Category Archives: Animals

Catching Coronavirus from Mink

People have been catching the coronavirus from mink, animals raised to make fur coats. Here’s yet another reason to not buy fur coats as we head into the holiday season! More than 200 cases of coronavirus appear to be linked to sick minks on fur farms in Denmark, according to new data released last Thursday by the country’s public health agency. Worse, there’s worry that the strain of the virus in the mink might make the vaccine ineffective.

Danish officials said that they now want to cull all 15 million mink at the country’s roughly 1,200 fur farms as a precautionary step to protect people from contracting the virus. Mink on at least 220 fur farms in Denmark have already tested positive for the coronavirus.

We may be at risk here too. The United States, too, has confirmed that minks have contracted coronavirus on fur farms in Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan, although so far there is no evidence that the minks are making humans sick in the U.S. “These investigations are ongoing, and we will release data once available,” says Jasmine Reed, a U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesperson.

When people catch a disease such as the coronavirus from animals, it’s called zoonosis. While we’re on the subject, it is important to note as we go into flu season that influenza, the flu, is also a zoonosis, one that is spread from chickens and pigs. Since these diseases come from keeping animals in close confinement, the way to prevent such diseases is to stop confining animals.

Besides the risk to human health, raising mink is very harsh on the animals themselves.  On fur factory farms around the world, millions of rabbits, foxes, mink and other wild animals spend their entire lives in cramped cages, deprived of the ability to engage in natural behaviors—only to be crudely gassed or electrocuted at the end.

Many vegetarians extend their choices to what they wear on their body as well as what is consumed as food. There are many good artificial furs, and there’s really no reason why anyone should choose to wear animal fur.

Ten Top Reasons To Skip The Turkey On Thanksgiving

We’d like to take this opportunity to invite you to join the growing number of people who’ll skip the turkey this Thanksgiving. There are lots of good reasons to find better and healthier ways to celebrate one of our favorite holidays. Turkey has the same disadvantages as other kinds of meat. To help you along, here are our top ten reasons to skip the bird this year. Remember that what we say about turkey is true of other holiday favorites such as ham as well. Read more

Grass-Fed Beef – bad for us and for the planet

Recently, some people have been touting grass-fed beef as eliminating all the problems associated with meat, or as an equivalent alternative to going vegetarian. Don’t fall for it. Grass-fed beef is still bad for us, the environment and, of course, the cows.

Let’s take a look and see what some leading veg-authors have to say on the subject and then make a few observations of our own. Read more

A new way to farm without killing animals

Jay Wilde was born into the family farm with an environmentally-minded father who never engaged with business-like intensive farming such as the usage of artificial fertilizers and herbicides.  He inherited a dairy farm in England in 2011, so initially he produced dairy goods, before moving onto organic beef.  But in 2017, he and his wife Katja could no longer bear to send the cows to the slaughterhouse for what must be a terrifying death.  They made headlines by rehoming the cows at an animal sanctuary, and the UK Vegan Society worked with him to switch to alternative farming practices.  

Jay is now working with Refarm’d, an organization that works to give animal farmers a new business model that doesn’t benefit from the exploitation of animals.  They helped him to make a smooth shift into a booming market that is the plant milk industry, enabling him to keep his farm with the remaining 17 retired cows.  Jay and Katja Wilde spent time finessing their business model so that they could ensure producing oat milk was sustainable and profitable, while providing themselves with a cruelty-free source of income. While they had initially started producing organic vegetables, they found that a project producing oat milk was the ideal complement.

Geraldine Starke, CEO of Refarm’d, pointed out that the dairy industry is struggling, and this mostly affects farmers who don’t have a say on the price they sell the milk and therefore often sell for less than production costs, leaving them struggling to make it work.  “I believe to help our farmers, we need to help them get out of this system. And that’s what we are trying to do at Refarm’d,” she said. 

Seeing the need for change, more and more farmers from around the world are getting in touch with the organization. Under Refarm’d model, farmers continue feeding the population by providing a healthy and fresh, handmade product, made with local ingredients to customers local to them. The production costs are low and they help the farm over time to optimize their global costs so that farmers earn a better life with less effort. This shows a way for what the future of farming could look like.

Do animals feel pain?

Farm AnimalsDo animals feel pain?  Of course they do!  Just ask yourself this question: if animals can’t feel pain, then why do researchers test pain medication on them?  Then ask yourself another question: if animals don’t feel pain, then why do they scream or wince when they are hurt? Of course they feel pain and are capable of suffering.

Famous Anthropologist Jane Goodall says that “…farm animals are treated as mere things, yet they are living beings capable of suffering pain and fear.” The Veterinary Merck Manual, perhaps the most standard reference in animal science and veterinary practice, states, “Based on what is known to date, all vertebrates, and some invertebrates, experience pain in response to actual or potential tissue damage.” Read more

Dogs are friends, not food

It’s very upsetting. In some regions dogs are used for food and slaughtered in an especially cruel manner. This was the case in the Nagaland region of India.

But there’s good news. Nagaland has just banned the import, trading and sale of dog meat, in a move celebrated by animal rights activists. The region’s  government announced the ban following a sustained campaign by animal welfare groups. They hailed the decision as a “major turning point” in ending cruelty to dogs in India.

Eating dog meat is illegal in parts of India, but some communities in north-eastern areas consider it a delicacy. Indian media said the ban came after a picture of dogs bound in sacks at a wet market was circulated widely on social media, provoking outrage.

An estimated 30,000 dogs a year are smuggled into Nagaland, where they are sold in live markets and beaten to death with wooden clubs. Horrible!  The eating of dogs does take place in some other countries, including regions of China, South Korea and Thailand. We hope that dog meat will be banned world wide.

New flu from pigs

Pigs confinedWhat if we stopped raising pigs?  Easy answer: we would stop the swine flu.

We pay a very high price from raising pigs and, of course, the pigs do as well. A big part of that price is the swine flu. U.S. health officials are tracking a newly discovered strain of swine flu in China they say has the characteristics of viruses with potential to cause another human pandemic. Although the virus has not yet been detected in the U.S. or shown human to human transition, doctors have reason to worry it could spell trouble.

Here’s why they’re worried. The new virus appears to grow well in the cells lining the human airway, and possesses all the essential hallmarks of being highly adapted to infect humans, according to a recent study.

Pigs are considered as important hosts or “mixing vessels” for the generation of pandemic influenza viruses. Systematic surveillance of influenza viruses in pigs is essential for early warning and preparedness for the next potential pandemic.

The virus, which scientists are calling G4 EA H1N1 is exhibiting “reassortment capabilities.” When you get a brand new virus that turns out to be a pandemic virus, it’s either due to mutations and/or the reassortment or exchanges of genes. This virus has characteristics of the 2009 H1N1 virus, and of the original 1918 Flu which some other flu viruses have, as well as segments from pigs.  The H1N1 swine flu and 1918 pandemic flu were both considered very dangerous viruses that spread across the globe.

Most pigs are raised in very harsh over crowded conditions on what’s known as factory farms. But if we didn’t raise pigs, almost all the threat of swine flu would disappear. How many people could be saved from sickness and death? Is bacon really worth all the suffering and death?  Learn more about the flu and how it arises on factory chicken and pig farms.

Adopt a Farm Animal in honor of Mother’s Day

Cows - Liberty and Indigo

Oscar winning actor, Joaquin Phoenix, recently urged people to adopt a farm animal in honor of Mother’s Day. In February, he visited the slaughterhouse, Manning Beef in California, to facilitate the rescue of a cow and her newborn calf and deliver them to Farm Sanctuary. Phoenix negotiated the release of the animals from the slaughterhouse alongside a group that included fiancée and fellow activist Rooney Mara, both his and Mara’s mothers, Earthlings director Shaun Monson, Los Angeles Animal Save Founder Amy Jean Davis, and Farm Sanctuary President and Co-founder Gene Baur.

He named the cow Liberty and the calf Indigo.  “It’s impossible not to smile at the love that radiates from Liberty for her calf, Indigo, or the marvelous curiosity they share for their new life roaming spacious land in permanent sanctuary. Thanks to generous supporters like you, Liberty is able to nurse Indigo, bond with her, protect her, and watch her grow up—just as nature intended,” Phoenix said.

Farm Sanctuary, with locations in upstate New York and southern California, provides space and freedom for farm animals that have been rescued from stockyards, factory farms and slaughterhouses.  They do what they can to rehabilitate and provide lifelong care to help animals recover from abuse and neglect.  Farm Sanctuary operates the country’s largest farm animal rescue and adoption network. Every year, they assist with hundreds of urgent placement needs, including helping to secure homes for victims of cruelty and neglect, factory farm victims, such as those rescued from natural disasters or transport accidents, or for animals who are surrendered by farmers or guardians.

To sponsor a farm animal today, choose the type of animal who’s right for you and complete the monthly sponsorship registration form. Sponsors make a year-long commitment to a shelter animal and make monthly, quarterly, or annual payments. In return, you will receive a sponsorship certificate with a color photograph of your sponsored friend, and other benefits depending on your animal.

Invite a goat to your next meeting!

 

Goat 2 Meeting

Nibblets (aka Mama Goat) is ready for her close-up as part of “Goat 2 Meetings,” a zoom meeting program set up by the animal sanctuary Sweet Farm south of Half Moon Bay. (Rachael Myrow/KQED)

If you’re feeling starved of nature right now, here’s a novel opportunity for you.  Sweet Farm, an animal sanctuary located in California, just 30-45 minutes away from Silicon Valley, is scheduling opportunities for an animal to attend your next online meeting.  Since they are currently not able to host public events and tours during the coronavirus pandemic, they came up with the novel idea of scheduling animals for your zoom meetings.

The concept is simple: Whether you’re an elementary school class looking for a virtual field trip or a high-tech startup starved for an amusing diversion at the top of a business meeting, you can book a visit to Sweet Farm via Zoom. Some individuals are even booking farm visits to spice up happy hour video calls with their friends.  “Goat 2 Meetings,” started just a few days ago, and already, Sweet Farm is sharing their animal friends several hours a day with homes all across the country. It’s not exactly a moneymaker for the farm. School Zooms, for instance, are free. Corporate “visits” range from $64 to $150, depending on the length of the engagement.

The nonprofit’s end goal, both online and off, is to raise awareness about the evils of industrialized agriculture, and the joys of treating animals like friends instead of meat, at a moment when most of us are longing for the sight of something good going on.

“Each of these animals has their own personal story: abuse, abandonment, factory farming. It really spans the entire spectrum. Of course, these animals [at Sweet Farm] are living out their lives to the fullest without fear of meeting the ultimate end of a slaughterhouse,” Sweet Farm co-founder Nate Salpeter said.

To make a reservation for an animal to join your next meeting, just fill out the form on the Sweet Farm website.

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

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