Category Archives: Animals

Dolphins killed by fishing

Dolphins

Did you know that at least one third of the fish that are caught in commercial fishing nets are thrown back into the sea, dead or dying?  Known as bycatch, this may be because they are a fish species that is not valuable to the fishing industry, but it can also be because they are mammals that just happened to get caught in the nets.  Bycatch when fishing for tuna in particular is one of the leading causes of death for dolphins and other cetaceans, and their numbers are in steep decline as a result.

“Between 1950 and 2018, the fishing industry unintentionally caught around 4.1 million dolphins”, says Dr. Putu Liza Mustika, who worked on the study. A research team—led by Dr. Charles Anderson of the Maldivian Manta Marine organization—looked at bycatch rates in the Indian ocean to draw its conclusions.

They estimate that the dolphin population in the Indian Ocean stands at 13 percent of what it was in the 1980s. Mustika notes that the figures in the study are “ball-park figures,” and therefore have a lot of uncertainties. But what they do confirm is the magnitude of the problem.

The study includes a number of dolphins and whale species, including Indo-Pacific bottlenose dolphins, humpback, Risso’s, and common dolphins. The study states that although tuna catches are increasing, dolphin bycatch stagnated in the 1990s. [It] has since declined, and is therefore unsustainable and impacting populations, according to Dr. Sarah Dolman from Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC).

Humpback whale caught in line

It’s not just dolphins that end up as bycatch. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) says, “entanglement in fishing gear is the leading threat for whales and dolphins around the globe. [It’s] estimated to cause at least 300,000 deaths per year.”

According to Dolman, fishers caught 75 percent of toothed cetaceans in gillnets in the past 20-plus years. Sixty-four percent of baleen whales have ended up as bycatch in the same time period, as well as 66 percent of pinnipeds (that’s animals like seals, sea lions, and walruses).

Dolman notes that authorities have taken some action to mitigate the situation, including fishing bans and gear modifications. “There is much that can be done to better monitor, mitigate report, and enforce dolphin bycatch.” She adds that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) is currently producing best practice guidelines to prevent and reduce marine mammal bycatch. She notes: “this would be a good place to start.”

However, all the fishing regulations in the world will not prevent these beautiful creatures from dying as long as there is a high demand for fish, especially tuna.  One thing you can do is to give up eating fish, or switch to vegan substitutes for fish products.  We wrote last month about some of the new vegan seafood brands that are available.  It’s also easy to make your own “tuna salad” from chickpeas.  See recipes

Pandemics start by eating animals

Covid 19 poster

Diseases that come to humans from animals are called zoonoses. The current corona virus epidemic, as well as the Flu, Ebola and other diseases, all started by eating animals, thus exposing humans to viruses that emerge from animals. Once that happens, the virus can spread from person to person, as well as from animals, and a pandemic can start.

In Wuhan, China, the alarmingly contagious virus currently spreading around the world, has been identified as a zoonotic coronavirus, similar to SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus, and MERS (Middle East Respiratory Syndrome) coronavirus. This marks the third re-emergence this century of a zoonotic coronavirus.

Public health officials suspect that the current outbreak may have originated at a live-animal market in Wuhan. Selling and eating wild animals, disrupting ecosystems, and destroying forests all contribute to the risks of disease-causing viruses spreading into human populations. Read more

Legal actions doomed to fail

Miyokos butter & cheese

The doomed-to-fail actions against makers of plant based foods and animal advocacy organizations continue. Many people see the ridiculousness of the California Department of Food and Agriculture’s bullying attack on Miyoko’s Creamery. The department has ordered the small Sonoma County company, which makes non-dairy, vegan cheese and butter, to stop labeling its products as such. Read more

Animals dying in Australia

KoalaProfessor Chris Dickman, of the University of Sydney, estimates the number of animals killed in the bushfires in the New South Wales region of Australia to be more than 800 million animals, with more than one billion animals impacted nationally. Many of the affected animals are likely to have been killed directly by the fires, with others succumbing later due to the depletion of food, shelter and habitat. Fire is a painful way for an animal to die. These poor animals are victims of global warming, and a prime driver of global warming is eating animal derived foods. Read more

New York bans Foie Gras

Geese for foie grasIn New York City, lawmakers recently passed a bill banning the sale of Foie Gras in restaurants and grocery stores. As voted on, the bill “would prohibit retail food establishments or food service establishments from storing, maintaining, selling, or offering to sell force-fed products or food containing a force-fed product.”  The bill calls for a fine of up to $2000 for each violation, but top chefs aren’t happy about it, and plan an appeal in the courts.

Foie gras is the fattened goose liver that is considered a delicacy in many high class restaurants. Unfortunately it can only be produced by force feeding geese. Animal welfare activists had campaigned for a ban on the grounds that the methods used to produce foie gras are cruel. The force-feeding begins when the ducks are fully grown, about 12 weeks after they’re born. A worker inserts a 6-inch (15-centimeter) plastic tube into the duck’s beak, squirting a soft mix of corn, soybeans and water to the top of the throat. They’re fed every eight hours for three weeks, and then slaughtered.

California banned the sale of foie gras in 2012. That law was challenged in federal court, but an appeals court eventually upheld it, and early in 2019 the Supreme Court declined to consider it further, thus making the decision final. This may pave the way for other states to follow suit. Chicago banned foie gras in 2006 but the ordinance was repealed two years later.

Several other countries have banned Foie Gras, and in India not only is the production banned, but also the importation. However, other countries, notably France, still produce it.

The treatment of the geese needed to produce foie gras is considered particularly harsh, and health groups note that it’s also very unhealthy for us. For anyone who enjoys the texture and flavor of foie gras, we encourage you to try this vegan foie gras recipe!

Sick animals hurt!

Pig factoryIt hurts to be sick, and animals are no exception.  When animals are raised in factory farm conditions, they are usually crammed into small spaces, and held in very unhygienic conditions, such that diseases can run rampant. Sometimes these diseases spread from one factory to another causing a pandemic. Unfortunately farm animal disease pandemics plague our food system, destabilizing trade and markets and causing product shortages, and multiplying the amount of suffering that the animals themselves experience exponentially. Read more

Dogs are not for dinner

Dogs for sale

On April 30 the World Dog Show supposedly had a “joyful gathering for dog lovers and lovely dogs across the world” in Shanghai, China. The presence of a celebratory canine event in a country where some still sell and consume dog meat, had many animal lovers outraged.

According to Humane Society International (HSI), their partner group in Shanghai found dog meat for sale in restaurants less than 12 miles away from the expo center where the “joyous” dog show was held. At least one of the offending restaurants had “a sign boasting that its dog meat is supplied by slaughterhouses in Xuzhou city, notorious for the country’s biggest dog meat processing industry” reports HSI.

HSI’s Chinese activist partner recently visited one of the slaughterhouses in Peixian and discovered 22 filthy, injured dogs.  The animal organization believes these animals used to be people’s pets because they also found a pile of “pet collars discarded in the corner” near where the canines were caged. HSI’s Chinese partner was able to negotiate the release of these 22 canines, many purebred dogs, and is currently caring for the pets.

This investigation exposes the horrifying way that millions of China’s dogs are abused for the meat trade. HSI hope that by exposing the cruel reality of the dog meat trade, China will decide to put an end of this outdated industry.

Whaling resumes :(

Whale captured

It’s bad news for whales. Japan has resumed commercial whaling, bringing back to port the country’s first official catch since it withdrew from the International Whaling Commission, a global organization committed to the conservation of whales. But Japan isn’t the only country still hunting whales, in spite of a 1986 ban on the practice. Norway and Iceland hunt whales too.

Whales roam throughout all of the world’s oceans, communicating with complex and mysterious sounds. Their sheer size amazes us: the blue whale can reach lengths of more than 100 feet and weigh up to 200 tons—as much as 33 elephants.

Despite living in the water, whales breathe air. A thick layer of fat called blubber insulates them from cold ocean waters. And like humans, they are warm-blooded mammals who nurse their young.  We know that they feel pain just like us too.

Whales are at the top of the food chain and have an important role in the overall health of the marine environment. Unfortunately their large size and mythical aura does not protect them; six out of the 13 great whale species are classified as endangered, even after decades of protection.

There are a number of factors contributing to the current endangered status of whales such as overfishing, pollution, dam/bridge construction, private/commercial boating and commercial whaling, but out of these contributing factors commercial whaling has had the largest effect on the endangered status of today’s existing whale populations.

Fortunately, whale meat is becoming less appetizing. Conservation groups have revealed that Norwegian exports of minke whale to Japan contained damaging levels of toxic pesticides, making that meat unfit for human consumption. It’s a discovery that could cue a swifter decline in the appetite for whale meat.

Japan used to import whale meat from Norway but had to stop. Tests showed samples contained pesticides at twice the limit Japan imposes on its imports. The meat harbored chemicals such as aldrin, dieldrin, and chlordane, thought to play a role in causing birth defects, neurological harm, and some cancers, if humans consume them in high quantities.

We hope that this is a wake-up call for those cultures that still consume whale meat.  Of course we wish that the whales weren’t so polluted, since it isn’t good for their health either, but we also wish that they were free to roam the oceans without fear of capture.  Hopefully that day will come in the not-too-distant future.

Another case of animal abuse

Veal calvesYet another horror story has come out about the abuse of animals on farms. This time it’s at the Fair Oaks farm in Indiana.  The owners give the usual excuse that they didn’t know this was going on. They express shock and make the usual promises to make things better. Unfortunately, we’ve heard this all before!

Three former employees of the large northwestern Indiana dairy have been charged with animal cruelty, following the release of an undercover video showing workers kicking and throwing young calves. Even worse, the video showed calves being hit with steel rods and burnt with branding irons.

As well as showing animal abuse, the video revealed that the farm had been untruthful about the destination of some of the male calves that were being sent to the veal industry.

Calves raised to make veal are severely confined. Veal calves live the entirety of their short lives in “vela crates,” wooden crates that severely restrict the calves’ movement. These crates are typically only 2.5 feet wide at most and have slatted wooden floors which are hard to stand on.

Calves raised to become veal are also purposely fed an all-liquid milk substitute which is deficient in iron and fiber. This insufficient diet makes the calves severely anemic in order to produce the pale-colored flesh that veal-eaters prefer.

While undercover videos and law enforcement have their place, the only way to truly eliminate farm animal abuse is to follow a plant-based diet. When people stop buying animal products, and especially meat such as veal, farmers will stop producing it for sale and much animal suffering will be prevented.

Eating salmon is killing the Orcas!

orca with dead baby

Our taste for salmon is killing the orca whales. The southern resident orcas which inhabit the waters of the Salish Sea between the US and Canada, and the outer coasts of Washington, Oregon and California, are starving to death. They just can’t find enough of their primary food source, chinook salmon, to keep themselves well-fed. There are currently only 74 of them in the three pods of this group, down from a peak of 98 in 1995. Struggling to survive in hostile waters, the southern residents have not successfully reproduced in three years. Read more

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