trust-funded monograph on the legal status of animals in Britain.

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.

Your Tax Dollars Pumped Cocaine into Puppies
NIH conducts drug tests on Beagles

Documents obtained by White Coat Waste (WCW) exposed how the National Institute of Health (NIH) used $2.3 million taxpayer dollars to turn Beagle puppies into cocaine addicts so that they could test an experimental treatment drug for cocaine addiction.  The National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), part of NIH, ran tests on six-month-old beagles.

The WCW obtained documentation detailing the experiments through the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).  According to the documents and photographs, the dogs (six-month-old beagle puppies) were forced to wear jackets loaded with hypodermic needles that injected the puppies with cocaine. For several months, the puppies were dosed with the narcotic substance, over and over again, along with an “experimental compound” to study the interaction of the two drugs.  

Prior to being outfitted with the injection jackets, and drugged, the dogs were surgically implanted with telemetry units to monitor their biological signals throughout the experiment.  Researchers filmed the puppies to see if any of them had “adverse reactions” to the drugs.  The goal, according to NIDA, to find treatments for cocaine disorder.  

The experiment ran from September 2020 to September 2021. And a second experiment, from March 2020 until March 2021, again injecting beagles with cocaine using the same jackets.  During one of the tests, each dog was put through nine dosing episodes, six of them involving cocaine injections. The other test had 13 dosings, with six involving cocaine. On the days that the puppies were dosed, they were isolated, fasted —water only— and forced to wear the cocaine-injection jackets for testing. The dogs were returned to their normal quarters, up to three dogs in the same space, after the jackets were removed. When not being tested, the puppies were given chew toys and “regular opportunity for exercise and socialization” and had regular human contact, the research proposal said.

The dogs were dubbed “coke hounds.” Researchers said the experiment was expected to be “non-terminal” — in other words, the dogs were to survive.  Upon completion of the study, the dogs were either killed or “recycled” — meaning they were to be used again for other experiments. Results of the cocaine-drug interaction are not clear. The documents obtained by WCW say a report may be submitted by NIDA to the FDA later this year.

The experiments were contracted to SRI International — the same organization that spent taxpayer money to poison and “de-bark” beagle puppies. Since SRI International didn’t have the necessary equipment, however, they outsourced their experiments to Charles River Laboratories.  The same infamous Charles River Laboratories that has been a scourge on society and the object of multiple forceful attacks from animal activists.

Charles River Laboratories, which maintains a “dog colony” for testing and had the equipment for the experiments, could use the beagles for further research or kill them with an injection of sodium pentobarbital. The radiotelemetry devices that had been implanted could then be “recovered” from the bodies, the proposal said.

White Coat Waste Project says thousands of dogs are used in taxpayer-funded experiments each year. “Taxpayers should not be forced to foot the multimillion-dollar bill for wasteful and cruel ‘Coke Hound’ experiments in which beagle puppies are injected with cocaine just to fulfill burdensome and outdated FDA red tape,” said Devin Murphy, communications manager at the White Coat Waste Project, which works to stop taxpayer-funded research on animals.  WCW calls the experiments “wasteful, cruel, and unnecessary.”

According to the Beagle Freedom Project “70,000 dogs a year are used in laboratory experiments and a great majority of them are beagles. The heartbreaking reason that beagles are so often the dog of choice is because they’re docile, sweet, trusting, and they don’t fight back. Like all laboratory animals, their lives are miserable from the time they are born until they’re killed. They are taken from their mothers and are subjected to horrific cruelty, painful tests, torture, and then finally, when the experiment is over, they are killed.”

Technologically advanced non-animal test methods can be used in place of animal testing. Not only are these tests more humane, they also have the potential to be cheaper, faster, and more relevant to humans.  As for the poor Beagles, they were born into a world where kindness and love are the gateways to hell.

Urge Congress to defund the NIH’s deadly cocaine experiments on puppies!

*** Brenda Bush is Co-Founder of DogsInDanger.com and serves as Vice-President and Board Member of The Buddy Fund. She left a successful career in the legal profession to fuel her passion for saving animals. She is an advocate and activist on many issues relating to animal rights and welfare. She has been instrumental in many causes and campaigns for companion animals, farm animals and wildlife. She has been featured in multiple media outlets including The Today Show, BBC and CNN, among many others.

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

Is God a Vegetarian?
The Bible hints of an emphatic yes
In Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam" is God trying to touch humanity or pulling away

Somewhere in my past I once was host of a radio show on WABC, New York that focused on dogs and animals in general.  On our May 22, 2011 broadcast something happened that changed my life.  Dr. Laura Hobgood-Oster was on the line. She is a professor of religion and environmental studies at prestigious Southwestern University.  The subject de jour was the role of animals in religion.  I asked Dr. Laura of what significance was the eating of animals in the Bible?  Her response shocked and sent chills down my spine - and has awed me to this very day!

Her response was, and I’m paraphrasing here, when God expels humans from paradise and gives them permission to kill and eat the animals, it’s really in the context of placing a CURSE ON HUMANITY.  This is an interpretation of Genesis accepted by many theologians of religious tradition.  Hmm, God curses humanity forever, sounds nasty!  I walked out of the studio that day revolving the thought over and over in my mind, unable to absorb the full implications.

Across the board, most theologians agree that the best interpretation is that Adam and Eve were vegetarians. When Adam and Eve are in paradise with all of the animals, the humans were not eating animals, and the animals were also not eating each other! But after the “fall” when God is angered by Adam and Eve’s sacrilege, he orders them to leave paradise, and makes the lion hunt and eat the lamb. God gave them all of the food of the trees to eat in the garden, but “the fall” changed everything. At the fall, humanity's relationship with god was broken, as was humanity's relationship with all the animals. God curses us and from that point forward our relationship with animals will be one of violence, instead of one of peace. In essence cursing humanity for its indulgence. It’s pretty clear from the text that this is not the perfect way to live.

Fast forward a few thousand years.  Here we are being ravaged by a global pandemic caused by an invisible virus that jumped from animals to humans in markets where live animals are butchered and served up bloody fresh.  Viruses are DNA or RNA molecules that science is confounded to label as alive or dead --they live somewhere in between the two.  If that does not sound like the scourge of God, well then my ears are wide open.

Past the current pandemic, humanity is facing an ecological disaster as yet unheard of proportions in the coming two decades.  Methane is an odorless gas that is mostly generated by burps and farts of cows grazing, the ones that we kill for meat.  Recent studies indicate that methane is 80 times more effective in warming the planet as the poster boy baddie, carbon dioxide.  Additionally, in order to graze and feed all these so called ‘livestock’, forests are being cleared, forests that are the oxygen producing lifeblood of humanity.

Is humanity cursed due and by our addiction for dead animal flesh?  To some theologians that is the only interpretation of the bible that makes sense.  These are not monks in the year 312 that hobbled together a document that they thought allows for humans to breed, survive and most  importantly, garner supreme power for the official church.  Theologians are not priests; they are impartial observers of fact and students of tradition and text.  Certainly a strong case can be made that we are indeed cursed at origin.  Look around you, wars, earthquakes, bacterium, murder, prions, climate disaster and of course viruses – all converging to destroy human life for no apparent reason except to finally be rid of our species.

“The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” (Isaiah 11:6). God’s vision of the peaceable kingdom is a return to that paradise, a day when all of God’s animals (both human and non-human animals) are vegetarian again, a day when the innocence lost so long ago by humanity will once again triumph, led by the purity of the metaphoric child.

*** 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.

When endangered species recover, humans may need to make room for them - and it's not always easy
Fencing protects New Zealand sea lions that have migrated inland from road traffic. Janet Ledingham, CC BY-ND

Imagine discovering a sea lion in the middle of the woods, more than a mile inland from the beach. Or coming face to face with one of these curious creatures in a local swimming pool or on your front porch.

These encounters are happening in New Zealand with the return of the endangered New Zealand sea lion, the world’s rarest sea lion species. The females normally move up to a mile (about 1.5 kilometers) inland with their pups during the breeding season to protect them from rougher conditions at the coast – but now there are a lot more humans in the way.

Encounters between wild animals and humans can be dangerous for both sides. Sea lions have been stabbed, clubbed, shot and accidentally hit by cars. Roads, fences and residential development can block their movement inland. Some females and pups have adapted to commercial pine forests on private lands that could one day be cleared or developed.

As an ecologist, I study species around the world whose populations are recovering after decades or even centuries of immense human pressures and exploitation. Nations are now preparing for a landmark U.N. conference on protecting Earth’s biodiversity that will take place in China from April 25 to May 8, 2022; one important question is how humans can strike a new balance with recovering species such as sea lions, sharks and whales, and make space for these resilient creatures to thrive.

Making way for sea lions

Like many other creatures valued for their meat or fur, New Zealand sea lions were historically hunted to near-extinction. For the past 150 years, remnant populations could only be found on New Zealand’s undeveloped subantarctic islands, more than 300 miles from the nation’s mainland. Today, their population is estimated at 12,000.

These animals typically return to and breed at the original location where they were born, but in 1993, a female sea lion gave birth on the mainland for the first time in centuries. Since then, her offspring have bred for five generations. Other females have followed, and some 20 pups are now born on the mainland each year.

When wild species recolonize areas or shift their ranges in this way, scientists can make predictive models to help determine where the animals could settle in the future and take steps to protect them. But traditional versions of these models can’t account for when and where the recovering species may interact with humans, because these encounters are new developments and may occur under conditions that differ from the past.

In a study published in November 2021, my team and I addressed this issue by creating an integrated species distribution model database, which pairs algorithmic models with expert knowledge to highlight suitable habitats and flag areas for concern. Through it, we found and mapped 395 potential breeding grounds for sea lions all over the New Zealand mainland. We also identified human-related challenges for the animals, such as roads and fences that could block their inland movement.

Our research can help wildlife managers and local officials search for sea lions, post sea lion crossing signs on roads, verify or restore breeding sites and determine where to work with landowners and spread awareness. This kind of tool can help inform similar efforts for other species that are recovering or moving into new habitats and regions in response to climate change.

Welcoming whales back

Of course, humans are happier to make space for some wild species than for others.

I did research in the Falkland Islands from 2015 to 2016 and found that residents welcomed the return of sei, fin, minke, southern right and blue whales to local waters. All of these species were intensively hunted beginning in the 1800s but started making noticeable comebacks after nations adopted the 1982 moratorium on commercial whaling.

For local residents, seeing whales offshore while tending sheep, taking the ferry or flying from island to island was a special experience. We used residents’ historical knowledge and thousands of whale observations from the 1940s to 2015 to inform scientific surveys around the islands. This work helped others analyze sei whale distribution around the islands and resulted in the creation of the world’s first Key Biodiversity Area for sei whales – a place that is considered globally significant for the rare, unique, or many species it contains.

Finding that Falkland residents enjoyed seeing whales offshore suggested to us that they would support processes like marine spatial planning to help protect them. Marine spatial planning is a public process for organizing human uses of the ocean, such as shipping, tourism, oil exploration and commercial fishing, in ways that balance them with environmental protection.

When predators rebound

Coexisting with some recovering species can be more controversial and delicate to manage, especially if they are perceived as threats to public safety or property.

Along the northeast U.S. coast and up into Canada, white sharks once were severely overfished but are now rebounding in response to climate change, protection efforts and growing populations of seals, their preferred prey. As top predators, sharks help control other ocean species and increase ocean carbon storage. They also are one of the few shark species known to attack humans.

Over the past several years, lifeguards have repeatedly closed popular beaches along Cape Cod in Massachusetts when white sharks are present. Warnings and restrictions intensified after a shark killed a swimmer in 2018. Such measures often spark declines in tourism, but in some places the presence of sharks is slowly becoming an attraction.

Nevertheless, the growing abundance of white sharks is divisive. As shark numbers and sightings increase, scientists and local officials are working to raise awareness and educate the public about themMonitoring shark movement with drones and other equipment can also help lifeguards warn beachgoers that sharks are present in advance.

Know who’s moving in

Scientists widely agree that the Earth is losing species at a rapid rate, potentially representing the sixth mass extinction in its history. Against that background, these ongoing stories of species recovery take on new urgency, especially when conflicts arise.

Science can help. Predictive models and maps highlight where species may appear in the future. Monitoring species on the move can reveal how numerous they are, how they behave, what habitats they prefer and where they may interact with humans.

When wild species enter new areas, they inevitably will have to adapt, and often will have new kinds of interactions with humans. These encounters won’t always be easy to manage, but I believe that when communities understand the changes and are involved in planning for them, they can prepare for the unexpected, with coexistence in mind.

*** Veronica Frans is a quantitative ecologist and a fourth-year PhD student in Fisheries & Wildlife and Ecology, Evolutionary Biology & Behavior at Michigan State University (MSU). She has bachelor's degrees in Environmental Sciences and French (Messiah University) and dual master's degrees in International Nature Conservation (Goettingen University, Germany and Lincoln University, New Zealand). She specializes in ecology, geographic information systems, programing, statistics, and community outreach and engagement.

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.

Disconnected

Often, I wonder about us humans. What gives us the power to rule the Earth when so many other species are so much more connected and entrusted to her? Why do we continue to go further and further away from our Source - Earth? Why the disconnect?

Driving, the roadway is littered with animal carcasses. Headlights blare in my rear views as I slow during the waning hours of the day, my eyes darting left, then right, always on the lookout for critters crossing and I feel so alone on this quest, as if everyone else is in such a hurry and unconcerned with running someone over. Is it because insurance covers the damage to the vehicle? Is it because we truly do not care about the life of another species? Is it a dominance thing? How, I wonder, do we not see the interconnectedness of it all? How have we become so disconnected? 

Perhaps more importantly, how do we get back? What are steps you take daily to increase your awareness and your relationship to the non-human realms? What are further, daily, actions you can take in recognizing your own innate mammal and animal wisdom? 

For, how have humans forgotten we are indeed animals, as well? How can we re-relate to our animal friends? What can we learn from animals of all species that enhance and deepen our own, intrinsic nature? How may we support and even cherish our wild animals more?

I am asking you - what are the steps you can take today, right now, and always? How can you show up to be the change you want to see in the world? What will it take? What are you willing to sacrifice? How much do you want to deepen your connections?

*** Jamie is an animal lover, nature lover and student of life. She loves absorbing the wisdom of the natural world. She lives in Montana where she enjoys endless views, inspiration and adoration of that special place. Read more articles or contact her at www.jamiekujawawriter.com.

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

A Turkeyless Thanksgiving Coming?
Turkey sales slump as meatless alternatives gain

Is it possible that more Americans went meatless this Thanksgiving? 

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, frozen turkey inventories have tumbled in the wake of higher prices and supply chain disruptions, and are about 25% below three-year average volumes. "Turkey consumption over the last number of years is down across the board, about 20% over the last 25 years," Greenleaf Foods COO Adam Grogan said during a recent interview. Grogan continued that Greenleaf is seeing a surge in customer desire for more plant-based offerings overall, explaining that "93% of all new consumers that are coming into our space are actually meat eaters." Greenleaf is the plant-based division of Canadian consumer food company Maple Leaf Foods.

Last week, the St. Louis Federal Reserve published a study touting the virtues of a "soybean-based dinner" that, at 66 cents per serving, costs less than half of a Thanksgiving meal featuring poultry, and provides nearly double the protein. While the study was ridiculed by meat lovers, Grogan thought the announcement had merit. "We're seeing an explosion of plant-based roasts that are made for the holidays, both for Thanksgiving and the Christmas timeframe. In the last year, it's up about 48%," he added.

Forbes magazine estimates 4.5 million plant-based turkeys will be served this holiday as the nation's diet shifts. Currently, about 5% of the U.S. population identify as vegan and/or vegetarian while 25% say they are 'flexitarians' (a cross between full vegan and vegetarian with the ability to occasionally enjoy traditional meat.) Price pressures have also impacted demand. Turkey prices are up nearly 25% compared to last year, and nearly 50% over the five-year average through September, according to a recent Wells Fargo analysis of USDA data.

Still, plant-based companies are not immune to inflation or COVID-related challenges. Greenleaf Foods saw 6.6% fewer sales in the most recent quarter compared to 2020. In the previous quarter, the division reported a year-over-year sales drop of 20.6%.  Meanwhile, Beyond Meat (BYND) cut its fourth quarter revenue guidance after a disappointing earnings miss as weaker grocery sales and higher prices dampened demand.

U.S. plant-based food sales grew two times as fast as animal-based food sales in 2020, totaling $7 billion, according to the latest Good Food Institute industry report. Within that category, plant-based meat itself crossed the billion-dollar mark and grew 45% in dollar sales from 2019. However, labor shortages at retailers and food services have "really stymied some of the innovation and growth that we were seeing prior to the pandemic." continued Grogan.

Following dramatic increases in plant based foods in the past two years, it seems 'meatless life' is heading into a more slow and stead absorption period.  THe 'low hanging fruit' is done fuelled by early adopters.  Now we are in the thick of it, the masses, the great bump in the population bubble that reads less, cares less and thinks less.  It will become more and more difficult to convince this segment that sacrificing a bit of their natural pallet will have multi fold returns for their health, their souls and their children.

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

The Spirit Animal
Animals can serve as a bridge to another realm

Animals give us so much. But, did you know animals serve as a bridge between the human existence and the esoteric realm?

Spirit Animals. Or Animal Totems.
The Native Americans trusted animals were are here to guide, teach and inform us. We all have animal totems. Think of which animals give you a “charge.” What are your favorite animals? How about your least favorites or those you’re afraid of, even? These become our spirit animals. Traditionally, each person may have a handful - perhaps a half dozen - totem or spirit animals who guide us throughout our lives. Typically, our spirit animals remain the same throughout our lifetime.

Have you ever noticed you see your “favorite” animal at just the right time? Or, perhaps your own pet gifts you with daily lessons and laughter? These are all guides given to us in our lifetime. They are here to answer the questions we ask. Personally, I like to offer up a situation I may be stuck on or a problem I’m unable to solve to the spirit realm and see what animal wise Mother Nature presents me with to help me out. Or, I’ll embark on a woods walk and ask the Universe what lessons I need to learn and what messengers I need on my current journey.

Spirit Animals are all over. Try not to overlook any animal on your quest of journeying through this life. You can call in your animal totems any time you need them; you can offer up anything you’re working with to your totems; you can trust the animal world is here serving you as guides, intuits and wisdom keepers.

Likewise, if you see an animal, stop for a brief time and wonder what you were thinking about just prior to seeing your animal. What was your energy reflecting? Were you calm and confident? Anxious or worried? Scared or angry? The animals gift us with balance to our energies. For instance, if I’m fearful and in a place of scarcity, I might see an owl fly across my headlights on an early morning drive to town, and the owl offers confidence and trust to me.

There are countless Web sites and books about Spirit Animals. I invite you to look into each and every animal you see in the next week and research what their wisdom and lessons are for you. I invite you to pay attention to any animal who comes across your path. I invite you to pause when you see an animal and ask yourself what state of mind you’re in, where your energy lies, and if you were offering any questions to the Universe. I invite you to take into account any and all creature who crosses your path, however great or small, and give thanks to them

Remember, your animal guide does not have to be living. Maybe you see several moose pictures in a week. Or you come across a cat photo and get a postcard with a cat on it. Pay attention to it all. Our animal guides present themselves in may ways. And, always remember, have fun with this! If animals teach us anything, its to have fun, be playful, and enjoy the small, quiet, beautiful moments in life.

*** Jamie is an animal lover, nature lover and student of life. She loves absorbing the wisdom of the natural world. She lives in Montana where she enjoys endless views, inspiration and adoration of that special place. Read more articles or contact her at www.jamiekujawawriter.com.

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

Confessions of a Vegetarian
The balance of life

I love meat, I adore barbecue chicken and I sometimes dream of salami, specially prosciutto and sopresatta. Yet I have been devoid of my meaty loves since 1998, I am a vegetarian for 23 years.  Has it been difficult? Yes, unquestionably the greatest sacrifice of my life.  Then why choose this tortuous path?  The response leads one down a slippery intersection of philosophy, religion and the meaning of life itself.

The journey begins and quickly ends
I was 19 years old when I first questioned humanity’s decision to kill any animal so as to consume its flesh.  I had been raised 100% carnivore, eating some kind of meat almost daily.  My mom used to even ask me to drink a delicious but ghastly brew.  You heat the blood of an animal and mix in some spices and give it to your kid, supposedly to strengthen him.  What made me question these age old processes at the ripe old age of 19?  Actually nothing specific. I was always a thinking child, always questioning and analyzing.  Thus one day I asked myself ‘is it right that we do so much killing, do the animals want to be killed, have they done something bad and thus deserve to be slaughtered?’

Not finding a rationale for our wholesale killing, I went vegetarian on the spot.  After all if one does not put into force the result of his thinking, of what use is the analysis in the first place.  Well, that episode lasted six months.  My mom, ever so concerned, even got our family doctor to tell me I need to eat meat since I am weak.  That did not deter me, but when my girlfriend said ‘I can’t cook two separate meals’, well that brought to an end my vegetarian adventure.

The journey restarts
The second phase came in 1998.  We had adopted Buddy, a mini American Eskimo and I was up to my old tricks, observing and analyzing him incessantly.  During our first year together I noticed human like behavior in Buddy.  He expressed love, hate, fear, anger, loyalty and even jealousy.  To this thinker dog equaled cow that then equaled bird. As it was inconceivable that we would kill Buddy and eat his flesh it became equally inconceivable to eat the cow or the bird.

For 23 years I have swallowed hard at the images of a particularly tasty looking hamburger on TV and peered longingly at the next table consuming a slab of steak.  I sometimes punish myself watching Guy Fieri gorge on some meat filled dish exclaiming its virtues.  I am not sure if I am living life vicariously or just punishing myself.  I know I miss it, even though I hardly remember what a hamburger tasted like, long term memory still stimulates the pleasure centers of the brain.

Questions abound
Am I just a masochist? Am I unbalanced? Possibly.  We have created a God out of thin air.  From Zoroaster to the monotheistic Sun God of Akhenaten, to the scheming Gods of the Greeks and Romans, to the cruel and angry God of the Jews, to the quid pro quo God of the Muslims and finally to the all loving and forgiving God of the Christians.  With each invocation came different traits and personalities.  Bloody one day and ready to forgive Adolf Hitler the next, humans created God in their own dyslexic image, more Harry Potter than divinity. Did we really need God to tell us ‘thou shall not kill’?  Does anyone not know the pain and fear that comprises death?  If murder became legal, would you start killing?

What sets humans and all other creatures of life apart is a conscience and the higher intelligence that drives it.  If a cow walks down a street and sees another cow bleeding, in pain, does it stop and try to care for it?  Highly unlikely.  Same situation, a human will most certainly go out of their way to aid the fallen.  This is because we have an inane sense of right and wrong, along with a conscience.  It is exactly those very human qualities that convinced me to voluntarily punish myself for 23 years and counting.

Finally at peace
I am happy that nature agrees with my moral decision by making plant based foods better for the body and mind. However I do not expect nor seek rewards for my sacrifice upon my passing.  I take this burden as a corrective action to an injustice of life that has yet to be addressed.  Similar to how humans made thievery, murder, slavery and debauchery illegal, even though in the lexicon of life they are encouraged and can be rewarding.  I decided the eating of meat was one of those errors of life that thinking humans needed to correct. Possibly future generations will travel my moral and intellectual journey and we’ll finally end up with a vegetarian species, refuting once again the so called natural laws of life. Humanity returning to the Paradise of Adam and Eve where all were vegetarians and the lion lived in peace with the lamb.

It’s good for your body, it’s good for the climate and it’s good for the animal, vegetarianism. Still the hunger yearns!

*** 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.

A Dog or Cat Person Really Does Say a Lot About You
Research looks at distinct personality traits
Photo by Etolane

Recent research from UC Davis veterinary school points to distinct characteristics for so called dog and cat people.  As we have all experienced most folks stratify themselves into one or the other of the two categories with very few claiming to be completely impartial.  The research indicates that respondents who said they preferred cats tended to be higher in openness and neuroticism, while self-identified dog people tended towards more extroversion and agreeableness.

The study looked at something referred to as the “Big 5” in personality traits. The Big 5 are widely used metrics of personality, often referenced with the acronym OCEAN: openness, conscientiousness, extroversion, agreeableness, and neuroticism. These traits, as defined in scientific literature, can be broadly applied across all cultures and can form a useful way to understand personalities.

There is more that came from the open ended survey conducted by Mikel Delgado, a post-doctoral researcher and animal behaviorist at the university.  Her research confirmed previous such studies, showing that those who identify as dog people tend to be more dominant in social interactions and more narcissistic and those who identify as cat people were more likely to be female.

Amazingly the people that respond to such surveys typically end up being 85 to 90% white female. Re confirming the overall pet ownership profile of a heavy skew towards females.  As anyone involved in rescue work knows, the vast majority of the workers and volunteers that make up this sector are female and white.

Being an open ended survey, clearly the study has its limitations along with built in demographic bias that may influence the results but still as one might have guessed, the cat vs dog person does identify distinct personality traits in us.

As Delgado points out some even more basic questions about what pet ownership says about each of us has not been studied.  Per example why about 60% of the population are pet owners, they like pets vs the balance 40% that don’t like or don’t want pets? This is a fundamental question that will most probably divulge significant results for the human side and clearly has dramatic implications with regards to the pet population.  Can one imagine what animal control issues we’d have if 100% of the people loved and wanted pets?

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

Yes Virginia, they really do eat dogs in China
We refuse to display images of skinned dogs for sale! Instead enjoy the subtle beauty of a Siberian Husky.

The heat was overwhelming as he drove the white truck through the winding streets of Yulin. With sweat rolling down his cheeks he was even more agitated at the dogs in the back creating havoc. Fearful and packed so tight they could hardly breathe, they were all screaming and defecating on one another. The stench even permeated the windows. Yet all the driver wanted to do was to get to the slaughterhouse to dump the dogs off and go home to watch reality TV. The fact that he was a willing participant in barbarism did not bother him nearly as much as the ever-present heat!

Welcome to China, welcome in particular to Yulin, China where eating dog meat has taken on the allure of an epicurean delight. Old Chinese medicine, refers to a cult of recipes that follow supposed centuries old homeopathic Chinese medical practice. One of their twisted oddities is a belief that torturing a dog prior to death results in better-tasting, adrenaline-rich meat. Thus these poor dogs are destined to be horribly tortured, in demonic ways that this article refuses to elaborate on as it?s beyond the comprehension of most ordinary people. When the dogs are finally dead they are skinned, cooked and served up piping hot to eager Chinese families. Children will enjoy the succulent taste of dog and cat meat and laugh, not having any consciousness of what was in their mouths.

It's estimated that about 10 million dogs are killed in China for human consumption each year in a brutal trade that involves unimaginable cruelty. The majority of dogs killed are family pets stolen or relinquished. It is quite common to find dogs on trucks headed to slaughterhouses still wearing their collars. Others are strays snatched from the streets and discarded breeding stock form puppy mills.

Yulin has become the public face of the dog meat trade, but dogs are butchered and consumed throughout China all year. They even have a festival named after the city in celebration of eating men's best friend.

Witnessing the suffering and the cruelty from afar nevertheless leaves one speechless. Walking through an animal shelter in China is like taking a stroll through hell. The animals are all starving, sometimes going days without food. There is no vet care, disease is rampant as the only income the shelter has is private donations, the government refusing to give a single penny.

The thing is, most people in China don't eat dog meat. It's not part of mainstream Chinese culinary culture. There is even a growing animal protection movement in China that vehemently opposes the dog meat trade. More and more there are frequent and documented violent clashes between dog thieves and angry dog owners. Millions of Chinese citizens signed in support of a legislative proposal to ban the slaughter of dogs and cats. Yet still the laws have not been addressed. Why?

The government of China, while embarrassed by the inhumanity of segments of its population, also harbors deep respect for centuries old traditions. Every time a voice arises in defense of humanity, the people representing the 'simple folk' push back pointing out that this is how they have lived for centuries. Thus the government always ends up in compromises that reduce but never end the dog slaughter for meat industry. China with a population of 1.4 billion only needs a small percentage to produce a few million uneducated, rural working classes that somehow lost their consciences a long time ago. They do not question their actions, justifying them under some 'ancient Chinese tradition' mantra. And the government is complicit in not labeling this segment of the population as dehumanized and barbaric.

Rescuers in China save thousands of dogs a year, rehoming them into loving families thousands of miles away, away from China. But the process changes all, including the best of rescuers and animal lovers forever, and not for the better. The fact that these dogs, who suffer so terribly at the hands of humans, still wag their tails and seek human affection is a testament to their ability to love unconditionally.

There was a time when Nazi guards walked the aisles of concentration camps certain that what they were doing was just and right. While all around them atrocities were being committed they surmised this was a necessary evil to make the world a better place. Once the greater global community was made aware of the hideous goings on, the guards were all marked as inhuman torturers. One day this day of reckoning will arrive for the inhuman torturers of China, but it will be too late for thousands of beautiful dogs unfortunate enough to have been born there.

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

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.

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