Category Archives: Animals

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

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

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