“Tell me the story of how you rescued me, again…”

For those of us who are free, freedom often goes unsung. But for certain mice and rats rescued from a laboratory, that instant of emerging into fresh air and sunshine for the first time ever is a miracle, a moment of true wonder.

And on one such occasion last August, “the perfect day to experience how beautiful this world can be“, Italian vegan and ardent animal-lover Rachele Totaro was there with her camera to capture every emotion.

I-photographed-first-time-open-air-for-ex-lab-rats-and-mice-their-faces-say-it-all-5a0589b27eb40__880

Maybe like me you believed that ‘only’ those millions of poor animals used in lethal tests die at the hands of workers in labs. Not so. Many millions more used in non-lethal experiments as well as those simply surplus, kept ‘in reserve’ in case they might be needed, are routinely killed. An institution that values these lives only as units for the practice of research is hardly going to care for them once they no longer serve the purpose.

But in Italy at least, the law permits those who do value the lives of these little beings to save them from that fate. And near Milan, a wonderful shelter called La Collina dei Conigli is rescuing all the rats, mice and rabbits they can from laboratories, and searching for them safe, happy forever homes.

Rachele speaks of her gratitude, as the mice and rats were released from their imprisonment and suffering on that particular hot August day, “to have witnessed such a great moment of rebirth!”

Big foot

So… is this above the famous “sky”?

Grateful

Little Bros

Who are you?

Contemplating

Loving cuddles

Hold me

Curious guy

Exploring

Safe now

I’ll protect you…

Enjoying the moment

I love you!

Tell me the story of how you rescued me, again…

So many things to see

“Shy ones, little warriors, curious explorers, cuddle-lovers: every one acted in a different way when taken outdoors, and they showed once again that they are not mere numbers, as they are considered in labs, but individuals with peculiar attitudes and personalities.”

Sharing as they do 97.5% of DNA with us, why should we be surprised if we find ourselves instinctively reading in their body language and little faces the same emotions we experience ourselves.

And if Rachele’s gentle photos make you cry, know that you are not alone!

#PersonsNotProperty   #AdoptDontShop


To see more of Rachele’s pics of nonhuman persons, click here


 

Source

I Photographed Ex-Lab Rats And Mice Going Outdoors For The First Time, And Their Expressions Say It All

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Why on Earth Are We STILL Testing on Animals?

 

 

The Reindeer’s Story – Fantasy & Fact

,,,what to my wondering eyes did appear
But a miniature sleigh and eight tiny reindeer
With a little old driver so lively and quick
I knew in a moment he must be St Nick*

Father Christmas in his sleigh, Donner, Blitzen, Dancer, Prancer and the rest, an image beloved of children generation after generation, made their first appearance in the starry winter sky nearly 200 years ago in 1823. But Rudolph was just too darn cosy in his straw-filled stable at the North Pole. It was another 100 years plus (1939) before he first poked his red nose outside, and was promptly appointed Santa’s right hand reindeer. I know Vixen, life is not fair.

It’s likely though that this bizarre-when-you-think-about-it vision of Santa and his reindeer flying across the night sky has far deeper roots:

“According to the theory, the legend of Santa derives from shamans in the Siberian and Arctic regions who dropped into locals’ teepee-like homes with a bag full of hallucinogenic mushrooms as presents in late December. 

“As the story goes, up until a few hundred years ago, these practicing shamans or priests connected to the older traditions would collect Amanita muscaria (the Holy Mushroom), dry them and then give them as gifts on the winter solstice. Because snow is usually blocking doors, there was an opening in the roof through which people entered and exited, thus the chimney story.”*

Little wonder our ancestors were dreaming dreams of magic!

Reindeer facts
  • The festive sleigh-pulling team contrary to popular belief is comprised entirely of females – yes, even Rudolph. Though both sexes of reindeer wear antlers, the males only need theirs for the autumn rut and shed them well before Christmas
  • In the winter the animals live almost exclusively on “reindeer moss” (lichen) and cover long distances to find it, travelling the furthest of any land mammal in the world, up to 5,000 km a year
  • They can run at up to 80 kph
  • They are smaller than you think, standing at only 1.2m at the shoulder
  • They have clowns’ feet – wide spreading hooves that make perfect snowshoes, shovels to shift snow (to get at the food beneath) and paddles for swimming
  • It’s true they do have unusual noses – not normally red – because they are furry. In fact their special insulating hollow fur covers every bit of a reindeer’s body from furry nose to furry feet, except of course their eyes. Their coat is one of the thickest and densest of any animal
  • They talk to each other with their feet. When the herd is moving, “they make a delicate clicking or popping sound. Being surrounded by a small herd sounds a bit like being in a bowl of puffed rice as the milk is poured on to it”
  • Once reindeer roamed the hills of northern England and Scotland. They were hunted by the Vikings
  • In the 1950s a small herd was reintroduced to the Cairngorms and are now 130 strong
  • Elsewhere they can now be found only in Russia and Norway
  • This naturally curious and gentle creature was a prime candidate – thought to be the first with hooves – for humans to domesticate, 30,000 years ago in Scandinavia
  • Like so many animals, their usefulness to humans (milk, meat, skins) meant their being hunted almost to extinction
  • In southern Norway, there remain only 20 herds, about 40,000 deer in all

finland-908940_960_720

In reality, having to pull Santa’s sleigh all around the world, arduous as that sounds, is the least of Rudolph’s problems

The main threats to these beautiful animals, along with nonhuman animals the world over, are human-caused: habitat fragmentation and destruction; roads carving up the forest; house-building; oil, gas and timber extraction. And global warming – the timber line is creeping northwards and shrinking the arctic tundra on which the reindeer rely.

Another serious cause for concern is inbreeding. Reindeer females don’t seem able, as many species of animals do, to select mates from outside their immediate group, and will frequently mate with males too closely related to them. Direct human interference has exacerbated the problem. Large numbers of males were removed from the herds in the 70s, to increase the preponderance of females and produce more young. The intended outcome was more reindeer to hunt. The unintended outcome was a further shrinking of the gene pool.

Shooting rights up for grabs

If you have a yen to celebrate the season of goodwill with a killing spree and have enough spare cash, the Norwegian government has opened up two of their largest national parks for you to slaughter any number of the last surviving wild population of these gentle creatures in Europe.

The business selling the tickets for such a trip, for which it claims exclusive rights, styles itself Scotland’s Premier Sporting Agency“. Shooting reindeer in Norway is, it says, “a magical experience”. (And feel free to take a pop at bears and wolves, both critically endangered in Norway, while you’re there.) This is the picture promoting the trip on the agency’s website

34

A very different kind of Christmas magic.

What can we do?

Support the League Against Cruel Sports’s campaign against trophy hunting

Sign the petition asking the Norwegian government to End the reindeer slaughter in Norway

And help stop the exploitation and abuse of reindeer here in the UK at Christmas:

Support Animal Aid’s reindeer campaign 

Sign the petition Stop using live reindeer at Keswick Christmas fair!

Sign the petition Stop reindeer exploitation

 

Cover pic courtesy of Focusing on Wildlife

*Anthropologist John Rush for LiveScience

* * *

Postscript

The fate of reindeer and wolves is inextricably linked. Find out more about what is happening to Norway’s wolves.

61Rj4ildGNL._SX466_

Sources

The Reindeer’s story: How our No.1 Christmas animal is suffering

Animal Christmas Stories

Rich Trophy Hunters Pay to Shoot Reindeer in the Wild

A Visit from St Nicholas by Clement C Moore

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Christmas Spoiler – Rudolph is an Impostor!

How Do Squirrels Remember Where They Buried Their Nuts?

Gifts Animals Give – & Strictly No Socks!

 

Get Your Pet Fox Here (Or Not)

In the richness and beauty of its splendid fur the Silver-gray Fox surpasses the beaver or sea otter, and the skins are indeed so highly esteemed that the finest command extraordinary prices, and are always in demand.

— John James Audubon
This is the silver fox, a fox with a recessive gene that dramatically changes its appearance from the animal that is much more familiar to us, the red fox. And in a fashion that for centuries has made its beautiful fur highly-prized.

If you want to know where to join the queue for your very own pet fox, and I hope you don’t, visit Novosibirsk in Russia, where fifty years ago one man started breeding the wild out of the silver fox. What took thousands of years to turn the wild dog into our most loved companion, geneticist Dmitry Belyaev managed for Vulpes vulpes in just five decades. His farm can now boast the fully domesticated fox that loves nothing better than a cuddle and a belly rub. And when I say ‘fox’, I don’t mean one particular individual. I’m talking about a whole breed.

Foxes are harder than most animals to tame. They are said by those who’ve tried to be “highly-wired” and possessing “a stubborn wildness that is impossible to get rid of.”

fox-3431561_960_720

But there is nothing complex about Belyaev’s method. Or high-tech. We’re not talking about CRISPR or ‘gene drive’ here. He has simply done what Man began all those millennia ago with cats, dogs, sheep, goats and cattle, and has carried on with ever since  – selective breeding. He embarked on his mission in the 1950s, visiting fur farms around Russia, picking out foxes that seemed to him the friendliest. Those that hid in corners and made aggressive noises were ruled out.

Back on his farm with his starter foxes – 100 vixens and 30 males – once the vixens gave birth to their first cubs, Belyaev selected the tamest and most docile cubs from each litter, the ones that interacted with people best. It was as simple as that. The chosen 10% were not trained to become tame. They lived in cages and had minimal contact with humans, because the aim was to see how tameness could be bred, not how it could be taught.

Belyaev was trying to discover, for the Institute of Cytology and Genetics at the Russian Academy of Sciences, just how our distant ancestors had tamed the animals we now live with at home or on farms. How these evolutionary changes came about. There is some archaeological evidence that humans did attempt to ‘break in’ the fox in the distant past, but cats appear to have replaced them as better candidates for domestication. After Belyaev’s death in 1985, his intern Lyudmila Trut took over.

And so the process continues, litter after litter, generation after generation. By the early 2000s, the foxes were showing none of the fear or aggression of a wild animal. They seemed to have turned into (very pretty) dogs, greeting visitors with a lick and a wagging tail. By 2005-2006 the foxes had become playful, friendly and responsive to people’s gestures or glances. Their vocalisations were now different from those of wild foxes – more like dogs’.

And that wasn’t all. Surprising shifts in the foxes’ physical appearance started to emerge: there were changes in coat colour such as white spotting, legs got shorter, so did snout and tail, the skull widened and the ears got floppier. A fox with floppy ears?! They started to look more tame, more delicate, in a word ‘cute’. Even their natural behaviours changed. Now they’re able to mate out of season, and they produce on average one more cub per litter. They call it ‘domestication syndrome/.

By 2009 Ms Trut discovered a change in brain chemistry compared with the wild Vulpes vulpes population. The people-loving foxes have higher levels of serotonin – the ‘happiness hormone’, which also inhibits aggression. And less active adrenal glands, adrenalin being of course, the ‘flight or fight’ hormone, so vital for an animal in the wild. It makes sense then that foxes bred specifically for their tameness would have less adrenalin pumping round their systems. And less adrenalin means droopier ears!

“The proudest moment for us was creating a unique population of genetically tame foxes, the only one in the world,” said Ms Trut. She makes no mention of the other 90%, rejected from the experiment as still too wild, and killed for their fur.

The experiment continues. “The main current goals are focused on molecular-genetic mechanisms of domestic behaviour”, she says. But maintaining the work is expensive. Despite the sale of pelts, the institute struggles to finance itself. So, in the 1990s it began selling the foxes as house pets. You can have one imported into the USA for $8,900 if you want one. But, as I said, I sincerely hope you don’t.

Does the world need pet foxes? I think not, no more than we need their fur. What price the fox’s legendary cunning, cleverness, boldness, trickery and elusiveness? It appears that what the Russians have done is reduce this magical animal into not much more than a docile furry footwarmer.

Doesn’t the very beauty, allure, mystique of the fox lie in its unbroken wildness? There have to be better ways to make scientific discoveries than this.

But now begins the fantastical epilogue to the taming-of-the-foxes story

When animal behaviourist Dr Ray Coppinger, holidaying on Prince Edward Island, chanced upon the island’s Fox Museum (yes, an actual fox museum), inside he found pictures of friendly-looking foxes with white spotting and other physical traits that it was believed to have taken Belyaev and Trut 60 or more years to produce – pictures from decades before the Russian experiment had even begun. Dr Coppinger shared his new insight with Elinor Karlsson of MIT and Harvard, and other geneticists and domestication scientists, and their combined probings have just placed a bomb right under the whole Russian experiment.

Belyaev obtained his starter pool of foxes from Russian fur farms, but what I didn’t mention earlier in this post because I didn’t know when I wrote it, was that those fur farms were initially supplied with foxes imported from fur farms on Prince Edward Island, Canada. What is the significance of this, we might ask.

It is extremely difficult to get wild foxes to breed in captivity. Back in PEI in the 1890s when the enterprise that was to grow into the silver fox fur equivalent of the Gold Rush all began, the foxes easier to trap and domesticate were of course the less fiercely wild ones. The tamer they were, the better they adapted to confinement, and the more successfully they bred.

We have heard Russian Lyudmila Trut’s boast, “The proudest moment for us was creating a unique population of genetically tame foxes, the only one in the world”. But pictures in the museum dating back at least a century earlier feature Prince Edward Island residents walking foxes on leashes through town, and “dancing the foxtrot” with the live animals draped docilely around their necks.

fox-1682729_960_720

So, sorry Belyaev & Trut, you did not know any more than we, that you have bred your ‘uniquely’ tame foxes from forebears already possessing that recessive gene that changed both their behaviour and appearance. To put it simply, you bred your pet foxes from forebears already much tamer than the wild, wily red fox we know and love.

Red fox Vulpes vulpes wild animal wildlife pool water drinking

Vulpes vulpes the species itself remains fiercely, wildly, proudly UNTAMED.

 

Further reading: fascinating article about the silver fox fur boom on PEI

And listen to Inside Science 15 mins 15 seconds in.

Source

A Soviet scientist created the only tame foxes in the world – BBC Earth

Related post

Russian Miner Takes Stunning Pictures of Foxes in the Snow in the Wild

Comedy Wildlife 2019 Finalists – Enjoy!

An otter holds its cheeksImage copyrightHARRY M. WALKER/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Oh My.” Ever seen an otter do ‘the scream’?

These are the Comedy Wildlife Photography Awards finalists – and they live up to the competition’s name.

A fish chased by a sharkImage copyrightANTHONY N PETROVICH/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTO AWARDS
Image caption‘He’s… behind me, isn’t he?’ Where’s Finding Nemo’s Bruce when you need him?
Two fox cubs dancingImage copyrightALASTAIR MARSH/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Waltz Gone Wrong?” These foxes wouldn’t win any awards for their dancing
A bug on a leafImage copyrightKEVIN SAWFORD/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Hello, and good day to you”
A lion cub goes for his dad's privatesImage copyrightSARAH SKINNER/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Grab life by the…” We imagine there was nothing funny about the aftermath of this photo
A rhino sprays on a birdImage copyrightTILAKRAJ’NAGARAJ/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARD
Image caption“Follow at your own risk.” Finally, justice for anyone who’s ever fallen victim to bird droppings
An owl laughingImage copyrightVICKI JAURON/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Holly jolly snowy” – why is this owl mocking us?
A monkey relaxingImage copyrightTHOMAS D MANGELSEN/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTO AWARDS
Image caption“Laid back” – this monkey knows how to relax
A bear hides behind a treeImage copyrightVALTTERI MULKAHAINEN/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTO AWARDS
Image caption“One, two, three – I’m going to find you.” Not when your opponent is hidden THAT well
Otters wavingImage copyrightDONNA BOURDON/COMEDY WILDLIFE PHOTOGRAPHY AWARDS
Image caption“Hi!” Bye

The award winners will be announced on 13 November.

The priceless pics above are the BBC’s faves

Now click on Comedy Awards Wildlife Photography Awards 2019 gallery to see all the adorable animals in their full glory

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Ready for Rebellion: 12,000 Activists March to End Animal Exploitation

On the morning of August 17, nearly 12,000 animal rights activists arrived at the Achilles Statue for the Official Animal Rights March of London.

Chants bellowed through the streets of London as activists took over Trafalgar Square early Saturday morning. The atmosphere was electric, according to Animal Rebellion co-founder Dan Kimble, whose newly formed volunteer network will carry momentum from the march into a series of similar nonviolent demonstrations for two weeks this October. He is determined to create a world where compassion towards all non-human animals is the norm, and so are we.

The event was organized by Surge, a grassroots animal rights organization “determined to create a world where compassion towards all non-human animals is the norm.” Surge is coordinating more than 40 other Official Animal Rights Marches around the globe. Present at the March were speakers such as Earthling Ed, Mythical Mia, and Nelufar Hedayat, to name a few. Chants bellowed through the streets and through the entire London community as activists took over the square.

This year, Surge welcomed Animal Rebellion, the newly-formed mass volunteer movement, to the Official Animal Rights March of London. The purpose of this alliance is to provide an introduction to the two-week nonviolent demonstrations led by Animal Rebellion beginning on October 7.

“The atmosphere was electric today as we officially launched Animal Rebellion,” Dan Kimble, co-founder of Animal Rebellion, told Sentient Media. “I’m really, really excited about what this momentum will bring.”

This Rebellion will take place at the Smithfield Meat Market in London, mobilizing 10,000 animal advocates for two weeks with demands for the government to cease animal oppression and shift to a plant-based food system.

Read the rest of Sentient Medias article here

Lend your support to Surge and Animal Rebellion

Please take this unique opportunity to contribute to the UK’s new 75 year National Food Strategy   – consultation here. If you’d like some guidance, visit Grow Green

 

Source: Ready for Rebellion: 12,000 Activists March to End Animal Exploitation by Krista Kihlander

Photo by Ross Kinghorn

These Brazilian Meat Dealers Are Taking Over The World – And We Should Be Worried

The True Cost of Cheap Meat

“If you eat meat, you probably buy products made by one Brazilian company. A company with such influence it can impact climate change, openly admit to having bribed more than 1,000 politicians, and continue to grow despite scandal after scandal. And you’ve probably never heard of it.
“Welcome to a world where meat is the new hot commodity, controlled by just a handful of gigantic firms which together wield unprecedented control over global food production. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism has been investigating the biggest of all: JBS, a Brazilian company which slaughters a staggering 13 million animals every single day and has annual revenue of $50bn.”

A cloud of scandals hangs over JBS and its shadowy network of subsidiaries, yet the company continues to expand. In the last decade it became the world’s biggest producer and exporter of meat with facilities in Australia and across the Americas, swallowing up among others the big US company Pilgrim’s Pride and Northern Ireland’s poultry firm Moy Park. Since the takeover, JBS’s investment in its Moy Park arm of the business enabled construction of hundreds more chicken farms in the UK which now supply nearly a third of all chicken eaten here in Britain.

JBS in numbers
  • 13.6 million poultry birds slaughtered per day
  • 116,000 pigs slaughtered per day
  • 77,000 cattle slaughtered per day
  • $50 billion – amount of annual revenues
  • 900,000 – number of employees across the world
  • 150 – number of countries it supplies with meat
  • $250 million – amount company paid out in bribes in 2017
  • 1,829 – number of candidates across Brazil’s political spectrum the company admits to having bribed
  • $3.2 billion – amount JBS was fined for bribery, one of the biggest fines in global corporate history
Scandal after JBS scandal. Take your pick –
  • Wholesale bribery and corruption – among many other scandals over the years, revelations from a 2014 investigation actually toppled the Brazilian government. Right now the company is under investigation for colluding with politicians and public servants to divert resources from a government-owned bank
  • Dirty meat – rotting beef, falsified export documents, failure to inspect meat plants, chickens contaminated with salmonella (a million of them in the UK)
  • Slave labour – workers forced to live in degrading conditions without adequate shelter, toilets or clean water
  • Animal cruelty – chickens punched and beaten with iron rods, piglets beaten and their testicles ripped off without anaesthetic
  • Illegal Amazonian deforestation –  fined $7.7 million in 2017
  • Being part of a price-fixing cartel – now driving down prices paid to farmers for their meat, and now driving up their own wholesale prices by colluding with other major poultry producers to reduce the supply of chicken

And don’t imagine it couldn’t happen here in the UK. The Moy Park arm of JBS doesn’t bear close scrutiny either.

Moy Park UK in numbers
  • More than £1 million – total of fines paid since 2015 for subjecting chickens to “unnecessary pain and distress”, failure to pay workers the minimum wage, and unsafe work practices
  • 8 million in 2 years – number of birds that never reach the market, wasted, thrown away as diseased, emaciated, injured with fractures and dislocations, dead before reaching the slaughterhouse, or contaminated
  • 6 million – number of birds slaughtered per week
  • £1.6 billion – company turnover in 2017

In June this year three Moy Park farms in Lincolnshire were secretly filmed uncovering “horrifying conditions”, chickens lame, struggling to breath and surrounded by dead birds. Moy Park supplies most major UK supermarkets, as well as McDonald’s and KFC.

It took a team of seven dedicated investigative journalists to lift the lid on the unsavoury modus operandi of the JBS matrix. They deserve our thanks for all the hard (and possibly dangerous) work they put into producing this exposé of meat production’s dark and dirty underbelly. Do take a few minutes to read it in full.

They conclude:

“JBS began as a local butcher’s shop; now its beef travels thousands of miles from Brazil to UK supermarkets. That journey clouds the link between farm and plate and makes it almost impossible for the average consumer to understand where their food comes from — and how big a price the planet is paying the price for their cheap meat.”

Let’s not allow their hard work to be in vain. The only way we can be certain we’re not funding the shady JBS brothers’ luxury yachts and lamborghinis, lavish parties and sumptuous mansions – and much much more importantly that we’re not complicit in deforestation, animal cruelty, human rights abuse, wholesale corruption, and the supply of contaminated products – is to take the meat off our plates. The cause of justice, the animals and the planet will thank us.

Here are 10 easy ways to make a change.

And now look at it from the animals’ point of view:

 

Update

9th August 2019 MRSA on Northern Ireland’s farms

Source 

JBS: Brazilian butchers take over the world  A special investigation from Andrew Wasley, Alexandra Heal and Lucy Michaels in London, Dominic Phillips, André Campos and Diego Junqueira in Sao Paulo and Claire Smyth in Belfast

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The Living Planet Report: Our Dinner Plates are Destroying Life on Earth

 

 

 

What We Never Knew We Needed – The Floating Dairy Farm

If you visit the Port of Rotterdam you will now be able to see a world first of its kind – a floating dairy farm. Riding one wave ahead of the right-on-trend urban farming movement, property company Beladon have created a “cow garden”, a three-level futuristic vision of glass, steel and concrete. And its first residents have just arrived on board.

But a farm floating on water? Why have such a thing? Minke and Peter van Wingerden, husband and wife business partners happened to be in New York in 2012, and witnessed firsthand the difficulties bringng fresh food into the city in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.. A floating farm, they decided, could produce food close to point of consumption, while at the same time neatly resolving the challenge posed by the scarcity of land within cities.
Beladon proudly call it  “Transfarmation”  and the company website sets out their priorities:-
  • Animal welfare
  • Circularity
  • Sustainability
  • Innovation
  • Producing healthy food in cities, close to the consumer
Sustainability and circularity

Putting to one side the question of animal welfare and healthy food for a moment, in terms of sustainability, the floating farm is indeed a thing of beauty. At least on the surface. The cows are fed with grass from local football fields, potato peel waste from the french fry industry, and chaff (bran) sifted from the flour in local windmills. This fodder which would otherwise go to waste is collected and delivered to the farm by electric cars. Water purified from the cow’s urine, will be used to grow red clover, alfalfa and grass under artificial light. A robot tops up the cows’ food stations and another scoops up the dry dung. The dung will be used on site, or sent to a nearby farm. On the floor below, the 1,000 litres of milk the cows produce daily will be processed into yogurt which will reach Rotterdam’s supermarket shelves with negligible transport costs, either financial or environmental. All good so far.

Cow poop

But with their neat cow poo disposal plan, Beladon seems not to have noticed the massive mountain of the stuff under which the Netherlands is already practically sinking. “The nation’s 1.8 million cows are producing so much manure that there isn’t enough space to get rid of it safely. As a result, farmers are dumping cow poo illegally, the country is breaking EU regulations on phosphates designed to prevent groundwater contamination, and the high levels of ammonia emissions are affecting air quality.”  The Guardian

Any excess dung from the floating facility will just add to the pile. What Dutch farm near or far is going to want it?

The WWF is not a fan of all the cow poop either. It’s doing so much damage to the Dutch environment, last year the charity called for a 40% reduction of dairy herds. The Netherlands has the lowest level of biodiversity in Europe after Malta. The Guardian. Fewer dairy farms are needed, not more, floating or otherwise.

We’re not told if Beladon has a plan for what comes out the dairy cow’s other end. Cow burps are an even bigger emitter of methane than the poop. Emissions from either end of dairy cows across the planet together make up 4% of the world’s GHGs.

Milk, a healthy food?

It’s certainly promoted that way. But PETA gives the white stuff a big thumbs down. Check out their list of 12 reasons why they think cow’s milk is bad for you.

The NHS takes a different view. Its website says, “Milk and dairy products, such as cheese and yoghurt, are great sources of protein and calcium. They can form part of a healthy, balanced diet.” But adds, “Unsweetened calcium-fortified dairy alternatives like soya milks, soya yoghurts and soya cheeses also count as part of this food group and can make good alternatives to dairy products.”

Good or bad, is it essential for human health? The Conversation examines the science, and concludes, “Milk and dairy foods are convenient and good value and provide lots of essential nutrients which are trickier to source from other foods.” But that “when it comes to health, the bottom line is we probably don’t need dairy in our diets.” 

The Harvard Medical School blog agrees: “Keep in mind that eating a well-balanced diet that includes plenty of green leafy vegetables and nuts can better help you get the calcium and protein you need rather than relying too much on dairy.” 

So if we don’t need it, why have it? There are plenty of good reasons to shun dairy apart from health.

Meanwhile, PETA’s simple slogan remains true1261707_1

Nature intended mums’ milk for human babies, and a cow’s milk for hers, not for humans, young, old or in between.

Does Europe need more milk anyway?

In 2018, European Commissioner Phil Hogan warned of oversupply in the European milk market. He said that supplies of milk had “unsustainably increased” in certain EU countries and singled out the Netherlands and Poland as the main culprits. Europe already has 350,000 tonnes of skimmed milk powder in storage – “the EU’s method to remove excess milk supplies from the market and help keep a floor on milk prices.”

The answer to our question then is an emphatic “No”. Europe needs less milk, not more. So why would Beladon enter a market already saturated? Is it too cynical to see the floating farm as something of a gimmick, and the cows as unwilling players in an –  admittedly spectacular – publicity stunt?

Animal welfare

Beladon’s floating milk factory (let’s call a spade a spade here) is anchored near “the heavily industrialised mouth of the New Meuse River”, hardly a cow’s natural environment. But then you’re never going to get that in the heart of a big city.

While just about all cow- and milk-related activities take place on the floating facility, the cows can, if the whim takes them, “potter over a ramp to real-life pasture on the land.” It sounds delightful until you remember that heavily-industrialised river mouth. If I did drink milk, I doubt I’d want to be drinking that milk. And what exactly the logistics are of this pleasant little amble landward is unclear. Cows are herd animals. One can only imagine the chaos created by 30 + cows trying to negotiate a ramp to reach “real-life pasture”, or “pottering” back in the other direction. It sounds suspiciously like a bit of welfarist window-dressing, doesn’t it?

If you’re worried about the cows getting seasick, don’t be. The water-borne building is apparently as stable as a cruise liner. Besides, the Floating Farm website assures us, “millions of heads of commercial cattle spend weeks at sea each year while being shipped around the globe without issue.” Without issue? Really? Read what Animals Australia has to say about that here, and if you can stomach it, click through their gallery of photos.

Of course the cows in residence on the floating farm will not be subjected to those kind of conditions, we would hope. But if Beladon, which is first and foremost a property company, can confidently publish such a fallacious statement, it surely puts a huge question mark over their ideas on what makes for good animal welfare.

The Floating Farm may well be the Ritz Hotel for cows, but still…

This new cow palace in Rotterdam is a very far cry from the traditional picture of your typical dairy farm, that oft reproduced picture of cows munching contentedly in flower-strewn meadows before a rustic barn. But that traditional picture – the one the dairy industry has always projected and does all it can to keep us believing – is even further from the unsavoury reality of the dairy cow’s life than it is from the cow palace. Take a minute to check out the truth hidden behind the cosy illusion.

Just like all other mammals including us, a cow will only produce milk when she has given birth. If you can bear it, look what happens when her babe is born. Whatever else it is, dairy farming can never be humane.

So, do we need Rotterdam’s new floating farm?

Innovation, glass, steel, alfalfa, robots, “real-life pasture”, closed-loop systems or not, sorry Beladon, we do not need your floating farm. For so many reasons, it’s time for humans to wean themselves off dairy, and end the cruel practice of stealing babies from their mums.

How did we get here?

Right next to Beladon’s floating farm, bobs on the water a park made from recycled plastic garbage. How apt that these two facilities float there side by side, together creating a perfect symbol of the madness the human race has led itself into. Of how very far we have allowed a misguided sense of our own ‘superior’ faculties, a mechanistic world view, and blind pursuit of technological advance to distance us from our true place in the natural world – and other animals too.

Beladon’s next exciting venture?  A floating farm for egg-laying chickens. The hen, one of the most abused animals on the planet.

Featured image Beladon


Postscript

Cows on a floating farm may be new, but floating farms themselves are not. In Bangladesh, the practice dates back thousands of years


Anything else you might want to know about dairy and going dairy-free here

 

Sources

Floating dairy farm debuts in the Netherlands

The Dutch are subverting nature again—with floating dairy farms

Dairy Farmers Risk Damage to Market with Oversupply – Press Reader

Related posts

No Green Meadows for the ‘Übercow’ of Today

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

Mountains of Milk, Lakes of Cheese, & What We Can Do About It

Why Cows Need Their Friends

A Cow Named ‘Spirit’

Are Meat & Dairy Really Bad for Sustainability & the Planet?

Run Bear, Run

Could you believe it – a brown bear escapes his enclosure by scaling a 4-metre high fence, electrified with 7 cables carrying 7,000 volts?

This is the jailbreak 3 year old M49 – so named by scientists with their inimitable imaginative flair – pulled off on Tuesday in northern Italy. The call of the wild, a daring bid for freedom, the stuff of legends. So now our bear-Houdini is on the run.  And now his life is in danger.
How did this extraordinary story come about?

Illegal hunting in northern Italy decimated the brown bear population to such an extent that by the 1990s, only 4 of the animals were left. The last bear died in 2000. For the best part of the last 30 years the ‘Life Ursus’ reintroduction project has been working to bring the animals back to the Trentino region, radio-collared M49 among them.

But just recently our poor M49 got too close to human habitation for human comfort. So he was taken captive and placed in a holding pen – the one with the scaringly well-electrified fence. What they planned to do with him next is unclear, but whatever it was, it never happened because this gutsy guy is still very much at large.

Whose side are you on?

There are now between 50 and 60 brown bears in northern Italy, and as is invariably the case with reintroductions of large predators, opinion is split right down the middle. Farmers fall heavily on the frown side of the argument. Farmers’ Association spokesman Sig. Coldiretti claims Orsino has already killed 13 farm animals.

Governor of the Trentino region Marizio Fugatti announced, “If M49 approaches inhabited areas, the forestry service is authorised to kill it.” 

On the other side is, among others, zoology professor Luigi Boitani: if livestock are taken, it’s the farmers’ fault for failing to use electric fencing to deter the bears. WWF Italy agrees, blaming the farmers’ “failure to adopt appropriate prevention tools. Adding, M49’s “danger to people is still to be demonstrated.” 

And happily for our bear, Environment Minister Sergio Costa quickly countermanded Fugatti’s order to kill. “M49’s escape from the enclosure cannot justify an action that would cause its death,” he said.

“We are on the side of the bear, and of freedom

Michela Vittoria Brambilla, president of the Italian Defence League for Animals

Brown bear or superhero?

We all love a renegade on the run, but this is where our bear’s heroic tale takes a darker turn, because WWF Italy smells a rat. “A solid electrified fence with adequate power is an insurmountable barrier even for the most astute bears,” it says. “Obviously the structure was not working properly, since bears do not fly.”

The League for the Abolition of Hunting (LAC) goes further. They detect conspiracy:- “M49 is, of course, an escape genius… endowed with superpowers like a Marvel Comics hero. He just happened to climb over the fence, unharmed by electric shocks, by chance without his radio collar—and, what do you know, he can be declared public enemy number one and the escape sparks a maximum security alert.” It’s their belief M49 has been allowed to escape so he can be declared a danger and his killing justified.

So Run Bear, Run

If our bear does get caught, let’s hope and pray Minister Costa’s plea for humanity will prevail. But take no chances M49. I’m sure Michela Vittoria speaks for us all: “We are on the side of the bear, and of freedom – run and save yourself.” 

For your life bear, run for your life.

CLICK HERE TO SAY NO TO THE CAPTURE OF BEAR M49 IN TRENTINO

And when you share please use #fugaperlaliberta

Source

Italians cheer on wild bear’s ‘Great Escape’

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Betsy the Brave Joins the #MooToo Movement

A Cow Named ‘Spirit’

The Runaway Cow Wild Wintering With Bison

It Really Doesn’t Pay to Look Too Cute

“Otters are… cute, romantic, loyal and intelligent. They hold hands to ensure they don’t float away from each other, live in close family units, use tools to access food, and pat stones in the air and then roll them around their bodies. These unique behaviors and human-like characteristics have made them hugely popular animals, globally. “

Adam Gekowski, photographer and filmmaker

(And that, sadly is their undoing.)

“Aw, adorable!”, we find ourselves murmuring. It’s an instinctive human response when we encounter other animals – especially the cute furry ones – in photos, videos, nature films, or if we’re really lucky, in the flesh.

Our desire for face to face encounters in particular is all down, it seems, to “our natural affinity for life… the very essence of our humanity [that] binds us to all other living species.” So says the blurb on the book ‘Biophilia’, authored by renowned naturalist E. O. Wilson. He believes we are born with this urge to connect with other life forms. It’s innate, he says, hardwired into our biology. “Our existence depends on [it], our spirit woven from it.”  Biophilia– love of what lives.

City life

But nowadays we have a problem giving expression to this instinct. Our increasingly urbanised life offers fewer and fewer chances for animal encounters. Right now 3 million of us are moving to cities every week. By roughly 2040, it’s expected 66% of the world’s population will be living in cities.

Nonetheless, “even in urban environments, the animal connection is real and strong. We need to live with animals because they offer us so much, not the least of which is someone to love.” – paleoanthropologist Pat Shipman. I think she’s nailed it right there, don’t you?

So, given we have that innate need for animal connection, where can we find ways to satisfy it in the city, especially in the busiest, most crowded city of all with 38 million humans squeezed into it, Tokyo, Japan?

The answer for many lies in caring for a cat or a dog, hopefully rescued ones. That may not be so easy for the residents of Tokyo. Housing here is at a premium – often there is just no room for companion animals, and many landlords forbid them. On top of that, few people would have time to take care of them since Japanese culture dictates notoriously long working hours. (Shockingly, the Japanese have a specific word for death attributed to overwork – karoshi.)

Now stir the following disparate ingredients into the Tokyo mix:

  • Japan’s birth rate last year was the lowest in historyMany 20 -30 year olds remain single and/or childless – no-one to love and care for
  • Otters do look undeniably cute
  • Social media is hugely influential (Instagram’s Japanese otter celebrity Takechiyo, for instance, has 300,000 followers)

And what does it all add up to? 

The latest craze, Tokyo’s otter cafes

Which for a price, offer the promise of half an hour’s cuddle time to city dwellers and visitors in need of their animal ‘fix’.

otter-913421_960_720

Several of these places appear on TripAdvisor. In some cafes, visitors are let into a small room containing the otters, and are allowed “to run riot” with them. In others, the otters remain caged and visitors can feed them through small holes.

But however the individual cafes are organised, and however much the visitors enjoy their encounters (and most really do. Only 11% of visitors to one cafe left reviews on TripAdvisor expressing real concern for the animals), one thing is guaranteed:

No good whatever is to be had for the otters themselves. It’s quite tragic that the very love people have for, and want to give the furry creatures, “translates into behaviour that is incredibly harmful to the animal,” says World Animal Protection’s global head of the Wildlife. Not Pets campaign.

“The otters are heard whimpering, shrieking and making distress calls while customers are interacting with them. Some are kept in solitary conditions with no natural light, others are seen biting their claws and exhibiting traumatized behavior – some of the worst housing conditions included small cages with no access to water.”

One otter seen by the WAP team was so stressed it had bitten the end of its tail off.

Otters are semiaquatic animals, and Asian otters typically live in streams, rice paddies, and marshes, in large family groups. A far cry from a Tokyo cafe full of excited noisy people.

Even apart from the suffering of a wild animal kept in captivity, otters do not make for good petting, or for good pets, even though well-edited video clips might lead you to think so. When WAP visited Instagram star Takechiyo in his home for example, they saw him looking very cute and placid for a few minutes, picking up small pieces of cat food and popping them into his mouth.

“However, the illusion was quickly shattered as he then went on a tour of destruction around the house; climbing on all the furniture, chewing, shrieking, and even biting and scratching our translator. It was a lightbulb moment – otters may look cute, but they make terrible pets. Otters are best observed at arm’s length and in the wild.”

Orphans stolen from the wild 

The otter craze is not confined to Tokyo. It’s sweeping across Southeast Asia. In Thailand for example, there are at least 10 large Facebook groups devoted to keeping pet otters. Otter-mania is hiking sky-high the price on the animal’s head. Just one can fetch several thousand dollars. And where there is money to be made, there is no shortage of people with few scruples wanting a piece of the action. To supply the booming market, farmers, hunters and traffickers are shooting or electrocuting adult otters and stealing their babies. Even law enforcement agencies and government officials are involved, and it’s thought likely there are links to organised crime.

As a result, three out of four otter species found in this part of the world are now at risk of extinction, according to the IUCN.

What can we do?

The good news is, there are a number of positive steps we can all take to help captive otters in Asia, and indeed other wild animals.

1  Let’s Shut Them Down Now petition

2  The easiest of all: Think before we click

It’s all too easy to click on some cute animal video, to comment or follow. Let’s pause for a moment. Is it a wild animal taken from its natural habitat? Then it’s certain to be suffering for our entertainment. World Animal Protection suggests instead of the automatic click, we change the conversation online about keeping wild animals, like otters, as pets. “Every ‘Likethey say, “leads to a lifetime of cruelty.”

3   Download the Wildlife Witness app

If you’re planning a trip abroad, you can actually play a part in the detection of illegal wildlife trade. You may spot wild animals being sold in a local market for example. “The Wildlife Witness smartphone app allows tourists and locals to easily report wildlife trade by taking a photo, pinning the exact location of an incident and sending these important details to TRAFFIC – says their website.

4  Never visit cruel wildlife attractions when you’re on holiday – Take the pledge

5  Ban Wild Animal Cafes and ‘Petting Bars’ Sign petition

6  Watch otters the proper way – in the wild. Check here

7  If you haven’t already, take WAP’s exotic pet pledge here

8  Support the rehabilitation work of Cikananga Wildlife Centre in Indonesia. You can also volunteer at the centre

9  Watch and share Aaron Gekoski’s film ‘Pet otters: the truth behind the latest wildlife craze’

Footnote

This is not a case of Westerners pointing the finger eastwards. We have exactly the same problem on our doorstep, only the ‘cute cuddly’ animal in question here is the ring-tailed lemur, taken from tropical Madagascar to the Lake District, northwest England. Armathwaite Hall, a hotel and spa resort near Keswick, offers ‘lemoga’ – outdoor yoga in the company of the primates. Carolyn Graves, owner of the hotel, says: “Lemoga offers our guests the chance to feel at one with nature, at the same time joining in with the lemurs’ playtime.” 

Teaming up with adjoining Lake District Wildlife Park (now doesn’t that sound nice – for a zoo), the hotel also offers walks with alpacas and meet-the-meerkat sessions. Manager of the ‘wildlife park’ Richard Robinson, waxes lyrical:

“I don’t think you ever see an unhappy zookeeper. We spend all our time with animals. We know how it makes us feel and if we can give a little piece of that to people then great.” Interestingly, he omits to say how the animals feel about it.

It’s just a crying shame that we so often give expression to our natural desire for animal connection in a way that is a thoughtlessly one-sided affair.

 

Yoga Studio Set to Exploit Monkeys, Reptiles, and Others – Take Action Now here

Florida attraction selling tickets for sloth yoga – Take Action here

 

Sources 

Otter cafés and ‘cute pets craze’ fuel illegal trafficking in Japan and Indonesia

Biophilia – Google books

Asian social media craze fuels cruel trade in otters for pets and cafes

Animal cafes offer drinks and companionship

Lemoga: Lake District hotel offers yoga with lemurs as partners

Related posts

Three Years in Heaven After Sixty Years in Hell – RIP Sweet Lakhi

Wildlife Tourism: Good or bad for the Animals?

Cecilia Blazes the Trail – Or Does She?

Persons not Property – Could the Tide be Turning?

A Promising Way Forward for Animal Rights?

 

 

 

 

 

Norway to Ban the Farming of Fur

“It’s a big victory for animal welfare in Norway. It’s a realisation that the consideration for animals can actually weigh heavier than just money and business interests.”

Siri Martinsen, head of Noah, animal rights organisation.

Later this month, the ban on fur farming passes into Norwegian law. It means new fur farms prohibited with immediate effect, and all existing fur farms dismantled by 2025.

Noah has been lobbying for the ban for three decades – that is stickability! “It’s totally unnatural and against these animals’ needs to keep them in very tiny metal cages.”

The babies are born in spring, smooth and furless. But by autumn they will have grown their thick glossy winter coats, brown, black or grey. Then the youngsters pay dearly for their gorgeous beauty, by being gassed and skinned.

So thank you Noah for never giving up on the animals.

It was a quirk of the contemporary political scene that finally tipped the scales in the animals’ favour. In echoes of 2010 in the UK, Norway’s Conservative party found themselves in a position where they were forced to invite the Liberals into a government of coalition. The Liberals said yes, but there was a condition. And the condition was – the fur farm ban.

Norway now joins the UK, Austria, the Czech Republic, and Croatia on the right side of fur farming history. In addition, regulations surrounding the cruel practice in Germany and Switzerland are so strict as to be effective as a ban.

Of course, not everyone is happy. The 200-strong Norwegian fur farmers’ association says the ban is “unjustified, illegal and undemocratic.” Fur farmer Kristian Aasen is enraged: “It’s unbelievable that a microscopic party that is today polling around two percent could impose its views on spineless politicians.”

Aasen farms 20 cows, and as a very lucrative sideline, 6,000 caged mink. He says he can’t make a living without them.

The government is offering financial assistance to dismantle the farms and help find other income strings. (One MP suggested the cultivation of medical cannabis.) But the fur farmers are pessimistic about finding alternatives. One thing is certain, animal farming will not be an option. Everyone knows what one of their number openly admits:

“There is already an overproduction of meat. We produce too much lamb, pork, chicken, milk.”

Someone needs to tell them –

The future is plant-based!

Go vegan!

Sign the petition to make a fur-free Britain here

 

Source

Days are numbered for Norway’s fur farms

Further reading

The Labour Party pledges to ban fur imports to the UK