The Rights of Nature

“Just as human beings have human rights, all other beings also have rights which are specific to their species or kind and appropriate for their role and function within the communities within which they exist.”

The Universal Declaration of Rights of Mother Earth

Nature has Rights! And not just in our wishful pipe dreams. Two countries hit the headlines recently with court rulings acknowledging the legal personhood of three rivers. In New Zealand the Wanganui River, and the Ganges and Yamuna Rivers in India now have rights. On 31st March India granted Himalayan glaciers the same status. They are legal persons.

A similar judgment has been made in Costa Rican law courts for the planet’s second largest reef which happens to lie in their waters.

Costa Rica’s not too distant neighbour Ecuador was already well ahead of the game – in 2008, the first country in the world to embed in the nation’s constitution itself, the Rights of Nature. The constitution was then put to a referendum of the people, and they voted yes. Ground-breakers indeed.

Not to be left behind, Bolivia was next to achieve a milestone for Nature’s Rights. Half a century after the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Bolivian President Evo Morales Ayma, drove forward the initiative to present the United Nations with a draft of the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth.

Since that time:

  • Nearly 40 municipalities in the US have adopted Nature’s Rights
  • The dignity of all beings is recognised in Switzerland’s constitution
  • Spain recognises the rights of apes
  • And Romania is in the process of doing the same for dolphins

The EU is lagging behind! But there is hope, as we will see. First, how law for Nature operates in most countries of the world now.

The law with reference to Nature at present stumbles along under one of three paradigms. All outdated, none holistic. Take your pick:
  • mechanistic – viewing the world as made up of separate unconnected objects interacting in a predicable way
  • anthropocentric – viewing the world as existing solely for the use of human beings – our own ‘natural resources’ or ‘natural capital’. Nature is judged only by its economic value to Man rather than on its own intrinsic value
  • adversarial – where one party wins at the expense of another. Guess who nearly always wins? It’s not Nature.
But we already have laws to protect wildlife and the environment – like our own UK Wildlife and Countryside Act. So why does Nature need legal Rights?

Generally speaking – though as we have seen there are exceptions – the law as it stands recognises only two kinds of ‘holders of rights’: humans and human-created entities such as corporations. Everything else – animals domesticated, farmed and wild, land and water, Nature itself – is ‘property’. Nature our thinking goes, belongs to us, is our possession. So laws of protection that come, can just as easily go, depending on the prevailing governmental winds.

The classic example is the USA’s iconic gray wolf, already extinct over most of its historic range. The wolf was listed under the Endangered Species Act in 1974, delisted in 2012, relisted in 2014, and now once again loses  protection in Alaska, in national wildlife refuges fgs, under Trump. The man is hell bent on sweeping aside just about every protection U.S. wildlife and wild places – so hard striven for over decades – now enjoy. If ever there was someone out of tune with Nature….

Rights on the other hand give the highest level of legal protection.

Rather than treating nature as property under the law, Rights for Nature… acknowledge that nature in all its life forms has the right to exist, persist, maintain and regenerate its vital cycles.  And we – the people –  have the legal authority to enforce these rights on behalf of ecosystems. The ecosystem itself can be named as the defendant [and in courts of law we can be its advocate].

And so we come to the ECI – A European Citizens’ Initiative for the Rights of Nature

vII8ChdUxsdMEueu8GoGHUsKT6xziUJ5k45bQMJKNm07IeMjECZMyq0pleanp1K3ViJy7gVg9qoqwzJo0jtlRpmUrAvHLW_lnSsI7h0k0O34H1o5KH6D9wTTRj5NsMGkHrS_3IUQ.pngThe European Citizens Initiative scheme was established five years ago with the aim of increasing direct democracy by enabling “EU citizens to participate directly in the development of EU policies”. Now, a group of lawyers, environmentalists, academics and others from 13 EU countries have come together in a project to present the Rights of Nature to the EU Commission and get those rights enshrined in EU law.

Their Project Vision

Humanity flourishing in harmony with Nature.

Project Mission

To establish nature’s rights – legal personality and rights for ecosystems and other species – in law throughout Europe.

Project Aim

To launch a European Citizens’ Initiative to propose nature’s rights to the legislative agenda of the EU – see our Draft Directive.

Why This Initiative?

Ecosystems and other species are alive. Yet the law treats them as objects separate to us. This has wide reaching social and economic consequences that drive the environmental crisis. Rights of nature is a game changing solution that brings fundamental and systemic transformation to our legal and economic system by re-characterising nature – ecosystems and species – as a subject of the law with legal personality and tangible rights that can be defended in court by people. This ensures that economic activity operates to enhance rather than undermine the resilience of ecosystems so that humanity can thrive in harmony with nature. It forms a powerful counterbalance to corporate rights and a viable alternative to the financialisation of nature.  To find out more see this article – Rights of Nature – Why Do We Need It? and this TEDx Talk.

Nature needs us to create new legal systems that promote

  • respect for the profound inter-existence of all life
  • respect for the intrinsic value of all life
  • healthy relationships with all life
  • harmony with the universal laws that govern all life

Sadly, since the European Citizens’ Initiative first came into effect, only three ECIs have managed to collect the 1 million signatures required for a response from the EU Commission. And of those three, only one was approved for a follow-up proposal. (One of those rejected by the Commission was a proposal for the European Anthem to be sung in Esperanto!)

But with our support the chances for the ECI – Rights of Nature are hopeful. And here are ways you can help

If you have skills in the following areas and would like to be involved in co-creating this exciting history-making initiative, please get in touch with Mumta Ito, as representative of the organising committee, at mumtaito@gmail.com. The specific areas additional assistance is needed are:

  • Administration/administrative support; fundraising; accounting; research; IT/websites/social media; branding; education; advocacy; lobbying; project management.
  • Additional members to join the existing 13 country teams (UK, Spain, Portugal, Germany, France, Luxembourg, Hungary, Croatia, Romania, Ireland, Italy, Belgium and Latvia)
  • People who would like to lead the initiative in the EU countries where we still don’t have people (Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Poland, Slovakia, Slovenia, Malta, Lithuania, Estonia, Czech Republic, Cyprus, Austria, Estonia, Bulgaria and Greece)
  • We also have places for self-funding internships in Findhorn and Andalucía.

Offers of skills support could be in a purely ‘advisory’ capacity or more hands-on – (no offer of assistance is too small). To be kept in the loop subscribe at the Being Nature Project.

We look forward to hearing from you and to creating together the legal frameworks needed to form a more resilient, thriving world for all of our future generations.

Of course here in the UK we have Brexit looming. But until the two years after the triggering of Article 50 is over, we can still have our say and make our contribution.

Follow European Citizens’ Inititative on Facebook here

Sign the Global Alliance’s Letter of Commitment to the Rights of Nature here

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It’s true UNESCO already has its own Earth Charter, approved at a meeting of the Earth Charter Commission in Paris in 2000. It lists four Principles. The problem for me lies in Principle Two :

a. Accept that with the right to own, manage, and use natural resources comes the duty to prevent environmental harm and protect the rights of people.

That strikes me as reinforcing the status quo, the rights of Man to treat Nature as property – more a denial of the Rights of Nature than part of a charter to protect them. I would like to see UNESCO replace the Earth Charter with the Universal Declaration of the Rights of Mother Earth which places Man not bestriding the Earth, above Nature with the right to own it and use it, but as just one thread in the complex web of life, each part of which is every bit as entitled to rights as are we humans.

Read the full Universal Declaration here

And sign the petition to the UN for the Rights of Mother Earth here


Postscript

Two hugely important questions arise for me from discussion about the Rights of Nature.

The first, for those of us who are dedicated to Animal Rights: if we achieve legal Rights for Nature, what does that mean for nonhuman animals? Does it mean that animal advocates like the Nonhuman Rights Project should cease the legal battle to win personhood for individual chimpanzees like Tommy, and throw its weight instead behind the fight for Rights of Nature?

Does it also mean that if nonhuman animals have the right to live at liberty in their own natural environment without interference and exploitation from humans, that the farming of animals would cease?

That we would get the vegan world of which we dream? A sentence in the Declaration seems to say so:

‘Every being has the right to wellbeing and to live free from torture or cruel treatment by human beings”

Secondly, as the capitalist system is based on extracting Nature’s ‘commodities’ and exploiting animals, human and nonhuman in the pursuit of profit and ‘growth’, don’t we need a new paradigm not just for law, but for world economics too?

Maybe I can explore these questions further at a later date, but now I would greatly value your ideas and comments on this immense subject.

Related posts

Human Rights Are Animal Rights!

A Promising Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Through Artist’s Eyes- The Wondrous Web of Life & Death

Sources

Being Nature – Extending Civil Rights to the Natural World – The Ecologist

Rights of Mother Earth

Global Alliance for the Rights of Nature

European Citizens Initiative – Wiki

ECI for the Rights of Nature – International Centre for Wholistic Law

ECI Project Summary – A European Citizens Initiative for the Rights of Nature

Revising the ECI: How to make it ‘fit for purpose’ – Euractiv

 

Human Rights are Animal Rights!

by Peter Tatchell for the Ecologist

Abusing animals is no more justifiable than abusing people, writes Peter Tatchell. The moral touchstone is sentience, not species, and the ‘humans first’ ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism & misogyny. Cruelty is barbarism, whether inflicted on humans or on other species. We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature.

Since we humans are an animal species, it is obvious that human rights are a form of animal rights; and that animal rights include – or should include – the human species.

“We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?”

Sadly, not everyone sees it this way. Many view humans and other animals as totally distinct: drawing a clear, sharp line between animal rights and human rights.
That’s not my view. Sentience is the bond that unites all animal species, human and non-human. I accept our shared animalism and advocate our shared claim to be spared suffering and accorded inalienable rights.

It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills and our capacity for culture and conscience.¹ But this is no justification for abusing them. Just as we do not sanction the abuse of humans – such as babies and disabled people – who lack these highly developed capacities.

We accept that we have a special responsibility to protect weaker, more vulnerable humans. Surely the same reasoning applies to other weaker, more vulnerable thinking, feeling creatures?

There is, in my moral universe, no great ethical gulf between the abuse of human and non-human animals or between our duty of compassion towards other humans and other species.

Indeed, I see a link between the oppression of non-human animals and the oppression of human beings because of their nationality, race, gender, faith or non-faith, political beliefs, disability, sexual orientation and gender identity.

Speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny

The different forms of human and other animal oppression are interconnected, based on the similar abuse of power and the infliction of harm and suffering. They cannot be fully understood separately from one another.

How we mistreat animals parallels how we mistreat people. Cruelty is barbarism, whether it is inflicted on humans or on other species. The campaigns for animal rights and human rights share the same fundamental aim: a world without oppression and suffering, based on love, kindness and compassion.

Speciesism is the belief and practice of human supremacism over other animal species. It is prejudice, discrimination or violence in favour of human beings; variously involving the exploitation, incarceration, mistreatment or killing of other animals by humans.

This humans-first ideology of speciesism is analogous to homophobia, racism and misogyny. A form of prejudice, domination and oppression, it is incompatible with a humane, civilised society.

We humans are an animal species. We know about pain and suffering. So why do most of us hold high-handed attitudes towards other animals and accept their abuse in medical laboratories, farms, zoos, circuses and sports events?

It does not follow that our highly sophisticated intelligence and material development gives us the right to lord it over other species. Just because we have the capacity to do so, does not mean that we should. On the contrary: our brain power and conscience give us a special responsibility of stewardship over the Earth and all its beings.

We must start thinking in a new way …

My thinking has been influenced by the Australian philosopher, Peter Singer, and his ground-breaking book, Animal Liberation. In my mind, it is one the most important books of the last 100 years. It expands our moral horizons beyond our own species and is thereby a major evolution in ethics.

Singer challenges human chauvinism. By viewing non-human sentient beings as ‘other’, we allow ourselves the ‘excuse’ to look down on and mistreat them; including to insult, exploit, abuse, dominate or even kill those ‘other’ beings. We stop seeing them as living, thinking, feeling creatures.

Anti-animal prejudice runs deep. Bigots often disparage other people with speciesist epithets. They accuse them of acting ‘just like a beast’ or ‘worse than an animal.’ This bigotry echoes the vile insults that black people are ‘savages’, women are ‘bitches’ and that LGBT people are ‘perverts.’

Before we can liberate the millions of oppressed humans and billions of exploited animals we need to free our minds and start thinking in a new way: to consciously eliminate the mentality of subjugation and entitlement that allows us to passively acquiesce or, even worse, actively participate in the cycle of abuse against other sentient beings – human and non-human.

Animal liberation is in the same ethical tradition as women’s, black and LGBT liberation. It is about ending the suffering that flows from a supremacist mindset and power relations of domination.

Surely, in the twenty-first century, the time has come to emancipate non-human animals, just like we previously emancipated humans through abolishing slavery, male-only suffrage and anti-LGBT laws?

We have a moral duty to stop abusing other animal species. They aren’t really that different from us humans. Vertebrates share much of our DNA and our capacity for thought, feelings, emotions, sociability, language, altruism and empathy.

We need to recognise and accept our common animal nature. If we did that, the excuses and rationalisations for treating other species badly would fall away.


¹I love this piece and totally endorse everything Peter says – except for the statement: “It is true that other animals are less intelligent than humans and lack our mental-physical skills …” Intelligence is a human construct. Some nonhumans display remarkable intelligence even by that human-centric standard, while others show their own special intelligences that we can scarcely understand or lay claim to ourselves. As for mental-physical skills, many if not all of the 7.77 million species on our planet could give humans a good run for their money.

If you haven’t already done so, please sign the Declaration of Animal Rights


Peter Tatchell is a British human rights campaigner, originally from Australia, best known for his work with LGBT social movements. Tatchell was selected as Labour Party Parliamentary candidate for Bermondsey in 1981.

Event: Peter Tatchell’s keynote address ‘Human rights ARE animal rights’ takes place at Veggie World London at 2pm on Saturday 8th April, Kensington Town Hall, West London. Advance tickets available online: £8 for adults and £6 concessions.


Source: Human rights are animal rights! – The Ecologist


Related posts

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

Will Today be the Day Chimpanzees become Legal Persons?

A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

Vegan Rights & Why They Really Matter for the Animals

Will Today be the Day Chimpanzees become Legal Persons?

Cover image: Getty

Today is a big day. Today lawyer Steven Wise of the NonHuman Rights Project will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court in Manhattan on behalf of two chimpanzees, Tommy and Kiko.
In the fight to win legal person status for a nonhuman animal and what that would mean for nonhumans as a whole, this is the best and clearest article I’ve come across yet. It’s a decent length but truly worth reading through to the end. There cannot be much else as important as this for Animal Rights.

Should a Chimpanzee be Considered a Person?

“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” [NhRP President Steven M. Wise] said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode.”

“They used to bark at me when I walked into the courtroom,” lawyer Steven Wise said in the Sundance documentary Unlocking the Cage, which debuted on HBO last month. His use of the word “bark” is literal.

Wise, founder and president of the Nonhuman Rights Project, has spent his entire legal career preparing to represent the first chimpanzee plaintiffs in the U.S. court system. While he’s no stranger to having his life’s work—of attempting to get certain animals recognized as persons—poked fun at, he’s found that the courts have taken him seriously.

The distinction of “persons,” not “people,” is important. Part of the apparent absurdity is that on the surface, arguing for personhood might sound like saying a chimpanzee should have the same rights as an adult human, like the right to own property and vote in elections. Instead, the category of “person” is a legal one referring to a being entitled to certain fundamental rights. The case of the chimpanzees, Wise said, is about their right to bodily liberty—recognizing the animals as legal beings instead of “things.”

On March 16th, Wise will be presenting oral arguments in the New York Supreme Court, Appellate Division, First Judicial Department in Manhattan on behalf of Tommy and Kiko, two chimpanzees who appeared in movies in the 1980s and are now living in New York State in questionable conditions—Tommy, in a concrete cell at the back of a trailer lot in upstate New York, and Kiko, in a concrete storefront operated out of a private home in Niagara Falls. According to NhRP, Tommy has frequently been left with a small TV set as his only stimulation; Kiko has been photographed with a makeshift leash made of a padlock and chain around his neck. Both animals, kept in cages, are being deprived the natural habitats and socialization that chimps, known to thrive in large and organized societies, require.

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Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Rights Project arguing on behalf of the chimpanzee Tomm before the New York Supreme Court Appellate Division on Oct. 8, 2014, in Albany, N.Y. (Image: Mike Groll/AP)

Rather than attempt to sue or criminalize the chimps’ owners for cruelty, Wise is using a writ of habeus corpus to argue that these animals are being held against their rights as autonomous beings—autonomy being a “supreme common law value” recognized by the courts, as Wise explained.

“Scientifically speaking, autonomous beings have the capacity to freely choose how to live their lives. They are not cabined by instinct,” Wise told Gizmodo. He believes Tommy and Kiko should be released to true sanctuaries, with living conditions more akin to the jungles chimpanzees are native to, and importantly, other chimpanzees to socialize with. While nonhuman entities like corporations have, in the past, been named persons in the eyes of the law, Wise is the first to seek personhood status for nonhuman animals in a U.S. court. And if it can happen once, the door will be open to recognizing personhood in other cases of animal cruelty. Wise could set a precedent that changes the way nonhuman animals are seen in the eyes of the law forever.

Animal cruelty is usually fought piecemeal: Reports come out of an inhumane practice, an advocacy organization leads a reactionary campaign, and maybe a new law gets passed, or an offender is pressured to change their practices. David Coman-Hidy, executive director of The Humane League, says corporate boycotts are an effective tool. But it’s an imperfect system, because many forms of animal cruelty (like keeping chimps in isolation in concrete cages) are perfectly legal. Some laws are in place to protect nonhuman animals, but not nearly as many as you might think. Farm animals, the focus of THL’s work, “are afforded essentially no meaningful protections, legally,” Coman-Hidy said.

“Some of the most inhumane practices, like extreme confinement, are outlawed, but there’s very little [that is against the law to practice] in terms of slaughter.”

Farm animals, though not (yet) the subject of NhRP’s work, make a strong case in point. Specific forms of cruelty remain legal until—maybe—they’re not anymore. Meanwhile, other forms of cruelty remain the status quo. Wise’s approach, of arguing that animals are being not just mistreated, but being held against their rights as autonomous beings, is meant to upend this usual order.

“If we didn’t have rights, all we had was some statute that said you can’t be cruel to me, or that I’m entitled to some kind of welfare, the person who gave it to me can also take it away,” he said. Wise cited the example of environmental protections set forth by the Obama administration, which are now being rolled back by Trump. Essentially, if legislation can be passed, it can also be erased. Rights are more difficult to erode. As Wise put it, there’s a big difference “between having rights that you can enforce, and just being the object of protections that someone wants to give you.”

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Kanzi the chimpanzee as seen in Unlocking the Cage. (Image: Pennebaker Hegedus Films/HBO)

It’s been a few years since Wise first made headlines for filing on behalf of Tommy in 2013, and initially being rejected by a ruling and an appeals court by the end of 2014. Since then, his firm has also filed cases on behalf of the chimps Hercules and Leo, who were being held at Stony Brook University as biological subjects for study. Wise didn’t win that case either, but a public campaign (led by none other than Jane Goodall, primate expert and NhRP board member) is now pressuring Hercules and Leo’s owner, the New Iberia Research Center, to surrender the animals to a sanctuary in Florida.

Despite its losses, the NhRP is anything but discouraged.

According to Wise, Justice Barbara Jaffe, the judge in the First Department’s ruling on the Hercules and Leo case in 2015, agreed with “virtually everything” the NhRP presented. Jaffe wrote in her decision that “‘Legal personhood’ is not necessarily synonymous with being human,” and that the concept of legal personhood has “evolved significantly since the inception of the United States. Not very long ago, only caucasian male, property-owning citizens were entitled to the full panoply of legal rights.” But ultimately, Jaffe felt bound by a prior ruling against the NhRP—Tommy’s 2013 case in Albany—where the court said that to be a person you had to “assume duties and responsibilities.”

“The problem is,” Wise said, “millions of New Yorkers cannot assume duties and responsibilities.”

Wise is referring to what animal ethicists often call the “arguments from marginal cases”: if we define humanity, or personhood, as possessing a certain ability—in this case, the ability to assume responsibilities—what does that mean for the human beings who don’t? Are young children and those with disabilities less entitled to rights?

Few would say so. And this is where it gets messy when scholars and judges try to make logical distinctions between humans and other animals. The particular distinction the Albany court went with in the case of Tommy was that collectively, humans are able to assume duties, and chimps are not.

Wise is now armed to attack that assertion. The team has collected 60 pages of expert affidavits attesting to how chimpanzees in fact do assume responsibilities, both in chimpanzee-only and human-chimpanzee communities. At this stage, NhRP’s hope is the Manhattan court sets them up to appeal the Albany ruling. Considering it took almost 30 years between Wise getting the idea to argue for legal nonhuman personhood at all, and filing the first case, the process feels like a slow one. But Wise and his firm are in it for the long haul, and it’s entirely possible that one of their clients could be recognized as a person before the end of 2017. What’s more, NhRP is already looking outside of the Empire State.

Wise sees the bigger picture as a movement. He says the firm is in talks with lawyers in 11 different countries.

“We may be arguing in this courthouse way out in rural New York, but…people all over the world are paying attention to what we’re doing and why we’re doing it,” he said.

As of now, NhRP is gearing up to file a personhood case on behalf of circus elephants, and it’s looking into building a case for the orcas at SeaWorld in San Diego. Though the nature of the abuse and mistreatment is secondary to Wise’s legal argument, these cases are likely dire ones—abuses against circus elephants and SeaWorld orcas are well-documented. Large animals in captivity often suffer illness and developmental issues as a result of cramped and unnatural living spaces and breeding practices. Even worse, reports of violent abuse (beatings, confinement, use of ropes and shocks) in performing animal conditions are tragically common.

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Steve Wise with the chimpanzee Teko, as seen in Unlocking the Cage. (Image: Pennebaker Hegedus Films/HBO)

It would be no small victory for Wise to rescue even one of his clients from an unhappy life. But the greater value is the chance to set a precedent for the future. Future cases for nonhuman personhood in New York would be able to refer directly to the NhRP ruling, and a model would be provided for other states, even other nations.

“We’ve known from the beginning that ours will be a long-term fight continuous with and similar to other struggles for recognition of personhood and fundamental rights,” Wise said. That they’ve even made it this far, he says, is “a turn away from speciesist thinking.”

Kiko and Tommy, in other words, are only the beginning.

Support the important work of the NhRP here

Ariana DiValentino is a writer and filmmaker based in New York

Interview with Steve Wise on The Frank Beckmann Show

Related posts

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Good News in a Bad Week

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 1

A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dairy in Decline? It’s Not That Black & White

Down on the dairy farm, US farmers are weeping into their breakfast cereal. Because milk is hitting the headlines once again. Honestly though, when is it ever out of them? Not that that is surprising since we are drowning in a deluge of the stuff, here in the UK, in Europe, and in the US too.
american-flag-793891__340It seems that across the pond, people are losing their appetite for dairy. Americans are buying 37 percent less of it than they did 50 years ago.That’s quite a drop.
On the other side of the scales, plant-milk sales have shot up to a $1 billion.“Veganism has turned mainstream”, and plant-based milk brands are winning a huge customer base, admits the industry’s own paper, The Dairy Reporter.
This downturn in dairy and upturn in plant-milks no doubt have something to do with the US’s colossal ‘cheese mountain’.¹ It would take each woman, man, child, infant and babe in the country devouring an additional 3lbs of the stuff to make any significant impact on the surplus.

(Dave Schilling for the Guardian suggests a few absurd ideas of what to do with all the excess, such as towing it out into the Pacific Ocean to make a large floating island. “It’ll be a great place for cruise ships to stop for a cheesy photo opp. Plus, you can take a hunk of it home, like the Berlin Wall.”)

Meanwhile back in the US, dairymen with their heads screwed on have been quick to implement the ‘if you can’t beat’em, join’em’ principle, and are busy knocking down cowsheds and planting almond groves in their place. The number of Californian almond groves has nearly doubled over the past decade.²

But of course there are many who are simply not willing to bow to the inevitable and are putting up a fight. What they hope will be their weapon against the ever-growing unwanted surplus of their dairy products and rocketing sales of plant milks is the proposed Dairy Pride Act. Dairy Pride in case you didn’t know – I didn’t – stands for “Defending Against Imitations and Replacements of Yogurt, milk, and cheese to Promote Regular Intake of Dairy Everyday Act.” Hmm.

This would mean unless Almond Breeze, Silk, White Wave et al,  are “the lacteal secretion… of one or more healthy cows,” (yummy) you won’t be able to call them ‘milk’. Because calling them milk is so confusing to the poor consumer, right? They might buy almond milk thinking it comes from cows. (Heavy irony in case you can’t tell.)

Emily Byrd gives us Dairy Pride Explained, her witty assessment of the contentious issue. It’s well worth a read. She imagines a few alternative product descriptions if the DP bill passes into law:

  • Cream of Wheat might have to called “liquefied wheat”
  • Almond Milk  – “nut juice”
  • And my personal favourite, peanut Butter – “peanut sludge”
But Dairy Pride is more than just a joke. The Animal Legal Defense League sees its dangers:

It’s “a blatant attempt by the dairy industry to stifle the rise of plant-based products that many consumers choose as healthier and more humane alternatives by prohibiting such products from using “milk” or “cheese” in their names.”

And, “designed to discourage people from purchasing healthy and humane alternatives to dairy milk products and to ensure the continuation of cruel factory farming despite consumers’ growing interest in products that don’t require animal cruelty.”

 If you agree with them please sign & share ADFL’s petition against the bill here

Tell Congress to Dump the Dairy Pride Act here

The Good Food Institute lawyers call the Act unconstitutional. Read more here


dutch-flag-889734__340Meanwhile over on this side of the pond and across the channel, Dutch dairy farmers too are wringing their hands and crying into their porridge. The Dutch dairy industry, now at four million cows, has been told it’s got too big and bloated and the EU is not happy.

This time it’s not just about stemming the flow of the white stuff into the European milk lake. Brussels says dairy farmers need to put a lid on the spiralling levels of phosphates in feed and of nitrates in fertilizer use, both well over EU permitted limits for their country. What is the problem with that? Neatly explained for the layperson like myself here.

So on 1st March this year the Netherlands, Europe’s third largest producer of dairy, began a painful program of shrinking the industry by 5%, down to 2015 levels.

The Dutch government is paying dairy farmers to stop farming dairy – crazy world we live in! Wouldn’t we all love to be paid for stopping doing something? So much for the free market beloved of capitalists.

Is this enforced Dutch dairy slim-down good news? Of course it is. It means fewer animals to endure the life of suffering that is the lot of the dairy cow.

But the dark side of the program will see 100,000 of these gentle creatures sent to an even more untimely death than is the norm. I’m not sure that knowing they will be saved further suffering is much consolation for the sadness of seeing over the next couple of months those 100,000 individuals’ lives snuffed out.


globe-868846__340So yes, markets for dairy are shrinking in America and Europe. That’s the good news. Worldwide the picture is not so bright. The global trend for dairy is not down as it looks from our western perspective, but up. And up by a lot. According to the milk production facts from the United Nations Food & Agriculture Organisation (FAO):

In the last three decades, world milk production has increased by more than 50%, from 500 million tonnes in 1983 to 769 million tonnes in 2013.

2020_symbolAnd global sales, though slowing a little, are expected to keep on growing. So while the US domestic market is shrinking, futurologists for the US Dairy Exporter Council (USDEC) actually forecast a positive outlook for their exports.

“We are encouraged to see that, despite the recent prolonged soft export market, long-term global dairy demand fundamentals are still in place that will again pressure available milk supplies,” said USDEC President Tom Suber. “This should bring both higher prices and a resumed export upside for U.S. suppliers.”

USDEC’s latest report says: “Growth will be driven by economic and population dynamics in developing countries.”

And it looks like Dave Schilling can forget about his fantasy cheese island in the Pacific, since cheese is identified as presenting “the most significant growth opportunity for the U.S. dairy industry.” Seems they are confident of shifting that particular mountain after all.

So the future is looking bright for the world’s dairy farmers. But bleak for the environment.

environmental-issues-in-the-dairy-industry-farm-level-assessment-10-638

Bleak too for those of us who are fighting for the environment and animal rights.
But most of all for the 264 million dairy cows in the world right now, and the even greater numbers to come.

.dairy_2D00_milk_2D00_infographic

Please don’t forget to sign and share those petitions. Thank you!

And please support the Vegan Society’s Grow Green plan for the future of food here

¹ A Cheese Glut is Overtaking America – The Wall Street Jopurnal

² It’s Finally Happening – Dairy Farmers Are Converting to Almond Groves – One Green Planet

Read more about the Dairy Pride Act here

March 18th 2017

Some good news: Large Dairy Company Ditches Dairy after 90 years and Starts Producing Plant-Based Milks Instead

Sources

Dutch dairy cull plan agreed by EU – Farmers Weekly

5 Global Dairy Trends for 2020 for U.S. Exporters – U.S. Dairy Export Council Blog

Statistics: Dairy Cows – Compassion in World Farming

Related posts

Will New Pea Milk Spell the Demise of Dairy?

Mountains of Cheese, Lakes of Milk, and What We Can Do about it

Why Cows Need Their Friends

I’ve seen you in the meat aisle

EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

This is no less appalling for being not entirely unexpected. Who really would want to insist on buying chunks of our fellow animals’ tortured bodies to eat knowing they were personally contributing to such horror?

An investigation by Animals International has found that live animal exports from the European Union are subjected to inhumane treatment and conditions that have been described as abuse and torture. 

In an extensive exposé The Guardian reports on the Animals International operation that collected footage from various ports and abattoirs over an eight month period:

Dozens of undercover videos and photographs obtained by the Guardian show live cattle and sheep from EU countries being beaten, shocked with electric prods, held for days in overcrowded pens and covered head to toe in faeces as they are transported from Europe to their final destinations in Turkey and the Middle East in conditions that breach European law.

At their destination, at least some of the animals are slaughtered in appalling conditions. The footage shows cattle and sheep from France, Romania and Lithuania kicking and flailing violently as their throats are crudely cut or sawed at repeatedly, often in crowded street markets and run-down abattoirs.

The export of live animals has been a contentious issue for the EU for a number of years, with campaigners saying that not only is the practice unsound from a food safety point of view, it is deeply harmful to the animals and rife with abuse.

Please read on: EU Animals Face Abuse And Torture During Live Exports | Care2 Causes

Passion, Knickers and a Pig Called Blue

Juliet Gellatley’s personal story of undercover animal- rights investigation, by Viva!’s Tony Wardle for Barefoot Vegan Magazine. Thank you Tony! Had to share this.

Tony says: I’ve known Juliet Gellatley a long time – a very long time – 26 years to be precise. When I first met her she was a young youth education officer at the Vegetarian Society but within three years was its director. She then left to found the vegan campaigning group, Viva!, which she still directs from its Bristol offices.

That’s a long time to be constantly fighting for animals but in truth, it started way before that, as a 15- year-old on the streets of Stockport, handing out leaflets against seal pup slaughter, snaring and other barbarities. It was also then that Juliet blagged her way into a ‘model’ pig farm and the suffering she witnessed – particularly a limping, lame old boar who implored her with his eyes – determined the rest of her life. She was compelled to try and turn Britain – the world – vegan.

There have been many farm visits since then but if you are so ripped apart by animals suffering, why oh why would you continue to expose yourself to it? There’s no equivocation in Juliet’s answer:

“I do it because I care about animals and someone has to tear away the veil that disguises their pain with constant hype that encourages people to believe that they have to eat animals. It is a massive deceit built on terrible cruelty and self-interest yet it is the source of so many human diseases and is destroying our world.

“Our children should know this – it should be on the school curriculum but the opposite is happening. Their environmental awareness consists of recycling and biking, which suits the establishment perfectly as no one talks about the huge damage done by livestock on so many fronts.

“We know that children hate cruelty to animals and their parents hide them from it, taking them to lovely, cuddly petting zoos. And so they are woven into the thread that runs through society – that animals are well- cared for. It is almost a conspiracy and we’re all part of it. The industry would fall apart if the truth was known and that’s why I do what I do.”

Juliet is mother of 14-year-old twin boys, Jazz and Finn, directs the Viva! team in Bristol and is responsible for an equally big team at Viva! Poland in Warsaw. And she’s still taking part in exposés, deciding how best to connect with you and me.

“I try to personalise it, which is why I talk to the animals and say things such as, ‘this little girl will never see a vet.’ I named one pig Blue because of her penetrating blue eyes, to remind people that pigs are every bit as complex as us and in the wild run free, often for miles, have a complex social structure and here she is, locked into a rape rack so small she can barely move, desperate to escape – transformed into a commodity, a tiny cog in a huge machine.

“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it.”

“We have to stop seeing animals as things. They are not here for our use, for us to abuse, ours to kill. Someone has to show what happens or no one will believe it.”

Most people would not want to do what Juliet does and I asked if there was anything she found particularly difficult.

“Normally, I carry a camera but on the recent Face Off pig investigation I didn’t have that barrier between me and the animals, I was talking straight to camera about my emotions and had nowhere to hide. I found it very difficult.

“It was the same breeding sow, Blue, who ripped a hole in me. I bent down to her level, talked to her and made a connection with her. She had probably never before heard a kind word from any human in her life and I could see her trying to work it out. I so wanted to take her out of that dreadful place but couldn’t. I left feeling absolutely dreadful and on the train back I started crying for Blue and the millions of others who are subjected to relentless suffering.”

If you look at Juliet on camera at www.viva.org.uk/faceoff you will be in no doubt about how deeply affected she was. But there is also a powerful positivity about this seasoned campaigner for the animals.

“What helps me is being surrounded by people who feel the same as I do. I let my feelings pour out on social media and the messages come rushing back so I know we’re not alone. Society is changing and we are part of that change. Blue now has a place in my heart and the pain of her comes back to me at the most unexpected times – and so it does with the hens I recently filmed. I want to rescue them all but it isn’t an answer as they will simply be replaced with others.”

I guessed there must have been some hair-raising moments over the years and I was right.

“One of the first undercover exposés I did was into duck farming. My colleague and I were so naive – two women chatting up a worker so we could see inside a duck shed. The noise and stench and overcrowding were overwhelming but I dropped to my knees in the crap and filmed.

“The managers weren’t as gullible and I was suddenly surrounded by angry men so I surreptitiously ejected the tape and hid it in my knickers. They wouldn’t dare search there! It was all worth it as it got enormous media coverage – the first-ever view inside an intensive duck farm.

“You have to be robust to do this work and know your limits. I filmed in one slaughter house and struggled to suppress the urge to shout out, ‘stop it, stop it you bastards, you can’t do this!’ I won’t film slaughter again – others do that.

“We know from our Face Off street viewings that the cruelty affects people deeply and challenges their perceptions, which is why we have to keep doing it. Our Face Off chicken film has also been viewed by 260,000 people on one Facebook page alone. I feel no sense of elation as I know the scale of what’s happening. But we have to change people – we are changing people and the pace of that change is now quite extraordinary!”

10 million pigs killed in the UK each year equates to:

833,333 per month

192,308 per week

27,397 per day

1,142 per hour

19 per minute

1 PIG KILLED EVERY 3 SECONDS



A Happy Pigs’ Tale

Mother & babies find a forever home thanks to Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary

Viva! and Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary have rescued a sow and her six piglets from a pig farm going out of business. The mother and her babies will now enjoy a life together in the beautiful Welsh countryside! Not only that, it’s their hope that these pig ambassadors will help to educate people about the horrors of factory farming by juxtaposing their new lives with Viva!’s shocking footage from Britain’s factory farms.

On helping to secure sanctuary for these lucky pigs, founder and director of Viva!, Juliet Gellatley said:

“When I was doing the filming for the Face Off campaign, I saw so much cruelty and neglect. One of the overriding feelings I came away with was that I felt terrible that I couldn’t rescue them all. But I was determined to find a way of rescuing at least some pigs.

I hope this mother and her babies can represent the millions of their brothers and sisters that are still on factory farms. Hopefully through seeing them, and how wonderful they are, people will give up meat. Because, of course, the only way to truly rescue animals is to stop eating them.”


Whilst this Mum and her piglets are safe, most pigs in Britain are still factory farmed and sent to slaughter. Will you Face Off the British pig industry with Viva!?

The best thing you can do to end the suffering of animals is to simply stop eating them. Has this story touched you? If you’re not already vegan, make the change and try vegan with Viva!’s FREE 30 Day Vegan!

Please help Viva! save more animals and end factory farming. They can’t do more without your support! Click here to donate today.

Click here to find out more about Dean Farm Animal Sanctuary


 

picture-16-1462268306Tony Wardle is a journalist, author, associate director of Viva! & editor of Viva! life magazine. He has been with Viva! since its launch, and his time is consumed mostly with words, writing for and editing the supporters’ magazine, in addition to editing a large output of written material as well as conceiving and writing much of it. You can read Tony’s blog by clicking here.

 

 

 

 

 

A Fragile Butterfly Joins The Face Off At Standing Rock Revisited

Cover pic from Willamette Weekly – Dakota skipper butterfly by artist Roger Peet

“The butterfly is a small thing. It’s not a very dramatic creature. It’s about an inch long, but it’s part of the great community of life that exists on the plains.”

Roger Peet

7th February 2017 was a black day for the protesters at Standing Rock.

It was way back in April 2016 that members of the Sioux and other Native American Nations established their camps of resistance in April 2016. And there they still stand, they and their supporters, braving the snow and winter storms, resolute to prevent the last remaining 1.5 miles of the Dakota Access Pipeline desecrating Native American sacred land, and polluting their water ways.

As the world watched with disbelief, President Trump’s first week in office spewed forth an unprecedented flood of executive orders, including one reinstating the work on both the Keystone pipeline and the DAPL.

The order runs contrary to the Army Corps of Engineer’s decision in December to initiate a complete environmental impact assessment. But it seems that under pressure from Washington, the ACE has not waited for the assessment report, instead clearing the way for Energy Transfer Partners to carry on with the completion of this last section of the 1,700 mile long pipeline. Though the Sioux vow to challenge Trump’s decision in court, their window of opportunity has been cut short, possibly too short to even lodge that challenge.

Now more than ever we need to show our support for the protesters, and Stand with Standing Rock. Another new petition to sign here

Other petitions to sign below.

Thursday 9th February

Everyday at Standing Rock brings new developments. Earlier in the week, police arrived in armored vehicles and in riot gear, some of them armed, to arrest 76 Water Protectors at their newly established ‘Last Child’ camp.

In response to this and the easement pushed through for DAPL thousands of Veterans who visited in December to support the protestors are planning their return to Standing Rock, to stand as a peaceful human shield between the Water Protectors and the ‘heavily militarised police’.

“We are committed to the people of Standing Rock, we are committed to nonviolence and we will do everything within our power to ensure that the environment and human life are respected. That pipeline will not get completed. Not on our watch,” Anthony Diggs, a spokesman for Veterans Stand, told CNBCCare2

Veterans Stand launched a new crowdfunding campaign to continue their commitment of protecting their “indigenous brothers and sisters”, and asked, “how can something be good for America when it disregards due process of law, risking our civil liberties and essential natural resources?”

An excellent question Mr Trump. Do you have an answer?

Friday 10th February

“Construction crews have resumed work on the final segment of the Dakota Access pipeline, and the developer of the long-delayed project said Thursday that the full system could be operational within three months.

Meanwhile, an American Indian tribe filed a legal challenge to block the work and protect its water supply.Chicago Tribune

Monday 13th February

Judge refuses to block work on Dakota Access pipeline. U.S. District Judge James Boasberg said he would not grant a temporary restraining order against the project sought by the Cheyenne River Sioux tribe. It means that oil could potentially run through the pipeline within 45 days, if not sooner. The Hill

Wednesday 15th February

On February 15th, 2017, Pope John Francis joined the fray. The Pope met with representatives from the Standing Rock Sioux at a U.N. Agricultural meeting in Rome to discuss the issue. Afterward, he made this statement to the press,”The right to prior and informed consent [should always prevail especially] when planning economic activities which may interfere with indigenous cultures and their ancestral relationship to the Earth.” We salute the Pope for coming out against this gross violation of the Standing Rock Sioux’s rights.

You can also use the White House contact page to express your displeasure regarding this policy. Finally, you can send supplies to the protesters on the ground by contacting Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund and  Standing Rock Sioux Tribe DAPL Donation Fund. United we are stronger than any government or corporation. One Green Planet

Wednesday 22nd February

All but a 100 or so water protectors left Standing Rock before the deadline expired at 2pm. 10 who remained were arrested. Those left were given another chance to leave peacefully Thursday.

Thursday 23rd February

The protest finally ends. Standing Rock camps cleared by force. “In distressing scenes for anyone who has been involved fighting the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline, highly militarized law enforcement—some carrying guns, riot gear and backed up by Humvees and bulldozers—moved into the Oceti Sakowin camp near the pipeline route.” Another 46 arrested. Oil could be flowing through the DAPL as soon as mid-March.

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Tuesday 7th March 2017

Native Nations take their protest to Washington

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Thursday 9th March 2017

 Original post 5th December 2016

This week we were shocked by news that in sub zero temperatures and snow, local police used water cannon, rubber bullets, mace and percussion grenades on the Native Americans camped out at Standing Rock in North Dakota.
The huge mural of a Dakota skipper butterfly now stands there as a symbol of support for the protestors, and a reminder of what wonders there are to lose if the Dakota Access pipeline is allowed to go through this sacred area.

And the butterfly is not the only species at risk. There are 18 others, including the whooping crane, the piping plover, and the northern long-eared bat. Does the Dakota Access LLC oil company care? It seems not.

The company’s pipeline is a multi-billion dollar project to transport crude oil through the land to a refinery in Illinois. But the stand off at Standing Rock is not just about wildlife. The Native American people claim it will run right through sacred native lands. And it threatens to contaminate their water which comes from the great Missouri river. They say the DAPL violates the United Nations’ declaration on the rights of indigenous peoples, it violates federal law, and it violates native treaties with the federal government. And haven’t the Native American people suffered plenty of treachery like that in the last couple of hundred years!

The protest began in April. The Standing Rock Lakota and other Native American nations rode on horseback to Standing Rock and established a camp they named Sacred Stone. And so the peaceful protest began – peaceful on the protestors side at least. Their battle tactics have been setting up camps and prayer circles.

Now Standing Rock is home to 6,000 protestors. There are 3 camps:

  • the original Sacred Stone Camp close to the river among clusters of trees
  • the Oceti Sakowin Camp home to 4,000, talking quietly huddled around fires in the snow, or sheltering in tepees
  • and last but not least, the Red Warrior Camp, command centre from where disruptive actions are launched

The people have got themselves very well organised and have everything they need. There are tents full of donated sleeping bags, warm gloves and hats, kitchens cooking up mountains of rice and beans, and even traditional healers and doctors on hand.

And it wasn’t all bad this week. Film star Jane Fonda who is actively campaigning against DAPL visited Standing Rock with a delegation of 50 to serve a Wopila feast to the Native Americans, in thanks for their courage protecting Mother Earth.

And now the glorious big bold butterfly mural, the work of artist Roger Peet, leader of the  national Endangered Species Mural Project for the Center for Biological Diversity. This makes the tenth so far of different artists’ murals feasting the eyes of passersby on walls across the US, from Kentucky to Minnesota, California to Tennessee. The aim is to increase awareness and appreciation of the threatened species depicted.

“[Being at Standing Rock] is very humbling. It’s very intense. And it’s very cold. It’s a very rare space to be in in North America—to be in an environment where indigenous culture and voice is at the forefront of everything that’s happening,” says Peet. “The priorities of the settler culture that’s been imposed on this continent is very much requested to take a step back and not insert themselves. It’s a great learning experience opportunity to engage with people who are doing very intense serious work to defend their lives and environment.”

It’s more than sad that the attack on the protestors looks about to gain momentum. President-elect Trump it seems has a financial interest in the oil company – now there’s a surprise. Besides which he’s a self-declared champion of dirty energy. When he enters office in January, it’s expected that Day 1 will see him sweep aside any remaining legal obstacles to the Dakota Access Pipeline and deal strenuously with the protestors.

So what can a fragile butterfly do to bolster their chances against the most powerful man on Earth?

The time is surely coming when the very many of us who hold dear all that is sacred in life: art, spirituality, the rights of indigenous peoples, the rights of animals, the rights of Nature itself, will together gather enough impetus to overpower the crass materialism and corporate greed of those who hold sway today.

Sign here, here and  here to express your support for the Sioux people of Standing Rock

More Ways You Can Stand Up For Standing Rock

Contact the White House ASAP. Use the White House contact page, White House, Inc., Twitter, or Facebook to tell Donald Trump that YOU are complaining about DAPL.
Make a call. Voice your opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline and ask for the environmental assessment to be completed by calling the Army Corps of Engineers at 202-761-5903.
Join a protest. Protests at pipeline construction sites in North Dakota have been going on since spring 2016. Consider heading up there for a few days or weeks to show your support in person or attend a local protest in your community such as the one recently in Los Angeles.
Divest your money. Leave financial institutions funding DAPL. Write a message to these companies stating that you plan to divest because you oppose this destructive project. Use this tool to send a mass email.
Send donations and/or supplies. Thousands of people are based in the area to protest and need supplies and financial support to keep going. Send donations to Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund and  Standing Rock Sioux Tribe DAPL Donation Fund.
Educate others. Share updates on the DAPL situation with friends and family using social media (#DakotaAccessPipeline, #nodapl, #standingrock) to keep this issue top-of-mind.

Update

5th December 2016 US Army refuses N Dakota pipeline access – BBC News

6th December 2016 Pipeline company threatens to ignore US Army decision. Please sign petition here

Also on 6th,  Hero Veterinarian Takes 900 Mile Journey to Help Standing Rock Horses – Care2

17th January Standing Rock – We have work to do – Care2

24th January President’s executive order reopens door for controversial pipelines – MNN

It is not clear yet whether the order from the Oval Office supersedes the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ decision to alter the route of the pipeline and not send it under the Missouri River near tribal lands.

The Standing Rock Sioux tribe said it would take legal action against Trump’s order.

7th February Trump’s executive order signed 24th January set in motion the Army Corps of Engineers’ clearing the way for Dakota Access Pipeline. This move negates ACE’s previous plan for a complete environmental assessment of land and water and cuts short the consultation period. It is now doubtful whether there will be time for the Sioux tribe to lodge a legal challenge to this decision.

Sources

The who, what and why of the Standing Rock protests – The Guardian

A Portland Artist Painted a Bold Mural at Standing Rock – Willamette Week

Standing Rock: Are pipeline protest camp days numbered? – BBC News

Ollie the Bobcat Breaks Out of Jail

Do you remember Flaviu, the beautiful lynx who within hours of being sent to Dartmoor Zoo broke out of his enclosure and eluded capture for three weeks?

Well, it seems that the USA had its own jailbreaker this week in the form of Ollie, a wild-born female bobcat that the Smithsonian Zoo in Washington DC claims for its own.

The American bobcat is a close relative of the Eurasian lynx – think cousin – and every bit as solitary and elusive. Ollie broke out on Monday (31st Jan) and zoo spokeswoman Pamela Baker-Masson feared, “it will be very very difficult to find her.”

But on Wednesday fortune smiled on the zoo. Unhappily for the runaway, hunger drove her into a trap baited with treats inside the zoo’s bird house. Looking on the brighter side, Ollie’s capture might well have been a lucky escape for the birds, since bobcats have an acrobatic ability to leap from the ground and catch flying birds in the air.

Zoo vets assure us that she is none the worse for her little adventure, apart from a small cut on her left front paw.

bobcat-1233569_960_720

One thing is sure, if her breakout had been successful this lady would not have gone hungry. Bobcats are remarkably agile and fast and are silent and patient stalkers of rabbits, hares, mice and squirrels – even small deer.

Like most cats, bobcats are beautiful creatures, an attribute that cost them dear in the first half of last century. The wild population was almost wiped out by fur trappers. Now I’m glad to say they are protected by the Endangered Species Act, and are bouncing back.

What can I say about Ollie? I so hoped she would never be caught and locked up again. I hoped that for the rest of her life this lady would run free .

Help captive animals by never visiting zoos and aquariums

For more facts and figures about the beautiful bobcat click here

Sign Born Free Foundation petitions  here

Support the work of the Captive Animals Protection Society here

Source

Ollie the jailbreaking bobcat on the lam from National Zoo – TreeHugger

Ollie the bobcat found safe at National Zoo – Fox

Related posts

UK Rewilding the Beautiful Lynx

Falviu Ghost Cat of Dartmoor & his Swiss Cousins

From Freedom to Hell – Flaviu Captured

 

 

The Stripey Dog, CRISPR & the Chimaera

Cover pic from Pedigree Dogs Exposed

Two news items clicked together in the brain one week last year: one on the surface at least quite frivolous, and the other of such profound significance it has the potential to throw a bomb into life-as-we-know-it and blast us into utterly uncharted terrain.

Let’s start with the harebrained one. Do you remember when designer dogs first became the must-have accessory? Or maybe they always were. But a few years ago, someone came up with the bright idea of taking established breeds and cross-breeding them with each other in the search for the cutest combo-pup. Nowadays, puggles, goldendoodles, labskys and cockerpoos are everywhere. There was, and still is, good money to be made and breeders are cashing in.

Of course, this is nothing new. Humans have been interfering with natural selection for centuries, cross-breeding both animals and plants in the worlds of farming and horticulture, in search of desired ‘improvements’: more productive milk cows; heavier meatier livestock; disease-resistant crops; or just prettier flowers.

But cross-breeding as a way of getting what you want, is so yesterday. Make way for CRISPR.

CRISPR is not a typo, as one might be excused for thinking, describing how omnivores like their breakfast bacon. It is, apparently, the acronym for

Clustered   Regularly   Interspaced   Short   Palindromic   Repeats

Gene-editing to you and me. In the simplest of terms that I can understand, it means cutting out a section of the DNA double helix (see below) with something called Cas9 – biological scissors, in effect – and replacing the removed section with a new piece of DNA- which can be just about anything the scientists want it to be.

Gene-editing CRISPR Cas9 génome DNA double helix

What has made this biotechnology possible are the huge strides in genome mapping over the last couple of decades. Because of course, you don’t want to just cut out any old piece of DNA. Now, because each bit of the double helix can be identified, you can target the exact piece you want to remove, and replace it with the piece of your choice.

So your new designer dog can now be gene-edited any way you want. No more need for crossbreeding, lots more scope for innovation, and better control over results. Genetic-engineer James West has spotted the money-making potential. His Nashville-based firm AgGenetics engineered Angus cattle to have white coats instead of black or brown, to make them more heat-tolerant, thus doubling beef production. (And milk cows are already being gene-edited to be born without horns, so they no longer have to be burned off.)

Inevitably, it didn’t take Mr West long to realise that the change-the-coat-colour technique could be applied to other animals too. He tested his idea on mice, and produced poor little newborns sporting their little fur coats patterned with squares, stripes and spots.

dachshund-1532974_960_720

Maybe soon he will be taking orders for the customer’s choice of novelty designer dog picked from an online catalogue. There are so far four colourways: red, brown, yellow and black. And would you prefer squares or stripes, Sir/Madam?

Ludicrous as it sounds, gene-editing for striped dogs provokes serious questions. Who knows where it could lead, and what the implications could be – and not just for dogs?

And the designer stripey dog is one thing, but how about wiping out an entire species at will?

We ran across this even more worrying application for CRISPR earlier this year, in Should We Wipe Mosquitoes off the Face of the Earth? With CRISPR it’s possible, for instance, to delete the mosquito DNA involved in reproduction and replace that section of the sequence with DNA that makes the insect sterile. This ‘permanent solution’ for mosquitoes is being researched for obvious reasons – these insects carry malaria, zika and dengue fever, and by transmitting malaria in particular, have probably killed more than half the humans that have ever lived.

This seems to be the default human mindset: how can we use this new technology for the benefit of our own species before and above all others?

With CRISPR, humanity now holds in its hands the power of god, the power to gene-edit Nature. I’ll say it again,

Man now has the power to gene-edit life itself

And that is a terrifying prospect for us all.

In 2011 a group of geologists called for the recognition of a new era in the history of the Earth – the Anthropocene, to acknowledge the impact of humans on the planet. How much more apt now than it was just five short years ago.

So when we ask that question, how can these new technologies be used to further our own interests, there are other, and even more important questions that need to be addressed: Should we be doing this? What are the ethics controlling our ever-increasing powers? And who gets to decide?

This is what natural scientist and poet Melanie Challenger has to say about the new power we have, to deliberately wipe out a target species if we so choose (as opposed to accidentally wiping out random species which tragically, we’re proving spectacularly successful at)

If we start getting cavalier about the existence of a living being, if we start to think it’s OK to eradicate something because it’s a threat to us, we put other ideas about the sanctity of life in question”

Striped dogs, a world without mosquitoes, can it get any more bizarre and perturbing? Well yes it can – the Chimaera (chimera in the USA), already here. In Greek myth the Chimaera was a monstrous fire-breeding hybrid, a goat-headed lion with a serpent-head tail. These days, we’re more familiar with the electro-petroleum kind of hybrid on four wheels. But the very latest kind of Chimaera hybrid has more in common with the one of Greek myth – it’s a nightmarish combination of human and pig.

So what would you say to Organ Farms?

A while ago I read Kazuo Ishiguro’s dystopian novel ‘Never Let Me Go’. (Spoiler alert if you haven’t yet read it)  As you turn the pages you start to realise the horrible truth, that the young people we are getting to know as they grow up, are in fact clones. Then an even more disturbing truth is revealed – the characters have been created solely for their organs and will undergo a cycle of ‘donations’ until their bodies and their lives are consumed.

Well, reality is catching up with fiction once again. Only, as is always the case in the real world, it’s the infinitely useful nonhuman animal that humans deploy for the task. The unfortunate ‘donors’ will not be human but porcine. Pigs have drawn the short straw because their organs are about the size and weight of human organs. Not that they will be using the animals’ own organs though, because pig organs would be rejected by the human body. So what’s needed for the sick people on the long waiting list for transplants are proper healthy human organs.

No cloning here though – just CRISPR and the new Chimaera. This is what you do. You get a brand new pig embryo in your lab. You delete the genes responsible for the formation of, say, the pancreas. You introduce the appropriate human genes. You implant the genetically-engineered embryo into a female pig on your Organ Farm, and hey presto, there will be a lovely human pancreas ready to transplant into a human recipient in need. Farms of pigs incubating clean healthy human organs, and on demand.

images

Well, it’s not quite as simple as that, but that is where the research is heading. And it will happen. As the title of last night’s Panorama proclaimed, “Medicine’s Big Breakthrough”. The scientists are excited by CRISPR’s potential. So are the medical professionals. And who can blame those once considered incurably ill for holding on to such promise of a complete cure.

But what about the animals? And what about the planet? The waves in the wake of this technology could sink us before climate change gets a chance to.Just a final note to send you to bed with nightmares: there’s a guy in San Francisco selling Do-It-Yourself CRISPR kits online out of his garage, so everyone can do their own gene-editing at home. He calls it the democratisation of science. Sweet dreams.
Time now for an update

Above piece posted June 7th 2016, but there have been developments.

Gene-edited organs are on their way. Just last week (on the 26th January 2017) scientists in California were excited to announce a world first – Chimaera lives. They have indeed succeeded in making embryos containing both pig and human cells.

These so-called human-pig chimeras (which contained only a small number of human cells) were allowed to develop for several weeks in female pigs before the pregnancies were terminated, according to a new study.

“The ultimate goal is to grow functional and transplantable tissue or organs, but we are far away from that,” study researcher Juan Carlos Izpisua Belmonte, a professor at the Salk Institute of Biological Studies’ Gene Expression Laboratory in La Jolla, California, said in a statement. “This is an important first step.” LiveScience

I don’t know about you but I find this deeply disturbing, and their triumphant announcement poses more ethical questions for me than it answers:

  • How exactly were the pregnancies terminated?
  • Did the sows give their consent? Silly question
  • What happened to the sows post-abortion?
  • Do we know the physical and emotional effect on the sows?

Scientists would dismiss such questions as irrelevant but that is exactly where the problem lies. Not only do they feel entirely justified in their research, but any thought that something could be horribly wrong here would never even come near to entering their heads.

How did the Nazis square their conscience over the barbaric experimentation they conducted on gypsies, Poles, Russian POWs, Jews, and even Germans if they were unlucky enough to be disabled? They were brainwashed by propaganda that created in their minds a ‘them and us’. Their victims were ‘other’, of a different and lesser order. They de-personalised them, designated them vermin. And of course, as we all know, nonhumans only exist for human use, human benefit, and ‘vermin’ are at the very bottom of the heap. For ‘vermin’, anything goes.

Last week the BBC news highlighted the terrible shortage of donor organs in the UK. Patients in need of transplants are going to Pakistan where they can buy an organ from the poorest, people in dire need of the money. And even worse, criminals are cashing in, lining their pockets trafficking people to harvest their organs by force.

The scientists at La Jolla are looking to forcibly harvest organs from the pigs. True, they’re not exploiting living beings for illegal personal gain like the traffickers. They would say they are doing it for science, for medicine, and indeed out of humanity. It is sanctioned by society. But only because society has also been indoctrinated into arbitrarily dividing animals into ‘them and us’, making the nonhuman animals other and lesser than the human animal, declaring, “We are not animals.” But we are. Bestowing on ourselves like gods the power over life and death. Holding the fate of those ‘others’ in the palm of our hands.

But cruelty, coercion and exploitation are always cruelty, coercion and exploitation. The end does not justify the means.

You might say to me, what if it was your son’s, your daughter’s life in the balance waiting for a transplant? A hard question to answer. But two things I can say:

  • There should be far better ways to increase the supply of donor organs. For instance, Wales now has an ‘opt-out’ system. If you don’t register as not wanting to donate your organs, you will automatically be considered as having no objection. Isn’t that preferable to harvesting organs for humans by violating pigs?
  • And secondly, are the sow’s powerful maternal feelings worth less consideration than ours? And isn’t hijacking her reproductive cycle in this way, as with dairy cows, as with laying hens, both sexist and speciesist?

Are we to accept any horror perpetrated on nonhuman animals if it is in human’s interests? Surely it is more than time to acknowledge that

“We are one species among many who share a common ancestry with all other species in the animal kingdom. The false dichotomy between us and them pits humans against the rest of the animal kingdom and reinforces the myth that humans are so superior from the other animals that it’s practically blasphemous to even suggest that other animals possess lives that matter to them in the way our human lives matter to us.” Robert Grillo

 eyes_collage

Postscript This is a huge topic with more ramifications than it is possible to imagine. I don’t pretend to any expertise and my descriptions of the science are just my way of getting my head around it a little bit. This is just skimming the surface of a technology of infinite significance that is surely ushering in the next Age of Life on Earth.

APOLOGIES – WORDPRESS HAS DONE SOMETHING WEIRD TO THE LAYOUT & I CAN’T SEEM TO CORRECT IT.

Update

23rd February 2017 – CRISPR promises a better way to stop mosquitoes spreading malaria, and without the need to render the insect extinct. Tony James from the University of California is “using the CRISPR-Cas9 technology to create a ‘gene drive’ system that spreads an anti-malaria gene inside the mosquito population. The gene basically destroys malaria, and then spreads on to the next generations.”

It sounds like a very promising approach, but it’s early days and the strategy would not be without its problems. Find out more from ZME Science.

Sources

Quote & pic Free from Harm

Let’s Not Buy Into Genetically Modified Fur – Care2 Causes

Medicine’s Big Breakthrough – Editing Your Genes – Panorama

Human/Nonhuman Chimera – Do We Really Want to Go There? – The Kimmela Centre

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Why I Love Loud Women, Especially Loud Vegan Women

“Well behaved women seldom make history”

… Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

Dutch-born vegan Nancy Holten is a long time resident in Switzerland. Her kids were born there. She’s raising them there. But because her activism for the animals is “too annoying”, she has had her application for Swiss citizenship turned down for the third time.
Passionate vegans are no strangers to activism backlash. It comes in all shapes and forms, from the prosecution of Toronto Pig Save’s Anita Kranjc, and Ric O’Barry of the Dolphin Project’s incarceration and deportation from Japan, through to violent physical attacks on hunt sabs and vicious bullying in the school yard.
“People were telling me to kill myself by drowning in milk or by cutting myself with a razor blade. One teacher at the school told me I should go to TAFE¹ because I am ‘not a mainstream student’.”

… 16-year-old vegan schoolgirl Kaila Mackay.

More commonly, vegans experience backlash in the form of vitriolic abuse on social media. Unpleasant though that may be, the personal cost to the vegan post-ers is hopefully not as life-changingly prejudicial as being refused citizenship of the country where you’ve lived most of your life. Nancy Holten’s case has to be a first.

Speaking for myself, I was a child of the 50s and the youngest of 3 – a small girl in the shadow of two bigger, stronger, faster, cleverer brothers. In the small island where we lived everyone knew everyone, and you fell over backwards never to give offence. A setting for a golden childhood, but sterile soil for growing gobby girls with the promise of sprouting into loud proud women. It would have taken someone very special, and that very special someone I was not. So on the outside I became exactly what the island community thought I should be, a “well-behaved” girl who kept her maverick thoughts entirely to herself. This little girl had felt to her cost at a young age the angry stamping-on those kind of thoughts invited if she dared to speak them out loud. I never looked like making history.

You could be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ and ‘gentle’ and ‘good’, all acceptable ‘feminine’ qualities. But if you were loud you were clearly none of those things, because being loud was the very antithesis of what was expected of the female of the species.

From then until now I’ve always had problems with my throat and my voice. My daughter puts it down to my having been effectively silenced, unable to ‘speak my truth’.

That was all last century though, before second-wave feminism came along. You would hope that kind of suppressive social pressure is long departed. But apparently not. It seems it’s alive and well in vegan Nancy Holten’s little Swiss town of Gipf-Oberfrick. Nancy however, is not to be silenced.

We’ll let you be an animal activist as long as you’re not too darn active, is what the residents of Gipf-Oberfrick are saying to her. It’s OK if you have views as long as you play nice, keep them to yourself, don’t be loud, absolutely don’t go public, don’t shove them down our throats, and above all don’t be annoying.

And what these good burghers think of her actually does matter, not just because the power of peer pressure is in inverse proportion to the size of a town’s population, but much more specifically, because under Swiss law they all have the right to sign off – or not – on her application for Swiss citizenship. The town’s spokesperson, Urs Treier, says they keep rejecting Holten’s application not because of her opinions but because she makes such a public display of the things she objects to.

Nancy is described as “not the quiet kind”. The local branch president of the Swiss People’s Party, Tanja Suter, says Holten has “a big mouth” and doesn’t deserve the “gift” of Swiss citizenship. Jeez!

This unstoppable lady has publicly voiced her opinions about piglet racing, hunting, animals in the circus, and horse breeding. But the one that really gets up the townsfolk’s collective nose, is her rant against their cows having cowbells slung around their necks. Is that so terrible? Yes, when you see the size of the bells, as in the pic below. They weigh in at 5kg apiece and rub and burn the cows’ skin. Plus the sound of the ringing must be deafening to the cows at 100 decibels. That is loud.

cow-1705571_960_720

The good people of Gipf-Oberfrick’s though view her campaigning as an attack on treasured Swiss tradition:

“The importance of the cow bell is highlighted in Swiss folklore, which reflects a period when a great Trychel, or large cow bell, was a rare and much-coveted item. The legend of the Simmental tells how a young cowherd strays inside a mountain, and is offered by a beautiful woman the choice between a treasure of gold coins, a golden Trychel, or the fairy herself. He chooses the Trychel.”²

But tradition can never be a justification for inflicting harm. In 2016, 200 million women in 30 countries suffered FGM³ because it is ‘traditional’ in their communities. That doesn’t stop it being wrong.

Let’s face it, the crowd, the majority of folk who prefer to do what’s expected and think what they are told to think, will always lash out at someone swimming against the current and threatening to rock their comfortable boat. These ‘loud’ activists are speaking the truth no-one wants to hear like the Old Testament prophets, who were invariably persecuted for their pains.

Speaking out the truth is never without cost to yourself. If you stick your head up above the parapet, nothing is more certain than that you will get it shot off.  What immense courage it takes to stand up and be loud, especially for a woman. But loud vegans’ courage is fuelled by compassion for the suffering, outrage at the injustices humans are inflicting on animals everywhere, and burning passion to see equality, liberation and justice prevail.

Here’s to all loud vegan women. I salute you. Heroes, everyone.


As for Nancy Holten, she knows full well what is at stake, having had her citizenship application turned down twice already. Yet still she refuses to shut up, refuses to stop being “annoying”, refuses to stop ruffling feathers in her little Swiss town. Because the fate of the animals is so very much more important than a few ruffled feathers – more important even than the coveted Swiss citizenship. I hope she finally does get what she wants. Switzerland should be proud to claim as one of its own an amazing person like Nancy who refuses to sacrifice her principles for her own expediency.

Give that loud annoying vegan woman a medal. We need more of her kind.

“Never be bullied into silence.”

… Harvey Fierstein


Postscript
We can’t all be Nancys. I know I’m not. If you are struggling with simply maintaining a veg*n lifestyle, you are not alone. 63% of new vegans polled said they couldn’t hack sticking out from the crowd.
If you are depressed at all the horrors you see, or burned-out from all your activism, you are not alone.
Don’t give up. Awesome help and support is available here. For the sake of the animals, and for your own, please check it out.

 

¹Technical & Further Education

 ²Wiki

³Female genital mutilation

Source: Town Says Animal Activist Can’t Be Swiss Citizen Because She’s ‘Annoying’ | Care2 Causes

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