Animal cruelty-free testing methods will be tested by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration

“Animal testing is considered unnecessarily cruel by many, especially since new methods are being developed to take its place. The most promising are organ-chips that contain human cells and imitate the complexity of particular organs. Now they are on their way to being commonly used. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration Office has just entered into an agreement last Tuesday with the company Emulate that creates ‘organs-on-chips’ to develop and test the technology.

“Using these organ-chips could eliminate the need to test drugs or cosmetics on animals. These chips are much more accurate than animal testing, which is good for animals and for us. The chip is the size of an AA battery. It is transparent and made out of flexible polymers. The chip contains little channels filled with tens of thousands of human cells and fluid that imitate human functions and reproduce blood and air flow similarly to in the body. Therefore, chips can recreate breathing motions and muscle contractions.
“‘We are excited to begin this relationship with FDA as a potential first step toward accelerating the adoption of our Human Emulation System for broad application as a new testing platform for a wide range of products that are reviewed and approved by regulatory authorities to protect and improve human health.’– Geraldine A. Hamilton, Ph.D., President and Chief Scientific Officer of Emulate.”

Isn’t this epic? A fantastic breakthrough – not even so much the technology which has been around for a while, but the fact that Emulate has been able to forge this agreement with the FDA.

Though no-one knows exact numbers, it is reckoned that every year more than 100 million animals in the US alone, are subjected to chemical, drug, food, and cosmetics tests, as well as medical training exercises and experiments at universities. And that’s without including mice, rats, birds, and cold-blooded animals, which actually make up more than 99 percent of animals used in experiments, but because they are not covered by even the limited protections of America’s Animal Welfare Act, go uncounted

Cruelty Free International tells us:

  • The USA heads the list of the top 10 animal testing countries in the world, which include Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil.
  • Animal experiments are sadly not in decline, and in many parts of the world are on the increase  (e.g. China) or remain at the same level as they were in the 1980s or 1990s (e.g. the UK, Europe).
Whatever, one animal being tortured in a lab – and it always is torture – is one too many.

The US Department of Agriculture is responsible for monitoring the application of animal welfare legislation for animals in labs. It’s not exactly renowned for the rigour of its oversight at the best of times. Then two months ago this headline appeared in The Washington Post:

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

“The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday abruptly removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.”

So this latest news from Emulate and the FDA is all the more welcome – and surprising, considering the state of play in Washington DC right now.

Where the US leads, others are swift to follow. Let us hope this will indeed be the beginning of the end of animal suffering in laboratories.

Meanwhile, here are 10 animal research petitions you can sign, all on one page: Care2 Animal Research petitions

And urge the European Commission and the European Parliament for a moratorium on animal experimentation here

And read more about the new cooperation between Emulate and the FDA here.

Read more about biomedical research in the US here.

Other sources

Animal Testing 101

Facts and figures on animal testing

USDA abruptly purges animal welfare information from its website

Related posts

Eight Women Changing the World for Animals 1

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

Calling All Rabbit Lovers

Canadian’s React to Animal Justice’s Animal Charter Billboards

Walking Hand in Hand with Nature

“Nature inspires me. My hope is that my art will serve its purpose, remind us of how the human-nature relationship is supposed to be, beautiful, harmonious, and living side by side. My subjects are often children and animals because they are sincere, unprejudiced and unpretentious. There’s an innate relationship between them.” Indonesian artist Elicia Edijanto

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I find these watercolour paintings profoundly moving. I hope you enjoy them, and that they will continue to touch the hearts of those who see them. The simplicity of colour and detail creates a timeless, tranquil, dreamlike other-world. Is this the Garden of Eden? The kingdom of heaven? The way life was here on Earth before abuse of power, greed, exploitation, cruelty and fear trampled innocence, reverence, trust and love into the dust? Elicia’s art brings to my mind two passages from the Bible, see below.

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The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them. Isaiah 11 v 6

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He [Jesus] called a little child to him, and placed the child among them. And he said: “Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Matt 18 vv 2-4

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Elicia depicts the animals with simple reverence, in all their majesty. They are here in their own personhood, with their own standing. They do not seek Man’s permission. They owe us nothing. They are here by right.

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Discover the artist and see more of Elicia’s beautiful work on her website

Related posts

Busting the Myths of Human Superiority

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

Vegan Artist’s Surreal Vision of Animals & Our Planet

The ‘Serious Intensity of Being’ in Animal Art

Anger & Beauty – Inspiration for Artist Andrew Tilsley

 
 

 

Can You Help Save the Nineteen Billion?

A truly disturbing fact I never knew until now, maybe you did. There are way more hens than people in the world. Nineteen billion in fact, 3 hens to every 1 human. And the numbers just keep rising.
( I like to call these clever, social birds hens rather than chickens. Chicken is their flesh, not their personhood.)

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To mark yesterday’s National Poultry Day, and in the run up to Easter when chicks and eggs traditionally take centre stage, here’s what I’ve gleaned from three recent pieces about hens, and indeed chicken, the meat:-

First up

Will Brexit & Trump really force us to eat chlorine-washed chicken?

Well, that’s a pretty unpleasant sentence all round, isn’t it? And the implications are even worse. Certain farming practices in the USA such as the use of specific antibiotics, pesticides and growth hormones, and yes, washing chicken in chlorinated water, are  banned on health and environmental grounds under EU law. Which of course applies to the UK at the present time – but in the future, who knows?

“That could all be set to change—at least in Britain. There are worries that the UK Government may be about to open the door to hormone-pumped beef, pesticide-treated wheat, eggs from poor welfare hens, and swimming pool chicken.”

Because right at the top of Theresa May’s wishlist as she negotiates the UK’s withdrawal from Europe is a trade deal with the States. Chief economist for the American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Young is on record as saying if any deal is to be struck, the UK will have to lift its current (EU) ban on US food products.

This is what we could be exposed to:

including the trauma endured by those millions of hapless hens.

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Did you know that in the USA

  • There are no federal laws governing the conditions in which farmed animals are raised?
  • The majority of farmed animal suffering is exempt from state criminal anti-cruelty laws?
  • Many individual state criminal anti-cruelty laws exempt “standard” or “commonly accepted” agricultural practices?¹

Let’s hope those pics of PM May holding Donald Trump’s hand aren’t an ominous sign of things to come.

Our premier says not:”We are committed to maintaining, where possible improving, standards of welfare in the UK”. But haven’t we seen politicians of every hue executing spectacular u-turns when under pressure?

And in Mrs May’s statement the sting is in the tail: “while ensuring of course that our industry is not put at a competitive disadvantage.” Mmm, seems she’s already feeling the hot breath of the National Farmers Union on her back. They’re demanding a level playing field for meat sales and if that means lowering standards to US levels, so be it, is their thinking.

Read more here

The answer of course is in our hands (see below)


Next

Crisis in the Chicken Coop

For the first time in 100 years those champion meat-eaters of the world, the Americans, are eating less beef. Sadly, although they are eating less beef, they are eating a lot more chicken. And it’s likely numbers will rise. By 2018 chicken consumption is expected to reach over 200lbs per head per annum in the US. There are at least 3 reasons for the trend away from beef to chicken:

  1. Health warnings. Folk are getting the message that red meat is linked to cancer, heart disease and diabetes. They see chicken as the healthier option.
  2. The message of livestock farming’s extravagantly huge environmental footprint is getting through, at least to some.
  3. And the deal-clincher: beef prices are nearly double what they were a decade ago, and now more than double the price of chicken.

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If you think about it pound for pound of meat, in terms of hen’s feet on the ground this actually means an even greater number of individual nonhuman animals suffering at the hands of agribusiness for the benefit of consumers. This is why One Step for Animals focuses exclusively on hens. The numbers are the greatest. Therefore so is the need.

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Nearly all of those 19 billion hens live a life of appalling suffering that has to be kept hidden from the eyes of the chicken-eating public who have no idea of what is going on behind closed doors. In Defense of Animals describes it like this:

“In less than 50 days from the time she is born, her bones will break beneath her own weight. By that time her breast valued only for the quantity of its white meat and not the gentle animal inside will be so massive, she will no longer be able to walk to the water bowl. Left in her own urine and feces and the bodily waste produced by up to 60,000 other chickens in the warehouse, her skin will blister and burn until the day she is brought to slaughter.”

Help expose the horrors these gentle souls are made to endure by supporting IDA’s appeal to fund a secret Easter rescue mission that reveals once and for all how cruel and unnatural factory farming is for chickens, and documents the story of the chicks and chickens rescued to inspire others to choose alternative plant-based sources of protein.”

Donate here


But let’s wind up on a happier note – this is what you won’t be exposed to if you choose not to eat the flesh of the hen

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Maybe, just maybe, ‘clean meat’ will be the answer for those who still want to satisfy their chicken cravings – enter Memphis Meats’ first lab-grown chicken. Churchill’s prophesy was spot on:
“We shall escape the absurdity of growing a whole chicken in order to eat the breast or wing, by growing these parts separately under a suitable medium.”— Winston Churchill, Fifty Years Hence (1931)
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©Memphis Meats

The company served its chicken and duck strips at an event in San Francisco last week and it passed the taste test. All the testers/tasters liked it and said they would happily eat it again.

A pound of the stuff at $9,000 is not quite as expensive as the first lab-grown burger which came in at $325,000. The plan is to bring the price tag down to the level of supermarket chicken by 2021.

Even so Memphis Meats will have its work cut out making significant inroads into the quantities of factory-farmed chicken the average American is currently eating in a year.

Clean meat is so much more environmentally friendly than the other kind. Studies show clean meat would potentially use 96% less greenhouse gas emission, 45% less energy, 99% less land and 96% less water than meat from animal agriculture.

Of course the meat though ‘clean’ in that it is grown from stem cells humanely harvested one would hope from live animals and only a few at that, is not vegan as the Beyond Burger grown in the lab entirely from plant cells most definitely is.

Read more here


What we can do

Help save the 19 billion by supporting the work of ADI here

Be prepared to resist detrimental changes to our welfare and environment law here in the UK when the time comes.

Best of all, stop eating animals & go vegan!

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¹Farmed Animals & the Law – ALDF

Sources

Crisis in the chicken coop – In Defense of Animals

Chicken More Popular Than Beef in US for First Time in 100 Years – Huffington Post

I just ate meat for the first time in 20 years – The Medium

Related posts

8 Things Everyone Needs to Know About Hens

Libby & Louie – A Love Story

Brexit – The Animals’ View

 


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

Feast your eyes on a paradox. Self-taught American artist Tiffany Bozic’s vibrant paintings fuse together two incongruent poles. A high emotional charge / and rigorous scientific accuracy. Her own imaginative vision / and meticulous observation.

At first sight surreal. But look closer at what the surreal is unmasking. The ultimate reality, the ultimate truth, that we are all part of Planet Earth’s beautiful, inextricably-interwoven web of life and death.

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© Tiffany Bozic

Just as the image plays with our ideas of reality, the title of this painting plays with words, ‘Flora and Fawn’

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© Tiffany Bozic
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© Tiffany Bozic

Tiffany has spent most of her life “living with and observing the intricacies of nature.” If more of us could emulate her approach, what reverence for life would prevail.

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© Tiffany Bozic

Tiffany paints on boards of maple wood.

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© Tiffany Bozic
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© Tiffany Bozic

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In some of her work, we see Tiffany making the grain of the wood itself an integral part of the image.

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© Tiffany Bozic

Cover pic ©Tiffany Bozic

Discover more about this fascinating artist, her techniques and her art here

Visit Tiffany’s website Tiffany Bozic

Source

New Surreal Wildlife Paintings by Tiffany Bozic – Colossal

Related posts

Step into a Miniature World of Animated Paper Wildlife

Vegan Artist’s Surreal Vision of Animals & Our Planet

The Serious Intensity of Being in Animal Art

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Futurology Promises More Hopes than Fears for the Animals & the Planet

Futurology says you really can have too many bees!

Even the most indifferent to environmental issues and our native flora and fauna would have to be blind and deaf not to have registered the torrent of bad news about the dramatic and worrying decline in bee population numbers over the last few years.

So how could you possibly have too many bees?

We know of course that bee colonies are trucked all over the USA to pollinate crops as each comes into flower each year.

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But until I came to write this post, I for one was completely unaware that right now millions of bees are being shipped around the globe to work their pollination magic. Here in the UK it seems we import 40,000-50,000 colonies each year. And global bee commerce continues to expand.

This is a problem for at least two reasons:

  • The colonies – provided by a handful of global suppliers – are screened for diseases and parasites, but that screening is not foolproof. And the imported bees hosting pathogens can and do spread their unwanted ‘guests’ to the local populations with disastrous results. “The effects include killing bees outright, or harming their ability to learn, which is crucial in finding food. In Argentina, imported parasites are driving native species to extinction.”¹ As the trade exports the industrious little insects to ever more locations, the danger of harmful effects on native bees and food security increases.
  • As well as putting their local cousins at risk, the imported bees, by pollinating invasive non-native plant species, are likely to accelerate their dispersion with unknowable effects on local biodiversity.

So I guess the problem isn’t exactly having too many bees per se, but too many bees on the move carrying pathogens to all corners of the world. It’s ironic but perturbing that an industry that’s mushroomed in response to an ever-widening pollinator shortage, will likely itself exacerbate the downward trend.

A big conservation problem then. One of five recently identified as global environmental risks by an international team of experts in science communication, research and horizon scanning. Horizon scanning (otherwise known as Futurology or Future Studies) is a collaborative process of assembling all available data in a particular field to identify future trends, both positive and negative.

While in an ideal world the crystal ball would reveal zero future environmental risks, it’s good to know at least that this particular expert team – undertaking their horizon-scanning in the field of species and ecosystems pinpointed just 5 key risks, but twice as many hopeful opportunities. And as I’m keen to make this week a week of hope, I’ll list the remaining 4 risks in brief so we can get on to the good stuff.

1   Sand scarcity I don’t know about you, but this is one possible problem I wouldn’t have imagined. “Sand is used in a diverse range of industries and as the human population increases so does the demand for sand. Impacts of sand mining include loss of species, degradation of habitats and social conflict”.

2  Border fences affecting wild animals The impenetrable wall between the USA and Mexico promised by President Trump would adversely affect desert bighorn sheep, the endangered North American jaguar, the ocelot – now down to the last 50 in southern Texas and the cougar (pictured here).cougar-718092_960_720

In total it’s estimated that 111 endangered species could suffer as a result of Trump’s wall, as well as 108 species of migratory birds.” Sadly the trend is not confined to the USA. The increased use of border fencing in Europe and elsewhere will have similar detrimental effects on the movement, migration and survival of wild animal species.²

3  Changes in waste management affecting wild animals Another trend that wouldn’t spring immediately to mind – closing or covering rubbish dumps. That might sound like a positive, but will be bad news for wildlife scavengers habituated to this ready food supply.

4  Wind speeds at the sea surface are increasing data indicates, and so is the frequency of gales. The effect on seabirds and migrating marine animals is an unknown, but unlikely to be beneficial.

Bad news is always unwelcome I know. But even the bad can have its good side. If it throws the spotlight on to a problem, we can start looking for solutions. Take science’s revelation about the damage to marine life from plastic microbeads. The data that surfaced in 2010 was troubling to say the least, but bringing it to light did bring about quite speedy international action in the form of bans on their use.

Now that’s out the way we can, as promised, get to the good stuff – 10 new conservation opportunities opened up to us by advances in science and technology:

1  A new biological discovery: strains of Symbodinium (unicellular algae) found in coral reefs are resistant to heat and could hopefully be manipulated to protect reefs from the bleaching effect of rising temperatures in the ocean.

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2  An underwater robot called COTSbot has been very successful at controlling the crown-of-thorn starfish responsible for 40% of the damage to the Great Barrier Reef in the last 30 years. Robotics offer the prospect of more environmental wins. Watch COTSbot in action below.

3  The portable 3D-printed electronic ‘dogs’ nose, bizarre as it sounds, works even better than the real thing. It will provide a major new asset for sniffing out illegal wildlife goods, especially at border crossings, and offers the potential to disrupt major black market trade routes. That would be huge.

4  As a result of advances in genetic screening and engineering bacteria and fungi can now be used for biological pest control and growth stimulation treatments, averting the need to use artificial chemicals that harm biodiversity.

5  Ah, we’ve hit a snag. With this one it seems like risks and opportunities might be fairly equally balanced. We’re talking floating wind farms. Right now the biggest in the world is being constructed off the coast of Scotland. Though more efficient in supplying green energy than land-based, and good for fish seeking a refuge, they would be no better than their land-based counterparts at avoiding collateral damage to birds in flight. Plus there’s a chance they could entangle marine mammals.

6  The bionic leaf that makes fuel out of sunlight and water. Forget fitting solar panels to your roof. Just get your bionic leaf and make your own ready-to-use biomass. Watch the video to find out how.

7  Lithium-air batteries. Yet another technology entirely new to me. If produced commercially, these batteries could revolutionise the clean energy industry by enabling electric cars to run on a battery a fifth of the cost and a fifth of the weight of batteries currently on the market. This means you could travel from London to Edinburgh – just over 400 miles – on a single charge. Right now an electric car can only drive between 50 and 80 miles per charge. If you’re interested in the science, click here.

8  Reverse photosynthesis uses the sun’s energy to break down rather than build up plant material. It’s potential? To transform the production of biofuels and plastics and reduce fossil fuel use and carbon emissions.

9  Carbon capture involves dissolving the carbon dioxide in water and injecting it into basalt rock, which is plentiful all around the globe. Once in the rock it undergoes a natural process. The basalts (volcanic rock) react with the gas-in-solution to form carbonate minerals. Hey presto, limestone! In the Iceland Carbfix project it took just two years for the  solution to solidify. Compare that with the hundreds or even thousands of years that was predicted. Only the lack of political will is holding this one back. Grrr.

10  bitcoin-1813507__340Blockchain technologyBy allowing digital information to be distributed but not copied, blockchain technology created the backbone of a new type of internet. Originally devised for the digital currency, Bitcoin, the tech community is now finding other potential uses for the technology.”

In the environmental field, these could be: “establishing a currency market for trading carbon credits, improving supply chain traceability (e.g. for sustainable fish) and tracking illegal wildlife trade.”

Which all goes to prove there are few conservation issues for which science and technology cannot find an answer. Futurology is right to see the almost limitless opportunities they offer.

But it’s not human ingenuity that is ever in question. Humankind’s will to implement preventions and solutions most certainly is, both at political and individual level.

The good news is, we have the power in our hands to act at both levels. In politics we can use our vote for the planet. We can also throw your support behind organisations actively engaged in protecting nature and lobbying governments or challenging them in courts of law.

In the USA for example, we have the altogether wonderful Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club amongst others.

Here in the UK, we can support the Wildlife Trusts. We can be sure they will do all in their power to keep our government in line with the National Ecosystem Asessment. We can also join the Ecosystems Knowledge Network. They greatly value individuals’ input.

On a purely individual level Friends of the Earth has a wealth of ideas and tips for living an eco-friendly life which is well worth exploring.

It is so beyond time to stop ravaging the Earth in the pursuit of our own selfish interests. We are currently pursuing a path that is not only irresponsible and disrespectful, but ultimately self-defeating. The real interests of the human race lie not in the rape and pillage of our precious planet and all the life in it, but in due reverence, regaining a sense of wonder, and careful loving stewardship. We can do it.

After all, there is only one Earth.

“I will not dishonor my soul with hatred,
but offer myself humbly as a guardian of nature,
as a healer of misery,
as a messenger of wonder,
as an architect of peace.
I will honor all life,
wherever and in whatever form it may dwell,
on Earth my home,
and in the mansions of the stars.”

– Diane Ackerman

Read about last year’s projections here

¹Imported bees pose risk to UK’s wild and honeybee population – The Guardian

²Building Walls – Purr and Roar. Excellent post on this topic I would heartily recommend. Also Border Fences Aimed at Stopping Immigrants are Killing Wildlife – Take Part

 

Source

15 risks and opportunities to global conservation – Fauna & Flora International

Related posts

Hope for the Animals & the Planet?

There is Always Hope for the Animals & the Planet

Ten Fascinating Ways Technology is Saving Animals

How Drones Might Just Save Our Endangered Animals & the Planet

 

 

Step into a Miniature World of Animated Paper Wildlife

This is mesmerising. Pure magic.


"We are all connected"

I recommend multiple viewings to appreciate the incredible detail and get the full benefit.

Paper predators and prey spring to life in this visually stunning short from directors Dávid Ringeisen & László Ruska. An ordinary desk and typical office supplies are the backdrop for this micro-universe that carries the macro-message of wildlife conservation. While humans are left out of the piece, their impact is still present in a discarded cigarette butt that sparks an imaginary forest fire and an overflowing wastebasket that pollutes a fantastical rolling-chair river. This piece is part of the filmmakers’ MOME thesis project, the animation department at Moholy-Nagy University of Art and Design in Budapest, Hungary and was created for WWF Hungary.

The Short Film Showcase spotlights exceptional short videos created by filmmakers from around the web and selected by National Geographic editors. We look for work that affirms National Geographic’s belief in the power of science, exploration, and storytelling to change the world. The filmmakers created the content presented, and the opinions expressed are their own, not those of National Geographic Partners.

Source

National Geographic

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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.

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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

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Falviu Ghost Cat of Dartmoor & his Swiss Cousins

From Freedom to Hell – Flaviu Captured

 

 

16 + 1 Dazzling facts about Hummingbirds

These little creatures are as fascinating as they are beautiful. In fact, they are SO amazing, they’re inspiring a futuristic design for harnessing green energy. Look out for the new fact I’ve added to this article, no. 17!

Melissa Breyer

Melissa Breyer (@MelissaBreyer)
Science / Animals
January 19, 2017 for Treehugger

These psychedelic pixies of the bird world are all magic and moxie.

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CC BY 2.0 Nortondefeis

There are a lot of magical creatures on this planet, but it’s really hard to outdo the hummingbird when it comes to enchantment. They are the nectar-fueled, jewel-hued fairies of the bird world – and they have the moxie to match. These teeny wee things display some of the most vivid colors in the animal kingdom and have prodigious talents unique to themselves – like, you know, they hover – all in a Lilliputian package that weighs as little as a paperclip. I’m not sure they could be anymore bewitching – but if you need convincing, start here.

1. They’re not called hummingbirds for nothing

While they could have been named purringbirds or whirringbirds, the fact remains that they create quite the buzz, befitting of their onomatopoetic name. A hummingbird beats its wings around 70 times per second in direct flight and over 200 times per second while diving.

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

2. They are aerial acrobats

Hummingbirds can fly up, down and all around – forwards, backwards and even upside down. They can beat their wings in a figure-eight pattern, which makes them the only vertebrates capable of sustained hovering. They can fly 30 mph, and exceed 45 mph during courtship dives.

3. They put their flying to good use

Hummingbirds are found only in the New World, from southeastern Alaska to southern Chile – and of the 340 species of hummingbirds, many of them migrate at least 500 miles every year. The rufous hummingbird migrates 3,000 miles (4,800 kilometers) from Mexico to Alaska every year; ruby-throated hummingbirds can fly 18 to 20 straight hours to get across the Gulf of Mexico.

4. And of course, they are tiny

Much of the enchantment of these spectacular birds is that they pack so much magic into such a small creature. And in fact, the bee hummingbird of Cuba (pictured below), is around two inches long and weighs in at under 2 grams, is the smallest bird in the world. Theoretically, 16 of them could be mailed first class using a single stamp.

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charlesjsharp/Wikimedia/CC BY 2.0

5. They are remarkably flamboyant

Those of us east of the Mississippi only get to enjoy the ruby-throated hummingbird, and in all, only 17 species regularly nest in The States – but in the tropics? The place is humming with them. And like other creatures who live in the lush habitats of South America, many of them are vividly candy-colored with all kinds of frippery to add pizzazz – as can be seen in many of the photos here.

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

6. The men are dandies

Purple cheek pompoms, exuberant crests, wildly burdensome-looking tails – along with some of the most beautiful colors known to nature, male hummingbirds come with all kinds of wild add-ons to woo the ladies. The tails of species like the long-tailed sylph (Aglaiocercus kingii) and the booted racket-tail (Ocreatus underwoodii) – who also sports some perfectly poofy pantaloons – are completely improbable. (Both pictured below.) Which is also the point; the males who can survive with such beautifully burdensome tails prove to the females how hearty they are and what splendid mates they would make.

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Joseph C Boone/CC BY 2.0
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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

7. Their nests could be the work of fairies

Hummingbird nests are the tiny homes of the bird world, usually not exceeding the size of half a walnut shell. They are velvety little cups formed from moss, leaves and plant bits, woven together with spider silk. And into the nests, mama birds deposit one to three tiny eggs the size of small pearls.

hummingbird-eggs
Yerandy1990/CC BY 2.0

8. They have the quickest hearts in town

With heart rates exceeding 1,200 beats per minute, hummingbirds have the fastest beating hearts in the animal kingdom.

9. They are gluttons for nectar

To keep their exuberant metabolism fueled, these little guys and gals need a prodigious amount of food, mostly in the form of nectar. One study noted that a hummingbird of 3 grams can devour 43 grams of sugar water in a day; that’s 14 times its body weight. They also eat tree sap, as well as insects.

wire-crested
Bill Bouton/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

10. Bill, please

One of the hummingbird’s hallmarks is its long crazy bill that is specialized to fit into tubular flowers to get the goods. Different species have differently shaped bills in accordance with the flowers they prefer. Some are dramatically curved, others are very long. In the case of the remarkable sword-billed hummingbird, pictured below, so long that they have to hold it upright in order to stay balanced when perching! In fact, it is the only species of bird with a bill longer than its body.

sword-billed
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

11. Their tongues would demolish a lollipop

Hummingbirds have a long, split tongue that they use to vacuum nectar from flowers; it is such a fast-working tongue that it can flick at a rate of up to 13 licks per second.

12. They never forget

Believe it or not, those wee heads hold a lot of brainpower! One study found that the hummingbird’s hippocampus is significantly larger, relative to telencephalic volume, than any bird examined to date. Why? Because of their extraordinary nectar lust, they visit hundreds of flowers each day. “In order to feed efficiently,” notes the researchers, “they must remember what flowers they have visited, the locations of high nectar-rewarding flowers and a host of additional spatial–temporal information. A combination of field and laboratory studies demonstrate that hummingbirds can remember the nectar quality and content of individual flowers, nectar-refilling rates, spatial location and distribution of flowers, avoid revisiting recently sampled flowers and rely on ‘episodic-like’ memory for daily foraging.”

green-violeteer
Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

13. They find walking passé

Have you ever seen a hummingbird walk or even hop? Probably not, since they don’t bother. Their feet are so small and their flying so adept that they have pretty much done away with using them for anything other than perching.

14. They have great eyes

While hummingbirds can’t smell very well, they can see a whole array of colors that we can not, thanks to their ability to process ultraviolet light.

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

15. They have built-in flying goggles

Hummingbirds are one of the lucky animals that come complete with a third set of eyelids. These “nictitating membranes” are like a translucent curtain that can be drawn to protect the eyes during flight. They’d be all set for Burning Man.

16. Their collective name is a “charm”

Just like we have flocks of sheep and packs of dogs and gaggles of geese, we have charms of hummingbirds. Because, of course – few creatures are as charming as a hummingbird, let alone a group of them!

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Francesco Veronesi/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Epilogue: Amazingly, hummingbirds were almost rendered extinct in the 19th century thanks to the Victorian penchant for vibrant feathers and the fashionable collecting of specimens by nature connoisseurs. Thankfully we’ve come to recognize the folly in that, yet these most beautiful of birds, like so many of the planet’s species, now face other risks. Namely, habitat loss and destruction. We can only hope that future generations will be able to admire hummingbirds and look back feeling grateful that 21st century humankind wised up before it was too late.


My comment: How grateful future generations will be to us humans alive today remains to be seen. The best step we can take individually to ensure that there will be left of this wondrous planet something to be grateful for, is to move towards a more plant-based diet. Check out Take Extinction off Our Plates and Eat for the Planet. As lovers of wildlife, we do owe it to Planet Earth as a matter of urgency.

And here’s my no.17. Let’s hope this will help with a greener future for us all.

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Artist impression of a field packed with hummingbird-like wind turbines. Credit: TYER WIND

A design for wind turbines inspired by the world’s only bird capable of hovering and backwards flight — the gorgeous hummingbird.

It’s a world first in biomimicry says Tyer Wind, the company trialing this design. The hummingbird’s flight dynamics have never been reproduced in a mechanical device before.

How is this an improvement on the standard turbine model? “This design is a highly efficient wind converter. Million of years of natural selection have turned hummingbirds into some of the world’s most energetically efficient flyers.”

If you’re interested in the biodynamics of this remarkable little bird’s flight, you can see more in the video.

Sources

16 dazzling facts about hummingbirds – TreeHugger

Flapping wind turbine mimics hummingbird to produce electricity – ZME Science

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These have to be the most entrancing wildlife pics I’ve ever seen. Hope you enjoy them as much as I did!
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Russian photographer Vadim Trunov is known for his captivating photos of wildlife. When the snow falls, Trunov takes to the great outdoors to capture images of squirrels, other rodents and birds.

The animals explore the scenes he creates — dining on the snowman’s carrot nose or playing catch with walnut-filled snowballs. Trunov will occasionally leave out some trinkets, like a camera or a microphone, and watch as the woodland creatures explore these fascinating finds.

Take a look at Trunov’s snowy work below and check out his website, where you’ll also see his work from less wintry days, photographing lizards and snails perched on mushrooms and squirrels collecting baskets of flowers.

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A Promising New Way Forward for Animal Rights?

If the interests of animals are properly embedded in the democratic process…the laws adopted by a society are less likely to infringe their fundamental interests.

1822 is a date we lovers of justice and animals should all have tattooed on our hearts. Because 1822 was the year Richard Martin MP won for animals an important protection which was also a right: the right – for their own sake – not to be gratuitously harmed.

A 19th Century Irishman who fought more than 100 duels with sword and pistol – and obviously survived them all! – seems a most improbable man to put forward as father of the modern Animal Rights movement. But the small snowball he set in motion has just kept on rolling and rolling for the last 200 years, and growing into what we hope will soon become an avalanche.

For Martin it was who introduced a new Act to prevent the cruel and improper Treatment of Cattle, which made it an offence, punishable by fines up to five pounds or two months imprisonment, to “beat, abuse, or ill-treat any horse, mare, gelding, mule, ass, ox, cow, heifer, steer, sheep or other cattle.”

Up until ‘Martin’s Law’ was passed, it was the animal’s owner who was considered wronged by any harm done to the beast, not the poor animal itself. The animal had no greater status than a table or a chair, so harm inflicted on it was simply damage to the owner’s property. Martin’s Law changed that.

The prolific and accomplished duellist followed up his great legislative achievement by personally bringing the first prosecution under the new Act. The criminal – a fruit seller. The crime – beating a donkey. When the MP led the donkey into the courtroom to exhibit its injuries to judge and jury, he provoked a storm of publicity. Political cartoons appeared depicting him with donkey’s ears. Instead of being praised for his unusual-for-the-times passion for animal protection, he was publicly ridiculed.

Before another two years were out, this remarkable man was instrumental in founding the SPCA –  later the RSPCA – the very first animal protection organisation in the world, prompting the birth of similar groups in Scotland, Ireland, the USA, Australia and New Zealand. Only welfarism as yet, but animal advocacy began to spread around the world.

But that was 200 years ago. So where is Animal Rights today?

Well, because human society and its treatment of nonhuman animals is still, it goes without saying, regulated by law, changes in the law are what we continue to wrangle for in our pursuit of Rights for Animals. And laws that win new rights and protections for our nonhuman cousins have really gathered pace in the last decade.

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But when, just to take one example, badgers – a ‘protected’ species – are being slain in their thousands year upon year supposedly to safeguard other animals, dairy cattle – which later farmers will send to their deaths in the slaughterhouse  – there is clearly still a very long way to go.

So what if we didn’t need to change the law concerning animals at all? What if nonhuman animals had the right to have their interests properly taken into account before any human proposals were cemented into law?

Well, we just may have an exciting new way forward for Animal Rights, a way that could sweep aside the drawbacks inherent in all the various AR theories to date: it is the principle of political theory called the “all-affected.”

“The interests of animals are affected – often devastatingly – by collective decisions and, therefore, they, or – more specifically – their representatives, have a democratic right to have some say in the making of those decisions” says Professor Robert Garner.

If I can beg your patience a little further? To appreciate just how promising this approach could be, we need a super-quick run-through of Animal Rights in the past 40 years or so. Animal Rights is, as it always has been, dependent on two disciplines:

Philosophy, which deliberates on human perceptions of nonhuman animals, and their status relative to us.

And Law, which regulates that status.

I am neither a philosopher or a lawyer, so forgive my lack of expertise, simplifications of a complex subject, and any glaring omissions in my brief summary. This is a personal view, not by any means a definitive account of Animal Rights.

Utilitarianism

One of the first and most influential in recent years to grab hold of Richard Martin’s snowball and give it an energetic push down the mountain was Australian philosopher Peter Singer. He famously shook things up in the 1970s with his book Animal Liberation. His approach to Animal Rights was based on two principles:

  1. The separation of ‘human’ from ‘animal’ is illogical and arbitrary – there is far more difference between a great ape and an oyster than there is between a human and a great ape
  2. The utilitarian philosophy of Jeremy Bentham that ethics and morality are dictated by what will achieve “the greatest good of the greatest number”

It necessarily follows from his first principle that nonhumans must not be excluded from that “greatest number” for whom it is our moral duty to obtain “the greatest good”.

Drawback

The problem with this approach to Animal Rights is that if it can be established (by humans, nonhumans having no say) that the greatest good can only be achieved for the greatest number by the use of animals, even if this means inflicting pain upon them or causing them to die, then such actions are justified. Singer for example condones the use of animals where ‘necessary’ in medical research – a position I for one totally reject.

Subjects-of-a-Life

Following quickly on Singer’s heels, Tom Regan gave the snowball another hearty shove with his book “The Case for Animal Rights”. His was a very different argument. He proposed that if animals are ‘subject-of-a-life’ as unquestionably humans are, then their value lies in more than just their usefulness to humans.

“Such an individual has inherent value independent of its utility for others. Because of this inherent value, a subject-of-a-life has rights to protect this value and not to be harmed. Other subjects have a duty to respect these rights.”¹

Drawback

It seems a promising approach until you realise how high he set the bar for non-human animals to be worthy of consideration as ‘subject-of-a-life’, strangely, higher than is set for human beings.

The Big Stumbling Block – Species Criteria

For Regan, to be ‘subjects-of-a-life ‘ nonhumans must have “beliefs, desires, memory, feelings, self-consciousness, an emotional life, a sense of their own future, an ability to initiate action to pursue their goals, and an existence that is logically independent of being useful to anyone else’s interests” – his criteria any species must fulfil.

Humans all have rights independent of Regan’s requirements: newborn infants, certain disabled people, elderly people with failing mental and physical health – none of these could fulfil his criteria, but their rights are nevertheless guaranteed.

He is said not to be speciesist but so many species would be left by the wayside. Would the honey bee, for instance, reach Regan’s bar? Does the honey bee have ‘an emotional life’ and ‘beliefs’? And who decides? Humans of course. When it comes to nonhuman animals, Regan limits those supposedly deserving of rights to ‘normally mental mammals over a year old, several species of birds, and possibly fish’.

Apart from the few wild animals that qualify, certain farmed animals – cows, pigs and sheep – could benefit from his approach. But not calves, piglets or lambs, and very probably not (in spite of what we now know of their intelligence and complex emotional and social life) hens. Certainly not the millions of day-old chicks that drop off the conveyor belt into the grinder.

The criteria he has set would leave billions of animals, and a very large slice indeed of the estimated 8.7 million species on the planet without rights.

Abolitionism

In the here and now, animal advocates fall broadly speaking into two camps: the abolitionists and the welfarists. The foremost spokesperson for Abolitionism is Professor Gary Francione. As a lawyer with a background in philosophy the Prof is peculiarly well qualified, one would think, to set out the ideal path for the AR ‘snowball’ to travel.

Abolitionism is based upon the philosophical premise that all animals, human and nonhuman, have the basic moral right not to be treated as the property of others. Therefore any human use of nonhumans is unjustifiable, just as human slavery is unjustifiable. All animals exist for their own purposes, not others. The moral baseline is veganism.

The battle for Abolitionism is legal as well as philosophical since in law, with a few notable exceptions, such as in a limited way in France², the status of nonhuman animals is still that of property. And most laws that relate to animals simply protect their welfare to a greater or lesser degree – without changing their status.

So how to get that legal status changed?

Two ways the status of nonhumans can be changed:

  1. By governmental legislation
  2. In the law courts. If a change in status can be established in a court of law, a legal precedent is set which would subsequently apply to all similar cases.

There are heroes for animals like Steven Wise of the Nonhuman Animal Rights Project in the US, and the Association of Professional Lawyers for Animal Rights (AFADA) in Argentina, toiling tirelessly to get that status change from property to person accepted in a court of law.

Drawback

It’s a tough battle, less like giving the AR snowball a gentle nudge on its way, much more like pushing an elephant up a mountain. And once again there is a major problem. We are back to the dreaded Species Criteria. Bringing a case to court, a lawyer has to limit him/herself to a particular client or clients on whose behalf he/she is pleading. And we’d be crazy to think a judge would grant personhood to, say, a silkworm, let alone to the entire animal kingdom. The right client has to be chosen.monkey-256420__340

So what are the criteria by which a lawyer selects a client that has the best chance of success in court? The NhRP’s current plaintiffs are “members of species who have been scientifically proven to be self-aware and autonomous: currently, great apes, elephants, dolphins, and whales.”

This list of the species that qualify is even more meager than Regan’s. The idea, of course, is to ‘get a foot in the door’ for one species, which would pave the way for others. But I’m guessing it will be a long long while before science decides silkworms are self-aware and autonomous, the first hurdle they need to jump if their advocates are to pursue this particular route to legal rights.

I applaud their efforts and don’t wish to sound unduly pessimistic, but short of turning the entire world vegan, it is unclear how in practical terms Prof Francione is going to achieve his Abolitionist goal.

Protectionism/Welfarism

Certain animal charities such as PETA, Animal Aid, Viva, also advocate total non-use of animals for human purposes. But where out-and-out Abolitionists are at odds with them, is their pursuit at the same time of incremental welfare improvements to reduce the suffering of animals alive now.

Drawback

It could be – and is – argued that campaigning for greater protections is a distraction from the goal of Animal Rights. Or worse, counter-productive, allowing the public to believe they can keep right on using animals, as long as it is done ‘humanely’. Abolitionists certainly think so and reject single issue campaigns. But that’s an argument we won’t get into just at the moment!

And the majority of other animal charities like ASPCA, HSUS and the RSPCA make no bones about their purely welfarist agenda.

Out-and-out revolution

There is absolutely no doubt that nearly all the exploitation and abuse, legal or illegal, humans inflict on nonhumans is in the service of the great capitalist god Profit. When it comes to lining their pockets humans have no regard for the rights of animals. So the answer is simple –  bring down capitalism.

Drawback

Or is it? Personally, I can’t see the overthrow of capitalism stopping people wanting to eat meat and cheese, use leather or wear fur. Isn’t it likely, or at least possible, that today’s capitalist factory farms would be tomorrow’s communist or socialist state-run operations?


Finally, the good news!

At last we come to Professor Garner’s exciting new paper Animals and democratic theory: Beyond an anthropocentric account” published in Contemporary Political Theory less than two months ago. Even the title whets the appetite!

The Prof bases his thesis on the ‘all-affected principle’, already current in political theory. It goes like this: in a democracy, the interests of every sentient being affected by legislation must be considered. And those who clearly cannot speak for themselves must have their rights represented by those who can.

“A democratic polity should take account of animal interests, not because a substantial number of humans wish to see greater protection afforded to animals, but rather because animals themselves have a democratic right to have their interests represented in the political process.”

So exactly why should we believe Garner’s new political theory could do better for animals than what has gone before?
  • Firstly, because it removes disputable questions of morality, ethics, and humanity (humaneness) from the equation. Under this principle Animal Rights is a purely political matter. You don’t have to believe it immoral to exclude nonhumans from democracy – it’s enough that it’s undemocratic.
  • Secondly – and I think this is huge – because it sweeps away all those contentious species criteria we were talking about. Here there are no criteria to fulfil, except that of sentience alone.

So no longer does AR depend upon humans deciding whether an animal is ‘intelligent enough’ or has a ‘sufficiently complex emotional life’. A life need only be sentient. And that, says Professor Marc Bekoff, author of a Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience³, is now beyond dispute:

“After 2,500 studies, it’s time to declare animal sentience is proven.”

Not so very long ago black people and women, though most certainly affected by the collective decisions of their society, were entirely excluded from the democratic process. They battled hard for their rights, their vote, their say.

And won.

Because the ‘all-affected’ principle is surely the very heartbeat of Democracy.

Animals next!

To get general acceptance for Professor Garner’s new approach to AR, to help turn that snowball into an avalanche, please share widely!

You can read his complete paper here

Check out CASJ (Centre for Animals & Social Justice) who commissioned his work, and whose aim is to achieve:

• an overarching legal/political status for animals
• the institutional representation of animals’ interests within Government
• a government strategy and targets to improve animal protection

¹Subject-of-a-life – Blackwell Dictionary of Western Philosophy

²What France’s New Animal Rights Law Actually Means For Animals – The Dodo. This change in French law “only applies to pets or wild animals tamed or held in captivity. The sentience of wild animals, meanwhile, is not recognized.

³A Universal Declaration on Animal Sentience – Psychology Today

Footnote: The EU already implements something approaching Prof Garner’s thesis.

“In terms of Regional Economic Communities (RECs), the European Union (EU) is the most progressive one in regard to including animal welfare in its sphere of policy work. Its activities in this area are based on the recognition that animals are sentient beings.

An amendment to the constitutional basis of the EU, the Treaty of Lisbon, which came into effect on 1st December 2009, now includes this principle and made it a binding condition to pay full regard to the welfare requirements of animals when formulating and implementing policies in relevant areas.This puts animal welfare on an equal footing with other key principles such as: gender equality, social protection, human health, combat of discrimination, sustainable development, consumer protection and data protection.”

 

Other Sources

There are three Animal Movements – Armory of the Revolution

Animals have democratic right to political representation – CASJ

The Case for Animal Rights – Wiki

Animal Rights – Wiki

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